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Good Genetics

Q: I’ve been training for four years, and I’m thinking about entering my first bodybuilding competition. Some of the guys at the gym have watched me pose, and they say I have good genetics. What exactly does that mean?

A: That’s a great question because many people in the bodybuilding industry talk about good or bad genetics without ever explaining what it means. Several aspects of a person’s physique reveal genetic potential.

First of all, there’s your basic skeletal structure. The ideal frame for bodybuilding is wide shoulders with a narrow waist and hips. That look is exemplified by bodybuilding champions such as Steve Reeves and Lee Haney. They both inherited a superior bone structure that was exaggerated even more when they developed their physiques.

Your skeletal structure is completely genetic because there’s no exercise you can do to widen your shoulders or narrow your hips. You can, however, emphasize certain areas of your physique to help overcome those structural deficiencies. Bodybuilders like Larry Scott and Rich Gaspari worked hard on developing bigger medial deltoids so they would look wider in the shoulders and narrower in the waist. Rich also cut back on heavy squats because they were making the muscles in his waist bigger and making him look more blocky.

Another genetic predisposition is your ability to add muscle size. Some people are naturally more muscular and bigger. They’re the mesomorphs, and they grow much more readily than the average person. It’s a function of the number and type of muscle fibers a person is born with.

Bodybuilders like Casey Viator, Eddie Robinson and Jay Cutler are pure mesomorphs, and they developed massive size soon after they began training. Interestingly, Casey, Eddie and Jay were all teenage national champions—further evidence that getting big came pretty easily to them.

Another big factor in bodybuilding is your ability to be ripped and fat free. Some individuals have a faster metabolism and can get conditioned much more easily than the average person. That’s very important because being ripped is such a big factor in bodybuilding competitions today.

People who have fast metabolisms may have a more difficult time adding size, but when they eventually do get bigger, they have a huge advantage over their competition because they can get so ripped. Most bodybuilding contests are won by the person who’s the leanest and most conditioned.

If your gym buddies told you that you have good genetics, they may mean that you have a good structure and good shape. If that’s the case, continue working out hard to add more quality size and enhance your natural shape. Work on developing your muscle groups so they’re all in proportion to one another, and make sure you enter the contest in ripped condition. Best of luck.

Editor’s note: John Hansen has won the Mr. Natural Olympia and is a two-time Natural Mr. Universe winner. Check out his Web site at, or send questions or comments to [email protected] or at P.O. Box 3003, Darien, IL 60561. Look for John’s DVD, “Natural Bodybuilding Seminar and Competitions,” along with his book, Natural Bodybuilding, and his training DVD, “Real Muscle,” at his Web site or at Home Gym Warehouse, Listen to John’s new radio show, “Natural Bodybuilding Radio,” at

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