Stretching is a fitness staple, unfortunately for many bodybuilders, stretching is just an afterthought to their training regimen. Many people don’t see the value in stretching unless they actively want to improve their flexibility or mobility. But did you know that certain types of stretching, like fascial stretching (also known as Extreme Stretching or Extreme Fascial Stretching (E.F.S.) can actually help your body unlock even further muscle building capability?
What is Fascia
Fascia is a thin, cellophane-like connective tissue and fibrous sheath that surrounds groups of muscles, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. Fascia contains closely packed bundles of collagen fibers which are oriented in a parallel fashion, much like ligaments and tendons.
Fascia binds a muscle group together. It is not some loose tissue, but it acts like a girdle, warping tightly around the surrounding area. Fascia is flexible and is able to resist great unidirectional tension forces. As well as protecting your protein fibers, fascia also restricts them, which can inhibit muscle growth. By stretching the fascia, more room is created for your muscles to expand.
Fascial Stretching and muscle growth
The main idea of fascial stretching is that stretching “remodels” the muscle fascia, giving the muscle fibers more room to grow. Muscle grows in two ways – by making muscle fibers bigger, or by adding more muscle fibers. Hypertrophy can be sparked in two ways – the fiber can split, and in response get larger; or your body can release satellite cells, which form to create new muscle fibers. To spark a reaction, your body must be put under extreme or fascial stretches.
When your muscles are fully pumped up, they are pressing against the fascia. By doing extreme stretching at that time, you increase the pressure on the fascia greatly, which can lead to the fascia expanding.
Even Arnold utilized extreme fascial stretching, a contributor of how he had such incredible chest development. He finished his chest workouts with dumbbell flys, emphasizing on the stretched position of the pectoral muscles. He would pump his chest up full of blood during his lifts, then do flys, holding the stretch at the bottom of the fly.
How To Stretch
After you’ve completed your sets, and your muscles are fully pumped (sometimes incorporating a fast-acting nitric oxide formula before your workout can help) is when you want to begin stretching. The bigger the pump the better. But this doesn’t mean simply do light weight reps until you have a pump – muscle growth is achieved by lifting heavy weights and compound movements.
After the pump sets are finished, stretch the muscle beyond the point of comfort. However, keep in mind that extreme stretching puts a lot of stress on your muscles, ligaments, and tendons, so be cautious or you may risk tearing something, then losing the muscle you’ve worked so hard for.
Stretch a body part only after training it. Hold in the stretching position for 50-90 seconds, working your way up to those 90 seconds. You should not experience intense sharp pain, if you do, you should lighten the weight, decrease the time, or adjust your position. Don’t place your joints in an unnatural position when maximally stretching the targeted muscles. You may find relief in following each stretch with a self-massage of the area. Don’t forget that this is a painful process, and you may need significant time to recover. You should take a break every 5 weeks or so in order for the connective tissue to fully recover.
Do the stretches
Grab two dumbbells that are slightly heavier than what you would normally use for a set of pec flys. Lie on a flat or incline bench and lower the dumbbells as if you are doing flys. Go as low as you can go and hold that position, making sure to keep your hands wider than your elbows. Keep a slight bend in your elbows to avoid shoulder strain. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds, and if you can, eventually 90 seconds. Experiment targeting different areas of the chest by changing the angles of the bench.
Get to a cable and start with the handles on the lowest position. Reach behind your back as if you are about to perform a behind the back cable lateral raise with a weight heavy enough to feel a deep stretch in the delts. Pick up the handle and lean away from the stack, letting the weight stack pull on your shoulder. Repeat this stretch with your hand directly behind your back and leaning forward, which hits the anterior delts.
Focus on standard mass building exercises for triceps like skullcrushers, close-grip presses, and press downs. Pick a weight that’s a little heavier than your heaviest set. Sit down on a flat bench, and slowly lower the weight behind your head as if to do a triceps extension. When you reach the maximum stretch deep in the triceps, hold that position.
You can stretch your lats by hanging from a pullup bar. Use either a wide or shoulder-width grip, and hang from the bar. With controlled breathing, allow your body to relax so it can increase the stretch. If necessary, you can add weight.
Lie on a low-incline bench and curl a heavy dumbbell until you reach peak contraction at the top. Slowly lower the weight down until you feel major resistance from the dumbbell. You can also use a vertical bar with one hand. Keep your arm straight and rotate your shoulder away until you maximize the pressure on your biceps. Be sure to do both arms.
Face a barbell or smith machine with the bar about hip high. Grip the bar and sink down, putting your knees under the barbell to do a sissy squat underneath it, while also going up on your toes. Straighten your arms and lean as far back as you can. Hold for 60-90 seconds, and within 4 weeks you will be amazed at the difference.
Increase the intensity of a classic hurdler’s stretch by lifting one leg to rest your ankle on a bar or high platform above hip level. Keep that leg straight and the other leg planted on the floor. Press down until you reach the point of maximum tension and then hold. Increase tension further by continuing to press your hips down while also trying to tough your face to your knee.
Get set up under a standing calf raise machine. Load the stack with as much weight as you would use for a set of 8 reps. Contract your calves at the top, then slowly lower yourself down to a maximum stretch where your heels are below the platform
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