For the longest time, bodybuilding’s ideal shape was a V. Don Howorth, 1967 IFBB Mr. America, was just one of the champs celebrated for his torso’s V-taper. Guys simply didn’t have enough quad mass to form the inverted V at the bottom of an X. By modern standards, even the legs of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sergio Oliva are undersized. The latter is known foremost for his V-shaped victory pose. The first prominent X-man was ’80s amateur phenom Matt Mendenhall. He owned the outer quad sweep to complement his capacious shoulders and slender hips. As leg standards expanded in the ’90s, the term X-frame came into vogue. When he won his first three Olympias, Ronnie Coleman’s silhouette formed a broad X. And, in our opinion, Flex Wheeler (circa 1993) possessed the greatest hourglass of all time.

As the name suggests, an X-frame begins with the skeleton. If you’re blessed with wide clavicles and narrow hips, you’re starting a 100-yard dash with a 30-yard lead. The same is true of your muscle attachments. If you have lats that are neither too high nor too low and widen from bottom to top, and if your vastus lateralis (outer quads) expand easily, you can fill out ideally. It’s also worth noting that most, but not all, great X-men have been 5’9″ and over. Shorter bodybuilders tend to have correspondingly narrow clavicles, and if they’re propelled by appropriately large legs they’ll likely have a blockier look. (The 5’3″ Ahmad Ashakanani is an exception to that clavicle rule, as was 5’5″ Franco Columbu, although neither was exactly X-shaped.) 

But don’t dwell on what you can’t change and instead focus on what you can. The truth is no one gets a great X without working for it, and everyone can improve their X, even if they’re originally shaped more like a 1 or a 0. Let’s break the X-frame components down to the top (shoulder width), near top (lat width), middle (waist and hip slenderness), and bottom (outer quads). 

Not everyone can possess a dramatic X frame, but everyone can enhance their top, middle, and bottom to maximize their X.