by Matthew Mundorf
ESPN just released “The Body”. Here’s my take on the requirements of different athletic domains, and how it shapes professional athletes bodies.
If you don’t know what the ESPN Body issue is, and you respect professional athletes for their hard work and dedication, I highly recommend you check it out. Every year dating back to 2009, ESPN features athletes (some well-known, and others you maybe haven’t heard of) and spotlights their bodies and how the requirements of their sport or position in that sport have shaped their bodies in to what they are presently.
ESPN has done an awesome job of featuring athletes of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, and sexual orientations. Without discriminating against a human being of any kind.
Check it out for yourself at http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/27400369/the-body-issue
In my opinion, it is very cool to see elite level athletes and what their bodies look like without protective equipment (ie shoulder pads), a uniform or any other attire hiding it. I think the best part about this issue is seeing the difference in build and muscle structure between athletes from different sports that can be considered some of the best at what they do. The purpose of this blog post is to look at and dissect the human body and its anatomical make-up as it relates to given sports. I recommend picking up an issue or going to ESPN.com and browsing through the pictures on their site, and follow along with my list.
In the 2019 issue on ESPN.com, this years athletes include:
- Scout Basset (Age: 30, Height: 4’9”, Weight: 89 pounds, Paralympian Sprinter and Long Jumper)
- Liz Cambage (Age: 27, Height: 6’8”, Weight: 218 pounds, Center in the WNBA, 2-time Olympian)
- Katrin Davidsdottir (Age: 26, Height 5’7”, Weight: 150 pounds, 2-time CrossFit Games champion)
- Philadelphia Eagles O-Line (2018 Super Bowl Champions)
- Myles Garret (Age: 23, Height: 6’5”, Weight: 273 pounds, Defensive End for Cleveland Brounds, 2017 #1 overall draft pick)
- James Hinchcliffe (Age: 32, Height: 5’9”, Weight 160 pounds, IndyCar driver, 2011 ROY)
- Alex Honnold (Age: 33, Height: 5’11”, Weight: 157 pounds, Rockclimber and the only climber ever to free solo El Capitan)
- Evander Kane (Age: 28, Height: 6’2”, Weight: 210 pounds, Left Wing for San Jose Sharks – NHL)
- Brooks Koepka (Age: 29, Height: 6’1”, Weight: 187 pounds, PGA Tour, World #1, 4 Majors Championships)
- Nancy Lieberman (Age: 61, Height: 5’10”, Weight: 154 pounds, Retired point guard, Former WNBA and NBA coach, oldest player to appear in WNBA game)
- Amanda Nunes (Age: 31, Height: 5’8”, Weight: 160 pounds, UFC bantamweight and featherweight champion, most wins (11) by a female fighter in UFC history)
- Kelly O’Hara (Age: 31, Height: 5’6”, Weight: 131 pounds, Defender USWNT, 2-time World Cup Champion)
- Katelyn Ohashi (Age: 22, Height: 4’10”, Weight: 110 pounds, UCLA gymnast, 4-time All-American)
- Chris Paul (Age: 34, Height: 6’0”, Weight: 190 pounds, Point guard, NBS, 9-time All-Star, ROY 2006, 2-time Olympic gold medalist)
- Lakey Peterson (Age: 24, Height: 5’7”, Weight: 132 pounds, Pro Surfer, WSL ROY 2012, First woman to perform an Aerial in competition)
- Michael Thomas (Age: 26, Height: 6’3”, Weight, 218 pounds, Wide Receiver NFL, 2-time Pro Bowler)
- Christian Yelich (Age:27, Height: 6’4”, Weight, 195 pounds, Outfielder MLB, 2018 NL MVP, 2-time All-Star, 2018 NL Batting title, 2019 MLB HR leader)
In previous issues, we’ve seen Men’s and Women’s athletes from the following sports: Tennis, Hockey, Figure Skating, Track & Field, Softball, Wrestling, Mixed Martial Arts, Skiing (freestyle and cross country), Swimming, Motocross, Fencing, Volleyball, Rugby, Wake Boarding, Golf, Surfing, Soccer, Bowling, and Badminton… I’m sure I missed a few.
I will focus on this years issue, because there is just too much to talk about if we go all the way back. Going in order of how the athletes are presented by ESPN, I will talk about each athlete and their bodies. I will discuss anything that makes sense as to their build and body structure as well as anything I find unique. If I know more about a particular sport/position within that sport, I may spend more time there, but I ensure you it is not to show favoritism.
- Scout Basset. She is a 4’11 Paralympian Sprinter and Long Jumper. The first thing I notice about her is her short frame. She is 4’11 and because she is a sprinter, you would assume she is very powerful for her frame size. That makes sense. 4’11 is very short though. When I think of elite level sprinters, I think average height, not 4’11. What doesn’t make the most sense, is that when looking at her frame, to me she has a long torso and mid-section, therefore leading me to believe she has a short-stride length. So I am somewhat surprised that she has experienced the success she has considering.
