Genes & Bodybuilding
How does your DNA affect your performance as a bodybuilder?
Your own DNA is definitely a big factor when it comes to determining your natural performance and the results that you can expect to receive with specific exercises. Of course, we can’t do anything about your own genes.
What we can do is work with your genes so you can still maximize your results.
Personally, I have seen budding bodybuilders who simply have to “smell” a few dumbbells to enhance the shape and mass of their biceps and triceps. But at the end of the day, their bodies would only allow their chest muscles to develop to a certain degree.
If they wanted more mass and more distinct striations on their chests, they needed to exert two or three times more effort. On the flip side, there are bodybuilders who barely exert effort to make their chests bigger but no matter how hard they worked, they can only manage small gains to make their hips flare out properly.
What can you do about natural weaknesses?
Every bodybuilder has his own distinct weaknesses. Once you’ve identified your current limitations, it’s up to you to train hard so you can forge and hammer these weaknesses into strengths.
It’s always possible to enhance your performance regardless of your natural weaknesses. You can be certain that even 8-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman has his own secret weaknesses that he’s been able to overcome through many years of rigorous training and targeted nutrition.
Does ethnicity/race play a role in determining a bodybuilder’s success?
The plain answer to this question is “no.” Race or ethnicity doesn’t really have an impact on a bodybuilder’s ability to reach milestones and accomplish specific goals. It appears that in the end, hard work will always be superior to genetics. That’s why Mr. Olympia would always include a variety of professional bodybuilders with different ethnicities.
There are reigning superstars in every industry and it’s understandable why many Mr. Olympias tend to win the same competitions again and again. They work hard, harder perhaps than the others and their hard work pays off and is naturally enhanced by what their DNA can provide them.
Think of your DNA as a secret box of bodybuilding riches. At every point in your evolution as a bodybuilder, your DNA will provide you with a different “natural boost” that gives you an edge over other athletes. Of course, this natural boost can only take you so far. You still need to take this boost and develop it scientifically and rigorously over a period of years.
Who/what is a “natural boy?”
Some bodybuilders like Lee Priest are called the “natural boys” in bodybuilding because they were able to gain massive guns and impressive physiques even before they rolled into their twenties.
Lee Priest is not very active nowadays in the Mr. Olympia scene and he has fewer professional endorsements because of his unorthodox ways, but muscle magazines still consider him a highly respectable bodybuilder because of his commitment to training and the raw results he achieves.
What does bone size have to do with muscle mass?
Technically speaking, our muscles can only grow to a certain size, even with the use of supplements and hormones. After a certain point you have to be realistic about developing certain muscle groups once they stop gaining mass, even if you’re still working out like crazy and you’re spending more cash and time on your bodybuilding efforts.
To keep things realistic and to keep your expectations reasonable, note that if you’re a big boned individual you will most likely gain more muscle mass than a person who is five inches shorter or has a smaller wrist size.
Height and bone size are important determinants of future muscle growth.
If you come across references about bone size and muscle growth, many of these lists are actually for adult bodybuilders. So if you’re younger than 20 years old, these lists don’t apply to you because you’re still growing up.
Young bodybuilders (some as young as 15 years old) are becoming more and more common and as long as these youngsters stay safe while working out, there shouldn’t be any problems. However, teenagers are still not physically mature and if the bodybuilding is not performed properly the risk of injury increases too.
Genes & Bodybuilding
How much influence does your DNA have over muscle growth?
In the first part of this article, we explored the role of genetics in determining the performance of a bodybuilder.
We learned that while genes can sometimes make it easier for a bodybuilder to make specific gains (e.g. bigger biceps even with less training than one’s peers), we also discovered that genes are not “muscle traps” and they don’t determine your path in bodybuilding.
An interesting point was raised in our last article: bone size and muscle size. According to scientific studies, taller individuals with bigger bones tend to develop a higher volume of muscle than shorter people with smaller bone structure.
Again, this apparent physiological limitation shouldn’t discourage anyone.
If you happen to have average genes when it comes to developing your muscles, you just need better nutrition and an even fiercer training program to pound those muscle fibers into submission.
What other DNA-related factor affects muscle gains?
Our DNA influences every aspect of our existence, from the color of our hair, color of our skin to the number of muscle cells we have. Experts have confirmed that actual muscle cell count varies from person to person. This means that genetically-gifted individuals have much larger muscles because they have more muscle cells to develop in the first place!
If Bodybuilder A has 150 million cells forming his back muscles, he will most likely enjoy faster muscle gains than Bodybuilder B, who happens to have 100 million cells forming his back muscle tissues. Of course, it would be impractical to have your muscle cell count determined – no one does this and the information would be irrelevant to your progress anyway.
What we’re merely pointing out is that some people literally “have it” because their genes are formed in a particular manner.
But wait… There is hope, yet! Around the same time that this information was published, it was also discovered that while we do start off with an average muscle cell count, muscle cells can actually divide and multiply depending on a person’s regular physical requirements.
So if you’re working out daily and you’re providing your body with the protein, amino acids and other nutrients it needs to build more muscle tissue, the DNA factor becomes a minor problem. It may take longer for you to achieve the symmetry and size of genetically-gifted peers but you will get there, eventually!
What role does the male hormone play in the scheme of things?
The male hormone testosterone also plays a crucial role in determining the success of bodybuilders. Testosterone influences the physiological growth of the body. Some male bodybuilders have been known to naturally produce high levels of testosterone. These guys don’t just develop quickly with rigorous training – they are also naturally more driven and aggressive when it comes to lifting weights!
Testosterone doesn’t just help you develop mean muscles, it also affects your personality and attitude. Generally speaking, a person with more testosterone has a much higher tendency to be aggressive when he undertakes different activities, including exercises.
Females also produce testosterone but on a much lower scale compared to males. If a female produces more testosterone than what her body naturally needs, it’s possible for a woman to develop male features such as body hair, increased axillary hair and even a deeper voice.
Female athletes who experiment with androgenic substances and synthetic male hormones tend to develop severe health issues later in life because their bodies can react negatively to the presence of excess male hormone.
Should you use synthetic male hormones?
The safety of self-administering synthetic male hormone is still widely debated across the world. It’s no secret that professional bodybuilders use testosterone and human growth hormones to enhance their body’s natural ability to grow.
Our recommendation would be to consult with your physician before even thinking about using anabolic steroids and hormones. This is your body and life on the line so it’s never a good idea to base your decisions on “hearsay” and what other people are doing.
If your organs become damaged as a result of your “chemical experiments”, you won’t be able to pursue your bodybuilding dreams at all. So stay safe and try to keep your system clean of strange supplements and unregulated chemicals.