What's the Perfect Physique?

It's the look that immediately shows you've put in the work at the gym and in the kitchen:

  • Broad, powerful shoulders: The cornerstone of a V-tapered upper body.
  • A narrow waist: A sign of dedication in the gym and with your diet.
  • Strong, powerful legs: 'Nuf said.

Tie these three factors together and you have a body that's powerful, athletic, and symmetrical. Building an X-shaped body comes down to two main things: Having a solid foundation of strength and using that strength to build up specific muscle groups to help make your physique stand out.

Key 1: Foundation Of Strength

No impressive physique is built without an impressive foundation of strength. Heavy compound barbell lifts, specifically the overhead press and deadlift, are the cornerstone of X-physique training.

These will provide the necessary tension to build dense muscle and activate the maximum number of muscle fibers to accelerate growth. More importantly, building impressive top-end strength builds a body that's as strong as it looks.

Key 2: Spot-Specific Hypertrophy Work

This is the bodybuilding-oriented work to accentuate the muscles that make an X-physique pop.

Shoulders

The most important muscles are the lateral and rear delts. The majority of lifters have overdeveloped front delts that overpower their physiques and contribute to caveman postures. A greater focus on the lateral and rear delts will bring more balanced shoulder development while adding width and depth.

The Yoke

A muscular upper back – namely traps, rhomboids, and rear delts – has been dubbed "the yoke." Building an impressive yoke screams high-performance body and caps off an X-physique. Building your yoke also provides additional shoulder stability and reduces computer-guy posture.

Lats

To accentuate large shoulders and a thin waist, well-developed lats are a must. By combining horizontal and vertical pulls, you'll build cobra-like lats. Exercises in the program below will include row variations, pulldowns, and pull-ups/chin-ups, just to name a few.

Quads

Muscular quads, specifically the vastus medialis oblique, are impressive. Well-developed VMOs – built using a variety of unilateral and bilateral exercises like lunges and squats – can improve knee stability. And yeah, they look spectacular in shorts.

Calves

Sure, you might've gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to calf development. But if you're like most lifters, you train your calves as an afterthought rather than a focus. With a focused approach, even the most pigeon-legged lifter can improve.

X-Physique Training

To build the X-physique, you're going to be training upper and lower body twice per week each, plus one day of accessory work and two days of conditioning/cardio to help keep you lean.

The goal is shock and awe: fatigue your muscle fibers and get as much recoverable volume done as possible in as little time as possible. To do that, the workouts are going to focus on three things: heavy weights, blood volume, and mechanical tension.

1 – Heavy Weights

You'll be using giant sets with heavy weight, moderately-low reps, and auto-regulated rest periods. Setting up training this way is going to allow you to fit in more volume due to the heavier weights, and resting just long enough to not have to drop the weight as the sets progress. This will provide significant mechanical tension to trigger growth.

2 – Manipulating Mechanical Tension

This is arguably the most important factor for building muscle. Tension refers to the amount of stress placed on a working muscle for a given length of time. The problem is, most lifters relegate mechanical tension purely to heavy, compound lifting. But to maximize growth, we must focus on a variety of muscular contractions, not just heavy and/or explosive lifting.

For example, in one workout below you increase tension through the use of partial reps and eccentric pauses. In another, you use giant sets to increase tension through heavier weight, along with mid-rep pauses, ROM manipulation, and partial reps.

You'll notice almost every exercise has some form of tension manipulation technique to help you get more out of each rep, as opposed to just performing standard sets and reps.

3 – Blood Volume

One of the keys for building big, dense muscle is blood volume: sending as much nutrient-rich blood as possible into the muscle tissue. The heavy-weight giant sets will help, but you're going to complement that with some brutal end-of-session finishers to fill up those muscles with as much blood as possible to stimulate more repair and growth.

X-Physique Training Schedule

  • Day 1: Lower Body A
  • Day 2: Upper Body A
  • Day 3: Sprint
  • Day 4: Lower Body B
  • Day 5: Upper Body B
  • Day 6: Accessory
  • Day 7: 30-45 minutes light cardio

Lower Body A

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Calf Raise (1.5's) 10 10 30 sec.
Stand on a step so you can sink below parallel. Internally rotate your feet 45 degrees, sink as low as you can, come up halfway, go all the way back down, then all the way up. That's one rep.
B1 Wide-Stance RDL (Romanian Deadlift) 7 10-12 45 sec.
Set feet outside shoulder-width with toes pointed out about 45 degrees.
B2 Close-Stance RDL 7 AMRAP 1 min.
Use the same weight as B1. Use three 1-second pauses on the way down. As many reps as possible (AMRAP).
C Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat 4 6 1 min.
Hold a dumbbell on the same side as your working leg. Use your free hand for support if necessary. Do 6 reps on your right leg, 6 on your left, another 6 on your right, and another 6 on your left. That's one set.
D Walking Lunge   100  
Split these up however necessary, aiming to complete them in as few sets as possible and with minimal weeping.

