Muscle and Genetics

For many of us, professional athletes and/or bodybuilders are the inspiration we use to motivate ourselves to step into the gym everyday and get to work.

You’ve probably looked at the muscular development of your inspiration and asked yourself “what does it take to look like that?”

The answer to that question, whether we like it or not, is – it’s largely down to genetics, or having the right parents. It’s no surprise that many elite-level athletes have parents who were also elite-level athletes. Of course, this does not mean that it will be impossible for you to develop the size, strength and power you desire. It simply means that it is not a level playing field – the lucky ones have a genetic advantage.

If you’re reading this and becoming disheartened, always remember – talent and skill are two different things. Talent is something you are born with. Skill is something you develop through hard work and, hard work will always beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

You genetic makeup will determine three important pieces of the muscle-building puzzle:


Your maximum number of muscle fiber

The first thing we need to understand is that, even as a new born baby, our body already contains the maximum number of muscle fibers we’re ever going to have. Undoubtedly, these fibers do grow as we age, develop and mature of muscles, however, as far as our current medical understanding, you cannot increase the number of fibers.


Your percentage of fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibers

No matter how hard you work, no matter what type of training you undertake, you cannot change slow-twitch muscle fiber into fast-twitch muscle fiber. This, plus the fact that you cannot develop more muscle fibers than you are born with means that you will be genetically predisposed to either endurance based activity or strength and power based activity depending on which type of fiber you have more of.


The shape of your fully developed muscle

A great tool for highlighting this point is the world of professional bodybuilding. When these athletes step on stage they are being judged not just on the development of muscle, but also the shape and symmetry of the muscle. No matter how many reps of a bicep curl you do, no matter how many variations of the exercise, unfortunately, some people will be able to develop a “better” bicep peak.

Regardless of the facts presented here, everybody has the potential to develop a great looking body. Do not allow the fact that you may have to work harder than the next guy to develop the same size and strength put you off. No, genetically speaking you may not have what it takes to become the fastest, strongest, most powerful human being ever – but should that stop you becoming the fastest, strongest, most powerful version of yourself? The answer to that is entirely up to you, but remember, if you choose to not push yourself, that was your choice.

*The views and/or opinions expressed in the blogs are not necessarily those of Training Nation, but of the author

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