Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Muscular Potential

This is a gay topic, but it's Valentine's day, so it's probably apropos.

First off, the answer is, I don't know.  I have no clue as much muscle you, dear reader, or anyone else can expect to gain over the period of your training life.

But we can speculate based on some bullshit, can't we?

Extremes - 

Before we talk about this gay topic, one of the things that must be done, is to throw out extremes.  That means the guy running 2 grams of test a week along with insulin, GH, trenbelone, deca, and a whole host of other compounds has to be discarded.  The great majority of guys that pick up a weight are never going to go to these extremes to put on muscle mass.

You also have to throw out dudes that are like 6'5" with 2" wrists and shit.  Guys that were 2 pounds when they were 15 years old.  That shit is not normal either.

If you have been training for 10 years and eating like a ravenous cannibal, and you're like 107 pounds, you're just as much on the extreme scale as the guy shooting a full syringe of anything everyday.  Not worth talking about.

Natural Bodybuilders -

I personally don't want to get into the wrist measurement, ankle measurement, how many inches from your taint to your asshole, blah blah I don't care.  I also don't want to get into arm or chest or whatever measurements.  That's not even worth debating.

We can look at height, weight, and eye ball the conditioning level.

And do not send me your god damn pics to judge your bodyfat.  If you want to know, go get it measured like I do.  That's the best way.  But the sake of the article, we will in fact use a little eyeballing just for the sake of conversation.

The best place to start, in my opinion, would be to look at natural bodybuilders.  So let's look at a few.

Kiyoshi Moody

According to the T-bag article, Kiyoshi actually eats up for his contests.  He runs around 175 in the offseason and then eats up to around 205 for his contests.  This is strange and unusual, and yes I know some guys do it, but they are few and far between.  Never the less, the dude is in contest shape, which is around 5-6% or so at 5'10" and 205 pounds.  Let me also add that he's 40 years old.  

5'10 205 pounds

Skip LaCour

If you don't know who Skip is, then well either you're some kind of noob to bodybuilding or you've just never picked up a Flex or Muscular Development or some other muscle rag.  Skip is probably the most successful natural bodybuilder of all time.  He's certainly the most well known one.  I used to chat with Skip quite a bit and I know for a fact that in this particular pic he was 213 pounds at 5'10".  Let me also add that Skip is over 40 as well.

5'10" 213 pounds

 John Hansen 

John Hansen won the Natural Mr. Olympia in 1998.  According to pretty much every stat I could find on him he's about 5'8" and 210 pounds in contest condition.  Let me also point out that Mr. Hansen was born in 1963.  So when he won the 98 NMO he was 35 years old.

5'8" 210 pounds

 Jeff Willet

Jeff is another very well known natural bodybuilder like Skip (they also both are/were sponsored by AST).  Jeff is the proverbial midget of this bunch, at around 5'7".  And he was a 198 guy as a competitor.  Jeff is 37 or so, approximately.

5'7" 198

Doing the math - 

If you take all of these numbers at face value, and add up the math you get an average height of around 5'9".

If you do the same for their contest weight you get around 206-207 pounds.

If you divide 69 inches by 206 pounds you get 2.98.  Let's just round to 3.  So roughly, 3 pounds per linear inch.

Is that a very crude way of measuring it?  Maybe.  But all of these guys come out to about the same weight per linear inch really.  Can't be a coincidence.

Also can't be a coincidence that all of these guys are within an ear shot of being the same size, and all say they are natural.  I'm not going to dispute their claims of being natural, that's not what this particular post is about.  For the sake of discussion, I'm going to say they are all natural and these stats are real.  Which I believe they are.

If you do believe all of, that would say that the above average genetically gifted guy, would fall within that 3 pounds per linear inch range.  So if you're 6'1" and wanted to have some IDEA (read that word over and over again, since none of this is fucking science) of what your potential might be, then you'd figure around 219 pounds or so.  Again, that seems about right too.

Where it all falls apart - 

Anyone who reads these things and immediately begins protesting starts in with the "well I've only been training for X number of years and I'm already x-weight and have x-inch arms".

Ok good for you.  In contest shape?  No.  So shut the fuck up.

There's a whole mind fuck world of difference between 5'10" 205 shredded and 5'10" 205 at 12+% bodyfat. It's not even comparable.

