I’ll start this off by saying what most people don’t want to hear – that your structure and the outcome of your physique is largely determined simply by your genetics. That being said, there ARE ways you can build a physique the way you want to look, and there are various ways between lifestyle and training that will help to encourage a classic, more aesthetic looking physique.
Don’t be a Science Experiment
One important subject that many people don’t like to talk about, but is huge in the industry is the widespread use of anabolic steroids and growth hormones. Many physiques are ruined in terms of symmetry simply from this alone, as the abuse of growth hormones and insulin can cause internal organ growth, and ruin the aesthetics of ones physique by encouraging a very large stomach. It’s hard to think that more is not better with some of the obscene dosages being thrown out, but FULFILL YOUR POTENTIAL when it comes to training, nutrition, and then do anything you can to continually allow yourself to use the least amount of assistance, drug wise, as possible.
Do not Dreamer Bulk
It’s very hard mentally to make very small, gradual gains that take a long time to see. We want quick gains. We want to hit PR’s on all our exercises, every workout. But the end result, how you will look next time you cut or do a competition, is what ultimately matters. Whether you bulked up, became super overweight and used your gigantic, off season belly to help you squat 700 lbs doesn’t matter when you’re on stage, and likely the continual stretching of the stomach to holster all the food required to become so large doesn’t help ones shape. Do not get more than 10-20 lbs over stage weight, or above 15% bodyfat. If you’re able to continually make gains and it isn’t destroying your symmetry and causing too much bodyfat, then by all means keep going. Needing to drop 50, 60, etc lbs from every off season is not only horrible for your skin elasticity (which helps with aesthetics as well), but you will lose more muscle in the process of dieting.
On top of the physique-destroying components of getting too fat, you’re also going to be more insulin insensitive and convert more of your testosterone to estrogen, simply from being so high in body fat. So prepare to be not only uncomfortable, but bloated and not being as optimal as you can be with recovery.
Don’t be a slob! As you can see in the Golden Era, there were no fat bodybuilders in the off seasons.
Compound Lifts are OK! And Encouraged!
Squats and deadlifts alone to not increase your waist. Anything that can change the bone structure you are given, will be doing so in the form of a traumatic injury or something over the course of years of compression, not a 10-second set once per week. In actuality, if you’re performing a deadlift correctly, the mass gains to your back should increase your V-taped to make it appear that you have a smaller waist. It is important not to force abdominal pressure to hoist the weight up on squats and deadlifts. Maybe this is a little bro-sciency, but any “waist” gains from this exercise are either from the stomach or the abdominal wall, which should be kept tight, but not maximally contracting with huge loads of weight. For this reason as well, I do not encourage abdominal training that is extremely heavy. Abs that are defined should not be sought to grow in size, as this will only make your midsection look bigger. Use deadlifts for your back, and squats for your legs! If you’re blowing air into your stomach to the degree that it looks like it’s going to pop like a balloon, it’s time to readjust your form!
Train Hard, Train Long!
Most people will never reach “overtraining” and unfortunately, a lot of bodybuilders are downright lazy. Even as a natural athlete, most people can add much more volume into their routine to bring up weaker bodyparts. Don’t be afraid to really train the stubborn bodyparts heavy, and multiple times per week.
Now..let’s get into the finer details of a classic physique
Waist Training, Vacuums, and Compression
Performing vacuums is a great way to get control over the abdominal muscles and reduce the size of the waist. Some like to perform these bending over, sucking in as hard as they can and holding it in sets, almost as if you would do for a set. Aside from this, I believe it is important to only do bodyweight-ab exercises to keep the core tight, but not to encourage SIZE growth. Wearing a belt, or even something that slightly compresses the midsection is not only good to keep you mentally aware of keeping your stomach sucked in, but also will reduce the general size of the area over time. Compression DOES work. But be careful, because if you take it too far, your organs will shift downwards and upwards (in extreme cases with people that have extremely tight squeems, etc). Do NOT overdo it!