Hieu Truong: So You Want to Pick Up and Lift a Man Overhead?



Pick A Man Up Overhead

There are many fitness goals that both professional athlete and casual exerciser attempt to meet. Rarely do you hear a woman say her goal is to lift a man overhead. The internet  has shown us many feats of strength coming from women. The question is how would a  woman go about actually doing this? Hieu Truong provides her expertise in weightlifting to give an answer. Truong asked this question of her friends and associates who coach and participate in weightlifting, strongman,  and powerlifting. Although it may seem like a ludicrous question it is a fun scenario to ponder in regards to exercise physiology. There are factors that determine if this is possible. The size and weight of the man being lifted should be taken into consideration.  Hieu Truong  provides insight : ”  I was also reminded multiple times that I should not expect to ever pick up my husband and press him overhead. ” She is a weightlifter her self but she explains ”    unfortunately, they’re right: my husband weighs twice as much and is over a foot taller than I am. ” Truong then goes on saying she does not expect to do this with her husband or any man. Although her husband is large, with some effort she may be able overhead lift a man of smaller size. Possibly she could do it to a man of her size. Height would not be a factor rather total body mass. The second factor relates to if the man is resisting being lifted or not. The size of the woman is also a factor. Then there are the use of push presses and is there a set way to lift a man off the ground. The program Hieu Truong  has never been tested, yet it is fascinating to see how a training regimen is devised.

          Before any lift is attempted the size of our subjects needs to be clarified. For these tests the weight of 185 lbs is used for a man. The reason they use that weight is because it is the closest measurement to a standard  Olympic barbell. According to the CDC the average weight for the American male at 5 ‘8” is 200 lbs. This comes  down to weight lifting a man who is obese or extremely musclebound one  would be the most difficult. Muscle does not weigh more than fat so if it were a muscular man and a fat one they could weigh the same.

Knowing that a man could be around a 185 to 200 lbs weight range, this gives an idea about how strong a woman’s body would have to be to deal with the weight.Lifting a man overhead would be nearly impossible for an untrained woman. These actions require a good amount of upper body strength. Then the woman lifter’s muscle to fat ratio becomes a factor. Her weight and muscle fiber type will determine if she can lift overhead a man. Type II muscle fibers are the most important to explosive strength . To hoist a man in the air, it would mean that more type II muscle fibers would have to be concentrated in the upper body. The woman lifter faces two physiological and biological challenges. The first is that total body mass is less and the amount of type II muscle fibers is lower. The endocrine system produces more estrogen in women, which has an effect on body composition.  This means a woman would have to work harder in achieving a high level of strength. Training and technique can negate some of the  physical differences.

All women are not the same. Some have greater strength potential than others.
The upper body is the hardest area for women to gain strength.
Women’s bodies do experience  muscular hypertrophy through long term weightlifting.

This does not close the gap in physical fitness capacity. It should be noted that Hieu Truong proposed two scenarios. The first is if the man is resisting being picked up. That would be challenging for anyone seeing as a person would be actively moving. The other case involves a man who is compliant with the lift. From this a hypothetical training program can be developed to see if a woman can lift a man overhead. The two training programs both utilize back squats, push presses, bench presses, and sandbag cleans.

          The attempt to lift a man without his assistance requires movement patterns from the legs and hips. This is very helpful, because the lower body is easier for women to add strength to. Also the man who is being lifted must be in a particular position. The goal is to get them upon the shoulders of the woman so she can lift him in the air. The technique here would be the Steinborn squat. Knowing that most likely the woman weighs less than the man being lifted her strength reserve would have to be higher than the weight being lifted. If the strength reserve is only equal to the weight being lifted the woman would not be able to successfully execute the feat. The Steinborn squat puts more force on the back and knees, which means such areas of the body must be strengthened through progressive overload. A woman would have to reach a target squat of 225 lbs. The upper body strength still is a requirement so a 225 lbs bench press is recommended by Phillip Stablien. The weightlifting coach also suggests a 205 push press, which may actually mimic the lifting of a person.

An athlete doing a log press
The overhead lift being done by a female bodybuilder.
An athlete must have a high strength reserve in comparison to the strength that they use for the action.

