It is well known how some anthropometric characteristics are related to increased performance in various sports disciplines. Although it is difficult to establish an exact correlation precisely because in many cases these are disciplines that have not been studied a lot and that have been gaining some popularity in recent years over the Mediterranean basin (Southern Europe).
That is why, in this article we will try to shed a little light on this topic, since it can be very useful not only for athletes themselves, but for coaches and nutritionists who are responsible for evaluating body composition, thus allowing us to establish adequate correlations that allow us to properly advise our athlete in search of improved performance and sports excellence.
In this case we are going to focus on strength disciplines such as Powerlifting and Weightlifting. Which, the final objective of both disciplines is to lift the maximum possible weight between all movements. Being the body mass and muscle mass as the 2 main determinants proposed in the existing literature correlated with the improvement of absolute performance.
In fact, compared to the general population, practitioners of these disciplines have large trunk perimeters, extremities along with a greater amount of fat-free mass (this is especially important in lower weight categories compared to heavier ones). In addition, certain ratios have been proposed as the proportion that exists between the limbs in relation to height could influence the weight lifted for geometric reasons.
For example, shorter limbs can be advantageous because they reduce the distance the bar has to be lifted and decrease the arm at the moment, this also occurs in movements such as the bench press, where perhaps somewhat shorter arms, may present a small mechanical advantage (it reduces the travel of the bar, moving away from the point where we can exert force). However, some of these studies found that in these body proportions they did not show as strong or reliable data as expected in all individuals and all categories. This is because it also depends on the movement in question and what may show a little benefit for movements that involve the lower body more, may not be so much for the upper body.
Importantly, all available studies on performance and anthropometric variables in adult weightlifters have been conducted in the sport-equipped version (suit, knee pads …), while not much data is available for Classic Powerlifting (IPF).
In particular, data on female athletes is extremely scarce and outdated. In the study by Ferrari et al. 2020 was intended to respond to all of this by being one of the first to choose an intermediate sample in terms of competition experience, mixed in terms of sex (being one of the largest in terms of female sex to date) and located in the southern part of Europe.
The results were the following:
The male athletes with better marks obtained significantly greater neck, thigh, relaxed and flexed arm sizes compared to male athletes with lower lifts. As for the female athletes, similar results were observed, correlating those of the best brands with superior measures in terms of chest circumference and relaxed / flexed arm.
In conclusion, to all this, we see how a combination of experience, fat mass and muscle mass levels of the different extremities can “accurately” predict performance in a general and individual way. This complements other studies carried out in Weightlifting (small sample as it is a little studied sector and a high competitive level) where we see how lean body mass is closely related to performance and improvement in movements such as clean and jerk and snatch, being Lean body mass of the trunk is the best indicator of performance compared to muscle architecture and quadriceps cross-sectional area (this is somewhat more indicative but less correlated than total lean body mass). As a further annotation, it appears that the height, speed and power of the CMJ can also serve as a potential predictor of weightlifting performance for both men and women. Therefore, when access to DXA or muscle ultrasound is complicated, the CMJ can provide useful information on the possible training adaptations and possible variable to define in order to predict the performance.