Motivated by a recent thread on Mount Everest, I scanned an old magazine article on the late, great climber Alex Lowe. Google him if you want the superlatives, but suffice it to say even world-class climbers considered him in a whole nother class in ice, rock, mixed, and perhaps high altitude climbing. He died in an avalanche about 5 years ago.
The story included eyewitness accounts of Lowe doing 400 chinups in a workout, or 40 in 10 sets. The author says Lowe stood six feet tall and weighed 160 lbs.
Back when I was a gym rat, I could max out at about 25 regulation chinups. After resting, I could do another 15, then 10, then 5. I am a bit taller than Lowe and weighed then about 8 lbs. more. Very low body fat. All that said, there was no well in hell I could ever have approached Lowe’s feats.
Lowe wasn’t physically imposing, but was physiologically so. He had an incredible VO2 max and lactic threshhold. Are these factors what primarily accounts for these phenomenal feats of strength and muscular endurance? What physiological determinants ultimately constrain strength in this case? I’ve read Guinness Book of World Record accounts of men doing hundreds of pushups and chipups, with no rest. I’ve also seen big bodybuilder types who couldn’t do 20 regulation chinups if their lives depended on it. I’ve seen college linemen who couldn’t do 10.
What’s going on?