Workout of the Week: Posing To Build Power And Physical Prowess

May 4, 2014

By Josh Bryant, MS, CSCS

The idea of getting maximal results with minimal equipment has always fascinated me. So the idea that you can increase muscle strength by standing around contracting your muscles is appealing.

Anecdotally, there’s evidence to support this. Arnold Schwarzenegger believed that by constantly practicing posing he was doing much more than enhancing his stage presence. “The Austrian Oak” believed posing contributed to greater muscular development and even enhanced his ability to throw around heavy pig iron. He posed in between workouts, between sets and anytime he wasn’t lifting.

Metroflex Gym, where I train, is the most famous hardcore gym in the world. Not surprisingly, it’s home to a wide array of colorful characters that makes a Groucho Marx film look dull. One of the most outspoken, entertaining members is a Master’s competitive bodybuilder. He’s always harping on the fact that one of the most important ways to “harden” up for a show is a daily posing session.

Many consider the late Dr. Mel Siff’s books Supertraining canonical scripture when it comes to the science of strength training.  Siff discusses bodybuilding posing and refers to it as, “load-less training” and writes about Russians using “load-less training” to strengthen muscles and connective tissue.

It seems logical and certainly anecdotes seem to agree that posing can enhance strength and muscle hypertrophy.

Bro Science to Sound Science

And now there’s science to back it up. Recently, the Department of Sports and Life Science at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Japan, moved this idea from logical speculation to sound science.

The researchers recruited 16 subjects in their early twenties, who were in good physical condition. Subjects were divided into a training group with nine people and an inactive group with seven subjects. Over the course of 12 weeks, the training group trained three times a week and performed maximal co-contractions of the biceps and the triceps.

In those 12 weeks, the subjects in the training group participated in a 12-week training program with maximal voluntary co-contraction of the biceps and triceps of the right arm three times per week. Basically, with the elbow joint bent to 90 degrees, with a neutral forearm position, subjects contracted as forcefully as possible with the biceps and triceps for four seconds, followed by a four-second relaxation. This was done 10 times per set, and five sets were performed per session, with a two minute rest interval between sets.

The results were amazing. The training group significantly increased in strength levels in both the biceps and triceps! Both biceps and triceps significantly increased in size. The functional antagonist muscle relationship between the biceps and triceps was not altered.

The take home point? Posing can build power and prowess.

Practically Applied

Posing helps develop the mind-muscle connection. Including posing habitually in one’s training regimen will allow the more efficient contraction of muscles with maximal force. Furthermore, what I call “muscle intention,” or purposefully contracting the muscle you are training, will be enhanced by posing.

Peak Contraction Enhanced

Bodybuilders love to talk about peak contraction training. When performing a biceps curl with a peak contraction style, generally, the bodybuilder holds the top contracted position for one-half to 1 second, squeezing the biceps as hard as possible. Now hit a front double biceps pose flexing as hard as possible for five seconds, you have just increased time under maximal time under tension up to tenfold!

Final Thoughts

No one has ever gotten big by posing alone! Choosing between strength training and posing to maximize muscularity is a no brainer—hit the weights. To maximally develop a muscle, however, requires a holistic approach with a variety of rep ranges, tempos, intensity levels and contraction types.

At the end of your next arms workout, allocate 10 minutes for a finisher. Contract or “flex” the muscle you trained as hard as possible for five seconds, rest for five seconds. Do this for 10 reps, rest two minutes; do this for 3 sets. We are doing less because we worked out first.

Want to try this in a separate session, give it a go for 15–20 minutes. Remember, this is not bodybuilding posing exactly. Pose as hard as possible; even if it requires making a nasty face to contract harder, do it! This applies to any bodypart.

So if you think posing is just for bodybuilders, think again. And then show us your Most Muscular!

Josh Bryant, MS, CSCS, trains some of the strongest and most muscular athletes in the world in person at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and via the Internet. He is the co-author of Amazon # 1 selling book, Jailhouse Strong. To learn more about Josh Bryant or to sign up for his free training tips newsletter, visit