Weighted stretching to stimulate gains has been around for some time now, but it seems to be the hot topic circulating the fitness industry lately. Most people think of muscle growth as concentric and eccentric movements to stimulate growth, but we don’t think about the isometric component which can also assist with growth.
What is Stretch-Mediated Hypertrophy?
We know that when we contract, we build muscle. We know that doing rep after rep sends a signal to grow muscle. Did you know that stretching a muscle under resistance, at its end range of motion stimulates muscle as well.
When a load is placed on a muscle at the end range, contractile units sense the load being placed in the stretch position. This sends a signal to grow. We already knew this on some level. After all, we have known that the person who takes an exercise through a full range of motion will have better muscle growth than the individual who does partial reps.
Studies showed subjects doing just the bottom half of a preacher curl got 2.6x more growth than the group that did only the top half! That’s wild. It’s also wild when you think about all the times you’ve gone to the gym and see people shortchanging their reps for the sake of getting heavier weight up. Another study compared participants doing cable pushdowns, versus overhead cable extensions. They saw 1.5x results on the overhead extension group compared to the cable pushdown group.
How to Implement Weighted Stretching
As always, prioritize full range of motion when it comes to exercises. It will put you in the best position for muscle growth. If you are going to add some weighted stretching, add it towards the end of your session on a given muscle. Focus on controlling and being able to hold the load in that stretch position for 60 seconds. For example, you could do dumbbell flyes for the chest, and choose a weight that allows you to bring the weight down into that stretch position while actively holding it. It is not passive, you are engaging the entire 60 seconds. Make sure you choose a weight that you can do that safely, there is no need to go super heavy on this. Do it for just one set, for each muscle at the end of their workout, and see how you feel after a month or two.
It should by no means replace regular lifting, or take up the bulk of your programming. Think of it as a tool to be utilized to stimulate new muscle growth if you’ve been lifting for a long time now. Make sure the rest of your training follows regular progression, trying to do more reps or weight than the week before. Stay 2-3 reps shy of failure so that you can maximize as much muscle growth while not risking injury or overtraining.