Beyond Built: Training Your Pivot Points for Total Body Re-Design

by Vince Andrich

I have a true love for “classic bodybuilding,” a term that for me, describes the practice of consciously developing a body with the “correct” combination of size, shape and proportions. That said, the goals I have for my own body are usually shunned by the “bigger is better” fans of bodybuilding, and many devoted trainees. Of course, it’s not my place to pass judgment on what your bodybuilding goals should, or shouldn’t be, as this is most definitely a personal choice.

Constant Body Improvement: Building a Balanced, Proportionate Physique

All arguments aside, in the early days of physical culture, the original premise that drove men (and women) to build their body, was “constant physique improvement,” and the hallmark of this concept is the development of each muscle so it is pleasing to the eye and in proportion to the other muscles. This concept differs from bodybuilding to increase each muscle to its maximum, and certainly not the same as lifting weights solely for increasing strength. I’ve always believed that it is a much more creative process to develop an inspiring, beautiful and shapely physique than it is to build your body for pure mass and size. For me, it’s also more rewarding, because we all get a sense of satisfaction when our physiques attract positive attention. It’s my guess that for you, like many readers of this blog, that concept aligns with your primary physique goal: to look athletic and with a nice blend of size, shape and definition.

Bodybuilding and Genetics

After accounting for the role of genetics, a body assessment helps you identify specific muscles that need more (or less) development. In addition, the concept of “spot building” is essential to creating a bodybuilding program that focuses on exercises that meet YOUR needs. The result is a body that goes beyond “built,” and exemplifies the art of bodybuilding.

Most people blame the overall look of their physique on genetics, which is undoubtedly a factor— but not the only one. I have seen athletes ruin an otherwise “great” body by not paying attention to how much muscle they’re adding in the wrong places. Year after year, these athletes perform exercises that do nothing to correct imperfections in their bone structure or musculature, and, in some cases, wind up with a bigger version of a body that is not appealing. Conversely, I’ve seen athletes with seemingly “bad” genetics create a balanced, well-shaped body that looks better than 95% of the population.

I won’t lie to you –– structural weaknesses cannot be radically altered or totally hidden. But they can be minimized. To prove my point, the next time you’re in the gym, take a look around. Do you notice any people who seem to be working on their weaknesses? Probably not. On the other hand, we’ve all seen guys with BIG arms and “less than adequate” thigh development. If you study them, you’ll notice they are almost always obsessed with training their arms, yet seem to put much less effort into developing their thighs. This is a somewhat natural occurrence because people generally tend to pay attention to what is already getting them attention. The trouble is, many people over do it.

And what are the women with big thighs usually obsessed with? Yep, you guessed it –– their thighs! The reality is women often fall for the myth that says: to get smaller thighs, you need to work them more often. Meanwhile, men usually beat their best body parts into oblivion and neglect the “total package,” in effect, ruining the shape their parents granted them. But, there’s more to creating a stunning physique than simply understanding how to prioritize your body-part training.

To accomplish this, you’ll need to look at your body in a completely different way. There are several books and articles that contain reference charts that score the “ideal” physique in inches. I personally prefer to use the mirror, since people don’t “see measurements”, they see your body as the sum total of its parts, as you would see a painting or piece of art.

Training Your Pivot Points

The concept of training to enhance your “pivot points” is not mine, but rather from the mind of bodybuilding genius Vince Gironda. I was lucky enough to have trained with Vince at his gym (Vince’s Gym) many times, and all I can say is that I learned more from him than any other trainer, period! I have added a few extra body sections to his original Pivot Point philosophy over the years. I believe once you understand how it works, you’ll have a training perspective that will save you several years of trial and error. Simply put, your “pivot points” consist of those “stunning” sections of individual body parts strategically located where they “pivot” the eye. Normally, “pivot points” are far out from the center or belly of the muscle and, when developed, impart a beauty to the physique that simple mass alone cannot bring about.

Supposedly, years of “biological” programming has left an imprint in our DNA that automatically sends signals in response to certain body shapes. We gaze in admiration when our eyes behold a physique that, with respect to today’s most massive bodybuilders, is actually small, yet boasts these well-developed muscle groups: upper pectorals (near the clavicles), the high portion of the lats, lower biceps and brachioradialis, lower calves and the long (outer) head of the triceps. Even bodybuilders twice the size may not necessarily have the “visual impact” of one who precisely develops his “pivot points.”

What Is Ideal?

