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.
    TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design -- plus science, business, global issues, the arts and much more.
    Find closed captions and translated subtitles in many languages at
    Follow TED news on Twitter:
    Like TED on Facebook:
    Subscribe to our channel:
  • SportsSports

Comments • 5 386

  • Mr. Nobody
    Mr. Nobody 20 hours ago

    I’d take it with a grain of salt cuz we really can’t tell if we’re getting better unless Jesse Owens in his prime raced against Usain Bolt in his prime.

  • Pavel Komarov
    Pavel Komarov Day ago

    "Have you ever looked at an ape's butt? They have no buns."

  • Let'sAllLove Lain
    Let'sAllLove Lain 2 days ago

    Answer: No... PED's are

  • rayquasa fan
    rayquasa fan 3 days ago

    Im like a proud mother for the entire human race watchin this

  • Abd El-Ghazali
    Abd El-Ghazali 4 days ago +13

    After several years of this video in my recommendations, you win USclip algorithm

  • Vince Paris
    Vince Paris 4 days ago

    Imagine speaking an essay out to an audience in just under 15 minutes, better than I could write out an essay in a week.

  • Reclaiming Quarterly
    Reclaiming Quarterly 5 days ago +3

    Ted Talks - just like sitting in church, only here we worship technology.

  • iMeMyself
    iMeMyself 6 days ago

    4 minutes in a mile?

  • MisterWalked
    MisterWalked 6 days ago


  • KLAY
    KLAY 6 days ago

    Luckily we don't need body types for E-Sports, right?

    • Enrico A. K.
      Enrico A. K. 4 days ago

      **Sexytwitchthot205 wants to know your location**

  • Danny Bauer
    Danny Bauer 6 days ago

    How isn't this evolution? He argued against himself

  • Aus Will
    Aus Will 6 days ago +1

    I wanna see this guy talk about David Goggins

  • Aus Will
    Aus Will 6 days ago

    Ser Roger Bannister sounds like someone out of a GRRM book

  • Thor
    Thor 8 days ago

    And they say evolution doesn’t exist

  • nubianfx
    nubianfx 8 days ago +2

    there are so many brilliant ted talks out here.. just the best of humanity on display. Gets me every time

  • Spider-Nigga
    Spider-Nigga 8 days ago +7

    I'll save you the 15 minutes, the answer is steroids.

  • Tuscan
    Tuscan 8 days ago +2

    This guy better invent the Epstein drive from the Expanse.

  • The possibility center

    Great speaker, great message and very confident. Thumbs up

  • Sohaib Abbasi
    Sohaib Abbasi 9 days ago

    As time GOES ON Humans FORGET THAT THIEIR Creator Created them the best of all creatures! HUMANS

  • Kendrick Nguyen
    Kendrick Nguyen 9 days ago

    Better steroids

  • Gareth Wren
    Gareth Wren 9 days ago

    That was brilliant. One of the best things I have watched on you tube.

  • Sutt1Skizz0n
    Sutt1Skizz0n 11 days ago

    This guy is an amazing speaker!

  • Iliass Momtaz
    Iliass Momtaz 11 days ago

    do u know that the olympic marathon 2012 winner did 2 hours and 3 minutes, not 8 minutes, check ur informations before talking

  • Seaky Entertainment
    Seaky Entertainment 11 days ago

    Short man syndrom at it's best here.

  • Seaky Entertainment
    Seaky Entertainment 11 days ago

    This guy make's me want to puke.

  • Seaky Entertainment
    Seaky Entertainment 11 days ago

    Who care's? OH....everyone think's sport's are everything but yet there damaging to your kid's. Maybe have your kid's learn something useful other then the Entertainment of sport's. NOT EVEN 1% of kids make it even semi pro so just imagine the useful thing's that you could teach your kid's to better their live's.

  • Seaky Entertainment
    Seaky Entertainment 11 days ago

    Why is this important? This world is on the wrong path and the views on this prove it.

  • Monkeys 123
    Monkeys 123 12 days ago

    monkeys have no buns lmaoooo best part when no one laughed

  • Genius's  wifi
    Genius's wifi 14 days ago

    7 feet tall nba players aren't that common...

