|If you're a competive bodybuilder or just a frequent "gym rat" working to improve his/her physique, feel free to use this photographic guide as a resource to determine how far you're progressing.
SLICED (1991) by Bill Reynolds & Negrita Jayde
I originally posted this article on http://forum.bodybuilding.com several years ago as a supplement to the book "SLICED" (by Bill Reynolds & Negrita Jayde).
In SLICED the authors objectify the states of muscularity, this article helps to clarify these states by including photographs and approximate bodyfat percentages
No visible muscle definition and only a hint of separation between major muscle groups if those groups are very large. Approximate body fat level = Over or near 20% bodyfat
Here's an example of Lee Priest in the Full House muscular state:
Some muscle separation appears between delts and upper arm. Abs are still not visible (or at least very difficult to see). Approximate body fat level = 15%
Example of Mitchell Staats (Railz) (at 16 years old) in the Hard muscular state:
More muscle separation appears particularly in the chest and back, outline of the abs begins to appear slightly. Approximate bodyfat level = 12%
Examples of the Cut muscular state:
Muscle separations get deeper in the arms, chest, legs and back, and abs appear when flexed. Approx. bodyfat level = 10%
Examples of the Defined muscular state:
Abs are clearly visible all the time, vascularity in the arms is prominent, chest and back separation is obvious, and face is starting to appear more angular. This condition can be held indefinitely with the proper nutrition and consistent aerobic activity. Approximate bodyfat level = 7-9%
Examples of the Ripped muscular state:
Striations appear in large muscle groups when they are flexed. You may look small in clothes (depending on your overall height & weight), but look amazing when you're shirtless. Vascularity appears in lower abdomen and in the legs. This condition can be held for several days with careful dieting and appropriat nutrition. Competitive bodybuilders often aim for this state for competition day. Approximate bodyfat level = 5-7%
Examples of Mitchell Staats (Railz) (at 20 years old) in the Shredded muscular state:
Muscles and tendons begin to appear in the face when chewing, striations appear everywhere and vascularity appears everywhere. Bodyfat levels are close to 3% and subcutaneous water levels are near 0. This condition can only be held for a few hours at a time. It's not a healthy condition to stay in due to lower water levels.
Example of the Sliced muscular state:
Comparison Shots of Bodyfat Progression
If/when you decide to cut, make sure you give yourself 12-16 weeks to do it. It won't happen overnight, but the results can be striking when you get into the final 2-3 weeks.
Here are some comparison shots of Ebone45, Quelly and IrishMike that show each of them progressing through the various stages of muscularity: