Men's Fitness

This month, Men's Fitness has a striking cover boy who looks like an actor. And, in one of those life-imitates-art moments, he is. James Marsden of "X-Men: The Last Stand" and "Superman Returns" is Grade-A beefcake prime: the abs, the chest, the arms. And men, take note. Sure, women want you to be smart, sensitive and have a good sense of humor.

But rippling pecs can't hurt.

According to MF's cutline — "why the best man wins" — a lean, rock-hard body is only part of the package. This isn't a body-building mag, rife with megavitamin and protein supplement ads. To its credit, MF stories on cutting fat and gut loss are health-driven and accompanied by sex tips to keep the ladies happy.

Plus, "Get Sauced" rates BBQ sauce in a sassy way, though the "Best Shot" list of potent, low-cal drinks raised an eyebrow. Grenadine, Sambuca and Baileys save on calories? Then again, I salute any man brave enough to order one of these at Hogs & Heifers.

In the Q&A section, the queries are instructive. When women ask men "do I look fat?" they're really quizzing them on the state of the relationship. It's no time to suddenly declare a love for size-2 models. Should you keep the salmon skin on when grilling? Yes, it adds flavor. And yes, a heavy backpack is a big fat no.

Personally, I applaud the editors for addressing the gestalt of a man's life. Of course, there are the requisite categories — sports, fitness, nutrition, tech and grooming — but the approach is friendly and accessible, along the lines of everyone can do it, dude.

"Sports Zone" provides quick updates from biking to baseball, while a sidebar on radar equipment ends on this delightfully kitschy note: "These four will not only protect you from the po-po [police], they'll look great on your dashboard next to Hula Jesus." Bobby Flay contributed the meal-of-the-month recipe--grilled spicy filet mignon salad (which I ripped out) and the ultimate margarita, with an overhead shot that makes the idea of bathing in one enticing.

Also, good news for women who find bulked-up guys scary, since you can't help wondering if he takes steroids with his Cheerios.

The next generation of action heroes is "thin, sexy and toned. Not too big, and not too ripped." That announcement is courtesy of Greg Joujon-Roche, Hollywood trainer to the stars, who gave Brad Pitt a Greek god's physique in "Troy." Brad's biceps were thanks to a rigorous five-day-a-week regime that took no prisoners. As Roche notes, you don't get that body from beach runs, so to all you med students on summer break: stick to the books.

Just under the Roche report is an interview with Brian Dee from the "Fast and Furious" movies. He says women are drawn to confident guys with a kick-ass car. And most of these women, Brian, are 17. Grown-up women are much more impressed by a man with a positive outlook, healthy portfolio and the ability to iron his own shirts.

Finally, because men, like women, enjoy shopping, there is a "Men's Mart" section — watches, videos and a ROM exercise machine that delivers an "excellent cardiovascular strength and flexibility exercise in 4 minutes per day." So what if it looks as if it were designed by H.G. Wells for time travel; it's four minutes a day! It's also $14,615, which means Brad Pitt is its target customer.

But for every 100-pounder who didn't make the football team, cheer up: James Marsden has been there. A lonely Oklahoma boy who girls didn't notice grew up to be the new breed of up-and-coming star.

At 32, he's a character actor who says he began living once he had kids. He's devoted to his wife and family, though I'm sure two hit movies do wonders for the ego. Still, the interview, which focuses on his home life vs. stardom, is typical of MF's style. Its tone, slick design and feel-good ethos score.

In keeping with typical men's mags, MF ends with a pinup shot of actress Olivia D'Abo, who earns a centerfold and brief story. But it's done in a sexy, tasteful way and her dating advice to men is worth noting. A little cheesecake, a touch of beefcake and a lot of good, solid information makes MF a winner.

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