The Effect of Gravity on the Development of Living Organisms and Their Strength

The Effect of Gravity on the Development of Living Organisms and Their Strength

Vladen Kanyevsky

Olymp 2-3:18 – 22

Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr. 2005©

(with permission from Olymp Journal)


All living organisms evolve under the influence of the earth’s gravitational pull. The force with which the mass of the earth exerts on each organism is first and foremost proportional to the acceleration of a free falling body, i.e. G = 9.8 m/sec².




Newton’s first law of motion states that F = ma. In zero gravity conditions if acceleration is a = 0, then the body is at rest or the movement is uniform as F = m. However, on the earth’s surface the weight of the body is subject to gravity, so the weight of the body is P = mg.




The living organism subjected to the force of gravity is confronted with the problem of moving about the earth’s surface, primarily, to survive. Animals need to find food, escape pursuing predators, the forces of nature, and, more or less, create comfortable living conditions.




In order to perform the important tasks for its existence, an organism, such as man, must generate force in a variety of situations; this source is its own muscle mass. Despite what some very famous people assert, muscle mass is not without limits; it is limited by the earth’s gravitational pull and percentage of the body’s mass which is comprised of muscle.




The natural development of any living organism stipulates that it can successfully cope with gravity while at the same time perform all necessary tasks. Nature creates a special biological system in the central nervous system in order to cope with gravity around which the composition of the body and the magnitude of force the muscles develop. This biological system can be likened to the organism’s immune system. The absolute strength the body develops, first and foremost, is to move the body in opposition to the pull of gravity.       




The most informative indicator of this type of movement is the vertical jump. The vertical jump is an integral indicator of a person’s speed strength abilities. The magnitude of force required to achieve maximum jump height corresponds to the maximum speed at the instant of take off from the surface.




However, the maximum speed at the instant of the take off cannot exceed 9.8 m/sec because at the instant of take off from the surface of the earth, the acceleration of the body’s center of mass is zero. And, since acceleration is the second derivative of movement,  it lags behind only the first derivative speed which is V = 9.8 m/sec. This is the maximum speed with which the neuromuscular system can perform at a maximum force of muscular contraction. The ability of the previously mentioned potential maximum force is formed naturally in the central nervous system (CNS) of any animal in order to resist the gravitational pull of the earth; this limit corresponds to the vertical take off speed which is V = 9.8 m/sec.




If a man’s body or any animal were composed of 100% of muscle tissue, theoretically, this organism could develop a speed of 9.8 m/sec in the vertical jump. However, the body is not comprised solely of muscle tissue; but it has bone, skin, fat, internal organs and other components which are necessary for the physiological and physical functioning of the organism. The body’s non muscular mass is, naturally, passive with respects to the immediate display of strength and accordingly diminishes the maximum force and speed of the take off in the vertical jump and, for that matter, any movement of the body or its segments.



The diminished maximum force and speed of the take off depends on the body composition and the percentage of muscle mass. Simple calculations show that if the percentage of muscle mass in the body is about 50%; the maximum speed of the take off in the vertical jump cannot exceed 4.9 m/sec; then, it follows that the maximum possible vertical jump height cannot exceed 122 cm for any animal on earth, including man.




Not infrequently, man encounters situations in everyday life which require the maximum realization of his speed strength potential, and the entirety of this potential stored naturally within the biological systems of the human body make up its reserve potential.

This problem concerns animals in the wild where they have to fend off predators, so they have to be able to draw on their maximum possible speed strength qualities.



A man’s strength potential can be realized to the greatest extent during the execution of static exercises or slow movements which are close to static conditions. The amount of strength displayed under these conditions can be very high. The relationship between strength and speed is well known.




K. Ralston (1949) has expressed this relationship graphically (figure 1) where the data was obtained from the pectoralis major muscle. A. Hill (1950) obtained similar results in experiments on  animal muscles with electro stimulation to measure the magnitudes of strength and speed. This confirms the interconnection between speed and strength is universal with respect to the effect of gravity. One should also conclude that the physiological structure of the muscles and the system of its management has formed within the living organisms in their evolution on earth; the first task is to overcome the force of gravity in order to function successfully on the surface of the earth.




A specific confirmation of the previous conclusion is the fact that astronauts who spend long periods of time in the space stations have no need for the large muscular strength which man needs on earth. As a result they experience diminished muscle mass and even diminished mass of the heart in weightless conditions in the absence special exercises.




The magnitude of muscular force the body develops depends on the potential ratio of the maximum speed and that speed the body needs to achieve to perform some actions under normal gravitational conditions. This can be determined with the following equation:


F = sPt   Vg  kg, (1)




Where; F – is the strength of a living organism, kg

s – coefficient of the percentage of muscle tissue in the organism,

Pt – fat mass of the organism, kg

Vg – vertical composition of the potential maximum speed in m/sec,

Vt – is the organism’ speed of movement, m/sec.




