Can absolute and proportional anthropometric characteristics distinguish stronger and weaker powerlifters?

J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Nov;23(8):2256-65. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181b8d67a.


This study sought to compare the anthropometric profiles of 17 weaker and 17 stronger Australasian and Pacific powerlifters who had competed in a regional-, national-, or international-level powerlifting competition in New Zealand. Stronger lifters were defined as those having a Wilks score greater than 410, whereas those in the weaker group had a Wilks score less than 370. Each powerlifter was assessed for 37 anthropometric dimensions by International Society for the Advancement of Kinanthropometry (ISAK) level II and III accredited anthropometrists. Because all powerlifters were highly mesomorphic and possessed large girths and bone breadths, both in absolute terms and when expressed as Phantom-Z scores compared through the Phantom, relatively few significant anthropometric differences were observed. However, stronger lifters had significantly greater muscle mass and larger muscular girths in absolute terms as well as greater Brugsch Index (chest girth/height) and "Phantom"-normalized muscle mass, upper arm, chest, and forearm girths. In terms of the segment lengths and bone breadths, the only significant difference was that stronger lifters had a significantly shorter lower leg than weaker lifters. Because the majority of the significant differences were for muscle mass and muscular girths, it would appear likely that these differences contributed to the stronger lifters' superior performance. Powerlifters may therefore need to devote some of their training to the development of greater levels of muscular hypertrophy if they wish to continue to improve their performance. To better understand the anthropometric determinants of muscular strength, future research should recruit larger samples (particularly of elite lifters) and follow these subjects prospectively.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anthropometry*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Weight Lifting / physiology*