Does flexing build muscle?
When you flex, the muscles tissues in a muscle contract. This contraction makes the joint to bend in a particular way, also this makes the muscles to reduce in length and increase in width.
Flexing occurs when the neuromuscular system in the body recruits the muscle tissue and causes the tissue to contract. The muscle’s length goes down and the joint moves.
Flexing can be helpful in the following ways:
1. When recovering from an injury: Injuries on the shoulder or knee and arthritis can use flexing. This is because flexing does not give more pain like other exercises or movements and it is ideal too. Holding your muscles that have been contracted while in one position cannot put stress on the joint.
2. Blood pressure control: Like other isometric exercises, flexing can help with in regulating blood pressure. A study published by the National Institute of Health in 2018 suggested that doing isometric exercises like flexing can help reduce high blood pressure from rapidly going up. This can be helpful to people with high blood pressure and hypertension.
3. Strengthen muscle: Flexing does not require much time or equipment. Even if you do not have enough time for exercises that will strengthen your muscles, you can quickly flex your muscles for few minutes. This exercise can be done anywhere and there is no need to look for equipment as it does not have any need for them.
DOES FLEXING BUILD MUSCLE
This is the question most people who flex their muscles asked. Well, flexing can build your muscles and there is scientific explanation or evidence to back up this claim. A paper submitted to the European Journal of Applied Physiology and published in 2013 was about giving a valid answer to the question above and the result will interest you.
The study involved sixteen young men who were divided into training group or a control group. The training group was given a training program for 3 days per week, the training program had a 4-second maximal voluntary contraction of the elbow flexors (biceps) and extensors (triceps) by flexing at 90 degrees of the elbow joint simultaneously. After the flexing, they had 4 seconds to relax their muscles.
These movements were repeatedly done 10 times by the training group and they also performed 5 sets on their workout day for 12 weeks. After the 12 weeks, the training group that simply flexed for 12 weeks noticed increase in the thickness of their biceps and triceps at 4% each. Also, there was increase in the maximal contraction ability of the participants’ muscles.
Unlike before, they could contract their biceps and triceps up to 15% harder and their sleeve bursting went up to 46% harder too. The control group who were asked not to do anything recorded no changes or increase in their muscles or contraction ability. In a study carried out by the Ohio University and published by the National Institute of Health in 2014, a group of healthy individual had their wrists immobilized by using cast on them for 4 weeks in order to induce weakness.
Another group also had their wrist immobilized by using casts for 4 weeks too but they were asked to imagine doing strong muscle contractions 5 days in a week. The immobilization of their wrists reduced their strength to at least 45%. After the exercise, their strength of the group that imagined flexing had their loss of strength and voluntary activation reduced by fifty (50) percent.
This means that not only flexing but thinking about it can make your neurological pathway stronger.
How can flexing build muscles even when you are not lifting weights? This is possible as isometric exercises can help in strengthening and building muscles. However, the volume of the flexing and not just how hard you do it will enhance how your muscles grow. How many sets you do and how long each set lasts will help push the growth of your muscles.
OTHER BENEFITS OF FLEXING MUSCLE
Apart from building muscles, there are other benefits of flexing that most people overlook which are:
1. Increasing strength: Muscles flexing can make you get stronger. The International Journal of Sports Medicine in 2014 published an article that suggested doing 10 x 4-second isometric contractions with 4 seconds of muscle relaxation protocol can increase the isometric force production of the biceps by 12.5% and 14% for the triceps in 4 weeks.
The European Journal of Applied Physiology in 2013 carried out a study which showed that maximal voluntary contractions can lead to 13% increase in biceps strength and a 27% increase in triceps strength.
These results may not be advantageous to trained weightlifters because the subjects in these studies are all untrained.
2. Improve the mind muscle connection: This benefit may sound like rocket science but it is backed by researches and studies. The European Journal of Sport Science in 2018 published an article that showed how thinking of squeezing the muscles and contracting them when exercising can lead to the double growth of the biceps and triceps muscles.
The mind is a powerful tool during exercise, there is another study to back up this claim. The Journal of Neurophysiology in 2014 showed the power of the mind that by just imaging 52 x 5-second maximal contractions of the wrist extensors five times per week while in a cast (immobilized) can reduce how strength is lost from the 4 weeks period of immobilization. Flexing the muscles is likened to performing mind-muscle connection practice.
CAN FLEXING ALONE BUILD MUSCLE
Flexing alone may build muscles especially if you are not training. But for those who are training and have been lifting weight for some time, flexing alone cannot build weight. This is because the stimulus in flexing cannot be intense when compared to lifting weights, you can combine both to get significant results. You could also eat foods and use supplements(e.g. blood tonics) that could help you bulk up in no time
DOES FLEXING BURN CALORIES
The main purpose of the flexing exercise is not to burn calories, the primary purpose of the isometric exercise is to make you stronger, build your muscles and improve how your mind connects to your muscles. However, a hard flexing session can be helpful in burning calories. If you want to get maximum and effective results, you can do other cardiovascular exercises that are meant for burning calories.
HOW TO USE FLEXING TO BUILD MUSCLE
If your reason for flexing everyday is to build your muscles, there are ways you can flex and it becomes more advantageous to you and your body. These ways are:
i. Stand alone home flexing: Instead of only flexing on your way to shower, you can add flexing 5o the activities you do on your rest days. This will help you add extra volume and time to the flex. First, you have to choose a body part that you want to work on, this part will be your target. Flex the muscles at least 3 times a week and give enough time for the contractions to set in very well.
ii. In between sets: You can incorporate flexing into your main exercise while you rest. Although this may reduce how you perform your primary exercise, this will help increase your muscles growth.
Frontiers in Physiology published an article in 2020 which showed that doing a 30-second maximal isometric contraction of the quadriceps in between sets of back squats increased muscle growth. Note that this study limited the contractions only to the quadriceps and not other muscles.
FLEXING EXERCISES THAT YOU CAN DO
Apart from bending your elbow to contract the muscles, there are other exercises that are aimed at contracting your muscles. Here are some of them.
1. Wall sit: This is for the muscles in the back of the thighs and in the buttocks. First, you place your back against the wall while your feet is about 20 inches from the wall. You lower your buttocks so that your legs can bend to 90 degrees. Stay in this position for 15 seconds before standing up. Rest for few seconds and do this for 4 times while taking breaks.
2. Adductors squeeze: This is for the muscles that run from your pelvis to your femur. Lie on the floor and keep your feet flat on the floor while your knees are slightly bent. You place a round object like a basketball between your knees and squeeze them. Hold the ball for few seconds and release it. Do 8 to 10 repetitions and do 2 or 3 sets of 10 reps every day.
3. Plank: this is for the core muscles. Rest on your forearms and toes while your body is in a straight line. Clench your buttocks and engage your abdominal muscles. Stay in this position for at least 20 seconds and do this 3 or 4 times everyday.
4. Bent-over wall press: This is for the chest and shoulders muscles. Stand in a lung position while facing a wall and bring out one foot in front of the other. Bend towards the wall while your hands push flat against the wall. Stay for 20 seconds, take a break and repeat for 4 times. This exercise benefits your shoulder if you bend forward, but if you are upright, it benefits your chest muscles.
Flexing is a common isometric exercise that has many benefits. The most important reason why people engage in it is to build their muscles. Yes, flexing can build your muscles especially if you are untrained, trained weightlifters may not get satisfactory results if they do it alone. Apart from the muscle building benefits, it can make you stronger and also improve your mind and muscles connection