The collective

Technique, hard work, & genetics

Alright Collectivites, it is time again for another session of ramblings. Before I get into this one just let me quantify that I am by no means an expert or anything...most of what I babble about is based off what I see, hear, read, and have experienced for myself. So...with that disclaimer in place let's get onto the topic at hand, eh? 


Let's start off with this first, since many people hold this to be the utmost limit on how good (i.e. relatively speaking) that one can get in their athletic endeavors. I know this was brought up on the Strength List at one time and was a pretty interesting topic. I asked a few people who are pretty knowledgeable and have been around for a long time what they thought about "Genetics" etc. and will show you their responses a little further down. First, I get to spout off my own opinions for a few moments. ;-) Perks of being the author ya' know. Anyway, I guess I am of the mind that genetics play a role. I think they set the stage for where you are going to start and where you can go with some effort. I do not believe that one's upper potential is limited by genetics...rather, I am of the mind that one's upper potential is limited by the amount of desire and work they are willing to put into their journey. I have known a few guys who were absolutely blessed with genetics for sports. They were just head and shoulders above everyone else when we started. Ya' know what though...they peaked early and then they got left behind. I saw this in football a great deal...guys who were kick ass and take names early in HS and College then fizzled. The reason was quite simply that they were pretty lazy. They were better than most everyone else and they got accustomed to that, so they wouldn't work nearly as hard as the other guys (nor would they try to continue to learn and perfect themselves) and before you know it...they weren't better anymore. They hadn't ever built the work ethic it takes to get to the elite levels of sports. Regardless of what your genetic potential get to play with the best you have to work hard...very, very hard. 

Now granted, physical make up can hinder or help your lifts (regarding PL and such) but, I do not believe that someone who has a Bencher build can't ever achieve a world class Deadlift. It will take a lot longer and it will also require a greater degree of strength in some areas to compensate but, I think you can do it. Just takes some time and determination. I also don't think that the composition of fast and slow twitch is a limiting factor either. After all, your body (in its infinite wisdom) has the ability to adapt to the stresses put on it. So, if you are composed mainly of slow twitch fiber in your musculature you are at a can still develop the fast twitch that you have though. I don't know if you can increase the amount of muscle fibers or not (that is a little past my technical learning) but, I do know that you can make the ones you have stronger and that is all that matters since all you really need is a chance. I hear terms like "hardgainer" and others bandied about but, I don't really believe in that. I think you are a "hardgainer" if you don't take the time to learn yourself and the proper way to train your body. Everyone will react differently and it takes a lot of work to see success. Is it genetics that hold you back or is it a lack of effort? Effort can come in a lot of different forms...gym effort is only one piece of the whole equation.

Okay, let's hear what some of the more worldly have to say on the subject.

Rickey Dale Crain

first..i would like to divide it up into observable genetics/advantages i.e. limb length/leverages etc....take a look at some of the most prolific by one....

lamar gant....obvious advantage in long arms for deadlift....short back for deadlift and to get a huge arch and has short lower arms which makes him a pretty good bencher (able to overcome the total length of the arm).....

mike bridges.....short arms (lower especially) and big chest..good on bench...short upper thigh good for squat......and deadlift.....short arms hurt him some on deadlift...

ed coan......short back and long arms and big hands...great for deadlift......and good leverage for squat....

dan apparent speciality advantages....

i think i fit in the same category as dan.......

as far a genetics in being naturally strong and/or able to build muscle at a faster rate...look at the good/great lifters and see when they hit the national/world scene in length of time after starting serious training....

walter/lamar/eddy/mike came on strong with just a few years of training......people like dan and i lifted many years before breaking records......give me a call and i can clarify some of sister is aprime example of genetics......trained 2 years and won the 100 meters at the high state championships...quit and started powerlifitng and within a few years had broken every world record in the 114/123/132 lb class then quit......kinda of like a few other lifters....

Dr. Michael Hartle

I believe that genetics does help one to be a good athlete, but that perservance and determination and hard, consistent training will always win over genetics. Now, take someone who is gifted genetically and have them do all the aforementioned items, and they will be superior. However, more times than not, usually the genetically gifted ones falter because of lack of training, motivation (they can do it no problem because they are gifted....) whereas the less gifted know they have to work hard because that is the only way they will be able to accomplish their goals. Hard work always pays off!!! Hope this helps. Not very scientific, but from my experience working with athletes/patients. 

~BIG~ John Binkowski

Genetics definitely play a role in any type of athletic endeavour.

In my field, I work with everyone from a 4'6", 95 lb. gymnast to a 7'0" men's basketball player. How comfortable is each person lifting weights? It usually varies because of one simple factor: Are they genetically pre-disposed to do this? They are gifted when it comes to their sport but is lifting weights easy for them? It's usally a 50-50 proposition.

