Strength Training for the Asian Lifter, Part II
Since I keep getting inquiries on my previous article Strength and Bodybuilding for the Asian Lifter, I thought I'd write up a follow-up:
I’m a bit of a bodybuilding purist. I normally don’t write my exercise articles from the angle of “develop the muscles that drive her wild in bed!” Men’s Fitness, however, interviewed me one time for an article titled Sculpting Her Five Favorite Body Parts. The interviewer picked my brain on how to develop muscles so that a woman, as she put it, “couldn't keep her hands off you.”
When it comes down to it, Asian men want the same thing everybody else wants when they exercise: to look good naked! Women don’t give a crap how much you bench, but they will notice the tone in your arms when you’re wearing a T-shirt.
A lot of Asian guys feel that their Asian genes are somehow holding them back when it comes to gaining muscle. But guess what? Whether or not it is true that Asian men have a harder time gaining muscle, most women don’t care for the big beefy types anyway. They prefer a trim well-chiseled physique.
In my experience and from what I have seen in others, most women don't care that much about your body. Most women value other traits in men aside from physique: how safe and comfortable you make them, confidence, humor, how you dress, etc.
I do find, however, that 2 out of 10 women will also be highly attracted to the athletic look, so much so that they would casually or in an obvious manner touch your arm.
Don't underestimate the power of a powerful looking physique. Most women are not attracted to the buffed out strong man, but they definitely notice the V-taper (wide shoulders, muscular arms, trim waist).
Asian guys who aren’t into the weightlifting scene, however, go about exercising the wrong way to achieve their ideal body. Oftentimes they engage in a physical activity, hoping that they’ll sport ripped abs and muscular arms as a side effect of that activity. This is why you will often see Asians jogging.
Jogging, however, doesn’t do jack shit for your physique. You will not chisel a rock hard body from jogging alone. A hard physique is developed from hard work, namely weightlifting. Jogging is, by definition, half-ass work. If you put in half-ass effort, then you will get a soft physique as a result.
Some exercise is better than no exercise, but if you want a specific result, then you need to have a specific physique goal in mind and the appropriate method to achieve that goal. If you think you can play a sport and that this sport alone will get you the hard body you find on TV and the magazines, then you will be sorely (no pun intended) disappointed.
Even when a sport or a physical activity does transform your physique, the look you obtain is indicative of the physical demands of that sport or activity. The sport does not give a rat’s ass how your muscles end up looking.
In other words, you can tell what sport or physical activity a person practices just by looking at the development of his muscles. Runners have great calves, wrestlers have enormous trapezius muscles and male bicyclists are just plain skinny. Hell, if you just look at the different positions in football, you can see clear differences in the physiques amongst all the players.
This is why recreational bodybuilding is the ideal activity to transform your look, because it’s sole purpose is aesthetic. This doesn’t mean you can’t engage in other physical activities, like kickboxing or yoga. If you’re looking to have a beach body however, then bodybuilding should be your main activity and all other forms of physical activity should be complementary.
Some Common Mistakes and Issues
Having dealt with a lot of Asian men looking to gain muscle, I’ve noticed the following are some common issues:
1) Too much emphasis on cardio- As I mentioned before, jogging is a horrible way to attain the lean hard body. I see lots of skinny Asian guys jogging in the park, and I just want to clothesline them as they run by and yell, “Cut the cardio and hit the weights dude!”
Most people think, “I don’t want to bulk up, but I want to have muscle definition and tone. I want to look lean. That’s why I do cardio.”
Don’t get me wrong: cardio has its place. If you need to lose weight and don’t care what type of weight you lose, then by all means jog. But for young skinny Asian guys, cardio is not needed. If anything, it is counterproductive to gaining muscle. Steady state cardio, whether it’s jogging or elliptical machines, is going to raise your cortisol levels and diminish your testosterone levels. High cortisol and low T will make you lose muscle tone.
