Whatever You Think Your Genetic Limit Is, You’ve Been Lied To
Stanislaus Zbyszko and his allegedly-impossible-for-a-natty-lifter 20.5″ arms.
No matter what the future brings, man’s capacity to rise to the occasion will remain unaltered. His potential for tenacity and optimism continues, as always, to outfight, outpoint, and outlive any and all changes by his society.”
– Richard Matheson, “Steel”
It will shock absolutely no one that I regard empirically-influenced training methods as worthless, but this is absolutely not the case. I don’t consider training methodology based on clinical studies to be worthless- I think that the vast majority of the people promoting those methods are charlatans and liars (
with one prominent exception being Greg Nuckols), and their training methodologies are catastrophically detrimental to the strength training culture as a whole. The people who promote those theories- and yes, they are theories, not fact, and are heavily flawed theories at that- are at best delusional, and at worst literal enemies of the strength training state who should die screaming and choking on their own blood. They’ve sucked the heart and mind out of strength sports and replaced it with vapid adherence to milquetoast methods that produce dogcrap results.
“This… is Aristotle. Thought to be the smartest man on the planet. He believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, and everybody believed him, because he was so smart. Until another smartest guy came around, Galileo, and he disproved that theory, making Aristotle and everybody else on Earth look like a… bitch. ‘Course, Galileo then thought comets were an optical illusion, and there was no way that the moon could cause the ocean’s tides. Everybody believed that because he was so smart. He was also wrong, making him and everyone else on Earth look like a bitch again. And then, best of all… Sir Isaac Newton gets born, and blows everybody’s nips off with his big brains. ‘Course, he also thought he could turn metal into gold, and died eating mercury, making him yet another stupid… bitch!”
My abject, virulent, and violent hatred for these pseudo-intellectual halfwits will likely drive this article into a series, but as it stands, I am planning but one death stroke to their grotesque attempts to limit lifters and reduce them to the wildly pompous yet insanely unimpressive jitbags endlessly yammering about the supremacy of their methods online that they currently are. In death ground you fight, and this fight will be brutal, bloody, and easy. Anything you have read about your natural physical limit regarding muscle mass is not only a lie- it is a very specific and pointed effort to limit your growth by means of propaganda, though to what end I can only guess. Perhaps its to excuse their own shortcomings, but more likely it’s to limit yours so they don’t look so pathetic by comparison. Whatever their reasoning, they would disagree about as wholeheartedly with Matheson’s sentiments as fifteen year old Redditors would with me about the utility and awesomeness of fetish porn in my articles.
We could all learn a thing or two from the morally superior and super-strong posters of Reddit. As such, there will be no porn in this post. Feel free to let Reddit know what you think of their opinions on the subject in the comments, or in r/weightroom over in that window to their parents’ basements Reddit is.
I am aware that few of you share this sentiment- surely the dissembling assholes I am about to destroy are held aloft as veritable saints in your eyes. Certainly, they don’t curse or include porn in his articles. They are paragons of virtue who haven’t sunk into the moral morass in which I dwell. As such, you believe that what they say must be more credible than my far better reasoned, well researched, and historically validated statements because mine are far too interesting, and theirs are stated in PG verbiage with the conviction of a saint speaking about Jesus the corpse god. And because “systems of mass faith can persist only if their followers have a strong need to believe in the authoritative promises and remain ignorant of contradictory facts,” you must invalidate my convincing yet unconventional arguments because your imaginary universe would come crashing down were you to consider alternative viewpoints (Huesemann 154).
“Systems of mass faith are also strengthened by invoking the authority of their leaders…. The authority of the pope is derived directly from St. Peter, and this authority is passed down through the church hierarchy to cardinals, bishops and priests. In addition, for hundreds of years, the clergy conducted weekly masses in Latin, a language that was generally not understood by the public. This “language barrier” served as a tool for establishing authority and for keeping believers mystified, thereby limiting comprehension and avoiding critical analysis. Similarly, scientists often appear on the media to authoritatively communicate their findings and promises, largely in a language not understandable to the scientifically illiterate which, unfortunately, is most of the public” (Huesemann 153).
