Balanced Body. By Donald Charles Richardson. Harmony Books; $14.95.
During my college track years, I was constantly told by orthopedic surgeons that my leg injuries could be blamed on muscle imbalances. I had overdeveloped the muscles used when running while the other muscles remained weak. When I picked up "Balanced Body," I thought someone finally had written a book to address the problem of muscle imbalance in athletics.
Wrong. This is not a book for athletes. This is not even a book on physical fitness.
It's for men who want to look physically beautiful.
"An intriguing aspect of the interest in exercise is that the primary purpose for which most men go to the gym -- to look good -- is actually secondary in importance to the need for exercise -- better health," writes Donald Charles Richardson, who was hospitalized 12 years ago when he nearly starved himself to death to lose weight. "Very few men exercise to improve their cardiovascular systems; they want to look good."
And it is no coincidence that the "hunks" appearing on most of the 190 pages seem right out of Gentleman's Quarterly, one of the magazines to which Richardson contributes.
"I have a good eye," Richardson says. "I can tell on sight where a man is physically underdeveloped. Every man secretly wants to be like a male model. But true perfection is being the best that you can be. Everything else is unimportant."
Businessmen and professionals, models, dancers and actors are the men this book addresses. The principle upon which the program is based is symmetry -- that a man's legs, thighs, hips, arms and chest should be in exact proportion to his waist or wrist measurement.
First determine the proper proportions, measure your wrist and waist and then run these measurements through some simple formulas to determine your ideal size for each of the following -- forearms, upper arms, chest, shoulders, hips, calves and thighs.
If you don't start out already perfect, he provides some workouts that focus on three different groups of exercises for each part of the body, depending on whether you need to slim down, develop some tone or build up your muscles.
The program is based on a three-day in-gym week, 75 minutes per workout, that begins with a warmup, some stretching and weight-resistence exercises and aerobic toning.
Each muscle is first stretched, then exercised with weight-resistance and fitness equipment. This is an intelligent progression, because when you stretch all the muscles at the start of the workout, some muscles that are used later in the workout tighten. The author assumes that you have access to the appropriate facilites. Richardson does reserve 12 pages at the end of the book for the "at-home routine," in which only a pair of dumbbells are necessary.
A section on supplementary exercise routines includes a few pages on a weak-areas routine, vacation fitness routine and office anti-stress routine, followed by an afterthought on nutrition and diet.