athlete body types teaser

Body shapes come in all different shapes and sizes. Every year ESPN Magazine puts out their Body Issue to demonstrate the diversity of athletes and how their training and body structure complements their sport of choice. While you can train for any sport and continue to improve, being light and lean will definitely give you an advantage in marathons, while muscular legs would make you a stronger cyclist.

Check out our infographic below to see how body shapes vary by sport:

athlete body types infographic


Swimmer Body Type

Swimmers benefit from longer torsos and wingspans. Depending on the stroke, a swimmer’s arms or legs do most of the propelling. Since swimmers are positioned horizontally, the length of their bodies is an automatic advantage when reaching for the finish.

Cyclist Body Type

Cyclists tend to have muscular legs and a slender upper body. Muscular legs, a healthy body composition, and strong core muscles are important factors in successful cycling.

RELATED: Bicycle Helmet Safety Tips and Facts

Distance Runner Body Type

Distance runners tend to be light and lean. They need to be smaller, in terms of both height and weight. The more mass runners have to lift, the harder they have to fight gravity, and the less efficient they’ll be over time.

Rower Body Type

Rowers tend to be bigger. Rowing utilizes every major muscle group in your body. Starting with the legs, a rowing stroke also requires a strong back, hips, and arm muscles. It’s easy to imagine that more weight might drag the boat down, but it’s actually more important to have the bigger muscle mass.

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Sports and physical activity bring with them a potential for injury. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury – or improve athletic performance – UPMC Sports Medicine and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program can help. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our experts partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and about 100 other high school, college, and regional teams and events throughout Pennsylvania – working daily to build better athletes.