Bodybuilding: A Simple Sport

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The science behind bodybuilding has enjoyed increased interest recently. This has come from new research done by scientists like Brad Schoenfeld and Alan Aragon. Despite this rise in interest, bodybuilding is still thought to be a relatively simple sport.

The goals are simple; increase muscle mass and decrease fat as much as possible.

So, strength is usually given high priority. High training volume is also highly revered. But, power is typically an afterthought. Finally, if endurance means “greater than 15-20 repetitions” it’s usually dismissed entirely.

This makes sense from a scientific standpoint. The amount of tension placed on the muscle is key to its growth along with the amount of stress it ensures.

This rightly makes strength and volume key training elements to consider. But, they are not the only things worth considering.

Flexibility is a more polarizing consideration. More bodybuilders are beginning to think of it as an important part of development. But other bodybuilders give it no thought at all. Some even praise half and quarter reps for muscle growth.

Still, flexibility is a vital part of physique improvement. This is due to a few ways it can contribute to muscle growth, progress and even performance on stage. These are all discussed in detail below.

Increased Flexibility Can Lead to Increased Muscle Mass

Many bodybuilders have some idea that muscle growth is not uniform. This is why they include such a diverse range of exercises to train a single body part.

The idea of this training practice is to stimulate the muscle from many different angles. This is meant to maximize the growth of every muscle fiber from different regions of the same muscle.

This idea is also backed by research. Varied exercises have shown different muscle fiber stimulation and growth.

But one thing that is often overlooked is that regional muscle growth is also range of motion specific. This means differing ranges inspire growth in different fibers.

So, training with a large a range of motion is better than training with limited range. This ensures the highest amount of muscle is stimulated per given repetition as possible.

This is most likely why training with full ranges of motion has outperformed training with partial repetitions for both strength and muscle growth. A great in-depth review on this topic can be found here for anyone interested in further detail.

But, in short, developing and maintaining high levels of flexibility will allow you to train at higher ranges of motion.  This will then enable you to reap larger gains than using stunted repetitions.

High Flexibility Reduces Injury Risk

There is a common misconception that has arisen in the strength and conditioning community. This is that flexibility has no influence on injury occurrence. This is incorrect.

It is ineffective practices like static stretching that have no benefit. Low flexibility has been shown again and again to increase the risk of injury.

This is because functional flexibility includes the ability to exert strength through a larger range of motion. It is not just the ability to move a limb further in a given direction. So a high level of eccentric strength is also a high standard of flexibility.

Nothing is more detrimental to progress than injury. So, sparing some time to develop your flexibility can ensure you keep making steady gains throughout the year.

Improving Flexibility Can Improve On-Stage Performance

Even for bodybuilders who recognize the importance of flexibility, this point often comes as a surprise.

As mentioned above, bodybuilding is a sport of physique development. So, it is scored on how muscular an individual appears on stage. This is done through rating a set number of poses.

There are usually seven or eight mandatory poses in a competition, which are further explained here.

If you’re a competitive bodybuilder, better flexibility can improve your transitions into poses. It can also allow you to move in a more fluid manner.

It may also improve your awareness of motion and your physique to help you pull off tough position routines.

So, if your posing game is off, consider looking at your flexibility and movement quality as potential areas for improvement.

Some Considerations for Enhancing Flexibility

After seeing the above benefits of flexibility for bodybuilding, it can now be tempting to start trying to get your ass to the ground on every squat.

But, contrary to what many “functional training” practitioners may preach, there is an individual limit to your flexibility.

This limit is dictated largely by your hip and shoulder joint structures. Pushing past this range of motion will increase injury risk, outweighing the benefits of a larger movement range.

So, working toward an ass-to-grass squat is a better idea for some than for others. To get a better idea of how the hips or shoulders can affect your range of motion, there are a few good articles on the subjects.

This article by Bret Contreras gives a good overview of hip structure and movement. For shoulder structure, this article by Robert Panariello is a good starting point.

Conclusion

Flexibility may be overlooked by a lot of bodybuilders. But developing this fitness element can both directly and indirectly improve your physique. It may also help improve your performance in competition.

So, including five to ten minutes per session to improve your flexibility can make a big difference. Incorporating more exercises with a high range of motion is also an effective means of boosting flexibility.

But be careful not to begin working at an excessively high range of motion. Take time to find out about your joints and work to move through as large a range as possible within limits they allow.

Naturally, you should also be careful not to neglect your regular training program or nutrition.

You can check out some new training programs from sites like Muscle and Fitness.

You can also look out for supplements from brands like Olympus UK to keep your gains coming.

Richie Hedderman

Richie started Hurricane Fitness in 2011. Starting out as a Boxer at the age of 11 and winning County, Provincial, National and International medals in Boxing, he began running fitness classes and personal training.
Since then he has gone on to work alongside Olympic, World and European Champions and has trained many clients, both at home and abroad, with a wide range of goals and needs.

You can find him on his website; hurricanefitnessireland.com, or on his Facebook or Instagram page.