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Old 08-04-2012, 08:48 PM
DSeid DSeid is offline
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Sprinters upper bodies

So why do the male Olympic sprinters and hurdlers have such well developed upper body muscles? Do they do weight training as well? Do they get that muscular in the upper body from sprint intervals alone?
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Old 08-04-2012, 08:51 PM
running coach running coach is online now
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Weight training.
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Old 08-04-2012, 09:11 PM
Broomstick Broomstick is online now
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Low body fat percentage will also make their muscles more well-defined.
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Old 08-04-2012, 09:38 PM
Ambivalid Ambivalid is offline
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Sprinting is anaerobic exercise.

ETA: As opposed to other, more distance-oriented types of running; which are aerobic forms of exercise.

Last edited by Ambivalid; 08-04-2012 at 09:40 PM.
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Old 08-04-2012, 09:41 PM
ultrafilter ultrafilter is offline
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Sprinters do a lot of cleans for explosiveness, and upper body growth is a side effect.
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Old 08-04-2012, 11:21 PM
Belowjob2.0 Belowjob2.0 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ultrafilter View Post
Sprinters do a lot of cleans for explosiveness, and upper body growth is a side effect.
True.

Also, upper body strength and endurance are crucial to maintaining good sprinting form. The sprinter whose form breaks down the least is the one who wins, generally speaking. Loss of form due to fatigue and/or muscle weakness makes a sprinter slow down more rapidly.

And I meant to say, powerful arm, shoulder, and back muscles offset the powerful leg drives in order to maintain balance. Strong abs are crucial for holding the two centers of motion together, in balance.

Last edited by Belowjob2.0; 08-04-2012 at 11:24 PM.
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Old 08-05-2012, 12:25 AM
misterW misterW is offline
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You are dealing with elite genetics as well. Don't expect to look like that by adding sprints to your exercise regiment.
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Old 08-05-2012, 01:00 AM
Ambivalid Ambivalid is offline
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This wiki link discusses the reasons sprinters have such muscular upper bodies. Again; it involves the anaerobic nature of the exercise.

Quote-
"The faster the running, the more energy has to be dissipated through compensating motions throughout the entire body. This is why elite sprinters have powerful upper body physiques. As the competitive distance increases, there is a rapid drop in the upper body and overall muscle mass typically exhibited by the people who compete at a high level in each respective event. Long distance runners typically have lean muscles."

Last edited by Ambivalid; 08-05-2012 at 01:02 AM.
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Old 08-05-2012, 05:27 AM
Dog80 Dog80 is offline
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Sprinters of the 80s were much much more muscular. Google pictures of Ben Johnson for example. His body resembles that of a heavyweight boxer or MMA fighter.

My guess is that whatever drugs they are taking today are more targeted and do not cause muscular growth in other areas of the body.
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Old 08-05-2012, 10:04 AM
TokyoBayer TokyoBayer is offline
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They say that it helps in the start as well.
Quote:
Sprinters use powerful arm drives to help propel them out of the blocks and start in the desired low posture. As they reach full speed, their arms and legs work in concert to sustain the proper rhythm. A powerful arm drive can help sprinters maintain their proper stride as fatigue sets in. Lactic acid builds in the arms as it does in the legs, which is why sprinters must condition their arms for racing.
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Old 08-05-2012, 03:31 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Thanks to OP. Was just wondering this exact question.

Last edited by Leo Bloom; 08-05-2012 at 03:31 PM.
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Old 08-05-2012, 03:45 PM
ultrafilter ultrafilter is offline
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I was watching some sprinting today, and thinking about this question. The sprinters are more muscular than the average person, but they're not really all that big. What really makes the difference is that they have very low bodyfat levels, which goes a long way towards making their muscles look big.
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Old 08-05-2012, 04:13 PM
D18 D18 is offline
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Because you sprint with your arms, using your legs. Heard some talking head around the time of Donvan Bailey's heyday say that.
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Old 08-05-2012, 04:18 PM
MobiusStripes MobiusStripes is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by D18 View Post
Because you sprint with your arms, using your legs. Heard some talking head around the time of Donvan Bailey's heyday say that.
They're pretty much tied together. Try running without using your arms. It's really hard. Sprinting is a full body activity. In the last 100m of a 400m race (eons ago in high school) my shoulders and upper arms would ache and burn. They'd burn out before my legs would. Lungs were gone at 300m and your chest would burn. Vision could get iffy near the end too. In one race I distinctly noting that my hearing was entirely gone, or at least, unprocessed by the brain. I have no memory of any sounds at all, despite all the yelling.

