– Multi-sport athletes have
the challenge of not only training and racing in different sports, but also getting their body
into the best possible shape and condition in order to
perform optimally in all of them. Triathlon, however, takes
it to another level, as the sports of swimming,
cycling and running have such different demands on the body. So that leads us to the question of what is the best body type for
the multi-sport of triathlon? I’m going to be taking a closer
look at the successful pros to find out if there’s a general consensus as to what body type or shape is best. But before we start with triathletes, I want to take a look at the bodies of the top swimmers,
cyclists, and runners. (electronic whooshing) (mellow funk music) Swimmers are notorious for being tall and having wide shoulders, and quite a thin triangular
shape with narrower hips. World-class swimmers are known
for their large wingspans, so long arms and quite
often a longer torso. And then really mobile
shoulders and upper body as well as ankles. But you can’t ignore their feet. And it isn’t a prerequisite
to be a world-class swimmer, but having big feet helps, and you might remember the multiple Olympic champion from Australia, Ian Thorpe, who was famous
for his size 17 feet. Top level athletes in any sport are really highly tuned and lean, but swimmers do have a slightly
higher body fat percentage than say, runners, because fat actually is less dense than water, so
it can help with buoyancy, which then leads to an
improved body position. And when it comes to
open water specialists, this becomes even more significant ’cause it also contributes
to helping them stay warm. There are actually huge
variations in body type within professional cycling. And this is down to the fact
there’s such different events, which obviously have
different demands on the body. Take track cycling, for example. It’s obviously on the flat velodrome so power really is key here, and you tend to see athletes
being a little bit larger, quite often taller and with more muscle. And then you go to road cycling, and they’ve got different demands, again often with mountain
stages and multi-day races, so endurance becomes a key part. But power-to-weight ratios
become a lot more important when you head into the mountains, and this is when you see, again, a different body type within road cycling. So you have some athletes going
for general classification, you’ll have those mountain climbers, but you also have sprinters. One thing all cyclists
do have in common though, is an extremely slight upper body in comparison to their legs. There’s no need for unnecessary
muscle on their arms, as that’s just going to add
extra weight that’s not needed. And also wide shoulders aren’t going to help with that
aerodynamic position. (upbeat instrumental music) Runners, like cyclists, have
to battle against gravity. Therefore, the lighter they are, the less energy and power output required to propel them forward. Now all world-class runners are going to have a very low body fat percentage, however, the body shape
and type can vary greatly. Take for example, your sprinters. They’re large and muscular, then compare them to say,
a 10k or a marathon runner. Well the contrast is pretty extreme, but it reflects the demands on their body for their specific events. Swimming many miles as a young athlete quite often develops broad shoulders, which can lead to carrying
unnecessary mass for running, and also actually
increase your frontal drag when you’re trying to get into
aero position with cycling. Then again cycling can
develop strong quads, hamstrings, glutes and probably give you unnecessary body mass
that you need for running, and also potentially lead to those heavy sinking legs when it comes to swim. Well, you get the picture here. Yes, all three sports will develop your cardiovascular fitness, but they don’t necessarily cross
over to benefit each other. So that leaves us with a question of what should a triathlete
actually look like? What weight, what muscle
distribution is optimal? How tall, how much flexibility? Well, to help us out, I went to ask the pros
their thoughts on this. – There’s so many
different shapes out there. Like you can look at anyone, you could look at
Daniela and be like okay, she’s however many time world champion. She’s like strong, fast, fit. Then you look at someone like a Rinny, who can run like a sub 2:50
marathon and like, okay. I remember coming into this sport, I always like idolized Rinny
because we have like similar, we’re like short, but strong. I was like, okay, she’s won Kona, like you have this similar body, like (laughs) it’s possible. ‘Cause then you see swimmers, like the girls that get
out of the water first, and you’re like, man, I
need to like start lifting ’cause I don’t have any
like upper-body strength. – As well you look at
an Ironman athlete and generally you want to be solid, you want to be muscular,
you want to be strong, I think, for an Ironman
distance, and even 70.3 as well. But you look at the ITU guys, and it’s all about running really fast, and to run really fast you need to be quite lean and sinewy. So you look at a lot of the top ITU guys, they’re quite skinny, but
then the further you get up the kind of more solid and
muscular the athletes get. And I think it’s just the
demands of the longer race, you need to be strong. – So I think for triathlon
