How To Measure Ape Index For Climbing

Your Ape Index plays a crucial part in your ultimate climbing performance… or doesn’t it? The answer to that question is found below in this ultra-informative article!

Read on and decide for yourself if you’re going to let your negative Ape Index get you down. A little pick-me-up: Arguably the best climber in the world at the moment only has an Ape Index of +0,4 inch

How to Measure Your Ape Index?

How to Measure Your Ape Index?

There are two ways to calculate your Ape Index: by ratio and by subtraction

The Arm Span to Height Ratio

A quick search through history reveals that the Ape Index based on ratio has been around for many a century. The Vitruvian Man was thought to be the ‘perfect man’ by engineer Vitruvius and sported an Ape Index of 1. Meaning that the perfectly proportioned man possesses an arm span equal to his body height.

Later, none other than Leonardo Da Vinci drew out the Vitriuvian Man in the following well-known illustration.

So, do you want to know your Ape Index? Take a picture or start drawing!

Of course there’s a much quicker (but arguably less fun) way to calculate your own Ape Index. Simply divide your arm span (in inches or cm) by your height in the same measurement.

Ape Index = Arm span/Body Height

Even quicker, use the calculator above!

With this calculation, it doesn’t matter which metric system you are using. The result will be the same either way.

When using the ratio method, a positive ape index is produced with every value larger than 1. A negative ape index gives you a ratio smaller than 1.

The Arm Span to Height Difference

A more interesting formula to use to find out your height vs wingspan is the following: simply subtract your body height from your arm span.

Ape Index = Arm span-Body Height

When using the subtraction method, a positive ape index is produced with every value larger than 0. A value below 0 is referred to as a negative ape index.

With this calculation, it’s important to think about your measurement system when you go off comparing to other climbers. Two examples:

If we are working in the imperial system. A person with a height of 6’4” and an arm span of 6’8” would have an Ape Index of +4

Ape Index= 6’8 – 6’4″ = 4″

If we are working in the metric system, however, this same person would have a height of 193 cm and an arm span of 203 cm. Using the same calculation, this person would then have an Ape Index of +10.

Ape Index= 203cm-193 cm=10 cm

So, make sure you are using the same metrics when you start comparing!

What Is the Ape Index?What Is the Ape Index

The Ape index, Ape Factor or Gorilla Index, whichever you like best, relates the length of your total arm span to your body height.

Is your arm span bigger than your height? In other words, are your arms longer than your body? If so, you have a positive Ape Index. Congratulations! You are more related to the apes than the other half of the population.

Are your arms shorter than your body? In that case, you have a negative Ape Index. You, my friend, are in league with the T-rex shaped people among us!

And is your arm span and height exactly the same? Well, then, your Ape Index is neutral and you are shaped up to be the perfectly proportioned human.

Is a Positive Ape Index Good for Climbing?

man climbing arms outstretched

Now comes the good news for those t-rex shaped people among us (that includes me!). There is plenty of scientific research that states a person’s ape index is NOT statistically relevant for their climbing performance.

Other research might tell you otherwise, but which of those would you rather believe?

However, all of the research agrees that flexibility, training and experience play a much more decisive role in a person’s climbing. So, these are the things we should be focusing on. And what’s more, these are trainable factors!

Still don’t want to believe your ape index doesn’t have a huge impact? Take it from arguably the best climber in the world: Adam Ondra.

What is The Best Body Type For Climbing?

Take-aways from the man himself.

When it comes to fingers:

  • The shorter the better
  • The wider the finger span, the better to be able to pinch modern holds
  • The thicker the better because the thicker the stronger. This also comes with a possible disadvantage: it might cause your fingers not to fit in certain pockets.

When it comes to body weight, a certain level of muscularity could be necessary.

  • In lead climbing, a little less weight comes in handy to gain more endurance.
  • In bouldering, a little more muscles will help you along, as this little more weight might be essential

When it comes to ape index, these things are important to keep in mind:

  • A large arm span makes it easier to reach far away holds, but in all other cases it can become a disadvantage because you’re always further from the wall. (Pure physics!)
  • It’s also important for your reach to take into account how high you can reach above your head. This is determined by the height of your neck more so than your overall height.

What do we take away from this knowledge?

Even though some body types might have handy perks, Ondra underlines that it is crucial to develop a style that works for your body type. Be conscious of YOUR strengths and weaknesses and start working with that!

For more on different beta with different ape indices, take a look at this video from Mani the Monkey.

The Average Ape Index Compared to Famous Climbers

Average Ape Index

The average human ape index is probably 0 using the subtraction method or 1 using the ratio method. The average climbing community probably averages much more on the plus side.

There’s also a slight bias between the sexes. On average, men have slightly longer arms relative to their height than women. 

Ape Indices of Famous Climbers

Just for fun, take your measurements and look where you fit in between the top climbers out there!

Ape Indices of Famous Climbers

1: Sources: a, b, c

Analysing the list above reaffirms the same motto we’ve been using throughout this article. 

