Muscle hypertrophy is the ultimate goal of every bodybuilder out there. It’s a commonly accepted truth that the rood to hypertrophy, most often than not, leads through the gym and it takes hours upon hours of heavy iron lifting. Although this method has been proven to yield fantastic results, it’s certainly not the only road to hypertrophy.
What we are writing about is not something new and unheard. This is not some miracle muscle building program, nor it’s some instantaneous pill that pumps you up over the night. In fact, it’s a method as old as fitness itself – if not older, and it’s called stretching.
Yes, it’s a simple and seemingly effortless technique used by people in yoga classes, and often scorned and neglected by bodybuilders. Yet, you might be surprised that stretching can greatly help your muscle growth. Of course, there can be no substitute for hard training and proper dieting, and they should always remain at the top of your list.
However, stretching comes in really handy for relaxing our muscles during the recovery period, and make muscle growth much easier. Naturally, in order to reap the full benefits and avoid injuries, you must first learn how to stretch properly, and when to do it.
The Basics of Muscle Stretching
First and foremost, you should never start stretching before you properly warm up your body. Stretching your muscles when they are cold, increases the chances of getting a serious injury resulting from muscle tears and ripped tendons. Warm up your muscles with some cardio and get some blood flowing into them before you start stretching.
Of course, that only covers the first step. Stretching during weight training is not as simple as that, and if done improperly it can inflict damage to the targeted muscle group. Hence, avoid stretching the active muscles. If soreness and pain set in your targeted muscles, it would be much better to apply light massage between sets and not to stretch them.
Stretching During the Workout
The negative effect of stretching the muscle group targeted with the workout goes beyond the obvious risk of injury. It can also weaken your muscle making it unable to perform the lifts.
So, if stretching the targeted muscle is not advisable, then how does stretching help muscle growth? What you want to do is to stretch the antagonist muscles instead. The antagonist muscle group is actually the opposite group of muscles to your working group.
For example, you’d want to stretch your lats when working the chest muscles, or the hamstrings when you’re working the quads. If the worked muscle is the biceps, the antagonist will be the triceps.
This will increase the recovery of the targeted muscle during the workout. Stretching the antagonist muscles between the sets will not only relieve some of the tension of the targeted muscle, but it will also increase their strength for the next lift.
Timing your Stretch
We’ve already established that you stretching the muscles when cold can result in injury. And that stretching the muscles during the lift can reduce their strength. All that remains is that the best way to utilize stretching to trigger muscle hypertrophy and help the recovery period is after training. This way you eliminate all the risk and you make sure that you rip all the benefits.
You can even use some light weights to increase the effects of stretching. Hold, for example, the bottom position of a dumbbell flight with light weight to provide thorough stretch of your chest muscles.
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