Muscular Strength ___________________________________________________________
- What is Strength? Strength may be defined as the ability to exert maximum force against either a movable or immovable resistance. Most weightlifters define it as your one-repetition maximum (1-RM). Now here is something you may have noticed if you watch Popeye a lot. Big isn’t always better. Just because an individual has larger muscles than another person, it does not mean that he is stronger. How many times did Popeye kick Brutus’ butt? Trust us on this one, it wasn’t the spinach. Is it possible that Popeye was stronger even though he was a lot smaller? The answer is…YES! Two muscles that have the same circumference may differ in strength because of the amount of fat tissue they contain. Although fat adds to the circumference of the muscle, it lacks contractile power and limits the contractibility of the muscle. Most likely, Brutus was carrying a lot of body fat. Also, the arrangement of muscle fibers determines the force with which a muscle can contract. Research has revealed that when muscle fibers run at oblique angles, they can exert greater force than when they run parallel to the long axis of the muscle. Thus, two muscles could be the same size, but have different contractile power because of the arrangement of the muscle fibers. Popeye’s muscles, although small, were more contractually efficient than Brutus’. On the other hand, all factors being equal, the larger the muscle, the greater the strength. Indeed, the absolute strength of a muscle is directly proportional to its circumference. In brief, there is a linear relationship between strength and muscle size and/or mass. In general, the stronger you get, the bigger your muscles will get. If you want mass and/or big muscles, you will need to strength train.
- Evaluating Your Strength There are a number of valid methods for evaluating muscular strength. However, all of these methods require some type of equipment. Perhaps the most commonly used method is to determine your 1-RM. This is accomplished by finding the maximum amount of weight you can lift one time in a ∞ WELLNESS FOR LIFE ∞ particular exercise. For example, if __________________________________________________________________ you are doing a bench press, you first warm-up with a weight you can easily 1- RM. handle for 8-10 repetitions. Rest for approximately five minutes and then Only one percent of the men in the world can bench-press twice their body weight and less and one percent of the women in the world can benchdo another warm-up set with a weight press their body weight. you can easily lift for 5 repetitions. Interestingly, Chris “The Machine” Confessore bench-pressed 742 After these initial warm-up sets, load pound at a body weight of 242 pounds. That is 3 times his body weight. Not the bar to approximately 70 percent of impressed? So listen to this. Bev Francis, a female world-class powerlifter, what you believe to be the maximum bench-pressed 425 pounds at a body weight of 165 pounds. That is amount of weight you can bench press approximately 2.6 times her body weight. Who said women are weak? and do three repetitions. Rest and load the bar to 85% of what you believe to
be the maximum weight you can lift. Do one repetition. After resting between lifts, do one repetition with the bar loaded at 95% maximum, and finally at 100%. Do we need to say don’t try more than 100%? Okay, don’t try more than 100%. Here is something else you need to consider when evaluating your strength. There is no single exercise that correlates very highly with total strength. This is probably due to the fact that strength is body specific. For example, just because your arms are strong does not necessarily mean that your legs will be strong, or vice versa. Therefore, in order to measure total body strength, each muscle group would have to be tested independently. To do this, you first find an exercise in which the muscle you want to test is the prime mover and then simply determine your 1-RM in that exercise. The most common exercises used for evaluating strength are the bench press, curl, squat, deadlift and leg press. The scores on these four lifts are generally considered a predictor of total body strength.
- Absolute and Relative Strength Here is something that might interest you. A couple of months ago Michael Jackson and Oprah stopped by our office. They were having this big argument. You know how celebrities are…just like the rest of us, only more so. Anyway, Michael said that his chest was stronger than Oprah’s. Of course Oprah didn’t agree. She was positive her chest was stronger (remember though, big is not always better). In fact, Oprah was so upset that she threatened to straighten out Michael’s nose once and for all. As you have probably guessed, they wanted us to determine who was right. Actually that was no problem. We knew that the muscles primarily used to perform a bench press are the pectoralis major and minor… the chest. So we simply determined Michael’s and Oprah’s 1-RM in that exercise. Michael did a solid 1-RM with 100 pounds. Very impressive! Oprah though, surprised everyone by pumping out 120 pounds for her 1-RM. When Oprah made that lift she let out a scream…the kind that would scare Stephen King. She was so excited! But did this mean that Oprah’s chest was stronger than Michael’s? Watch out here, this is a trick question. The answer is yes and no. You see, there are two types of strength, absolute and relative. Absolute strength can be defined as the most weight you can lift (1-RM) regardless of your body weight. Relative strength can be defined as the most weight you can lift relative to your body weight. For example, let’s say we have two lifters. One weighs 150 lbs and the other weighs 200 lbs. Suppose the 150 lb. lifter’s 1-RM in the bench press is 300 lbs while the 200 lb. lifter’s 1-RM in the bench press is 310 lbs. In this instance, the lifter who weighs 200 lbs. is said to have greater absolute strength (in this exercise) because he lifted more weight. Conversely, the 150 lb. lifter is said to have greater relative strength because he lifted more weight per body pound. The 150 lb. lifter lifted twice his body weight, while the 200 lb. lifter lifted approximately 1 1/2 times his body weight. The question is, “Which is more important, relative or absolute strength?” Another trick question! Actually, it depends on the activity you
are engaging in. If you were being tested for physical fitness, relative strength would obviously be preferred. However, if you were participating in a competitive sport where there are no weight classifications (such as football, track and field, or sumo wrestling) then absolute strength would be more important.