CrossFit Discussion Board  

Go Back   CrossFit Discussion Board > CrossFit Forum > Fitness
CrossFit Home Forum Site Rules CrossFit FAQ Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

Thread Tools
Old 07-29-2006, 01:28 PM   #1
Sean Manseau
Affiliate Sean Manseau is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Amherst  MA
Posts: 209
i weigh 175 lbs. today i set a new PR on the bench: 235lbs, which i thought was pretty good, until i saw someone else, who weighted 160lbs, had benched THREE HUNDRED POUNDS. now, my bodyfat percentage is not that high, maybe 10 or 11%. even if that guy is at, say, 3%, how does that 5 or so extra pounds of muscle he's carrying produce so much more power? a corollary question might be, what determines the upper limit of strength one can attain at a certain body mass?
  Reply With Quote
Old 07-29-2006, 02:00 PM   #2
Josh Briggs
Member Josh Briggs is offline
Josh Briggs's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Canmore  AB
Posts: 56
Someone who knows more will chime in and give you a more complete anwser, but here's one factor:


Each muscle involved in the bench press effort is made up of individual fibers. Your body will not use all of them to move even your max lift.

In an untrained individual, they might be using 30 - 40% of the fibers. In a trained individual, maybe 50 - 65%. The upper levels of recuitment are attained only in higher level athletes.

Higher recruitment is achieved through heavy (max / near max) lifts and plyometrics. Lighter lifts and long distance efforts, just make your body better at cycling low recruitment, through the muscle fibers.

This is essentially what the "system" is designed to do... to allow a portion of your fibers to rest, while another portion of the fibers do the work, thus allowing longer work efforts.

So, buddy with the bigger lifts and lighter bodyweight has better recruitment than you.

Think of a gymnast or a Oly lifter.

That's also a good real-life illustration of how heavy effort (Oly lifts and gymnastics) doesn't necessarily make you big.

  Reply With Quote
Old 07-29-2006, 02:33 PM   #3
Charlie Reid
Member Charlie Reid is offline
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: San Diego  CA
Posts: 233
Josh pretty much nailed it. Pavel talks about that in his book Power to the People. Strength is definitely a skill that requires the ability to maximize muscle tension. You might be suprised how strong you can get just by learning how to tense your muscles properly. This individual also might have a greater distribution of type II fibers than you do, which are ultimately the power fibers, versus the slow-oxidative type I fibers.
  Reply With Quote
Old 07-29-2006, 03:23 PM   #4
Matt Gagliardi
Member Matt Gagliardi is offline
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Memphis  TN
Posts: 946
We can also start delving into biomechanics...longer vs. shorter lever arms and where the origins/insertions of his muscles are vs. where yours are. Recruitment and "tension" are definitely factors, and it's not my intention to gloss over them. But how your body is constructed is also a factor.
  Reply With Quote
Old 07-29-2006, 03:25 PM   #5
Charlie Reid
Member Charlie Reid is offline
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: San Diego  CA
Posts: 233
good point, matt i didnt even think about that one. A bench press is a lot more difficult when you have longer arms, hence why the top powerlifters have short(er) arms. Although longer arms and a shorter torso are definitely better for deadlifting.
  Reply With Quote
Old 07-29-2006, 04:06 PM   #6
Sean Manseau
Affiliate Sean Manseau is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Amherst  MA
Posts: 209
great info you guys, thank you.
  Reply With Quote
Old 07-29-2006, 06:16 PM   #7
Todd Learn
Member Todd Learn is offline
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Red Deer  Alberta
Posts: 50
Could be that artifical assistance is being used i.e. steroids. Not saying this person is taking them, just another possibility regarding the differfence in strength between the two of you. Certain steroids will cause large increases in strength (with proper training) without causing large increases in muscle mass.

  Reply With Quote
Old 07-30-2006, 06:54 AM   #8
Craig Van De Walker
Member Craig Van De Walker is offline
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Beaverton  OR
Posts: 872
I don't know if this is the case, but there is also the magic of the "Bench Shirt"

Also if this person is a BP specialist and not a full three lift powerlifter he might have a disproportionate amount of his muscle mass in his shoulders chest and especially triceps. ie proportionate strength for him could be (my estimates for non gear lifts, no squat suit or bench shirt) back squat=500, DL 500, BP=300. If the numbers are BS=300, DL=300, BP 300+, then he is a BP specialist.

Warning physiological geeg rant...Ultimate strength IMO is determined by strength of bones and connective tissue. There are medical conditions whereby muscles are forced to contract maximally, they often rip muscles loose and break bones (I would have to look this up can't remember name). We have lots of unrealized strength but the animal body has protective mechanisms built in to keep things functioning. Lots of little circuit breakers in our nervous systems to keep us from destroying ourselves.

ultimate strength=interaction of:
-leverage(bones, muscle origin, insertions and fiber layout)
-muscle mass in area
-muscle cell make-up (whether tissue is dense in contractile elements or sarcoplasm, capilaries, intramuscular fat)
-recruitment(are you recruiting 25% of your fibers or 50%) this can be trainined to some extent, but those protective mechanisms are STRONG. This is probably most complex area to understand.

  Reply With Quote
Old 07-30-2006, 07:59 AM   #9
Nicholas Richard Engen
Member Nicholas Richard Engen is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Fargo  North Dakota
Posts: 55
What helps more the bio-mechanics(shorter arms) or weighing more or does your weight not matter at all when it comes to how much weight you can put up? I have always been curious about this myself because I am only 5 foot 6, so I have shorter arms, but I also only weigh 135 pounds.
  Reply With Quote
Old 07-30-2006, 11:55 AM   #10
Steven Low
Member Steven Low is offline
Steven Low's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: silver spring  maryland
Posts: 12,221
Theres pretty much tons of stuff (most of which people have already said):

1. muscle fiber recruitment
2. CNS adaption to the exercise (think GTG) -- this is related closely to #1 usually
3. biomechanics -- lever arms
4. distance of the weight lifted -- this is usually negligible when you take into consideration biomechanics and torque, but it does play a small role
5. muscle mass
6. fiber type
7. generation of total body tension
8. stabilization factors (think dips on bars vs rings) -- harder for those with longer arms
9. overall fitness -- ability of your body to maximally use its energy systems. in weightlifting, the phosphagen pathway -- think creatine

There's probably other stuff that's been forgotten. Most was already covered, but there were a few that weren't though this is mainly just a summary.
  Reply With Quote

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Physiology question Josh E Lundgaard Fitness 24 11-17-2009 09:53 AM
Muscle Physiology Frank M Needham Fitness 2 10-29-2006 11:54 AM
Garage strength question Roger Smith Equipment 2 09-18-2006 06:34 AM
Scirion Institute of Exercise Physiology? Andrew G. Greenberg Community 9 05-26-2006 10:15 AM
Strength Training Question Dave Bullis Fitness 3 07-11-2005 03:49 AM

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 05:14 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.6.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
CrossFit is a registered trademark of CrossFit Inc.