November 05, 2021

Everyone wants to look good without their shirt on. Even the guys who are pure strength athletes or the guys who try to tell us “looks aren’t everything.”  Well, looks might not be everything but they’re definitely something.  This is why having the best aesthetic workout program is vital.

Sure, some individuals place way too high of a priority on aesthetics. However, looking good has never harmed anyone and, in fact, will often have positive benefits. That being said, having great aesthetics is much more than having big muscles and low body fat (I’m sure we’ve all seen some guys who are yoked, have sub 10% body fat, yet look “off”). 

That’s why we’re going to spell out all you need to know about aesthetics. More importantly, we’re going to deliver you the best aesthetic workout routine to follow so you can begin sculpting your own body of the gods. In this article, you’ll learn;

  • What is aesthetics?
  • The Grecian Ideal
  • The best aesthetic exercises
  • Optimal aesthetic workout equipment
  • How to build an aesthetic body
  • The best aesthetic workout routine

Sounds good? Now it’s time to start building a body of the gods.

 

What is Aesthetics?

The term “aesthetics” will likely give birth to images of broad shoulders, a thin waist, and huge biceps. While that’s not necessarily wrong, it doesn’t present the whole picture of what aesthetics really is. In reality, aesthetics has a much deeper meaning.

The term “aesthetics” actually refers to a branch of philosophy (yea, aesthetics is actually a branch of philosophy) that deals with what we find beautiful and why we find it attractive. In other words, what makes things appealing and why are they appealing to us. As a whole, aesthetics attempts to answer the infamous question; “what makes art good art?”

However, aesthetics runs deeper than explaining why things look pretty. Examples of aesthetics can be found in an array of fields. For example, the visual aesthetics of a snowflake is something we are all aware of. But why does it look beautiful? What purpose does it serve?

Similar ideas can be found in math. While many people would hardly consider math to be “beautiful,” those who truly understand it would explain it in no other way. The universal language is such as its purity, simplicity, reliability, uniformity, and reputation. The brilliant Hungarian mathematician Paul Erd ̈os once stated;

“Why are numbers beautiful? It’s like asking why Beethoven’s No. 9 Symphony is beautiful. If you don’t see why someone can’t tell you. I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren’t beautiful, nothing is”

These words are often found adorning the thesis of University math scholars to explain their love of math.  Still, others have pointed to aesthetics as even being one of the drivers of evolution. Observations such as men finding wide hips attractive or even seeing more hospitable places as being more beautiful.  

Have you ever asked yourself, why do I find trees and rivers beautiful with all of this in mind? Or, why do we find gymnastic spinning perfectly to be much more appealing than one who wobbles? At first thought, it seemed easy. However, when you try to nail down the specifics, it suddenly becomes muddled. This is what aesthetics attempts to explain.

That’s great and everything, but what does it have to do with your body?

Leonardo DaVinci’s “The Vitruvian Man”

workout aesthetics

Out of everything we see in life, the human body is the most beautiful machine ever constructed. The one thing you begin to realize as you learn more about how our bodies work is just how complex we indeed are. You wouldn’t necessarily realize how complicated the body is because walking and writing seem so simple. However, these complex tasks are made simple by even processes of higher complexity.

Amid all these moving pieces on the inside, the body is beautiful on the out.

The two most important aspects of an aesthetically pleasing body are symmetry and proper proportions.

  1. Symmetry: Symmetry refers to the evenness of two parts of the body. This generally refers to how well the left and right sides of the body match up.
  2. Proper Proportions: Proper proportions refer to how the different body parts sit in relation to each other. This can refer to how either the size or length of a body part relates to another

One of the most popular piece that attempts to explain or show the beauty of man is Leonardo DaVinci’s drawing, “The Vitruvian Man.” This drawing features a man in two positions superimposed on top of each other. In one position, the man stands with normal foot placement and his arms spread out to form a ‘T”. The second position has the legs spread out, and his arms raised up slightly to make more of an “X” position. The purpose of the drawing was to illustrate that the ideal body should possess perfect symmetry and correct proportions, as shown with its relation to the geometrical shapes.

