Rob Wood

Rob's Sports, Fitness & Science Blog

The World’s Fittest Sport is Ironman Triathlon

July 17th, 2015 · Fitness, Fitness Testing, Sport

Here at Topend Sports we have been through a long process to determine the World’s Fittest Sport. We used a head-to-head competition format to compare sports (similar to the ESPN World’s Greatest Athlete competition which compared athletes). Starting from an initial list of 32 sports from around the world, each sport went head to head in an online vote, until only one sport was left. After many rounds of voting (it started two years ago), the most physically demanding sport was found to be ironman triathlon!

ironman triathlon - the fittest sport

In the final, ironman triathlon beat MMA, with swimming and water polo taking up the next two places. You can see all the results here. This was not scientific research – there was no actual measure of fitness, the results are just based on the opinion of this website’s visitors. There will be bias of course, as fans and participants of a particular sport will be more inclined to vote for their sport or a sport they are familiar with, and a geographical bias as the majority of this site’s visitors come from USA, England and Australia. Despite these limitations, it was an interesting exercise nonetheless.

Although there is no doubting the extreme physical demands of ironman triathlon, the results were still unexpected. In ironman triathlon, the extreme physical demands are almost exclusively aerobic. I personally put boxing at the top of the list for its all-round fitness requirements. Previous votes and analyses have found the most demanding sports to be boxing, squash and gymnastics, and actual testing has found alpine skiing to be the fittest. So there is no consensus.

Is ironman triathlon really the world’s most physically demanding sport? To reinforce the results, we have listed all 32 of the sports in a single poll, where you can again cast your vote for “Which Sport Is The Most Physically Demanding?

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Funny Weight Loss

July 6th, 2015 · Sports Nutrition

Losing weight does not always have to be serious. On Topend Sports we have a page about Funny Nutrition Quotes, such as my favorite by George Miller: “The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later, you’re hungry again”. You’ll also find great advice, such as “the best way to look thin is to hang out with fat people.”


image credit:

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New Tests at the NHL Combine

June 12th, 2015 · Fitness Testing, Winter

The NHL (USA National (Ice)Hockey League) annual pre-draft combine was held last week with a new format and a couple of new tests. This combine does not compare to the hype and media circus of the NFL Combine, but the NHL realise that it needed to get with the times. For a start it moved the testing to an arena offering an increased viewing area with live result monitors, which means better media coverage and publicity for them. They know that watching potential champion athletes huffing and puffing through the tests provides a pretty good spectacle.

They were not just thinking about promotion, player welfare was also on their minds. The players do not make it to the testing stage until they have passed a thorough medical conducted behind closed doors. The two exhausting fitness tests, the 30 second all out Wingate anerobic test and the VO2max cycle test have been moved to separate days this year, so that fatigue from one does not affect the results of the other.

A new test this year was the Y-balance test for assessing flexibility, core control and proprioception. They have used a few different tests of this component over the years, recently a balance board. Though it has been scientifically studied, the Y balance test is pretty new and without established norms, and with no previous results it will be interesting to see what they take from it. It might take a few years before they get a feel for what’s good and bad in this test, and how the scores relate to performance and injury rates in the recruited players.

Y Balance Test

Conner McDavid doing the Y-Balance test at the 2015 NHL Combine.

You can see the  video of Conner McDavid as he goes through each of the fitness tests, including the new Y-balance test.

In the vertical jump, instead of measuring jump height using the Vertec apparatus as they have used previously (and as used for most other combines), they have decided to go high-tech and measure jump height with a Kistler Force plate, also allowing measurement of ground reaction forces (will anyone ever look at these?). Again by changing protocols the scores from previous years may not be comparable. The best vertical jump score this year was 28.74 inches, well below the best last year of 35 inches, and one of the lowest best score ever.

Another change in equipment was to use the BodPod for body composition assessment. Again they have the issue of not being able to compare to previous results, which was based on skinfold testing and % body fat calculation using the Yuhasz equation. You would expect more accurate measures with the whole-body air-displacement plethysmography method of the BodPod, however this year’s lowest percent body fat score was an unrealistic 4%, well below the previous lowest score of 6%.

Although the test protocols using the Y-balance, force plate and BodPod are scientifically valid and reliable, and may result in the collection of good data, I just feel like they have gone with the latest gadgets without a longer term view of results that they can understand, interpret and make good use of.

