This is a guest post from Cristian who is co-editor at Kick-Ass Home Gym, a website providing helpful articles that inspire you to stay fit and healthy at home – on your own time, in your own space. As well as runs the site Gainsthetics where he writes about fitness, health, and mindset. In this article Cristian is going to talk about how to get a aesthetic physique in the simpliest way possible.
Working out, eating well and living a healthy lifestyle is definitely beneficial for your wellbeing, I’ll give you that. But, is that really why most guys and gals hit the gym? Let’s be honest, everybody wants a six pack, everyone wants to have toned up physique and look like a Greek God (if you are a guy) or like a bikini model (if you are a girl).
Getting to that level might seem like something you will never achieve if you don’t really know what you are doing. But in this post we are going to outline the exact steps you need to take in order to step up your game and take your physique to the next level. Before we start though, let me put a small disclaimer over this article. Achieving an aesthetic physique will require time, effort and a whole lot of discipline. There are no shortcuts. Everybody who is telling you otherwise is either an ignorant or wants you to buy a scam product.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get you started.
What makes a physique aesthetic anyway?
We know when we see one, but what actually makes a physique look aesthetic. It is simply the perfect combination of muscle mass and body fat.
Both guys and gals need to have a decent amount of muscle mass and a pretty low body fat percentage in order to look good. If you are in for some figures, I would say that the average guy needs to build at least 25-30 pounds of lean muscle mass and have a body fat percentage of 10-12% to get to the aesthetic level.
For girls, you are probably looking at 15-20 pounds of muscle and around 20% body fat. Yes, girls need to build muscle as well in order to look good. And if you are a girl reading this, don’t hesitate to do include some weight training in your regimen –don’t worry you will not get bulky from it.
Building this amount of muscle, regardless if you are a male or female, is definitely achievable naturally but it will probably take you 1-2 years of proper training and nutrition.
OK, let’s see where do you start.
Step #1 Lift heavy weights
There are numerous studies and researches which came up to the same conclusion. Building muscle happens when you constantly lift heavier and heavier weights. This is something called progressive overload and it basically means that your goal in the gym is the get stronger and stronger over time.
Never stick with the same weight, always try to get stronger. A good approach to this is by picking a weight which allows you to do 8 to 10 reps per set. You should really struggle pushing that up on the last couple of reps.
Once you are able to do 10 reps or more with a particular weight, add more weight and start over. This will make your muscles adapt to a new stimulus. And by adapt I mean grow.
A mistake which is common among beginners is going to failure or pushing yourself until you can’t do one more rep. This will burn you off and it will ruin your entire workout. You want to be able to push the same weight 8 to 10 reps for at least 3-4 sets. You need to get in a certain volume. By hitting failure you will not be able to do that because your muscles will be zapped. Instead, stop 2-3 reps short of failure and you will be able to get in a better and more effective workout.
Step #2 Use compound movements
Compound movements are exercises that use more muscle groups at once and more joints at once. I’m talking about bench press, deadlifts, squats, dips, pull-ups and chin-ups (if you don’t know the difference between the two here is a great visual explanation), leg press, military press and so on and so forth.
Even though all these exercises will activate more muscle groups, the focus will be on one primary muscle group, and that’s how you want to keep it. The reason these exercises are recommended is pretty simple. By using more muscles and more joints you will be able to push more weight. And more weight means more stress on the muscle which is optimal for muscle hypertrophy.
Now, you don’t need to do just compound movements. In fact it is recommended that you do isolation exercises as well, but put your focus on the compound exercises. If you use 70-80% of your time in the gym doing heavy compound exercises and the rest of 20-30% on isolation exercises you will be fine.
Step #3 Do HIIT
High intensity interval training or any kind of high intensity training for that matter is the best type of cardio you can do. It is quick and effective.
Having a good looking physique implies having a low body fat percentage. Cardiovascular training is the best way of dropping fat so there you have it. The reason why HIIT works better than other cardio exercises such as jogging or incline walking is because is much more intense and it will burn more calories in a shorter amount of time.
On top of that, high intensity physical activities will continue to burn extra calories even after you are done training. It has something to do with restoring the oxygen levels to all the cells inside the body (something called ‘oxygen debt state’ but we’re not getting that technical now). This is also known as the after-burn effect.
So, every now and then, after your weight training (or on your rest days if you will), do 20 minutes of HIIT. This could be some sprint drills, jump rope, stair running and so on and so forth. Any kind of physical activity that gets your heart rate up will do it.
Step #4 Track calories
Lastly but not least, you want to keep an eye on your caloric intake. There are two things you need to know. You lose fat when you are in a caloric deficit and you build muscle when you are in a caloric surplus. As you can see these are two exclusive things – you can do one at a time. Luckily for us, beginners can build muscle and lose fat at the same until a certain point. Once you are passed that point you will need to restrict your calories if you want to get leaner.
How to cut
If your body fat percentage is too high and you want to lose some weight, you will need to eat less (or burn more calories). It all starts by figuring out what is your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) – or the amount of calories you need to eat in order to maintain your current weight.
You can figure out your TDEE by using an online calculator, but the best method is to track your calories and your weight at the same time. Once you get that done, lower your caloric intake with 20%. So, if your TDEE is 2,500 kcal, you should eat 2,000 kcal. This will put you in a caloric deficit state and you should start see the scale go down.
The problem is that when you diet down you will lose some muscle mass as well. We don’t want that so here’s what you can do. First and foremost, don’t cut more than 20% of your calories. Second of all, eat plenty of protein. Lastly but not least, continue to train hard and make sure your strength levels remain the same (or improve if possible). You will know you got the calories right when you lose 1-2 pounds per week. Anything more than that will not be sustainable in the long run.
How to bulk
If you are in the muscle building phase of your road to aesthetics, you will need to eat more. Do that by adding just 200-300 kcal on top of your TDEE. That’s it. Most people think they need to eat outrageous amounts of food to build more muscle. That will only make you fatter faster. You will build the same amount of muscle but a whole lot of fat as well.
Staying in a mild caloric surplus will minimize the fat gains. Continue to train hard as you do this. Your energy levels should be pretty good anyway because you are eating more, so you are more likely to build more muscles because you will have better workouts.
Ideally you want to gain 0.5 to 1 pound per week. If you are gaining more than that it means you are eating too much and you are putting on too much body fat.
Over to you
There you have it. The only 4 steps you need in order to get from average to aesthetic. But are you willing to put in the work? Don’t expect this to happen overnight. It’s not about the know-how that much, but more about discipline and hard work.
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