In the age of Facebook and Instagram motivation, it is not politically correct to talk about limitations. The people who say “This is impossible.” are presented as losers and bitter haters who just want to bring everyone down in the misery pit. This has resulted in the formation of a “positive” crowd living in the clouds. We have transformed into delusional dreamers creating alternate realities where everything is possible. The truth, however, is that there are limitations wherever you look.
Since I have no problem with being the guy who brings the bad news, I am going to present you what it takes to reach your genetic potential as a lifter/bodybuilder/guy who lifts or whatever title you have chosen for yourself in the world of muscle and iron.
I’ve said it many times and will say it again. Most of what we are, we owe to genetics one way or another. Your physical qualities and even character are genetically pre-determined. From the color of your hair to your hometown, everything is genetic and marks your life forever. Nobody asks you what you want. You receive what the calculations of this life machine have prepared for you. Some of the stats are good, others not so much. We are at the mercy of our genetics. If you don’t believe me, just look at things that have happened to you in the past. Look at the things you like and don’t like. Everything is a result of elements that you don’t control. No result is ever just a coincidence or a choice.
Even though genetics is everywhere, its role becomes most apparent when we talk about physical characteristics and limitations. Every aspect of your given physical traits is genetic. Muscle gains do not make an exception in the slightest. There is a natural limit regardless of the way you train and eat.
Maximizing Your Genetics
For a long time, people have been trying to figure out whether the world we live is 100% predetermined. Are we really making conscious decisions affecting our destiny or simply playing the roles of scripts running on a big computer? A good argument can be made that all of this is true. Everything in this world seems trapped in a set of rules that always lead to specific consequences.
The ironic part is that we have to behave like nothing in this world is predetermined in order to move forward. This is the only way to avoid stagnation and reach places where you have never been before. Of course, it’s possible that even those actions are predetermined, but what options do we have? We have to play the game as if we control it. That’s the only way to maximize our genetics.
Going all out. You can’t know unless you try.
The first part of the plan is hard training. You cannot skip this step. To reach the higher limits of your potential, you have to go all out for a while. During this period, you are essentially earning your gains. You can’t receive something for nothing. You have to do the work first and then ask for your salary. Otherwise, you are simply playing the role of a victim or a spoiled kid.
Since in this case we are trying to produce a result in the real world (not the human world where mommy and daddy can help you), you just have to do it. If you don’t, nothing will happen. Not even money can change this.
This period usually lasts up to 3 years. During this time, you have to do two things – lift and never give up. You have to do a routine that’s challenging and follows a progression scheme. The goal is to progress by getting stronger at basic exercises covering the entire body. The most important thing is to remain consistent and do the work.
The good news is that during this period you have a few powerful allies on your side – motivation, energy, and naivety. Those three elements will make your journey easier. You will be like a temp in the corporate world – stupid and underpaid but filled with desire for big things.
Your nutrition will also have to undergo a metamorphosis. The candies have to be replaced with better food choices. You cannot expect your body composition to improve when your most frequent meals are pizza, beer, cake and pop tarts. That can work for the YouTube muscle celebrities who never train without steroids in their system, but as a natural, you cannot eat garbage all the time and complain that you look terrible.
However, if you are fat, just changing your food choices will not do it. You will also have to be in a caloric deficit until you drop the extra fat.
Also, don’t kid yourself that you will just “recomp” a.k.a. lose fat and gain massive amounts of muscle simultaneously. That only happens in the steroid world.
Conversely, if you are a skinny dude, you will have to increase your food intake or at least replace the candy bars with protein rich foods. I am not talking about bulking up with tons of KFC chicken or anything like that. That will simply make you fat or skinny-fat. I am sorry, but I don’t believe in the fairy tales about ectomorphs who lose weight unless they eat 5 000 calories a day. Just eat a little more so that the body can recover. You can’t complain that you are not growing when all you eat is one waffle a day and a bowl of berries.
Exercise selection and programs
You don’t need special exercises, just the basics: bench press, weighted push-ups, weighted dips, squats, front squats, leg press, pull-ups, biceps curls, rows, calf raises, Romanian deadlifts…etc.
Don’t search for a super exercise or a magic program. Find something that seems reasonable to you, follow it for a while and change some variables according to the results. For example, if you don’t like back squats, replace them with front squats and leg presses.
