70 Comments

  1. Bro I am a powerlifter and currently 19 years and 184cm. FFMI score is 21.7
    Weight- 80kg with 10%b.f. Lifting experience is 2 years.
    Bench press – 110kg
    Squat- 100kg
    Deadlift- 160kg
    Question is can I get a 100kg stage ready physique Naturally?
    Also what about 200kg bench naturally?? as I never stuck a plateau in any time till now.
    What about at men’s physique category Olympia stage?

    1. If you look at people of your height that compete in tested powerlifting and bodybuilding divisions, you will see the current limit of what the elite are achieving and this will give you an idea of what is possible with years of hard work and luck with genetics.

      The Olympia isn’t a tested competition, so ignore that.

  2. I find this interesting, I scored 28, I’m 1.85m tall and 120kg at 19.7% bf (measured last night with digital calipers). I know I am a genetic freak but I only started lifting again 9-10months ago. I’ve been on and off over the years but I’d argue my genetics are probably better than even Arnold’s. I have 32 inch quads, a 55 inch chest and 19 inch arms completely natural after 10 months. 12 months ago I weighed 25 kilos less. My transformation pics are on Instagram under @adam_yates_physique if it interests any of you. I’m planning on taking this as far as I can and defo got my eye on the prize with pushing my genetic limits. I want to enter the IFBB completely natural and prove everyone wrong that steroids are not the be all and end all of bodybuilding!

  3. I think the FFMI is really off base. 25 years ago I had an FFMI of 28 completely drug free. My main supplement was peanut butter. I was strong and fairly muscular, but really nothing special. By no means was I gifted. I had friends, who I would estimate would score higher than I did. If you check the scores, the FFMI really goes higher the more you weigh. SO, you can have a really high FFMI with a fairly high fat percentage. For instance someone who is 5 feet 9 inches and weighed 245 with 20% body fat would have a high score.

    1. If it was really off base, then it’s possible you are in a population pocket with a very good gene pool, or just underestimated your body fat percentage. The latter is more likely due to the limitations of the tools we have available to assess it. I’ve written on this here, here and even invited one of the world’s best stats geeks on my podcast to talk about the subject (listen here).

  4. Hi, I’m 21 years old. 134kg well over weight at 34% bf but my fat free mass is 87.8kg. I am 183cm tall and have managed to increase my fat free mass while dropping body fat. What does this mean as this fat free mass is higher than the examples given? I seem to be able to make fast gains and I am 100% natural (fat is also coming off at a steady pace) will I keep gaining fat free mass or will it stop soon as my bf gets lower? Thank you

    1. Hi Josh. Well, even if the body fat percentage tool you used to estimate your lean mass was off a little, it means you carry a lot of muscle. This is excellent! You’ll likely make some progress as you lean out and this may lead to further muscle gain, but given how much fat you carry you may not be able to measure the differences.

      Practical steps: Train hard, lean out, look forward to seeing what you have underneath. 🙂

  5. Carl Juneau, PhD

    Great post! Been a while since I’ve seen anyone add to this discussion in a meaningful way. I’ll share in this week’s bodybuilding science review newsletter.

    Cheers!

  6. Andy, as far as I know, the very first known reference to anabolic steroids in a bodybuilding magazine is dated 1938 – in a magazine called Strength and Health, there is a letter addressed to the editor of Strength and Health. So there is a destinct possibility that in the late 40’s there might have been some experimentation kept strictly between the elite bodybuilders of the time.

    Ref: Hoberman JM, Yesalis CE (1995). “The history of synthetic testosterone”. Scientific American 272 (2): 76–81. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0295-76. PMID 7817189.

  7. Are there studies or better formulas out there related to muscle growth respecting the age?

    I mean there should be a tremendious difference in building muscles between a joung boy starting with 15 years and a men starting with 30 or 40 or 60 years when they work out in similar intensity and all other conditions like nutrition, sleep and stress are the same.

    1. Hi Matthias.

      I recall the one (but can’t find the link), and I believed it showed that adaptations to training (muscle growth) get less as we age. The real question is whether this matters at all, and I’d say no. You’re not getting any younger, so it’s pointless worrying that you’re not getting the gains you would have. Higher lean body mass levels are linked with longevity and quality of life in old age (being able to sit and then stand from the toilet by yourself for longer) and studies show time and time again the positive effects of strength training in the elderly.

      Let’s do a little more mental masturbation here. At 15 we will take advantage of the growth spurt, so let’s set that aside for a moment and consider 20-60 instead. The difference we’re talking about is a gradual reduction in recovery capacity, more injury considerations, and an increase in the lower threshold of protein intake in one sitting for MPS to take place (~20g – ~35g, meaning fewer meals with more protein per sitting are better, or just keeping protein intake high a good idea). The latter is irrelevant outside of extremely high meal frequencies or low protein intake, the injury part we have no control over (what’s done is done), so we get to the first item – recovery capacity.