Generally speaking, an ideal male build would encompass wide shoulders square pectorals, a small waist, and a lower body that flows into sweeping thighs and prominent calves. The level of muscularity is “pleasing,” not extreme, which is the widely accepted look of a conditioned athlete. This build is similar to the warrior archetype Achilles, played by Brad Pitt in Troy, and the Spartans led by King Leonidas (actor Gerard Butler) in the epic movie “300.” When people look at a properly trained physique, most of what they see is an illusion. What I mean is that human sight and the limbic system work in concert to “play back” the images they receive. For example, a man might not have a 30-inch waist; yet, if the lateral head of his deltoids (side delts) are fully developed, the illusion is that his waist is much smaller. In essence, with wide shoulders, the waist is visually reduced. Another man’s full arm measurement may not be more the 17 inches; yet, if the outer strand of his triceps and brachioradialis muscle under the biceps are well developed, his arms will appear much bigger.

The reality is that no one has perfect genetics; so, the goal is to create the illusion that your physique has fewer flaws and more striking attributes. This is achieved with carefully thought-out training strategies, based upon the following “pivot points.” Remember, these are in no particular order. It is up to you to assess your body, locate the areas on your physique that need the most work, and focus your efforts there.

Side and Rear Deltoids — Wide shoulders require well-developed side and rear deltoids. Attention to these two body parts not only contributes to making your waist and hips look smaller, but makes your upper back distinctly more prominent, as well.

Upper Pecs — A “big chest” without well-developed upper pecs, leaves the eyes of viewers with a disappointing “droopy” image. The more developed your chest is near the clavicles, the better your entire chest appears.

High and Mid Lats — Well developed lats, right under the pits of your arms, that flow into a heart shape not only make you look wider, but also make your entire waist area pleasing to the eye. Be careful training this area. Too much lat development near your waist makes your trunk look shorter, resulting in a “bunched-up look.”

Lower Biceps — A small arm only looks smaller with a big space (or gap) between your elbow and where the biceps mass begins. Lower biceps are a must have for good-looking arms that just hang impressively without flexing.

Long Head of the Triceps — Also known as the “outer head,” the long head of the triceps, when well developed, appears to run all the way down to your el-bow. Another “must” for arms that hang remarkably.

Forearms — Since forearms are often in full display, they are obvious eye-catchers when they are well developed.

Vastus Internus — Commonly referred to as the “tear drop,” the vastus internus is the muscle of the lower, inner thigh. When flexed, the shape itself is beautiful. When well developed, it makes an otherwise stringy thigh appear balanced when viewed from the front.

Vastus Lateralis — The muscles of the outer thighs are often called “thigh rods” and, when well developed, the vastus lateralis create a visually dramatic sweep on the outer quads.

Lower Calves — This body part requires extreme concentration for simple development. To build a set of ideal, “diamond-shaped” calves, peak contractions with moderate resistance is essential.

Hamstrings — The “rear leg biceps” complete your physique from the back-side. Leave your ego at the door when training the hamstrings; peak contractions bring this area to life.

If you’re still with me, then the realization that bodybuilding is not about trying to get as big as you can, but about trying to build a visually striking body, you’re on the right track. Constant evaluation of how your physique appears helps you to avoid building muscle mindlessly. The process takes thought regarding which exercises you do, why you do them, and where you’re building muscle.

To take full control of your development, the following “general rules” must also be in play.
• Always emphasize your slowest-growing and/or least-developed muscles in your training more than your fastest-growing and/or best-developed muscles.
• Give your weak points priority in your workouts, training them first when your energy, strength and enthusiasm are highest.
• Do more total sets and train your weak points more frequently.
• In order to create a better shape and improve proportions, sometimes it might be necessary to hold back gains in some faster-growing or overdeveloped muscles to allow the slower-growing or less developed muscles to “catch up.”
• Emphasize the origins and insertions of the muscles when you train, not just the central belly of the muscle. Basic exercises tend to develop just the belly of a muscle. This is important for building mass, but too much mass in the belly gives a muscle a shortened, “bunched-up look.”
• For enhanced shape, use isolation exercises to develop the origins and insertions.


Paying attention to every detail of your physique and training accordingly allows you to create an illusion through the art of bodybuilding. Your instinctual eye (the one we all possess) will alert you as to when aspects of your physique appear to be getting out of proportion or moving beyond the realm of the “naturally beautiful” into the realm of the artificial and “unappealing”. First, identify your personal body “flaws.” Then we can work together to disguise or minimize them, while improving on your muscular shape and over-coming structural weaknesses to attain the body you really want. Look for specialization techniques for training your pivot points in upcoming blog posts.

© 2011 Vince Andrich Real BodyBuilding All Rights Reserved.