Ape index

Last updated
Vitruvian Man c. 1492 by Leonardo da Vinci. Based on proportions identified by Vitruvius, the drawing shows a man where the arm span is equal to the height, giving an ape index of 1. Da Vinci Vitruve Luc Viatour.jpg
Vitruvian Man c. 1492 by Leonardo da Vinci. Based on proportions identified by Vitruvius, the drawing shows a man where the arm span is equal to the height, giving an ape index of 1.

Ape index, ape factor, [1] or gorilla index is slang or jargon used to describe a measure of the ratio of an individual's arm span relative to their height. A typical ratio is 1, as identified by the Roman writer, architect and engineer Vitruvius prior to 15 BC. Vitruvius noted that a "well made man" has an arm span equal to his height, as exemplified in Leonardo da Vinci's c. 1492 drawing, the Vitruvian Man . [2] In rock climbing it is believed that an ape index greater than one, where the arm span is greater than the height, provides for a competitive advantage, and some climbers have expressed the belief that exercise can result in an improved ratio, although this view is somewhat controversial. [3]



The ape index is usually defined as the ratio of arm span to height. However, an alternative approach is arm span minus height with the result being positive, 0 or negative. Unlike the dimensionless ratio, this calculation produces a numeric value in the units of measurement used to represent the height and arm span.

Significance in sport climbing

Multiple studies have been conducted into the effect of physiological factors, such as anthropometry and flexibility, in determining rock climbing ability. A number of these have included the ape index as one of the variables. However, the results have been mixed.

One study found that "untrainable" physical factors, including the ape index, were not necessarily predictors of climbing ability, in spite of a general tendency identified in previous studies for elite athletes in the sport to share these characteristics. [4] This was supported by a later study that also found that the ape index was not statistically relevant. However, the authors of this second study noted that the findings may have been due to the low variability in the index between the climbers, who all had significantly higher ape indices than those found in the control group. Thus they left open the possibility that the ape index may be more significant when there is a greater degree of equivalence between the other traits under consideration. [5]

Countering these studies are other works that have identified the ape index as a significant (or potentially significant) factor. A 2001 study comparing teenage male and female rock climbers noted that performance differences between the genders could be explained by a number of factors, one of which was the lower ape index found in the female climbers. [6] Similarly, in a later work it was found that the ape index was statistically significant, and thus determined that it was one of a number of variables that provided the highest diagnostic value in the prediction of climbing performance. [7]

Other sports

The term was first coined by Frisbee throwers at UC Berkeley in 1975.

It has been noted that swimmers tend to have longer arms in relation to their body size. [8] A notable example is Michael Phelps whose arm span is 10 cm greater than his height, affording him an index of 1.052. [9]

There is evidence to support that having a higher index will be beneficial to a football goalkeeper [ citation needed ]. It can also compensate for being shorter than the recommended norm for a professional goalkeeper[ citation needed ]. Iker Casillas and Jorge Campos are examples of shorter goalkeepers who possess a higher than average index.

In basketball, a higher index helps with defense, especially in contesting shots and intercepting passes [ citation needed ]. It also helps with rebounding, and with dribbling, passing, and shooting when being guarded closely by opponents. David Epstein in his book The Sports Gene devoted a chapter to "The Vitruvian NBA Player" and therein noted "The average arm-span-to-height ratio [i.e., ape index] of an NBA player is 1.063." [10] Having an ape index of less than 1 is very rare among NBA players; only two players in the NBA 2010–11 season had one. [10] One notable NBA player with an ape index below 1 is Desmond Bane, whose wingspan of 6' 4" is less than his height of 6' 5"; he has been nicknamed "T-Rex" for this reason. [11] Despite this perceived deficiency, Bane has become a quality player since being selected 30th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2020 NBA draft out of TCU.

In combat sports, such as boxing and mixed martial arts, having a higher index is often perceived to be beneficial. Fighters such as Jon Jones, whose arm span is 21 cm greater than his height, and Conor McGregor have a longer arm span than most of their opponents. This potentially allows them to use their arm span to hit their opponents, whereas their opponents could not hit them. They often use this in their game plan, by keeping their distance, allowing them to cover up (as longer arms allow for a greater area of protection around the upper body) or use it to counter punch them. [12] [13] However, research has shown that the ape index cannot predict who wins or loses MMA bouts, an individual's divisional ranking, or whether or not they are successful in their technique use. [14] [15] [16]

Small ape indices can also be beneficial. For example, in the bench press, a lifter with shorter arms must move the weight a shorter distance to complete the lift when compared to a lifter with longer arms. Yet there is the fact that a shorter bone will have a shorter muscle therefore the potential mass of the muscle is based on bone length. In contrast, long arms are an advantage in the deadlift, where longer arms reduce the range of motion required to complete the lift. [17]

