How much muscle mass is ideal?

Oscar

Level 6 Valued Member
This thread triggered a question I´ve been meaning to ask for a while. Everyone talks about body fat percentage, but what about muscle mass percentage?

It appears that for most sports and activities, a bodyfat of about 10% is ideal. This is for typical activities, excluding both extremes of the continuum: marathoners and powerlifters (and the such). also, it appears that elite athletes of typical sports all carry more or less the mentioned body fat of about 10%, and also similar quantities of muscle. Think soccer, basketball, tennis, volleyball, etc. None of them looks like Ed Coan, and neither like a marathoner. So, as a general rule, how much muscle are these guy carrying? What´s their muscle mass %? The following examples come to mind: Lebron James, Cristiano Ronaldo, Usain Bolt, Novak Djokovic, etc. Aside from the height, these guys seem to have similar body fat and muscle mass percentages.
 

mprevost

Level 6 Valued Member
Ideal for what? I prefer to think of this issue from a functional perspective. The ability to do the tasks of daily living plus enough reserve capacity to protect yourself and others is probably a good metric for the average person. For an athlete, with specific sport demands, the answer is different.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
@Oscar, there is no such thing as ideal, IMHO. An approximation might be alright, but my guess is that an NBA player carries appreciably more muscle than a soccer player. Basketball players are generally beefier than they were when I was growing up - have a look at some old films to confirm.

-S-
 

Oscar

Level 6 Valued Member
Ideal for what? I prefer to think of this issue from a functional perspective. The ability to do the tasks of daily living plus enough reserve capacity to protect yourself and others is probably a good metric for the average person. For an athlete, with specific sport demands, the answer is different.
Ideal for the practice of the mentioned sports, such as soccer, basketball, tennis, etc, which in my opinion seem to have similar ideal body composition. Also, this body composition seems to suit the ability of daily living.

I'm aware that different sports require different abilities, and possibly different ideal body compositions (for example marathoners or powerlifters). However, as per the above examples, it appears that for many typical sports and for daily living, the ideal body fat % and muscle mass % seems to be similar.

"The ability to do the tasks of daily living plus enough reserve capacity to protect yourself and others is probably a good metric for the average person."

Even though this is an undeniable truth, I think that it is not easy to measure, and therefore not a very useful metric or goal to achieve. The task of daily living for many of us is reduced to type on a keyboard, and I would prefer my physical abilities to be higher than that. And fortunately, I havent had to defend myself or my loved ones in the past, and hope not to need it in the future. So I think there are other goals to aim for, which are easier to measure, such as 2xBW deadlift, 12% bodyfat, 100 snatches in 5 minutes and a muscle mass percentage of X%.
 
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Oscar

Level 6 Valued Member
@Oscar, there is no such thing as ideal, IMHO. An approximation might be alright, but my guess is that an NBA player carries appreciably more muscle than a soccer player.
Steve, agreed that there is not such thing as ideal. Not even the same player weighs the same every season. But there seems to be a trend, or commonality between them all. I mean, we can all agree that a sumo wrestler body is not the rule, nor Ronnie Coleman, nor a marathoner who weighs 130 lbs. My guess is that if you pick a bunch of elite basketball players (James, Jordan, Bryant, etc). You will find similar body fat and muscle mass percentages. Then, if you compare that to elite sprinters, is going to be quite similar. Do I make any sense?
 

wespom9

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
It definitely corresponds with activity. Contact sports require large amounts of muscle mass as protection. Look at rugby, football, etc. Even hockey, where they have more equipment.

Another thing as we of course all know is that muscle mass does not equal strength. If you are in non-contact sport, activity or occupation, the only question is do you have enough strength, not mass, and do you have enough that when aging inevitably catches up to you that you aren't wasted away
 

Ian V

Level 5 Valued Member
Just something that I noticed during the Rugby World cup - the New Zealand team which ultimately won all looked the same physique wise - no matter how big or small they were they just seemed to have a bigger or smaller version of the same physique.
 

