Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Warped Physique Syndrome and Why Your Physique Goals are Stupid

<---- Check it out! A Google +1 button! Anyway, today I bring you a guest blog post from some guy named Sausage Link.

In this post, he talks about he calls warped physique syndrome and discusses why most physique goals are stupid. Enjoy.

Warped Physique Syndrome?

By Sausage Link

"I don't want to get too big. I want to look like a fitness model!"

Yes, we have thought this at one point or another and/or heard it from countless newbs in the weight room. I am not discriminating either. This afflicts men and women alike, performing his/her first curl en route to looking like Ryan Reynolds in Blade 3, or Jillian Michaels. (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.) Having never picked up a weight in your life, you seem to be able to magically formulate exactly how much weight you'd need to lose to look just like them. What follows is an endless chain of disappointment and I'm about to tell you why.

Have you ever personally seen a fitness model in the weight room, or anywhere other than on the cover of a magazine? Me neither. What I do know is that the average male model is 6'1" 205-210 lbs with around 5% body fat at the time of shooting.

In order to get into cover shape, our model has to cut up a bit. Let's say for every 2 lbs of fat lost, there's a lb of water lost and no muscle lost. After all, a reduction in water before a shoot is a good thing, as that is what enables our model's delts to look like they are made of granite. Let's also say he likes to sit at around 12% body fat during his "off-season," or any extended period of time between shoots when it's a good time to put on an appreciable amount of muscle. A quick calculation will reveal that this guy needs to sit at about 235lb in his off-season. For those of you having trouble picturing someone who's 6'1", 235 lb, and only 12% bodyfat, he would be one of the biggest guys at any gym, if not the biggest, and still very lean. I believe the scientific description is f$%@in jacked!

Now what happens is we typically get Joe Bodybuilder who's sitting at 6'1" and around 205. He trains hard, and has decent size. He's lean and fairly athletic, and sits at a respectable 15% body fat. He thinks to himself, "I'm about the same size as these guys. If I cut down to sub 10 body fat, I'll look just like them!" WRONG! The truth is, as far as pure size, he is in fact bigger than the typical model, because fat is less dense than muscle. That means a larger percentage of his bodyweight takes up more space. Moreover, if he's anything like the typical gym rat, he will have focused an extra amount of attention to his arms and chest, and may have a disproportionate amount of size up top. This will also make him look bigger. Just ask any of his bros, "He's ripped, dog!"

We'll give Joe B the benefit of the doubt and say he has the discipline to get himself down to 8% bodyfat with zero loss of muscle. I will state that this is absolute best case scenario, and very unlikely. Now let's try to paint a picture in our head of what 8% bodyfat looks like. At this level of leanness, you'd be barely able to distinguish whether you are pinching the skin on his belly or the skin between his knuckles. Since I'm nice, I'll run through the calculation again for you. By the time he hits 8% body fat, Joe B is now 180 lbs!! He looks in the mirror, shocked at his size, and mutters, "Crap...I've fallen victim to WARPED PHYSIQUE SYNDROME!" Ok...not really, since that is a word I made up for this post; however, you get the idea. The truth is, it's damned near impossible to know how big you'll be when you reach your target fat loss goal. I know several people who have made the plunge into sub 10 body fat before, including myself. I have not met one who was not completely shocked at just how small they were when they got there.

Don't worry women. I haven't forgotten about you. I could repeat the calculation for your average female fitness model; however, I'll assume you already get the picture. (Plus, I really don't know if silicone counts towards lean body mass or not.) In fact, I have a very close friend who has severely fallen victim to warped physique syndrome. Her entire focus since she has started training has been fat loss. While it was possibly a good idea early on, she has hit a sticking point. She looks frail, and you can not even tell she lifts weights anymore, because there is little musculature to her whatsoever. To this day, her sole focus is fat loss, because she wants to be as lean as a fitness cover model. The truth is, to get that look, she would need at least 20, as much as 30lbs of muscle added to her frame. With extra muscle, comes a whole laundry list of benefits for your metabolism as well as more of the good stuff you need to push heavier and heavier weights. And as you know from reading "The Theory of Fat Loss," this is a great thing for cutting fat. Unfortunately, with all the pressures from every which way for women to get frail thin, it's an extreme mental block to put that aside for a year or two in order to add some quality mass to your frame.

The bottom line is, men, women, YOU. NEED. MORE. MUSCLE. if you want to look like you belong on the cover of a fitness magazine.

Chicks... they need more muscle.
What is the cure for warped physique syndrome??

