Shape Really Does Matter: How body types affect your or your clients’ training

Shape Really Does Matter: How body types affect your or your clients’ training

I remember early in my Kettlebell teaching career, I made the comment in class to “rest your elbow on your hip bone”. A couple of people in the class looked at me funny and then proceeded to slouch down with a flexed spine. I looked at them and realized it was literally impossible for them to touch their elbow to their hipbone without sacrificing their back.

I have a relatively short torso in relation to my legs and arm length so it was easy for me to do that while keeping my core and back braced and strong. But someone with a long torso and short arms cannot do that without risking their posture.

This is just one example of where our build and body type will literally effect your form and training. Perhaps an even greater influence on training is leg length.
Short vs long legs can nearly make or break certain types of athlete’s.

For instance, having shorter legs makes it much easier to squat. Think of it this way, you have a shorter distance to travel to hit the bottom. Add to that strong thick legs and a long torso and you are looking at a natural born squatter!

Long arms can also effect pressing, although there are many other considerations, but if you look at someone with very long arms…. And they are trying to press the beast vs a guy who has shorter arms, if strength is equal, who has more load over time? The long arm guy of course.

It does seem like to be a general strength athlete you’ll have the advantage with a relatively long torso and shorter arms and legs. This is no excuse for those with the reverse, you can still achieve great feats of strength.

However, if your sport is speed and endurance like runners, sprinters and throwers, it is an advantage to have longer levers.

Lets look at deadlifting, what’s interesting here is that you can adjust your deadlifting stance to suit your build. A more traditional deadlift stance with the feet closer together will work great for someone who has shorter legs and a wider stance, or sumo style can work great for those with longer legs.

Does this mean you’ll never squat heavy if you have long legs, no, but it will mean that you’ll have to work at finding your optimal training position and you’ll have to work perhaps harder than someone who is built to squat.

Let’s look at the rack position. A big chested power-lifter is going to have to hold the Kettlebell a little more across his body at an angle. In fact, for really big guys with a lot of upper body mass, they not be comfortable holding a Kettlebell in the rack or “clean” position. And even more importantly, they might find it very uncomfortable if not impossible to do 2-handed swings. They just have too much muscle to get their hands into the handle of a Kettlebell. In that case, you can have them do towel swings until they progress to single arm Kettlebell swings.

This brings me back to the point about training others. Squats, deadlifts and the rack position will look different on different people. As an instructor, you have to remember what may work for you and your build may not work for your client. You will need to coach them to find the safest and most effective position, stance and groove for all their strength and dynamic lifts. It may be a bit challenging initially, but your job is to make sure everyone is working moving, lifting and working with the best possible pattern for their body.

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