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To Vacuum or Not to Vacuum?

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By Loan Cat
What began innocently as a request from legend Arnold Schwarzenegger has turned into a full blown debate among the bodybuilding community with advocates on both sides. The debate is over the vacuum pose. What started the debate was a simple request from Schwarzenegger himself: “Show me the vacuum pose. I love this pose!”

During the congratulations of winner George Peterson, who took the Men’s Classic Physique at the Arnold Sports Festival, the simple request went viral, sparking debates online and on social media. [3]

Arnold Schwarzenegger loves the pose so much that back in May of 2014, he wrote an article about the vacuum pose and said, “What is a vacuum pose, you may ask? Hitting a vacuum pose involves simultaneously expanding your rib cage while blowing out all of the air from your lungs. The effect is a hollow below your ribs, where your stomach used to be. The effect is dramatic—a massively muscled upper body perched atop a narrow abdominal column.” [1]

Many bodybuilders feel that the vacuum is what defines the golden era of bodybuilding. But the reality is that the vacuum pose is a highly coveted pose, although it was never a mandatory pose.

So what’s the fuss really about? It all began when Nick Miller of Nick's Strength and Power made a video stating he believes it should be mandatory and criticizing those who cannot hit the vacuum pose as not being able to fulfill pose requirements.

Breon Ansley thinks it shouldn’t be mandatory because he believes the vacuum pose washes out the abs, allowing those with less definition to hide behind the pose itself. Ansley asks, if there’s a penalty for not being able to hit a vacuum, shouldn’t penalties also be applied for poorly conditioned abs? Ansley states, “Whatever happened to deep, conditioned, separate abs?” [4]
Chris Bumstead, who is well known for hitting a perfect vacuum, also doesn’t believe it should be mandatory. He believes that the vacuum pose doesn’t look good on all athletes, especially those with shorter torsos. [6]

George Peterson’s victory makes it evident that even with the mandatory vacuum pose, the athlete with the best overall physique wins, not the one with the best posing.


[6]  Chris Bumstead, https://youtu.be/mbkC5hpiSI0
[4]  Breon Ansley, https://youtu.be/GsMEa33-FRE
[5]  Nick Strength & Power, Should Vacuum be mandatory?, https://youtu.be/GW_qCq6YfxM
[3]  Arnold asking George Peterson to his vacuum, https://youtu.be/QHhAV2R6V2s
[2]  IFBB Mandatory Poses, http://www.ifbbpro.com/wp-content/uploads/image/2015/CompetitionRules_Cl...
[1]  Arnold Vacuum article, https://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/workout-tips/arnold-schwarzene... 2014

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