For as long as I can remember, flexing your muscles has been a sign of great strength.
The appearance of a muscle through its contraction almost seems like the fibers are growing before our very eyes.
But does flexing build muscle?
And if so, what is the benefit of flexing your muscles during and after post workout?
Muscle flexing is common within gym culture, and it is something that I have discussed with my clients throughout my years as a trainer.
Now, let’s discuss what muscle, and get to the bottom if it’s something you should be doing.
Does flexing build muscle?
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When we flex our muscles and hold them either for a pose or during a repetition, we sustain an isometric contraction.
Muscles flexing, or more accurately, muscle contraction, goes through three phases: shortening (concentric), isometric, and lengthening (eccentric).
Research indicates that training isometric contraction at various lengths and intensities results in muscle hypertrophy (growth) and improved performance.
7 Benefits of Flexing Muscles
There is a considerable amount more happening when we flex muscles than what we see on the surface.
Here, let’s discuss some of the benefits you get while flexing muscles.
Improve Tendon Stiffness
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Flexing or contracting isometrically is a great way to increase tendon stiffness, with studies indicating greater improvement with increased duration.
This can be beneficial to tendon and muscular health. These fibers require a degree of elasticity to absorb shock and load during our daily movement.
The tendon, in particular, holds great responsibility as it is the muscle’s attachment to the bones. The increased stiffness allows the muscle to hold position during movements that require force.
Flexing has also been noted to improve performance, with one article indicating that training using isometrics can help improve maximal force production.
This makes it beneficial to sports and exercises that require degrees of power such as sprinting, American football, and Olympic lifting.
Enhance Muscular Development
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Improvements to muscle hypertrophy (growth) have also been listed as one of the many benefits of flexing.
The above article also noted that isometrics training at long muscle lengths produced substantial improvements in muscle hypertrophy.
This makes it a great addition to our existing routines.
Helps Lower Blood Pressure
Literature indicates that the practice of flexing a muscle may be helpful in reducing blood pressure.
For individuals with hypertension (high blood pressure), it is not recommended they participate in dynamic resistance.
The article further states that performing isometric contractions does not elevate the heart rate but helps to lower it.
Builds Mind-Muscle Connection
Flexing typically requires us to concentrate on performing voluntary muscle contractions.
By performing isometric contractions before, during, or after, we help to build that mind-muscle connection.
This improves our ability to focus on the target muscles of our workout sets.
Improvements to Muscle Thickness
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Performing isometric contractions has also been associated with the thickening of muscle tissue.
A study in 2019 investigated the effects of isometric holds between sets during quadriceps resistance training.
Through the study, it was noted that there were improvements in muscle tissue.
The implementation of holds mid-set could be a time-efficient way for additional gains, as muscle tissue of the mid-thigh became thicker over time.
For many years, isometric contractions have been used for individuals recovering from injury.
In 2015, a study was conducted to identify the effects of prescribed isometric contractions for individuals suffering from lower back pain.
The participants noted decreases in pain and improved muscle function following the trial.
Isometric contractions are performed with the action of a hold rather than through a range of motion or with significant resistance.
This makes them a fantastic alternative, as patients can voluntarily contract muscles with limited movement, reducing the chance of injury. It’s an excellent tool for improving mobility and decreasing pain.
How to Flex Muscles Correctly
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Flexing muscles can be done by taking them through the direction of their movement.
We can continue to move them or sustain a hold and engage in our isometric contraction through their range of motion.
The list below takes the areas of your back, chest, legs, and shoulders and provides you with ways to contract the muscle in accordance with each muscle’s function.
How to Flex Back Muscles
Contracting the back muscles can be highly beneficial to the improved posture and overall tone of the tissue.
Our bodies require a degree of tone to support us throughout our day. Improving our ability to recruit these muscles voluntarily allows us to perform many movements associated with correct shoulder function and lifting techniques.
How To Do It:
- Stand in the upright position with chest up high, arms to your sides, palms facing forward.
- Gently pull shoulder blades together squeezing shoulder blades back and down toward your hips.
- From here, rotate the shoulders outward, continuing to squeeze the shoulder blades.
- Hold this position for five seconds, concentrating on squeezing the muscles of the back to 50% of a maximum contraction.
How to Flex Chest Muscles
Flexing the chest is a great way to create a connection to muscle tissue prior to your lifts.
Targeting the chest can be difficult when performing press movements, so developing a connection through isometric contractions is a great way to draw focus to the target area before engaging in your working sets.
How To Do It:
- Stand in the upright position, chest up high.
- Place arms to the front of the body, with palms facing inward.
