Why do so many bodybuilders refuse to acknowledge they have an imbalanced physique or a flawed muscle group? How do I keep an honest perspective on my development?
The people you mention probably aren’t thinking in terms of bodybuilding, but in terms of a desperate attempt to develop something — anything — that will garner attention. They want a quick fix: a big bodypart no matter how distorted, or a gym-best lift no matter how insignificant in the long view. They lack grand vision and always stop short of their full potential.
Give yourself a pat on the back for recognizing that bodybuilding is a motivational tool that prompts a quest for perfection of your physique, character and discipline. Those noble qualities all share the prerequisite of objectivity, the rarest of virtues. To improve, you need to be honest with yourself. That’s a lot to ask of a bodybuilder when he looks in a mirror. If he’s proud of his arms, he may not notice his puny chest, narrow back or chicken legs.
You have already vaulted the greatest hurdle, in that you want to be objective about your imperfections in order to eliminate them. Now, how do you go about that task? I recommend posing in front of a mirror. Learn all eight mandatory poses for a competitive bodybuilder, as well as how to pose for the symmetry round. Now, pretend that you are a judge, not a bodybuilder. That’s an important distinction, because a bodybuilder is concerned with how good he is, while a judge is concerned with what needs improvement.
For symmetry, let your eyes take in your entire silhouette, first to see how your shape fits the classical V-tapered mold, then for equal distribution of mass. Next, compare each bodypart relative to the others. Do your biceps dominate your triceps? Do your arms overpower your delts and chest? Is your midsection tight, and does it tie in a wide upper frame and thick, powerful thighs?
Often overlooked by bodybuilders (but not by judges or audiences) are huge delts and arms that amplify a weak back. Arms and delts are easier to build, whereas a big back requires long-term heavy compound lifting. There’s a reason the back is usually the deal breaker at the Mr. Olympia. Conversely, a disproportionately big back can make legs and arms appear stringy.
Be aware of quads and hamstrings symmetry. From a frontal view, you don’t see your hams and, often, out of sight means out of mind. Turn sideways and flex your legs hard, using both the side-chest and side-triceps poses (see sidebar), and analyze how much more targeted work you need to do.
Next, solicit an appraisal from trusted second and third parties — seek out a fellow bodybuilder who is not afraid to be blunt and maybe even a little mean. He may be trying to crush your hopes rather than ingratiate himself, but that’s what you need. You might even ask him: “How am I better than you?” or “What does Jay Cutler have that I don’t?” When you get the answers, don’t despair. Get to work, bring up your lagging bodyparts and become your very best.
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