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

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Old 12-13-2006, 11:30 PM   #1
Nicholas Hahn
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I've talked to a lot of people on the subject of height and exercising. Most people seem to think that the taller you are and the longer your limbs, the harder it is to do a lot of pull-ups, push-ups, or the most brutal: burpees. I'm not sure I buy that, though. My arms have a span of about 6'7", but my chest is also wider, which would imply room for more muscle to grow.

I'm 6'4" and about 220. I can do a good amount of real push-ups (with my chest touching the ground) on a good day straight through, but a lot of smaller guys I know can get 95 - 120, which far surpasses me. The same applies with pull-ups and burpees.

If there are any generally knowledgable people out there, I'd like to get your opinions this issue.

What exactly is it that makes short people better at body weight exercises, if in fact they are better? I'm guessing that total body weight and limb length might have something to do with it, but is it possible for big guys can do the same output, given equal training?
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Old 12-14-2006, 04:19 AM   #2
Eva Claire Synkowski
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yes, being taller often means less total pull-ups, push-ups, and burpees (which i refer to as the "spawn of satan" - im rather tall myself).

work = force * distance.
so, at 220 and 6'4" your work output is very high because of the force (weight) and distance (length of limbs) for you to get your body through the full ROM compared to say someone at 5'0", 100 lbs.

the way you compare to someone smaller is measuring power. power = work / time. so someone who is smaller can still generate a lot of power because their time to complete the movements is likely less than yours.

this is at the heart of crossfit. for all the wods, you can calculate your power output to 1) compare to others; and 2) compare to other wods and determine your consistency regardless of the actual movements (push-ups, box jumps, etc.).

so the numbers are going to likely remain unequal, but your power output may be comparable.
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Old 12-14-2006, 05:33 AM   #3
Elliot Royce
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John Berardi talks about this in his book (Scrawny to Brawny). If you want a detailed technical explanation, I'd go there. Basically, the longer lever arms created by your longer limbs are going to require more effort. It also depends on where the attachment points of your muscles are. Some people are naturally built for lifting heavier weights.

However, force = mass x distance so your output on certain movements will be far higher. Your tennis serve should be much harder than your smaller friends, for instance.

Or get your smaller friends to compete with you on the rowing machine. You should be capable of generating much higher power.

(Message edited by eroyce on December 14, 2006)

(Message edited by eroyce on December 14, 2006)
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Old 12-14-2006, 09:26 AM   #4
Blair Robert Lowe
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There was a bit of discussion on this regarding gymnastics including Stephen Low, Roger Harrell ( I think, I'm not sure Rog ), and myself. A few others chimed in from the gymnastics angles.

Basically shorter lever arms means there is less force/torque on them. Pound for pound, it requires less effort for shorter arms than longer arms to do a cross or lever. Especially, if there is less weight involved. Shorter legs can reach max acceleration faster.

This is why there are more shorties in gymnastics compared to the middle heights or taller heights. That being said, there still are quite a few male gymnasts over 5'7 and nearing 6 foot. This isn't as prevalent in the female arena where 5'5 is gigantic. Tall females can have a heck of a time on beam or uneven bars. Not really a problem for men's gymnastics. Longer limb length can help increase momentum though it requires more force to propogate.

That being said, Rog is near 6 foot whereas I'm just over 5. His levels of strength ( and technique ) eclipse mine currently and when I look at the big picture, the elites out there wipe everyone else away. It's best just to keep training and not worry so much about it.
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Old 12-14-2006, 09:42 AM   #5
Roger Harrell
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If you are taller you are at a disadvantage in bodyweight type exercises, period. You are at an advantage in other arenas where long limbs and total body mass are a benefit. As Blair mentioned this is hugely evident in gymnastics where body mass is an enormous factor. I'm a gigantic gymnast at nearly 6'. Most elite males average 5'4", females just about 5'. It's primarily a strength to weight ratio issue. At 6'4" you can't possibly weigh in at 135lbs and still have any muscle mass at all. So the 5'2" gymnast that weighs 135 will have a significantly greater strength to weight ratio.

This whole thing is why CrossFit encourages big guys to do gymnastics, and little guys to do strongman type stuff. It works the weaknesses which make you a better athlete and more fit overall.
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Old 12-14-2006, 09:58 AM   #6
Anthony Papadopoulos
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HMM, then shorter people may have an advantage at vertical jumping (double legged take off) ? or short distance sprints (acceleration)?
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Old 12-14-2006, 06:54 PM   #7
Nicholas Hahn
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I guess those explanations do make sense. And, yes, I blow people away on the row. Last night I did FGB and at one point I was doing 1 calorie/stroke, according to the trainer.

It is funny, though, because I am also fairly good at wall ball and squats. As for whether shorter people have better jumps, I would have to say that short people jump a lot higher than me, for the most part.

I do like the idea of calculating power output, but I'd still like those high numbers, regardless. I guess I'll have to put out more power than everyone else and continue to do gymnastics.
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Old 12-14-2006, 08:18 PM   #8
Blair Robert Lowe
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As for sprinting hard to say. There are some fairly tall football players running 4.xx 40s. There a lot of supposed records under 4.3. Michael Johnson ran 4.37 in his first 40 of his 100. He's also 6'1.
My friend brought in a ballet book that states taller dancers could possibly have higher vertical leaps. While it would require more force to propel them, their center of gravity would aid them according to the book.
Then again, Mugsy Bogues could dunk. Kadour Ziani (5'10) has the record at 60 inches though.
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Old 12-14-2006, 08:19 PM   #9
Steven Low
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Anthony:

Shorter people do have an advantage at verticals compared to their own height to an extent. However, the longer your limbs are the more muscle you can put on the bone, so that is going to effect things as well. Most of the people with huge verts like NFL linebackers, higher weight class oly lifters, basketball players, etc. are pretty tall.

Sprints on the other hand, no. The longer stride one can get with a bigger body eclipses biomechanical advantage here.

Longer arms in gymnastics will hinder you on certain strength movements such as the cross and inverted cross. However, on certain strength elements like planches, it can be optimized to an extent because longer limbs imply less of an angle of the arms to the ground which will generate less torque around the shoulder. This is because your hands basically have to be under your center of mass and the smaller the angle between your arms and your body the harder it is because of a compromised deltoid (longer muscle is weaker) and more of the force must be in a vertical push. However, longer arms generally mean more torque at the shoulder joint so that's how it can be optimized for different limb lengths depending on height and whatnot.

No sense in really thinking about it too much unless you're a physics major obsessed with it... just get out there and train for it, hehe. The more important biomechanical things when it comes down to comparison on body types are going to be tendon insertion points, muscle fiber type, etc. Those are the things that separate people who are the same height with the same length limbs and other things. These things are based in genetics mainly so there's no point thinking about them that much lest you be more prone to griping about your situation, hehe. We should all definitely work on things we are not good at while we may have advantages over others in other areas because of our "deficiencies" in some.

(Message edited by braindx on December 14, 2006)
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Old 12-14-2006, 09:09 PM   #10
Jordan Dotson
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I'm 6'3 & these gymnastics skills are absolutely killing me....but I tell ya what Nicholas, ain't met a 5'5 guy that can punch harder than me yet...& that leaves me quite content :biggrinthumb:
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