The biggest most guys have is that they underestimate their bodyfat.  The guy that thinks he's 10% is usually more like 15-17%.  Calipers are nice, but they can be off by as much as 5%.

Second, numbers don't always tell the whole story.  I had a friend who got his bodyfat done in a bod-pod and he was 11% bodyfat.  6'3" and 205 pounds.  You'd expect him to have a pretty good build wouldn't you?  Well you'd be wrong.  He looked like shit.  Was the epitome of what most people think of as "skinny-fat".  He carried a lot of weight in his ass (no homo) and legs.  But had no visible abs and no real visible muscle separation.  I was surprised that his bodyfat measured that low because that's generally the range I am in (legit) with quite a bit of muscular separation.

10% = muscle separation 

"But I have visible upper abs in the morning!"

You're still fat.  I wish I had a dollar for each time some fat guy told me this.  This is NOT abs.  Second, everyone carries bodyfat a little bit differently.  The 20%+ fat guy could still have an outline of abs, but carry the majority of fat in his legs and ass (no homo).  The 15% guy may carry that "belt of fat" around his waist, but have very lean legs and a really lean sexy ass (no homo).

More number crunching - 

So here is the other deal.  Most guys aren't going to diet down to 5% bodyfat.  We just aren't.  I have no need to do so, nor do I want to.  I already eat very little and do a lot of conditioning.  I have been a legit 6% before and I was 202 pounds (at 5'11") and I was running 40 miles a week, biking, swimming, and lifting.  It was when I was preparing to go back into the military after 9/11.  That was as small as I could get and that took 8 months.  I was very very fucking lean, and cold all the god damn time.  I had veins running through my lower abs and my legs looked like granite.  Yes it was cool, but the work to put in to get there wouldn't seem worth it to me just to show off.

So where does that leave the average guy?  Well in SHAPE, and that's in the 8-12% range.  I'd say you calculate that more like 3.2 or so.  Again, is this crude?  Fuck yes it is.  But what else do you have?  Talking about wrist measurements is gay and meaningless.  That means you'd be walking around at 225 pounds at 5'10" at 8-10% bodyfat.  Look dude, that's big.  The MAJORITY of guys at your gym that weight more than that are not anywhere close to 10% bodyfat.

I trained with a guy in Wichita who was 6'2" and around that 8-10% range at 251 pounds, and he was an absolute monster.  Everywhere we went people stopped and stared.  That puts him in a 3.3 per linear inch range, but he was not natural, and had very good genetics to boot.  He had always been naturally very lean.  And the leaner you are, the bigger you look.

Bottom Line - 

I believe in knowing your limits, because I feel like knowing them puts you in a better position to progress faster.  If you have been training for 10 years in a hard and dedicated manner, and your best ever bench press was 315, you're never going to bench 500.  Not without some "supplements".  And even then, it still probably isn't going to happen (that's a whole different article).

Let me add that as you can see, most of these guys are in their 30's and 40's.  That generally means a few decades of hard training.  If you're a young guy, don't expect to be at that level when you have 5 years of training under your belt.  If you are, you're awesome and I salute you.  However 99% of you won't be.  Maybe that's what the 99% REALLY is.  I fall into this same category.  When I was 18 I was 220 or so pounds.  But I promise you if I dieted down for a contest in that time I woulda stepped onstage at something in the 170-180 range, at the most.  And I was bigger/more muscular than most guys at that age obviously.  

If you believe you can be 6' 230 ripped naturally, brother go after it.  Eventually you will learn what your limits are.  Just don't bullshit yourself.  Get your bodyfat checked and be honest in your evaluations.  5'9" and 205 lean is BIG.  Is it big compared to IFBB pro bodybuilder big?  No.  It's not.  But unless your purpose is to try and go pro, you don't need to be that big, nor do you want to take all of the shit you'd to take to make that happen.

Don't obsess over the scale.  Go by what you look like and what you feel like.  Two guys that are both 5'10" that step on a scale that says 205 doesn't mean they have the same build, or the same proportions.  If one dude is 5% bodyfat and the other 15% then one dude is going to looking fucking jacked to shit and the other is going to look like shit.

Eventually you will be secure in who you are, and you'll come to terms with what you can accomplish.  One of the reasons guys obsess so much over this shit is because they aren't happy with who THEY are.  No amount of muscle in the world can make up for that emotional short coming.  I know, I went through it.  Lots of guys reading this will go through it, are going through it, or have made it to the other side like me.