  • YourPalHDee
    YourPalHDee 14 days ago +1

    This guy is really bad at structuring sentences. "He ran 4 minutes in a mile" umm, what?

  • Tyrone Andrews
    Tyrone Andrews 16 days ago +2

    So essentially maximum human ability is about the same in about a 100 year sample size. Our lifestyles and technology may have dramatically change, but our bodies have not kept pace.

  • First name last name
    First name last name 17 days ago

    It's called steroids

  • Anne Josse - communication

    One of the best talks ever made for a TED. Congrates ! Very inspiring indeed !

  • Stoney Joey
    Stoney Joey 17 days ago

    I thought the title said “atheists”

  • Madison Nichols
    Madison Nichols 18 days ago +4

    he should've changed faster, better, stronger to : harder, better, faster, stronger cause N-now th-that that don't kill me
    Can only make me stronger, I need you to hurry up now, 'Cause I can't wait much longer... thats how long ive been on ya

  • Darrall Shamar Williams

    Great presentation, but this point wouldn't fair true in professional fighting/boxing. People copy from thier predecessors and enhance strengths

  • Owen Carlson
    Owen Carlson 19 days ago

    This is why LeBron is the GOAT

  • barry weber
    barry weber 19 days ago

    Very informative and backed by science..Great Vid!!!

  • Randro M
    Randro M 19 days ago +1

    it's just the market.

  • Randro M
    Randro M 19 days ago

    the answer is no

  • Jailyn Lovegrove-Bishop
    Jailyn Lovegrove-Bishop 20 days ago +14

    So, Saitama is mentally disabled then. He broke his limiter, became bald and now is the most powerful man on Earth (in that Universe)...

  • Joseph Read
    Joseph Read 20 days ago

    Is grammar getting worse, uglier, more idiotic?

  • Row Land
    Row Land 20 days ago

    damn.... i never thought about that. Now I do.

  • almanac537
    almanac537 20 days ago

    The last bit of pushing the human body sounded like a mad scientist rant

  • 1000 subs with no Videos challenge

    Some nerd talking about sports when he probably hasn’t even played a sport in his lifr

  • ReportTheHackers
    ReportTheHackers 21 day ago

    An electrical shock does not cause a person to jump. Painful stimulus of any type may cause an aversive movement away from the stimulus but not a forced involuntary explosive jump. The concept that an external electrical input can cause a coordinated action like a jump is laughable. An external electrical impulse strong enough to cause total body depolarization will likely make the person extend their body since extensors are typically stronger than flexors. However the flexors are also contracting so no gross spatial movement. At most maybe a fall due to gravity and body position. That's not mentioning the damage that it would do. Honestly one of the stupidest uninformed comment in an otherwise good discussion. Why? Why do people with zero knowledge of true physiology feel like that they should include these fictions in their work. Boggles the mind.

  • Deiphant 46
    Deiphant 46 21 day ago

    Well, im 1.71 meters tall and i dont have weir lenght legs, thougt my legs are really tonified but i run 50 m in 6.28 seconds, is that normal?

  • Jonas Scerbiakas
    Jonas Scerbiakas 22 days ago

    yes, because ppl now know all existing muscles, Food and exercises which helps to reach Maximum of human strenght/speed

  • Tony Waves
    Tony Waves 23 days ago

    Gene Doping- grizzlies suck brother

  • Nikola Ilic
    Nikola Ilic 24 days ago

    True but explain marathon runners

  • Andrew Thompson
    Andrew Thompson 25 days ago

    Fans of Jon Bois know that the 1904 Olympic Marathon was a special case

  • Jack the Bro
    Jack the Bro 26 days ago

    This was great

  • Fland CDN
    Fland CDN 27 days ago

    I feel like he should have at least mentioned the fact that athletes use more potent enhancing drugs.

  • Lani Jauregui-Hansen
    Lani Jauregui-Hansen 27 days ago

    Very interesting, informative and positive presentation!!

  • Merple Turple
    Merple Turple 27 days ago

    I think that since Jesse Owens won the 100 metre race, there has never been a white person to ever claim that title since. The big reason that black people were not winning before, was because they simply did not have the right to become these people.

