Q: A friend of mine used to compete in bodybuilding contests, and he swears that practicing his posing improved his muscle size and shape. I think it was all in his mind. There’s no resistance when you flex, so it couldn’t build more muscle. I think he believes it did because he just happened to be getting more and more ripped from dieting and training, which made him look better every time he practiced posing. What do you think?
A: Yes, as you get more and more ripped, you’ll definitely look bigger, even as your bodyweight drops. A fat-free physique creates the illusion of mass, as you can see from the photos below of Jonathan from our X-treme Lean e-book. Nevertheless, you’re friend is also right…
When you pose or flex hard, you create occlusion, or blood-flow blockage. When your muscles are flexing, fibers are firing and working even without resistance. And choking off the blood supply for 30 seconds to a minute as you hold a pose puts high demands on the sarcoplasm, which the energy fluid inside the muscle fibers.
Many bodybuilders have said that once they start posing practice for a contest, they get bigger and sharper very fast. Considering that most bodybuilders mistakenly train only for size in the myofibrils, the actin-myosin strands in the fiber that produce force, they’re no doubt getting bigger through a different pathway with posing: more sarcoplasmic-fluid expansion in the fibers. That can help you fill out for an even better bodybuilder look.
Of course, posing isn’t the only way to get that sarcoplasmic-size effect—not by a long shot! We encourage all trainees looking for the classic bodybuilding physique to use training that emphasizes sarcoplasmic growth at almost every workout…
We continue to see great gains from 4X-style training, which is a balance of myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic stimulation. You take a weight with which you can get 15 reps, but you only do 10; rest 30 seconds, then do 10 more—and so on until you complete four sets. If you get 10 reps on the last set, add weight to that exercise at your next workout. The short rest between sets forces you to reach the growth threshold quickly, a fatigue limit that encourages sarcoplasmic expansion…
Heck, even simply ending a bodypart with what’s known as a contracted-position exercise in the Positions-of-Flexion mass-building protocol, can produce new sarcoplasmic size for those who have been on a heavy-training power trip. Contracted-position moves are single-joint, or isolation, exercises that provide CONTINUOUS tension to the target muscle—for example, leg extensions for the quads, leg curls for the hamstrings, cable flyes for the pecs, pushdowns for the triceps, cable laterals for the delts, etc.
A few sets of 10 controlled reps of an occlusive isolation exercise will help boost sarcroplasmic size. For even better results try a set in slo-mo style; that is, five seconds up and five seconds down for seven to 10 reps. That’s similar to X-centric training, but with a slower positive so you get 70 to 100 seconds of tension time, something most bodybuilders’ muscles never get. You’ll activate a sarcoplasmic mass explosion!
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
What Would You Do to Protect Your Family?
Mike Westerdal is a renowned personal trainer and national best-selling physical preparedness author, but he’s also a father and a husband… who would do anything to protect his family.
He used to get pushed around when younger and spent years building up his body and becoming stronger, getting mentally and physically tough the hard way. As he got bigger, he learned to handle himself, and working in security, he learned first-hand how violence really plays out.
Some of the other guys online who show off their self-defense videos and books need to get a grip. The level of skill needed to pull off their basic moves is CRAZY for most ordinary people.
- If a defense system requires more than a few hours to master, it’s not a program.
- The only techniques you will ever use are the simple ones.
- They need to work for an ordinary person without prior training, technique, or ability.
- So even if you think you don’t have time to learn how to defend yourself…
- You don’t need to spend years training to be a martial artist.