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Gorilla Arms

I’ve decided to make excuses for my continued crummy attempts at power cleans, handstand pushups, and most of the other workout elements that CrossFit loves disproportionately. Most people have a height that’s about equal to their armspan. Look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man (above), the classic drawing of ideal human proportion. A circle. Not me. I’m 5’8″, and my arm span is 6’3″. I have what’s called a “Positive Ape Index” (yes, there’s a website) of about 1.1. To compare, Michael Phelps has a 1.04, which contributes to his above-average swimming (more on this in a bit), and the great heavyweight boxer Sonny Liston had a legendary Ape Index of 1.16, which had to contribute to his success as a fighter.

What does it mean for weightlifting? Not much good. Compared to other people my size, I have to do at least 10% more work to lift the same weight in a press, bench, or pullup. Handstand push-ups present a bigger challenge. To get my head to the floor (the standard), my arms get bent to about 5 inches below parallel, creating a huge mechanical disadvantage. These are the kind of parallette HSPU’s that CrossFit Games competitors (and few others) do well. Also, snatches. To get my body into position to toss the weight overhead and be able to catch it in an overhead squat, my hands are pinched against the far ends of the bar. Poor pinkies. Finally, cleans/front squats. I have a terrible front rack, primarily because when my elbows are pointed forward, my fingers extend back *behind my neck*. I’d need super-floppy wrists in order to even touch the bar when it’s resting on my deltoids.

Thus, when I’m doing front squats, I’m essentially limited not by the weight, but my the bar pressing against my throat. And my cleans will probably continue to stay crummy because my elbows are pointed at the floor. Sadness. The elephant in the room, I guess, is that I’m a *fantastic* deadlifter. I once got up 435 when I weighed 165, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable for me to hit a 500lb lift well before I get to a 300lb squat or a 200lb press.

My swimming misadventures continue: I’ll say it, folks. It’s not easy to learn to swim as an inflexible, thrashy 32-year-old. Still working on the freestyle while trying not to get water in my nose or my throat. The hardest parts have 1) been learning to turn my head to the *side* when breathing (instead of popping my head up like some aquatic prairie dog) and 2) staying smooth and slow, getting each elbow/forearm up over the water and following through, instead of doing some choppy bastardized doggy paddle. I’m adding twice-a-week practices-and/or-lessons to my 4 CFFB workouts. Could this add some Tim Ferriss-approved thermogenic fat loss to the equation?

Next time: I dissect a really interesting review article on protein and muscle physiology. The Terrorist and I try out a new ice cream recipe with three simple, borderline-Paleo ingredients. Vanilla, heavy cream, and honey.

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