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Human Strength
Topic Started: Mar 27 2016, 12:14 AM (1,300 Views)
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Some general information:
Why some people lift more and others lift less:

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An interesting fact is that :"...the maximal force production for a given area of Type I fibers is almost exactly the same as the maximal force production for a given area of Type II fibers. Type II fibers simply reach maximal force output sooner, making them better for power-dependent activities like sprinting or jumping. Powerlifting, though (contrary to what the name may lead you to believe), is NOT a power-dependent sport. Power output actually peaks around 30-60%1rm and is quite low with maximal loads...."

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1 Stone lifting:

"Stone lifting has been part of many cultural traditions. This is not only true of the western countries that Jeck wrote about such as Scotland and Spain, or even Georgia featured in National Geographic, but is true of eastern countries as well"

Harri-jasotze refers to a popular rural sport in the Basque Country in which stones or various shapes and sizes must be lifted off the ground and onto the shoulder.

The name is built on the Basque root harri "stone", the verb jaso "to lift", the agentive suffix -tzaile and the plural ending -ak, so literally "stone lifters". It is also known as harri-jasotzea "stone lifting". In Spanish it is called levantamiento de piedra (stone lifting) and in French the sport is called leveurs de pierres.

Mieltxo Saralegi for lifting the heaviest stone to date, weighing 329 kg.
Iñaki Perurena who held the record before Saralegi for lifting a 322 kg stone, being a popular figure in the Basque soap Goenkale and a bertsolari.
320 kg

Very similar sports or challenges like this occur in a number of cultures:

Chikaraishi in Japan
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" A block of red sandstone weighing 143.5 kg (315 pounds) was found at Olympia (on display at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia), with the carved inscription, “Bybon son of Phola, has lifted me over his head with one hand.” The stone has a section carved out as a hand grip"

Brian Shaw Trains the 300lb Cyr Bell

Zydrunas Savickas Log World Record 228kg in front of Arnold

BTW I agree with this comment
"Too bad he didn't go into olympic lifting. If he could have mastered the technique, I could see him being the strongest ever in the clean and jerk in history."
Brian Shaw — 555 lb. world record stone lift


"He also pulled 1000+lbs only a few minutes before this lift, which is also another record -- the first man to pull over 1000+lbs consecutively in the same meet. On his Instagram page, he said one of the reasons why the 465kg gave him some trouble was because of the flex on the bar. The weight initially flew off the floor, but Hall said that once the bar reached his knees, the bend in the bar threw him off balance a slight bit forward, which is why he struggled a bit with the lock out. According to Hall, a stiffer bar would have allowed him to lift even more weight, which is believable."
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Prehistoric women had stronger arms than today's elite rowing crews

Date: November 29, 2017
Source: University of Cambridge
The first study to compare ancient and living female bones shows the routine manual labor of women during early agricultural eras was more grueling than the physical demands of rowing in Cambridge University's famously competitive boat clubs. Researchers say the findings suggest a 'hidden history' of women's work stretching across millennia.

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Cambridge University Women's Boat Club openweight crew rowing during the 2017 Boat Race on the river Thames in London. The Cambridge women's crew beat Oxford in the race. The members of this crew were among those analysed in the study.
Credit: Alastair Fyfe for the University of Cambridge

A new study comparing the bones of Central European women that lived during the first 6,000 years of farming with those of modern athletes has shown that the average prehistoric agricultural woman had stronger upper arms than living female rowing champions.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge's Department of Archaeology say this physical prowess was likely obtained through tilling soil and harvesting crops by hand, as well as the grinding of grain for as much as five hours a day to make flour.

Until now, bioarchaeological investigations of past behaviour have interpreted women's bones solely through direct comparison to those of men. However, male bones respond to strain in a more visibly dramatic way than female bones.

The Cambridge scientists say this has resulted in the systematic underestimation of the nature and scale of the physical demands borne by women in prehistory.

"This is the first study to actually compare prehistoric female bones to those of living women," said Dr Alison Macintosh, lead author of the study published today in the journal Science Advances.

"By interpreting women's bones in a female-specific context we can start to see how intensive, variable and laborious their behaviours were, hinting at a hidden history of women's work over thousands of years."

