What’s My Genetic Muscular Potential?

A question that comes up with some frequency on forums and message boards, usually from newbie lifters is along the lines of “What is my maximum muscular potential?”   Invariably this leads to a repetitive and pointless argument between those who believe that there are genetic limits to such things as muscular gains and athletic performance and those who believe that anything can be accomplished if you just try hard enough or have the right work ethic.

Now, it should go without saying that nobody can really say upfront what someones genetic potential actually is.  Until we live in the world of Gattaca where we can do a full genetic scan and know what it means, nobody can say ahead of time what someone can or can’t achieve.  Well, not unless you look at some pretty ludicrous extremes (you’re not going to see someone at 400 pounds ripped any time soon for example).

And, of course, worrying about such things before you even start training is sort of missing the point in my opinion.  At a fundamental level, trainees should train and eat properly and let the cards fall where they may.  Worrying abut what you might or might not accomplish is putting the cart far before the horse.  But that’s another topic for another day.  And, of course, doesn’t really answer the question in the title of this article.

I’d note that while I do believe trainees should simply get into proper training and not worry up front what they may or may not accomplish, I also believe that there are genetic limits set by underlying biology (again, modulated by behavioral choices and patterns). That’s just reality and recognizing them can save people from a lot of mental anguish about what they think they should be able to or could be able to accomplish if they just worked hard enough.

Which is a long way of introducing the topic of today’s article, what is the maximum amount of muscle that someone can gain over a career of proper lifting and nutrition.  I’m going to look at it from a few different perspectives but I think you’ll find that, on average, they all end up with pretty similar results.

I’d note that most of what I’m going to talk about applies to male lifters, data on females being much more difficult to come by.  Just realize that the average female potential for muscle mass gains is even lower than that in males.

 

The McDonald Model

I’m not sure if I came up with this idea on my own or stole it from somewhere else (probably a combination of the two) but, in a slightly different context (how quickly can someone gain muscle), I have often thrown out the following values for rates of muscle gain.

Year of Proper Training Potential Rate of Muscle Gain per Year
1 20-25 pounds (2 pounds per month)
2 10-12 pounds (1 pound per month)
3 5-6 pounds (0.5 pound per month)
4+ 2-3 pounds (not worth calculating)

 

Again, these values are for males, females would use roughly half of those values (e.g. 10-12 pounds in the first year of proper training).

Please note that these are averages and make a few assumptions about proper training and nutrition and such.  As well, age will interact with this; older individuals won’t gain as quickly and younger individuals may gain more quickly.  For example, it’s not unheard of for underweight high school kids to gain muscle very rapidly.  But they are usually starting out very underweight and have the natural anabolic steroid cycle called puberty working for them.

Year of training also refers to proper years of training. Someone who has been training poorly for 4 years and gained squat for muscle gains may still have roughly the Year 1 potential when they start training properly.

Now, if you total up those values, you get a gain of roughly 40-50 pounds of total muscle mass over a lifting career although it might take a solid 4+ years of proper training to achieve that.  So if you started with 130 pound of lean body mass (say in high school you were 150 pounds with 12% body fat), you might have the potential to reach a level of 170-180 pounds of lean body mass after 4-5 years of proper training.  At 12% body fat, that would put you at a weight of 190-200 pounds.

Again, that’s a rough average, you might find some who gain a bit more and some who gain a bit less. And there will be other factors that impact on the above numbers (e.g. age, hormones, etc.).

 

The Alan Aragon Model

In discussing this topic with Alan Aragon, who’s book Girth Control should be read by anyone interested in this topic.  In his monthly Research Review, he addressed the issue of rates of muscle gain a bit differently although the results end up being pretty similar.  He has found that that the following rates of muscle gain are roughly achievable for natural lifters.  Note that this ignores things like creatine loading or temporary glycogen supercompensation which can cause rapid changes in ‘lean body mass’ but don’t represent actual skeletal muscle tissue.

 

Category Rate of Muscle Gain
Beginner 1-1.5% total body weight per month
Intermediate 0.5-1% total body weight per month
Advanced 0.25-0.5% total body weight per month

 

So a 150 pound beginner might be able to gain 1.5-2.25 pounds of muscle per month (18-27 pounds per year).  After a year, he’s now an intermediate at 170 pounds and might be capable of gaining 0.85-1.7 lbs per month (10-20 pounds per year; I’d consider 20 lbs. an exceptional gain).  After another year, he’s an advanced lifter at 180 and might only gain 0.5-1 lb per month (a true 1 lb/month gain in muscle mass for an advanced athlete would be pretty rare).

So he might top out at 190-200 pounds or thereabouts after another year or two of training, at 10% body fat, he’d have 170-180 pounds of lean body mass.  Pretty much identical to my model even if we got there by a slightly different path.

 

Casey Butt’s Frame Size Model

Of course, both my and Alan’s model for maximum muscle growth are pretty simplified and don’t take into account some of the other factors that can go into determining maximum muscular potential.  One that has been argued to impact on overall size and strength gain potential is frame size, usually assessed by wrist and/or ankle size (or other measurements).

Natural bodybuilder and all-around smart guy Casey Butt has done an exhaustive analysis of top level natural bodybuilders and developed a calculator that will predict maximum muscular potential based on height, ankle and wrist size along with goal body fat percentage.  He’s also written an extensive, math heavy book showing how he came up with his model.  You can find it here.

Casey Butt’s Maximum Muscular Potential Calculator

I’ve run a lifter of different heights with a 7″ wrist and 8.75″ ankle through the calculator to show his predicted body weights (at 10% body fat) and lean body mass.

 

Height Weight at 10% Body Fat Lean Body Mass
5’8″ 189 lbs. 170 lbs.
5’10” 198 lbs. 178 lbs.
6′ 206 lbs. 185 lbs.

 

Of course, variations in ankle and wrist will change the numbers but you can go plug in your own numbers.  I’d note that Casey’s calculations end up being a bit more conservative than mine or Alan’s but they are all at least within shooting distance of one another.  You’d need to be towards the taller end of things to reach the highest levels suggested by my or Alan’s method.

And while some might argue that frame size has nothing to do with this, there is research to support the idea (I’d mention again that Caseys analysis is based on examination of real-world bodybuilders, arguably the group that you’d expect to surpass any supposed limits if it were possible).

At least one study showed that light framed individuals gained less muscle mass compared to heavier framed individuals on the same training program and, at a more basic level, hormones such as testosterone/etc. impact on things like bone growth and frame size.  So there is a biologically potential link between frame size and hormone levels that would contribute to trainability and ultimate gains in muscle mass.

It’s also no accident that top strength athletes typically have large frames and robust joints (or that those with relatively smaller frames tend to be drawn/succeed in endurance sports).  Some of this is simply so they can handle the level of training needed to succeed at their sport; but some of it is probably indicative of overall hormonal status as well.

 

Martin Berkhan’s Model

Martin Berkhan of Leangains.com has a somewhat simpler model than Casey’s, also based on his observation of top level natural bodybuilding competitors who are contest lean (e.g. 4-5% body fat).

His equation is:

Height in centimeters – 100 = upper limit of weight in kilograms in contest shape.

