Could Flexing Between Sets Equal Faster Gains?
In gyms across the world, you'll see gym-goers flexing in front of the dumbbell rack between sets. But why? Without question, part of the reason is to hit the perfect angle that social media selfie. But another reason exists. Some believe flexing is a shortcut more gains. And the premise is not as far-fetched as it first appears.
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The Research On Flexing
Flexing is an isometric contraction of a muscle. So rest intervals involving a muscular contraction create more tension on a muscle. And more tension equals more volume. And more volume equals more muscle. Well, that's the logic. But is it scientific logic or bro logic? Should you be flexing between sets for more gains? Or is sitting on your butt while mocking the ridiculous behaviour of your bro brethren, the way to go? Well, a study in Jan 2020 by Schoenfeld et al looked at this exact subject. So let’s break it down.
In the study, researchers divided the 35 male participants into two groups. The texters and the flexors (pssst... I made up those group names). So what did these 35 dudes get up to?
Both groups performed the same total body resistance training programme. The only difference was what they did in their rest periods. The texters did nothing for 2 minutes. The flexing group posed for 30 seconds immediately after completing a set. Flexing done, they rested for a further 90 seconds. So what were the results?
Did The Results Show Any Benefit Of Flexing Between Sets?
Muscle growth in the biceps, triceps, and vastus lateralis was no different. So you could say that all the flexing came to nothing. In fact, leg press strength decreased in the flexing group. A possible sign of accumulated fatigue and its impact on performance. But there was one anomaly, the rectus femoris--the muscle running down the centre of the thigh. The flexing group increased the size of this specific muscle. But why? Researchers speculate that it could be a result of exercise selection. Allow me to explain.
The lower body element of the training programme included the squat and the leg press. Neither of which load the quad in the shortened position. Think about standing up straight in a squat or legs outstretched on the leg press. These positions have the least challenge to the quad muscles. In comparison, the leg extension, for example, loads the shortened position of the quad. So why is this relevant? Well, those flexing between sets did so in a position akin to the end position of a leg extension. Thereby increasing the stimulus of the rectus femoris compared to the resting group. The isometric hold was making up, somewhat, for a gap in the training programming. Does this me we should all go and start flexing our quads between sets?
To Flex Or Not To Flex?
The simple answer is, no. You don't need to flex for quad gains. Instead, create a more effective training programme. One that incorporates exercises that challenge muscles through their full contractile range. So squat and leg extension, for example. Flexing will not bridge the gap of poor programming. In fact, it could tire you out and be detrimental to hypertrophy. The long and the short of it is this. Get a better training programme and save the posing for when you're out home in front of the mirror.
The Next Step In Achieving Your Fitness Goals
Now you're clear about flexing, what about the other pieces of the puzzle? Are you confident in managing all aspects of your training and nutrition? And can you keep yourself accountable to ensure you maintain consistency? If you're unsure, my online coaching programme is worth a moment of your attention.
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building muscle, flexing, hypertrophy, muscle gain