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Stretching in bodybuilding

Stretching in bodybuilding


After a good workout, the blood flow increases, filling the muscles to the point of congestion. Now comes the time for recovery, which for many exercisers boils down to swallowing a dose of protein, carbohydrates and rest. However, there's one element that's often overlooked, or even forgotten, that could well be part of the recovery phase and have an entirely different purpose.

This element I'm referring to should be an integral part of your training, as the benefits it offers are not negligible. I'm talking, of course, about stretching.

As we all know, the aim of bodybuilding exercises is to stimulate muscle tissue. This stimulation consists of a sequence of contractions and releases with a load in order to provoke an adaptive response in the muscles. The contraction is achieved by shortening the muscle, which then returns to its initial size while gaining volume and strength. However, as exercise and training progress, the muscle eventually loses its elasticity and therefore its length. This loss of length then has an impact on the exerciser's flexibility. Although this quality varies from one individual to another, it will not be maintained if it is not worked on.

Even if you're flexible by nature, any strain on your muscles will automatically cause them to lose their suppleness.

why stretch ?

Apart from keeping you supple for those who already are, why is it necessary to stretch when you're doing bodybuilding, or any other sport for that matter ?

Working and developing your muscles leads them to gain in strength. In so doing, the muscle loses elasticity as it shortens. As a result, it pulls harder on the tendons that connect it to the bone. The consequence of all this is a loss of amplitude of movement, and therefore a shortening of the pathway during the execution of an exercise. A muscle worked with reduced amplitude will not be developed as a whole.

range of motion

The first benefit of stretching is therefore to maintain full rangeAnd therefore full muscle development.

Prevents joint pain

The second area of interest is joints. In this case, we're talking more about softening than stretching. Relaxing connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, joint capsules) gives joints greater amplitude, thus limiting tension. What's more, maintaining muscular flexibility has a positive effect on joint suppleness, reducing the risk of tendon and ligament injuries.

Increases performance

The third benefit of stretching is performance/recovery. During training, whatever the sport, the muscle fills up with blood and, at the same time, toxins (muscular waste products). Stretching the muscles helps to flush out these toxins, thus limiting muscle soreness. This in turn improves recovery and has a positive impact on performance.

For professional sportsmen and women, stretching sessions are essential to enable the body to withstand successive intense efforts throughout a career. In fact, it's not uncommon for athletes to take up yoga, a practice that gently stretches numerous muscles and is extremely beneficial for flexibility.

Examples of stretching programs and exercises

There are two main types of stretching:

  • dynamic stretching: muscles are always in motion. Generally performed as part of the warm-up.
  • static stretching: the muscle is gradually put under tension, then the position is maintained for a certain period of time. They are mainly used at the end of the session.

Both methods can be performed either actively or passively. In the first case, contraction of the muscle to be stretched inhibits the myotatic reflex (brief contraction of the muscle triggered by its own stretching). In the second, the muscle group is slowly lengthened.

I will now give you an example of stretching for each muscle group:


Hug your knees, keep your back straight and gently stretch each thigh for 15 seconds. Do this 2 or 3 times.



During this stretch, it's important to keep the supporting leg slightly bent and not to press on the knee of the leg being stretched. Gently bend forward and stretch each side for 15 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.



As the picture shows, the stretch is performed on the back leg. There's no need to spread your legs too far apart or push against the wall. The most important thing is to keep your heel on the ground and feel the stretch in your calf. Hold the position for 15 seconds, then reverse the legs. Do this 2 or 3 times.


The pectoral muscles

Leaning against a fixed point (wall, guided frame or the upright of a weight machine) with one arm stretched backwards, rotate your torso slightly away from the outstretched arm. Rotate until you feel a stretch in the pectoral muscle. Then reverse the position. Hold each position for 15 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.


The back


In this position, it is important to keep the lumbarThe arms should remain slightly bent and the torso tilted until you feel a stretch in the large dorsal muscles. Keep your arms slightly bent and tilt your torso until you feel a stretch in your lats. You can accentuate the stretch by rotating slightly to one side or the other. Hold times and frequency are the same as for the previous exercises.

The shoulders

Two exercises stretch the shoulder muscles.

Exercise 1: In this posture, the stretch targets the outer and lateral deltoids. Here, it's important to keep your back straight and not strain the joint, as the shoulders are relatively fragile.


Exercise 2: This stretch targets the anterior zone of the deltoid muscle, which is particularly stressed during pushing movements. Once again, keep your back straight and don't arch your back. Pulling your shoulders back slightly will accentuate the stretch, but don't pull them up so as not to strain the trapezius. Hold the position for 15 seconds on each side and repeat the exercise 2 or 3 times.


Biceps and triceps


This first exercise stretches the triceps. Simply position your arm vertically to your chest, then pull slightly on your elbow with the opposite arm. When you feel the stretch, hold the position for 15 seconds, then alternate with the other arm. The second exercise stretches the whole forearm, as well as the biceps and the hand used to hold the load.


Be careful not to overextend the elbow joint. You could injure yourself.

15 seconds on each arm is enough. Repeat 2-3 times on each side.

You're now equipped with a range of stretching exercises that will not only help you maintain or improve your flexibility, but also protect you from injury and improve your recovery. In the long term, your performance will be all the better for it !

Advice from a coach

You can stretch directly after exercise or a few hours later. In any case, don't do without this tool, which will preserve your body over the long term.

AuthorAlexandre CARPENTIER

Bodybuilding Champion N.A.C 2012

Alexandre shares his bodybuilding experience with MegaGear blog readers