Avoid a “Gym Body”. Aim for an Athletic Body Instead!

July 4, 2008

A lot of people who read this site know that I am NOT a big fan of excessive muscle.

In my opinion, the last thing you want is for people to think “gym” as soon as they look at you. This gives off a vibe that you are trying to hard and that isn’t really an attractive quality. There is also just a corny aura that someone gives off when they have that muscle bound look.

Here is a video of the look I’m talking about. These guys are an extreme version of this, but there are still plenty of people who think this is ideal!

[I’m sorry but this video makes me laugh. The clothes these guys are wearing is ridiculous. I remember reading Flex magazine back in 1992 and the popular thing was to show pictures of guys wearing this stuff along with sunglasses. I still see guys in certain gyms wearing sunglasses when they lift! Now that is Hardcore…LOL!]

The Massive Look is Quickly Dying

This has actually been over for quite some time, but it is just taking a while for the fitness industry to catch on. If you are a guy or girl and want to be massive, that is fine.

It is your choice. I guess you just have to ask yourself if it is worth eating the tons of food required and being sore and run down all the time. It also is tough to look good in normal clothes if you are too bulky. Heck…you can’t even walk right with too much muscle!

Most Fitness Advice Still Focuses on Building Muscle

I know that most trainers mean well. Unfortunately the majority of the trainers at commercial gyms are young men in their early 20’s who want to gain as much muscle as possible. I’m not sure why, but that type of guy seems to be the one most likely to take up personal training.

They “assume” that everyone they train wants to gain muscle and their advice is largely geared towards that. Many of these guys can’t even imagine that someone wouldn’t want to have massive muscles. Also…pick up any fitness magazine and it is still largely geared towards “building bigger guns”, “bigger pecs”, etc.

Thank Goodness For Programs Like CrossFit!

CrossFit is a step in the right direction. It is a program based on functional fitness…building a strong, fast, and fit body. There are CrossFit partners all over the world now who are spreading the word about this type of functional fitness.

They are one of the leaders of the pack when it comes to helping people get functionally fit. What is cool is that they aren’t taking a franchise approach like Gold’s Gym, or 24 Hour Fitness…they are actually challenging the methods of these big franchises. I haven’t mentioned them much on my site, but I really admire what they are doing.

Another Guy With the Right Idea…Mark Sisson

Have you guys ever heard of the blog Mark’s Daily Apple? This guy has the right idea! He is in his mid 50’s and keeps in amazing shape year round. He lives a well balanced life that includes traveling to exotic places. I really admire his blog and his outstanding writing style. This is a fitness blog, that doesn’t have that corny “bodybuilding” vibe at all.

Here is an excerpt from his site:

My health philosophy is surprisingly simple. I generally follow a diet based on an understanding of evolutionary science. I think it’s more important to eat, move, and live according to how humans are designed and not according to society’s artificial developments of the last 100 years.

Fortunately, this regimen is not only incredibly healthy, it’s quite simple.

In a nutshell:

  • fresh, organic, unprocessed food – no junk!
  • daily activity – whether it’s the gym or a walk along the beach, it all counts
  • plenty of quality sleep
  • plenty of water, no soda or sweetened drinks
  • antioxidants galore – the key to limiting stress
  • a good fish-oil supplement
  • essential fats, reckless amounts of vegetables, and lean, clean protein
  • time for fun – don’t take anything too seriously – ethical behavior – because what goes around comes around
  • taking responsibility for yourself and your life – openness to new things and ideas

Here is a short video of Mark Sisson’s sprint routine. I do sprint intervals in a similar fashion, but I have to stretch a bit differently due to a back injury…

[I’m close to 40, but Mark is in his mid 50’s! He looks outstanding for any age. Seriously…how many 20 year olds do you know that have a physique like that?]

A “Nice Body” and a “Gym Body” are Entirely Different Things

If you pay attention to Hollywood’s sex symbols you will notice something…all of these men and women have that nice balanced look. People like Jessica Alba, Will Smith, Matt Damon, Penelope Cruz, Eva Longoria, etc…all just look fit and attractive.

When you look at them the first thing that comes to mind is that they have a “nice body”. This is different than looking at a person and thinking “gym body”. When you see a really massive guy and girl, you think they must spend a lot of time in the gym. Ideally you want to look really fit, but without the “gym look”…And under no circumstances should you wear cheesy neon gym clothes in public.

A Paradigm Shift is Happening When it Comes to Getting Fit

People are beginning to see a lot of the fitness sites and magazines for what they are…vehicles to sell lots of supplements. I’m not against supplements, I just wouldn’t endorse 90% of the stuff out there. Another shift is happening…people are incorporating getting fit without the need for a gym membership.

You can get in incredible shape without belonging to a gym. You can get fit while having fun. I love what is happening in this regard.

People are getting outside and getting in great shape without the need for super fancy equipment.

Laird Hamilton is A Great Example of the New Trend

Here is a guy who mixes working out with weights with functional workouts…and staying incredibly fit doing something he loves…riding the craziest big waves on the planet!

When you think “fitness”, envision guys like Laird…not a bodybuilder doing endless sets of reps on a bench press. Get fit, but do it with balance and have some fun!

