The other day I was on the phone to my mum.
We were discussing how my current mini-cut was going and that lead us onto talking about me wanting to step on the bodybuilding stage again one day….do you know what she then said to me?
“Steve, you know you don’t have the genetics for bodybuilding”
I was a little taken back by it at first.
Is she right?
Do I lack the genetics for bodybuilding? — Should I just be done with it, wave the white flag, hand in my protein powder and gym membership and be done with it?
How important are genetics in bodybuilding and what role do they play?
Lets look into it.
Comparing Genetics in Bodybuilding
The best way I think we can look at the role of genetics is to do some comparisons between athletes of similar age, height, weight and years of training. If genetics didn’t come into it then they should both look very similar and have equal chances in their bodybuilding pursuits.
Apart from the fact Harry is clearly more tanned than me there are some quite staggering differences in our physiques. Even though we’re pretty much the same height, weight and have the same number of years under our belt it is clear Harry has more of an X frame than myself.
Lets do another comparison.
Now in this comparison of our side tricep I’d say I now take the pose, in that may waist somehow looks smaller and this carries over to making me look more developed than Harry. So there is clearly something going on more than just training and nutrition here.
The Genetics of Bone Structure
Something that is determined by genetics is our bone structure, no this isn’t a case for “I’m not fat I’m just big-boned” but our bones do play a role in how our physique looks.
Think about a house, if it has a tiddly little foundation, with thin pieces of wood anything you add to it is going to appear much larger. Whereas a house with steel foundations, you better develop a mansion or it’s not going to look impressive. — This is similar to our bodies, if you have a small frame then everything you add to it looks even more impactful.
The fact is in bodybuilding being slight is not a bad thing, small wrists, ankles and a small waist all allow you to appear larger. Look back at me and Harry above, in the first picture I really don’t appear to have much of an X frame, whereas Harry does, is this because Harry has far more developed shoulders than me? No. — It’s because his pelvis is small and ribcage is large, whereas both my pelvis and ribcage are large.
We cannot change our bone structure, and thus genetics obviously play a hand here.
The Genetics of Muscle Shape & Attachment
Right so we can see than our bone structure in a large way determines our shape, but what also comes into play is the shape of and where our muscles attach. You could have two guys build like brick houses, massive bone structures, but again look quite different because of the shape and attachment of their muscles.
So here you get a comparison of both me and my past client Stephen Power both looking very lean and have clear six packs, but they look quite different. You see my abdominals attach differently to Stephen’s, I have a much larger ridge between the two sides, whereas Stephen has been blessed with much thicker, symmetrical abdominals.
Another obvious example we can come across is calve development. — Ever see dudes who don’t even lift but have the biggest calves you could imagine? That’s genetics. You see where the muscle belly inserts on the leg makes a huge difference in terms of its appearance, for example look at the guys below.
Which guy looks like he has better calve development?
The dude on the left right?
If you look closely you will also identify that his calve attaches really low compared to the guy on the right who’s attached much higher. — Their calve diameter however is probably not all that different, just like mine and Harry’s shoulders probably are similar in broadness, yet they appear to be quite different.
So it is clear where our muscles attach really impacts how they look on our bodies, what about muscle shape? For this we’re going to take a look at my quads vs. Harry’s, because they’re starkly different.
Now we both have very good quad development, our vastus lateralis and medialis are prominent and clearly muscular. However, our vastus lateralis shape is different, where mine pops out from the knee and then flattens before coming into my hip Harry’s is curved throughout, giving the appearance of a better ‘sweep’ which is desirable for bodybuilding.
Now it isn’t to say you cannot succeed with certain sizes and attachments, heck check out this comparison between Kai Green and Phil Heath.
You can see Kai has a similar looking flat quad to me, but heck is Kai successful?
Yes, one of the best in the world.
We could continue to break this down for every single muscle of the body, and what these comparisons would clearly show is the impact genetics has on how a muscle looks on our frame. Just like you cannot change your bone structure you cannot change how a muscle attaches on your body, it is out of your control.
The Role of Posing
Now you might by now be feeling a little sorry for me, I know I am haha! Because when you look over the above you can see that in part my mother was right, I don’t have the ideal genetics for bodybuilding. Now I added in the word ‘ideal’ because my genetics in any way stop me competing in the sport.
OK so you’ve got your genetic makeup.
Your shape is set.
