This question has been asked multiple times over on many bodybuilding forums and message boards since the inception of the internet. While this question’s answer depends solely on an individual’s genetic ceiling, there’s one very comprehensive resource I’d recommend to anyone in search of reaching their genetic potential for maximum muscular growth.
The resource I am referring to today is an ebook called Your Muscular Potential by Casey Butt Ph.D. He runs the website Weightrainer.net and has devoted insurmountable hours to the study of maximum muscular gains in the drug-free physique athlete.
Casey holds a degree in mathematics, a degree in physics and has his PhD in artificial intelligence for controls engineering. He’s spent the last 18 years in a mad obsession with weight training and altering his body composition through bodybuilding. He also admitted that he wasted his first 10 years of weight training by following the shoddy information found in muscle magazines.
If you’re anything like me and have become obsessed with maxing out your gains in the name of science, sound training principles and pure, hard work, then this is the perfect book for you. And at a mere $9.95 (not an affiliate link), it’s a steal. Hell, just give up 3 of your lattes this month. You’ll save on about 1200 kcals and have an awesome resource in your hands (err, on your hard drive).
So what’s in the book and why should you purchase it?
This is probably my favorite part of the book. Since I’m a big fan of objectivity and being realistic when it comes to setting physique and strength goals, this part of the book really got my jollies off.
In this section, Casey gives you a bunch of fancy formulas (not found on his site) to predict your genetic maximum muscular potential based on physiological factors such as height, wrist and ankle circumference. From his research, there tends to be a precise correlation between bone size and maximum muscle gains. In short, the thicker your wrists and ankles, the more aptly you are to pack on the most mass.
Before we go any further, Casey does address the commonly asked question skinny guys ask about the hardgainers potential. What classifies someone as a hardgainer and what can they expect in terms of maximum muscle gains over their lifetime?
While wrist and ankle circumference play into the maximum muscular equation, muscle belly length plays an equally important role. From the book:
You can make a self-assessment of your muscle belly lengths by checking to see if you have longer tendons attaching your muscles to the bones than the average trainee of your height. In other words, do you have big gaps between the ends of your muscles and the bones to which they attach? If you do, then you have short muscle bellies in the muscles in question.
However, just because you have a small bone structure doesn’t mean your muscle bellies will be short. There is a small percentage of the population who break these rules; they are called the genetic outliers. Congratulations if you are one.
Elite Drug-Free Bodybuilders and Genetic Freaks
In this section, Casey gives even more equations and measurements of the elite-level bodybuilders and what some might call genetic freaks. One of the famous names you will recognize in this section is Reg Park, who even to this day has an incredible, respectable build. His size is nothing compared to the drugged up freaks but I’m sure most of us find the natural look to be more in line with our ideals of looking great naked.
What I do find interesting is while Reg Park and others he mentions in this section were indeed of the elite status, they still failed to reach the maximum muscle measurements in all categories (chest, biceps, forearms, neck, thighs, calves measurements).
He also mentions that this section should be taken with slight skepticism because while the equations are based on the measurements of elite-level drug-free bodybuilders, some of their claims are questionable given how easy it is to pass a drug test.
This is my favorite part of this section. In Casey’s words:
It cannot be stated strongly enough that it is completely unreasonable for the genetically typical trainee to think that he can reach the level of development described in this section. Few world-champion drug-free bodybuilders do so, nor do even the majority of anabolic drug-users.
In the next section, Casey then explains what the Greeks believed to be the most attractive measurements and compares them bodybuilding standards and the standards of the general population in terms of what constitutes a beautiful male physique.
How To Set Training Goals
This is probably the most valuable part of the book in my opinion. Here, Casey suggests that a majority of the population will do well just to reach what he outlines for maximum muscular size and measurements in section one, Training Expectations. If after years of solid training and muscle gains you surpass the size and measurements described, set your standard higher and onto reaching the Elite-Level of even Genetic Freak level.
To give you an example of what someone might expect in terms of maximum size according to section one, I took some measurements and will give you my results for illustrative purposes.
Height: 68 inches
Wrist Circumference: 7 inches
Ankle Circumference: 9 inches
The calculations from section one puts me at about 186lbs at 10% body fat for my maximum muscular potential. There are a few more equations that come with the purchase of the book and here are my readings for those (all are based upon body fat being at 10%:
Muscular Potential: 190.8lbs
Hardgainer Potential: 181.3lbs
Championship Physique: 192.4lbs
“Freak” Physique: 208.6lbs
Sexiest Physique(Greek Standards) : 173lbs
The picture at the top of the page and the half-naked one on my about page were taken about 2.5 years ago so it looks like I reached the Greek Standard for the Sexiest Physique a few years back.
Remember, these are just estimations and only time and hard work (plus genetic limitations) will determine if I can surpass the potential of 186lbs at 10% body fat.
Just keep in mind, only a small fraction of the population will ever reach these numbers and some will have to resort to drug use to hit the elite-level. I don’t care how much Anaconda you take, you still have to accept these facts backed by the mounds of data and research Casey has bestowed upon us.
In the next section he gives “real-world” examples and compares his size and his accomplishments to those like John Grimek, Ron Lacy, Layne Norton and Tommy Jeffers. This is all respectable to individual measurements in wrist, ankle circumference and height.
If you are solely interested in reaching your maximum muscular potential and want a resource that is backed by research, Your Muscular Potential is the way to go and I can assure you will not be disappointed.
While you may (or may not) find the statistics to be discouraging, it will allow oneself to be more realistic with your potential for long-term gains in muscle and size.