This idea came from the Roman architect and engineer Marcus Vitruvius Pollio. When speaking of the perfect proportions of man, he once wrote:

“Just so the parts of Temples should correspond with each other and with the whole. The navel is naturally placed in the centre of the human body, and, if in a man lying with his face upward, and his hands and feet extended, from his navel as the centre, a circle be described, it will touch his fingers and toes. It is not alone by a circle, that the human body is thus circumscribed, as may be seen by placing it within a square”

In summary, Vitruvius believed a man with perfect proportions could be circumscribed by both a square and a circle. As you could have probably guessed, “The Vitruvian Man” was DaVinci’s attempt to satisfy these standards put forth by Vitruvius, which were attempted by many artists and engineers before him. 

Today we have Tik Tok “challenges” that include making duck lips. 500 years ago, they had challenges of drawing the perfect man in terms of geometry and math to show his relation to nature.  Different times man.

The Grecian Ideal Vs. The Classic Physique

So what is the perfect ratio and size? Sure we can say there’s a “perfect,” but the adage “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder” still carries weight. With that in mind, for the majority of people, we can assume that the “perfect ratio” lies somewhere between two ideals; The Grecian Ideal and the modern “Classic Physique.”

THE GRECIAN IDEAL

The Greeks are pretty well known for their (healthy) infatuation with the male body. They looked at the male physique as the perfect intertwining of nature and functionality. This is why one of their most famous masterpieces is their male statues in all their natural glory. With penises intact. Nothing to be ashamed of.   

Putting that childish humor behind us, what were the ideals put forth by the Greeks? They had some basic ideas of what a man should possess, such as a set of broad, defined shoulders. These should then be contrasted by a trim, tight waist. Below is a more comprehensive list with exact measurements

  • Flexed arm: 2.5x larger than non-dominant wrist
  • Flexed calves: Same size as flexed arms
  • Shoulders: 1.618x larger than waist
  • Chest: 6.5x larger than non-dominant wrist
  • Upper leg: 1.75x larger than knee

You notice that many of these measurements are related to your bone size as the Greeks realized the appropriate amount of muscle mass for one individual may not be the same for one with a smaller bone structure.

Regardless, the one measurement that sticks out is the very specific shoulder to waist ratio of 1.618. We are all aware of the impact of having a V-taper in terms of aesthetics. In fact, this could be the most critical factor. It just so happens that the number 1.618 is also the most important number in mathematics, space, and life

1.618 is known as “The Golden Ratio”. It inherited this name due to its frequent appearance in mathematics and nature and is seen as the embodiment of balance. A bit of a coincidence.

In terms of musculature development, the Greeks favored strong yet athletic over massive builds. Think of the guys in the movie 300. They wanted you to look dominant and strong but not weighed down by your muscles. You should be able to function, not waddle around when you walk.

THE CLASSIC PHYSIQUE

The Classic Physique refers to the physiques seen during the “Golden Age” of bodybuilding and even earlier. It shares similar ideas to the Grecian ideal in terms of ratios but favors a bit more mass. Think of the bodies of Frank Zane, Steve Reeves, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. This does NOT include the bloated bodies seen today in the “Open Bodybuilding” division of physique shows. Actually, this is why a new division labeled “Classic Physique” was introduced in 2016 to encourage the more aesthetic bodies of the past.

In addition to proper proportions and mass, the one key element that defines the classic physique is that every muscle should stand out by itself yet not overshadow any other muscle. When looked upon, the viewer’s eyes shouldn’t immediately be drawn to one specific muscle group as every part of the body should garner admiration. In fact, having a body part that steals the spotlight from the others loses the desired balance in an aesthetically pleasing body. 

When it comes to determining how big your muscles should be, you should follow the advice put out by Steve Reeves. Not only did Mr. Reeves train vigorously to obtain the most aesthetically pleasing body, but he also kept detailed notes as to what to train for. 