probably long and lean is going to help, not too tall. You know, having longer
levers definitely helps, you know in terms of recruiting power. And I think if you’re somebody that is naturally lighter,
power-to-weight is a huge thing. ‘Cause I think the hardest thing is if you’re not naturally light, and you try and lose a lot of weight you compromise power,
you compromise hormones, a whole host of other things. So I think if you’re probably naturally smaller, it’s helpful. – It’s great to hear the
pros really emphasizing the importance of embracing
the body type you have and making the most of that, as well as balancing the real difference in the three sports that you train for. But we also need to address the difference between a Sprint or
Olympic distance triathlon, and then the demands of racing
say an Ironman distance race. Not only does a sprint distance race last just around an hour, compared to an Ironman distance race that would be eight to
nine hours for a pro, it’s the difference in
emphasis of the sports that makes such a difference. So if you look at ITU
racing, so Sprint or Olympic, the swim becomes more significant because making the pack is
so crucial for the bike, compared to an Ironman distance race where it’s more of an individual effort. The bike in draft-legal
racing is usually less crucial other than the ability to have extra power there to
effect the change in pace when breakaways might happen, as opposed to long distance racing when it’s very much about maintaining a set power for a longer period of time. And then the running in both long distance and short distance triathlons
is obviously crucial, but in draft-legal racing
it can quite often come down to a pure five or 10k running race if the pack have stuck together
throughout the whole event. But there’s differing demands in mind. You might expect to see
the Olympic distance racers with slightly broader shoulders
for swimming strength, and a slighter build for running compared to say long distance athletes that tend to be a bit more muscular and have that power that’s really required for the long and individual
effort on the bike. The environment and the terrain will affect who’s favorite for race due to their body type and their ability to deal with the heat or the
cold or the hills or the flat. Now, larger athletes, for example, will find it harder to actually keep their core temperature cool when it comes to hot environments, which isn’t ideal for
those type of athletes when it comes to the
Ironman World Championships, which are held every year on the hot and humid Big Island of Hawaii. Now this is unfortunate for the likes of Ronnie Schildknecht. He’s the first to admit that those conditions are not perfect for him, but he has to try and deal
with them as best he can. Then you get the opposite athlete, the much slighter built Patrick Lange, who actually excels in those conditions. Hills don’t necessarily
suit the heavier athletes, as it’s going to require more energy to get up the hills compared
to a smaller athlete. So you will often find
pro Ironman athletes picking and choosing
the races in the terrain that suits them the best. When it comes to ITU, however,
there are less differences, and you’ll see that most athletes do the majority of the
World Triathlon Series irrelevant of where they’re held. I have touched on weight, but today we’re really
focusing on body type. Now, body composition,
or your fat percentage, can actually be altered relatively easily with some strong willpower,
a structured training plan, and a good diet plan to follow. But you cannot actually
change your bone structure. You might hear athletes talking about getting their race weight, so they might lose a couple of kilos from their training weight, maybe a little bit more if
it’s a hilly or a hot race, but this isn’t going to
change their body type. It’s just going to change the
distribution of their fat. (upbeat soft rock music) At the end of the day,
as multi-sport athletes, both the pros and us as age groupers, need to work on our weaknesses, but also play to our strengths. So say if you’re from
a swimming background and you’re really mobile, you need to focus more on your training on doing some strength
and conditioning work. If you’re a really slight build, then you might want to do
more lifting, for example, to help with your cycling. The list goes on. And as for choosing a race, yes, it’s great to do a race
that suits your body type, but don’t be afraid to actually
go out of your comfort zone and do a race that
doesn’t suit you so much, as that’s the best way to get stronger and develop as an athlete. It’s the diversity of the
three sports of triathlon that just makes it so brilliantly unique, and whatever your body shape or type you’ll be able to find a race distance and type of race that will suit you. But let’s just say you could
devise the perfect body type that you wanted to do your
next race, what would that be? I’m intrigued, do let me know
in the comments section below. If you’ve enjoyed this,
give us a thumbs up, and find the globe on screen to click and subscribe to make sure you get all of our videos here at GTN. And if you want to see a video we made on how much do pro triathletes weigh, well you can find that one just down here. And if you want to see a
triathlon training explained show when we looked at the ideal
weight for training and racing, that’s just down here.