The study, part of the European Research Council-funded ADaPt (Adaption, Dispersals and Phenotype) Project, used a small CT scanner in Cambridge's PAVE laboratory to analyse the arm (humerus) and leg (tibia) bones of living women who engage in a range of physical activity: from runners, rowers and footballers to those with more sedentary lifestyles.

The bones strengths of modern women were compared to those of women from early Neolithic agricultural eras through to farming communities of the Middle Ages.

"It can be easy to forget that bone is a living tissue, one that responds to the rigours we put our bodies through. Physical impact and muscle activity both put strain on bone, called loading. The bone reacts by changing in shape, curvature, thickness and density over time to accommodate repeated strain," said Macintosh.

"By analysing the bone characteristics of living people whose regular physical exertion is known, and comparing them to the characteristics of ancient bones, we can start to interpret the kinds of labour our ancestors were performing in prehistory."

Over three weeks during trial season, Macintosh scanned the limb bones of the Open- and Lightweight squads of the Cambridge University Women's Boat Club, who ended up winning this year's Boat Race and breaking the course record. These women, most in their early twenties, were training twice a day and rowing an average of 120km a week at the time.

The Neolithic women analysed in the study (from 7400-7000 years ago) had similar leg bone strength to modern rowers, but their arm bones were 11-16% stronger for their size than the rowers, and almost 30% stronger than typical Cambridge students.

The loading of the upper limbs was even more dominant in the study's Bronze Age women (from 4300-3500 years ago), who had 9-13% stronger arm bones than the rowers but 12% weaker leg bones.

A possible explanation for this fierce arm strength is the grinding of grain. "We can't say specifically what behaviours were causing the bone loading we found. However, a major activity in early agriculture was converting grain into flour, and this was likely performed by women," said Macintosh.

"For millennia, grain would have been ground by hand between two large stones called a saddle quern. In the few remaining societies that still use saddle querns, women grind grain for up to five hours a day.

"The repetitive arm action of grinding these stones together for hours may have loaded women's arm bones in a similar way to the laborious back-and-forth motion of rowing."

However, Macintosh suspects that women's labour was hardly likely to have been limited to this one behaviour.

"Prior to the invention of the plough, subsistence farming involved manually planting, tilling and harvesting all crops," said Macintosh. "Women were also likely to have been fetching food and water for domestic livestock, processing milk and meat, and converting hides and wool into textiles.

"The variation in bone loading found in prehistoric women suggests that a wide range of behaviours were occurring during early agriculture. In fact, we believe it may be the wide variety of women's work that in part makes it so difficult to identify signatures of any one specific behaviour from their bones."

Dr Jay Stock, senior study author and head of the ADaPt Project, added: "Our findings suggest that for thousands of years, the rigorous manual labour of women was a crucial driver of early farming economies. The research demonstrates what we can learn about the human past through better understanding of human variation today."

Story Source: University of Cambridge. "Prehistoric women had stronger arms than today's elite rowing crews." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171129143359.htm (accessed November 30, 2017).

Journal Reference:
A.A. Macintosh et al. Prehistoric women's manual labor exceeded that of athletes through the first 5500 years of farming in Central Europe. Science Advances, 2017 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao3893

The intensification of agriculture is often associated with declining mobility and bone strength through time, although women often exhibit less pronounced trends than men. For example, previous studies of prehistoric Central European agriculturalists (~5300 calibrated years BC to 850 AD) demonstrated a significant reduction in tibial rigidity among men, whereas women were characterized by low tibial rigidity, little temporal change, and high variability. Because of the potential for sex-specific skeletal responses to mechanical loading and a lack of modern comparative data, women’s activity in prehistory remains difficult to interpret. This study compares humeral and tibial cross-sectional rigidity, shape, and interlimb loading among prehistoric Central European women agriculturalists and living European women of known behavior (athletes and controls). Prehistoric female tibial rigidity at all time periods was highly variable, but differed little from living sedentary women on average, and was significantly lower than that of living runners and football players. However, humeral rigidity exceeded that of living athletes for the first ~5500 years of farming, with loading intensity biased heavily toward the upper limb. Interlimb strength proportions among Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age women were most similar to those of living semi-elite rowers. These results suggest that, in contrast to men, rigorous manual labor was a more important component of prehistoric women’s behavior than was terrestrial mobility through thousands of years of European agriculture, at levels far exceeding those of modern women.