In the meantime, just put your nose to the grindstone and worry about being the very baddest mother fucker you can be.  And the rest of the pieces will fall into place.


  1. It wouldn't be per square inch since you are just going by their height, it would be per linear inch.

  2. Paul, I think a good part 2 to this article would be analyzing the strength of the top naturals and the general range of strength it takes to achieve that kind of development. For instance skip was repping 400+ on bench, Jeff was inclining 315 for reps, Jeff Rodriguez hits dips with 4 plates and curls 165+, Josh Hyaduck benches in the 4s and dips 4+ plates etc. Pretty much all top naturals display some impressive numbers for reps which has been the foundation for getting jacked for ages

  3. Anonymous - You are correct.

    Anonymous 2 - I don't think there is going to be a huge correlation there, and that could vary quite widely.

  4. What do you consider natural? I have a hard time believing some of these guys you cited as naturals never took drugs at some point.

  5. To me, a natural guy means a guy that isn't on any androgens or anabolics. That means no pro-hormone either, which for all purposes are fucking legal orals and very real. This isn't Cybergenics.

    I'm not sure about whether or not any of these guys are or were on at these times. And I don't know what each guys considers natural either. Remember also that a guy could call himself natural simply because the fed he competes in doesn't test for whatever it is he's taking.

    Never the less, I am just using these guys as examples. I believe if Reg Park had dieted down to the same bodyfat level as these guys, and gotten that dry, he'd have been about the same weight. And to me Reg was very much genetically gifted.

    Let me also add that Mike Mentzer was built like a fucking brick shithouse at 4'8" and weighed 215 in contest shape. Ok so he was more like 5'8".

  6. What's your opinion on Martin's "equation" on potential of natural lifters?


  7. I like some of the points he makes. They are some of the same ones I make. Namely that most guys grossly underestimate their bodyfat. The 15-18% guy always thinks he's closer to 10% because he sees an "outline of abs" in the morning.

    I think formulas are generally flawed for many reasons. However I will say this, that a 185 pound guy at 5'11" that is REALLY shredded is more rare than you think. I mean that's basically GSP, who walks around at 190 or so. Most people don't know dudes built like GSP. There is a reason he is looked at as kind of a pinnacle of physical prowess on a lot of levels.

  8. The take home point of the post is good, but the examples aren't the best IMO. Some things to be considered here...

    Skip and Jeff were both sponsored by AST when they were manufacturing prohormones and when they were legal to use in the competitions they competed in. Not hard to figure out from there...

    John Hansen used steroids in the past, but due to not using them within 7 years of competition (supposedly), he was able to compete as a natural and win. I have no idea if his previous use had any type of impact years later on cells or anything, but just something to note. However I do have to say that 5'8 @ 210lbs in contest shape naturally is a joke. Compare that to other tested guys at 5'8-5'9 like WNBF world champ Brian Whitacre who competes at 165, IFPA pro Alberto Nunez who competes at 160-165, or 5'10 WNBF champ Vaughn Twigger who competes at 185 and looks amazing. It's a major gap that doesn't add up.

    Kiyoshi Moody is an interesting subject too. Don't really have much to say about the guy other than the pics of him next to Jay Cutler are pretty funny.

    The truth is, the majority of the population that wants to achieve the size of Paul, or in contest shape at 195lbs+ (there some exceptions, I know) or 220lbs+ with some solid abs are gunna have to invest in some PH's or needles at some point. Natural BB is a slow, long, tedious process, that doesn't have the greatest rewards aesthetics wise. The biggest advantage to staying natural imo is simply avoiding legal troubles and HPTA supression (although the HPTA supression isn't THAT big of a deal with HRT etc).

  9. The guys I used were guys that were considered the be the very pinnacle of "natural" bodybuilding, and regardless of other factors, represent 1% of the guys that even compete.

    So you're kind of backing my point up. I don't want to tell everyone that they are never going to be this size, but the odds of it happening naturally are slim and none.

    However most guys don't want to accept that they are never going to be 225 ripped. Just look across most boards where some guy says he's "245 right now with abs, if I lost 20 pounds I'm sure I'd be ripped".

    Delusions of grandeur run rampant.

    210 pounds at 6% bodyfat is VERY rare. I mean, incredibly rare.