So take your height in inches and multiply by 2.54, that’s your height in centimeters.  Subtract 100 and that’s your predicted maximum weight in contest shape (which is 5% body fat or less for males) in kilograms.  Multiply that value by 2.2 to get pounds.  So let’s look at body weight at 10% body fat using the same heights I used for Casey’s calculator. I’ve also calculated out lean body mass at 10% body fat.

 

Height Weight at 5% Body Fat Weight at 10% Body Fat Lean Body Mass
5’8″ 160 lbs. 170 lbs. 153 lbs.
5’10” 171 lbs. 180 lbs. 162 lbs.
6′ 182 lbs. 192 lbs. 173 lbs.

 

While not identical, these values are certainly right in line with Casey’s calculator.  I would note that contest lean bodybuilders are often highly dehydrated and may be glycogen depleted and this will tend to lower the measurement of lean body mass.  We might realistically add 5-10 pounds of lean body mass to the above values to account for dehydration/etc.  With that adjustment, they are more or less identical to Casey’s values.

 

A Final Reality Check

As I noted in the introduction, a lot of lifters get fairly angry or upset over the above types of estimations, assuming that they don’t take into account individual differences in motivation, work ethic, etc.  To that I say nonsense.

Both Casey and Martin’s equations are based on top level natural bodybuilders, the group that you’d expect to surpass such limits if they existed (and who’s dedication and work ethic is pretty hard to question).  Mine and Alan’s are based on years of experience in the field.  If a massive number of exceptions to the above existed, someone would have seen them by now.

Now I think part of this has to do with exceedingly skewed ideas about what’s achievable, a problem driven by pro-bodybuilding.  After seeing a pro-bodybuilder stepping on stage at 260 pounds or more and shredded, the idea that a natural may top out at 180-190 pounds of lean body mass (if that) can be disheartening.

Of course, to the general public, an individual at a lean 180-190 pounds is still pretty enormous.  It’s just that compared to the absurd size of a pro bodybuilder, it seems absolutely tiny.  But it is reality.

People forget that Arnold Schwarzenegger competed at perhaps 230 pounds (assuming 5% body fat, that’s only 220 pounds of lean body mass) and that was with (admittedly low doses) of anabolic steroids in the mixture.

The simple real-world fact, which can be verified by going to any natural bodybuilding show is that you simply don’t see naturals coming into contest shape much above 200 pounds (the exceptions can usually be counted on one hand) and few even achieve that level of size.  It’s always the lighter classes (e.g. 165 lb class) that have the most competitors at natural shows with fewer and fewer coming in at the heavier weights, especially in contest shape.

Now, some guys on stage may weigh more than 200 pounds but they usually aren’t lean enough.  At even 10% body fat, a guy at 220 pounds only has 200 pounds of lean body mass.  By the time you got him contest lean, he’d likely come in with less than that.

Even when people point to large natural strength athletes who might be 270-280 lbs. natural, by the time you figure in 28-30% body fat, that still puts them right back at a maximum lean body mass of 189-196 lbs.  Certainly near the higher end of things but not by that much.

And while many will argue that improvements in training methods and nutrition should change the above values, that simply doesn’t seem to be the case.   Human genetics have not changed and you still don’t see natural bodybuilders or other athletes coming in with more lean body mass than would be predicted by the above models.  They might get there a bit faster but the overall size of natural bodybuilders doesn’t seem to have changed much, if at all, in decades.

To quote from Casey’s site:

Over the years I’ve also received many emails full of unsubstantiated claims, hostile remarks and even personal attacks because of the information presented here. But in that time, though many have told me they’re easily going to surpass these predictions, I haven ‘t received any legitimate, verifiable statistics that significantly exceed the results of the equations presented above …including correspondence with some of today’s top-ranked drug-free bodybuilders upon which the equations were partially based.

I anticipate a similar response in the comments section of this article and I’d just refer you to what Casey wrote above.

I’d finish by only saying that I’m not writing this in an attempt to be negative in any way shape or form, as I noted in the introduction, I would rather see people put their energy into their training and nutrition than worrying ahead of time about what they might or might not accomplish.  And while I certainly wish that everyone reading this is the lone exception to the values calculated above, well…that’s not what an exception is.

At the same time, a failure to recognize that there are genetic limitations can lead people to do some very silly things in terms of their training or diet.  Folks nearing their genetic limits, in an attempt to gain muscle at a rate that simply not achievable will put on enormous amounts of fat in hopes that it will net them a ton of muscle gain.  And that just doesn’t ever end up being the case.

I’d only note in closing that the above calculations also has some real-world implications in terms of diet (e.g. what kind of weekly or daily surplus should be attempted to maximize muscle gain without excessive fat gains) but that will have to wait for a future article.

Comments

comments

89 thoughts on “What’s My Genetic Muscular Potential?

  1. its true what appear here, but i have to say that one day i performed the diet of your book The rapid fat loss diet, for about 2 week, and i trained 4 times a week when doing that, then
    i coudnt follow it more, so i do 5 days of big cheat days, eating everyday between 10000-15000kcals every day, using 20 gram of creatine everyday, with cromium picolinate,l arginine,ALA,fish oils, and other suplements that i dont remember now,
    I dont care if you believe but i really have to share my own experience…
    I went from 158.4lb to 189.2lb in just 5 days, yeah i get liquid but let me tell you something, it was only 10 lb of liquid, because after i went doing that i do a low carb diet like 70 grams of carbs so i gain 20 lb of weight wich i can say it was something like 7 pounds of fat and the other 3 were of LBM, in just 5 days of doing that rare technique, like i said before i dont care if something believe me because i know its true, before that i didnt have remarkable biceps, but now i really have a decent par of arms,
    so if you ask me i were doing again something like this? Hell no! it was too much fat gain in just a few days, but like i said before, i gained like 2-3 lbm in just 5 days, and im now a newb, im an intermediate weight lifter with a genetic that have gained muscle even when doing definition only by doing something similar to the IF, EATING A LOT OF CALORIES AROUND THE WORKOUT, PRE&PW using whey with a lot of grams of BCAA

  2. I understand the reasoning for these guidelines and also with the guidelines for the rate of muscle gain, but there are still exceptions I see that don’t seem to be explained by this…

    For example:

    http://www.ironmanmagazine.com/articles/6510-20lbs-of-Muscle.pdf

    Is this just crap? If what’s written is true then this guy put on 20 lbs of muscle in two months (far beyond what you’ve said is possible in such a short time) and ended at 217 lbs with 6.5% bodyfat (which is beyond what you’ve stated here as a maximum gain for naturals).

    What do you think of this?

  3. Lyle,

    You definitely make excellent points about both your and Alan’s experiences in the trenches giving you major insight into what can be expected in most situations and how most who try to play the “exception” card are in need of a dose of your reality.

    Along these lines it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall if you ever had a discussion with Coach Christian Thibaudeau on this topic.

    There’s been a lot of bluster on the T-Nation site about their soon-to-drop “super muscle building system” that is supposed to be unlike any other and the new paradigm in optimal muscle growth. (this being their hyperbolic preview of the system and not my own speculation on what might lie ahead).

    On the forums over there, Coach Thibaudeau has been claiming that his system coupled with their latest supplements has led to HUGE new gains in muscle mass and strength in himself and several experienced bodybuilders he has been working with on this latest project. These gains he has mentioned seemed to border on the lines of 1st or 2nd year gains rather than on the ones to be expected for very experienced lifters who are close to their natural threshold and not chemically-assisted. (NOTE: Thibaudeau has said that while optimal para-training nutrition isn’t specifically Biotest-dependent, no other company currently offers what he presently considers to be optimal, and he claims that Biotest was the only one willing to take the plunge, in spite of the huge cost associated with producing such supplements and the accompanying low profit margin).