See also


  1. McIver, Kelly (September 8, 1992). "Rock climb jargon often tough to scale". Eugene Register-Guard . p. 5D. Archived from the original on February 27, 2022. Retrieved September 2, 2009.
  2. Pheasant 1996 , p. 7.
  3. Sagar 2001 , p. 144.
  4. Mermier et al. 2000 , pp. 364–365
  5. Watts et al. 2003 , p. 423.
  6. Moss et al. 2001.
  7. Magiera, Artur; Ryguła, Igor (2007). "Biometric Model and Classification Functions in Sport Climbing". Journal of Human Kinetics. 18: 96–97.
  8. Lavoie & Montpetit 1986 , p. 168.
  9. "Michael Phelps APE Index". 3 September 2021. Retrieved 2022-02-27.
  10. 1 2 David Epstein (29 April 2014). The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance. Penguin Publishing Group. pp. 134–135. ISBN   978-1-61723-012-7.
  11. Vorkunov, Mike. "We're talking about wingspan?! Desmond Bane was overlooked, now he and Ja Morant are leading a Memphis revival". The Athletic. Retrieved 2024-03-08.
  12. "Print Fight Card | UFC 182 Jones vs. Cormier". www.ufc.com. Retrieved 2017-06-16.
  13. MindSmash (2017-01-23), Conor McGregor's Counter Punch | Breakdown , retrieved 2017-06-16
  14. Kirk, Christopher (2016). "Does Stature or Wingspan Length Have a Positive Effect on Competitor Rankings or Attainment of World Title Bouts in International and Elite Mixed Martial Arts?". Sport Science Review. 25 (5–6): 334–349. doi:10.1515/ssr-2016-0018. S2CID   59027630. Archived from the original on 2018-10-03. Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  15. Kirk, Christopher (8 November 2016). "The Influence of Age and Anthropometric Variables on Winning and Losing in Professional Mixed Martial Arts". Facta Universitatis, Series: Physical Education and Sport: 227–236.
  16. Kirk, Christopher (May 2018). "Does Anthropometry Influence Technical Factors in Professional Mixed Martial Arts?". Human Movement. 19 (2). doi: 10.5114/hm.2018.74059 .
  17. "Is a Bench Press Affected by Arm Length?". LIVESTRONG.COM. Retrieved 2024-03-08.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bouldering</span> Form of rock climbing

Bouldering is a form of free climbing that is performed on small rock formations or artificial rock walls without the use of ropes or harnesses. While bouldering can be done without any equipment, most climbers use climbing shoes to help secure footholds, chalk to keep their hands dry and to provide a firmer grip, and bouldering mats to prevent injuries from falls. Unlike free solo climbing, which is also performed without ropes, bouldering problems are usually less than six metres (20 ft) tall. Traverses, which are a form of boulder problem, require the climber to climb horizontally from one end to another. Artificial climbing walls allow boulderers to climb indoors in areas without natural boulders. In addition, bouldering competitions take place in both indoor and outdoor settings.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Body mass index</span> Relative weight based on mass and height

Body mass index (BMI) is a value derived from the mass (weight) and height of a person. The BMI is defined as the body mass divided by the square of the body height, and is expressed in units of kg/m2, resulting from mass in kilograms (kg) and height in metres (m).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mountaineering</span> Sport of mountain climbing

Mountaineering, mountain climbing, or alpinism is a set of outdoor activities that involves ascending mountains. Mountaineering-related activities include traditional outdoor climbing, skiing, and traversing via ferratas that have become sports in their own right. Indoor climbing, sport climbing, and bouldering are also considered variants of mountaineering by some, but are part of a wide group of mountain sports.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grade (climbing)</span> Degree of difficulty of a climbing route

Many climbing routes have a grade that reflects the technical difficulty—and in some cases the risks and commitment level—of the route. The first ascensionist can suggest a grade, but it will be amended to reflect the consensus view of subsequent ascents. While many countries with a strong tradition of climbing developed grading systems, a small number of grading systems have become internationally dominant for each type of climbing, which has contributed to the standardization of grades worldwide. Over the years, grades have consistently risen in all forms of climbing, helped by improvements in climbing technique and equipment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Climbing shoe</span> Type of footwear designed for rock climbing

A climbing shoe is a specialized type of footwear designed for rock climbing. Typical climbing shoes have a tight fit, an asymmetrical downturn, and a sticky rubber sole with an extended rubber rand to the heel and the toe. Different types of shoes can be better suited for different levels of technique and routes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glossary of climbing terms</span> For rock climbing and mountaineering

Glossary of climbing terms relates to rock climbing, mountaineering, and to ice climbing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rock-climbing equipment</span> List of manmade gear

Rock-climbing equipment varies with the type of climbing undertaken. Bouldering needs the least equipment outside of shoes and chalk and optional crash pads. Sport climbing adds ropes, harnesses, belay devices, and quickdraws to clip into pre-drilled bolts. Traditional climbing adds the need for carrying a "rack" of temporary passive and active protection devices. Multi-pitch climbing adds devices to assist in ascending and descending fixed ropes. And finally aid climbing uses unique equipment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Top rope climbing</span> Type of rock climbing

