Elite Performers vs Elite Athletes

 I've had this conversation with a buddy of mine more than once, and thought I'd post it here to see what you guys thought.

When discussing athletics (i.e. a sport and it's athletes), one usually looks at the top performers in that sport as elite athletes.  Esp. when considering S&C programs.

Just b/c somebody is an elite performer in a given sport (in that they are in the top XX number of participants in said sport in a given league, state, country, world, etc.) does NOT mean they are an elite athlete. 

IMO, an elite athlete is one that is as near his/her genetic potential as possible.  Getting much closer will take a lot of freakin' work.

MMA has quite a few elite performers, but few elite athletes, IMO.

This is why, IMO, you could take elite performers of MMA (and various other sports in general) and still give them (somewhat) basic S&C programs, and they'd thrive.


Wiggy - www.workingclassfitness.com

For later. Many thoughts, not enough time to write them now. Now, I need to write my thesis.

But I'll be back!

  • grabs chair and popcorn *

I don't have much time to write out a good reply, but I feel that a big part of what determines whether someone is an elite athlete (especially when it comes to combat sports) is how easily they pick up technique...how fast they progress in the sport.

AxGo, I think that's exactly the point this thread is trying to make. That does NOT make them an elite athlete, but it does make them an elite performer.

I don't think picking up skills is that good an indicator of athleticism. Talent & ability, though, yes.

Like you pointed out Fedor. Obviously a monster in skills & fighting, the performer aspect, but not so much in the elite athlete level. (At least not in the traditional image of an elite athlete.)

Solid posts all around. I agree most on the issue of balance. Considering all the physical and technical aspects to the MMA game, it certainly is a challenge to point many elite athlete/performers. We have GSP and Silva, but we don't necessarily know how they would do when tested along the lines of athleticism. Fedor was another great example. Here you have a guy that the coaches thought nothing of, but due to perseverance is the number one fighter in the world.

Back to the issue of balance, it's your skills that will ultimately save your bacon in a fight. Yes, conditioning and strength are incredibly important, but if you can't defend a punch or a takedown what are you even doing in the ring? That being said, I agree with Wiggy that a solid S&C program, tailored to the individual athletes needs will serve to only benefit and enhance performance provided all the pieces are in place i.e. sleep, nutrition, recovery.

As LM said, you have to look at each athlete to determine what they are going to need in terms of an S&C program. Will Oly lifts and sandbags really make a difference in Silva's game? Tough to tell, however for us mortals I think we need to invest a good amount of training time on S&C.

Doesn't athlete literally mean competitor?

By some definitions, yes you are absolutely correct.

One of the definitions provided by dictionary.com:
"a person trained to compete in sports"

I think that most of us, and myself anyway, were thinking more along the lines of overall athleticism and not abilities in one sport. This makes me re-think my last post though. By this definition, Fedor would definitely be considered an elite athlete...just not the visual image that usually pops up when the word is used.

Elite performers are elite athletes . . . this is a false dichotomy.

There is no meaningful objective way to measure "athleticism'. Who cares what someone's 100m time or vertical is if they can not perform in their sport?

Elite performers in MMA have incredible efficiency and strategy in their chosen sport. This takes and extraordinary amount of time and love of the game to develop. This is the real measure of an athlete, they are preparing to win . . . not preparing to turn in impressive numbers on arbitrary fitness tests.

The performance of guys like Fedor or A. Silva would likely suffer if they wasted valuable training time and recovery on improving their vertical or 1RM Squat.