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Look, Ma, No Squeem!

“The only way to get your waist more narrow is to start wearing a squeem.” For those of you who don’t know what a squeem is, it’s a corset. Think southern belle, Gone With the Wind waspy waists cinched up until you can barely breathe. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard it since I’ve been competing but I never bought into it. Reason being, I’ve studied enough to know that such deliberate deformation of the human body is a lousy idea. If you look at articles that dispute the

L0038404 Illustrations to denounce the crimes of the corset Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images 2 Illustrations to denounce the crimes of the corset and how it cripples and restricts the bodily organs in women. Engraving 1908 Published:  -  Printed: 10th October 1908 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc 2.0 UK, see

Illustrations to denounce the crimes of the corset
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

validity of a squeem, often you will find an accompanying photo which depicts the internal contents squished upwards and downwards like a tube of toothpaste being crushed in the middle. Some competitors may be cavalier enough to think that’s not a big deal and things will go back to “normal” after their done with this phase in their lives. Think again.

The toothpaste tube crushing effect is more than that. If you’ve ever studied any of Jean-Pierre Barral’s Visceral Manipulation work (which I have), you’d find a squeem will also hinder two key components vital to internal organ health (mobility and motility) as well as create scar tissue within the viscera which will NOT go away once the squeem phase is over. The result? Lifelong damage that not only can impede future visceral function but also create a snag in the very fabric of your body’s facial matrix. Scar tissue is your body’s version of a snag in a sweater. Pull that string tight and you’ll see the entire sweater distort. Create scar tissue within the viscera and you can suffer pain of any number of combinations as a result of your body being distorted from within (and you will find very few bodyworkers trained in this style of complicated work to fix the problem).


Add to that another structure which becomes severely compressed you may not even know exists is the greater omentum. The greater omentum is a fatty netting that lies over the intestines and is rich in lymphatic vessels and nodes. One of the functions of the greater omentum has been found to be infection and wound isolation as it has the ability to migrate within the abdominal cavity and can be often found wrapped around areas of infection or trauma. Compressing the abdominal cavity by using a squeem may impede this function restricting circulation and the ability for the structure to intervene when needed to prevent the spread of pathogens.

So based on that evidence, I had ruled out the possibility of ever messing with a squeem. So what’s a girl like me with short collar bones supposed to do to get that waspy waist?! Well lucky for me I got into this sport to see what the human body is capable of doing.  Since I first got involved with this sport back in 2009, I have paid close attention to what is it that influences “the look” we all try to obtain.

So what is “the look” exactly? Well in Figure Bodybuilding, it’s that martini glass silohette. Wide at the shoulders and back v-tapering down to a tiny waist and narrow yet rounded hips. Over the years, I have found there are three things that contribute to this: training, smoke and mirrors, and alternative therapies.


Ever since I got into this sport, I have been hammering lats, chest, and delts. Your waist does need to be narrow but if you’re back, chest, and shoulders aren’t wide, no amount of cinching is going to make your waist look smaller by comparison. These training methods take time. It was about 5 years of hard core training on these body parts before I started seeing the size difference so keep in mind that if you’ve just started your journey in competition bodybuilding, it’s going to take you some time and conditioning before your body does what you’re waiting to see.

Images curtesy of Visceral Body

Images curtesy of Visceral Body

This season, however, I stumbled upon an article on “vacuum training” for abdominals in the T-Nation forum ( It discussed how the old school bodybuilders would specifically train the transverse abdominus muscle (TVA).

Why is it effective? Well the TVA is your body’s girdle! Matter of fact, most squeems or girdles you’ll see do what the TVA is supposed to do!  So why would you need an external version of this when God already gave you one?

At the beginning of this season I set about adding TVA training to my workouts and eliminated the weighted abdominal training I’d been doing. The only regret I have in doing this is I didn’t take a waist circumference measurement to prove actual size reduction. I can tell you, however, that it was much easier to manipulate my waist narrowing after having implemented TVA training after only about eight weeks!


How you pose and your suit can make or break you in a second!

IMG_8278This season, I made it a point to get even more posing coaching and make time for more posing practice. If you take a look at the two photos, you’ll notice how much higher I’m holding my chest. In the photo on the left, I’m not standing up as straight. In the photo on the right, I’m pulling up hard like there’s a string attached to my sternum and pulling me up. The result is an arch in the low back and stretching out the abdominal area which, in turn, lends to the illusion of a more narrow waist!


IMG_8277As for the suit, a prime mistake most competitors make is not pulling up the sides of the posing trunks high enough or, even if you do pull them up, failing to glue them in place so they don’t slip. Look again at the two photos. The left photo shows trunk sides below the belly button. The right shows them parallel. Let this be a lesson. Glue those suckers so they stay where you put them!





Your gym time and diet aren’t the only attention you should be giving your physique. Invest as well in alternative therapies to help your body recover, repair, and prevent injuries.

I started receiving chiropractic care in January of this year to help with reoccurring migraines. The chiropractic adjustments certainly provided much needed relief from the migraines but the unexpected benefit was how it helped my posing! I didn’t realize how much my deviations were affecting a dropped shoulder and inability to flare lats symmetrically. After a few treatments, my husband was no longer correcting me in my back pose for uneven shoulders.

As a massage therapist who has worked with bodybuilders, I have also seen soft tissue work help athletes reach more of a pump and ability to pose with more fullness throughout the musculature. Massage therapy and scar release work helps alleviate restrictions as well as increase blood flow to the musculature. Blood flow may seem like a great thing for pump but it’s more than that. Blood carries oxygen. Oxygen throughout the body helps in recovery and growth. More blood flow = more oxygen and therefore healthier tissue and more gains!


Rarely will what you need to address be only a single issue in order to improve. Put in the work in training in the gym not only to minimize your waist but also to build size on your back, chest and shoulders to maximize the illusion that the waist appears smaller than it really is. Get coaching from masters in posing to help analyze how best to present yourself. Finally, take care of yourself outside of your gym and kitchen routines. Alternative therapies can help remove restrictions that impede your ability to train and pose your best! When it comes to the sport of competitive bodybuilding, THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS!  Anyone who tells you different is selling something you don’t need.