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Laird Hamilton Videos…

----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Helder July 4, 2008 at 6:00 pm

Thank God, minds are changing in the fitness world, and you were the first to talk about it in your blog, the fight for a good looking world. No more bloated steroid freaks.

I already knew Mark’s site and it’s really good, we need to go back to what is natural for the human kind, and Mark’s site is a real good example of what it should be.

3ller July 4, 2008 at 6:06 pm

Man that guy is ripped! If i saw only his torso, i would guess ‘Armani model in his mid 20s’. His philosophy is nearly as same as yours too.

Anyway, nice post as always

Lets hope you’ll be as fit as him when you reach that age 🙂

Julie July 4, 2008 at 7:36 pm


Thank you so much for this site! You are delightful, insightful and humble.

Like many others here, I applaud you for positive attitude, zest for life and genuine desire to help others.

(I’m brand new and already hooked!)

Happy fourth, Rusty!

Patrick July 5, 2008 at 1:21 am

Hey Rusty:
It’s funny how Brad Pitt makes a ridiculous tank top look good, while those guys in the first video make tanks tops look…well, you know.

I just want to give you an update:
I’m 19, and at the start of my freshman year at college (last september, 2007), I was 5’11.5″, and weighed 217 lbs. Thats when I started reading your blog. I didn’t really follow your methods until this march (HIIT and less meals). However, with your posts and the comments, I have motivated myself A LOT!

Right now, I weigh around 168 lbs, and I feel fantastic!! Thats 49 lbs I have lost, and while I am still trying to lose another 5 or so, I love the comments I’m getting from people I haven’t seen since last summer!

In the winter, I usually run on the treadmill a lot because the cold outside makes my asthma much worse, but now that its warm outside and the pollen has mostly subsided, I’m running outdoors, which I love much more.

Sorry for the long post, I just wanted to give you an update and let you know that you have changed my life!


Gators July 5, 2008 at 8:41 am

Great post Rusty, especially when you hit your 30’s, it seems the last thing i want to do is now spend hours in the gym. i’d rather be doing sports or bodyweight exercises outside, staying athletic rather than ‘gym’…who wants to get that rediculous gym look and spend hours in a gym when there’s so much better things to do? not me!…that first video says it all! what a joke…

Sam July 5, 2008 at 9:58 am

Great post Rusty, always enjoy reading what you say. I totally agree with the direction that most guys want to go in these days..that toned slim look…as such, I have been lifting fairly heavy weights the last few years in the gym, and have substantial muscle mass on me..but i dont want to stress my joints and have problems in the future, so ive decided now that I dont want to keep adding mass, and just get toned and hopefully stay that way..so i had just a couple of questions…is it ok if i decrease the weight i lift by a significant amount? if i was using 50lbs per arm on incline press before..is it ok to use 30 now? and will incorporating higher reps into the routine prevent loss of strength? i have the cardio side down (i jump rope 4 times a week for 30 minutes HIIT style) but my main thing is to not stress my joints, and i read that heavy weights definetly do that…thanks

Trevor July 5, 2008 at 10:14 am

Where can I get some of those sweet pinstripe spandex pants? haha

Last summer, I was really bulking up, because I’m 5’8″ and I didn’t want to die in college lacrosse. Since then, I’ve dropped from 187 to 164. Last summer I thought I was “jacked”, and that it was the best look. Now that I’m slimmer I find myself explaining my diet/workout to someone new in the gym everyday…as well as directing them to fitnessblackbook.com. ; )

eric July 5, 2008 at 5:03 pm

hi again rusty!

i have the problem that my body is not in a good proportion. mylegs are too big and muscular although i dont do any leg work at the gym. i dont want to bulk up my upper body because i like how he looks now. besides i would get the bodybuilding -look. thats why i want to slimm down my legs. i`ve a slim waist and i have a slight hint of abs too. but i dont fit in the type of cool jeans i want to wear…( i dont mean the WAY to small-sized skinny jeans, of course.
do you have any suggestions? should i focuse more on cardio or diet? or both?
thanks for your really quick answers most of the time! your site, especially the comment section. i appreciate the time you spend to take care that everything here work so good! BIG compliment, rusty!

BurritoKid July 5, 2008 at 6:46 pm

happy forth bro. hope you and everyone is enjoying some good bbq. did you carb down this week?

Scott July 6, 2008 at 4:29 am

Seriously today I have seen the worst gym rat ill probably ever see. There are two parts of my gym the upstairs and downstairs. Downstairs is the free wights and hammer strength etc.. such a place where you’d find most of the guys. And upstairs are the treadmills, girly machines etc.. they most likely set it up like that to keep intimidation down, whatever. So it was a pretty crowded evening and as i was on the treadmill when i see this meat head walk from down stairs up to where most of the girls were working out.
O yea he didn’t have a shirt on!! Just some shorts and he also had a milk jug filled with water he was carrying around. he went up to some guy in the middle of his set on a machine and asked him if he could use it. The guy got up and walked away. I was like you have got to be kidding. Of course the person who worked there walked up to him and i guessed he asked him to put a shirt on i couldn’t tell what they were saying. But the guy got mad and stormed off and put on the smallest tank top ever. I swear he had more clothes on with the tank top off. I hope he gets kicked out. I just couldn’t stop laughing. I really wanted to share that.

eric July 6, 2008 at 7:23 am

p.s. : i forgot to ask: i spend most of my weekends at my parents home ( i am a student now). and i also want to have some quality time with my girlfriend . i aim for a great body but i also dont want to give the impression to my family and friends that i am a”party pooper”(i hope it is the right expression..). how can i balance this lifestyle with fitness and diet-goals? any experience?
sorry, i dont bother you any longer ; )

Mark McCullagh July 6, 2008 at 10:46 am

I was a big fan of Kevin, Shawn, and Boyer (who was no spring chicken when they made that video).

