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http://articles.elitefts.co m/training-articles/training-with-purpo se-heredity-genetics-and-trainability/
Training with Purpose: Heredity, Genetics, and Trainability
Of ten times, we see athletes touted as genetically gif ted. It is said they come f rom an athletic f amily and are predisposed f or success. On the f lip side, we see people who will blame their poor genetics f or f ailure or act as if they’re completely genetically bankrupt and built every stitch of what they had out of hard work. T he purpose of this article is to examine how heredity and other f actors contribute to athletic success and what traits are highly related.
Sports f amilies
To go with the most simplistic view, let’s take a look at a f ew sports f amilies. T his isn’t necessarily the most reliable f orm of assessing heredity because these cases aren’t regular occurrences. However, it has been noted that high level (Olympic and prof essional) athletes usually have parents who are more developed than the general population with some experience in sport.
Here are a f ew examples:
Vyacheslav Klokov Dmitry Klokov Milan Janics Natasha Janics Matty Alou Jesus Alou Felipe Alou Moises Alou Father Son Weightlif ter (heavy weight), USSR; set seven world records, held one gold and two silver medals Weightlif ter (105 kg), Russia; holds a silver in the Olympics and one gold, two silver, and two bronze in world championships Kayaking, Yugoslavia; world champion in 1978, 1979, and 1982; silver medalist at 1984 Olympics Kayaking, Hungary; world champion 2002–2007; two-f old Olympic champion in 2004 and Olympic champion in 2008 Played outf ield f or MLB with extended career in the majors Played outf ield f or MLB with extended career in the majors Played f irst base f or MLB with extended career in the majors Had extended career that spanned nearly two decades in the majors; six-time AllStar, world series champion, two-time Silver Slugger, and Babe Ruth award winner
Brother Brother Brother Son of Felipe Alou Father Son Son
Archie Manning Payton Manning Eli Manning
NFL quarterback who had 13-year career with two pro bowls, one all-pro selection, and an NFL Of f ensive Player of the Year award NFL quarterback with a laundry list of achievements that would take up a lot of space to list NFL quarterback with a list that is nearly as long as his brother, albeit more Super Bowls
Former Division I receiver (aka “the Manning no one cares about”—that is a joke, so hopef ully Cooper Manning f ans don’t get their panties in a wad)
While using talented parents as a sole method f or determining whether of f spring will be talented in sport isn’t warranted, it is hard to ignore that many high level athletes have parents who were accomplished in sport. T his can be due to both genetic f actors but also environmental f actors as well. T his will be covered in f urther detail in the f ollowing sections.
Genetic inf luence on somatotype
Somatotype is the combination of length, width, muscle mass, and f at. Genetics play a large part in certain dimensions of this, but in others, it isn’t as strong.
St udies have been perf ormed (1) demonst rat ing t hat :
Body lengths (height, length of limbs, and length of f eet) have the strongest inf luence f rom genetics with a 70 percent level of inheritance observed. Body width is also strongly correlated to genetics with a 50 percent level of inheritance observed. Muscle mass has a somewhat lower correlation with only a 40 percent level of inheritance observed. Body f at has the lowest level of inheritance with only a 20–30 percent level of inheritance observed.
So what does all this mean? First, there is some truth to the old “you should have picked better parents” line in regards to certain traits. If everyone in your f amily is short—and this is the case going all the way back to your ancestors—most likely you will be short. T he same goes f or your width. However, you have a greater chance of adding on some muscle and not being a complete f at ass. T his goes to show that the old “I’m f at because my f amily is f at” yarn is most likely not as much a f actor of genetics as it is an environmental one. T his means that while f at parents may have f at kids, it is probably more a f actor of eating f ast f ood and other crap three times a day every day. Bef ore anyone says “I know a guy who is six f eet, eight inches and jacked as shit, but no one in his f amily is tall or large,” remember that there is the outside chance of this happening as the percentages show. T his means this person got lucky in the game of genetic Russian roulette and f ound the empty chamber.
