T Nation

Pleasant Surprise...


Hey guys. I feel a little self conscious posting this, but I just had a pleasant but odd surprise. BTW, get your minds out of the gutter.

I was reading a post earlier where someone was citing a study that seemed to support the belief that direct arm work was not necessary when using large compound exercises, etc. My point it not to argue the real life applications of this study. Professor X, among others, laid into the idea, saying something to the effect that it would not hold up when applied across a wide sample and that you will rarely find anyone with an arm size 18" or up that does not do direct arm work.

Anyway, this thought stuck with me all the way through my workout. You see, I rarely if ever do direct arm work. I mainly rotate workouts among samples given by Chad Waterbury over the last few years. It occurred to me that I did not know my arm measurement, actually had not even thought about it in years.

By the time I got home I had to know. I pulled out my wife's tape measure, all the while having my wife laugh at me about a 43 year old measuring his biceps like a teenager. I was surprised to find out that my bicep measurement is 18 1/4 inches. I was actually quite surprised. I remember all my life thinking that an 18" bicep was huge. Now, not so much.

My main question in all of this is how many of us as lifters have a type of reverse anorexia? I don't really think of myself as all that big. But as I think about it, hardly a day goes by that someone in the course of business or social life doesn't make some kind of comment about me playing ball, wrestling, cracking heads or something silly like that.

I rarely comment, just smile and continue whatever I was doing. Since measuring my arms, I starting doing a mental inventory. I am barely 5' 10". I weigh about 230lbs. Forearms are approx. 14". Neck and calf 17". Thighs are a little over 25", but some intense IT band pain has limited any direct thigh work for a bit. If I was reading these stats in a sports program, I would think the man pretty healthy. But not when the man is me.

So what do you think? Do you guys see yourselves as bigger or smaller than you really are? Is this common, or just common to our little sub culture? I'm interested to see what others think.


Hell I'm a pretty lean 6 foot 260 lbs and feel like a little b**** whenever I'm looking through muscular development or looking at pics on this site. I feel as though when you start to become large you compare yourself to the biggest guys in the world and you feel tiny, whereas the teenagers with 14 inch arms who sport skin tight under armour to the gym think they are WAY bigger than they truly are.


I definitely see myself as smaller than I maybe really am. But that is only because I compare myself to those bigger than me. So, to the ordinary person I may seem 'huge' but I know I have a lot of work to do.



I remember thinking I was fucking King-Kong in Highschool hang-cleaning 285 and squating like 405 to well above parallel. Those numbers seem pretty damn weak now. Big fish in a little pond mentallity I guess. Now several years later much more muscular and leaner I feel like there's more work to do than ever and critique everything a lot harsher.


I have people telling me all the time, especially massive dudes like Prof X size saying that I'm actually impressively big for my age and that my lifts are good for kids my age and that size, but i still feel like I'm the 140 junior in high school who thought benching 105 was awesome that i was last year. I've actually been thinking about this lately too and there definitely is some reverse anorexia going on there. I almost have a 500lbs deadlift and i just turned 17 and only weigh 185, im not trying to brag, but thats a pretty good improvement that i should be proud of but instead i'm just like fuck i'm still way to small, look at that guy, gotta get his size and gotta become stronger.

So yeah, in the end, there definitely is something there mentally, i think it has to do with the fact that we are lifters, and if anything we're trying to prove to ourselves what we are and what we can do and no matter what, it's just not going to be enough to fill that desire or whatever it is that we have for weightlifting and getting bigger , stronger and overall better. IMO.
( although i know i'm still a bitch and have a massively long road left to travel )


Same here high 5s MeinHerz


Yes. Now while I also don't think it's dysmorphia (but I guess anyone that has a dysmorphia thinks they do not, but I REALLY think not), I do find it impossible to believe that compared to most of the heavyweight boxing champions I in fact have bigger than or same as chest, biceps, and thigh measurements, and with even calf measurements -- mine are terrible -- fitting about in the middle for that group.

