Anthropometric characteristics and performance

Evaluating anthropometric characteristics is extremely important when prescribing training, either with a focus on physical activity or high sports performance. Among the anthropometric measures, we can cite body composition, somatotype, body mass, height, wingspan, limb length, bone diameters, perimeters, among others.

características antropométricas
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In sport, we know that these anthropometric differences can somehow predict performance in competitions, mainly in sports that have a greater dependence on these factors. For example, East African long-distance runners, who had higher performance and better running economy, have been observed and reported to have greater lower limb length than athletes from other regions (1–4). Statistically, this shows a positive correlation between absolute leg length and running performance, and economy in these long-distance runners (5,6).

The reason for this is because the length of the leg affects precisely the length of the stride, that is, the distance reached between one stride and another, so athletes with longer legs guarantee greater efficiency with less energy expenditure (7). In this way, leg length can be an important morphological and anthropometric factor in achieving higher levels of performance in long-distance running (8).

Resistance Training

In the case of strength exercises or sports such as Weightlifting and Powerlifting, the different anthropometric characteristics of individuals can also affect performance, both in competition and in relation to the training prescription. In the performance of the Deadlift exercise, it was found that individuals with greater trunk size/height in relation to total height had a higher level of maximum strength in the Sumo-style deadlift, while athletes with smaller trunk size/height in relation to total height performed better at the traditional deadlift (9).

It was also observed in this study that women demonstrated greater resistance to fatigue in a protocol of repetitions to failure test with 60% of 1RM, which can be explained by several factors such as a greater proportion of type 1 fibers, greater proportion of oxidation of fat during exercise, and greater muscle perfusion resulting in higher metabolic clearance (10). Similarly, when comparing the results on squats, individuals with a shorter femur length presented results superior to the number of repetitions in 70% of 1RM when compared to individuals with a longer femur (11).

Team Sports

To some extent, anthropometric characteristics can be predictors of greater success in sport. Some data referring to height, and length of limbs, can be crucial in sports that have a great dependence on those factors, as in volleyball and basketball. For example, in young basketball players, height and body weight have a strong correlation with the frequency of the number of rebounds when evaluated in situations of reduced court play (12). With volleyball athletes, it was verified that taller individuals have a distinct advantage in blocking, as they are able to cover more space in relation to smaller individuals, and there is also a correlation between the length of the lower limbs and vertical jump and anaerobic power in these athletes (13).

Therefore, it is important to emphasize the principle of biological individuality, where factors such as anthropometric characteristics can have a great impact when selecting individuals for the sport and prescribing training. Coaches should be aware of how those differences affect performance and should make adjustments if needed to better tailor the athletes’ characteristics.


1.             Kunimasa Y, Sano K, Oda T, Nicol C, Komi P V., Locatelli E, et al. Specific muscle-tendon architecture in elite Kenyan distance runners. Scand J Med Sci Sport. 2014;24(4):269–74.

2.          Lucia A, Esteve-Lanao J, Oliván J, Gómez-Gallego F, San Juan AF, Santiago C, et al. Physiological characteristics of the best Eritrean runners – Exceptional running economy. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2006;31(5):530–40.

3.          Sano K, Nicol C, Akiyama M, Kunimasa Y, Oda T, Ito A, et al. Can measures of muscle–tendon interaction improve our understanding of the superiority of Kenyan endurance runners? Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015;115(4):849–59.

4.          Vernillo G, Schena F, Berardelli C, Rosa G, Galvani C, Maggioni M, et al. Anthropometric characteristics of top-class Kenyan marathon runners. J Sport Med Phys Fitnesse Phys Fit. 2013;53(4):403–8.

5.          Mooses M, Mooses K, Haile DW, Durussel J, Kaasik P, Pitsiladis YP. Dissociation between running economy and running performance in elite Kenyan distance runners. J Sports Sci. 2015;33(2):136–44.

6.          Laumets R, Viigipuu K, Mooses K, Mäestu J, Purge P, Pehme A, et al. Lower Leg Length is Associated with Running Economy in High Level Caucasian Distance Runners. J Hum Kinet. 2017;56(1):229–39.

7.          Rahmani A, Locatelli E, Lacour JR. Differences in morphology and force/velocity relationship between Senegalese and Italian sprinters. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2004;91(4):399–405.

8.          Ueno H, Suga T, Takao K, Miyake Y, Terada M, Nagano A, et al. The potential relationship between leg bone length and running performance in well-trained endurance runners. J Hum Kinet. 2019;70(1):165–72.

9.          Cholewa JM, Atalag O, Zinchenko A, Johnson K, Henselmans M. Anthropometrical determinants of deadlift variant performance. J Sport Sci Med. 2019;18(3):448–53.

10.       Hunter SK. Sex Differences in Human Fatigability: Mechanisms and Insight to Physiological Responses. Acta Physiol. 2014;210(4):768–89.

11.       Cooke DM, Haischer MH, Carzoli JP, Bazyler CD, Johnson TK, Varieur R, et al. Body Mass and Femur Length Are Inversely Related to Repetitions Performed in the Back Squat in Well-Trained Lifters. J strength Cond Res. 2019;33(3):890–5.

12.       Clemente FM, Conte D, Sanches R, Moleiro CF, Gomes M, Lima R. Anthropometry and fitness profile, and their relationships with technical performance and perceived effort during small-sided basketball games. Res Sport Med [Internet]. 2019;27(4):452–66.

13.       Aouadi R, Jlid MC, Khalifa R, Hermassi S, Chelly MS, Van Den Tillaar R, et al. Association of anthropometric qualities with vertical jump performance in elite male volleyball players. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2012;52(1):11–7.

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