If you showed the average person the top 10 lineup at Mr. Olympia, chances are they would say the competitors look gross. The sheer amount of mass that the top competitors today carry creates a certain freak factor where people want to look at it, but they don’t wanna look like it. Tiny heads appear to be supported not by a neck, but by mounds of trap and pec muscles. Legs look like they could belong on clydesdale horses. And like super swole ninja turtles many of today’s professional bodybuilders possess a large, swollen gut due to insulin and growth hormone abuse.
Even though most amateur bodybuilders can appreciate all the hard work that goes into creating that look, it’s not a physique they want for themselves. The explosion in popularity of the physique and classic physique divisions shows that paradigms might be shifting and the era of mass monsters ruling the scene may be coming to an end. And while the “freak” look will never completely die out, the sheer amount of social media followers and presence that the top physique pros have way outnumbers the top bodybuilding pros. Seriously, type in #aesthetics in Instagram and watch over 9 million posts pop up.
Up until the mid 80’s, being the biggest bodybuilder did not mean you were going to place well. The more proportionate and conditioned competitor often took home first place. Frank Zane was beating guys who had over 50lbs of muscle on him during his reign as Mr. Olympia from 1977-1979. He weighed only around 185 lbs but won due to a conditioned, balanced, and aesthetic physique that resembled ancient Greek statues. While the lack of aesthetics that many pro bodybuilders posses today is largely due to drug abuse and their sheer amount of muscle, the way you work out can have a large impact on your overall look as well. There are many people who work out and create a physique over years that may have some quality muscle, but they just don’t look as good as others who pick up a weight and after 6 months look like a superhero.
This is in large part because part aesthetics derive from genetics and the structure you were born with. Someone with wide clavicles, short bicep insertions, and a tiny waist simply has a more ideal structure to build muscle upon compared to someone less genetically fortunate. But don’t get discouraged there are things that contribute to achieving an aesthetic look other than hitting the genetic lottery.
Aesthetics are dictated by proper posture, symmetry, proportion, and muscular “flow.” These can all be negatively impacted by any number of muscular imbalances that occur due to poor posture, improper technique when exercising, or a poorly programmed workout routine. The goal of creating an aesthetic physique is not to pack muscle on for the sake of simply having more muscle, but to add it in a way that emphasizes symmetry and creates a v-tapered look with a narrow waist. Follow these rules to craft an aesthetic golden era physique!
Rule One: Your Routine Needs Balance
A common error many people make is overworking certain muscle groups, For guys this usually means chest and arms. It could be because these are the most visible muscles and we think chicks will dig us or perhaps you just enjoy the pump in the gym more than back or leg day, but either way they often get exercised with more frequency. Over time this will lead to muscular imbalances such as overdeveloped front delts and upper traps and poor posture in the upper back. If your programming does not have a balance of pushing, pulling, squatting, and hinging movements, your body will not be evenly developed and proportions will suffer.
Rule Two: Make Yourself Wider
Not everyone is blessed with a narrow waist, but you can make it appear more narrow by creating a larger v-taper. Add extra volume for lateral delt development by incorporating a variety of flyes using different angles and high repetitions. Lats should be also be emphasized through an assortment of pulldown and rowing exercises at different angles.
When targeting lats, focus on the mind muscle connection and feeling the contraction while going slower on the eccentric portion. The most overlooked muscle group that contributes to having that broad-shouldered look is the low trap. Often people end up with overdeveloped upper traps due to poor posture and workout mechanics. This is not an attractive look and leads to an internal rotation of the shoulders which greatly diminishes the v-taper. In fact Steve Reeves, who had one of the best tapers of all time, completely avoided upper trap work like shrugs because he says they make you look narrow.
Reeves lat spread was incredible, even in a suit! (See above)However, well-developed low trap muscles depress the scapula which creates better posture and more width from shoulder to shoulder. Target low traps through low trap raises and variant exercises.
Rule Three: Increase The Taper
Arnold Schwarzenegger was blessed with great biceps and pectoral muscles but what we often forget is that his waist was actually quite wide. This is why you always see him twisting in his poses. He stated that there was nothing he could do to make his waist more narrow from side to side (when you have a 32 inch waist at 5% bodyfat, it’s not getting any smaller), but he focused on training that would make it more narrow from front to back.
That meant a high volume of work for his abs, in particular the transverse abdominis. This is the muscle that depresses the lower abdomen into the spine and acts as a girdle. It creates the taper at your waistline. By contracting this muscle you can flatten your stomach or create a vacuum. Arnold would practice holding the vacuum pose for long periods of time. Another way to increase the taper is to be able to expand the ribcage. Classic bodybuilders such as Steve Reeves and Frank Zane would also incorporate breathing techniques during their workouts to help strengthen and develop these muscles. Include movements that expand the ribcage, such as dumbbell pullovers.
Rule Four: Let Go Of Ego And Forget About Strength
All of the great bodybuilders of the golden era preach the importance of achieving full ranges of motions on all exercises. This not only leads to full development, it also leads to more stretched-out fascial tissue. When fascia bunches in areas it can take away from definition and separation. Keep the repetitions in the 10-15 range using primarily free weights. Do not focus on lifting fast or extremely explosively. Instead try for a 2-second concentric and then spend 4 seconds on the eccentric portion with a one second hold at the end, It’s important to let go of ego when training for aesthetics because overemphasis on strength will have you looking like a powerlifter instead of a physique competitor.
Rule Five: Eat Real Food
If you are an adamant follower of the If It Fits Your Macros school(IIFYM) and you eat an assortment of poptarts and candied bacon to hit your macros, you better believe your aesthetics will suffer. Aesthetics goes beyond having well developed muscles and into other things such as complexion and water retention that can be negatively impacted if you eat a processed diet high in sugar.
Poor nutrition choices can lead to deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals as well as increased levels of inflammation in your body. This can make your skin puffy or blotchy and your stomach distended and bloated. Not to mention all the water retention will take away from definition and can make you look like the stay puft marshmallow man.
Rule Six: Supplement Smart
Smart supplementation can also help your aesthetics in ways you may not be aware of. One great product is Sheer Alpha Testosterone which lowers estrogen and raises testosterone levels naturally. This will increase lean muscle production and lead to less fat storage.
Sheer Shred Pm will enhance weight loss while providing ingredients that improve sleep quality and lower cortisol, which is a major cause of fat storage around the midsection. If you have just a small film of fat keeping you from achieving “shredded status” then consider supplementing with Sheer Thermo. It will help you break down that last bit of fat by increasing the ability of your body to mobilize fat from the stubborn fat receptors located in the love handle and lower stomach area.
Rule Seven: Don’t Overlook Mobility
Incorporating regular mobility work will not only keep you from injuring yourself, it will also help maintain optimal posture, prevent muscle imbalances, and help increase muscular separation. Common areas that should be loosened through an assortment of foam rolling and stretching include the low back, upper traps, hip flexors, thoracic spine, and calves. Also consider implementing extreme stretching during your workouts. This is a method of stretching a muscle to its fullest and engorging it with blood after finishing a set targeting it. It can lead to more muscle growth and separation.
Some people want to be a shredded 300lbs and look like a whole other species of human. There’s nothing wrong with that if it is your goal, but many people simply want to look good naked and have the opposite sex think that as well. If that’s the case then follow these 7 rules and pretty soon your instagram pics will be worthy of #aesthetics.
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