I think it’s incorrect to run these guys down…judge not…

They were professional bodybuilders: that’s what they did. If you don’t want to look like them, great…and no worries…just avoid excessive calorie intake, don’t take steroids or GH, and don’t train like a bodybuilder.

Don’t forget that these guys had genetics that contributed to much their development.

However, does this let you off the hook with regards to intense training?…no…Do you still have to watch what you eat?…probably even more so…Should you apply some of the basic principles for training muscle groups as bodybuilders do?…absolutely…

admin July 6, 2008 at 7:32 pm


Good call on Mark’s site…it is inspiring. I know I wasn’t the first to talk about the lean and slim look, but I probably hammer this point home more than most. I just want people to know that you can be a fit and healthy person without the weird “gym” vibe that normally accompanies fitness.


I hope I’ll be as fit as him now! Seriously…I need to 5-7 pounds after my vacation followed by 4th of July. I stay pretty toned year-round, but would look much better with a 5 pound drop in weight. It will be simple, because I know exactly what I need to do. Mark looks very impressive. I’m going to go outside in about 30 minutes to hit some intervals.


Thanks for the compliments. I like having a positive vibe on the site…I’m glad it comes through to the readers. I can be a little hard on bodybuilders at times, but really it is in good fun more than anything else. Keep reading!


Good comment on smaller guys looking better in tank tops or
sleeveless shirts. If a guy’s pecs or arms are too big, they shouldn’t wear those…great point!

You have made great progress by the way! At the age of 19, you will have a big advantage over the typical young guys who workout to get big. Women will find you much more attractive, plus you just might meet a few running outside. You have a fun future ahead of you buddy!

Side note: I like your video game blog. I simply don’t have time to play much anymore, but I was a big fan of Street Fighter II and Tekken Tag Tournament quite a few years back. The game that made the biggest impression on me recently is Call of Duty 4…I normally don’t like shooters, but this one was a blast!


Yep…I know that you play tennis and do a lot outdoors in ‘Oz’. You are a great example of someone who stays fit while enjoying life.


I want you to read this post. It addresses your question directly. I have a slight pain in my wrist by the way. I injured it in Puerto Vallarta while I was skimboarding in the waves. I’m going to have to take this approach for a while as well. Glad to have you as a reader!

Gain Strength and Muscle Definition by Lifting Light Weights?


They still sell those stripe spandex pants in the back of fitness magazines. I wish I was kidding! Thanks for the referrals. I really just enjoy seeing that a lot of people are visiting the site everyday…it lets me know that people are getting exposed to some of this stuff. Being 164 at 5’8″ is still muscular, but it a good way. I have a friend who is around these same stats and he looks great…plus he is strong as hell! I’m guessing you can put up some weight as well.


I should have carbed down better. Earlier in the week I went to Karaoke with some friends and had a few mixed drinks. I also went out to eat with my dad and sister. It hasn’t been a great 2 weeks diet-wise! I plan on getting strict here for the next 2-3 weeks to get back into great shape! Good question…it is exactly what I should have done!


There is nothing worse than a guy working out with his shirt off. That is so cheesy that words cannot do it justice! I love the whole “milk jug filled with water” thing as well! For some reason this is popular with this “type” of guy recently. I have to think that a pro bodybuilder started this trend. It is a newer thing that I see more and more of. The funny thing is guys like this typically don’t break a sweat with their workouts. None of them do cardio for the most part!

I love this part of your comment “I swear he had more clothes on with the tank top off”…that is extremely funny. I know exactly what you mean! Was he wearing sunglasses?


What you are going to want to do is limit your calories for sure…but I have some advice that will help slim down muscular legs. The main thing you are going to want to from now on is avoid anything that “pumps up” your legs or burns the leg muscles. For instance, you wouldn’t want to do the exercise bike, because that can pump up the leg muscles a bit. If you do that they will stay their current size. Also…I want you to run more, but maybe not as much HIIT as I normally recommend. Instead of doing the HIIT and low intensity cardio combo…I want you to run for 30 minutes straight on a treadmill at a moderately fast speed (think marathon runner). Normally I don’t recommend running for prolonged periods of time at moderately fast levels, because you will lose muscle…but for you, that is what you will need to do to slim those legs down. You won’t need to do this forever. Just do this for 6 months and you should be good. I had the exact same problem and it worked like a charm. Thanks for the compliment!

Have you read much about Intermittent Fasting on my site? Just type it into the search box in the upper right hand corner of my site. This is a way to stay lean alternating periods of extremely low calories with periods of larger amounts of calories. It would be ideal for your circumstances.


Good counterpoint. I am sometimes a bit harsh on guys like this. I mainly just wanted to show a video of some of the “interesting” clothes that these guys wore back then.

