Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger? | David Epstein

  • Published on Apr 29, 2014
  • When you look at sporting achievements over the last decades, it seems like humans have gotten faster, better and stronger in nearly every way. Yet as David Epstein points out in this delightfully counter-intuitive talk, we might want to lay off the self-congratulation. Many factors are at play in shattering athletic records, and the development of our natural talents is just one of them.
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Comments • 4 444

  • Drew Withington
    Drew Withington Day ago

    In rock climbing the difficulty of what is being climbed today is massively harder than it was 50 years ago. Every climb is given a grade which is established by a process of consensus opinion forming within the climbing community and don't vary much with time, and so can provide an objective measure of how much standards have improved. Of course equipment has improved (sticky shoes, better ropes, methods to protect against falls etc), training has improved (e.g. indoor climbing walls), and and there is improved nutrition, sports physiology, sports psychology. (Drugs like steroids aren't an advantage as more muscle mass doesn't equal higher climbing performance). But what has really changed is the level of dedication, in other words making full use of natural talents, needed to do the hardest climbs. e.g. The Dawn Wall in Yosemite took 7 years to climb. e.g. Adam Ondra started climbing seriously when he was 6 years old.

  • Fuтuяе Sтяаиge

    Ask an athlete

  • Display Name
    Display Name Day ago

    Nope! They're getting higher, druggier, and dumber.

  • AeoeQualityContent

    im 7 feet tall, but i can't make it into the NBA

  • Commander Shepard

    If race is a social construct how are there differences between ethnic groups and races?And if we are all the same why do we have different capabilities?

  • Sunshine Windows

    Merx was a beast!

  • Sergio Mac Vader

    Give Jesse Owens modern shoes...

  • Kyle Ruth
    Kyle Ruth Day ago

    He is cherry picking. Athletes are better today.

  • gebz gebba
    gebz gebba Day ago

    Athletes are like moving billboards and their main purpose is to sell.
    Turning a blind eye to steroids and achieve a new world record can sell Nike some shoes .

    ME-FA-SO-LA Day ago

    So he argues no basically..

    ME-FA-SO-LA Day ago

    Why are QBs so much more accurate??

    ME-FA-SO-LA Day ago

    I heard baseball players used to hit longer homeruns than today someone check..

    ME-FA-SO-LA Day ago

    Jesse Owen's time was by stopwatch by a human which is unreliable..

  • AlexDominus
    AlexDominus Day ago

    Damn it, why not use metric system?! Stupid Americans have not become smarter!

  • sevenrats
    sevenrats Day ago

    So really athletic competition is useless. Those who are physically gifted will win. Michael Phelps won his medals the day he was born.

  • Parker Churchill
    Parker Churchill 2 days ago

    Apes have no buns

  • stephen stewart
    stephen stewart 2 days ago

    This just shows how much of a scam the supplement industry is. We spend billions of dollars of supplements every year and yet we're no better off than athletes were 70 years ago. HMB, ZMA, NO2, Citrulline Malate, pre-workouts etc offer such an insignificant improvement in performance (if any) that they are all essentially a waste of money. Hard work, good food and a good night's sleep is all you need!

  • Paul Babcock
    Paul Babcock 2 days ago

    I initially thought this vid was about atheists getting faster. Like we are countering and destroying christian apologetics arguments and countering falacies way faster than we used to.

  • andy765gtr
    andy765gtr 2 days ago

    If you look at OTHER apes, they have no buns. this is the planet of the bun bottomed, sweaty apes. Nearly 8 billion of one species of bun bottomed sweaty apes due to an excess of 'bananas', while all the other apes, with normal bottoms disappear. then, when all off the 'bananas' have been eaten, the bun bottomed , sweaty apes will disappear too

  • Joshua Lämmlin
    Joshua Lämmlin 2 days ago

    What he says is true of course, but doping has also done its part in sports
    Im not anti doping, but its stupid to think that pros dont use illegal substances

  • Seth Larcomb
    Seth Larcomb 2 days ago

    So If I have the ability to push myself to the point of taring my own muscles (and I have done this) am I rare or common?

  • jeff crawford
    jeff crawford 2 days ago

    Talking about Kenyans physiology got Sam Harris in trouble with the SJW. Be careful with all this science and facts, leftists can't handle it.

  • _ Xds4325 _
    _ Xds4325 _ 2 days ago

    yes, there i saved you 15 minutes

  • Alcathous
    Alcathous 3 days ago

    Everyone knows that doping now has to be done within limits to avoid testing positive.

  • Magic Transistor Radio

    I think athletes have gotten smaller in the last 20 years as there has been more crack downs on steroids. Athletes today look healthier than they used to. More natural and they eat better than 20 years ago. At least in baseball and wrestling. Perhaps in football and basketball, they haven't gotten smaller.