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"Interlimb strength proportions among Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age women were most similar to those of living semi-elite rowers."
and a lack of modern comparative data, women’s activity in prehistory remains difficult to interpret.

I have a bit difficult coding this together with the rest of the study. Here it sounds like it was certain parts of the arm that was stronger, and other parts weaker.
Edited by Ryo, Dec 1 2017, 06:07 AM.
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Bone strength does not necessarily translate to muscle strength. You can easily have two people with the same bone thickness who vastly differ in strength.
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MicroRNAs in Muscle: Characterizing the Powerlifter Phenotype
Randall F. D'Souza,1 Thomas Bjørnsen,2 Nina Zeng,1 Kirsten M. M. Aasen,1 Truls Raastad,3 David Cameron-Smith,1 and Cameron J. Mitchell1,*
"...Powerlifters are the epitome of muscular adaptation and are able to generate extreme forces..."
"...Muscle biopsies were obtained from m. vastus lateralis of 15 national level powerlifters (25.1 ± 5.8 years) and 13 untrained controls (24.1 ± 2.0 years). The powerlifters were stronger than the controls (isokinetic knee extension at 60°/s: 307.8 ± 51.6 Nm vs. 211.9 ± 41.9 Nm, respectively P < 0.001), and also had larger muscle fibers (type I CSA 9,122 ± 1,238 vs. 4,511 ± 798 μm2 p < 0.001 and type II CSA 11,100 ± 1,656 vs. 5,468 ± 1,477 μm2 p < 0.001). .."
"...Chronic resistance training results in increases in fiber area, alteration in muscle architecture and improvements in neural drive which are associated improvements in peak torque (Kawakami et al., 1993; Brechue and Abe, 2002; Matta et al., 2011). The present study demonstrated that both muscle fiber types in powerlifters are approximately two-fold larger than those in healthy controls. This is in contrast to previous analyses indicating a 10 week period of resistance training produces ~12.2% increases in fiber CSA ..."
"...The powerlifter phenotype is characterized by dramatic differences in muscle fiber size and force generation capacity when compared to age matched untrained controls..."
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Oculus kageyamii
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Dec 1 2017, 07:27 PM
Bone strength does not necessarily translate to muscle strength. You can easily have two people with the same bone thickness who vastly differ in strength.
Using that logic, Smilodon could be weaker than similar sized African Lions.
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Not necessarily; this is comparing two Homo sapiens, not two pantherines or machairodonts
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Unique aspects of competitive weightlifting: performance, training and physiology.
Review article
Storey A, et al. Sports Med. 2012.

"...Weightlifting is a dynamic strength and power sport in which two, multijoint, whole-body lifts are performed in competition; the snatch and clean and jerk. During the performance of these lifts, weightlifters have achieved some of the highest absolute and relative peak power outputs reported in the literature..."
"...Cross-sectional data suggest that weightlifting training induces type IIX to IIA fibre-type transformation. Furthermore, weightlifters exhibit hypertrophy of type II fibres that is advantageous to weightlifting performance and maximal force production"..."
Edited by Warsaw2014, Mar 30 2018, 11:59 PM.
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Super fast-twitch fibres, the secret of the sprint stars
Translation from French to English of original blog by Pierre-Jean Vazel in Le Monde: http://vazel.blog.lemonde.fr/2015/03/20/les-fibres-super-rapides-le-secret-des-etoiles-du-sprint/

What do a sprinter, a lion and an astronaut have in common ? The answer can be found in their muscles: they all have a similar proportion of super fast-twitch fibres. Among the wide variety of muscular profiles, the quality of the fibres of the world’s fastest athletes is closer to that of big cats, people spending time in space or even those suffering from spinal cord injuries! Dr. Scott Trappe, Director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University (Indiana) and NASA researcher, explains these unexpected similarities after analysing a sample taken from the thigh muscle of Colin Jackson, 60m hurdles World Record holder (7.30 seconds). His paper “Skeletal Muscle Signature of a Champion Sprint Runner”, just published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, constitutes the first description in a scientific review of the muscle fibre composition of a world class sprinter.

