Saturday, October 1, 2011

Genetics and the Super-Human Athlete

Draft Day, Superior genetics!
Do you ever wonder how there are some athletes that are a step above all the rest, physically they're men among boys.  A few come to mind: Dick Butkus, Adrian Peterson, Bo Jackson.  Genetics play a huge role in the athletic ability of an athlete.  That's not to say someone with poor genetics won't be a good at athletics because we can't measure an athlete's attitude and passion for their sport. 

I want to shed some light on how genetics contribute to athletic ability because it relates to how you should workout.  To define genetics we look at how the body was built structurally.  This is determined from birth and probably well before then by your family tree.  For determining athletic ability genetics relates to:
  1. Length of muscles relative to your bones
  2. The angle of insertion points of the muscles
  3. Length of connective tissues
  4. Your brain/central nervous systems (CNS) ability to activate a large percentage of your muscles.
Everyone is truly built unique and different from another.  Here's an example to show the 4 factors above in a real world perspective as it relates to genetics of an athlete:

There are 3 football players that are  6'3" 265lbs.  Each one of them has different lengths of muscles relative to bones, insertion points of muscles, and length of connective tissue.   From a power production point of view these factors are huge because this heavily contributes to leverage.  To complicate things further, genetics are different in each muscle group of the body.  There may be an athlete that has great genetics in the legs but not in the arms etc.  There's nothing you can do about these factors, they are all genetic in nature.

In addition to the first 3 factors there's the 4th factor that each person has a different ability to activate muscles.  One person may be able to activate 40% of his muscles, another may be at 25%, and one at 30%.  There is literally infinite combinations of these 4 factors and they are all determined by your genes, it's the luck of the draw.  How it relates to weight training is that most of today's so called explosive training, truck tire training, circus ball training etc. is focused on improving something that's determined by genetics and there's nothing you can do about it in the first place.  No matter what type of tire flipping-explosive power cleaning program a 25%'er does, they will never ever become a 40%'er.  Don't waste your time!  Give me a 25%'er and I'll train him my way and put him up against the tire flipping 40%'er any day of the week.  Now if you were to get the 40%'er to train the way I describe and you'll have a beast on your hands!  

What can be done is to weight train in a high intensity fashion to improve your strength/size as quickly as possible.  This is done by weight lifting very hard, for a brief amount of time, and not that often.  Choose 8-10 of the hardest exercises: squats, leg presses, standing overhead presses, pull ups, rows, dips, bench press, stiff legged dead lifts.  Do 2 sets each as hard as you can with good form, until you can't do anymore, then rest a day, and next time you workout try and beat every exercise in weight/reps.  If you have access to good exercise machines such as Nautilus, Medx, or Free Motion use those instead of free weights because you'll get more results in a faster amount of time.

Combine a person with great genetics, proper weight training as described, skill training for their position/sport, and who plays with attitude and you will have a super-human athlete.  A virtual man-beast who couldn't be stopped!

1 comment:

  1. How does 'heart' factor into the equation ? I always admire athletes like Dick Butkus and Michael Jordan, Muhammed Ali, etc... because it seems they were always able to find a little extra strength and energy when the game or match was on the line. I mean like mental strength I guess, do you think some athletes are able to just push their bodies a little harder than others or is it a matter of conditioning ?