As we dive into this week's discussion on genetics please don't confuse what limits genetics may have on our bodies, versus laziness or hard work and dedication. 

Genetics can have a big role into what we will look like as we grow up, mature, get older, whatever you want to call it. Think back to some of the pictures of you when you were in elementary school, jr. high, high school, your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and this is where I get off the aging train, but many of you could keep going. As you’re thinking back, also think of your mom, dad, grandpa, and grandma. What were their body types? Have you seen some of the same traits in your body? Wide hips, narrow shoulders, heavy midsection, small calves, big forearms, etc... There are body types for men and women. We simply cannot deny genetics; however, can we counteract or balance some of these so-called genetic traits? Google “Body Transformations” sometime. Take 15 minutes - if you’re not at work - to see what people have done to make these transformations. I believe genetics have some say in what our body looks like, but it also comes down to what we are willing to do to shape our bodies. We have talked about many ideas in the past months to help make some simple changes in our lifestyles that could help combat where our bodies are programmed to store fat. 

So when we talk genetics DON’T let it stop you from trying to make your desired changes. I, personally, have never had big, muscular legs. Truth be told looking back at my relatives I can’t think of anyone who has large, muscular legs. The majority of the hobbies and work/workouts I have done over the years have been upper-body related. And, quite honestly, if I have the chance to skip leg day, I would have. I have wider shoulders, the average man belly--we shall talk more on this in a minute--and I have longer arms which make the muscle groups in my arms a little longer, thus making gaining size more challenging (but not impossible). If we have the so-called “weaker body areas” due to genetics, we need to make sure we are spending adequate time on those areas. To help develop and balance these muscle groups out with the rest of your body will depend on what you are willing to do. Ultimately, it all comes back to your dedication towards meeting your goals. 

Let’s talk about my challenges, genetically and otherwise, so you get a better understanding of what your challenges may be. You may even find we have some of the same issues...and aches and pains. 

Legs: My legs are long, lean and, muscular - but certainly not big. I carry very little fat on my legs. This would be awesome if I was a female and wore fashionable shorts and dresses. I know this because I once had an ex-girlfriend say, “I wish I had your legs”. Real confidence booster that was. So how do I fix that problem? Easy--wear longer shorts. 

But in all seriousness, it is a problem area for me. Especially when I compound this with my lower back issues that stem from two previous injuries. About 20 years ago I fell off a roof when I was roofing and landed on my tool belt and hammer. As a result, I snapped off a floater rib and laid on the floor at my house for days recovering. Years after that, I was training for ground defense in law enforcement when I injured my back a second time. Another officer took me to the ground, and I landed on my collapsible baton that was on my duty belt and right over my spine. With my body weight and his, we landed putting all that force on my spine. (FYI never carry anything over the spine on a belt). Needless to say, since those injuries and the compressed discs, it has been very difficult and very painful to do anything that puts downward pressure on my spine. Squats, deadlifts, standing calf raises, hack squats and even daily things like carrying heavy items on my shoulders will take me out of commission for days and is extremely painful. All these motions are critical to help out size on the legs. As a result, I have had to find alternate ways to work the legs now while stabilizing my lower back. Seated leg press, seated leg extension, lying hamstring curls, seated hamstring curls, seated leg press and a lot of lower back stretching are moves I can do without causing so much distress for my back. Is lower back pain an issue for anyone else?  

Shoulders: My shoulders are wide enough to make buying dress shirts a pain. Well, that and a 19” neck doesn’t help. Seriously that cut of shirt makes it look like your wearing a curtain with a neck in it. With now recovering from my 3rd shoulder surgery, many overhead movements are limiting and sometimes painful. So with the help from Michelle my Physical Therapist at Spooner Physical Therapy, she has helped me learn specific movements to strengthen the smaller but very important muscle groups in my shoulder. I have also begun to use these movements on my non-surgery shoulder so to help prevent weakness in those critical small muscle groups. Sometimes we need to search out the expert advice of others to help us become better at what we do. Can anyone relate to these types of shoulder issues? 

