What is Muscular Potential?
We are all born with muscular potential. All of us have genetic limiters that set our absolute top potential for all kinds of different performances or expressions, and muscle size is no different. You could train and eat perfectly, and you may never get close to lifting the kinds of loads that the top lifters in the world can lift. Even if you lifted the exact same way and lived the exact same life as Mr. Olympia does, you would likely not build nearly as much muscle (even if you took a ton of steroids). Some people have much HIGHER strength and muscle potential.
There are many factors (that we know of), that determine your muscular potential:
- Some of them are your bone structure
- Bone size
- Bone density
Bigger and denser bones can anchor and carry bigger muscles, while smaller bones limit how much muscle a body will build. Bones also play a role in how muscular someone “looks.” Wide clavicles and narrow hip bones create a V-shape that can make a smaller boned man appear more muscular than a heavier boned man with narrow clavicles and wide hips.
Another factor is your muscle belly length. The muscle belly refers to the meaty part of a muscle. The longer a muscle belly is, the more potential it has for size. Look down at your calves. If the muscle belly is short and you have “high” calves, you have lower muscle building potential than someone whose calves go all the way down to their ankles. High level bodybuilders often have long muscle bellies which make them look more muscular onstage.
Your muscles are also made up of muscle fibers. The two main types of fibers are the fast twitch fibers which are responsible for explosive strength, and the slow twitch fibers which are responsible for endurance.
- Fast twitch muscle fibers grow at much faster rates and get bigger overall when compared to slow twitch muscle fibers. This is one reason why strength training produces larger muscles than endurance training. Although your body can change how each fiber reacts to an extent, a large part of what determines which muscle fiber is dominant in your body is your genetics. If your body’s muscle fibers are made up of mostly fast twitch muscle fibers, it will build more muscle faster than if slow twitch muscle fibers made up your majority.
Hormones signal your body to perform many functions and one of those functions is to build muscle. Testosterone is the main muscle building hormone in men, but growth hormone and insulin also play a role. Normal levels of hormones can vary greatly between men, and one reason for this is genetics. Some men have double the testosterone levels of other men and this factor alone can make a big difference when it comes to muscle size.
Combine bone structure, muscle belly length, muscle fiber dominance and our natural hormone levels (and other genetic factors), and you have your muscle building potential. Some people have a higher overall potential than others. Some people have tremendous champion level potential. Many of us are somewhere in the middle, with very few at the top and very few at the bottom.
Potential plays a role, but no one can reach their ultimate potential without applying the right lifestyle. How you train, eat, sleep and live is literally the entire other side of the equation. Arnold Schwarzenegger was Mr. Olympia seven times, but he would have won zero contests if he did not train and live in a way that expressed his potential. Whatever your potential is, it’s very likely you aren’t even close to reaching it.
The key to muscle building success:
- Accept what you can’t control and to place all your focus on what you can control.
- Your genetics are what they are, and there isn’t anything you can do about it. Your genetic potential is set, accept it.
- Focus on how you train, eat, sleep and live makes a HUGE difference in how much muscle you can build.
- Focus on those controllable factors to hit your personal potential.
How Does this Calculator Work?
You may be wondering how this calculator could possibly figure out what your individual muscle building potential could be. It uses a formula that is based on the best research available on natural bodybuilders. When you enter in your information, the calculator estimates what your natural maximum muscle building potential would be if you were healthy and did everything right. This includes training, diet and lifestyle. Although no formula will ever be perfectly accurate for everyone, we have found this one to be reasonably accurate.
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Table of Contents
How your Genetics Influence your Muscle Potential
Everyone has an overall muscle building potential. Although there are many things you can do to get your body to build muscle, you have a limit as to how much you can personally build based on your genes. At the top of the scale are the genetically gifted muscle builders who seem to gain muscle by simply looking at a barbell, at the other end are people who need to do everything perfect to gain a few pounds of lean muscle mass.
One of the most important factors that will dictate your success is to focus on what you can control and to forget the rest. Keep in mind, most people are nowhere close to their muscle building potential. Diet, workout programming and lifestyle are what help you reach your individual potential, but most people don’t have all three perfectly dialed for their individual body. Many people walk around near the bottom of their potential.
It’s impossible to know EXACTLY what the upper limit of your muscle building potential is, but we can get pretty darn close. The calculator on this page uses a sophisticated algorithm that is based on data collected from people who are widely believed to have reached their natural muscle building potential. By compiling this data, we can give you a close estimate as to how much muscle you can ultimately build naturally without steroids.
Your genetics ultimately determine your upper limit of muscle potential. How responsive your muscles are to resistance training, your genetic potential for muscle building hormones like testosterone and growth hormone, your tendency towards muscle fiber types, your bone structure, and the length of your muscle bellies all have a large impact on how much muscle you can ultimately build.
The controllable factors such as your training, diet and lifestyle play a massive role in how much muscle you build. Those factors can influence your genetic factors pushing them individually towards their upper potential. For example, resistance training has been consistently proven to raise testosterone levels in men and change how muscle fiber types act. If your goal is to hit the size measurements that this calculator gives you, then you will need to manipulate all of your controllable factors towards the same goal…to build maximum muscle.
One of the most important huge controllable factors is your workout. Your body needs a reason to build muscle. Muscle is a metabolically expensive tissue, meaning it requires a lot of nutrients to sustain muscle on your body. Your body ONLY does this if it thinks it’s in its best interest, and proper resistance training is the most effective way of convincing your body it NEEDS more muscle. A good well-planned workout produces amazing results while a poorly planned workout gives you poor results, or no results at all.
Best Workout and Diet to Reach your Maximum Building Potential
Your diet is another very impactful factor. If you aren’t supplying your body with the extra nutrients it needs to build muscle, then it simply can’t do it. A bad diet will usually overpower a great workout. One dietary component to pay attention to is protein intake. Protein is the macro nutrient most used to build muscle, and eating adequate protein is essential when it comes to hitting your muscle building potential. Studies show that a protein intake of 0.6 grams to roughly 1 gram of protein to every pound of current body weight builds the most muscle and in the fastest way.
You also need to consume more calories than you are burning. If you don’t give your body “extra” calories to build with, it will just burn everything as energy and have nothing left to work with.
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You must also maintain overall good health. Regardless of anything else, if your body is prone to illness or if you live an unhealthy lifestyle, your body will not prioritize muscle building. This means that you need to get good sleep consistently, have a well-balanced whole foods-based diet, and live a life that isn’t overly stressful.
Although they aren’t nearly as important or impactful as diet or training, supplements can also help with your muscle building journey. If you find it difficult to eat enough protein to maximize results, a good quality protein powder can help. If diet and exercise are on point then you can add creatine to your arsenal. Creatine has been studied for decades and has been proven safe for healthy individuals and has been shown to consistently increase lean muscle mass and strength in most people who use it. Typically, 2-5 grams a day is adequate creatine supplementation for most people.
Although your genetics have determined your overall muscle building potential, it’s safe to say most people can accomplish a truly impressive physique if they master the controllable factors.
- Follow a well-planned muscle building workout program.
- Consistently eat a good muscle building diet, sleep and stay healthy.
- Throw in some essential supplements and you will be pleased with your results.