How strong can a human body get? How much weight can a human lift? What is the extent of human power?
These sorts of questions come to mind after watching a heavy weight lifting video or a powerful athlete in action.
Well, the answer to ‘How strong can a human body get’ depends on several factors, mainly the use of:
- Adrenaline or creatine,
- Performance enhancing drugs
- HGH (human growth hormone)
- Protein shakes
Other factors that influence this are the adaptation of the muscles and bones when lifting a heavyweight.
We assess ‘How strong can a human body’ by:
- The amount of weight you can lift
- How much damage you can inflict
- How brutally you can take a punch
For the sake of convenience, we’ll be discussing weightlifting within this article, muscle adaptation and physiological barriers that limit our strength.
In the late ’50s, lifting 500lbs was a massive breakthrough, as time progressed people pushed their limits and in doing so managed to lift even heavier weights. Nowadays lifting 1300lbs is achievable and that may increase in time due to advancements in technology, medical science and genetics.
How do you adapt skeletal muscles?
Recall your first day of jogging or in a gym, you were breathing heavily, your heart was beating at a very high rate and your arms and legs felt laden after just 10 minutes of heavy exercise. However, you have noticed that this time delays from 10 minutes to 30 after several weeks of consistent workouts. Your body is stronger and you find it easier to breathe, your heartbeat is in the normal upper range. With all your hard work and training your body has changed. Alas! This is a normal physiological adaptation. Let’s see how the body adapted through physiological stress.
Muscles respond to increase workload in two ways; hypertrophy or hyperplasia. Here are the main differences between these two
- Hypertrophy means an increase in the size of existing muscle fibre
- Hyperplasia is characterised by an increase in the number of muscle cells
- Hypertrophy is caused by the increase in contractile units of a cell i.e. proteins.
- Hyperplasia, biosynthetic machinery of a cell increases i.e. increase in the number of mitochondria, oxidative enzymes and density of a capillary supplying blood to the muscle cell.
- Smooth muscles exhibit both hypertrophy and hyperplasia (e.g. uterus of a pregnant female) in the skeletal muscle only hypertrophy is seen.
The reason bodybuilders have swollen bodies is due to hypertrophy, and hyperplasia the building of muscle mass.
Limitations/ Physiological barriers of how strong can a human body get
Our different organ systems works in coordination e.g. lungs provide oxygen to the blood, in turn, the heart provides blood to the lungs and similar are the coordination among other systems too.
A major physiological barrier in lifting a heavyweight or blowing a punch is our central nervous system. It controls the movement and the amount of force we are exerting through a phenomenon called “excitation-contraction coupling”. It simply means that the higher the excitation, the higher the muscle contraction, resulting in more muscular strength.
As the muscle mass increases, as does the demand for oxygen and other nutrients. Our cardiovascular system can only support increased muscle mass to a limited extent, let’s say 300lbs. When a person gets muscle weight (not total body weight) over about 300lbs, his muscles start exerting a force on surrounding blood capillaries (vasoconstriction) resulting in high blood pressure. High blood pressure means low blood flow to the muscles which in turn means a decrease in oxygen and nutrients supply. So if you look at some monster bodybuilders like Kavocs & Coleman, you’ll notice that they turn red and sweat profusely just standing in place without any exercise. Death of bench press champion Anthony Clark was a prominent example in this regard.