One theme that consistently runs through the CrossFit community is the “bigger is better” philosophy.
This theme was reinforced recently when I investigated the thigh circumferences of Regionals and CrossFit Games athletes. In not-so-surprising CrossFit fashion, athletes grew competitive—sometimes even insecure—when they started to consider how their thighs would stack up against their competitors.
“This is super invasive and I’m not comfortable with it,” joked three-time CrossFit Games and Blonyx athlete Tyson Takasaki.
“Let’s say bigger than Speal but smaller than Quadzilla Petro,” he added, referring to well-known Games athletes Chris Spealler and Daniel Petro.
Yes Tyson, your arms are pretty impressive, too.
I have to say, it was a breath of fresh air to hear about their competitive desire to develop thick thighs.
In my pre-CrossFit world, the men in my life all seemed to have one of two options for legs: Chicken legs or logs. These men didn’t focus much on building their leg strength or power. Instead, they paid careful attention to their chests, shoulders, lats, traps. Bench press trumped squats. And the girls in my life—including myself—longed for long, thin volleyball-player legs. Scrawny thigh-gapped thighs were safer than muscular ones. And since I was born with larger-than average trunks, I spent many years refusing to wear anything but basketball shorts, foolishly figuring their bagginess masked the density of my quads.
CrossFit welcomed me to a world where men care more about their squat than their bench, and where women choose functional strength and performance over skinny legs. As a woman who spent her life in an emotional battle with her thighs, I welcomed this culture where big quads and hamstrings aren’t just accepted, they’re actually considered pretty cool. Cool because there's an assumption that bigger thighs means a bigger squat and a bigger clean.
Finding the CrossFit Women's Magic Thigh Size
(Note: red circle notes the one outlier: Sarah Hopping Estrella. More on her later).
The 12 Regionals and Games-level female athletes—including their squat, clean and thigh statistics—that we included in the above graph are as follows:
Analyzing the data, and studying the above graph, suggests there's a "magic number thigh circumference," so to speak. For women, this number is 23 inches. In other words, larger size thighs correlate to a bigger squat (and clean) up until 23 inches. After 23 inches, strength numbers flatten off.
It's sort of like Warren Buffet's theory about IQ. Buffet, the philanthropist and most successful investor of the 20th century, believed IQ relates to a person’s ability to be successful—but only up to a certain point. That's the key here: Only up to a certain point.
“If you have more than 120 or 130 IQ points, you can afford to give the rest away,” was Buffet's famous quote.
In other words, the higher your IQ, the better chance you have of being successful up until an IQ of 120 to 130. After that, IQ doesn’t matter. This means having an IQ of 140 to 145, which is generally considered genius status, is no more useful than an IQ of just 120.
According to our sample size of 24 male and female Regionals and Games athletes, the same is true of thigh size. Once you hit 23-inch thighs for women and 25-inch thighs for men (measured at their widest point on the leg), you can give the rest of your inches away.
Blonyx athlete Carleen Matthews looks like one of the smaller women on the competition floor, but she still boasts 22-inch thighs and a 225-lb. clean
Note: The only athlete who was an outlier to our theory—her massive squat means she doesn't fit nicely into our otherwise linear graph— was Sarah Hopping Estrella, who placed 18th at the California Regional in 2015, and won the snatch event with a huge 192-lb. snatch. One possible explanation for her being an outlier might be because she is considerably taller than most CrossFit athletes, standing at 5'11." This means her overall muscle volume is greater.
“Once I was making fun of my husband for having really big legs. Then I measured mine and discovered mine are the same size. Oops.” - Sarah Hopping Estrella
Just for Fun: The Men's Thighs in the West Battle it Out
The men’s competition at the West Regional in 2015 went down as one of the tightest races in regional competition history. At the end of the final event, nobody knew who had finished in the top five.
Their legs are also a tight competition between some of the big names in the region.
Blonyx athlete Joe Scali’s thighs measure in at 24 inches, while two-time Games athlete Jeremy Meredith walks around with 26-inch thighs. His girlfriend Deanna Fester mentioned at last year’s West Regional competition that her boyfriend’s legs are so big he barely fits in the car. Takasaki, who should win the award for the most perfect shoulders in CrossFit, also boasts 26-inch trunks.
Although impressive, according to our theory, 25 inches is all both Meredith and Takasaki need, so they can afford to give an inch away.
So, guess who rings in at exactly 25 inches?
“Looks like 25 inches is the biggest I could find,” revealed the one-and-only Lucas Parker. Little did he know, 25-inch thighs is considered the "perfect size," (according to our work in progress theory). He has always been a man dedicated to efficiency!
Lucas Parker is probably looking primal screaming about the fact that he has perfectly-efficient 25-inch thighs. Then again, he might also be screaming about his perfect 130 IQ.