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It might be a silly question but something that have been bugging me for many years now. Pretty much all male athletes (regardless of their discipline) look pretty much like newborn babies with the exception of their facial hair. Likewise I've had friends in high school who'd get rid of their body hair, claiming that it'd help them be better athletes i.e. be stronger, jump higher or something like that.

Is it an urban myth or is there some physiological background to it? The little I know, is that hair follicles usually hold fat in them, thus it might have some effect on keeping fat in the body, but surely it can't be much?

Any perspective on the matter? Please do support your opinions with some sort of reference.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Most "athletic hair removal" is done to make massages easier, so bandaids come off easier and gashes are easier to clean, sunscreen is easier to apply and more reliably applied, to reduce irritation and pulling in contact sports, and for psychological reasons.

I suspect the reason it's difficult to find a study on body hair v. strength is because it's ridiculous on the face of it, and there's just no reason to do such a study.

That said, in swimming an advantage is conferred:

http://www.soloswims.com/shaving.htm

I'm not aware of any studies showing an advantage for cyclists, another prime suspect. Running studies are mixed but have tended towards very slight advantages to being hairless, on the order of seconds over a marathon:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/269614-why-atheletes-remove-body-hair/

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I've searched for a reference for you, online and on my bookshelf, that would clearly state for you that 'there is no direct link between physical fitness or fitness gains and amount of body hair'.

But using my work experience as a reference then, as a sport massage therapist, I deal with clients who either epilate or grow their body hair for diverse reasons in relation to their sport. Entirely aside from the adjustments I make in the bodywork I do depending on amount of body hair a particular client has -- I've only found what is commonly known: that weight trainers epilate because they obviously want their musculature to be better seen. Cyclists say having less hair reduces irritation and wind resistance and, if they have a fall and cut their skin, being hairless is safer and allows for being able to get the wound cleaned up better. Swimmers epilate to decrease drag in the water. Women athletes of all kinds epilate because of all the above type of reasons and the general cultural expectations that women be generally hairless.

But in my work, I have never met anyone whose amount of hair either improved or damaged the key physical fitness markers that I look for when working with them (muscle tone, strength, flexibility, circulation, recovery, etc.) --- though a large amount of hair could affect an individual's performance depending on any perceived/psychological issues or actual/measurable issues with things like irritation and wind or water resistance.

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