    While it may be hard for you to speculate if this is merely over-exaggeration or fully legitimate without having followed or read through some of the related threads over there, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on whether this is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing or if they may indeed be on the cusp of something groundbreaking/revolutionary.

  4. Lyle. Thanks for this article. It has been something I’ve wondered about a lot recently.

    I’d be interested if you could expand more on age in this topic.. You touched very quickly on how the rate you can build muscle at will drop, but didn’t mention the effect on maximum potential (assuming there is an effect). I am a 44 year old male and just started proper training perhaps a year ago after a couple years of not-so-proper training, and it would be nice to know there are solid potential gains ahead of me. FWIW, the Casey Butt’s model puts my max at 177lbs at 10%BF, and I’m currently about 40lbs under that for a similar BF percentage.

  5. Lyle,

    In all my years of fitness, I don’t think I’ve seen anybody tackle this impossible question in such a complete fashion. Hardly anything impress me anymore regarding bodybuilding theories, nutrition, etc. There’s not a lot of “new” things just newbies with blogs re-hasing the wisdom of the pioneers.

    But this one stands out as unique and interesting. It gets asked all the time and nobody ever comes up with a reasonable method. Even if it’s all theory, you’ve put together one of the most unique posts I’ve seen in 19 years.

    Thank you for this.

  6. Thibaudeau is a bullshit scammer supplement pusher. That whole website, T-nation is just to sell their supplements. Nothing new there.

  7. I am 6.1 and 192lb with around 7-8% body fat, so does that mean I should be nearing my max? I have not seen any significant slowdowns in my muscle gain, as a matter of fact it has been much greater than in the last 4-5 years (I am 22). I did gain massive amounts of muscle during the first 1-2 years of weight lifting as the chart says, after that it slowed down significantly, but now I am using more sophisticated training and dieting, and been gaining a lot of muscle. All natural by the way. For supplements I been taking Creating and Glutamine and fish oil + vitamins. oh and protein of course

  8. “Even when people point to large natural strength athletes who might be 270-280 lbs. natural, by the time you figure in 28-30% body fat, that still puts them right back at a maximum lean body mass of 189-196 lbs. Certainly near the higher end of things but not by that much.”

    Do you believe that fatter athletes / constantly overeating athletes can simply hold more total muscle amounts than leaner athletes? From what I see around me, this seems to be the case. There are natural powerlifters, football players, farmboys etc who are pretty darn huge and strong, even if you subtract the fat on top.

    Maybe, for example, Martin’s calculations are right for people who usually go down to 5%. When they diet down they start losing muscle near their genetic limit. But what about a guy who wants to stay around his set point? I think he could theoretically hold more muscle and be stronger naturally. By how much? Not sure… if you agree with me, please give me your thoughts on how much this would amount to. Guys willing to get fat could definitely get stronger and maintain more muscle, but not many of us want to be fat, although it would be a fun ride. Some of us don’t want to diet down to contest levels either (me).

    Also Lyle, one more question. Do you think if someone uses steroids to get to say, 20lbs above their calculated genetic limit, are they destined to slowly lose all of that over the next couple of years if their training, diet, and natural hormone levels are good?

  9. I’m working towards being a natural bodybuilder, but I still have a long way to go. I’m 6’5, and still very thin (as in 14 inch biceps), but I’m already 220 lbs at 10% body fat. When I reach anything close to looking muscular, I know I’ll be well over 200 lb lean mass. I followed your link to weightrainer.net and the result is that my top genetic potential is to only gain another 5 lbs. I guess I’m an exception 🙂 It’s a shame really, because I think your information is so valuable and well researched.

  10. Lyle,

    Great post! Thanks for taking the time to put together all the different theories on this one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that attempts to answer this frequently asked but impossible question.

  11. Outstanding article! I’m a shameless math geek myself, and I take predictions and progress tracking to levels most people haven’t the stomach for. I especially like your idea that guys should just train at 100% of their capabilities without worrying about such things, but just as reality dictates there are speed limits built into the human body, we don’t do ourselves any favors setting unrealistic goals. The amount of guys who get frustrated and quit early, or turn to the needle because they haven’t achieved what the glossy mags told them they could in record time probably ranks in the millions. But perspective and reality can be a total buzzkill, so we ignore both, and the flame wars ensue.

    I’m finally at that point in my lifting adventures where I would be ECSTATIC to hit 190 Lbs at 10% body fat. That, in my estimation, is the entry level to “huge” for my body type, and far enough above average that I could be very content with that kind of gain (even tho I may toil futilely forever to surpass it naturally).

  12. Nicely done, Lyle — your reference documentation is what keeps me coming back (and buying your books…). It’s now down, but About.com USED to have in the bodybuilding section a “compare yourself to Arnold” plug-in calculator based on height and wrist dimensions.. SInce it’s been down for years I can’t forward the link but I printed mine off and — surprise! — it’s fairly close to Casey’s model as listed above. I suppose it’s an entirely different question as to whether “genetic potential” implies anabolic enhancements. The kicker? I’m trying “au natural” but I live in Bangkok, where all steroids are sold cheaply over the counter. The Universe, She is an ironic place. 🙂

  13. Well, this was certainly disheartening, and while I am upset, it’s with what I’ve learned from this article, not you, the author. I mean, I’m 22, 5’7.5 and 180lb at ~12-14%BF. That puts me at 156.6 LBM, already above the projected number by Berkhan’s model, and I’ve only trained for three years, or which only one has involved actual solid training. My first two years were awful, as I went from ~145 to ~160, while the last year and a half I’ve moved towards 180 and I still fit into size 32 jeans. Once I (hopefully) cut down to 10%BF, I should have a LBM right at 153, my genetic limit.
    Am I to believe that 1year good training+2years stupid high volume/pump set training-=Genetic Limit? I hope not.
    For what it’s worth, Butt’s calculator says I can reach 191.3@10%BF, giving me 172.17LBM.

  14. kyle,

    i’m like 8′ tall. does that mean i can only carry 200# lbm? i think not. i think i can carry at least 205 # lbm, BRO. i guess i am an exception.

    btw, i also do think that mike hayden is an exception … an exceptionally retarded individual. jesus h, with his 14″ arms and “10%” and all. natural bodybuilding … about as exciting as women’s basketball, only gayer.

    hugs and kisses,
    dano

  15. Hey Lyle,

    Another one I found is the Steeve Reeves model, although it tends to overestimate the Casey Butt’s prediction by a LOT for me, because it is only based on height and doesn’t take into account wrist and ankle size (which is probably more accurate unforunately).

    http://www.bodybuildingsecrets.com/articles/the_ideal_body_measurements.php

    So according to Steve Reeves, as a 6′ male, I should reach a competition weight of 200lb, but with smaller joints in Casey’s model, I would only reach 187lb (at 6% bf), so it’s MUCH lower.

    Anyway, just wanted to add that Steve Reeves link.

  16. How does this explain a running back in the NFL like LaDainian Tomlinson, 5’10, 222lbs….couldn’t be much more than 10% bf….is it most definitely steroids or are there some genetic freak exceptions?

