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Are Certain Sports Best for Long & Lean Muscles?

author image Kim Nunley
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.
Are Certain Sports Best for Long & Lean Muscles?
Competitive distance runners are typically long and lean. Photo Credit Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images

While athletes often match up to particular sports because of the length and leanness of their muscles, participating in particular sports won’t make an impact on your body type. The reason that you see many athletes in a particular sport share a body type is because it’s an effective build that allows them to excel at that particular event.

It's in the Genes

Characteristics like body height and build are dictated strictly by genetics. And because your muscles are attached to bones through tendons, their length is directly related to the length of your skeletal structure. Therefore, the length of your muscles will remain the same, despite what sports you participate in.

Muscle Leanness

Muscular properties, which include fiber number and type, are already determined by the time a fetus finishes the second trimester of development. Every person possesses a combination of both type I and type II muscle fibers. The proportion of those fibers can vary significantly between individuals. Type I, slow-twitch fibers, which are recruited when performing slower, submaximal activities like jogging, are the leanest of the two fiber types. An athlete with a greater percentage of type I fibers will be of a leaner stature. Type II, fast-twitch fibers are called on to handle explosive and maximal-force contractions. Athletes with a greater number of type II fibers will have a more muscular appearance. This proportion of slow- and fast-twitch fibers is not influenced by training or choice of sport.

Sports for Longer, Leaner Athletes

Instead of sport participation influencing the length and leanness of your muscles, muscular characteristics will often influence your sport selection. This is because the height and body type of an athlete will make a significant impact on performance. Athletes who possess longer limbs and leaner muscles, and thus naturally have a greater proportion of type I muscle fibers, find themselves pulled toward endurance events like long-distance running and swimming.

Sports for Compact, Muscular Athletes

While leaner athletes excel at endurance sports, muscular athletes find that their genetic predisposition allows them to dominate at power sports. Leaner athletes who want to play football, for example, will be at a significant disadvantage to those who are more muscular. Team sports such as baseball and football, and track and field events such as sprints, hurdles and high jump, attract athletes who naturally have greater explosive capabilities.

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