- Liz Cambrage. She is 6’8” weighing 218 pounds. What makes sense about this. She is very tall and plays Center in the WNBA. When looking at her build, she looks to have a very strong lower body which is good thing considering all of the running and jumping that takes place in basketball. She is also not carrying any extra weight and has managed keep on the muscle despite all of the conditioning required for her sport. Considering all things, I have to wonder what the hell does her diet look like?
- Katrin Davidsdottir. 5’7” and 150 pounds. She has in my opinion a pretty ideal body type for her sport. She is not incredibly short, therefore allowing her to be relevant in events that would favor a tall build, but she isn’t tall, therefore allowing her to move her own body and barbells with more ease than a taller competitor. What’s striking about Katrin’s appearance is the lack of body fat. She has an 8 pack. She has worked hard at her craft because she has finished top-5, 5 times. A lot of men and women throw shade her way, stating women shouldn’t be “ripped” and they would never want to look like that.
- Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Line…without formal statistics, I would assume the average height here is 6’4” and the average weight is somewhere between 320-330 pounds. Knowing the position these guys play, they are responsible for moving people. That is exactly what their bodies say to me. They say “I am big, and I move things.” What you might think is that these guys are incredibly strong. This is true, however they have to walk a line between strength and power. It does no good to be able to move 1000 pounds if it takes you 10 seconds. These men have to either move 300 pounds (that’s fighting to go the opposite direction) or stop 300 pounds in a split second. These dudes are deceptively athletic and fast.
- Myles Garrett. 6’5” and 273 pounds. One of the guys previously mentioned…the one trying to go in the opposite direction of the O-Line. This dude is the same height and only 273 pounds. Dude is shredded. I feel comfortable saying there are O-lineman out there that are stronger than him, but I doubt there are many people in the league more powerful than him. What is striking to me is the size of his legs. You can see where he gets all his power from, and what has led to him being a hell of a pass-rusher.
- James Hinchcliffe. 5’9” and 160 pounds. The guy drives an Indy Car for a living and looks built like an endurance athlete. Makes sense. Considering he could be competing for up to 6 hours depending on the race. Drivers do not get credit for the toll that racing takes on their bodies. These guys have to be physically strong but also incredibly mentally strong. More and more drivers are becoming fitness junkies. They have to walk a fine line between being strong, but not packing on too much weight. The cars they drive are optimized for speed. A few extra pounds could slow them down.
- Alex Honnold. 5”11” and 157 pounds. I will say this is the craziest person on this list. As a former recreational climber myself, I can say this guy has been working to get where he is at for a LONG TIME. Climbing is so hard, so challenging, and consistently beats you down. Alex is incredibly lean, and has muscles that could literally endure absolute torture. Not only must he have crazy grip strength to successfully grab on to his holds, but he must also have muscles meant for endurance to hold himself for extended periods of time while he rests or plots his next move. Additionally, his abs have abs. This man could probably plank for an hour without even breaking a sweat.
- Evander Kane. 6’2 and 210 pounds. Hockey players are some of my favorite athletes. They have had to strike the perfect balance between strength, power, and endurance. Have you ever sprinted on skates, had to stop abruptly, and then sprinted again. Your legs would be on FIRE. Looking at Evander’s legs, you can see that his were built for his sport. These guys pretty much go all out for 60 seconds, get a short break, and then repeat it something like 20 times a game. Not to mention there are 5 guys on the opposing team constantly looking for an opportunity to take their heads off. I have mad respect for hockey players not only for what they do, but for how they take care of themselves. These guys have longer careers than any other professional athletes out there. There have been guys 45 years old out there competing against 20 year-olds. The only person that can really compare to that today is Tom Brady, and he has done a great job of ensuring he doesn’t get hit very often.
- Brooks Koepka. He is basically the ideal body type for today’s PGA tour. He is long and powerful, but not lanky. Golf courses are getting longer and longer and Brooks is consistently one of the long hitters on today’s golf. 30-40 years ago, golf courses looked different, and so did the body types that were successful back then. Brooks is tall, has good strength relevant to mobility, but will always have to be careful to not put on too much muscles. Look back to what happened when Tiger did that. Bulked up, looked good physically, and his swing became garbage. Brooks spends anywhere between 4-8 hours a day at the golf course, so what I find the funniest thing about his pictures, is the wicked farmers tan he’s rocking. There are symmetrical hard lines on both of his upper arms.
- Nancy Lieberman. 61 years old, former point guard. This woman looks like she could still be playing. She’s ripped. Everything about her looks strong. I don’t know of any other 61 year-olds that look like she does. In her words “I want this to be an inspiration. I want to see moms, housewives, athletes go, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe she looks like that. She’s 60. I can do that too. It’s important to take care of yourself.” I hope she does inspire many people. What I appreciate about her figure, is that she looks like she is still moving and moving well. I tell people all the time, don’t stop moving!
