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Arm Span Measurement

Arm span measurement is the distance between fingertips when the arms are outstretched. It is a simple measure that is important in the anthropometrical profiling of athletes in many sports in which reach is important, such as rowing, swimming and basketball. See also the related arm length measure, which determines the length of each individual arm.

purpose: To measure arm length, as long arms may be advantageous for some sports which involve reaching and tackling.

equipment required: ruler or tape measure, wall.

pre-test: Explain the test procedures to the subject. Perform screening of health risks and obtain informed consent. Prepare forms and record basic information such as age, height, body weight, gender, test conditions. Ensure that the subject is adequately warmed-up. See more details of pre-test procedures.

procedure: facing away from the wall, with back and buttocks touching the wall, the arms are stretched out horizontally. Measure from one furthermost finger tip to the other.

results: The arm length measures can be compared to the person's height. On average, arm span should be about equal to height. By subtracting a measurement for shoulder width from this measurement you can get a measure of average arm length. Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps may have a significant advantage due to his exceptional arm span measurement. His arm span was measured at 203cm, 10cm more than his stature (he also has big feet!).

measuring arm span measuring arm span

advantages: very low cost, simple and quick test

other comments: It is important for the subject to fully stretch to get the maximum reach, and that the arms are held exactly horizontally. To assist in keeping the outstretched arms horizontal, use a wall that has horizontal lines already on it such as a brick wall. Also measure out from a corner or wall protrusion so that one hand can be stable and all measurements are away from it.

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