07 August 2012

Strongest Man Alive!

My pre-Olympics pick for the men's +105-kg weightlifting competition was Behdad Salimikordasiabi of Iran, and he did not disappoint me today!  He showed unbelievable power in both the snatch and clean and jerk competitions.  At 1.97 m (6' 6") tall, I estimate that he held his lifted weight at a height of 7' (2.1 m) above the floor.  I'll take his snatch and clean and jerk lifts separately.
  • Snatch:   Salimikordasiabi tied Russia's Ruslan Albegov for greatest lift during the snatch at 208 kg (459 pounds).   Salimikordasiabi took about 3 s to lift the weight.  Simply converting his chemical energy to gravitational potential energy means that he outputted 4.35 kJ.  Assuming an energy efficiency of about 20%, that means that he burned about 5 Calories.  That energy efficiency may be a bit high, but it's not a bad estimate.  Over 3 s,  Salimikordasiabi had a power output of 1.45 kW or about 2 hp.
  • Clean and Jerk:   Salimikordasiabi led all lifters with a clean and jerk of 247 kg (545 pounds). It took him about 8 s to lift the weight.  His energy output was 5.16 kJ.  Using the same 20% energy efficiency, he burned at least 6 Calories.  Given that he had to hold the weight on the top of his chest after the clean phase, he surely burned another Calorie while his muscles were tensed.  One of my book chapters is devoted to energy in the body (in the context of sumo), and I discuss how work is done even though no macroscopic object, like the weight, is displaced.  His power output needed to lift 247 kg in 8 s was 646 W or about 0.9 hp.
Stop and think about those numbers for a moment.  Salimikordasiabi's 2-hp output on the snatch was double what the women's sprint cyclist did over 200 m of biking (click here for my post on women's sprint cycling).  His power output during the snatch was a little greater than a standard microwave oven and essentially the same as the power on each square meter of Earth's area from sunlight!  The roughly 12 Calories he burned during his two gold-medal-winning lifts amounts to three Diet Cokes.

For the 3 s he needed to lift 208 kg, and in a square meter of area where he did his lifting, Salimikordasiabi was as powerful as the sun in that same square meter!

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