How Sports Develop Our Muscles – And What You Need to Be Aware Of As an Athlete

The following guest post comes via Daniel Harford:

If you are engaging in any kind of sport or physical activity on a regular basis then you should expect this to affect your body in a number of ways. Our skeletal muscle is designed in order to adapt to the specific stress it is placed under and this means that the body of a rower is vastly different from the body of a football player. This is something that is actually highly interesting for those involved in sports or fitness as it allows us to look at someone and then to guess with a fair degree of accuracy which sports and activities they take part in.

Here are couple of examples:

Football (Soccer) Players: Playing football means running a lot of course, but also kicking the ball and generating a lot of power from the legs. This then means that the quadriceps and the calves will develop to a large degree for that outward swing, while the shoulders (deltoids) will also develop to an extent from the running. Because footballers run a lot in their training this also means you can expect their body fat percentage to be quite low as they are forced to burn off the fat they had stored in order to use the energy.


Rowers: Rowers really only have one movement that is particularly required of their muscle and that’s pulling. Their job is to pull the ores against the water which can offer quite some resistance and that then means that they need to develop pulling muscle more than pushing. The main pulling muscles involved here are the lats, the triceps to some degree, the shoulders and the traps. This gives the rower an impressive looking back with that classic ‘upside down triangle’ look that is highly sought after for men. As a form of CV, the rowing will also have once again resulted in a lean physique.

Boxing/Martial Arts: Boxing requires its athletes to be light on their feet and able to spring easily into action, and so they will have more developed legs than you might imagine. However the main muscles for generating the power of the punch are the pecs, the shoulder, the triceps and the obliques – which combined give them the ability to powerfully twist and push out with their fist. Thus you should expect them to look barrel chested and with a particularly square upper body and shoulders.



Climbing: Rock climbing once again requires pulling to a large degree, though often in various different angles. This means that it will once again train the lats, but that it will also engage the biceps. The forearms will also be developed from all the gripping necessary to cling on to the rock face.

Now while this is all good and well, what’s important to realize is that developing certain muscles disproportionately can actually cause damage to our bodies. If for example you develop your pecs without your traps and lats, it will cause your body to become hunched over as they pull your body forward. Likewise many footballers pull their hamstrings because their quadriceps are disproportionately strong. As such if you are engaging in any sport it is highly important that you remember to train the opposite muscles too and not just the muscles you need. While you should certainly train for the specific movements you require for your sport, it’s also important that you keep your whole body up to the same level, and that means you need to think like a bodybuilder when writing your training programs and aim for a proportioned and aesthetic physique.

Daniel Harford is an expert dietitian and fitness instructor for many prominent athletes. He suggests that zero calorie dessert be integrated into the diets of athletes.

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