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AESTHETIC WORKOUT FOR MEN
By: Patrick Cunningham, CFNS, CPT
Sometimes people forget just what the sport of bodybuilding used to be. Fitness enthusiasts early on in the sport were incredibly concerned with not only size, but also overall muscular symmetry and proportions. The body these athletes sought after was commonly referred to as the “X-Man” or “X” shape with the “X” representing broad shoulders, a narrow waste and wide legs. The ultimate goal was to have a symmetrical, aesthetic physique having every part built as though perfectly formed in accordance with a complex yet flowing mathematical equation. To the bodybuilders who founded this epic sport, the geometry behind Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” was true north.
No one muscle was to be worked harder than another. As Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “If I want to increase one muscle a half inch, the rest of the body has to increase. I would never make [just] one muscle increase or decrease.” Each and every muscle had to be a certain size when compared to another. But as the sport became more mainstream, the once sought after “X” physique began to change and has unfortunately, largely been forgotten. Nowadays, one is more likely to see what could be referred to as a “V” man, if you get the drift.
Today, it seems to be all about size, size, size instead of biomechanical beauty and conditioning, and we all see prime examples of this at the local gym. Many guys, determined to achieve a dominating physique, show up, blast biceps and chest for three hours straight and then call it a day. In fact, it would appear that every day is either chest or biceps day for the modern bodybuilder; no warm-ups, no stretching, no breathing, just as heavy as possible. Where did all the finesse go? Dominic Current, NPC judge and Max Muscle franchisee, notes that, “Many guys show up to competitions either very big and poorly conditioned, or with great lines and symmetry, but lacking in size. It takes a perfect mesh of the two to bring the total package. There are a lot of one-dimensional guys out there. This is why so many of them get frustrated, wondering why they placed so low for a given competition. You have to place equal emphasis on all aspects of aesthetics if you want to bring the real deal.”
Well, there is a better way to build your body and it will not only be more aesthetically pleasing, but also more biomechanically sustainable.
WORK IT ALL OVER
More often than not, the muscles you cannot readily see in the mirror are the muscles that pull everything together for a well-built, finished product. Take a set of your mid-back muscles for example: the rhomboids. These muscles are located near the spine between your shoulder blades and are responsible for pulling your shoulders back and helping you keep your back straight. If you learn to isolate them, you will naturally pull your shoulders back, which will help broaden the appearance of your chest and shoulders as well as help utilize every inch of your height. So why would you beat the heck out of your chest instead of focusing on mid-back? Isolating your chest muscles alone, while also neglecting your back muscles, will only draw your shoulders forward and terrorize your posture.
Another example of a frequently skipped muscle group would be your triceps. Us guys want big arms right? So why then do some of us train our biceps to be able to curl a bus in order to do so but seem to neglect one important fact: triceps make up about 65 percent of our upper arms and thus the majority of their overall size. Nothing fills out the sleeves of a T-shirt like well-developed triceps. So if you want big arms, don’t skip triceps. On the contrary, focus on them and be prepared to switch that medium sized T-shirt for an XL.
This brings us to the most commonly skipped muscle group of them all: legs. Why, oh why, do guys neglect legs so frequently? Sure they are tough to train and not as fun to flex in the mirror as say biceps are, but they serve a crucial role in your progress. You not only burn the most amount of calories when you train them, and thus fat, but, as a man, you generate the highest levels of serum testosterone because of it. More useable testosterone in the bloodstream equals more natural muscle hypertrophy, as well as a hardy boost in sex drive and overall vitality. Consider yourself warned: if you do not train your legs, you are robbing yourself of the results you crave.
Now be honest: Are you guilty of some or all of the aesthetic crimes just mentioned? Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of it then. Take a deep breath and prepare to be presented with the next 10 weeks of your life. Go ahead and take care of all the other muscles as you have, but add these workouts to your weekly repertoire. You can thank us later.
