T Nation

Genetic Set Points?

I started lifting weights 13 years ago with the dream of one day being a competitive bodybuilder. Not a pro, of course. But I have always wanted to get onstage and make a repectable showing at a local contest.

I am 31 now. I have added 35 pounds of muscle. But over the last five years, my gains have ground to a halt. I have been suffering new injuries and strains seemingly everytime I step in the gym. No amount of calories or intensity seems to add any more muscle.

My questions are simple. Is there a genetic set point at which it is simply impossible to gain any more muscle naturally? And if there is, is it feasible that I have hit it at 5’10" and only 165 pounds? That is the bodyweight I have been banging my head against for the last five years. And it utterly sucks to think I may never add the extra 20 pounds of muscle I need to reach my goal of stepping onstage.

If anyone has any questions about the eating and workout programs I have tried, I will be glad to answer. But, please, no newbie advice like “eat more” or “deadlift.” Thanks for your replies…

I think posting your workout plan and at least how many calories your taking in and P/C/F percentages would be a good idea.

Honestly I’ve never met anyone your size who has reached there genetic limit, and I’m sure many others are at least a little skeptical.

[quote]Rocket Lax wrote:
No amount of calories or intensity seems to add any more muscle.
[/quote]

What is added if you increase calories? Seriously, are you saying increasing calories results in nothing?

You probably need to give more attention to your injury situation. If you are hurt, your body isn’t going to grow.

Do you keep a food log? training log?

[quote]Soco wrote:
You probably need to give more attention to your injury situation. If you are hurt, your body isn’t going to grow.

[/quote]

Also, if you injure yourself every time you walk in the gym, you are training wrong and need to learn proper technique. Injuries aren’t normal.

OK, since you all asked, here is what I am eating on a training day, when I eat 8 meals. On non-training days, I eat 7.

7:30a Omelet with three eggs, mushrooms and cheese, oatmeal with 2% milk and berries, and a banana.

9:30a Two scoops of Grow! mixed with 5g of glutamine.

11:30a Two chicken breasts, one cup cooked rice, one bowl of yogurt, one apple.

Noon Workout

1:30p One serving Surge mixed with 5g creatine.

2:30p Roast beef sub with double the meat and veggies, one banana

4:30p One Grow! bar. (Just got these and they are pretty tasty).

7:30p One chicken breast, three pieces of bread with butter, tomatoes, broccoli.

11:00p One bowl of cottage cheese, carrots, fish oil tabs.

Prof X, I am glad you asked that question. When I add calories, I get fat. A couple years ago, in utter desperation, I added about 1,000 cal. a day, even dispersed between carbs, protein and fat. And I got up to 183. But when I got my bodyfat tested, I had gone up to 17 percent bodyfat. It was a gain of like, three pounds of muscle to 15 pounds of fat. And on my frame, it looked utterly horrible.

Thank you for the replies so far.

[quote]Rocket Lax wrote:
Prof X, I am glad you asked that question. When I add calories, I get fat. A couple years ago, in utter desperation, I added about 1,000 cal. a day, even dispersed between carbs, protein and fat. And I got up to 183. But when I got my bodyfat tested, I had gone up to 17 percent bodyfat. It was a gain of like, three pounds of muscle to 15 pounds of fat. And on my frame, it looked utterly horrible.

Thank you for the replies so far.[/quote]

Then why not try 500 cals? The point is, you seem to be giving up on being able to build muscle simply because you ate too much one time and gained fat because of it. Instead of trying again but eating less, you seem to be under the impression that you can’t gain any muscle at all.

Also, what method was used for body fat testing? These are not always accurate, even if taken with calipers. However, those Tanita scales have to be the worst machines available to a bodybuilder.

[quote]Rocket Lax wrote:
But over the last five years, my gains have ground to a halt. I have been suffering new injuries and strains seemingly everytime I step in the gym. [/quote]

Sounds to me like you may be overtraining. Tell us about your training regime.

