The iron game has certainly changed. Open up any muscle magazine today, and you see the likes of Jay Cutler, Phil Heath, and Ronnie Coleman. They are legends for attaining muscle bound physiques greater than any ever seen before. They regularly top out the scales at 300 pounds in the offseason, and always compete at well over 260 pounds. Remember that Arnold Schwarzenegger, at his peak, was only 240 pounds, at a height of 6 foot 2 inches. These men are 5-6 inches shorter and well wider – and that’s not always a good thing!
If you’re a fan of “old school” bodybuilding, then you likely remember the days of Frank Zane, Bob Paris and Brian Buchanan. These men were a hundred pounds smaller than today’s athletes, but they also lacked the one big eyesore seen today on most high level bodybuilding stages – the gut. The use of super “supplements”, and just plain eating the figurative barrels of food required to reach such a high level of muscle mass often leaves the bellies of these athletes expanded and distended permanently. They have arms the likes of which the world has never seen – but they also have pot bellies which extend well past their chest. Modern bodybuilding suffers commercially as a result.
All is not lost, however. A new generation of aesthetics-focused athletes has arrived on the scene, gracing the stages of the physique division with symmetry, lines, and above all, svelte waistlines. Today’s athlete are once again becoming capable of the elusive and legendary “vacuum pose” used by athletes in the 1970s and 1980s, before distended guts became the norm. Aesthetics is returning to the judges’ minds, and athletes are being rewarded for it!
Whether you are looking to make your mark on the competitive stage, or you’re part of the 99% of those in the gym who will never compete, you can certainly benefit from attaining and maintaining an extremely tight waistline capable of hitting a vacuum pose. And the way to achieve this capability is to use an exercise known as a stomach vacuum.
Arnold Schwarzenegger loved this exercise. Known as a stomach vacuum, or just a vacuum, it involved sucking in your ab muscles – and just holding them in. The resulting flexibility, strength, and control this movement delivered was very beneficial when Arnold took the bodybuilding competition stage, or was just hanging out at the beach. Take 5 to 10 minutes, and just ‘suck it in’, to build up the abdominals in terms of strength and svelte appearance.
Granted, this exercise shouldn’t be performed on a full stomach. Cut back on the water as well. Many athletes will measure their stomach at its absolute tightest, training it week to week to see if they are managing to reduce the size of their midsection progressively.
There are a number of benefits seen by athletes training with the vacuum. Core stability improves, and they see an increase in spinal stability as well. Their stomach will protrude less as the months pass, and they’ll be stronger on movements which require a strong core, such as squats and deadlifts.
Remember, the goal of the athlete is the elusive “V-taper”, a look in which the shoulders/chest and thighs are full and wide, and the extremely small “wasp waist”. Using the stomach vacuum is a great tool for attaining this look. It is known as “Nature’s weight belt” because athletes using it begin to develop their own natural protective core, similar to what a weight belt would provide.
You don’t just have to employ the stomach vacuum at the gym. In fact, you can pass the time on road trips or while waiting in line anywhere, without anyone around you knowing you are building up your midsection at the same time! Simply pull in your gut, strengthening the transverse abdominals, tightening up your waistline and abs anytime!
In addition to using the stomach vacuum to build up your abs, remember you should also be integrating other exercises to target all areas of your midsection. Crunches for upper abs, leg raises for lower abs, and broomstick twists for the side abdominals are ideal.
Remember that building an amazing set of abdominals involves so much more than just training. You have to stay lean too! A diet rich in the right types of proteins (chicken, lean beef, eggs and whey), carbohydrates (rice, pasta, beans) and fats (almonds, fish oil and egg yolks) will go a long way to making those new abs show clearly. Keep your cardio at an hour each day for a moderate pace, and take your fat burning supplements religiously!
The sport of bodybuilding, fitness and physique is making a turn. Everyone saw just how huge and monstrous these athletes *could* become. Then it reached a point where marketability was being affected in an adverse manner. There were no more “Arnolds”. No mainstream outlets were lining up to put Phil Heath or Jay Cutler on their cereal boxes or tennis shoe. The sport needed to evolve in order to continue inspiring investment dollars, print market share, and overall popularity. And it is doing exactly that. Work hard on your stomach vacuum to keep your waistline tight. The next decade of the iron game will likely force that tight midsection to become a requirement. Make sure you’re ready for that!