Why Short People are “stronger”

…relatively, that is.


What I am actually going to discuss is muscle force exertion in relationship to cross-sectional area and volume. Stick with me I’ll attempt to keep this simple. Muscle cross-sectional area is the circumference of a muscle. All you guys out there have measured your bicep with a tape measure. Strip away fat and skin and you’d have the cross-sectional area of your upper arm. That measurement along with the total length of the upper arm is your volume.

SO, if two people had the same cross-sectional area the taller person would likely have more volume (longer arm). The kicker is that when it comes to strength volume doesn’t matter. If they both have the same cross-sectional area they should both have about the same “strength”.

So why are shorter people stronger?       If the two people have the same amount of body fat the taller person would still weigh more (more volume). This lessens he or she’s ability to lift or accelerate their own body, especially when performing calisthenics or body weight exercises.

When it comes to pound-for-pound strength it’s all about muscle cross-sectional area. You win this time shorties! Unless you are the Incredible Hulk…….He always wins.



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  • christina

    I like this article as it reminded me of a workout i did in crossfit last week (not sure how you feel about crossfit); The trainer told me i would have a much harder time doing the thrusters at a high weight, which we were doing many reps of, than my partners- who is about 4 inches shorter and not so thin and not as lean as myself. nice to have an explanation.

  • jgould

    Christina, When it comes to weight lifting instead of calisthenics there are many other factors involved also (lever length, ROM, central nervous system conditioning etc). However you could argue that having a larger frame you have a greater capacity to increase your muscle size. Some cross-fit events actually cater to heavier athletes (i.e. sled push). So with perfect practice you can no doubt surpass your partner 😉 Keep up the hard work!