His muscle ratios are as follows:

Muscle to bone ratios:

  • Thigh size = 175% of knee size
  • Arm size = 252% of wrist size
  • Calf size = 192% of ankle size
  • Chest Size = 148% of pelvis size
  • Waist size = 86% of pelvis size
  • Neck Size = 79% of head size

To determine how much you should weigh based on height, you can use the following guidelines.

The starting height and weight are 5’6 @ 165lbs. From here, you will add 5lbs per inch up to 5’11”. At 6’0″, you should be 200lbs and then add 10lbs for every inch.

Some of these weights may seem lower than expected because they have been misguided by today’s mass monsters (or instagram) that skew reality and perhaps require certain supps (not hating, just keeping it honest). The numbers here are attainable by any natural lifter who puts in the effort.  Plus, with the proper proportions, you’re going to look much larger than you truly are.

physique workout

Determine The Measurements Of Your Perfect Aesthetic Bodybuilding Physique

Above we gave you two guidelines to use in determining your perfect measurements. Everyone will be a little different, but your ideal numbers should be somewhere close to the above. Regardless of what they are, here’s what you need to do before you start pumping iron.

BE AT A LOW BODY FAT %:

Having an aesthetically pleasing body means having the correct measurements. Unfortunately, this means that until you are at a low body fat %, taking accurate measurements will be difficult. You won’t know if an area needs special attention or what steps to take because the measures will be faulty due to excessive fat. Regardless, being trim is part of having an aesthetic body, so if you are above 15% body fat, you’ll need to cut it down first. It’s also important to note that 15% is on the very upper end. Ideally, you would be around 10-12%.

TAKE YOUR CURRENT MEASUREMENTS:

The next phase is more straightforward and simply has you take your measurements. This is what you may need:

  • Chest
  • Neck
  • Bicep
  • Forearm
  • Wrist
  • Waist
  • Hip
  • Thigh
  • Calf

WRITE OUT YOUR IDEAL MEASUREMENTS:

Another easy step. Right out your ideal measurements which will be your goal to work towards.  Remember to use the guidelines from above.  This may also include losing weight for aesthetics as well.

COMPARE YOUR CURRENT IDEAL MEASUREMENTS:

Step 4 is where you compare where you’re at and where you want to be. Plus, it will allow you to make notes of body parts you don’t like working out and vice versa. Here is what to make a note of.

  1. The muscles that need the most help (if any)
  2. The muscles that require the least help (if any)
  3. Make mental notes of muscles you like and dislike to train or feel are problematic

Once these general numbers are established, you can then make a game plan of how you are going to hit the muscles.

Most Important Variables Of The Perfect Aesthetic Workout Plan: Muscle Hypertrophy And Prioritizing

When training for aesthetics, the number one priority is muscle growth. While your training will definitely include some strength training, the vast majority will be concerned with muscle hypertrophy. Therefore, a large portion of your exercises will be smaller compound movements and isolation exercises.  But to reiterate, you will perform 1-2 strength movements for each body part, albeit at the upper end of the strength spectrum (6-reps). Compound movements with heavy loads are still going to be your foundation for growth so this never changes.

Further, for the vast majority of your exercises, the best aesthetic workout equipment will be dumbbells or the cable pulley system. Dumbbells are great because they can be used to build strength. Still, they also offer a larger range of motion and require greater stabilization, making them the superior choice for a hypertrophic-centered workout routine. On the other hand, the cable pulley machine is excellent for hypertrophy as it allows you to perform exercises at almost any angle. This gives you variety that can not be duplicated with any other piece of equipment.

Training for muscle hypertrophy is easy enough to follow BUT you will need to also learn how to prioritize. One area of prioritization, briefly mentioned above, is placing training for hypertrophy over strength.. You aren’t able to train optimally for aesthetics while setting new PRs at the same time. The physiological adaptations and training variables for hypertrophy and strength are vastly different so when one has a higher priority, you need to favor it (But check out this article to see how to train for both!)

Training for aesthetics takes this one step further than training for proper proportions. This means that you probably found at least one body part from above that needs either extra work or is more developed than the other muscles. Therefore, your training needs to revolve around fixing these problems, not setting a new bench press record. You may (probably) still get stronger while improving your aesthetics, this should be a secondary outcome, not your primary goal.

