It was only a matter of time until the topic of ‘aesthetics’ raised it’s beautiful face.
Bodybuilding without question should be all about the ‘look’ and not the amount of weight that can be lifted from A to B or what the weighing scales say ‘how big you are’ or even the ‘over development’ of a particular muscle group – which can often be the case for some.
Absolutely not, there is something a lot more artistic and wonderful about bodybuilding. Arnold in the great Pumping Iron documentary even likened bodybuilders approach to their physiques to that of an artist creating a moulded sculpture; but instead of working with clay, we as bodybuilders trade with muscle. It’s a very illuminating point that’s difficult to argue against, after all we share the same viewpoint – to create something beautiful, something of tangible worth!
It remains a fact though that this ‘look’ is simply impossible to create with short, ‘bunched up’ muscle bellies, which can often seem to change the way people carry their arms, or even walk in some cases. Indeed, if we don’t take pro-active measures to counter this we too can also run the risk of creating a physique contrary to what we initially set out to achieve.
So, what’s the secret then? How can we create those long, flowing muscle bellies?
The answer to this is two-fold and I cannot express enough the importance both parts play:
1) Always without fail execute the full range of motion for each and every exercise.
I’ve said this before in previous tips but it’s worth repeating – The greater range of motion we use = greater range of muscle we stand to develop.
Or to put it another way, if we fail to maximise the full range of motion we will inevitably fail to develop our muscles to the full. Consider this for a moment, how can we breakdown 100% of the muscle if we only complete 50% of the muscles range of movement? The answer is quite simple – we can’t. When some or part of the muscle is greater developed then the rest, the muscle as a whole can shorten creating that ‘bunched up’ look which is exactly what we don’t want.
In most cases we inevitably have to humble ourselves and reduce the resistance level so we can make a firm commitment to employing each and every muscle fibre of the working muscle(s). My advice (if this includes you) is to do it now – you only stand to benefit! There’s a lot to be said for ‘humble and honest’ trainers, they don’t delude themselves into thinking they are stronger than they really are. They appreciate the end goal – ‘The Look’ and keep the level of resistance used firmly in perspective. They are also more than prepared to bring the bar fully down to the chest for pressing, hang right down with straight arms for ‘chins’ and squat so the upper thigh is at the very least parallel with the floor. They look at an exercises range of motion as an opportunity and as with all opportunities they exist to be taken advantage of to the full – which brings me nicely on to Point 2:
2) Always without fail stretch the working muscles between sets.
Having decided to execute each exercises full range of movement we inevitably stretch the muscle fibres during the ‘negative’ which is of tremendous benefit when it comes to countering the common problem of shortening muscles. However, if you really want to exploit the muscles full potential then you have to commit also to extensive stretching between working sets. Let me explain why – when the muscle is partially broken down through a series of working sets and reps the tissue itself becomes a lot more malleable, pliable if you like which again presents you with an opportunity!
Instead of breaking the muscle fibres down in Point 1 the objective here is to lengthen them by stretching, separating the fibres in this way can make a huge difference to the muscle overall appearance in months/years to come. It’s also another potent strategy against muscle shortening.
Again take advantage of this, don’t just look to ‘get your breath back’ between sets but at least every other set gently ease the working muscles into a stretch for about 10 seconds. It can take the body upto 5 seconds to realise your intentions so an additional 5 seconds is essential to fully exploit the elasticity of the pre-broken down muscle tissue in order to lengthen the muscle fibres.
So there you have it, combine both points in each and every workout and you will begin to reap the rewards immediately. I’d personally keep both these pointers right at the forefront of my mind from the minute I walk through the gym doors – they are that important. Then as you progress and begin adding the proverbial clay to your sculpture, you can rest assured that the end result will be a master piece of long, flowing muscle beautifully placed upon your physique and a credit to you and the sport of bodybuilding!