The tell-tale signs of weekend athleticism
February 27, 2010 5:01 PM   Subscribe

What does a person's body tell you about the kind of sports or athletic activities they engage in?

For example, it seems like it's fairly easy to pick out swimmers because they tend to have a distinctive shape to their shoulders and arms. I can sometimes spot skiers by the way their face has tanned (although solariums make it more difficult). What other giveaways are there? What's the pattern of musculature of someone who is into ice-skating, for example, or fencing, or basketball, or judo? Do certain sports result in certain skin or hair conditions?

I'm less interested in the body types of elite athletes. Obviously, Olympic weightlifters are going to conform to a certain shape. Ditto with people who aren't into sports or athletics at all. It's that middle ground of people who engage in certain activities frequently enough to have wrought subtle but specific changes in their physical profile, such that you could look at them and tell that they were probably a cyclist, or a runner, or a rock-climber, or a horse-rider.
posted by Ritchie to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Rock climbers: lithe build and calluses

cyclists: massive thighs and small upper body

Distance runners: somewhere between emaciated and lithe
posted by dfriedman at 5:03 PM on February 27, 2010

Gymnasts - small, compact, and really muscular especially through the shoulders and thighs.
posted by cecic at 5:04 PM on February 27, 2010

I don't know if this is the sort of thing you're looking for, but I got a physical the other week from a new doctor, and she could tell I was a runner because of my heart rate.
posted by Ashley801 at 5:08 PM on February 27, 2010

Gymnasts also seem to stand up very straight. This may not be limited to gymnasts though.

I don't think the average person who cycles alot is going to have massive thighs. At least, the people I know who do long trips every summer weekend don't seem to. They are pretty skinny though.
posted by cabingirl at 5:08 PM on February 27, 2010

Cabingirl is right; most of these physical attributes only occur with people who do an activity a lot.

That said, fencers usually have visibly different sized arms.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:12 PM on February 27, 2010

Ice skaters have big thighs.
posted by jgirl at 5:12 PM on February 27, 2010

Tennis players tend to have calluses at the base of their fingers.
posted by peacheater at 5:14 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Baseball players will have huge forearms.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:17 PM on February 27, 2010

Golfers can get some mean tan lines--you can end with sock tan lines, short tan lines, t-shirt tan lines, a hat tan line, and a glove tan line.

This goes for tennis too, if the person is playing outside for long periods of time. I tried to find you some examples, but I got distracted searching for shirtless pictures of Federer and Nadal. It seems playing tennis results in hotness.
posted by sallybrown at 5:27 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

People who ride horses will have great abs, and may have strong thighs as well.
posted by dizziest at 5:29 PM on February 27, 2010

Most bellydancers I know (and I know an oddly large amount) walk more fluidly than other people and often have peculiar mannerisms when gesturing.

Surfers seem to have the sunglasses tan line.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:30 PM on February 27, 2010

Wrestlers or people who wrestle (MMA) can have cauliflower ear.
posted by dino terror at 5:33 PM on February 27, 2010

I've heard from friends involved in ballet that ballet dancers often get really torn up feet (permanently) if they spend a lot of time en pointe.
posted by sallybrown at 5:35 PM on February 27, 2010

Rock climbers - large forearms.... sometimes bad posture if they climb overhangs a lot - calloused hands --- whittle finger injuries
posted by malp at 6:04 PM on February 27, 2010

Even low-level cyclists will usually have big thighs, big calves, telltale tan lines from bike shorts, and sometimes shaved legs. As a cycling buddy once put it, "I know when I've been off the bike for a whil. Because my jeans start to fit."
posted by adamrice at 6:04 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

golfers will have one very tan and one very pale one (from being in a glove). i've met people who live in florida where the pale hand is visible from quite a distance.
posted by garfy3 at 6:11 PM on February 27, 2010

I've noticed women who do a lot of yoga have a particular posture in common. And women who were jocks in high school stand out like anything to me - I think it's a posture thing as well.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:13 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yoga butt.

Softball shoulders.
posted by jefficator at 6:18 PM on February 27, 2010

Rowers tend to be tall, have (big) muscular shoulders and backs, and wicked quads. And lots of calluses and/or blisters depending on when during the season/winter it is.
posted by hepta at 6:30 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

They also have distinctive uni-tans, which are like racerback tans on top and short tan on the bottom. You can pick a rower out on the beach due to the entire middle of their body from mid-thigh to upper back being a lot paler than their legs/arms/faces.
posted by hepta at 6:33 PM on February 27, 2010

For skiers, its not just a tanned face, its chapped lips and skin.
posted by Good Brain at 6:52 PM on February 27, 2010

Sailors, in addition to the expected suntan lines from wearing sunglasses and short-sleeved shirts, will sometimes have just the tips of their fingers (only to the first knuckle) tanned. Sometimes it will be just the thumb and forefinger tips. It's from wearing fingerless gloves.

