For most people starting out in training you will have a specific goal that usually falls under two specific categories, these are building strength or improving body composition (building muscle or losing body fat).
These are key emotional and physical triggers that many respond to and they are the key drivers for heading to the gym most days. There are of course a range of specific reasons but the most common end up being that you want to be stronger or look better with no clothes on!
The purpose of this article is to look at how long it takes for someone to build an aesthetic physique.
How long does it take to get an aesthetic physique? The length of time required to build an aesthetic physique will depend on the individuals starting point in terms of body composition. For most however it will take 6 – 18 months of dedicated training and dieting phases to develop an aesthetic physique.
What Is an Aesthetic Physique
If something is considered to be aesthetic then it is typically associated with being visually pleasing on the eye and caters to an individual or groups vision of beauty, art or taste. The below is the most basic for of what an everyday person might consider to be aesthetic.
The above is the most relevant image when it comes to describing something as aesthetic, particularly when it comes to physique development.
Having an aesthetic physique therefore requires that you develop certain physical characteristics that people define as ‘looking good’. These factors for physique development are combinations of the following:
- Above average level of muscle mass
- Low body fat percentage
- A well tapered physique (V-taper)
- Balance between all muscle groups (not muscle group is excessively large in comparison to another)
There are a range of other characteristics when it comes to building an aesthetic physique however these are the most common.
One person might find 250lbs of muscle to be ‘aesthetic’ whereas someone else might find that a leaner, more athletic physique can be considered ‘aesthetic’.
Therefore when building your own physique you need to get clear on what your version of an aesthetic physique will look like. Whatever that version is to you, the following are general guidelines that will help you work towards it as the overall look will require a combination of more muscle mass and less body fat for the majority of people.
How Do You Get an Aesthetic Physique
When it comes to building an aesthetic physique there are three key things that you will need to focus on in the beginning:
- Building overall lean muscle mass
- Reducing your body fat percentage to between 8%-12%
- Accepting that this will take time
The third point is the most important when it comes to building an aesthetic physique, this is a long process especially for a beginner and it’s not something that can be achieved within a few months of training and dieting.
Of course you can make progress during this time however to build a physique you can’t treat it like a crash diet by focusing on the quickest way to make progress and seeing instant results.
A certain amount of time needs to be taken to build your foundation (certain level of muscle mass) and then equally a sufficient amount of time is needed to lose body fat whilst maintaining as much muscle mass as possible.
I explain the importance of how you can maintain muscle mass when cutting in this article so it will be useful to bookmark this for when the time comes.
Once you are aware of the timescales needed you’ll then need to focus on a training plan that will build a balanced physique. A powerlifting style of training will certainly build a balanced physique in terms of working all the major muscle groups equally however it won’t build balance in terms of the ideal muscle proportions.
An aesthetic physique will largely be influenced by genetics, if your parents blessed you with an ideal bone structure, large muscle bellies with low insertion points and a greater proportion of fast twitch muscle fibres then you are all set when it comes to building a physique.
For many however (myself included), you likely won’t have all these ideal characteristics. Thankfully there is an ideal ratio that you can work towards when looking to build an aesthetic physique and using this framework you can plan your training sessions with this in mind.
The Ideal Ratios for Physique Development
The most well known method for developing ideal ratios for your physique comes from the ‘golden ratio’, the golden ratio is a mathematical formula that gives the ratio of 1:1.618.
Without going into too much detail around this it stems from both Marcus Vitruvius who first defined the ideal human proportions, and was later made into a drawing by none other than Leonardo Di Vinci to demonstrate human symmetry and balance (Source).
The golden ratio is something not only relevant to a human but also appears throughout nature which is what makes it such a compelling subject.
For the purpose of building a physique however, it refers to ideal body proportions. The most noticeable of which is the shoulder to waist ratio, better known as the V-taper.
The classic V-taper is a coveted look and widely regarded as the most aesthetic physique to aim for (though in the early 2000’s it emerged that the X taper became popular among hardcore bodybuilders). The V-taper represents a larger shoulder to width ratio and coincidentally follows the golden ratio.
I don’t know if the V-taper intentionally came around because of the golden ratio or if it’s a happy coincidence that furthers the validity of the equation but there’s no denying that when building a physique a good V-taper should be the goal.
The quickest way to do this is to reverse engineer it, take your shoulder measurement and divide it by your waist measurement to give your current ratio.
A 48” shoulder width / a 34” waist as an example would give the ratio of 1.411. If over time you reduce your waist to 30” whilst keeping your shoulder width at 48” you’d get a ratio of 1.6 which is incredibly close to the golden ratio.
I’ve personally put plenty of work into the upper body as this is a much longer process then what is required to lose body fat and if you want to see the program that I followed then you can check it out here:
Therefore you can see that the focus for building an aesthetic physique should be building muscle in the upper body whilst dropping body fat around the midsection. Use this ratio as a guide when starting out and it will give you a tangible goal to work towards.
For a male you can also use the following as a guide for the rest of your body when building an aesthetic physique:
Waist = 45-47% of height
Shoulders = 1.618 x waist (already covered)
Upper Arms = Equal in size to neck and calf circumference
Chest = 10-12″ greater than waist
These should be used as a guideline only and are not backed by any sort of scientific method but rather a publicly accepted baseline.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Aesthetic Physique
Now that you know what you should be focusing on in order to build an aesthetic physique it’s important to know what sort of timelines you should be looking at to see any sort of noticeable and significant progress.
Like I said early this is not a quick solution, for many you will need to build muscle and lose body fat in the long run, these are two very different processes and each need a dedicated phase to achieve and sort of progress in.
That’s not to say that you should be deterred however, if you stick with this then you would expect to see progress anywhere from 6-18 months time.
How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle
Building muscle is by far the slowest process when it comes to building not only an aesthetic physique but any sort of physique! This is especially true even for beginners who typically see faster growth in their first year of training which is know as beginner or ‘newbie’ gains.
For a beginner (and this will vary from person to person with some obvious outliers) you can expect to see at most, 1kg/2lbs muscle growth per month within your first year of training. That means you are looking at around 25lbs of lean muscle mass that you can add to your frame in one years time.
Now that is a lot of muscle mass for anyone to put on however that is distributed across the body so if you are looking to slap muscle purely onto your shoulders and upper arms then you need to be aware that it doesn’t quite work like that.
It’s for this reason that it’s a long term endeavor to keep building up muscle mass as a whole as you work toward those ideal body ratios mentioned earlier. Your second year of training could see progress reduced by half so you are now looking at a further 12lbs of muscle mass added in your second year.
It’s for this reason that I preach a slower expectation when it comes to building an aesthetic physique, you simply can’t rush it and should therefore focus on the process and commit to it on a longer scale.
How Long Does It Take to Lose Body Fat
Burning body fat is a much quicker process than building muscle mass however your focus should be on maintaining as much muscle mass as possible whilst in a caloric deficit rather than trying to lose as much weight as possible.
This is a common issue that people run into when they cut calories too much and too quickly and end up not only burning body fat but muscle mass in the process which hampers physique development.
Therefore you should look to lose no more than 1lb per week when cutting and this should be right the way down to a body fat level of around 10%. This steady state will ensure that you can hold on to as much muscle mass as possible whilst still burning body fat.
The time period to aim for with this should be 12-24 weeks depending on your starting weight and body fat percentage. If under 15% body fat then 12 weeks is achievable however once you get over 15% then you increase the number of weeks needed to cut down.
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