I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to look like David Beckham.  The guy looks great, who doesn’t?  He has the perfect balance of muscle size and definition.  I envy him every time I see him, but I know that there is NO POSSIBLE WAY for me to look like him for a few reasons.  My genetics don’t allow it, I respond differently to exercise than he does, and his dedication to being fit.

Genetic potential

  • Everybody has a maximum strength and muscle fiber size they can attain.  As much as we try, we will never add muscle fibers to our bodies.  Those fibers can grow in size, but they will never increase in number.  Every person, and every muscle within that person’s body is structured differently.  Therefore, genetic potential is different for everyone.
  • Muscle size and strength are not always related.  In the same way, looks don’t have anything to do with strength or performance either.  Some people have huge muscles with less strength than it looks like they should have.  Others might look like they aren’t very strong, but they pack a ton of strength in their smaller muscles.  Height has a lot to do with this.  Someone shorter might have the same amount of muscle as someone taller, but the taller person’s muscles are spread out over a longer muscle bed making them look smaller.
  • Some people are blessed with perfect genetics.  They are the perfect combination of height and muscle fiber composition.  Not only this, but they also have been able to maximize their genetic potential through years of hard work.  David Beckham has made his life being in shape.  Every meal, every sip of water, and every step is done with purpose.  For most of us, a life like that is not possible.  We have jobs that we need to go to, children to take care of, places to be, and things to do that distract us from ourselves, and that is ok!

Response to exercise

  • My muscle size increases dramatically in response to exercise.  Similarly, my muscles also decrease in size very quickly when I take time away from exercise.  I, however, don’t increase or decrease in strength much in response to exercise.  Of course if I take time off I will increase in strength to a point when I return to strength training.  The reason I do not see much in the way of strength gains is because I am close to my genetic potential.  Every person will hit a plateau that they cannot seem to get over as they keep training.  That genetic peak is shown in the graph to the right .  Over time you can get marginally closer and closer but never exceed it.  That is the “plateau” we all eventually hit with consistent training.
  • Similarly, at the beginning of the graph, the y value increases very quickly.  This is similar to the beginning of strength training.  The longer you train, the slower and slower you will improve.  The only way to maximize your genetic potential is to change your life outside of the gym.  Improving your diet will inch you closer to your genetic potential. By no means do I think you need to dedicate your whole life to fitness, but if you want to look like David Beckham you need to work like David Beckham.

What can we do?

  • The best thing you can do is admit that you will probably never look like a professional athlete, model, or celebrity.  You likely cannot afford a personal chef.  There is a good chance you don’t have the time to plan every meal and balance proteins, fats, and carbs for the optimal diet.  I, personally, can’t take time out of my work day to eat six meals a day.  Most of us also don’t have the time to do some sort of physical activity every day.
  • The second thing you can do is look at your own body.  I will never be 8% body fat, but I know I can pack some muscle on my frame.  Maybe you have a low body fat percentage but not much muscle under it.  Each body is different!  The trick is to know what your body is capable of and make the best of it!

If you want any help reaching your genetic potential or feel like you have hit your plateau come join us for a free introductory session!


Written by Tim Jerabek