“Don’t be afraid of being different. Be afraid of being the same as everyone else.” Zyzz
These days, it seems like the word aesthetic gets thrown around left and right, especially in the fitness industry. But just what makes an aesthetic physique? Is it abs and a sun tan? More importantly, is there any benefit beyond vanity to having an aesthetic physique? Find out the answers to these questions and more on today’s episode of From Meathead to Meatless. But seriously, all jokes aside, let’s dive into it.
What is an aesthetic physique?
We all know an aesthetic physique when we see one, but what exactly makes for an aesthetic body? This is difficult to pinpoint, as it is subjective, but generally speaking, an aesthetic physique is a beautiful physique. Beauty will always ultimately be in the eye of the beholder, but typically a great physique is one of symmetry and proportion. A small waist, broad shoulders, and round, full muscles are important for the male physique, while a favorable hip to waist ratio and well developed glutes make for an aesthetic female. Keep in mind that this is all subjective, and what is aesthetic to one person may not be to another.
Let’s discuss the elephant in the room. Genetics obviously play a major role in how aesthetic a physique looks. Some guys are born with broad shoulders, a small waist, and great muscle bellies. Some girls are born with hourglass figures, double d’s and glutes that resemble basketballs. No matter how these people train, they will basically always have aesthetic physiques. Any type of training will generally make them look even better.
How you can build an aesthetic body
With that being said, there are things anyone can do to create a much more aesthetic body. Let’s say you have a broad or average sized waist and narrow shoulders. Your primary focus should be building the shoulders(especially the medial or side delts), widening the lats, increasing quad sweep, and always being careful not to build the obliques. If you have long, stringy limbs, your focus should be on thickening them and adding roundness to them. For men, if you have a flat chest, your focus should be on putting meat on the chest. If you’re a woman and your backside lacks shape, your focus should be on creating roundness there. For both men and women, if a muscle lags behind other muscles it should be trained more intensely.
How to Increase Intensity
There are many ways to increase intensity. You can add more volume via increased sets, reps, or weight. You can shorten rest periods from 2 minutes to 1 minute, or 30 seconds. Keep in mind that short rest periods are not effective when doing heavy weight. As a rule of thumb, if you’re using a weight that you can only get 6 reps or less with, rest no less than 90 seconds for isolation movements and no less than 2 minutes for compound movements. This will give the central nervous system time to recover adequately. There are many other ways to increase intensity such as: Training to failure, doing forced reps with a spotter, rest-pause, negatives, partials,holding peak contractions for a count, etc. The sky’s the limit here, and you really can always make your workout more challenging.
Building Boulder Shoulders
To build broader shoulders there are a few basic principles which, if implemented will assist you greatly. The side delts are solely responsible for increasing shoulder width, so your focus should be on them in particular. One method of doing this is to pre-exhaust the side delts. I prefer doing this with one arm lateral raises performed on an incline bench, but you can do it with any type of lateral raise. This will allow the front delts to be trained harder when doing overhead presses and result in more growth. Another great way to bring up the side delts is down the rack laterals. The shoulders love constant tension, so techniques that increase time under tension work especially well for them in my experience. Also, avoid locking out on overhead presses, as this will take tension off the shoulders.
How to Turn Your Bird Chest Into a Barrel Chest
A barrel chest is one of the most sought after achievements by the majority of male bodybuilders. It is truly a symbol of power and looks amazing. However, most guys never develop great chests. Why is this? There are many reasons. Poor structure, weak mind-muscle connection, lack of intensity, and most commonly, lack of know how. Most guys simply don’t know how to train the chest to really make it grow. Here are a few practical tips that if applied consistently, will take your chest development to another level:
- Don’t lock out on pressing movements, instead opt for performing the bottom ¾’s of the movement. This will minimize tricep involvement and keep constant tension on the chest.
- Correct posture is crucial to recruiting more muscle in the chest, and less in the front delts. Before beginning any chest movement, retract your scapula and bring your shoulders slightly back and down. Think of the posture you would use if you were trying to look bigger. Now you’ve got it!
- Vary rep ranges. Use a combination of high, moderate, and low rep ranges. This will not only ensure that you’re utilizing type 1 and type 2 muscle fibers which will result in more growth, but will also keep things from growing stale. As they say, variety is the spice of life. I recommend going as high as 20 reps, and as low as 6 reps. Generally though, I find that 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, and 6 reps pyramiding up in weight each set works well.
- Make your last set count! On the last set of each movement, incorporate a challenge. This can come in the form of rest pause, forced reps, drop sets, super sets, or isometric holds at the end of a set. There are many more methods, but you get the idea.
- Don’t underestimate the power of push ups. Push ups are one of the most effective exercises for building the chest. There are infinite varieties, and endless ways to make them more challenging as you become stronger. I recommend at the very least, finishing your chest routine with a burnout set of pushups. They can also be used as a way to warm up the chest.