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Dennis Veasley

43 thoughts on “Is There A Perfect Body Shape For Triathlon?”

  1. This channel is so underrated you guys give so much good tips, info and amazing stuff on triathlons. Keep up the great work!!

  2. I am a big guy 188cm 87kgs and I am about to partecipate my second half distance triathlon in Elba island, with 1400mt of elevation…..i love climbs despite my body mass. Climbing is the salt of cycling

  3. To compete at the top? Yes probably. To call yourself a triathlete and complete. No. That’s why we all love this sport. Keep up the good work, guys 🤟🏼

  4. Interesting, but I really expected the input of a professional sport scientist here. Some footage of specialist runners and cyclists, rather than GTN triathlete stock, would also have contributed. David McNamee is definitely not a good example!

  5. As an AG that still wants to be/look somewhat “normal”, I tend to focus a lot of weight training on upper body in an effort to maintain my shoulders, chest and arms. Too many triathletes (and especially cyclists) have no upper body and I personally do not want “that look”. I recognize my preference for my body does have adverse effects on my aerodynamics, but that’s a choice I’ve made.

  6. I'm about 6ft, 24 years old, skinny and lean, small shoulders, and have only recently started doing sports related things in the last few years, before that I did nothing. The only swimming I've done was in school but I cycle a lot now and ran for about a year before that. Do I have any chance in triathlon?

  7. You can't really have a perfect body for Triathlon. I do some running 10 k, 5 k and cycling. You can be short, but for swimming you need to be taller a 6 feet minimum in order to be able to compete. For cycling though 6 feet tall is a drawback as you sit higher. So 150 lbs, 5'10, lean body is the ideal Triathlon shape. At 175 lbs with a track cycling body there is no way I am able to do a full Triathlon.😭

  8. Being a small and light triathlete I've found that I'm able to pass a lot of people on climbs which is fab but then I'm often caught up again on the downhill so I'd say it's good for K/QOMs and longer climbs but overall it evens out – although could have more to do with not having a TT bike and the confidence to really smash the downhill who knows

  9. If I may add, swimming has four disciplines: Back, Breast, Butterfly, Free. Out of the four Backstroke and Freestyle favor the tall whereas breaststroke and butterfly favor the strong. Those who are short do rather well in those strokes, making them the fairest discipline of all. You will see shorter stature Japanese world champions mostly in those strokes and the Dutch in the freestyle category. Ironically quick people are pound-for-pound stronger than exceptionally tall individuals. (Take a look at power weight lifters for examples).

    Yes, Thorpe, (most excellent freestyler of all time); Phelps, and Laura Manadou born with big feet and big hands acted like flippers and paddles for them.

  10. Tim Don I reckon has the perfect physic very lean and also powerful! Also funky hair and sum times a 1970s porn moustache! I don't know if that helps as well??

  11. I think the best one would be a not too tall so like 1,80m tops, fairly slender build but a strong back and shoulders. The little bit of extra drag you get with a bit broader shoulders from the wind will even out or is overtaken with a good swim time and also being able to keep good form while cycling and running. That would be the general best body for triatlon in the broad sense of the sport. For each specific event there always be a specialist that is made for that race.

  12. okay, I wasn't going to mention Lionel but seeing as how you threw him in the mix I might as well go ahead and say it. Who remembers that old Right Said Fred song from the 90s "I'm Too Sexy"? Well as I follow Lionel's career and watching how he trains that song kept popping up in my head. Is Lionel Sanders too sexy to be a triathlete?? I mean my God….THAT CHEST AND ASS!! He's got a body a Go-Go boy could make $1,000.00 a night dancing on a podium in a L.A. nightclub.

