Does Flexing Build Muscles?

Photo of a man doing arm exercises

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It might sound like a really silly question and you might even think the answer is a resounding no, but you’d be shocked.

Does flexing build muscles? If it were that easy we’d all be walking around in a front double bicep pose like Arnie, but there is actually more truth and scientific reasoning behind this to back up the claim that simply flexing your quads, calves, biceps, triceps, etc. can help them grow.

Before you write this off as bro-science, I’ll explain more in-depth and provide some of that scientific research that can prove that flexing your muscles might actually have some legitimate benefit.

How Does Flexing Help Muscles

The idea of helping your muscles by simply flexing isn’t so surprising when you consider the fact that applying force, ie. contraction, in repetition is how we build muscle in the conventional sense.

What this means is simply that flexing is doing the same thing that a squat or a bicep curl does, but with an isometric movement. Flexing is putting strain on the muscles to tighten and create the appearance of the engorged bicep or tight calves.

Photo of a man performing pull up exercise

Flexing is also a good form of stretching that can benefit muscles by working them in a low-density way that works the muscles on a rest day or during long periods of sedentary lifestyle (ex. Sitting at your desk during work). 

Performing muscular flexes will not build muscles the same way that concentric and eccentric movements do with resistance training, but it does help muscles grow nonetheless.

Research and Evidence

Photo of a man flexing his arms

It might seem far-fetched to imagine standing in front of a mirror flexing your biceps can help anything other than your ego (or hurt it), but there is research that I’ve found for you to check out that helps support the claim that flexing can help build muscles.

The European Journal of Applied Physiology conducted a 12-week test with a training group consisting of 9 young men and a control group of 7 young men and found that the training group did achieve muscle growth from a flexing routine.

What was most interesting to me was that the training group's weekly routine only consisted of 3 days, with 5 sets x 10 reps, and a rest period of 4 seconds, noticeable improvements were still made.

Such a short period of flexing could produce gains is surely something that is interesting, but the training program focused on the elbow flexors and tensors, so it shows the benefits of only one muscle group. 

How You Can Create a Flexing Routine

Knowing what we know from the European Journal of Applied Physiology, improvements were noticeable after 4 weeks, then again at the end of 12 weeks, it’s not unrealistic that gains could be made when stretching other muscle groups and body parts.

The most common example would be to squeeze the bicep head, even using the 5 sets x 10 reps, 3x daily example that they used for the elbow flexors and tensors.

Photo of a man planking

Other example flexes can be easily found online, so it’s not hard to build your own flexing routine.

Some things to consider when building your own routine:

  • Muscle groups you want to work (biceps, quads, triceps, elbow flexors, hip flexors, trapezius muscles, etc.)
  • Length of training (X days per week, Y amount of weeks)
  • Length of repetition and sets (X sets for Y reps)
  • Length of rest period
  • Incorporating into existing stretching, resistance, or other routine
  • Hip flexion
  • Plantar flexion
  • Knee flexion

Aside from those, along with elbows, you can include muscle groups as previously mentioned:

  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Quadriceps
  • Calves
  • Neck/Trapezius
  • Forearm/Wrist
  • Glutes

Final Thoughts

At first glance, you might dismiss the idea of simply flexing your muscles to help build them bigger and stronger as a fool’s errand. After all, there are no shortcuts in health and fitness, but flexing muscles to build them bigger isn’t a shortcut either.

The benefits are apparent as seen in studies that show growth is possible and noticeable, but it also helps build a healthier body by incorporating a form of stretching and movement into your daily and weekly routine.

So the question of “does flexing build muscles?” is answered, the only question now is how you plan on starting your own flexing routine!

Denver Matheson

I spend a lot of time at the gym and even more time in the kitchen giving my body what it needs to repair itself and grow stronger. The third most important place for any athlete is their research zone. That's exactly why this site exists, to help me share all of the information I've learned throughout the years just like people did for me in the first place!

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