No doubt that even with the good genetics and roids, they worked their butts off to get to that point. Back in the late 80’s a lot more guys really wanted to get big…even those that didn’t want to become bodybuilders. I’m glad that things are trending away from this…I just think most people prefer the natural look now (for both men and women).

Great comments as always, everyone!


Nelly July 6, 2008 at 7:48 pm

HI, Rusty. Hope you had a good 4th! I was just curious to know what you think about dairy. Sorry if you mentioned it in an article and I missed it, but do you consider it a carb? I know dairy foods have carbs, but I haven’t really been limiting them on my low carb days. And I drink lots of cappuccino’s during the day (with agave nectar, not sugar) and sometimes have yogurt or cottage cheese for breakfast. Should I be cutting back? Thanks!

Barry July 6, 2008 at 7:51 pm

I agree that a more appealing physique is less muscle bound, but the idea that you need to “avoid” the gym body is laughable. Those guys slave away for years and years to get built like that, and the guys in that video have clearly used anabolic steroids. It’s not like you can accidentally wind up huge and muscular like that, so the idea of avoidance is silly. The only way you’ll get that way is if it’s one of your absolute top priorities in life and you dedicate many years and lots of money in that pursuit.

Cristina July 6, 2008 at 9:43 pm

hey rusty..
i stumbled across this website when while researching for ways to lose weight. I’m 16 years old, 5ft 6 in but I’m overweight. Actually I weigh 140 which according to my BMI isn’t bad but I’m like 30% overweight. I have to say that this is entirely my fault because up until I was 15 I was thin ( thanks to my genes) and i barely worked out. Once in a while I would take some dance classes and I stopped PE in 9th grade so you can say that I’m not athletic. It’s not that I’m bad at sports I just never tried or put effort into it because I used to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it and I wouldn’t gain weight. So my problem started a year ago when I moved to the U.S. and I literally gained 30 pounds over the last year!!! I would really like your help in terms of tips, advice and if you can suggest a diet and exercise plan for me because I have so much weight I want to lose and I don’t know where to start!!

I’m desperate!



admin July 6, 2008 at 10:27 pm


Dairy has a good mix of protein and carbs, but I limit it on low carb days. I will still put a bit of cheese on an omelette on a low carb day, but that is about it.

Vanilla yogurt is my dessert on days where I’m extra hungry at night!


I wasn’t trying to send the message to “avoid the gym”. I currently workout in a commercial gym. I was mainly trying to make the point to not look like a “gym rat”…and to look sleek and attractive instead (the typical Hollywood look).


Where did you move from? The problem with the U.S. is too many food choices and WAY too big of portions. I can’t outline a full workout routine and diet plan, because that will take a long time…instead, I’ll point you to a part of my blog to begin reading.


Begin exploring the site…you will be well on your way to losing those 30 pounds!


Patrick July 6, 2008 at 11:49 pm


Thanks for the compliment about my blog! I just started it about 3 weeks ago.

Summer is really the only time I play a lot of video games. During the school year I’ve got much more work and social events, that I really don’t have the time either.

Besides, while I love writing about video games, I’d much rather balance a little bit of gaming with a lot of socializing!


Cristina July 7, 2008 at 12:23 am

Thanks Rusty! Those links helped me out a lot. =]

P.S. I moved from Mozambique

BurritoKid July 7, 2008 at 3:12 am

what are the typical foods that will go in your “carb down” week?

BurritoKid July 7, 2008 at 3:19 am

are you into organic/grass fed/free range food products?

Pat July 7, 2008 at 5:11 am

Hi Rusty,

I just came across your website, and read a lot of your articles on the importance of getting stronger and more fit (vs. just getting big and like a “gym” rat), to have that natural, strong, fit, lean almost Hollywood look. Your advice is really great, and I’m totally sold!

I was just wondering if I could please ask you for some advice though? I am a relatively still young Asian male, 5′ 7″, and about 145 lbs. I have a leaner body type, maybe even athletic, but right now I look very skinny and scrawny, to be honest, as I haven’t exercised much at all these days, except for the occasional run or jog. I used to be a running back in football (halfback) and a sprinter when I was in high school but that was like a decade ago.

Do you have any tips for what I should be doing to get strong, and fit, to have that lean “Hollywood” look? I am way too small and scrawny, and look more like a kid or boy than I do a strong man. I was thinking of doing things like pushups, pullups, chinups (like you said), situps, with low reps and focusing on just getting stronger, five times per week. I get really bored lifting weights though, so don’t really want to do that. But I’d definitely like to do swimming as my cardio, if possible, because I enjoy swimming a lot, and would like to start doing freestyle for about 30 mins maybe three times per week. Does this sound like a good routine to start off with? Any other ideas?

Thanks very much!


Ramon July 7, 2008 at 8:39 am

Great article as always Rusty and thanks for pointing me to Mark Sisson’s blog! Now if only the media would stop peddling the nonsense that ‘fat-free’ was the right way to diet.

