Bodybuilding has always been shrouded in lies and exaggerations and most likely always will be. These lies and deceptions prey on the ignorance of the average person and novice weightlifters. Unfortunately there is little we can do to stop it, besides educate as many people as possible about the limitations of natural bodybuilding. The purpose of this article is to give you realistic expectations as far as your bodybuilding goals. whether you compete or not is irrelevant, this article also caters to the gym rats of the world.
What would be more helpful to a drug-free bodybuilder than the knowledge of how much muscle he/she can develop without the use of drugs? The vast majority of natural lifters have no idea of their potential, due to drug-using professional bodybuilders, amateur bodybuilders, recreational bodybuilders, athletes, fitness models, and even movie stars. It’s because of these people that many new lifters set their expectations to high, only to be let down and end up adopting a defeatist attitude. As a natural bodybuilder you can develop a great muscular physique, but you’ll be chasing those 20 inch arms at the end of the rainbow for your entire life.
A persons maximum muscular bodyweight/size potential is directly related to that individuals height and bone-structure. This simply means that a person with a larger bone structure can potentially put on more muscle mass than someone with a smaller bone structure. There are a handful of formulas today that are popular that predict a persons maximum muscular potential based on bone-structure and height. Steve Reeves even had a simple formula for finding what he believed to be ideal muscular bodyweight. He suggested starting with a base of 160 pounds and adding 5 pounds for every inch of height above 5’5″. For people above 6’0″, he suggested starting with 200 pounds and adding 10 pounds per inch. Using this formula, a person who is 5’11” would have an ideal muscular weight of 190 pounds. The problem with these predictions is that they do not consider bone structure size or bodyfat percentage.
Maximum Muscular Bodyweight
Our hormone levels dictate how much lean body mass our bodies can maintain. The main reason as to why males can develop and maintain more muscle mass than females is because their testosterone is many times higher. Testosterone is one of the main components of building and maintaining muscle mass, and the human body can only produce so much in good health. Circulating testosterone repairs the protein structures within the muscle cells after they are broken down by resistance training. Your body will eventually reach a point where it cannot repair and replace the proteins needed to sustain more muscle mass, because your circulating testosterone has a limit to how much muscle mass it can repair and maintain. Once that limit is reached, no additional proteins can be added or maintained, which means no new muscle mass can be added or maintained. An indisputable fact, which the supplement industry and a lot of delusional lifters religiously ignore. The average testosterone levels for a male between the ages of 25-34 is 617 ng/dl and testosterone naturally decreases with age. As you can see there are clear limits to the amount of lean mass an individual can develop and maintain without the use of anabolic drugs.
No equation will be 100% accurate when predicting maximum muscular bodyweight. What the equation does is take the achievement of drug free bodybuilding champions to establish an upper limit of potential. They are the epitome of male drug-free muscular potential, possessing naturally high testosterone levels, full muscle bellies, and other characteristics that allowed them to achieve world class physiques. Using this group of men we are able to come up with a maximum bodyweight prediction equation, to provide an estimate as to the maximum muscular size a person of a given structure is likely to achieve without the use of steroids.
The majority of trainees will likely never achieve an elite bodybuilding physique. However don’t let that deter your goals or put a dent in your ambition, most healthy people come exceptionally close to what the formula predicts, if they keep up with their training long enough. The equation takes into consideration different types of bone structures (ultimate muscular potential is closely tied to bone structure) that may otherwise provide deceiving results. For example an individual can have small wrist and ankle measurements, but wide shoulders and hips. On the other end of the spectrum you can have somebody with a thin build with large wrist and ankles. Lastly as your bodyfat percentage increases so does your potential lean body mass. Very heavy sumo wrestlers carry more lean body mass than bodybuilders of the same height.
This equation is based on 300 title winning drug-free bodybuilders and strength athletes from 1947 to 2010. All credit to this equation goes to Casey Butt. Here is a link to a calculator using the equation.
