Quite often you can see guys slaving away at the gym, slurping on protein shakes or pounding the pavement.

There are also frequently seen ads around the net with a simple animation of a thin guy transforming into a muscle man.

The other example is the before and after of the overweight guy now turned into a well sculptured Adonis.

Is this at all possible for your average guy on the street without the use of performance enhancing drugs?

Most of my friends that have some bulky muscle seem to have the right frame for it.

A six pack from sit-ups seems reasonable to me, but not from skinny to muscle-man.

  • 5
    the skinny guys probably would turn into something like Bruce Lee instead of Arnie
    – Lie Ryan
    Aug 12 '11 at 5:55
  • @Lie - Agreed, but the perception of those that buy their own weight benches and drink protein shakes is that it is possible to bulk up. If you look at the Fitness SE there's plenty of question there about people asking about protein diets and bulking up on the hopes that it will happen.
    – going
    Aug 12 '11 at 5:57
  • Yes, they can continue to grow their muscles by bodybuilding. It would take years of dedication to specialized workout and nutrition plans to go from weedy to Arnie.
    – dgstl
    Aug 12 '11 at 6:24
  • No. You cannot achieve the looks of 7 time Mr. Olympia without using steroids and other forbidden substances. Proteins and training can only bring you so far. You can grow but not much more than 25-30 pounds above your optimal weight. The laws of diminishing returns are bitch, so if you want competitive mass and shape you will have to do what professional bodybuilders do. Aug 12 '11 at 11:18
  • 4
    Hey all, how about someone turn their comments into an answer and back it up with some data. There are plenty of claims above, but none of them are referenced claims. :)
    – going
    Aug 13 '11 at 3:10

You're asking a lot of questions and they aren't as specific as they probably should be for a site like this. Let me just cut to the chase, and then try to justify my answers.

  • Can anyone reasonably expect to obtain a physique like Arnold without drugs? No
  • Can anyone reasonably expect to obtain a physique like Arnold with drugs? No
  • Can tall, skinny guys get more muscular and stronger? Yes
  • Are ads on TV and the internet misleading or out-right lies? Yes

Those are my answers, at a glance. Now comes the justification.

First, we need to make it clear that we are talking about 'average' people (as per the question) not outliers. An average person who takes up sprinting can train and improve - but WILL NOT EVER run as fast as Usain Bolt. It's safe to say that because, empirically we see that the world's best runners cannot run as fast as Usain Bolt.

Second, I'm really not sure this question should be on this site. It's easy to say X did Y but it's very hard to say it is physically impossible for X to do Y. Can some ficticious guy run a four minute mile? Well, there was a time when nobody had - and some people argued it was impossible for medical reasons, while other people argued it was achievable. Then some guy did it; but he was the only one. Now world class athletes can do it. But what does that mean for the hypothetical question of 'Can some guy run a four minute mile'? So, I'm doing my best to answer this question with actual data - but it does get pretty speculative. Hopefully someone else can do a better job.

Let's have a look at Arnold

I think it's really important to clarify what we're talking about when you say 'Like Arnold'. Let's try to get some perspective.

Arnold is one of the world's most successful body builders. He won The Mr. Universe three years in a row and the Mr. Olympia six years in a row. He was also a world-class, competitive power-lifter, taking first in the International Powerlifting championships and the German Powerlifting Championships.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_Schwarzenegger#Powerlifting.2Fweightlifting http://castironknowledge.blogspot.ie/2010/10/arnolds-powerlifting-history.html

He was competing against the other best body builders in the world and he consistently beat them. That means, all of the professional body builders competing in the Mr. Olympia, for six consecutive years, were unable to obtain the physique as good as Arnold's.

But let's talk about drugs. The question specifically asks about what we can achieve without drugs....

The truth is, Arnold took steriods. He admits it. The people he was competing against also took steroids. Many of them weren't illegal or banned at the time. '...the use of anabolic steroids was openly discussed partly due to the fact they were legal...'

http://web.archive.org/web/20080329223151/http://espn.go.com/columns/farrey_tom/1655597.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodybuilding#1970s_onwards

In Arnold's own words, 'It was what I had to do to compete'. This would strongly suggest that Arnold probably could not have achieved his physique without drugs.

Bottom line is, EVEN WITH STEROIDS, none of the world-class, professional body-builders could obtain a physique like Arnold's. Arnold still dominated the sport. Yes he used drugs too. We can't say with absolute certainty that Arnold without drugs couldn't obtain his physique - but we can say he didn't do it and that he believes he couldn't have. Arnold himself, who without drugs was a world-class powerlifter, most likely couldn't obtain his physique without drugs.

You'd need to be an extreme outlier and take drugs to get the physique that Arnold is famous for.

What About Our Tall/Skinny Guy

Okay fine - so we're not going to look like Arnold, with or without drugs. But what can a tall/skinny guy hope to achieve by working out? Well, there are lots of health benefits...

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/HQ01676 http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/growingstronger/why/index.html

Controls weight, combats a whole slew of negative health conditions/diseases (arthritis, diabetes, osteoprosis, obesity, back pain, depression), increases muscle mass, improves sex life, and promotes better sleep.

So I mean that's pretty good right? Reason enough for any tall/skinny guy to head to the gym!

But I feel like that's not what you're looking for. Still, I'm having a lot of trouble finding sources that seem appropriate for this site. You can find a lot of different formulas online that will claim to tell you how much lean mass you can 'naturally' support. You'll notice that they all give slightly different results and most of them don't explain or justify the methodologies used in their creation.






Can skinny guys get as big as Arnold the bodybuilder without performance enhancing drugs?

No. No one can. Humans appear to have a maximum potential for muscle mass (warning: includes advertisement for ebook).

  • 3
    Please provide relevant quotes and verify that they are supported by reputable references. The article is a big wall of text, but we would like something more than a mere link. Also, while I noticed that the site you link does provide sources, we would like to prevent link rot: can you provide direct links to the papers (or abstracts) that support the maximum potential for muscle mass?
    – Sklivvz
    Oct 9 '12 at 15:04

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