Yash July 7, 2008 at 9:53 am

thanks for the response on the other article. using your tips i’m going to try and gear my current fitness program toward a leaner look rather than to bulk up, even though i’d prefer a bit more size and then worry about definition afterward. would you say thats a good idea or should i go vice versa and get lean and then try to get size?

regarding HIIT, will it also increase my sprint speed over time? because i’m looking to get into better shape not only for aesthetics but athletics as well. because i’ve never been the best player on the field and i’m looking to get picked a lil earlier than third to last when picking teams.

i really appreciate all the information on this site and much of what you say makes sense to me as i am a science major and some of the stuff out there always struck me as a bit iffy, but my question is why does everyone say it if its wrong? this applies to things such as having 5-6 meals a day when as you said in one of your other articles, 2000 calories in a day is 2000 calories in a day. why is this wrong information so widely spread? thanks again for your help and attention to your readers!


admin July 8, 2008 at 2:55 am


Good outlook on video games. Too many guys your age miss a lot of opportunities to meet great women by spending their spare time playing video games. Less competition for you 🙂


I like to eat salads made with cut up chicken. I also eat fruits and veggies. If I need to drop weight, I limit the fruits a bit…although this isn’t often. As you have probably read before on the site…I really enjoy eating plenty of fruit. Especially super crisp Fuji apples! I prefer organic food, but I’m not ultra strict about this. I chose the organic stuff when it is an option.


Good deal buddy! Having the sprinting background is going to help you a lot. You should go ahead and do exactly the routine you posted for a while. Get in superb shape and become a mad man at pullups and pushups. I’m going to recommend a slightly different rep range for you (I’m going to do a post on this soon). This is a way to build mass, without the overly pumped look. A lot of guys do want to add a bit of mass, which makes sense…as long as it isn’t excessive you do want some mass.

Do 5 sets of 5 with 30 seconds of rest in between sets. Do as many sets of 5 as possible. Quit when you can’t do 5 good reps. This may only be 5 sets, but it could be 10 sets. This is a higher volume, but functional way to lift. It will be dens mass, not the puffy pumped up muscles. I hope that makes sense!

Note: Asian guys look great when they are chiseled vs. too much muscle. There are a few asian guys in my apartment complex in their late 20’s with the ideal look…lean with a great sense of style. One of the guys looks like Jet Li…who in my opinion is a spectacular role model.


His blog is outstanding! He is the guy a lot of the ‘newer’ fitness bloggers like me, look up to. You won’t hear much about him on the bodybuilding sites. You are going to experience a bigger and bigger separation between blogs like ours and the bodybuilding sites. The readers of these sites are an entirely different crowd from ours. Of course, I plan on converting as many people away from ‘the dark side’ as possible. Thanks for reading!


What sport do you play, because I suggest different sprint-to-walking ratios depending upon the sport. As far as needing to add a bit of mass, I am going to do a post on a ‘sensible mass building routine’. I hinted at it to my comments to Pat above.

As far as 5-6 meals per day, it isn’t necessarily wrong…it is just a tough plan to follow and isn’t the most natural way of eating. This way of eating is extremely effective for big male bodybuilders looking to put on a lot of mass. A 275 pound bodybuilder needs to add an very large amount of calories and protein each day to push their body to put on all that mass. This 5-6 meal per day works very well in this situation. They can eat normal meals of 500-700 calories.

What about the 140 pound female looking to drop 20 pounds. If she eats 5-6 meals per day, that is 200-250 calorie meals. Eating meals this small is brutal. Worse than that, there isn’t a need for a constant supply of calories…unless she wants to add a lot of mass. In fact, if you want to drop weight…I think it is good for the body to be empty of food every once in a while and run off ‘body fat energy’ instead.

Unfortunately a lot of the recommendations are based on very old studies. Want to read a new study?

Brad Pilon did his Graduate Research on Intermittent Fasting. His graduate paper was titled: “The Metabolic Effects of Short Periods of Fasting in Humans and its Potential Application in Weight Loss”. The book Eat Stop Eat was an ebook based on the findings of his graduate research and this paper. It is outstanding with strong scientific backing and that is why I have no problem recommending it.

Again…it isn’t that some of the traditional methods are wrong, but there are better alternatives. Also, some of the logic behinds these methods aren’t always correct.

Thanks for reading, Yash. I appreciate the comments!



Joe July 8, 2008 at 3:20 am

hey rusty, hope you had a great time in puerto rico. i have a few questions for you if you dont mind. i know people say to build muscle you need to do heavy weight low reps, but what about moderate weight and high reps? im looking for something to hold onto my muscle and burn calories at the same time. is doing high reps with moderate weighs effective? im thinking of using this as my cardio too.

Rachel July 8, 2008 at 3:50 pm

hey Rusty! I need advice!!! There’s not too many who have the same mindset as you do so yor the only one I can think of to go to for the right kind of advice.

I had noticed, last week, an 8 pack was starting to develop. I dont really want an 8-pack, so I cut my really long ab workout from being every day to only every 3 days. Today I looked in the mirror, and I have muscle protruding in the middle of my abs, I dont like the look. It almost looks like a gut. I still have a very nice waistline, always have, (except when I was pregnant, lol) And my quads, the muscles above my knees are a little too chunky looking I think. I am 103 lbs, 5’4, and all muscle and I’d like to look a little softer and smoother if you know what I mean. I am 34 and that seems harder to achieve now.