  • Swiss Kinist
    Swiss Kinist 3 days ago

    Athletes today also need a miracle just to stay healthy for a season.

  • Matthew Eaton
    Matthew Eaton 3 days ago

    In many sports, humans are getting slower, worse, weaker due to improvements in drug testing.

  • bspktube l
    bspktube l 3 days ago

    Chill out with your hands dude

  • Chip Sticky
    Chip Sticky 3 days ago

    Triggered everyone is the same

  • Geektarded
    Geektarded 3 days ago

    Great talk!

  • Shane C
    Shane C 3 days ago

    Black guys

  • bagdiil
    bagdiil 3 days ago

    Would've loved if he brought up Stefan Holm as an excempt to the rule :)

  • Kevin Karbonik
    Kevin Karbonik 3 days ago

    At 14:21 add "The monetizeation" of sport. Nothing makes people want to train harder, work harder, get stronger.. go faster than good old money.

  • GörAlltSomEnKung
    GörAlltSomEnKung 3 days ago

    Where are the proof and facts? No conclusion. And very funny a non athlete did this presentation

  • Winston O'Dell
    Winston O'Dell 3 days ago

    But, the average person gets fatter, slower, dumber....

  • LondonJobs
    LondonJobs 3 days ago

    hundred years not enough to measure how evolution is changing our body and brain. Of course, the technology affecting the way we interact with our world, but the difference is in believing that we can do it.

  • JockeyCock
    JockeyCock 3 days ago

    Sure, because people are starting to train intensely from the age of 2, but the populace has become disgustingly sedentary. How many of you can honestly say you can sprint for one full minute?

  • Lane Welch
    Lane Welch 4 days ago

    Um. Yes they are

  • Aljosa Horvat
    Aljosa Horvat 4 days ago


  • George
    George 4 days ago

    My takeaway... My hero Jessie Owens was indeed a badass.

  • Cole Kwiatkowski
    Cole Kwiatkowski 4 days ago

    Fukin NERD

  • Brian Anderson
    Brian Anderson 4 days ago

    ehh its corky romano!

  • Breizh 29292929
    Breizh 29292929 4 days ago

    Very interesting indeed. Learnt lots of stuff. Thanks a million

  • Anthony Bush
    Anthony Bush 4 days ago


  • fastcougar3200
    fastcougar3200 4 days ago

    These leftist apologist speakers trying to mask that humans were indeed artificially engineered in the last 100 years. Just look at those black-white mute films how short and skinny people where. Do you not notice how kids are taller than their parents? They are smarter and faster? Generation after generation

  • Blaisem
    Blaisem 4 days ago

    I wish he had talked about intelligence too, for example how he came up with the idea for the Epstein drive.

  • tmmsplace
    tmmsplace 4 days ago

    So, because managers and coaches have searched for the weirdest bodies to achieve wins, therefore the body itself has changed. That’s a pretty bizarre correlation

  • xFranceYy
    xFranceYy 4 days ago

    That was amazing.

  • BruSwain TV
    BruSwain TV 4 days ago

    Excellent presentation, very informative!

  • Berkshire 88
    Berkshire 88 5 days ago

    Why are we asking a Jew for ?

  • Kozacki
    Kozacki 5 days ago


  • Lois Loon
    Lois Loon 5 days ago

    Epstein did a great job here, but what people really need to talk about is how professional sports and events like the Olympics is killing sport and ruining the health of average people. Obviously, there is a great deal of cheating, the taking of performance enhancing drugs, and politics, and everyone knows about it, and is somewhat disgusted, but only if the other guy, other team or other country is "cheating". What is really sick, is that professional athletes drive out the amateurs. Kids no longer play sports in college. They have become training camps for the NFL, NBA etc. Colleges actually discourage walk-ons. The only people competing in the Olympics are people who devote their entire lives to winning the gold (actually, lucrative careers doing commercials or sports broadcasting) and real students or people with jobs that pay their families bills, are shut out. The result, kids watch sports and play video games. In my elementary school, out of a class of over 100 kids in the early 1960's, there was only one obese kid and a few slightly chubby kids. I look at school kids today, and about 20 percent are obese, 30 percent fat, and less than half normal. Epstein should study just how much slower the average sixth grader runs a 100 yard dash. I bet the results would be pathetic.

  • Arthur Hau
    Arthur Hau 5 days ago

    People are just getting more "skillful" and "specialized". In the past, a philosopher will do economics, physics, chemistry, bible study, ... Now, you have professional athletes who are getting scholarships by not studying, but doing mainly sports.

