Now that the show is in its 10th episode and we have built a decent listenership and a following on social media, I feel like it’s my responsibility to clarify my training philosophy. Because I don’t want you to be listening to me and following my principles if your philosophy doesn’t align with mine. It’s going to be a waste of your time and you’ll be much better off following someone else’s training methods.
First and foremost, I’m not a bodybuilder. The bodybuilding physique appeals to a very niche section of society. In my opinion and in the opinion of most people I know in real life, that kind of body is just too much muscle.
I respect the work bodybuilding athletes put in to excel in the sport but that is not what I aspire for. I also couldn’t care less about how much I can benchpress, squat or deadlift. I don’t care about maximising my strength or becoming a deadlifting champion.
What I care about is achieving proportions with the human body that make it look like a work of art. My training philosophy is solely focused on making you look as aesthetic as possible in the real world. Not on stage. In the real world.
What looks amazing on a bodybuilding stage looks freaky in the real world. There’s a difference.
What young people in their 20s want to achieve with their bodies 🎯
I conducted a survey recently of people in their 20s regarding what they thought building a great body would mean to them. Over 90% of the responses said it meant higher confidence, better dating prospects and being able to fit into clothes better. What does that translate into?
People in their 20s want to look good. They want to be attractive and feel better about their bodies.
And for that, you need solutions that are aligned to those goals. Not some wishy-washy strength building program designed for powerlifters. If your goal is to maximise your strength, my principles are not for you.
If this makes sense to you so far and you want to optimise your weight training to make your body look as visually pleasing as you possibly can, let’s get started.
How heavy do you need to lift to build muscle? 🏋️
First things first. You don’t have to lift crazy heavy weights to build muscle. I don’t advise anyone to lift weights which they can barely do 6 reps with.
I have done this in the past and have suffered from joint issues and injuries that I could have easily avoided if I just lifted using lighter loads.
Lighter loads are less stressful on your connective tissues and will let you lift pain-free for decades. The benefits? You’d maintain your physique well into your 40s and 50s with ease.
This is a long-term game. What’s the use of getting into the best shape of your life for 3 years, only to live the rest of your life with chronic injuries and a subpar physique.
Be smart. Lift in the rep range of 6 to 20 reps and train close to failure. You will build high quality muscle.
Don’t be an idiot and try to test your 1 rep maxes every few weeks. No one cares about your 1 rep max unless you are a powerlifter. I don’t know any of my 1 rep maxes and frankly, I don’t care. It doesn’t benefit my goals in any way.
It only strokes my ego and increases my risk of injury. Avoid such behavior. Do what’s useful. Eliminate the crap.
How do your genetics influence your proportions? 🧬
The next thing you need to know are your genetic strengths and weaknesses in terms of muscle growth.
If you are reading to this, I’m assuming you have some experience with lifting weights. Which muscle groups in your body respond best to training? Do you grow your arms really easily? Or do your quads put on size super quick?
Become aware of these strengths because this is what will determine how you program your training.
If you pick a typical training split that focusses on just the standard compound movements like bench press, squats and deadlifts without any consideration to your own strengths and weaknesses, this is what will happen.
The muscle groups that respond really well for you will grow super fast while your weaker muscle groups will be left behind.
That is why you’ll see a lot of strong athletes who have disproportionate physiques that don’t look good at all.
When you are aware of your stronger body parts, you can reduce the work you do for those parts and instead add more work to bring up your weaker body parts. This requires intelligent programming and being able to track visual progress in your body.
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The prime driver for muscle growth and how to implement it. 🔥
Let’s now talk of what actually causes muscle growth so that you know what you need to focus on. The primary driver for muscle growth is mechanical tension.
Muscle fibres work in teams that contract together. These teams are called motor units. You have to be able to load sufficiently to recruit all the motor units in your muscles in order to grow your muscles efficiently.
To do this, you must train very close to failure. And this can be achieved by working with loads that you can do only 5 reps with all the way upto loads you can crank out 30 reps with. There is no magical, muscle-building rep range.
All that matters is that you are able to recruit all motor units in a muscle while working it, to sufficiently provide a stimulus for muscle growth.
This is why I’m not a huge fan of training using very heavy loads.
There is nothing to gain from extremely high weights if you are not a strength athlete. It just adds unncessary stress on your central nervous system and connective tissues. This is unwarranted.
So, pick weights you can hit failure with around 6-20 reps and take all sets at most 3 reps away from failure, and you will build your muscles very well. It is important however to go at most 3 reps away from failure.
Anything more and you are not going to get sufficient stimulus for growth.
