Are you at the mercy of your genetics?

I was at the gym the other day and I noticed a new member coming in for a workout. He was a younger guy, probably mid 20’s with a very small, dare I say underdeveloped upper body…but massive calves…like freakishly large calves. He was standing in front of a tall window so the light was shining from behind him which highlighted his shape and make the imbalance between his upper and lower body look even worse.


It takes time in the gym to build a proportioned physique, none of us are born that way.

I’ll be the first person to admit that calf size is highly influenced by genetics as I am the opposite of this guy. I don’t have much calf muscle at all and whatever calf muscle I do have had to be built in the gym with 1000’s of monotonous calf raises. And there is nothing I can do about it. It’s just the genetic hand I’ve been dealt.

And looking at this guy makes me think he’s been dealt a genetic hand that includes massive calves. In fact they’re so big it makes his upper body look rather small and disproportionate. For starters this guy should never do any calf work for the rest of his life but he definitely needs to start putting some time in on his upper body if he ever wants to have a balanced, and proportioned physique.

The point of this little story is to get you to realize that we all have a genetic starting point that is unique to our body. Some of us have been given a head start on calves, or chest, or arms, or traps (traps are what I got when they were handing out ‘extra muscle’ at birth).

For some muscle groups you’ll just have to do more work than everyone else in the gym just to make that muscle group look proportioned to your body. For other muscle groups you may not have to ever train them at all.

Once you’ve got your body fat % low enough to see decent muscle definition all over your body you will have no trouble identifying your strong areas and the areas that need more work.

Your genetically predetermined shape is not something you must live with forever. You can change it if you apply the right training and effort in the right areas. The simplest way to think of this is the following:

Direct more of your effort in the gym and lifting weight towards the muscle groups that are weaker until they’re become more proportioned and balanced compared to your stronger and better developed muscle groups.

As your body becomes more balanced and proportioned you can shift your focus to bringing all muscle groups up uniformly.

In fact you could even say that most people are not genetically perfectly proportioned and that we all have some sort of genetic imbalance or asymmetry to our predetermined muscle size that we need to work on.

The good news is that you are not at the mercy of your genetic shape if you don’t want to be. You can always train yourself towards better overall proportions.

The concept of building a proportioned physique should be your goal if you’re working out to improve the look and shape of your body.

Working with your genetic strengths and weaknesses in mind will help you direct your effort towards the most efficient use of your time in the gym and get you to that proportioned physique in the shortest period of time.