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Are you a born athlete?
Do you have the perfect build for athletics?

Dr Kevin Thompson, physiologist at the EIS, explains the physical characteristics that make up the ultimate athlete.

SPRINTING

Asafa Powell

Sprinters are muscular and lean.

They have to produce a lot of power, so they need a large muscle mass. But they don't want to carry any excess weight, so they need to keep themselves lean.

Sprinters have high muscular definition and good flexibility, which ensures that movements are technically efficient.

Most sprinters are taller than average, but they're not giants. A typical world-class male sprinter is 1.83m tall and 75-80kg.

DISTANCE RUNNING

Haile Gebrselassie

Distance runners are lean and have great endurance.

Distance runners don't need to produce much power, but they do need to carry their own weight over a long distance.

So they don't need much muscle and they need to be lean.

Their leg power is low - the muscles have great endurance, but don't produce force quickly like a sprinter's.

Most distance runners are average height. Being exceptionally tall doesn't seem to be an advantage - many world-class runners, like Haile Gebrselassie, are below average height.

THROWING

Shot put

Throwers require a lot of strength and power, which can only be provided by large muscles.

They are also heavy. They transfer some of their body's momentum to whatever they are throwing - and the heavier you are the more momentum you can gain.

Throwers don't have to be lean as they don't cover any distance, which is why some shot-putters and hammer throwers can seem overweight.

It is a big advantage to be tall.

Long levers (arms and legs) help develop speed on the object, and give the thrower the ability to release it a long way from the ground.



Key characteristics
Sprinters: Tall, wide shoulders, lean & muscular frame, above average weight, strong legs
Distance runners: Average or below average height, lean & slender frame, low body weight, slender legs
Throwers: Tall, wide shoulders, muscular, very heavy, strong legs
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