I had a great discussion the other week with @Rocky_Snyder for his Zelos podcast, and one of the things that came up was the influence of an athlete’s build on exercise selection.

It reminded me of this slide from my “Performance Profiling as a Platform for Program Design” talk from our Optimizing Adaptation & Performance seminar series. These are pictures @michael_boyle1959 sent me a few years back of 2 girls that trained at @mbscofficial.

Seated, they’re about the same height. Standing, it’s a much different story. The thigh to torso length relationship will have a significant impact on how these athletes move.

In squatting, for example, the bar needs to stay centered over your mid foot. If the load of the bar is centered too far toward the heel, the athlete will fall back; too far toward the toes, the athlete will fall forward.

Longer femurs relative to torso length (as with the taller athlete here) will require the athlete to lean significantly further forward to maintain the bar over the mid foot. In these cases, the bar isn’t loading DOWN through the spine, it’s loading FORWARD and pushing the torso further toward the thighs. This both changes the loading pattern (e.g. more posterior chain dominant to prevent folding forward), but also increases shear forces across the spine.

Taken together, squatting for the taller athlete is probably training a different pattern than intended AND increasing injury risk. Risk/Reward isn’t favorable for that exercise for that athlete.

Simply, not every athlete is a good fit for every exercise.

There are a lot of different factors that should affect program design and exercise selection. Looking at the athlete in front of you and making adjustments based on their build is low hanging fruit.

Feel free to post any comments/questions below. If you found this helpful, please share/re-post it so others can benefit.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. If you’re interested in more information about how to profile an athlete’s needs and use the profile to individualize a training program, check out the videos at Optimizing Adaptation & Performance

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