- Aug 3, 2015
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I'm only referring the ability to do something. I don't get into genetics until things turn into "best prefomance" that's when average people get weeded out and genetics becoming increasingly important. Anyone can compete in swimming but there's a natural build and genetics when it comes tobeing among the best. It is what it is. At most, many people are going to be good at things. There are very few people that I met who couldn't overcome horrible. But being the best is as you state, lots to do with genetics.There are a lot of complex interactions going on here. It's true that you can train for particular activities and improve your strength for those activities specific requirements and you will get benefits. It's also true that your genetics will play a role in how successful you are at adapting yourself to those activities and determine the absolute potential that you might reach at your peak. Some things are entirely genetically determined, others are largely genetically determined once you're a fully matured adult, some things are partially genetically determined and other things are pretty plastic.
Top performers in any athletic endeavor tend to look similar because they have the attributes that are most advantageous for that sport. There are of course outliers who break the mold because they have some other asset in which they a excel that allows them to overcome their deficiencies in other areas. Many of these characteristics are genetically fixed and can't be altered by anything short of major surgery. Some of them can be largely developed through training and some are in between.
Some of these are obvious and pretty fully understood. If you want to play pro basketball you better be over 6' tall or have some really extraordinarily, amazing athletic abilities to compensate for your lack of height. We know that once you're full grown you aren't getting any taller outside of hazardous leg lengthening surgery. Muscle belly length is another example. Not gonna change once you're an adult and your potential for muscle belly length probably isn't going to change once you're conceived. If you've got really short muscle bellies you aren't likely to be a pro bodybuilder not matter how hard you work, though you can still probably get really strong.
On the other end of the spectrum is skill development. Anyone can get good coaching and practice and improve their skill, though some people seem to have different aptitudes than others. Things like muscle fiber type distribution fall somewhere in the middle. It is probably largely, but not completely, genetically determined, but it can be shifted to some degree, not yet well established by research, towards fast or slow twitch fibers by training choices. VO2 max also falls in this category. Most evidence indicates that it is very largely genetically determined but can be improved somewhat, perhaps as much as 25%, likely more like 15-20%, but the rest is what you were born with.
Many of these observations represent a complex interaction of these factors. Sprinters and marathoners look different for a number of reasons. Sure, sprinters and marathoners train differently and if they switched to the opposite sport it would change their appearance to some degree. That's because everyone has a range of muscularity that they can develop and training is going to impact their musculature within the range that their genetics allow. This range is individual however, so it would take a genetically very unusual person to have the genes to be both a world class sprinter and a world class marathoner. Suggesting that Eliud Kipchoge would look like Usain Bolt and be able to sprint like him if he would just train for sprints is almost as silly as saying that I'd get to be as tall as Tacko Fall if only I'd put a lot of hours into playing center.
Again, a lot of complex interactions. Rock climbing is very skill dependent. Just like knowing how to throw someone in martial arts can feel effortless if you know how to do it and feel impossible if you don't, the same goes for a lot of rock climbing. Also, someone who has the genetic potential to be a pro bodybuilder, while potentially very strong, is also likely going to lack a lot of the other characteristics that make for a good rock climber. Since rock climbing is heavily skill dependent, sure that potential bodybuilder can probably get pretty good at rock climbing, but he's never going to be world class unless he's extraordinary in some other fashion.