It is a buzzy fitness term which, for many of us, still isn't back-of-hand. But the concept of the weight-to-strength ratio, which can be used to assess relative strength, has been around more than a decade. It tells us, basically, how strong we are. The formula used to reach this ratio is simply strength divided by body weight. Generally speaking, the higher the ratio, the better. Improving WSR can enhance athleticism and coordination in order to better smoke the competition. You can improve it by either losing weight or by gaining strength.
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In simple terms, the weight-to-strength ratio provides us a way to measure our strength on the basis of our body weight, says Christopher Berger, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of Indianapolis."The challenge in this," adds Berger, "is that we only have good data to be able to assess weight-to-strength ratio using the bench press or the leg press. Other data we don't know how to fully interpret." This is likely because something like a single leg press doesn't provide as complete a picture of overall strength as the bench or leg press.
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Using the bench press, you can assess your WTS ratio by figuring out the maximum weight you can lift at least once. If a 135-pound female lifts 90 pounds for her one-rep max, she would divide 90 by 135 to get 0.67, her baseline fitness level. She could then use this to track your progress and improvements in strength over time. You can do the same with the leg press, or any exercise, though charts only exist for the bench and leg presses.
For a female athlete, a leg press, or lower-body, score to be proud of would be a ratio of around 2.5 to 1 or, in other words, says Dr. Berger, a strength level of about two and one-half times your body weight. Pushing your strength level can up your performance and lead to benefits from improved total body movement to boosts in coordination. If strength training is new to you, start simply, by using a broomstick, just to get your technique solid, suggests Dr. Berger, then gradually add on weight at 5 or 10 pounds a pop.
For a female athlete, an enviable bench press, or upper-body score, says Dr. Berger, would be a ratio in the vicinity of 0.8 to 1. To improve your strength levels, try working out either twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday, switching up lower-body and upper-body targeted strength-training exercises. Or, aim even higher with Monday, Wednesday and Friday strength sessions alternating your target between upper and lower body.
Julie D. Andrews is a writer and editor living in New York City. Her articles have appeared in print or on the websites of "Prevention," "Glamour," "Fitness," "Shape," "Cosmopolitan Latina," "Elle" and "New York Magazine."