“‘People have an overwhelming desire to believe in something,’ and this is often exploited by those in power.
The average person today is probably as credulous as the average person in the Middle Ages. As Neil Postman writes, referring to comments made earlier by Georger Bernard Shaw, ‘In the Middle Ages, people believed in the authority of their religion, no matter what. Today, we believe in the authority of our science, no matter what.’ Such a high degree of gullibility is generally associated with an unwillingness or inability to be informed about all of the relevant acts in support of or in opposition to the particular belief system” [Emphasis mine] (Huesemann 154).
In other words- don’t be ashamed for buying into the bullcrap. Just wake the hell up and pay attention to the facts that are about to be presented.
Before I launch headlong into the evisceration of the bullcrap “science” behind the dripping wussydom of the “natty or not” assholes, “evidence based training” halfwits, and basically every other pompous know-nothing on the Internet, allow me to forestall the inevitable “those body fat percentages are vastly overestimated/wrong/bullcrap/whatever the hell Redditors love to say”, take a big step back and literally screw your own face if you’ve plans to start that crap.
“Body composition assessments vary in precision and in the target tissue of interest. The most common assessments are anthropometric and include weight, stature, abdominal circumference, and skinfold measurements. More complex methods include bioelectrical impedance, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, body density, and total body water estimates. There is no single universally recommended method for body composition assessment in the obese, but each modality has benefits and drawbacks” (Duren).
To put it in layman’s terms for the less than astute, that means that for insanely muscular people, there is no single reliable test of bodyfat unless you’re a corpse. If you doubt me, feel free to read that study- it’s in the “Sources” at the bottom of the page.
Leroy Colbert, rocking “impossible” 21″ arms and an FFMI (fat free mass index) of 28.63.
If you google genetic limits for a natural lifter, you would immediately be confronted with a great deal of discussion over the FFMI of various lifters, using it to confirm or deny the “natty” status of various bodybuilders. The FFMI is a scientific method used to support the unequivocally pseudoscientific chart by which lifters are determined to be steroid users or not.
Let me state that unequivocally- any person using this chart is a goddamned liar, a charlatan, a thief, and a loser. They should be stripped of whatever academic credentials they possess, have the crap kicked out of them, and should be left to roam the streets destitute and crippled. Just as
somatotyping, phrenology, and psychoanalysis are all examples of blatant and unrepentant pseudoscience, so is the use of FFMI to determine whether or not a lifter is natural. I’d posit that due to the fact that these assholes are charging people for advice that by virtue of the fact they’ve used this chart are wholly unqualified to give, they should be sued by anyone they’ve charged into lifelong poverty.
Bruno Sammartino, a man who rocked a 32.39 FFMI, 20″ arms, and a 565 competition bench, all natty as hell.
The manner in which the FFMI is calculated is explained
all over the place and I’ve no issue with the math. It is the interpretation with which I have a problem, and it’s explained with this little chart:
18 – 19 = Average
20 – 21 = Above average
22 = Excellent
23 – 25 = Superior
26 – 27 = Considered suspicious but still attainable naturally
28 – 30 = Highly unlikely to be obtained naturally without steroid usage.
According to a “science based” lifter and coach, Greg Nuckols, with whom I disagree on just about every conceivable topic and whom I’m lambasted for destroying the culture around lifting with the promotion of extremely dull training methods, this chart interpretation is based on a single, extremely flawed study from the 1990’s. That study concluded that 25 was the normalized limit for FFMI in natty bros, and although various natty coaches have raised the bar slightly, they still begin their crap talking at or around an FFMI of 28 (Kouri).
Chuck Sipes, rocking a 570lb bench and natty as hell 19.5″ arms (cold measurement) in stark defiance of “science.”
