Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Role of Genetics

I haven't really talked much about the role that genetics play in strength training.  A big reason is because a lot of people think I am being negative when I talk about genetics and that I am somehow putting a damper on their goals. That could not be further from the truth.  I am going to be honest though and not blow smoke up anyone's behind about what I believe are realistic goals.  First, it is great to have goals.  Yes, you can have what are called  stretch goals too.  But, I do not believe your stretch goals should not be your only goals.  I have posted on message forums many times in the past about unrealistic goals and again the response is that I am being "negative".   So, here's my take on genetics using the bench press as an example.

A person states that they want to bench 400 pounds as a goal.  I then ask them their stats.  The first items I look at is their body size.  Are they 6'6" and 200lbs?  Are they 5'6" and 150lbs?  My first thought on these two would be skepticism right out the gate, but I need more data.  The next item I would ask is how long have they been training and what is their current bench press max.  The first guy has super long levers and is obviously thin.  The second guy might have good levers, but a double bodyweight bench is 300lbs.  And, that would be a very good lift (we are of course talking RAW here).  So, 400 might be a stretch when 450 is triple bodyweight!  The next item I would ask is how long have they been training and what is their current max.  So, there is the reach the 400 level, you better reach the 300 level fairly quickly without any special routines, etc.  If both of these lifters tell me they have been training for 3 years and they are yet to hit 300, then my take is 400 is a pipe dream.  It is just not realistic.  I am assuming in these examples both are natural lifters and over 21 by the way.  So, my statement that the goal is unrealistic would get a response that I was being negative.

I have watched a lot of lifters on YouTube.  Recently, I saw a lifter bench 655 raw with a very strict pause.  So, I decided to give my theory a little test.  I hypothesized (you'll have to take my word for it!), that he had hit the 400 level of the bench with great ease.  Probably the 500 level as well.  So, I decided to message him via the YouTube Message system.  First, here is his 655 lift.  His name is Ben Brand by the way.

I asked him what role genetics had played in his benching ability. Here is what he wrote below in response. Note how easy he made it to 400 and when!  He was only a high school senior and did it in 2 months!  At 14, he punched up a 315 with what appeared to be little to no training!

I have always had a good bench. I do believe genetics has a lot to do with it. My father was a bodybuilder and when I was young I always remember his arms looked like bowling balls. My mom’s side of the family they were all stocky big men. Every one of my uncles on that side were all state football players and very good athletes. So I've been blessed with some good genetics. I can remember when I was around 14 my dad would take me to wrestling practice early at the high school in my town and the weight room would be open. One day he said let’s see how much you can bench. I did 315. I never really stuck with weight lifting in high school though until my senior year there was a bench meet at the school. I trained for about 2 months for it and I made 405. I didn't get into powerlifting though until I was 20 and didn't really progress in strength from when I did 405. I think I did my first 500 when I was 25 and my first 600 was when I was 29. Ever since I started powerlifting seriously I've trained really hard to get where I am but I do believe genetics have played a big part in it.

You will note he had to obviously work hard, but if I had known him back when he did the 400, and he said his goal was 500, I would have said it would almost be a lock as a goal. I would not have ruled out 600 either as a goal. Heck, he was a high school kid and reached 400 in 2 months for goodness sakes!

Be happy with your genetics.  Everyone has their strengths and it might not be super strength. BUT, you can significantly improve yourself and get a lot stronger through training.  Be happy with that.  Be real with yourself with respect to goals.  Work hard and work consistently.  Slow and steady will definitely win the race when it comes to building strength to your genetic limits.  Do not look for short cuts. There aren't any.  And, performance enhancing drugs aren't a short cut either.  They won't make up for lack of genetics.

No comments: