Can someone elaborate about the theory of genetically gifted athletes?

I guess Im confused overall about the concept of being naturally good at sprinting or anything.

I’d have to assume its still a matter of all of the sprinting principles. It may have something to do with muscle fiber type? Fast twitch vs slow twitch… amounts, etc.

I can’t help but think that someday the whole “well some people are just born faster than others” myth will be laughed at. There has been a tremendous amount of progress made regarding speed/strength training over the last 100/50 years… and before that it was assumed that some people were just born the way they were and there was nothing they could do to change that.

It seems we’re still stuck in that whole, “Well your training can only do so much because the rest relies on genetics.” crap

Perhaps the answer REALLY lies in your diet- even as a child, the way you were raised growing up, where you grew up, access to proper coaching, perhaps certain individuals have habits that happen to improve their speed (that havent been necessarily proven to correlate with speed YET) Etc. Etc…

What do you guys think? Does anyone know of any good articles relating to this stuff?

Fiber type, limb lengths, nervous system function, hormone levels, receptor sensitivity, they have identified certain genetic markers associated with things like power production and endurance and there tends to be genetic trends towards either strength/power production or endurance performance that show up pretty reliably.

None of which is going to be modifiable with any current training or dietary paradigm. At best you can maximize your genetic potential by doing things right. At worst you never get clos to your genetic potential by doing them wrong.

None of which discounts the importance of hard/smart/consistent work or anything else. But at the topmost level, everybody works hard. And small differences in genetically unmodifiable factors are going to become magnified. It may not make a shit’s worth of difference at lower levels but at the top level, small percentage differences between individuals can mean the difference between first and last place.


Here’s a recent review relevant to speed for example. And one of a more general bent.

Physiology (Bethesda). 2010 Aug;25(4):250-9.
A gene for speed: the emerging role of alpha-actinin-3 in muscle metabolism.

Berman Y, North KN.

Institute for Neuroscience and Muscle Research, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Westmead, Australia.

A common polymorphism (R577X) in the ACTN3 gene results in complete deficiency of alpha-actinin-3 protein in approximately 16% of humans worldwide. The presence of alpha-actinin-3 protein is associated with improved sprint/power performance in athletes and the general population. Despite this, there is evidence that the null genotype XX has been acted on by recent positive selection, likely due to its emerging role in the regulation of muscle metabolism. alpha-Actinin-3 deficiency reduces the activity of glycogen phosphorylase and results in a fundamental shift toward more oxidative pathways of energy utilization.

Med Sport Sci. 2009;54:43-71. Epub 2009 Aug 17.
Genes, athlete status and training – An overview.

Ahmetov II, Rogozkin VA.

Sports Genetics Laboratory, St Petersburg Research Institute of Physical Culture, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Significant data confirming the influence of genes on human physical performance and elite athlete status have been accumulated in recent years. Research of gene variants that may explain differences in physical capabilities and training-induced effects between subjects is widely carried out. In this review, the findings of genetic studies investigating DNA polymorphisms and their association with elite athlete status and training responses are reported. A literature search revealed that at least 36 genetic markers (located within 20 autosomal genes, mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome) are linked to elite athlete status and 39 genetic markers (located within 19 genes and mitochondrial DNA) may explain, in part, an interindividual variability of physical performance characteristics in response to endurance/strength training. Although more replication studies are needed, the preliminary data suggest an opportunity to use some of these genetic markers in an individually tailored prescription of lifestyle/exercise for health and sports performance.

With the leaps and advancements in science, I do believe that the whole idea of genetics is not as important as it use to be. HOWEVER, if somebody comes along who does have the better genes, he/she will still be able to trump other people (considering they take advantage of modern tools) because he/she has a head start/advantage over others who don’t have superior genes. One thing however, if the mind of the superior gene athlete is not as strong and focused as his competitors, he’s not winning anything, or he is only going to go but so far. Because as with anything in life, people who are extremely driven are the ones that make it far in life, not necessarily somebody who has all the potential and tools.

