When it comes to training for aesthetic purposes, just about everyone wants “the look.” That well developed, well proportioned silhouette of a tight waist that’s emphasized all the more by broad shoulders. Strong legs and large calves, muscular arms, and all the rest.
That’s true of everyone, I think, even if they’re not into fitness. It certainly was for me. Way back before I got involved in training, I was a chubby kid with a lot of comic books who wanted to look like a super hero—because super heroes ALWAYS had the look.
I’d venture to say I’m not the first nerd-turned-meathead to have drawn inspiration from a fictional character, whether it’s from a comic book, video game, or cartoon. Which is why I fit in so well on Fitocracy.
I’ve often described Fitocracy as being “a fitness site for nerds.” As a card-carrying, Dungeons & Dragons playing, Lord of the Rings tattoo having nerd, I feel that I belong here. And I believe that if you’re a bit on the nerdy side, you do too. I’d also say that is what’s going to lead you to the better results.
As part of the Fitocracy community, you’re a bit different to most fitness enthusiasts. In general, you’re probably a bit smarter. You have more experience outside of the gym and I believe that will lead you to better results inside the gym.
People who use Fitocracy do something, automatically, that I have to fight most clients to do: track their workouts. Record their progress. Know what to change based on what is or isn’t working.
This is why members of this community will get better results. And that’s why you’ll be able to achieve the look more quickly than people who aren’t so inclined. You’ll get better results because for you, it’s not just about lifting weights and getting your numbers up, or about losing fat and looking lean.
For you, the mechanisms that make the changes happen are just as important as the stimulus needed to start those mechanisms.
People like us are interested as much in the “why” and as much as the “what“ and “how.” It’s not enough to know that eating carbs at night might be more effective for fat loss—we also want to know that this is because insulin sensitivity is higher several hours after waking.
And that curiosity applies to every aspect of fitness, including how to get the look. We don’t just want to know what it is or how to get it—on some level we want to know why we even want it. Why is the look so universally desirable?
Understanding “The Look”
Well, the first thing is to realize that that the look, which for all intents and purposes represents your idea of a “perfect” body, is based on intrinsic perception of symmetry.
Put another way, we view what is attractive partially through the eyes of people looking for mates—we view these bodies as “sexy“—because of how symmetrical and well proportioned they are. This means that if you want to build a body that potential mates will find most attractive, that body needs to conform to those intrinsic ideas of symmetry.
And, because the Fitocracy crew are interested in the behind the scenes stuff of why that works, I thought that instead of just giving you a workout intended to help you achieve the look, we could go a bit deeper into the specifics of how the symmetry works.
To do this, we must first cover that symmetry—and therefore, the look—is based in part on scientifically proven numbers. Most specifically, numbers like the “Golden Ratio.”
This is a number that shows up all over the human body and defines what proportions look best; that is, most attractive.
As a brief aside, it’s worth mentioning that artists and sculptors have known about the Golden Ratio for a long time and have used it to create sculptures and artwork of the ideal human figure.
What is the Golden Ratio, exactly?
It’s super fucking cool, that’s what.
The Golden Ratio, in mathematical terms, is a comparison of any two aspects that leads us to proportion them in the ideal way.
Algebraically, if you have two numbers, A and B, it has to be such that (A + B) divided by A = A divided by B.
Or, more succinctly, this:
Numerically, this is going to be a comparison results in a ratio of 1:1.618. This appears naturally all over your body. For example, if the length of the hand has the value of 1, for instance, then the combined length of hand + forearm has the approximate value of 1.618. Similarly, the proportion of upper arm to hand + forearm is in the same ratio of 1:1.618.
Looking elsewhere on the body, the face is another great example. In fact, the human face abounds with examples of the Golden Ratio. The head forms a golden rectangle with the eyes at its mid point. The mouth and nose are each placed at Golden sections of the distance between the eyes and the bottom of the chin. Because of this, cosmetic and dental surgeons use it to restructure the human face after accidents.
The numbers are everywhere in places we can’t control, so looking at those in an effort to achieve “the look” is an exercise in futility. However, there are plenty of aspects of our body that we can control, and can specifically modify in order to more closely fit the Golden Ratio.
With regard to the look, the most obvious and visually impactful thing that we can actually control is your waist-to-shoulder ratio, which for men is called the “Adonis Index” and for women, the “Venus Index.”*
*NOTE: This article is intended to be an overview, not dissertation. These concepts have been written about extensively by John Barban and Brad Pilon, so for more detailed information please check their sites.
Regardless of your gender, how broad your shoulders are relative to your waist is going to be one of the first things people notice about your body—and again, that can be on a completely subconscious level. The closer these measurements are to a ratio of 1:1.618, the more attractive you will be to the opposite sex.
So, now we’ve determined that the “what” is the look and the “why” is the Golden Ratio let’s get to the HOW.
As I said, the most impactful part of the look is your waist to shoulder ratio. As it happens, it’s also the easiest to adjust so it makes the most sense for you to focus on that and for me to teach you how to do it.
When it comes to assessing how much you need to change, assign to your waist a measurement of 1. From there, the aim is for your shoulders to be 1.618 times your waist measurement. This means your waist-to-shoulders ratio is 1:1.618.
To achieve this you can focus on adding size to your shoulders or you can just as easily reduce your waist measurement. Of course, the fastest and most efficacious way to hit the ratio is to focus on both.
Using myself as an example, when in lean condition (but not competition shredded), I have a waist measurement of 30 inches. My shoulders measure about 49 inches around, which means my ratio is about right (30.5 divided by 49 is 1.606).
Now, if I want to get close to the proportion, I’d have to either gain some circumference on my waist or drop my shoulder size a bit. I’m pretty happy with the measurement, so I’ll do neither.
On the other hand, let’s say we have a male client with a waist measurement of 34 inches, and a shoulder measurement of 45 inches. His Index is about 1.323—so he has some work to do.
In order to get his ratio closer to ideal, our guy diets down to about 10% body fat which brings his waist measurement to 32 inches. Now, even though he hasn’t gained any muscle his measurement has jumped to 1.406. That’s a really nice improvement.
To improve further, he goes on to use a specialization workout to add size to his shoulders, and manages to put about 3 inches on the total circumference. At 48 inches with a 32 waist, our client is now at 1.5. With just two specific phases of training, he’s getting pretty damn close to the Golden Ratio.
If this client wants to take it further, he just needs to increase his shoulders a little more or lose some fat from around his waist. And just like that, he’s even closer to looking like the comic book hero he always wanted to be.
As mentioned, your Adonis or Venus Index is not only the most impactful, but also the easiest to work on. Improving it is as simple as bringing your body fat and waist measurement down or bringing your shoulders up.
There are a multitude of fantastic diets our there to help you with the former, so I want to help you with the latter – tune in and I’ll be back soon with a full workout aimed at increasing your shoulders.