Sunday, June 21, 2009

What's My Genetic Muscular Potential?

Lyle wrote an article based on conversations with me, Alan Aragon and Casey Butt, with regards to the maximum muscular potential of natural lifters and realistic rates of muscle gain.

Here's my take on the issue.

"Martin Berkhan of 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 "

Full article here

In addition to the above statement, I should add that while natural trainees tend to lose some lean body mass while venturing into the lowest bf% achieveable, this is more of typical scenario as it has pertained to the natural bodybuilders I have either spoken to or worked with.

I have also had clients hitting 5-6% body fat with 100% strength maintenance, indicating that no lean mass was lost. The main variable here is the time line, and a slower approach is superior to a faster approach, with regards to lean body mass maintenance when dieting in the single digits. Bodybuilders working against time may not be able to afford the luxury of a slow approach, which in turn may compromise lean body mass in the final weeks. According to my experience, going from lean to shredded, without sacrificing muscle mass or strength, is certainly possible with enough patience, and the right diet and training regimen.


Anonymous said...

Good news for me. I'm overweight and not very muscular (176 @ 23% BF). So, to reach my potential, I should build only 17 lbs of muscle. Nothing impossible. I have no alibi, I'll really have to start busting my rear :-). Best wishes, Marcello

Ryan Zielonka said...

Excellent contribution to the literature Martin. I'm excited to see you post more on your training philosophies.



Anonymous said...

What about females?

Unknown said...

Thanks, Ryan.

anon -

I think my formula can be applied to women, if you consider that the body fat % reached at competition weight is higher than men.

Man, 175 cm, 5% bf = 75 kg

Woman, 175 cm, 9-12% bf = 75 kg

Unknown said...

interesting entry! so for me who is around 5'10.5'', my contest weight would be around 175 pounds? That'd be a great number, although I'm quite far from it!

How to Reduce Belly Fat said...

Thanks for an information article. It seems I really need to do some serious working out too. I wont be joining a contest anytime soon but I want to reduce my midsection and look great. Am subscribing to your blog to check out your updates every now and then. :)

Anonymous said...

Sorry for my bad english. I would like to get updated with you new posts as I love to read your blog. Add me to your mailing list if you have any.

Taylor Cannon said...

Most helpful article I have ever read about bodybuilding. I have consistently set unattainable goals and repeatedly failed at achieving them.
I now have a REAL achievable goal to work towards. This makes the entire program seem so much easier.
eat the correct amount of calories and consistently add weight to the bar performing compound movements.
This is going to save me so much time and money it's ridiculous
Thanks again for spreading the TRUTH.

lylemcd said...

I thought this article title sounded familiar :)


3D Face Analysis said...

This is one of your best articles...

About those "natural" they eat whole foods only or do they take any supplements/herbs?

I still think some can exceed their limitations by improving their diet and/or exercise.

Scape said...

This explains why I've always had trouble gaining weight and staying this lean..

Anonymous said...

Man, im 5'10,75kg now 9/1-% bf and more ripped that guy in the pic...

My name is Martin Berkhan and I work as a nutritional consultant, magazine writer and personal trainer.

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