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The Ultimate Weights-Free Workout

Forget the gym—use these body-weight exercises to get into the shape of your life.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

It may trouble you to learn that the gym is not the best place to get the ideal male body. Most health clubs are based around the idea that you want to target and isolate individual muscles for enlargement. If an exercise puts you on a machine, chair, or bench, it probably isolates muscle. If a workout promises bigger biceps or pecs, it probably isolates muscle. Muscles were designed to work together in groups. Bodies that are built up by isolating muscles look asymmetrical and clumsy.

Overly defined six-pack abs, for instance, help us do only a meaningless skill—flex our abdomen. Which is why Michelangelo's David, though he has a very lean waist, has only a partial six-pack. The same goes for the "canon of proportions," as embodied in the famed Leonardo da Vinci drawing known as Vitruvian Man.

The job of a torso is to transmit the so-called hoop forces needed to hold your body rigid in a pull-up, push-up, or handstand—either for exercise or applied in real-world situations. A torso is a thing of male beauty, and it has nothing to do with the questionable business of crunches or sit-ups or ab rollers. Abs, of course, do have a way of closing the deal in the bedroom, and that's no small thing.

"Gym-styled exercise cannot produce naturally elegant physiques," says Frenchman Erwan Le Corre, the founder of MovNat, a back-to-nature-style fitness movement. "To me the aesthetic appeal of a body is not apparent when it poses, but when it moves."

"You can tell the difference between a guy that has done only gym exercise and someone who has worked on his feet," says Mark Lauren, author of You Are Your Own Gym. "If one guy is a rugby player and the other has been going to the gym doing cardio and isolation movements, the athlete doesn't just look strong, he is strong." Not only does a naturally derived physique help you when you use your body—on the playing field, on the dance floor, in bed—it remains intuitively desirable.

"We know in general that people are more attractive when their bodies look natural," says Gordon Patzer, author of Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined. "We have this weird thing where we want people to look very attractive in their body . . . without having sat in the gym and done one exercise over and over to build up one particular part." Not weird at all.

BRACING MOVES

Easy: Planks on elbows.
Keep your back straight and your head down (don't let your lower back dip). Hold for 60 seconds.

Styling by Paul Avarali. Grooming by Anna Bernabe for Exclusive Artists. Location: Chelsea Piers Sports Complex, New York City. Sweatpants by Champion. Underwear by 2xist. Sneakers and socks by Nike.
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