I’m a bit of an oddball within this department. You won’t see me going out watching a GAA match or entering the great Limerick run anytime soon. Those pursuits do not interest me. Granted I do enjoy a good rugby match or Formula 1 race, but what really excites me are elite levels of muscularity and strength, be that in the form of classical bodybuilding or strength sports (Powerlifting, Strongman and Olympic Weightlifting). This is the reason why this particular paper “Skeletal Muscle Mass and Architecture of the World’s Strongest RawPowerlifter: A Case Study” caught my eye. It is a case study of an elite level powerlifter and I would encourage you to read the full text for more detail. Despite the researchers retaining anonymity of the subject throughout the paper, reading between the lines it becomes apparent early on that the case study was conducted on 4 time International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) super-heavyweight (over 120kg) World Champion Ray Williams. The IPF is the highest standard of drug-tested Powerlifting in the World. The case study aimed to document the physical characteristics of the athlete and to put them within the context of his competition performances to date. Ray’s current best lifts are a 477.5 kg squat, a 242.5kg bench press, a 398.5 kg deadlift and a 1105kg powerlifting total (combination of the three lifts). The squat, deadlift and total are current world records in the IPF. Williams will almost certainly be the first man to squat 500kg unequipped (only a lifting belt and knee sleeves permitted) in a drug-tested federation.
Methods of data collection
Muscle thickness was determined using B-mode ultrasound at nine sites (abdomen, anterior forearm, anterior and posterior upper arm, anterior and posterior upper-leg, anterior and posterior lower leg, and subscapula) on the right side of the body. Total skeletal muscle mass (SM) was then estimated from these measurements using a prediction equation. The SM index was then calculated as SM (kg) divided by height squared (m2). Muscle architecture of the vastus lateralis (midway between the lateral condyle and greater trochanter of the femur) was also obtained from the ultrasound. Subcutaneous fat thickness (also derived from ultrasound) was used in combination with body density to obtain percentage body fat.
Ray stands at a relatively modest 1.84 meters, but weighing 183.1kg; this gives him a body mass index of 54.1kg/m2. Intriguingly however the ultrasound derived results estimate his body fat percentage to be 24.3%. Given his incredibly high total body mass (double that of my own) this body fat percentage isn’t overly high and is indicative of a very high fat free mass. Previous investigations have recorded the fat free mass of American football players (107kg), a professional basketball player (100.7kg) and to date the highest recorded fat free mas was that of a Japanese sumo wrestler (121.3kg). Ray surpasses that figure with a fat free mass of 138.6kg. His total SM and SM index were 58.0 kg and 17.2 kg/m2 respectively.
Given these incredible physical characteristics it’s easier to comprehend the astounding competition performances of Ray Williams. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ray and watching him lift on a number of occasions and it’s always a spectacle. The objective of this blog post was to highlight this new article which was of interest to me. I hope you enjoyed it.
Arthur Lynch is a postgraduate currently studying for a PhD in the department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick. His current research interests are in the area of muscle physiology. You can contact Arthur via email at Arthur.Lynch@ul.ie.