But the fact is, figures for chest, biceps, thigh, and calf, respectively, for these champions were:

Liston: 44, 16.5, 25.5, 16.
Ali: 43, 15.5, 25, 17* (the asterisk is because that HAS to be wrong)
Frazier: 42, 15, 26, 13
Foreman: 42, 15, 25, 17
Spinks: who cares, he WAS small
Norton: 45, 16, 25, 13
Holmes: 43.5, 15.75, 25, 16
Tate: 42, 16, 26, 17
Weaver: 44.5, 17, 24, 16

Let's skip forward, as those are the ones that I most relate to. But picking and choosing among the remainder, let's pick a couple more not on account of size one way or the other but on account of degree of personal interest, which after all is relevant to my own self-perception:

Tyson: 43, 16, 27, 18
Holyfield: 43, 16, 22, 13

I have a bigger chest and upper arms than Tyson? Than Frazier? Than the young Foreman? I'm just half an inch chest size under the mighty Ken Norton and am the same as Mike "Hercules" Weaver?

I'm embarrassed to even write that. It is absurd.

Bigger biceps measurement than all but Weaver, and the same as him? C'mon. I am quite smallish, and these guys were big. The heavyweight champions of the world, in fact.

Now you could say I'm not including a couple of recent guys that were bigger. Yes, Riddick Bowe, McCall, and Bruno had bigger chest measurements. But none of them can I picture in my mind, except one snapshot (so to speak) of Riddick Bowe, against Holyfield, that isn't too clear: it's mostly his face that I can "see" and just a general body outline. A big guy by most standards, though. So since they're not in my mind, they're not relevant to how it seems to me I compare on size.

So it does seem that rational analysis vs self-perception give different answers for me. Rational analysis would say I am as big -- and I am talking about in lean condition -- as these men. Self-perception says no way, I am still about the size of a middleweight boxer. (Really, I do feel like I am more like say Marvin Hagler for size, though 2" taller.)

But on the other hand, back in the day an athlete over 200 lb WAS big. Today it is very ordinary.


You see yourself all day long and self image is ingrained at an early age. Your mind is not going to reset itself every time you gain 5lbs. It takes longer than that to accept mentally that you literally look different than before. That is why pictures and comments from others can always give a better insight.

Simply calling this some sort of disorder like "reverse anorexia" is short sighted and flat out wrong. Few people who make drastic physical changes of any kind see themselves as the new person right away. It may take years, especially if they suffered degradation for how they looked previously.

I'm a big guy and I know it, but no, I do not recognize every change made in my physique so I rely on those who I know are serious in the gym.

There would be a disorder if I truly believed I was paper thin and had no muscle on me...and I doubt very many are actually like that.

You may not see yourself as HUGE, but that is because you probably haven't been that big for long...and most of us compare ourselves to the elite in this activity and not the average gym weekend warrior.

If I walked around and told people I wanted to gain more muscle, they would think I was insane. It isn't because I really believe I don't have any muscle right now.


the only time i think i look good is when im standing like 20 feet away from a mirror and then i look jacked but apparently so does everyone who does that.


Good point. There used to rarely ever be guys in the weight room weighing near or over 300lbs yet now you have at least 2 or more in any serious gym. I have a friend who currently weighs about 330lbs yet thinks he isn't big enough at 6'5"...even though shaking hands with him is like being slapped with a catcher's mit.

It takes some level of "crazy" to even do what we do to an extreme degree. Who else gets up at 5 or 6 in the morning to go lift the equivalent of an Olds Mobile...and love it?

That doesn't mean we have a disorder though...at least no more than what drives the average med student to study for hours on end while avoiding going out every single night.


[quote]Professor X wrote:

Simply calling this some sort of disorder like "reverse anorexia" is short sighted and flat out wrong. Few people who make drastic physical changes of any kind see themselves as the new person right away. It may take years, especially if they suffered degradation for how they looked previously.

The "reverse anorexia" was just for effect and context. I wasn't trying to come up with some kind of disorder. But your point is well made. I think back to Maxwell Maltz and PsychoCybernetics. If memory serves, he was a plastic surgeon who often observed that even after radical surgery to correct defects, patients often still saw themselves exactly as they had been before. It also brings to mind the training of elephants, who when young are secured by huge chains and bigger stakes. They become so accustomed to their situation that as they grow, they can be secured by rope and a small stake, and eventually even just a metal cuff on their leg.

However, I have been this size for a fairly long time. Maybe that is why it doesn't seem "different" to me.

