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Good vs. Bad Genetics in Bodybuilding: Which Do You Have?

Genetics inevitably play a huge part in our lives. They’re what make us unique and each one of us good at different things. So it should come as no surprise that, when it comes to bodybuilding, they’re seen as a pretty big deal.

Ever bump into the skinny guy who’s been hammering his hamstrings for years but has wheels like a second-hand toddler trike? We’re betting our entire stack of secret supplements he’s blaming it all on bad genetics.

On the other hand, we’ve got the jealous types. Spot these dudes on any internet forum calling out successful sculpted super-physiques in the comment section. All live from his mom’s basement, we might add.

“It’s all just genetics! They got lucky!”, he cries. “The entire god damn human race is on steroids!”, screams anotherOkay, dudes, we get it, now crawl your little pencil back into your beta-caves before we break ’em.

Now we’re not going to tell you genetics don’t play a part in physique development. If that were true, every man and his Grandma would be looking like the Austrian Oak, and supplement companies simply wouldn’t exist.

But how much of a deal are the pre-determined traits passed down from our parents? Can they actually determine our success in bodybuilding, or is it just another locker room myth?

Genetics: The good, the bad, and the scrawny

3 bodybuilding bodytypes from genetics

When it comes to genetics in bodybuilding, some are obviously more desirable than others. One of the simplest ways of looking at this is by assessing the three primary body types.

Although they’re not a concrete outline of every individual, many of us fall into one category. If we don’t, then it’s fair to say we’re sat comfortably somewhere in between two.

Now, without getting too specific, we’ve got the ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and endomorphs. Each body type has pros and cons that usually coincide with a person of that build.


Key point: Not everybody fits into one specific body type. It is possible to be somewhere between two.




As you can see the ectomorph is your average skinny bro. He’s a lean, mean, gangly machine – just like our guy Bruce here. A few stereotypical traits include:

  • Naturally thin/skinny
  • Light ‘delicate’ bone structure
  • Lean muscle
  • Low bodyfat
  • Super quick metabolism
  • Struggles adding mass (“hard-gainer”)
  • Narrow shoulders
  • Flat chest

It’s a hard life being an ectomorph in bodybuilding. Due to their lightning-fast metabolism, every calorie they eat seems to disappear in seconds. Obviously, this makes bulking a very difficult process, as it’s almost impossible to hit an optimized surplus.

ectomorph bodybuilder with narrow build but developed muscles

Being a hard gainer can’t just be accounted to laziness or lack of knowledge. In fact, the proper term for these guys is a “non-responder”, so don’t be prejudice. Scientists have proven this phenomenon to be true through various studies.

Evidence suggests ectomorphs may suffer because of inefficient satellite cells surrounding the muscle fibers. If these cells won’t openly share their nucleus with the muscle, the ecto can’t produce extra genetic material. Simply put; there’s no signal for the cells to grow.

However, on the flip side, once an ectomorph has finally built slabs of lean muscle, they’ll find cutting easy. Because of their naturally low body fat and hasty metabolism, shredding any additional BF will be effortless.


arnold schwarzenegger is a natural mesomorph bodybuilder

Fortunately, as naturally jacked and incredibly good looking bros, we’re mesomorphs. But just in case you’re wondering, we’re so god damn easy to spot. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Athletic build
  • Possesses ‘V’ taper
  • Defined muscular physique
  • Naturally strong
  • Builds muscle easily
  • Average fat gainer
  • Steady metabolism

Think of that guy in high school who was naturally tall, athletic, and possessed the perfect ‘V’ taper. He was always on the football team and seemed to be annoyingly good at any sport he put his hand to.

bodybuilder with mesomorph body type

Naturally, mesomorphs make up the middle ground of the gene pool. They’re not so far out of it they’re barely wet, but they’re not drowning at the bottom either. More like treading water, drinking a cold one with hot bikini models, and getting the best from both worlds.

They gain muscle easily and respond really well to weight training. When starting out in bodybuilding, mesomorphs will see progress at an alarming weight. Just as we said, they can be annoying…


pro bodybuilder jay cutler showing his naturally endomorph body type due to genetics

You’ll also know the endomorph when you see him. He’s usually the type of guy you’d call “stocky” with broad shoulders and a barrel chest. A lot of powerlifters are natural ectos, as their tank-like frame translates well to shifting seriously heavy sh*t.

When out in the iron-jungle, keep an eye out for:

  • Natural “stocky” stature
  • Round build
  • Easy gainer (both fat and muscle)
  • Hardly ever looks shredded (naturally higher BF)
  • Slow metabolism
  • Typically short
  • Thick wrists and broad shoulders

For an endomorph, gains are never an issue. These guys could literally dream about tonking up and they’d add lbs of mass in their sleep. Their bodies are simply pre-dispositioned to grow and build, which they do, fast!

Hafthor Bjornsson world elite powerlifter and strong man shows naturally high body fat due to endomorphic build

However, it ain’t all sunshine and creatine rainbows in endo-ville. All of that easy gaining comes at a cost of above average body fat and a slow metabolism. So even though they can pile on the timber, it’s much harder for an ectomorph to cut up and become lean.

Unlike the meso and ecto with their calorie blitzing metabolism, this stocky fella must always keep an eye on his energy intake if he wants to cut. This can make training for fat loss as an endomorph hard, which is probably why so many go into power dominated sports.

