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Questions regarding yesterday’s comparison; Are my body fat estimates off?

Saturday, March 3, 2007 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


Yesterday I posted a new comparison photo that I entitled “Four 215s” (shown again, below). This new comparison generated a fair amount of interesting feedback, and I’d like to talk about some of that feedback this morning.

First, over on our own JSF forum, long-time forum member “Guava” asked me this question:

Guava: I’m curious about whether you consciously had different “focal” body parts, or is that just the way it worked out. I see a lot of growth in pecs, biceps and quads between the second and third photos, and more of a difference in shoulders and lats in the last photo. Is that due to your shoulder injury, different training styles, something else, or am I imagining it?

My reply is next in the thread, but since it’s Saturday I will reproduce it here to save you the trouble of an extra click 🙂 :

John Stone: Good question. Probably some of all of the above.

The 2005 post-bulk picture was right after my first bulk, which I’d started in August 2004 after about 8+ months of not being able to do any upper body workouts (shoulder injury). I was doing MAX-OT at the time, and made some nice strength gains, as well as some n00b mass gains. At that point I was just trying to pack on mass and increase my overall strength. If I recall correctly, there was no particular focus placed on any specific body part(s). I have to admit that I was worried about re-injuring my shoulder, and did not work my shoulders nearly as hard nor as effectively as I should/could have.

The 2006 picture was during my 2005 bulk (one month remaining). During that bulk I was focusing more on hypertrophy and less on strength gains. I remember wanting to really bring my back up, and I feel I did a good job there. I put too much emphasis on my arms and not enough on my shoulders, and that is very obvious in the 2006 picture. My legs grow if I even think the word “squat”, so they didn’t get any particular focus, but were worked hard. My chest growth came about, I believe, because I starting using lighter weight (but still challenging), doing higher reps/volume (4 sets of 10-12, 4 exercises) and focusing on the mind-muscle connection instead of just pushing the weight around. That made a huge difference.

I’ll be the first to admit that the March 2007 photo still shows a lot of room for improvement in terms of symmetry, but it’s clearly the best of the bunch. This past bulk I used the same exact principles that I used in the previous year’s bulk, but I did place some added focus on what I believed were my weakest areas: shoulders, lats, traps and overall upper body width. That’s not to say my other body parts got off easy!

I think my two biggest remaining weaknesses are my rear delts and my traps. My traps actually have grown quite a lot (many people don’t realize that the trapezius is actually a much larger muscle group than “the two humps on either side of the neck”), but genetically I don’t have a lot of height to my traps unless I’m doing a most muscular pose or something.

Right now I’m undecided about doing another bulk. I’m going to wait and see how I look after my cut is over. If I do another bulk, it’s going to be much cleaner than the previous bulks. I put on way too much fat the past 3 bulks. In fact, I think I’ve been underestimating my body fat percentages for quite some time (including in my most recent picture). I’m going to talk a bit more about this in tomorrow’s Daily News update.

So, what’s this about my body fat estimates being off? That’s the second topic of today’s update…

First, I think it goes without saying that I’ve always welcomed constructive criticism. Over the years those people who have been kind enough to offer constructive feedback about my progress have helped me quite a lot. Look, I don’t care how experienced you are, or how good you think you are, there is always room for improvement. Those people who are not open to critique are not only doing themselves a disservice, but I personally find that kind of arrogance very off-putting.

Having said that, I’m often the target of less than constructive criticism and, well, pretty much outright bashing. That’s something I’ve learned to deal with over the years. Hey, if you’re going to put yourself out there as I choose to do, then you’ve got to expect a certain amount of that sort of thing. I don’t like it, but that’s the reality we live in.

So, with the above in mind, I found it refreshing to read this thread over at the Muscle Talk forum. Even though many of the posters disagree with my body fat estimates, almost all of them were very constructive with their criticism, and didn’t resort to bashing or pointless flaming. That says a lot about their community over there, and I read the thread with an open mind and great interest.

Four 215s

Four 215s

I think some excellent points were made on both “sides” of the debate. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not even close to what one would call an “expert” when it comes to body fat readings. It is very possible that my body fat is higher than what I have shown in ALL of these pictures. One guy thought I was as high as 15% in my latest photos, and that I disagree with, but I accept that it is certainly possible I’m not as low as 10.5%. I know my readings are consistent, but perhaps the baseline is wrong and I have been underestimating my body fat for a long time. I do store a disproportionate amount of fat in my mid-section, and that fat is always the last to go. My abs don’t really start showing under I’m under 10% body fat. If I am indeed at 10.5% body fat right now, then by then end of March my abs should really be popping since most of my remaining fat will come off from my mid-section. I guess this month is going to be very telling. If I’m right, my April 1st pictures should change some minds. If I’m wrong, I’m perfectly willing to admit it. Hey, I lift weights and eat clean – that’s what I put my energies into. If my skills with the caliper are lacking, I can deal with that!

Anyway, my hat is off to you guys over at Muscle Talk for bringing this subject up and for being so civil with your opinions. If any JSF members want to give me your input on this subject, I, of course, welcome it. Please post your insight in my Media Thread.

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