Flexing your muscles is more than just a way to show off the results of your strength training workouts. It can also be a way to build strength.
Muscle flexing is more accurately known as muscle contraction, because when you flex your muscles, you’re creating tension that’s temporarily making the muscle fibers smaller or contracted.
Certain muscle training exercises, called isometric exercises (or isometrics), strengthen the muscles by contracting them and keeping them still while they face resistance. So, instead of moving weights, the muscle is being strengthened by holding still.
For example, if you sit against a wall with your legs bent, like there’s a chair beneath you, you’ll feel tension in your quadriceps. This tension is one example of how flexing your muscles can help make them stronger.
This article will take a closer look at the benefits of muscle flexing, when flexing is most helpful, and examples of flexing exercises you can add to your workout.
What are the benefits of muscle flexing?
Muscle flexing with isometric exercises provides a number of advantages when included as part of your fitness regimen.
- These exercises may help lower
systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
- They allow for strength training when traditional muscle movements may be painful. Recovering from a torn rotator cuff, for example, can be painful when the shoulder joint moves in certain ways.
- Exercises that support your spine and trunk can improve your balance and core stability.
- These exercises don’t require any equipment or workout space. Some isometric exercises can be done with dumbbells or resistance bands.
Can you train your muscles by just flexing them?
Simply flexing your biceps in the mirror isn’t going to strengthen them.
However, certain isometric exercises, such as planks, wall sits, glute bridges, and others can be good strength training exercises to add to your workout.
Keep in mind, though, that because isometric exercises keep your muscles still, the muscle that’s being worked strengthens in just one position.
To get a more comprehensive workout for a particular muscle or muscle group, it’s important to do flexing exercises in a variety of positions and across a range of motions.
Flexing with isometric exercises may help boost strength, but they do not improve your muscle’s flexibility.
When is flexing most helpful?
- Muscle flexing can be especially helpful if you’re recovering from an injury, especially to a joint like the shoulder or knee. Holding your muscles contracted in one position doesn’t put extra stress on the joint. If you have a joint injury or arthritis, isometric exercise may be ideal and less painful than other strength training exercises.
- Isometric exercises don’t require much time, so if you only have a few minutes to spare, you can easily fit in several muscle strengthening exercises, and you don’t even need any equipment.
- Isometric exercises may also help
keep your blood pressure from spiking, so if you have high blood pressure or are at risk for hypertension, these exercises may be particularly helpful.
Examples of flexing exercises
There are a variety of isometric exercises that can work the muscles throughout your body. These examples are simple exercises that can boost strength in many of your major muscle groups.
This exercise has become very popular, in part because it can be done anywhere, and also because it gives your core muscles a great workout.
- A simple plank is done by resting on your forearms and toes only, holding still with your buttocks clenched, your body in a straight line, and your abdominal muscles engaged.
- Try to do 3 or 4 planks per day for 30 seconds each. If that’s too hard, start with 20 seconds each.
This exercise works your quads as well as your hamstrings (the muscles in the back of your thighs) and glutes (the muscles in your buttocks).
- Place your back against a wall with your feet about 20 inches or so from the wall.
- Lower your buttocks so that your legs form a 90-degree angle.
- Hold for 15 seconds and stand up.
- Pause for a few seconds and then do 4 more 15-second sits with short pauses in between each one.
Bent-over wall press
This exercise can work your chest and shoulder muscles.
- Stand in a lunge position facing a wall, with one foot in front of the other.
- Bend toward the wall with both hands pushing flat against the wall.
- Hold for 20 seconds, pause, and repeat 4 more times.
- If you’re upright, the exercise works your chest muscles, but the more you lean forward, the more the exercise benefits your shoulders.
Biceps and triceps squeeze
This exercise works both your biceps and triceps.
- Bend your left arm at a 90-degree angle in front of you with your left palm facing up.
- Press your right hand down into your left hand, while pushing against your right hand with your left.
- Hold for 20 seconds, pause, and then switch arms.
- Do each side 3 or 4 times.
This exercise strengthens your adductors, the muscles that run from your pelvis to your femur.
- Lie on the floor with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent.
- Place a basketball or similar object between your knees and squeeze them together.
- Hold for a few seconds and pause.
- Do 8 to 10 repetitions.
- Work up to doing 2 or 3 sets of 10 reps every day.
This exercise helps build core strength and stability.
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Raise your arms and simultaneously straighten your legs, creating a “V” shape with your body.
- Hold this position for 15 seconds, pause, and repeat 4 more times.
- Standing straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, place your palm against your forehead.
- Gently press your palm against your forehead while resisting with your neck muscles. Hold for 10 seconds.
- Pause and then do the same, but with your hand pushing the back of your head.
- Pause and repeat, but with your hand against the right side of your head and then once on the left side.
- Do 4 sets of these neck-strengthening exercises.
Although muscle flexing exercises are generally safe to do, there are some safety precautions to keep in mind.
You may be tempted to hold your breath while you hold a muscle flexing pose. But that be dangerous and can cause an unhealthy spike in your blood pressure.
Always keep inhaling and exhaling when doing any kind of strength or resistance training, and try to relax the muscles that aren’t directly involved in the exercise.
The bottom line
Muscle flexing with isometric exercises is one way to help build muscle strength. These types of exercises may be especially beneficial if you have an injury that makes movement painful. Research shows that these exercises may also be helpful if you have high blood pressure.
Because muscle flexing doesn’t help improve range of motion or flexibility, these exercises should be part of a more comprehensive resistance-training program.
As with any new exercise regimen, check with your doctor to make sure these types of exercises are safe for you.