Relationship between lifting performance and skeletal muscle mass in elite powerlifters

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2013 Aug;53(4):409-14.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Ultrasonography
  • Weight Lifting / physiology*
  • Young Adult