I learned this protocol from Arthur De Vany and used it with good results in 2010.
I don’t want to bore you with technical/anatomical/hormonal aspects of stretch – flex; suffice it to say that when a muscle is stretched (the absolute, safe position at the end of your eccentric, or negative, or lowering move) and you keep it stretched under load for, say, 30 seconds, and then do a few short concentric moves, stretch again a bit further and repeat this 3-4 times your muscle growth will blow your mind.
The first thing that you should do in a stretch- flex exercise is to let the weight put a deep stretch on the muscle. Hold that so that you can get to impose a chronic stretch for up to one minute. For example, let’s say we are doing DB shrugs pictured below.
Let the DBs drop lower and lower as you let your shoulders be pulled down by the weight. Lift them a bit and then let them settle even further down. Then do contractions against the stretch, the flex part, by pulling upward and then letting the weight drop to a maximum stretch and then contract again. Then end with another long hold while letting the DBs settle into a deep stretch.
The whole thing is over in 3 minutes. No need for further sets, just one set and move on to the next exercise.
The following general terminology should help you better understand the total body stretch/flex program that I am going to give you.
Positive = concentric
Negative = eccentric
When you’re doing a bench-press, the pecs (pectorals) are the agonist muscle group, meaning the main muscle being contracted. The pecs are an anterior muscle group, meaning they are on the front of the body. When you contract them you are actually lifting the weight away from you, you are PUSHING the weight, you are doing a concentric move (also called “positive”), the muscle is contracting NOT lengthening. When you lower the weight, you are doing a “negative”, you are doing an eccentric move, and the muscle is lengthening when you do this.
A PULL exercise is the opposite. A lat pull-down is working the lats and this is a posterior muscle group. When you pull down the weight toward you this is a concentric move (a “positive”) and you are contracting the lats, the muscle is “shortening”. When the weight is moving away from you you are doing an eccentric move (a “negative”), the muscle is lengthening.
So you see why it is important to know when you are doing a PUSH exercise vs. a PULL exercise, because when doing a PUSH exercise the eccentric movement is usually when the weight is coming down after you have pushed it away from you. You would want to do the stretch/flex when the muscle fully lengthens after an eccentric move. With a PULL exercise the eccentric movement is when the weight is going away from you after you pulled it down. When the weight is away from you and your muscle has lengthened, you would flex.
The key is to understand what muscles you’re working when doing an exercise, whether you’re doing a push or a pull, and when is the muscle lengthening (eccentric) and when is the muscle contracting (concentric). Once you become aware of what you’re muscles are doing when strength training, your workouts will take on a new meaning.
You can do the whole program (full body workout) at once or you can split it up and do it in 2-3 sessions. Don’t forget to rest 1-2 days between workouts.
LEGS AND ABS
1. D.B DEADLIFTS
The hamstrings (back of the leg muscles) are stretched in the above picture.
2. LEG PRESS
The quadriceps (front of the leg muscles) are stretched in the above picture.
3. CALF PRESS
The calves are stretched when your heels are way in front of your toes.
4. SWISS BALL CRUNCHES
Your abs are stretched in the second picture, but you still have quite a bit of stretching to do. Do this with a DB in your hands.
BACK AND PECS
5. PULL DOWN
Your lats are stretched in the first picture.
6. SITTING ROW
Again, your lats are stretched in the first picture.
7. CHEST PRESS
Your pecs are stretched in the second picture.
8. BUTTERFLY CHEST EXERCISE
The pecs are somewhat stretched in the picture but you have to stretch more.
9. SMITH MACHINE SHOULDER PRESS
Your shoulder muscles are stretched in the second picture; need a bit more lowering of the bar.
10. CABLE SIDE LATERAL RAISE
The shoulders are stretched in the picture.
11. DB SHRUGS
The traps are stretched when the DBs go DOWN.
12. INCLINED DB CURL
Your biceps are stretched when the DBs are way down.
13. DB TRICEPS EXTENTION
Your triceps are stretched in the first picture.
Well, that’s it. Let’s summarize the main elements of stretch/flex:
1.Stretching muscles UNDER LOAD for varying lengths of time, intermittently rather than chronically. A total 2-3 minute stretch is plenty.
- Flexing an already stretched muscle in intermittent pulses moving the weight just a few inches and then dropping back into the stretch. Contraction under stretch is the key in producing an additional effect on the stretch, which itself will produce hypertrophy (enlargement of existing muscle fibers). Hyperplasia (increase in the number of muscle fibers) will occur when this is done on a longer term and the muscle cell nucleus can no longer support the muscle tissue and new ones form.
- Eat 3 meals a day when you do stretch/flex and 2 meals a day when you don’t. This stimulates autophagy to clear out proteins released from muscle damage and the knots and cross-links that are broken by the stretch.
Try this out for a while and let me have your views.