The Magic of Symmetry

A classic guide to achieving a balanced physique

Structural balance is a hallmark of Charles Poliquin’s training for athletic and physical fitness. A bodybuilder’s approach to structural balance would be to train for a symmetrical physique. But, how do you define a symmetrical physique, and how do you train for it? These questions are answered in The Magic of Symmetry by Steve Davis.

If there’s one person qualified to write about body transformation, it’s Davis. At one time he weighed 285 pounds at 6 feet but trimmed down to lose 100 pounds and win Mr. California title. He went on to compete in the most prestigious bodybuilding competitions, including the Mr. Olympia. Davis was certainly not a mass monster, focusing on symmetry and muscularity.

For three decades, Davis trained with Vince Gironda at his gym in Studio City, California, Gironda’s success stories include the first Mr. Olympia Larry Scott and Mohamed Makkawy, a Mr. Olympia runner-up. Gironda was a prolific writer who wrote extensively on the importance of symmetry. Davis also worked with Irvin Johnson, the supplement guru who created the popular Blair’s protein. (For more on the contributions of Gironda and Johnson, pick up a copy of Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors: Volume 1). These bodybuilding pioneers influenced Davis’ approach to training and nutrition.

Davis began competing in physique competitions in 1968 and continued competing at the highest levels for 34 years. He appeared in the Mr. Olympia twice and the Masters Olympia three times. His most prestigious title was the 1977 IFBB Mr. World. His appealing physique landed him on the cover of Muscle and Fitness, Iron Man, and Muscle Mag International.

The Magic of Symmetry is a relatively small book at 60 pages, but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. He begins by discussing what he calls “The Symmetrical Ideal,” which includes the maximum shoulder and waist differential. This type of body contrasts the blocky (as Arnold says, “Coke Bottle”) physiques of many of today’s champions with relatively thick waists. He says some bodyparts cannot be overdeveloped, including the arms, spinae erectors, upper pec, and calves — and the shoulders can never be too wide!

One quality of a symmetrical physique is having the maximum shoulder and waist differential. Miloš Šarčev photo)

From this starting point, he teaches you how to assess your symmetry, providing a self-analysis chart that provides the ideal ratios of the major bodyparts. The chart contains two columns: Anatomical Self Analysis (% Point of Emphasis) and Danger Area. For example, he believes the quad-to-leg biceps ratio be 60/40, and the danger area is underdeveloped leg biceps.

The next section of the book outlines training programs that focus on addressing bodyparts that are deficient. Davis provides specific exercises for each bodypart, outlines the most effective training splits to address weaknesses, and demonstrates the performance of exercises he believes are the most effective. For those interested in physique competition, Davis outlines a 12-month, 4-step program designed to peak you for contest day. The remaining chapters deal with special topics related to training, including dieting and supplementation.

Steve Davis has walked the talk as a physique competitor, developing one of the most symmetrical physiques of his era. Although first published in 1976, The Magic of Symmetry offers timeless advice for anyone considering competing in physique competitions.

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