Build The Perfect Body: A Pocket Guide For Men

Steve Shaw
Written By: Steve Shaw
November 27th, 2013
Updated: June 13th, 2020
166.2K Reads
This reference guide provides quick answers on how to build the physique of your dreams. Learn how to build muscle, lost fat, get in shape and improve your health.

This article is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to body recomposition, but rather a launching point for those of you looking to make changes. Before we get started, please note that if you have any questions you can post them in the comments section below.

Overview of the Perfect Body

To build a perfect body you will need to:

  1. Build muscle. The addition of muscle mass will improve your appearance, athletic performance, sexual attractiveness and confidence.
  2. Lose fat. Fat loss will help improve muscular definition, make you look more fit, trim and sexy, and help with gym and athletic performance.
  3. Get in shape. Improving your cardiovascular health will help with energy, endurance, athletic performance and work to reduce blood pressure, risk of diabetes, and more.
  4. Improve health. By minimizing your bad habits, such as smoking, heavy drinking, lack of exercise and bad diet, you will sleep better, feel better and live longer.

A perfect body is one that not only looks good, but also is healthy and in shape. You should be able to handle your own inside the gym and out. What good is it to look amazing if you don't have the stamina and health to go on a long hike, run a mile, play a sport or perform with exhilarating endurance in the bedroom.

Perfect Body

How to Build Muscle

The muscle building process is not as complicated as it's made out to be. Here are the basics that will help you get on track and maximizing your progress. Understand that they are not "hard rules", but rather quality suggestions that will work for most men.

  • Be consistent. Stop missing workouts. Consistency is key. Limit the amount of workouts you miss each year to a small handful.
  • Be patient. Gains take years, not weeks. It doesn't get any more real than this. Train for the long haul. All good things take time.
  • Get strong. You can't build muscle without challenging your body. While there is no need to use very low rep sets, or to test your max, you do need to get a lot stronger than you are now.
  • Rely on compound movements. Compound exercises should be the cornerstone of every workout. Use a maximum of 2-3 per training day.
  • Use a quality lift order. Explosive lifts, such as cleans, should come first. Next you want to tackle your heavy compound movements. Round out workouts with machines, cables and bodyweight movements.
  • Maximize sets. Push every set for as many reps as possible, stopping each set when you feel like you might fail on the next rep. This will maximize sets, workouts and progress.
  • Use reasonable rep ranges. For compound movements it is best to work within the 5-12 rep range. Isolation movements, machine exercises and legs can be worked higher, up to 15-20 reps per set.
  • Balance body part training. Use 9 to 15 sets per week for major muscle groups such as back, shoulders, chest and quads. Use 6 to 9 sets per week for minor muscle groups such as biceps, triceps, calves, abs, and hamstrings.
  • Train 3-4 days per week. This is really all you need. Some men buy into the belief that more is better, but they usually make gains despite adding in extra days, and not because of it. Train hard, rest and grow.
  • Limit workouts to 60-75 minutes per day. If you can't get it done within this time frame, you have no business training longer. 20-25 sets maximum per day should do the trick.
  • Eat to build. Solid training must be backed with plenty of good nutrition. We will get into specifics in the next section.
Muscle Building Nutrition

Now that you have your training squared away, it's time to load up the dinner plate. The following recommendations will help you pack on lean muscle mass.

  • Eat your protein. Men need to aim for a minimum of 150 grams of protein per day. 180-220 grams per day is a good intake average to shoot for.
  • Adjust your calories. During your first year of lifting aim to gain 1.5 to 2 pounds per month. Adjust your calories as needed. During year 2 aim to gain one pound per month.
  • Healthy fats for health. Healthy fats are essential for good health. Make sure that 25 to 35% of your daily calories come from healthy fats.
  • Carbs for energy. Now that you know how many calories, fats and grams of protein to eat per day, fill in the remaining calories with quality carbohydrate sources.
  • Vary your foods. When it comes to fruits, veggies, carb and protein foods, try to eat several different types of each during the week.
  • Use the 80% rule. Try to eat at least 80% of your calories from clean, healthy foods. It's ok to save a small portion of calories each day for an unhealthy snack, junk food, fast food or soda.
  • Supplementation. Supplements like whey protein, fish oil and a multivitamin can help you cover your nutritional bases and reach your daily intake goals.

Perfect Body

How to Lose Fat

If you are starting lean, it is recommended that you spend several years building muscle before doing a cutting diet. If you are beginning your journey with extra fat, spend some time on a cutting diet first before moving on to a slow, lean bulk.

In both cases, when you are on a fat loss diet, you will want to continue to train in the same manner as you did during your bulk.

  • Step 1 - Play with your calories over a 2-3 week period until you find that you are neither gaining or losing weight.
  • Step 2 - Subtract 300 daily calories from this intake level and monitor weight loss for 2 weeks. Your goal is to lose 1.5 to 2 pounds per week. This will allow you to maximize retention of your current muscle mass while dropping fat.
  • Step 3 - If you are losing weight too quickly, or not quickly enough, make a calorie adjustment by plus/minus 300. Monitor your weight loss for another 2 weeks and make adjustments as needed.
  • Step 4 - After you have finished dialing in your diet, add in 3-4 cardio sessions per week of 20-30 minutes each.
  • Step 5 - If you reach a plateau and stop losing weight over a 2 week period, drop your calories by an additional 200 and monitor your weight loss for 2 weeks.
  • Step 6 - If your plateau is unchanged after dropping your calories, either add in 1-2 more cardio sessions per week, or bump existing cardio sessions to 30-40 minutes per workout.
  • Step 7 - Once your fat loss diet is completely, slowly add in 200 calories per day, each week, until you reach maintenance level (are neither gaining or losing weight).

