Did you know the length of your limbs can give you an advantage or disadvantage when performing certain exercises?
Measuring your limbs might sound strange, but when it comes to training, assessing a client’s proportions has huge benefits. Since we only have a limited time to train, spending that time in the most efficient way possible is what differentiates you from the person who goes to the gym without a plan and plateaus in their progress.
When you measure your limbs, you will be getting a deeper insight into how they respond to certain exercises and if what you are doing in the gym is even creating the desired results you originally thought it would. It is not new knowledge that certain exercises will affect your gym buddy differently to how they affect you. Here’s how it works…
Legs that are 43% or less of your height would be considered short. Those with short legs are mechanically at an advantage on the anterior chain of their lower body. This means that they will usually be quad dominant when performing lower body exercises and compound movements.
In contrast to this, those with longer legs are mechanically at an advantage on the posterior chain of their lower body. Having long legs forces them into a position that pushes their hips back and extends the knee which moves the tension from the quads to the hamstrings and glutes.
So, how do we get around this?
A good personal trainer will program more posterior work for those with short legs. This will create a nice balance for their natural anterior advantage and improve their hip hinge movement ability. For those with long legs, the opposite is true, more anterior work is needed to balance their natural posterior advantage. They will need to do more exercises that are quad-dominant to strengthen them.
For those who fall directly in the middle, it is as simple as making sure to balance the posterior and anterior chain with specific exercises.
What about arms?
Well, if you have short arms in relation to your height, you will have a mechanical advantage when performing pressing movements. This is because the arc of the humerus indicates how far the bar can go, so if the humerus is short, the bar will have a smaller distance to travel.
Incidentally, having this mechanical advantage for pressing becomes a disadvantage when pulling. If the humerus is short, it takes far more muscular range of motion to bring the barbell to the chest. This means the “short-arm lifter” requires more of a focus on pulling exercises than pressing with less unilateral and isolation work.
As you can imagine, it’s the opposite for those with long arms, having longer humeri means the bar has longer to travel when pressing creating a mechanical disadvantage. So, the focus required for the “long-arm lifter” would be the opposite to that of the “short-arm lifter”, they would need more unilateral and isolation work with less pulling exercises.
When analysing the muscles in the upper body specifically for pressing, the “long-arm lifter” would find pectorals easiest to develop, then deltoids second, and triceps the most difficult. For pulling, the muscles easiest to develop would be the lats, then rhomboids and rear delts second, and traps and biceps the most difficult.
This is reversed for the “short-arm lifter”, muscles specifically for pressing such as triceps are easiest to develop, deltoids second, and pectorals would be the hardest. For pulling muscles the biceps and traps are the easiest to develop, rear delts and rhomboids second, and lats the most difficult.
Those who are directly in the middle of having long or short arms would be balanced when pressing and pulling. This means training sessions should reflect that and be balanced too.
If you are unsure how this might apply to you, be sure to get in touch!