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Body build and anthropometric growth patterns of 7 to 18-year old wrestlers.


Body build and anthropometric characteristics have been used to describe the age-related growth patterns of athletes in various sports (6,8,11-14,16-18,27), compare the growth patterns of athletes to those of non-athletes (1,4,8,26,35), and distinguish between levels of proficiency within sports (12,13, 33). Specifically, previous studies (9,18,28,29,33) have described age-related changes in somatotype ratings and other measures of body build in young male and female athletes in gymnastics, swimming, tennis, and track and field. As to young wrestlers, Thorland et al. (33) reported that elite Junior Olympic competitors had body build and anthropometric characteristics that were similar to gymnasts, divers, and middle distance runners, but different from swimmers and throwers.

Recently, Camic et al. (6) and Malina (21) examined differences in body mass (BM), height (HT), body mass index (BMI), skinfolds, and circumferences among non-athletes and athletes from various sports including tennis, track and field, swimming, gymnasts, and wrestling. Camic et al. (6) reported close similarities between young wrestlers and non-athletes for the yearly rates of changes for BM, HT, BMI, skinfolds, and circumferences. In addition, Cisar et al. (8) found that the biacromial to bi-iliac ratio contributed significantly to a regression model that predicted wrestling success in highly skilled and novice wrestlers.

Various body build and anthropometric measures reflect the characteristics and growth patterns of the total body as well as for specific body segments. For example, somatotyping describes an individual's overall physique in terms of the endomorphic (roundness), mesomorphic (muscularity), and ectomorphic (linearity) characteristics. Diameters assess body breadth and skeletal dimensions of the trunk and extremities while circumferences reflect the combined girth sizes of the tissues that underlie the skin.

Comparing the ratios of diameters and/or circumferences can also be used to describe differences in the relative changes for upper body segments versus lower body segments as well as determine growth patterns by gender or for specific populations (8,18,35). Thus, assessing a combination of body build and anthropometric measures associated with athletic performance can be used to develop a composite description of the unique characteristics of athletes in various sports and determine how they change across age. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the age-related growth patterns for body build and anthropometric characteristics of wrestlers 7 to 18 yrs of age.



Three hundred and thirty-one wrestlers (mean [+ or -] SD) volunteered to participate in this study (Table 1): Age (AG) = 13.5 [+ or -] 3.2 yrs; range = 7.0 - 18.9 yrs; AG7 = 7.4 [+ or -] 0.3 yrs; range = 7.0 - 7.8; AG8 = 8.5 [+ or -] 0.3 yrs; range = 8.0 - 8.8; AG9 = 9.5 [+ or -] 0.3 yrs; range = 9.0 - 9.9; AG10 = 10.5 [+ or -] 0.3 yrs; range = 10.0 - 10.9; AG11 = 11.5 [+ or -] 0.3 yrs; range = 11.0 - 11.9; AG12 = 12.5 [+ or -] 0.3 yrs; range = 12.0 - 12.9; AG13 = 13.4 [+ or -] 0.3 yrs; range = 13.0 - 13.9; AG14 = 14.5 [+ or -] 0.3 yrs, range = 14.0 - 14.9; AG15 = 15.5 [+ or -] 0.2 yrs, range = 15.0 - 15.9; AG16 = 16.4 [+ or -] 0.3 yrs; range = 16.0 - 16.9; AG17 = 17.4 [+ or -] 0.3 yrs; range = 17.0 - 17.9; AG18 = 18.2 [+ or -] 0.2 yrs; range = 18.0 - 18.9). All subjects were boys who competed in age-group or high school wrestling in the Midwestern United States. The data were collected 1 to 2 wks prior to the competitive season with a single investigator responsible for each measurement. This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board for Human Subjects. A written informed consent was obtained from the wrestlers and their parents before testing.


Fifteen variables were measured on each wrestler: BM, HT, BMI, biacromial diameter (D), bi-iliacD, right wristD, right ankleD, right elbowD, right kneeD, abdominal circumference(C), hipC, right bicepsC, right thighC, right forearmC, and right calfC. Additional calculated measures included: endomorphy (Endo), mesomorphy (Meso), and ectomorphy (Ecto) ratings, biacromialD/bi-iliacD ratio, wristD/ankleD ratio, elbowD /kneeD ratio, bicepsC/thighC ratio, and forearmC/calfC ratio.

