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Physique Critique

“Wow, dude, you look freakin’ perfect!” Are those the words every bodybuilder longs to hear about his physique? On the surface, gushing accolades may seem to be the kindest compliment, but the reality is that they’re more often the death knell for further improvement. Think about it. If you’re already perfect, why bother trying to get any better? 

If you go to bodybuilding contests and see someone looking exactly the same as he did the last time you saw him, and the time before that, you can be damned sure he’s surrounded by nothing but yes men. They can be gym buddies, friends, family members or even a well-meaning significant other. Either they don’t have any eye for physiques and he really does look awesome to them, or they’re delicately trying not to hurt the guy’s feelings. 

I get a lot of requests from bodybuilders to evaluate their physiques, typically online via photos. I always stress that I’ll do so only if they’re willing to hear blunt honesty. They won’t be told what they want to hear but instead what they need to hear—or more accurately, what they need to work on if they genuinely want to improve. It can be anything from a specific area, such as needing more side delts or back thickness, to a more general issue like needing more overall mass or to keep bodyfat lower (a lot of guys take the off-season thing way too far, edging near obesity). 

I also always make sincere compliments. I might say, “Your quads have great size and sweep to them, but the hams and calves really need to come up.” Or, “You have crazy shoulders, which makes your arms look smaller than they really are; that’s why you need to take it easy on shoulders and really blast your arms.” 

Most take my critique to heart and appreciate my honesty. There are always a few who get defensive and tell me to shove it where the sun don’t shine, even though they are the ones that came to me for an evaluation. I know that those who listen and get to work on their weak points will have better physiques to show for it eventually. 

I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to get excellent critiques from experts like John Parrillo, Dante Trudel, Hany Rambod—even Dr. Ellington Darden back in the very beginning. Each pointed out something I needed to focus on that I was either unaware of or in denial about, and denial is far more common than you might imagine. It’s almost impossible for any of us to look in the mirror and objectively assess what we see. There’s simply too much emotion—and too many issues of self-esteem and pride—involved. 

That’s why I implore all of you to seek opinions from those who know how to look at a physique. Those who have competed successfully for many years are good candidates, as are bodybuilding judges. The things they notice could very well be the key to bringing your body closer to its ultimate potential. IM

—Ron Harris

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