  • 7seednew
    7seednew 5 days ago

    gosh i just love how this guy presents

  • Redaxerocker1
    Redaxerocker1 5 days ago

    Very informative!

  • Tom Erwin
    Tom Erwin 5 days ago +7

    Ok USclip I’ll watch it damnit!

  • uwlwsrpm
    uwlwsrpm 5 days ago

    Using the 1904 Olympic Marathon as a comparison is not really fair, because the marathon was run in a 90 day, on a cloudless course, on a road that was partially dirt/gravel, and only had one water station, among other things. A pretty interesting youtube video about it:

  • httr dc
    httr dc 5 days ago

    The 1904 Olympic marathon was a notorious disaster and the winner recorded one of the slowest finished times for any marathon in Olympic history. Thanks Jon Bois;)

  • paul signac
    paul signac 5 days ago

    Choo Choo

  • Long Phan
    Long Phan 5 days ago

    *cough soccer*

  • m3talh3ad123
    m3talh3ad123 5 days ago

    It's not that we are getting bigger or stronger, it's just that we know more on how to achieve peak level performance with the best athletes in the world. Whether it's dieting correctly, training at a much more efficient level, and being aware of our bodies. Athletes didn't have dietitians, or the facilities that most pro athletes have today.
    Tom Brady is the perfect example. His diet is amazing, he even does cryotherapy, something that wasn't existent back then. This is a huge reason why he's able to keep playing into his 40's.

  • torsim
    torsim 6 days ago

    Incredible presentation!

  • Roy W-G
    Roy W-G 6 days ago

    Would like to see the WR graph for the high jump which had several revolutions in technique. Lastly in the 60s with Dic k Fosbury.

  • Ιορδάνης Αρβανιτιδης

    4miles under4 minutes the only way I do it is into my car

  • Charles Black
    Charles Black 6 days ago +12

    I would have thought that nutrition would be a major factor. That fits in with technology I suppose.

    • Charles Black
      Charles Black 22 hours ago

      I'm in no way disagreeing with the 'genetic' argument. Just saying you can't disregard the changes in food supply over the past 100 years when discussing why athletes are better.
      So are we just discussing track and field athletes? I would say athletes getting much bigger in the NFL, MLB and NBA over the past 50 years is more a factor of food surplus. This is particularly true among African Americans, who were in institutional poverty until at least the 1970s.
      I read somewhere that during the US Civil War, the average Caucasian male averaged 5'7" and weighed 140 lbs. It was attributed to chronic and widespread malnutrition and food shortages..

    • Colin Armstrong
      Colin Armstrong 23 hours ago

      Nutrition isn't a huge factor. It doesn't alter the genetic make up of a person. It enhances it minimally. Which like I said, is only barely measurable at elite level.
      Training methods make more difference than nutrition and this is where the natural progression of any event happens
      If your point had some "major" weight, we wouldn't still have records from track or field, some 15-25 years later would we?
      Hicham El Guerrouj - 1500m, 1 mile, 2000m, 1998-99
      Daniel Komen - 3000m 1996
      Kevin Young - 400m Hurdles 1992
      Javier Sotomayor - High Jump 1993
      Mike Powell - Long Jump 1991
      Johnathan Edwards - Triple Jump 1995
      8 events so far...I could go on? Haven't looked at the female Athletes yet but I bet the pattern continues!

    • Charles Black
      Charles Black Day ago

      Within the broader discussion, nutrition is a huge factor. I get what's being said about genetics, but he's also comparing modern athletes with those from the early 1900s. Over that span, better nutrition and food surplus has changed the size of the athlete more than any other factor. Just one example, in the 1950s, George Mikan at 6'9" was considered a freak. He was the tallest basketball player ever. Now, most college teams have multiple players that height or taller. Look at the average pro football player from the 1950s, a player 200 lbs or better was considered big. Too many examples to list. He doesn't list 'bigger' in his lecture, but there are sports where sheer size is decisive.

    • Colin Armstrong
      Colin Armstrong Day ago

      Nutrition isn't even a "Major" factor now. It's very small even at an Elite level. Training methods are a big difference which he doesn't mention either. Ultimately, it's down to genetics.

    • Thoughts in the Crossfire
      Thoughts in the Crossfire 2 days ago +1

      yea technology would probably include nutrition, physical equipment, and workout optimization

  • kefkapalazzo1
    kefkapalazzo1 6 days ago +1

    Better nutrition, training, medicine, and these things being more widespread means that we are getting better even if the top isn’t. Over analyzed

  • David David
    David David 6 days ago

    Wats the fucking conclusion after all??