The other area of prioritization has you prioritizing muscles. This is why we had you take your current measurements and compare them with your ideal measurements. Again, you most likely found some muscles that are closer to your perfect size than others. You want to prioritize the other muscles, the ones farther from your ideal. This means that you’re going to need to give them special attention, which will be done with specific isolation movements. 

Still, you are only able to prioritize one muscle group at a time or else you’re not really prioritizing it, are you? This doesn’t mean you’re not going to train the other body parts; it just means that one body part at a time will get some extra love. However, even if you are balanced, you’ll still want to prioritize muscle groups for optimal growth. These periods of muscle optimization should last 3-4 weeks before you switch muscle groups. 

Yes, creating the body of Hercules and Ares takes a while but it’ll be worth it when you arrive at the gates of perfection.

physique training

The Best Aesthetic Exercises For Every Muscle Group

Now, let’s briefly go over what training for each muscle group will look like as well as what exercises you’re going to use.

TRAINING THE LEGS FOR AESTHETICS:

Legs are easily the most variable of any muscle group. This means guys seem to be born with massive trunks orrrr not so massive trunks. However, legs are generally not as important as many tend to believe (but they’re still important). The legs are to flow with the rest of the body so they should not be so large as to overpower the other muscles.

For instance, when you look at pictures of Steve Reeves, and even Arnold, you can tell they definitely train their lower body and have accumulated a good chunk of mass. However, they’re not so massive that they have to duck walk. 

The one part which does need special attention is the calf muscles if they’re not developed. A small set of calves can have a drastic effect on the stature of a body and a great emphasis is put on them in aesthetics.

TRAINING THE BACK FOR AESTHETICS:

Your back is going to play a large part in your look, especially your upper back and lats. The upper back will play with the shoulders to form that classic broad shape you’re looking for. Developing the lats will shape the V’s side as they run down to the waist. Without lats, your body will look more like a T which isn’t what we want.

  • Rack Pull
  • Chin-up/Pull-up
  • Lat Pull-down
  • Dumbbell Row
  • Swimmer
  • Face Pulls
  • Reverse Flyes

TRAINING THE CHEST FOR AESTHETICS:

Developing the chest is vital as this is what people see when they look at you. As people come toward you, you want them to see two mounds of muscle mass sitting on your chest, not a sternum. This includes having a well-developed upper AND lower chest. Leaving one out ruins the appeal.

For the chest, you’re going to stay away from the bench press. Instead, you’re going to use these exercises:

  • Incline Dumbbell Press
  • Dips
  • Close Grip Pushups
  • Chest Flys
  • Dumbbell Pullover

Related: 15 Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises

TRAINING THE SHOULDERS FOR AESTHETICS:

Boulder shoulders. This is what is going to cap off the upper torso. Having small delts that evenly run into your arm does not look strong. Instead, you want a well-defined ball to sit on the top of your arms. 

The best aesthetic exercises for the shoulder are first going to be some overhead pressing for strength and overall size. You’ll then add some isolation work as well such as lateral and front raises to really aid in sculpting them.

  • Standing Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press
  • Arnold Press
  • Lateral Raises
  • Front Raises

TRAINING THE ARMS FOR AESTHETICS:

Having full arms is the last component of a solid upper body. However, your job isn’t to make your arms explode with 20″ + pythons as big as possible. You want the biceps and triceps to compliment each other and work together as a whole.  In fact, this is one of the reasons why the size of the arm is based on the size of your joints.  A nice size arm will look huge when paired with the correct joints and a developed set of shoulders on top with the proper proportions.

Much of the arm will be trained with the other movements. For example, the rows and chin-ups will hit the biceps while the triceps will be heavily trained with the dips and close grip push-ups.

