The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How to Look Good on Stage

This post should be called:

Aesthetic as fuck.

While I believe that all training is beneficial to creating a good aesthetic, there are certain workouts that will promote a more aesthetic stage presence.

"I don't want to look like a muscle bound freak, Ol' Yeargain!"

For you guys who are concerned about getting "too big" and don't want to put on too much size, DONT! Unless you're looking to dedicate years of your life to lifting heavy weights, hitting all of your muscles at least twice a week, keeping your nutrition on point, your protein aggressive and not slipping every 6 months, its just not going to happen. If it does, you are a genetic exception or on some great pharmaceuticals (roids). Most men will work hard for a fantastic physique and obtain a pretty good one, that is the bitch of it.

The Three big exercises that are going to put some good size on you and make you look the best on stage are:

Pulls ups, Bench, and Squats.

"That's it? I thought it's more than that? That seems awfully simple."

That's the fuckin beauty of it. It is simple, but you try doing all three of those in one workout and you will be drained! You won't have to do much else in your workout in order to stimulate your body to grow, because you're literally taxing all of your body. If I write you a program, these are going to be your compound movements. You will come to worship and love these incredible strength and muscles builders if I'm training you, because I truly believe in its capabilities in turning you into a badass looking mother fucker. I practice what I preach, and if you look at my daily workout blog entries, you'll see at least one of these in every single one. Hard work in the right areas will get you great results.

Let us delve into The Three one by one and I'll explain why these are best for performers.

Pull Ups

The key to looking big, strong, and majestic on stage is the signature body builder v Taper. This translates to both stage and Film. Its the combination of wide shoulders and a small waist.

What exercise promotes that v taper the best? Wide grip pull ups - How wide? The wider the better. Preferably weighted. Heavily weighted. Why is this? Your lats, brah! The bigger the contrast between your shoulders and waist, the more powerful one will look. A perfect example is Chris Hemsworth as Thor. Wide shoulders and a tiny waist.

Most people will not obtain that kind of difference in their v taper because of genetics, commitment to the exercise and lack of motivation to do so, but one should train as if that is their goal, because more than likely it will give you just enough V taper to make you look strong, fit, and lean.

The other thing with pull ups is that it will work the whole of your upper back, and also develop your biceps and forearm/grip strength as well. A two for one deal as I say. However, it's very difficult to do. If you're unable to do a pull up, for one, you should use this video to get better at them, but in the mean time, hammer away at the lat pull down until you're confident with your ability to do multiple pull ups.

Erwin Schrott as Don Giovanni

Bench Press

Having a droopy chest may be good if you're trying to play Falstaff or get a good laugh out of your audience, but if you want to look like a young, athletic male, or perhaps a man who holds power, you have to have a nice thick symmetrical chest. The key to obtaining a nice, full well rounded chest is the bench press.

Bench press is the bread and butter of gym activities. You ask most bros what their favorite thing to train is and they will more than likely say chest or arms. Ask them their favorite exercise: bench press. There is a reason for it. The bench press is a powerful exercise that hits the chest, the triceps, and even activates your core (abs) and back muscles. You're literally forcing your body to grow from this big compound movement. Doing this compound lift often (twice a week) is going to yield immense results in a short amount of time if you're applying progressive overload and using good technique to prevent injury.


Squats are by far the best developer of your legs and glutes (that's your ass!) If you want to have a shapely backside, and powerful warrior like stance, you need to put a bar on your shoulders and get your ass to the grass.

Other benefits that come with doing low squats is better deep breathing, a more grounded presence, and more confidence in a lower state of elevation. That means you won't freak out anytime you have to be on the ground or kneeling down, because you know you have the strength and power to launch out of those positions. This is somewhat speculative, but also has some founding in exercises I've seen performers do to get more active, grounded power stances that are more or less extensions of the basic ass to grass squat.

