Powerlifting is not the same as Olympic lifting, which, Vanderburgh says, uses more technique to "snatch" and "clean and jerk" the weight off the ground. Powerlifting is more a feat of pure strength -- of muscle defying gravity. Beyond even that, though, Vanderburgh says they were trying to do more than just find the world's strongest woman; they were trying to show a way to use the statistical models to get at the 'truth.' "It's not just the world's strongest woman," Vanderburgh says. "The more global application is: Let's get at the truth and find out who's the strongest -- [or] the fastest -- ... but do it correctly."
He says it's important to accurately measure fitness. "Often times we tend to find that smaller people are more fit, but part of the problem is how we measure fitness. Instead of measuring it correctly, we measure it based on maybe how fast they run, or what their oxygen consumed per body mass is. But the problem is, we don't take into account the influence of body size correctly," Vanderburgh tells WebMD. "So we're using a technique that has an interesting finding when applied to women powerlifters. That's a specific finding, but the general application of the finding is: We've got to be careful about how we think about body size differences and what effect that should have."
He says that kind of information can apply to military information testing, and even to medicine in terms of proper dosage for a person. Next on the agenda is the comparison of women to men -- to find the world's strongest person. But that is not cut-and-dried, either.
"Men to women is not a fair comparison because male powerlifters have been around for a long time. World records have been constantly changing and increasing by ever smaller increments for years for men, [but] for women it's a relatively new sport," Vanderburgh says. "So what we're dealing with is apples and oranges. ... I don't think we're near the physiological extreme of what women are capable of; for men, I'm pretty confident that we are."
- Using statistical methods that take body size into account, researchers have determined that Carrie Boudreau is the strongest woman in the world.
- Researchers often find that smaller people are more fit, but this is partly due to the way fitness is measured.
- Better understanding of body size differences could be applicable to military information testing or proper dosing of medication.