Monday, also known as International Chest Day, is familiar to any regular gym goer, but for crying out loud stop the gym peer pressure and don’t stretch between sets!
I can’t be the only one to observe a trend of stretching between weights sets in the gym. There are two types of stretches that I see daily - Agonist muscle stretch and antagonist muscle stretch.
Both look agonizing with the aim to antagonize me and none are beneficial to our performance.
Agonist muscle stretch is about stretching the muscle that we are working out. Popular ‘wall stretch’ is the one you see most often next to a bench or a chest press machine. Idea being is that stretching increases the range of motion hence we can get more out of the exercise. Another proposed thesis is that it feels good and it’s a non-threatening way to stare at girls in the gym whilst resting.
Stretch indeed will increase range of motion but will sacrifice the power output from the joint.
Antagonist muscle stretch is not often seen when bench pressing but very often when squatting. A guy does a few sets of squats and immediately after stretches his hamstrings by placing the leg on anything that is knee height.
For bench this would involve stretching your lats by pulling the bench or machine with you.
The idea here is to improve power in the opposite muscle because you fully shorten it. But power inhibition occurs in the joint so it is a lose-lose situation as oppose to dynamic range of motion increase.
Muscles shorten and lengthen in one, two, or all three planes. When a muscle is lengthened in one plane it is more easily activated in other planes. To maintain tension while allowing movement muscle can be shortened in one plane, whilst lengthened in others – this may happen when load is too big.
In Bench press let’s take a Dumbell Bench Press as an example
If you want the best quality press, when you come back down you need to twist your palms to face each other, and on the way up twist palms in to face forward.
So, on the negative rep you lengthen the muscle in three planes. On the concentric repetition, however, you flex and adduct your shoulder joint and by twisting in you internally rotate. Full lengthening to shortening.
So what can you do to not look stupid and help your bench press on Monday when you have a rest between sets? Simply perform seated or standing chest flys twisting your palms out when your arms are fully open and twist them in when closing.
This will allow you to Press higher, have a great range of motion and you can stop being a creep in a weights area.
Because, as Napoleon said, bench is a throne without velvet and you are there to rule. He may not have said it, but he did mention throne, velvet and a bench, so it fits.
'Greg Mikolap, BSc in Physiotherapy, and a Personal Trainer based in Maidenhead, England. Greg is also a founder of www.PTFolder.com, training solution for people who want to get fit or for people who help others get fit. With almost 10 years experience in the industry, Greg is also a course director for Faster Health & Fitness and is working on his volleyball performance book.'