  • The Undying Fighter
    The Undying Fighter 28 days ago +2

    Are Athletes Really Getting Faster, Better, Stronger?
    Daft Punk

  • Birdie 1800
    Birdie 1800 28 days ago

    What about baseball?

  • Bassy
    Bassy 28 days ago

    Yes they are.

  • Andres Caceres-Soto
    Andres Caceres-Soto 28 days ago
    Im a produceer and one chance is all I can ask for

  • M D
    M D 29 days ago +7

    I would like to know how my endurance in bed compares to someone in 1930s

  • The Lorax
    The Lorax 29 days ago


  • Dominic Hess
    Dominic Hess 29 days ago +3

    Does this guy think we're stupid? Athletes are using STEROIDS!

  • lukas TGT
    lukas TGT 29 days ago

    **daft punk intensifies**

  • Kachow ski
    Kachow ski Month ago +10

    That was the quickest 14 minutes in my life

  • Bucky V
    Bucky V Month ago

    Ok there Daft Punk

  • Batman r.a.
    Batman r.a. Month ago +2

    Why do I feel so calm listening to this guy

  • johnnytheprick
    johnnytheprick Month ago

    weightlifting comes to mind where technology doesnt play a part, im sure there are others. no mention was made of participation rates either. in 1900 the world population stood at 1.6 billion, in 1950 it was 2.5 billion, as of 2019 it stands at 7.5 billion. it therefore stand to reason that an increase in participants could also explain improvements and not just technology. technique would also contribute to performance improvements, i.e javelin (it must be noted that javelin weights have changed several times since the modern olympics due to athletes throwing well beyond arena boundries).

  • Eduardothegreat 27
    Eduardothegreat 27 Month ago

    It’s true people today are getting more athletic, for example people in Jordan’s era sucked compared to today

  • ethan Wood
    ethan Wood Month ago +5

    this isn't very accurate in my opinion. He is nitpicking stats.

    • Peter Gomez
      Peter Gomez 13 days ago

      Agree. I'd like to him decide the Jordan and Lebron GOAT debate.

  • Favian Castillo
    Favian Castillo Month ago

    When i am drunk i become a super athlete. My body is healthy big and strong enough.
    Drunk. I can dunk. I can kick a 40 yard field goal. I can run I dont know how fast. But ive made 2k on bets so far.
    Without beer. I am lazy enough to even try. Why. Idk. But ill tell you what. Drunk. I am a super athlete

  • Oh yeah yeah yeah yeah

    Work it harder
    Make it better
    Do it faster
    Makes us stronger

  • SuperGymmie
    SuperGymmie Month ago

    whoever made that presentation must really hate Michael Phelps. Lmao that has to be one of the worst pictures of him.

  • JayDehFunnehBaller
    JayDehFunnehBaller Month ago +2

    bruh i was just watching Are NFL Lineman Getting Bigger?

  • T'was an old username and I'll change it soon.

    This just shows how artificial our processes are. In that it is not truly something like natural selection. But it is a natural artificial selection. Unlike the process that determines life and death, we have sports that arbitrarily select who has the longer legs or who has the longer torso, and then we name them "the best" at their respective sport. But these traits are formed through survival initially anyways, that is the purpose of the traits, to serve a survival purpose.

  • Damon Weasel Head
    Damon Weasel Head Month ago +2

    If Y'all think we're Getting Stronger and Faster, Just Remember 1000 Yrs ago, being an Athlete was Basically Everyday Life. So NO, Humans Will NOT get Stronger, Faster, Better, In Fact, We've Become Slower, Weaker, Lazy and Entitled.

    • ethan Wood
      ethan Wood Month ago

      no there is just a bigger range of people who are athletic and people who aren't.

  • JoJoNerdz
    JoJoNerdz Month ago +18

    That was actually a good talk, very intresting and informative!

  • Legogodzilla
    Legogodzilla Month ago +4

    Petition to change the title to harder, better, faster, stronger so we can make daft punk jokes

  • GamingBlues
    GamingBlues Month ago +3

    In my middle school some guy ran the mile in 5 MINUTES!

