Modern day powerlifters and strongmen are amongst the strongest humans on the planet today. They lift inhuman amounts of weight and do it regularly. It almost seems as though with each competition they get stronger and stronger.
So the question here is where is the limit? Well if it’s to believe the 90’s club banger from “2 Unlimited”, there is no limit.
However, that isn’t entirely true. We are all human beings made out of flesh and bone. We all are subjugated to the strict laws of physics.
Logic says that there HAS to be a point where all strongmen will come and say “that’s it, I’m done-you can’t get past this.” So where is that point? Well, let’s try and find out.
Let’s call this strength what a regular strongman/powerlifter possesses. No jar is unopenable, no amount of groceries requires two trips, and no walnut is uncrackable. They are strong and there is no doubt about it.
But where is the limit to their strength? Well, let’s compare us to our relatives in the wild – the monkeys. No, not the Monkees that has that totally rad 60’s hit song, but the actual animals.
An average adult monkey is up to 4 times stronger than a regular human being, even though we have 99% of DNA in common. Baffled by this, scientist checked under a microscope to see if there is any difference between a monkey’s muscle tissue and human’s muscle tissue… and there is none.
Going from that finding, theoretically, humans could be as strong as monkeys. However, there’s a twist to this story! After some finer inspection, turns out that us humans have a very high ratio of nerves to muscle cell.
Meaning we are all capable of doing superhuman feats of strength, it’s just that our brains are preventing this in order to conserve energy. In fact, an average human can only activate up to 65% of its muscle tissue, while a trained athlete can go up to 80%.
So next time you can’t break your PR on bench or can’t open that jar of peanut butter – don’t blame genetics, blame your brain.
There is also another factor that is blocking your way towards becoming the greatest elephant juggler ever – the Golgi tendon.
It’s a tendon that connects your muscles to your skeleton. This gets activated when you put your muscle under severe stress, like doing a heavy lifting session, so in order to not get torn the tendon sends signals to the brain saying “yo, pull the plug on this-he’s about to snap” .
That’s the reason you hear about people performing superhuman feats in life threatening situations. They tear every muscle and tendon in their body because their brain activates the muscles 100% sending them into Hulk mode. Same thing happened to the strongman legend Bill Kazmaier. He tore his pec muscle off the bone in competition and it never healed properly.
For those with a shorter attention span, the summary: Your brain allows you to use only about 60 to 80 percent of your muscular power. If you exert yourself to the limits of extreme stress, the Golgi tendon sends signals to your brain to stop the exertion.
Even if you unlock the full 100% of your muscular strength, it’s usually under life or death situations. This often results in complete severance of muscle tissue from the bone.
Check out some impressive bench press numbers on the next page…
Now with all that science jibber jabber out of the way, let’s start this off the best way possible, with the bench press. The history of record setting bench presses starts with an 19th century Russian wrestler named George Hackenschmidt who in 1898 pressed 361 lbs. Not as impressive as today’s records, but a big number nonetheless.
Then in 1973, under International Powerlifting Federation’s rules, Don Reinhoudt bench pressed 580.04 lbs. That started the history of the modern powerlifting and bench press record breaking.
Today there are now two categories; geared and raw lifting. Lifting gear allows for better resistance against the weight while raw is pure savagery. So today’s record holders are Ryan Kennelly with 1075 lbs(w benching suit) and Kirill Sarychev with 730 lbs(raw).
With those numbers in mind, how much more can we go? As mentioned in the paragraph above we do have limits, however there’s still room for more.
Fitness journalist Anthony Roberts says that we still have 50 to 100 pounds on the raw bench press before a plateau appears.
His argument is that most of the powerlifters and strongmen of past (and today) transitioned from other sports. Phil Heath was a college basketball player, and former powerlifter. Current WWE superstar Mark Henry was a former Olympic weightlifter. Strength athletes of future are all mostly treating Powerlifting as a competitive sport from the earliest age.
The suited bench’s only limit is modern technology, really. Stronger fibers and better materials in a new fancy powerlifting suit and bam! Guys are suddenly benching 1100 like it’s paper.
That’s not even taking into account a hypothetical new performance enhancer that could turn monstrous men into even bigger monsters.
Click on the next page for more….
Same as benching, deadlifts are divided into geared and raw lifts. The best is yet to come and records are being broken on a yearly basis now.
However, there is also a couple of different bar variations; there is a standard barbell you see in the gym, there’s a special long bar used in Arnold Classic strongman competition and a tire deadlift using 18 inch Hummer tires.
So who are the top deadlifters in the world? Eddie Hall recently lifted 1,102.3 lbs (500 kg) raw. The Lithuanian powerhouse Žydrunas Savickas (above) lifted 1155 lbs (524 kg) hummer tire apparatus.
Eddie claims he nearly died lifting that weight, but Žydrunas looked like he had room for another 20 lbs to add. Judging by that, it could be safe to say that 500 kg is fairly near a human peak when it comes raw lifting with regular plates.
Let’s close this off with some leg work. Just like all previous lifts, this one is also very competitive and there are several record holders. However only one man squats deep enough and without wraps to be worth the mention, that man is “Ray Ray” Ray Williams.
Ray is the first person to squat 1005 lbs in sleeves raw – without any knee wraps or a squat suit. What’s even more frightening is that he made it look easy. Everything about this lift suggests that he is nowhere near his full potential.