The first thing we all think about when gaining considerable muscle size is what type of exercises we should be doing. The last thing we think about is stretching, but this type of thinking may be holding you back. Stretching is not only important for your range of motion and injury prevention, it also plays a critical role in your muscle growth.
Every muscle in our body is enclosed in a tough wrapping called the fascia. Fascia is a dense type of connective tissue. The job of fascia is to help protect muscles, and allow them to maintain their position throughout the body. The problem is that fascia can actually hinder the ability of the muscles to grow, since it may not give the muscles the room they need to expand. The size of the muscle won't change regardless of how hard you train or how well you eat because the connective tissue around your muscles is constricting the muscles within.
Did you ever wonder why the calf muscles are so stubborn when it comes to building muscle? The fascia in the calf muscles is extremely dense and abundant, due to the extreme weight load that these muscles must deal with on a daily basis. This dense fascia is one of the reasons that the calf muscle is so difficult for most people to develop.
The Solution: Stretching
By applying the right stretching techniques, one can stretch the fascia giving the muscles the room they need to expand and increase in size. The key to loosening fascia is stretching at the right time. In this case, the right time to stretch is right after a weight lifting set when the muscle is fully "pumped", and full of blood. This is the best time to stretch the fascia because the muscle is at it's maximum size, and is already pushing against the fascia. By stretching at this time, you can further increase the amount of pressure on the fascia, which will ultimately lead to expansion. When you are stretching the fascia, you should feel a powerful pulling sensation and pressure as the muscle works against the fascia to expand it. Be sure you do not stretch so hard that you cause the muscle to tear or cause injury to yourself.
When stretching any muscles, always make sure that you reach the point of tension, but not pain. You may feel some minor discomfort, but you should never feel pain.
- Hold each stretch for 20 - 30 seconds.
- Stretch in between sets when the muscle is pumped for maximum benefits.
- Never stretch a cold muscle!
- If your muscles aren't pumped, just stretch normally.
- Maintain natural breathing throughout the duration of the stretch.
- Apply firm pressure with your fingers to the muscle being stretched, to increase it's effectiveness.
One set of hard stretching after each set you do for a muscle group can have an incredible effect on the size of your muscles and their further ability to grow.All the best with your muscle growth!!