Sunday, October 4, 2009

Chasing Perfection: The Vitruvian Man Complex

I've noticed a burgeoning trend in the fitness industry of material aimed at helping men "reclaim" their failing masculinity, become "alpha males," or reach some idealized ratio of proportions to become a modern day Adonis. I believe anything that gets men or women into the gym and leading a healthier lifestyle is good, but I'm not sure the approach of some of these programs is necessarily spot on.

My very first post on this blog detailed my belief that exercise and physical culture should be a relentless journey towards self-perfection, so any quest towards your concept of an idealized state is in my mind a good one. But I don't care for books or programs that are supposed to yield an aesthetically "perfect" body that is supposed to attract the opposite sex on some deep subconscious level. This kind of thing smacks of snake-oil and to a certain extent, desperation. Womankind is not a homogeneous group, and to assume they can ALL be attracted to a particular body type is borderline insulting to them. Women are diverse and have differing tastes. One woman's Adonis is another woman's "no thanks." Furthermore, I don't believe an exercise program predicated on external approval is healthy or effective.

Physical culture, and even athletics, is really about being in competition with yourself. The weights you are lifting, or the opponents you are competing against are really only there to force you to confront your weakness. The struggle is always against your essentially flawed state and has less to do with your opponent or the weight itself. If your goals revolve around aesthetics more than physical performance, the measure should still be about what you like to see in the mirror. Trying to change how you look in order to please others is a self-defeating approach and a much less rewarding one. If you are happy with you, you'll be self-confident, centered, and comfortable in your own skin. If you base your self-image over what others think you will always wonder, because we can only guess what others think of us, but we always know what we think of ourselves.

If you're a man who's interested in attracting ladies, maximizing testosterone levels, and achieving perfection in form/performance and you're willing to work hard for it, I applaud you. But the goal/standard you work towards should be what you personally believe is your own personal version of perfection. Short term goals should be specific and measurable, your long term goal of "the greatest version of yourself" should be slightly out of reach. You have to reach for the stars, and if in the end we never quite reach perfection, remember that the journey is as important as the destination, if not more so.

Latest Training Info
Having worked on Long Cycle GS-style Clean and Jerk for a while, I wanted to shift gears to concentrate on strength and explosiveness to keep my training fresh and avoid plateaus. For the next month or two I'll be alternating two-week cycles of max strength exercises with heavy weight and low reps, and explosive strength routines. Here is an example of a quick workout I did recently in the explosive phase when I was limited to the equipment in my apartment.

  • 4 x 5 reps KB Split Snatch
  • 4 x 5 reps Single KB Jerk L/R
  • 4 x 8-10 reps Jumping Deck Squats
  • 4 x 3 reps Weighted Pullups with 20kg KB (should have been muscle ups but I was limited by what I can do in my apartment)
  • 4 x 10 reps Clapping Pushups
  • 4 x 8-10 reps Double KB Swings
  • Core Circuit (various core calisthenic exercises)

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