Endurance Training vs Sprint Training: Olympics Case Study

Since everyone’s attention is focused on the Vancouver Winter Olympics, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to highlight some rather compelling images from the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

First, here are the two gold medal winners for the marathon event:

Next, we have the two gold medal winners in the triathlon event:

Finally, here are respective male and female gold medal winners for the decathlon and heptathlon events:

Notice how the decathlon/heptathlon winners have much more lean muscle mass throughout their entire bodies. While this is especially evident in their upper bodies, take a look also at the large muscle groups in their lower bodies such as their quads, glutes, and calf muscles.

The endurance athletes, by comparison, look emaciated. This is most likely due to a combination of muscle cannibalization coupled with chronic systemic inflammation (sounds just peachy, doesn’t it?).

The key takeaway here is that decathletes and heptathletes are “sprint and power” athletes – not endurance athletes. While they are certainly capable of “going long” if necessary, they are better optimized for shorter burst, higher energy activities that engage the major muscle groups of their entire bodies.

Remember, you’re built this way, too.

3 Comments

  1. Zach
    March 10, 2010

    Excellent photographic evidence, very well done. I’m sure another pair of pics showing 100 meter sprinters would have taken your point one step further.

    Would be interesting to repeat this every now and then with athletes from other sports. For example, take the long distance swimmer vs. the sprinting swimmer, the respective body compositions would probably yield similar differences.

  2. diver dave
    February 24, 2010

    HOLY CATS !
    FROM NOW ON I WILL PARK MY CAR AND RUN THE 25 1/2 MILES EACH WAY TO THE BEACH INORDER TO LOOSE A LITTLE MORE WEIGHT .
    I HOPE TO LOOK LIKE BEEF JERKY IN 2010 !

    • srhernan
      February 24, 2010

      In the case of the endurance athletes, it’s more like “skin jerky”!


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