      Recovery capacity and adaptions to training will be different in different people. Some blessed, some not, most of us average. Forget that. Will YOU get the same training effect, all things being equal at 50 as you would 20? Not quite.

      However, all things aren’t equal. You probably sleep better now, have access to better information, training modalities, money (should you need to see a trainer to guide you around any injuries) and your quality of diet is probably higher. You probably have a lot more commitments which make hitting the gym harder too… Well, I guess it’s swings and roundabouts.

  8. I also forgot to give a massive thank you as I was originally 90kg and managed to lose 6kg using your cutting calculator and principles leaned from your site over a 4 month period. (Intermittent fasting and carb cycling). I had the added bonus of some abs for the first time in my life too 😉

  9. I’m sorry but I refuse to believe these figures. I’ve been working out on and off for a few years but only serioisly in the past year. I’m 5’10 and 86kg with about 10% Bf (Jackson pollock method) . I believe I am still a beginner in terms of lifting weight as my squat is only 110kg and benching 90kg on the 5×5 program. I’m still gaining strength and size each month. I have always been a bit heaver than other people my size and build even before starting working out but I have small wrists and ankles and am not big boned. Anyway these calculations mean that I am at the upper end of my limits which is totally ridiculous!

  10. Hi Andy,
    Many of the pages I found for adjusted FFMI added a coefficient for height; ie adjusted FFMI = FFMI + 6 x (height – 1.8).

    I just had a read of the pubmed extract, and the ratio is REVERSED! 🙂

    That is “We then added a slight correction of 6.3 x (1.80 m – height) to normalize these values to the height of a 1.8-m man”.

    So the formulae for adjusted FFMI = LBM/(Height^2) + 6.3 x (1.8-Height).

    In my case, LBM = 92kg and Height = 1.91m
    therefore adjusted FFMI = 92/1.91^2 + 6.3 x (1.8-1.91)
    = 24.52

    much more reasonable than the suggested 26 which occurred when the coefficient ended up with a positive value adjustment.

    🙂

    Kind Regards,

    Trent

    1. Trent, in the study text it’s actually 6.1, where the abstract 6.3 (likely a typo). Every online calculator I’ve found appears to get this wrong. Based on how I’m reading the study, the taller people had a higher FFMI, even with less muscle development, so their adjusted formula reduces the number for tall people and increases it for short people. They explain this by pointing out that taller people are usually also wider/thicker, and the standard FFMI formula is 2-dimensional, not 3-dimensional. I’d love to know where all this went wrong. Since most online calculators seem to use the same source code, one mistake seems to have been copied quite a number of times.

  11. Thanks Andy,
    I note though, the adjusted FFMI suggests adding to the index for heights above 1.8m.. ie adjusted is FFMI + 6*(height-1.8).. In my case, this takes my current 25 up to 26…

    I’ll have a DEXA done in a couple of weeks to make sure my numbers on BF% & LBM are correct… but i’m unlikely to have bf >12%, being i’m only 13 weeks post comp (INBA physique) and haven’t been binging or on a massive surplus….

    Has anyone ever calculated a formulae for muscle mass index, ie maximum genetic potential of muscle mass based on height, size, bone density etc?

    Perhaps this will be a good question for Eric Helms (he’s co-presenting camps with Layne Norton in Sydney this April, I’m lucky enough to have gotten a place to attend)..

    Thanks again.

    Trent.

  12. HI Andy,
    Nice article and a good read in the comments too – it’s great to see your engagement with your readers and fans!

    Anyway, on the FFMI; is there a way to “adjust for height” for tall blokes?

    I’m 191cm, and run a LBM of 92kg at the moment; that’s a FFMI of 25.2..
    100% natty, 35 years old and training for only 3 years.

    I wouldn’t call myself genetically gifted, growing up as a very skinny, lanky kid & teen.. Whilst my 3 years of lifting has seen me reach half-decent lift 1RM results (Sq 185kg, Dead 245kg, Bench 120kg)..

    I still have a good number of years ahead of me and still have room to grow.

    I think part of the problem with the formulae is no coefficient for bone density/mass – especially as a taller person further builds on this through compound lifting..

    Keep up the great work – btw your page helped me with my first introduction to training back 3 years ago.. Links from Fitocracy brought me to your site, and I used your training recommendations in hand with IF to hit sub 9% for the first time in 2013..

    1. Thanks Trent, glad the site has been so helpful to you.
      – Yes, this is called an adjusted FFMI. Just google it and you’ll see guides come up.

