American Open Series 3 red platform

Athletes, Body Types and Genetics

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Roughly two and a half years ago I joined a local CrossFit gym. In addition to CrossFit, they also have a barbell club – West Michigan Barbell. This was how I was introduced to Olympic Lifting.

USA Weightlifting America Open logoI love weight lifting. I need all the things I get from CrossFit, the mobility and the cardio, but I love weightlifting. So, when the American Open was here in Grand Rapids and they were looking for volunteers, I signed up. (I would also like to participate in a meet one day, and I have found the best way to learn about something is just to jump in and volunteer.) I got to be a bar loader.

I had an amazing time at the Open. I learned so much about the sport. So, when friends were competing in a local competition down in Lansing, I went to that too. There was something I noticed, and judging by the comments of those around me, I was not alone – despite the fact that weightlifters are all sorted by weight class, they are all different shapes and sizes! For example, take the 63 kg weight class for women (139 lbs) there will be tall thin lifters, those that are short and stocky, tall and wide shouldered, short and thin… on and on. Despite the fact that they are all in the same weight class, the shapes differ widely! (I tried to find a photo of a lineup of lifters in the same weight class but couldn’t find one that showed it as well as you can see in person. Therefore, if you are as interested in this as I am – go to a weightlifting meet. Besides, they are a blast!)

American Open Series 3 red platform
A photo of the red platform from my bar loaders chair.

Now, there is the old saw about muscle weighing more than fat. Actually, that is ridiculous. Fat weighs exactly the same as muscle. A pound of one weighs the same as a pound of another – a pound is a pound. (Or maybe since we are talking weightlifters we should say a kilo is a kilo!) However, muscle takes up less space than fat. So, okay, you might be able to explain tall thin lifters versus shorter bulky lifters, but the variety is wider than that.

Of course, there is room in the weight classes, for example, the next lowest from the example I gave is 58 kg or 128 lbs. As any woman will tell you, 11 pounds can make a huge difference!

I also suspect that there might be other characteristics that are coming into play. A couple I can think of off the top of my head is bone density and water weight. Some lifters might have to cut weight strictly to get into their weight class so they might be more dehydrated. That would certainly change people’s appearance. What other things might be happening?

Those are the questions I am working on. How does nutrition, genetics, overall health, body factors affect how we look and are able to perform?

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