You may be asking yourself, have I got the ideal body to become an elite powerlifter ? am I to tall/short ? are my arms too long and my legs too short ? In this article I take a look at the data from several powerlifting studies looking at the human body and how it performs in the sport of Powerlifting.
Key body variables for Powerlifting
World records show that male powerlifters in the lighter bodyweight divisions can lift in excess of five times their body mass in the squat and deadlift and over three times their bodyweight in the bench press. It has been suggested that powerlifters have very specific body characteristics that are of great advantage in developing max strength (Bale & Williams, 1987; Brechue & Abe, 2002; Mayhew, McCormick, Piper, Kurth, & Arnold, 1993a) .Powerlifters are in general, average to below average height, have high body and fat-free mass and have greater than average trunk and limb thickness, however a range of other body variables could also influence powerlifting performance. ((Brechue & Abe, 2002; Mayhew et al., 1993a; Mayhew, Piper, & Ware, 1993b)
The other body variables in Powerlifting
Based on biomechanical principles for third class levers, the shorter the lever, the
less work and torque are required to lift a load (e.g. the barbell). powerlifters who are of average or below average height with proportionally short limbs appear to be at an advantage compared with taller lifters with longer limbs. Powerlifters also possess a relatively large bony structure with wide dense bone mass (Johnson et al., 1990; Katch et al., 1980; Marchocka & Smuk, 1984).
Powerlifters anthropometric dimensions
Powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters tend to be endo-mesomorphic (Bale & Williams, 1987; Pilis et al., 1997). compared to Bodybuilders who are balanced mesomorphs.
Powerlifters have thicker bones in comparison to similarly sized Bodybuilders,with this being most evident in the bi-iliac (hip), femur, and humerus (da Silva et al., 2003; Fry et al., 1991; Johnson et al., 1990). The powerlifters large bone structure allows for the accumulation of greater muscle mass per unit height (Mayhew et al., 1993a, 1993b). Thicker and heavier bones typically have an increased ability to withstand the massive compression and shear forces imposed on the body during powerlifting training and competition (Escamilla et al., 2000).
Lever Lengths (Body Proportions for Powerlifting)
Generally speaking, any powerlifter with a short stature will have a mechanical advantage over a taller lifter with other differences evening out across the three lifts, however studies have shown significant difference with stronger lifters having a significantly shorter lower leg than weaker lifters. (The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23(8):2256-65 · October 2009).
A short torso and femur provide a mechanical advantage for the Squat.
Bench Press requires a thick torso, combined with short forearms.
Long upper arms are an advantage for the serious deadlifter. A shorter torso also improves the leverage in the deadlift.
See Also Journal of Sports Sciences, October 2007; 25(12): 1365 – 1376
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