Moreover, don’t focus too much on static gymnastics exercises. Those moves will strengthen the connective tissue of the elbows and shoulders (most gymnastic strength movements are arm and shoulder girdle dependent) but are strength feats rather than mass builders. Static exercises just don’t generate as much muscle. I know that some of you have been brainwashed by the propagators of gymnastic strength training, but trust me – behind the muscular arms of every gymnast, there’s a ton of bent arm dynamic work…and drugs in some cases.
In simple words – weighted pull-ups are a better mass builder than the front lever; weighted dips and push-ups are a better mass builder than the planche. You can do both, of course, but the dynamic exercise is a must.
You have to finish growing first.
Unless your skeleton is fully developed, you can’t be at your genetic potential. For most people, growth stops at 16-18 years of age. I personally stopped growing at 16, but I have seen weed addicts grow taller than me after 20. Your growth spurt will affect the final results.
How long will it take?
Up to 3 years. For some it will be a year, for others, it will be two. 3 years is a safe bet although I have to admit that it may be on the longer side. Usually, by the end of the first 8-10 months of hard progressive training, you will feel the direction of the wind.
Summary of the plan
- Finish growing
- Train for up to 3 years with basic exercises. Be consistent. Get stronger.
- Eat better
They Told Me I Can Keep On Gaining Muscle Forever
A large percentage of the population wrongfully believes that muscle gains are linear and never stop. That’s nonsense logic and shows an inability to understand that life is linear only for short cycles.
Think of it as sharpening a dull knife. At first, every stroke makes it better, but eventually, the knife becomes so sharp that the extra sharpening results in no apparent improvement. This is one of the basic principles of this matrix. Consequently, muscle gains fall under the same law.
The idea that you can become as big as Ronnie Coleman through linear gains is flawed at many levels. One of biggest problems is age. As you grow old, your testosterone drops and joint pain starts. You can’t train the same way forever. All of this affects your ability to build muscle. The old homoerotic guys pretending to be natural on YouTube are on TRT which allows them to make up fairy tales about what it really takes to get big. In reality, however, they are taking drugs. That’s their secret. It’s not push-ups and towel flies.
What are the main factors that determine my genetic limit?
There are four main factors: overall health, bone structure, muscle belly length and body chemistry. People who have long, but thin bones and low testosterone do not carry a lot of muscle mass naturally. At the same time, individuals who have thicker bones and higher testosterone carry more muscle. A guy with 8-inch wrists will naturally have more meat on his forearms than a guy with 6-inch wrists. The thicker the bones, the larger the muscle that wraps around.
Also, longer muscle bellies equal more muscle mass. The longer the muscle, the better.
For more information, I highly recommend my previous article.
Why is “genetic limit” a dirty term in the muscle community?
It’s dirty because of the delusional mindset that reigns supreme on forums and in gyms. People just don’t know that 90% of the muscle guys are on steroids. I was the same way when I started training. I thought that you can build huge muscles naturally if you just train hard. I was convinced that heavy powerlifting work can get me there
I knew that the people in the Olympia are probably taking something, but I tricked myself into believing that I can get naturally regardless. All I had to do was squat, eat and shut up.
I gained a ton of weight – over 40 pounds. People who knew me started to give me weird looks. Some even thought that I had gotten bigger. One of my old skateboarding friends told me that my upper body is massive. Hahaha. The mirror said otherwise. I had gotten as fat as a balloon filled with lard.
The big guys that you see in the muscle community are either fat, on steroids or both. That has created a very unrealistic expectation of the natural limits. When someone tries to question their logic, the horde of phonies and their brainwashed fans gathers and attacks. The guy who criticizes the industry is destroyed by mockery and hateful remarks. The mainstream muscle media stimulates similar behavior because it produces suckers buying powders and magic amino acids. Some forum members even get paid to spread similar information and write bogus reviews of supplements. The deception is deeper than most people think, and guys who talk about genetic limits are not loved in the community. The dream has to be kept alive for as long as possible.
The truth is that the genetic limit is very real. Getting more muscular is not a skill. You can’t brute force this process.
What about strength? Will my gains stop too?
