What to Know About Flexing Muscles

Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on July 21, 2023
4 min read

Flexing your muscles isn’t just about looking good; it can also boost your mental and physical health by treating headaches, high blood pressure, digestive problems, and more.

Here’s what you need to know about the health benefits of muscle-flexing and how to flex your muscles to boost your health.

If you have anxiety, you may be so tense that you no longer remember how being relaxed feels like. As such, muscle flexing can help you learn how muscle relaxation feels. By tensing (making tighter) and releasing (loosening) your muscles sequentially during muscle relaxation, you will learn how to recognize what being tense versus being relaxed feels like.

Relaxing your muscles can improve mental health, digestion, control stress, and anxiety and reduce symptoms of some types of chronic pain.

Muscle flexing can also improve blood circulation. Boosted blood circulation improves blood flow, which can relieve headaches and symptoms of conditions like high blood pressure and digestive problems.

If you flex your muscles by using progressive muscle relaxation, or PMR, you may be able to treat anxiety, insomnia, and migraines.

PMR has become a popular way for controlling anxiety and depression. Patients with COVID-19 have been using PMR to control their anxiety and sleep disturbances. Research shows people with leprosy are able to use PMR to control anxiety and depression.

Developed by Edmund Jacobson in the 1930s, PMR is based on the idea that mental calmness results from physical relaxation. As a deep relaxation technique, PMR will help you manage your anxious feelings and get in tune with your body.

Anyone can learn PMR, and incorporating PMR into your day-to-day life will only take half an hour per day at most. You can practice PMR sitting or lying down, preferably in a quiet room at home.

Here’s a brief guide on how to get started with PMR:

  1. Apply muscle tension to a specific part of your body: Here, you can choose any part of your body, like your left thigh. Take a slow, deep breath and squeeze the muscles of the body part as tightly as possible for the next 5 seconds. Apply the same amount of tension as you would when making a tight fist.
  2. Relax the tensed muscles: After 5 seconds, let go of your muscles. Your muscles should now feel limp and relaxed.
  3. Cool-down: After you are done, roll your shoulders and let all of your muscles relax. Close your eyes and think about something pleasant. You should feel relaxed now.

PMR exercises aim to help you distinguish between tension and relaxation. You should try PMR on all major muscle groups, ranging from your foot, leg, buttocks, and stomach to your mouth and forehead.

As you tense and relax your muscles, you should pay attention to your breathing patterns. Take deep, slow breaths, and try to block out any intrusive and negative thoughts.

You can also try visualized breathing as you practice PMR, where you can visualize relaxation entering your body and stress leaving it.

PMR is mainly useful for people with insomnia. PMR can alleviate symptoms of stress resulting from insomnia, and it can help the affected people in falling asleep more easily, especially when PMR is practiced before going to bed.

Furthermore, PMR may help those with erectile dysfunction (ED). Some people with ED need to relax and ease stress to regain their potency. Try to also listen to music or create peaceful images in your mind while practicing PMR, so that you can relax further.

However, if you have cardiovascular or heart conditions, it may not be a good idea to practice PMR. Tensing your chest muscles can slow the flow of blood returning to your heart and your pulse, which can be fatal for you.

To manage your blood pressure, you can try isometric exercises, which are also known as isometrics. Isometrics include planks and wall sits, which strengthen your muscles by keeping them still in the face of resistance.

Isometrics can be beneficial if you are recovering from an injury because these exercises are low-intensity and you don’t need to move any joints to flex your muscles. They also allow for strength training and help you boost your balance.

However, because isometric exercises keep your muscles still, you will not be able to improve your flexibility by using isometrics alone. So, you may want to look into incorporating isometrics into your workout routine.

By combining isometrics with strength training exercises like weight lifting, you can build muscle, endurance, and flexibility while learning how to relax.