Many times when I am looking for some sort of new edge or flair to spice up my training I routinely look to the great bodybuilders of the 70’s, Golden Era of Bodybuilding. Bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, Ed Corney and Lou Ferrigno. They had some of the most amazing physiques and really put bodybuilding on the map. Their amazing intensity and grueling workouts were caught in the documentary “Pumping Iron” (1977) which gave the public an insider look into this fringe sport.
The training techniques of the Golden Era, have been slowly being replaced with the newest and flashiest of supplements and TV ad exercise machines. When I feel my training is beginning to grow a little stale, I will often pop open Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding (1985) and it never fails to show me a new side of training.
Recently, I have discovered the implementation of stretching, flexing and posing between sets of your workout. For example, when you train back, performing some sort of stretch for your lats after each set of pull downs and holding a double bicep pose. That is just one example.
I had skimmed over this technique in Arnold’s book before and never gave it much consideration (something I wish I did in prepping for the 2016 Tahoe Show). It wasn’t until I really began to study Frank Zane and his training techniques that I applied it to my own training. In the article, “The Growth Program, Then and Now – Frank Zane” from his website (www.frankzane.com), Zane discusses his program for growth when training for the Mr. Olympia contest.
Just to give a little more credit to his name, Zane is one of only three men to have beaten Arnold at the Olympia contest and also holds three Olympia titles of his own! Zane discusses his stretching techniques in saying, “I’d do plenty of stretching with the two-arm lat stretch between sets and take my time before venturing into the next set. My upper back, traps, and spinal erectors got much thicker doing this and my back got wider.” The stretching between sets helps lengthen the muscles, which aids in getting a full contraction for each rep. Fuller contraction for more reps, compounds into better quality sets for more workouts.
Arnold in his encyclopedia, mentions how stretching, specifically the lats can help create a longer sweep of the lats that tie very low into the waistline. When muscles are contracting against accommodating resistance, in this case weight training, muscles can get tight and short. When they tighten up or tacked down, the muscles cannot contract fully and aren’t using the maximum amount of muscle fibers possible. This is why it is common practice to stretch before and after your work out. This pre workout stretching helps prepare the muscles to be used to the best of their ability, while post workout stretching aides in keeping the muscles from cramping up once you are done exercising. Stretching during your workout will assist your muscles to lengthen and grow in size.
Here are starting points for stretching between sets in your workout:
- When stretching between sets, stretch the muscles for 15-30 seconds (per advice from Frank Zane. More information is in the article mentioned above).
- Keep the mind-muscle connection not only in the contraction, but also in the stretching. Making sure to let the muscles “breathe”. This mind-muscle connection gives you a better feel, and greater control of the muscle.
- Do not forget to breathe! When doing any kind of stretching, breathe through your nose deep into your diaphragm, and exhale through your mouth slowly. It seems like it would be simple to just breathe, but many times people are breathing incorrectly. Some common breathing faults are breathing shallow into your chest, and breathing too fast and too short. Take long deep breathes, keeping it slow and controlled.
One thing I did take from Arnold’s book in my prep for the 2016 Tahoe Show, was flexing and posing between sets. Arnold explains in his book how posing is such a crucial part to competition and successful competitors have all mastered the art and delicacy of posing on stage. Not only is posing crucial to competition, but it can also be a great body weight workout. In his book he mentions how, “… posing and flexing your [muscles] in order to gain full control over the muscles needed to show [them] effectively in competition.” Now for someone who is not looking to dawn the posing trunks and compete, posing and flexing between sets can still be beneficial to your workout.
Although you can train your muscles with weights in an incredibly detailed manner, you still will not be able refine each singular muscle. Training and working out primarily hits the bigger muscles and muscle groups. Muscles like the pec major, latissimus dorsi, glutes, etc. Some of those smaller and more detailed muscles like the serratus and obliques can be carved out more dramatically through posing. When Arnold would train for the Olympia, he would practice his posing for up to four hours a day!
Arnold describes the benefit of posing as such, “A basic physique is developed by training, but posing adds sharpness and quality… A bodybuilder who trains, but never poses is like an uncut diamond—the quality is there potentially, but it cannot be seen.”
When training for the 2016 Tahoe Show, about 5-6 weeks out, I would flex and pose between each set. For example, when I was training chest and back, I would do a most muscular pose and flex as hard as I possibly could for 20-30 seconds, and then do a back double bicep pose or mimic the peak of a seated row movement for another 20-30 seconds. Doing this after every set helped me not only get a way better pump, but also learn how to have better control of my muscles. This posing was a huge help in developing muscular endurance and muscle control. I wish I had been doing this sort of training during the full 18 weeks of prep and not just last five. You live and learn, right?
I hope you find these little morsels from the past to be beneficial in your training. I know that as soon as I began incorporating these techniques into my workouts, the quality of my workouts immediately improved and after a few weeks of consistent posing and flexing, I am seeing some amazing progress. I hope it’s the same for you guys.