Why you should never arm wrestle a chimpanzee

Over at the Mental Indigestion blog, Dr Jim teaches us an important lesson in appropriate games to play with greater apes whilst down the pub. Namely, do not challenge a chimp to an arm wrestling match:

As you take up the strain, know that the fine-tuned positioning and slow, steady building of muscle force you exert is due to the greater amount of grey matter that you posses in your spinal cord; motor neuron nerves cells that connect to muscle fibres and regulate muscle movement. The huge surplus of motor neurons you possess allows you to engage smaller portions of your muscles at any given time. A Chimpanzee, by comparison, has fewer motor neurons, thus each neuron triggers a greater number of muscle fibres, resulting in a greater proportion of muscle activation.

Reflect on how this finely tuned, incremental strength allows you to engage in tensing your muscle for a longer period. It is this fine motor control that allows you to do delicate tasks, like be victorious on the Nintendo Wii or replace the RAM in your laptop, and you know that if the RAM chip stubbornly refuses to slot back into place, you can gently exert greater and greater precise force until it does.


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This movie has a Hawk and a Bull, but no chimp.


Finally, as the arm wrestle begins in earnest, reflect on two last things: one, your brain limits the degree of your muscle activation in an attempt to prevent damage to the fine motor control components of your muscles; and two, a Chimpanzee has no such limitation. So as the Chimpanzee tears off your arm easily and beats you over the head with it, think to yourself that rather than engaging in an arm wrestle with a Chimp, which has four times your strength, try sitting at home playing your Nintendo Wii instead.

Thanks, Dr Jim!

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In my very limited experience of physical interaction with our simian cousins, I had reached the conclusion that they somehow were able to achieve much greater force per gram of muscle tissue than could any mere human.

Am I now to push the well-worn "wrong again!" mental button and recategorize my memories as signifying only that my basically-equivalent muscles were once more handicapped by over-active yet (for the umpteenth time) self-sabotaging gray cells?

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 15 May 2009 #permalink

I love SciBlogs, so much useful information.

By NoAstronomer (not verified) on 15 May 2009 #permalink

Why not challenge the chimp to a Wii game instead, and hope it isn't a bad loser and tear off your arms anyway? (Why do I think about wookies here :-)