    I know of some guys personally who use heavy cycles that go into contests at 220 pounds or so and everyone thinks they are monsters. And rightfully so. But they think these guys 250 and they are not.

  10. I agree with the delusions of grandeur. BB forums are filled with those kinds of dreamers.

    Btw, you reply fast as hell Paul. Do you get alerted on your phone or something when new comments are posted?

  11. No man, I'm playing Skyrim and check for comments every so often at night when I'm researching stuff on the net. I'm kind of a nerd actually. heh.

  12. I said it was gay. It was my tribute article to Valentines day.

  13. Who the fuck would find this topic gay if you lift weights? We're all in this shit to get bigger and stronger, and at some point everyone has to wonder about their potential if you're serious about it. I don't get it.

    Anyway, Skyrim is that good eh? I've always been a multiplayer PC game nerd myself (FPS games, MMO's..whatever has other competition)...think Skyrim would be worth checking out?

  14. Oh and do your hips/quads/hams/glutes ever get super tight from sitting that much playing games etc? You foam roll daily? Sitting for long periods of time tears my shit up.

  15. the thing is that is a little embarrassing to read your blog in public(im at work) when there are a bunch of pics of shirtless dudes in between parapraphs

  16. Hmmmmm as a matter of fact I have days where my IT band does bother me at work after sitting for a long time.

    Generally I don't have pics of shirtless dudes in my articles. this article was extra gay.

    Oh and I agree, my joke about it being gay is that. EVeryone who has ever lifted weights has checked himself out in the mirror. Who gives a fuck? I want to be jacked and strong. Not just some fat fuck.

    Be strong...be in shape. That's it.

    As far as Skyrim goes, took me a while to get into it. But I kept playing and now I'm totally sucked in. I play almost every night now. PRetty relaxing actually.

  17. Layne Norton is a "new generation" guy who also fits this mold. 5' 10" and 205ish on stage. He's not in his 40s yet, but he also started in his teens, so he's got a out 15 years of work into it

  18. I generally try to hide my inner body builder as much as I can but this article made him come flying out of my ass! (no homo).

    Seriously though really interesting stuff,

    I read this article as I sipped my Chai Latte (no homo)


    1. HaHa, LMFAO @ "inner body builder flying out of my ass", too funny!

  19. Every powerlifter has an inner bodybuilder. And most bodybuilders want to be strong(er).

  20. Hey Paul, interesting article despite the gayness lol! Out of curiosity, do you think someone can reach his potential by simply training with heavier weight? Or he has to switch to volume at some point? I'm a big strength whore and everytime i try volume i get bored to death...
    Oh and the last paragraph about the insecurities could serve as a basis for your next article i think. I never stop to be amazed at the number of people that try to kill their insecurities through bbing instead of changing their attitude into the awesome "i don't give a fuck" mode sooner. I used to be one too lol and in the beggining i thought i was the only one...

  21. Dave as humans, I don't think we are as unique as we all think we are. People who gravitate towards certain activities tend to share similar traits as the others who do the same. It's just that some of us finally overcome these things and are able to talk about them, while others cannot.

    As far as reaching your potential with heavy weight, yes. And no. I think enthusiasm is a huge part of training progress and success, and if you find yourself burnt on a particularly method for a while, it's better to switch gears for a while and progress in some other fashion (for example striving for a new 20 rep squat max) than to toil around in mediocrity.

  22. Great read. Been going back and forth between your and Jamie lewis' stuff. Do you think frequency of training had more to do with their success? I know thats a vague question but in your experience do you think these guys had so much success because they were just killing it 5-6 days a week, eating well and still listening to their bodies. I've read multiple articles where you've mentioned a kind of trial by fire period in someone's lifting career. Man, i guess I'm wondering what you would advise someone considering lifting that way, generally how to set up that philosophy

  23. I think their genetics and consistency had the most to do with their, or anyone else's success.

    I've trained 5-6 days a week many times with good success. The one thing I do when I train that way is limit the amount of movements I do per session, and I generally limit the "big" workouts to 2 or 3 per week and then stack on 2-3 sessions a week with stuff like curls, upright rows, abs, etc.

  24. Paul,

    Great article! I know I thought I could easily become a 270lb monster when I first started lifting. I think most people would be better served with learning to be happy with what is realistic for them. By the way I hope you had a good steak and blowjob day!


  25. March 14th is steak and bj day dawg. 1 month after v-day.