potentiel genetique

Do You Have The Genetic Potential For Bodybuilding?

Every single time someone post a great physique shot, naysayers write moronic comments such as “Yeah, roids.”

However you could give those naysayers as many anabolics as they want, they would never make it.

The first step in having a great physique is to choose the right parents. If you want to survey your bodybuilding potential, you can assess the following factors.

How good are your muscle length attachment? The lower a muscle inserts, the better it is. The concept is not new, just look at the statues built in Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. Depictions of the demi-god Hercules show him with low muscle insertions. One of the easiest muscles to illustrate this concept is the biceps, Larry Scott and Arnold Schwarzenegger are classic examples of people blessed with long muscle bellies in the elbow flexors.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Notice that people with great lat development have very low insertions; Franco Columbu, and Ronnie Coleman come immediately to mind in this example. There are some rare individuals who have low muscle insertions in all muscle groups which prompts to achieve rapid success in bodybuilding. The most evident example of that is Casey Viator, who won the Mr. America at the age of 19. Apparently his arms were over 17 inches, at the age of 17, that is the first day he started training! Yet, Arthur Jones and his Nautilus company used him extensively as a propaganda model to illustrate how great their machine were.

The lower the insertion, the higher the mechanical advantage, thus the more force one can produce. Low insertions is the main biomechanical reason why the Grizzly bear is such a strong animal.

It was rumoured in the early seventies that the former East German sports machine establishment had played with reattaching the muscle insertions of wrestlers and judokas, in hope of producing supermen. The problem was that the coordination mechanism were severely disrupted, thus the concept was promptly discarded, probably after a few of them stuck an ice cream cone in their foreheads, missing the mouth altogether….

casey viator

Untrained Calf and Forearm Girth. Long term studies done in the Polish school system in the early seventies revealed that the best anatomical predictor for the capacity to gain strength and power was the girth of the kids calf and then the second best was the girth of the forearm. In other words, an untrained kid with 16 inch calves and 14 inch forearms is usually prime stock for power sports. Since the study involved over 40,000 pupils, we can rely on it. I am certain that that data also applies to bodybuilding.

Many of the most massive bodybuilders such as Casey Viator and Mike Matarrazo had massive calves and forearms to start with. Former Mr. Olympia Chris Dickerson was born with tremendous calves and barely did a set of them to achieve the highest I.F.B.B. crown.

Hormonal make-up. The ideal hormonal make-up for bodybuilding would include a high endogenous production of androgens and growth hormone, low levels of cortisol, and sensitivity to insulin Those blessed with a superior hormonal make up will hypertrophy often in untrained bodyparts. I remember in 1982, while I was visiting Dr. Dietmar Schmidtbleicher at the Sport Science Institute of the University of Freiburg, he was showing me CAT scans of subjects who had undergone a triceps training protocol, the ones with the highest hormonal profiles had experienced hypertrophy not only in the triceps brachii but also in the brachialis and biceps muscles, which are muscles that have antagonistic functions to the triceps. But because they had better hormonal profile, there was a non-specific hypertropic response even in untrained muscles.

Neurological efficiency. In gym jargon, that refers to: are you a rep type of guy or weight type of guy? A “rep guy” will do 20 reps at 80% of his max, while the “weight guy” will only do 3, and the average trainee will do about 7 reps at that percentage. The better blessed inviduals will in fact have poor relative endurance, in other words they are the weight type of guy, the ones who can achieve high loads for maximum singles. These individuals can tap into higher threshold fibers, and thus can excite a greater proportion of their muscle fibers. I would add that this factor is the least important of them all, as I have encountered many professionnal bodybuilders with extreme levels of hypertrophy who were either rep or weight types. For example, Serge Nubret was a “rep” guy, while Franco Columbu was a “weight” guy.

Serge Nubret
Serge Nubret, the typical “rep” guy

How good is your black box? More often than enough, trainees count out intelligence as a predictor for bodybuilding improvement, especially when genetics on the physical side are not optimal. Intelligent people will search out solutions to their problems. Just look at Mr. Olympia winners Larry Scott, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Frank Zane who overcame many flaws through diligent observation and through adequate path corrections later on went to achieve tremendous results.

Many bodybuilding authors who were there at Gold’s Gym and Vince’s Gym, when Arnold was in his preparatory years, have related to me that the Governator’s drive in his workouts was so high that he used to burn out training partners routinely.  Fortunately, the Austrian Oak was never short of partners as everyone wanted to share his glory. Twelve years ago, over lunch with Dan Duchaine, he observed once that one of the reasons he taught Dorian Yates was so successful was the fact that his cognitive process were far superior to the average professional bodybuilders, and therefore approached contest preparation in a more rational and methodological manner. On the other hand, I have also seen some very successful and yet very dumb ones succeed because they were fortunately coached by someone who knew what they were doing. A former Ms Olympia comes to mind, she would be the type that would walk in a shopping center, see a sign indicating ” Wet Floor”, and do it!

Larry Scott

I would not get too hooked up on the genetic component, as many very good bodybuilders started out with less than optimal genetics. Larry Scott may have been born with great potential in upper arm hypertrophy, yet his bi-acromial width (bone shoulder width) was lets say, not the best available. Yet with constant effort put into his deltoid training, he overcame his genetic set-back, and was later famous not only for his arm development, by also for his massive delts.

Furthermore, you may not have the ideal genetics for bodybuilding, but if you enjoy your weight training hobby, that is what is most important. Don’t forget that regular weight training has many health benefits which you may not appreciate yet at your age such as lowering of blood fats, prevention of osteoporosis, etc… There is plenty of baby boomers out there who just started training five years ago who have much better physiques than 20 year old genetically gifted individuals who have sedentary lifestyles.

Regardless of your genetics, strength training/bodybuilding are both highly enjoyable.


Coach Charles R. Poliquin