  17. Do the math: 222@10% bodyfat = 22 lbs fat. Putting him at 200 lbs. LBM. Near the top end of the genetic curve (which you would probably expect for a professional athlete) but not shockingly impossible by any stretch.

    Diet him down to contest lean he’d come in under 200 lbs ( due to loss o glycogen/water loss which shows up as LBM) so maybe 195 at the end of it all. Again, it’s not unheard of to find natural bodybuilders (e.g. the guy on the cover of Stubborn Fat Solution) at that level. Not common but certainly not unheard of.

    What you don’t see is naturals coming into contest shape at 220 or whatever.

    Lyle

  18. I’d add this: drugs, including anabolics, have been part of pro-football since at least the 70’s. They used to joke about how they’d sprinkle dianabol on their morning cereal: D-bol, the breakfast of champions.

    So while the guy you mentioned isn’t staggeringly out of range, to think that there is no drug use in pro-sports would be pretty naive.

    Lyle

  19. “I’d only note in closing that the above calculations also has some real-world implications in terms of diet (e.g. what kind of weekly or daily surplus should be attempted to maximize muscle gain without excessive fat gains) but that will have to wait for a future article.”

    Please write this article as your next one or very soon. I would love to hear what you have to say on this matter.

  20. So a student goes to the dojo and asks the master how long it will take him to become a master himself. The master says “First, you must learn patience.” And the student asks “Yeah, yeah, how long is THAT going to take?”

  21. I used the calculator and it seems I already reached my MAX in all measurements but weight.. This seems strange. All my measurements are almost as predicted (chest having few cm less and tights a few more) but my weight is far below the estimated value which should be 183lbs @ 5% BF. While currently I weight 182lbs at something above 15%. So if I dropped the 10% off of the value it’d be 164lbs @ 5%.

    Could this be that my skeletal frame is too light?

  22. i don’t see what all the fuss is about, if these numbers are accurate and my genetics fit in even fairly well with their prediction of prospective gains, i’m a very happy camper. but then again, i’m not aiming to be a pro bodybuilder or a muscular freak.

  23. Because people want to believe that they can be as big as the monstro freaks in the magazines. And they can if they take enough drugs and have the right genetics. And can’t otherwise.

  24. are these charts based on average training and diet without supplementation? such as creatine and such.?

  25. I actually find these numbers to be motivating … I’m supposedly about 10 pounds away from my LBM max, and to me that says the past couple of years of serious training were well worth it.

    BTW I am not a HIT fanatic, but I think it’s interesting that Mike Mentzer used to suggest a person who trained intensely for a year or two could reach their genetic potential and it seems he wasn’t too far wrong.

    Maybe if I drink some HCG I’ll grow faster … yeah, that’s the ticket. 😉

  26. Really good article. I’m 30 years old and have been training since 18. I stand about 5’11 and weigh 220 and my bf right now is about 10-12%, putting me in that 195-200 lbm. I know what it took me to get that big, so when I see guys bigger and more ripped than me, that don’t know anything about nutrition and their training is sub-par I think to myself, WTF! I gotten to know a lot of the guys and it always comes out sooner or later…STEROIDS!!! I’m proud to have to done it naturally. I came across the Tnation I,bodybuilder program and I’ll do it just to prove that it’s going to be the same thing as everything else. It looks like a good program only because your switching everything up but when it comes down to it, I might be a couple lbs bigger but I would’ve gotten that way regardless.

  27. with these genetic caculators based on the top preformers of a bodybuilding contests you looking at a calculator based on the genetics of natural champs. I go to the gym, eat right, lift hard and am very dedicated and constently see people pass me up in the gym. i come from a small framed family, i think some people have better genetic jean for building muscle than others witch allows some to build more muscle much faster then others. it doesnt mattter how much i eat or how hard i lift i just dont get any stronger anymore. i can take pro hormones, gain some weight, and after about 3-4 months ive lost it all and im back to the size i started at. I can not make gains and keep them anymore!

  28. I believe that it’s the maximum muscular measurements, along with the corresponding body fat percentage, which matter much more than bodyweight, since bodyweight fluctuates periodically, and varies greatly from individual to individual due to different body frames and bone density.

  29. this is pretty cool. ran the calc. I never really wanted to be super huge. Just fast, fit and able to lift huge weights.

    cheers.

  30. I believe this to be true. Hell Mike Tyson was a freak at only around 5’9-5’10max and in his prime he was around 215, sometimes 220…that’d definately put him around 200lbs LBM.
    I think I can reach 200lb LBM, but that would more than likely be my potential.
    Of course we all love to believe we can be more than what is expected (and with drugs it is possible to gain more).

    By the way this is one of the best sites Lyle. Keep it up!

  31. I know strength athletes who are 5.8 at 230 with what i would say is 12% bodyfat, who are definately natural. Tom Mutaffis, leightweight strongman comes to mind (2007 NAS champion). There are also football players, mma fighters etc that are truly freaky, i would assume that steroids would just be to diffulcult for these athletes to use. Brian Cushing (though he did get busted for HCG), Brian Orakpo, Ray lewis. Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin, etc. Im pretty sure Brock Lesnar is around 6.4 at 265+ 10% bodyfat!

    (in the end though it would not suprise me if all the above mentioned athletes were on steroids even though they are in tested regulations).

  32. I am 17 years old, 202lbs on average, and 5’11”. I’ve been tested by my high school’s athletic trainer to be 11% body fat, and this seems correct as I have somewhat visible abdominal muscles.

    According to the calculator, this would put my max genetic limit at around 187lbs (at 11% bodyfat). I have NEVER taken steroids in any way, shape or form.

    So how can this calculator possibly be correct? I have exceeded the “genetic limit” by about 15lbs with only around 2 years of strength training (I am not a bodybuilder). Should I just cut down to 5% BF and win all the natural bodybuilding competitions? 😛

  33. @ Brandon

    There are exceptions to everything. Don’t be ignorant and think the calculators are perfect and suited to all individuals. Obviously you must fall in the group to whom the calculators aren’t suited to.

  34. Great Article. It’s good to get a realistic prognostic of how much dry muscle you can gain. I have a question regarding gaining Lean Body Mass . . . .

    “How much water and glycogen does an individual gain in addition to muscle? Say someone gains 10 lbs of dry muscle. How much water and glycogen would go with that?”

    When I am training and eating towards the goal of gaining muscle, I gain 1-2 lbs a week. I ask my question because I am curious about how much of my weight gain is actually LBM. So if you were to tell me that for every pound of muscle an individual gains, he gains 2 pounds of glycogen and water (along with a few pounds of fat), then I would definitely reconsider how much weight I am gaining. If that were the case, then I would aim towards gaining 4-5 pounds of weight each week (1 lb of muscle, 2 lbs of water and glycogen, and 1 or 2 lbs of fat) which is quite different from the 1-2 lbs.

    note: I eat clean foods 90% of the time, consider myself intermediate and I weigh 170ish at sub 10% bf.

  35. regarding my previous comment . . .

    i also take 5g creatine postworkout (the only time I take it), and drink lots of water, about a liter a day.

  36. I really enjoyed this article. From everything else I’ve read it seems completely realistic and down to earth. I don’t know what other peoples hopes might be but for myself the potential within these limits should be completely acceptable for anyone. I mean, it’s rather simple, you reap as you sow. To build a quality physique takes work but if you want more or faster you’ve got performance enhancers. It’s anybody’s choice.

