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Genetic Influencers on Building Muscle

There are several variables that contribute to a great physique (nutrition and training are mostly discussed), but often overlooked is genetics.


There are several variables which contribute to a great physique. These are talked about in great depth by gym enthusiasts on a regular basis, things like; diet, training styles and supplements. There is a key factor which people often skim over or just completely neglect: genetics.

Although the topic of genetics is often overshadowed by aforementioned variables, genetics actually play a vital – if not primary – role in the development and design of the body. Here are some crucial factors which this biological programming attributes to building muscle and an aesthetic physique:

Bone Structure

The bones are the canvas on which the muscle is laid on. If an individual possesses wide clavicle bones and a narrow ilium, then his/her structure is innately well-positioned for developing that accentuated V-taper, desired by many. Essentially there is only a certain amount of mass that can be added and reduced to these areas (deltoids and waist respectively) to create a similar look. Furthermore joint size also plays a key role in the design of the human body, having smaller joints creates more muscle taper, leading to greater muscle separation, thus a more chiselled looking body, whereas larger joints are innately well positioned for power lifting/bearing vast amounts of weight.

Muscle Insertions

This discrepancy becomes evident when looking and comparing the structure of a bicep. Individuals with high muscle insertions will have biceps which appear shorter and therefore peak earlier on along the humorous. In contrast, muscle with deeper insertions will appear fuller and the muscle will peak higher.

Endocrine System

Hormones play a fundamental role in building muscle mass, and much of this is innate. Some essential hormones for creating this desired effect are;

  • Testosterone - the male sex hormone which is responsible for the rate of protein synthesis/muscle building capacity and ultimately, recovery. The secretion of which is a genetic variable. There are supplements and environmental factors which can also play a role, but the primary contributor is genetics.

  • Growth Hormone - responsible for the bone formation of the skeletal system at a young age, this will differ from person-to-person (hence why people come in all different shapes and sizes). Growth hormone also plays a role in building muscle; it achieves this by converting to IGF-1 in the liver, once secreted from its origin: the pituitary gland. IGF-1 has a profound muscle building effect, which is that it can shuttle amino acids and glucose into the cell matrix to aid repair.

By Steve Watson, BSc Sports Science



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