Does it matter anyway? Most pundits are saying that the fitness test results are not that important in ice hockey – the medical assessment and team interviews from the combine are more important. Of yeah, another thing that may be important for potential NHL players – how they perform on the ice. Is there a test for that?

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March 5th, 2015 · Uncategorized

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beach volleyball players

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The Olympics and the Seasons

January 9th, 2015 · Olympic Games

On Topend Sports there is a list of Olympic Games Firsts, which inspired a reader, Hank Wisniewski of Austin, Texas, U.S.A., to send me a personal message with some very interesting information I just had to share with you.

He pointed out that the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be the first to take place entirely in winter (to be held from 5 Aug 2016 to 21 Aug 2016).  A wintertime Summer Olympics is only ever going to be held in the southern hemisphere. The two other southern hemisphere Olympic Games, in Melbourne and Sydney, were held in spring and summer (local time). The 2000 Summer Games in Sydney was held completely during spring (15 September 2000 to 1 October 2000), and the Melbourne Summer Olympics were held over spring and summer (22 Nov 1956 to 8 Dec 1956).

Hank went on with more details about the timing of both the Winter and Summer Olympics.

Here is the rest of his message …

I thought it might be interesting to point out which Summer Olympics took place farthest from the equator and which Winter Olympics were closest to the equator, but after I started organizing the data I realized that since the Olympics have been held at various times of the year, the fact that the sun’s position covers almost 47 degrees of latitude from solstice to solstice makes those other facts irrelevant.  However, following my original thought, I found a web page that calculates the sun’s latitude for any day of the year, and for each Olympics I subtracted from the city’s latitude the sun’s latitude on the date directly between the opening and closing ceremonies.  To my surprise, when I sorted my list according to those angles, there was no overlap between Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics, even though the difference between the lowest sun peak in a Summer Olympics and the highest sun peak in a Winter Olympics is only 3.7 degrees!

The top five Summer Olympics held when and where the sun’s latitude was farthest from the host city’s latitude are…

  1. 1964, Tokyo, Japan (46.0°)
  2. 1972, Munich, West Germany (40.8°)
  3. 1952, Helsinki, Finland (40.8°)
  4. 1988, Seoul, South Korea (39.0°)
  5. 1912, Stockholm, Sweden (37.7°)

The top five Winter Olympics held when and where the sun’s latitude was/will be closest to the host city’s latitude are…

  1. 1960, Squaw Valley, United States (49.7°)
  2. 2018, PyeongChang, South Korea (50.0°)
  3. 1998, Nagano, Japan (50.3°)
  4. 2002, Salt Lake City, United States (53.7°)
  5. 1980, Lake Placid, United States (56.6°)
Winter Olympic Games cauldron in Vancouver, Canada

The Winter Olympic Games cauldron in Vancouver, Canada

While I’m at it, here are the extremes:

The Top Five Summer Olympics When & Where the Sun’s Latitude Was/Will Be Closest to the Host City’s Latitude:

  1. 1996, Atlanta, United States (14.6°)
  2. 1956, Melbourne, Australia (15.8°)
  3. 1984, Los Angeles, United States (16.9°)
  4. 1932, Los Angeles, United States (17.5°)
  5. 2020, Tokyo, Japan (17.8°)

The Top Five Winter Olympics When & Where the Sun’s Latitude Was Farthest from the Host City’s Latitude:

  1. 1994, Lillehammer, Norway (73.1°)
  2. 1952, Oslo, Norway (71.9°)
  3. 1956, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy (64.3°)
  4. 1964, Innsbruck, Austria (64.2°)
  5. 1924, Chamonix, France (64.0°)

By the way, the first Olympics to be held within the tropics were the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City. The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio will be the second time!

Hank has also provided me with the time zones for every Winter and Summer Olympics.

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Rio Olympic Games Mascot Announced

December 1st, 2014 · Olympic Games

The Olympic Games mascot for Rio 2016 has recently been announced, a yet unnamed yellow creature. It is supposed to represent all the animals of Brazil. (There is another one, for the Paralympics, which represents all the plants of Brazil). I can definitely see a cat and monkey in there, though I’m not sure  what other animals it incorporates. Blue hands, green tail?

