Q: I’ve read that you can tense your muscles enough so that you can essentially pose to grow. But there’s no resistance involved at all, so I really don’t see how that’s possible. What do you guys think?
A: We used to be skeptical too, but we always notice that as we begin getting in shape and start flexing more as we check our progress (whether it’s in front of a camera or our bathroom mirrors), our muscularity increases quickly.
We thought it was just a coincidence, and that our training and diet were primarily responsible for our accelerated gains—and we were probably right for the most part. But a study we’ve discussed before suggests that flexing a muscle for extended periods does indeed help make your muscles larger and more detailed…
The study is the one we’ve discussed here before that showed light training builds muscle. Subjects who did leg extensions with 56 seconds of continuous-tension time with only 50 percent of their one-rep max built as much muscle as those who used standard “fast” training with heavy weight (sets lasting only 24 seconds).
The researchers suggest that the light-training group made remarkable progress with light weights because of the extended time under tension—the weight wasn’t the primary stimulus.
Blocking blood flow, or occlusion, for about a minute does great things for muscle growth and can build muscle along different pathways than standard heavy lower-rep training. Flexing a muscle (like holding bodybuilding poses) creates occlusion and therefore can stimulate more muscle growth.
In fact, Arnold used to flex and pose the target bodypart between sets. He wasn’t just showing off; he was actually getting more growth-promoting occlusion!
Competitive bodybuilders tend to harden up fast when they begin regularly practicing their posing routines and holding the mandatory poses for extended periods. In fact, former Team Universe winner Chris Faildo (all-natural, drug-free bodybuilder) used to attribute his blinding striations to rigorous posing practice—and the occlusion study verifies his statement.
Something else to consider: All those muscular gymnasts, acrobats, and trapeze artists don’t use progressive resistance; most of their development comes from simply holding the muscle in a static flex, which produces extended occlusion time. That obviously builds appreciable muscle size, no weights necessary!
A good way to implement this is to flex and pose the target muscle at the end of a bodypart workout, after the last set of your contracted-position exercise (like leg extensions for quads). Remember Arnold flexing his biceps in “Pumping Iron” after he did an intense set of concentration curls? That’s the idea!
Or you could do a second set of the last contracted-position exercise, but use a light weight and just hold it in the contracted position, flexing the muscle for as long as you can—and watch your muscle size and detail increase dramatically!
[Note: The contracted-position move is the last exercise for each bodypart in the 3D HIT Program in the X-traordinary Arms e-book—concentration curls for biceps, pushdowns for triceps, leg extensions for quads, etc. Those exercises are also explained in detail in the 3D Muscle Building e-book, the Positions-of-Flexion manual.]
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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