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Stretch And Flex!

Typically, it is these individuals that cannot help disrespecting the equipment not to mention fellow gym members by literally dropping the weight from unbelievable heights.

During the course of my career, I've had the occasion to visit many gyms and observe many different individuals train. To this day, I am most intrigued with those claiming to be "hard-core bodybuilders" who insist on lifting heavy weights at all costs. Never mind proper form and technique say these people, its all about the amount of weight. Typically, it is these individuals that cannot help disrespecting the equipment not to mention fellow gym members by literally dropping the weight from unbelievable heights.

This conduct is the complete antithesis of what "bodybuilding" in its truest sense actually represents. For me, bodybuilding is a form of art and is all about complete concentration and control. Those people that claim to be "bodybuilders" that insist upon moving an immense amount of weight, throwing the weight around and screaming like maniacs, in my mind, are an utter disgrace to the art and certainly do not understand the stretch and flex concept.


Actually, the term "weightlifting" within the context of bodybuilding, is somewhat of an oxymoron because it has nothing at all to do "weight." It has everything to do with stretching and flexing. Thus, "weightlifting" means employing resistance to flex and stretch the target muscle to stimulate muscular growth and development.

"Bodybuilding," therefore, is sculpting one's physique by challenging each of the individual muscles via external resistance to encourage maximum development commensurate with one's genetic composition by continuously stretching and flexing each muscle to achieve this ultimate goal.

Consequently, you must select the amount of resistance that will allow the target muscle to contract against the resistance at the apex of the movement and stretch back down to the start position to execute subsequent reps all in a very slow and controlled manner.

The Fundamentals

If you can fully appreciate and employ this fundamental concept, then you will make incredible gains. If you've been training for any length of time, you probably understand what it means to flex the target muscle. However, you probably do not fully realize the significance of stretching. Understand that the "stretch" is just as imperative as the "flex." If you really watch people train, you will observe them concentrating on flexing the target muscle.

However, after the muscle contracts, more often than not, the individual's concentration lapses, gravity takes over and the weight returns to the start position. This, in turn, generates momentum which helps the individual begin and complete the next rep. So, instead of relying on a pure muscular contraction to begin the next rep, the individual relies on gravity and momentum.

If you are one of those people that must rely on gravity and momentum to help you grind through the set, then you need to reduce the amount of resistance. Additionally, if you are one of those people that abandons control on the return and permits the weight to fall back down to the start position, you need to increase your training intensity and get your mind into your muscles. Refuse to give in to gravity.

After you contract against the resistance, you must force the muscle to stretch. This means keeping the muscle completely contracted and literally pushing the resistance back to the start position. This is called a "forced stretch." If you can force your muscles to stretch after each and every contraction while maintaining proper form, your muscles will respond to the increased demand by increasing in size and density. To force the target muscle to stretch, you have to "fight" the resistance on the return.


Another way to think about this concept is to pretend that the weight is so heavy that no matter how much effort you exert, it is going to return to the start position, but you are nevertheless trying, with all of your might, to prevent its inevitable downward movement. Envision the target muscle fighting against the weight as you are forcing it away from you to help you keep the muscle fully contracted all the way back to the start position to begin the following rep. If you feel like the target muscle is literally ripping apart, then you are properly forcing the stretch.

If you are only concentrating on flexing the target muscle, then you are only going to receive half of the benefit for each rep that you perform. Get your head into your workout and into the target muscle. When you reach the bottom of the movement, do not, even for a fraction of a second, allow your muscle to relax. At all times, you must concentrate on keeping the target muscle flexed and tight. If you force the stretch properly, each rep will be increasingly difficult to execute. In fact, if you force the target muscle to stretch, you will not be able to do as many reps or sets.

Don't Discourage

Do not let this discourage you. Forget the numbers and go for feel. If you cannot completely contract the target muscle, keep your form and drop set the resistance or do partial reps until you cannot perform another rep without breaking your form. I guarantee that if you perform three sets containing six good reps and force the muscle to stretch, you will increase your training intensity and derive much greater gains than if you perform more sets and more reps where you have to rely on gravity and momentum to help you lift the resistance.

Always remember that the amount of resistance for bodybuilding purposes is absolutely irrelevant. The amount of weight is only relevant for purposes of allowing each individual muscle to flex and stretch. So, the next time that your ego entices you to forego form for weight, remain faithful to your overall purpose. Sometimes, it is far easier to use heavier weight and rely on gravity and momentum than to really focus on your training and on relentlessly stretching and flexing the target muscle.

Forcing your muscles to stretch is difficult, demanding, and painful. You must concentrate and literally bleed every last bit of intensity out of each and every rep that you perform. Your concentration cannot, for one moment, lapse. You must continuously stretch and flex and flex and stretch through every single rep in every single set through every single movement during every single training session. The growth is in the stretch. Strive to master the forced stretch and you will, beyond any shadow of a doubt, be handsomely rewarded with increased muscular size and overall development.