This is my review of MAPS Aesthetic, a hypertrophy-focused program written by the guys over at Mind Pump.
MAPS Aesthetic is the third strength training program released by Mind Pump. It rounds out their “RGB Super Bundle” (my most recommended 1-year training plan for almost all home gym owners), but you can also run it independently of their other programs.
I’ve worked through MAPS Aesthetic twice and enjoyed it both times. At 51 years old, I’m not focused on aesthetics as much as I am on longevity, health, and performance. That said, I always spend a few months during the winter focused on gaining as much muscle as possible.
MAPS Aesthetic is my go-to program for that goal, and I will definitely run it again this winter!
If you can handle high-volume strength training and your goals are more focused on looks than raw strength or mobility, MAPS Aesthetic is an ideal program for you. And make no mistake, you’ll definitely build strength too!
This review will walk you through who this program is and isn’t for. I’ll outline the pros and cons, tell you what it costs, and what kind of equipment you’ll need. I’ll even provide my top success tips based on my experience with this program.
Let’s get started!
What is MAPS Aesthetic?
MAPS Aesthetic is a ten-week muscle building and hypertrophy program. It has three distinct phases. Phase one is aimed at building muscle density and is three weeks long. Phase two addresses hypertrophy through bigger pumps and higher reps. This phase is four weeks long. Phase three then reveals the work of phases one and two by accelerating fat loss and sharpening your look.
MAPS aesthetic is NOT for beginners. It is a high-volume training program that will require almost 2 hours in the gym each foundational training day (three days per week) and another 30-45 minutes for “focus sessions” on the other four days of the week.
The focus sessions are one of my absolute favorite things about this program. Most programs don’t allow for change based on your personal goals, and MAPS Aesthetic is very different in this regard.
When you start MAPS Aesthetic, you’ll be asked to identify one to two body parts you want to focus on. You’ll then spend dedicated time four days per week, giving extra volume to those body parts.
Want to build your chest and biceps? No problem! Would you rather focus on your back and shoulders? Easy! How about stubborn calves? Same with those!
I love the ability to hone in on specific body parts that are important to me!
MAPS Aesthetic is not for the faint of heart, but please don’t read this as the challenge that most people do. The goal is not to end each training session in a puddle of sweat and unable to move. Those are the hallmarks of poor programming, and MAPS programs are the opposite of poor programming.
Instead, read that as you should be an experienced lifter before using this program.
If you haven’t already run MAPS Anabolic and MAPS Performance, start with those. Those two programs will help you build the strength and work capacity that will allow you to get amazing results from MAPS Aesthetic.
That said, I find MAPS Aesthetic to be a ton of fun. I enjoy this type of training immensely, and 2 hours in the gym is something I’m more than happy to do. I wouldn’t run it more than once yearly, but you will be thrilled with your results in that one time per year.
What’s included in MAPS Aesthetic?
- Easy to use online portal
- Lifetime access
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Over 100 instructional videos (including separate exercise demos for men and women)
- Detailed training blueprint and calendar
- General guidelines and FAQ to maximize your results
- Three individual phases totaling ten weeks of programming
- Foundational 3 days per week strength training
- Focus session programming for up to 4 “off” days
- Basic tracking sheets/workout logs
- Complete at-home modifications for those who only have a bench and dumbbells.
- Detailed Instruction
- Mods for home gyms that only have a bench and dumbbells
- Forum available for questions & form feedback (additional cost)
- Perfect for intermediate to advanced lifters who may find other programs too basic
- Instructional videos for both men and women
- Well designed and produces consistent results
- Easy to follow
- Focus sessions allow for individualization
- You WILL notice the changes this program creates
- It teaches you to truly connect with each muscle
- Amazing pumps
- Higher reps build tremendous work capacity
- The 3 phases all build perfectly upon one another
- Videos have cheesy music instead of voice coaching
- Tracking sheets/workout logs are minimal and could be much better
- Two hours for foundational days is too much for many people
- Warmup and priming exercises are not included.
