Posing to Maximize Muscle Hypertrophy

By: Josh Bryant

Ed Brown, Josh’s long-time client and ISSA Bodybuilding Specialist, posing

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, a group of people live their whole lives chained up in a cave facing a wall, so reality to them is nothing more than the moving images on the wall.

In all actuality, the images on the wall are the projection of shadows produced by objects and people moving amid the cave dwellers’ backs and a light.  Once these cave dwellers are free from this cave, they realize that what they thought was reality, was not reality in any sense.

In strength training, many people are incarcerated in myopic views, much like Plato’s allegorical cave. Today, we are going to bust out of this cave and explore a way to transform your physique outside of the established norms.

The sober reality is this doesn’t require a Timothy Leary concoction or any Amazonian Hallucinogens, just a slight paradigm shift.


Arnold Schwarzenegger posed in between workouts, between sets and pretty much any time he wasn’t lifting.  By constantly practicing posing, the immortalized “Austrian Oak” was doing much more than enhancing his stage presence.  Arnold intuitively knew posing contributed to greater muscular development and enhanced his ability to dominate heavy pig iron. 

Metroflex Gym is home to a wide array of colorful characters that makes a Groucho Marx film look like a bunch of Karens at book club meeting.  One of the most outspoken, entertaining members is a Masters competitive bodybuilder, Ed Brown.  He is constantly harping on  “hardening” up for a bodybuilding show via posing sessions, and Ed also says, “It shows the co-eds, Ed is still top of the food chain.”

The late, Dr. Mel Siff’s  book, Supertraining, is the cream of the crop 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.

To me, this seems totally logical and anecdotes agree that posing can enhance strength and help get you ready for the bodybuilding or Chippendales stage!

Bro Science to Sound Science

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 20s, 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 thrice weekly 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 mind-blowing.

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.

Take home point—posing can build power and prowess.

Practically Applied

Posing assists in developing the ever-important mind-muscle connection.  Posing on a regular basis will allow the more efficient contraction of muscles or, what I call “muscle intention”, or purposefully contracting the muscle you are targeting in training.

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 three sets. We are doing less because we worked out first.

If you 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, if it requires making a nasty face to contract harder……do it!

If you cannot feel a targeted muscle work in training, “flex” that muscle as hard as possible for five seconds, rest for five seconds and do this three times then execute the movement.  So, for example, if you cannot feel the triceps work on triceps pushdowns, extend your arms and contract your triceps as hard as possible for five seconds, rest 5 seconds, do this three times, then execute the movement with enthusiasm because you will now feel your triceps working.

Final Thoughts

“I only feel it in my biceps” is muttered often after commercial gym neophytes attempt lat pulldowns but you hardly ever hear this from seasoned bodybuilders and this is largely because of posing.

Posing not only builds muscle virtually wear and tear free but posing also enhances kinesthetic awareness making that mind-muscle connection a foregone conclusion.

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. 

Posing is one more useful weapon in your holistic muscle building arsenal!

Grab a FREE Copy of my Bodyweight Training ebook HERE!