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Research: Does Ape Index Matter?

Climbing at a high level lends itself to a certain body type. Recently published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, Ozimek, M et. al studied the body type of elite Polish boulderers to evaluate if variables such as body shape or composition had any correlation to the level of climbing met by a group of Polish elite climbers.

Variables Measured :

-Arm Length

-Leg Length

-Body Mass

-Body Weight

-Body Composition


The boulderers were indeed found to differ significantly from the controls regarding body height (p < 0.01), body mass (p ≤ 0.05), body density (p < 0.01), fat mass percentage (FM%) (p < 0.01), fat mass (FMkg) (p < 0.01), lean body mass (p ≤ 0.05), arm span (p ≤ 0.05), and leg length (p < 0.01). The biggest difference was arm span and lean body mass.

Body proportions in the groups significantly differed in the arm length index (p < 0.01), arm-to-leg length ratio (p < 0.01), and in the indices of the forearm (p < 0.01), thigh (p < 0.01), and lower leg (p ≤ 0.05) muscles.

These biggest finding of this study was that these highly functioning climbing machines, as a group, were light (low fat mass) and had long arms, what we call an Ape Index in the US. To climb hard, the amount of muscle on the arm also matters. The bigger the better in terms of upper arm muscle.

Want to learn more?! Fun Climbing Links (and research):

1. 2018. Abstract. Somatic Profile of the Elite Boulderers in Poland. Ozimek, M, Krawczyk, M, Zadarko, E, Barabasz, Z, Ambroży, T, Stanula, A, Mucha, DK, Jurczak, A, and Mucha, D J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Apr;31(4):963-970. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001673.

2. 2017. Book. Horst, E. The Rock Climbers Exercise Guide.

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