Recreational natural bodybuilders underestimate their body fat percentage all the time. Achieving a contest ready conditioning is not nearly as easy as it seems to many. Most bodybuilders are often surprised by the amount of weight they have to shred to get ready for a contest. It’s not uncommon to lose over 2 inches off your arms during a few months of contest preparation.
There are many methods to measure body fat – online calculators, formulas, skin calipers, DEXA scans…etc. The best, however, is the mirror. Bodybuilding is an optical illusion for the most part.
The pictures below are meant to help you judge your body fat more accurately. The measures are not perfect as they are part of a basic guideline.
25% body fat
The picture above shows what happens after GOMAD. You get fat, brah.
This is Zack Evetts – an unlucky man who trained under the guidance of Mark Rippetoe many years ago. In a few months, he got to about 25% body fat. This is not a joke – 1/4 of the individual above is fat. Maybe even more. Despite that many delusional supporters of Coach Rip’s bulking plan put him at about 19% BF.
15-17% body fat
The picture above shows Christian Bale at 15-17% body fat. The image is taken from Batman Begins. Bale has lean arms, but his abdominal area is covered with layers of fat. He would have to lose about 10-15 pounds to acquire a more defined set of six pack abs. Most people who look like that usually say that they are 12% body fat.
11-12% body fat
This is Christian Bale at 11-12% BF. Closer to 11%. The shoulder, arms, and upper abs are defined. The lower abs still need some work in the kitchen. Many delusional bodybuilders would consider themselves 8-9% body fat when they look like that.
9-10% body fat
Oliver Queen from the TV series “Arrow” at 10% body fat. The six-pack is clean and visible. Arms, shoulders, and pecs are defined. This is how a true 9-11% body fat looks like.
5-6% body fat
Manny Pacquiao at 5-8% body fat. Notice that there are visible striations on the shoulders. The obliques are super-defined. He has even lost water weight to get ready for the weigh-in.
To summarize: Most people have no idea how it feels to be contest ready. On the Internet, everybody is 5%, but reality says otherwise.
Note: Unless you are a professional bodybuilder or a fitness model, you don’t have to be under 10% body fat ever.
By the way, the natural potential guide was written with contest conditioning in mind. Since many naturals underestimate their body fat levels, they try to prove the table wrong
For example, according to the guide, a bodybuilder who is 5’10” (178 cm) tall will weigh about 170lbs (77kg) at 5-8% BF. This is actually a sick physique. Before saying how you are 220lbs (100kg) @5’10” @ 10% BF after 1 month of training, measure your body fat. Chances are – it’s 25% or more.