T Nation

Bodyfat Perception


This has been cropping up ALOT lately on the forum. So Iâ??m personally interested to see the difference in perception amongst lifters. Especially to see if there is a big difference in perception between the bigger guys and smaller guys. Iâ??m well aware that this thread could bomb, but I am hoping it will reveal what I am thinking.

Scenario: You have been bulking up for a period of time. You are successfully adding muscle and getting stronger. 1) How high a bodyfat % are you willing to go to? 2) At this % what strategy would you implement? Ie. Damage control or a full on cut etc.

A) <10%
B) 12%
C) 15%
D) 18%
E) 20%
F) >20%

I will try and get pictures up of each category to make this easy. Feel free to help on the picture front!








I understand what you are trying to do....but body fat percentages are way too variable for this in such a specific manner.

Different people carry fat differently. I have seen guys with abs showing who are OVER 20% body fat.


Big House is over 20% body fat if I had to guess....and he would completely screw up any range of pictures in this regard.

That is why the NUMBER is not as important as many here seem to think. In most people, your NUMBER means absolutely nothing. It is about how you look.


One more of House.

Also, he thinks he looks great and loves how his body holds body fat....and he weighs about 340lbs.

My guess is, he won't be dieting any time soon...and neither should anyone else just because their "number" is too high if they like what they see in the mirror.


True. But I think it could still show some interesting results.

For instance, I know that I will regularly go upto ABOUT 18% when bulking. I think that would surprise alot of skinny guys just starting out.


Lol. Point taken.

Maybe I have gone about this the wrong way. Where can i find more info about this Big house? Amazing!

Edit: I was hoping to show that the bigger guys are willing to put on more bodyfat than the smaller guys to reach their goals.


I'm not saying the intention was wrong...but that most people get way too caught up in a number when that number is variable for ALL people.

I trained a guy who had all abs showing. He freaked out when he had his body fat taken and it came back at "17%". I personally thought the calipers were wrong, but he immediately started dropping weight and lost any gains he had just made....even though he was happy with how he looked up until he got the reading.

Mind you, many here are the same way...like the guy in the "I gained 15lbs" thread below.

If he got a reading that said "14%" right now, he would panic...for no fucking reason...all because of a number.

Your number doesn't mean anything. People can LOOK amazing at "15%" body fat. They can still have all abs showing at 20+%.

That is why when newbs say, "CT told me to drop to 10%", they are missing the point completely.


So how about we don't use numbers in this thread, but instead descriptive terms like in the "Let's Define It" thread?

"Full house"





I'm "full house".

I working on getting to "Girl, look at him", then down to "Oooh, baby", and then eventually down to "Oh MY GAwd".

Maybe I need help with the names.


One more of House...and I wonder how many here would call him FAT to his face.


Whats this guys name? I cant find him anywhere on google?

Ha! i'm willing to bet a large chunk of these skinny kids on this forum would call that fat, unfortunately. To his face however...not a chance.


Taken from another site (Examples of Bodyfat levels):

  1. Full house = Over or near 20% bodyfat with no visible muscle definition and only a hint of separation between major muscle groups if those groups are very large. Basically a person in this state could be confused for a football linebacker.

  2. Hard = Some muscle separation appears between delts and upper arm. Abs are still not visible. Approximately 15% bodyfat.

  3. Cut = More muscle separation appears particularly in the chest and back, outline of the abs begins to appear slightly. Approximate bodyfat level = 12%

  4. Defined = Muscle separations get deeper in the arms, chest, legs and back, and abs appear when flexed. Approx. bodyfat level = 10%

  5. Ripped = Abs are clearly visible all the time, vascularity in arms is prominent, chest and back separation is obvious, and face is starting to appear more angular. Condition can be held indefinitely. Approximate bodyfat level = 7-9%

  6. Shredded = Striations appear in large muscle groups when they are flexed. You look small in clothes, but look fantastic when you're not. Vascularity appears in lower abdomen and in the legs. Condition can be held for several days with careful dieting. Competitive bodybuilders often aim for this state for competition day. Approximate bodyfat level = 5-7%

  7. Sliced = Muscles and tendons begin to appear in the face when chewing, striations appear everywhere and vascularity appears everywhere. Bodyfat levels are close to 3% and subcutaneous water levels are near 0. Condition can only be held for a few hours at a time. Not a healthy condition to stay in due to lower water level.

I see no need to focus on the %, and some of the things above such as vascularity/abdominal visbility are a huge generalization which do not apply to many people depending on genetic factors.

Here is another pic of someone in full house with visable abs.


Agreed, Waldo. According to that I am "hard" but all people have traits that can fall in other categories.

My training partner is at his heaviest weight, abs are starting to go, but he STILL has huge veins running down both arms and shoulders.


Big House aka Robert Walker:


Well about bodyfat it'd we how the mirror complements with my strength gains. If I'm gaining a lot of strength and don't look anywhere near fat it wouldn't be a reason to stop. If I'm having some excess fat (with this I don't mean that my veins in my lower abs disappeared, this would be like love handles coming out) I'd add in some cardio for and tighten up the diet (A BIT) for the shortest time possible that makes me reduce fat and preserve strength. This officially is damage control.

One thing I'm gonna strive for right now is to gain a decent amount of weight for a year (20 pounds), make those pounds as solid as possible, and use some shortest periods possible of the year to eliminate any excessive fat gain, or maybe even be leaner at a higher bodyweight, who knows. I'm young, but when I dedicate to gain I can do it relatively smoothly, that's why I'm not hurrying, and FOR ME a 20 pound bw gain in a year is acceptable. Less than 10 is not, which would me evaluate if I'm not eating, resting, or training right.

I don't like to use numbers, specially if I'm not prepping for a contest, they can generate biases which can affect decisions in an undesired way. I'm not saying someone can't bullshit him/herself and say "bulking's alright, lightweight baby" and he just gained like 20 pounds in his bench, increased 30 pounds of bw and his muscles look like baby ass.


I've seen a lot of people who either:

A)Think that bulking is like gaining 5, or 6 pounds. They gain it softly and when they cut they end up the same, or worse. This is because they didn't take the bulking seriously, or they were on it for a shorter than needed amount of time. Any serious amount of muscle can't be gained if radical strength and weight gain wasn't noticed.

B) Shoot for a bodyweight number without considering any other factor. They even avoid the mirror, or like the fact that people calls them fat. If it's an online forum anything can happen, and comments about somebody's physique by most people are better ignored. But if you're walking in the street, you think you're big but every chick you see turns around you better understand what's going on.


When guys as lean as the guy in that thread ask if they should cut, clearly the message is getting lost. If they can't tell they are lean enough or fat enough themselves, they will not get very far.

But then, on this site, big guys get called fat unless all abs are not only visible, but you look stage ready as well.