If you aren’t flexing for muscle size Why Not? There is a reason bodybuilders tense their muscles like crazy on stage and when they are asked to pose for a PR shot.
Not only does it allow them to hit the required poses, but it also pumps up the muscles, making them look fuller and thicker.
Remember when you were little and someone asked you to show off your muscles and you immediately sprang into a really bad “most muscular” pose?
Well good news, as flexing is not showing off, research shows it can increase muscle size (more below).
But what’s the point in flexing? Does it have any long lasting results?
Refer to the classic section in Pumping Iron when Arnold and Franco take a ballet class to improve their posing.
Ballet dancers are amazing at activating their muscles and holding them in pose for sustained periods of time.
Master this and you will hold poses longer without cramping and increase strength and flexibility.
It also helps with the mind muscle connection, and can make you hold poses longer than the competition on stage.
Gain 12% Increase In Muscle Size From Flexing
So does flexing build muscle then?
The European Journal of Sport conducted this 8 week research study on the effects of increasing the mind-muscle connection during bodybuilding routines, which involved contracting the targeted muscle groups over 3 training sessions per week.
On conclusion of the study the group that flexed increased their strength and muscle size by 12.4%. The group that didn’t made gains in the respect of 6.9%.
So the group that contracted their muscles hard during their sets made a 50% increase almost in muscle thickness and strength.
The mind muscle connection clearly works. Bodybuilders have been doing this religiously for decades. Some more so than others.
Tensing your muscles out of the gym helps you isolate and contract them more effectively during your workouts. More pain, more gain actually works in this case.
Is flexing a workout in itself? No, but it is an isometric exercise. It can have amazing potential during workouts. Bodybuilding is after all about isolating and creating tension in muscles fibers.
Hence why the name Flex is to bodybuilders what ego is to rock stars.
Why would you not flex if it can potentially shortcut your muscle building time by 50%? Research definitely points to the fact you can gain muscle by flexing, as long as you actually train as well!
Here at X Boom Fitness we believe less is more when it comes to muscle building and cardio.
Do more in less time.
Kick 10k to the kerb, Salvage your time, your life, your relationships, your marriage by spending time where it matters.
Ok when you are young you are No 1, but priorities change over time, and rightly so…
But there are beneficial reasons for flexing outside the gym. It all correlates with the mind-muscle connection. If you can isolate a muscle correctly and delimit all adjoining muscles during a set you are going to work that muscle harder.
If the muscle you are working, say the bicep, is doing most of the work it is going to grow significantly better than if you just haul the weight up like a peach-fuzz rookie.
If you are using momentum you are taking the pressure off the bicep. You are leaking energy and the slack is being taken up by the back, hips, shoulders and legs.
If you want your biceps to grow more effectively forget about performing standing cheat curls as your main set. Cut the weight, don’t swing for the fences and curl only with your biceps.
You can finish on cheat curls at the end, but remember they are called that for a reason. I’m not negating any potential gains but everything in its right place.
That’s why the 70’s arm blasters were great, they isolated your biceps. You can achieve the same almost by performing standing bicep curls against a wall or mirror.
Can You Build Muscle Alone Just By Flexing Muscles?
Not specifically. In order to build muscle you need to place a new load on the muscles. So what does flexing do to your muscles?
Flexing does temporarily make your muscles bigger, but they won’t get you any real muscle size gains unless you incorporate them into your workout routine.
Bodybuilders will always prioritize flexing as it helps their muscles look fuller and can force out the striations and make them pop on stage when they pose. The more you flex the better you can deal with muscle cramps on stage, when the body has been stripped of it’s water supplies.
Flexing the muscles makes your body look more thick as the muscles swell up with blood. You can get a good pump by flexing your bicep. Keep repeating it and it will swell to it’s maximum size.
Once you get your frame to a large size onstage you will go through your flexing poses with maximum force to show off your physique to it’s highest level. If the guy standing next to you has superior muscle size, and conditioning, all the flexing in the world won’t beat him.
A flexed muscle looks bigger.