  • sid
    sid Month ago

    Selection of ideal body types hasn't happen in cricket yet.if it happens nature of interest of general people should change in the sport as it doesn't remain reflection of general will like a circus to them where ppl with only special body types perform

  • PauseStompers
    PauseStompers Month ago +2

    I just want to say as an electrical engineer. What he said at 12:00 is bullshit. I've seen electrical explosions and the pieces of metal going flying across the room and embedding in concrete. True it maybe the heat and what not, but your body ain't throwing itself. They transformers and what not explode with force.

    • Kurt E. Clothier
      Kurt E. Clothier Month ago +1

      I agree with you on the explosion part, but that's not what he said. He just mentions an electrical shock, not an explosion of electrical equipment. I'm an EE as well; anytime people talk about electricity, energy, etc., I always have to ignore it or I'll go off on how inaccurate it is!

  • RealRonaldo
    RealRonaldo Month ago

    What nobody is going to tell you is the fact that as soon as Africa moves into the modern world they will be the source of all our stud athletes not only in skill specific sports but also in overall athletic sports.

    • Kurt E. Clothier
      Kurt E. Clothier Month ago

      1) in what (physically) athletic sport are black people not currently the "studs"
      2) when do you think Africa (as a whole, I guess you mean?) will move into the "modern world?"

  • Michael Eubanks
    Michael Eubanks Month ago

    Wow, what an awesome reminder of how stupid TED talks are. Grrr, I wish I had those 14 minutes back. What's the point, he never gets around to saying anything useful. Some shallow comparative anatomy and analysis shouldn't qualify someone for a venue of more than 2 people.

    • Zeontello
      Zeontello Month ago

      Michael Eubanks what do you specifically dislike about the video?

  • Link 98
    Link 98 Month ago

    Brilliant performance. Really enjoyed that.

  • Yves S
    Yves S Month ago

    We can rebuild him.We have the technology.He will be better, faster,stronger......😎

  • Tyler Viette
    Tyler Viette Month ago

    this video proves scientifically that LeBron will always be better then Jordan. Jordan faced weaker competition

  • Max Furious
    Max Furious Month ago

    *Cues Daft Punk**

  • MatrixClubbedNeo Neo

    Tell that to my teachers

  • Thelly
    Thelly Month ago

    Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger?
    No, people just getting smarter on how to get away with doping.

    • Brayden Savage
      Brayden Savage Month ago

      so yes they are getting faster, better and stronger

  • Remon
    Remon Month ago +62

    "Have you ever looked at an ape's butt?"

    uhh i cant say i have.

    • John
      John 9 days ago +1

      bruh tell me how the second i checked the comments n saw ur comment he said that exact line

  • Paul Lane
    Paul Lane Month ago +1

    A good talk. However he is acting like the only way these incredible athletes were successful is because of their genes. You can have a 7 foot man that will never know how to play basketball unless he works at it. It’s not all about genes

  • Zach Hofmann
    Zach Hofmann Month ago +2

    Looking like Hugh Jackman a bit

  • Jeffery Pinley
    Jeffery Pinley Month ago

    I would like to see this concept discussed on elite level rock climbing. 30 years ago there were routes that took top level climbers dozens of tries and years of training to climb, nowadays the elite climbers can do them in one try.

  • [AiR]Captain Obvious

    Obviously because of steroids of course they’re stronger man

  • Edwinator03
    Edwinator03 Month ago

    ONE PUNCH!!!

  • jonathan lopez
    jonathan lopez Month ago

    Does he really need to teach this out to people? you dont need to be Bright to understand that humans know how to make it much easyer for them selfs after studying the subject they are to work with. Even gamers have it easyer today than an old school gamer. There is soo much handicap for a player today in so many games so its easyer to reach the top in a much faster paste than it was for a game 15 years ago.

  • Liquid Fuzzi
    Liquid Fuzzi Month ago +2

    Oh no no

  • Keeano Agustiadi
    Keeano Agustiadi Month ago +1

    "Free your mind Neo"

  • GRAYgoose124
    GRAYgoose124 Month ago

    I love the imagination aspect,, by literally believing we can, we physically do. So cool to think how much our mindset makes a difference and this example is the perfect juxtaposition of the mind-body control duality.

  • Ruud Atlas
    Ruud Atlas Month ago

    Better doctors.

  • Nathan Dean
    Nathan Dean Month ago

    would like to see athletes to combines and compeat