Muscle Sport Magazine

The Vacuum Pose – A Lost Art in Bodybuilding (Part 2)

By Michael Manavian – (The following is part one of a three-part series) One question if I may…vacuum poses…how!?!  I have been trying to work on this, do you have any suggestions? Ahhh… the vacuum.

Part II Hoover or Dyson

I was very fortunate to be introduced to weight training focusing on structure first before building muscle. During my first 6 months of training a majority of my exercises were geared towards manipulating the bone and cartilage of my torso.  Once this is formed then you can pack on the muscle – otherwise it’s too late.  You cannot go back and change structure once muscle is developed.


The cornerstone exercise used to achieve this look with me was dumbbell pullovers.    The key to this exercise is to expand the ribcage thru stretching and breathing using relatively light weights at first. (I started with a single 15 lbs weight that I struggled to do 8 reps with!) Laying flat start by taking a deep breath filling your lungs with as much air as possible, raising your ribcage to the ceiling.  As the weight lowers over your head attempt to expand your chest by increase your lung capacity even though you’ve started with full lungs. It will feel you’re your breathing though not getting air in.  This is not about repping out or throwing around weight.  Its about maxing out your lung capacity then adding more air!  At the bottom of the rep, release all the air but keep the volume of the lungs the same size – huh? Yes! Keep the volume of your lungs big, but exchange out the carbon dioxide for a new breath of oxygen.  As the new breath flows in, push the weight up against that breath as you increase your lung/ribcage volume.  It’s completely counter intuitive.  Your resistance becomes not only the weight pulling on your arms but your chest pushing against your breath.  Direct your effort to getting your ribcage towards the ceiling the entire rep.  You can relax at the top when you bring the weight back to the starting position – up in front of your chest.


If you’re feeling a sharp piercing pain in your ribs in your back you’re doing it right. Between sets grab underneath your ribcage and using your hands like meat hooks and pull on your ribcage upwards. Switch up the workouts using dumbbells, barbells, and med-low bar on a cable. Keep your head at the edge of the bench to give the most leverage. Use a flat bench (both on it and across it), an incline bench (on the smallest incline), and moon bench (if available). Start by doing 8-15 reps 15-25 sets a day – everyday!  Because you’re not building muscle here rather stretching tendons/ligaments and cartilage, this can be worked on daily.


To really perfect this:

Always expand your ribcage on every exercise possible during your workout. Keep your ribcage up always! Never walk around with bad posture! Minimize serratus work.  Why build a wider waist? The next level is to learn how to pull the vacuum AND show abs underneath.  It takes time to learn how to contract your abs without crunching your ribcage.

All this work is key, so that when you get to the stage you’re not thinking about it or suffering.


Known as the bodybuilding/golf pro, Michael Manavian works on improving peoples health and fitness as well as their golf game. He is the author of Atomic Golf, The Alternative to Swing Gurus, Pie-in-the-Sky Theories, Perfect Greens, and Everything Else That’s Failed and is available for fitness consultations as well as golf instruction.

Be sure to visit his website,


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