Determining Natural Bodybuilding Potential

Updated December 17, 2020

Can you determine natural bodybuilding potential? Is it possible to determine if a lifter is a natural or steroid user? The answer is generally yes to both questions.

The Formula

The following equation is derived scientifically, studying approximately 300 winning drug-free strength training athletes and bodybuilders from 1947-2007. For more information please read this article, Your Maximum Muscular Bodyweight and Measurements.

  • H = Height in inches
  • W = Wrist circumference located at the hand side of the bony lump on the wrist (known as the styloid process)
  • A = Ankle circumference at the smallest measurement
  • BF% = The bodyfat percentage at which the ankle and wrist circumferences were taken

natural muscle potential

Potential Variance. The natural bodyweight potentials listed below are derived using a wrist circumference of 7.5 inches, and an ankle circumference of 9.5 inches. These numbers are reasonable for the heaviest of natural lifters. (Note: the author’s wrist circumference is 8.0 inches, and ankle circumference is 10.0 inches at a bodyweight of 280 pounds. So you can see that for a natural lifter under 220 pounds, 7.5 and 9.5 are very reasonable numbers)

For a 0.5 differential in BOTH numbers (a lifter’s wrist is 8.0 inches and ankle is 10.0 inches instead of 7.5 and 9.5), the weight variance using the formula would be an additional 5.2 pounds of lean mass. In simple terms, for every additional inch of circumference (from either ankle, wrist, or both combined) above the potentials listed below, a lifter could have an additional 5.2 pounds of lean mass.

Again, keep in mind that the numbers used to derive natural potential (7.5 wrist circumference and 9.5 ankle circumference) are at the high end of normal for a natural bodybuilder with under 20% bodyfat. Therefore, a reasonable maximum potential variance for natural lifters from the below numbers would be plus 3 pounds. For smaller wrist/ankle boned lifters, the numbers could be smaller by up to 10 pounds.

The numbers. Using the above formula, and inserting 7.5 wrist inches and 9.5 ankle inches, we derive the following natural bodyweight lean body mass potentials for a 6% bodyfat percentage. Again, the derived numbers below are lean bodyweight, which means total bodyweight less fat. It is not total competition bodyweight including the 6% bodyfat.

The reduced formula with wrist and ankle circumferences and a 6% bodyfat percentage is…

H^1.5 (0.31037632)

  • Height, 66 inches = 166.4 lean body mass potential. Competition weight = 177.0 pounds
  • Height, 67 inches = 170.2 lean body mass potential. Competition weight = 181.1 pounds
  • Height, 68 inches = 174.0 lean body mass potential. Competition weight = 185.1 pounds
  • Height, 69 inches = 177.9 lean body mass potential. Competition weight = 189.3 pounds
  • Height, 70 inches = 181.8 lean body mass potential. Competition weight = 193.4 pounds
  • Height, 71 inches = 185.7 lean body mass potential. Competition weight = 197.6 pounds
  • Height, 72 inches = 189.6 lean body mass potential. Competition weight = 201.7 pounds
  • Height, 73 inches = 193.6 lean body mass potential. Competition weight = 206.0 pounds
  • Height, 74 inches = 197.6 lean body mass potential. Competition weight = 210.2 pounds
  • Height, 75 inches = 201.6 lean body mass potential. Competition weight = 214.5 pounds
  • Height, 76 inches = 205.6 lean body mass potential. Competition weight = 218.7 pounds

Bottom line. It is possible for a natural lifter to exceed these numbers by a very small percentage. But, it is virtually impossible for a natural lifter to exceed their potential by more then a few pounds. Based on ankle and wrist circumference, I think it is safe to say that a lifter who exceeds their natural potential by more than 5-10 pounds lean mass is certainly suspect.

Like it or not, but in bodybuilding, there is a pretty blatant drug use going on, namely in the form of steroids, synthol and various hormones.

Whilst it simply cannot be denied that steroids and various anabolic compounds can help to build pretty substantial amounts of muscle, they certainly aren’t vital, and also pose a number of pretty serious health risks, which is why natural bodybuilding is growing in popularity.

