How the World’s Best Athletes Got That Way


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By Yasmin Tayag

The modern sports star is a new breed of human. As Mark McClusky describes in his book Faster, Higher, Stronger, training hard with a good coach is no longer enough to compete at the elite level. As today’s athletes approach the limits of human performance, they’re turning to science to gain an edge.

In the new age of sports, geneticists, psychologists, nutritionists, and physiologists are arguably more important than the coach. Using science, they’re pushing the limits of physical achievement and thereby redefining what it means to be an athlete. McClusky talked to Inverse about the importance of mental exercise, drawing the line between cheating and enhancement, and training the next generation of superathletes.

Can all sports benefit from the switch to science-based training paradigms?

I think it’s generally more easily applied in individual sports or in endurance sports where there’s a clearer link between physiology and performance than in, say, a team sport. A team sport like soccer has obviously a big physiological component but also a big skill-based component, and that’s harder to quantify in some ways than a sport like running or cycling, where frankly, it’s power output and efficiency over time, and you can model that a little more easily. So it’s easier to take that approach in a sport where a) there’s only one person, not a team; and b) where there are models that can throw their arms around the entire sport that way.

As this way of thinking moves into big team sports — the NBA, NFL, MLB — it’s that individual nature of all of it. What works for one athlete in the weight room might not work for another. What works for one athlete nutritionally might not work for another. There are —> Read More