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Old 12-08-2005, 10:49 PM   #1
Zak Penwell
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Hey I've got a running argument with my training partner that I'm hoping you guys out there can settle.
The argument is 1) whether small guys or big guys are predisposed to being able to lift more weight in proportion to their body weight, and 2) why this is so.
I say small guys will be able to lift a greater percentage of their body weight than an equally trained larger guy due to the physics and phisiology of the body and the mechanics of lifting. My buddy says that the opposite is true and a larger guy is able to lift a higher proportion of his weight due to the fact that he has more total muscle mass.
Someone please settle this... facts and references highly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
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Old 12-08-2005, 10:56 PM   #2
Veronica Carpenter
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Look at most of the OLer's out there, The little guys/gals often out lift the heavier weights when judged strictly on percentage of bodyweight.

The heavier weight will most often than not lift the most weight for the simple fact that mass moves mass. But the heavier weight doesn't necessarily have more total muscle.

BTW, the sinclair formula is seriously skewed to favor the bigger guys!
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Old 12-08-2005, 11:35 PM   #3
Steven Low
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Smaller guys are biomechanically advantaged.

Lighter guys can lift more weight per bodyweight because:

1. They have a shorter way to push the mass

2. The lever angles are shorter which create less torque stress. For example, in a bench press, their forearms are shorter which reduces the torque stress on the elbow that the tricep has to push the weight against.

The second reason is clearly the most important. In general though, smaller guys can only pack on so much muscle until it starts becoming a hindrance to their range of motion. Thus, a larger guy can pack on more muscle because they can fit more onto their frame without it hindering their movements. However, this is still not enough to make up for the biomechanical advantage with the shorter lever angles. Just take a look at any olympic powerlifting records and then compare them to bodyweight.

Thus, the shorter guys have the better strength to bodyweight ratios. The larger guys will, obviously, have the larger lifts though. While this is evidenced by the weights lifted by powerlifters (and by the shorter guys doing better on rings in gymnastics), you can also look at it from the biomechanical point of view. The torque on muscles is very large considering that the tendons that connect your muscles around your bones are only about a few centimeters or so away from the lever point. This force will easily exceed the amount of muscle you can put on in that area to lift the same amount of weight before hindering the person biomechanically. This is also multipled several times foir compound movements because you need to take into account the levers that the forearm as well as the one the upper arm makes with the chest. I'm sure you can do some calculations, but I don't have the time to think up a good senario. :P

(Message edited by braindx on December 08, 2005)
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Old 12-09-2005, 12:28 AM   #4
Veronica Carpenter
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OK, so does the question small vs large = short vs tall OR light vs heavy?
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Old 12-09-2005, 12:54 AM   #5
Zak Penwell
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For the sake of our argument we are talking light vs heavy.
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Old 12-09-2005, 05:48 AM   #6
Gerhard Lavin
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Little guys will have better reliative strength.
Bigger guys will have better absolute strength.
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Old 12-09-2005, 06:57 AM   #7
John Walsh
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People with certain leverages or body types may have some advantages. Maybe genetics will play a roll for some people but just because one guy weighs 130 pound and another weighs 330 does not give either any special advantage over the other.

I find this an interesting topic but a moot one. Why is it that when we talk about weights lifted do we always have to qualify it with bodyweight formulas? Why are there no bodyweight formulas for running, cycling or bodyweight exercises? For that matter why are there no height formulas?

As an adult I have been both a little guy (165) and a big guy (250). Currently I weigh about 210-215. When I was 165 I could run faster and father than I could at 250. When I was 250 I could hoist more weight. So what.

I have done double bodyweight squats at 165 pounds and 250 pounds. The 500 squat was much harder on my system. It took more out of me and was far more stressful on my joints, tendons, bones and muscles.

I guess the point I am making is that there is a double standard when it comes to weight lifted compared to other athletic endeavors. A 5-minute mile is a 5-minute mile regardless of the runner’s weight. An 800 pound squat is and equally impressive feat regardless of weight.

On this topic I always think about one of my last fights. I was 5’ 9” 191 so I was considered a heavyweight by amateur standards. My opponent was 6’5” 275. Now when I fought middleweight I would have never had to deal with that size disparity but that was my challenge. My fight plan was to take a few shots and get on the inside and pound the crap out of his body. If he folded than I would start taking shots at the head.

Well he had his own game plan, which was to keep me at arms length, use his jab and lean on me when I got inside. Now I think I had more relative strength than this guy but he had more absolute strength than me by a long shot. I could not get around this and in a three round fight there is no time to dance around. He beat me handily. I could not use my speed advantage over his strength/size advantage. No one congratulated me on a good fight for a guy my size and the judges gave me no special consideration based on our size disparity. In the end it didn’t matter. No excuses. He beat me and that’s all there was to it.

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Old 12-09-2005, 07:44 AM   #8
Neal Winkler
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Here ya go, straight from the CrossFit archives... ml

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Old 12-09-2005, 07:58 AM   #9
Tom Gilbert
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Ask google to find weightlifting results from any Olympics, or any top level powerlifting meet. Do some long division. All the facts and references you need

The lighter guys smoke the heavier guys
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Old 12-09-2005, 08:56 AM   #10
Lincoln Brigham
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Besides having less distance to move and shorter levers, etc. also note that shorter guys tend to be thicker and have shorter limbs. At one extreme you have basketball players - long and not muscular - and then you have midgets like Naim (4'11") and my buddy Mike Booker (4'3" or so). The super-short guys have the same muscle mass but less leg and arm to put it on. So their arms and legs tend to be extra-loaded up with muscle. Naim has snatched triple bodyweight and I've seen Mike squat better than quadruple bodyweight for 2 reps. No way Manute Bol or even David Robinson is going to do that.
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