College bodybuilder tips: How to compare yourself to other people

Dear K***,

There are a lot of people who will tell you that you shouldn’t compare yourself to other people. Well, that’s a load of bullshit. What matters is making sure you compare yourself to the right people, in the right way.

I’ve always thought that people who say “Oh, you should never compare yourself to other people!” were kind of like people who think that abstinence-only  education stops people from having sex. It doesn’t work. All it does is stop people from talking about how to do it safely. Well, the same thing is true of comparing yourself to other people.  Most people are going to do it, whether people tell them that they should or not. I know you are going to do it, whether I tell you to or not. So the best thing I can do is arm you, psychologically, to let you know how to do it without completely destroying your self-esteem or driving yourself crazy.

The general rule is to compare yourself to people who are roughly similar to you, but who you see as being a little farther along or a little “better” in one way or another. Don’t compare yourself to someone who has a completely different “look” or physiology. But to illustrate that general rule, I’ve got some very specific examples for you.

Point 1: think about how long you’ve been working out.

Anton Antipov: 2002 and 2012I know you’ve brought up Anton Antipov as someone you’d like to look like, body-wise. I actually think he’s a reasonable role-model for you, considering your age and your body-type. But you also have to keep in mind that you’ve been working out for a little over a year, and he’s been working out for more than 10 years.

Compare yourself to where he was at when he had only been working out a year, and you actually look pretty similar to him. If you compare yourself to what he looks like now, you just have to remember: that’s a long-term goal. Feel free to think to yourself: “I want to look like that in 10 years.” But you can’t “worry” about the fact that you don’t look like that yet.

Point 2: Think about how tall you are

Abel AlbonettiYou compare yourself to Abel Albonetti and say, “Wow, look at how rounded his shoulders are!” or “Look at how massive his chest looks!”

That’s all fine and good, but he’s also 5’9″.

You are 6’2″, and that kind of build looks very different on a taller person. Just because of physiology. Just because of physics: it has to look different. He has shorter limbs, so it is easier for his muscles to look “rounded” because the major axis of the ellipse is shorter (sorry to get all geometry-geek on you).  His frame is smaller so it’s easier to maintain a combination of a smaller waist with a bulkier upper body: with taller people, it is naturally much harder to have as much of a V-shape than it is for shorter people. So simple physics and geometry say that you won’t ever get exactly the same shape as him.

Incidentally, just remember that if you were standing next to him, you would not feel as intimidated by him as you feel just looking at his pictures. He’s got a great body, but you are almost half a foot taller than him. That may be neither here nor there to you, but it’s something to think about.

Also, think about what it means in practical terms to think of him as a role model for your body: He is 5’9″ and about 180 pounds. If you had those same proportions, you would have to be about 240 pounds.

So this becomes a serious question: do you want to weigh 240 pounds? Do you want to eat the amount of food each day that it takes to maintain 240 pounds? Maybe you do, but maybe you don’t. It might be worthwhile for you to specifically seek out role-models who are closer to your own height.

Point 3: Look at the whole person.

You can’t build a body like a ransom note: cutting out a chest from one place and abs from another place and legs from another. People have an overall look to their body, and usually the way one part of a person’s body looks is affected by their overall structure.  If you want to have a football-player’s upper body, you’re probably not going to be able to have a dainty 29″-30″ waist. That’s just not a combination that is–to use an engineering term–structurally sound.

So it does you no good to flit around from model to model, saying, “I want that person’s abs, but I want  that other person’s chest, and this other person’s arms!” Bodies don’t work like that. So when you pick someone to compare yourself to, look at the whole person. Evaluate the whole person. If nothing else, it might stop yourself from driving yourself crazy, because you can constantly remind yourself: “That person doesn’t have a perfect body, he just has perfect shoulders” (for example).

Then, look in the mirror, and remind yourself that even if you feel like you have a “long way to go” overall, there are individual body parts that you are very proud of, as well. Never forget that the guy that you look at and think “I’m jealous of his chest” could easily be looking back at your and thinking, “I’m jealous of his shoulders.” Never allow your self-esteem for be focused only on the single body-part that you think you need to work the most on.

That’s it for now. Keep up the good workouts, and talk to you soon!



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