Presented in figure 2 is a general graphic of the relationship between speed and strength.




Let’s consider the broken line segment 2.1 in figure 2 (this was obtained by means of equation 1 and figure 1 (the graphic obtained by K. Ralston (1949) and A. Hill (1950) experimentally). This type of graphic can be developed for any organism and the graphic calculated will be individualized for each organism.




The magnitude of speed and strength determined with these calculations will be the potential maximums, but the speed and strength potential of the organisms will remain within definite limits.

The mechanical limits determine the maximum strength first of all because of the mechanical limits of the integrity of the bones, ligaments, and tendons. This limit strength in static and slow strength can be 2000 kg and more. Theoretically, according to equation 1, strength can be as high as 4000 kg and more, at very slow speed; however, the mechanical limits restrict this magnitude to about 2000 kg or less.




The physiological limits also restrict the maximum possible speed and strength which depend on the state of health, genetic make up, and physical preparedness. The psychological limits, in turn, restrict the maximum possible speed and strength in accordance with the individual psychological make up of the organism.  It is possible to surpass the psychological limits under extreme psychological stress. Under these conditions, a man can generate force at the physiological limits. This usually occurs with an illness such as epilepsy.




The speed strength potential of the organism is, in actuality, a little less than that calculated with formula 1. Possessing intellect, man utilizes the forces of nature with innate mechanisms and so can generate forces exceeding his limit by several times. Thus, there is the opinion among biologists and anthropologists that primitive man was physically stronger than modern man, and in this regard he was closer to the savage beast. The modern anthropoid ape and other animals (excluding domesticated animals) are also stronger than man, even though they may weigh less.




Besides the fact man does not need to possess great strength, there are genetic factors at work. Primitive man was very strong and these physical abilities were passed to his descendants. At the present time, it is possible for almost everyone to live a long life, despite a weak constitution, illness or barring an accident. Of course, these individuals pass on significantly “weaker” genetic information which, in turn, does not contribute to their heirs’ physical development.




In any event, the question arises in regards to the “nature of the beast.” Since animals’ intellects are less than men and they are approximately equivalent in terms of basic instincts, then the only decisive factor in the ability to produce limit strength is an animal’s bodyweight; this leads to the conclusion that the larger the animal, the greater the strength potential. This allows it to fend off other animals and cope with the forces of nature.




This size factor is of decisive importance for the predators in their day to day struggle for existence. They need to almost completely utilize their natural speed strength potential. However, some animals born weak, in poor health or injured, have little chance to survive.  It follows then that domesticated animals are significantly weaker than wild animals because great strength is unnecessary. We already pointed out that calculations have shown (figure 2) that at very slow speeds great force can be achieved. Practical experience confirms this.



For example, Oskar Valund (Sweden, 1912) lifted 2,105 kg on a wooden platform with his back. Anton Rika (Chechoslovakia, 1891) walked with 854 kg. Paul Anderson (USA 1955) did half squats with 900 kg and lifted 1600 kg up to knee height. Louis Cir (Canada) performed a deadlift with 669 kg. Enri Stefan (France), in 1876, lifted two guns to his shoulders at a total weight of 456 kg. These achievements were witnessed by scientists and journalists.



There are many strength records in the animal world which support our conclusions and calculations.  




In man’s activities, the special work involved in sport is designed to enable one to harness his natural speed strength potential for executing specialized competition and training exercises. These types of sports are acyclic in nature (jumping, throwing, weightlifting, powerlifting, and acrobatics) as well as other types of sports where there are elements of strength and speed  strength.





Many of the great records in weightlifting reaffirm these conclusions. In the snatch and the clean and jerk, the weightlifter raises the barbell in opposition to the earth’s gravitational pull which simplifies our calculations. It is very important to impart the optimum speed to the barbell at the maximum height in order to be able to successfully get the apparatus to arms length overhead or to the chest for the clean. If we determine the instantaneous power developed by the weightlifter at the end of the lifting, when the athlete achieves maximum barbell speed and divide it by the weight of the athlete’s muscle mass (formula 2), we can obtain the speed of resistance to the earth’s gravity which will always be less than 9.8 m/sec.




?= (Pb = ? x Pt) Vb, m/sec, (2)

s x Pt

Where, P – weight of the barbell, kg

? – coefficient wherein the parts of the body shifting with maximum speed in m/sec is taken into account,


Vb – maximum speed of the barbell, m/sec,


s- coefficient of the weightlifter’s muscle mass.



If you were to analyze the best record achievements of weightlifters of all time with equation 2, you will find that the snatch of Asen Zlatev of 183 kg at a bodyweight of 82.5 kg was the highest ? = 9.66. The best jerk of all time was the 250 kg of Yuri Zakharevitch at a bodyweight of 110 kg, ?= 9.73.



