T Nation

BodyFat % Range and Muscle Gaining



My 18-year-old cousin is moving to my area this Summer and I am going to start training with him. He's new to training. Currently he is 5' 6" and 145-pounds at 9-percent bodyfat (measured during a university course that had access to the testing facilities).

Given his leanness and lack of previous training, would you say that he would be able to add a fair amount of lean mass for a relatively extended period of time with consistently solid nutrition and training habits? He has expressed a desire to be serious about this and to do what it takes to have success. I'd like to help him make as much progress as possible without shortchanging himself by being the type who doesn't devote long enough to muscle-growth phases or seems to start cutting way before truly needed.

If he keeps nutrition in check, would he be able to train for size over the course of at least 2 years before needing to trim down at all? I was thinking of setting a cap around 13-percent or so and then having him gain as much as possible while no higher than that cap, cut back down to 10 percent or so, and then repeat the process until he achieves his end goal weight and bodyfat percentage.

His ultimate goal is to retain as much muscle as is within his genetic potential and eventually carry that at around 8-9 percent bodyfat.


If he is completely new to training, with PROPER nutrition he should actually be able to gain a fair amount of muscle without adding any fat for at least a 8 weeks period. If anything, his bodyfat percentage might actually drop down a bit at first.

I see no physiological reason for someone who is lean to start with to go above 12% to build muscle.

If he is currently at 9% and eating fairly normal amounts of food it is safe to assume that his body functions well while being lean, so adding mass while staying there should not be a problem.


Just a personal experience...

I'm 31, had been a high level distance runner for 16 years (15:43 5k, 1:09:40 half-marathon, 2:32:45 marathon). 5'6', 140-45lbs 8-9% bf for years. You would think not exactly the best age, training background, and genetics to start with right? That and my diet consisted of a lot of mountain dew, chocolate muffins, etc....the usual stuff a high level distance runner can "get away with".

Didn't have the time for twice a day running anymore and I've done just about all I was going to do. Stopped running the usual 70-100+ miles a week and started lifting 4-5 days a week in an attempt to put on muscle. Basically another competitive goal to chase.

So far:

September '08, 145lbs, 8.9%
Now 164lb, 9.5%
Lean mass increase from 131lb to 148lb.

From September to November I didn't run as much and just put on fat, up to around 12%. Then started lifting at the end of November, lost fat AND put on muscle. Stayed around 160 for a bit, then recently bumped up to 164. Now, I still do some cardio, but I'm much more conditioned for it than the average bear. From the end of November to the end of January I was putting on muscle and dropping fat while still running 15-25 miles a week...which would turn most gym rats into a pile of cortisol infused atrophy. Currently cycle about 25-50 miles a week as part of my commute and maybe run 5-10 miles a week. Say...no more than 30-45 minutes every other day or so.

So...get in the gym and train HARD. I did Poliquin's GVT and put on 2lbs of lean mass while dropping 2% bodyfat during the month of January. I've put on 4lbs of mass (3 lean, 1 fat) over the last month on my current program...which you can see at my training log: http://tnation.tmuscle.com/free_online_forum/blog_sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding_log/a_former_marathoners_quest_for_muscle

I could barely bench 135 when I started, now I'm doing 220. I could do 135 for 10 reps with bad form and not going below parallel before (shit, may have even had to stop midway and breath a bit), now I'm doing 185 for 10 with the hammies licking the calves then finishing with 215 for 5.

If you aren't doing anything stupid (like only working your "beach muscles")....and are actually working out with INTENSITY (staring and the girl in the gym with the plastic tits and shorts so tight you can see if she shaved might make you sweat but is not helpful to your goal)...then your buddy will gain muscle.


Thanks for sharing. This is not uncommon and it is exactly what I've been talking about.


It has been very weird for me. I thought, ex-distance runner, 31 years old...maybe in a year I'd be 15-20lbs heavier if I was lucky. I put on the first 15 pretty quick.

I think the gains are very much relative to your training intensity. Both in and out of the gym. You should ALWAYS be training. If you've been "training" for a year or more and haven't seen jack well then maybe you weren't really "training" to begin with. Then you actually get on a good training and nutrition program, you're FOCUSED, and BAMM you're gaining weight by the buckets for the first few months.

It's all about having a goal, concentrating on that goal, and training with intensity. You can't just go in and just "lift the weights" and expect to gain much. I wake up each day thinking about how to better myself, how my next workout will go. Then once that is down I'm thinking about the next workout and how that leads into the next, about the next month, 3 months, 6 months, 12 months.

I think that competitive concept is hard to grasp for many or they go "gun ho" for about two weeks and then slack off losing that consistency.

Like any goal in life...you don't gain 20lbs of muscle overnight, you don't run a 2:30 marathon overnight, you don't get to dunk a basketball overnight.

Plan, execute that plan, destroy barriers. A simple concept that can be hard to understand.

"You can give people the tools for success. However, success is intimidating to those who have never experienced it."


im interested in reaching 190 lb 7% body fat wen as of now im 162 lb 15% body fatas my end goal. the only diet i know that will help u lose a lotta fat nd achieve bigger muscles(or build some muscle) is the anabolic diet. i saw yur guidelines for yur makeshift anabolic diet as u dont personally advocate it.

can u tell me yur guidelines for the make-shift for bulking? u reccommend but because of bad circumstances, my membership ends on june 30, nd i wont have the money to get another one. im looking to build the most muscle in the fastest amount of time to be ready for the beach(im only free this month.)

actually any plan that u reccommend to reach my short-term goal will suffice, doesnt need to be the anabolic diet makeshift bulk, unless u reccommend it. i already have a set training program, i jus need the right diet plan. thank you christian.