Is there a limit to muscle growth? This is a question everyone has asked themselves, and the answer is pretty cut and dry. All I can really do is explain why this limit exists and touch on the various factors that cause it. I will also offer some cautions about trying to push past these hard limits.
When you look at bodybuilders, always striving to build more muscle mass and tone, enough never seems to be enough. A drive to continually improve is not a bad mentality, provided you have the discipline to know your limits and don’t let those limits get you down. But you’ve undoubtedly wondered – isn’t there a point where they can’t get more muscular? How much muscle can a human body have? Surely there are limits set by biology and by physics.
The bottom line is yes, there definitely are. Eventually, you will reach the limit of just how ripped you can become, at which point, it’s more maintenance than constructive work. That’s how it goes with just about anything really.
Think of it like the kung-fu master in old cliché movies. These masters always talk about how “we all have something to learn,” but these guys, at least in the movies, can stand on one foot on a blade of grass, practically fly, control chi … you name it. What the heck can they have to learn,? What more can Yoda learn about the force? He sure seems to know his stuff.
Well, that’s the thing. It’s good to be humble, to have a mindset of “I can always improve” with anything. But you have to accept that eventually, there aren’t more rungs on the ladder to climb. This is very true with muscle building, probably truer than with just about anything else going.
Now, there aren’t hard limits that apply to everyone. Sometimes even when you think you’ve hit a limit, it can turn out that you’re not training parts of your body you’ve unknowingly been neglecting. There are also other aspects, albeit more subtle and intricate, which you can work on past this point, so take heart – it’s not just dull maintenance with no gains at all.
First, let’s talk about why these limits exist.
Genetics do matter. Put simply, your ethnic background and your own unique genetic profile do affect your biology pretty directly. Various ethnicities are shaped by the environments where they originated. In almost every aspect of life, these don’t matter, but when it comes to how your body processes calories, how your muscle mass grows, how much muscle you can gain, etc., it does have an impact.
However, that’s only a fraction of how and why genetics impact your body. You’re truly unique even among your family, no matter how much you take after them in certain ways. Your body chemistry, your metabolism, your respiration, your personal musculature – these are very specific. This is why athletes and bodybuilders have a close relationship with their physicians and fitness professionals. Determining exactly what realistic goals are and what the best training and diet are, can all vary quite wildly even among relatives!
This is a byproduct of genetics, but your body frame matters too. We have genetic markers that prevent our muscles from overgrowing our skeletal frame. Biologists don’t 100% understand how these markers work mechanically yet, but they can point out the genes that do it, and they do mostly work the same for everyone. These exist for a reason, and that is so that your muscles don’t overstrain your calorie and protein deficit and your circulatory system isn’t overstressed.
Again, your physician and your fitness professional will be able to give you realistic goals based on this. But understand that these limits aren’t a failing on your part, and turning to something like steroids or other harmful enhancers to push these limits, is a horrible idea. Instead, reach these limits, and then work on the fine-tuning I alluded to before.
When you see “balance,” you probably expect me to go on a long ramble about balancing goals and acceptance, or something like that. That’s important, but that’s not what we’re going to talk about here. No, I’m talking about a source of gains a lot of newcomers to bodybuilding (and even some old hands) often overlook – are you balancing your workout to target all of your muscles?
After all, it doesn’t just stop with your arms, your abdomen, or your legs. What about your back, your glutes, your secondary muscle groups? These are important, and you can spend years sculpting these muscles even after you’re conventionally ripped.
I won’t spend a whole lot of time getting into how this works – it’s complicated, and it’s not entirely understood. But, you can actually redirect muscle mass through careful workouts and training programs.
This is challenging to do, but that makes it worth it for those who want to keep working, to keep challenging themselves, and to keep seeing gains, even if they are small gains.
Okay, let’s get to the bottom line here. I can’t give you numbers on the limits; they’re too specific to an individual. But if you can’t achieve the Herculean look you envision, that’s okay. There’s always room for improvement in more disciplined, subtle ways. Be the best you that you can be, and don’t hold yourself to the limits of others.
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