All right, so after a few years of lifting, you find it increasingly difficult to add new lean muscle mass. One new method that has had some studies done on it is stretching.
In theory, stretching can make the fascial encasements around muscle fibers less restricting. This means that muscle growth will be easier. Another reason to stretch is the possibility of hyperplasia, an increase in the number of muscle cells. More muscle cells means more growth capacity. While this hasn't been proven in humans yet, it has been successfully done with animals. Scientists also believe that stretching a muscle increases the number of anabolic receptors on it and initiates the release of good prostaglandin's, which may enhance muscle growth tremendously. Before we examine some common stretches let's look at the right and wrong ways to stretch.
When many people stretch, they usually do very bouncy movements staying in the stretched position for only 1 or 2 seconds. That is the wrong way to stretch. When they do bouncy movements, they are doing micro contractions and when in the tensed position, these can cause muscle and tendon/ligament damage. When someone stretches, they should always hold in the tensed position for a duration of time. Now that we know the correct way to stretch, we can view some common stretches for each body part.
| Chest - T-Stretch
While standing, extend arms out to your sides until they are parallel to the floor. Slowly, bring them back as far as you can and hold for 5-10 second.
| Back - One arm-lat stretch
With one arm extended, grab onto something and tug back until you feel a stretch in your lats. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
| Lats - Dead hang
Hang from a pull-up bar and feel a good stretch in your lats and your whole back.
| Shoulders & Biceps - Doorway stretch
Position yourself in the center of a doorway. Grab onto both ends of the doorframe and while keeping your feet in place, let your body come forward until you feel a stretch in your shoulders.
| Triceps - One-arm tricep stretch
With one of your arms bent behind your head so your elbow is facing towards the ceiling, pull towards the opposite arm until a stretch is felt in the triceps.
| Quads - One-leg back stretch
While standing, grab one of your feet and bring it behind you as far as possible until you feel a deep stretch in your quad and hold.
| Hamstrings - Seated leg stretch
While sitting, extend one or both legs and while keeping your back straight, lean forward as far as you can so you feel a stretch in your hamstrings and hold for a few seconds.
Some of you might be saying, I want to stretch, but I just don't have time so what am I supposed to do? The answer is to incorporate stretch-position movements into all of your workouts. This way, you are stretching while exercising; reducing the time it would take to do both separately. Stretch exercises work the muscle against resistance at the point, which it's maximally elongated. Most importantly, you need to use a full range of motion to receive the maximum benefits from the exercises.
|Chest:||Full flyes, and dumbbell or barbell pullovers|
|Back:||Full pull-ups where you stay in the bottom position for a few seconds, and dumbbell or barbell pullovers.|
|Calves:||Donkey calf raises and standing calf raises where you lower your feet down as far as possible, and raise them as high as possible.|
|Biceps:||Preacher curls and spider curls done with a full range of motion and incline curls.|
|Triceps:||Seated dumbbell or barbell extensions going down as low as possible.|
Basically, any exercise done with a full range of motion will work, but I listed some of the best ones.
Hopefully, you will incorporate some stretches or some stretch-exercises and see your muscles break growth plateaus and keep on growing!