How Veins Became the New Six Pack
Gymgoers may have stopped shedding their shirts, but they’re still showing off their lean, fantastically fit physiques: These days, vanity is alive and well and definitely has a pulse.
Fear not, gym dandies: Just because it’s gauche to go topless to show off your physique in this post–Jersey Shore world, the fanatically fit are still engaging in a highly visible vain pursuit—namely, veins. Think of the passionate yoga practitioner holding an elevated lotus pose an extra minute, the boot-camp devotee cranking out plyos, or the health-club habitué slogging through super-sets of hammer curls—they’re all seeking the same fitness trophy: a blue ribbon etched along the skin, signifying that their bodies are leaner than a grad student’s budget.
“Vascularity is the new six-pack,” says Elias Carmelo, a personal trainer and model in New York City, who says that making his veins pop is his top priority before a photo shoot. The most essential is the cephalic, which runs along the forearm and the biceps from the wrist to mid-shoulder—a beating indicator that a tank-top or tight-tee wearer is in shape everywhere else. “When you can see that vein, you think, Wow, that guy’s pretty fit,” Carmelo says.
Andrew Ginsburg, a personal trainer in New York, notes that “every Calvin Klein model ever has had that arm vein. It’s a rite of passage. If you don’t have it, your arms aren’t that good.”
It doesn’t end there. Other vanity veins throb on the quads or the insides of the calves or—the most difficult to achieve—below the devil’s horns, pulsing arrows pointing to washboard abs and points south. But visible veins are a sought-after marker of fitness because BMI is a BFD. Veins don’t appear unless your body fat is shockingly low, between 8 and 10 percent, according to Jay Cardiello, a celebrity strength-and-conditioning coach who’s worked with 50 Cent, Ryan Seacrest, and Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler. “Guys aren’t working out like bodybuilders anymore,” Cardiello says. “They’re going to CrossFit, Barry’s Bootcamp, or another extreme workout where they’re constantly crushing you.”
The aesthetic ideal today is taut and toned, more Joe Manganiello (or—truth—Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2) than Schwarzenegger. “The huge bodybuilding look has become passé,” Ginsburg says. “If you’re too big, you don’t look good in clothes. You want to look toned and healthy, not like you use steroids. Veins are symbols of being lean and ripped.”
Naturally, many guys seek shortcuts. Beyond obsessively stoking their metabolism, vein chasers follow strict bloat-free diets, limiting sodium most days and tapering their water intake for 24 hours to dry out ahead of whatever event they want to look their fittest for. Before working out, some also pop agmatine-sulfate supplements (derived from L-arginine, sometimes called natural Viagra) and drink beet juice—both increase blood flow to the muscles. They even rely on a series of last-minute tricks borrowed from both bodybuilders and red-carpet-walking celebs, such as rubbing skin-tightening Preparation H on areas they want to appear more vascular or lifting weights to pump up the arm vein (see “The Vascular Arm Workout” below). And it might all be worth it. For the fit guy who keeps his shirt on, there’s no better way to hint at what’s underneath it.
“If you’re vascular, you’re in shape,” Cardiello says. “There’s a wow factor to your veins popping out.”
Get vein—fast—with this quick-acting regimen by trainer Andrew Ginsburg. Be sure to go slow: Each repetition should take three seconds—one on the way up and two on the way down. Increase weight with each successive set and rest 30 seconds between sets.
Reverse Preacher Curls
Move: Sitting at a preacher bench, do a reverse curl (palms down, overhand grip) with the barbell.
Sets: 3 (first 15 reps, then 12 for each of the next 2)
Standing Reverse Curls
Move: Standing upright, hold the barbell (palms down, overhand grip) with both hands and do a reverse curl.
Sets: 3 (20 reps each)