Tag Archive | gains

Do You Even S T R E T C H ?

Alright, confession time…how often do you hard gainers, iron pumpers, and cross fitters actually stretch? I mean, consistently and thoroughly stretch?

If you’re like me, your answer will be “meh, not much.” And in my own head, I’ve kind of rationalized this by coming up with a myriad of excuses. For example: I don’t have time; I don’t feel like taking time; It’s boring; I forget; How much difference will it really make with my workouts?; etc…

What if stretching could actually help you gain more muscle?? That’s right! I recently read an article, How Stretching Can Explode Your Muscle Growth by Nick Nilsson, VP, BetterU, Inc, which mentions the critical role of stretching in building muscle.

Now, I learned in my massage therapy training that every muscle in your body is enclosed by tough connective tissue known as fascia. And it’s pretty common knowledge that fascia is important for holding your muscles in their proper place in your body. BUT, Nilsson proposes, your fascia may also be holding back your muscle growth.

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“Because fascia is so tough, it doesn’t allow the muscle room to expand. It is like stuffing a large pillow into a small pillowcase. The size of the muscle won’t change regardless of how hard you train or how well you eat because the connective tissue around your muscles is constricting the muscles within. The best example of this is the calf muscle. The lower leg is riddled with fascia because of its tremendous weight-bearing duties in the body. It is because of this fascia that many trainers have great difficulty developing their calves.

Using the pillowcase example above, imagine you can expand the size of the pillowcase by stretching it. Suddenly, the pillow within has more room and will expand to fill that new space.”

Anyone else having the same lightbulb moment that I had?

Nilsson goes on to mention that there are actually ideal conditions in which to stretch your muscles so that you can maximize fascial stretch and kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.

“The key to effective fascial stretching is the pump. The best time to stretch to expand the bags that are holding in your muscles is when your muscles are pumped up full of blood. When your muscles are fully pumped up, they are pressing against the fascia. By stretching hard at that time, you increase that pressure on the fascia greatly, which can lead to expansion of the fascia.”

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You’ll know you are engaging the fascia when you feel a powerful pulling sensation and pressure as the muscle works against the fascia to expand it. Just be careful not to stretch so hard that you hurt yourself…you should not feel any sharp pain, just a steady pull.

You can find instructions for stretching at: http://www.fitstep.com/Library/Info/Stretching1.htm

“Hold each stretch for at least 20 to 30 seconds as you must give your fascia time to be affected by the stretch. Stretch hard like this only when you have a fully pumped muscle as you must give your fascia a reason to expand. If your muscles aren’t pumped, just stretch normally.”

Ciao for now,

-E

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Rollercoaster Week…Ending on a High Note!

Hey guys, sorry for the delay in a post this week. I’ve had a hard time getting into my normal groove since last Thursday when my neighbor’s house caught fire in the middle of the night. Due to the massive flames and wind, I was evacuated in case it spread to my house.

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Ultimately, 3 houses sustained damage and mine was next in line. So THANK GOD for looking out for me! In the meantime, please send out some positive vibes to my neighbors who are dealing with this unfortunate disruption to their lives.  While I fortunately did not incur any damage, it was incredibly scary and unnerving and kinda threw me off for a good week or so.

On a positive note, I’d say this experience has made me MUCH more aware of and grateful for many things I often take for granted: a roof over my head, being able to wake up and have coffee in my living room, my closet full of clothes to choose from, getting to shower in my own house after a good workout, etc.  And I have been so grateful for the therapeutic effect of the gym this week…It’s amazing how an hour or so of doing something great for your mind and body can have a positive effect on your whole day!
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Speaking of which, I had something VERY great happen at the gym today that I wanted to share with you!  Now, I may not have really mentioned it lately, but since I started focusing on weight training (roughly 6 months ago), I’ve been dedicated toward building muscle and shifting my body composition.  From everything I’ve read, I know that it’s normal to experience feelings of water retention, swelling around the muscles, etc when building muscle. Buuuuttt, for someone who has had past issues with body image, knowing this and feeling this are two different things. In other words, it can be kind of a mind f*@k!

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Anyway,  lately, I’ve been feeling like I can’t tell if my hard work is showing or not.  And in the wake of the fire I mentioned above, I’ve just been a tad out of it.  So I finished an arm/shoulder workout today and wrapped up with a 20 minute run on the treadmill. I was on my way out the door and saw my friend Carol (die-hard gym goer and fitness competitor), and as I was about to say hi she blurts out “Oh my god you have been working HARD!!! You look GREAT!!!!”  She went on to tell me how she was on the elliptical behind me and was so motivated by how toned and powerful my body looked while I was running that she wanted to get off and run beside me! Run beside ME!!! I was seriously coming out of my skin with excitement because I know she isn’t blowing smoke.

So, yeah, I’ve basically been on a high all day because I’m feeling like my usual positive, energetic self. And it’s always great to know that the hard work you’re putting in (whether it’s the gym, a relationship, a career, a hobby) is paying off.

Cheers to the weekend!

Ciao for now,

-E