stage ready myth

Stage Ready Myth

You didn’t mean to end up here. In fact, you didn’t even see it coming.
It all started when you decided to improve your looks, build more confidence and attract more attention. You were tired of being too soft or too skinny, and you wanted to add some muscle and be lean in the right places.

At first, the marathon workouts and the time spent planning and calculating everything you ate seemed cool. You felt elite.

But weeks turned into months (or maybe years) and you ended up here — still struggling to build the body you want, yet feeling like a slave to the obsessive fitness lifestyle.

You greet another “regular” at the gym, shaker bottle in hand, as you prepare to force yourself through another workout, joking about how “some people just don’t have the dedication we do”.

You chat about the latest workout and nutrition info from this or that bodybuilder, but deep down you are frustrated and confused.

All you really wanted was to build a lean, muscular, and athletic body. The kind of body that makes you more confident and makes others notice you in a positive way.

Instead, you’re stuck here, obsessed with more. More muscle and definition, more restriction.

Fitness has become a passionless pursuit that controls your life instead of enhancing it like you thought it would.

You’ve Been Misled

You’re no longer a free member of society just trying to improve their general health. You’ve become a victim of one of the most prominent “hidden scripts” of the fitness industry.

Hidden scripts are thoughts, beliefs, and ideas that linger in the background. They are rarely ever directly addressed, yet still have an impact on why and how you do the things you do.

In terms of fitness, a hidden script is something you’ve embraced in pursuit of your goals. These scripts impact everything from the way you workout to the way you eat.  They even affect how you decide whether you’ve “made it”- whether  you look good enough.

Most hidden scripts in the fitness industry  are accepted without question. They’re so common that no one asks if doing something (working out a certain way, eating a certain way, etc.) or achieving a certain size or body fat is actually optimal, or even helpful for your end goal.

Today, we are going to discuss something I call the “Stage Ready Myth.” This is a hidden script that has saturated the fitness industry like no other.

This “script” has likely influenced everything from the way you workout and eat to whether you view your body as “good enough.”

We’re here to rip everything apart and find the truth.

The “Stage Ready” Myth (or How Fitness Can Steal Your Soul Make You Hate Your Life)

The first thing we need to do is figure out what the heck “Stage Ready Myth” even means.

So here we go:

The stage ready myth suggests that the look, or condition you see of guys competing on stage in a bodybuilding competition or a fitness model in a magazine is the ideal representation of a perfect male body and ultimately what we are all striving for.

The stage ready look is an extreme that pushes the limits of muscular development and leanness. In a sport littered with substance abuse, this extreme conditioning is often impossible without the help of steroids.

This may serve a group of people who compete or aspire to compete in an actual fitness competition. But when compared to those who just want to look and feel better, the stage ready crowd is a small group.

The issue arises when “stage ready” becomes synonymous with the pursuit of a lean, muscular, and athletic body in a general sense.

Why is this is an issue?

Because these two goals are very different and their approaches aren’t the same at all.

Preparing for a competition or photoshoot requires an extreme level of dedication and perfection that’s just not necessary for everyday fitness.

When you see an article about “looking your best” and the people pictured have the extreme look of a bodybuilder, you are seeing the Stage Ready Myth. Even if they don’t state it directly, they are associating “looking your best” or “aesthetic body” with the extreme look of the people in the pictures.

They are using images as an “attribution of meaning.” This means that they are combining pictures with text to turn the images into a visual representation of message. Whether it’s intentional or not, this is affecting your foundational beliefs about what a “good” body looks like.

Take this article, for example, that I found when randomly running a search on google for “Building an Aesthetic Body.”

The title is, “Physique Training: 5 Keys For An Aesthetic Body,” and it includes this picture:

stage ready myth

The article doesn’t explicitly say “this guy represents an aesthetic body,” but that’s the message it’s showing you. It’s using a professional bodybuilder to suggest that the way he looks is the best a normal guy can achieve.

This article, and millions like it, has failed to separate bodybuilding from general fitness.  This creates confusion and frustration in anyone who just wants to look great in everyday life.

This isn’t about hating on people who are bodybuilders who actually compete. That’s completely fine if that’s their fitness goal.

This is about awareness for everyone else – for all the guys like me, who just want the confidence of a lean, muscular, and athletic body.

Have you ever finished reading a good article on working out or nutrition and noticed you actually feel worse about yourself? I know I have.

As I reflect on why, I realize that it’s because the pictures they use show a look that is not achievable for 90% of guys. Even when I try to measure up to that standard, I never can.

The good news is you don’t need to be as lean or muscular as a bodybuilder to build an awesome body.

Every time you read something that suggests you need to look like an extreme bodybuilder, you’re being misled by the Stage Ready Myth. It is ruining your ability to make significant progress and be happy with how you look.

Why You Aren’t Happy With How You Look (Extreme or Sustainable –  You Decide)

In case I haven’t made this clear: the look of a bodybuilder or a fitness model is much different from the lean, athletic look that is most aesthetically pleasing in everyday life.

stage ready myth

See what I mean?

The look of a bodybuilder is a more extreme level of muscularity and leanness, but that doesn’t mean it is more aesthetically pleasing.


