Is it possible for the average person to maintain a ripped muscular physique year round without the use of steroids?

Can an average person look like an Instagram influencer without substance assistance? No. But, they can come closer than they are now.
Jeff Milton
February 14, 2023
Is it possible for the average person to maintain a ripped muscular physique year round without the use of steroids?

Is it possible for the average person to maintain a ripped muscular physique year round without the use of steroids?

This question is actually asking several questions, and depending on where we put our emphasis, we’ll get different answers.

We’ll answer each of these, and hopefully, piece-meal it all together to get the overarching answer we’re looking for.

Is it possible for the AVERAGE person to be ripped without steroids?

While most of us like simple, black-and-white answers to our questions, most answers in the fitness world are gray and complex. The answer to this question depends on your definition of “the average person”.

Is it possible for someone to become ripped without steroids? Yes, absolutely. Not only is there scientific evidence for this, but there are literally millions of people who are walking around as anecdotal evidence. We’ll talk more about that in the next session, but it is possible to have bulging muscles and a trim tummy without steroids.

But is it possible for the average person? Truthfully, probably not.

Roughly 80% of the U.S. population is what we would call “not-gym affiliated” meaning, they do not have a gym membership or frequent a place of fitness. The average person lives a sedentary lifestyle, eats more calories than their physical output demands, eats calories that are not supportive of a healthy body and spends more time staring at a screen than putting their bodies through a range of motion under load and fatigue. Therefore, the average person has an average physique.  The body responds to the demands placed upon it.

Of the 20% of people who attend a gym frequently and engage in fitness as a passion, per doctor’s orders, a self-improvement hobby, for a place of community or simply so they can better live life outside of the gym, the vast majority of them are not what we would call “ripped.” I’ve had the pleasure of being a CrossFit coach at two remarkable gyms since 2016, and have seen roughly 300 members on a regular basis over the course of those six years. Of those 300, I would argue that roughly 8-10 individuals would be defined as ripped, and even then, they aren’t cover-models of muscle magazines and they are not Instagram influencers showing off their glutes in the latest GymShark outfit. They’re average persons, yet, through their nutrition habits, coaching, and activity choices have a slightly above average physique.

Another way of looking at it is the singular biometric of body fat percentage.

For a ripped physique, males need to be between 5-10% bodyfat and women between 8-15%, while also having the proper musculature and muscle definition. A traditionally athletic person is between that 11-14% for guys and 16-23% for females. 41% of Americans have a bodyfat percentage of 25% or higher, putting them in the Obese category. So, take 10 people, and 4 of them will be obese (body fat of 25% or higher). This table doesn’t factor into age, height and other physical limitations, nor does it indicate what the person is capable of doing with their body. Like all biomarkers it is one singular note in the symphony of a human body, but it may help us realize that the “average person” isn’t close to being ripped, especially year-round.

To have a fitness model physique, or an elite level CrossFit athlete’s body, you will have to become extraordinary, not average. This involves dialing in your nutrition and understanding everything you are eating, doing multiple workouts a day that are training specific muscle groups and for specific reasons, sleeping and drinking appropriately, a genetic advantage and having a program and/or coach that is specific to your goals of becoming jacked. Being ripped isn’t a byproduct -it is the product, the end goal, the sole focus.

However, with CrossFit we care less about what you look like and more about how well you move, eat, sleep, poop and are able to function in life outside of the gym. In CrossFit gyms you won’t find mirrors, and that is because we are a capacity-driven program, not an aesthetics/looks-driven program. What you can do is more important, especially long-term, than how you look.

Is it possible for the average person to be ripped WITHOUT steroids?

Yes. Through precise nutrition, well-monitored sleep, proper, hydration, correct use of supplements (which isn’t nutrition), intentional training focus on gymnastics, weightlifting, bodybuilding, time, and a genetic predisposition to low body-fat and high hypertrophy, a person become ripped without steroids.

Steroids work by enhancing muscle protein synthesis and decreasing breakdown of muscle. What that means in practical terms is that a person using steroids will be able to train harder, with higher volume and intensity, and increased frequency versus a non-assisted person. As a result, he or she will be able to progress much faster and farther than someone who is doing it naturally. In essence, steroid use takes all of those things we mentioned in the above paragraph and magnifies their results. It doesn’t supersede them, or make them not-necessary, it simply amplifies the work already being done.

Even if we aren’t wanting to be ripped, but slightly improve our physical appearance, addressing any of those (nutrition, sleep, exercise, hydration) will move the needle in the right direction. If you need to start with just one, focus on what you eat.

Is it possible for the average person to be ripped without steroids YEAR-ROUND?

I’m not going to answer this question directly but simply state that the body is in constant flux. It is always changing, transforming, adapting. You are not a solidified, sedimented noun, but rather a “verb-like existence”.

All of this is to say, your body won’t be the same year-round. You will fluctuate in weight, body-fat percentage, being bloated, definition. It will be impacted based on your eating, sleeping, the seasons, getting sick, non-gym life stressors, and even if all of that remains the same, hormones and the various bodily systems (nervous, digestive, emotional) operate differently throughout the days anyway.

Amanda Barnhartt is an elite CrossFit athlete, placing in the top 10 of the CrossFit games year-after-year. She has a ripped physique. She is in the 1% of the 1% of her sport. She’s not average-she is way, way, way above it. She’s been vocal about body composition changing over the course of days, weeks and the year. Here’s her examples:

What we see here is someone whose entire life rotates around the performance of her body. Everything about her body is monitored closely, measured, tracked, modified. Yet, even with all of that, it changes. 

So, is it possible to be ripped year round? Sure. In any of the photos of Amanda we see someone we’d call “jacked”, “ripped”. BUT, we also see someone whose body composition fluctuates, despite the intense fitness regime she’s under.

Bringing It All Together

Yes, it is possible for a person to be ripped without steroids. It is even possible for the average person, if they are willing to make changes in their life, that would make their "average", the average person's "above average." However, the thing I really want to emphasize is that what you body is capable of doing is more important than what it looks like. Focus on moving and eating well, consistently, over time, and you will look and feel more ripped than you do today, even if you aren't Internet "ripped", and more importantly, you will be a lot healthier and happier.

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