We used to think that the lifters in the heavyweight classes had the lowest relative strength which is about 3; this is determined by dividing the biathlon total by the lifter’s bodyweight. In contrast, the lightest lifters have a relative strength indicator of about 6. However, calculations done with equation 2 show that the ? coefficient of the heavyweight record holders is also high. For instance, the Olympic champion of Sydney, Hossein Resa Zadeh, had the following results at a bodyweight of 147.5 kg: snatch 212.5 kg (?=9.21) and clean and jerk 263 kg (?=9.31).




A comparison of the ? of heavyweight lifters with the lighter lifters shows that according to this index there is little difference in the records which is no more than 4.5%; this indicates that the lifters are practically equal in relative strength. The heavyweights are taller (190 cm. or more); therefore, they achieve a greater end barbell speed at a greater height. Furthermore, the heavyweights lift a greater body mass along with the barbell.

One must conclude that the heavyweight lifters have the same near limit results, in principle, as the lightweights. The ? coefficient determined with equation 2 allows one to more precisely compare the results of all weightlifters in the snatch and the clean and jerk. This coefficient can be employed in not just weightlifting but in all types of sports where the competition exercises are composed of speed strength elements.

If we rearrange equation 2 we can calculate the limit weight that it is possible to lift with the maximum possible ?=9.8.


Pb= ? x s x Pt – ? x Pt, kg (3)   


For example, if we do the calculations, we find that the limit result in the snatch of the 56 kg class can be about 150 kg (it is 138.5 kg at the present time) and 176 kg in the clean and jerk (168 at present). In the 85 kg class, the possible limits are snatch 185 kg (183 present), jerk 222.5 kg (218 at present). The limit results in the super heavyweight class can be quite different because there is no bodyweight limit. At a bodyweight of 130 kg, the limit results can be about 230 kg in the snatch and 270 kg in the clean and jerk; at 150 kg bodyweight the results can be 235 kg in the snatch and 282.5 kg in the jerk; at 170 kg bodyweight the results can be snatch 240 kg and jerk about 295 kg.




We should point out that an increase in bodyweight among the athletes of the light weight classes is accompanied by a significantly larger increase in the limit results of the snatch and the clean and jerk than it is for the athletes in the heavyweight classes. This fact offers additional confirmation of one of the general laws of Biology which stipulates the smaller the animal the greater the weight it can bear. For instance, an ant can carry a load twenty times more than his own bodyweight; whereas, an elephant can carry no more than 25% of its own weight.




Another example from the realm of sport is the high jump. Here the movement and the application of force at the instant of take off from the surface is directed precisely against the force of gravity. The current world record in the high jump is 245 cm held by the Cuban Sotomayer. Not only has no one exceeded this height in recent years, but no one has even come close to it, and, for good reason. The height of the leap after take off is of decisive significance which in turn depends on the force and speed with which the athlete can concentrate at this instant. It has already been mentioned that this height cannot exceed 122 cm when the body composition is 50% muscle tissue. Furthermore, the height of the athlete’s center of mass is very significant because  the taller the athlete the greater the height of his center of mass. Therefore, a high jumper who is about 200 cm in height has a distinct advantage in this type of event over a shorter jumper. 




If we were to add the height of the leap (within the limits of 122 cm) and the height of the body’s center of mass at the instant of take off  (which can be about 140 to 150 cm for the tall athlete), then taking into account the necessary height of the body’s center of mass needed to clear the cross bar for its free flight, the limit result can be 255 cm. The existing world record is 245 cm which is a little less than the limit possible result; however, a high jump of 300 cm for example, will be impossible for any human on the face of the earth.




Similar computations can be done for all types of sports where the competition exercise is a speed strength movement. The ? coefficient can be used as a test for determining the degree of speed strength preparedness of sportsmen as well for a person’s physical state. In order to do this it is necessary to find the ratio of the actual speed Vt at the instant of take off in the vertical jump to the potential maximum speed of the take off Vg.



s= Vt /d x Vg     (4)



The s indicator can be an integral criterion of a man’s physical state; furthermore, the vertical jump as measured by the Abalokov method is the best test employed in the practice of sport.




Foregoing analysis, one should first of all note that all living organisms develop a system of resistance to the force of gravity, which can be referred to as a gravitational immunity (GI). The bio- physical mechanism of this gravitational immunity can be such that the pull of gravity forms in the central nervous system the ability to create nerve impulses of sufficient power and frequency. This, then, by means of the motor neurons of the spinal cortex, innervate the muscles to contract with the appropriate force to execute some movement of the body or its individual segments. Such an ability to create within the nerve bundles high power impulses is basically genetic in nature, but it can be improved with training.