The equation posted above applies most accurately to average individuals who posses balanced bone structures and average muscle belly lengths. Thin built ectomorphic men can expect to achieve up to 95% of the predicted maximum weight and measurements. Likewise mesomorphic men, with high testosterone levels and a thick bone structure may exceed the predicted results by up to 5%. The bodybuilders chosen for the data were chosen to be as broad a group of competitors as possible (with dates ranging from 1947 to 2010 and bodybuilders of different heights, bone structures and leanness being deliberately selected). Bodybuilding champions Steve Reeves and Reg Park are among the list of drug free bodybuilding champions.
When predicting maximum muscular measurements it is important to take into account height, wrist, and ankle size. The problem with past equations is they either use height or wrist size and rarely ever the lower body. A popular formulae was presented by John Mcallum which was based off of wrist size, but never took into account height (muscular potential is, to a degree, influenced by height). The measurements from the data collected resulted in strong correlations between height, wrist girths, ankle girths and muscular measurements. In the decades of data the absolute muscular development of natural elite-level athletes has not significantly changed, meaning the genetic upper limits are extremely apparent.
Correlation of Anthropometric Measurements and Muscular Girths of Elite Drug-free Bodybuilders
chest-to-height; r = 0.79
biceps-to-wrist; r = 0.94
biceps-to-height; r = 0.82
forearms-to-wrist; r = 0.92
forearms-to-height; r = 0.85
neck-to-wrist; r = 0.88
neck-to-height; r = 0.75
thigh-to-ankle; r = 0.88
thigh-to-height; r = 0.73
calf-to-ankle; r = 0.81
calf-to-height; r = 0.80
Keep in mind these correlations are meant to be between 8% to 10% body fat. Again, height, ankle circumference and wrist circumference are the determining factors. People with uncharacteristically small joints for their frames and/or significantly longer than typical muscle belly lengths may be able to exceed some of these predictions by up to approximately 3%.
As you can see these numbers directly dispute what so many fake “natural” lifters are claiming and/or achieving. Realistically, those numbers are what a real natural lifter can expect to achieve in lean condition without the use of any drugs. Any lifter who reaches the measurements listed by the equations will have an amazing muscular physique. Weightlifters today need to realize the amount of deception used by the fitness industry to inflate their pockets. Your body is capable of amazing things, just set realistic goals, work hard, and enjoy the ride.
2. Glauber H., Vollmer W., Nevitt M., Ensrud K., Orwoll E., “Body Weight versus Body Fat Distribution, Adiposity, and Frame Size as Predictors of Bone Density”, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, no. 80, pp. 1118-23, 1995.
3. Willoughby, D.P., “What the Champions Measured”, Muscle Builder, January 1954.
4. Willoughby, D.P., The Super Athletes, New York: A.S. Barnes and Company, 1970.
5. Willoughby, D.P., Weaver G., The Complete Guide to Muscular Measurements, Montreal: Weider Publications Company, 1947.
6. Rasch P.I., Weight Training, Dubuque, Iowa: William C. Brown Company, 1982.
7. Kouri E.M., Pope H.G. Jr., Katz D.L., Oliva P., “Fat-free mass index in users and nonusers of anabolic-androgenic steroids”, Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 223-8, 1995.
8. Testosterone for the aging male: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2544367/
9. Bhasin S., Woodhouse L, Casaburi R et al., “Testosterone dose-response relationships in healthy young men”, Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, vol. 281, pp. E1172-E1181, 2001.
10. Kondo M., Abe T., Ikegawa S., Kawakami Y., Fukunaga T., “Upper limit of fat-free mass in humans: A study on Japanese Sumo wrestlers”, American Journal of Human Biology, vol. 6, no. 5, pp. 613-18, 1994.
11. Todd, T., “Anabolic Steroids: The Gremlins of Sport”, Journal of Sport History, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 87-107, 1987.
12. World Natural Bodybuilding Federation, September 2007,
13. McCallum, John. “Your Measurements”, Strength and Health, November 1964.
14.MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Testosterone. (2006). Retrieved 14 Feb. 2008, from the National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health Website: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003707.htm