Be sure to begin each workout with a 5-minute bout of light cardio. This will get the heart pumping and warm up the core of your body in preparation for the epicness that is about to ensue. And remember, if you are not getting adequate protein in your diet, the best workout in the whole world will not help you put on muscle. On the contrary, if you work out without enough protein in your system, you are catapulting your body into a catabolic state.
Keep in mind that, as mentioned earlier, these workouts are not meant to be all-inclusive. You will still need to train your biceps, chest, quadriceps, core and do your cardio all on your own. Use this as a guide on how to train the muscles people frequently skip. Truth be told though, even if you did just these muscle groups, you’d still build a physique superior to the “chest and biceps” guys. We’ll see you in 10 weeks.
AESTHETICS: DAY ONE
Machine Shoulder Press: Sit with your back and shoulders firmly rested against the backrest of the machine. Adjust the arms so that the handles go as low as your shoulder line. Choose the appropriate weight and begin your repetitions exhaling as you press the weight up and inhaling as you bring the weight back down. Make sure that your lower back does not compress.
Do 3 sets of 12 reps.
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: Choose the appropriate dumbbell weight and take a seat on a 90-degree bench. With the dumbbells to your sides in line with your shoulders and parallel to the floor, fully extend your arms exhaling as your raise the weight and inhaling as you reset the weight to the starting position. Elbows should stay out to your sides, never moving forward, and remain under your wrists at all times. Do 3 sets of 8 reps.
Dumbbell Rear Flys: Using a bench, sit on the very edge and lean forward until your torso is almost parallel with the floor. With dumbbells, straighten your arms and keep your elbows facing outward while flying your arms backward and squeezing your shoulders together simultaneously. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
Standing Straight Bar Cable Press-Down: Facing a high-pulley cable machine with a straight bar attached, begin the press-down by keeping your elbows firmly to your sides and extending your arms downward. Nothing else should move during this exercise except your lower arms and you should focus on the flexion of your triceps muscles. As with most exercises, you should exhale as the worked muscle shortens (concentric) and inhale as the worked muscle lengthens (eccentric). Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
Seated Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extensions: Using a 90-degree bench, lift the dumbbell above your head with your elbows directly by your ears. Keeping your elbows by your ears and upper arms stationary, bring the dumbbell down behind your head and then fully extend above your head. Again, no other body part should move during this exercise but the lower arms. Be sure to keep your shoulders stationary as well and resist the urge to shrug or roll them. Do 3 sets of 8 reps.
Decline Bench EZ Bar Extensions: Also known as decline skull-crushers, lie flat on a decline bench with an EZ barbell extended above you, arms shoulder width apart. Now, keeping your elbows shoulder width apart and facing the ceiling, slowly allow the bar to drop toward your brow and then fully extend upward keeping your elbows facing your feet. Do 3 sets of 6 reps.
AESTHETICS: DAY TWO
CALVES AND TRAPS SUPERSETS
Smith Machine Calf Press: Using a Smith machine, place a block or 45-pound weight plate on the floor at the center of the machine and place the balls of your feet on the edge. Now unrack the weight and allow your heels to go within 1 mm of the floor and extend upward, flexing the calf muscle. Be sure to keep your feet flat and avoid rolling over onto the outsides of your feet as you press. The plates are there to allow a full stretch of the calf muscle throughout the exercise. Do 12 reps then move directly into the Green Mile Walks.
Green Mile Walks: With heavy dumbbells in each hand, walk 10 paces one direction and 10 paces back for a total of 60 seconds of walking. While walking, be sure to keep your shoulders and head back and never compress your lower back. Straps may be used if your grip begins to fail. Walk for 60 seconds. (Rest 60 seconds then repeat this superset.)
Standing Machine Calf Raises: Using the standing-calf machine, adjust the height so that under full stretch of the calves, the machine does not tap out. To begin, face the machine and place the balls of your feet on the provided step. Allow your calf to get a full stretch and then press upward flexing the calf muscles. Keep your knees slightly bent at all times. Do 12 reps then move directly into Dumbbell Shrugs.
