Ape Index and performance : does it really matter to climb strong ?

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 ape index had any correlation to the level of climbing met by a group of Polish elite climbers.

What is ape index ? Does is really matter ?

Variables Measured

  • Arm Length
  • Leg Length
  • Body Mass
  • Weight
  • Body Composition

What is ape index ?

Also referred to as your ape factor, it’s a measurement of your wingspan in ratio to your height. Most humans have a neutral ape index. Or a ratio of 1, which means that the length from your fingertip to fingertip is the same as your height. Longer arms than you are tall: you’ve got a positive ape index. Shorter wingspan than how high you stand? You’ve got a negative one. You can figure out your own ape index by dividing your arm span by your height.


Findings of the study

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 ?

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. 2014. Blog Post. Lee, C.

And never forget that little thing : gym to crag is the real deal 😉

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