Micheal Jordan is undoubtedly one of the best professional basketball players to ever play the game. Se Ri Pak is an athlete, who is listed as one of the best female golf players in the world. Roberto Clemente is one of the best baseball players to ever play the game. What do all of these great athletes and athletes just like them have in common? They all were able to combine exceptional skill and the right combination of lean mass and fat mass (body composition) into an effective athletic package, specific to their professions. So what exactly does this mean? Athletes are athletes, right? Believe it or not, body shape and body composition combined with skill increase the likelihood of a person becoming a top notch athlete. Let’s face it. Could you see Micheal Phelps swimming with a body like Albert Pujols? Do you think that Serena Williams could generate the power that she generates for a tennis serve with a body like an elite marathon runner?
So what should an athlete’s body fat percentage be? Well… it depends. The following chart, obtained from the American College of Sports Medicine, shows some averages and ranges for body fat measurements based on a specific sport or athletic group.
So how do you determine what your ideal weight and the right combination of fat mass and fat free mass should be?As a general rule, sports that require speed, require a lower body fat percentage and sports that require power, require a higher body fat percentage.
Let’s use an example. A high school athlete named Sam, really wants to play quarterback for a Division 1 football program. He has met with several coaches from a variety of universities and they all informed him that he certainly has the skills to play at the Division 1 level, but would need to put on some additional weight to increase his power and durability. Sam currently weighs 170 lbs and has 8% body fat. The coaches that Sam has met with state that they need him to be at least 225 lbs. While Sam knows that he lacks the size and the strength to compete at the Division 1 level, he is also concerned about putting on too much body fat as he starts his program to increase his weight. So what weight and body fat percentage should Sam aim for? After some research, he found that on average, Division 1 quarterbacks have a body fat percentage of 14%. Sam’s current body composition is made up of 13.6 lbs of fat mass and 156.4 lbs of lean mass.
Step 1– Calculate fat-free mass
100%-8%=92% fat free mass
92% x 170 lb = 156.4 lb (fat free mass)
170 lbs-156.4 lbs=13.6 lbs (fat mass)
Step 2-Optimal weight = Fat-free weight/(1-optimal % fat)
Sam calculated his weight to be 181.86 lbs at a fat mass goal of 14% ((156.4 lbs/1-.14) = 181.86 lbs)
(weight at 14% fat mass, while maintaining fat free mass at 156.4 lbs).
Sam now knows that if he keeps his current level of fat free mass at 156.4 lbs, but gains 6% body fat to meet the 14% goal, he will not be able to meet the 225 lbs goal. He also knows that he will need to increase his fat free mass along with his fat mass, in order to satisfy the coaches’ requests. Sam has calculated that he will need to increase his fat free mass by 37.1 lbs and his fat mass by 17.9 lbs.