There’s a bad stigma against working out just to look good. But hey, let’s be honest here, looking a little nicer never hurt anyone, right? There’s no reason an aesthetic workout can’t also have serious strength benefits.
If you’re physique-focused, we’ll break down a few exercise tips on how to work out for aesthetics.
We’re looking at an overview of getting toned shoulders, shredded abs, and the ass of an angel.
So strap in, listen up, and prepare to get sexy. Whether you’re gearing up for a fitness competition or hoping to shed a few pounds and put on some lean, mean muscle for swimsuit season, these aesthetic tips are sure to get you looking your best.
Working Out for Aesthetics
When thinking about improving your body aesthetics, women and men usually center slightly different goals and targets.
As an exercise goal, many women aim to grow their glutes and shoulders while strengthening their abs. This gives the look of a smaller waist and strong core to give an hourglass shape.
Aesthetically, men often seek to get bigger biceps, shoulders, and a stronger back. Despite the “gym bros skip leg day” stereotype, many men now understand how important it is to train the glutes and quads.
Even the often-neglected calves deserve some attention for a more total-physique approach to training.
These are common trends, but there’s no reason you should let that limit you. Work the muscles that you want for the body you hope to see.
What Are Classic Physique Aesthetics?
Let’s take a journey back, oh, about 2,500 years.
The classical study of aesthetics dates back to ancient Greece and beyond.
Since the days of Plato, beauty has been a way to connect art, philosophy, and the natural world.
Humans thought a beautiful body was a balanced and proportionate one. Good aesthetics and physical beauty signaled transcendence from mere mortality.
If you looked great with perfect proportions, people considered you superhuman and more in line with a divine being.
Here, beauty may not have been in the eye of the beholder. There were methods to attain beauty, scientific and mathematical.
Greek beauty ideals followed the Golden Ratio or phi. This ratio approximated that a relationship between parts of a structure of 1.618 to 1 made them more beautiful.
Artists used this in sculptures and paintings. Even bodybuilders tried to make certain body parts larger or smaller compared to others.
But you can also see the Golden Ratio at work in nature too!
In classical Greek aesthetics, the major components of this philosophy are balance proportion, and symmetry.
Even if it may not elevate you to God status, getting a good-looking physique can be empowering and maybe elevate your status among your friends or less-jacked civilians.
And despite the stereotype of being vain, working out for aesthetics isn’t all for naught. Let’s take a look at how an aesthetics-based workout can get you fit.
Benefits of Working Out for Aesthetics
First and foremost, an aesthetic body is a proportionate one. Maintaining a good balance between your upper and lower half not only looks good, it also gives you a more equal balance between the muscles.
We often hear about people being top-heavy, bottom-heavy, glute dominant, et cetera in the way their bodies look.
This can relate to how your muscles work. Usually more pronounced muscle in one area means you’re working that part of the body more, hence more gains.
Being disproportionate can result in overtraining of one body part and lack of training or atrophy in another. In extreme cases, severe muscular imbalances can even result in you having less comfort staying balanced or keeping good posture.
Working out creates a positive feedback loop that can impact your confidence. This is true both in the way you look physically and the way you feel.
Exercise often helps you to lose fat, lose weight, or build muscle. These changes to your body, if they are the ones you want, all do a world of good when it comes to feeling better about yourself.
With all of these benefits in mind, here are some ideas for workouts that you can use to get a more aesthetic physique.
For a balanced and symmetrical body focus on compound movements that target multiple muscle groups at once. Big strengthening moves like squats, deadlifts pull-ups, and push-ups are some of the best ways to get strong. They not only increase your overall strength and ability for functional movement, but chances are they will give you a very balanced and symmetrical physique.
Downsides of Working Out for Aesthetics
Okay. let’s get something straight. it’s not always true that you won’t get as strong if you focus on aesthetics during your workouts.
But let’s be real, worrying primarily about the way you look takes effort away from, you know, getting super strong.
To get a better-looking body, you want to be training for hypertrophy. That means muscular growth not necessarily strength.
Think about it as bodybuilder training versus powerlifter training. Powerlifters go all out on getting as strong as possible. They generally have far higher body fat percentage ranges.
Although this doesn’t work against your strength, too much visceral fat is taxing on the internal organs.
Bodybuilding vs. Powerlifting
One-rep maxes, huge loads on the bench, and massive deadlifts are some of the staples of being a powerlifter. They can put a lot of stress on the central nervous system but are great for building strength.
The bodybuilder routine works a little bit differently. I mean come on, if you’re competitive, you’ve got to get up on stage in front of a crowd full of people practically naked.
Bodybuilders are usually a bit smaller overall compared to powerlifters and have less muscle but less fat too. We usually think of them as looking “lean” or “ripped.”
Before big competitions, male and female bodybuilders often have to focus on weight loss to look cut. A healthy body fat percentage will make you feel more confident here.
To even the most body-confident person in the world, this sounds bonkers. Definitely something that could shake your nerves a little bit.
So instead, here, we focus on hypertrophy: putting your muscles in the optimal range to grow while not getting quite as strong, yet with more strengthening technique than, say, an endurance athlete.
Strength athletes usually train at high weights and low reps. And endurance athletes on the other hand train at maximum volume with lower weight.
The hypertrophy sweet spot falls somewhere in between these two. Usually, it’s around 3 to 4 sets of about 6 to 12 reps.
It’s a bit of a dance to figure out your perfect set-rep range for hypertrophy. You’ll have to play around a bit here to find out what works best for your hypertrophy training.
