With the Olympics currently happening, I figured I’d talk about muscle fiber typing and how it plays a factor in who wins what competition. First I’ll go through both fiber typings and what they mean for each sport. Then I will go through some of the most well-known sports and show how and why certain races dominate in different sports.
Muscle fiber typing
There are two types of muscle fibers: Type I fibers (slow twitch) and Type II fibers (fast twitch). Each fiber fires off through different pathways, whether they be anaerobic or aerobic. The body uses two types of energy systems, aerobic or anaerobic, which then generate Adenosine Triphosphate, better known as ATP, which causes the muscles to contract. Depending on the type of fibers an individual has dictates which pathway muscles use to contract which then, ultimately, dictate if there is high muscular endurance or if the fibers will fire off faster for more speed.
Type I fibers lead to more strength and muscular endurance as they are slow to fire off, while Type II fibers fire quicker and tire faster. Slow twitch fibers use oxygen more efficiently, while fast twitch fibers do not burn oxygen to create energy. Slow twitch muscles delay firing which is why the endurance is so high in individuals with these fibers whereas for those with fast twitch fibers have their muscles fire more explosively. Slow twitch fibers don’t tire as easily while fast twitch fibers tire quickly. This is why West African blacks and their descendants dominate in sprinting and other competitions where fast twitch muscle fibers dominate in comparison to slow twitch.
Usain Bolt, who just won the 100m dash the other day, has fast twitch fibers (Type II) due to a gene called ACTN3 which is associated with elite athletic performance. West African blacks and their descendants have this gene. For example, 70 percent of Jamaicans have the ACTN3 gene, and this gene is why Usain Bolt is the world’s fastest man.
Though at the same time, West Africans and their descendants suffer in competitions where muscular endurance is needed (swimming is one of them). Caucasians Asians and East Africans have more slow twitch fibers (Type I fibers) which allows them to dominate in competitions where endurance is needed (weightlifting, Strong Man, distance running, swimming).
There are physiological differences found in the winners of these competitions, and like most things, there is a racial basis to them.
As noted above, West Africans and their descendants dominate competitions in which their muscle fibers are best put to use (sprinting, football, basketball, etc) while they suffer in competitions in which Caucasians and Asians dominate in which muscular endurance is needed (weightlifting, powerlifting, distance running).
World’s Strongest Man
Muscle fiber typings play a major part in the winners of these competitions as does limb length. Generally, the winners of the World’s Strongest Man (WSM) are more stocky and have shorter limbs which translates into more power generated since the distance is shorter.
A white man has won the WSM competition every year since its inception. It’s always a Northern or Easter European who wins these competitions. The Russians and Slavs are known for their crazy squat programs, and muscle fiber typing is the reason why. They are able to generate more power than those with fast twitch fibers which translates into domination in strength-based competitions.
The same thing is noticed in powerlifting. Caucasians and Asians dominate. I’ve seen some incredibly strong East Asian powerlifters, and the reason is they are shorter and stockier with shorter limbs. More power is able to be generated with the shorter distance and Type II fibers which allow these populations to excel in these types of competitions.
I hypothesize that just like West Africans and their descendants consistently win sprinting competitions due to their genes and fiber typing, this is the same reason why Europeans consistently win WSM. Though, PumpkinPerson thinks differently about this.
PP believes that since Africans have higher testosterone, then they, therefore, should dominate in these types of competitions. His reasoning is based on Rushton’s Rule of Three, which all though it holds well for a wide variety of variables, it doesn’t hold with more complex traits such as muscle fiber typing.
PP cites a study stating that blacks out benched whites in the beginning and end of the study. However, it seems this is anomalous. The researchers say this is the only study looking at this, and from what I can tell, they didn’t ask about dietary and or exercise habits. They also say that blacks were heavier in BMI at the onset, but not in the follow-up.