Well, let's start with your physique goal, which is stupid by the way. You are trying to look like someone else...SOMEONE WHO MAKES A LIVING OFF OF THEIR PHYSIQUE. Someone who has daily coaching in training, dieting, everything that could enhance their physique. They know all the tricks of the trade. Their coaches are experts with diuretics. Their photographers are experts with lighting. Their staff are experts in airbrushing. Most importantly, let's not forget that their coaches are experts at all the principles highlighted in Tim's book. They know how to get their clients results in the weight room and in the kitchen. The rest is just finishing touches on a solid foundation. Have you ever seen one of these Disney actresses on the cover of Maxim, looking like a carved statue of Aphrodites, only to see a paparazzi pic of them in their two piece just weeks later looking like just an average gal who eats well and stays active? Finishing touches on a solid foundation.

Stop trying to look like someone else. You will always look like you. That is a fact. You will look like you for the rest of your life, because you are you...not Ryan Reynolds, not Jay Cutler, not Jennifer Lopez. Work with what you have. How can you improve YOU?

So what does a physique goal look like that isn't stupid?

Sorry. Trick question. Any physique goal by nature is stupid. Do you know why? Because the way you look changes everyday, by the hour. It changes as the sun rises and sets altering the way the lighting hits your body in front of your mirror. It changes as you put food in your stomach, as you load up on carbs and extra water weight is pulled into your muscle bellies filling them up, or as your are carb depleted and your muscles look twice as small...literally! Why do you think so many guys go for "the pump" at the gym. Blood rushes into the muscle and makes it look bigger. This is also the reason so many women quit weight training after a week, because their girlfriends tell them they are looking "bulky."

If you don't believe me, here's a little test. (This will only work if you are already fairly lean...i.e. can see some abs in the morning.) Tonight, stop drinking water around 6 pm. For a late dinner (around 9 pm) eat as much pasta as you'd like with some garlic bread. Eat until you are completely satisfied and your belly is completely full. Be sure to get a protein source in there somewhere, like chicken or meatballs in the sauce, and keep fat intake as low as you can. Replace water with wine. Have 2 or 3 glasses with your meal. Sleep on it. You will look more ripped first thing in the morning than you have for weeks. What has happened here? Alcohol serves as a diuretic. All the carbs are pulling whatever water weight you are holding into your muscles. Add in not drinking any water, and this is quite the triple threat...filling out the muscle bellies while depleting as much water between the muscle and your skin as possible. You will look awesome.

What does this mean? Absolutely nothing! You got away with a night of binge eating. To repeat on any regular basis (more than once/week) you will get fat. Looking at yourself in the mirror as a gauge of your progress will give you a permanent headache. You need something less subjective. Something you can measure.

Buy yourself a tape measure. Arms. Waist. Thigh. Calves. Whatever. Record it consistently. Choose a time of the week, or month, and stick to it. Make your measurements at that time. If you're trying to pack on muscle, for example, clearly a thickening arm circumference is a good thing. If you're trying to cut fat, a smaller waist is necessary. I recommend taking measurements first thing in the morning with an empty stomach.

How do I know if my arms are not just thicker because of an extra layer of adipose tissue? Get yourself a cheap pair of calipers. I don't care how accurate they are. They could tell you you're 30% body fat when you look like Brad Pitt from Fight Club for all I care. What matters is the relative change you see, week to week.

At this point, what is most important is that you have NUMBERS, measurements that are easy to track and quantifiable. You have an objective means of assessing your progress, and you will slowly develop a better intuition of just how much muscle you will need to reach your goals. There is no more guessing games, and no psychological traps of comparing yourself to whoever is on the cover of some magazine this week.

Let's recap.

You need more muscle...even if you want to ultimately be shredded.

Your physique goal is too subjective. Start measuring your progress.

You need more muscle. Muscles look pretty.   


  1. As someone who is in recovery for an eating disorder, I recommend that you advise your female friend to seek professional help for what is possibly body dysmorphic disorder.

  2. I appreciate the concern; however, that's not the portrait I was trying to paint here. In fact, she looks just like 80% of the young women on the cardio machines at the university rec center here. I believe most of these women to look frail, and they're appearance tells me they are completely unaware to the fact that they would need to add muscle to their frame to get the look they want. As one who is as "serious" about weight training as she boats to be, I expect her to look more muscular and athletic than the typical skinny girl on the elliptical...ESPECIALLY, when she always tells me she wants to look like a fitness model. I've dubbed it "warped physique syndrome." While similar, it is different from body dysmorphic disorder. It is not a distorted view of what they see in the mirror, but rather a distorted notion of exactly what it takes to get their physique to where they want it.


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