Currently my workout is:

Day 1: Buns Of Steel 3 with 3 lb dumbells and adding a stepbox to lunges, then 15 minute upper body with 5 lb dumbells. That is in the am. The Buns oF Steel video targets my glutes wicked good. My hips I am extremely happy with. I have those concaves on the sides of my butt cheeks and my hips have nice curves and lines. My butt has always been kinda overly on the bubble butt side. I think it looks almost too Betty Boopish. My butt is big no matter what I do or how thin I am. I cold starve and not exercise and my butt would still be big. It’s just the shape I have. So I try to target my glutes alot and at least keep them in an ideal condition. I am prone to cellulite on the hams, but have it 99% under control at the moment.

Walk dogs 3 1/2 miles before bed.


Day 2: Buns Of Steel 3 again, then 3 sets x 18 reps of stiff legged deadlifts.

Walk dogs 3 1/2 miles before bed.


Day 3: The Firm Better Body & Buns in the am. This workout has a killer ab routine. This video is a full body workout, I do this iwth 8 lb dumbells. This video probably has the least cardio effect of all the videos.

Walk dogs 1 mile in evening, then do Cardio Express by The Firm. This workout is FAST moving, very heavy on cardio, and very little weight lifting. It is fun, fun, fun and I laugh at how fast it is!

I was wondering about pilates? Do you have any suggesions? It must be a work out I can do at home. Al I have is a set of dumbells (3, 5, 8, and 10 lbs), my barbells for deadlifts, a high step box, and a low step box.


Rachel July 8, 2008 at 4:02 pm

p.s. I would like to say in addition to my last comment, that 103 is genuinely a healthy weight for me. I am a very thin frame, the most I have ever weighed is 136 lbs, and I was 9 months pregnant at the time with an 8 lb baby.

admin July 8, 2008 at 8:47 pm


I typically like low reps for strength or circuit training type lifting with lighter weights (which is a great way to use weights to burn body fat and increase HGH like High Intensity Interval Training). I’m not a big fan of the medium rep range with rest in between like the typical bodybuilding routine. It is “sort of” training for strength, but not as good as training with low reps for strength…it is “sort of” a way to burn calories while lifting, but not as good as circuit training, HIIT, or cardio.

The medium rep stuff is good for building mass, but doesn’t create the density that low reps create…or help you get lean like circuits.

Here is a good post to read:

A Circuit Training Routine That Actually Makes Sense!


You are a maniac! A lot of you guys and girls who read this blog are in tremendous shape. Great job!

First of all, I have great advice regarding your abs. Please read this article, because it will help flatten your abs and make them sleek without being too muscular:

7 Minute Abs? 8 Minute Abs? What About 6 Minute Abs?

To slim muscular legs down, you are going to want to back down a bit on the leg lifts and add a bit more cardio. It actually wouldn’t hurt for you to drop Day Two of Buns of Steel and do another round of Cardio Express. The main thing to remember when slimming down muscular legs is to avoid “the pump” as much as possible during this time. Running is great for the slim down process, but bicycling isn’t quite as good (it burns and pumps the legs up too much).

I have to be honest…it sounds like you are in outstanding shape and you shouldn’t change much. Keep up the great work!


karie July 9, 2008 at 7:50 am

Hi Rusty,
Love this post. I wanted to know what you think of doing cardio inbetween weight sets. This is what i was thinking of doing:
Monday: Full body weights
Bent over row superset with squat, 5 min cardio with two 1 min sprints at minutes 2 and 4; shoulder press superset with lunges, 5 min cardio, bicep curl superset with tricep dips, 5 min cardio, some type of ab exercise, 5 min cardio. All the cardios have the sprints interspersed in them like what i explained in the first one. I lift 10-12 reps of each exercise for 3 sets. I would do a full body workout on wednesday and friday as well but choose different exercises. I don’t train chest b/c i just got implants and i hate the feel of them shifting around during chest training. Then on tuesday and thursday i would just do steady state cardio. Does this sound good?

Tim July 9, 2008 at 11:02 am

rusty omg cant believe I found your site but I had a few questions for you. I am 6 ft my weight is from 163-169. It fluctuates but stays around there. I have been lifting legs and lifting in the rep range of 12-15 and even though I had lost 10 to 15 lbs I still felt there was something off. After reading your articles its amazing I hope this technique will get my shoulders down. I have a body type that gains muscles so easily/ so you lift in the rep range of 3-5 for everybody part except chest which is 10-12 and dont lift legs. Now I do push pull workouts can I still do weighted pull ups and dips as long as there to 3-5 reps?
Ps I love your take on nutrition its about the food consumed not number of meals…… you make great points

Yash July 9, 2008 at 2:16 pm

hey rusty

i’m not training for a specific sport, but rather just to get more athletic overall, but if it helps, it would be football and basketball mostly, sometimes soccer.

also, looking forward to a post on a sensible mass building routine! do you think there is something i could tweak in my current routine [p90x] to get the best results?


BurritoKid July 9, 2008 at 2:45 pm

here’s a good example of what your website talks about. The transformation that Ryan Reynolds went through. He gained a ton of mass for the movie, when that was over he worked out way less and got smaller. He looks pretty good at the end of the article and I think you would approve.


do you think people look better if they bulk up and then shrink down?

Examples are Will Smith, Ryan Renolds, the Rock. I think the guys in this video you posted would look really good if they started hitting cardio and didnt try to gain muscle anymore. Imagine if they all lost about 50-75 lbs.

admin July 9, 2008 at 11:39 pm


That sounds like a good plan of attack. I actually used to do a version of this a long time ago with a jump rope and it worked well. It is an advanced circuit routine which should burn fat like crazy. Let me know how it works!


