# Is strength relative to a person's size?

Discussion in 'Strength & Conditioning Discussion' started by Sakuraba is #1, Jul 6, 2010.

1. ### Sakuraba is #1Blue Belt

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I have friends that always say that the only reason why I'm more efficient at bodyweight exercises (pull-ups, muscle-ups, handstand push-ups) is because I weigh less than them. As a matter of fact, most of them are really strong but the can't do a single muscle-up or a handstand push-up, while I can bust them out with ease. But when it comes to lifting weights, they boast how strong they are in comparison to me. For example, I can clean and jerk 235, but one of my friends can clean and jerk 285. Is that really that much of a difference when I weigh 155 compared to his 205?

How do you compare strength when you factor in size?

2. ### DafreeclinicOrange Belt

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To the first one yes.
By either wilks or if your trying to find your weight to strength ratio is lifted weight/person weight.

3. ### Endoo hai!

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I would use a simple formula like Weight lifted divided by BW.

235/155= 1.52
285/205= 1.39

Who would you suggest is stronger?

4. ### rckvlBlue Belt

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Well it's pretty simple, the person who can lift more weight is stronger

5. ### Jake PudenzGreen BeltProfessional Fighter

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It depends whether you are gauging strength by who has more absolute strength or who has more relative strength. Relative strength obviously means that it is strength relative to body weight, whereas absolute strength is who can lift the most weight.

6. ### TosaRed Belt

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The Wilks formula is meant to be used to compare powerlifting totals. So using it to compare things other than a combination of squat, bench and deadlift isn't entirely accurate. But it does show us that strength does not correlate linearly with bodyweight.

What this means is that the strength gained from additional mass suffers diminishing returns. For example, if someone's taller, their muscles are longer without a corresponding increase in cross sectional area. They also have worse leverages. Additionally, added muscle increases weight faster than it increases strength since mass is related to the volume of a muscle, but strength is related (in part) the cross sectional area.

7. ### Jim JPurple Belt

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Your friend is stronger. You are stronger per pound of bodyweight. Which one is more important depends on the sport you are competing in. If you don't compete in a sport, tell yourself that relative strength is more important.

8. ### turbozedRed Belt

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If you really want to compare clean and jerk totals, see where you guys stack up as % of the WR clean and jerk in your respective weight divisions. This will give you a sense of how far developed your strength is for your size.

Of course he's stronger than you in terms of absolute strength. The above would just tell you how strong you are in relation to your size.

Your numbers seem more impressive than his in this department.

9. ### KlotzShalom

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Strength is correlated with size, but it's not a 1.00 correlation.

Here are some graphs I made based on Sherdog's strongest man.

10. ### RusVikingPurple Belt

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Good work there! It's always good to get facts into a discussion. You took statistics class?

It's very obvious that there isn't a direct 1:1 relationship, but it would be interesting to extrapolate based on % of fat. So, what would the graph look like if it was based on weight of muscle mass alone? I think it would be closer to 1:1. After all, many guys who are bigger naturally carry fat easier because of their body type.

11. ### KlotzShalom

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I did take stats, but that's just basic excel graph tools.

I think the strongest correlation would be seen between training time and strength.

12. ### rckvlBlue Belt

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No, as we know strength has a lot more to do with the CNS than with muscle size. Though of course the bigger a muscle is, the greater its potential for strength.

13. ### TosaRed Belt

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I wouldn't say it has more to do with CNS than muscle size. The amount of force someone can exert in a lift is dependant upon cross sectional area of a muscle, the amount of muscle fibers the CNS can recruit, lifting technique, and the individuals leverages. The cross sectional area of a muscle suffers diminishing returns in relation to muscle size, but CNS recruitment also suffers diminishing returns in terms of how it responds to training.

As to which contributes more, it would depend on the person. If someone has relatively poor CNS recruitment, but relatively large muscles then improving their CNS's ability to recruit muscle fibers would result in larger strength gains than would increased hypertrophy. But if someone has excellent CNS recruitment, but lacks muscular size (perhaps a weightlifter or powerlifter who is several weight categories below where he should be) then increased hypertrophy would result in better gains than CNS improvement.

14. ### rckvlBlue Belt

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Well of course. But I still believe the CNS to have more to do with strength than actual muscle size. This is why you see such tiny people able to lift huge amounts of weight. It is also why you can see big people not able to lift all that much. But yes, both are important for getting stronger.

15. ### miaoubarely keeping it together

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I would agree with Tosa that I wouldn't be so sure the CNS is the main factor.

An important part of the answer to why you see smaller people outlifting bigger people has to do with what percentage of the big person's muscles are due to sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, and another equally important part is what percentage of each person's cross-sectional area is fast twitch and slow twitch fibers.

In short, it is pretty complicated, the degree of CNS-related strength gains is hard to define, and it is hard to reach definite conclusions.

16. ### Sakuraba is #1Blue Belt

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So if a person's size ultimately determines his strength, then why do bigger people have more difficulty doing bodyweight exercises such as pull-ups? More mass=more strength. I know they have more weight to lift, but their mass+larger muscles should make up for that strength.

17. ### DafreeclinicOrange Belt

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Cause theirs more weight being moved. In most circumstances lighter people have a better weight to strength ratio.

18. ### TosaRed Belt

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You either didn't read or didn't understand what I posted, did you?

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