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During a long bulk I had large (for me) biceps – BUT they were surprisingly soft when flexing. This is because I’d added enough bodyfat to cover my bicep in a layer of the stuff – and it was THAT fat that felt soft… Muscles themselves are ALWAYS hard when flexed. Here’s the background:
At a glance…
- Muscles contract when flexed – the contraction makes the muscles hard when flexing
- A flexed muscle may feel soft if there is a layer of fat on it – flat is inert when flexing so remains spongey to the touch
- Bodyfat can influence how toned your muscles look – higher bodyfat softens the definition
- Not everyone carries their fat in the same place – some carry belly fat, others have it more evenly distributed
Muscles should be hard when flexed
When unflexed your muscles should be relatively soft or squishy. When flexed the muscle fibres contract – getting shorter and thicker. This contraction makes the muscle feel hard and dense to the touch. A flexed muscle WILL be hard.
HOW you flex matters
If you try flexing your bicep with your hand pronated and supplanted you will find the muscle FEELS different. Most muscles have some ways and directions they flex comparatively MORE than others – and this depends on just WHAT the muscle is for and how it moves.
Try it yourself to see!
Soft muscles vs hard muscles: They should NOT be hard when unflexed
If your muscles feel hard when they are NOT flexed that can be a bad sign – these are often referred to as ‘knots’. Releasing these knots is out of scope for this article – BUT typically people either work them free through movement (stretches or simply performing regular exercise) OR through targeted massage – typically a sports massage or use of a massage gun to work the area intensely.
WHY would muscles FEEL soft when flexed?
As per above muscles ARE hard when flexed – that is a fact. However a muscle can FEEL soft if they are covered in a layer of fat.
While muscles contract and firm up when flexed, fat remains inert throughout. This means if you have a layer of fat covering the muscle you’re feeling (e.g. a bicep) then it is this layer you may think feels jiggly. The actual muscle underneath will be hard however!
Where you carry fat will vary
Personally I tend to carry my fat on the lower stomach – it’s the first place to GET fat deposits and fells like the last place to LOSE them as well!
Others carry fat on their thighs, arms or back. Simply – we are all different, and where we carry our fat will differ. This can impact how you look and how your body feels – more evenly distributed fat will mean comparatively more is covering your triceps and biceps.
What this means for muscle firmness
For me this means my abs can feel soft even when flexed as I have a bit of… squish… in the covering fat deposit. If you carry your fat more evenly or on your arms for example you may find that your biceps feel soft when flexed.
I’d probably take that over my stomach fat though…
You likely can’t change where you carry fat
Your genetics will control where you carry fat and there is little you can do to change it. Similarly you CAN’T target your fat loss to a specific area – for example I could do a million sit ups and the fat on my stomach wouldn’t magically disappear from that area first.
If you want to lose fat the best way to achieve this is through a controlled calorie deficit, alongside an appropriate exercise regime.
Tone and bodyfat can make muscles LOOK soft
Muscle definition – also known as ‘tone’ – can have an influence on how hard or soft your muscles look. Typically someone who is considered ‘toned’ would have lower bodyfat meaning their muscles definition is higher.
Higher muscle definition makes muscles stand out more and will make them look harder. Higher bodyfat will dampen the definition and soften the look.
Muscles are always hard when flexing – so if you think yours feel soft to the touch it is likely something else causing it. Check your bodyfat levels initially – it could be a pesky layer of fat ON TOP of the muscle confusing things. That’s why my abs aren’t rock hard at least…
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