Sports Medicine

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 449–458 | Cite as

Genetic Inheritance Effects on Endurance and Muscle Strength

An Update
  • Aldo M. Costa
  • Luiza Breitenfeld
  • António J. Silva
  • Ana Pereira
  • Mikel IzquierdoEmail author
  • Mário C. Marques
Leading Article


Top-level sport seems to play a natural Darwinian stage. The most outstanding athletes appear to emerge as a result of exogenous influences of nature and/or coincidence, namely, the contingency of practicing certain sport for which their talents best fit. This coincidence arises because certain individuals possess anatomical, metabolic, functional and behavioural characteristics that are precisely those required to excel in a given sport. Apart from the effects of training, there is strong evidence of genetic influence upon athletic performance. This article reviews the current state of knowledge regarding heritable genetic effects upon endurance and muscle strength, as reported by several twin and family studies. Due, probably, to the inaccuracy of the measurement procedures and sampling error, heritability estimates differ widely between studies. Even so, the genetic inheritence effects seem incontrovertible in most physical traits: ~40–70% for peak oxygen uptake and cardiac mass and structure, and ~30–90% for anaerobic power and capacity, ranging according to the metabolic category. Studies in development by several researchers at this present time seem to guarantee that future reviews will include twins and family studies concerning genes associated with the adaptive processes against hormetic agents, such as exercise, heat and oxidative stress.


Handgrip Strength Ventilatory Threshold Dizygotic Twin Muscle Fibre Type Sport Performance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aldo M. Costa
    • 1
    • 2
  • Luiza Breitenfeld
    • 3
    • 4
  • António J. Silva
    • 2
    • 5
  • Ana Pereira
    • 2
    • 5
  • Mikel Izquierdo
    • 6
    Email author
  • Mário C. Marques
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Sport SciencesUniversity of Beira InteriorCovilhãPortugal
  2. 2.Centre for Research in SportHealth and Human DevelopmentVila RealPortugal
  3. 3.Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of Beira InteriorCovilhãPortugal
  4. 4.Research Centre for Health SciencesCovilhãPortugal
  5. 5.Department of Sport ScienceExercise and Health at the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto DouroVila RealPortugal
  6. 6.Department of Health SciencesPublic University of NavarreTudela, NavarreSpain

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