Muscle control is a method of training that helps you to develop complete autonomy over your muscular system. This style of training was popularized by Maxick, the man who's back adorns the top of this website, and performed by Otto Arco, also known as the Magician of Muscle (Otto Arco even used to do a bit of training with International Boxing Hall of Famer Jack Dempsey.)
Max Sick (birth name) was sickly as a child and was unable to perform traditional weight lifting because of the strain it would have on his body. He was bedridden, he was dying, and he was determined to be neither.
While bedridden, Maxick developed his strength and muscle by learning to contract, relax, and isolate his muscles progressively from his bed. Eventually he improved his constitution enough to be able to attend a local fitness club, and proved more powerful that most of the club members.
Maxick did have to train using weights to participate in the weight lifting competitions of his day, because it is wiser to train a sport-specific movement by using that sport.
However, muscle control can also aid your ability to improve in your specific sport. Just as being able to control the tension of your natural movements can give you strength, controlling an external weight with muscle control can develop your neurological system to quickly adapt to your movements with the weights.
Bobby Pandour, an oldtime strongman, reportedly used muscle control to train with only 5lbs weights, but his own muscle control built up a physique that rivaled Eugen Sandow's himself.
This is not just muscle posing, although that is an aspect of muscle control. This is learning to contract, relax, and isolate any muscle to maximize it's potential. It applies to mobility training, which teaches you to be able to apply force in any range of motion that you enter. It is a very progressive style of exercise; the results of the program can take months, but produce amazing, lasting, and functional health and strength results.
More than contracting in any range, muscle control teaches you to voluntarily contract your muscles to near 100% capacity. Learning to fully contract a muscle to its maximum lets you generate enough force to build muscle and train progressively even with external weights.
Often times, people struggle with heavy weights in the gym simply because they focus too much on the weight being lifted rather than the muscle being flexed. This causes them to unnecessarily flex antagonistic muscles to the movement performed (i.e. flexing your biceps and traps on a bench press), which makes the movement much more difficult.
Muscle control isn't about walking into a gym and slinging heavy weights around with poor form; it's about using any weight, light or heavy, to improve your mind's relationship with your body.
Learning to relax those antagonist muscles is just as important. Flaunting how incredibly hard one's muscles are even without flexing, to me, simply underlines the lack of control in that muscle.
Think of it this way: when you contract a muscle, it is at near maximum tension with the tendons and ligaments fully stressed. It is like a cable that supports a bridge.
If the cable has no slack in it, all it takes is a tractor trailer that's a little too heavy and ...SNAP! The cable is broken. I've seen unfortunate tendon injuries happen to bodybuilders and powerlifters alike; being able to relax your muscles can go a long way for your training longevity if you do either of these sports.
Loosening those muscles up can give you a considerable strength boost. Maxick, with the density of muscle he possessed, was said to have had muscle like soft velvet, but his training allowed him to perform feats such as having men leap from great heights onto his abs with no detriment to him. In fact, they'd bounce off his abs as though made of rubber! He also one arm pressed Tromp Van Diggelen (who weighed 215 to Maxick's 145) 15 times...with a beer in the other hand...without spilling a drop. This going along with his 230lbs military press, 340lbs continental jerk, and much more.
I currently train muscle control in conjunction with my isometric exercise and dynamic tension training. When I perform an isometric contraction, I will try to put as much kinetic force into the exercise as I put voluntarily muscle contraction. The results, so far, are phenomenal for building lean functional muscle.
The same applies to dynamic tension, one of my favorite ways to develop muscle control. Unlike isometric training, dynamic tension requires movement, so you cannot produce maximal force. This is a godsend coupled with my isometric exercises, because it can be used for active recovery, mobility training, and Specialized Physical Preparation.
Strengthening your contraction deepens your ability to feel the muscle, take control of your full strength, and visualize your training goals. It deepens your connection with yourself. Muscle control strengthens your peripheral nervous system, and allows you to more properly perform actions in tune with your body.
Maxick was able to bring his level of training to near full body mastery. He retained the same strength at 70 that he possessed at 50 and 30. He was able to even predict his own death by feeling the activity of his heart slowing down, and wrote his own death note in the moments before he passed. Now THAT'S control!
Learning to couple muscle control with isometrics can help to change your strength with maximum utility. Professional strongman and master of deceptive strength Logan Christopher (owner of LegendaryStrength.com) has a done an excellent treatise on muscle control exercises for those who wish to delve further into the true potential of this system. To learn more about the true potential of muscle control as a strength building system, check out his extensive program Master Muscle Control.
Please put any thoughts, questions, or feedback here and I'll respond as soon as I can.