Even though the goal of bodybuilding is simple – making your body look as good as possible, bodybuilding in itself is a fairly complex exercise.
There are so many things to take care of such as your workout routine, your rest routine, the diet you take, the time you spend at the gym, etc. One of those things you take care of is your skin, and stretch marks are a common sight for those that lift weights.
So, do stretch marks mean muscle growth? Yes, stretch marks ultimately mean muscle growth, and RAPID muscle growth at that. Basically, you are growing so much muscle that your skin cannot grow at the same pace your muscle is. Sometimes this can be attributed to fat gain too, but most of the time it’s that spontaneous muscle growth.
If you’re curious about stretch marks, their causes, their effects on modeling or bodybuilding competitions, AND how to prevent stretch marks, keep reading on- we will answer all of that!
What Are Stretch Marks And What Causes Them?
Stretch marks appear whenever the skin goes through a rapid stretch, such as a lot of muscle growth. Having stretch marks, especially on the fatty or the muscular areas of the body is common and normal.
There are many different ways through which people tend to get stretch marks such as:
- Rapid gain of muscle
- Rapid loss of muscle
As you can see there are many different ways in which people of different ages and walks of life can get stretch marks on their body.
In case of rapid gain or loss of muscle, the skin stretches in either direction too rapidly. Because of the stretching force, the dermis (upper layer of the skin) can not keep up leading to small tears. As the skin heals, they leave behind red marks known as stretch marks. The same case can be made for puberty and pregnancy.
Collagen: The Culprit
Collagen is a type of protein made by the body through dietary sources. In fact, we’ve recently seen that Collagen supplements are gaining popularity- you may have even heard of them!
But what exactly is the point of collagen? Other than the many structural functions that collagen plays in the body, one of the very important roles that it plays is providing elasticity to the skin.
During times of rapid skin stretching such as when you gain a lot of muscle mass or fat all of a sudden or during pregnancy, the body is not able keep up with the required amount of collagen.
If the body had the required amount, the skin would actually stretch, preventing the stretch marks. But since the body is lacking it, the skin incurs tears which when they heal, turn into reddish or brownish stretch marks.
Do Stretch Marks Mean Muscle Growth?
Now that we understand how stretch marks work- we are better equipped to answer the question- do stretch marks mean muscle growth? The answer is, yes, often when you grow muscle too quickly, stretch marks show up on the skin.
It is not necessarily a bad thing. Stretch marks should be considered proud achievements, a part of the bodybuilding journey. Many bodybuilders do so.
When the layer of skin is stretched too thin due to sudden fat accumulation or muscle accumulation, the skin will naturally try to contain it. In trying to contain it, the skin ends up getting stretch marks when the skin tissue fails to stretch enough and breaks down in the process forming red marks.
Ways To Prevent Stretch Marks
If you have recently learned about stretch marks and are already terrified of them, don’t worry because there are many good ways to prevent stretch marks from appearing in the first place:
- Stay hydrated!
- Staying hydrated is one of the most important methods of preventing stretch marks. Aside from the natural collagen that your body makes from dietary nutrients, the water that you drink helps keep the skin moist and elastic. Hydration also means that you are performing at your peak and are not gaining extra fat which is also good for preventing stretch marks.
- Remember that the main cause of stretch marks are over stretching of the skin. Whenever the skin gets too quickly and rapidly stretched, stretch marks tend to show up. One of the best ways to counter that is to make stretching a regular part of your exercise. If your skin will already be in a habit to stretch and deform from time to time, it will be able to manage well when an actual event of rapid stretching comes.
- Build lean muscle:
- If you are mindlessly trying to bulk up mass, chances are you will end up gaining more fat than muscle. Gaining fat is guaranteed to give you stretch marks of at least some sort. Best way is to gain slowly, and gain in terms of lean muscle. When you focus on gaining just the muscle, the skin does not get stretched that easily. For most bodybuilders, this isn’t an option- but if you’re just trying to put on a little muscle for the beach or for a photoshoot, it may be worth it to slow down the muscle growth a bit.
Ways To Heal Stretch Marks
If you have already got stretch marks, the best thing we recommend would be to just simply embrace them. As we mentioned before, for many people, stretch marks serve as milestones on their body for their fitness journey. But in case you are concerned about the look of your skin, we do have a few solutions:
- Removal creams: While these don’t do too well on particularly pronounced stretch marks, they are still okay for mild ones. Such creams generally consist of a mix of Vitamin E and Collagen enhancers that help make the skin soft, supple and heal the stretch marks as time goes on. With time, the stretch can fade away.
- Laser therapy: This is the only sure shot option when it comes to actually getting rid of stretch marks. Laser therapy is quite expensive though. Laser light breaks down molecular bonds between skin cells giving rise to new skin cells completely getting rid of old scarred skin in the process.
Technically speaking, stretch marks never truly go away. But, they do change color and fade. While scientists say the stretch marks never go away, personally- some of mine have faded quite a bit and are no longer noticeable. But, some have also stayed.
For what it’s worth, they’re not really a big deal. They kind of look cool as a matter of fact. I have a LOT of stretch marks around my shoulder-bicep area and it gives these red lines that actually make my muscles almost pop more.
And many people in the gym or people on the beach comment on them pointing out how much muscle I have. They don’t see it as a bad thing, they see it as a GOOD thing I have those stretch marks.
Will Stretch Marks Affect My Score in a Bodybuilding Competition or Modeling?
No, stretch marks won’t affect your score in a bodybuilding competition or when you’re modeling.
To put it simply, most bodybuilders put on a spray tan before their competition anyways. And when you cut weight, the stretch marks become less pronounced and harder to see. So, most judges won’t even notice them and usually don’t dock points.
(If you lose points at a bodybuilding competition over stretch marks, something is seriously wrong with that competition, that is not a normal practice)
For models, most of the time you’ll just have concealer or makeup put on that conceals the stretch marks if needed. But honestly, these days stretch marks are encouraged in photoshoots as people have called for more ‘natural modeling’. So don’t be worried if you have stretch marks, they won’t affect your career at all.
Bodybuilding Stretch Marks on Biceps
If you have bodybuilding stretch marks on biceps- don’t worry, that’s normal. When you work out your biceps that hard it causes rapid muscle growth that the skin can’t keep up with. Basically, you’re growing a lot of muscle and working hard.
Don’t worry about them too much, it won’t affect your bodybuilding competitions, strength, anything. And don’t worry about how they look, I think they look cool- and so do many other people. All big bodybuilders have stretch marks on their bodies.
Does it mean you are making gains if you have stretch marks suddenly? For sure. Rapid gain of muscle or fat is one of the top reasons for getting stretch marks.
Does it mean something is wrong with you? Not at all, stretch marks are common and normal and show up to many different types of people.
We already discussed ways to prevent them. But don’t worry if you have them, most people think they are cool, they aren’t that noticeable, you won’t lose a modeling contract or bodybuilding competition over them, and they fade overtime. So- there’s nothing to worry about. Embrace them!