Also, Bill Roberts...
Thanks for bringing up the stats on boxers. Great stuff. I remember thinking that Tyson was an absolute monster when he was at his peak. I was watching some old bouts recently and it occurred to me that he was smaller or my memory was off.


yeah i agree i feel i am small (which i am compared to any serious lifters) but people around me say that i am actually quite big which i refuse to believe lol. Also i think the more i see someone who when i first met seemed HUGE then tend to get smaller and smaller for whatever reason that is. I also believe people like us who strive to be as big and strong as possible will never be satisfied which in turn will make us get bigger and stronger.


big is relative...sort of. Big is big and you know it when you see it, but to joe public and next door nancy 200+ and lean is big. It just not big to those of us who train w/ gorilla muscle intention. Shit reading Flex, MD and others starts to make you view the world around you differently.


When I was in middle high I was told not to continue to gain muscle...


I definitely have this going on...when I look at myself I think I don't look like anything special. Yet I get comments from people all the time that I'm "yoked, huge, swole" whatever. I still feel like I look about 180 lbs sometimes...yet people tell me I look 230+ (I'm only about 206). I came from a VERY small starting point (about 120 lbs) and I got picked on a lot because of it and that little guy is still inside there somewhere always making me feel smaller than I really am.

Plus as X stated, those of us serious about this compare ourselves to the elite, not the average gym-goer. I don't look at the 150-180 lb guys in the gym and compare myself to them...I look at the 250+ guys putting up weights that make me feel weak. That's where I want to be, so I only look to them.


I would expect most of us would see ourselves as smaller than we truly are because we compare ourselves to people bigger than us thanks to the internet.

Almost everyone on this forum if they have been lifting and eating properly for a few years should be one of the biggest and strongest persons in this gym unless you are in a gym where pros train. If your gym was your only point of reference you would most likely be satisfied with your physical prowess.

However, the second you have access to a larger comparison pool (i.e. the internet) you become exposed to a vast array of people with whom you can compare yourself...suddenly you are no longer as impressive as you seem in your own gym because you are now aware of a lot more people who are bigger and stronger than you. This forces you to adjust your perception of yourself.

I know that if I wasn't on here or IM I would probably be pretty complacent regarding my lifting because as weak as I am I don't see anyone at my gym lifting anywhere near the weights I lift. However, the second I come on here (and hang out in the BOI) my perception of myself changes as my lifts are now much less impressive compared to others who post on here. As such, I see myself smaller when I log on here than if I was at the gym.

At the end of the day, I visit T-Nation and read threads like the BOI because I like to see people bigger than me lifting more weight so that my competitive streak drives me to go further. I may never be better than those I compare myself to, but I will be a lot better than I am now just by trying.


Big George's arms were only 15 inches!?!? Jesus.

Anyways, perhaps it is not that we see ourselves as small, it's just our goals are to exceed the norm by a considerable margin? Meaning we are never satisfied and strive to kick complacency in the face with a steel toed boot. To be that "retard-strong freak bringing gorilla muscle" to your gym/stage/competition.


They were 20" in his later run as the Michelin Man. The 15" figure is from his first championship reign.

So far as I know he did not lift weights. So I suppose any added muscle mass in the arms compared to when he was in his prime was only from what might be called the sumo-wrestler effect, with most of the added inches simply being fat, and probably all of the added inches disappearing if he were to get cut again.

A lot of fat guys proud of their arm size would, like the fat Foreman, have very considerably smaller arms if they ever came down or back down to trim condition. Which I think is a contributing reason for why some just will not do that. As a total aside.


I feel pretty small in a gym environment and last night in the gym, I saw some guy who's arms looked semi impressive. Anyway, he was shoulder pressing and when I could see in the mirror when we were both pressing how much bigger my arms were then his.

I thought it was funny how through my eyes, I thought he was bigger then me, but side by side looking in the mirror, I could really see how much more size and muscle I had then him.

Interesting really. Its like we have to see ourselves from another POV to see how we really stack up. I know Dave_ in the Tcell often mentions how small he is, but is really one of the stronger and more impressive guys on this site.


Who thinks the new T-Nation banner should read "the intelligent and relentless pursuit of GORILLA MUSCLE"?