Body Mass, Height, and Body Mass Index

The subjects' BM and HT were measured using a calibrated physician's scale (Detecto, Webb City, MO) and a wall scale with Broca Plane (Seco, North Bend, WA), respectively. Body mass index was calculated from BM and HT (kg-[m.sup.-2]).

Somatotype Ratings

Somatotype ratings (Endo, Meso, and Ecto) were determined using the decimalized anthropometric somatotype technique described by Carter (7).

Circumference and Diameter Measurement

The circumferences and diameters were measured using the landmarks described by Behnke and Wilmore (4), which is consistent with measurements from previous studies (6,14). All extremity measurements were taken on the right side of the body. Variables were selected to reflect trunk, upper extremity, and lower extremity characteristics. The circumferences were measured with a Lufkin metal tape fitted with a Gulik handle, while diameter measures were taken with a broad-blade metal anthropometer.

All anthropometric measurements were taken by an investigator who had previously demonstrated reliability in the measurement of diameters and circumferences at an intraclass correlation of r > 0.90. Diameter ratios (Table 2) (biacromialD/bi-iliacD, wristD/ankleD, and elbowD/kneeD) were used to examine age-related skeletal changes for the upper body bony versus the lower body bony landmarks, while circumference ratios (bicepsC/thighC and forearmC/calfC) were used to assess the patterns of girth changes across age for the trunk as well as the upper extremities versus the lower extremities.

Statistical Analyses

Polynomial regression analyses (linear, quadratic, and cubic) were used to determine the patterns and significance ([alpha] = P [less than or equal to] 0.05) of the relationships for age versus BM, HT, BMI, biacromialD, bi-iliacD, wristD, ankleD, elbowD, kneeD, abdominalD, hipC, bicepC, thighC, forearmC, calfC, Endo, Meso, Ecto, biacromialD/bi-iliacD ratio, wristD/ankleD ratio, elbowD/kneeD ratio, bicepsD/thighC ratio, and forearmC/calfC ratio for the wrestlers (Figures 1-4). SPSS version 21.0 (SPSS Inc. Chicago, IL) was used for all statistical analyses.


Table 1 presents the mean [+ or -] SD values for the descriptive, body build, and anthropometric characteristics of the wrestlers. The results of the polynomial regression analyses in Figures 1-4 indicated that there were significant, positive, quadratic relationships for age versus HT ([R.sup.2] = 0.83), biacromialD ([R.sup.2] = 0.75), bi-iliacD ([R.sup.2] = 0.48), wristD ([R.sup.2] = 0.37), ankleD ([R.sup.2] = 0.18), elbowD ([R.sup.2] = 0.52), kneeD ([R.sup.2] = 0.19), hipC ([R.sup.2] = 0.59), thighC ([R.sup.2] = 0.53), calfC ([R.sup.2] = 0.78), biacromialD / biilacD ([R.sup.2] = 0.37), elbowD / kneeD ([R.sup.2] = 0.26), bicepC / thighC ([R.sup.2] = 0.14), and forearmC / calfC ([R.sup.2] = 0.16). There was a significant, negative, quadratic relationship for the age versus Ecto ([R.sup.2] = 0.02) relationship. In addition, there were significant, positive, linear relationships for age versus BM ([r.sup.2] = 0.70), BMI ([r.sup.2] = 0.31), abdominalC ([r.sup.2] = 0.44), bicepsC ([r.sup.2] = 0.62), forearmC ([r.sup.2] = 0.68), and wristD / ankleD ([r.sup.2] = 0.19). Furthermore, there were significant, negative, linear relationships for the age versus Endo ([r.sup.2] = 0.06) and Meso ([r.sup.2] = 0.01) relationships.


This study examined the patterns of growth for somatotype ratings, diameters, circumferences, and anthropometric ratios of young wrestlers. When compared to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) (22), the wrestlers and NHANES samples were similar in BM from 7 to 11 yrs of age, but the NHANES samples had greater BM than the wrestlers between 11 and 18 yrs of age (Tables 1 and 2). However, the samples were similar in HT across the total age range (7 to 18 yrs). The findings are consistent with the results from studies (6,11,14,22,26,27,33) that reported wrestlers 8 to 16 yrs of age tend to have less BM than non-athletes of comparable ages. Differences in BM between wrestlers and non-athletes are likely due to the weight loss practices that wrestlers often use to make weight for competition (26,34).

