Muscle flexing is probably most often associated with bodybuilders who pose during competition to demonstrate their spectacular handiwork. While this may seem like mere vanity or simply showing off for the audience, flexing actually is a large part of many bodybuilders’ training routines. Flexing also has gained popularity among weightlifters and workout buffs as a legitimate addendum to their routines, especially between sets to isolate, and stimulate blood flow to, muscles. Flexing alone can build minimal muscle mass but, used in conjunction with weight training or traditional isometric and dynamic-tension techniques, it can yield even greater results.
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Focus your mind. Just as in weight training, visualising the task at hand helps eliminate distractions and creates a positive mind set. While some people may pooh-pooh the mental aspect of training, most serious fitness buffs and athletes know the importance of mental preparation. For flexing, isometrics and dynamic-tension training, focus is especially important because you’re not relying on an external force -- namely weights -- to provide resistance. You’re supplying all the resistance yourself, and a keen focus is essential to maximise results.
Stand in front of a mirror. Start with a flex with which most people are familiar—the chest/arm flex, sometimes simply called the “G-r-r-r-r.” Hold your arms shoulder-width apart in front of you, parallel to your chest and legs. Bend your back slightly forward, bend your elbows slightly inward, and clench your fists. Tense your chest, shoulders and arms. Hold the position for a count of 10, breathing on each count. You’ll feel the intensity slacken as you breathe, then pick up again on the next count as you hold your breath. Take a one-minute break and repeat two or three times. If you begin to feel light-headed, stop or review your breathing technique.
Add different flexing poses to the routine. A simple bicep curl -- displaying your biceps muscles in a standard muscle-man pose -- is a good choice. Hold one or both arms perpendicular to the floor, curl your arm inward at the elbow, ball your fist and flex your biceps. Concentrate on the biceps tightening and forming a ball. Close your eyes if your reflection is distracting you. Keep working the biceps muscle until you find an optimum flex -- a point at which the biceps seems to pop or settle into its maximum size. Hold the flex for a three-count, relax, then repeat in sets of 10. Alternate between short, explosive flexes and more sustained poses. Back, leg and abdominal flexing can be included, always keeping in mind to mentally isolate the muscle being worked, find an optimum flex point, and hold the flex for a second or two. Breathing correctly is critical.
Add isometric or dynamic-tension elements to your flexing. Flexing actually is a form of isometrics, which involves muscle contractions minus any movement. Isometrics contrast to isotonic exercises, in which a contracting muscle shortens against resistance, as in weightlifting. Dynamic tension adds slight movement to an isometric exercise, such as pressing one hand against another. Although the dynamic-tension movement may not be apparent, because the opposing forces negate each other, dynamic tension is a form of resistance. You can alternate between an isometric flex and a dynamic-tension drill by placing your hands in front of you, chest high, and clasping them together. Push one hand against the other, sustaining the force for a count of three (dynamic tension). Stop pushing and tense for a count of three (isometrics). Repeat the two-step process in sets of 10. Speed up the dynamic tension/isometric components, alternating on counts of one.
Tips and warnings
- If you’re a weightlifter, use flexing during workouts (between sets) and at other times during the day, such as at the office or before going to bed. Seven-time Mr. Universe and eight-time Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger swore by flexing not just as an aid in competition or as an adjunct to training, but as a beneficial exercise in and of itself.
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