I’m going to use a word I hate in this article.
That word is ‘limitation‘.
I’m sure you’ve all heard something about genetic potential in the bodybuilding game. You’ve probably heard one or both of the following:
“He’s only got that great body because of his genetics” or,
“I quit because my genetics suck and I’ll never get anywhere anyway”
If you are confused by this topic, this post will clear things up for you.
In this article I’m going to explain these genetic limitations specifically because oftentimes when the topic of genetics is brought up, the conversation ends without any further explanation.
Now, before we get into this, DON’T GET DEPRESSED! I myself have less-than-average genetics.
In school, I was amongst the skinniest guys there. In fact, that was the whole reason I started lifting in the first place!
What’s crazy is that now some people say that I’m lucky. That I must have awesome genetics. You gotta be kidding me! At best, 2 of my body parts responded better than others i.e. my pecs and biceps, but it was STILL hard work, training to failure, and eating right that produced the growth I got.
So let’s have a look…
Although there are an infinite variety of body types out there, 3 main classifications have emerged:
- Ectomorph – skinny, thin torso, little bodyfat or muscle
- Mesomorph – muscular, broad shoulders, less bodyfat
- Endomorph – round torso, thick neck, shorter legs
Most likely you will fall somewhere between the extremes of these classifications. Obviously, the mesomorph body type is advantageous for bodybuilding.
Carrying on from the above, the length, thickness, and structure of the bones also gives clues about genetic potential. Typically, very big guys will have broad shoulders, a small waist, and medium length limbs.
This refers to to the efficiency of the relationship between the nervous system and the muscles themselves. Someone with high levels of neuromuscular efficiency will actually recruit more muscle fibers during muscular contractions. Those with lower levels will recruit less. For bodybuilding purposes, high levels of neuromuscular efficiency are obviously advantageous.
Muscle Fiber Density
Fairly self-explanatory. To grow muscle, we want to stimulate the fibers to hypertrophy. Obviously the more muscle fibers exist per square centimeter, the bigger you can get, and the bigger you’ll look without ever having lifted a weight.
I’ve talked before about how building massive muscle is a disadvantage from an evolutionary perspective. Sustaining a normal musculature is expensive enough calorie-wise; building MORE muscle is therefore not desirable from the body’s point of view. This is why you HAVE to give the body a damn good reason for it to build more muscle.
One of the ways the body limits muscle growth is through myostatin. The gene ‘GDF-8’ produces the myostatin protein for the purpose of limiting growth. The less myostatin you have circulating in your body, the easier it will be to build larger muscles.
The longer a muscle is, the more potential there is for it to increase in size. This is because a muscle’s width will never exceed its length. The longer the actual muscle belly, and the shorter the tendons which connect the ends to the bone, the more potential you have to increase the size of that muscle.
This varies from muscle to muscle, which means that one person can have more potential in one muscle than in others. So if your calf muscles are short, that doesn’t mean that your biceps don’t have awesome potential.
PLEASE don’t be too concerned. People with average, or less-than-average, genetic potential are in the vast majority. People with superior genetic bodybuilding potential really are rare. Chances are that 95% of your fellow gym members are in the same boat as you.
I personally learned to embrace my skinny ass wrists and ankles and just got on with the job of building the muscle around them.
It is important to remember that while the above factors will dictate your starting point, and the rate at which you will grow, the fact is that…
EVERYONE CAN AND WILL GROW IF THEY TRAIN INTELLIGENTLY
Never forget that. People have been building muscles beyond normal levels for many, many years. Give your body a good enough reason and it will respond with new growth.
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