Is a toned physique genetic?

We all know someone who, despite their seemingly unhealthy lifestyle, looks naturally fit. You might even be this person (if so, we’re jealous). Let’s find out if a toned body is only a matter of winning the genetic lottery...

The role of your genetics in fitness

You’ll often hear people debating the influence of nature vs. nurture. The truth is, they both play an equally important role when it comes to health and fitness. 

If you’ve been training hard but struggling to see the results you want, your genes could be partially to blame. However, your genes are only a third of the picture. There are actually three important things you need to consider when training:


Both metabolism and frame size are largely dependent on genes. You probably already have quite a good idea as to whether you have a naturally athletic build or not. The best way to get a quick, visual indication of your genetic makeup (if you haven’t done a DNA test), is to look at your parents and grandparents. How do they respond to training?

If your parents are both very short and thin, chances are that you’ll be short and thin too. This would make it more difficult for you to develop that six pack, than it would be for someone whose parents are tall and muscular. This is why it’s important to follow personal fitness advice rather than generalised advice, as each of us responds differently to different exercises. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your body to other people. Just because a celebrity promotes a fitness product, doesn’t mean it will work for everyone in exactly the same way.

Schitts Creek I dont think it works like that | DNAfit Blog

Your genes are also responsible for your predisposition to injuries. Those of us with a higher injury risk need to take extra precautions when training. For example, some people can train every day, while others require a day or two of rest between gym sessions. This will have an effect on the speed at which you can achieve your fitness goals.

Read all about the role of genetics in fitness on our Knowledge Hub portal.


Your environment and lifestyle account for a large portion of your ability to reach your fitness goals. You could have the best genes in the world, but if you spend your weekends binging on junk food and watching TV, you’re not going to stay toned for long. On the other hand, you could be a slim, non-athletic build but work really hard to optimise your nutrition and exercise routine. If this is the case, you’ll definitely see better results than a person living a very unhealthy lifestyle.

Non-modifiable risk factors

Non-modifiable risk factors are essentially things about our body that we can’t change. These include factors such as your age, gender, ethnicity, and health pre-existing health conditions (like cancer, cardiovascular disease or lupus). All of these risk factors could have an effect on your ability to achieve your fitness goals.

So, if you don’t have the genetic makeup of an elite athlete, don’t be disheartened. You may need to work a bit harder and adjust your goals to be realistic in relation to your genetic potential. However, genetics alone aren’t the be all and end all of health and fitness. 

So, is a toned body genetic?

Not entirely - there's hope for all of us to achieve our own optimal fitness level. Your diet, exercise schedule and the type of workouts you do, all play a huge role in your ability to reach your goals. The best way to achieve your fitness goals is to combine nature and nurture in the form of genetically matched training and nutrition. When you work with your genes, instead of against them, you’ll have a better chance of achieving long-term success.

Read our article, 8 biggest mistakes you can make if you want bigger muscles, to help you optimise your workouts for success.

You can also discover your full  fitness potential with Body Fit - an easy to follow plan for those trying to improve their fitness for a better life. 

Get Body Fit


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