However, you’re still going to use some classic isolations as well:

  • Preacher curls
  • Rope Hammer curls
  • Skull crushers
  • Triceps kickback

TRAINING THE CORE FOR AESTHETICS:

Last but not least, the core. If you don’t have a well-defined 6-pack, you can’t call yourself aesthetic. The #1 exercise for the core is the ab rollout, without a doubt.  Studies have shown that this single exercise causes greater activation in every area of the core than any other exercise.  Therefore, they will be your primary core exercise.  Still, here are some others to play around with as well.

  • Incline Reverse Crunch
  • Wood Chopper
  • V-Ups

You’ll train the rollout at least twice a week.  There’s also a 3rd session but you could swap out for one of the above exercises.  Also, if you find you have time after the other sessions, you could also add some core.  However, DO NOT skip one of the other exercises to make time.

For the rollout, you will first work on being able to go all the way out. You’ll then work on doing reps. You can also use knee rollouts or bosu ball rollouts before moving to barbell rollouts.

aesthetics body

The Perfect Aesthetic Workout Plan

Now you’re ready to start going over your aesthetic workout routine that will allow for some customization. As everyone is going to have some different lagging body parts or parts they want to prioritize, the perfect workout room will allow some custom exercise choices. While the bulk of the plan will be the same for everyone, one session will have you choose exercises.

Before you see the plan, we’ll first go over the basics. We’ll then deliver the plan and follow-up by explaining some of the essential variables.

As mentioned numerous times, developing aesthetics requires muscle hypertrophy to be the primary tenet of the entire plan. Because volume is the main driver of hypertrophy, your aesthetic workout schedule will consist of training 5x a week. This will allow you to build maximal volume with adequate rest. 

Your aesthetic bodybuilding split doesn’t fall into a defined category.  This is because it will divide the muscles to allow every group to be trained twice while still allowing the variance we’ve discussed (lagging muscles, well-developed muscles).  But don’t worry, this will make sense later.

To address while you will train a muscle group two times a week, studies like this one from Brad Schoenfeld,  have found this to be the optimal training frequency to maximize your growth potential. This will be for all the muscles that need improvement to reach your optimal measurements. However, not all your muscles fit into this category. 

Session 1: Lower Body
Rack Pulls3 sets5 reps2 min rest
Bulgarian Split Squat3 sets8 reps1 min rest between legs
Barbell Good Mornings3 sets8-12 reps1.5 min rest
Leg Extensions3 sets8-12 reps1.5 min rest
Leg Curls3 sets8-12 reps1.5 min rest
Seated Calf Raises3 sets15-20 reps1 min rest
Ab Rollouts3 sets 
Session 2: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
Dips (weighted if you can for this rep range)3 sets6 reps2 min rest
Standing Neutral Grip DB Shoulder Press3 sets6-8 reps2 min rest
Close Grip Push-Ups3 sets2 sets at RPE 7, 1 set Failure
Dumbbell Pullover3 sets6-8 reps (slow reps w/ squeeze)2 min rest
Lateral Raises3 sets8-12 reps1.5 min rest
Superset (Rope Overhead Tricep Extensions x DB Kickbacks)4 sets8-12 reps30 sec rest
Session 3: Back + Lower Body
Front Squats3 sets6 reps2 min rest
Chin Ups (use band if you can’t do 5)3 sets2 sets at RPE 7, 1 set Failure
Barbell Hip Thrusts4 sets8 reps1.5 min rest
Compound Set (Face Pulls x Reverse Cable Flies)4 sets8-12 reps30 sec rest
Superset (Leg Curls x Leg Extensions)3 sets8-12 reps30 sec rest
Preacher Curls3 sets8-12 reps1 min rest
Bicep 21s1 round
Rollouts (or alternative) 
Session 4: Chest+Shoulder+Triceps
Incline DB Chest Press3 sets6-8 reps2 min rest
Arnold Press3 sets6-8 reps2 min rest
Compound Set (Neutral Cable Fly x Low Cable Pulley Fly)3 sets8-12 reps45 sec rest
Compound Set (Forward Cable Raise x Lateral Cable Raise)3 sets8-12 reps45 sec rest
Compound Set (Skull Crushers x Overhead Triceps Extension)3 sets8-12 reps45 second rest
Push Ups1 setFailure (3 second drop) 
Session 5: Back+Biceps + Lagging part
DB Rows3 sets6-8 reps1 min rest between arms
Lat Pulldowns3 sets8-12 reps1.5 min rest
Swimmers3 sets8-12 reps1.5 min rest
Reverse Curls3 sets8-12 reps1.5 min rest
Rope Hammer Curls3 sets8-12 reps1.5 min rest
Plate Pinches3 sets30 second hold30-60 second rest
Lagging Muscle (Isolation)3 sets8-12 reps1.5 min rest
Lagging Muscle (Isolation)3 sets8-12 reps1.5 min rest
Rollouts3 sets 

