Stretch Between Sets for Muscular Development

I often perform stretches between my working sets for the muscle I am training to further facilitate growth and development. I firmly believe that stretching between working sets increases muscular development results.

Blood Pumped Inside the Muscles

Why? One theory of mine is because of the blood circulation and keeping the blood pumped inside the muscles being worked. Muscles being worked get blood flow rushed to them and keeping this blood inside the muscles is central to development and results. Stretching between sets greatly helps keep that beneficial blood right where it needs to be to allow for more developmental results.

The Importance of Blood Circulation

Blood flow circulation movement training emphases throughout the body is a particular way to train that I learned about from reading how Steve Reeves trained and believed it was best to train in such a way that allowed for maximum development potential.

Circulation and Blood Flow Matters: The Steve Reeves Method of Training

Normally when I train I tend to follow the Steve Reeves method of working the body as a whole. I agree with keeping the structure of the workout that follows a pattern of keeping the blood in and around the same muscles as it flows to the other surrounding muscles throughout the workout instead of jumping all around which can leave time for the muscle to cool down.

“Many people start their training by working legs (thighs) first. This theory being the larger muscles should be worked first because they take more energy to work them than smaller muscles. Besides, if a bodybuilder would work the smaller muscles first, he wouldn’t have enough energy to work the bigger muscles later in the workout. I don’t agree. On the contrary, I believe that the legs should be worked near the end of your workout, after you have worked the major muscles of the upper body. Here’s why:

Because the legs are the largest and strongest muscles in the body, they are needed to form a strong foundation or support while you are doing most of the exercises for the upper body. Without this strong foundation, you won’t be able to put out the maximum effort while working the smaller muscles of the upper body.

I also believe it is better for your body to warm up and increase circulation gradually by doing exercises that don’t put too much demand on your system too quickly. By working the smaller muscles first, then working the legs near of the end of your training, you accomplish this.

Approximately 80 percent of your blood is located in your legs and glutes (which are worked while you exercise the other body areas.) So, if you work your legs first, you will be bringing even more blood down into the lower extremities, thus drawing it away from the smaller muscles in your upper body.

All of this makes for an unnecessary and undesirable demand on your system (forcing the body to pump large amounts of blood against gravity) once you start making the body bring the blood back to the upper body when you begin working the smaller muscles. The bottom line is this: If you want the best results from your workouts, start with the smaller muscles of your upper body and work down to your legs.” Steve Reeves, Building the Classic Physique: The Natural Way

Steve Reeves Stretching Between Sets
Image: Steve Reeves

Frank Zane advocates stretching between training sets as well. The results speak for themselves. Time tested!

“The way we train here at my gym is, immediately after we do a set we do a stretch that works the body part we’re training. So if you’re doing, let’s say, front pulldowns or low cable rows, you do a two-arm lat stretch to keep the blood in the area, to keep it warmed up, and to enhance flexibility. The one-arm lat stretch is just hitting one lat at a time, and that’s what we do right after one-arm dumbbell rows to pop out the lats.

Enhanced flexibility will help your posing, but it will help in your workout, too. You’ll get a better pump, you’ll stay warmed up, you’ll lessen the chance of injuries, you may even be stronger on your next set. So it helps everything. I think if you don’t stretch enough and you just train heavy and slow all the time, you will lose your range of motion to some extent. You’ve got to train that too.” Frank Zane

How Long?

Stretching during your workout will assist your muscles to lengthen and develop. Frank Zane advises stretching between 15-30 seconds. I definitely agree and would not perform stretches any longer than 30 seconds for various and obvious reasons.

Mind Muscle Connection and Control

The mind muscle connection is not only important during the training, but also during the stretching. The goal is not to stretch so hard to the point of physical pain but to keep the mind muscle connection active and really feeling the muscle you are stretching being engaged and worked. This helps allow for greater development and control over the muscle, which also helps during the actual training.

Focus on Breath Work

It is very easy to lose focus of our breath when we are concentrating intently on something. Stretching is no different and incorrect or failing to breathe can turn stretching of the muscle into a detriment instead of a benefit. Incorrect or faulty breathing, like through the mouth can lead to a stressed response in the body. Nose breathing is key for a number of different reasons but like anything it gets easier with practice and focus.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Stretching
Image: Arnold Schwarzenegger Stretching
Arnold Schwarzenegger Lat Stretch
Image: Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Lat Stretch”


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s