Get in Shape

To improve your overall conditioning levels, and to feel like you have more daily energy and are able to conquer most physically demanding chores, you must add in some form of cardio. Here are the major forms of cardio and non-resistance training physical activity:

  • Steady state cardio. This form of cardio involves a steady, consistent pace from start to finish without breaks. Examples include walking on the treadmill, swimming, hiking, stairmaster, biking, etc. Steady state cardio is typically low impact and easier on the joints. 
  • Interval training. Interval training typically involves short (30-60 second), intense bursts of activity followed by a period of low intensity recovery. Examples include sprinting, maximum speed stairmaster followed by steady state recovery periods, etc. Interval training involves higher impact periods which can be more challenging for heavier individuals or those with knee, ankle or hip issues.
  • Playing sports. Sports like basketball, running, wrestling and soccer are good for building up your conditioning and endurance levels. Activities like tennis, golfing and volleyball are great for getting into shape, but don't offer the same upper level conditioning benefits of sports that involve a lot of running.

A perfect body must be able to handle long periods of low intensity exercise, such as hiking and swimming, as well as extended periods of more intense cardio such as 2-3 mile runs and/or basketball and soccer types of games.

To get into peak shape, it is recommended that you:

  1. Train for quality endurance and conditioning by running or playing a sport each week.
  2. Spend time once every week or two performing an extended form of low intensity exercise such as a hike or long bike ride.

If you are overweight or out of shape, start slow. Remember that this is a new lifestyle and you have plenty of time to progress from walking to running to playing a sport.

Do what you can. Find activities you enjoy and try to improve your performance each week.

Perfect Body

Improve Your Health

To improve your health you must strive to minimize bad habits. No one can be perfect, and a life without some fun is, fun. 

With that said, the follow list contains bad habits that are known to impair your health over the long term. Take whatever steps you can to get each of these habits under control.

  • Poor sleep. Impairs focus, mood, judgment, sexual drive, memory and perception. Increases risk for numerous diseases, health issues and injuries.
  • Smoking. Decreased lung capacity, lung cancer, reduced physical endurance, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption. Can lead to anemia, cirrhosis of the liver, cardiovascular disease, dimentia, depression, high blood pressure and more.
  • Too much inactivity. Increases your risk for stroke and heart attack.
  • Hostility. Excessive anger can lead to digestive issues, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
  • Depression. Untreated depression can impact health in a number of ways, including increased risk for cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease,
  • Binge eating. Can lead to increased blood pressure, bad cholesterol levels, type II diabetes and heart disease.
  • Junk food junkie. Overcomsumption of junk and processed foods is one of the worst habits you can have. Eating junk food can reduce energy levels, increase risk for a myriad of diseases, increase blood pressure, increase likelihood of type II diabetes and much more.
Posted on: Tue, 07/28/2020 - 05:43

I need 6 days workout plan .2 muscle per day..for skinny guy

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 07/28/2020 - 11:05

Hey Nikethan

There are TONS of great workouts on our site to help pack on muscle. Here's a great one that I recommend.

Posted on: Sun, 12/01/2013 - 18:33

Steve all your articles are great and I really enjoy soaking in the knowledge. However I really want to ask you to please do a write up on being skinny fat. Not like the people I see on message boards that are skinny with an inch to lose on thier stomachs. I mean truly skinny fat... Average height, skinny legs and arms, but with an actual gut and man boobs. You know he type. with a shirt on they look kinda Fit. but once the shirt comes off they look like an old man who used to work out.It's hard to bulk or cut. Muscle comes hard and fat come easy.... Muscle is also lost easy and fat gained easily. What is the secret formula to cure ones self of the dreaded skinny fat?

May Palmer
Posted on: Sun, 12/01/2013 - 15:01

Hi Steve! Though I am a woman of 50 years old, I so enjoy reading your articles at Muscle & Strength as I gain so much knowledge being a 'newbie' to the strength training realm. Quite frankly, there isn't much here that wouldn't also apply to women-so excuse me if I steal some of the items on your list! Steve, YOU RAWK and are a wonderful and generous benefactor to the Strength Community!! I'm so glad I discovered you! Keep up the inspiring articles!

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 15:31

Excellent article as always, Steve, thank you! Good, solid advice. Could I trouble you for your opinion on my training routine please?


Squats - 1x20
Decline Bench Press - 3x15
Seated cable rows - 3x15
Toe Press - 3x15
Lateral Raises - 3x15
Cable Pushdowns - 3x15
Dumbell Curls - 3x15


Deadlifts - 3x5
Incline Dumbell Press - 3x10
Leg Press - 3x10
Seated Calf Raises - 3x10
Arnold Press - 3x10
Preacher Curls - 3x10
Skullcrushers - 3x10


Squats - 3x5
Flat Bench Press - 3x5
Wide-Grip Pull-ups - 3x10
Standing Calf Raises - 3x8
Standing Military Press - 3x5
Barbell Curls - 3x8
Weighted Dips - 3x8

Thanks Steve, I appreciate your time!!

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 03:46

"exhilarating endurance" eh stevey?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 12/01/2013 - 02:30

Who doesn't want that?

Posted on: Sun, 12/01/2013 - 11:01

Steve can you point us out to a workout program that suits this article?

Thank you for your words and valuable advices Steve!

Posted on: Thu, 11/28/2013 - 04:44

Excellent Steve, yet another quality article. I'm on week 2 of a 12 week plan, every one the above points seems to be falling in to place most definitely.