Explaining Your Aesthetic Bodybuilding Plan

While this may be more exercises than you are used to, you are meant to move quickly. As you noticed, the rest times are between 2:00-1:00 to allow constant moving. This is going to allow an overall larger workload AND a wider variety of exercises. Variety is another key component to maximizing muscle growth so don’t let the number scare you. Even with a 10-minute warm-up, this plan should take no longer than an hour. If so, GET OFF YOUR PHONE!!! But really, time shouldn’t be an issue.

Still, this workload offers another advantage which is a more significant caloric burn. You still need to stay trim, so getting in this amount of workload in 60 minutes means a lot of muscle will be used and maintain a higher heart rate.

As you may have noticed, Session 5 has you train the “back, biceps, and lagging part”. On this day, you will choose two isolation exercises for whatever body part you want to focus on. If this happens to be the back or biceps, you will add two more of those here. These will be isolation exercises that you will take to failure.

Looking at the 1st session for the lower body, you will notice that Rack Pull starts it off. While the rack pull is primarily a back muscle, it will still hit the glutes and hamstring. Due to the back incorporating so much muscle, training it with this first session allows you to consistently hit it 3x a week, even though that first session only has one exercise.

You will train your lagging, or “prioritized”, muscle group three times a week. In the same study listed above, they found that three times a week could be beneficial for exceptional circumstances if done for short intervals; again, this is why you will switch this group every 3-4 weeks.

We talked about muscles that you are pleased with only being trained 1 time a week. If it’s any muscle, the legs are likely the culprit. Therefore, on session 3 which has you train back and legs, you can replace the leg exercises with other exercises or add some HIIT training.

You can do a similar exchange for any other muscle you may be happy with as well.

physique bodybuilding

Progressive Overload For Aesthetics Training

This plan is only effective if you remember to apply progressive overload. To do this, you’re simply going to add weight and reps. You’ll notice some of the exercises have a specific rep number. For these, you’ll only add weight. The other exercises have a range for the reps i.e. 12-15. For these, you will start using 12 reps and then increase reps until you can do 15. You will then add weight and repeat the process.

Other than that, you may need to alter exercises once in a while. You could wait until things get stale or even before, just to keep things interesting as well as increase variety. One of the easiest ways to do this is to replace one exercise for each body part every 2-4 weeks AFTER the first month.. This will keep a steady state of new exercises without needing to completely rewrite your plan. Just be sure that you replace compound exercises for compound exercises and isolation exercises for isolation exercises. This could be changing cable flies to dumbbell flies, front squat to leg press or chin-up to pull-up.

Last: Remember To Track Your Measurements!

As the main goal is striving for the number you set for yourself, you will need to take routine measurements to track your progress. Not only will this let you know how you’re doing, but it could also uncover issues you need to address. Perhaps one muscle has responded very well while another has fallen behind. If you notice this, you’re going to need to make any adjustments necessary. The best time to take measurements would be when you are ready to switch your prioritized muscle. If you happen to find a muscle in need, this will obviously become your new prioritized muscle.

Welcome To Aesthetics Bodybuilding

With its ability to be customized, this aesthetic workout plan will be all you need to sculpt the body of your dreams. Remember to push it in the gym, eat the right food at home, and get plenty of sleep in bed (muscles can’t grow without rest!). Other than that, I think we answered the purpose of aesthetics…to look sexy as hell!! (Were you expecting something deeper?)

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