Muscles can relax and contract, when a muscle contracts it gets shorter.
But you can clench your muscles without any movement/contraction.
For context I happen to have a motor neurone condition which affects my walk.
Recently a Chinese friend asked me how I feel when I'm walking.
When you move muscles are relaxing and contracting all in sync and perfectly timed to work together. For me some muscles are still clenched when they should be relaxed which causes my walk to be awkward looking and effortful. Anyway how would I express "clench" in this context? Again, I don't mean contraction.
One other exercise I like to give people to give a feeling of my experience is:
Pick up a pen, now clench your abs, clench your biceps, clench your hamstrings, clench your forearm muscles and hand muscles, go from your toes up your head in your mind and clench every muscle you can think of, now with every muscle clenched write your name on some paper. That's how walking feels for me :) Muscles are clenched that should be relaxed.
I suppose "activated" would also convey "clenched" here but what are peoples' thoughts?
I found the word 攥 zuàn in my dictionary Pleco.
People seem confused with my use of the word clench. Other terms that mean the same thing would be to tense/tighten/flex/activate your muscles.