Understanding Your Muscle Potentials

These days when we witness miraculous actors’ body transformations over the course of just months, professional contenders are pushing 130+ kilograms.

The Internet is filled with mixed messages regarding even the simplest workout issues, and finding reliable facts to guide you along the bodybuilding path is becoming increasingly harder.

The fact that some of the questions, such as what your body’s genetic muscle potential is, do not have a single, definitive answer does not make things easier.

But how then should we know just how fast and how much lean muscle mass we can pack naturally, with proper training and nutrition?

Martin Berkhan’s Method

The famous author, nutritional consultant and personal trainer Martin Berkhan offers a fairly simple solution to the genetic muscle potential question. In his opinion, we can easily calculate potential muscle mass if we use the following equation:

Upper weight limit in contest shape (weight at 5% body fat) = Height – 100

So if you are, for example 172cm tall, you can expect to pack approximately 70kg, 80kg for the height of 180, and so on. A higher percentage of body fat will, naturally, amount to greater overall weight.

Lye McDonald’s Method

Another influential voice from the world of bodybuilding offers a calculation based on variable muscle growth pace (your ability to gain muscles decreases the more you work out).

In his opinion, during the first year of professional training, a lifter can gain 8-11kg, and the second year amounts to 4-5kg, and the third to 2-2.5kg, while year’s 4+ lead to miniscule 1-1.3kg gains.

Note that the accent here is on the word professional and that these results can be affected by a number of factors like age, current shape, responsible use of testosterone supplements, etc.

Alan Aragon’s Method

The author of the book Girth Control, Alan Aragon, follows the same logic but takes a somewhat different approach. According to his estimations, a beginner lifter could gain 1-1.5%, an intermediate lifter 0.5-1%, while an advanced lifter should expect slower gains of only 0.25-0.5% of his total weight per month.

Casey Butt’s Frame Size Model

Finally, Dr. Casey Butt created a very elaborate way of calculating genetic muscle potential based on the body’s frame size (wrists, ankles, and other measurements), which offers the following results.

  • Height 170 cm – Lean body mass 77kg
  • Height 178cm – Lean body mass 81kg
  • Height 183cm – Lean body mass 84kg

Other Influences

As we can see, although all of these methods are based on different parameters, each of them shows very similar results and patterns after 4-5 years of devoted training. So where do all these different body types come from? The short answer is that Mother Nature does not have the same treats in store for everyone.

For example, if your size and weight at birth were above the average, or your secondary sex characteristics like body hair point out to increased testosterone levels, you may be able to push your body a little bit further than someone who was smaller at birth, and less hairy in puberty. One is not better than the other. You can both become very buff, of course, just in different ways.

How to Reach Your Muscle Potential

Lean muscle mass usually comes off as a result of responsible nutrition and a lot of hard work. The amount of calories you have to eat will vary depending on your current goals, but long-term bulking up will demand that you go up to 53 calories for each kilogram of your body mass.

As for a choice of workouts, you should do sprints 3-4 times a week and 20-25 minutes a day in order to preserve your muscles while you’re losing fat. Of course, base your workout routine on resistance training.

Doing 10-12 of reps at 80% of your one-rep max in each set will help you to constantly keep putting enough stress on your muscles to make them grow.

The only certain way, however, to discover just how far your body can go is to take all of the mentioned numbers as guidelines and do your best to surpass them. Otherwise your muscle potential will be nothing more than numbers on a page.