Can stretching really lead to bigger muscles? Yes it can! Today we look at how stretching can help you on your journey to those bigger arms and massive legs.
One of my favorite reasons why stretching helps muscle growth is because it elongates the muscle. By elongating the muscle, there is more space for the muscle to grow and makes the muscle look bigger and more aesthetic. It won’t look shortened or too small for the area it is supposed to cover anymore.
Static stretching is a type of stretching where you stretch and hold a certain muscle for a few seconds before releasing (like toe touches). Research has shown that static stretching before exercise (hamstring stretch before running, for example) does not actually decrease the risk of injury. Research has also shown that static stretches do not improve muscle performance either, but actually decrease muscle output. For example, stretching biceps in a static fashion before doing bicep curls will decrease their maximum output before failure. This effect lasts for over an hour following a good, thorough static stretch.
Does this mean that there is no place for static stretches in the world of muscle growth? Not at all! Static stretches aren’t effective as a warm-up or before exercise, but they do offer benefits like increasing range of motion, releasing tension and correcting postural imbalances. All of which will decrease overall risk of injury in the long-term and help with optimize muscle gain. By increasing range of motion, you are able to get the best out of every rep. For example, people who have a problem with their heels lifting off the floor during the squat (bad form) because of tight calves muscles and tendons can do static calf stretches for a few days to loosen them so that heels are flexible enough to stay on the ground and stabilize the squat movement. Lifting weights can tighten muscles over time which leads to them losing their overall range of motion. For example, people who have built up their upper bodies but have not stretched regularly can often feel uncomfortable when resting with their hands folded behind the back of their head. This is not because their muscles are too big, but because their muscles have grown tighter over time. Static stretching can both prevent and undo this.
As discussed above, static stretching is NOT best done before exercise. Static stretching can be done after exercise to cool down. This works well because when the muscles are warm, they are more flexible and will therefore respond well to stretching. Even better, static stretching is great to do on rest days for a variety of reasons. Firstly, not much energy is required to stretch and this means that you are still not burning too much energy on your off day. Furthermore, static stretching releases built up tension. It also and relaxes the muscles. This helps them to recover faster and grow more. Static stretching also helps to improve blood flow which helps the muscles disperse lactic acid and get the nutrients needed for recovery.
Dynamic stretching is a type of stretching that has movement throughout the stretch, for example swinging the arms in front of the chest and behind the back to stretch out the upper body (chest, back, biceps and triceps). Dynamic stretching, in contrary to static stretching, is well suited as a warm-up before exercise because it increases blood flow to the muscles and ‘wakes them up’ before exercise. Studies have shown that dynamic stretching of a certain muscle before weight training increases its power and strength output. For example, swinging the arms in front of the chest and behind the back could increase the amount of reps performed on the bench press. Besides increasing short-term power, dynamic stretching also elongates the muscles and increases range of motion.
Stretching helps to make sure that the muscles are supple. Having big muscle won’t cost you your mobility. For bodybuilders, stretching does not need to be done daily, but a good stretch once or twice a week could just give you an extra edge. As small as the impact stretching has on muscle growth seems to be, over time the difference adds up and makes a significant contribution. STAY STRONG!