Gender- and height-related limits of muscle strength in world weightlifting champions

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2000 Sep;89(3):1061-4. doi: 10.1152/jappl.2000.89.3.1061.


To assess factors that limit human muscle strength and growth, we examined the relationship between performance and body dimensions in the world weightlifting champions of 1993-1997. Weight lifted varied almost exactly with height squared (Ht(2.16)), suggesting that muscle mass scaled almost exactly with height cubed (Ht(3.16)) and that muscle cross-sectional area was closely correlated with body height, possibly because height and the numbers of muscle fibers in cross section are determined by a common factor during maturation. Further height limitations of muscle strength were shown by only one male champion >/=183 cm and no female champions >/=175 cm. The ratio of weight lifted to mean body cross-sectional area was approximately constant for body-weight classes </=83 kg for men and </=64 kg for women and decreased abruptly for higher weight classes. These findings suggest a nearly constant fraction of body mass devoted to muscle in lighter lifters and a lesser fraction in heavier lifters. Analysis also suggests that contractile tissue comprises approximately 30% less body mass in female champions.

MeSH terms

  • Body Height*
  • Body Weight
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Weight Lifting / physiology*