[quote]Rocket Lax wrote:
A couple years ago, in utter desperation, I added about 1,000 cal. a day, even dispersed between carbs, protein and fat. And I got up to 183. But when I got my bodyfat tested, I had gone up to 17 percent bodyfat. It was a gain of like, three pounds of muscle to 15 pounds of fat. And on my frame, it looked utterly horrible.
[/quote]

how you add those 1000 cal.? are u adding it all at once then doing it everyday afterwards?

i think Dr. John Berardi’s “Massive Eating Reloaded” may give you some idea how you should add those 1000 cal.

every 2 weeks, analysis your progress,
then add 250cal per day for next 2 weeks if you want to gain mass; then repeat doing this…

not just suddently add 1000 cal per day…his approach should help you gain mass without gaining too much bodyfat…

may be you should look at his article:

Massive Eating Reloaded I:
http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=459429

Massive Eating Reloaded II:
http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=459431

What about your test levels? You mentioned being 35, for some men this is a time of low test levels which is what you may be describing. It’s worth looking into.

What about your training program??? Have you tried working body-parts more frequently? And by tried I mean sticked wirt that approach (like ABBH) for at least 6 months.

Also, you could be chronically overtrained. Have you noticed a disturbance in your sleeping habits or involountary muscle twitching? Maybe you need to lower your intensity and/or frequency for a while.

Its bull shit…you can get bigger you just need to change some of the stuff you are doing. Maybe you could “try” to get more sleep or try some restorative measures. Also if your trainging is “less than optimaly organised” that needs some attention. Aslo read the massive eating articals those will help you out a lot.
Good luck
Will42

5’10" and 165 is not your genetic limit. Its all about the diet it really is… as obvious by the fact you “bulked up” at one point to 180-something. I think you are probably very concerned about how lean you are and start freaking out when you can’t see the ole abs. Plus you mention your diet, but how often do you skip one of those meals and go out for a cheat meal? And it is hard to get the intensity up, always getting injuries means your form is not great and/or you are trying to lift to much weight.

Post workout you have some Surge then 1 hour later a Sub ?? Is it from Subway?? How bout instead, 1 hour after the workout down a couple of ounces of whole wheat pasta and 1 pound of 96% lean ground beef. Skip that meager chicken breast and eat a whole chicken … get a little primal. I also second the question on sleep. Get at least 7 hours … not growing - up it to 8, still not enough, screw your TV programs and get 9 or 10 hours of sleep.

The reason I say all this is I used to be in a similar situation. Once I got serious about sleep and eating I just starting breaking through what I thought were my “limits”.

Think of it this way… you don’t build size/strength, you “cultivate” it.

It took you 13 yrs to gain 35 lbs, and it just might take another 13 yrs to gain another 35.

I was 5’11" @ 165 when I graduated high school in 1985. I am 230 now, and the weight gain has been pretty steady except for one year (98-99) where I went from 195 to 215. I hit on something that year that just worked like crazy. I was also overseas away from family responsibilities so when I wasn’t working or lifting, I was sleeping.

I turn 39 this year and I have recently hit PRs in the squat, bench, and DL. My squat is still pretty lame (375) but my bench (345) and DL (440) are getting to be respectable.

Genetic potential is out there somewhere, but I know I am not yet approaching mine. I suspect that you are not yet apporaching yours either.

LA

Wow, that’s a lot of responses. Thanks, guys. Let me address some of the questions you all asked.

First, the reason I didn’t post a training program is because I have given so many of them a chance. And by a chance, I mean a year or so of real dedication. I started with the typical Flex-style training. Since then I have tried Heavy Duty (Mike Mentzer), 20-rep (Stuart McRobert) squatting, powerlifting (my coach was a national masters champ), olympic lifting (same coach), ABBH, EDT, and blood-volume. It sounds like I switch things around a lot, but remember these are spread over 13 years. (I posted my results for EDT and ABBH on this forum a few months ago.)

I appreciate the concern about my injuries. If you look at my past posts, you’ll see that I have developed chostchondritis, tendinitis, and a shoulder injury. Plus I get strains in my TVA and left bicep with amazing frequency. Yes, this hampers my intensity at times. But I do all the assistance lifts (rotator cuffs, inner abs, and so on). And my form is good. I’m not sure exactly why I keep getting hurt.