    At one point in the past I did gain 10kg (22lbs) in 3 months. But I was 20 years old, 6’2 and a malnourished 165lbs at the start. I had almost no fat to begin with and ate stacks and stacks of protein and creatine for those 3 months. I actually got minor stretch marks by my armpits from the rapid growth. However, I haven’t seen growth like that since and, 10 years later, am pretty sure I never will again.

    What does make me curious though is where you talk about natural bodybuilders rarely coming in at over 200lbs. I know nothing about bodybuilding as a sport and have never followed it closely. Do they not compete in height divisions?
    The reason I ask is because I recently got measured at my local gym as being 214lbs and 18.7% bodyfat (caliper test). This would give me a lean mass of 173lbs. Given that I haven’t worked out in 3 years (and never really all that hard before that) I would assume I figure into the beginner category of lifters. This sets me up for a pontential of 20lbs in a year if I do everything correctly. 173+20=193lbs which at 5% bf would add up to a total of 203lbs. According to Casey’s calculator I have a max muscular potential somewhere between 210 and 220lbs @ 5% so this figure seems completely plausible.

    I guess that I just find it kinda surprising that given a year, a lot of hard work and some luck I could be among the heaviest naturals out there. I know I’m tall and that my frame is fairly big but somehow I’ve just always felt fairly avarage anyway. Maybe it’s all the roids floating around my gym that have given me that impression. But surely there must be a fair few taller and thus heavier (200lbs+) naturals out there?

  37. Lyle:

    you say:

    ” I would rather see people put their energy into their training and nutrition than worrying ahead of time about what they might or might not accomplish”

    Do you think there is any value in setting realistic expectations? Personally, knowing (or at least believing) I can accomplish a specific goal goes a long way in keeping me motivated.

    For example, I’d like to get a physique like the one Ryan Reynolds obtained recently. Knowing this is in my genetic wheelhouse would be very motivating to know as I set on the path to try and get there.

    I’m trying to figure out what type of physique I can realistically aspire to so I don’t unnecessarily spin my wheels chasing a dream and end up frustrated and possibly end up ultimately in a worse place physically.

  38. I wonder if there is anything in this for a powerlifter, like at X height you’d be best at Y bodyweight.

    Or is it too complex to give even a vague idea…

  39. The problem with most people here claiming the calculators or article is wrong and they already exceed the described benchmarks seems to fall within the following two categories. Either they are incapable of doing math, or they need to brush up on their reading skills.

    Take Brandon for example:

    I am 17 years old, 202lbs on average, and 5’11″. I’ve been tested by my high school’s athletic trainer to be 11% body fat, and this seems correct as I have somewhat visible abdominal muscles.

    According to the calculator, this would put my max genetic limit at around 187lbs (at 11% bodyfat). I have NEVER taken steroids in any way, shape or form.

    So how can this calculator possibly be correct? I have exceeded the “genetic limit” by about 15lbs with only around 2 years of strength training (I am not a bodybuilder). Should I just cut down to 5% BF and win all the natural bodybuilding competitions?
    ——————————–

    So, according to Brandon, he is 202lbs at 11% body fat which puts his lean body mass at 179.78lbs. This puts him at 7.22lbs under his “genetic limit”. But likely, his actual body fat is higher. Overestimation of bodyfat, even by trainers is kinda the norm.

  40. I appreciate the information. I’ve always wondered what the potential drug-free gains might be for me. The information regarding frame size is appreciated as well. I’ve got a small frame, and on the surface, the numbers from Martin Berkhan’s model seem realistic.

    Also, regarding an earlier reference to the T-Nation site; that site is unashamedly pro-steroids. So, it wouldn’t suprise me if they have different estimates for muscle gain potential.

  41. The Casey Butt calculator rings true for me.

    I think it’s important to note that the wrist and ankle measurements Lyle ran through the calculator are quite small for your average tall male athlete or probably even for the average 6’0+ man.

    I’m 6’2” barefoot and I don’t think I have particularly great genetics or an amazing frame (I can do that wrap your hand around your wrist thing and touch my fingers – though I’m sure that’s variance-ridden) but my wrist measurement is 8.5 and my ankle is 9.5, giving me a max 6% BF weight of 215.4 lbs contest and 224 with a ton of water.

    That’s the other thing, people keep freaking out about how genetic potential is below 200 LBM for most everyone, but WATER is a huge, huge factor – I can fluctuate up and down the scale 7lbs in one day sometimes.

    Bodybuilders who have just crash dieted don’t have water, glycogen stores, etc in their LBM – Butt’s calculator says that amounts to 9lbs for a guy of my size.

    [I’m 230lb 17-18% and using Lyle’s baller flexible dieting principles to get down to 10% before I move on from SS to Texas Method to squeeze out a little more weight gain and hopefully a lot of functional strength].

  42. Ok,

    So at 45 and having worked out a total of 2 months the most gain I can get on my biceps is 2 inches?

    Thanks, I think I will just do cardio and screw the weightlifting since I’m naturally near my maximum from lifting a pencil.

  43. Lyle,

    As always, a fantastic article. I have a related (slightly tangential) question though – Agreed that there is a genetic limit to how much muscle a person can carry at a certain body-fat level, dictated by hormones. But what about maximum strength potential? In other words, how can one assess the genetic strength potential of an aspiring powerlifter? Is there a limit to that too? If yes, how do we go about quantifying it?

  44. Using weight potential at a certain body fat potential will be fraught with inaccuracy for many without specifying certain things:

    1) Height. It is not so uncommon to be around or under 5′ 6″, nor more or less 6′ 3″. Obviously there is a very large difference in the max. lean weight potential at both ends, & these are not even uncommon heights. The taller man at the same body weight & body fat will be much less powerful, since his muscle is spread over a longer body, while his non muscle & non fat weight will be greater.

    2) Bone Structure. Casey Butt’s model at least considers this. There is a bell curve of variation, but with a larger bone structure your skeleton will weigh more, AND you tend to be able to add more muscle. Hormonal factors are one reason.

    3) Water weight, whether someone is “bulked” with a lot of food/many meals a day in the digestive system, & is the weight taken as it should be, nude, empty in the morning?

    These scales apply to the vast majority, but if they do not account for these variations, then they have limited utility as measures of real muscle & potential.

    By the way Justin, your bone structure is very large, especially your wrist, if taken accurately at the most narrow points. Also, for the kid who said the 11% body fat calculation is likely accurate just because you can see some stomach definition:

    You are incredibly wrong. Whether you can see stomach muscles is largely genetic, how much subcutaneous fat you have. Perhaps also how much ab work one did, at least at one time. Now at almost a 40″ waist, & when a bit bigger & “bulked” with 5-6 meals a day, I can/could see some faint outlines of a 4 pack in the mirror, more if I flex(ed). I was still approaching 30% body fat at max!

