How Big Can You Get Naturally

To get an idea of how big you can get naturally, I like to use Martin Berkhan’s simple formula:

  • Maximum bodyweight at a shredded 5-6% bodyfat = Your height in centimeters – 100

So, a guy that is 6”2 (188 centimeters) can weigh a shredded 88 kg (193.6 lbs) after several years of consistent training.

Berkhan’s formula is derived from observations of natural bodybuilders who have been training consistently for years and who are VERY close to their natural limit.

It is important to keep in mind that his observations are of people that are shredded; visible rock hard abs, striatons on shoulders and veins all over their body.

Also, the formula has several limitations, where the most important one is outlined below:

The formula assumes average genetics. A minority of the population falls into the category of “non-responders” to resistance training and might not ever reach the same maximum muscularity as the rest of the population no matter what they do. Along the same lines, there are high-responders that might possibly exceed the formula. However, in my experience, high-responders simply gain muscle mass faster than someone of average genetics; the cap for maximum muscular potential (height – 100) does not seem to be raised by much.

Unfortunately, a large amount of you guys are skinny-fat, because you’re “non-responders” to resistance training.

This doesn’t mean that you cannot gain any muscle, but it means that you can expect a lower level of muscularity than the formula above shows.

I know myself, that I might never reach the number that the formula shows. Currently (Spring 2014), I weigh 183 pounds (83.1 kg)  at around 10% bodyfat and I’m 6″3 (191 centimeters).

I have trained consistently for +4 years and gains are slow to non-existent now.

According to the formula, my natural limit is 200 pounds (91 k)g at 5-6% bodyfat, so that means I would have to gain over 22 pounds of lean mass.

Realistically, I won’t gain 22 pounds of lean mass anytime soon. According to McDonald’s formula, it would take me an additional 7-11 years of consistent training to gain those pounds. (It predicts that you gain 2-3 pounds per year after your 3rd year of proper training).

Now, you may wonder: how much muscle mass can I carry if the formula above doesn’t hold?

This depends largely on your bone structure.

Your Bones Decide How Much Muscle You Can Carry

body-types

I often hear statements such as: “If you’re 6″3 you should be at least 200 pounds to look muscular.”

Those kind of statements are incorrect, since the amount of muscle mass you can carry largely depends on how big your natural frame is.

According to Holway in The Sports Gene (2013, p. 125) each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of bone supports a maximum of five kilograms (11 pounds) of muscle.

In other words, a big boned endomorph can support a considerably higher amount of muscle mass than a skinny-fat guy with tiny wrists, shoulders, ankles and arms, despite being at the same height.

Take a look at the quote below (Taken from The Sports Gene, p. 125):

Most olympic athletes whom Holway has measured, like discus throwers and shotputters, have skeletons that are only about 6.5 pounds heavier than those of average men, but that translates to more than 30 pounds of extra muscle that they can carry with proper training.

The research done by Holway shows why you shouldn’t compare your bodyweight with that of guys with different genetics.

Consider two guys who are 6″2 (188 centimeters). According to Berkhan’s formula, they have the potential to weigh a shredded 193.6 pounds (88 kg).

However, if one of the guys has just 2.2 pounds more bone than the other, he will be able to weigh 13.2 pounds more than the naturally smaller guy! (2.2 pounds of extra bone and 11 pounds of extra muscle mass).

If we assume that the slightly bigger guy can reach the maximum natural potential of Berkhan’s formula, he will top out at 193.6 pounds while the smaller guy will top out at 180.4 pounds.

Furthermore, big boned guys usually gain muscle much faster than smaller boned guys, so it may take the big boned guy 3-4 years to reach his natural potential, while the other guy will spend several years “catching up” and still ending up at a significantly lower bodyweight.

Even if you’re the same height, a big boned guy will generally have the potential to become much bigger than you.

How Big Did I Get Since Writing This Article 2 Years Ago?

how-big-can-you-get-naturally

Earlier in the article I mentioned that I was roughly 183 pounds (83.1 kg)  at around 10% bodyfat and I’m 6″3 (191 centimeters).

That’s was roughly 2.5 years ago when I was in one of my best shapes ever.

During these 2.5 years, I’ve been training consistently at least 4 times per week,  and I’ve gained a bit more size, but those size gains have mostly been on weak body-parts such as shoulders which were previously under-trained.

You can see my current physique on my facebook and instagram.

I’m currently about 17-20 pounds heavier than in April 2014, but those are not 17-20 pounds of muscle mass.

I would guess that I’ve gained at most 5 pounds of muscle mass on the upper body and 12-15 pounds of fat.

Overall, the biggest gains the past 2.5 years have been around my waist because all my efforts have been focused on the diet and training plans of my clients, rather than my own.

I believe that since April 2014, my body has pretty much maxed out at the muscularity I achieved back then.

Right now, I have to train hard just to maintain that level of muscularity and I tend to lose definition very fast if I take even 3 days off from training.

I’ve been able to squeeze out some muscle gains here and there, but again, these have mostly been as result of muscle-memory (re-gaining old muscle) and on body-parts which were previously under-trained.

So I firmly believe that most natural bodybuilders will gain 90% or more of their size in the first 3 years of hard training.

