Determining Your Bodybuilding Potential

"Hi James,

"I read your recent article from Planet Muscle. It has a lot of good information for different body types, but I do not know how to find out which I am. The article refers to getting a muscle biopsy done. Are there any other ways to determine testosterone levels and muscle fiber makeup? The information is hard to implement otherwise. Thanks for your time."


My Answer: For those of you who haven't read it, I have an article in the current Planet Muscle about determining your bodybuilding potential through 1) testosterone levels and 2) fiber make-up. Question is: how do you determine your testosterone levels and fiber make-up?

In the article, I was pretty explicit as to the fiber make-up of all the muscle groups. There was a chart outlining this. This chart, however, shows what is common for most people. There is a non-invasive method to determine fiber make-up if you want to determine your own individual fiber make-up. It's not the most accurate method, but it will give you some understanding of how your muscles are geared.

Let's say you want to determine the fiber make-up for your chest. Do a brief warmup on the bench press and rest 3 minutes. Determine your 1 rep max and perform it. Make sure you have a spotter with you. If you miscalculate your 1RM on the first set or two (or however many sets it takes), then make sure you rest 4-5 minutes between these sets.

Once you determine your 1RM, rest for 10 minutes. During those 10 minutes, calculate and remove 20% of your 1RM weight. When your 10 minutes are up, perform as many reps as you can in good form. Make sure you lower each rep under a 4 second count (how quickly you lift the weight doesn't matter). Again, make sure you have a spotter to assist at the end of the set.

Take note of the number of reps you've performed. If it's 7 reps, then you have an equal amount of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers in the chest. If it's lower than 7, then you have a higher amount of fast-twitch fibers. If it's higher than 7, then you have a higher amount of slow-twitch fibers. The further away you are from 7, the higher the percentage of that particular type of muscle fiber.

Finally, multiply 15% to the number of reps you've performed. Subtract this amount from the number of reps you've performed. This is the lower end of your ideal rep range. Then add the 15% to the number of reps you've performed. This is the higher end of the ideal rep range for your upper chest. So for example, if you performed 7 reps with 80%RM, then 6-8 reps would be the ideal rep range for the chest.

Now to determine testosterone levels, my article mentioned the role of age and diet. In your 20's, your testosterone is raging and making you do stupid and reckless things. When you wake up, you literally have to wait for your morning boner to go down before you pee. Either that or you whisper to your girlfriend or wife, "Hey honey? You awake?"

But in this day and age, more and more men past the age of 30 are having problems with lowered testosterone. This wasn't the case 50 years ago. Not only this, but younger generations of men nowadays are having less testosterone than previous generations at the same age.

Just ask yourself this:

How old are you? Obviously, the older you are, the less T you have.

How's your sex drive? If your pecker is constantly getting you in trouble, then you have a healthy dose of T. If Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" makes you tear up, then considered yourself neutered.

Do you get good sleep, or is it bad sleep? Shift work really screws with your T levels. Don't stay up late all the time. Get some high quality sleep.

How do you handle stress? Everybody has to deal with BS, but how you react to it has an effect on your testosterone levels. To paraphrase the Police song, if you face the day with your head caved in, then your T-levels are depressed, just like you. Other people have a fight or flight response to stress, so their T-levels actually rise, but acutely.

Are you vegetarian? The lack of animal proteins can depress T-levels, which is why monks in Asia are vegetarian: it fits their Buddhist reverence for life, but it also kills the sex drive and aggressive tendencies. Just be careful when you eat a lot of meat. Eating a lot of meat by itself won't clog your arteries, but eating a lot of meat with a high amount of carbs will. High T won't do jack if you've got erectile dysfunction.
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