  45. Just lol’d so hard at Mikes comment at those gains and thoughts on LBM gained in 5 days, what a load of bs.

    Regarding the article, I have hit those figures, actually a bit higher naturally, and I know people who eat/train/sleep much better than me- so defo I would say figures are conservative. In fact- the LBM at the heights given are probably people who eat well and train maybe 3 times per week to decent, bu not means extreme, intensity…

  46. This is undoubtedly accurate. A question arises for me though around muscular development. I weigh basically the same as I did in high school yet my muscles are waaaay bigger then they were then. I am also much stronger. My body fat is definitely lower, but not that much lower to justify the radically different way my body looks. At least so it seems. Any insights into this Lyle? What’s the science of muscle development? What I mean is, is is possible to develop your muscles making them stronger and bigger without necessarily adding weight. This seems to be what happened with my body, but who knows maybe I’m wrong.

  47. Great article! I’ve been looking for something like this for sometime.

    These comments are pretty typical… 5’10 .. 220lbs must be on gear!

    My recommendation: spend exponentially more time in the gym working on your ideal physique than researching it. It will boggle your mind what some are capable of achieving without any type of gear.

    We need to understand that some individuals spend a lifetime on their physique’s. Dedicated to every meal and train without flaw. Genetics also play “some” role in the matter.

    Who cares what this article tells you about your genetic potential… I dare you to prove it wrong!

  48. I don’t think this is right in all circumstances. I know guys at the gym who are 5’10” and weigh like 280 pounds natural. Even if they’re body fat is 25% they would have a lbm of 210. I am 5’5″ and weigh 190 at 15% body fat so I’m 162 lean body mass, I have been lifting for 10.5 years. If u dedicate ur life to lifting u can get bigger than these calculations. U have to remember that most body builders don’t lift that long. Arnold started slimming down for movies like 10 years after bodybuilding if I’m not mistaken. I think one thing is not squatting enough, a guys legs can get huge. Like I said I’m already a little above this model and my legs are definitely no where near massive they’re just ok. The key is consistency over a long time and a lot of squatting. I started at 21 and am about to be 32 so to me its worth it cause I’ll be huge my whole 30s and 40s. If people buy this they won’t continue to push themsleves. These estimates r measly think about ur gym and how many guys weigh over 200 pounds at heights under 6 foot there’s like 25 guys that r bigger than this at my gym in Jersey and they’re not high on body fat!

  49. I’m 5’8″-5’9″. Back when I got out of college, I started lifting and, after less than 4 months of that, I got a hydrostatic weighing which put my lean mass at 167 lbs. I didn’t realize that was good. I also got hydrostatic weighed again after another few months of training on a different set of equipment which gave me a lean mass of 166.6 lbs, which is pretty consistent, so I don’t think either setup was out of whack.

    I have bodybuilder thighs/calves and am pretty big overall regardless of training, so that probably has a lot to do with it. Maybe I also have big and/or dense bones too. Either way, I’m not going to complain.

  50. In reply to Dave (Sept 20, 2013),,,

    I’m 58 years old, and I have been training since I was age 16 back in 1972. I’ve been drug-free the entire time — no steroids, no prohormones, no growth factors, not ever. I’ve trained consistently for decades on programs designed around a core of free-weight full squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, rows, weighted chins, weighted dips, and bench presses. Squats have always been my priority — despite job-incurred injuries to my knees, rotator cuffs, and lumbar spine, I regularly still do 20 rep squat sets with over 315 pounds as well as much heavier 5-8 rep sets across my workout schedules (at a bodyweight of between 159 and 169, depending on the time of year in my annual bodyfat schedule).

    I know from my own experience and by my decades of observation of other serious weight trainers that, if a guy trains drug-free, beginning when his body has mostly finished puberty, he will hit his genetic mass ceiling far before ten years of training (assuming that he trains consistently and progressively, eats properly, and rests adequately) — in fact, usually, a guy will reach his mass ceilings well before five years. Beyond that time period, drugs are required to add more lean mass. No one, not even a genetic outlier, can continue to add more mass naturally beyond five years of intelligent, intense, efficient “lifestyle-bodybuilding”, no matter how hard he pushes himself, and no matter how many more years he trains.

    Yes, a lifelong bodybuilder might add some strength; and, yes, he’ll have to keep pushing himself if he even expects to maintain the mass he’s previously achieved; but, he cannot add more muscle mass. To expect to be able to continue add more naturally is wishful fantasy, because, unfortunately, it’s biologically impossible.

    In fact, after about age 35, the average guy’s ability to grow muscle actually diminishes due to the normal physiological decline which aging causes (weight training will resist, will slow, and will somewhat counteract that decline, but weight-training cannot prevent that age-decline); meaning that , not only are an individual’s genetic ceilings involved, but that normal aging makes it more difficult to reach and maintain one’s mass at even those ceilings after about age 35.

    Maximum Mass Potential Calculators enable most guys with typical genes to set REALISTIC goals for themselves, so they can avoid chasing impossible ones. MMPCs enable guys to recognize when they have been successful within their individual genetic potential — if the calculators estimate that they can attain 16″ arms and 15.5″ calves , then when they reach those measurements at the bodyfat percentages of an MMPC, they know they’ve been SUCCESSFUL. Instead of comparing themselves to the exceptions — to the genetic outliers who not only possess freakish potential for mass but also good genetic ability to respond to growth drugs — guys can compare themselves to what is naturally attainable by average genetics.

    Most guys likely are unaware that if they even attain the size predicted for them by an MMPC, they will look IMPRESSIVE to most people. A lean 16″ arm on a 5’9″ guy with 7″ wrists looks HUGE. No, they won’t look look like Park, or Oliva, or Haney, or Coleman; but they will look BIG to most others.

    MMPCs don’t mean guys will stop pushing themselves. Heck, I push as hard as I ever did although I’ve not gained a fraction of size since my fourth year of all the decades I’ve been training. As I mentioned, after all, once you build mass, you must keep working hard if you expect to retain it — and, you must continue to work hard the rest of your life if you want to retain as much of it as possible for the rest of your life. You’ll spend most of your life as a bodybuilder MAINTAINING what you’ve built, and, trust me, it requires as much dedication and sweat to maintain as it doe to build it.

    Finally, my experience is that most of those who even sincerely believe that they’ve exceeded the predictions of the MMPCs are underestimating their bodyfat.

  51. Notice how this article is ~5 years old, and none of the original commentators have returned to report how they smashed through Lyle’s limits after 4 more years of training.

  52. Heheh…Steve, your observation echoes what I’ve witnessed on various sites for at least the past six years about those who insist they’ll exceed the MMPCs (especially Casey Butt’s): none of the insisters has ever returned To Tell How They’ve Proved It Wrong. I mean, I expect the rare genetic exceptions exist somewhere, who, for whatever reason, have just not got around to reporting their successes, but…well, I think the general evidence speaks for itself. All the positive thinking and blood-vessel-breaking determination in the cosmos cannot override simple (well, not really simple, but…) human genetic muscle limits.

    Reminds me of how 1981 AAU Mr USA, Mr America, and Mr Universe Jesse Gautreaux startled a naive Steve Speyrer when Steve asked Jesse if it was possible to build Jesse’s physique without steroids if Jesse simply put in a few more gut-busting years; an honest Jesse (who’d been training for over ten years, six competitively, by that point) flatly answered, “NO”. And, in 1981, the drugs and doses and stacks and cycles weren’t even as advanced nor as high nor as lengthy as are being used currently.

  53. Soooooooo.

    Just take steroids for a few months and you will be at the natural limit and then stop.

    Done

  54. Let’s assume a individual can add an additional 50lbs of muscle.

    Can you control where that 50 lbs go? A typical example would be a male just doing upper body and not legs. Does he achieve his 50 lbs on his upper body or does he reduce his potential by not training the legs?

