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Most people who hit the gym regularly (that aren’t competitive lifters or athletes), do so for the sake of attaining the perfect body. While what entails an actual “perfect body” will vary depending upon the person, for most guys, it’s an aesthetic physique that’s as strong as possible. This article will discuss how to build such a physique, but then also how to maintain it.
As stated above, the perfect body for most is rooted in aesthetics. This also often doesn’t mean being as big as humanly possible. Instead, it means developing proper symmetry across all your muscles. Bodybuilding legend turned Hercules actor Steve Reeves commented anecdotally on this a number of times. He felt that, all other muscles being in proportion, the neck, biceps, and calves should all be the same size. He actually achieved this with all three often measuring 17”.
If you want to go really old school, you could look at Leonardo da Vinci’s depiction of the idea male physique, drawn inspired by physiological observations made by Roman imperial age architect Marcus Vitruvius. Long story short, the human body should (and often does naturally) be built according to the Golden Ratio.
Without going into arithmetic overload, the Golden Ratio says that “A+B is to A, as A is to B”. Or in other words, it’s a ratio of 1:1.618, where B = 1 and A = 1.618. But what does any of that have to do with the human body? When simplified (because nobody really wants to deal with “1.618”), it means that certain areas of the body should be in particular proportion. Specifically, that certain body parts should be roughly 150% of the size of others.
And it falls outside of the “150%” rule, but many feel that an ideal waist measurement for the perfect body should be roughly 45% of your height. You can then extrapolate that into the above.
Because literally everybody’s physique is different, there is no one way to build the perfect body. However, there are a few steps you could take in a specific order. Of course, even then it’s going to depend on what sort of build you have currently.
If you’re already pretty lean (say 10% body fat or under) or are just skinny and know you need to put on muscle mass, then you’re probably best served by dieting down, first. This is because the waist is where you accumulate and store the most body fat, and half of the above measurements are based on your waist. Besides, it’s usually considered easier to get lean, then slowly build muscle than it is to bulk up like crazy, then have to lose too much excess fat. This is how Slyvester Stallone worked to achieve is sinewy physique in Rocky.
You might not know what your ideal weight should be for your height, but start with what you feel could be a rough idea. Multiply that weight (in pounds) x 10 to get your daily average caloric intake. Then multiply that weight (in pounds) again x .75 to calculate daily grams of protein. You can then split your remaining calories between carbs and fat. Keeping your diet consistent for weeks (and months) will be your biggest tool for leaning down.
Strength-based hypertrophy is going to be your best choice for weight training to develop the perfect body. Start with at least one compound movement per body part for 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps. After that, you can add another compound movement for 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps and possibly an isolation movement for another 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps.
However, there is a caveat. If you know that one body part is already big enough, then doing additional hypertrophy work may not be necessary. For instance, if you were just born with huge legs, you might want to gear your workouts more toward strength alone than the aforementioned strength-based hypertrophy. In this case, do 3-4 sets of 5-6 reps with plenty of rest between sets. Focus only on getting strong(er) and feel free to drop the additional assistance work.
Naturally, cardiovascular conditioning has to be part of the plan. Because the perfect body should be as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing, start by doing at least two cardio sessions per week with intense intervals. Do an easy 5-minute warm up, then do 30 seconds hard activity followed by 30 seconds easy activity, repeated for 10 minutes total. Then do another 30-40 minutes easy(-ish) steady-state cardio to finish. If additional cardio is needed to lose weight, add as much as necessary.
Now that you have finally succeeded in creating your ideal physique, you need to maintain it. However, just like there can’t be a singular general prescription that applies to everyone about how to build this body, there also can’t be a singular prescription for how to maintain it. However, one philosophy you should consider is to do only as much as necessary, and no more.
Meaning once you’ve achieved the physique you’re looking for, start to almost “relax” everything you’re doing to see how much you can “get away with”. If you feel good at your current daily caloric intake, then you should be fine with keeping it there. Though if you want to experiment with increasing it a little, you can. A good maintenance recommendation is body weight x 12-13 calories per day. Then apply the protein, carbs, and fat calculation provided above.
Stick with the strength-based hypertrophy for lifting, but don’t do any more than you have to. Perform almost exclusively compound movements, and even then, only do one per body part if you can get away with it. Only do isolation work to directly target muscle groups your multi-joint exercises don’t work thoroughly or for muscles that play a large role in maintaining your ideal measurements.
For example, stick with overhead presses and incline presses, but eliminate flat bench press if you can. Keep lateral raises in the mix, but eliminate cable crossovers. Still do curls and pushdowns to maintain arm size. If squats alone are good enough for your leg development, drop the leg press, leg extensions, and so on.
You’ll of course need to keep doing cardio, so stick with the intervals plus steady-state work twice per week. If that’s enough to keep you in good shape and body fat levels in check, then don’t feel the need to do more just for the sake of doing it.
Naturally there will likely be an “ebb” and “flow” to all this. You’ll have to keep an eye on your measurements, strength, and body weight (possibly body fat too, if you want to track it). If after relaxing on how hard you push things results in some of your numbers going off-kilter, then increase the intensity in the appropriate area. At this point, it’s going to be more art than science, so you’ll have to continually experiment and see what works best for you.
It will take some work, thought, planning, adjustment, patience, and definitely discipline, but building the perfect body is absolutely possible. It won’t happen overnight, but the payoff will be worth it as you’ll finally have the physique you’ve always dreamed about. The great thing is that at that point, you should be able to put things on “maintenance mode” and keeping that ideal build should be much easier than it was to create it.