- MAPS Prime is sold separately instead of being integrated into the training. For me, this is a big miss.
- While the program can be done in as little as three days per week, full results require a 7-day commitment.
- Too many people who should not be doing this program will buy this program because of the name "aesthetic." If you are new to training, start with MAPS Anabolic. PLEASE!!!
What Results Can You Expect from MAPS Aesthetic?
Every MAPS program is broken down into multiple phases. That’s a big part of what makes them so effective. In the roadmap for each program, the guys at Mind Pump tell you what the intended goal of each phase is.
One phase could be for raw strength, another for fat loss, and yet another to work on getting a pump. MAPS Aesthetic is the first program I’ve run from Mind Pump where I could really feel the intended goal for each phase actually happen.
The goal of phase one is to “build solid hard feeling muscles.” Phase two is designed to elicit “Bigger pumps, larger and more pronounced muscles, and better symmetry.” Phase three “Accelerates fat loss, more definition, more balance, and better aesthetics.”
That’s precisely what happened, quite noticeably, in each phase. It’s not that other MAPS programs don’t achieve the goals of each phase, but I felt like with the increased workload of this program, I saw significant results that matched up with each phase’s intended goal.
I want to stress that I ran this program seven days a week. I feel that this level of commitment is a big part of the results I got. I don’t think I would feel as strongly if I only trained three days per week.
I can’t stress enough that if you only want to train three days per week, there are better programs for you.
What Equipment do You Need for MAPS Aesthetic?
That said, I don’t think I would want to run this program without a cage, bar, and plates. While it can be done effectively without these, if you are going to commit to spending this much time training each week, why not do it with the most effective tools available?
If all you have is dumbbells, and this program matches your goals well, still give it a shot. But do that knowing you’d get better results with a barbell and rack.
Who Should Use MAPS Aesthetic
Speaking of programs matching your goals, let’s look at who is the ideal person to get MAPS Aesthetic.
First and foremost, you should have at least one year of consistent resistance training under your belt. In my opinion, that year should have a minimum of 3 days of full body training along with at least two other days of something else (mobility, zone 2 cardio, sports, etc.).
Second, you should be able to commit to a minimum of five days per week of training. Better than that, I’d love to see everyone running this program in the gym six to seven days a week.
Third, you should be able to commit to two hours in the gym for each of the three weekly full-body training days.
If you’ve run MAPS Anabolic and MAPS Performance, this is your next step. It flows perfectly with those programs, and running those two programs first is the perfect preparation to run MAPS Aesthetic.
If you are at a point where you’ve built a solid foundation of strength using the big five lifts and want to sharpen up your look, this program is ideal for you.
Who Shouldn’t Use MAPS Aesthetic
I’ve mentioned this already, but it bears repeating with more detail.
MAPS Aesthetic is NOT for beginners. It’s NOT for people who haven’t been lifting for at least one to two years consistently, and it’s NOT for people who haven’t spent a reasonable amount of time perfecting their form.
Unfortunately, MAPS Aesthetic is often the first choice for all those people. Too many people stop at the word “aesthetic” and think that since their goals are looks-based, MAPS Aesthetic will be the perfect program. It’s not!
Please consider a different program if you don’t fit the guidelines I listed above as to who MAPS Aesthetic is for.
If you don’t have MAPS Anabolic, start there! It’s a program that every home and garage gym owner should have and the perfect way to train for strength and hypertrophy when you aren’t quite ready for MAPS Aesthetic.
How Much Does MAPS Aesthetic Cost?
At the time I’m writing this review (June 2022), MAPS Aesthetic is selling for a one-time payment of $127.00. That’s for lifetime access, and it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
One way to save money on this program is to buy it as a part of a bundle. Mind Pump offers quite a few different bundles, but the one I recommend everyone get is their RGB Super Bundle. You can read my full review of that bundle here.
Another way to save some cash on Mind Pump programs is to listen to their podcast. They run sales fairly regularly, and if you are patient, you can almost always find the program you want on sale.