The wrestlers in the present study exhibited positive, linear relationships for age versus BM and BMI, and a positive, quadratic relationship for age versus HT (Figure 1). Like the non-athletes of Tanner and Whitehouse (31), however, HT in the wrestlers increased to approximately 15 yrs of age and then plateaued. Previous studies (6,12,21,25) have also reported linear increases across age for BM and BMI in young wrestlers as well as athletes in track and field, tennis, and swimming. In addition, previous investigations of wrestlers, as well as non-athletes, (2,6,11,14,23) have reported increases in HT across age and Camic et al. (6) found a positive, linear relationship for age versus HT in wrestlers 8 to 14 yrs old.

Malina and Bouchard (20) suggested that the reduction in the rate of increase in HT at approximately 15 yrs of age corresponds to the peak height velocity. Like the findings of Malina and Bouchard (20), the cross-sectional sample of wrestlers exhibited a decrease in the rate of increase in HT at approximately 15 yrs of age. Thus, the results of the present study, in conjunction with previous studies, (2,6,14,21-23,31) indicate that there are similar patterns of growth for BM, HT, and BMI among young athletes in various sports and non-athletes. Furthermore, these findings indicate that participation in wrestling between 7 and 18 yrs of age had no effect on the normal age-related pattern or rate of change in HT. However, the non-athletes (22) had a greater rate of increase in BM from 11 to 18 yrs of age than the wrestlers.

In the present study, the mean [+ or -] SD somatotype ratings for the wrestlers were 3.1 [+ or -] 1.3 for Endo, 4.4 [+ or -] 1.1 for Meso, and 2.9 [+ or -] 1.2 for Ecto (Table 1). These values are similar to those from previous studies of high school (8), Junior Olympic (33), and national level adult (30) wrestlers with reported somatotype ratings that ranged from 1.7 to 2.8 for Endo, 4.5 to 6.8 for Meso, and 1.0 to 3.1 Ecto. Thus, from childhood through early adulthood, wrestlers are typically characterized by a high level of muscularity as reflected by the Meso rating, but low levels of roundness (endomorphy) and linearity of build (ectomorphy).

The wrestlers in the present study exhibited negative, linear relationships for age versus Endo and Meso, and a negative, quadratic relationship ([R.sup.2] = 0.02) for age versus Ecto (Figure 1). Although significantly correlated (r = 0.06, r = 0.01, and R = 0.02) (Figure 4), the current findings indicate that age explained only 6%, 1%, and 2% of the variance in the Endo, Meso, and Ecto ratings, respectively. These findings are similar to those of Nikolaidis (24) with correlations of r = 0.17, r = 0.14, and r = 0.14, respectively, in 12 to 20 year old soccer players and Amigo et al. (3) who reported no change across age in somatotype ratings in elite male gymnasts 7 to 18 yrs old. However, previous investigations of non-athletes have reported decreases in ENDO and increases in ECTO across in boys 7 to 18 yrs of age (7,15). Mesomorphy demonstrated only slight increases across age in both samples (7,15). In general, while the findings of the present study and previous studies (3,7,15,24) demonstrate that athletes and non-athletes develop differently across-age with regard to somatotype ratings, there are few changes in somatotype ratings among athletes from 7 to 18 yrs of age. In non-athletes, however, there are significant decreases in ENDO, increases in ECTO, and slight increases in MESO (7,15).

Circumferences and diameters have been used to describe the body build characteristics of young athletes and non-athletes with regard to the distribution of tissues, the proportions of various body segments, and skeletal frame size (1,11,13,14,20). The circumferences and diameters for the wrestlers in the present study (Table 1) are similar to those previously reported for young wrestlers (6,11,14,27), but the abdominal, biceps, thigh, and calf circumferences as well as elbow and wrist diameters are generally smaller than those of national representative samples and non-athletes (5,6,11,14,26,27). The differences in trunk and extremity circumferences and upper extremity diameters in athletes versus non-athletes likely reflect less adiposity and a smaller frame size (11-13).

