“It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function.
This is the law.”
Author, Louis Sullivan – Great American Architect.
How we look, or how we perceive ourselves to look is aesthetic in nature. Aesthetics is:
“the study of sensory or sensory-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste.” (Wikipedia, 2009)
Which is to say – it’s subjective. Everyone has different judgments on human appearance, and finding the ideal of human physical beauty is a job best left to artists, not trainers. Each person who embarks on physical training (as opposed to sport training) may have a certain goal or ‘image’ they are striving for initially, that may change over time.
I always laugh (in my head usually) when an out of shape, overweight person (dare I say it, often a woman) sees a female athlete, boxer, sportsperson and says:
‘Oooh, I wouldn’t want to look like that! She looks so manly and unattractive.”
– yes, and she’s at the Olympics representing her country and you’re sitting on your couch.
When I first started working in the fitness industry (about 18 years ago) everything was based on bodybuilding principles. Bodybuilding is primarily training for aesthetics. Training your body to ‘look’ a certain way. It’s about muscular development, symmetry, balance, proportion and usually involves a variety of ‘compound’ (multi joint exercises) and ‘isolation’ (single joint exercises) to train all the visible muscles of the body. This is usually achieved by splitting up the body into parts or muscle groups and training them in rotation through the week. Bodybuilding competitions are judged purely on aesthetics and judges mark the competitors on appearance alone. Not ability or any physical output. They are judged on the ‘result’ of their training and dieting. Bodybuilder’s training is geared towards the aesthetic ‘result’ rather than performance.
Bodybuilding and fitness model competitions sort of ran away with the fitness industry for a few years, and suddenly everyone was training for something related to physical appearance. It was (and still is) pretty common to hear guys say:
“I am really trying to get huge arms.”
Bring on the curls in the squat rack – which is fine as long as you are using the fat grips! 🙂
When I train with people I really couldn’t care less what they look like. I am always just curious to see how they perform.
The honest truth is, everybody I have ever run across who was in amazing shape, dare I say “elite fitness,” one thing was always true – they looked like it. You can tell very often by looking at someone what they’re capable of (not always, but usually). If someone’s carrying an extra 30lb of fat around their middle they probably wont be able to bang out a good set of pull-ups. If you struggle to get out of a chair, you will probably have trouble trying to do a Turkish Get-up.
Put bluntly, when you are in great shape, you will LOOK like you are in great shape. So why bother to train to look a certain way? Just train to perform.
As Dan John says, the body is one piece. Train it as such. Train movements not muscles. Concentrate on getting stronger, more mobile, more agile and surprise, surprise you will start to look better as well.
When you train correctly and develop strength, power, speed, endurance, your body will physically adapt. Training at it’s core is nothing more than stimulus to get your body to adapt to the new demands placed on it. If you train hard, it will adapt. Just let your body do it’s thing. You will gain muscle and you will loose fat. But more importantly, along the way you will have become faster, stronger, more powerful and have good endurance to wrap it all together. Package it all together in a box made from patience and persistence and you will look in the mirror and be proud of the training you have endured, and hopefully enjoyed.
A great example is the recent Rio Olympics.
Marathon runners look like marathon runners, sprinters look like sprinters.
Weightlifters look like weightlifters & endurance cyclists look like endurance cyclists.
Tennis players look different to boxers and show jumpers look different to shot putters.
Form follows function. The training and diets these athletes have been undertaking daily for (in many cases) decades has shaped their physical form.
If you want to look like a swimmer – train like a swimmer.
If you want to look like a discus thrower – train like one.
Form Follows Function –
“The principle is that the shape of a building or object [person] should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.”
We are training for long, healthy, energetic lives here.
Looking great is just a bonus.
Yours in health, James St Pierre