Dumbbell Shrugs: Using two heavy dumbbells, square off on them and lift using your legs, not your lower back. Stand straight with your shoulders and head back and knees slightly bent. Now, while allowing your arms to dead-hang holding the dumbbells, drive your shoulders up to your ears and then press the dumbbells downward. Do not roll your shoulders as this tends to stress the rotator cuffs. Repeat as indicated. Do 10 reps. (Rest for 60 seconds, then repeat this superset.)
GLUTES AND LOWER BACK SUPERSETS
Machine Iso-Glute One-Legged Press: Adjust the machine so that your back is straight and you have ample support for the resting leg. Now place only the back of one foot on the platform and fully extend your leg focusing on the flexion of the matching gluteal muscle. Allow your leg to drop back down only low enough to reset the motion, but not low enough to allow the weight to rest. Do 10 reps per leg then move directly into Good Mornings.
Good Mornings: Adjust the hyperextension machine so that your legs rest securely on the pads but your core is exposed. Put your arms across your chest and, while keeping your back straight, allow your torso to naturally pull you downward far enough to feel the stretch in your hamstrings (back of the upper leg). Then, as you press back upward, focus on the flexion of your lower back, glutes and secondarily your hamstrings. Exhale on the positive (upward) motion. Do 15 reps. (Rest 60 seconds, then repeat this superset.)
Glute Bridge Repetitions: Lying on your back on a mat, pull your feet up high enough on the floor so that there is a 90-degree bend in your knees (while keeping your feet on the floor). Place your arms across your chest and lift your toes off the floor so only your heels are touching the floor. Now press your pelvis forward using a thrusting maneuver and actively squeeze your glutes. At the top of the exercise, only your shoulders and your heels should be touching the ground. Allow your glutes to come within an inch of the floor. Do 30 reps then move directly into Superman.
Superman: Lying flat on your stomach on a mat, reach with your arms and legs to lengthen your body as much as possible. Now, without bending your arms or your legs, hyperextend upward focusing on the flexion of both your lower back and glutes. Then allow your lower back and glutes to relax to reset the motion. Do 30 reps. (Rest 60 seconds, then repeat this superset.)
AESTHETICS: DAY THREE
Underhand Grip Lat Pull-Downs: At the lat pulldown machine, using a straight bar, place your hands facing yourself, shoulder-width apart. Pull the bar down to your neck keeping your elbows to your sides pulling your shoulder blades together. Then allow the bar to raise high enough to feel the stretch in your lats and then repeat. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
Seated Cable Rows: Using the dual V-handle on the seated row machine, sit with your back straight and knees slightly bent. Pull the handle to your belly button, squeezing your shoulder blades together and keeping your elbows close to your sides. Then extend your arms back to the starting position and repeat. Do 3 sets of 8 reps.
Seated One-arm Cable Rows: On the seated row machine, use the single handle and prepare your body as with the seated cable rows only this time, use one arm to grab the cable and one arm at your waist. Drive the one elbow back isolating that side’s lat and shoulder blades. Allow your body to slightly twist to complete the range of motion then switch sides.
Do 3 sets of 8 reps.
Machine Lying Hamstring Curls: Lying face down on the hamstring machine, point your toes away from your body and curl your leg up in a similar motion to that of a bicep curl. Exhale as your raise your lower legs and focus on the flexion of the hamstring. Allow the weight to slowly drop back down to the starting position and repeat. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
One-Leg Hamstring Curl: Using either the dedicated one-leg hamstring curl machine or the lying hamstring curl machine, isolate one leg by keeping the other straight and allowing only one to lift the load. Toes should always be pointing away from the body to allow the biceps femoris (hamstrings) to be activated and minimize calf recruitment. Allow the weight to slowly go back to the starting position and repeat. Do 3 sets of 12 reps. MS&F