After that, you can either choose to:

  1. Stay VERY disciplined about your diet and training and track everything to squeeze out another 5-10 pounds of muscle mass over the next 2-5 years.
  2. Put minimal effort into your training and diet so you can maintain a muscular physique and focus on other areas of life.
  3. Switch to the dark-side and take some juice.

I personally went for option 2 because I won’t get any benefit out of getting bigger than I do now.

I already have people tell me I’m big and muscular and built “like a tank” and I can barely keep my arms straight because my lats push them out, so I don’t see any reason to get any bigger.

Conclusion

From this article you should have learned two very important things:

  1. In your first 3 years of training you can gain around 30 pounds of muscle, but after that gains will be slow to non-existent.
  2. It’s a bad idea to try and rush muscle gains by dirty bulking because there’s only so much muscle mass you can gain per month. 30 pounds over 3 years is less than 1 pound of muscle per month!
  3. A big boned guy will generally be able to carry much more muscle mass compared to a small boned guy.

The reason to why I wrote all this was to give you perspective.

Don’t look so much at your bodyweight compared to other people because bodyweight doesn’t account for bone-structure.

In addition, you need to know that proportions are more important than overall muscle mass.

If you have skinny wrists, a 1 inch gain on the biceps is going to look more impressive on you compared to a guy who has thick wrists.

So even though your muscle gaining capabilities are lower, in the end you have the advantage of having smaller bones which make each pound of muscle gained more impressive.

However, as long as you stay lean and put on muscle in the right places, it doesn’t matter much that muscle gains are slow and that you can’t weigh as much as a competing bodybuilder.

If you stay at 10-15% bodyfat and gain 30 pounds of muscles in the right places, you will look GREAT. This should take around 3 years, but it’s all worth it.

Once you get to this point, you may even find that you don’t want to get much bigger! That has at least been the case for me.

Be proud but stay hungry,

Oskar Faarkrog

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Comments

  1. harsh jeewani says:

    sir i a question that you have wasted your first 2 years of training then how you can gained 40 pounds of muscle in following three years!

  2. harshu jiwani says:

    sir what do mean by you loss muscle defination if you dont trian 3 days

  3. I followed your routine to turn from skinny fat to skinny. After that i have been going to the gym for 7 months, my body changed a lot! Thank you.

    Do you think that I can keep gaining muscle if I purchase a pair of adjustable dumbbells and 80kg (40 for each db)? For how much time?

    I just find more convinient training at home, money and time wise.

  4. Enjoying this site. I find it interesting that you begin to lose definition after three days of not training. Im quite a bit older than you (41) with extremely thin bone structure. Oddly enough, I have been making better gains when i do full upper body workout every three days. Am I an outlier? Do you suspect that I would see even better strength gains if I trained more frequently? I’m wondering if some body types are more susceptible to overtraining than others

  5. Oskar, happy new year and keep up the great articles, please. I wish you the best!

  6. Ferooze Ali says:

    Hello Oskar,

    Could you organize a Fitness BootCamp prog in Bangkok for your fans or anyone nearby in the region like in Malaysia or Indonesia.I believe the idea of doing some supervise workout under the Bangkok sun is awesome(Lol!) And i don’t mind paying for that !

    Btw, i’ve been your fan for quite a while now. No doubt there are various great fitness advices out there, but your ideas amongst all – injects a sense of realism. It is easy to relate and digest.

  7. Oskar, thanks for this site… you are awesome

  8. The problem with such calculators is that they never work for the average guy.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Yes exactly. That’s why I said most people will not achieve the number the calculator shows. But it’s a good guideline for knowing what you can achieve and what is completely unrealistic.

  9. Hi Oskar,

    Longtime lurker here I’m just wondering, since you’ve answered in this article what are the limits of “bigness” for skinny fat in terms of muscle growth and size. Would you mind telling me what are the limits on strength for a skinny fat person. For example for myself I’m about 6 inches in wrist size and 8.5 in ankle size, and about 65 kg currently and 6 foot 1 in height. Not sure if that’s helpful or relevant. But in any case, could you tell me from what’s given what the limit on strength would be for skinny fat individual? Thanks for your time.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Rickzor,

      I’m not sure about the strength limit since it depends a lot on how your body is built. For example if you have long legs and arms and a short torso, you will be very strong on the deadlifts but weaker on the bench press and squat.

      It also depends on how fat you’re willing to get. If you’re willing to bulk up and get huge with a big belly you will also have more muscle mass and better levers for maxing out on the bench press and to bounce out of the bottom of the squat.

  10. I wish I had the problem where I don’t want to get any bigger. Haha!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I wish I had the problem where “I’m eating all the time and can’t put on weight” :D

      • Me too! Hahaha. By the way, thank you for replying to my emails. I really appreciate it, Mr. Oskar 😁

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          You’re welcome. I always do my best to reply to guys like you who ask clear actionable questions, work hard and put my advice into action. Keep up the great work!

  11. harshjeewani says:

    sir what is your wrist size! and ankle size

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I don’t rememember it and don’t have a tape on me now, but I know it’s very small for a guy my height.

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