Colin Jackson, the cat-like sprinter

Images of the procedure appeared in a BBC documentary shown in 2008 about the physical and mental talents of the Welsh hurdler (two-time 110m hurdles World Champion and European Record holder since 1993), and sprinter: European Indoor 60m Champion in 6.49 sec., a time only 0.1 sec. slower than the current World Record. The Making of Me shows the retired athlete undergoing a biopsy to collect a sample of thigh muscle tissue. Biologists then had to identify the different fibres and test their biomechanical properties. “It took us two years to complete the analysis, says Dr. Trappe. Because of the unique results, we wanted to repeat certain experiments in order to be sure they were correct.” The conclusion is surprising: Colin Jackson possesses an amount of “super fast-twitch” fibres observed only in those suffering from spinal cord injuries, which are as powerful as those of the lion and the caracal. “Examples in the animal world are more closely linked to our results for this athlete and make these measurements more meaningful.” Analyses used to be based on fibre colour. The first description of white and red muscles (in the same rabbit’s paw) can be found at the beginning of a work dating from 1678, Observations on Torpedoes by the Florentine doctor Stefano Lorenzini. However, fibres are now classified according to their contraction speed, although there is a real continuum between the slowest (type I) and the fastest (type IIx), passing through all intermediate stages. Their distribution varies from one person to the next and according to the function of the muscles: solearis, which helps to stabilise the leg, only contains 10% of fast-twitch fibres, while the orbicularis oculi muscle, which makes the eye blink, contains 90%. Biopsies on athletes are usually performed on the vastus lateralis muscle of the thigh, where the proportion of slow and fast-twitch fibres is almost the same in humans, which allows the distinction to be made between endurance and explosive athletes.

Slow-twitch fibres fast-twitch fibres
twitch table

Proportions of different fibres, from slowest to fastest-twitch, in Colin Jackson compared to those of Danish sprinters

In Colin Jackson’s case there is no ambiguity: in the continuum of all the muscle types from his vastus lateralis, Dr. Trappe’s team found only 29% slow-twitch (I), and, in particular, 32.5% pure fast-twitch fibres (IIx). The latter are very rare in sprinters whose biopsies have appeared in scientific publications ; for example only 0.2% were found in P. Andersen’s group of Danish sprinters in 1994, which included the then national record holder with 10.47 sec. “Until we had this data for the elite sprinter, a high number of these super fast-twitch fibres in humans was limited to the loss of use of muscles caused by extreme immobilisation following a spinal cord injury”, says Dr. Trappe, whose team have analysed over 60,000 human fibres taken from a wide variety of individuals. Furthermore, muscle fibre plasticity is well-established in both humans and animals. “Bedrest causes an increase in hybrid IIa/IIx fibres, but not a lot in IIx. A transition from slow-twitch to fast-twitch has also been observed in astronauts in weightlessness, due to a drop in activity, but it is limited compared to spinal cord injury patients.” The Jackson case is therefore of interest to the researcher. “It’s the first time that such a high proportion has been observed in a healthy muscle and it therefore represents a paradigm shift in the understanding of human physiology that opens the doors to other research in the field of medicine and performance.” Although biopsies of athletes are nothing new, there are not enough points of comparison. The first case (and the fastest subject) recorded in the literature is that of an American sprinter who I discovered was called Norbert Payton. World ranked 38 over 100m with 10.2 sec., this small-framed (1.65m) sprinter famed for his explosive start only has 26% slow-twitch fibres according to the research published in the same year by Dr. Philip Gollnick of the University of Washington. However there is no indication of the amount of super-fast twitch fibres IIx, incidentally called IIb at the time. If Dr. Trappe remembers that the work in the 1970s and 80s did not benefit from the sensitivity of modern muscular profile testing techniques, we have no choice but to make do with it and to turn to the archives of certain coaches of the time.

