Do These Stretches to Build Even More Muscle

Building muscle primarily takes place in two places: the kitchen and the gym. If you’re a seasoned lifter, you know the importance of properly fueling your body in order to get results. You need to have high levels of protein intake, for example, and low levels of sugar and carbohydrates. As for the gym, your workouts should probably be built around the three primary lifts, with plenty of auxiliary exercises rotated in.

Even if you have your routines cemented down to the tiniest detail, there’s another important element that is constantly overlooked when trying to bulk or gain muscle: flexibility and mobility. That’s where stretching comes in. Try these stretches before hitting the squat rack or bench press, and see how they make you feel, or if they help your lifts and gains. You can always switch up your routine to better serve your goals.

1. Calf raises

Man doing calf raises

Calf raises are great for your legs. |

You can do calf raises seated or standing, and you can use some light dumbbells too, if you wish. The point is to get your lower legs primed and ready to move. It’s easy to end up with sore calves or even a pulled calf muscle, and no matter what your workout entails, you’re going to be using them — if you’re hitting the treadmill, or the squat rack. Do some simple calf raises, and get the blood flowing to your lower legs.

2. Touch your toes

Man touching his toes

Make sure to stretch out those hamstrings. |

It really doesn’t get easier or more straight forward than this — just touch your toes. This will give the muscle groups in your back and core a stretch, as well as the quads, hamstrings, and calves. Giving all of those muscle fibers a bit of a prime either before or after lifting is going to get you on the road to recovery faster than if you hadn’t stretched.

3. Hamstring extension

Man stretching his ham string

Extensions will really target this area of your leg. |

Really priming your legs’ larger muscle groups is imperative to having a solid workout and recovery. The hamstrings and glutes, naturally, should be on the top of your list. There are a number of ways to stretch your hamstrings, and if you previously touched your toes, you probably felt it. But you’ll really want to make sure you’re doing some extensions, or related stretch, to get the muscle fibers stretched and ready to lift — or recover. See what stretches you’re comfortable with, and be sure to get limber before squatting or deadlifting.

4. Quad stretch

Quad stretch

Make sure to stretch your quads, too. | Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images

And on to the other big muscle group in your legs, the quadriceps. As you can see in the photo above, it’s relatively easy to give your quads a thorough stretch, though it may not be very comfortable. You can stretch your quads standing up, and by grabbing your foot behind your butt and pulling. You’ll feel the muscles expand and stretch. Again, if you’re going to be doing squats or deadlifts, or even leg extensions, you’ll want to make sure your quads are ready to rock.

5. Pull-up bar hang

Man hanging from bar

Hanging from the bar will stretch your upper body. |

Perhaps the one thing that’s easier than touching your toes is to simply hang from a bar. To give your upper body muscle groups a good stretch and priming, this is a very easy way to do it — you’re letting gravity do all the work. Grab the bar, and let your joints and ligaments bear the brunt of the stretch. Try a couple of different grips — either wide or close-grip — and allow your upper body to get a good extension.

6. Modified cobra

Man doing the modified cobra

Your body will thank you for this chest opener. |

Borrowing a page from the yoga playbook, you’ve probably seen many people do a variation of this stretch. If you want to target your upper body, and your core and hips especially, hop on the ground and give this a try. It’s also good for your back and arms, so you’ll be in good shape when you start or finish your lifts. Try the modified cobra the next time you hit the gym, and see if it does anything for you.

7. Chest stretch

Man stretches his chest at work

Give yourself another chest stretch before and after lifting. |

Before you hit the bench press, or even do some rows or related exercises, you’ll want to make sure your chest and lats are ready to go. Stretching your chest out can be as easy as swinging a pole of some sort (golf club, baseball bat, whatever) around like the golfer above, or even holding on to a piece of gym equipment and using your body to twist and turn. Again, you’re giving your muscle fibers a priming, which will help facilitate muscle growth in the long run.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger