A Weightlifter’s Excess Bodyweight and Sport Results

A Weightlifter’s Excess Bodyweight and Sport Results

Igor Abramovsky

Professor, Shadrinsk

Olymp Magazine 1: 28 – 29:2002

Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.

Sportivny Press©

Translation and Publication of the English Version with Permission of Olymp Magazine.

The determination of the weight classes in weightlifting has been conditioned by the ever present interest in the interdependence between the lifter’s body mass and his results. This question is particularly poignant with regards to the super heavy weight as opposed to the lifters in the other weight classes whose weight limits are strictly specified. An increase in bodyweight for the non superheavyweight (i.e., a switch to a heavier weight class) is appropriate only if the accompanying increase in results is sufficient for success in the new weight category.

There is no weight limit for the super heavyweights. Therefore, any increase in bodyweight is justified even if it only yields an insignificant increase in results. For instance, the Russian super heavy weight, 1994 European champion, Andrei Chermerkin made a total of 450 kg at a bodyweight of 148.2 kg. Subsequently, Chermerkin’s weight rose to 165.47 kg, i.e., an increase of 17.27 kg (11.65%). His biathlon results increased to 457.5 kg, i.e., by 7.5 kg (1.67%); significantly less than his bodyweight.  Furthermore, he was heavier than the German Ronnie Weller whose bodyweight was 138.09 kg (27.36 kg heavier, 19.8%). However, the results of the Russian Hercules were only 2.5 kg or 0.55% greater than his opponent; this garnered him the gold-medal.

Chermerkin set a world record in the biathlon total with a result of 462.5 kilos and became the world champion in 1997. This result was 5 kg or 1.09% greater than his 1996 Olympics total and 12.5 kg or 2.78% greater than the total he made at the 1994 European championships. Chermerkin’s bodyweight at the 1997 world championships was 170.3 kilograms which was 4.8 kg or 2.9% greater than his bodyweight at the 1996 Olympics which was 21.1 kg or 14.9% greater than his bodyweight at the 1994 European championships.

From what has been said, it is obvious that the superheavyweight  lifter is always trying to develop muscle mass; this, in turn, usually results in a significant increase in body fat.  Let’s see how an excessive amount of body fat affects a weightlifter’s results.

An example is a heavyweight who is 186 cm in height. In the snatch or in the clean, the sportsman raises a large part of his body (besides the feet and shins) to a height of about 70 cm.  If the weight of the lifter’s body increases by 10 kg, the amount of work performed will increase by 7 kg meters. The barbell is lifted to a height of 75% of the athlete’s height from the platform during the snatch (R.A. Roman, 1974; R.A. Roman, M.S. Shakirzyanov, 1978), which, in our example, will be 139.5 cm. Since the bar is situated at a height of 22.5 cm from the platform in the starting position, the vertical path of the barbell will be 117 cm.

One can lift a weight of about 6 kg at this height by executing work at 7 kg meters.  If the athlete is carrying an excess mass of 10 kg (fat tissue) which does not increase the sportsman’s strength, but, on the contrary, it creates the previously mentioned additional load; this, therefore, lowers the snatch results by approximately 6 kg.

A similar situation occurs in the clean.  The sportsman raises the barbell to an average height of 60% of his height (R.A. Roman, 1974; R.A. Roman, M.S. Shakirzyanov, 1978) which, with respect to our example, is equal to 111.6 cm.  Taking into account the height the bar is situated from the platform in the starting position, the vertical movement of the barbell is approximately 90 cm and 7 kg meters of work allows one to lift 7.8 kg of weight.  Then the 10 kg of excess weight diminishes the biathlon results by 13.8 kg due to the fact that the sportsman expends significant effort in moving his own bodyweight. Of course, our calculations are very approximate because an increase in the loading is different with respect to the different muscle groups. 

However, in this instance and the other instance, the fundamental loading is borne by the extensor muscles of the trunk and legs. Even if we take into consideration that we may have overstated our calculations by 30 to 40%, the worsening of results in the biathlon will still be 10 kg. With this in mind, we made some calculations only from the standpoint of the expenditure of force. However, the weightlifting movements require a great deal of speed which decreases significantly with the rise in bodyweight.

I.N. Abramovsky, 1966, 1967, and 1968, suggested the ratio between the results in the basic strength exercises (press, back squat) to speed strength (which of course the snatch and the clean and jerk are connected) in order to establish the dependence between strength and the speed with which it is displayed.