Brain vs. Brawn: Using grey matter to build muscle

arnold schwarzenegger reading book

If you thought you were gonna get an easy ride just because of your optimized physicality you’re sadly mistaken, amigo. Yeah, there’s the freaks out there who’s quads look like that of a lab-engineered racehorse all on their own, but brawn isn’t everything bro.

Let’s not forget that the brain if powerful AF. In most of us (discounting dweebs who do CrossFit) our thought box contains about 86 billion nerve cells. It’s that grey matter which makes us unique.

Yet when it comes to training we often forget that intelligence can play a huge part in success. Some guys need to be coached out of bed in the morning and without guidance couldn’t cross the street on their own.

Couple a lack of general intuition and brain power with a shoddy build and we’re up sh*t creek with a hole in our canoe. Think of the dumb ass who’s been doing it all wrong for years and still doesn’t see results. If this were paleolithic times, he’d saber tooth fodder for sure.

What we’re really trying to say is that your mind can be your secret weapon. Many legends have dominated the bodybuilding realm without the being blessed with the greatest genes. After all…

“A man paints with his brain, not with his hands.” – Michaelangelo 

Larry Scott, one of the all-time greats, came sliding out of the womb with shoddy shoulders. Did he cry about it though?

No way, son! He destroyed those delts day and night until they became his greatest feature. What was once a disadvantage, became a solid strength during competition.

What can we learn from this? Simply put, some of us are born in the shallow end of the gene puddle. Big deal! Moral of the story, don’t be a b*tch!

Train your ass off and fill in the blanks as you go along. Taking a cerebral approach to your training can never be a bad thing. Believe it or not, there are such things as books, webinars, and podcasts all about training, diet, supplementation, and lifestyle choices.

Guys like Dorian Yates might be well endowed in swoleness due to genetics, but they’re also smart. Listen to Yates talk at one of his seminars and you’ll be blown away by his knowledge.

He is like an encyclopedia on getting jacked as hell. Obviously, this plays a huge part in his physique success, as he can spot a flaw and know/learn how to fix it instantly.

Hormones: They’re not just for moody teenagers

image showing how hormone genetics play an important part in bodybuilding

Hey, remember when everything got crazy around the same time you suddenly noticed tiddies? Your face got slimy, hair started sprouting in unusual places, and mood swings crept up like protein-fart clouds in the free weight section.

That was your hormones bro, turning you into what was essential a walking angsty boner. And as we grow up we forget how much of a key part they play in our lives. Each one has a specific role and can make a massive difference in who we are.

For bodybuilders, good hormones could make all the difference in building a world class physique. Therefore we should study our own genetics to see just what hormonal characteristics we have inherited.

This can be done by taking a test or by monitoring your behavior throughout the day. Is our sex drive at an all-time high or is lack of sleep pulling us down? Do we feel constantly hungry, or are we satisfied in life and feel excited for the day ahead?

Check in with your body regularly. Because your hormones may be influencing you in more ways than you realize.

Their application to bodybuilding

Ideally, our endogenous production of growth hormone and androgens like testosterone would be high. This is because they have a positive anabolic effect on skeletal muscle, which is the aim of the game we’re in.

It’d also be awesome if our levels of cortisol were naturally low. Now, many factors can play into our cortisol levels such as stress through poor lifestyle choices. However, those born with a predisposition to depression and anxiety may suffer from both low T and naturally high cortisol.

Science suggests that short-term increases in cortisol are linked with a decrease in protein synthesis. Consequently, this means cortisol can spell bad news for any guy looking to build or maintain muscle. So do what you can to stay chilled if you’re a hereditary stress-head.

Fortunately, if you’re worried your hormones might be out of whack there are things you can do. Without paying a dime for hormone therapy we can optimize our bodies through lifestyle changes and natural enhancers, such as those created for testosterone.

[infobox] Key point: You can ensure your hormones are in perfect balance for building muscle by supplementing with effective boosters. [/infobox]

Summary: The final (short) straw

collage showing different sized physiques due to genetics

At this point, you’re either fist pumping with your anatomically superior pythons or kicking the dirt with weak chubby cankles. Either way, you’ve got to work with the hand the devil dealt you.

Life ain’t fair, and so what! It shouldn’t stop you from becoming an absolute beast under the barbell. Hard work usually always beats talent and even Arnie had to overcome less than ideal circumstances.

It’s said that in his hey-day he would burn out training partners like jello tires on a dragster. His unmeasured work ethic set him apart from the rest and overshadowed any “inadequacies” (ed. blasphemy, we know).

Dance with the girl who got you there and get down with your strengths. If you’re naturally skinny so what, work hard to bulk and then shred into a freak. Know you’re an easy gainer? Get f*cking freakishly swole and then diet with the discipline of a Shaolin monk to cut up.

Just don’t forget to turn any weaknesses into assets by training them twice as hard. If your calves suck then give them a little extra love. Tenderize ’em to within an inch of their life and resurrect them from almost death as mutant mass.

There’s only one of you, bro. May as well make the most of it!


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One Comment

  1. one often left unmetioned genetic factor is muscle sparing. some people dont have metabolism or fat gain problems
    but lose muscle really easily and cant lose fat very quickly without serious muscle loss. I am one of those ppl. i cant lose more than 2-2.5lbs of fat per month without also losing muscle. 400 calorie deficit max.

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