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Factors Affecting How Big And Quickly Your Muscles Will Grow

Updated on March 11, 2014

I'm not gaining muscle, why?

Many male (and some female) gym users really want to gain muscle mass. Could you be the next Mr Universe? Or are you destined to stay fit yet a relatively slim build who can't gain muscle? Can you go from skinny to muscle?

The amount of muscle mass and size gains you can expect are determined by your genetics, training program and diet. Genes cannot be altered however can give you an understanding of your strengths and potential weaknesses.

The below risk factors will help you decide whether you have the potential to build muscle and go from skinny to muscled?

1. Genetic muscle fibre mix and muscle growth

Do you seem to excell at certain sports? Are they endurance sports or strength and power sports? This gives you a good idea of what muscle fibre types your muscles consist of. in terms of your mix of Slow Twitch (ST) muscle fribres and Fast Twitch (FT) muscle fibres.

Your genetic predisposition of muscle fibre mix affects your ability to muscle up.

People who have a higher ratio of fast twitch to slow twitch muscle fibres tend to muscle up faster than those with a higher proportion of slow twitch muscle fibres. This puts athletes with a predisposition towards endurance sports at a disadvantage in gaining muscle size.

Fast Twitch muscles have a higher capacity for hypertrophy so if you're a strength and power athlete you will have a potential predisposition towards muscle growth.

Hormone balance and gaining muscle mass

Your degree of muscle gains is greatly affected by your hormonal balance dependant on which hormones are abundant naturally within your body. Anabolic hormones such as growth hormone (GH) and testosterone help you respond positively to strength training regimes and increase muscle mass at rates above average.

Women have dramatically lower levels of testosterone (about one tenth of the amount) and subsequently this explains why women are rarely able to achieve similar gains in muscle size and strength when compared to men without the need for anabolic steroids.

Somatotype and propensity to gain muscle bulk

Your somatotype (Body type: Ectomorph, Endomorph or Mesomorph) hugely dictates your potential for muscle hypertrophy and in many ways your sporting potential.

Ectomorphs with a tall slender frame often have difficulty bulking up and adding muscle size. It is likely that without abuse of illegal substances their body will never be akin to a heavyweight body builder. With the right training however they can add a degree of muscle bulk

Endomorphs with naturally large, stocky frames have a high percentage of body fat and tend to gain muscle relatively easily however will need additional cardiovascular and diet related focus to make those developed muscles visible.

Mesomorphs have the pure symmetry in the physique of broad shoulders, narrow wait and the propensity to gain muscle easily which can ensure they have excellent potential for muscle hypertrophy

It is important to be aware that an individual is rarely solely one single somatotype group classification and will likely have characteristics from two or more groups. Somatotyping is based on the Sheldon classification system.

Want to lift more weight and gain more muscle mass? You genetics are key.
Want to lift more weight and gain more muscle mass? You genetics are key.

Motor units and adding muscle bulk

People often misinterpret that your skeletal muscles are made up of networks of motor units responsible for activating your muscle fibres through motor nerves. People who seem to gain muscle strength and muscle size rapidly often have an above average number of muscle fibres in their motor units which provides a heightened stimulus for muscle growth by generating a more forceful contraction.

Photo Credits

Vector Bodybuilder Image from Vectorportal on Flickr

Barbell from jontunn on Flickr


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    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      You're welcome catalin, glad this was of assistance for you

    • Catalin Stanciu profile image

      Catalin Stanciu 6 years ago from Bucharest

      i was looking for genetics info :d thanks!