The manifestation of fatigue resulting from a large volume of speed strength work stimulates the restoration processes within the organism; this is the first order of the endocrine functions. The possibilities of the body’s restorative processes have to be in conformity with the volume of strength work. Apparently, the body’s gravitational immunity to speed strength work varies according to bodyweight.




Gymnasts regularly reduce weight immediately before competitions. An athlete acquires the necessary level of speed  strength preparedness while training at his normal bodyweight. This, in turn, (cutting weight before competition) allows him to execute speed strength elements easier than during training. However, over some time after a competition, the sportsman’s speed strength level diminishes in accordance with the athlete’s  reduction in bodyweight.  



There is a noticeable improvement in speed strength qualities in weightlifters after weight reduction before competitions.



Other sports such as figure skating, track and field, and hockey train by adding weights to the legs or waist. When these athletes perform in competitions without the resistance of these weights, they, like the gymnasts, realize an increase in speed strength qualities.




This very same phenomena is observed with astronauts who are in near Earth orbit, but only in the context where for some time the person’s strength has gradually diminished, and, as has already been mentioned, there is even some diminished muscle mass. In this instance the gravitational immunity gradually reduces the power of the nerve impulses which control the speed strength possibilities of the neuromuscular system and, along with this, a diminished muscle mass. 




When the American astronauts landed on the moon, everyone could see how easily they could bound about the lunar surface, even though encumbered by a heavy space suit. This is because the lunar gravity is one sixth that of earth; however, under these conditions the gravitational immunity of the “on earth speed strength potential” is preserved. We can assume that if the astronauts were to remain on the lunar surface long enough, their gravitational immunity would gradually diminish along with their speed strength potential, in accordance with lunar gravity.




It is common knowledge that some people who are of significant bodyweight, but nevertheless in good health, are able to achieve high test results in some exercises such as the deadlift and the squat. The taller, heavier men are the ones who take part in the world’s strongest man competitions. These individuals have a very high level of absolute strength. The examples cited indicate that gravitational immunity can alter the body’s ability to display speed strength depending on one’s bodyweight and conditions.

Apparently, there is an organ within the cerebral cortex which regulates changes in the force of gravity. This can be the hypophysis, the hypothalamus, or some other organ which secretes a special hormone in response to the changes in the force of gravity; this is in accordance with the motor centers of the cerebral cortex control and  the power of the generation of nerve impulses which, in turn, activate the muscles to contract with the required force.

We can come to the following conclusions on the basis of our discussion. Every living organism on earth posses a gravitational immunity. This immunity determines the potential maximum level of speed strength qualities, depending on the force of gravity.  All living organisms on earth function by utilizing, first of all, a basal level of functioning which is a lower potential maximum shaped by the force of the earth’s gravitational pull. Man’s basal level of functioning is the lowest potential maximum; whereas, the basal level functioning of wild animals is found to be at near limit levels.

The strength speed ratio depends on the force of gravity which is acting on all living organism with an acceleration of g = 9.8 m/sec².

The potential maximum and the basal level of a person’s speed strength status can be determined with equation 4 with the calculated coefficient s; this, in turn, can be an integral criteria of a man’s physical state.




The Abalakov vertical jump is the best test for determining a person’ s physical state. One can determine an athlete’s sport result level with the instantaneous power coefficient ?, calculated by equation 2, in those types of sports where the competition exercises contain speed strength elements. One can also determine the potential maximum sport results in speed strength types of sports.



Our theory of the existence of a gravitational immunity within man and animals can be one of the general laws of Biology.




1.    Kozlov, V.I.,  Anatomy of Man, M., FiS, 1978.

2.    Verkhoshansky, Y. V., Fundamentals of Special Strength Training in Sport, M., FiS, 1966.

3.    Zatsiorsky, V.M., Physical Qualities of the Sportsman, M., FiS, 1966.

4.    Kozlov, V.I., Gladysheva, A.A., Fundamentals of Sport Morphology, M., FiS, 1977.

5.    Kuznyetsov, V.V., The Strength Training of High Class Sportsmen, M., FiS, 1970.

6.    Nikityuka, B.A., Chtetsova, V.P., The Morphology of Man, Published by Moscow University, 1990.

7.    Muscles, Molecules and Movement, Translated from English by M.V. Volkenshtein, MIR, 1970.

8.    Reference Dictionary of Popular Physics, Translated from English. M., MIR, 1966.

9.    Matveyev, L.P., The Theory and Method of Physical Education, M., FiS,1970.

10. Farfels, V.S., Kots, Y.M., The Physiology of Man, M., FiS, 


11. Vaitsekhovsky, S.M., The Physical Training of the High Class       

      Sportsman, M., FiS, 1969.