Natural bodybuilding is basically the art of bodybuilding, using only natural methods I.E staying drug-free and using nothing but smart training, whole foods, healthy beverages, and natural supplements to help burn fat, tone up, build muscle, and become much bigger and stronger in the process.

To help get you on the right track and give you a little head start over your competition, here is our natural bodybuilding guide.

Natural Bodybuilding Training

First up we need to talk about training.

Obviously, if you’re looking to build muscle, burn fat, and generally get in shape, you’ll need to put the work in at the gym and really destroy your workouts with passion and determination.

As for which type of training routine/program you follow, that really depends on your goals, genetics, and preferences, but to help get you started, here are a few handy pointers.

Training Frequency

If you’re serious about bulking up you will need to really ensure that you’re training regularly and consistently. Aim to be in the gym for between 4 and 5 days each week.

Some people are tempted to train 6, even 7 days per week, but that is not effective as it can lead to overtraining, which can then leave your body struggling to recover and grow following your workouts.

Routines and Programs

Again, another vital component of any bodybuilding plan is to find the right routine or program that best suits your goals and requirements.

For example, some people may find their bodies responding especially well to full-body routines, which work each major muscle group with every single session.

Other people prefer 5-day splits, in which they work each muscle group one day each week. Others follow push-pull routines, whilst others like to pair muscle groups up I.E Chest and arms, etc.

There are many different programs out there for you to choose from, so do your research and find one you like the sound of, that provides you with impressive results.

Training in General

Not only does your program determine how quickly you grow, so too will your overall training in general. For example, if you’re using weights which are far too light and not testing your body, you simply won’t be growing.

On the flip side, if you’re using weights which are too heavy, your form will suck and you’ll struggle, not to mention the fact that you may become injured.

Train to failure if possible, perform various compound exercises, vary your exercises, use free weights and machines, as well as bodyweight exercises in the process, and always warm up before you begin any workout.

Natural Bodybuilding Workout Guide

When people think of bodybuilding, unfortunately they also often tend to think of anabolic steroids and various other hormones and compounds designed to enhance both, physique, and performance in the process.

Whilst this article will most certainly not be turned into a debate about the use of PEDS (Performance Enhancing Drugs) in bodybuilding, what we will be doing is clearing up the fact that not every single bodybuilder is using anabolic compounds to improve their physique, which is one of the reasons why there are a number of natural bodybuilding divisions were 100% natural bodybuilders compete clean.

Natural bodybuilding workouts are just as physically demanding and non natural workouts, in fact, some may argue that they’re tougher because it’s harder to gain size and strength whilst natural.

Needless to say, natural bodybuilding workouts are still highly popular as there are currently more natural bodybuilders in the world than ever before.

If you yourself are looking to gain muscle naturally, here are 6 of the best natural bodybuilding workout tips you could ever hope for.

Be Consistent

Truthfully, it doesn’t matter whether you’re natural or not, because in bodybuilding, consistency is one of the keys to success, so if you aren’t consistent, you can kiss goodbye to all of your gains and hopes of ever making any real progress.

When we talk about consistency, we’re talking about not only your workouts, but also your diet as well. Obviously you need to be training several times per week, following structured workouts and having a clear plan in mind.

On top of that, however, you need to be eating the right foods, drinking the right drinks, and using the right supplements at the right time.

Work out a diet and eating schedule, eat consistently, don’t skip meals, don’t change your macros, and don’t ever take a “wait and see” approach.


If you are looking at training naturally, to help you shock your muscles and truly pile on the muscle, you’ll need to increase the volume of your workouts, which means more sets and more reps.

The idea is to really shock and fatigue your muscles so that you grow as quickly as you possibly can.

You need to really obliterate them whilst working so that you stimulate new growth for the most drastic improvements. Forget your standard 4 sets of 8 reps, if you’re serious about growing, aim for 4 – 6 working sets, add more exercises, and increase your reps to 8 – 12, unless specified otherwise.

Casein Protein Before Bed

When we lift weights, we don’t grow at all, in fact, we do the opposite because we destroy our muscles and place additional stress on them.

