Understanding Your Muscular Potential

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UPDATE: I have provided an online calculator HERE which you can use to find out what your maximum lean body mass could be.

I want to discuss the topic of reaching your muscular potential. In our modern-day bodybuilding generation, no topic deserves more attention than this one. Many trainees starting out with proper training are deceived by the freakish bodies of elite bodybuilders. They are led to believe that they too can build a Ronnie Coleman or Kai Greene physique. No matter how many mega doses of steroids and growth hormones they are willing to inject into themselves, to think they too can attain that kind of muscle mass is outright heresy.

28 inch (71 cm) quads - no fucking joke. Somebody calculate Robert Foerstemann's muscular potential

28 inch (71 cm) quads – no fucking joke. Somebody calculate Robert Foerstemann’s muscular potential

In an effort to clear up some of the myths and preconceptions trainees hold about their maximum drug-free muscular potential, I want to present Casey Butt’s excellent e-book “Your Muscular Potential”. In his 6+ years of research, he gathered and analysed the measurements of thousands of drug-free bodybuilders. Through his meticulous statistical analysis, he formulated mathematical functions revealing the proportional relationship between bone structure, height, and lean body mass.


Predicting Maximum Muscular Body Weight

Explaining the formula for predicting maximum lean body mass, the author states the following:

“A statistical analysis of data gathered from various sources, both personally and published (primarily from drug-free bodybuilders but also strength athletes from other sports), yields the following equation representing the approximate maximum lean body mass a typical trainee, with average or greater muscle belly lengths, can develop without the assistance of exogenous anabolic drugs – it is most accurate in the 4% to 12% body fat range:”

Maximum Lean Body Mass (lbs) = H x (W/7.2546 + A/5.9772) x ( (% body  fat/450) + 1) 


H = Height in inches

W = Wrist circumference measured on the hand side of the styloid process

(Styloid process = bony lump on the outside of your wrist)

A = Ankle circumference at the smallest point


Converting the above equation into total body weight, you can use the following equation:

Body weight (lbs) = (Lean body mass in pounds / (100 – % body fat) ) x 100


My Personal Maximum Body Weight

To give you a numerical example of what a maximum lean body mass may turn out to be, I measured my wrist (W) and ankle (A) circumference. My stats are: H = 72.8; W = 7; A = 9, Body fat = 9%. Therefore, according to the first equation, 83.4 kg (183.5 lbs) is the maximum lean body mass I will ever be able to build without the assistance of anabolic drugs and with a fairly average set of genetics. Applying my stats to the second equation yields a total body weight of 92.7 kg (204 lbs) at 10% body fat. Not too shabby in my opinion.

Knowing that information is very empowering. During my training career, I won’t suffer from the disappointment and frustration likely experienced by those who think they can naturally outgrow their genetic boundaries. I won’t have any illusions about how big I can get in the long term. This is why I would encourage everybody to take their own measurements, feed the above formulae and see where they stand in terms of the potential for their maximum lean body mass.


What Women and the Ancient Greeks Like(d)

Another interesting topic the author discusses is the idea of “building a shapely and attractive physique”. Rather than just trying to add as much muscle mass as possible, trainees should also confront themselves with the question what actually constitutes “a visually pleasing body … visually pleasing to women and the general public that is.”


Bodyweight, in particular the Body Mass Index (BMI), seem to be poor predictors for physical attractiveness. Instead, ancient Greek artists considered a shoulder-to-waist ratio of 1.618:1 (also known as the “Golden Ratio”) to be ideal. Interestingly, the golden ratio also features in Leonardo da Vinci’s ideally proportioned Vitruvian Man. If you want to find out if different parts of your body are ideally proportioned to each other, the equations below are indicative of ideal male proportions:

Ideal Male Proportions (in inches) 

(at approximately 8-12% body fat)


Neck = 0.360 × Chest

Biceps = 0.360 × Chest

Forearms = 0.806 × Biceps

Thighs = 0.530 × Chest

Calves = 0.679 × Thighs

I am not going to give away too much information from the e-book “Your Muscular Potential”. If you want to completely geek out on all of Casey Butt’s formulae and more interesting findings, get his e-book HERE for a mere $10 (not an affiliate link).

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