What a Guy Really Wants, and Why
I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to give it to me straight. I’ve heard all sorts of answers from all sorts of guys, so my B.S. detector is finely tuned and has had quite a bit of practice. So I need you to level with me when you answer this question:
Why do you want to work out?
Why does any guy want to work out? Why train with weights at all? If you said “to lower my cholesterol levels,” “to touch the rim,” or “to prevent osteoporosis later in life,” I’m not buying it. There’s nothing wrong with those benefits, and I’m sure you’ll achieve them from the workouts I’ve designed. But come on. You don’t lift because you’re worried about your health or your performance in pickup basketball games.
You work out so you can increase your chances of hooking up. That means having the kind of physique that looks good in clothes and looks even better naked.
I’ll accept variations on that answer. Like, “I go to the gym because my wife tells me to.” Or, “If I don’t stay in shape, my girlfriend will find someone who does.” I know a few guys who won’t even go to the grocery store if they don’t look their best.
I get it. Some guys are born motivated, some achieve motivation, and some have motivation thrust upon them. But at the root of our motivation is an understanding that, when all else is equal, the guy with the better physique gets the girl. The combination of well-developed muscle mass and minimal body fat (what anthropologists mean when they report that the indigenous males of a particular region are “jacked”) is a sign of reproductive fitness. It shows that you have more testosterone than the next guy, even if you don’t. The more primed women are for sex, the more they notice. (True fact: Published scientific research shows that women are more attracted to the manliest men when they are ovulating than they are at other times in their menstrual cycle.) If you’re Tarzan, she’s game.
So let’s start this relationship with some mutual candor. I wrote this book because nobody else did. There was a time, not long ago, when I wanted to know more about building my body in hopes of accumulating more frequent fornication points. I wanted exactly what you want: muscles that women notice. I couldn’t find that book, because it wasn’t yet written. Instead, I learned how to achieve the goal, and in the process became a very busy personal trainer. Then I set out to write the book I always wanted to read.
That’s enough about me. Let’s talk about you.
Whether you’re thick or thin, you want the wide shoulders and chiseled torso that women don’t just notice, they occasionally grab. You don’t wish bodily harm on anybody, but you’d be flattered to know that the woman who just passed you on the freeway risked soft-tissue damage when her head whipped around to get a better look.
At a bare minimum, you want the most attractive women in your apartment complex to see you as the go-to guy the next time they need some furniture moved.
Now that we’ve cleared the air about why you want the body you want, let’s talk about something a bit more complex: Why don’t you have that kind of body already? I’m going to assume you’re familiar with the concept of working out. If I were a betting man, I’d wager that most of you reading this work out regularly. But if you’re like most of the guys I see in gyms these days, you’re doing workouts that can’t possibly help you reach your goals.
Worse, I see some of the finest young men of my generation exercising in a way that will take them further away from their goals. Some of the more sharp-tongued members of my profession refer to commercial gyms as “fatness centers.” Health clubs encourage you to come in and mope your way through useless circuits on machines that only exist as marketing tools to make strength training look “easy” to the newbies. They discourage you from working hard by making it relatively inconvenient to do the exercises that build the most muscle mass. One gym chain on the East Coast even has a rule against grunting. I’m as opposed to gratuitous noise as anybody, but how do you push yourself to get stronger if you have to worry about getting kicked out of the damned gym just because an exertion-related sound involuntarily escaped from your throat?
There are lots of ways to work out that don’t involve the risk of breathing hard. That’s why the health-club chains want you to do high-repetition, low weight circuits on their shiny exercise machines. You won’t build the body you want with those workouts, but the owners of the health clubs don’t care. They’re happy to see you waste your time, as long as your account is paid in full. Frankly, though, I couldn’t care less about people who want results without hard work. I’m more concerned with the guys who work hard but don’t ever get the results they’ve earned. I see a lot of these lifters falling into three distinct categories:
BODY BY FLEX
These are the guys who “blast their biceps” with thirty-two different exercises, following the workouts of the pro bodybuilders they read about in the magazines. They never ask if their biceps need to be blasted at all, much less with thirty-two exercises. Result? Their muscles get more blood-engorged than a tick with a rather serious glandular problem, but once the blood drains back out of their biceps the result is . . . deflating.
GHOST OF WORKOUTS PAST
Remember the workout program you did in high school, back when you put on twenty pounds of solid muscle your senior year, when you made third-team all-conference? Your muscles sure as hell remember. That’s why you haven’t gotten any stronger since high school. It was probably a great workout (although I’ve seen some pretty crappy programs designed by high school coaches). Still, no matter how well designed the program was, a body will make only so many adaptations to any one system of training. Without variety, there’s no challenge. Without challenge, there’s no progress.
IF IT’S NEW, IT MUST BE BETTER
It’s great to be open-minded about new ideas in training. But it can go too far. The smartest, most successful trainers I know make endless fun of the people balancing on Bosu balls while attempting to lift weights that are too light to put muscle on the glandular tick I mentioned a moment ago. (A Bosu ball is half of a rubber ball on top of a plastic platform. Consider yourself lucky if you’ve never encountered one.) Unless you’re training to be an acrobat, it’s far better to work out with one or both feet on the floor, since that’s the way you use your muscles in real life.
Most guys I see end up doing workouts that are hybrid versions of all the pitfalls I just described. It’s not that they don’t have enough information. Between books, magazines, and the Internet, there’s more information than ever. And if it was as good as it claims to be, we’d all be ripped to shreds and warming up on the bench press with five hundred pounds.
The information itself is often the problem, especially when it comes from the wrong sources: muscle magazines, misinformed personal trainers, Hollywood “trainers to the stars” . . . sometimes the stars themselves pretend to be fitness experts. The truth is that most “fitness experts” have no idea how to get actual results for actual humans.
That’s why a typical guy’s workout looks something like this:
STEP ONE: Walk into gym.
STEP TWO: Bench-press, incline bench-press, dumbbell bench-press, dumbbell incline bench-press, hop on a treadmill.
STEP THREE: Try to impress the girl on the machine next to you by flexing your pecs while you run.
STEP FOUR: Go home alone and cry.
STEP FIVE: Return to the gym the next day, only instead of twenty-four sets of chest exercises, you do twenty each for your biceps and triceps. And instead of flexing your pecs while you run on the treadmill, you flex your arms, making you look like you’re auditioning for a remake of Robocop.
That’s why I wrote Built for Show. If you have the motivation and desire, you deserve a program that shows you how to reach your goals, step-by-step. You deserve a system that makes efficient use of your time and energy.
I hope you get a little more knowledgeable about training when you read Built for Show. (I know I got a lot smarter writing it. You never know what you don’t know until you try to verify the things you think you know.) And I’m sure you’ll get a lot of benefits that don’t matter much to you now. You’ll build stronger bones, lowering your risk of osteoporosis. You’ll ramp up your metabolism, making it easier to keep body fat from returning, or from accumulating in the first place. If you have some nagging little injuries, you’ll probably find they become a lot less bothersome.
All of those are perfectly nice side effects, like going on The Price Is Right and winning a coffeemaker as a consolation prize when you were hoping for the convertible Mustang. My guess is that you wouldn’t be very consoled. But if you won the grand prize, you wouldn’t complain about finding the coffeemaker in the backseat.
Are you ready to go after that grand prize?
ABOUT THE PROGRAMS
I’ll get into this in much greater detail in Cha...