Genetics and motor ability
Similar to somatotype, genetics play a large role in certain motor abilities, but in others, they may not be as much of a f actor. While these abilities are more trainable than the somatic traits, there still is a predisposition that can lead to success in certain disciplines. A similar study was done (1) that shows the level of correlation of genetics. However, I won’t list every single trait. Instead, I’ll summarize. In the study, alactic anaerobic power has been shown to have the greatest level of inheritance (70–80 percent). T his means that the ability to sprint, jump, and throw explosively has a strong genetic base. If someone comes f rom a long line of slow, non-explosive people, this means he’ll be limited in events such as sprinting, jumping, and shot put. T his ability can be improved, but it all has a genetic starting point that will limit the amount of improvement. Conversely, aerobic power (Vo2 max) and maximum isometric strength have a much more positive outlook, being tied to only 20–30 percent of genetic inf luences. So the endurance and slow strength (i.e. powerlif ting) events are less tied in with how bad previous f amily members may have been at them, and you will be able to make more progress in these areas. Somewhere in the middle lies abilities such as coordination, f lexibility, strength endurance, and so on. Again, there will always be outliers in every aspect, but it has been shown time and time again that certain traits are strongly inf luenced by heredity. T he played out, “You can’t coach speed” line is true to a certain extent (when we’re talking about the actual ability, not correcting technical errors or programming).
Environmental f actors
As was listed earlier, environmental f actors are the missing variable. While some f actors are def initely determined by inheritance, they’ll appear in conjunction with other things such as diet, lif estyle, rest, proper coaching, and so on. When we look at the af orementioned sports f amilies, on one hand, we could strictly attribute their success to genetics. However, this would be incorrect. Genetics play a role in very simple manif estations of the motor abilities. Responses to training and the ability to use the motor abilities are specif ic to the event. T his is where coaching and proper technique come into play. It isn’t as if the Alous f amily came out of the womb swinging a bat. T he Klokovs weren’t cleaning and snatching as inf ants, and the Mannings weren’t throwing perf ect passes as toddlers. Diet plays a big role in body f at and muscle mass. Most likely, if someone eats shit all day long, he will get f at. Sure, genetics play into this and there are the small percentage of people who can stay lean eating candy and cheeseburgers three times a day, but this isn’t the norm. Conversely, there are guys who get massive eating f ar f ewer calories, but they are the outliers that hit the genetic lottery. It’s important to look at more than just one parent or f amily member on the subject of genetics. All too of ten, people will say, “I have terrible genetics! I worked so hard f or everything I accomplished! Just look at my parents!” T he problem is these people are looking at time in a vacuum and not thinking about what the parent may have looked like earlier in lif e or what choices (i.e. environmental f actors) he may have made that contributed to him being f at, weak, or out of shape. If the f amily member never did anything physical, ate like crap, drank, and abused drugs regularly, you’re observing the environmental f actors at play. Now, say the of f spring does everything right in a training sense and has outstanding results. He could argue that he really was genetically bankrupt. Personally, one thing I can’t stand is someone throwing a f it over how bad his genetics are and how hard he worked. People like this also seem to get insulted if anyone says they had good genetics. It isn’t as if someone is implying that they ate cake and candy all day, sat around playing video games, and were better than everyone at their given sport. If we are to look at the sport f amilies listed above, would anyone truly believe they didn’t work hard? It wouldn’t matter how skilled their bloodline was if they didn’t become somewhat competent in their given craf t.
When looking at the subject of heredity, it’s important to understand that some aspects are strongly correlated and others have less bearing. While some aspects of somatotype may be strongly inf luenced, others can be controlled through training and diet. T he same goes f or motor abilities. Certain aspects may only respond to training at marginal levels whereas others can be increased. Finally, it’s important to not have tunnel vision when assessing your own genetic shortcomings or gif ts.
1. Issurin V (2008) Principles and Basics of Advanced Athletic Training . Ultimate Athlete Concepts: Michigan.
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