You cannot change this shape, but you can develop it (growing muscle) and you can also present your shape in many different ways; this is where posing comes in. Bodybuilding is in part a performance, you obviously have to do your training and get your nutrition dialled in, but then there is an element of art and you are your sculpture.
We want to make our waist appear as small as possible, because by doing this everything that comes from it looks larger, and this is obviously easier for some than others. Everyone will have their weak and strong poses, for me my side shots allow me to present my body in a way so my waist looks small, for Harry his front and back poses really stand out.
However, if we do not know how to pose we will not present our best.
We could have the best genetic make-up for bodybuilding, but if we cannot present it in the correct way, we’ll get beat. So practicing your posing, assessing where your hands, arms and legs should be on each pose is absolutely key.
For someone like me who didn’t have the ideal structure I had to make sure my poses were on point, I practiced hard, looked over hours of footage on YouTube to eventually come up with my killer poses (I learned so much I even made a quick reference guide that took me through each pose step by step).
You vs. You
Now look at what I have just done, I have compared myself against others and felt crap about myself.
DO NOT DO THIS.
Comparing yourself to others is the fastest way to become discouraged. Sure if you get up on stage then the judges are comparing you against others, but you never have to do that, and I don’t think anyone should. You’re far more likely to reach your true competitive potential by focussing on you and you only.
What matters isn’t how you measure up against others, but where you have come from, how far have you progressed since you started — that is all that matters.
This article isn’t to give guys the excuse for the lack of their results. — Take your head out of the sand, if you are one of those people who now are thinking, ‘well if my success is already predetermined then why the hell would I bother pushing myself’, and if that is you, then you’re probably always going to have poor results and always end up disappointed.
Think about exams, there are those who get As and those who don’t. Now no doubt you have found that there seems to be those who work hard and still get fantastic grades, we hate them. However, there are also those who if they put in the work, also get fantastic grades. — Now I know we’re talking about our bodies and not our brains, but I think we can all appreciate that hard work goes a long way in achieving the results we want.
Sure for some it comes easy, but it doesn’t mean it can’t come for you.
You can control your own grade, you can’t cheat the weights, or your nutrition, you have to put in the work. Reaching your goals takes a lot of dedication and commitment, big results don’t happen overnight. I didn’t even think I’d ever get where I am today, nor achieve the results I’ve come by.
But what choice did I have?
Stay out of the gym and remain skinny, weak and un-happy? — No thank you sir.
You never know your true potential until you push yourself to your limits and beyond and test it. This is exactly what I did, having recovered from a severe head injury, I built myself up, put in A LOT of hard work and graft, and finally in 2014 tested it by bringing my best to the Bodybuilding stage. — Notice how I put MY best, because that is all I could do.
I made a lot of mistakes, but I never lacked effort.
When I started I would train with weights 6 days a week, every single set to failure, I’d also perform HIIT cardio each day before dinner and religiously followed a diet of 6-8 meals a day. Sure, this got me no-where fast, I was completely over-training in every way. However, the mental toughness and drive that’s clearly in me and has now paid its dividends. I have at times thought, my genetics are not made for lifting, I should just quit and become a runner. — But, I don’t love running, I love pounding iron and seeing my physique change.
So a years later with thousands of meals consumed, hundreds of workouts performed and results came
…suddenly my crap genetics looked a lot better.
I can be proud of where I have come as I know what’s gone into it, if I compared myself to others it might not be the same story. There are plenty of bro’s with a bigger bench than me, bigger arms than me, better abs than me, and that’s fine, because at the end of the day I know I put my all into everything I do.
So don’t allow your genetics to be an excuse for the lack of results, don’t even think about them and just put in the work. You’re more than likely capable of a lot more than you think you are.
And you know there’s only one way to find out right?
Do you need any help with the above? Do you have any questions you need answering? Hopefully it gave you renewed focus.
Join my free facebook group or add me on snapchat (revivestronger) and ask your question there, I will respond asap. Also thanks Harry Ranson for letting me analyse his physique, you can get more from him on his facebook.
If you want to learn more about how to approach a Bodybuilding Contest prep then this is an absolute must read: 6 Steps to a Building a Winning Bodybuilding Contest Prep
If you have a holiday coming up and want to shed some fat and keep it off before then check out The Mini-Cut Movement
One more thing…
Do you have a friend who could do with learning about how their genetics impacts their physique? Share this article with them and let me know what they think.