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Genes Influence Ability to Build Muscle

Your genetic makeup influences more than just your hair and eye color. Genes play a major role in your athletic abilities and body composition. Exercise, diet, supplements and lifestyle choices can only take you as far as your genes will allow. We will discuss how your genetic makeup can influence performance in muscle building, sports and physical development.

Somatotype: Body Composition

You may have heard the terms ectomorph, endomorph, or mesomorph used before to describe the builds of individuals. This system of nomenclature, along with corresponding numerical values, was developed by W.H. Sheldon. It is the most widely used somatotype classification system used today.

Sheldon's system uses three basic builds: Endomorph, which is the heavy boned, round shape which has a high distribution of body fat (think George Costanza); Mesomorph, which is the muscular athletic build with moderate body fat (think of the classic male v-shape structure); and Ectomorph, which is the lean, small boned, slight of build kind of look (think of a tall, lean basketball player). However very few people can be classified as being entirely one class. Sheldon realize this and devised a numbering system to help properly classify people into multiple body types. 

Each individual receives a score of 1-7 on each of the three body types. Thus, a somatotype of 171 would be a perfect mesomorph (the first number being endomorphic traits, the second mesomorphic, the third ectomorphic). Likewise, a 711 would be a perfect endomorph, and a 117 would be a perfect ectomorph. Almost everyone should have traits in more than one category. The "perfect" bodybuilder would be a 173, while 475 would be better suited for football, and a basketball player would optimally have a 147. Having scores in multiple body types, for instance the football player's 475, does not mean he has all of the traits of each body type mixed together. Rather, it means he may have the heavy thick build of the Endomorph combined with superior musculature and strength of the Mesomorph, with the above average height of the ectomorph.

How does my somatotype influence my training goals?

Endomorphs: A predominantly endomorphic individual typically has short arms and legs, as well as a large amount of mass on their shorter than normal frame. This hampers their ability to compete in sports requiring high levels of agility or speed. In addition, their propensity to add body fat keeps them from being successful at sports requiring definition and visible muscularity. Sports of pure strength, like power lifting, are perfect for an endomorph. Endomorphs should not be afraid to go the low calorie route as far as dieting is concerned.

Mesomorphs: A primarily mesomorphic individual excels in strength, agility, and speed sports. Their medium structure and height, along with their tendency to gain muscle and strength easily makes them a strong candidate for a top athlete in any sport. Both bulking and cutting diets suit Mesomorphs well.

Ectomorphs: A principally endomorphic individual is long, slender and thin, and therefore power and strength sports are almost totally out of the question. Their slight build also leaves them susceptible to injuries. While they can easily get lean and hard, their lack of musculature severely limits their chances in sports requiring mass. Typically, Ectomorphs dominate endurance sports. High calorie diets are a must for endomorphs in any kind of sport.

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