Strength gains will also hit a ceiling after a few years of training. At one point, your investment will become questionable because you won’t be getting any extra in return. Sometimes you will have to train for 10 months just to add 2lbs to a lift. This is how life works. There comes a time when the bucket is full, and you can’t add more water to it.
Luckily, strength gains continue for a little longer than muscular gains. The reason is that true strength comes from the joint – not the muscle. Believe it or not, hypertrophy is not always the preferred adaptation method. First, its expensive and demands more energy. Secondly, the body does not have the hormones to support it for a long period of time. That’s why there’s another solution – adaptation of the connective tissues and the CNS (central nervous system).
The connective tissue adapts to training like muscles do although the process is slower. The tendons and ligaments have poor blood supply and cannot recover as quickly as muscle fibers.
Many people talk about training a muscle every 48 hours to stimulate more growth. That may work for the muscular system, but the joints and CNS need more time.
There are many skinny guys capable of amazing strength feats. This is the result of strong joints and a powerful CNS. That’s the secret behind “wiry strength”.
The CNS is the computer allowing you to do things. In order for your muscles to generate power, they have to receive a signal. The ability to generate strong signals is limited. That’s why you can’t deadlift heavy very often. Regardless of how powerful your CNS is, it’s also at the mercy of your physical capabilities.
I can say without a doubt that after 3-4 years of progressive training, you will be extremely close to your strength potential. I would go as far saying that 70-80% of those gains will be made in the initial 1-2 years of training. The next 10-20% will take up to 2 more years.
To get there, you will have to follow a very intelligent programming and remain as consistent as a well-tuned watched.
I can’t reach the stats that the online calculators are giving me.
That’s normal. According to most calculators, I should have 18-inch arms, 27-inch legs and a 19-inch neck in a shredded condition. All calculators are flawed. They use formulas based on fake naturals and don’t take into account things like your natural body chemistry. All they care about is height and bone thickness. While those are important, there are other factors that matter too. I advise you to stay away from calculators. The machines do not know how big you can get.
Benefits of knowing your limitations
Back in the day, I worked with a girl that was young and ambitious. She lived in a small town close to the big city and had to travel for 90 minutes to get to the office. This obstacle did not stop her from arriving on time and working harder than the rest. At one point, she even rented a small room really close to the office in order to cut her commute short and work late hours. Staying in the office up until 2 a.m. was not uncommon. The logical question here is why? The answer is stupidity and unrealistic assessment of the situation.
She thought she had real future in the firm. Hahaha. I knew this was not the case because I had been in the company for a long time and was well aware of the policy in her department. The boss was hiring college students and simply exploiting them for a few years. Then the poor souls were either replaced or forced to leave due to the accumulated fatigue and frustration. I am not a fortune teller, but I knew what was going to happen – she was going to burn out and eventually quit. It happened. 18 months later she left after another soul-crushing project. All of her extra efforts went down the drain because she failed to see the limitations in front of her. Had she known that there is no future in the company, she wouldn’t have worked so hard.
The same principle is observed in the world of natural bodybuilding. Poor, brainwashed, overly motivated naturals start training like their lives depend on it. Nothing is missed. Every meal has to come into the system at the right time. Going to bed without taking a slowly processed dose of protein is not an option. Training without using the latest growth stimulating workout cannot happen. This results in a tiresome process that takes a lot more than it gives back. What’s the point of working until 2 in the morning when you are not getting paid for it? Can’t it wait until tomorrow?
Knowing your limitations prevents illusions from taking over. You are going to save time, money and energy that can be invested in other activities.
What if I told you that you can look the same and be just as strong without playing the role of a bio-robot eating around the clock and spending an hour in the gym every day?
Of course, the gurus don’t want you to know that because each one of them is selling you something. Their methods are supposed to be the best. That thinking keeps you in Wonderland. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to know what can be accomplished instead of mindlessly banging my head against the wall, hoping that one day the muscle safe will open for me.
Think about the sustainability of this model. For how long can you continue to be a bodybuilding slave? At one point, you will have to give up because your priorities will change. What will happen then? Will you be able to take it? Luckily, you can keep your natty gains without too much drama.
Another hidden benefit of knowing your limitations is that your faith is tested. When the limits are reached, we either quit or keep on trying while lying to ourselves that something different will happen one day. In both cases, we are on the losing side. The winners will be people whose love for lifting evolves. A new meaning has to be found.