Men – Train for the Strongest Visual Impact


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Are you spending hours in the gym to gain pounds of muscle? This strategy may actually backfire – most women do not find the hulking bodybuilder attractive. Of course, a slim weak guys isn’t the ideal physique either. So what is the type of body that looks sexy and is appealing to women while also being the envy of other guys?

What most guys (and women) want is the athletic looking body that you see on the covers of fitness magazines.

[spoiler title=”tl;dr – click to read summary” style=”fancy”] Working out for highest visual impact is not about doing what it takes for bulging muscles.  The ideal lean muscular looking body can be achieved with a little understanding of hard muscle versus soft muscle, the 3-phase of physique building approach and the importance of properly monitoring your progress in strengthening your muscles. [/spoiler]


What Type of Body Appeals to Women?

mens fitness cover - highest visual impact figureA well developed and proportioned body shows genetic fitness, dominance and a host of other positive characteristics that women use to size up a guy. She will be looking to see how a guy looks with his shirt on as much as she does without that shirt.

Think about Daniel Craig in James Bond and other fit Hollywood actors like Mark Wahlberg and Brad Pitt. These guys have well-balanced, muscular bodies that are universally appealing.  What are the characteristics of this body type? There are three things that are common among these men.  They are:

  • broad shoulders
  • a tight, defined core
  • and a muscular chest

It is not that difficult to take physique transformations too far by bulking the muscles up too much and not adding as much muscle density as needed. A thick waist combined with bulging thighs will work against you if your goal is to create a visually stunning physique.

In fact, being slim actually looks better than being overly muscular and blocky.

Look at the actor like Robert Downey, Jr, who plays the billionaire Tony Stark – also known as the Iron Man. As his personal trainer Brad Bose says: “He’s meant to be a billionaire playboy, you don’t want him to get too big and end up looking like Captain America or The Hulk.” Yet this is exactly the look that should be the target of men who train for the highest impact. Bose continues: “The character of Iron Man was a playboy millionaire, a misunderstood scientist, a techno-geek. It didn’t fit him to be a big, overly muscular guy.”

So how do you train correctly to achieve this lean muscularity?

Hard Muscle Versus Soft Muscle

The trouble with building muscle is that everyone has an opinion about what routines and exercises build muscle. There are many ways to build muscle, some are actually better than others. For years, weight training routines and exercises for most men were based on a bodybuilding paradigm that emphasized lifting big weights with big compound movements. But “strong” does not equal to being “attractive.”

Big fat weightlifter - not attractive

Big lifts lead to burn out and the muscle they gain creates a chunky, bloated look.

Physique building requires walking the line between strength training and muscle building. The difference can be summarized as follows:

Muscle building: Higher reps (12-15); short rests between sets; progressive fatigue of muscles.
Strength training: Lower reps (4-6); longer rests between sets; fresh reps.

Physique building in three distinct phases include:

  1. Muscle building — mid-high rep ranges (6-15)
  2. Increase muscle density — low rep range (3-5)
  3. Metabolic training/interval training for conditioning

This three-phase approach assumes that you first require additional muscle before hardening and defining your muscles. The beauty of the three-phase approach is that you will create a much better looking physique that is also stronger and healthier.

If you are happy with your present muscle structures, simply perform sets that are heavy to induce your muscles’ strength and hardness gains with the 3-5 rep range.

In the final phase, the emphasis is on maintaining muscles while cutting body fat percentage. Your health will also benefit from the increased cardio interval workouts.

Workout For Highest Visual Impact

As this article is about creating a visually appealing physique, we won’t be relying on the 3 big lifts (barbell squats, deadlifts and bench presses), because they are responsible for creating the overly bulked look.

Slim fit man

These three big lifts are fundamental movements in weightlifting so we will instead use variations of these lifts that are both safer to perform and won’t produce the thick look we want to avoid.

For example, use goblet squats with a dumbbell or kettlebell instead of loading the big bar on your back. Dumbbell bench presses and push up routines are great for chest development.

Phase 1: Alternate the following workouts weekly. Rest between sets is 30-60 seconds. Progressive fatigue means the first 2 sets of an exercise should not be full intensified. The final set should be hard but it shouldn’t destroy you.

This phase may take 6-12 weeks. Change exercises every 4 weeks (instead of goblet squats do leg presses instead…)

Workout A (lower body emphasis)

  1. Jump squats — 3 x 10
  2. Goblet squats — 3 x 12, 10, 8
  3. Romanian single leg deadlifts — 3 x 12, 10, 8
  4. Swiss ball hamstring curls — 3 x 12, 10, 8
  5. Bicycle crunches — 2 x 20
  6. Side plank — 2 x 30-60s

Workout B (upper body emphasis)

  1. Medicine ball push ups — 1 x 15
  2. Wide-grip pulldowns — 3 x 12, 10, 8
  3. Dumbbell incline bench presses — 3 x 12, 10, 8
  4. Seated cable rows — 3 x 12, 10, 8
  5. Military (shoulder) presses — 2 x 12, 10
  6. Dumbbell bicep curls — 2 x 12, 10

Phase 2: Perform similar workout structure of the above-mentioned workouts but use increased weights that would allow you to do reps in the 3-8 range.

Phase 3: Continue progressing your weight training while sticking in the 12, 10, 8 rep range. Add three 12 minute interval workouts per week (ideally at the end of your upper body lifting day). Pick a cardio exercise and alternate 30s all-out bursts with 60s of jogging pace. Perform 8 intervals of this nature.

Monitor Your Progress

Finally, make sure that you track your progress. The scales are not important here. You want to instead measure the size of your muscles and take photos of your physique on a regular basis. This way, you can see your progress taking shape and you can make course adjustments where you need to.

If you need to adjust your routine to get bigger or harder muscles, you now have the tools to do so. Best of luck!