Are bodybuilding genetics important? It might seem like a silly question, but it’s one that does merit discussion. There are some people who feel that your DNA dictates everything, making diet/exercise of any kind secondary in importance. Then there’s the “mind over matter” crew who feel you can make anything happen if you work hard enough. It should come as no surprise that bodybuilding genetics are important in your development. The question now is how much?
All other things being equal, bodybuilding genetics are what’s going to determine your physique. Not only is your DNA responsible for things such as how full your muscle bellies are, insertion points, and so on, but also how your body responds. A 2005 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise covered the progress of 585 males and females as they performed a 12 week dynamic resistance training program.
Over those 12 weeks, some participants had as much as a 59% increase in muscle mass and increased one rep max (1RM) lifts by 2.5x. On the flip side, some participants experienced no strength gains whatsoever and even lost as much as 2% of the muscle they came into the study with. Given that everyone was on the exact same exercise and nutrition program, each person’s individual bodybuilding genetics were really the only reason for any variation.
A study similar published in the Journal of Applied Physiology covered the progress of 66 participants attempting to build muscle. Though diet and programming were kept the same, the top 17 participants increased their muscle mass by 59%, the middle 32 increased muscle mass by only 28%, and the bottom 17 gained no muscle at all. These support another study in Physiology Genomics claiming that certain hypertrophy genes are what’s responsible for how strength training affects you.
If bodybuilding genetics have such a distinct effect on how much muscle you build, it should come as no surprise that they also are the key determinant in how much weight you gain. Not only that, they also regulate where body fat is stored.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine watched 12 pairs of identical twins for 84 out of 100 consecutive days. Each person ate 1000 calories over their maintenance level and remained fairly sedentary throughout the study. Even though all participants were basically on the same schedule, weight gain varied from as little as 9.5 pounds to over 29 pounds – a swing of almost 300%.
Most people know that males and females tend to store body fat in different areas of their body. However, bodybuilding genetics can change it even more on an individual level. The “Quebec Family Study” performed in 1996 showed that your genes determine roughly 56% of your abdominal visceral fat, as well as 42% of your subcutaneous fat. This means it’s ultimately genetics that plays the key role in where (and how much) body fat lands on your physique.
When all is said and done, realize that no matter how much hard work or effort you put in, it’s your genes that will determine your results and progress. However, don’t let this be an excuse. Many with what would otherwise be considered inferior genetics have still built winning physiques. Just realize your DNA will dictate how your body responds, and it’s your job to work within those confines.