Relative Strength Wins

Relative strength

The height of the best male gymnasts is usually in the range of 155-162 cm, female gymnasts are typically 135 to 150 cm, but they can perform the hardest body weight exercises that require very high level of strength. A world record in the Clean & Jerk lift in the 56-kg weight category equals 168 kg.

On the other side bigger and heavier athletes can lift much more weights, in fact, a 105 kg weight category world record in Clean & Jerk is 263,5 kg. But does absolute load correspond to more strength? The only way to compare different athletes is calculating the RELATIVE STRENGTH or the RELATIVE POWER.

RELATIVE STRENGTH = ABSOLUTE STRENGTH / BODY WEIGHT

The relative strength of 56 kg olympic weighlifter is 3. It means that he can lift three time his body weight; while the relative strength of the 105 kg athlete is “just” 2,5. The reason why taller and heavier athletes can lift more is the length of their muscles and their larger cross sectional area, that allows them to reach higher level of absolute strength.

Conversely athletes with small body dimensions have an advantage in lifting their own bodies, like gymnasts, because they have a higher relative strength.

Body dimensions and weight assume different meanings relating to the specific task an athlete is called to accomplish. In sports where absolute strength is the main requirement, athletes can focus on gaining lean mass, maintain same body fat percentage, ignoring the body weight. Whenever the body has to be moved around in the space, like in running, jumping, cycling, wrestling or any field sport, athletes performance is affected by the force of gravity, so any variation in body mass, can greatly influences the performance. When riding a bike uphill, every extra pound “costs” about 1,5 Watt of power, while an extra pound slows a runner by about 2 seconds/mile1) (www.joelfrielsblog.com). In all these cases, relative strength is a key factor, so reducing body weight has the potential to lead to a better race performance, but if muscles are lost, especially the ones use to propel you, you are likely to perform slower.

A recent study has compared common field sport tests and some body measurements, such as body weight, height, circumference and length. Researchers found that bigger muscles are negatively correlated with performance, because they made athletes slower, less agile and less powerful on their vertical jumps. 2)Regression Model of sprint, vertical jump, and change of direction performance. Swinton, Paul A., Lloyd Ray, Keogh, Justin W.L., Agouris, Ioannis, Stewart, Arthur D. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Body weight has a huge importance also in all combat sports, like MMA and Wrestling, where athletes are divided in weight categories and where agility and power are critical as well.

In all these cases, where the performance is strictly linked with body weight to strength/power ratio and agility, athletes should aim to develop average and peak power outputs and velocity instead of hypertrophy. What they need is the ability to reclutate the larger number of motor units as faster as possible, in a synchronized way (intra-muscular coordination), and coordinating all the muscle groups that are involved in the movement pattern (inter-muscular coordination). That means that your training has to focus on Maximal Strength (Velocity < 0,5 m/s; Load >85% 1RM), and Power, in order to stimulate your nervous system and become stronger, thanks to a better efficiency, without gaining too much mass and enlarge your body weight.

Just to give you some numbers, to have something to look at, here there are  some methods to calculate and evaluate Relative Strength and Relative Power:

> Keep some of the most important exercises for strength and power development: bench press, squat, dead lift, and press. Lift the heaviest weight you can for one rep and figure the Strength Weight Ratio (BWR) for each exercise (Absolute Load/Body Weight); then add up the numbers and divide total by four (number of exercise you performed).

BENCH PRESS BWR + SQUAT BWR + DEAD LIFT BWR + PRESS / 4 

If you own a Beast Sensor you can do a much more cool estimation, because, for every exercise performed you have more precise metrics, like Watt (for Power) and Newton (for Strength). So, what I suggest you to do is to calculate the Body Weight Ratio using Watt and Newton instead of Absolute Load, in order to measure strength with Newton/Kg and power with Watt/kg.

When measuring Relative Power Output (W/kg), we need to make some distinctions between possible power exertions. Different movements, in fact, can lead to different results, depending on the load lifted, technical skills required and efficiency of the athlete. Considering these assumptions Power Exercises are classified into four groups. Every group includes power exercises and ranges of Average Watt/kg collected from various articles in literatures. Below I quote some of the most common and significant ones:

  1. High Force and High Velocity movements: Jerk (44-60 W/kg); Snatch (34-80 W/kg); Clean (33-80 W/kg); (a)
  2. Moderate-to-High Force and Moderate-to-High Velocity movements: Clean Pull (33-80 W/kg); Snatch Pull (30-80 W/kg) 3)(a)Loads between 75-85% of 1RM (Velocity from 0,7 to 1,3 m/s) seem to produce the highest power outputs; 
  3. Low Force and High Velocity movements: Countermovement Jump Squat (64-75 W/kg); 4)Load of 30% 1RM (Velocity over 1,3 m/s) seem to produce the highest power outputs depending on the strength level of the athlete.
  4. High Force and Low Velocity movements: Deadlift (11-13 W/kg); Squat (11-30 W/kg); Bench Press (0,3-8,3 W/kg).

 

 

 

References   [ + ]

1. (www.joelfrielsblog.com
2. Regression Model of sprint, vertical jump, and change of direction performance. Swinton, Paul A., Lloyd Ray, Keogh, Justin W.L., Agouris, Ioannis, Stewart, Arthur D. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
3. (a)Loads between 75-85% of 1RM (Velocity from 0,7 to 1,3 m/s) seem to produce the highest power outputs; 
4. Load of 30% 1RM (Velocity over 1,3 m/s) seem to produce the highest power outputs depending on the strength level of the athlete.
Martina Marson

by Martina Marson

From kick boxing to free style wrestling, through functional and strength training. Beast Sensor addicted. Training is my job, my passion and my life.