  55. It’s honestly sad that people are attacking or arguing with this article. In fact, i think that this article actually encourages muscle growth in the sense that for beginners it sets a scientific goal that they can achieve! This article shouldn’t set a limitation on advanced bodybuilders since they have already seen results. All in all put in time and effort and gains will be made 🙂

  56. After reading this article I am slightly depressed. Not because of the apparent genetic limit for my size – simply because I am so damn far away from it! 180lb, 5′ 11, @14% bodyfat… only 155lb LBM… Disgraceful!
    I’d be over the moon if I could get another 10-15lb of LBm on my frame.

    great article; thanks.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1762401312 which is not a hashcash value.

  57. So how the hell do athletes(especially football players) exceed these lbm limits by 20-30+ pounds? It’s not like 100% of them use peds.

  58. Something needs pointed out. The fatter you are the more lbm you carry. When I weighed 295, bf of around 40% that means I had a lbm of ~177 ibs, I currently am about 170 with ~10% bf means my lbm is now 153 pounds. I was a couch potato for 20 years yet had more lbm weight than I weigh all together now after working my butt off the last ~1.4 years. All these comments about someone having a bunch of lbm is I’m sure because of higher bf… it is much more iimpossible for me to get back to ~175 pounds of lean body mass @<=10% bf. If you are at or near your genetic limit with out spending years getting there you are fat or on steroids… perhaps a genetic freak here or there and estimates are just that, however your chances are slim you will surpass any of them and even then it won’t be by much. Steroids harm more than the user they harm societies beliefs in what’s actually possible naturally.

  59. Cool, great article, but now please define what “proper training” is. I strength train 5 days per week, with each weekday being a different muscle group (e.g. Monday: Chest, Tues: Back, Wed: Shoulders, Thurs: Legs, and Fri: Arms). My brother and I do at least 4 sets of each exercise until muscle failure on each. The weight varies, but usually it’s very heavy weight with the ability to do between 5 and 12 reps. Each rep the weight changes up or down. We do 4 to 5 exercises on that one muscle group per day. Every workout day we also do abs after the workout, doing various exercises and techniques. Sometimes I will get a wild hair and run 3 miles or so on a non training day just because. Would this qualify as “proper training”? Oh yeah, I eat 1g per lb of body weight of protein daily, take creatine, vitamins, eat relatively well (very little sugar, no soda/fruit drinks etc…), and drink lots of water.

    Sincerely, Jeff

  60. Maybe the numbers are fairly close. Ok so I was 187 with 16% body fat at 5’5” or 5’6″. I checked and its 17% max. So that’s a lbm of 158 pounds. So I stand corrected. Looks about right. Now I have trimmed fat off and weigh 170 with probably 12% body fat meaning lbm of around 149. Seems like maybe people are overestimating their body fat. So basically I’m pretty much done getting big which kind of sucks. Maybe I could add a little bit more muscle. A lot of people out there must be juicing then because there are a ton of big actors, athletes, fitness models etc. It kind of sucks because everyone thinks that’s what you can achieve because society is flooded with images of juiced guys.

  61. DAVID — I, for one, commend and appreciate your returning here after your original post of Sept 29, 2013, to post what you did on January 31, 2015. I only wish more guys were like you and were honest about what you’ve realized. Honesty from bodybuilders is the one thing that could halt the nonsense utilized by marketeers.

    Yeah, it does suck when we realize we’ve pretty much hit our natural genetic mass limits yet are far from what we’d like to look like.

    By the way, another genetic trait which varies is how much lean mass a person loses as they lose bodyweight (since it’s impossible to shed significant bodyfat without also losing some lean mass; and this holds even when resistance training is used to try to maintain lean mass).
    The average lean mass-to-bodyfat loss ratio is 1 to 3, meanng that, for every three pounds of bodyfat lost, an average guy will also lose about one pound of lean mass. Another way to look at it is that for every pound of bodyweight lost, only 75% is bodyfat. . So….the more bodyfat a person sheds means greater loss of lean mass (which partially explains why guys who start with higher lean mass but are overly-fat end up with the lean mass predicted by the MMPCs when they get down to the bodyfat percentages of those calculators) .

    As do other traits, though, that loss ratio varies slightly among people. Some guys lose a little more than 1 for every 3; and, at the opposite, enviable end of the range, some lose a little less than 1 for every 3 The top physiqie competitors often seem to fall into that enviable end of the range; enabling them to retain a little more lean mass when they cut for a contest.

    And, oh yes — the use (although lower doses and briefer cycles than those of top bodybuilders) of steroids and other chemical growth enhancers by actors, celebrities, and male fitness models skews reality for everyone.

  62. Thomas Moss on April 28th, 2014 6:15 pm
    “Let’s assume a individual can add an additional 50lbs of muscle.
    Can you control where that 50 lbs go? A typical example would be a male just doing upper body and not legs. Does he achieve his 50 lbs on his upper body or does he reduce his potential by not training the legs?”

    Genetics set a limit for the size of each muscle in an individual’s body. Once that limit is reached, no further mass can be added, even if other muscles are far from their size limits. So, nope, a person can’t control where his total of muscle goes.. Not working some muscles results in not acheiving the potential total he could gain.

    So, in the example you gave…if all that individual did was work his upper body, his total pounds of muscle gained when he attained his upper body limits would be far less than the 50 lbs he could add if he worked his entire body. (And, that’s ignoring for the sake of simplicity here the question of whether neglecting his legs would hinder his upper body gains and his being able to attain his upper body genetic limits.)

  63. Great Article. Always a delight to see some accurate, credible information presented in a n organized way. Among my group of training partners at the gym we are finding Casey Butt’s method to be very heartening. We are the usual grab bag of genetics and morphology among the 3 of us: one is very small framed and prone to fat but is very vascular now that he has dieted down; one is a very lean “hardgainer” with a swimmers body who wants add about 15 lbs of lean mass; and you have me, a big fat guy with a generous frame trying to lift my way into some smaller clothing sizes.

    Based on the Butts method, we all ought to be able to realistically reach all of our respective body goals within 2 years based on our current weight training.

    On another note, it is useful to investigate your own morphology when setting up a weight training program. Everyone’s leg to torso ratio is slightly different, as is collar bone construction and rib cage circumference.

  64. I appreciate the compilation of this information and think it is a good general guideline and, for once, seems to include that there are indeed genetic limitations. I see that it is all male based and wish that the female targeted sites would do this because I hear far too often things said to or about women that is perhaps just not naturally and healthily attainable for many. I came across this because I am having my DNA tested due to several illnesses and it made me think of when I, for a short time, contemplated competitive bodybuilding and what is it that makes my family so dense in muscularity and bone? At that time I was 21 y/o, 5’4″ 139lbs, 40″ chest (32F), 24″ waist, 30″ hips and could throw a full keg down a hall. or dangle a fellow male BB out a window:) My biceps got as large as 17″ at one point, just working them once a week. Now, that was the same weight I was at 12 y/o and 4 inches shorter with smaller hips. People guessing my weight were always, and still are, about 20 lbs off the mark. At 24% estimated BF I was judged to have similar definition to the females at 17% though I have never had the water test. At 180 lbs (from medical steriods) I was still called “no bigger than a minute.”(yep, they were a bit blind i think). I have plateaued at 160 and am told that will not change until I get my adrenals back on track…possibly another year. I will always bulk easily and recover muscle mass quickly when injured…at least maybe into my 70s if my family is any indication. I tried many programs to get more dancer like proportions, but, i take no offense and am happy to have a husband who proudly says “you look like a power lifter” yet still be complimented for looking girlish (I think it is just the boobs, since I only had any real hips at 180lbs). I would like to reduce my bicep and calf sizes (well and chest as it is exacerbating some back issues), but this is my genetic makeup and I must embrace what I can and CANNOT change and love my freak of nature form and strength!