Like with all of the “evidence based” bullcrap out there, the incredibly lazy, Anglo-centric, and close minded mofos conducting their surveys of what is possible for natural trainees to achieve ignored literally the entirety of human history outside of an incredibly small sample of individuals who won a single bodybuilding contest in the early 1900’s. This ignores the Indians, who have the longest running history of weight training in the world and who have produced some of the strongest humans outside of the modern era, the strongmen of the early 1900’s, sumo wrestlers, and ACTUAL GODDAMNED SCIENTISTS. I don’t give a crap who’s “scientific model” you might be using, be it that crap-talking autist Lyle McDonald or Marc “I appear to have cancer” Perry- they’re all based on lies, nonsense, and ignorance of physical culture history, world history, and Pubmed.
To wit, here is some historical evidence:
One of the greatest Yokuzuna, and certainly the most muscular of all time- Chiyonofuji Mitsugu.
Sumo is practically a religious event in Japan, and its traditions are deeply rooted in Taoism. As such, steroid use is literal heresy and a violation of an honor code so strict it makes WADA seem like a pack of disinterested chemists rather than the psychotic Warhammer 40k style inquisitors and commissars they really are. As such, we can take it as a virtual certainty that the Yokozuna are natty, and their FFMI are off the goddamned charts.
If WADA’s Inquisitors looked like Inquisitor Lilith, I might compete in the IPF… just for the whipping.
And before Reddit starts screeching nonsense about the bodyfat percentages, everyone should take note- the mean bodyfat percentages in one study was 26.1% (Kondo) and another source stated that among “the top sumo wrestlers the average BMI is 36.5 and the body fat percentage is 30%. Also, the sumo association issues a warning to wrestlers who have tested over 38 percent body fat. If they go above 38 percent body fat they are forced to lose weight or risk suspension (Neporent 107-108). The reason they look so fat is their fat distribution- whereas most people have 77% of their fat stored viscerally (around the internal organs) and only 23% subcutaneously, sumo are the exact opposite- visceral fat is only 25% of their bodyfat and the rest is subcutaneous. The reason for this fat distribution is partially genetic and partially diet and exercise, but in the end the effect is that sumo “wrestlers lay down subcutaneous fat that doesn’t inhibit muscle development and which can be more easily accessed for energy use” (Hooper). Researchers credit this to the fact that sumo are heavily active and eat very little sugar, whereas Westerners are just a bunch of candy-grubbing slobs with malfunctioning endocrine systems (Matsuzawa).
Still think they’re all fat? Ulambayar Byambajav slamming the hell out of a 420lb opponent.
That said, here are some prominent Yokozuna, their stats, their body fat percentage or an estimate, and their FFMIs:
Ulambayar Byambajav– 6’1″ 365lbs. 15% BF (reported): FFMI- 41.02
Chiyonofuji Mitsugu– 6′ 260-280lbs. BF 11%. FFMI- 31.45
Kitanoumi Toshimitsu– 5′10″ 373lbs. Est fat 35%. FFMI- 34.86
As I’ve written in the past, India
has the longest history of strength training in the world. I realize that would shock the aforementioned autist and his fellow idiots, but it’s a fact. As such, the Indians have a codified system of training that persists even today and has produced some of the greatest wrestlers (pehlwani) to walk the Earth.
Here are a couple of the greats:
Jatindra “Gobar” Charan Goho– 6’1″ 290lbs. Est 20%. FFMI- 30.67
Dara Singh– 6’2″ 280lbs. Est 15%. FFMI- 30.62 Est 18% FFMI- 29.54
Great Gama– 5’7″ 250lbs. Est 20%. FFMI- 31.39 Est 25% FFMI- 29.43
The West hasn’t simply churned out bodybuilders- we’ve got our fair share of beasts to match the Asians. Here are a few of our monstrous natty bros:
Louis Cyr– 5’8.5″ 291lbs. Est 30% FFMI- 30.59
George Hackenschmidt– 5’9 218lbs. Est 12% FFMI- 28.39
Stanislaus Zbyszko– 5’8″ 230lbs. Est 18% FFMI- 28.74
Chuck Sipes– 5’9.5″ 220lbs. Est 8% FFMI 29.52
Oh, and as for the limits on the measurements of natty bros?
