"PSST -- want to save $160,000? Don't send your son to college; slip him this book instead. It shoehorns an entire liberal arts education into a cultural history of mirrors that touches on architecture, anthropology, sex, painting, myth, religion, math, science, magic, astronomy, literature, business, espionage and warfare, and travels from the Big Bang to the rise and fall of the Greek and Roman Empires, the waxing and waning of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the discovery of the New World and, at last, space: the final frontier. Anyone who masters the contents of Mirror Mirror need never fear Trivial Pursuit again."
-- Liesl Schillinger, New York Times Book Review, Aug. 10, 2003
"Breezy and conversational, with an aptitude for narrative and an ear for legend."
-- The Boston Globe.
[Note: These same ideas and guidelines can, of course, also be applied to equalizing a strength problem or correcting a mobility issue when certain movements are preferred to the point of creating imbalance.]
When you finish a workout you invariably make a beeline to a mirror, wanting to get a look at those pumped-up lumps. This is but natural for any enthusiastic bodybuilder. But did you ever stop to think that your first view of yourself draws your eyes to your favorite muscles? And I'm willing to bet that's your flexed arms! Next comes that general all-over inspection. Then you don't just stand there viewing your reflection in a sloppy posture. You stand erect and without a doubt accentuate your favorite parts by placing your arms, or chest, in the best possible positions.
Of course, you have some sort of overhead lighting. You wouldn't care to study your body if a light were back of you or at an extreme side, as such would prove disappointing to the vision of yourself.
Next comes your side view reflecting yourself. Your chest is raised and your shoulders drawn backwards to reveal a higher pectoral effect as well as greater chest depth. And your arm is slightly flattened against your lat. You know blamed well that you do these things. Who doesn't do them? Bodybuilders are human beings even though they exist in a different realm from other inhabitants upon this old mud ball.
Now then, it is all well and good to inspect yourself in this manner. You deserve to study the results of your training efforts. But do you honestly allow your eyes to linger upon your defects? Surely there are a couple of places where you could stand a little improvement. There must be at least one section not as large as you wish you had it; yet it gives you the heebie-jeebies to let your eyes devour the unpleasant sight. However, if you consider yourself perfect, possess that Narcissus complex and own no flaws, then for Pete's sake stop reading right here and turn the page as you say to yourself, "Phooey to that guy (meaning this old slob), what does he know about muscles or proportion?" You can then go to sleep peacefully tonight with your left hand on your right biceps and awaken in the ayem with your right hand clutching your throat. Duhh-uhh!
But what I am driving at is this: Instead of admiration when when confronting a mirror, look for faults. These flaws are those unwanted things that too often only other eyes can detect. So study your proportions, become self-critical with your contours, muscle shape, anatomical harmony of all the muscles. Inspect your biceps, for example, to learn if one bicep might be a trifle larger than the other. Or check to see if one pectoral lacks the thickness of the other. Also study your legs to learn if they are matching your upper body sections as to shape and size, and if your lower legs are dwarfed by your upper legs. It would be far better to stand relaxed when studying your whole body for proportion as that would give you the better over-all appearance as others see you most of the time.
Most bodybuilders enjoy working the arms. Strong arms make one feel stronger it is true and yet the one with strong legs and a powerful back is really a stronger person in general. However, I will not be against the enthusiasm for getting the arms as large as possible, but if these arms of yours do become too large in proportion to your deltoids, pectorals, neck, thighs or calves, you then need plenty of corrective training.
This corrective exercising means that you must (and that word MUST is essential) devote more and more attention to those parts which need enlarging and strengthening even to the extent of transferring your training energy from the arms, or any other favorite muscle, to the sections that are below their proper size in order to attain a well-proportioned physique.
Super-enthusiasm should not rule your common sense. It is grand to feel elated over your results and you deserve praise for these achievements, yet you would graduate to greater accomplishments if you went after a better body than the one you now possess. You should own those smooth harmonious curves [and movements] from head to feet, each of which blends with its attachment near, or under, the next muscle and also be of proportionate size. If one muscle stands out in an admirable lump and the next connecting muscle lacks proper shape, right there you will find your defect which could be rectified by special attention to the inferior part. Makes sense, doesn't it?
Doczi's book is an excellent introduction to the study of proportions and is also a beautiful, poetic expression of the harmony of the universe.
