T Nation

Natural Bodybuilding Stats and Gains

This is a topic that was discussed at length on this forum years ago. However, it seems in the past five years or so, there has been an explosion in social media use, which has given rise to many so-called “evidenced-based” bodybuilding coaches and a new crop of bodybuilding noobz that don’t have a frame of reference for what’s possible physically in natural bodybuilding, and therefore, can be lied to because of this lack of frame of reference and knowledge of bodybuilding generally.

I was initially not going to mention this topic, but for some unexplainable reason, felt the urge to mention it again after reading the posts of a few current gurus. For example, in an IG post from a few months ago, Mike Israetel said that people should withhold from using roids until they reach their natural size limit. He said that he waited until he reached 275 pounds with 25% body fat. I’ve been told he is 5’4" or 5’5". So with those stats he would have a lean body mass of 206 pounds and if he were to step onstage at 5% body fat, he would compete at 217 pounds! By comparison, Flex Lewis, 5’5" himself, and plenty geared up, has won the 212 Olympia seven times!

Aside from that example, the first short bodybuilder that came to mind, likely because he was one of my favorites, was Momo Benaziza, who competed at 187 pounds at 5’3", roided up, and shredded. If he competed at 5% body fat, he had 178 pounds of lean body mass. So to compare with Israetel’s claim, he would have 28 more pounds of LBM while being only one or two inches taller!

But how many young men today would first think of someone like Momo? Likely not many, considering at my 40 years of age, when I first heard of him in my teens, he had already and unfortunately passed away from use of a diuretic. How many will think of other comparisons as well?

To mention again, I was surprised when Paul Carter said he was once 195 pounds at sub-ten percent body fat at 5’11", natty, not exactly huge. As I said twice on this board before, with those stats, someone will be the scariest looking person in the gym, and even geared up pros would be highly impressed! It’s not even possible for nearly all natural bodybuilders, even genetically blessed ones.

Just as an aside, a sort of peripheral topic related to this one: there’s also a popular story of outrageous results from weight training in one’s teen years amongst gurus for quite some time. The story goes likes this. They started out in their high school years at bodyweights that would likely have people wondering if there were something seriously wrong with them and they had unique metabolisms that warranted force feeding. And with that and training, they gained some outrageous amount of weight-training induced muscle mass, never mentioning that perhaps adequate nutrition–which would have had them at normal body weights in the first place–and puberty are two factors that lead to their increase in body weights, not just weight training. Several gurus come to mind for these stories.

So we have here two topics that can be discussed, if you wish: natty body building potential and natty rate of gains.

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This is in effect what happened to me.

I was in my 20’s when I started lifting seriously and I gained 30lbs in a fairly short amount of time. I was NOT single digits, but I had a flat stomach and no love handles.

It sounds like those miracle newb gains, but in reality most of it was due to the fact that I had been a heavy, heavy drinker who only ate twice a day. I was the skinniest I had ever been and 10lbs lighter than I was when I graduated infantry school for the Army.

In context, those amazing gains are suddenly less amazing when you consider bad nutritional habits.

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Pics of Mo.

image

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I felt the same when I read PC’s comment. I mean, no way, when you look at the pics of Momo. I myself have still a long way to go, and room to progress, but in my pics I was 185, 6"1, around 10% and most people would call me jacked. So I think they have a bit exagerated their claims.

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Yeah, he looks huge, even in the pic where he’s standing next to Dorian. Just goes to show what that much lean mass really looks like.

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I think that for anyone banking on getting a general following (and not people who have actually been around the sport and have some background in it), and I wish there were a better way to put it,… it’s become kind of the norm to lie.

Seriously, who in the current day social media fitness situation really remembers Benaziza? I mean, guys like Brick, and Me, and I know Colucci is a serious fan of the history of the sport,… but the average person popping online, and hearing their latest know-it-all author/coach claiming stats that would put them as one of the premiere bodybuilders of all time, won’t blink an eyelid because they don’t really have any real concept of what those numbers mean.

