Monday, May 18, 2009

MEATHEAD DEBATE Vol.1: Absolute versus Relative Strength

A new series on ASP... THE MEATHEAD DEBATE. I am going to randomly cover controversial topics that come up while I'm lifting or in my office. Whichever the case, I am in my gym. These topics could range from differing points of view and education of both parties, to ridiculous ignorance and one party "sitting down and shutting up," or to eventually agreeing to disagree.

First, I need to make sure all of you are on the same page. Absolute strength would be defined as the heaviest possible weight being pushed or pulled through an entire range of motion. Relative strength would be defined as comparing the amount of weight lifted to that individual's body weight (BW). Confused? Let me elaborate...

Guy 1: Nic Nak
Weight lifted: 205lbs
Nic's BW: 140lbs

Guy 2: Perilous Humphrey III
Weight lifted: 295
Perilous' BW: 210

So, examining the information above... paying close attention to the amount of weight lifted (we will just make these weights lifted for barbell bench press) and each lifter's BW and little attention to their names, we see that Perilous is a bigger guy. Looking at the amount of weight lifted by each meathead shows that Perilous is stronger than Nic, in an absolute sense. He lifts the heavier weight.

Let's assume these are one rep max numbers. To figure out which athlete is stronger in a relative sense, you take weight lifted divided by BW, and multiply by 100.

Weight lifted
BW x 100

Nic= 205
140 x 100= 146.4%
Nic Nak can bench 146% of his BW... let's look at Perilous.

Perilous= 295
210 x 100= 140.5%

Perilous can bench only 141% of his BW. This is when two scenarios could play out... Nic could swiftly kick Perilous in the balls and tell him he is relatively stronger than him. Or Perilous could pick him up and proceed to bench press him several times.

The Debate begins...
So I was watching a guy lift the other day in the gym and he asked for a spot on bench. His name actually happens to be Nic. So we shoot the shit as he reps out his weight... a relatively heavy weight for his body weight. Of course, shooting the shit turns into talking shit.
Conversations lead to some of the following comments:
"Nice weight, little guy"
"Wow, I wish I weighed 215 and could only bench 300 something"
"Hey, are you going to be around later, I need an extra dumbbell"
"When are you going to compete against people in your weight class?"

As the jabs go back and forth, I figured I would cover my thought process in the argument. The most important things are that we both are in the iron game and we both are trying to beat our worst enemies, ourself the last time we lifted.

I want to be as relatively strong as possible while still seeing my absolute strength increase. BW is not a big concern for me. I don't want to go on the McDonald's Supersize Me Diet, but I don't cut weight either. I eat healthy most of the time. Nic is a previous wrestler and his goals focus mainly on being as strong as possible while at his current weight. His absolute number will really only ever top people in his weight class because of his low BW, so his relative strength is very important.

He wants to be strong for his size, I want to move mountains. I believe a combination of the two is important, but they don't have a "World's Relatively Strongest Man" show. However, on the real show "The World's Strongest Man," the largest competitor is Terry Hollands (409.2 lbs or 186kg). A combination of the two, both relative and absolute strength, is vitally important in competition because Mariusz Pudzianowsk, a five time winner of the event, is not the biggest guy, as far as BW goes. But obviously, that hasn't hindered him in competition at all.

I believe a combination of the two strengths is important. I do not compete so my relative strength has no barring on my ego. However, my relative strength is average for a competitor, but I am not to the level of picking up a trophy at a competition. I also am not competing in a weight class where I could show up and set a record because of lack of participants.

Be huge, regardless of your weight.

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