The t-shirt became popularized by sailors and Marines, and eventually found it’s way into pop culture during the 1950’s.
But it originally evolved from 19th century underwear.
So if you’re going to be walking around wearing your underwear, then you’d better know how to look good in a t-shirt. Using the five steps in this article, you’re guaranteed to look good in a t-shirt, cut an impressive figure and wear your wardrobe with confidence.
Step 1: Remember Your Back
Back when I was a bodybuilder, it was tempting to simply pay attention the front of the body: the shoulders, the chest, the abs, and the front of the arms. But I quickly learned that to look good, you also need to pay attention to your backside.
When you’re wearing a t-shirt, the most important part of your back to target is the part that makes those sleeves look good: the back of your arms (your triceps). Three of my favorite exercises for the back of your arms, which you can include each week, are:
1) Narrow Grip Pushups: Do a pushup in the regular or knee push-up position, but keep your hands closer together and make sure your elbows brush your ribcage as you lower yourself down and push yourself back up.
2) Tricep Pushdowns: At most gyms, you’ll find a cable apparatus with a rope or bar attached to it. This is perfect for triceps pushdowns, in which you start with your arms bent at 90 degrees and then extend them until they’re completely straight.
3) Dips: Begin by holding onto two bars and suspending your body in the air. You then lower yourself as far as you can--or until your elbows are at about 90 degrees--then push yourself back up.
Step 2: Work On Your “V”
Even if your chest, shoulders and arms are t-shirt ready, you simply won’t look good in a t-shirt if you are sporting muffin tops or a beer belly, or aren’t working your full spectrum of stomach muscles.
If you really want a tighter tummy, you need to incorporate exercises that create a belt of muscle around your entire mid-section. This belt serves to draw in the waist, keep the stomach flat, and keep your abs looking good in a t-shirt.
To work on all the stomach muscles, you need to include the following four movements:
1) Abdominal flexion, which will tighten the “rectus abdomonis”, or sheet of muscle tissue that is directly on the front of your stomach.
2) Rotation, which will work the internal and external oblique muscles that are on the sides of your stomach
3) Waist extension, which will incorporate the low back muscles to improve posture and allow you to keep your stomach sucked in
4) A planking exercise, which will allow you to tone each of the muscles listed above in one all-encompassing exercise.
Try to put together exercises from each category as a circuit, which you repeat 3-4x through with minimal rest.
Step 3: Target Your Traps
It can be unflattering if you have a skinny neck that sticks up out of your t-shirt, even if the rest of your body looks good. If you have a skinny neck, the trick is not to work the neck muscles, but rather to target your trapezius, or “traps” – since working these muscles will naturally give you a more muscular and defined neck.
The traps are primarily responsible for “shrugging the shoulders”, so you’ll want to include exercises such as dumbbell shoulder shrugs, dumbbell or barbell deadlifts, farmer’s walks, or walking lunges.
When you perform these exercises, make sure that you are allowing your shoulders to drop, but instead imagine the tops of your shoulders touching the bottom of your ear lobes, which will help you to keep your traps contracted.
Step 4: Squeeze Your Shoulders
If your shoulders are slouched or slumped forward, you might look just fine from the front, but a side shot of you in your t-shirt may look more like a hunchback. If you sit at your computer for long periods of time, ride a bicycle in a hunched over position, swim frequently, or have a combination of tight chest muscles and weak shoulder muscles, then you probably do have at least a slight upper back hump.
To address this issue, you need to include exercises that make you squeeze your shoulders back, such as seated rows, standing rows, pull-ups, pull-downs, and super-slow pushups (drop down for a 1-2-3 count, then push-up for a 1-2-3 count).
When you perform these exercises focus on keeping the shoulder blades aligned and the shoulder blade muscles contracted, the abs tight and “sucked in”, and the back straight. You can also improve posture by breathing in as you do the weight lifting portion of the exercise and then breathing out as you return the weight to the starting position.
Step 5: Get The Right T-Shirt
The final key to looking good in a t-shirt is to choose a style of shirt that actually looks good on you. Most people wear t-shirts that are either too large, or made of material such as polyester, a cotton/polyester blend, or synthetic nylon, which usually doesn’t hug the body in a way that brings out the figure you’re working so hard to develop.
First, you need to look for the word “fitted” or “muscle-fit” when you get your t-shirt. This is the best indication that it will form-fit your body in a way that flatters you. Even if the shirt is made of a cotton-polyester blend, this will still ensure that it fits you well.
If you can’t find a fit like that, at least try to choose a shirt that is a high quality cotton, such as 100% combed ringspun cotton or knitted fine cotton. This type of material is less likely to have a “pleated” appearance and more likely to form-fit your body.
That’s it! Remember your back, work on your V, target your traps, squeeze your shoulders and choose the right shirt, and you’re guaranteed to look good in a t-shirt!
If you want to learn more about how to swim, bike and run lightning fast, but also have a nice body that looks good, (and get access to the other 6 articles in this series) then head over to Tri-Ripped.com for a brand new approach to training for the ultimate triathlon body.