Psychologically the squat will also give you more physical presence. I defy anybody to talk down to a guy that can squat over 500lbs. He will understand his power and prowess better than a dude that does curls for the girls. And THAT translates to stage if you have the acting knowledge to back it up.

Other Factors

There are lots of variables that can contribute to a persons look on stage that can and can't be learned or sculpted in the gym.

Let's talk about the cans:


The difference between a muscle head and an aesthetic muscular physique is the development (or over development of the Trapezius muscles. I like traps, I'm trying to get bigger traps. But, they do promote a certain gym rat look that could potentially be very effective for villainous characters like Bane in Batman

The reason it works well for physically aggressive villains is that thick traps often accompany an impressive and formidable physique, but also big flare traps make it look like you have the hood of a cobra. There is a reason people use hoods for villains, it creates a reptilian style of presentation that dehumanizes and makes them look like the original villain: A snake. A king cobra to be specific. Or it will give you that pit bull look that's bound to intimidate anyone. 

I'll go more into this in a different post, but if you're looking to develop some big traps for that monstrous look, you need to be doing Deadlifts (ideally conventional over sumo) Rack Pulls, and some heavy ass shrugs. 

Being Lean:

It's true that looking big on film requires muscle, but more importantly, it requires a low body fat percentage. At least 8-9%. The cuts and veins will translate to size and power, even if you're not that big. Case in point: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

This is not an ideal look for all heroes or leading mean, because frankly it comes off as a little unattractive and there is a wild aspect to it that is undeniable. This look works perfectly for Wolverine, but might have come off as a little much for Thor. 

This lean look is perfect for movies. Just think about all the jacked dudes you see in films and think about how they look in person. Movie magic, y'all. If you're on stage, you'll more than likely come off as skinny if you're not in the right costume or wearing too many clothes, or playing opposite someone that's bigger than you. That's a directing/casting problem that can often come across as poor conditioning on your part.


I suffer from this big time. Most tall guys do. I work hard on my body, but then I walk around with the biggest ugly kid posture. Mostly from all of my years of hunching over. How you present your work is what sets a professional body builder from your average bro flexing in a mirror. This is something that can only come from self observation or having a coach stay on top of you to make sure you're maintaining it. A bro that knows how to walk with the utmost confidence and display his physique expertly is Brad Pitt. His posture, presence and charisma combined with his talent and physique have literally made him the ideal for over a decade. 



Other than having surgery, you can't change certain things to make you look better on film or stage. The symmetry of your face or body can easily keep you from getting a modeling job, but might be perfect for a certain type or character in a show and ruin your chances for others. You can develop even somewhat symmetrical muscles by doing specific work, but your bone structure is what it is...unless, you know, surgery.


You can't control the environment in which you are displayed. You could work your ass off to have chiseled abs and etched striations all over your body, but if they light you poorly, that type of imagery will fall flat and make you look flat. It really sucks. Another directing problem that you get blamed for.

The Unknown

When preparing for a role or an audition, you're operating under the assumption that you're capable of obtaining the physique you're training for, however, unless you've had that look previously, you don't know and you're putting a lot of faith in your research and training coach. Or you and your trainer will work hard for you to get a result and the director will come in and say after months of work, we're gonna need you to change it.

Example: Hemsworth got so big for Thor that he could not fit into his costume without experiencing numbness in his hands because circulation was being cut off. The director said "lean out a bit" and Chris had to back track his training a bit to reach their ideal physique.

More than anything your talent is going to ring true on film and stage. If you don't have the performing skills, you're literally just going to look like a beautiful piece of furniture. However, just because you believe you are talented and others have confirmed this doesn't mean you won't be looked over because of your body. We live in a dog eat dog world and (literally) only the fit will, get cast? Again, not always true, but do yourself a favor and invest in yourself and your image and you will benefit from its returns.

If you're interested in a fitness program based around your schedule, available equipment and goals, send me a message on the Facebook page or comment below and I'll cook something up for you.

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