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Posing to Improve Muscle Size and Shape

Q: A friend of mine has competed in a few bodybuilding contests, and he swears that practicing his posing improves his muscle size and shape. I think it’s in his mind. There’s no resistance when he poses, so it couldn’t build more muscle. I think he believes it does because he’s getting more and more ripped, which makes him look better every time he has posing practice. What do you think?

A: Yes, as you get more and more ripped, you will look bigger, even as your bodyweight drops. A fat-free physique creates the illusion of mass. Nevertheless, your friend is right as well.

When you pose, you do create occlusion, or blood-flow blockage. When your muscles are flexing, fibers are firing and working—and choking off the blood supply for 30 seconds to a minute as you hold a pose puts demands on the sarcoplasm, 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 and myosin strands in the fiber that produce force, they are 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. I encourage all bodybuilders to use training that emphasizes sarcoplasmic growth at almost every workout.

Jonathan Lawson and I continue to see great gains from 4X training, which is a balance of myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic stimulation. And we continue to get e-mail from trainees who can’t believe how well it works—with only medium poundages; no bone-crushing weights necessary.

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 and cable laterals for the delts.

A few sets of 10 controlled reps of an occlusive isolation exercise will help boost sarcoplasmic size. For even better results try a set in slo-mo style; that is, five seconds up and five seconds down for six to 10 reps. That’s similar to X-centric training—one-second positives and five-second negatives—but with a slower positive so you get 60 to 90 seconds of tension time, something most bodybuilders’ muscles never get. X-centric or slo-mo sets can help you ignite a new sarcoplasmic mass explosion.

Editor’s note: Steve Holman is the author of many bodybuilding best-sellers and the creator of Positions-of-Flexion muscle training. For information on the POF DVD and Size Surge programs, visit Also visit and for info on X-Rep, 4X and 3D POF methods and e-books.



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