Muscle Sport Magazine

The Vacuum Pose – A Lost Art in Bodybuilding (Part 1)

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 I – Just an Illusion

Bodybuilding on stage is about creating illusions.  Doing what it takes to give the appearance of having more volume in some areas and less volume in others by manipulating your body when viewed.  Note I said volume not size or weight.  It’s not about the scale rather the volume of space one can occupy.

That is the end all.  The presentation of body manipulation all the while taking into account the viewpoint of another – be it a judge or observer – is what you are striving to effect. The human brain is very keen in picking out and noting differences of the dichotomies. Light – dark, big-small, fast-slow, etc. It is imperative to play on these observations in order to positively affect the emotions of the observer in your favor. Most every show I’ve entered, I was the smallest guy in the class, but even with that I was able to win my share of events.

Remember flexing is a contraction – when things contract they get smaller! Think about what you’re doing in a front double bicep shot: Bringing your hands IN, flexing your pecs IN (which the above two pull on your lats hunching you forward and down) and flexing your abdominals IN and DOWN.


On paper, the pose is ill suited to show ones physique, but this all changes if you know how to offset these contractional shrinkages by using your ribcage effectively. The area of the torso is the make or break area.  By volumizing the chest cavity, you create a stable base to flex against!  Think about it, when you raise your rib cage you’re: Posture gets better, your head goes back, your chin goes up, your shoulders raise and go back, your chest is pushed out, your lats appear and your arms raise.

And that’s just standing relaxed!  Now go into the pose with a high ribcage you have a something to flex your arms against.  As your arms are contracting in, your ribcage is pushing out against your shoulders in turn pushing against your arms – creating a stable balance between the muscle’s insertion and attachment points. You ribs also are pushing against your lats popping them out.


By doing this high ribcage shot, the poser now can create the dichotomies within.  A high ribcage pulls the skin covering the abdominals and shrinks the volume of the waist.  Now you have a superman/wonder woman cartoony look, with a small waist and high torso bringing everyone’s attention to the difference in size; not necessarily the size of one or the other.  People can’t put their finger on what it is, and remark that the person has a small waist or a big chest when in fact he may not have either, but it sure looks likes he does.

Now that’s the why one would hit a high ribcage shot.  Now to answer the most common bodybuilding question I get asked – How the hell do you do that????

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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