  65. apernetly i can only have 25 inch legs i have a 6 pack and 24 inch legs so how do you explain this? oh yeah i just started training my legs 3 weeks ago

  66. DILLON — well, how about the following procedure? You train (PEDrug-free, of course) consistently and progressively for the next two consecutive years, then reduce your bodyfat to 10% (as assessed accurately, not by your own guesswork) and tell us what your thighs measure at that point.
    Be sure to take PHOTOS (clear and illustrative) of yourself both now and then (at that two-year/10% bodyfat point) so visible evidence is available to verify your results.

    We’ll be better able to offer explanations to you then. Okay?

  67. This was beyond inspiring for me than anything else. To know that Casey told me that I can have 16.5″ arms on my 5’10” and 6.5 wrist body is something I’m very happy with, those size arms with a 6.5″ wrist will look fantastic, due to the optical illusion that smaller muscles look bigger on people with smaller wrists (or joints). I believe that was something you mentioned on your talent vs hard work article. And when I do reach that goal, I won’t have the troubled thoughts of something being wrong with me when I can’t take it further.

    Bah, now I’m just rambling, don’t want to bore you any further with my personal daydreams. It was a fantastic article and I enjoy your content.

  68. “And while many will argue that improvements in training methods and nutrition should change the above values, that simply doesn’t seem to be the case. Human genetics have not changed and you still don’t see natural bodybuilders or other athletes coming in with more lean body mass than would be predicted by the above models. They might get there a bit faster but the overall size of natural bodybuilders doesn’t seem to have changed much, if at all, in decades.”

    Agree with this part especially, in fact I would say the overall size of natural bodybuilders hasn’t changed much in a century. I have been reading about the popular strong guys of old, like Eugen Sandow and Bobby Pandour, and to me they look very similar in size to a lot of the modern guys stepping on stage at natty shows. And back then they had a LOT less knowledge and availability of training methods, nutritional knowledge, the science behind hypertrophy, supplements and cell tech.

    I also don’t get all the fuss and wishful thinking of being the chosen snowflake who exceeds the above estimates. Sorry guys but it ain’t gonna happen.

  69. My question is related to the Casey Butts method. The article states that his is based off “top level natural bodybuilders”. Who does this refer to? The Natural Olympia competitors? Or others? I mean that opens a lot of questions for me because the natural competitors don’t represent the genetic elite since not everyone who has a great physique competes, and how can you guarantee they are naturals? Maybe he goes into more detail somewhere but there are some holes with his method. Also, if you max out after only 5 or 6 years, you could just do basic maintenance work and be done with it, since there’s no point in trying to keep training to gain after that point, right? Legit questions and not hating but it seems like the whole lifestyle is only necessary up to a point then it becomes just a giant waste to go balls to the wall.

  70. Ethan wrote on August 13th, 2015 11:00 pm:

    “My question is related to the Casey Butts method. The article states that his is based off “top level natural bodybuilders”. Who does this refer to? The Natural Olympia competitors? Or others?”

    Casey Butts’ algorithm is based upon top level bodybuilders from before 1955, which was BEFORE steroids were introduced into bodybuilding. World-class bodybuilders before 1955 were guaranteed natural by default because growth drugs weren’t available until after 1955.

    “I mean that opens a lot of questions for me because the natural competitors don’t represent the genetic elite since not everyone who has a great physique competes…?”

    While, certainly, not every person with elite genetics competes, those who do choose to compete in world-level competition are among the genetic elite. The ones who compete statistically represent what is possible for all genetic elite; that is simple statistical probability. All it would take to prove Casey’s algorithm erroneous is one person, and in all the decades of natural bodybuilding, not one top competitor has ever surpassed the algorithm. Sure, it cannot be disproven that “someone somewhere might significantly surpass the algorithm”….but, then, neither can it be disproven that “invisible extraterrestrial aliens might be living among us”. The burden of proof is on those who claim that “someone somewhere might exist who exceeds the Max Mass Potential Calculator For Elites” — because, all the evidence to the present supports the vaildity of the mass potential algorithm.

    “Also, if you max out after only 5 or 6 years, you could just do basic maintenance work and be done with it, since there’s no point in trying to keep training to gain after that point, right? Legit questions and not hating but it seems like the whole lifestyle is only necessary up to a point then it becomes just a giant waste to go balls to the wall.”

    I’m 59; I’ve been natural/drug-free bodybuilding for over 40 years, since I began in 1972 at age 16. Yes, I hit my genetic maxes by year five (which was long before I even understood genetic ceilings or Casey’s Calculator even existed) after a full five years of proper training, eating, and recuperating programs. Since I knew no better, once my gains halted, I did keep trying to gain for about two more years. But, I made zero further gains. So, yep, it is pointless after about 5-6 years of bodybuilding (assuming those were consecutive years of consistent, progressive, intelligent training and eating) to try to gain further — once genetic ceilings are hit, no more lean mass is possible naturally.

    So, yes, after that 5-6 year point, I shifted to what is maintenance training. But here’s the thing: unless you maintain a balls-to-the-wall bodybuilding lifestyle, you will LOSE those gains. Because, it requires nearly as much if not sometimes equally as much training and correct eating/recuperating to maintain muscle as it does to gain it. You’ll lose thse 16″ arms and you’ll get fatter than 12% bodyfat if you significantly slack on your intensity/frequency/volume of training and on your eating habits. It’s true that maintenance requires a little less effort, but, don’t misunderstand ” a little less” as meaning “easy”. In the 35+ years of bodybuilding since I hit my genetic limits, I’ve been ball-busting on training built around a core of squats, overhead presses, pull-ups, rows, dips, deadlifts, SDL’s, shrugs, incline presses, and calf raises same as I was before I hit my limits.
    The “waste” would be in spending 5-6 years to get to your muscle genetic limits only to slack off and let it erode afterwards.

    ” Maybe he goes into more detail somewhere but there are some holes with his method.”

    Yes, Casey goes into thorough details concerning the data he based upon and how he formulated his algorithm, in his writings.

  71. Hey Lyle,
    I’ve been training for a year. Gained 10 pounds of muscle l, lost 20 pounds of fat but I only weigh 130 pounds. Is it possible to put on 20 pounds of muscle in the second year if my training and diet is spot on?

  72. Interesting read, I’m 22 and currently at 121kg (266.7 lbs) and 22% bf (high yes), but my lean body mass (full natural, cause it’d be a waste to do steroids now) is 93.8kg or 206.7lbs, and my ffmi is at 26.9, dies this mean I have good genetics or just blessed? Cause I go against the few articles I’ve read of yours and am just curious.

  73. Re-read the article, these numbers are based on a low bodyfat and 22% is fat. Diet down and you’ll drop below that value, guarandamnteed.

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