If you are close in symmetry, size and conditioning, onstage posing becomes a war. If you can’t hold poses long enough the judges may not see all the detail they need, all that quality muscle you have built that year. That’s another reason to practise.
Flexing to the extreme is tough. It can be painful, but you will get better at it the more you practise. Can you get stronger by flexing? I believe you can. Not just by the act of flexing, but if you can isolate and squeeze a muscle like crazy, and if you can do that with weight on the bar or machine, you will exert more force on it.
With the principles of time under tensions and perfect exercise form (to delimit any assisting muscles) you will work that muscle harder and for longer in every rep.
How Muscles Really Increase In Size
Away from the short term, your diet and calorie surplus will ensure your body uses the required amount of protein for synthesis into muscle.
The amount of protein and calories you need is specific to you, it’s a process of trial and error.
Some studies show it’s 1 pound of protein per pound of body weight, Others show it’s less- 0.8 lb, others more in the region of 1.5 lb.
For this you will have to use trial and error, get a calorie tracker and start counting your macros- the hardest part in bodybuilding or general muscle building routines.
Your body can only absorb up to 30g of protein in one sitting so taking 10 scoops of whey or eating 5 chicken fillets in one meal is not ideal.
Your body will still use the calories but it won’t be solely specific to building muscle if you cram so much protein into your body in a single sitting.
This extensive Government study shows that ideal protein absorption is between 1.6g to 2.2g per actual kg of body weight. It depends also on the type of protein whether it is fast absorbing or slow absorbing.
Slowly digestible proteins in larger doses may be better utilized than fast absorbing proteins.
There is a massive myth in the fitness industry that everything is about protein and how much you need.
Use trial and error and judge for yourself by adding more protein to your diet to see really how much extra makes a difference.
If you take more than you need- especially from whey protein, it isn’t necessarily going to do much harm, except to your wallet and potentially to bloating and gas.
Whats The Best Time To Flex?
Coming up to a show you will have to flex out of the gym. Just so you get used to your routine, and to maximize your posing time, to avoid cramps and to add some class to your performance.
During the gym it depends. If you go all out crazy during your routine you can exhaust the muscle, and not get enough serious work in. Arnold liked to stretch his lats during his rest periods between sets.
He called them stretches but he was also tightening the lats, or flexing them to bring out his width and thickness.
There is no right time, unless you overplay your hand by flexing too much before you start your warm up sets.
I like to pose between sets or after my last set. Depends how i feel.
Flexing In The Mind Proven To Increase Muscle Force by Clinical Research
The Power of The Mind, a neurological research study by Ohio University concluded that by using visualization techniques you can create actually pathways in the brain than can make your physical flexing ability much better.
Just by thinking about flexing can cause you to use more muscle force when you actually get around to physically doing it.
How did the researchers find this out?
2 groups of people were used in the study. One group was asked to flex their wrist muscles for 10 minutes a day 5 x times a week for 4 weeks. The other did not.
The researches wanted to test the theory that the cortex was a factor responsible for determining muscle strength and force.
Yes it was, as the participants who flexed their wrists at the end of the study gained 50% more force production in their muscles, over those who didn’t visually flex.
So Arnold and Franco were on to something in the 70’s then. Some things you just know,
Not too get all too hocus-pocus but it makes sense that if you actually practise something in your mind first, when it comes to actually doing the work you are already prepared for it.
That’s why the mind game is so important in boxing, Olympic weightlifting or even business. Thinking before you act is what makes us human.
Flex Muscle Gains
Flexing will not necessarily help you build muscles as a routine, but it can help with definition and allow you to connect your mind to the muscle. Master this and you can exert more force on the working muscle, and minimize the help of surrounding muscle groups in your workouts.
By exerting as much force on the muscle during intense weight training movements, you will get quicker results, and maximize the amount of work the individual muscle is doing.
So NO extreme swaying movements if you want to excel at bodybuilding. Powerlifting and ego training is a different story…
Watch the mirror, watch the scales and judge for yourself. Or get a friend who understands physique transformations and bodybuilding to judge for you. Ok now go tense those muscles.