Building Stubborn Lats to Create That Elusive V-Taper
When it comes to lats, basically the wider they are, the better the physique looks. This is because the wider the lats get, the smaller the waist looks in comparison. This is what gives the highly desirable V-taper. For some of us, we have somewhat of a V-taper naturally and therefore it only takes a few months or so to create a dramatic taper, and then there are those that have underdeveloped lats and a wide waist naturally. For these people it can be near impossible to develop a V-taper via traditional means. The following are a few simple tips for getting those stubborn lats to grow.
- Start with width exercises. Most of us want a more impressive V-taper, so it makes sense to prioritize width movements for back. I recommend wide grip overhand pull-ups and overhand lat pulldowns. By performing these exercises first and forcibly contracting the lats, (pretend you’re doing a lat spread every rep) you will see a serious increase in width.
- Build your mind muscle connection. Many people aren’t connected to their backs. Perform a 5-10 second lat spread in between sets. Spread your lats throughout the day when you think about it. This will make a huge difference in your results over time.
Increasing Quad Sweep for an X Frame
Building big legs is not rocket science, but for those with subpar leg genetics, it can seem like it.
If the basic exercises aren’t working for you, and you know you’ve been training your legs hard, these techniques will help you, specifically for increasing quad sweep which again, will make the waist look smaller.
- Raise the intensity! Pre-exhaust the quads with leg extensions or sissy squats immediately before performing sets of squats or leg presses. This builds alot of lactic acid in the muscles and burns like nothing else, but it works wonders for producing growth.
- Squat with your feet close together. This will shift the focus to the outer quads and light them up. If you have trouble doing this, put a 45 pound plate under your feet.
- Squeeze! Every rep, without fail, flex your quads as hard as you can. Strengthen that mind muscle connection.
How to Build Thick, Full Arms
For some, building arms comes naturally. These people can get very big arms just from a basic workout program. However, for those of us that have been training for several years and find the arms to be a weak point, extra effort is required. If you’re part of the latter group, don’t get discouraged, just follow these tips to turbocharge your arm growth.
- Lighten up those weights! This may seem counterintuitive, but it may be just what you need. One of the most common causes of underdeveloped arms is a weak mind muscle connection. With a weak mind muscle connection it’s easy for assisting muscles to take over. For instance,
When you’re curling, it’s very easy to recruit the lower back, front delts, and forearms. Do this for long enough, and the biceps become a weak point. Using lighter weights will allow you to focus on using only the biceps to lift the weight.
- Squeezing the bar or dumbbells when performing curls. This is a sure way to grow the forearms, but not the most effective technique for recruiting the biceps. Try this. Loosen your grip to where it’s just enough to keep the weight from falling on the floor, and then perform the movement.
- Flex the biceps hard at the top of each movement, every rep, every time.
- Increase time under tension. Usually, a set of curls takes the average gym goer 20 seconds or less. Try to increase that time to at least 30 seconds by performing more reps, drop sets, or supersets. This also increases intensity which, as I’m sure you know, is crucial for maximizing muscle grow.
- Work your triceps harder! Many people lack spectacular triceps. Why is this? When you watch them work triceps, it’s plain to see. They may train the biceps hard, but coast through triceps workouts. Increase the intensity of your tricep workouts with isometric holds, drop sets, supersets, forced reps, and negatives. I find that the triceps can take a beating, and still recover quickly. Give it a shot. Go hard or go home!
How to Build Stubborn Calves
Alas, we make our way to the most stubborn body part of all, the calves. They can seem downright impossible to build for some, despite high volume and frequent workouts. While the aforementioned techniques will work for some people and are a great starting point, there are some of us that require a more specific approach to building calves. I fall into this category. This is because the calves are being worked all day every day, while we walk and perform many other daily activities. This technique has a few basic principles that must remain concrete. These are:
Always stretch the calves before and after working them, with a fairly deep stretch being performed before, and a very deep stretch being performed after your workout. This will enable you to contract the calves harder and stretch them more deeply during your workout, which brings me to my next point. Always fully stretch the calves at the bottom of each rep, and come all the way up on the toes at the top. The next principle is to perform one to two warm-up sets, and then one all out set to true failure. I’m not talking about your average every day failure, this is next level. You need to feel like there’s literally lava in your calves. After this set, you should have deep cramps in your calves, and be unable to walk for a few seconds. Anything short of this level of intensity is not gonna earn you the growth that you’re looking for, so don’t cheat yourself by not pushing as hard as you can. One last tip is to train your calves unilaterally, or one at a time. This makes it easier to focus and train the calves as hard as they really should be trained.
There you have it, now you have no excuses. You truly can bring up any lagging body part, but you need a strong desire and willingness to put in the extra work. An aesthetic physique is truly a magical site, displaying power, grace, vigor, willpower, intelligence, and discipline and is totally attainable, however, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Be in this for the long haul, and you will achieve whatever goals you set for yourself. Now, what are you waiting for? Go train!