Upper Body A

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Band Pull-Apart to Shoulder Dislocation 3 12 30 sec.
B1 Barbell Seated Shoulder Press 4 6-8 OAN
Keep your wrists stacked over your elbows, lower over 3 seconds, explode up, and focus on elevating your scapula at the top as much as possible for 1-2 seconds. Rest only as needed.
B2 Dumbbell Incline Bench Press 4 6-8 OAN
Lower until your elbows hit 90 degrees. Don't lock out, keep constant tension. Rest only as needed.
B3 Seated Chest Press (machine) 4 6-8 OAN
Hold peak contraction for 2 seconds. Focus on driving your biceps into your outer pecs and elbows towards each other. Rest only as needed.
C1 T-Bar Row 4 6-8 OAN
Chest-supported is preferable. Take a neutral or semi-neutral grip. Move some weight here. Rest only as needed.
C2 Close-Grip Lat Pulldown 4 6-8 OAN
Use a neutral grip. Arch your chest towards the cable and focus on pulling down towards your back pockets. Hold peak contraction for 2 seconds and lower over 3 seconds. Rest only as needed.
C3 Wide-Grip Seated Cable Row 4 8-10 OAN
Use a little momentum to keep the weight heavier. Row towards your upper chest to help hit more rear delt. If you selected weight correctly, the final few reps of your last set should be a real challenge. If needed, eek out partial reps for your final rep or two rather than using less weight. Rest only as needed.
D Dumbbell Swing 3 30 1 min.
Strap up and grab heavy weights. The focus here is tension, not ROM. Focus on pushing the dumbbells away from your body. By the end you should only be getting a few inches of ROM.

Lower Body B

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A 2:1 Accentuated Eccentric Leg Curl 3 12 45 sec.
B 1.5 Rep Front or Safety-Bar Squat 5 10 90 sec.
Lower under control, come up halfway, go back down, then come up all the way. That's one rep.
C1 Leg Press 3 12 30 sec.
High and wide stance. Lower under control and explode into a hard contraction.
C2 Front-Foot Elevated Dumbbell Split Squat 3 8-12 1 min.
Hold a 15 second pause on the bottom of the first rep, then rep these bitches out without tossing your cookies.
D Hack Squat 3 15 1 min.
Frog stance here. Heels together, toes pointed out about 45 degrees, knees pushed outward. Keep constant tension, no locking out at the top or bottom.
E Sissy Squat 4 AMRAP 45 sec.
Grab a 25 pound plate if you have anything left in your legs. Aim to fail between 8-12 reps.

Upper Body B

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Cuban Press 3 12 1 min.
B1 Barbell Incline Bench Press 4 7-9 30 sec.
Use constant tension here, no lockout at the top or bottom. Think of using 80-90% ROM.
B2 Meadows Row 4 7-9/arm 1 min.
Hard contraction here. Aim to increase weight each set, so when you start you're hitting the top of the rep range, and when you finish you're hitting the bottom.
C1 Chin-Up (Add weight if needed) 2 AMRAP 30 sec.
C2 Dip (Add weight if needed) 2 AMRAP 30 sec.
Shoulder Crusher Finisher:
Perform D1-D6 sequentially with one arm. Immediately start over again on your other arm. While one arm works, the other rests. Complete 3-4 rounds per arm.
D1 Leaning Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3-4 8-10  
D2 Leaning Dumbbell Overhead Press 3-4 8-10  
When you finish at the top, the dumbbell should be directly above the shoulder.
D3 Cable Lateral Raise (Behind the back.) 3-4 8-10  
D4 Side-Lying Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3-4 8-10  
Don't go any higher than shoulder level.
D5 Dumbbell L-Lateral with Extended Eccentric 3-4 AMRAP  
Start out with normal L-laterals, but at the top fully extend your arms and lower using a 3-4 second eccentric. Then start again with a normal L-lateral.
D6 Dumbbell L-Lateral 3-4 AMRAP  
When you can no longer get any reps with the extended eccentric, regress to repping out with just normal L-laterals.

Accessory Day

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Dumbbell Clean, Squat, Press 3 10/8/6 90 sec.
B1 Dumbbell Renegade Row 3 5/side 45 sec.
B2 Ab Wheel Rollout 3 8-10 45 sec.
C1 Cable Upright Row 3 15/12/10 30 sec.
C2 Cable Triceps Pushdown 3 15/12/10 30 sec.
D1 Inverted Row   50 total  
D2 Push-Up   50 total  
D3 Step Back Lunge   50/leg  

Sprint or Interval Day

  • Option A: Treadmill sprints. 3-5 minute warm-up then 12x20 second sprint with 40 second rest periods. Increase speed on each set.
  • Option B: Go outside, sprint, walk back, varying distances for 20 minutes. Keep it simple, work hard, and recover as needed.
  • Option C: Bike intervals. 5 minute warm-up. 15x30 seconds on, 30 seconds coast.
Diet

X-Physique Diet

Eat at maintenance on your training days and drop calories into a deficit on rest days. This is going to help you maintain and build muscle in key areas while helping you lean out to make those muscles pop even more.

Here's the basic set up:

Lifting Days

  • Calories: Bodyweight x 13-15
  • Protein: Bodyweight x 1.2 grams
  • Carbs: Bodyweight x1.5 grams
  • Fat: Remaining calories

Off Day or Conditioning Day

  • Calories: 20% lower than training days
  • Protein: Bodyweight x 1.2 grams
  • Carbs: Bodyweight x 0.5 grams
  • Fat: Remaining calories

For example, let's take a highly active, 200-pound guy:

Lifting Days

  • Calories: 200 x 15 = 3,000
  • Protein: 200 x 1.2 = 240 grams
  • Carbs: 200 x 1.5 = 300 grams
  • Fat: 93 grams

Note on fat: Take your carbs and fat, multiply them by 4, then add that together and subtract from your total daily calories. This gives you your total daily calories from fat. Divide that number by 9 to get your total daily fat grams.

Off Day or Conditioning Day

  • Calories: 3,000 x 0.8 = 2,400
  • Protein: 200 x 1.2 = 240 grams
  • Carbs: 200 x 0.5 = 100 grams
  • Fat: 115 grams

Run this for 8-12 weeks, stay consistent with your diet, focus on progressive overload with slow, controlled reps, and watch your physique change before your eyes.

Related:  The Athletic Aesthetic Program

Related:  The Hard Body Workout Plan