Unlike in recent times, the public were not consulted to choose the mascot, which is  a good thing as the general population are not the experts in marketing, and the aim of creating a mascot is clearly stated as being to make lots of money on merchandise! The general population still do have a say – they can help pick the names. There is a short-list of three choices, Oba and Eba; Tiba Tuque and Esquindim; and Vinicius and Tom. My vote is for Oba and Eda. I have no idea of the meanings of each of the names, Oba and Eda just  sound the coolest.

rio olympic mascot

my selfie with the Rio Olympic Games mascot

On the official Rio website you can go and make your own selfie with the mascot (like I did), and also cast your vote for the mascot names.

I’m glad there is just one mascot for the Olympic Games, as it was for London. When I saw that there were five mascots for Beijing in 2004, all I could think of was that they had trouble picking the best one to use. Sydney also struggled making a decision and had three mascots. Using a single mascot that represents an animal from the host country is what has been traditionally used. You can see our list of previous Olympic Games mascots.

What do you think of the mascot? Let me know in the comment section below.

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Beer and sport, a match made in a pub

November 21st, 2014 · Track & Field

The Beer Mile

It is common for athletes to consume beer after sporting events, and spectators to drink beer during events, but in the case of the beer mile, it is the athletes who drink beer during the event. The beer mile participants are required to run a mile, and also drink a can of beer prior to each lap.

Races similar to the beer mile run have been around for quite a while on University campuses, but it becoming mainstream with the inaugural Beer Mile World Championship to be held in Texas next month.

The current world record holder is James Nielsen, who recently became the first person in the world to break the five-minute beer mile. See the video below, showing not only his quick mile running speed, but a phenomenal beer swilling speed too. The all-round athlete.

The beer mile is not the only sport with close beer links. I found that I already had a few beer sports on my list of unusual sports.

  • Beer Pong – this is a staple game of US college parties, in which players throw a ping-pong ball across a table and try to land the ball in a cup of beer at the other end. If you can land the ball in the cup, you opponent has to drink it up.
  • Speed Beer Drinking – another popular beer related sport popular at University is beer sculling or chugging races.
  • Kastenlauf  – which translates as beer crate running. In this German sport you and a friend have to carry a crate of beer over a 10km course, and consume all of its contents along the way.
  • Real Ale Wobble & Real Ale Ramble – a fun walk or cycle around the Welsh countryside, with free beer provided at checkpoints.
  • Beer Can Regatta – this one requires you to drink the beer before the race, so you have plenty of empty cans to make the boats with.
  • Wife Carrying Competition – there is no beer involved during this race, though the winner’s prize includes the wife’s weight in beer.

Do you know of any more?

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Anyone for a tapeworm?

September 25th, 2014 · Sports Nutrition

tapewormI have spent some time collecting information about popular diets, including some pretty bizarre fad diets, and the most bizarre prize has to go to the tapeworm diet.  The idea is to ingest a tapeworm, which then shares your gut and consumes some of your calories. I have no doubt you will also feel unwell and will eat less food too. Just the thought of it has put me off my food.

You can buy tapeworm eggs to ingest (really!), but if you are really desperate you could just try eating undercooked meat (I’m kidding).  I am not surprised that some desperate people do actually try this extreme measure diet, but it is not at all recommended, it is dangerous, don’t do it, seriously.

Read more about the Tapeworm Diet.

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Individual Diet and Workout Plans for just $5

August 29th, 2014 · Fitness, Sports Nutrition

$5 diet and workout plan from oatmeal

Have you heard of the website fiverr before? Until recently I hadn’t. It is a very interesting site where people offer to do tasks and services for just $5. I can’t get enough of it. I have been ordering services for my website, as well as fun things too. Now I have partnered with Fiverr to bring you this great deal. For only $5 you can get a great workout or diet plan designed just for you.

The plan is provided by a Certified Personal Trainer with over 5 years of experience. You can read his reviews and see that he has many very satisfied customers. Whether you want to lose body fat, build muscle mass, or just be healthy, he can help you achieve your personal fitness or diet goals for just $5. If you’re looking for healthy supplements then checkout pre workouts for vegans.

You have not much to lose and lots to gain. For more details and to sign up, go to the $5 Plan.

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