Workout Tips

The Perfect Body Game Plan

Sculpt the body of your dreams with these 9 targeted tips.


Man's muscular torso and abs

Marius Bugge

Let's not kid each other: As much as we hit the gym to feel awesome, live longer, compete with our buddies, relieve stress, and, of course, have a damn good time slinging giant pieces of steel, it doesn’t hurt that working out makes us look damn good, too. Which means that, if you’re a guy seeking to round out your sex appeal, you’re probably more than familiar with all the coveted (admittedly superficial) physical attributes that constitute a “perfect male physique”—the ones even hardcore gym rats have trouble achieving. These include the well-defined arm “horseshoe” (see: Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter), ridiculously chiseled V-cut abs (see: Brad Pitt in Fight Club), and the giant wingspan of a well-carved upper back (see: Hugh Jackman in any film in which he sprouts metallic claws). So, with the help of some of the nation’s best trainers, strength coaches, and strongmen, we’ve laid out in exhaustive detail everything it takes to achieve them. If you’d love a physique even Michelangelo’s David would be envious of, we’d advise you to start here.

1) The Tapered Torso

“You can do all the gym work in the world,” says Zach Even-Esh, founder of New Jersey’s the Underground Strength Gym, “but if your body’s covered by a layer of fat, then nobody will know.”

Which is why getting yourself on a strict, clean diet—with the right balance of proteins, fats, and carbs—is the key to transforming your flabby torso into a perfectly cut, tapered midsection. 

But how do you do it? “The first order of business is to get your math in order, and that means calculating what your overall calorie intake needs to be,” says sports nutritionist and strength coach C.J. Murphy, MFS, owner of Total Performance Sports, in Malden, MA.

So if pure fat loss is your goal, you need to be ingesting roughly eight to 12 calories per pound of your body weight per training day, depending on how active you are and how much fat you need to shed. If you’re already fairly lean and you just want sharper muscular definition, you’re allowed 12 to 15 calories per pound of body weight. (Though, start on the low end and see how it goes.) So if you’re a 200-pound guy looking to get lean, you’re looking at roughly a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet.

And Murphy recommends a simple high-protein carb-cycling program, with which you eat more carbohydrates on your strength-training days and less on days off, creating a caloric deficit that torches fat.

So let’s start with strength-training days.

First, you’ll need lots of lean protein. “That includes anything that swims, runs, or flies,” says Murphy. Meaning: steak, chicken, fish, turkey, and ground beef. Eggs and protein powder are good, too. As a rule of thumb, Murphy calculates meats at 7 grams of protein per ounce. “Different foods have different values, yes, but if you’re eating a wide variety of meats you’ll still be in the ballpark.” All told, that means roughly 1g of protein per pound of body weight (at 4 calories per gram).

Then there are carbs: Yams, sweet and white potatoes, white rice, and fruit are all good carbs to power your workouts. Those carbs should make up 35-45% of your daily calories, calculated at 4 calories per gram.

The remainder of your calories each day can be made up of vegetables and healthy fats, like nuts, nut butters, olive oil, and avocado. (Calculate fats at 9 calories per gram.)

On non-strength-training days, you should cut carbs up to 50% and increase fat to 20-30% of total calories to help fill you up, reduce hunger pangs, and increase your likelihood of sticking to it.

And remember: Timing is important, too.

“Earn your carbs,” says Murphy, who suggests ingesting carbs directly pre-and post-workout. Also, save the bulk of your off-day carbs for the evening, which prevents you from bingeing at night and gives you a little more energy (in the form of stored glycogen) to carry into the next morning. “Carb cycling isn’t the only way to put on lean muscle mass, but it’s the simplest,” Murphy says. “It’s easy, and it’s hard to screw up.”