I’d like to see another study like this before any conclusions are drawn. Because what I see in actual powerlifting competitions from people who go above and beyond their genetic potential when everyone is using, Caucasians (whites, MENA people) and East Asians are consistently always stronger than blacks. From what we see from actual competitions, Caucasians and Asians dominate these competitions. Africans are really nowhere to be found. In fact, Kenya is the only sub-Saharan African country to place in the top 3 in the WSM, which strengthens my theory on muscle fiber typing and strength-based competitions since they have slow twitch fibers.
PP then writes another article saying that from 1938 to 1953 the WSM was a black man named John Henry Davis. He was known as the WSM from those years, but as we know, exceptions don’t prove rules.
Mark Henry is a better example. Genetic freak of nature. World record total in squat, bench and deadlift; he was a squatting 600 pounds as a freshman; as a teenager, he had the 8th best total regardless of age group.
He’s a genetic freak of nature. He’s way stronger than the guy you cited. Mark Henry is one of the strongest people to ever live. He is a freak of nature. I can’t emphasize that enough.
West Africans and their descendants excel at sports where their muscle fiber typing is put to good use. The ACTN3 gene, as noted above, has a lot to do with their success in these competitions but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Sprinters have long limbs, which allow them to cover a greater distance with each stride in comparison to another with shorter limbs. Sprinters also have lower levels of body fat which translates to more speed. Where these lower levels of body fat make have them suffer in swimming competitions since fat floats, this helps in sprinting competitions due to less fat mass.
For those of you who are keeping up with the Olympics, you may have heard of Robel Kiros Habte. He finished with the worst time out of the 59 contestants and was only there due to an invitation extended to him by the International Swimming Federation who chooses people from countries that are underrepresented in the Games. This invitation shows that even the ‘best’ in their country is nowhere near good enough versus the best in the world.
But on the other hand, for the first time in history, swimmer Simone Manuel became the first black American to win gold in the 100m freestyle. There’s a first time for everything and exceptions don’t disprove rules.
Of course, Michael Phelps speaks for himself, with his 23rd gold medal win which broke a record that was standing for 2168 years.
Blacks dominate in American bodybuilding. This is due to them having lower fat-free body (FFB) and being more mesomorphic on average.
The winner of Mr. Olympia for the five years in a row is Phil Heath (who will win a sixth title next month during the Olympia). Blacks have consistently been in the top running in the IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding). This is due to their muscle insertions and lower average fat-free body that allows a high percentage of blacks to compete. Moreover, I’d say that genetically speaking, blacks have a better chance to win over whites since they have a more sculpted physique naturally, which comes down to evolutionary selection
Some people may say that the above sports are tainted due to performance enhancing drug (PED) use. Though what they fail to realize is that drugs take you above and beyond your genetic limit. These people are already genetic freaks of nature and taking drugs just makes them that much better. You can’t take someone with garbage genetics, have him shoot up for years and bust his ass in the gym to be Mr. Olympia. Just like you can’t take someone with garbage genetics and the wrong proportions, inject them with PEDs and expect them to do well in powerlifting and Strongman competitions. The genetic potential is already there in these athletes and PEDs take them above and beyond what is naturally possible.
Strength and Mortality
Finally, to round this up, there is a correlation between strength and mortality. With a sample of 8762 men between the ages of 20 and 80, it was found that muscular strength was inversely and independently associated with death from all causes and cancer in men even after adjusting for cardiorespiratory fitness and other possible confounders. From the discussion of the paper:
The analysis on the combined effects of muscular strength and cardiorespiratory fitness with all cause mortality showed that the age adjusted death rate in men with high levels of both muscular strength and cardiorespiratory fitness was 60% lower (P<0.001) than the death rate in the group of unfit men with the lowest levels of muscular strength. These results highlight the importance of having at least moderate levels of both muscular strength and cardiorespiratory fitness to reduce risk of death from all causes and cancer in this population of men.
The point of bringing this paper up is that Caucasians and Asians are stronger than blacks, and also live longer. This is just like the correlation between IQ and life expectancy. Since men with higher levels of strength live longer than men with lower levels of strength, this strengthens my hypothesis for strength-based competitions and the racial mix of the competitions. Caucasians and East Asians, who have higher IQs than blacks, are also stronger than them on average, which also correlates with life expectancy.
