Robby Robinson was having a problem. Robby, who had already won the Mr.America and Mr.Universe titles, was competing in a series of professional Grand Prix bodybuilding contests in Europe, and I was there covering the contests for the Weider bodybuilding magazines. Robby had encountered a problem whereby he was highly defined a few days prior to the contest, but at the contest, he appeared to show some light water retention that obscured his usually ripped body. Robby asked me for a possible solution, and after talking with him, I realized that in his zeal to win the contest, Robby trained right up to the day of the contest. I advised him to instead take at least three to four days off prior to the contest and instead focus on diet preparations and posing practice. My advice was based on the fact that when you train, you cause temporary edema of localized fluid retention in the trained muscle. While this isn't noticeable in someone with higher body fat levels, it is more apparent in those with low body fat levels, as is typical of bodybuilders in the final week leading up to a contest appearance. I told Robby that posing and holding each pose for a few seconds, up to 30 seconds, will fully maintain his muscle size. Robby followed my advice and went on to easily win the contest.
In a previous article in Applied Metabolics, I discussed the surprising effects of what's called "no-load training." As the term implies, this involves flexing muscles very hard, but without any weight resistance, other than your own body. This differs from calisthenics, in which only bodyweight is also involved because no-load training imparts a much greater level of muscle tension. The reason why lifting weights promotes a greater degree of muscular growth compared to calisthenics is that the weights cause a greater degree of muscle damage, and also because the weights provide a higher level of muscular tension. Time under tension while training plays a major role in promoting muscular growth. One study, for example, compared occlusion training, which involves training with a cuff that partially inhibits blood flow to the working muscle, with doing repetitions in a slow, controlled manner that increases muscular time under tension. The study found that both techniques produced a similar degree of muscular size gains. The reason for that is that both occlusion training and extended slow reps greatly increase metabolic stress in the muscle that promotes the release of internal anabolic growth factors in muscle.
Without realizing it, bodybuilders often engage in an extended set of exercises by posing the trained muscle to check the muscle pump. I recall that when I trained a few times with Arnold Schwarzenegger at the original Gold's gym nearly half a century ago, Arnold always flexed the muscles he was training and observed how he looked in the gym mirror. But holding . . .