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Friday, November 13, 2015

Assessing Your Potential - By Burt Gam

There is an old saying regarding lifting; "Champions are born and not made". While this does hold a good deal of truth, it by no means diminishes the need for hard work and sound training principles to make it to the top. But what does having good genetics actually mean? It really depends on what type of a trainer a person is. While we cannot control what DNA we are given by our parents, just about anyone can achieve remarkable progress with enough knowledge and fortitude.

Lets look at bodybuilding first. For bodybuilding, the variables to be considered are degrees of or propensity to develop overall mass and muscle density, definition, vascularity, symmetry and proportion. Mass development is dependent upon such things as length of muscle bellies in different groups with associated short tendon insertions, number of muscle cells, as well as circulating anabolic hormone levels such as Human Growth Hormone (HGH), Testosterone, and Insulin Like Growth Factors(IGF). A long muscle belly has the potential to grow larger by virtue of the potential for greater cross sectional area achievement. Short muscle attachments can greatly affect the appearance of a muscle. The ability to put on muscular size with little gains in fat are determined by heredity as well as dietary factors. The ability to  store low amounts of subcutaneous fat while achieving muscle growth greatly affect the definition and vascular appearance of an individual. Overall body proportions, relatively narrow joints and height/weight ratios, and body frame size also contribute to appearance to a large degree.

As an example, two individuals may both claim to have 18" arms which by most standards is quite large when accurately measured. But the visual affect can be worlds apart. In certain cases it will look huge, and in other cases appear a little above average. In general, a person with a higher amount of definition(BF%) may present a much more imposing arm. If one person has a large frame, be tall, or have higher bodyweight the arm may look smaller by comparison. A legitimate and defined 18" arm on most people would certainly appear quite large, but perhaps even more so on a shorter small framed person. A person with longer than average muscle belly lengths in the biceps and particularly the triceps may excel in arm development .Other favorable genetic factors include narrow hips, joints, a tapered waist, even head size. Skin color can affect and produce a leaner look as well.

For a weight lifter, good genetics means possesing above average neuromuscular efficiency or the ability to recruit a larger percentage of muscle fibers in a given muscle group or overall. Coding is the rate of firing of the motor units. The more synchronious   the muscle fibers are firing, the greater the force produced. This would be synonomous with powerlifting or strength training. An Olympic lifter excels because they exhibit great power or the ability to produce force rapidly. These factors are affected by genetics as well as the type of training that these athletes do. A bodybuilder by comparison may appear quite massive but not be capable of producing the same amount of strength or power as power lifters or weight lifters. A weight lifter or a power lifter will be able to produce a relatively higher force or exhibit greater power than a bodybuilder relative to their size. As stated, all of this has to do in large part to genetics and to good solid training principles for each type of weight training.

So what is the point of this information? There was a day many years or even generations ago where weight lifting and bodybuilding went hand in hand. It was typical for an individual to compete in body building and weight lifting competitions on the same night! The names which come to my mind from the distant past are the likes of John Grimek, Reg Park and Marvin Eder. All these individuals excelled in both body building and were exceptionally strong by virtue of the heavy weights that they trained with. Since then, weight trainers have drifted apart and become much more specialized in their training methods. . Today it is rare to find an individual who can successfully compete in both, at least at the higher levels. The ironic truth is that the body proportions which favor one do not seem to favor the other. There have been former weight lifter converts to bodybuilding who by virtue of their small waist size,and large upper arms were not able to achieve the highest poundages, rack the weights easily or show high levels of demonstrable strength. And there are many large framed power lifters and weight lifters who could not achieve the leanness and body proportions necessary to succeed as top body builders. 

A body builder in their most "ripped to the bone condition" will likely be at their physically weakest from dieting and dehydration. While there may exist ways to evaluate potential early on through anthropometric measures, it is at best an inexact science. Most of the time, an individual will learn through trial and error. A person who is genetically gifted to be big and muscular or strong will soon be aware of this regardless of how they train. And because a person may not ever have a chance to get to the top in their chosen sport, they should never be discouraged from trying or make a conscious decision to not train hard. Certainly a stronger body builder and a more athletic physique for a weight lifter would not be a bad thing. Superior strength, health, and physique are all worthwhile goals. By educating ourselves to all aspects of training and working hard and smart we can come as close to approaching our potential as possible. We cannot be the best at everything. But we can be the best that WE can be at anything we set our minds to do!
BODY • MIND • SPIRIT