It has been well documented that genetics plays a critical role in the ability to put on muscle mass, but if you feel as though you have poor genetics, is there still hope?
Sometimes individuals associate lean body compositions and muscular physiques with outstanding genetics. This is usually along the lines of, “Wow, look at that physique, they must have good genetics”.
Is genetics really responsible for their freak-like physique?
Responders and Non-Responders
Much like medications or certain rehabilitation techniques, there is a phenomena of people who respond extremely well, and then there are those who simply don’t respond.
This phenomena seems to exists in the realm of resistance training as well and can impact your ability to pack on pounds of lean muscle.
Genetics has been linked to the presence of growth factors, muscle cells and genetic molecules (Schoenfeld, 2016, p. 190-191). It is suggested that people who obtained increased hypertrophic gain had increases in these components compared to non-responders.
Science has managed to identify 17 genes thus far that may explain individual differences in hypertrophic adaptations (Pescatello et al, 2013). While some of these genes seem to be more relevant to putting on muscle mass than others, it appears as though what is most important is whether or not these genes are expressed.
This could possibly explain why some people respond extremely well to resistance training and why others don’t.
Further, individual differences in fiber number and type could also be linked to muscle development. This is logical as more fibers could be associated with increases in muscle (Schoenfeld 2016, p. 192). Responders have been found to have more of an abundance of type II (fast) twitch fibers opposed to type I (slow) twitch fibers which have more potential for muscular growth (Schoenfeld, 2016, p. 191-192).
But this is nothing new.
While genetics need to be considered for one’s ability to increase muscle mass over time, it does not mean someone lacking expression in genes associated with muscle mass cannot produce impressive size gains.
There Is Still Hope!
In fact, It is known that people respond better to different types of training whether it be low volumes or high volumes regardless of genetics (Schoenfeld, 2016, p. 192-193). Individuals who lack the expression of genes related to muscle mass may require alternative training methods and or training periods to obtain hypertrophic results (Schoenfeld, 2016, p. 192-193).
Unfortunately poor genetics will impact your capacity to build muscle mass,
there is no question about that. However, it does not mean you can’t achieve a freaky physique if you take care of the variables you can control and are willing to be patient.
For those of you who feel you are not genetically gifted, consider the following:
- Have a Set Sleep Schedule
- Keep Your Nutrition In Check
- Make or Purchase a Periodized Training Program
- Minimize Stress
- Try Different Training Techniques and Monitor Progress
- Play With Training Variables (Volume, Exercise Selection, Intensity etc)
Yes, you may not be gifted and express all the genes or even the gene responsible for hulk like muscle mass, but you can still change your body composition substantially if you control what is controllable.
Take Home Points:
- Yes, genetics play a large role in how much muscle you can pack on your frame.
- There appears to be those who respond really well to resistance exercise (responders) and those who don’t (non-responders).
- Your genetics may be poor, but if you take care of your training, rest and nutrition, muscle mass will come.
Pescatello, LS, Devaney, JM, Hubal, MJ, Thompson, PD, and Hoffman, EP. Highlights from the functional single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with human muscle size and strength or FAMuSS study. Biomed Res Int. 2013: 643575, 2013.
Schoenfeld, B. (2016). Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy (pp. 188-193). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics .