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Updated: April 25, 2010 19:14 IST

What is the maximum weight a human can lift?

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Turkey's Bunyame Sezer successfully lifts a weight during the European Weightlifting Championships in Minsk, Belarus. Most failures to lift a given amount do not damage the body, the weightlifter simply cannot overcome a load.
AP Turkey's Bunyame Sezer successfully lifts a weight during the European Weightlifting Championships in Minsk, Belarus. Most failures to lift a given amount do not damage the body, the weightlifter simply cannot overcome a load.

Some sports experts believe weightlifters have reached a saturation point but the imminent question remains - what is the maximum weight a human could ever lift.

Brit strongman Andy Bolton set the heaviest dead lift record when he lifted 457.5 kilograms from the floor to his thigh. The record for an overhead lift stands at 263.5 kilograms.

According to Dan Wathen, an athletics trainer at Youngstown State University, Ohio, Bolton and weightlifters like him are nearly five or six times stronger than the average man, who will struggle to lift 45 kilograms over his head, reports the New Scientist.

Todd Schroeder at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, says, “If you look over time at the records for maximal lifts, they have crept up but are starting to plateau.”

“Today’s weightlifters, including those that use steroids, are near the limit of human potential.” Todd Schroeder added. It is the muscles that set the limit. Most failures to lift a given amount do not damage the body, the weightlifter simply cannot overcome a load. But in cases where something does give way, it is usually the muscle fibres that tear, often near the tendon.

Similarly, it is control of the muscles that gives weightlifters their advantage. The body has natural inhibitory mechanisms designed to keep us from hurting ourselves by trying to lift too much. These work by controlling how many muscle fibres are activated at any one time. Weightlifters learn to suppress these signals, enabling them to use a larger fraction of the muscle’s potential in lifting.

Beyond that, the key to success is training, though genetics plays a role. Short limbs favour strength, says Wathen, a former weightlifter, and some people have more muscle fibres than others.

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