In Powerlifting, genetics is definitely attributeable to the success, or lack of, for many lifters. For myself, squatting and benching are very easy because of my natural levers. However, when you wear pants with a 30" inseam and dress shirts with 35" sleeves but must wear a tall size because you are long-torsoed, deadlifting usually is an adventure in torture. Your natural leverages and body type can help you or hinder you.

Also, look at your parents. Generally, if there is/was some level of athleticism; regardless of genetics, you are probably ahead of the game in athletic competition.

Pat McGettigan

This is something that could be debated in many sports. I am not sure if you can take a side on this. I believe genetics do play a big part in how strong you can be, but so does hard work and determination. I think you have to have both to be the best of the best. But, I do feel that there are many people out there with great genetics who will not achieve the status of someone with average genetics and tremendous work ethic. I have seen it thousands of times in college football, the typical high school blue chipper who is lazy and comes to college thinking he is a god. In the end he probably may never play a down of football or he gets by on his talent and does not make it to the next level because he did not want to go the extra mile. I guess I would have to say that I fall in the average genetics category and get by on a lot of sweat. Most people that excel in powerlifting are much shorter than me. When it comes down to it you have to believe in yourself and work to do the best you can do with what God gave you.

By no means all inclusive but, it looks like a similar trend in the basics of thought here (does that mean I have a "great" mind?). Determination and hard work seem to be the underlying factors more so than what you were born with. I guess it kind of goes along with some old adages about potential and not meaning a squirt if you don't do anything with it. Which, based on my experiences is what I see a lot of gifted people do with their athletic gifts...they ride it until things get tough then they hang up their hats. For the record too...I am not saying that all (or even most) genetically gifted athletes are lazy either!! Many of the best in the world fall into the gifted category but, they had/have the work ethic to match their physical gifts as well (that is why they are the best).


Okay, this may well be one of the most important aspects of training (in my mind anyway) that you can have. I like to refer to it as "PASSION" for the sport. It isn't only relegated to what you do in the gym though. I think that this is where most people get stuck...they DO work hard in the gym but, they leave it all there. You need to work just as hard outside as in. This means hard work on your eating (right foods, enough food, not junk food, etc), getting sufficient rest (hard to do these days), and KNOWLEDGE!! Never believe that you have learned everything you need to haven't. I doubt that Eddy Coan, Rickey Dale Crain, Fred Hatfiled, or Louie Simmons who have been around for a loooong time would say they know everything. I concede they know a great deal but, not all there is to know. I would wager money that part of what made them, and a great many others so good was that they continued to learn and seek more knowledge. You may have your body figured out now but, in 6 months once you gain a bunch of strength and size your weak areas are different and your body is basically remade. Time to start all over again...that is the beauty of it, you never reach a limit since there is ~always~ more weight. 

I think that you need to develop a passion for the almost has to be a part of who you are. I don't mean to say that it all there is in life...I would never put my lifting before my family but, lifting is not just what I IS a part of who I am and has helped to shape me into the person I am today. If you aren't passionate about it then you won't go as far as you could...I think it is that cut and dry. Basically, the only limitations to how strong you can get are what you believe in your mind. Once you set a limit then you have just made ~your~ limit. Do not look at it in limits...look at it terms of how far can I go today, and never let today be the last day. Another aspect of needing that passion is that as you get stronger and as the weight gets gets harder and harder to continue. You will ache, your recovery is taxed, you will have to concede some other things in your life to accommodate your hobby. If you don't then you will hit a limit, if you do then you keep going. Unless that fire in your belly keeps burning then you only go so far. You have to have that desire to keep going. Regardless of how "hard" it gets to keep going...there is a way and if you want it bad enough (are passionate) then you will find a way. It is too easy in todays society to quit (I don't think it carries the public stigma that it used to). I don't think that the emphasis is put on hard work and seeing things though like they used to be. I don't think that as many of our younger generation appreciate the kind of work that their, yours, and my parents and grandparents did just to earn a living. I think this is a carryover to part of the reason why some of the lifting in the US has declined (in some respects) to years past. There are other factors but, the demographic of people raised with those kinds of "iron will" work ethics is much smaller now than it was 20+ years ago. Face it, life is much easier now than it was then and money is much more prevalent. The ability to make yourself do the things that you don't want to do, or have to do is pretty rare and isn't one that is cultivated easily. The Marines taught me that...they call it discipline. It is easy to is hard to go on. Who do you want standing next to you? Do you want to know in your heart, deep in the places you don't like to talk about that the guy next to you wouldn't trust you to stand next to him? I don't think many people that would accept that...not truly. So my question is this...why hold yourself to any lower of a standard in ~anything~ that you do? Granted, Powerlifting is not the same as life and death combat BUT, the years of lifting that I had prior to my service and the sports I played taught me how to push myself. I approach my training in the same philosophy I would anything else...I will do the best I can, and then a little extra. You'll be surprised at how many things this passion and hard work will carry over too as well. Like I said above...make it a part of who you are. The activity is is the drive and effort that you can generate that will carry you through.