A winning bodybuilder on a stage has to display every little detail the judges are looking for, but that’s not the same as looking your best in real life. This is why so many guys are unhappy with how they look, even when they make significant progress and have an impressive physique.

You know that guy you see in a magazine or online who’s ripped to shreds? Yeah – he spent weeks preparing for that situation and likely does not look like that on a regular basis.

The extreme look is short-term. It’s not something anyone can maintain, much less while having any kind of life outside of the gym. When you try to live up to that kind of standard, it’s no wonder you aren’t happy with the way that you look.

You can look damn good while enjoying a life outside of pumping iron for hours on end and meticulously tracking everything you eat. You’re just going to have to change your perception of what it means to look “good enough.”

Scroll back up and look at the pictures of the bodybuilders and the actors/athletes. Do the actors and athletes look good enough? Most normal guys who are not interested in competing in bodybuilding and just want to look awesome and enjoy life would say “hell yes.”

But there are guys out there, either competitive bodybuilders or just guys who have been misled by the Stage Ready Myth, who would say a guy like Cristiano Ronaldo is “too skinny,”  “not lean enough,” “doesn’t have big enough arms,” etc.

Stage Ready Myth

That is the kind of look that I consider the most aesthetic for everyday life, while allowing someone to enjoy a life outside of fitness. Image courtesy of Pop Sugar.

I am here to tell you that after 10 years of working out consistently and following a few basic nutritional principles, those are the kind of results that are “realistic.”

That is the kind of look that I consider the most aesthetic for everyday life, while allowing someone to enjoy a life outside of fitness. And it is a look I choose to be content with.

If you aspire for a more extreme look, there are plenty of people out there who will coach you in obsession with all things diet and fitness. You won’t find that here.

So, now it’s up to you to decide — do you want the extreme look, or do you want a sustainable look?

Workout Less and Drink More Beer? Count Me In.

The Stage Ready Myth has also infiltrated nutrition and exercise advice in the fitness community.

It has many people convinced that obsessive restriction is the key to the “perfect” body.

But it’s not.

People tend to look to extremes for guidance.

Parents of high school basketball players want to know every detail of Lebron James’ skill workouts so they can help their kids go pro. In reality, they just need to teach their son how to practice fundamentals.

There’s a hidden script that makes guys look at extreme bodybuilders and think:

“That must be the ultimate way to do things. The more I can be like them, the better I will be able to achieve my goals – even if their goals aren’t the same as mine.”

Tons of people have bought into this, from regular people to the fitness professionals who hand out the advice. Unfortunately, this flawed thinking won’t help you build muscle and lose fat. It’ll just leave you more frustrated and confused.

Take this analogy: A university professor of Language Arts and an elementary school teacher are both in the same field. Both are teachers.

But an elementary school teacher is more of a generalist and only needs some education in Language Arts. The professor is a specialist and teaches the subject at the highest level, which requires much more rigorous training.

Both are in the same field of study, but they don’t need the same training to excel at their profession.

This is like a bodybuilder and someone seeking “general fitness” who just wants to look awesome while still enjoying life.

For a bodybuilder, fitness is a huge part of their life and identity. For many of them, fitness is life.

stage ready myth

For a bodybuilder, fitness is a huge part of their life and identity. For many of them, fitness is life. Image courtesy of Do You Even.

For someone who is just trying to build a lean, muscular, and athletic body, fitness is a hobby that enhances other aspects of their lives.

Both practice fitness, but both do not need the same approach to reach their goals.

To get to the extreme level of a bodybuilder on stage or a fitness model in front of a camera requires extreme detail and dedication.

Working out 5 or 6 days per week and carefully tracking what you eat is necessary if you want to succeed at that level. You’ve got to be okay with spending weeks, or even months, preparing for ONE day.

All of the advanced techniques – marathon workouts with careful calculations and complicated set/rep schemes, meticulous macronutrient splits and “nutrient timing” – are short term strategies that help you look your absolute best for a short period of time. They require you to push the limits of muscularity and leanness.

But the short-term, extreme strategies aren’t necessary when you only want to look naturally fit. Getting a look that you can sustain in the real world just isn’t that complicated.

Wanna build a great looking body?

Work out 3 or 4 times per week. Find a few nutritional principles that allow you to balance restriction and indulgence. Live in a way that lets you enjoy life while also reaching your fitness goals.

When you realize that “good enough” doesn’t mean being as ripped as a bodybuilder on a stage, you experience freedom. You can get away with working out less and doing normal things like having a few beers without freaking out about ruining your abs.

Fitness doesn’t have to rule your life. I found this out the hard way, after years of centering everything in my life around fitness.

Don’t waste time like I did. You can escape the obsessive fitness lifestyle today.

Interested in learning more?

I put together a free 5-day course that will teach you how to build a lean, muscular, and athletic body while keeping fitness as something that enhances your life.

I’ll hook you up with a bunch of great information and free resources (even a free workout), so you can get started achieving your goals right away.

About the Author

stage ready mythEric Weinbrenner is the creator of Aesthetic Fitness, a website that helps guys build a lean, muscular, and athletic body without the obsessive fitness lifestyle.