5’11 and 195 lbs under 10% bf? “under 10%” is a seriously funny term because everyone who feels they’ve got some ab development usually throws it out with no real measurement ever being done. IMO Under 10% is pretty lean because real competitors step onstage usually around 6-7% and look amazingly ripped (no one really gets onstage at 4% or less and if they say they did, they’re lying -lol).

This actually made me look online at my first contest thread, when I had no clue what I was doing, but at 5’8, and starting prep at 190-195 lbs, had people telling me I was already halfway there. Now I was never some amazing world champion, so when I look at my stats or old pics, I know I was no crazy outlier. So in comparison, I’ll say that 5’11 and 195 lbs in CONTEST SHAPE is impressive, but in I’m pretty lean (“my friends all tell me I’m under 10%”) just walking around shape, I’m gonna disagree with you Brick.

S

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I had no idea Israetel was under 5’6"!

Sometimes I wonder if I would have started weightlifting earlier if I’d realized how short so many of the top bodybuilders were.

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When I was considering competing I went through tons of magazines making notes of everyone’s heights and seeing how I’d stack up (usually I was nowhere close -lol)

S

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Hey hold on! I do!! We could talk about the forgotten Multi Mr O winner Lee Haney.

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Lol ah yes, another of us “elder statesmen”

S

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For perspective, Mohammad Makkawy was the same height, very likely just as juiced (even though he was a Gironda guy), and competed around 160ish. Comparing him to Momo, it’s crazy what 25 lean pounds does to a frame that size.
HaneyMakkawy

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Remember a couple years ago BlueCollarTr8n came up with the formula, based largely off champs from the '40s and '50s, of “3 pounds of bodyweight per inch of height, with ‘all abs in’”? A little wordy as a catchphrase and it’d make an ugly hashtag, but I still don’t think it’s the worst way to calibrate some goals and give some perspective to claims.

5’11" and a “lean” 195 would score a 2.74. The majority of guys on the list are 2.81 or higher for definite eye-catching physiques.

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Good point. Of course all of those guys have photos we can easily find of their champion caliber physiques. Just saying that you were ___ (insert random height, weight and bf% stats here) without any proof doesn’t hold any water with me, but maybe I’m either jaded (possibly) or realistic from being around gyms and pro competitors for so long.

Just For reference, consider: Arash, who inarguably is one of the best in the world is 5’10, and amazingly huge at about 230, but he’s not lean nor does he pretend (lie) and say that he is. Now I know he’s an IFBB pro, and obvious his nattyness is relevant, but if we pull up pics of when he was a physique competitor (clean!!!) he was 195 onstage and was huge! We’re talking best genetics, living the bodybuilding lifestyle since he was 13,… so I have a damn good idea of what such stats look like.

These days He competes at 210, and I’d bet dollars to Donuts that 99.99% of the people claiming 5’11 195 lean online aren’t half as big as he is, or was.

S

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The physique days.

He was blessed by the Lats gods. They go from his spine to belly button. :joy:

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I like seeing the ankle and wrist measurements. Apparently the bro gods didn’t want me to be huge. I’m 76-77" tall with a 7.5" wrist and 9" ankle.

I’ve spent a lot of time beating myself up over the years for failing to achieve a certain look but I’m slowly (very slowly) learning that I’ve been mislead by the industry about realistic expectations.

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Even worse for me with 73" high and 6.5" wrists :’(

Steve Reeves is my height but with 1.4 more wrist and 1.3 more ankle. Welp here goes my dream of looking like him some day ahahah…

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Do you buy into the wrist and ankle circumference being a legit way to tell your potential? I always thought it was kinda a bro science thing. Now I need to go measure my wrists and ankles lol

I’m okay with being dealt a different hand. I just wish I wasn’t so ignorant all these years. People bigger and stronger always preach to just eat more and train hard. Well, I eat more and get fat.

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I don’t think you can call it an exact science but bone structure plays a role in your potential. The other pieces of the puzzle would be bone length and tendon insertion points.