The ideal in bodybuilding used to be to develop the most exaggerated V-taper possible. The V-taper is essentially the structural epitome of masculinity—characterized by ultrawide shoulders and a narrow waist.
Think of the absolute best physiques of all time. They had tremendous shoulder-to-waist differentials: Steve Reeves, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sergio Oliva, Frank Zane, Lee Haney, Bob Paris, Lee Labrada. In more recent years, due to the increased standards of leg development that had their catalyst in the late ’70s thanks to one Tom Platz, another letter has supplanted the V-taper: the X-frame.
The X-frame is really just the V-taper with larger quads and hams. Some of the men competing today with the craziest X-frames are Toney Freeman—whose nickname is in fact the X-Man—Dennis Wolf and Cedric McMillan, the ’09 NPC National champ. When I spoke with Cedric as he was preparing for his second pro season, though, he adamantly declared that he doesn’t strive for an X-frame but rather what he calls a Y-frame.
“I don’t want my legs to be that huge,” he said. “Personally, I prefer the look Arnold had, with good thigh mass but not extreme—wide shoulders and a small midsection—with nice lines and a look that’s still athletic and functional.”
Cedric isn’t the only one who feels the old-school look was more aesthetically pleasing. Why else would the bodybuilding magazines continue to run so many covers and photo features of Arnold—a man who hasn’t competed in more than three decades—when those same covers and features could just as easily be given to today’s pros with their superior overall mass and leg development that totally eclipses that of anyone from the “Pumping Iron” era?
That raises the question of whether it’s possible to return to the more classical ideals once the genie of freaky mass has been let out of the bottle.
“All I can do is build the best version of the Y-frame physique I can, and let the judges and the fans decide if they like it or not,” Cedric says.
Could McMillan be the one to incite change? In the end, we the fans are the ultimate barometer of what types of physiques are considered best. We’ve been conditioned for the past 20-plus years to accept ever larger and freakier bodies, but that doesn’t mean the trend can’t be reversed. All it takes for standards to shift is one man to show us what’s possible, and Cedric could be the one to set those wheels in motion—with wheels that are impressive but not necessarily tree trunks.
Editor’s note: Ron Harris is the author of Real Bodybuilding—Muscle Truth from 25 Years in the Trenches, available at www.RonHarrisMuscle.com.