  • Testiclopse
    Testiclopse 6 days ago

    Didn't watch the video. The answer is better drugs and better training.

  • bluesman7475
    bluesman7475 6 days ago

    In other words, if diet, supplements, training techniques and technology were consistant.... Owens wins.

  • Murray Webb
    Murray Webb 6 days ago +2

    Yes. Saved y’all 14:54. Thank me later.

    • Cold Snap
      Cold Snap 3 days ago

      You don't watch the games. You just read the final score.
      You don't read mystery novels. You just look at the last page to see whodunnit.

  • syncflame
    syncflame 6 days ago

    the last part reminded me of the animatrix short story where that guy ran so fast he broke the matrix.

  • America #1
    America #1 6 days ago

    With how soft the world has gotten the last couple of years, most people would call this racist or sexist, rather than take as how interesting a species we are.

  • Andrzej Zborowski
    Andrzej Zborowski 6 days ago

    And all for money. New records, more, money, money, money....

  • arabion knights
    arabion knights 6 days ago

    If you time travel, back in time, bolt loses to jesse

    SUPERSPORTS 6 days ago

    So much for that evolution nonsense

  • Helion24
    Helion24 7 days ago

    He missied the last parameter: steroids.

  • raceanul
    raceanul 7 days ago

    Excellent material. But we all have to agree that also the substances, either they're prohibited or not, got faster, better and stronger. :)

  • jmaal2345
    jmaal2345 7 days ago +1

    The answer is yes.

  • balkcsiaboot bs
    balkcsiaboot bs 7 days ago

    When is mouse clicking going to become an Olympic sport? I have to warn you, I am quite good at it.

  • Wolfgang R
    Wolfgang R 7 days ago

    I'd like to see a presentation on the average household income an American Olympic athlete now and in the past.

  • mebansharai khongwir

    Humans have become Weaker, Softer!!! Not better

  • mebansharai khongwir

    Humans have become Weaker, Softer!!! Not better

  • Austin Ryan
    Austin Ryan 7 days ago

    "Limits are like fears, often just a illusion" - Michael Jordan

  • Sigmar Hilmarsson
    Sigmar Hilmarsson 7 days ago

    This is why football is the most popular sport in the world. Doesn't matter if you're small like Messi or big like Ibrahimovic. Anyone has a chance to be good. And average players can still play well together and make a good team.

  • Luke Janis
    Luke Janis 7 days ago

    Why do i keep getting this suggested to me?

  • allen D
    allen D 7 days ago

    yes because we have replaced white football and basketball players with blacks. and we all know that blacks are faster, quicker, can jump higher than white guys.

  • Johnny Moore
    Johnny Moore 7 days ago

    Its not that athletes are getting better its that technology to help athletes get better is making seem that way.

  • Haz Ant08
    Haz Ant08 7 days ago

    can someone please send me the plot grid

  • Robert Craig
    Robert Craig 7 days ago

    Black people have gotten bigger, stronger, faster.

  • vegastjg
    vegastjg 7 days ago

    When Chuck Noll was the Steelers coach he was asked what he wanted for Christmas and he said 2 250 pound tackles QB's are bigger than that now so to say the players aren't getting bigger is beyond laughable.

  • Giovanni Mittino
    Giovanni Mittino 7 days ago

    this don't apply in technical sports like fencing

  • keirscova
    keirscova 7 days ago

    no David, i haven't looked at an ape's butt

  • Conor Mcgregor
    Conor Mcgregor 7 days ago

    Yeah I enjoyed that.👌

  • campus talk
    campus talk 7 days ago

    This is very educational

  • M P
    M P 7 days ago +1

    Technological advances, that sums it up

  • liuton2005
    liuton2005 8 days ago

    This video is racist. I'm gonna flag it.

  • Lokra
    Lokra 8 days ago

    Of course not, what changed: enhancement performance drugs. SIMPLE< no need for video. And there are history to show that there have been stronger and better men than they are now.

    • toothgains
      toothgains 6 days ago

      So every single person that can run a mile in under 4 minutes today are ALL on steroids, even the ones who dont compete in anything? Delusional.

  • SummonDreamers
    SummonDreamers 8 days ago

    So basically, when an athlete has reached his/her physiological and physical limits, the only way for this athlete to keep progressing is buying expensive stuff full of that means money is taking over real performance and skills.
    I don't like the idea that breaking new world records requires a bigger wallet.

  • spliffzombonie
    spliffzombonie 8 days ago

    Economy and ease of information sharing (internet access) also plays a huge role. Easier access to food supplements, proper gym, coach, etc.

  • HVYContent
    HVYContent 8 days ago

    He destroyed this Ted Talk. Awesome vid 😎