What’s Your Body Type: Cyclist, Runner, Triathlete, Rower, or Swimmer?

Endurance Athlete Body Types - Racing Weight

Each sport favors a particular body type.

This article is from Racing Weight, Matt Fitzgerald’s proven weight-management program designed specifically for endurance athletes. 

Racing Weight explores the average body types of athletes in cross-country skiing, cycling, rowing, running, swimming, and triathlon and explains how each body type is suited to its sport.

What’s your body type?

Racing Weight and Body Mass Index BMI for athletes

The Runner’s Body: Let’s face it, top runners are light and skinny. Elite male marathoners average 7% body fat (only cross-country skiers are leaner) and women weigh in at 12% body fat, the leanest of all endurance sports. Why? Runners who have less gravity to fight with each step are more efficient.

The Cyclist’s Body: There’s more than one body type in cycling because cyclists often specialize in climbing or time trialing. Cyclists tend to be twiggy up top with muscular legs. Cyclists range from 6-11% body fat for men and 12-16% body fat for women. The average elite climber is 5′ 7″ and 130 pounds. The typical time trialist body is 6 feet and 147 lbs.

The Swimmer’s Body: The best swimmers are very tall, often with unusually long torsos and arms. They have large feet and flexible ankles–great for kicking propulsion. Swimmers carry more body fat than other endurance athletes: 10-12% for men and 19-21% for women. Why? Fat is more buoyant than muscle. One study also found that swimmers’ bodies add fat because of repeated exposure to cold water.

[RELATED: Why are leaner athletes faster? It’s more than just gravity…]

The Triathlete’s Body: The three-sport discipline of triathlon allows for great leeway in the body types of the best triathletes. The nature of the sport means that there are more ways to win, which lessens the competitive selection pressure on body type. Triathletes are often tall, but not exclusively so. Male elites have body fat percentages from 6-10% and females range between 12-15%.

The Cross-Country Skier’s Body: Elite cross-country skiers tend to be average height or slightly tall. They are muscular but the leanest of any endurance sport. Average male: 5′ 10″, 165 lbs, and 5% body fat | Average female: 5′ 7″, 141 lbs, and 11% body fat

The Rower’s Body: In rowing, mass is an advantage so the sport is divided into lightweight and heavyweight classes. Both classes feature muscular bodies. Men have body fat ranges under 8% while women are in the 12-16% range.

Racing Weight is a proven weight-management program designed specifically for endurance athletes. Revealing the latest research and drawing from the best practices of elite athletes, coach and nutritionist Matt Fitzgerald lays out six easy steps to help cyclists, triathletes, and runners lose weight without harming their training.