(For more information see Steve Sailer’s post on West African and East Africans in sprinting and distance running as well as Razib Khan’s post on West Africans and their domination of sprinting competitions.)
HBD is evident in all of our lives. Though many of us don’t bring it up, it’s evident in the sports we watch to everyday life. The reason why there are racial disparities in the upper echelons of professional sports has to do with muscle fiber typing as well as those who are genetically predisposed to do well in these competitions. West Africans dominate in sprinting competitions and others where they are able to use their longer limbs and fast twitch fibers whereas Caucasians and Asians dominate in strength sports due to their limb length and slow twitch fibers. Professional sports proves what is evident in our everyday lives and, subconsciously at least, the average person sees this.
What about East Africans? Why do they win almost every marathon on Earth?
Muscle fiber typing. They have slow twitch fibers which are slow to fire off but have great stamina. West Africans and their descendants have the ACTN3 gene which is associated “with superior athletic performance”.
Also, Kenya is the only country to have even placed in the World’s Strongest Man competition, which slow twitch muscle fibers excel in. This further proves my hypothesis that Europeans dominate in these types of strength competitions due to muscle fiber typing.
Joseph L. Graves argues that Kenyan athletes from the African Great Lakes region who have done well in long distance running all have come from high-altitude areas, whereas those from low-altitude areas do not perform particularly well. He also argues that Koreans and Ecuadorians from high-altitude areas compete well with Kenyans in long-distance races. This suggests that it is the fact of having trained in a high altitude, combined with possible local level physiological adaptations to high-altitude environments that is behind the success in long distance running, not race.
Similarly, Graves argues that while it is superficially true that most of the world recordholders in the 100-metre dash are of West African heritage, they also all have partial genetic heritage from Europe and Native America, they have also all trained outside of West Africa, and West African nations have not trained any top-level runners. Graves says these factors make it impossible to say to which degree the success is best attributed to genetic or to environmental factors.
Afro-descendents of Americas tend to be the descendents of african peoples who were defeated in wars, enslaved by the victorious tribes and sold to slave traders *
Kenyans have a lower BMI which is correlated with a higher VO2 max. VO2 max is the amount of oxygen used by your body to convert the food you eat into energy molecules called ATP which your body uses at the cellular level.
You can train your VO2 max higher, but those who are skinnier have a higher base VO2 max in comparison to those who are heavier and have higher BMIs.
Kenyans are better distance runners due to their morphology. They’re lankier. Distance runners also have different somatypes.
Graves is correct in saying that those in the higher altitudes excel in distance running, but a whole slew of other factors are involved that make it possible for other distance runners to excel in the sport. Such as somatype, lower average body fat, limb length, and physiological differences that come down to their muscle fiber typing as noted in my article.
Somatypic diffrences are clearly genetic in nature. Thus, the reason why these populations dominate in mid and long distance running comes down to genes.
This doesn’t pan out when looking at countries with West African descendants. As noted in my article, Jamaicans have the ACTN3 gene variant, which is associated with enhanced athletic performance. Jamaica consistently churns out champion sprinters. To say that you ancestry makes it impossible to untangle these factors is dishonest.
Obviously, environmental factors play a part, but over a millennia.
Joseph L. Graves is dishonest. Everything that shows any type of genetic differences between races he attempts to wave it away saying it’s environment or some other factor other than genetics. Clearly, the ancestral environment plays the biggest factor and this is why these populations excel in these competitions.
“Graves is correct in saying that those in the higher altitudes excel in distance running, but a whole slew of other factors are involved that make it possible for other distance runners to excel in the sport.”
Exactly, which means you insisting that it is Kenyans are primarily “better distance runners due to their morphology” is other than accurate. Moreover, Graves is acknowledging that it is genetics AND environmental. You are being fundamentally dishonest here.
I can’t tell if you’re serious. Graves is hilarious with that statement.
Distance runners have different morphological and musculoskeletal differences in comparison to non-distance runners.