So how can you tailor your workouts to make your body the best looking it can be? Let’s examine a few ways to get yourself in great condition. We’ll learn how to build a harmonious-looking upper and lower body that blends well together.
A push-pull-legs split involves splitting your week into three types of exercises: push exercises that target the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
Pull exercises that target the back, biceps, and forearms. And legs. Leg day hits any other big muscles in the lower body. Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves mainly go to work during your leg day.
This split is popular for its simplicity. On top of this, it lets you get in a good number of both compound and isolation exercises if you’re training by muscle group.
That way, you can build muscle and strength and add in accessory moves if you’re a little weaker in one area.
During your push-pull-legs split, focus on total body moves like:
- Bench presses
These are foolproof moves that work.
Not only will they get you results in terms of improving your functional strength, but you’ll also be able to build a body that looks more balanced and aesthetic.
So we’ve established that an important part of aesthetics is creating balance in the body right? But what about people who have physical imbalances? If you’re stronger or bigger on one side you may notice your body looks better from either the right or the left.
Even when we talk about taking photos everyone talks about their “good side.” Chances are if you’re like most of us you favor one side or the other slightly.
This is where unilateral training can come in handy. This method trains one side of the body at a time. Although it’s not advisable in areas where you need balanced training, if you’re playing catch up with a weaker muscle on one side a unilateral approach to training can help you improve your balance on both sides of the body.
Creating size in a weak or small spot will help to balance out a disproportionate body and build an altogether more balanced-looking physique.
Lower Your Body Fat
The most aesthetic-looking bodies generally have lower fat percentages. This is because low body fat helps to show off sculpted muscles underneath. If you carry extra fat, particularly around your stomach, it could be hiding fantastic abs or even a V-line.
How do you make sure you’re not storing extra fat? You guessed it everyone’s favorite: cardio. We know we know it’s not the most fun for most people. But making sure to get good cardio activity in along with strength training helps you cut unsightly fat and is crucial for heart health.
Incorporating cardio exercise into your routine lowers your risk of heart diseases including heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Make sure you’re targeting cardio activities that help you burn calories and reduce your overall body fat percentage.
If you’re fat loss-focused, fat burners can be an option on your body improvement journey.
Diet for an Aesthetic Physique
If you’re looking to target aesthetics in your fitness journey and improve the way you look you’re probably going to have to make some changes to not only your workout regimen but your diet.
The old adage “abs are made in the kitchen” Is mostly true like it or not. You’ll have to make sure you are eating a clean diet, rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
These macronutrients are the building blocks of healthy nutrition.
Dialing in your diet is one of the best ways to make sure you look just as good as you feel. At the bare minimum, you should be eating about 0.8g of protein per pound of body weight, but many physically active people need more.
Try an online protein calculator if you want a good estimate. Although you may want to calculate your body mass index (BMI), keep in mind that it may not be accurate for very fit people.
Adequate protein is one of the best things to eat if you want to get aesthetic.
Does Drinking Water Make You Look Better?
Drinking water (not beer!) is key here too. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do for a body that looks good and performs well.
Older hydration guidelines used to list a rule called the 8 x 8 rule. This meant you were supposed to drink eight 8 oz glasses of water per day.
But some newer research says that your thirst reflex is probably good enough. A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association tested 631 patients with kidney disease including a hydration group who were coaxed to drink more water and a control group who maintained their normal water consumption habits.
The study found that there was not a significant difference in hydration outcomes between the two groups. So if you don’t feel thirsty, there’s no need to force yourself to drink, but it is good to maintain your hydration. If you’re in a hot climate, bump your water intake up a little bit too.
Older adults may also have difficulties detecting hydration and thirst signals, so here, it’s extra important to keep an eye on water consumption.
Pro tip: If your pee looks clear that’s a job well done congrats! Maxing out your water consumption will not only help with better organ function but will make you less likely to get tuckered out in your workouts as well.
Although ultimately your main goal with improving your fitness should be to feel better physically to improve your overall health, to gain strength, and to build cardiovascular endurance for longevity, there’s no harm in working towards a physically attractive body.
As mentioned, men and women tend to have different aesthetic goals. Women put more emphasis on building bigger more shapely butts and men focus on the chest muscles the shoulders, the upper back, and getting shredded abs.
That being said, there’s no reason why anyone can’t work toward goals that align with their aesthetic tastes. And, for both men and women, the key word here is balance, although what that manifests as physically may look slightly different for both.
If you feel inspired by other people’s bodies when working out in the gym, it may be a good idea to use their workouts as inspiration. Celebrity workouts like Herschel Walker’s push-up routine or Tom Holland’s Spiderman fitness program can be sources of inspiration as well.
In short, if aesthetics are your main focus you’re not going to be the strongest or weakest person in the gym
Aesthetics training is somewhat of a middle ground. You’ll strike a good balance here between strength and endurance exercises.
And always remember to cut the fat. A lower-fat diet helps you prevent unsightly extra flub which will cover your hard-earned gains.
Aim for at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight and you’re all set to go. Those rock-hard abs will be able to shine through to impress anyone and everyone at the beach, the gym, or anywhere you go.
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How much protein do you need every day? – Harvard Health. (2015, June 18). Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096
Li, S., Xiao, X., & Zhang, X. (2023). Hydration Status in Older Adults: Current Knowledge and Future Challenges. Nutrients, 15(11), 2609. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15112609
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