Also, I’m highly confident that it does not take much to see your genes express themselves. When I was young (14) it was obvious that I lacked coordination so I was horrible in basketball and I was horrible in catching a football where as other guys who were much shorter or smaller then me where much better. They could also do handstands, backflips and other body weight actions with ease where I either could not do it (back flip) or had to struggle with it.

However, when it came to sprinting, with no formal training each school I went to from grade school to high school I established myself as the fastest kid (high school fastest ever over 400m at my school). I kid you not, in grade school I was routinely pitted against a 25+ male gym teacher, he was the only male who could beat me. lol, I will never forget those races in the school parking lot, the white athletic gym teacher way out in front, me in the middle all by myself, and everybody else behind me in the back as we raced about 60m.

My 02…

Yup, I saw the light when I got to California and got close to the USC athletes. That collage gets the best of the best athletes from all over.

Happen to become friends with a football player there who was only 190 at 22 years of age but could bench press 425lbs raw, run 10.8 in 100, and 13 and change in the hurdles. In fact, when I think of the word athlete, I think of this guy.

Anyhow, I use to think that the older you got, the more developed you get, but I realized that some males (due to genetics) are HIGHLY developed naturally at very young ages; it DOES happen.

Sad to say, this guy ^^ use to goof off and did not take his gift seriously. He no longer plays sports anymore and I doubt he ever will due to his family obligations.


None of which is going to be modifiable with any current training or dietary paradigm. At best you can maximize your genetic potential by doing things right. At worst you never get clos to your genetic potential by doing them wrong.

Talking about reaching genetic potential is very relatively. If you tried every singlel supp and you platue is that you genetic potential? Lets say you injury hamstring badly in early years and that left you scars. 5 years later you are doing you at your best but you know there is hamstring limiting and you cant do nothin about it, then you reached your genetic potential?

Of course variation in genes provide relevant differences and more importantly the resulting phenotype is given by interaction between genotype and environment. Of course there is not a single gene related to a particular ability, it is quite naive to think so. I think that a lot of attention in the following years will be given to the shaping of gene expression induced by early life “experiences”.

Can remember a post by Pakewi where he mentions a reference to //// ??? ---- genetic programming is related to early life experiences.

Many regulatory mechanisms are very plastic and shaped at critical windows, the most important of which is at early life (from uterus till 4-6 years, but it depends on what). The baby or the young samples the environment and pathways are consequently regulated (for example the responsivity (sp?) of HPA axis). Then, there are also hormetic effects, as the up-regualtion of defenses against oxydative stress. For sure these are interesting times for research in this area. For sure in a few years Chinese will start some experiments ($1.6 billions invested in genome studies).


That is why we all need a system and means which truly allows for expression of potential,and not just revolving around the same issues (as the training-injury cycle you talk about) over and over. We may then want to start asking where true limitations arise first hand. I have only one answer: in the brain. Also the hamstring injury you talk about originated up there,and up there are the regulatory mechanisms which allowed for the scar tissue to form and stay there over time.

Also I recall a slide from Charlie’s Vancouver Seminar in which how training is meant to affect the complex ability to express potential more so than build on it. That alone should originate some thoughts and considerations.

Too many times on the other hand it seems to boil down to absurd weekly training set ups and should I do this or should I do that like master coach x who does this or champion athlete y who does that or former fat guy down the road who got his six packs with magic intermittent dietary regime type of discussion,while still and always groping in the dark principles wise.

But then we want to talk about genetic potential…maybe we should start getting our brains at least focused right.

putting the cart before the horse

don’t you think the limiting factor is genotype and then gene expression? Or are you saying that given genotype, the main limiting factor is brain (meaning nervous system or conscious mind)?

How about stop thinking of ways to convince onself that one cannot run fast and start working on what ways that will.

Q. what has the most positive influence on running 100m. forget genics.

+1 Sady. As coaches, unless we are into a intensive recruitment and talent identification politic, we face lots of people willing to do sports and improve their performance, regardless their genotype. And, fortunaltely enough, ADN analysis aren’t required to detect what are the limiting factors in individuals.

Break down to individuals, what has the most influence on speed?