  13. I don’t believe the guy in the example is or could be natural.
    All the point made in this article, as well as in the Eric Helms one, is based in the assumption that the FFMI of the Mr Americas is remotley acurate which i don’t think is the case.
    Look at the FFMI of John Grimek: it goes from 24 to 26.9 in the timespam of one year. Assuming he is 1,75 tall, he would have gained 9kg (20lbs) of lean mass in that time. 9kg of muscle in one year is a great acomplishment for a begginer, it’s just impossible to put that much in one year (or at all) on top of an already Mr America winning physique.
    Also, if you look at photos of these guys, for example Steeve Reeves and Jack Delinger side by side (https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-0ADfy0vRAuI/TpE5sTE9TpI/AAAAAAAADuY/vss7UIDche4/s1600/one.jpg), they look they have the same degree of muscularity. There’s no way one FFMI is 23 and the other 28.
    These FFMI of former Mr Americas are completely urreliable to draw any valid conclusion.
    A FFMI of 25 is actually great in real life (outside the internet). Its someone with very good genetics who trained hard for years, someone that look big to most people and will be acused of juicing frequently. Most wont reach a FFMI of 25 naturally. There should be some freaks capable of reaching 26, but more than that? I don’t buy into it, specially considering how financially and professionay rewarding is to be a fake natural bodybuilder, trainer or youtuber nowadays.

    I agree with Casey Butt when he says : “The truth is 20 pounds of real, permanent muscle would transform your body. Most magazines and websites make it seem like 20 pounds of muscle is nothing …like your grandmother could gain that much. The reality is, if you gain 20 pounds of muscle this year everyone will notice and they’ll probably whisper behind your back that you’re on steroids – my friends did and I didn’t gain nearly that much in any one year. Gain 30 pounds of muscle (above your normal, healthy adult weight) and you’ll be carrying as much muscle as a world-class drug-free bodybuilder.”

    1. Victor, thanks for commenting. I’ll reply in order.

      1. Re: Grimek. He made a jump from 24 to 26.9 FFMI in a single year, 1940-1941 – the years when we’re fairly sure steroids weren’t available. Essentially the question is, “What possible explanations are there for the 2.9 jump in FFMI (~20.7lbs in stage weight difference) in a single year, other than steroid use?”

      Well, back then people were less consistent with individual stage condition (how shredded they were), and the levels of conditioning expected were not what they are now. A less lean, more hydrated and glycogen filled Grimek on stage, with a year of solid training behind him, could easily explain the 20lb increase, and perhaps overall size was more important than being leaner back then, to a point.

      2. An interesting point. I have assumed that the FFMI figures are correct, for lack of choice really. I would’t try and read too much into a single photo, with different angles.

      3. “There should be some freaks capable of reaching 26, but more than that? I don’t buy into it.” – Fair enough, I disagree though. (The math of why I think it’s possible is covered in the article.) There are more people in the sport now, so the chances of one of the few people in the world with potential to reach 26+ starting it are higher. And though the financial rewards of becoming a fake natty are going to overpower a lot of people’s morals, some people won’t do it simply out of principle, knowing they have to look at themselves in the mirror each day.

      – A man walks out of the coffee shop leaving his briefcase behind. You look to see if you can find a name on it, and it pops open, revealing $10mil in cash inside. Now, a lot of people are going to silently take the money and disappear. – Not everyone though.

      4. I absolutely agree with your last paragraph.

    2. Andy, while i don’t agree completely i can see tour points.

      You are right about the variability of the conditioning these guys presented at contest day. The carb intake and short use of very high volume in the weeks prior to competition sure could have an effect on lean mass. But 20lbs would be more what a fighter varies in lean mass with weight-in dehydratation. Still possible, just not likely in my opinion.
      It’s just that one would expect that the top genetic gifted individuals, with no access to drugs, training with the same goal, would end up somewhat in the same ballpark of muscle mass. But the values vary so much, even in the same individual, that makes me very suspicious of the acuraccy of the measurements. Also because i don’t see that crazy variation in old photos or videos. But i could be wrong.

      Let just forget the number aspect for a moment. The old school guys had a very different look, this is not only a matter of body fat percentage, you didn’t see the “full muscle”, “thin skin” pumped look. Look at Clancy Ross: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VCdnLTHSi8. Acording to the chart, his FFMI is over 26, even then doesnt have “that look”.

      I agree that there are many individuals that refuse to pull the fake natty routine due to their morals. Unfortunetly these guys are often the guys who have their advice discredited as trainers because they are being compared to drug assisted standards of muscle mass, or are the guys losing a natural bodybuilding competition because they are competing against users.

      Just as a closing thought: I live in Brazil, fitness is a big thing here , lots of gyms, so a very large talent pool. But at the same time, while selling steroids is a crime here, the possession is not, and its not as much seem as a morally reproved thing as in some other countries, and even some supplement sponsored competitors admit using. So here people talk more openly about it, and people are more realistic about what can and can’t be achived naturally. Its interesting that here you almost don’t see these huge naturals genetic freaks that appear so frequently in the US.


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