Gymnasts and squeaky voices

Many male and female gymnasts sound like they’ve inhaled helium, Paul Hamm being a recent example.

Why? Does their training do something to their larynxes?

And while I’m at it, could someone explain how a gymnast’s body changes? For instance, I seem to recall that some female athletes, including gymnasts, I suppose, stop menstruating.

In order to be a gymnast, you have to be a wee person.

Most of those gymnasts are just kids - teenagers - plenty of them aren’t even old enough to go to the bar. You’d probably find just as many squeeky voices if you listened to students in any high school. And even the older ones do tend to be smaller people overall (no 6’2" 230 lb guys doing iron crosses), although whether that has anything to do with it I don’t know.

When you say “many,” I’m curious… Paul Hamm, Kerri Strug and who else?

Are you SURE you’re not just extrapolating from two famous examples?

The female gymnasts often stop menstruating because they have too little body fat - so little, in fact, that their body has decided it would be dangerous for them to get pregnant.

This is called amenorrhea, and it also happens in anorexics whose body fat percentage is too low.

I hope not! Actually, the first one I noticed this with was Peter Vidmar from the 1984 Olympics. Another is the commentator on this year’s gymnastics, Tim Daggett, who also has a high-pitched voice, though not as extreme as Hamm and Vidmar.

      • Gymnastics is a sport that favors the small in stature and slight of build. These same people tend to also have the highest-pitched voices.

Male gymnasts may be shorter than the average male, but in no way are they slight in build.

If I had the upper body strength that those guys had, I’d be buying a lot of new shirts.

I’m curious . . based on the quote above, could an Olympic class gymnast be built like an NFL linebacker? How would gymnastic equipment have to be reconfigured and reinforced to withstand the strain? Would this be impossible?

No way could a large linebacker type guy compete in international gymnastics.

It’s not a question of the equipment being strong enough, it’s that he couldn’t move his body around quickly enough, and wouldn’t have the strength to get himself into the various poses.

To illustrate, imagine if this were, say, a pullup competition: the guys who does the most pullups wins. Do you want to bet on Lawrence Taylor or on Paul Hamm? You’d take Hamm every time because he has less wait to pull up.

Similarly when it comes to doing flips on floor exercise, to be successful you need the right combination of (1) high strength and (2) low weight. Based on past olympic champions, it looks like the ideal for men is somewhere between 5’ 5" and 5’ 8" (Mitch Gaylord is 5’ 8" and he’s on the tall end) and somewhere between 150 and 170 pounds.

Regarding the timbre of the voices, remember that the women are usually under 18 years old and they also tend to be very small. Their larynx’s are smaller just like the rest of their bodies. Regarding the men, I think I have noticed that their voices tend to be a little bit on the high range. I guess that is probably due to their being smaller than average height, but then again I don’t normally think of men between 5’ 5" and 5’ 8" as having particularly high voices.

I started a thread probably a couple years back along the lines of “why are gymnasts short?”. Can’t find it now; maybe I’m searching wrong or perhaps it got wiped out.

It’s the old scaling problem. This is why it’s not really that impressive that an ant can lift many times it’s body weight. If you scale something the cross section of the muscles is the scale factor squared. Problem is that mass is now scale factor cubed.

Start with a 4’6" gymnast, not unreasonable. Scale by 1.414 for a 6’4" height with twice the muscle cross section. Problem is mass is now 2.828 of the original.

With the ant you go in the opposite direction. Make a person 1/100 the size of the original and he has 1/10,000 the stegth but mass is a one millionth of the orignal. streth to weight is 100 times better than the full size version.

Male gymnasts are not only not much younger than the other athletes that compete at the Olympics, they’re not particularly small, either. I mean, they’re not BIG guys, but there just sort of small - not wee like some of these posts tend to suggest.

Certanly not small enough to account for the high voices which I’ve also noticed. Paul Hamm has it, as does his brother. Kyle Shewfelt from Canada has it. Tim Dagget has it. I’ve noticed almost all of the male gymnasts have it and I’ve wondered about it as well.

FWIW, I know a rather large cross section of males that are built appropriately to compete in gymnastics, and NONE of them have a high voice like that. I think there must be something else going on and I would also be very interested in finding out what it is. :slight_smile:

Helium doping.
It makes them lighter.

The USA men’s gymnastics team ranged in height from 5’4" to 5’11".

I suspect delayed puberty might have something to do with it, certainly with the girls. Plus, short women tend to have high voices. I know I do.

Didn’t the Chinese swim team get accused of something similar a few years back?

I had a relatively late puberty (14.5 years old) and I’m 5’0", but my voice is not high. In fact, it’s definitely an alto. I’ve also known quite a few men who were under 5’10" who didn’t have high voices either. Then you get a Mike Tyson type, with a helium voice, who’s quite large. This is all anecdotal of course, but there seems to be little correlation IMO between height and voice range. There must be some other reason, and I too would be interested in knowing what it is.