You know, something I've been complaining about for years is that peoples perception of strength and just what strength, strength disciplines such as weightlifting and powerlifting, and athletic strength is colored by paying TOO MUCH ATTENTION to the extreme few possessing the most absolute strength.
But the MAJORITY of athletes who are concerned with strength in any way are concerned with RELATIVE strength.
With weigthlifting and especially powerlifting it is the upper weight classes who are most responsible for people's perception of the sport and it is simply based on numbers. But the advantage of being in the heaviest class is that there is no upper limit.
Let's say the weight classes are like this:
|132 lbs. – Below|
|133 lbs. – 147 lbs.|
|148 lbs. – 164 lbs.|
|165 lbs. – 181 lbs.|
|182 lbs. – 198 lbs.|
|199 lbs. – 219 lbs.|
|220 lbs. – 242 lbs.|
|243 lbs. – Over|
The guys with the most absolute strength, of course, are the heaviest. Now look at their advantage. Every competitor in a lower weight class must be more efficient and possess better relative strength than the upper weight class. You compete in the 243 plus range and you may not care if you become wider than you are tall.
You may not but even then you can't escape efficiency. A bigger, fatter guy may have an advantage in the bench press but that extra fluff might get in his way when it comes to deadlifting. And that extra body weight is just more to push when it comes to squatting. But in general there is a lot more room to play around and much has to do with your natural advantages, leverages, and your absolute ceiling.
How you get past your disadvantages and take advantage of your natural gifts is RELATIVE as well. And the same bias that makes people think of the 300 pound guys makes people also apply the NEEDS OF THOSE BIG LIFTERS to their OWN TRAINING.
Recently, for example sled dragging has been all the rage. Notwithstanding it's being a great conditioning tool it's value to you is relative to your training status and physical parameters at the time. So suddenly you have "powerlifters" telling people things like this: "You cannot do too much sled dragging and gpp (general physical preparedness)" and "your deadlift and squat are guaranteed to go up if you drag the sled".
Ummm…let's see. If I'm 120 pounds soaking wet and I'm strength training, then I'd say there is a such thing as too much sled dragging for me. I hate to use terms like ectomorph because those somatotyping terms are complete bs, I think, but it your RESEMBLE an ectomorph then and have always had trouble gaining fat and muscle…then endless hours of "gpp" are not the way for you to go.
On the other hand if I'm a big old 350 pound powerlifter who only ever uses the riding lawn mower for fear of a stroke…then a whole bunch of sled dragging and all the other gpp trends are going to feel like a miracle for me. I'm suddenly not gassing as much and through a cross training effect this finds it's way into my more specific strength training. I drop weight and become more efficient, etc..
But I, Eric Troy, am not one of those 350 pound guys and since those guys are going to make me look "weak" by most peoples perspective then people are going to listen to the big guy and drag a sled all day even though the big guy has no business making absolute statements about sled dragging or anything else.
Now look at those weight classes and imagine them as a representation of the athletic population at large. How many 'athletes' are there, compared to all other weights, that are pushing 300 pounds? How many of those athletes can get a way with a bunch of body weight that does NOT contribute to strength and power? A minority. A HUGE minority.
Yet when the average person thinks of strength they think of it in terms of that minority. In statistical research this kind of thing is what is known as a "selection bias". Basically, in this case your "selection" is not a true representation of the entire population. What many of the scientific types don't even get is that we actually THINK this way.
People who have been strength training for a while realize that there are certain realities that come along with it. Such as your desire to look like a fat tub of lard while boasting a twice body-weight bench press.
Incidentally here is an article by Mike Stone that wasn't written too awful long ago. I haven't even read the whole thing through but he is taking a more purely "scientific" approach from what I've seen so far. What is Strength?