Okay, I got a little tangential on that section. Point of it is...develop your drive and work ethic in this arena and it will benefit you in all aspects of your life. If you can make yourself work like a dog to get stronger than washing the dishes on Friday at 11:30pm will be a snap! ;-) Joking aside, a co-worker of mine is very heavy into internal martial arts. We talk training on a daily basis...the paths are so different but, the similarity on where we want to be is strikingly similar. A state of mental, physical, and spiritual harmony where you are the best you can be. Develop them all and you can't be whatever you decide to do. Anyway, I am going off the deep end here...let's move on before I start freaking people out! ;-)


Alright, I think for those of you who have read my stuff (ramblings?) before you know I am big on technique. Folks, let me put it straight my opinion, this will get you farther than anything else you can do. Face it, there are mechanical interactions that are optimal...your bodies movement is not devoid of being included in this. Different structures and builds will need different applications but, there are still optimal pathways to perform certain motions with your bodies levers. The trick is to finding those pathways with your bodies levers. I think that each of the three main Powerlifts are governed by some pretty similar fundamentals for every build but, then you need to tweak and play until you find your own individual distinctiveness that will allow YOU to optimally perform them. Sometimes this means taking a step or two back in weight...reign in your ego for a bit and do it right! It will take you further and this will also prep you for the trials ahead. Mentally you need to be honest with yourself and you need to be your own harshest critic. If others are criticizing your lifts then before you get defensive, maybe you need to take a hard look at your lifts and see if there is some merit to their comments (~most~ PL'ers are not out to run you down...they are offering criticisms to be constructive...most of the time)? I strive to lift in a way that leaves no doubt in anyone's mind...most importantly in my own (I try to be my harshest critic and judge...don't plan on giving that up easily either <g>). This also means that you need to do a lot of work in and out of the gym. "Training" is just that...learn while you lift. Be aware of what you are doing and how it feels...notice what slight changes in foot placement, leg rotation, stance, grip width, timings etc. will do to your lifts. You have to be aware of yourself and surrounding while you train. After all you are "training" yourself for the competition...that is when you go to a "white" mental state and just be. Learn outside the gym and then apply, try, practice, tweak, etc. until the cows come home. That is the only way that you can get it right. It is a process of elimination and you have to try so many things it will make your mind swim BUT, you are going to get there (some sooner than others...I fall into the others category <g>). This sport is not for the impatient. It is not for those who look for the easy way out or want something for nothing...if that is what you are in this for then go away. May sound harsh but, truth is I don't want to see the sport ever get demeaned for that. It is about personal achievement and getting it through tremendous amounts of work. That is what makes it so gratifying when you do achieve a EARNED it! 

I know Louie has said that some people spend too much time on the internet...well, I agree in some respects. There are some less than pleasant folks around but, I disagree that you shouldn't spend a lot of time here. There is a wealth of knowledge available at your fingertips and the feedback is instant. I get the best tips from some post, article, video clip etc. that I didn't think would yield me anything. It is out there and sometimes it just takes a little push in a certain direction to make things click. It may spark an idea that you give whirl in the gym and that can lead to major imporvements. Point is, you got to keep tweaking and looking to perfect your technique. I know some people who are flat out stronger than I am. My advantage...I am a better technician. I get really upset at myself if I do a lift "wrong", the result is I tend to do most of them "right" (for my set of levers anyway). I learned this lesson the hard way...I think you can go a certain way on "grunt" and brute strength. After a point though, something has to give, for me it was a disc in my back...your results may vary. When you apply your bodies levers in the optimal orientations it can do some amazing things, couple that with some outrageous muscular development and you are destined to be playing with the best. 

Like anything in much you put into it will determine how much you are going to get out of it. Cover the whole spectrum of the game and you can't go wrong. Just don't let yourself get caught up in thinking that the game is single faceted. It isn' have too many factors to play with to leave your success resting solely on your gym work. Thinking that you can just go into the gym and lift is an ineffective methodology as well. Keep your brain working, keep your hearts desire burning and then go lift. It will take you further and you will be amazed at the things you can accomplish. 

I know I got a little "out there" in some areas and maybe even got a little metaphysical...sorry. I just think that there are so many factors that can help it is a shame to not tap them. As always, please feel free to e-mail me with questions, comments, rants, whatever. This is my passion and I love to talk with it. 

*NOTICE* If you have sent me an e-mail lately and I haven't responded it is most likely due to a virus I contracted on my system. I had to purge my inbox so I lost a ton of mail. Sorry for any inconvenience.

-wade of BORG