CLEARLY, the morphological differences in somatype matter the most, as those with higher body fat levels won’t be as good as those who have lower body fat. Kenya has one of the lowest BMIs in the world at 21.5. Those with low BMIs also have higher VO2 maxes, which also lends itself to distance running.
VO2 max is a trainable variable, but those with a higher level of natural VO2 max, the right morphology, and musculoskeletal differences will fare better than populations without it.
Muscle fiber typing, as I’ve said, also plays a factor in this.
Point is, the heritable traits matter more than the environmental ones, as without the heritable traits, what the Kenyans do wouldn’t be possible. You know that you can’t take someone with the complete opposite proportions and variables and make them a champion runner. Genetics matters first and foremost.
“I can’t tell if you’re serious. Graves is hilarious with that statement.”
It’s not a matter of hilarity, it’s a matter of fact.
“CLEARLY, the morphological differences in somatype matter the most, as those with higher body fat levels won’t be as good as those who have lower body fat. Kenya has one of the lowest BMIs in the world at 21.5. Those with low BMIs also have higher VO2 maxes, which also lends itself to distance running.”
You would have to conduct an actual study in order to prove your hypothesis. You have the scientific credentials and funding, why not pursue such a worthwhile endeavor…
“Point is, the heritable traits matter more than the environmental ones, as without the heritable traits, what the Kenyans do wouldn’t be possible. You know that you can’t take someone with the complete opposite proportions and variables and make them a champion runner. Genetics matters first and foremost.”
Genetics and environment play simultaneous roles in this particular case, although this study focuses on environment.
“In conclusion, Kenyan runners are from a distinctive environmental background in terms of geographical distribution, ethnicity and travelled further to school, mostly by running. These findings highlight the
importance of environmental and social factors in the success of Kenyan runners.”
I’m not daft enough to believe that environment doesn’t play a factor. My point is that genetics matters more than environment for distance running. For instance, you can train for a higher VO2 max by keeping your heart rate at a consistent.
VO2 max comes down to a strong oxygen support system and the capacity to contract a large number of muscle fibers at once, both of which are largely genetic. Lactic acid makes us tired, the best way to train is to minimize lactic acid production and maximize lactic acid removal during exercise. High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, achieves this. The more O2 consumed during exercise, the less of a reliance there will be on the anaerobic break down of CHO to lactic acid.
Since VO2 max is largely genetic and the lower your BMI is the higher your VO2 max is, when you do interval training you can increase your max (environmental), but you’re pretty much born with your potential for VO2 max (genetic). Do you think one with a lower genetic VO2 max will beat one with a higher VO2 max in a distance comp, all things being equal?
Funny. I do have a background in Human Movement Science, metabolism and exercise metabolism.
Kenyans have a low average BMI, as I’ve shown. Low BMI is correlated with a higher VO2 max. Morphological differences matter in regards to running competitions. The training the Kenyans do increases their VO2 max, but they already have a high genetic VO2 max due to having a lower BMI.
I’m saying that one with better genetics will beat one with worse genetics, even if they do the same training. Genetics comes first.
I explained the processes behind the main environmental variable there is. Can we both agree that genetics matters, first and foremost?
”HBD is evident in all of our lives”
HBD while science and not while so-called ”community”, i thought.
Can’t you see your bias? You never fail to mention when west africans are disadvantaged in a sport but you never do for Europeans; your bias is stromg.
Would you say West Africans are more athletic than Europeans’ if so why?
I have no bias. I state that each race and ethnicity has its strengths and weaknesses. Whites have wider hips which help in strength sports but impede running. Blacks have narrower hips which aid in running and along with the other variables I speak about, that’s why they don’t excel in strength sports. East Asians excel at marathon running and strength sports due to their low center of gravity. Each population has its strengths and weaknesses in any given sport.
What’s your definition of athletic? If it’s just explosive speed and running, jumping, etc then blacks are more athletic than Europeans on average. So if that’s your definition then I’d say yes, blacks are more athletic than Europeans.
Very thoughtful bblog