I lift 3-5 reps for chest as well. You must have read advice that I gave to a young guy needing to gain a bunch of mass. Thanks for the compliments about the site. Just trying my best to steer people in the right direction. You sound like the ideal weight for your height…good job.


I do need to put that sensible mass routine up soon. Maybe tonight?


I don’t like the idea of bulking up first at all. It does work, but makes you prone to gaining weight easier in the future. Also, you risk getting stretch marks and look bad when bulked up. Ryan Reynolds actually looks great in Blade 3. Even though he is muscular, it isn’t excessive. He could still wear normal clothes and he wasn’t ridiculously puffy or anything along those lines. I think his recent picture looks even better, because his abs aren’t as blocky.


eric July 10, 2008 at 1:35 am

what do you think is more effective for weight loss in my diet ? a low-carb day or an one meal warior day? i dont really make any serious progress in my diet although i eat really clean. and can i eat what i like in the night meal at a warior day- as long as it is does not get too junky?

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Laura July 11, 2008 at 10:42 am

Hey Rusty!

So, I posted a couple weeks back about having trouble picking a goal weight and wanted to get you some pictures so that you can see what I’m talking about. I’m definitely not fat, but could stand to slim down a bit as well as gain definition. My stats again are 5’2″, 109, about 21% body fat I believe. I wasn’t really fair to myself with these because I had a HUGE indian food meal the night before, but oh well. They are realistic. I believe I mentioned before that I just started weight lifting about three weeks ago. I HATE working out, but realize it is the only way that I will have a nice firm body again and for the rest of my life. I am currently doing weights three days a week (I use the body sculpting bible for women) and abs (your plank routine!) three days a week. Right now my only cardio is walking our dogs a few days a week for about 45 minutes but I plan to incorporate HIIT starting next week. Do you think that one meal a day is the best way for me to lean out while doing this? I’ve had good luck in the past with using it to lose weight, but have a hard time maintaining the energy for workouts while doing it. Any advice you have would be great and thanks so much for this site. It alone is so motivating to me!


P.S. Anyone else is welcome to look and comment on the photos, but I’m not feeling very confident right now so PLEASE be kind…thanks!

Laura July 11, 2008 at 10:45 am

Sorry, the link before will not work, but this one should!

admin July 11, 2008 at 11:05 pm


Go over to Mike O’Donnell’s blog and seriously spend an hour there. I keep pushing for him to write a book, because his knowledge of diet is outstanding. I’m more of a fitness and diet guy…he is laser focused on diet and has amazing info over there.



You are in better shape than 90% of the girls I see at the beach. You aren’t far off at all.

As far as eating goes…go to Mike O’Donnell’s blog and get that free “Intermittent Fasting Report” (I keep telling him he needs to charge money for that)…heck his whole site is great regarding the diet side of the equation.

I know the EXACT workout that is going to help you burn that last tiny bit of fat. It is subcutaneous fat…which is fat trapped under the skin and is pretty easy to lose if you know what you are doing.

Please read this post…and do your best to incorporate this 3-4 times per week into you routine:

The Stubborn Fat Solution

Thanks for reading!


Laura July 14, 2008 at 11:23 am

Thanks so much for all of your help Rusty! I’m excited to start doing this workout. I will probably start with what you have here on your site and then get his book as well. I hope to have some great after pictures for you in a couple of months!


Jim July 18, 2008 at 1:27 pm

Hey Rusty, I really want to try to get in shape without getting bigger because Girls seemed to like when my face was thinned out more I really want that look back. So when i searched info on this I found your blog and I’m so happy i did.
I am 6’0 206lbs. I want to lose about 15lbs. I already have just about the right amount of muscle I don’t want gain anymore. I’m a little afraid to lift heavy Lol…But I want to give it a try.
My question is if I lift reps of 5 with heavy weight I feel like I’m trying hard to push out the set because its heavy I CAN DO IT but is this the same as forcing reps?
I’m really afraid of going into muscle failure do i want to lift as heavy as i can for 5 reps? or about 75% so I’m not trying Im just a little confused about this.

Clinton Walker III January 4, 2009 at 3:09 pm

I guess it just depends on the person. I believe all men go through the stage of wanting to be as big as possible. Over the years I have decided to go for lighter weights and more reps.

admin January 7, 2009 at 7:30 pm


A lot of guys do want to get bigger, but I do think that this trend is changing (slowly). It certainly peaked in the 80’s.


Studio Element Personal Training May 21, 2009 at 9:31 pm

Way too many people come to us with the “Gym Body” in mind. It sometimes can take awhile to convince them that this is not the most practical approach to their fitness regimen.

Jean Paulo June 29, 2009 at 6:29 am

Great post!at last I found someone who shares the idea of being lean and toned is much better than being big and bulky not just asthetically but functional too!I am 115lbs right now ranging between 4-8% bodyfat all year round,I never go to the gum however I do home resistance training using adjustable dumbells,barbells,flat bench,pullup bar,Swiss ball and a medicine ball.I do circuit training 3x a week and 1 day of hiit and I eat several small meals a day.I even made an amateur workout video on YouTube/iwanttoseemyabs so that I can share a workout that is short but intense enough I especially designed for people who just wanna tone up and shed some flabs.Again thanks for creating this wakeup post for people who thinks that being a musclehead looks good.

