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Genetics and Muscle Gains

7309-natQ: I’m Ahmed from Egypt. I’m 16 years old,  and I’ve just started training. My height is 5’8 1/2”, and my weight is 106 pounds. I’ve read that everyone has a specific capacity for gaining lean mass, and the idea seems somewhat persuasive. According to your extensive experience, is that right? And if so, what’s the most accurate way to calculate this? And what’s your advice for reaching my maximum lean weight? There are plenty of different methods for that purpose, and that’s perplexing. Thank you.

A: Yes, I believe that anyone can gain lean mass. How much muscle you add depends on a number of factors, including genetics—number of muscle fibers inherited in each muscle group, bone structure, shape of the individual muscle groups, metabolism—your training program, your nutrition program and your capacity for training hard, as well as persistence and consistency.

Based on your stats, I would guess that you have a fast metabolism and are an ectomorph. Your main goal is to add both muscle and strength. You should do a limited training program to build your size and add bodyweight.

Many people do too much in the beginning (too many exercises, too many sets) and end up burning too many calories to build muscle. I would recommend that you stick with the basic, compound movements—like squats, deadlifts, presses, bench presses and rows—and do only three sets of six to eight reps on each exercise.

Doing a routine that is limited in the amount of exercises and sets will help you conserve your energy and build the greatest amount of strength and mass in the shortest time possible. By focusing on the size-building exercises, you will be putting all your efforts into getting stronger each week. When you can use more weight—more resistance—in the growth rep zone of six to eight, you will be able to build more muscle.

In addition to the training, you will also need to eat more food to feed your muscles and overcome your fast metabolism. I would suggest eating six times a day, every three hours, to feed the muscles constantly and add more calories to your daily diet. Each meal should include a complete protein source—meat, chicken, fish, turkey, milk, eggs, cheese—along with complex carbohydrates like potatoes, rice, oats and whole grains.

The more food you can eat, the bigger you will get. It takes time to build up your appetite and teach your body to accept more food when you’re trying to gain weight and get bigger.

Here is a good training program you can start with to add more muscle and strength. Use it two to three times a week in the beginning, and try to add more weight each week.

Incline situps (warmup) 2 x 20-30

Squats 3 x 10, 8, 8

Stiff-legged deadlifts 3 x 10, 8, 8

Bench presses 3 x 10, 8, 6

Bent-over rows 3 x 10, 8, 6

Clean and presses 3 x 10, 8, 6

Upright rows 3 x 10, 8, 6

Close-grip bench presses 3 x 10, 8, 6

Barbell curls 3 x 10, 8, 6

Calf raises 3 x 12, 10, 8

Editor’s note: John Hansen has won the Mr. Natural Olympia and is a three-time Natural Mr. Universe winner. For information on his exciting new program, The MP6 Cycle Training, check out his Web site at and become a memeber. To attend the Natural Olympia Fitness Getaway, go to Send questions or comments to [email protected]. Look for John’s DVD, “Natural Bodybuilding Seminar and Competitions,” along with his book, Natural Bodybuilding, and his training DVD, “Real Muscle,” as well as his new DVD “Natural Bodybuilding Seminar and Competition” at his Web site or at Home Gym Warehouse,  IM


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