Well, you know, I don’t want to, like, get too bulky…
It used to be something that only the women said, but now, apparently, there’s a new wave of men smushed into nut crushing skinny jeans that think they’re going to accidentally blow up into an IFBB mass monster if they touch anything heavier than a naked barbell.
Let me make it clear: This sentiment is totally misguided and wrong.
A year ago I was pushing 200 on the scale. Suffice to say, it was not a good look:
And then, I went on a diet to lose fat, but I did heavy weight training training with near religious devotion to build (or maintain) as much muscle as I possibly could. The result:
Did I get hyuuuge? Not so much. In fact… more like the opposite — I deflated like a leaky balloon. By the end of it all, I weighed a mere 145 pounds, which is quite modest for a 5’9″ male.
And keep in mind, throughout my transformation my approach to weight training was hardly that of a timid person who fears increased muscle mass. It was the opposite, actually. I lifted as hard and heavy as I could, did minimal cardio, and basically did everything I could to gain/maintain as much muscle as I possibly could while still losing the fat. Though, it was apparently not at all obvious to my peers, one of whom told me I looked like an internment camp survivor by the time I was done dieting.
I’d hate to think what I might have looked like after it all if I hadn’t done weight training…
Just How Accidentally Huge Can Men Get, Anyway?
Martin Berkhan, Lyle Mcdonald, and Alan Aragon — three very highly regarded individuals in the world of health & fitness — have all provided models for calculating one’s (natural) muscular genetic potential. Here is a very rough aggregation of all three to give you an idea of what’s possible for men:
And that’s assuming the man in question actually puts in the work to hit his genetic ceiling, which — lets face it — most wont. I’m certainty not going to. Why? Because trying to hit my genetic ceiling is not at all worth the required effort. I’m just not interested in obsessing over my diet and training protocols and toiling in the gym to milk out the final few possible percentage points of increased muscle and strength. I don’t see the point. My life isn’t going to get monumentally better if I kill myself to add the final 5 or so possible pounds of (natural) muscle to my frame.
The models basically say that at this point I can hope to add 10 or so more pounds of muscle before I start hitting the big diminishing returns that kick in when one gets close to his or her genetic potential ceiling.
Take a look at what I look like again. Am I going to be a huge bulky hulk at 155-160 pounds? No. Not even close. I’ll hardly look a modicum better than totally ordinary when wearing street clothes.
I realize that there can’t possibly be a simple algebra equation that will predict every man’s natural potential. And sure, there are probably a few exceptional outliers out there somewhere on planet Earth. But three very prestigious health & fitness professionals wouldn’t each profess models for natural genetic potential unless they had the hard data from training thousands of clients to corroborate them. Moreover, the specimens whom these models are based off of, individuals who are likely training for some kind of competition, are probably among the most dedicated trainees in existence — probably a hell of a lot more dedicated than I or any other person who takes the minimalist approach is.
But… but… the shredded fitness model on the magazine cover!
Reality check: He’s on drugs. Probably a lot of them. He’s also probably depleted as hell to look nice and dry/hard for the photo shoot. He’s photoshopped too. And keep in mind that it’s his job to train. People don’t build mind blowing physiques by going to the gym three times a week for 45 minutes, even if they are chemically assisted.
And that’s part of the problem, actually. These guys and girls with drug fueled superhuman physiques pose in magazine spreads holding a protein shaker, giving the impression to a lesser informed individual that he or she might end up looking like the magazine model if their palm accidentally grazes a dumbbell handle.
Most natural guys who are/look “huge” are just fat. That’s the reality of it. If these natty-fat permabulkers who take up the single squat rack in the gym for 45 minutes were to get as lean as I am, they would be sorely disappointed at the seemingly gaunt specimens they’d become.
I share this information as well as my own little personal anecdote to make a few points:
- No, you’re not going to accidentally get “huge” if you lift. Not by a long shot…
- If most men were to actually achieve single digit body fat with the amount of muscle they currently have, they would look like emaciated twigs.
- If most men were to get within 10% of their maximum (natural) muscular genetic potential while being 10% body fat or less, the truth is it’d still be hard to tell that they even trained at all if they wore a long sleeve dress shirt.
- This sentiment is all the more true for women, who simply cannot build muscle to the same degree as men can (naturally, at least).
- You’re not going to look like the person in the muscle mag. Not unless you too decide to use a PED cocktail.
My main point: Don’t cling to an irrational fear of accidentally blowing up into the incredible hulk if you pick up something heavy once in a while. Resistance training is arguably the greatest health enhancing activity there is, and it’s a shame that people don’t do it, men and women both, who otherwise might because they fear an outcome that’s actually impossible.