Your arms pump in sync with your legs. They can help drive the legs up and forward in a sense. Much more so than distance running, though it's a factor there as well.
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Old 10-21-2016, 05:14 AM
don't ask don't ask is offline
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Originally Posted by sprintquicker View Post
I believe being stronger helps them get a better "more explosive" start. Just like drag racing, the first second is half of the race.
You can check out how fast the start of the race is here: Can You Beat Usain Bolt Out of the Blocks?
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Old 10-21-2016, 07:23 AM
x-ray vision x-ray vision is offline
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Adding to what's been said, well defined bodies appear bigger than they really are in pics and videos.
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Old 10-21-2016, 08:46 AM
leftfield6 leftfield6 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by don't ask View Post
You can check out how fast the start of the race is here: Can You Beat Usain Bolt Out of the Blocks?
Interesting. I did that little exercise 5 times.

4 times - 00.134 (faster than 99% of players)

5th time 00.136
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Old 10-21-2016, 10:26 AM
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The body type is in their DNA. Genetic research finds that every Olympic finalist in 100 meter over the past few decades can trace their DNA to West Africa.

http://run-down.com/guests/je_black_athletes_p2.php
Quote:
Over the years there have been more than two hundred studies comparing the body composition of athletes ... Sprinters were the most muscular. Beginning at 400 meters on up to the marathon, athletes competing in these events were progressively less muscular in the upper body.
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Old 10-21-2016, 11:14 AM
Chisquirrel Chisquirrel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leftfield6 View Post
Interesting. I did that little exercise 5 times.

4 times - 00.134 (faster than 99% of players)

5th time 00.136
I can't stop. When I don't twitch and false start, I'm between .110 and .160. Make it stop!
  #20  
Old 10-21-2016, 11:52 AM
filmore filmore is offline
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All those muscles help keep their energy towards going forward. Weaker muscles allow their upper body and arms to flop around more, wasting energy in other directions. Watch how stable a sprinter's upper body is, as are all elite runners at all distances.

If you watch a novice runner, you'll often see lots of wasted side-to-side and up-and-down motion in their upper body and arms. All of those extra motions are either wasting energy or causing energy to be directed towards counteracting the wasted force. If they did more to strengthen their muscles, they would be able to reduce the wasted effort and ensure more of their motion was directed towards going forward. Running, in general, doesn't build up those muscles enough. They would need to do additional exercises which would be targeted towards building up that core strength.
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Old 10-21-2016, 12:14 PM
mmmiiikkkeee mmmiiikkkeee is offline
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The proportions of muscle fiber types (mostly genetically determined) a person has has a big impact on their appearance and propensity to do well in various sports (assuming the person is actually fit and active not a sedentary couch potato). One of the most common examples is the difference in physiques between elite marathon runners and sprinters and the relative proportions of fast vs slow twitch fibers found in these athletes.

Since fast twitch fibers are larger and able to contract more powerfully, a person with a very large percentage of them will naturally be better at sports requiring that kind of performance, and their muscles will generally get bigger than a predominantly slow-twitch kind of person under the same training program. The training involved in explosive sports also tends to cause the muscles to get larger and stronger.

So, there are several layers contributing to the general appearance of elite sprinters: first you have the individuals with muscle types that typically respond in a more visually obvious way to resistance training being selected or drawn to the sport. Then you have them do a lot of training in general which will get their muscles developed and body fat minimized, and then you add in doing some types of training that specifically favour strength development with a side effect being an increase in size as well.

It's interesting to imagine taking a current Olympic sprinter and marathon runner, and have them switch sports and train and compete only the opposite sport for 10 years... No doubt their muscle composition would change somewhat, but I think the sprinter would still look rather muscular and more developed than his fellow marathoners (who'd likely always outrun him). I also think that while the former long distance runner will get a bit bigger and more developed, he'll still remain thin and wirey overall and probably never get as fast as the other natural sprinters.

So, I think it's fair to say that sprinters look the way they do because they start with a genetic muscle composition that gets bigger/stronger easier than for the typical person, then they spend a lot of years doing very intense training specifically for powerful movements which only enhances what they started with. Diet and a healthy lifestyle required to maintain peak performance also keeps their body fat low which also enhances their muscular look.

Of course there are a small number of individuals who would prove to be exceptions, but I think in general the above is true.
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