Are shorter people stronger?

My reasoning for this comes from two main sources.

First off, the idea that shorter objects can carry a heavier load without snapping.

Let’s imagine a pencil is placed on two adjacent supporting columns that are equidistant from the centre of the pencil. The position of the pencil is lying flat.

Now suppose I place a weight on the centre of the pencil. A longer pencil will snap more easily than a shorter pencil. I cannot describe the physics of this experiment (probably to do with tension, gravity, mass etc.). I can only give my instinctive description.

The second reason is my friend Cass – who at just over five foot can bench 500lbs. He’s one strong little shit.
Okay, so take me through some basic biomechanics. I’m pretty sure my reasoning is total rubbish anyway, so I need those more skilled in these matters to chime in.

Theoretically, is a shorter person any stronger than a taller person (maybe due to length/tensile strength of the bones), or have I got it the other way around?

Let’s assume bone density is the same in both the taller and shorter person.

What are the factors we need to consider?
(Please don’t give silly ones like age and sex, which are obviously a given. I’m talking about the length of muscle tissue, connection points on joint, surface area etc.)

For two people to create the same amount power, the shorter person must exert more force as their bones etc are shorter and they have less leverage.

For some activities, the two people are not completeing exactly the same result even though we call it the same. A bench press for example involves movement of difference distances, depending on one’s arm length.

Top powerlifters might tend to have relatively short legs for their height, but a lot of them are pretty tall. And most of the competitors in the strongman contests are 6’4" or so.

But for some movements, “shorter” actually implies an advantage with regard to leverage. Your lower arm, for instance, works like a third-class lever when you pick up a dumbbell:

      ^Force                          +-------+
      |                                    | Load |

----------------------------------- ±------+

The shorter your lower arm is, the less work your biceps has to do to raise the load.

Well damn, that worked great didn’t it.

For an illustration of a third class lever go here.

Seconding what has been said before - in many tests of strength, a shorter competitor needs to move the weight a shorter distance than a taller one. Naim Shoulamenoglu, multi-Olympic and world weight lifting champ, was only 4’ 9" at a weight of 132 pounds. Thus, when he jerked the weight, once it was barely overhead, his arms were locked in a complete lift. Of course, he was insanely strong as well. Same for Mike Bridges, a many-times World powerlifting champ in the 80s - 5’2", 182 pounds. Paul Anderson, the strongest man who ever lived, was less than 5’7" and weighed about 370 pounds.

There are other advantages tangentially related to height as well. Chuck Dunbar, a former world power-lifting champ, was not only a dwarf, he was also bow-legged and his elbows did not completely straighten. Thus, for him a complete squat or bench press was a much shorter movement than for someone even of his own height. His problem was the deadlift. He usually out-benched and out-squatted a Japanese lifter who was his greatest rival (the name slips my mind), but the Japanese made up all the ground he lost in the first two lifts and more in the deadlift.



I’m also thinking somatotype plays a part?

Sorry, but I presume this is a joke, right?

In my experience, the bigger people I’ve known have generally been stronger than the smaller people. I’m guessing that the opposite of the OP is generally true, i.e. bigger people are usually stronger.

I saw a biography about Andre the Giant on TV a few years ago. He had a disease that causes too much growth hormone. Not only did it make him huge, it also shortened his life quite a bit, sad to say.

I’m not sure how much the growth hormone factored into it, but he seemed relatively normally proportioned. The show made a point of mentioning that no one would train with him when he first started his wrestling career because he was just too big and too strong. He was so much stronger than the other wrestlers that later in his career he didn’t bother to train at all (he used to say that his training program was drinking vast quantities of beer).

Andre the Giant actually died because of heart failure, and if my wrestling memory serves me correctly it is because his heart wasn’t as large as it should be in proportion to his massive body and was over worked.

His chronic alcohol consumption and eating splurges probably didn’t help, either.