- To begin, gently round your shoulders in, and imagine bringing your shoulders together at the front of your body.
- From here, push your hands together and your arms down in front of you and focus on squeezing your chest muscles.
- Aim for 50% contraction of your maximum contraction, holding for five seconds.
How to Flex Leg Muscles
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It has been indicated that the legs are one of the areas of the body that can most benefit from flexing mid-set.
Performing isometrics for your quads is a great way to ensure you are lifting equally through all tissue during your leg workouts.
How To Do It:
- Sit on the floor with legs stretched out in front with a rolled-up towel under your knees.
- Sit upright, with chest up. Put arms to the side for support.
- To begin, engage your core, lifting and straightening the legs.
- Hold your leg out for five seconds, aiming for 50% contraction.
- Once you complete that repetition, change legs and repeat.
How to Flex Shoulder Muscles
Shoulders are multi-angle joints that allow our arms to move through almost all planes of movement.
Made up of three sections, front, middle, and rear, the deltoid takes some additional work to flex each portion of the muscles.
How To Do It:
- Start in the standing position with your chest up.
- To target the front, lift the arm straight out in front. Hold for five seconds.
- From here, move the arm out to the side with the arm out straight. Aim for a five-second hold.
- Now, to complete a flex of the rear shoulder, drop arms to the sides, and then extend them back.
- Aim to have your thumbs pointing to the floor. Hold for five seconds.
Full-Body Flexing Exercise Plan
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The following workout plan is created using both standard exercises and isometrics.
The two types of exercises may be used individually or in a superset to either challenge the muscle further or for time efficiency.
|Plank||1||–||20 – 30s|
|Side Plank||1||–||10 – 20s|
|Glute Bridge||1||–||20 – 30s|
|Quad Flexes||1||–||5 -10s|
|Pause Squat||3||10||2 sec (each rep)|
|Wall Sits||3||–||15 – 30s|
|Row Hold||3||–||10 – 20s|
|Cable Biceps Curl Hold||3||–||10 – 20s|
|Cable Fly Hold||3||–||10 – 15s|
|Tricep Pushdown Hold||3||–||10 – 15s|
|Superset||Isometric Front Raise||3||–||10 – 20s|
|Isometric Lateral Raise||3||–||10 – 20s|
Does flexing post-workout help your muscles develop?
Yes, flexing your muscles has been noted to help with muscle development. By performing isometric contractions (flexing), you are challenging the muscle.
As we noted in the study earlier, there are improvements in muscle performance and hypertrophy through flexing.
What happens if you flex your muscles too hard?
Flexing and performing an isometric contraction too hard can result in damage and soreness to muscle tissue.
The literature illustrates that when you flex your muscles, you should aim to perform the contraction at below maximal effort to decrease the occurrence of damage.
While the damage from flexing, in this case, maybe minor, performing the contraction within a comfortable range will reduce the risk of damage or injury.
Does flexing tone muscle?
Flexing does not tone muscles. While voluntary isometric contractions can improve many aspects of muscle hypertrophy and performance, the act of simple flexing will not enhance tone.
However, benefits such as improved mind-muscle connection, increased muscle thickness, and hypertrophy may help to enhance the quality of muscle.
If you believe you have obtained tone from flexing, it is more probable that this is due to the practices of correct nutrition, your ability to target the muscle, and increased mass from your training routine.
Does flexing your muscles make them stronger?
The simple act of flexing a muscle won’t necessarily make them stronger.
However, isometrics in your training can influence factors that can improve your muscle tissue’s strength, performance, and quality.
Performing exercises such as wall-sits, planks, and pause squats, we can test the muscles in a fixed range of motion and improve strength.
Implementing isometrics into your training may benefit from increased muscle thickness, tendon stiffening, and muscle hypertrophy.
This improves the overall quality of muscle tissue and its ability to perform in various lengths and joint positions.
Is flexing a workout?
While the simple flexing and flashing of a rear double bicep pose may not necessarily constitute a workout, including isometrics in your training is.
Training isometrics has improved many facets of performance and muscle growth.
By creating a routine that consists of the exercises, whether it be mid-set or the workout, we can aim to stimulate muscle development.
Flexing a muscle can be an incredibly satisfying part of training, especially when we have a fresh pump from a solid workout.
However, making true gains from flexing takes more than just a split-second showing off the guns.
By incorporating isometric contractions into our sessions, both before, during, and after, we can aim to hit our target muscles and provide that additional challenge and stimulus to our muscle fibers.
It is here that we will obtain improvements in strength, performance, and muscle quality.
With all that being said, is there any flexing and isometric training you are thinking of adding to your workouts?
Let me know in the comments below.