Top rope climbing is a form of rock climbing where the climber is securely attached to a climbing rope that runs through a fixed anchor at the top of the climbing route, and back down to the belayer at the base of the climb. A climber who falls will just hang from the rope at the point of the fall, and can then either resume their climb or have the belayer lower them down in a controlled manner to the base of the climb. Climbers on indoor climbing walls can use mechanical auto belay devices to top rope alone.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Climbing specialist</span> Bicycle racer who rides especially well on highly inclined roads

A climbing specialist or climber, also known as a grimpeur, is a road bicycle racer who can ride especially well on highly inclined roads, such as those found among hills or mountains.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fall factor</span> Mathematical ratio relevant to climbing safety

In lead climbing using a dynamic rope, the fall factor (f) is the ratio of the height (h) a climber falls before the climber's rope begins to stretch and the rope length (L) available to absorb the energy of the fall,

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rock climbing</span> Type of sport

Rock climbing is a sport in which participants climb up, across, or down natural rock formations or indoor climbing walls. The goal is to reach the summit of a formation or the endpoint of a usually pre-defined route without falling. Rock climbing is a physically and mentally demanding sport, one that often tests a climber's strength, endurance, agility and balance along with mental control. Knowledge of proper climbing techniques and the use of specialized climbing equipment is crucial for the safe completion of routes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Body proportions</span> Proportions of the human body in art

Body proportions is the study of artistic anatomy, which attempts to explore the relation of the elements of the human body to each other and to the whole. These ratios are used in depictions of the human figure and may become part of an artistic canon of body proportion within a culture. Academic art of the nineteenth century demanded close adherence to these reference metrics and some artists in the early twentieth century rejected those constraints and consciously mutated them.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Multi-pitch climbing</span> Type of climbing

Multi-pitch climbing is a type of climbing that typically takes place on routes that are more than a single rope length in height, and thus where the lead climber cannot complete the climb as a single pitch. Where the number of pitches exceeds 6–10, it can become big wall climbing, or where the pitches are in a mixed rock and ice mountain environment, it can become alpine climbing. Multi-pitch rock climbs can come in traditional, sport, and aid formats. Some have free soloed multi-pitch routes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Campus board</span> Training tool for rock climbers

A campus board is a training tool that has been widely adopted by sport climbers to improve their plyometric performance and led to a dramatic improvements in climbing technique in all rock climbing disciplines. The campus board was invented in 1988 by German climber Wolfgang Güllich to help him climb the world's hardest route at the time, Action Directe, and has since become a standard training tool for climbers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dynamic rope</span> Rope designed to stretch under load

A dynamic rope is a specially constructed, somewhat elastic rope used primarily in rock climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering. This elasticity, or stretch, is the property that makes the rope dynamic—in contrast to a static rope that has only slight elongation under load. Greater elasticity allows a dynamic rope to more slowly absorb the energy of a sudden load, such from arresting a climber's fall, by reducing the peak force on the rope and thus the probability of the rope's catastrophic failure. A kernmantle rope is the most common type of dynamic rope now used. Since 1945, nylon has, because of its superior durability and strength, replaced all natural materials in climbing rope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arm span</span> The distance from finger tips to finger tips

Arm span or reach is the physical measurement of the length from one end of an individual's arms to the other when raised parallel to the ground at shoulder height at a 90° angle. The arm span measurement is usually very close to the person's height. Age, sex, and ethnicity have to be taken into account to best predict height from arm span. Arm span is sometimes used when a height measurement is needed but the individual cannot stand on a traditional stadiometer or against a wall due to abnormalities of the back or legs, such as scoliosis, osteoporosis, amputations, or those who are confined to a bed or wheelchair. Other, possibly more accurate measuring techniques include knee length or recumbent length when possible.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mixed climbing</span> Ice climbing on ice and rock surfaces

Mixed climbing is a climbing discipline used on routes that do have not enough ice to be pure ice climbs, but are also not dry enough to be pure rock climbs. To ascend the route, the mixed climber uses ice climbing tools, but to protect the route, they use traditional or sport rock climbing tools. Mixed climbing can vary from routes with sections of thick layers of ice and sections of bare rock to routes that are mainly bare rock but which is “iced-up”.

Injuries in rock climbing may occur due to falls, or due to overuse. Injuries due to falls are relatively uncommon; the vast majority of injuries result from overuse, most often occurring in the fingers, elbows, and shoulders. Such injuries are often no worse than torn calluses, cuts, burns and bruises. However, overuse symptoms, if ignored, may lead to permanent damage.

Height can significantly influence success in sports, depending on how the design of the sport is linked to factors that are height-biased due to physics and biology. The balance of the intricate array of links will determine the degree to which height plays a role in success, if any.

Allison Vest is a Canadian rock climber known for competition climbing, bouldering and sport climbing. She won the Canadian Bouldering Nationals in 2018 and 2020. She also came first in Canadian Lead Nationals in 2019, and placed 10th in the World Beach Games in Doha, Qatar in 2019. In August 2019, Vest became the first female Canadian climber to a conquer a V13 (8B) graded boulder, with The Terminator, in Squamish, British Columbia. This feat was documented in the 2020 film The Terminator, which premiered at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival on March 1, 2020.