The challenge is asymmetry when holding the human body compared to a weight. There are other exercises that can be used to attain the required strength levels. The sandbag could be another close imitation of the human body being lifted.  The biggest problem with lifting or moving a person is limited options for holding. Then there is the shifting center of gravity. Sandbags basically a more like dummies that can be used as a test run for this exercise experiment. The log press is an exercise part of training for strongman and strongwomen  events. It is part of the competition, but it can be applied to lifting a man overhead. Holding the log is much easier compared to the sandbag. The benefit is that it allows the person to focus more on building brute strength, than applying balance with center of gravity in mind. Adding the total amount of weight required for a woman to move it would be 655 lbs. It would be harder for a woman of ectomorphic body type to attain this level. Women with more natural strength and muscular body structure could do this. There are videos that show women lifting men overhead.  The first video shows a woman who is in shape using What appears to be the Steinborn squat. However, she does struggle to execute it. That is an indication that she needs to work on building her strength reserves. The other two videos show the overhead lifts of a bodybuilder and strongwoman.

Dawn Riehl was able to lift the man in the video easily because of her high strength reserve. During her competitive years her squat was 345 lbs and a bench press of 315 lbs. That means she can move a total of 660 lbs, which is over the 655 lbs marker. She was a bodybuilder meaning she trained for aesthetic purposes, rater than strength. Dawn if she trained like a strongwoman could have gotten much more powerful. The last video shows strongwoman Aneta Florczyk lifting men overhead multiple times. Her bench press was 220.5 lbs and 456.4 lbs squat. Her total weight lifted would be 676.9 lbs. That means she would be stronger than Dawn and it explains why she was able to toss those men so easily in the video. Aneta Florczyk’s weight was 165 lbs and Dawn Riehl’s 132 lbs. Women can do this even when they come in different sizes. It may be difficult to determine which method is the best, but it is known lifting a person without assistance is harder.

     Lifting a person who is a willing participant or conscious is easier. Mike MsKenna says ”  Assuming you’re working with a man within the realm of your strength–say, 100-150% of your weight–then you could put him over your head at some point. ” His directions are more specific compared to other approach. There should be certain days in which front squats and back squats should be done. There is an overlap with suggestion of using sandbags. Deadlifts and heavy cleans are also advised in this method. This technique functions on a four day a week training split. What was extrapolated from this hypothesis was a chart of exercise and their intensity level. The training schedule goes as follows. The fist day requires snatch balances, back squat ladders, Turkish get-ups, T bar and bent over rows. The second day will involve cleans, deadlifts, front squats, and bench press. The third day requires back squat, overhead recoveries, arms, and Romanian deadlifts. The last day will involve log cleans,presses, sandbags, and yoke carries.


sandbag exercise
Weights do not have limbs like a human body.

There seems to be more attention to detail compared to the other hypothetical method. Practice makes this work. The man being lifted has to be practice with as many times as possible. First when in the air or on the ground. The biggest factor is the man being able to hold the plank position. The method presented in scenario two seems more meticulous in approach. This is a very unconventional fitness goal, but there are women who can pick up men. Fireman’s carry, over the shoulder, and cradle carry are what women can do with strength training. Women can lift men overhead with either of these methods or scenarios. Which technique works the best has not been determined.

       Lifting a man overhead would be no simple feat according to  Hieu Truong. The man being lifted determines the success of the feat of strength. A smaller or thinner man could be no problem lifting overhead . Around  the 132 lbs to 149 lbs range would not be too much weight. If a man exceeds  195 lbs range women would require a huge amount of strength. A woman of  larger size could lift many men seeing as bone density would be aiding her. Beyond just a simple fitness entertainment theory, this could have important applications. Women are entering physically demanding occupations, which require a certain degree of muscular power. The military and firefighting departments could benefit from the use of sandbag exercise and strongwoman training to improve women’s performance. The US Military is now implementing a set standard for physical fitness for both of the sexes and women can benefit from functional fitness training.

lA6y8lLjobc The argument used often is that women should not do these jobs, because they do not have the strength. Detractors claim that it would be impossible for a woman to carry a man out of a combat situation or rescue them from a burning building.  Training and diet can make a difference in physical fitness capacity. The point is to have an objective. The lifting a man overhead scenario can be retooled to evacuating an injured coworker or comrade. If women were to be given the proper instruction, then questions about physical competence would be resolved . The lift a man overhead scenario is more controlled compared to the situations of soldiers, firefighters, and police. However, it may make for a good simulation and training of the body for physical demands. Seeing as women have to train harder it may take some time to do an overhead lift of a man. Months or possibly years it can take to build the physical strength necessary. Consistency, time, and training can eventually change the fitness capacity of the human body.

Hieu Truong: So You Want to Pick Up and Lift a Man Overhead?

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