A lot of people have difficulty gauging how far they are from failure usually. In order to resolve this, it is a good idea to have sets taken to complete failure programmed into your routine. This will sharpen your sense of what it feels like to train to failure.
Training to failure all the time can be very fatiguing so design your program to mostly train 2-3 reps away from failure. But train to failure in an occasionally scheduled manner so that your ability to gauge your efforts is sharp.
Which muscle groups to emphasise for aesthetics. 😍
Once you have these fundamentals right, you need to know what muscle groups make you look aesthetic as hell. Without this knowledge and without conscious implementation of this knowledge, you are only relying on trial and error to build a body which may or may not look proportionate at all.
For men, a great physique starts with a sharp V-taper. This means broader shoulders and a tighter waist. More muscle on the upper chest and upper back and decently sized arms.
Check out this article for a more objective standard: The Perfect Male Body: Ultimate Guide to Aesthetics
For men, having humongous legs is not aesthetic. It’s not a good visual. You don’t want chicken legs either. You want decently sized legs that fit well into well-cut pants.
So, devise a program that spends more time on upper body work than lower body work. And plan it to bring up body parts that maximise the visuals that I just spoke of.
For women, what is generally desired is a well shaped lower body. This means well-developed glutes and hamstrings that bring out the curves. To give the appearance of a tapered waist, you’d want to focus more on your shoulders and lats when it comes to your upper body.
Avoid too much direct abdominal work which a lot of women are guilty of because a very well-developed core makes the midsection look blocky.
This will take away from the nice tapered look. So, you would want to program your training with a lot of posterior chain work like deadlift variations and glute bridges.
Lower body training would take priority over upper-body work. But you’ll also have to incorporate sufficient shoulder and back work for a proportionate upper body.
While doing all of this, you must keep in mind your strengths and weaknesses that we discussed earlier.
If you are a man and your glutes grow too easily, go easy on glute focussed exercises like deadlifts and squats. If you are a woman and your arms grow very easily, lower the number of weekly sets on arm work.
It is all about learning what gets you the best visual results and modifying your training accordingly to achieve them.
Track your body measurements weekly and take monthly progress pictures to keep yourself accountable. Without conscious efforts, you’ll be relying solely on chance to build a great looking body. Relying on chance is not a smart way to do anything.
How to eat to look good. 🍕
Coming now to the nutrition aspect of things. In order to build muscle, you must eat more than what your body needs. This is something women struggle with more than men from what I have observed. But it is necessary. Eat sufficient protein.
For more on this go check out Episode 4 of the podcast on protein intake.
And eat enough food to gain weight at a steady pace of around 0.25-0.5kgs/week. If you gain much faster than this rate, you’ll put on unnecessary fat.
Some amount of fat gain is inevitable while trying to build muscle but it should be minimal. That way you can look good year round irrespective of whether you are gaining muscle or losing fat.
You should be gaining or maintaining weight for most of the year in order to make good progress. How do you know if you are making good progress? Are you able to do more reps, sets and weight over time at the gym? If you are, you are progressing. It’s that simple.
Once your midsection starts looking fluffier and you no longer have enough definition, and you have been building muscle at a caloric surplus for at least 4 months, you can now focus on dropping bodyfat. Aim to lose 1% of your bodyweight per week.
Do this by dropping your calories slowly below maintenance and keep your protein intake high.
Over time, you will lose the excess fat covering your muscles and look more defined. This is also what most women refer to as the toned look.
But to look toned, you have to spend a good deal of time also eating more, progressing at the gym and building muscle in the right places.
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Why most people fail their aesthetic goals. 📉
This is the entire process. You must repeat this over and over multiple times till you are at a place where you are satisfied with your body.
Even then you can keep refining the small things in your physique and keep upgrading yourself to the next level. But during this whole journey, you will look amazing even with a couple of months of consistent work, irrespective of how far you are from your ultimate goal.
Most people fail to achieve this because their goals don’t align with their process. Or they keep lying to themselves saying they only want to train to get stronger or they want to be athletic. All the time while sharing shirtless photos and booty pictures on social media. When in fact they want to train to look good.
So, be honest to yourself and set your goals straight. It is not vain to want to train to look good. People spend loads of money on cosmetics and on beauty procedures. If that is acceptable, so is weight training for aesthetics.
Weight training also has the added benefits of increased strength, longevity and better health. So be honest with your goals.
If your goal is to build your most aesthetic body, this is the blueprint for your right here. These are the principles. This is what you have to do. Don’t get into powerlifting, bodybuilding or powerbuilding or whatever other system is out there just because it’s popular.
Do what gets you where you want to be. And you will achieve results beyond your own wildest imagination.