Stuart Elliott

Level 6 Valued Member
Just something that I noticed during the Rugby World cup - the New Zealand team which ultimately won all looked the same physique wise - no matter how big or small they were they just seemed to have a bigger or smaller version of the same physique.
I notice this too, not the biggest I.e. not pumped up, just form following function.
 

Oscar

Level 6 Valued Member
This image includes many dominant players of a variety of sports, such as decathon, soccer, tennis, and includes contact sports like rugby and american football.


Sin título.jpg

I dont have a DEXA scale in my eyes, and yes, the american football player seems to carry more muscle than the tennis player, but am I the only one who sees a trend?
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
I don't think there is going to be an across the board for mass to height.

Compare Sharapova to the Williams sisters - same job description.
 

Oscar

Level 6 Valued Member
I don't think there is going to be an across the board for mass to height.

Compare Sharapova to the Williams sisters - same job description.
True. However, even if mass to height is different, muscle mass % might not be that different. Serena Williams seems to carry more muscle than the norm though.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
@Oscar, Mr. James and Mr. Bolt are, to my eye, quite different body types - I don't think they'd show up as similar at all.

-S-
 

Sean M

Level 6 Valued Member
Bringing it down from the level of sports/performance to the "Average Joe": I'd say two two-prong strategy for health and longevity is 1) keep your body fat percentage in check, measured by your waist circumference (in absolute measurement and as a ratio to your height, ideally 50% of height), and b) preserve as much lean tissue - muscle, sinew, etc - as possible for as long as possible through strength and mobility training.

So while I can't answer the "Starting from puberty, how much mass should someone put on?" question, but rather: starting today, work to keep as much lean mass as possible as you age to promote health and safe, functional movement.
 

Kettlebelephant

Level 7 Valued Member
If you look up their stats all of the guys weight (in Kg) is around "height in cm minus 100".

Ashton Eaton - 185cm/84Kg (Decathlon)
Cristiano Ronaldo - 187cm/84Kg (Soccer)
Novak Djokovic - 188cm/80Kg (Tennis)
LeBron James - 203cm/113Kg (Basketball)
Usain Bolt - 195cm/94Kg (Sprinting)
Michael Jordan - 198cm/98Kg (Basketball)
Lionel Messi - 170cm/72Kg (Soccer)
Kobe Bryant - 198cm/96Kg (Basketball)
Roger Federer - 185cm/85Kg (Tennis)
Rafael Nadal - 185cm/85Kg (Tennis)
Trey Hardee - 196cm/96Kg (Decathlon)
Russell Westbrook - 191cm/91Kg (Basketball)
Kevin Durant - 206cm/109Kg (Basketball)
Manuel Neuer - 193cm/92Kg (Soccer)
Marcel Hirscher - 173cm/75Kg (Alpine Skiing)
Kjetil Jansurd - 181cm/84Kg (Alpine Skiing)
Ted Ligety - 180cm/86Kg (Alpine Skiing)
Dario Cologna - 178cm/75cm (Cross-Country Skiing)
Petter Northug - 185cm/83Kg (Cross-Country Skiing)
Conor McGregor - 175cm/70Kg (MMA)
Floyd Mayweather - 173cm/68Kg (Boxing)
Justin Gatlin - 185cm/83Kg (Sprinting)
Michael Phelps - 193cm/88Kg (Swimming)
Ryan Lochte - 188cm/88Kg (Swimming)

I could go on and on with this list of world class athletes who all at least at some point have been at the top of their sport.
They look different -> e.g. Nadal and Federer have exactly the same stats and play the same sport, but their bodies look different.
With the exception of Lebron (who is considered big for an NBA player) and Djokovic, all of them are within +-5 of the "height in cm minus 100" range.
Football and Rugby players are exceptions, they usually carry more muscle mass in relation to height.