“Looking at the stats of these 3 legendary naturals, several important points stand out. The first thing we notice is that even with slightly higher body fat percentages than modern natural bodybuilders, these champions could not push beyond the 18 inch arm barrier. The second thing we notice is that 25 inch quads were a championship-level norm” (Shaw).
Absolute nonsense. Cyr’s arms were 20-21.5″, Hack’s were 19″ cold. Sipes’ were 19.5″ cold, and Zybszko’s were 20.5″. Your guess is as good as mine as to why these assholes are setting your natural limits so insanely low, but one thing is for certain- it’s absolutely not science. Know why? Because science says this:
If limitations exist in skeletal dimensions, fat-free mass (FFM) might have an upper limit. To explore the upper limit to FFM, 37 professional Japanese Sumo wrestlers, 14 highly trained bodybuilders, and 26 untrained men were investigated for body composition (fat mass and FFM) and cross-sectional areas (CSA) of limb muscles, by hydrodensitometry and ultrasound, respectively. Mean % fat of Sumo wrestlers, bodybuilders, and untrained subjects were, respectively, 26.1%, 10.9%, and 12.1%. Sumo wrestlers had a significantly greater FFM than bodybuilders, who had a greater FFM than the untrained men. Six of the wrestlers had more than 100 kg of FFM, including the largest one of 121.3 kg (stature: 186 cm, mass: 181 kg, %fat: 33.0%). The FFM/stature ratio of elite Sumo wrestlers averaged at 0.61 kg/cm, with the highest 0.66 kg/cm.
It is suggested that a FFM/stature ratio of 0.7 kg/cm may be an upper limit in humans (Kondo).
This means Flex Lewis is a long way off from his natty genetic limit.
To clarify, that means that
at 5’5′, my natural limit for fat free mass is 254lbs. Put that in your goddamned pipe and smoke it, natty asshats. And if you didn’t like that study because it involved too many non-Americans, how about this less exciting result?
“SM [skeletal mass] index may be a valuable indicator for determining skeletal muscle mass in athletes. A SM index of approximately 17 kg/m2 may serve as the potential upper limit in humans (Abe).
There is no perfect method of which I know to reconcile exactly skeletal mass and fat free mass, but the largest athlete in the study was listed as having 59.3kg SM and 120.2kg FFM.
As such, my maximum SM (17kg*1.68^2) of 47.98kg (105.6lbs) SM would correspond to around 97.25kg FFM (214lbs). So where the pink bitch pickpockets masquerading as experts on your natural limits had my limit at 135lbs (an amount of lean mass that I exceeded as a junior in college with very little in the way of supplementation), scientists say my limit is between 80 and 120lbs more than that.
22 year old Christian Wilkins- 310lbs, 4.80 in the 40-yard dash, can bench press 225 pounds for 31 reps, and can broad jump 9 feet.
Compounding that, a small study done in 2017 on collegiate football players showed their highest recorded drug-tested FFMI reading as 31.7, which indicates that it is possible to hit such an FFMI while still under the legal age to drink in the US. Given that male strength athletes seem to peak in their late 30s to early 40s, that leaves a tremendous amount of time during which that FFMI could be pushed far higher. In short- the charts you know and love are complete and utter crap, the people bandying them about are a goddamned joke, and if you run into one of them in public, spitting on them or crapping in their cereal would be completely appropriate.
“And what are the achievements of your fragile Imperium? It is a corpse rotting slowly from within while maggots writhe in its belly.
