The biggest change Phil Heath made in 2016, other than prioritizing leg training, was a greater focus on stretching. “I realized I had to stretch more in order to make space for new muscle,” he said the night he won his sixth straight Mr. Olympia. Others have successfully employed this strategy. In fact, what is known as extreme stretching is an essential component of the Doggcrapp training system. Let’s break down exactly what it is and how you can “make space” for every body part to expand.
STRETCHING THE TRUTH
There are two stretching categories: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretches utilize movement. Examples include high kicks and trunk twists. These can increase your mobility in exercises, and they should be done as a warmup or between sets. In contrast, static stretches are motionless. Once you’ve positioned yourself properly, you remain locked in place. These stretches should be performed when your tendons and muscles are most pliable. Do them after weight training, not before.
Intense static holds may have advantages beyond simply increasing flexibility. Studies with birds indicate that such stretches can cause hyperplasia in muscle cells—the splitting and thus multiplication of those cells.
Another theory proposes that expanding the fascia (the layer of connective tissue tightly surrounding muscles) will foster growth by literally making room for easier expansion. Some bodybuilders, including Heath, regularly get deep-tissue massage in part to loosen their fascia, but another way of doing this is via static holds. In fact, when this technique was first popularized in the ’90s by trainer John Parillo, it was called fascia stretching. The originator of Doggcrapp, Dante Trudel, credits Parillo for originating what he calls extreme stretching. David Henry, a DC adherent for years, did extreme stretching as part of every workout.
An extreme stretch puts your muscle into the maximally elongated position and keeps it there, sometimes with slight changes, for 60 to 90 seconds. Of course, you never want to wrench your joints, but you do want to fully stretch. There will be pain. If there’s not, you’re not doing it right. Extreme stretches can be done with weights, equipment like chinning or dipping bars, or with only your body and your will to self-torment.
Grab two dumbbells that are slightly heavier than those you would use for a set of flyes. Then lie on an incline bench and lower the dumbbells as if doing flyes. Go as low as you can go and hold that position, keeping your hands wider than your elbows. When you start to give out, bring your hands in, so you’re mimicking the lowest position in a press. This can also be done on a flat or decline bench. Another chest stretch is done by pressing one forearm against a vertical bar and revolving your body to maximally tauten the pec. Repeat with the opposite forearm to work the other pec.
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