Workout Tips

2018 Starter's Guide - Goal #1: Training for Aesthetics

Maximize hyper­trophy and minimiz­e fat gain for a top notch physique.

2018 Starter Guide - Goal 1: Training for Aesthetics
Edgar Artiga / M+F Magazine

Training for aesthetics means maximizing hyper­trophy and minimiz­ing fat gain. It doesn’t nullify strength and endurance per se, but it does call for markedly different program­ming. Strength workouts favor heavy weights, low-rep sets, and long rest periods— and endurance favors just the opposite. But a hypertrophy-based program strikes a middle ground. As a result, you may not be the strongest guy in the gym, but you won’t be the weakest, either. Your endurance won’t be through the roof, but you’ll still be fit. Above everything, you’ll look superfit.

The basic premise is this: Stimulate the major muscle groups of the body sufficiently and equally to promote bal­anced development. Also, pay close attention to your diet to keep the fat off because an aes­thetic physique is a lean one. “Aesthetic strength training is much different from perfor­mance strength training,” says Prince Brathwaite, the founder and CEO of Trooper Fitness in New York ( and a classic physique compet­itor. “Your rep count, weight load, rest time, and tempo all play factors in reaching the intended goal.”

Here, Brathwaite breaks down the major training tenets of achieving the best aesthetic look possible. Com­bine that with a proper diet summed up by our nutrition expert, and you’ll be on your way to shredded.

Training Guidelines

1. GO MODERATE WITH WEIGHT AND REPS: Feel free to sprinkle in low reps (five or fewer) and high reps (more than 20), but keep the majority of your sets in between. "The optimal rep range for hypertrophy is six to 12," Brathwaite says. "Constant tension throughout motion will also be ideal for building muscle. Weight load should be 50 to 75% of your one-rep max."

2. SPLIT IT UP: Full-body training isn't totally off-limits. But to maximize hypertrophy, you're better off doing some form of a split routine. This can be an upper-lower body split, as the one here designed by Brathwaite is, or a three- or four-day body-part split. "For muscles to recover and grow optimally, they should rest 36 to 48 hours between workouts," he says. "So the implementation of a split routine is key for proper recovery while staying active. Rest one body part or region while working another."

3. ALWAYS BE CHANGING: It's easy to get in a rut of always doing the same exercises with the same weights and same rep counts. Force yourself to change at least one variable on a regular basis-whether that means six to eight reps instead of 10 to 12, different variations of basic exercises, or a new training split. "Every four to six weeks your body will adapt to the regimen and intensity you're putting it through," Brathwaite says. "So you'll need to switch up your training around this time."

Diet Guidelines

1. HIT YOUR PROTEIN NUMBERS: You can't build muscle without ample protein. Lisa Bruno, R.D.N., the co-founder of Work It Out gym in Hoboken, NJ, recommends a daily protein intake of 0.75 to 1 gram per pound of body weight. (That's 150 to 200 grams of protein per day for a 200-pound person.) To stay lean, you want to make sure those protein sources aren't too high in saturated fat. Bruno's favorite high-protein sources include lean red meat like sirloin, poultry, fish, and eggs. Optimum Nutrition proteins can also help you hit your daily protein goals without ruining your diet.

2. SNACK WISELY: People say snacking will wreck your physique. But if you choose the right foods, it won't. Bruno cites certain types of yogurts as examples of high-protein snacks that keep calories (and sugar) in check. "Yogurt brands like Siggi's and Powerful Yogurt provide upwards of 25 grams of protein for 200 calories or less," she says. But choose vanilla or plain instead of fruit-flavored to keep sugar content down. Hemp seeds are also high in protein and healthy fats and low in carbs. Also check out Optimum Nutrition Cake Bites for a high-protein snack.

3. HYDRATE: Drink lots of water. Your body needs it to function properly. Divide your body weight in half and drink that much water every day. (You're 200 pounds? Chug 100 ounces of H2O.) To know if you're hydrated, "look at your pee," Bruno says. "Make sure it's a very pale, straw-yellow color."

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