The first step when setting out on your bodybuilding quest takes place long before you ever enter the gym; it occurs in the mind, the first time you picture the body you desire.
For me, it wasn’t when I picked up a FLEX or Muscle & Fitness. It was at five years old, the day I first ran my fingers across the pages of the comic book series, The Amazing Spider-Man
I was instantly addicted.
Stories of a young Spider-Man, flipping and swinging through the sky, the masterful artistry of guys like John Romita (Sr. and Jr.).
And then, of course, I found my namesake, the anti-hero, Logan Wolverine (this was before Wolverine Origins was released and his real name James Howlett was revealed) and got obsessed with him too.
I marveled at it all. I wanted to be them. Superpowers, crazy defined muscles, and seemingly limitless physical potential.
Immediately I asked my parents to get me all the books on drawing possible. They obliged — anything to keep their livewire kid from causing chaos — and before long, notebooks filled with character sketches littered my bedroom floor.
One day, I told myself, I’d be like them. Turns out, however, superpowers aren’t attainable in our current reality.
Flash forward to the age of twenty-one: We won’t go into the details, but by this time in my life I’d become a master self-saboteur. Drowning myself in bad habits, I’d gained forty pounds of fat, performed all sorts of hedonistic acts, and was on the verge of liver failure.
Something needed to change.
I’d always been the skinny kid (the one who thinks he has abs because he’s scrawny), and couldn’t take being chubby anymore. Vows were made:
- no more junk food
- get abs back
- cardio every day
- lift 5x a week
I’ve always been pretty all or nothing, and exercise was no different. I dedicated myself to getting shredded.
Once that happened, however, I realized it wouldn’t be enough.
My childhood dreams remained. I still yearned to be like my favorite superheroes. The images of their strengths, attributes, and most of all, physiques, lingered in the recesses of my mind.
RPG: Create Your Character IRL
Like anyone who’s anyone, I thoroughly enjoy video games. RPGs like Oblivion in particular. The whole create your avatar screen followed by the process of leveling this extension of myself especially.
It was with these two interests (comics and video games) in mind that I started my bodybuilding journey.
The journey became an adventure, and the adventure became a quest. I learned everything I could about different training techniques, nutrition, supplementation, etc.
While it never consumed my life (I still focus on my other passions like writing and reading fiction) it definitely became a large part. When I wasn’t working on other endeavors or lifting, I was sketching.
I always held the image of my dream physique in my mind, and just like creating an avatar then picking a class, I have always trained accordingly.
Your Vision is Where It Must Begin
While I’m not arrogant enough to claim I have the best physique out there or anything like that, I am confident enough to say I’m on track to building the avatar I WANT to see in the mirror.
To me, it’s not about what anyone else sees as aesthetic, it’s only about what I find attractive.
I would advise you to train and eat with that same mindset.
Before you start lifting and hitting the muscle groups everyone says you need to build in order to be the next Instagram fitness model or something, think about the muscles you find most appealing, the strengths and performance aspects that YOU want to excel at.
Choose Your Hero’s Aesthetic
Aside from a few comic book characters, most superheroes have impossible to attain physiques, so take this with a grain of kryptonite. Still, Whichever hero you want to look (or perform) like you should train accordingly.
- Super-Man: Emphasis on being genetically superior to everyone else around you.
- Spider-Man: Lots of mobility, and functional training. HIIT cardio. American Ninja Warrior stuff. Rock Climbing.
- The Hulk: Power-lifting. Olympic Lifting. Bodybuilding (Ronnie Coleman style).
- Flash: Sprints galore. Agility Training. Lower rep ranges for lifting, focusing on the fast-twitch muscle fibers. And you might as well do some LISS cardio for endurance.
- Iron-Man: Books before bodybuilding. Lifting two times per week for increased neurogenesis. HIIT and LISS cardio for increased cognitive function. Basically, all about improving the brain gains.
If you’re more into video games, and want to think about which avatar build you want based on classes, also train accordingly. We’ll go off of some old school D&D stats, and keep the classes down to the basics.
- Warrior (offensive): Strength (power, lower reps) and Charisma (charm and aesthetics, hypertrophy training)
- Paladin (tanky): Constitution (like stamina and endurance, LISS cardio) and Strength (lower reps while lifting)
- Rogue: Dexterity (Yoga, mobility training, agility training, HIIT)
- Wizard: Intelligence and Wisdom (incorporate lifting into HIIT cardio, books galore)
Fitness Role Models
And if you’re not as nerdy as me, then think about it from a fitness “icon” standpoint. For example, the five fitness people who have most inspired my views on aesthetics, nutrition, and training are:
- Greg Plitt: “There are two types of pain, the one that breaks you and the one that changes you. In the gym, pain is felt as a result of weakness leaving the body. Physical pain is the pain of transformation and the pain of progress. The more you endure, the harder it becomes to accept the thought of failure.”
- Serge Nubret: “Bodybuilding is not only a sport but first an art.”
- Larry Scott: Popularized the Preacher curl, and tri-sets. Plus, possibly the best biceps of all time.
- Mike Mentzer: “Man’s proper stature is not one of mediocrity, failure, frustration, or defeat, but one of achievement, strength, and nobility. In short, man can and ought to be a hero.”
- Lee Priest: “Pyramid your sets, but take each one to failure, regardless of the amount of weight you’re using or the reps you’re getting. Only by failure can you ensure that the fundamental principle of universal destruction is being satisfied.”
Obviously yours will be different from mine (especially if you’re female), but you get the idea.
Begin Your Fitness Quest
Now that you know what I mean when I say create you avatar, and what envisioning your ideal physique looks like, I challenge you to take what time you might’ve spent in the gym today and instead find a quiet place and assess your goals.
Look at pictures of those you idolize; what about them do you like? Is it their athleticism? Is it their intellect? Is it their abs?
Then ask yourself what attributes they don’t have that you find appealing; are they a little too Christian for your taste? Do they believe in building walls? Or maybe they don’t have the mobility you want. Or do they neglect calves?
Just as with all things in life, when architecting your body, it’s important that you focus on what’s YOUR ideal body, not someone else’s ‘ideal’.
It’s only from a foundation of self-honesty that we can truly achieve what we desire; greatness.