True Natural Bodybuilding

BMI Evolution of Pro IFBB Bodybuilders

In the early 90's bodybuilders started to use human growth hormone (HGH), and soon thereafter insulin and IGFs, to further increase their muscle mass beyond levels that were obtainable by only using androgenic-anabolic steroids (AAS). To demonstrate the impact of the entrance of human growth hormone and insulin into bodybuilding, I have gathered some statistics (peak performance year, contest body weight, and body length) of as many professional IFBB bodybuilders throughout history as I could find, and calculated their lean body mass index (BMI). The lean BMI is the best available parameter to estimate a bodybuilder's overall muscle mass independently from his body length. The data that I have used, and the body mass index values that I have calculated, are presented in the table at the bottom of this page. I also plotted the BMI-values versus the athletes' peak performance year into the graph below.

One can clearly see a trend break in the graph in the first half of the 1990's, when human growth hormone and insulin entered bodybuilding. Before that period the BMI-values of bodybuilders were scattered around a nearly flat linear trend line with an average value of about 31. In the early 90's the average BMI suddenly increased by over 15% up to an average value of 36, and further increased gradually up to an average value of 38 in the years 2000, an increase by over 20% compared to the pre-HGH era. As the use of HGH, insulin and IGFs are further pushed to the limits by today's professional bodybuilders, we expect to see more and more athletes showing up with a BMI of 40 or even higher in the coming years. Currently, about 8 athletes have a BMI of about 40.

Unfortunately there are no reliable body statistics available of true natural bodybuilders, who have built their physique completely without the use of any hormonal drugs. That is because the use of androgenic-anabolic steroids became a common practice among top bodybuilders already before the first professional bodybuilding contests were organized in the 60's. However, everybody who knows the sport of bodybuilding well enough and has watched some photos and videos on the internet, knows that a similar increase in the BMI of about 20% could be observed, if one would compare true natural bodybuilders with bodybuilders who have used androgenic-anabolic steroids to build their physique.

In conclusion, one can fairly say that the lean BMI or body weight of modern professional top bodybuilders is about 40% higher solely as the result of massive use of very potent hormonal drugs such as androgenic-anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, IGFs, and insulin. This is more or less consistent with the observation of nowadays natural bodybuilding contests, where the BMI-values of the champions are rather close to 25 than 30. It is therefore fair to say that today's top heavy weight bodybuilders have more than half of their lean muscle mass thanks to the drugs, rather than hard training and good nutrition. No, the steep increase of lean muscle mass among top bodybuilders since the 90's has nothing to do with better genes, better training, better nutrition or supplements. Unfortunately Ronnie Coleman does not come from another planet, as many of his fans would like to believe.

Let me finally try to estimate the lean BMI of a male person with optimal genetic potential for bodybuilding under different conditions of training and drug use, assuming that in all cases he has a body fat percentage of about 3% (= lean).

TrainingDrug UseBMI (3% BF)
Never trainedNever20 ± 2
Fully trainedNever (true natural)26 ± 2
Fully trainedAAS31 ± 3
Fully trainedAAS + HGH + Insulin37 ± 3

Also read how this translates into the famous "gear 1-2-3 rule of anabolic steroids in bodybuilding". I also advise you to read this article on the maximum muscular bodyweight and size potential that can be achieved without using any anabolic drugs. It also comes with an interesting calculator that helps you estimate your personal maximum potential in terms of bodyweight and body part measurements.


Table with BMI-Values of Pro IFBB Bodybuilders

1950Steve Reeves1859728.36'1"213
1966Larry Scott1709332.25'6"205
1967Dave Draper18010231.55'10"224
1971Bill Pearl17510032.75'8"220
1973Reg Park18710229.26'1"224
1975Serge Nubret1809629.65'10"211
1975Jim Morris1789830.95'10"216
1978Kalman Szkalak1789530.05'10"209
1980Arnold Schwarzenegger 18710730.66'1"235
1980Mike Mentzer17310234.15'8"224
1981Franco Columbu1658430.95'4"185
1981Ken Waller18310431.16'0"229
1982Casey Viator17810934.45'10"240
1982Dennis Tinerino18310029.96'0"220
1983Frank Zane1758427.45'8"185
1983Ed Corney1708830.45'6"194
1984Chris Dickerson1708629.85'6"189
1984Bill Grant1758929.15'8"196
1984Boyer Coe1709833.95'6"216
1985Sergio Oliva17810934.45'10"240
1985Mohamed Makkawy1607228.15'2"158
1985Danny Padilla1577932.05'1"174
1986Jusup Wilkosz18511533.66'0"253
1988Berry Demey18510229.86'0"224
1988Phil Hill17310234.15'8"224
1988Scott Wilson1789630.35'10"211
1989Bertil Fox17810733.85'10"235
1990Albert Beckles1709934.35'6"218
1990Mike Christian18510931.86'0"240
1991Lee Haney18011234.65'10"246
1991Bob Paris18010432.15'10"229
1991Rich Gaspari17310234.15'8"224
1992Mohammed Benaziza1608533.25'2"187
1993Lee Labrada1678430.15'5"185
1993Lou Ferrigno19512532.96'4"275
1993Flavio Baccianini1476530.14'9"143
1993Ron Love1758828.75'8"194
1994Samir Bannout1729030.45'7"198
1994Porter Cottrell1688831.25'6"194
1995Vince Taylor17510434.05'8"229
1995Paul Demayo17811436.05'10"251
1995Sonny Schmidt17810934.45'10"240
1995Ian Harrison17811736.95'10"257
1996Roland Cziurlock17310234.15'8"224
1997Charles Clairmonte18011234.65'10"246
1997Dorian Yates17812037.95'10"264
1997Michael Francois17310735.85'8"235
1998Jean Pierre Fux18011736.15'10"257
1998Aaron Baker17310735.85'8"235
1999Milos Sarcev18010933.65'10"240
1999Paul Dillett18512937.76'0"284
2001Shawn Ray1709332.25'6"205
2001Mike Matarazzo17811235.35'10"246
2002Flex Wheeler17510434.05'8"229
2002Ernie Taylor17310635.45'8"233
2002Craig Titus17311036.85'8"242
2002Bob Cicherillo18310932.56'0"240
2003Kevin Levrone17611637.45'9"255
2003Lee Priest16210339.25'3"227
2003Art Atwood18011134.35'10"244
2003Nasser El Sonbaty18012739.25'10"279
2003King Kamali17811335.75'10"249
2004Darrem Charles17310735.85'8"235
2006Chris Cormier17811335.75'10"249
2006Gunter Schlierkamp18513539.46'0"297
2006Dennis James17311739.15'8"257
2007Ronnie Coleman18013441.45'10"295
2007Jay Cutler17512440.55'8"273
2007Victor Martinez17811034.75'10"242
2007Dexter Jackson16710035.95'5"220
2007Markus Rühl17813041.05'10"286