Nelli Cooman, the human bomb

The most advanced in this field is Dutchman Henk Kraaijenhof, most famous for coaching the queen of the boards Nelli Cooman, two-time World Champion and six-time European Indoor Champion over 60m between 1985 and 1994. “I have a lot of data but as I am not a scientist, I haven’t published it.” However, he does give me the results of the first biopsy (dated 26th April 1985) conducted by Dr. Guillermo Laich on the little orange bomb who measured 1.58m for 62kg. Unlike Colin Jackson, equally talented over 60m and 110m hurdles, she was not as successful over 100m, where her IIb fibres, while very explosive, were too energy-hungry and turned into a handicap. Type 1 : 28,1 % Type IIc : 0,0 % (corresponds to type I/IIa in the analysis of Jackson) Type IIa : 30,9 % Type IIb 41,0 % ! (corresponds to type IIa/IIx and IIx) In 1986, Cooman’s training was geared to the short sprint, which culminated in her setting a new World Record in the blistering time of 7 seconds flat. A second biopsy was carried out on 8th October to examine the differences. In certain cases, after a specific kind of training, transitions from intermediate to fast-twitch fibres have been observed. Not so in Cooman’s case: “The main change was in the size of the fibres, not really in the percentage. Possibly because hers were already close to the limit of the spectrum!” Hypertrophy, which represents the distribution of large muscle fibres, went from 0 – 23%! Having large fast-twitch fibres is an advantage, as imagined by the coach: “It’s as though instead of having 8 marathon runners weighing 50kg to push a car you have 4 bodybuilders weighing 100kg.” According to Dr. Trappe, looking at Colin Jackson’s data, « it appears that the fibre type profile and the power generated by the fast-twitch fibres provide a solid foundation to suggest that these characteristics go a long way to explaining the sprinting success of this individual.”

From the track to the stars

In his blog, Henk published photos of the biopsy of Cooman and her then training partner Merlene Ottey, whose 60m World Record she broke. However, her slow-twitch fibre percentage was close to 40%. It must be said that the tall Jamaican was much more comfortable over 200m and that she came into the sport via cross-country! “Luckily, sporting performance is complex, and is rarely decided by a single dominant factor. There is always room for compensations…Technical and emotional factors, coaching and lifestyle also play an important role.” In examining the literature, I was able to find extreme proportions in sprinters: from 93.7% of fast-twitch fibres (the same as a leopard!) for a certain “A.I.”, a 26 year-old Japanese athlete (1.74m for 68kg), who had run 50m in 5.8 seconds, against only 31% for a sprinter in the West German national team (after Fekete, 1987). If we turn our attention to endurance specialists, we notice an equally wide range: Fink’s 1977 study of US long distance runners gives 2% for Gary Tuttle (2h 15min in the marathon) compared to 50% for his teammate Don Kardong (4th in the marathon in the 1976 Olympics in 2h 11mon 16s)* Mary Decker, World 1500m and 3000m champion in 1983 was only shown to have 35% slow-twitch fibres, i.e. slightly fewer than Merlene Ottey!

The fact that these exceptions do not really confirm the rule in a way saves athletes from genetic determinism. Thanks to the Jackson case, the carrying out of sports biopsies, which fell out of favour at the end of the last century, may be readopted as a way of evaluating the response of fibres to the demands (or lack of) physical exercise. As for the astronauts of the International Space Station monitored by Dr. Trappe, training plays an essential role in the prevention of an even greater transition of slow-twitch to fast-twitch fibres and in the ensuing motor dysfunction, as their role does not really require the muscle qualities of an elite sprinter! “We are now working with NASA on new training programmes that incorporate more high intensity exercises, in the hope that this is a more efficient way of maintaining the health and muscle performance of the astronauts while they are in space.” Training conditions fibres, but, conversely, to what extent should fibres condition training ? For my next blog article I interviewed a former World Championship finalist over 100m and 200m, whose biopsy showed that he possessed 69% of IIb fast-twitch fibres, which is even more astonishing than the cases of Jackson and Cooman, and which is not documented in any scientific publication. He talks about how he salvaged his career by radically changing his training after discovering this genetic characteristic.

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