Aim: Aim of the study was to examine the relationship between whole body skeletal muscle mass (SMM) and powerlifting performance in elite powerlifters.
Methods: Twenty elite male powerlifters, including 4 world champions, volunteered. Muscle thickness (MTH) and subcutaneous fat thickness (FTH) were measured by ultrasound at 9 sites on the anterior and posterior aspects of the body. FTH was used to estimate body fat and fat-free mass and SMM was estimated from ultrasound-derived prediction equations. Best lifting performance in the squat (SQ), bench press (BP), and dead lift (DL) was recorded from competition performance.
Results: Significant strong correlations (P<0.01) were observed between absolute and relative (divided by height) SMM and performance of the SQ (r=0.93 and r=0.94, respectively), BP (r=0.88 and r=0.87), and DL (r=0.84 and r=0.85). Relative lifting performance to SMM for squat (SQ/SMM ratio) and bench press (BP/SMM ratio) were constant throughout a wide range of weight classes (56kg-145kg) and there were no significant correlation between the SMM and those performances (r=0.21 for SQ and r=0.12 for BP). However, the DL/SMM ratio was negatively correlated to DL performance (r=-0.47, P<0.05).
Conclusion: SMM is a good predictor of powerlifting performance throughout all weight classes.