It was built with the toil of heroes and giants, and now it is inhabited by frightened weaklings to whom the glories of those times are half-forgotten legends. I have forgotten nothing and my wisdom has expanded far beyond mere mortal frailties.”
By now, you should be convinced that the natty limits drilled into your heads are pure lies, and setting a limit on your growth is counter-productive in any event. With any luck, you will have been inspired by this to crack open your fridge and start emptying its contents into your stomach for the gains. When you do, bear in mind the following:
- You will gain mostly muscle on a dirty bulk if you are lean and have been for some time, whereas the fatties will gain mostly fat. “In experiments of at least 3-weeks’ duration, the weight gain of people with low bodyfat people comprises 60-70% lean tissues, whereas in the obese it is 30-40%” (Forbes). Thus, it’d stand to reason to get lean and stay that way for a while before you dirty bulk like a mofo.
- People who are naturally predisposed to endurance events will have a harder time gaining muscle than people naturally predisposed to strength and size, though the latter will gain more fat as well (Schuler).
- Sumo wrestlers train twice a day, six days a week. Drop that stupid goddamned Smolov nonsense and actually challenge yourself while you’re bulking. Also, it might be useful when bulking to eat huge meals twice or there times a day- sumo only eat twice a day.
So there you have it- not only are the natural genetic limits to muscular growth insignificant for discussion anywhere, let alone a pack of goddamned know-nothings on the Internet, the people propagating that crap should be drug out into the street and shot, and your genetic limit is so goddamned high that discussion on it is utterly pointless. Therefore, a pox upon the children of the science-tastic assholes of the lifting world (with concessions to Nuckols for being sensible if hyper-conservative and promoting lifting a Soviet factory work rather than a good time), and three cheers for our muscular futures-
we’ve got a crapload of eating and growing to do.
Abe T, Buckner SL, Dankel SJ, Jessee MB, Mattocks KT, Mouser JG, Loenneke JP. Skeletal muscle mass in human athletes: What is the upper limit? Am J Hum Biol. 2018 May;30(3):e23102.
Duren DL, Sherwood RJ, Czerwinski SA, Lee M, Choh AC, Siervogel RM, Cameron Chumlea W. Body composition methods: comparisons and interpretation. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2008 Nov;2(6):1139-46.
Forbes GB. Body fat content influences the body composition response to nutrition and exercise. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2000 May;904:359-65.
Hooper, Rowan. The gene that may benefit sumo giants. The Japan Times. 20 Aug 2016.
Huesemann, Michael and Joyce Huesemann.
Techno-Fix: Why Technology Won’t Save Us or the Environment. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, 2011.
Kouri EM, Pope HG Jr, Katz DL, Oliva P. Fat-free mass index in users and nonusers of anabolic-androgenic steroids. Clin J Sport Med. 1995 Oct;5(4):223-8.
Kucharski, Adam. Patterns and proofs. The Conversation. 19 Aug 2013.
Matsuzawa Y, Shimomura I, Nakamura T, Keno Y, Kotani K, Tokunaga K. Pathophysiology and pathogenesis of visceral fat obesity. Obes Res. 1995 Sep;3 Suppl 2:187S-194S.
Neporent, Liz and Suzanne Schlosberg.
The Fat-Free Truth. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.
Schuler, Lou. What’s the most muscle you can gain? Men’s Health. 7 Nov 2015. Web. 12 Jun 2018.
Shaw, Steve. Natural muscle building: a look at potential, genetics, and arm size. Muscle and Strength. 23 Oct 2013. Web. 15 Jun 2018.
Tara, Sylvia. Yes, sumo wrestlers are obese- but are they unhealthy? Medium. 30 Sep 2016. Web. 15 Jun 2018.
Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Blue MNM, Schumacher RM, Mayhew JL, Mann JB, Ivey PA, Hirsch KR, Mock MG. Fat-Free Mass Index in NCAA Division I and II Collegiate American Football Players. J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Oct;31(10):2719-2727.