I.N. Abramovsky, 1968 and 1972, found that the ratio between the results in the press and the clean and jerk (C+J/P) of the world’s strongest weightlifters was an average of 8 to 10 kg less for the athletes in the over 90 kg classes than in the lighter classes. Thus, with the increasing bodyweight of the sportsman, there was a greater absolute and relative increase in the results of the press than in the clean and jerk.

I.N. Abramovsky, 1967, compared the squat and clean and jerk results of the strongest throwers and jumpers. Both groups were of approximately equivalent heights at 184 to 188 cm, but the jumpers weighed 70 to  80 kg while the throwers bodyweights were 102 to 120 kg. The squat to clean and jerk ratio S/C+J of the jumpers was 1.2 to 1.35; whereas, this ratio was 1.5 to 1.56 for the throwers. In other words the clean and jerk results were 74 to 83% of the squat results for the jumpers but only 64 to 66% for the throwers.

We should point out that  the strength of the legs is not the only factor in the clean and jerk. Therefore, throwers who develop the strength of many muscle groups should have an advantage over the jumpers for whom the most important element in their event is the strength of the legs.  However, in actuality, this does not happen.  The throwers with significantly larger body mass have a weaker realization of strength in speed – strength exercises.

This same situation can be found by comparing the S/C+J ratio of weightlifters in different weight classes. A.T. Ivanov, 1976, determined the following squat to clean and jerk ratios for international class Masters of sport: S/C+J = 1.29 to 1.30 in the middle weight classes. The ratio increases to 1.36 in the heavyweight classes.  So, the results in the clean and jerk are an average of 77 to  78% of the results of the squat in the middle weight classes and 73.5% in the heavyweight classes. 

Naturally, the clean and jerk results are not dependent only on the results in squatting,  but the deterioration of the speed strength  qualities is greater for weightlifters based on the previously mentioned comparison of results between throwers and jumpers, as well as a comparison of results between the clean and jerk and the press.

The effect of an increase in body mass on results in the snatch is even more evident because the snatch is more of a speed – strength exercise than the clean and jerk.  The author found that the ratio of the clean and jerk to snatch in the 62 to 105 kg classes was approximately 1.2 to 1.215 for the strongest weightlifters in the world (10 weight classes) during the period between 1998 and 2000, i.e., on the average the snatch results were 82 to 83% of the results in the clean and jerk.  However, on the average the snatch to clean and jerk ratio was 1.243 in the 105+ kg class, i.e., the snatch results were 80.4% of the results in the jerk.

The ratio of squat to the snatch results in the middle weight classes was an average of 63  to  65% and only 59% in the 105+ kg class.

The very same relationship was obtained by the author in an analysis of the results of the world’s strongest weightlifters (10 weight classes) during the period from 1993 to 1997 when the weight class limits were different.  The ratio of the clean and jerk to the snatch in the weight classes from 64 to 108 kg was an average of 1.197 to 1.217; in the 108+ kg weight class the ratio was 1.252. The author divided the athletes in the 108+ kg class into three groups according to their bodyweight: up to 130 kg (5 athletes, average weight 127.3 kg), from 130 to 140 kg (3 athletes, average weight 137.1 kg), and over 140 kg (3 athletes, average weight 159.2 kg).  The snatch was 82.3% of the results in the clean and jerk for the first group, 78.7% for the 2nd, and 76.9% for the third.

Therefore, excess bodyweight first creates additional loading on the sportsman’s muscles because the weightlifter has to lift this excess weight during the execution of the weightlifting exercises; second, the sportsman’s speed deteriorates.

As a result, it is necessary for athletes, coaches, teachers, and nutritionists to find ways to increase the weightlifter’s muscle mass without adding excess fat to the athlete’s body.  In conjunction with determining the body composition there should be a constant analysis of the ratio of strength to speed  strength qualities by utilizing the ratio of results in strength and speed strength exercises (for example, S/C+J and C+J/S) and jumping exercises where force is generated with only the sportsman’s bodyweight.

We should point out that a large portion of the athlete’s body is raised in squatting and that the excess weight of the body becomes an additional loading in this instance as well.  If, for example, the athlete increases his leg strength by improving his results in the supine leg press by 10 kg, but increases his bodyweight in the process, his results in squatting may improve or worsen because more force will be expended in raising the increased body mass.