How much do genetics contribute to the performance of athletes? Or can specific training increase performance for all humans?
Are athletes born great or made great?
Scientists have been looking for that key gene for decades. But each time a new gene shows an association with some performance measure, the hypothesis gets thwarted by another (for more on genes and performance, refer to Tucker et al. 2013). However, there is no doubt that your genetic makeup does play a role. By merely looking at the different mammalian species, one sees a diversity of fast runners, runners that have endurance, or those with brut strength. Certain horse breeds are sprinters, some again known for their endurance ability. The same can be said about the various dog breeds – a grey hound vs. a bull dog. There is something inherent that brings these attributes to the forefront.
Various models for exercise performance have been studied, from the Kenyan and Ethiopian runners, to those living at high altitude. However, very few animal species have been studied. From the approximately 5500 mammalian species out there (including us humans), less than 50 species have been studied on a skeletal muscle level. That is only 0.9% of the total mammalian kingdom! We must therefore study these remaining species as their muscles may reveal unique characteristics that has not been discovered before. These discoveries may bring us closer to better understand how skeletal muscle functions in humans and bring us closer to better understand exceptional sporting performance.