If you’re a skinny Asian guy, then you actually have an advantage over other guys. You can build a lean hard physique quite easily if you train with heavy weights and cut the cardio. If you’re a skinny Asian guy and want to get big AND muscular, then that is going to be harder because you have to do a lot of heavy eating and heavy training. But building a lean toned body that women notice is actually easy for skinny Asian guys if they simply trained appropriately.
2) Too much emphasis on machines- Free weights beats machines for developing size and strength, period. Machines stabilize the weight for you, so you end up using less muscle to push or pull the weight. Free weights, however, force you to perfect your form and stabilize your body while pushing or pulling the weight. This greater engagement of your muscles means greater activation and greater growth.
Most people choose machines, because they choose the easy way out in everything. But if you want an uncommon physique, then don’t take the easy way out. Quit the machines and do free weights: barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and body weight.
3) Posture and Height- For those of us who are smaller in stature, we have to be very careful as to what we exercises do. Most newbies tend to overemphasize the importance of the bench press and the pectoral muscles in their training programs. They put the bench press first in their workouts. They focus on getting stronger on this particular lift, because everybody asks, “How much you bench?” as if the bench press is an accurate indicator of real world strength.
In reality, if you’re an Asian guy of smaller stature looking simply to improve your overall appearance, then you really don’t need to do the bench press. Doing the bench press and overemphasizing the development of the chest leads to poor posture, especially when the lifter doesn’t do an equal number of overhead presses and back exercises.
I have seen lots of short Asian guys with great pec and trap development, but they walk around looking down at the floor because of poor posture. The caveman look is not appealing to anyone, let alone women. Poor posture also takes inches away from your height, because your shoulders are rounded and your head is leaning forward. Height is a far better attraction switch than muscle.
When an actor gets ready for a role where he plays an action hero or superhero, the studio hires a trainer to assess his physique. Regardless of the starting physique or start point, it is the end result, the physique demanded by the role that counts. For such roles, the actor must have a tall muscular look that is also wide in the shoulders. Thus the training usually involves a lot of overhead pressing, not bench pressing. Overhead presses (whether military presses or kettlebell presses) develop the deltoid muscles that add to shoulder width. Done correctly, overhead presses fix bad posture and will bring your shoulders back into alignment. Overhead presses also develop the lateral head of the triceps, the part of your upper arm that displays muscle tone when you’re wearing a T-shirt.
If you look at Jake Gyllenhaal, you can see he developed tremendous shoulder and triceps development for “Prince of Persia.”
4) The Butt- Yes, a lot of Asian guys are concerned with putting more junk in the trunk, because we tend to have flat butts. Shoulder width and the butt are the 2 most common places women look at when they’re sizing up a guy’s body sexually.
If you need more glute development, then a great way to develop your glutes is to do 20-rep breathing squats. As long as you squat all the way down, then you will develop the glutes. If you cheat and do half squats or stop when your thighs are parallel to the ground, then you will not stress the glutes at all.
20-rep breathing squats should only be done once a week, since it’s very traumatic to the nervous system. They will, however, help the skinny Asian lifter kill 2 birds with one stone. Not only do 20-rep squats develop the glutes, they also stimulate muscle growth all over the body. A sure sign you’ve done 20-rep squats right is when you are extremely hungry later in the day. This is your body telling you that it needs amino acids and carbohydrates to build muscle and replenish its glycogen stores.
Putting it altogether…
Here’s a rather simple abbreviated program that addresses the need for lean muscle mass without compromising one’s posture:
1. Pull-ups (perform 20 reps in however many sets you need to do)
2. Wide grip barbell upright row (4 sets of 15-12-10-10 reps)
3. Standing barbell military press (4 sets of 10-8-6-6 reps)
or Kettlebell clean and press (4 sets of as many reps as possible)
4. 20-rep breathing squats (1-2 sets)
or Lunges (4 sets of 15-12-10-10 reps)