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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 05-12-2014, 08:38 AM   #1
Brian Lowry
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Are Pull Ups Easier for Small People?

I'm a relatively small guy (5' 10" 170lbs) and can do a fair amount of pull ups both strict and kipping. I'm a big proponent of the importance of pull ups as it relates to firefighting and firefighter safety. But I always get the response from bigger guys at work (that can't do pull ups) that its easy for a smaller guy like me.
I disagree with them and say that I'm still pulling the same % of body weight. I argue that it's more muscle vs mass than just mass alone..
Does this make sense? Can anyone with more of a exercise physiology background provide more data or rational?
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Old 05-12-2014, 08:58 AM   #2
Jim Ryan
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Re: Are Pull Ups Easier for Small People?

I would say yes, pull ups are easier for lighter people.

I am no exercise physiologist but lets take a look at a few of the crossfit games competitors who have, in theory, maxed out how many unbroken pull ups they can complete.

Jason Khalipa - prototypical "big" crossfit guy at 210lbs, reported max pullups of 50

Rich Froning - Average sized crossfiter, 195lbs 75 pullups

Chris Spealer - The ninja, 155lbs 106 pullups.

Now, of course, this is a super small sample size but I'd wager if you compared body weight to max pull ups you would see a pretty clear negative correlation.
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Old 05-12-2014, 08:59 AM   #3
Eric Konieczny
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Re: Are Pull Ups Easier for Small People?

you also have to take into account what type of muscle fibers a body is made up of... Short (sprinter) vs Long (endurance).

I am on the opposite end of the spectrum from you, I am 6'2" and 220#, I have to work like crazy to be able to do pull ups and HSPU, but give me rowing, wall balls, and running I can do them all day long. I have long arms and legs so things overhead are not easy.

those that are blessed with a nice mixture of both muscle types are ideal for Crossfit, in the 5'7-5'10 range seem to be the sweet spot.
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Old 05-12-2014, 09:02 AM   #4
Brian Lowry
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Re: Are Pull Ups Easier for Small People?

Thanks for the responses so far. I do want to make it clear, I'm ok with it if I'm wrong. I just want to know if the argument that I've been making has anything to back it up. =)
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Old 05-12-2014, 09:53 AM   #5
Bob Herald
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Re: Are Pull Ups Easier for Small People?

It's power to weight ratio. Size doesn't matter. A big guy should be able to pull his weight. Pun intended if he can't then he needs to increase lean mass and lose fat.

I weight 210 lbs and I can do 20 strict .
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Old 05-12-2014, 09:56 AM   #6
Bob Herald
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Re: Are Pull Ups Easier for Small People?

Also I've noticed everybody has an excuse in the weight room. They can't bench a lot because of long arms... they're too big to do pull-ups or my all time favorite is that NOBODY squats or deadlifts because of some nonexistent knee or back injury they're afraid of aggravating. the best excuse I heard recently was that he couldn't squat due to a 3 year old ankle sprain.
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Old 05-12-2014, 10:06 AM   #7
Matt Haxmeier
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Re: Are Pull Ups Easier for Small People?

You are incorrect because of the square cube law. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square-cube_law (WFS)

This is also why the largest animals on earth are in the ocean and why there aren't any dinosaurs the size of a skyscraper. It's just not possible because the larger an object gets the more that's required to support it.
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Old 05-12-2014, 11:03 AM   #8
Luke Sirakos
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Re: Are Pull Ups Easier for Small People?

It is an absolute fact that people of different sizes have advantages in different exercises. Some people are built to deadlift, others to bench press, others for pullups, etc.

Shorter people will likely be better at pullups in general because they will likely have shorter arms creating a smaller ROM. Given two fit individuals they will likely be lighter as well making those types of movements even easier. There is a reason why you don't see tall gymnasts.
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Old 05-12-2014, 11:45 AM   #9
Matt Rigney
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Re: Are Pull Ups Easier for Small People?

From a pure work perspective, taller/heavier people will do more work. Even if both are pulling 100% of their bodyweight, typically taller people = longer arms = longer pull. Work = Force x distance....I think smaller folks having a shorter distance voer which to move does add up as you get to higher reps. Same principle for HSPU. Look at somebody like Orlando Trejo in the HSPU/FS/burpee event from this past weekend. His range of motion is so short (he's 5'3", I think) that he really does very little work on HSPU compared to a long-armed, tall competitor.
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Old 05-12-2014, 11:50 PM   #10
Blair Robert Lowe
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Re: Are Pull Ups Easier for Small People?

Yes and no. Some of it depends on limb lengths. Bigger bones can attach more muscle actually at the muscle attachment sites but obviously they have to combat greater leverage forces.



Luke, actually there are more than a handful of "Taller" gymnasts, especially in College. Not quite elite and you'll rarely see them on Pommel Horse or Still Rings but there was actually a floor champion a few years ago that was around 6'. Mind you, he was a FX champ and more of an AAer. And also male. Svetlana Khorkina was considered very tall at 5'6"/7" and was one of the best but she was also built very lightly. Still I've seen plenty of taller girls in Collegiate gymnastics around 5'6" or even more. There was one at UCB that was built more like a Volleyball player.
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