The viral TikTok ‘Centre of Gravity’ challenge doing the rounds on social media seems pretty simple at first. It involves you, usually along with a member of the opposite gender, kneeling on all fours and slowly switching to resting on your forearms before you shift the weight onto your elbows. The final and most crucial step in nailing this challenge is to take your arms behind your back, and resist falling flat on your face.
While you’d imagine some would nail this while others would be gifted a face plant, there’s a conspiracy doing the rounds: that women are acing this challenge while men are landing up with their cheek squished against the floor.
As seemingly more men continue to face-plant their way through this challenge, the internet has done what it seems to do best: come up with a theory.
Now, TikTokers are saying that the reason women have found another platform to excel at is because they have a different centre of gravity compared to men. Some others out there are also saying that women are just “better at balancing” than men.
But while it's nice to see that women’s balancing skills are finally getting the acknowledgement they deserve, is there any science to these assumptions? What exactly is it that’s helping women succeed at the internet’s quirkiest new trend?
According to Britannica, the centre of gravity is the “imaginary point” in a body matter, where the total weight of the body is concentrated. But ask anyone affiliated with science, and they’ll probably tell you that the centre of gravity is what determines a person’s balance or how they play various sports.
As it turns out, some studies have found that women do in fact have a lower centre of gravity than men. According to research published in the academic journal Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, a woman’s centre of gravity is 8 to 15 percent lower than a man’s. Of course, that’s more to help their bodies stabilise while walking during pregnancy, not so they can nail yet another TikTok challenge.
“Due to the generally more curvaceous structure of a woman’s hips in proportion to the rest of their body as well as their average heights, the average location of a person’s weight tends to be lower in a woman’s body, as opposed to men who have more even weight distribution,” Mallika Parekh, health and wellness expert, and founder of the India chain of international barre-based workout chain, Physique 57, told VICE. “So, in doing this challenge, when you remove the support that the upper body provides, women are more prepared to support their weight in lower areas of their body (i.e. their hips and knees) because this is closer to where their centre of gravity tends to be anyway.”
This might also explain why women seemed more likely to succeed in the TikTok Chair Challenge, a viral 2019 trend which involved pressing your head against the wall while trying to lift a chair and keeping your feet in a steady position.
Parekh adds that since the centre of gravity is usually higher for men, they may find it difficult to remain upright when there is no upper body support, such as in the challenge.
But while this may make sense theoretically, it doesn’t always manifest physically, and of course comes with exceptions. This writer — for whom gulping down flamin’ hot cheetos while binge-watching movie marathons constitutes as the only extreme sport she’s willing to participate in— decided to take up the challenge. Let’s just suffice to say it didn’t end with my chin up in the air.
“It seems that the people who maintain balance in this task are leaning back with their weight on their heels when they put their elbows on the floor,” Rajiv Ranganathan, an associate professor of Kinesiology at the University of Michigan State told fitness magazine Shape. "This would tend to keep the centre of gravity relatively close to the knees and therefore will be easier to balance even when you remove your elbows.”