Performance Constraints in Decathletes

Nature. 2002 Feb 14;415(6873):755-6. doi: 10.1038/415755b.


Physical performance by vertebrates is thought to be constrained by trade-offs between antagonistic pairs of ecologically relevant traits and between conflicting specialist and generalist phenotypes, but there is surprisingly little evidence to support this reasoning. Here we analyse the performance of world-class athletes in standardized decathlon events and find that it is subject to both types of trade-off, after correction has been made for differences between athletes in general ability across all 10 events. These trade-offs may have imposed important constraints on the evolution of physical performance in humans and other vertebrates.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Running
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Track and Field*