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What We Can Learn from the World's Fittest Animals

You can't outrun a world class sports car or lift 800 times your body weight, but the world's fittest animals can help improve your workout regimen.

The animal world is vastly different from the comfortable confines of your neighborhood gym. If you’re familiar with the concept of functional training, it’s likely that you place an emphasis on exercises that enhance your ability to perform day-to-day tasks. But functional training doesn’t involve kettle bells and weight plates in the animal kingdom; rather, it’s a means of survival. The “fight or flight” sensation your body naturally endures during high-intensity exercise doesn’t compare to the real-life threats the world’s fittest animals encounter on a daily basis.

Rhinoceros Beetle

Conventional wisdom wouldn’t point toward a beetle as being one of the world’s fittest animals, but the rhinoceros beetle demonstrates more proportional strength than most living creatures. The rhinoceros beetle can lift more than 800 times its total body weight. For comparison purposes, the average human being cannot lift more than 1.5 times his or her body weight on a bench press. The rhinoceros beetle’s life span only ranges three-to-six months on average, but what it lacks in longevity, it more than makes up for in strength. You can’t lift 800 times your body weight, but you can perform weight lifting exercises to decrease your body’s fat composition, and increase your overall health.


Ever dream of skydiving face first at speeds exceeding the speed limit? The Gannet is capable of doing exactly that. The aerodynamic seabird has a uniquely shaped head, which allows it to penetrate seawater from heights of 100 feet or above. The Gannet’s speed and trajectory allow it to dive deep beneath the surface to catch large quantities of fish. Its strong physique and long wingspan of 6.5 feet makes it one of the most powerful seabirds on the planet. Not even the world’s most protective gear would enable you to perform the Gannet’s feat, but you can engage in plyometric exercise to increase your stamina and cardiovascular health.

Arctic Tern

The ability to fly isn’t scientifically or physiologically feasible for human beings, unless, of course, strapped to a hang glider or buckled into an airplane seat. But becoming a frequent flyer on your favorite airline doesn’t compare to the sheer stamina the Arctic tern flaunts each year. The arctic seabird flies nearly 20,000 miles on an annual basis, covering arctic and subarctic regions throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. What’s more, the Arctic tern can fly non-stop for thousands of miles without refueling. Its ability to travel long distances without eating is unfathomable for the common traveler, let alone a marathon runner. If a bird can fly 20,000 miles per year, you can most definitely dedicate 20 minutes a day to cardio exercise.


The Cheetah is easily identifiable by its spotted coat but is renowned for its incredible speed, and slender build. Cheetah is perhaps the most athletic animal breed on Earth, capable of reaching sixty miles per hour in mere seconds. Its rate of acceleration mirrors the world’s most sought-after sports cars, despite weighing less than the average human male. Cheetah’s world-blazing speed is possible because of spine flexion. You may not be able to stretch your spine to the point of out-racing a Ferrari, but increasing your flexibility should have a net positive impact on your overall athletic performance.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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