    But I digress. Getting back to swimmers feet, would you say that it's better to relax the foot to give it more of a flipper effect? I can only imagine that that would become difficult to remember to do while you're in a race and everything on your body wants to tense up.

  13. When you post videos like this it doesnt encourage people who are overweight and training for a triathlon. But i is the truth. If I would suggest. Maybe you can make a video on someone who doesn't fit the description and defies all odds against him or her.

  14. I believe that you can look at Alistair brownlee for the sprint and Olympic distance body type.
    You can look at SEB, frodeno or Lange for the half to full ironman distance.
    What is goingvto be interesting is this year world championship.
    You will hopefully have all the top guys in there with hopefully Sanders making a comeback.
    Sanders is the most muscular and average height around 6foot. Shorter legs longer torso.
    Lange is slimmer and shorter again long torso.
    Frodeno is tall and slim.
    Alistair again tall and slim longer legs than most.
    Let's see what happens!

  15. You'd think someone like Jan Frodeno is too tall to perform well in triathlon, yet he kicks ass. If I had to name one guy with perfect proportions though that would be Javier Gomez, he's not overly lean yet he's able to perform at every kind of distance you might throw at him. He's got perfect running form, swims like a dolphin, if he got stronger on the bike he could win Hawaii without a doubt.

  16. Currently 99kg and doing my first ironman in two weeks in Kalmar Sweden. Plannkng on cutting 15-20kilos to next years race. Bye bye cake and candy🙀

  17. My body type is really lean and I realized I needed to lift weights.

    I was 125 lbs at around 5’7 and I always noticed a lack of strength in cycling and swimming.

    I’ve since been lifting weights and eating more and I’ve managed to have quicker times in every discipline along with feeling like the activities are easier. I currently weigh 131 lbs.

  18. A short lower body with long torso, big legs for power and toned upper body that doesn't weigh you down seems to be ideal

  19. Perfect body type for a triathlete: At least 6ft. with 10-13% body fat, BUT there are exceptions, i.e. 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist Heny Schumann and multiple Kona champion Patrick Lange. Don't shy away from triathlons because of your body type, it is a great lifestyle!

  20. For competition any shape that gets you on the Podium is perfect! For bragging rights, any shape that gets you across the finish line is perfect. Each person is YOU-nique

  21. Thanks once again do enjoy your show.. Wish I had a perfect body for sport.. In my view it's power to weight and most importantly how tough you are between lugg holes..

  22. Body type is one part of the equation. Also add attitude, luck including where you're born and cash and just health, training genetics (e.g. gene specific heart and gut efficiencies), training IQ, dedication, fitness and HARD WORK 😋

    You can offset most things with some of the other but at the extreme, it's hard to push 300 watts like Lionel for 4 hours and with a HR of only 120. 😁

  23. From what I’ve seen, larger – or at least more solid – triathletes tend to race longer distance races. Slighter athletes race the shorter distances. Although a newbie, my body type is more slight so I should be better at short distance. However, my swim is my worst discipline so I wouldn’t be competitive (if being competitive is my goal). Plus, my GI distress tends to kick up at higher intensities. Regardless, I’m working on building strength over the next couple of years while in school and not racing.

  24. This was a really interesting and nuanced video. After some deliberation, I have settled on the following “dream athlete”:
    – For love of new tech and all things nerdy bike related: Mark
    – Accent and creative ways to include anything Scottish in videos: Fraser
    – Appreciation of a caption contest suggestion and willingness to think outside the box: Heather

  25. Research shows the best Swimmers = Longer torso, long arms and big feet
    Cyclists = Longer femur bones
    Runners = Longer shin bones
    Put this all together and you get disproportionatly tall 👍😁

  26. Joshua Prentice in the comment section below made a sterling point
    "- Appreciation of a caption contest suggestion and willingness to think outside the box: Heather"
    The Caption Comp is a Literary Outlet.
    You two guys keep finding the winner of the caption contest on a frekin WHIM. I said it before. Your choice always shows you have NO literary inclination. Suggestion, "leave the caption competition to Heather" Case Closed.
    Oh, almost forgot, when you give and take back your 'GTN love hearts' it does not ring my dingle berries.

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