When most people visualize their ideal physique they want their bodies to look athletic. This typically means a physique that exudes power, strength, speed, agility, flexibility or any other number of athletic traits. Athleticism is defined as "the ability to play sports or perform physical activities well." In my opinion it is the ability to "perform physical activities well," that is most important in developing the look of being athletic. To put it simply, in order to look athletic you MUST engage in challenging physical activity and develop the ability to do it WELL! With that being said, "physical activity" does not necessarily mean sport and could include strength training, running, climbing, etc. For example, an individual who resistance trains 3-4 days per week within a well designed program who also eats and sleeps well for their goals will more than likely develop a physical appearance that is reflective of their engagement in these activities. Alternatively, if a person sits in a desk from 9am-5pm for 20+ years with no physical activity, his or her body will VERY clearly reflect it. The body has a wonderful way of adapting to the stimuli applied to it and it WILL undoubtedly model itself along the lines of stress applied to it. For the average person who wants to drop a few pounds of fat, build some muscle, and look good naked, proper strength training and nutrition is the answer. But how does the average person determine what "proper" strength training and nutrition is with the overwhelming amount of information out there?
Every day people are bombarded with marketing aimed at getting them to purchase food, supplements, DVDs, equipment, etc., with the promise that these things will help them look athletic (lean, toned, sculpted, jacked, strong, etc). The thing is, an athletic look is not achieved through doing body weight leg lifts on a "fluidity bar" after a P90x workout or from a marathon workout of Beachbody's "Hip Hop Abs," "T-25," and "Insanity". Even the individuals who market these gimmicks fully understand that these products are not the weight-loss and muscle gain solution they claim them to be. These spokespersons fraudulently sell these products under the premise that they attained their athletic physiques through the use of these products and programs alone as if any out of shape person could spend 90 days working out in front of his TV and look like a fitness model.
A truly athletic physique is attained through years (yes YEARS) of smart training and nutrition. Bottom line, there is no quick 30 day fix and for those who go down that route, as my favorite Strength Coach Dan John says, "what do you on day 31?" The issue is that people like to buy into the idea that they will be able to lose fat and build muscle without making any changes in nutrition and lifestyle with a magical product or program and it simply is not true. In order to achieve lasting physical changes within the human body a holistic approach to lifestyle and training is necessary including proper strength training, cardiovascular work, nutrition, recovery, and mindset. With all of that said, the average person who begins a well designed training and nutrition program for at least 3 days per week will notice significant results in strength, fat loss, and muscle definition within the first 60 days. With the help of a knowledgeable trainer and nutrition specialist a tailored program can be developed for any individual to map out the path to the goal. It is never too late to begin a resistance-training program and make positive lifestyle changes for improvements in strength, muscle mass, and body composition. As a wise man once said, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is today. In part 2 we will talk about what it actually takes to attain an athletic physique.