Both my father and my grandfathers have fairly large muscular frames. However, they haven't worked out since they were much younger. How is it possible for them to maintain this muscle mass without working out? Is the extent of muscular atrophy different in everyone? Could it be genetic?

Note: With the exception of yard work and occasionally moving heavy objects they are mostly sedentary.

3 Answers 3


Muscle memory, genetics, caloric intake, daily activities would all play a role in this. It's not JUST genetics, just like it's not just caloric intake.

These guys must eat enough to retain their muscle mass, whether they accumulated it 10 weeks ago or 10 years ago. You mention they are sedentary... What did they do for work, if they don't anymore?

Also consider that there are two types of hypertrophy. Myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic. The first being that of central nervous system, deep down strength. Think Arm-Wrestling strength. Sarcoplasmic strength is just for looks, it creates an environment where more water flows to the muscles making people look big, think body building.

Also consider an individuals body type: endomorph, ectomorph, mesomorph, i knwo i'm forgetting one...these all play factors in metabolism, weight gain, muscle retention, etc.


Genetics...some people have more natural muscle mass than others. If they worked out when they were younger, I imagine they were bigger then, and if they worked out now they'd like be bigger than they are.


I remember one year when I had to stop working out for 9 months due to inflammations. During these months I would mainly visit doctors and treat my arms but would not workout AT ALL. I stayed active though, I would go out almost everyday to hang out with friends going for a walk. Surprisingly for the first 6 months, considering I was consuming just the same amount of calories as before my injury, I managed to retain my weight and size(size not muscle)! My strength was gone and my muscles were not as lean but with a shirt on there wasn't a big difference. Perhaps that is the case with your father and grandfather. Then past the 6 month I started getting frustrated about my injuries and all the stress made me lose 10 pounds within a week or two.

Anyhow I was once told that the atrophy starts after day 3 of your last workout for a particular muscle group. Then during the years I have noticed that this is fairly true. I am a Meso-Ecto bodytype and once I stop working a particular muscle group it starts fading away slowly both in size and strength. Which I suppose I maintained before with a high calorie intake. My guess is that your father and grandfather kept their athletic frames(that never goes away fully) and during the years have replaced some of the muscle with fat. However due to the frame underneath it still makes them look more muscly than fat. That's a guess of course, I don't know what they look like but I have never seen anybody to keep his muscle mass after he has stopped working out especially with a sedentary lifestyle. Image of Arnold Schwarzenegger just pops up in my mind when I say this.

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