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Genetic Max of Lean Mass

As I continue on my path of increasing strength and muscle mass, I have seen it mentioned several times that natural lifters have a genetic max of lean muscle mass. Ever on the quest to have attainable, albeit ambitious, goals, I dis some research today to try to get a more clear picture of what I should shoot for as far as max lean body weight. I came across “How to Build Muscle Naturally” on Legion Athletics. So what do you think? What is a reasonable max and how does one determine what that is? I ask because I don’t want to push to attain an unattainable goal when there could be an attainable goal that I could instead push for.

Using the above linked calculator, I am near my max lean mass and could only reasonably hope for maybe 5 more pounds of muscle naturally.

That guy and that site are pretty laughable.
You can et as big as YOU can get. And whatever you do, don’t do what the guy on that site is doing, because it’s not working very well for him and likely won’t work very well for you.


I thought there was a good chance he was not a good authority.

Oh, that sites body fat calculator put me at 5.6% using 3 skin folds. That is laughable! I am 12% at best I think.

There is no spoon.

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Based on your log, your goals are strength-based first and foremost. You want to put 30 pounds on your squat, 50 pounds on your dead, 40 pounds on your bench, and 30 pounds on your overhead press. I’d focus on achieving those while staying healthy, and let the physique come as a result.

You’ve already got “achy knees”, “one bad shoulder”, and a habit of overdoing things that invites injury, so sticking to a well-designed plan without getting hurt is going to be a solid enough task. Building strength through rep work instead of working with maxes would be a smart idea. Think along the lines of 5/3/1. Trying to specifically bulk up/build a bunch of muscle is a whole 'nother ballgame, especially at 40 without TRT.

There’s no absolutely reliable way to determine an individual’s max potential. Best you can do is look at what other people have achieved and point yourself in that direction. Looking at old school lifters that were undeniably natural is one option (Sandow, Maxick, Hackenschmidt, etc.) Looking at current lifters who have been thoroughly tested and/or at their word natural is another way - plenty of guys on this site fit that bill.

One ratio that was brought up years ago was aiming for about 2.75-3 pounds per inch of height, while relatively lean/ab definition. This chart tracks some Mr. America competitors from a time when steroid use was “probably, but not an absolute given” (plus the stats for TN member BlueCollarTr8n, a lifetime natural who came up with the ratio idea).


Thanks Chris, thats a hell of a good reply! I switched to 531 for my main lifts a few weeks ago and I am liking it very much so far. I know there is no hard and fast rule to max natural mass, I just like to have a rough outline of possibilities to keep me realistic.

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First thing that stood out on the chart is that every one except Bacon had a bigger wrist size than me :^ / I’m tied with him and he’s the smallest guy by far. Does this tell us that wrist size is an indicator?


My wrist is also 7 inches, but my ankle is only 8.25. The rest of my stats are almost exactly the same as Bacon, only I’m 2 inches taller and his body fat was probably lower, but that is of course a guess. Every one of these guys has a larger ankle than me by a good amount and all but one a larger wrist.

Wrist and ankle size has been used by some to determine overall bone structure size since these are the only bones we can measure without imaging technology. I don’t know if they always directly correspond to the rest of the bones. It makes sense that a larger boned person of equal height would be able to attain more total weight than the smaller boned person, and it is theorized that a larger bone structure would correspond to a higher muscle mass limit, but once again, I don’t know if it is proven, or even provable. What I get from this chart is that if I have optimal natural hormone levels, good test and not chronicly elevated cortisol, I could very likely gain 5-10 pounds of lean muscle. I currently weight 175 at about 12 % body fat. Being that I am 40 years old, have two kids, and work a physically and sometimes mentally stressful job, 100% optimal hormone levels are probably unlikely. However, as Chris stated, my primary goal at this point is to gain strength. I think those goals are total obtainable if I am smart. I will probably get some mass gains with that. And the next goal would be to maintain strength level while working on overall fitness and muscular balance. That all seems obtainable.

It would be cool if a bunch of well trained, 100% natural people shared their wrist and ankle measurements along with a body fat % estimate, height, and weight. That could be scientifically useful for testing these theories.

False. Most people do more that shoots themselves in the foot than not so gauging max potential through this route isn’t really feasible.

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You have a point. I know I’ve shoot myself in the foot a few times.

I’m 6"1’, 188lbs at around 14% and I have tiny joints: 6,5 wrists and 9,0 ankles. I don’t care I’m still trying to get bigger. John Meadows said that it could be a good thing in achieving the illusion of having big muscles


I wonder if I am measuring ankle at the right place. I read to measure the wrist between the nub and the hand, but the ankle at the smallest part between the ankle and calf muscle.
I got:
Ankle 8.25 inch
Wrist 7
Weight 175
Height 5’9" (69")
Approximate body fat 12% measured by calipers,

I think Casey Butts has written excellent information on muscular potential for naturals.

I’m 5’10, medium-framed and was onstage at 173# and probably 5-7% bodyfat. You can see my old thread in the BB forum. I think the heaviest I couldn’t been shredded onstage had I trained and competed longer would be 180 or so.

If you’re that lean year round I think you might be holding yourself back and might be able to gain more muscle if you got somewhat fatter, like 15 to 17 percent.


I’m trying. At about 3800-4000 cal a day right now.

Would you advise him to eat more aggressively than a 5-10% surplus which I believe both @robstein and @The_Mighty_Stu has recommended in the past? I know you three usually have a cohesive position so I’m just curious to learn if there are situations where you either disagree or where all three of you suggest something differently than ordinarily.

Just trying to learn, not seeking to apply anything more aggressive myself.

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