How to Get the Most Out Of MAPS Aesthetic
I’ve run most of the MAPS programs at least once (and many of them more than that). I’ve also kept detailed training notes, allowing me to review them before rerunning the program and ensure I get the most out of it.
Here are a few highlights that I think will help anyone maximize their gains while using MAPS Aesthetic.
- Allow 90 minutes minimum for each foundational training day. This does NOT include warmup.
- Go light the first week of each phase. I’ve found this aids in recovery and helps you learn each new exercise before loading it heavier.
- MAPS Prime is a must for this program. It will not only help you prevent injury but will help you get measurably better results as well. For my full review of MAPS Prime, see here!
- Pay close attention to the prescribed rest periods and tempo for each phase. This is a big part of the programming and is often overlooked by many people.
- Every rep matters!!! Connect to the muscle being worked and squeeze fully every time. This one thing can make or break your results.
- Eat in a surplus while running this program if your goal is aesthetic gains. If you want to cut, I think MAPS Performance or MAPS HIIT are better choices.
- If you just ran MAPS Anabolic, don’t go straight to this program. Go with MAPS Performance first instead (see my review here). Your joints will thank you!
- I prefer to run this program in the winter when I don’t have many other activities. I’m very busy outdoors in the summer, and this program is just too much on top of that activity.
- Expect a pump from this program (especially phase three). I have fallen in love with using LMNT to enhance this. I’ve also found that pairing LMNT with this program significantly enhances my ability to deal with the extra volume.
- Don’t make this your first MAPS program. Do MAPS Anabolic and MAPS Performance first. Those will not only give you an idea if you can handle the additional volume (phase three of Performance is demanding!) but will also help prepare you if you are not. If you don’t have those, save money by getting the RGB Super Bundle (review here).
Alternatives to MAPS Aesthetic
If I haven’t beaten this dead horse enough, MAPS Aesthetic is NOT for everyone, and that includes most people out there looking to make aesthetic improvements in their physique.
While I’m happy with the changes that MAPS Aesthetic gives me, MAPS Performance is the only MAPS program I’ve run where other people have commented on a change in my appearance. That was a big surprise, but I’ve heard the same feedback from other people.
Another great option is MAPS Anabolic. You will build muscle and strength with that program. It takes less time per day, and the lower volume meshes better with most people’s busy lives.
I love MAPS Aesthetic. I also love training every day. Two hours in my garage gym daily sounds like heaven, not a chore! I realize I’m an oddball that way, and most people don’t want that.
For me, it’s a perfect once-a-year program. I run it during the holidays when I’m already eating in a surplus, and I always run at least some MAPS Anabolic and Performance leading up to it.
MAPS Aesthetic is an excellent choice if you want a high-volume program that focuses on bodybuilder-style training!
MAPS Aesthetic FAQ
Can I run this program if I don’t have a full gym setup?
Yes! As with many MAPS programs, MAPS Aesthetic has at-home mods built in so you can train with as little as a bench and dumbbells.
I’m new to weight training, but I want to sculpt my body. Is MAPS Aesthetic right for me?
How many days per week do I need to train in MAPS Aesthetic.
I wouldn’t go less than five days weekly, and I strongly recommend seven. The point of this program is muscle growth through volume. If you don’t train for five to seven days, you are better off running a program designed to be effective in less time (like MAPS Anabolic).
What does MAPS stand for?
Muscular Adaptation Programming System. In other words, your muscles (and you) are adaptation machines. Knowing how to manipulate and promote that adaptation is the key to great programming.
What is a focus session and do I need to do them?
Focus sessions are what allow you to focus on one or two specific body parts during the program. They are necessary if you are targeting lagging body parts. Make sure to do them at least twice a week if not four times.
My Results With MAPS Aesthetic, an In Depth Review
MAPS Aesthetic is an advanced, high volume resistance training program that focuses on bodybuilder style training. It's highly effective for intermediate to advanced lifters but should not be used by beginners or those that have not trained for at least a year immediately prior.
Course Provider: Organization
Course Provider URL: Mind Pump Media