- Amanda Nunes. The last person on this list to piss off. Amanda is a well-known MMA fighter and a successful one at that. Her demeanor is one that let’s you know she takes most things very seriously. MMA fighting requires a body that is powerful, quick, but can also work for long periods of time. Fights can be scheduled for between 15 and 25 minutes, but on average last 8-9 minutes. Physiologically speaking, that puts fighting in to the aerobic category making them more about endurance than anything else. Amanda looks to have a strong body type for her given sport. Powerful legs, but not bulky. Taller than average allowing for her to have a long reach (good for boxing), but not so tall that she’s stick thin and would have problems getting in to a weight class where she can be competitive. Being super tall in a sport like MMA often translates to slower moving, and needing to have less muscle mass in order to compete. Not good things when it comes to MMA.
- Kelly O’Hara. Women’s national team player of average height and what the CDC would say is a healthy weight for a woman that height. Kelly has a body that I think most women would say they’d like to have. She is not carrying extra weight, she is not bulky with really defined muscles, and she is not underweight. Kelly looks healthy. Knowing what we know about the USWNT, we can assume Kelly has worked very hard for the body she has. Because she probably runs anywhere between 3-8 miles per day, we know her muscular endurance has to be good. Because soccer is a contact sport, with jumping, and sprinting, and changing directions, Kelly has to have a good power to endurance ratio. Kelly is not going to be the strongest, fastest, most powerful athlete in the bunch, but she will be well balanced. Much like hockey, I have an admiration for soccer players because they have to blend all components of physical fitness in order to be “elite” at their sport.
- Katelyn Ohashi. 4’10 and 110 pounds. Remember our #1 member of this list. They are built similarly, but Katelyn’s body looks incredibly powerful. Katelyn is not carrying any extra body fat, but her legs look very strong. Some would complain about having legs the size of hers. But those legs have allowed her to excel at gymnastics. Gymnastics requires strength and power, as well as tremendous flexibility and coordination. In terms of body awareness and control, gymnasts have to be the best at it. Elite gymnasts are often built like Katelyn. Short and compact. This allows them to flip, turn, and twist quickly, and the shorter more compact muscles allow them powerful. Additionally, the shorter frame is what allows them to complete more rotations faster. Think about a wheel. A smaller wheel completes a full rotation much quicker than a taller wheel. Something very important for gymnasts.
- Chris Paul. I would say that for NBA pointguards, Chris Paul is of average height and weight. Chris has been an elite point guard basically since he entered the league. He is more a classic point guard than point guards of today. He isn’t going to score 40 points very often. But he is an assist man, and one heck of a defender. Chris Paul is in the top 3 for assists and steals virtually every year. He is also a nuisance and pesky defender, and a lot of players don’t like matching up with him. Looking at his body, I notice that his upper legs are built and well-defined. His Gluts and Quads make him explosive both forwards and backwards, but also side-to-side thus helping him to be that pesky defender. Chris is a little more experienced, and I believe he is one of the older point guards in the league, but he still moves very well, and it’s easy to see why.
- Lakey Peterson. 5’7” and 132 pounds. Lakey’s build looks like she surfs all day every day. A lot of surfers do. Which makes sense when you look at how lean she is. There is no extra body fat on her. Surfing requires strength, endurance, and crazy body awareness. Considering those attributes being needed in order to be successful, I would say a surfer needs to have strong legs and core. That is exactly what Lakey has going on. If you look at surfers that have been successful at the top level, they are all built similarly. They are of slightly taller than average height. Lean, strong legs, and a well-defined core. Much different from us that sit at computers all day long. If you have never surfed, I recommend that you give it a try. It is a full-body workout guaranteed to have you feeling it the next day.
- Michael Thomas. 6’3” and 218 pounds. Michael Thomas is approximately 3 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than average for his given position. I think his size is what makes him good at what he does. He is obviously incredibly good at what he does. But there isn’t anything obvious about his physique that sets him apart from other receivers in the league. He has strong legs and is relatively average when looking at his explosiveness. He doesn’t blow by many, he isn’t a standout in terms of rout running. Knowing that, I think he realized he needed to put on a little extra weight to go with his extra height so that he could physically impose himself and smaller defensive backs, therefore giving him an advantage on 50/50 balls.
- Last but certainly not least is Christian Yelich. This is a fun one. Growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s, when I think of home run leaders, I think of Sammy Sosa, Mark Maguire, Barry Bonds. Christian Yelich looks dramatically different than any of those guys the years they were leading the league in HR. He looks like Barry before Barry began juicing. He is built more like Ken Griffey Jr. At 6’4” and 195 pounds, his size doesn’t scream power. He is leaner and less bulky than guys that muscle the ball out of the park. Therefore his length is what has to be used to hit HR’s. When looking at his build, its clear his power comes from legs and core. He has to use these muscles efficiently in order to generate rotational forces strong enough to hit a baseball a long way. Considering his weight, his GLUT’s and hamstrings are where the bulk of his body’s muscle lies. The guys is relatively lean up top. I do believe that’s a good thing therefore allowing mechanics to dictate his swing rather than muscle. Additionally power coming from his legs with a lean (lighter) upper body is contributing to Yelich being the first player with 50 HR’s and 30 steals in the same season.
If you read this start to finish, I hope you have enjoyed it. The purpose was for nothing more than to dissect anatomical design of professional athletes that were featured in the ESPN Body issue. Hope you enjoyed. If you have a different opinion than my own, please voice it in the comments.