That and the salty crust will help you spot them.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 7:18 PM on February 27, 2010

I get distinctive tans on my hands from the fingerless gloves I wear biking--taned fingers after the first knuckle, with a little circle on the meat between my thumb joint and pointer finger knucle where the veldcro strap goes. The really serious bikers I know have super-defined calves. I'm also under the impression that runners get super-defined hamstrings. Runners (hams and shins) and bikers (quads and calves), IIRC, have complementary muscle imbalance problems if they're not careful.

Injuries are another tell--I'm sure all sports have their most common injuries.
posted by Decimask at 7:48 PM on February 27, 2010

Martial artists often have bruises on their forearms from blocking.
posted by hought20 at 8:06 PM on February 27, 2010

horse-rider: bow-legged
posted by jckll at 8:31 PM on February 27, 2010

I don't think this is exactly what you're looking for, but swimmers who specialize in different strokes tend to have different builds. Backstrokers are usually tall and lean, butterfliers are still tall but more muscular, and breaststrokers are often shorter and almost always much more muscular, especially in the thighs and chest.
posted by Starmie at 8:45 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm less interested in the body types of elite athletes. Obviously, Olympic weightlifters are going to conform to a certain shape. Ditto with people who aren't into sports or athletics at all.

Well, not so fast. "Olympic weightlifting," sometimes just called "weightlifting," is a competition in the snatch and the clean and jerk. Saying someone is an Olympic weightlifter doesn't mean they are in the Olympics.

You'll see major development in the quadriceps and the trapezius muscles in an Olympic lifter. The lifters in the heaviest weight classes won't usually be very lean, though. The best weightlifters will tend to have very good vertical jumps due to their predominantly fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Also, in terms of bikers and runners and skaters all, I'd say the ones who do short sprint-type efforts will have large, muscular legs. The ones who do long slow distance, not so much.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:43 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Long distance runners have huge lower bodies with tiny upper bodies (in comparison).

Wrestlers have very muscled necks.
posted by RawrGulMuffins at 12:04 AM on February 28, 2010

The big difference you'll see between a long distance athlete like Lance Armstrong, and an explosive short distance athlete like Usain Bolt is going to be the "junk in the trunk". Explosive athletes will have a well developed backside, as those are the main go-go muscles. Comparing the pics, you can see Bolt's hamstring muscles extend all the way down to his knees and Armstrong's stop midway.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:05 AM on February 28, 2010

In addition to the torn up feet, dancers have impeccable posture, walk like ducks to some extent, tend to stand with their feet turned out, and have calves that would make Beckham weep in envy.

And they might run or jump funny as well; though long past my dancing days, I apparently run with my toes pointed and tend to grande jete when trying to grab a frisbee far over my head
posted by romakimmy at 1:10 AM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used to be in track and cross country. I've noticed that long distance runners have larger calves. Sprinters tend to have bigger thighs.
posted by state fxn at 2:42 AM on February 28, 2010

Swimmers usually have compact frames, and huge rhomboids, deltoids and pectorals.

Pistol shooters may have a more well-developed arm as compared to the other arm, especially the forearm.
posted by titantoppler at 4:23 AM on February 28, 2010

Someone with one massive leg and one not so massive leg is an American football kicker.

Horse riders, especially if they do something involving agility like barrel racing or cutting will have amazing asses. If they're also leathery, then they ride Western instead of English, though not all Western riders are leathery. I work at horse shows frequently and it can be sort of disconcerting to see a woman with an amazing body from behind who turns around and is like 80.
posted by cmoj at 8:36 AM on February 28, 2010

Or I guess some other kind of dedicated kicker.
posted by cmoj at 8:37 AM on February 28, 2010

Wrestlers of all sorts typically have wiry, defined forearms from gripping.

Freestyle/greco-roman wrestlers can develop meaty necks from bridging on their heads to keep their shoulders off the ground (to avoid a pin).

Guys who do Judo/Sambo/Brazilian Jiu-jitsu can have callused hands from repeatedly gripping and having their hands torn from their opponent's jacket ("grip-fighting").

And all of the above might be sporting cauliflower ear, although that can indicate a boxer too.
posted by edguardo at 9:12 AM on February 28, 2010

Rock climbers have wacky fingers - all of them have wide fingers and callouses., many have bloated joints and crooked fingers.
posted by ye#ara at 12:08 PM on February 28, 2010

Tennis players if they play with a heavier racquet will have a slightly more developed arm than the other, especially if they do single-handed backhand and forehand.
posted by lizarrd at 1:52 PM on February 28, 2010

This one just occurred to me, and is freakishly perfect for this question: arm wrestling.
posted by dubitable at 7:59 PM on February 28, 2010

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