Even though there are definitely exceptions to this rule - e.g. Djokovic or Shaquille O'Neal (who definitely wasn't ~10% BF :D) - and even though some of the stats might by off by 1-2cm and/or 1-2Kg, I still think all together "height in cm minus 100 @ 9-13% bodyfat" is a good goal to aim for in general and for most of the sports out there.
 
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Sean M

Level 6 Valued Member
If you look up their stats all of the guys weight (in Kg) is around "height in cm minus 100".

Ashton Eaton - 185cm/84Kg (Decathlon)
Cristiano Ronaldo - 187cm/84Kg (Soccer)
Novak Djokovic - 188cm/80Kg (Tennis)
LeBron James - 203cm/113Kg (Basketball)
Usain Bolt - 195cm/94Kg (Sprinting)
Michael Jordan - 198cm/98Kg (Basketball)
Lionel Messi - 170cm/72Kg (Soccer)
Kobe Bryant - 198cm/96Kg (Basketball)
Roger Federer - 185cm/85Kg (Tennis)
Rafael Nadal - 185cm/85Kg (Tennis)
Trey Hardee - 196cm/96Kg (Decathlon)
Russell Westbrook - 191cm/91Kg (Basketball)
Kevin Durant - 206cm/109Kg (Basketball)
Manuel Neuer - 193cm/92Kg (Soccer)
Marcel Hirscher - 173cm/75Kg (Alpine Skiing)
Kjetil Jansurd - 181cm/84Kg (Alpine Skiing)
Ted Ligety - 180cm/86Kg (Alpine Skiing)
Dario Cologna - 178cm/75cm (Cross-Country Skiing)
Petter Northug - 185cm/83Kg (Cross-Country Skiing)
Conor McGregor - 175cm/70Kg (MMA)
Floyd Mayweather - 173cm/68Kg (Boxing)
Justin Gatlin - 185cm/83Kg (Sprinting)
Michael Phelps - 193cm/88Kg (Swimming)
Ryan Lochte - 188cm/88Kg (Swimming)

I could go on and on with this list of world class athletes who all at least at some point have been at the top of their sport.
They look different -> e.g. Nadal and Federer have exactly the same stats and play the same sport, but their bodies look different.
With the exception of Lebron (who is considered big for an NBA player) and Djokovic, all of them are within +-5 of the "height in cm minus 100" range.
Football and Rugby players are exceptions, they usually carry more muscle mass in relation to height.

All together I think "height in cm minus 100 @ 9-13% bodyfat" is a good goal to aim for in general and for most of the sports out there.
That’s really interesting! Is that a widely known ratio?
 

Oscar

Level 6 Valued Member
@Kettlebelephant that's an interesting analysis. It seems like a useful rule of thumb. It's interesting to note that this rule (weight=height-100) happens to represent a BMI between 24 and 25. So, in order to dominate a sport, a person has to be at the limit of being overweight.
 

LukeV

Level 6 Valued Member
I don't have a link but from professionalisation in the mid '90s rugby players got bigger, a lot bigger, and noticeably more muscular, but the pace of the game increased, perhaps as a consequence of fitter and stronger players, so that process started reversing and players these days are, on average, smaller than they were, say, a decade ago. But the key metric seems to have been the pace of the game. The really big guys struggle to keep up and so I would bet that as a consequence of the pace of the modern game average body fat percentage of rugby players would have declined. Sad news for big fat props!

Edit: just did quick google and rugby players at international level are continuing to increase in size but Super Rugby club players are getting smaller. There are differences in rules between international and club rugby that might explain this

Edit2: there seems to be quite diverse data on this topic. perhaps worthy of a topic in itself but I am no longer confident that club rugby players are getting smaller
 
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Stuart Elliott

Level 6 Valued Member
@LukeV I also think the Jonah Lomu effect had something to do with players becoming bigger. Coaches and players saw what a huge quick powerful guy could do and tried to replicate it. The problem being everything about Lomu was down to genetics.
 
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