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The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance Paperback – 29 Apr 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Current (29 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161723012X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1617230127
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.4 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 511,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A wonderful book. Thoughtful... fascinating." (Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers)

"Provides a powerful and convincing analysis of how genes influence all our lives, especially the careers of elite sportsmen" (The Times)

"A fascinating, thought-provoking look at the leading edge of sports performance, written by a guy who knows the territory. David, besides being a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, was a collegiate runner for Columbia University. More to the point, he’s a terrific researcher and a fine, thoughtful writer" (Dan Coyle, author of The Talent Code)

"Full credit to David Epstein, a Sports Illustrated journalist with a serious and deep knowledge of genetics and sports science, for his terrific and unblinking new book, The Sports Gene, a timely corrective to the talent-denial industry" (Ed Smith New Statesman)

"Endlessly fascinating" (John Harding Daily Mail) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

An entertaining and thought-provoking examination of the truth behind talent and success. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. D. Thibeault on 13 Aug. 2013
Format: Hardcover
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

What does it take to become an elite athlete? The intuitive answer for most of us is that it probably takes some lucky genes on the one hand, and a whole heck of a lot of hard work on the other. Specifically, that we may need to be blessed with a particular body type to excel at a particular sport or discipline (after all, elite marathon runners tend to look far different than elite NFL running backs, who in turn tend to look far different than elite swimmers), but that beyond this it is practice and diligence that paves the way to success. When we look at the science, though--as sports writer David Epstein does in his new book The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance--we find that the story is much more complicated than this. In general terms we find that nature and nurture interact at every step of the way in the development of an elite athlete, and that biology plays far more of a role (and in far more ways) than we may have expected.

To begin with, when it comes to physiology, we find that genetics not only has a large role to play in influencing our height and skeletal structure (as we would expect), but that genes also influence physiology in many other ways that are important when it comes to elite sports.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By LoveLife Reading List on 25 Jan. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This book addresses with nuances and subtlety the debate between culture and nature. It emphasises the complexity of the subject. When one chapter would develop the argument of the "10,000 hours", the next would allude to "naturals" who excel at a sport without any previous training.
It is well written with multiple examples; an easy and enjoyable read.

My take-aways would be:
- Know oneself:
It is clear that certain body types are more suitable to certain sports. The optimist message is that there is such a diversity of sports that one should find the sport that fits its own body type. For example, long forehands are an advantage for some ball sports, while short forehands are an advantage for weight-lifting.
There is no one-size-fits-all training programme. It looks like athletes react differently to training volume. There is a very interesting paragraph on training response with the example of two athletes: one "natural" and one who would outwork the other. Some long-distance athletes are gifted with high trainability; others are gifted with high baseline aerobic fitness.

Environment is key: it will direct a gifted athlete into the right sport, it will gives motivation, it will make it natural to train. The book gives the example of The Jamaican sprint factory. "Jamaica has thousands and thousands sprinting, and you get the best coming through." It also talks about Eero Mantyranta, the Finnish cross-country ski champion. He was certainly gifted with a specific gene mutation but he also skied from his youngest age and ski was his way to get a job and escape a previously miserable life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Charles TOP 500 REVIEWER on 31 Aug. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Many people believe that they can achieve anything if only they try hard enough, often Malcolm Gladwell's '10,000 hour rule' ( "the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours") is used to back up this claim. It can be very inspiring to people to think that they can be good at anything if they try hard enough, but is it actually true?

A quick look at the National Basketball Association (NBA) of America shows that being tall helps a lot in basketball. It turns out that 17% of men over 7' and between 20 and 40 in the U.S. are playing in the NBA right now. Even the 'smaller' players have extra longs arms for their height. Unless basketball players train to be taller I think it's fair to say genetics play a big part!

Donald Thomas became world high jump champion in 2007 with only eight months of training. It appears Donald has long legs for his height and a huge Achilles tendon which is very important for jumping but there are probably lots of other things we don't know about helping him as well. Since entering the professional circle Donald has not improved one centimeter contradicting the you-need-to-train-to-get-better rule!

If you think that it's purely a case of nature then you might like to know about high jumper Stefan Holm, he compensated for been smaller than average (for a high jumper ) by perfecting a sprinting approach where he hit a top speed of around nineteen miles per hour, probably faster than any other jumper in the world. To accommodate that speed, he had to start taking off from farther and farther away from the bar. He improved year by year eventually winning gold in the Olympics.
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