The Measure of Man

By Lon Kilgore

In ExPhysiology, Reference

July 01, 2008

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Simple questions are sometimes the most profound. And answers to simple questions about exercise sometimes are the hardest to find. Rather, they are often intuitive to skilled coaches or contained in knowledge that is that is passed on in the lore of the gym rather than recorded in books or formal training programs. Expert coaches, teachers, clinicians, and professors sometimes take it for granted that what we think is basic, simple common knowledge is apparent to all. Recently, during the course of shooting video footage for a DVD project spearheaded by one of those experts, Mark Rippetoe, Rip made a number of comments about arms being short, legs being long, and various and sundry other references to body segments not being of the usual proportions. (Imagine Rip's usual colorful descriptions here.) One particularly humorous comparison of a lifter he had worked with once to a Tyrannosaurus rex made Katie from CrossFit NorCal ask a question: "How do you know someone's arms are longer or shorter than normal?" It was a simple but very good, insightful, and germane question. But it is a question that, as far as I know, is not treated in the exercise literature anywhere.

Lon Kilgore, Ph.D., is professor of kinesiology at Midwestern State University, where he teaches exercise physiology and anatomy. He has extensive experience as weightlifter, and he has worked as coach and sports science consultant with athletes from rank novices to collegiate athletes, professionals, and Olympians. He is coauthor, with Mark Rippetoe, of the books Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training and Practical Programming for Strength Training.

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1 Comment on “The Measure of Man”


wrote …

Regarding the final figure in the article, with the excessively long thighs:

Is there perhaps a hip flexibility issue going on here as well? In the photo on the left she has flexion in her lumbar spine, a result of a lack of hip flexion. But if you examine the photo on the right, with the sumo-DL position she has the same issue. If she improved her hip flexibility she would have a significantly deviated starting position for the normal stance, as her torso would perhaps be below parallel. However, I think she could still maintain a neutral lumbar spine and thus protect her low back and still lift effectively from the normal stance. Any response?

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