Wrestlers in the present study exhibited linear relationships for age versus abdominal, biceps, and forearm circumferences, but quadratic relationships for age versus hip, thigh, and calf circumferences that plateaued at approximately 16 yrs of age (Figure 3). These findings are consistent with those of Housh et al. (11,14), Camic et al. (6), and Malina et al. (20) who reported increases in upper body extremity circumferences across ages 8 to 17 in wrestlers, non-athletes, and representative samples of boys (22). The plateau in lower body circumferences coincided with the typical age of peak height velocity (19), while the increases in upper body circumferences across age were consistent with the linear trend for BM.

In addition, there were quadratic relationships for age versus all diameter measures with little change (0.2 to 0.6 cm) across age for extremity diameters (wrist, elbow, ankle, and knee) (Figure 2). The biacromial and bi-iliac trunk diameters, however, increased by 12.9 and 6.7 cm from age 7 to 18, respectively (Figure 2). Similar findings for age-related changes in trunk and extremity diameters have been reported (11,14) for young wrestlers and a national sample of boys 14 to 17 yrs of age. These findings suggest that there are greater increases in overall trunk size than extremity size in wrestlers. Thus, the current findings for circumferences and diameters, together with the results of previous studies (10,11,14,32,19,20), indicate that the quadratic age-related patterns for lower body circumferences and diameters are generally consistent with HT while upper body circumferences more closely followed the linear pattern for BM.

Anthropometric ratios can provide information regarding the growth-related patterns of skeletal dimensions, adiposity, and girth sizes for athletes in various sports as well as non-athletes (1,8). In the present study, there were quadratic relationships for age versus biacromialD/bi-iliacD and elbowD/kneeD ratios as well as a linear relationship for the wristD/ankleD ratio. The biacromial/bi-iliac ratio (Figure 4) illustrates proportionally greater changes in the biacromial than bi-iliac diameter in the present sample of wrestlers.

In conjunction with the current findings, it has been reported that young athletes diving and gymnasts tend to display proportionally wider shoulders than hips when compared to non-athletes (21,33). In addition, males typically exhibit greater increases in biacromialD than bi-iliacD at the onset of puberty than females (21). Increases in biacromialD relative to bi-iliacD indicate that the wrestlers exhibited a greater increase in upper body skeletal frame size relative to the lower body. Furthermore, the wrestlers demonstrated a greater rate of change in elbowD than kneeD from 14 to 18 yrs of age. The wrestlers in the present sample also exhibited increases in both the wristD and ankleD across age indicating similar changes in both of these bony, upper and lower body extremity sites. Thus, the present findings demonstrate that in wrestlers 7 to 18 yrs of age, there is a greater rate of change in the biacromialD and elbowD than the bi-iliacD and kneed. This indicates greater changes in the upper body segments associated with frame size than the lower body segments.

Circumference ratios (Figure 4) were analyzed to assess changes in body segments typically associated with muscularity and/or adiposity (4,21). The wrestlers exhibited quadratic relationships for age versus both bicepsC/thighC and forearmC/calfC ratios. The upper and lower body extremity measures increased at similar rates across age to approximately 14 yrs of age. After 14 yrs of age, however, the upper body circumferences of the wrestlers increased at a greater rate than those of the lower body. Typically in athletes, the biceps, forearm, and calf circumferences reflect muscularity, while the thigh circumference reflect both muscularity and fatness (4,21). Thus, the current sample of wrestlers exhibited greater age-related increases in the trunk and upper extremities relative to lower body changes, which reflects increases in frame size and growth associated with fat-free mass.

Limitations in this Study

There are two primary limitations of the current study. The cross-sectional design of this study does not allow for within subjects assessments of the patterns of the body build and anthropometric variables. Therefore, it is not possible to directly describe the timing of growth-related variables such as peak height velocity or peak weight velocity. Furthermore, there are no maturational data available for the wrestlers in the present study. The results provide growth patterns based on chronological age that are typical of the methodology used in clinical settings for HT and BM growth curves throughout childhood and adolescents.


The results of this study indicate that in young wrestlers HT increased from 7 to approximately 15 yrs of age and then plateaued. However, the subjects' BM increased from 7 to 18 yrs of age. In addition, somatotype ratings indicate that the young wrestlers were characterized by high levels of muscularity, but low levels of roundness and linearity that did not change across age. Furthermore, upper body circumferences associated with fat-free mass followed the age-related pattern for BM, while lower body circumferences tracked the pattern for HT. Anthropometric ratios resulted in greater changes in upper body than lower body diameters and, therefore, proportionally wider shoulders than hips. Thus, the wrestlers in the current study followed growth patterns for BM and HT that were typical of non-athletes, maintained a mesomorphic somatotype rating across age, and developed a pronounced triangular frame as a result of their differences in the rates of growth for upper versus lower body segments.