Yes, there are a lot of climbers out there with a positive ape index. But as you look closely there are also elite climbers in here with only a slightly positive, neutral or even negative ape index who are crushing it at the moment. 

The top redpoint climbers Adam Ondra and Alex megos are quite neutral in terms of ape indices. Same for Tommy Caldwell who was able to free climb the dawn wall on El Cap a couple of years ago. 

This data also reflects the idea that men have longer arms relative to their height than women. Only Emily Harrington and Alex Puccio manage to get into the positive zone. 

The Unsung Benefits of Being a Shorter Than Average Rock Climber

It’s easy to think that taller climbers have more of an advantage, with their longer reach and all, but there’s something to be said for shorter climbers, and it’s the way they learn to adapt faster.

Their shorter reach forces them into challenges that may not affect taller climbers, which makes the need to learn techniques far greater.

So, although it may seem harder for them at the beginning, they will tend to progress to harder climbs at a faster rate. Plus, how tall someone is will closely correlate to weight, which is why shorter climbers will benefit from a lighter weight, and they tend to keep better body tension on steeper climbs too.

Other Important Measurements You Should Take Into Consideration

Now that you know all about the Ape index, it’s time to move on to other important factors. Here are a few to check out.

The Beanie Index

The beanie index is a measure of how baller you are at bouldering. As everyone knows the more beanies you own the better a boulderer you are. Am I right?

The Index Index

The index index is about comparing the smallest hold on a route with the width of your fingers. Naturally, smaller fingers fit easier in small finger cracks, small pockets or crimps.

The Fist Index

Like the index index, the fist index becomes important while crack climbing. Here, the fist width is compared to the crack size.

The Caldwell-Fiennes Missing Index Index

Unmistakably the most important index of all: how much of a badass are you? More in detail, what’s your climbing rate in comparison to the amount of fingers you have lost so far?

So, now you know the most important measurement of your climbing game! Don’t let the popular ape index fool you. These factors here are just as important!

Is the Ape Index Important in Other Sports?

There are going to be better and worse body types in almost every sport, and in many cases, the ape index is important. Sports like boxing, martial arts, swimming, and many ball sports all have more advantages when the athletes have a higher wingspan vs height.

In boxing, for example, a fighter with long arms has a further fighting distance, which can allow them to hit their opponent without being as close. In swimmers, it gives them the advantage of displacing more water, so each stroke can propel them further.


In sports like weightlifting or certain areas in gymnastics, they actually benefit from a smaller ape index. Shorter arms when weightlifting gives the athlete less distance when lifting above their heads, and also allows the weights to be closer to their center of gravity.

And then there are sports like running, soccer, and cycling that don’t particularly have an advantage with a wingspan longer than height. So, fellow T-rexes, don’t despair!

Pep Talk Time!

Having a positive ape index doesn’t necessarily make you a good climber. Therefore, having a negative ape index doesn’t necessarily make you a bad climber. 

Don’t fall into the trap of using a perceived disadvantage as an excuse for not being able to complete a route! 

What’s more important is that you are aware of YOUR body type and that you start using this awareness to your advantage. Use your strengths and work your weaknesses.

Use your ape index as a tool to figure out which beta to use from fellow climbers and as a fun comparison among friends.

Simply put, don’t give up, engage in becoming the best climber you can be and climb on! 

Ape Index Common Questions

What is a “good” ape index?

This would be an index ratio greater than 1 for climbers.

What is a normal ape index?

0 is the normal ape index among the populace, where the average arm length by height ratio is 1.

What does a negative ape index mean?

This means your wingspan is shorter than your height.

How can I increase my ape index?

You can’t. Even if you really wanted to, this is unchangeable.

Why is ape index important in rock climbing?

It allows you to assess and understand the advantages and disadvantages of your specific wingspan and height, and alter your style to best solve routes.

What does a +2 ape index mean?

This means your wingspan is 2″ longer than your height (if it’s in inches).

What is Michael Phelps ape index?

His arm length to height ratio is actually 1.06. Not bad for a swimmer, eh?

What is Adam Ondra’s ape index?

It’s only +1 cm!

How to measure wingspan?

When measuring wingspan, you need to spread out your arms horizontally and measure from the tip of the longest finger of one side to the longest finger on the other. Divide this by your height and you’ll get your arm to height ratio!

Is your wingspan your height?

Nope. Although it is common for your wingspan measurement and height to be the same, they may differ for many individuals.

Average wingspan for a 5’10 person?

Well, this really depends on the person, but as the average ape index for any person is 0, it’s a safe bet that it’ll be around 5’10 too!

What does your ape index tell about genetics?

Just shows if you’re genetically closer to humans or apes! Might be good to know if you have ape arms…

Further reading

The Wandering Climber website already holds a wealth of information for both beginner and advanced climbers. 

Interested in learning more about the Climbing Basics? These are some interesting articles for you! (how to measure ape index)

Published by Hide Outside

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