Can You “Shape” Your Muscles With Certain Exercises?
In my dreams, I can do cable flyes to make my chest more square, concentration curls to bulge my biceps peaks, and reverse decline crunches to get symmetrically sculpted abs.
Well, I’ll have to keep dreaming, because we can’t “shape” our muscles with specific exercises. We can make them bigger or smaller, but our genetics will mostly determine their shape (think of “adding clay,” as Arnold put it in Pumping Iron).
That said, we can tailor our training to improve our weaknesses and develop a rounded physique.
If you lack biceps peak, for example, focus on building your biceps with a variety of curls, including reverse or Zottman curls and hammer curls to work the brachioradialis and brachialis muscles, which make your biceps peak appear larger.
If you want a bigger butt or more quadriceps definition, a squat movement once or twice per week plus a few accessory exercises like the hip thrust, Bulgarian split squat, leg press, and lunge will fit the bill.
If you’re unhappy with some aspect of your chest—the upper part, lower part, or middle—grow it bigger with proven mass-builders like the flat and incline dumbbell and barbell bench press and dip.
Also, for women in particular, know that no style of training makes long, lean “dancer” muscles versus bulky, ugly, “bodybuilder” muscles. Whether you do Pilates, yoga, or strength training, the shape of your muscles will develop the same. The only difference will be how quickly they grow.
So, while “muscle shaping” is a myth, “muscle sculpting” better describes what’s actually possible. You can choose where to gain muscle and how much to add, but not how it develops.
And if you want to know my favorite exercises and workouts for sculpting a proportionate, strong, and athletic body, check out my newest fitness book for men and women, Muscle for Life.
The diet, exercise, and supplementation principles and programs in this book have helped tens of thousands of people of all ages and circumstances build their best body ever, and my teachings can do the same for you.
Go for it!
P.S. Many a person has been asking me how Muscle for Life compares to my existing books Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger.
And more specifically, they want to know . . .
1. Whether Muscle for Life is worth reading if they’ve already read BLS or TLS.
2. Or which book and program will be best for them regardless of what they’ve read or not read.
Well, put simply, Muscle for Life is a smooth and gradual onramp to my Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger programs.
Therefore, Muscle for Life will work best for you (or someone you know!) if . . .
1. You’re/they’re 40 or older and are new or relatively new to strength training.
2. Or you/they have a lot of weight to lose (25%+ of your body weight) and are new or relatively new to strength training.
3. Or you/they want to start strength training but don’t feel ready for heavy barbell and dumbbell training.
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