100 Days of Fitness: The Muscle Aesthetic

How long does it take to change your life? Follow author Robert Fure as he begins a 100 day trek to a fitter, healthier life by following this simple program. Today, we talk about the Fat Free Muscle Index and whether a guy should worry about ‘bulking up’ too much.

There are a lot of reasons, as we’ve mentioned, to work out. Some people are looking to cut the fat from their midsections. Others are more forward thinking and exercise for the health benefits. Then there are those looking to pack on the muscle, whether it’s to improve athletic performance, be able to move giant objects for fun, or to woo the ladies.

When it comes to muscle, you’ll hear a whole bunch of talk. Tons of women have the opinion that a guy who is “too muscular” isn’t very attractive. Some smaller guys may say they don’t want to “bulk up too much.” Lucky then, that adding a ton of muscle is very difficult. Hell, adding just a few pounds of muscle can take quite a long time and a whole bunch of work.

Just heading to the gym a few times a week isn’t going to turn you into Arnold Schwarzenegger. It won’t turn you into Ryan Reynolds. It won’t turn you into much. So if you’re worried about bulking up too much, don’t. No one accidentally turns into a bodybuilder. No one has ever done four sets of bench press and then burst through the seams of their medium shirt.

Since you won’t accidentally Hulk, you should add some muscle. Why? There are a few reasons. Visually, despite what a few outliers say, muscle is attractive. When people think of Brad Pitt as a sex symbol, what do they think of? Fight Club. Or that picture of him, abs showing, standing in the ocean. Ryan Reynolds went from funny guy to leading man-heart throb with the addition of a few pounds of muscle.

If looking better isn’t enough motivation, there are some health benefits to being muscular. From injury prevention to increased stamina and longevity, building muscle requires plenty of exercise, which also improves your overall health. At the dinner table, muscle increases your metabolism, meaning a 170lb muscular guy can eat more than a 170lb ‘average body type’ guy without gaining any weight.

But can a guy be too muscular? Certainly, though not without years of training, supplementation, and quite honestly, steroid use. There’s a reason why Mr. Olympia isn’t subjected to any sort of medical testing – they’d all fail. I can’t say when steroids became absolutely necessary to compete on stage, but if you look at bodybuilding through the ages, competitors have certainly gotten bigger at a fairly frequent rate.

The Fat Free Mass Index

In a conversation I had with Dr. Harrison G. Pope (who you may have seen on television or the documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster) awhile ago, he told me that the upper limit for an average male is a score of 25-26 on something called the Fat Free Mass Index. As an expert in the arena of steroid use and body physics, I’ll take his word on that. What does that mean? Plugging into the formula, a male who is 5’10 would weigh in the neighborhood of 190-200lbs at 10% body fat and that would be about as much muscle as he could carry. For reference, current Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler is 5’9 and weighs 274lbs on stage at well under 10% bodyfat. Even using 10% body fat as our reference number, that would put his FFMI at over 36. Probably using steroids. Ahem.

Anyway, what am I really trying to say here? You can add muscle without getting gross. There is no way you’re going to accidentally turn into a freak, even if you wanted to. It’s healthy and attractive. What this is all really leading up to is a future series of profiles on the male physiques that are attainable, desirable, and classic.

Sure, most of us wouldn’t mind looking like Arnold (even though he’s a bit on the steroid side of the line, most likely), but the vast majority of us would rather opt for the Steve Reeves look or the Ryan Reynolds. So look here in the future as we survey the timeless physiques that should serve as inspiration for your goals. Even if, right now, you don’t think you want to have abs or lose that much weight, let me tell you, once the pounds start slipping away and your muscles start coming through, you start thinking about looking great on the beach in no time.

Stay tuned.

My Results

After a tumultuous weak of traveling and Halloween partying, my weight is at 220lbs, down a pound from last week. It’s going to take some dedication and proper eating to break through this plateau. Thankfully Halloween has passed and Thanksgiving is still a bit off in the future, so I’ve got time to really get myself dialed back in.

Robert Fure is a fitness, lifestyle, and entertainment writer living in Los Angeles. He is also a certified Personal Trainer and the Creator/Editor of Fit and Furious, an online outlet dedicated to the pursuit of a fit lifestyle. His entertainment work can be viewed at Film School Rejects.