Address for correspondence: Cochrane KC, MS, Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, USA, 68583. Phone: (402) 472-2690,


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The opinions expressed in JEPonline are those of the authors and are not attributable to JEPonline, the editorial staff or the ASEP organization.

Kristen C Cochrane [1], Terry J Housh [1], Haley C Bergstrom [1], Nathaniel D M Jenkins [1], Glen O Johnson [1], Dona J Housh [2], Richard J Schmidt [1], Joel T Cramer [1]

[1] Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences/Human Performance Laboratory/University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, USA, [2] Department of Oral Biology, College of Dentistry, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Lincoln, NE, USA

Table 1. Descriptive, Body Build, and Anthropometric
Characteristics of the Wrestlers

Variable                       Mean [+ or -] SD      Range

Age (yr)                        13.5 [+ or -] 3.2      7.0-18.9
Height (cm)                    157.2 [+ or -] 17.3   120.6-187.2
Body Mass (kg)                  51.2 [+ or -] 16.3    23.6-90.8
BMI (kgm-2)                     20.1 [+ or -] 3.0     14.3-28.8
Bi-iliac Diameter (cm)          25.1 [+ or -] 2.8     17.6-34.0
Biacromial Diameter (cm)        33.1 [+ or -] 5.6     22.4-44.8
Wrist Diameter (cm)              5.0 [+ or -] 0.5      4.0-6.0
Ankle Diameter (cm)              6.6 [+ or -] 0.5      5.3-8.0
Knee Diameter (cm)               9.0 [+ or -] 0.8      7.1-11.3
Abdominal Circumference (cm)    68.2 [+ or -] 7.4     52.5-97.2
Hip Circumference (cm)          81.9 [+ or -] 10.2    59.5-110.4
Biceps Circumference (cm)       23.6 [+ or -] 3.8     15.6-33.0
Thigh Circumference (cm)        48.1 [+ or -] 7.1     32.1-68.7
Forearm Circumference (cm)      23.1 [+ or -] 3.3     15.0-30.6
Calf Circumference (cm)         31.9 [+ or -] 4.0     23.4-41.0
Endomorphy Rating                3.1 [+ or -] 1.3      1.4-8.2
Mesomorphy Rating                4.4 [+ or -] 1.1      0.3-7.4
Ectomorphy Rating                2.9 [+ or -] 1.2      0.3-6.9
BiacromialD/Bi-iliacD Ratio      1.3 [+ or -] 0.1      0.9-1.7
WristD/AnkleD Ratio              0.8 [+ or -] 0.05     0.6-0.9
ElbowD/KneeD Ratio               0.7 [+ or -] 0.06     0.5-0.9
BicepsC/ThighC Ratio             0.5 [+ or -] 0.03     0.4-0.6
ForearmC/CalfC Ratio             0.7 [+ or -] 0.04     0.5-0.9

Table 2. Description of Each Body Build Variable.

Variable                       Characteristic

Endomorphy                     Roundness
Mesomorphy                     Muscularity
Ectomorphy                     Linearity
Biacromial/Bi-iliac Diameter   Body breadth dimension
Wrist/Ankle Diameter           Upper extremity to Lower extremity
                                 frame size
Elbow/Knee Diameter            Upper extremity to Lower extremity
                                 frame size
Biceps/Thigh Circumference     Upper versus lower body girth ratio
                                 associated with site specific
Forearm/Calf Circumference     Upper versus lower body girth ratio
                                 associated with site specific

Variable                       Source

Endomorphy                     Carter (1996)
Biacromial/Bi-iliac Diameter   Parizkova (1973)
Wrist/Ankle Diameter           Ackland (2012)
Elbow/Knee Diameter            Ackland (2012)
Biceps/Thigh Circumference     Behnke and Wilmore (1974)
Forearm/Calf Circumference     Behnke and Wilmore (1974)
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Article Details
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Author:Cochrane, Kristen C.; Housh, Terry J.; Bergstrom, Haley C.; Jenkins, Nathaniel D.M.; Johnson, Glen O
Publication:Journal of Exercise Physiology Online
Article Type:Clinical report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2013
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