Okay then, all right, it's gonna be okay and she's fine . . . another serious fault most bodybuilders have when viewing their muscles before a mirror is to always assume their best posture, or else they distort themselves somewhat in order to make a certain section appear larger.
Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself -
They spread their lats, partly bend their arms, hunch their traps and neck by bending the head backwards a bit, also stand with their toes outward and with slightly bent knees in order to secure more thigh curve. That's all right for personal gratification but you can't go through life that way all the time. Others will see you when your forced efforts are temporarily forgotten and you become your natural relaxed self. And that will make you a different individual from the guy in the mirror.
Let me recommend that you, yourself, become your own worst critic. Pick yourself apart. Look for defects instead of physical virtues and do this for the next few months. You would then form the habit of giving added attention to a muscle or lift that needs work in order to better balance with the whole, and thereby eventually attain a better proportioned, more efficient physique.
This business of bodybuilding is like a fellow who gets a new suit of clothes made to order. He enters his tailor's shop, gets measured or fitted, and all the while he stands erect with his waist drawn inward and his chest raised. Then, when the suit is finished and he wears it, he forgets to always straighten up and so the blamed suit doesn't fit most of the time, but seems a bit wrinkled and saggy. That also applies to bodybuilders who gaze into their mirrors and behold themselves in temporary admiration. And if I may split hairs, let me ask - do you, or does anyone, ever look in a mirror and frown? All look pleasant unless it happens to be a guy who tries to squeeze a pimple at the side of his cheek. Yet he is then looking at the pimple and not his entire face.
The eyes of others see us such as we, ourselves, cannot. The camera also reveals our defects which are sometimes discouraging. We can, however, strive to always better ourselves in every way. This may take time but any time devoted to improvement is not wasted. Each day invites us to have a fresh begining and to forget yesterday's errors.
Any serious retrospection will reveal that the past has been saturated with blunders. No one has ever escaped them. Trial and error seem to be linked with every struggle. Everyone makes mistakes. People make poor investments; they but things not needed; even purchase wrong articles; they frequently journey along wrong roads; select the wrong company; and even marry the wrong person. These things constitute experience. And if we desire to progress and make the most of ourselves we can climb out of blunders and start afresh like the mythological phoenix that arose from its own ashes. And such applies to our bodies. We eat improperly sometimes; think wrongly; and often exercise the wrong way. Yet we can climb and be led by the light of others who have blazed the trails before us.
No musculature is too good for a bodybuilder. He strives and struggles through discouraging months and sometimes a year or more in order to secure a little more strength and a little more muscle than many of the other fellows have. All of them want muscles in a hurry. Larger and larger arms? Yes! Bigger chests? Also yes! But no one should let his super-enthusiasm run away with him. If he does and neglects the attention needed for symmetry, he will, sad to say, develop a physique of disconnected muscles. There are many such builds. And all because of not training the correct way and also by paying too much attention to one set or one special muscle at the expense of the rest of the body. A fellow can roll up his sleeve and show a huge arm and never receive plaudits, but if his legs need more shape, or his abdominals more definition, of his traps or neck better shape, the underdeveloped parts will distract from that big arm.
"In writing Symmetry I discovered its broader meaning. I used to think symmetry as it applied to the human body simply meant your left side matches your right. It does although not exactly and this is called bilateral symmetry, same on each side. I disagreed how judges named round one the "symmetry" round. It was about more than just seeing if the left side matched the right, they were looking for something beyond that, it was more than a match game.They were looking for balance, equal development of all bodyparts, overall impressiveness, fluid lines. No one area standing out overshadowing all others, not unbalanced development, not freaky but astounding in development, all areas in proper size ratios so as to give the impression of balance aesthetics, beauty. I call this bodybuilding symmetry.
I discovered there were different kinds of symmetry beyond bilateral and bodybuilding symmetry. There was perfect symmetry, like a sphere which looks the same from every angle. There's the quantum mechanics postulate of super symmetry meaning there's an exact match for everything that exists somewhere out there in the vastness of the universe(s). It's really far out. There's time symmetry which I found fascinating. And most importantly is achieving in one's lifetime internal/external symmetry through the process of mirroring."
Perfecting a physique is a struggle. In fact all life is a struggle between opposites. It constitutes also the exchange of one pain for another. Yet for the unconquerable all things obtained are sweet and well worth the while. The search for success is often a wearisome climb but when the goal has been reached it is like standing tiptoe on a mountain top with arms outstretched in thankfulness.