Mike April 16, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Hey Rusty, I would like some advice on a few things.

I’m 6’2″ and 170 lbs. I feel as though if I kept losing weight until 160 I would have a much better look. The thing is I don’t mind going under 1000 calories to do it. I know for a fact that if I ask anyone online or in real life if it would be ok to take in 600-800 calories a day (Only fruits and vegetables, along with 50 grams of protein from lean meat), they would be so quick to shoot it down and say how incredibly unhealthy it is and that it won’t even work.

I know for a fact it does because when I was at 180 I was doing 12 reps of 65 lb dumbbells bench press. Now at 170 I can do 10 reps of 65 still. For dumbbell rows and shoulder press I still maintained the strength completely. During that time I must have averaged under 1000 calories per day. So in order to get to 160, I will go lower to about 600-800 calories a day, and do more cardio.

This may be a waste of a question because the other article you wrote showed the study where the people lost no muscle while on 800 calories a day, but I guess I’m just looking for some more reassurance.


Chris February 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Laird Hamilton is one of the greatest surfers by far. The way he seems to control the wave is unbelievable.

It’s kind of frustrating to look at all the fitness magazines that are out, all the infomercials and all the fitness books that are geared on just gaining massive muscle. Some of the roommates I’ve had over the past 4 years of college were obsessed with going to the gym. They’d bulk up quite a bit, often taking creatine and other supplements to assist in it. They naturally assumed that they would gain the attention of the chicks at school because of how they looked.

However, the majority of the girls who I speak to about attraction aren’t interested in guys who are just bulky and have the “gym look” like you mentioned.

I’m so glad for all that you’ve shared and will continue to learn more from you so keep it up!

Jon April 8, 2011 at 9:57 am

Hey Rusty,

I love this post, fitness black book rocks! I also really like your information on Ryan Reynolds Workout as I agree, a lean muscular body is the best look!

sam July 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Hey Rusty,
I am an Asian and i am 26 years old. My height is 5 feet 10 inches but weigh only 125 lbs. I look very skinny. Could you suggest me a fitness schedule which would help me get those athletic looks..
Thanks in advance…

sunil March 10, 2012 at 5:39 am

i salute ur words.sir…..its.awesome…mindblowing…..

IDNeon July 31, 2012 at 11:05 am

It’s insulting to think that people think “he tries too hard” when you do something few people can ever accomplish. This article screams “JEALOUS!” as a person who frequents the Gym, I know first hand how the “gym bodies” are the envy of everyone who goes to the gym, they are the first to be approached for advice, and they are often the friendliest. This article is trash, and pathetic. Must have been written by a liberal.

Thrasher August 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm


….whatever dude I go to a top ranking Uni, and my lean athletic body gets way more attention from women and men (I even had a female professor hit on me). This holds true in my classes with huge bodybuilder guys. Unlike you however, they are cool guys who seem to genuinely lift for themselves and feel passionate about fitness…AND have accepted the now incontestable fact (many, MANY studies have been done in psychology, anthropology, etc.) that a lean athletic physique is by far the most physically attractive. Also it is sad that bodybuilding culture is full of socially retarded, semi-literate, right wing, racist, sexist, homophobic ***holes.
Methinks you are an insecure knob, and bodybuilding is not going to be enough to sort out your problem of being a social pariah.

Richard Gibbons August 16, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Opinions vary and I think the above may be the insecure extremes, but that’s what makes the world an interesting place to live in.

Daniel Jameson August 27, 2012 at 2:45 am

^ spot on

Rune September 4, 2012 at 11:34 am

Wiiiierd article…

Have you ever seen Steve Cooks? Does he have a “Gym Body”? You’re generalizing that a “gym body” is a body like Arnold or Ronnie Coleman. But there are lots of other bodybuilders.
From my perspective, having a “Lean, atheletic body” always requires workouts in gyms.

Adam November 14, 2012 at 1:40 am

Hey Rusty,

I’d really like to hear your take on crossfit since you mentioned it in this article. On the one hand it seems like good interval training or hard core cardio or something but have you seen how they do some movements??? A good example is the pull-up… its all momentum and no strength. Look up cross fit fails on youtube, its hilarious.
Really interested to hear your opinion? Surely if all you did was crossfit you would be tired all the time just like if you lifted like a bodybuilder?
Perhaps it would be beneficial to do say once a week but not 4 times a week… i dunno.

Svevo November 27, 2012 at 9:11 am

Often “Gym Body” are disproportionate and not functional (and i don’t like isolation exercises, split routines, bulk and cut, “mirror muscles” and “bigger is better” approach). It’s all about proportions. I think focusing on full body workouts, compound exercises and hiit cardio is the best way to build athletic, fit, strong and good looking body.

mrapollocreedjr March 8, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Crossfit sucks. After the 1st session a lot quit. Or they either kick it to the curb. Amateurs starting out on advanced level. Cmon! I say take it easy.I got the lean v shape torso broaad shoulders shieldlike chest but I’m also aiming for the bulky look along with it. I mean, seriously its like a defense mechanism also. There can only be one lion in the room. At the end of the day who would you give it to in real life. Rey mysterio or batista!?!

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