While I am sure the “screw your TV shows” post was well-intentioned, I rarely watch TV except for The Simpsons. I always strive for 8 hours of sleep a night. (Except during '98 and '99, when I was in grad school and slept, um, well, I didn’t sleep much.)

Someone asked about cheat meals. Yeah, I often eat a burger, a pizza, wings or whatever. But, per Berardi’s “displacement,” these meals always are added into my diet plan. (So it’s not like a pizza replaces a chicken breast - I’ll just eat them both.)

I want to make it clear - I am NOT giving up. But remember I am not a newbie who is throwing up his hands after six months of training. Maybe I haven’t been perfect, but I have been eating a high-calorie, high-protein diet and training for 13 years and I am starting to get a bit frustrated. I can’t think of a better place to turn for advice and encouragement than to T-Nation.

Three questions I forgot to answer.

Prof X, usually use calipers to test bodyfat, but the method used on me when i got my 17% reading was electrical impedence.

Monster Wong (I feel weird just typing that name!), thanks for posting those links. I will re-read the articles.

Lothos, I am already packing a few meals with me to work every day. I noticed there is a sub shop between my gym and my office that uses organic meats and whole wheat breads. So i often (not always) get a sandwich there as I head back to the office after my workout. I figured there isn’t that much difference. But maybe you’re right.

The point I was trying to make is what you are doing now obviously is not working for you so time to switch it up. By that I mean the following: You say you strive for 8 hours a sleep, up it to 9. Maybe you have a fast metabolism, so you need to eat more (like I said instead of 1 single chicken breasts w/ 3 slices of bread and veggies for dinner eat a whole chicken). You want to get really big, acccept the fact that you will gain some fat and that fat will have to be shed at a later date. Finally you say you do have pizza, burgers, wings and the like. Some folks can get away with that and be just fine. Others (like me) just go to hell fast if I have very little junk food. Maybe try 10 - 12 weeks of no junk food and see what that does. Finally maybe you should try some radically different workouts. Go out and push your car around a parking lot, flip tires, maybe do some strongman stuff.

I was not saying your not dedicated, hard working, or was going to give up. What I am trying to say is obviously you have hit a wall and its maybe time to try something different. I wish you the best of luck and hope you can get to where you want to go.

[quote]Rocket Lax wrote:
Three questions I forgot to answer.

Prof X, usually use calipers to test bodyfat, but the method used on me when i got my 17% reading was electrical impedence.[/quote]

I figured it was which means you were probably NOT 17%. That means much of your talk has been for no reason and you can gain muscle like everyone else. You simply haven’t been eating enough and need to work on your form and structure of your routine. You may not need to increase calories to 1,000 extra a day, but the surplus is necessary.

Rocket Lax,

Some training suggestions from a guy with much less expirience than yourself:

  1. Dual-factor program. Try training in loading/unloading periods. Somebody posted a dual factor program from Glenn Pendlay in the latest Dan John article. Also, I remember CT writing about blocks of training on the old forums so I’ll try to find that as well.

  2. Specialization. You could focus on a big body part (legs, back) or a big lift (DL, Squat, Bench) for a while and work other stuff at maintenance level.

There’s a specialization program for posterior chain from Don Alessi which should give you ideas. As far as I remember it’s also organized using loading/unloading scheme.

Hope this helps.

A couple of other things worth raising:

First, how often do you train, and how many work sets do you do each session? Coach King would probably say that if the latter is more than around 10, you are likely to be overtraining for somebody your age.

Second, what type of muscle fiber do you have predominant? This can influence not only your optimum rep/set ranges but also your recovery times. Dr Squat has an article on his web site discussing these issues, as well as how to analyze what type muscle you have. (Remember that this may be different for different muscles.) I quess there is likely to be something about it here also.

Finally (you know what I’m going to say), muscle doesn’t grow in the gym, only in the kitchen.