Virtually everyone I speak to believes that it's genetics which ultimately dictate a person's development and their responses to any given training or diet. Personally I feel the total amount of muscle you can gain and the amount of fat you can shift are all down to controllable factors and as such your development is pretty much in your own hands.
Granted there are certain things which will determine how a person looks that can't be changed namely:
- Bone structure
Once we have fully developed into adulthood these things won't change and as such if two people gain five pounds of muscle it will look better on those who have more favorable bone structures and insertions.
Any response we have to any given stimulus is the accumulation of past training, lifestyle and nutritional choices which govern your current physical state.
Even if you are currently eating, sleeping and training the same as the next person their previous experiences will mean they respond in a different manner to you for a variety of reasons (namely some of the those factors stated above which are changeable).
Normally people will say that's because they are genetically superior to you because they respond better. However I would just state they have a better base level than you from previous choices, the real question should be can a period of training and nutrition make up these differences if you know what they possess that you don't.
As an example I would say lets take two friends who start training together, they both use the same training and nutrition program pulled from some muscle rag. After three months of training the first friend has gained more size and strength than the other - so the weaker and smaller one decides he's a genetic hard gainer. Is this a correct assumption?
- Greater capilirization (able to handle heavier workloads during session and gets better nutrient deliver during recovery between sessions)
- Better neural coordination in general
- Able to push himself harder due to knowing own limits
- Better glucose tolerance and therefore better assimilation of consumed nutrients
From the outside it would appear so, but when you look at their past histories you find the one who gained more strength and size had a greater level of past exercise history meaning systemic systems and neural patterns were their to begin with. Considering this he had the following factors in place over his friend:
All these things are not genetic but rather due to past training experiences. This is just one thing and we all have varied pasts of many different factors. When you think about all the things which could influence our current physical state and the numerous permutations that could arise by interaction of these variables its easy to see how the many and varied responses to training nutrition or other stimuli come about.
So what about individuals in a family and the close resemblances of physiques (I'm being nice I mean fat families), the families are brought up the same and share many common experiences, habit formations (both dietary, attitude and activity wise) and controllable factors that can account for the similar response patterns families show.
- Sleeping habits, even if they get the same amount are they getting the same quality? Quality of mattress, sleeping with the light on, environmental sounds and so on could all effect this vitally important period of recovery.
- Environmental estrogens (xenoestrogens) from things like water source, plastic containers, soya foods etc etc
- Stress from environment and family. If your worked up about outside issues your hormonal balance will be different.
- Acidity of body. A mild metabolic acidosis from eating foods with high PRAL (potential renal acid loads) and various other acidic substances. This acidosis will effect enzyme and hormonal profiles.
- Habitual activity patterns and the effect on posture and facilitation and stretch weakness on certain muscle groups. Your training has a large effect on the body's adaption process, but so does things like how you stand, sit and basically hold yourself day in day out.
This only takes into account what they are doing in the past. What about at the present - the two friends mentioned previously could be doing exactly the same routine and following exactly the same nutrition plan but think of all the endless variations in day to day issues which could impact their physical state such as:
I could go on and on but I very much doubt we all do things exactly the same and have exactly the same resources on a day to day basis.
Muscle Group Repsonses:
So what about having muscle groups which respond better than others? Surely that's genetic right? You train your muscle with the same loading patterns and the same frequency as the rest but one group doesn't respond so it has to be that genetically you have less fibers in that muscle group?
BUT how do you know the fibers aren't there? if you answer because the body part in question doesn't respond to training I would say how can a body part respond to something its not receiving?
As an analogy I would say this: "Suppose you text a friend regularly and they never respond. You could presume the guys an idiot who never responds, but how do you know he is getting the message?"
Suppose you are texting the wrong number (wrong movement pattern) and someone else is getting the message (in this case the anterior delts rather than the chest), also suppose the person is getting the message but cannot respond as they don't have the ability to text back (an inability to recruit the fibers there).
Suppose the phone company is barring him from texting back (antagonistic/reciprocal inhibition), suppose he doesn't have enough credit to reply (in this case enough energy, amino acids etc - and just because the rest of the body is getting enough doesn't mean one body part will if there's a lack of capilirization, etc, etc.).
Now all these factors are alterable to some degree and if you tick off these then you can say, "OK, none of these factors are the reason - as such the guy is an idiot after all (i.e. fibers aren't there). The question is how many of us try to figure out whether we have all the boxes ticked before assuming the fibers aren't there?
Considering this I will concede that genetics will influence rate of gain and the eventual look gained from training, but how many of us can really say that we do everything possible to optimize our lifestyles to reap the maximum benefit to training and achieve our full genetic potential?
I doubt many do, those who do are probably the ones who are termed the genetic elite (some people tick all the boxes without even realizing it, their day to day habits just take care of many issues without them even knowing it).
Until you have done everything to optimize your genetic potential can you stop whining about being a hardgainer.