Knees: They are functioning, but crack and creak a lot and can sometimes be painful.

6 arthroscopic knee surgeries later and from the advice of my doctor, I have realized running is not something that I can do anymore. However, with that limitation put on my cardio I have found some amazing things to replace it. I used to use the treadmill in place of the running on the hard pavement but now use the bike to strengthen the muscles around the knees to help make them stronger to take pressure of of the meniscus (natural knee cushion) in the knee to help prevent further tearing. The elliptical and ARC trainer are two pieces of equipment that challenge my cardiovascular system and strengthen my knees without hard impact and makes me burn some serious calories at the same time. Does this knee pain sound familiar to anyone? 

MEN! Abdominal fat: Yep, just checked, it’s still there.

First and foremost you must know that I do like my food, but am pretty aware of what I eat and when. I also make sure I get my workouts in throughout the week. So my belly fat was worrisome when it seemed that no matter what I was doing I had a very difficult time reducing the hardening fat in the midsection.   

I set up to see a specialist for something that I really never gave much thought to before especially at the young age of 41, at that time anyway. But with some research and hesitation, I sought out some expert advice on testosterone deficiency. I am sure you have seen a million advertisements about low testosterone and all the over the counter products advertised to make your man more energetic, more passionate, yada, yada, yada. SPOILER ALERT...according to my doctor, they don’t really work.   

Did you realize that men could lose up to 1.6%  of natural Testosterone a year after the age of 40. Doesn't seem like much but when you look at the common symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Decreased libido
  • Mood changes
  • Fatigue, depression, anger
  • Decreased muscle mass and strength
  • Increased abdominal fat mass
  • Reduced cognitive function

So if any guys are reading this and maybe can relate, or ladies who may want to talk to your guys about this, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I have learned over the many years that I need to do what is best for me and my family and not worry about what others think. Heck, that is pretty much what I base a lot of things on nowadays. (I am usually found in long black shorts and my brown Danner work boots with a tee shirt, so I am certainly not worried about the fashion police or what anyone else thinks about my work attire).  

The interesting part is that many studies have shown men who have sought out testosterone therapy has increased 170% since 2012. That's only 6 years ago! 

In my five years of testosterone therapy, it has had its ups and downs. Applications with gel, pellet insertions, and shots. Everyone will have different results. However, with that said and having tried many different types of applications, I did find that when my testosterone was at a consistent level for a long duration (4 months) my visceral (hardening belly fat) was reduced. I actually dropped 1-2 pant sizes with my normal routine of eating, lifting and cardio. The only change was regulating my testosterone back to “normal” levels. 

So I will leave all of you with some things to think about. 

  • What are you genetically predispositioned to?
  • What physical limitations has life thrown at you?
  • What are your health and fitness goals?
  • Are you willing to change your eating habits to help obtain them?
  • Are you willing to put in some additional physical work to push yourself?
  • Are you limiting yourself by just assuming that it’s just genetics and the “I am what I am” mentality?
  • Guys are we too “proud” to get the help that could help us feel better?

“Glorify God in your body” 

1 Corinthians 6:20

Don't forget that the Body Shop Fitness Center is waiving their activation fee for all new members who sign up for a 12-month membership. Those who have previously been members and have already paid their activation fees will receive a free shaker bottle when signing up for a new 12-month membership.

About Matt Dryden: Matt has been offering personal training services in fitness and nutrition for over 12 years. He began his interest in Health and Fitness while working as a Correctional Officer and Police Chief when he realized that in this profession that those men and women should have the fitness level of being able to protect and serve the people he has sworn to do so. Matt went on to become a certified personal trainer and began educating and helping fellow officers in setting and working toward their goals in fitness.

Matt started his gym, The Body Shop Fitness Centers, in Shell Lake in 2007 and now offers locations in Shell Lake, Spooner, and Trego, Wisconsin. These locations offer a wide variety of fitness training opportunities unique to each location. To find out more, visit The Body Shop Fitness Center website or Facebook page.

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