We grow when we rest, providing our bodies have enough nutrients to allow us to do so. Protein and amino acids are both vital components of any bodybuilding routine, because protein is so essential for the growth and repair of our muscles.

The problem is that some proteins are absorbed and used up quicker than others.

When we sleep, we need a steady stream of proteins and nutrients supplied to our muscles, to help keep our bodies in an anabolic state in which it builds muscle and grows.

The problem is that as we sleep on average for between 7 and 9 hours a night, when we sleep we aren’t eating and have no energy.

Casein protein supplements are ideal because casein protein is a slow-release slow digesting protein which provides protein, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals for the body for hours upon hours.

One of the best natural bodybuilding workout tips is to chug down a casein protein shake before getting into bed.


As we mentioned, we don’t grow when we’re training, we grow when we rest and in order to ensure our bodies have enough time to truly repair themselves following tough workouts, we need to make sure that we have rest days, and that we get enough sleep each night as well.

Many natural bodybuilders will train for hours a day, 6 or even 7 days per week, which is far too much as it doesn’t give the body time to grow.

Training in this way means that we break down our muscles in the gym, but don’t repair them efficiently enough because we simply don’t have the time. Aim to get a good night’s sleep each night and take at least 2 days off from the gym each week.


The fuel you put into your body will determine just how well it responds to your training and workouts so if you’re eating junk and not eating consistently enough, you can kiss goodbye to your gains.

Aim to eat every three hours, consume at least 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight, get enough healthy fats in there, and get your carbs from complex healthy sources, unless specified otherwise.

On top of that, stay away from sugary drinks and stick with fresh water instead.

Follow a Structured Plan

Finding the right natural bodybuilding workouts can be tough, as there is so much to choose from.

To help ensure you’re growing effectively enough, try to find a plan which means you work each major muscle group at least once each week.

Don’t focus on chest and biceps like most other people tend to do, find workouts that work your entire body, including your calves and hamstrings, which people tend to neglect because they’re often covered up.

Natural Bodybuilding Nutrition

Now that the training pointers are out of the way, the next step is to talk about the importance of proper diet and nutrition.

Diet and nutrition is vital when it comes to natural bodybuilding because no matter how hard you train, if your diet isn’t on point, you won’t progress at all, and that’s the sad truth.

Take a look at these helpful tips.


Bodybuilders need protein more than anybody else because it is essential for cellular growth and repair and it plays a key role in protein synthesis, which is vital for the growth and repair of muscle tissue and fibers.

To build muscle you should aim for at least 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight, getting your protein from mainly lean, healthy, and natural muscle building foods such as chicken, fish, seafood, turkey, red meat, and so on.

Healthy Fats and Carbs

The clue is in the name with healthy fats, as they are considered so healthy and beneficial for us.

Look for sources like oily fish, omega 3 supplements, coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, whole eggs, etc.

As for your carbohydrates, aim mainly for complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index as these digest and break down slower and are much healthier on our guts.

Look for oatmeal, wholemeal bread, brown rice, pasta, potatoes, starchy vegetables etc.


As far as natural bodybuilding supplements go, there is a great deal to choose from but in reality you don’t need that many.

Go for a whey protein powder, a casein protein powder for before bed, an omega 3 supplement, and a multi-vitamin and truthfully that’s all you need.

Natural Bodybuilding Diet Foods

Natural bodybuilding diet foods are currently more popular than ever before, with more and more bodybuilders, both amateur and professional, looking to really step up their training and really push their bodies to the limits in order to stimulate as much new growth and create as much definition as they possibly can.

Now, as far as this goes, of course they need to ensure they’re in the gym on a regular basis, training all major muscle groups whilst ensuring they don’t neglect their cardio in the process, but as well as this, and perhaps more importantly, they also need to ensure that they pay special attention to their diets and their nutrition.

No bodybuilder can expect to create a lean, muscular, defined, vascular, and aesthetic physique if after the gym each day, they head to the nearest burger or pizza outlet and cram as much junk food down their necks as they possibly can.

