Superhero Training
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 Where are you now, and
where do you want to be?


acrylic and silkscreen on canvas30" x 48"
1998 Len Whitney

One of the best ways to assure progress in your fitness program is to take an honest stock of yourself and your current physical state, then set yourself concrete, specific and achievable goals. 

If you say "I want to get into better shape this year" you're probably being too vague and long-term.  If you say "My high school reunion is coming up in June.  I'd like to trim my waist by three inches and take off fifteen pounds between now and then,"  you are much more likely to be successful.

Setting a specific short-term time period and a measurable goal helps you stay focused and motivated.  All along the way you will have your goal in sight and be able to measure your current state of progress.

What is realistic progress?  Setting a goal to lose twenty pounds in a month is settting you up for failure, as is planning to have nineteen-inch biceps by beach season (unless they're seventeen already, in which case you're a DAMN lucky dog). 

Sustainable, healthy progress for weight loss is in the range of a pound or two a week.  That may not sound like much, but over three months it adds up to 13 to 26 lbs., which is a substantial loss. 

The same applies to muscular gain.  If you're seriously skinny and want to add muscle, you're deluding yourself if you think you can put on more than three or four pounds of lean body mass a month.  You could increase your weight by much more than that, but you'd be marbling your muscle with lots of tenacious fatty tissue.

Genetics and body type play a large role in making your body what it is.  A tall, wiry guy with long limbs is not going to turn into a massive, barrel-chested sumo wrestler, at least not without superhuman effort and plenty of illegal pharmaceutical aids.  And if he did, he would find it impossible to maintain a physique so far out of line with his nature.

There are three basic classifications of body structure:  The thin, rangy guy we just  discussed would be classified as an ectomorph.  Ectomorphic bodies tend to have longer, thinner bones,  and often display a fast metabolism that makes it harder to put on weight.  Many ectomorphs find that shorter, low-repetition sets with more substantial weights help them increase their muscle mass.  They should beware of overly long workouts and extended aerobic activities that could burn off too much hard-earned mass.  In the superhero realm, think of Spiderman as a classic ectomorph.

The other side of the coin is the stocky endomorph, whose bone structure can support a lot of muscle mass, but tends toward thickness and unwanted body fat.  Long, medium intensity treadmill and stairmaster workouts help keep his metabolism burning at a high level so that the endomorph can take advantage of the meaty, rounded muscles, thickly muscular limbs and powerful build that is within his grasp.  Higher reps and medium weights also keep a lean, hard look to his physique.  Wolverine from the X-Men, and especially Hulk, exhibit the gargantuan, dinosaur-bone frame of a well-built endomorph.

Between these two extremes lies the mesomorph.  His frame, when built to its natural capacity, displays the big-shouldered, small-waisted classic bodybuilder silhouette of a Steve Reeves or an Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Mesomorphs should steer a middle course when designing their fitness routine, but can also choose more reps, lighter weights and long, lower-intensity aerobic exercise to develop a leaner, hard look, or use heavier weights, low reps and shorter, higher-intensity cardio training to shift the balance toward a rounder, more massive musculature.  Superman and Captain America epitomize the mesomorphic ideal.

When it comes to bone structure and body type, you should also consider the sheer size of your body.  Though a big, tall man always stands out in a crowd, and a giant-sized muscleman is sure to attract attention, the plain fact is that shorter guys are going to find it easier to build muscle.  When seeing the big well-known physique stars in the flesh, you'd probably be surprised at how few really tall men excel in body-building.  All that said, no matter what direction your natural potential takes,  though you can't change the genetics or body type you were given, you certainly can achieve a greater, fitter, healthier version of the body you have.



  What is AAARRGH!!? Your state of fitness Training Exercise of the month Who is AAARRGH!!? The AAARRGH!! gallery Choosing a trainer  email