Medical and fitness personnel often use body weight to compare individuals to norms based on the general population. But if you have an athletic build, chances are you're toward the higher end of the charts. You might look like an Adonis or Aphrodite, but your greater lean muscle mass and bone density could get you categorized as overweight or obese based on weight alone. Body composition is the best way to calculate your ideal weight for an athletic build.
Body Mass Index
Of the many methods used to evaluate ideal weight, one of the most common is body mass index, or BMI. You calculate BMI by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared.
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, BMI does not directly assess body fat, and athletic people who have denser bones and muscles often have a high BMI.
Read more: Calculate Your Body Mass Index (BMI)
Is Body Fat Necessary?
Since bone and muscle are denser than fat, they weigh more by volume. Some body fat is necessary for health, with minimal levels of 3 percent for men and 12 percent for women considered essential. Beyond that, humans store fat in adipose tissue for energy reserves.
Physical exercise tends to reduce excess body fat while increasing bone mineral density and lean muscle tissue, resulting in higher body weight for athletic people. If you are physically active, the most accurate way to determine your ideal weight is to estimate your current body fat percentage and then calculate how much fat you need to lose or gain to obtain optimal values.
Dunk or Pinch
While there are a number of methods and devices to calculate body fat percentage, hydrostatic weighing is considered the gold standard. The procedure involves sitting on a specialized scale and being fully submerged in a tank or pool. Because fat floats and muscle and bone tend to sink, your hydrostatic weight relative to your land weight gives a good picture of your percentage of body fat.
However, the procedure is inconvenient to access and requires getting wet. The best alternative, according to exercise scientist Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico, is the skinfold method, which involves measuring the thickness of subcutaneous fat. It's inexpensive and relatively noninvasive, but a trained fitness professional should perform the assessment.
Read more: Body Mass Index Advantages and Disadvantages
Ideal Athletic Weight Calculator
Considering the roles genetics and bone density play in determining the ideal weight for an athletic build, you could go a little crazy trying to figure out where you should fall on the scale. Men's Journal goes so far as to say that linebackers and sumo wrestlers are at their ideal athletic weight at 300 to 400 pounds, respectively.
You could be structured in such a way that gross amounts of one way of exercising are doing little to help you achieve your ideal weight. Boxing and rock climbing may have to give way to jogging and swimming. The ideal calculator, once you've measured your BMI in whichever way suits, is your own eyes and the way you feel.