In order to grow properly and make great progress, bodybuilders, and indeed athletes or fitness enthusiasts in general, must ensure that they get plenty of healthy produce packed full of nutrients, inside of them.

Here’s a list of 5 of the best natural bodybuilding diet foods that are guaranteed to provide maximum gains and leave you looking and feeling better than ever before.


There’s something about oatmeal that bodybuilders absolutely enjoy, especially off-season bodybuilders when they can add a little extra salt, butter, and other deliciousness such as almond butter or peanut butter.

Oatmeal is an ideal pre-workout natural bodybuilding diet food as it is a great source of slow-release carbohydrates, which fuel the body for several hours following their consumption.

On top of that, oatmeal is also relatively low in calories, and is a fantastic source of fiber, which improves digestion, helps to regulate and lower LDL cholesterol levels, promotes regularity, and enhances nutrient absorption.

Plus, as the fiber is largely soluble, it breaks down in water, swells up into a paste and coats the lining of the stomach, making you feel full for longer so you don’t over eat.

Finally, it is also a great source of B vitamins, as well as minerals such as zinc and iron.

Grass-fed Beef

If possible, when choosing beef, always go for grass-fed beef as it is considered far healthier than grain-fed beef. If not, however, look for an organic grain-fed beef as it will contain far less harmful chemicals and hormones than those found in non-organic cattle.

Beef is a great source of red meat as it is largely lean and boasts an impressive vitamin and mineral content, being especially high in iron.

Iron is essential for healthy blood as it boosts haemoglobin formation which in turn means more oxygen is able to be transported around the body via the blood itself.

This is especially beneficial for bodybuilders because this increase in oxygen means that the cells in their muscles will work more efficiently as they will have more energy from the oxygen itself.

Of course the beef is also packed full of amino acids and protein, making it ideal for people looking to build muscle and burn fat.

Whole Eggs

Forget what people tell you about egg yolks being bad for you because providing you don’t go crazy and have too many, 2 – 3 whole eggs per day will not only be ok for you, it will actually be hugely beneficial.

Yes, the yolks do contain cholesterol, but they contain a combination of both good, and bad cholesterol, plus the bad cholesterol, they do contain, is only in small amounts so as long as you don’t consume too much on a regular basis, you will be perfectly fine.

Eggs are a great source of protein and are the only food to boast both a complete, essential, and non-essential, amino acid profile, which basically means they contain every amino acid your body requires.

They also contain minerals and healthy fats which help to boost the metabolism as well as brain function. Stay clear of caged hen eggs and ideally go for organic eggs, or failing that, free range will do just fine as well.


Another one of the extremely popular natural bodybuilding diet foods that is growing in popularity on a daily basis is tuna.

Tuna fish is incredibly lean, it is packed full of protein and amino acids, it contains essential minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus, and above all else, it tastes great.

Tuna can be purchased tinned, in flakes or chunks, whole, or in tuna steaks, which can then be seared and cooked to your liking.

Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is a godsend for many bodybuilders, and for very good reason too.

Most bodybuilders will avoid various sauces with their foods because unfortunately they’re packed full of salt, sugar, and other harmful ingredients that are not ideal for people trying to strip body fat and build muscle.

Because of this, their meals often become quite dry and bland. Cottage cheese adds moisture to these meals, but it’s about much more than that.

Cottage cheese is incredibly rich in protein and minerals such as calcium, but on top of that, unlike most other cheeses, it is extremely low in fat and calories, whilst still tasting great in the process.

A word on Natural Testosterone Production

Many non-natural bodybuilders will inject themselves with testosterone because this hormone is vital for muscle size and strength.

Natural bodybuilders however, can naturally increase their testosterone production internally, in a number of different ways.

Exercising and lifting weights have already helped to increase natural Testosterone levels, but many people use natural herbal supplements such as tribulus terrestris, which has been proven to greatly enhance testosterone production.


The author

Steve Shaw
Steve Shaw is the original founder of Muscle and Brawn, an experienced powerlifter with over 31 years experience pumping iron. During competition he’s recorded a 602.5lb squat, 672.5lb deadlift and a 382.5lb bench press.

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