In the past, personal trainers and researchers thought that these differences had to do with mindset, training technique, and energy. But over time, they’ve found that some people really do respond to exercise input more than others. That’s why there are people who can shed 50 pounds in a month with no problem at all, while others can work at it for years with virtually no results.
Elite Athletes Are Different
Eddie Hall is an excellent example of the concept of super-responders in action. Hall is a World’s Strongest Man Champion. He stands more than 1.9 meters tall and weighs 165 kg. The man is enormous and strong enough to lift a car off the ground with his bare hands.
Hall always wondered why he was so strong, but never knew why. Now he’s discovered that it comes down to a specific set of genes that remove the usual limit on human muscle growth.
If you train really hard for weeks on end, your body will respond by building extra muscle. Your tissues will send out signals that they are stressed and need to grow to keep up with the demands that you’re placing on them. The body, however, faces a stark choice. It knows that it needs to grow stronger, but it also fears expending energy on extra muscle. Building new tissue is an energy-intensive process. What if there’s a famine arrives? That would be a disaster. Humans evolved to suppress the development of muscle following training for this very eventuality.
Why Humans Don’t Grow Muscle Easily
Our bodies will grow new muscle if we force them to, but after a certain point, they reach a limit. The reason for this has to do with a chemical called myostatin. It regulates how big your muscles can get. You can train as hard as you like, but eventually, you’ll reach a limit, all thanks to this hormone.
And here’s where Eddie Hall is different. His gene for myostatin is defective. It doesn’t work. So when he trains, he grows muscle—lots of it. So much, in fact, that he’s the strongest man in the world, capable of bending steel with his bare hands.
What’s interesting about Hall is that he hasn’t had to go down the steroid route. Companies that use SARMs for research have shown that if you target the body’s anabolic pathways, you can generate more muscle growth. But what’s happening with Hall is working on a different level. It’s not about manipulating hormones to create a muscle-building environment – it’s about getting rid of muscle-limiting hormones entirely.
Researchers now think that we’re all somewhat unique when it comes to our ability to respond to exercise. Some of us have bodies that immediately jump into action the moment we provide training stimulus and get on with the job of building new tissue, throwing caution to the wind. Others take a more gradual approach, preferring to save energy instead.
So if you’re not getting the results you want in the gym, you know why: you’re not a super-responder.
But that’s okay. It’s just your body being smart!