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Imagine being able to lift almost anything.
Knowing you have incredible power at your fingertips.
And that you can carry something most average people simply couldn't.
Having that sort of strength would be impressive, wouldn't it?
To do all that you would need the powers of a real-life superhero!
'A superhero like She-Hulk.
'A woman stronger and more powerful than any other.
'Well, I've met a real-life She-Hulk.'
This is Kristin Rhodes. She's the world's strongest woman!
Whether it's lifting weights
or carrying massively heavy objects over distance,
Kristin has broken all sorts of records
in her quest to become the strongest woman on the planet!
And here she is!
Kristin, can you put me down, please, so we can chat? Ooh!
So, Kristin, how did you discover you had this incredible strength?
I've been strong all my life.
I'd pick up heavy things when I was little and carry them around
and my grandma'd say I had superhuman strength
back when I was a baby.
So you ARE the strongest woman in the world?
Yes, I won the World's Strongest Woman contest two weeks ago.
We think you DO have superhuman strength.
We'd like to put your abilities to the test.
So we've set up three super tests to try and examine
your incredible strength and your incredible abilities
-and work out, hopefully, what makes you unique.
And we've searched high and low to find somebody
to measure against you in the super test.
We can't find anyone at all, so I'm afraid it's going to be me.
-Let's do it.
-Is that OK?
I don't think I'm going to do very well at this.
This is Dr Megan John.
She's an expedition doctor and has kept people alive while they've
attempted some of the most dangerous activities you can imagine.
She's set up three super tests designed to push Kristin and Tim
to their limit!
For Super Test One we're in Scotland, at Glasgow University.
But we're not here for a written test.
Today's super test is a test of your muscle strength.
I'll be asking the two of you to lift some weights.
That'll play into your strong hands, Kristin.
Yes, I think that will. Let's see how you do.
THEY LAUGH Oh, dear.
This test is simple - who can lift the heaviest weight?
Tim and Kristin will be lifting this barbell,
from the ground up to a standing position.
This is called a deadlift.
Each time they make a successful lift,
more weight will be added to each end.
Although men can generally lift heavier weights than women,
Tim is up against the world's strongest woman.
He'll really have to push himself to compete against Kristin's
Dr Megan wants to see how their bodies cope with the strain.
She starts by taking a resting blood pressure reading
and will monitor them again after each lift
and that's not the only thing she'll be testing.
I've got a really cool piece of equipment today called a NIRO
which I'll be fitting to one of your muscles
and it'll be telling me how much blood is getting to that muscle.
And I've got Dr Ron with me here today
who's an expert in the human body
and he'll be helping me with that bit of equipment.
My blood pressure's rising thinking about this, you?
-Nope, I'm good.
When lifting heavy things
you use lots of different parts of your body.
Your muscles have to move
and your heart rate and blood pressure go up.
This makes your face go red,
the veins in your neck bulge and you could get a nose bleed.
If you're lifting something very heavy you could strain a muscle
or damage your back.
You might drop the weight on your foot and break a toe.
In extreme cases, you could pull your muscles so hard
they rip completely off your bones.
Lifting heavy weights can be dangerous,
so even if you do happen to have one of the UK's strongest women
sitting on your sofa, please don't try this at home.
The first weight they'll be lifting is 65kg,
about the weight of an adult kangaroo.
He's warming up now, so the blood flow
is getting more to his muscle to prepare the muscle to work.
-There he goes - when he works there's a dip in blood flow,
the blood's forced out of the muscles as he's tensing it.
Oof! That looked pretty tough. Let's look at that in slow-mo.
As Tim lifts the weight he is using his muscles.
Your muscles are made of fibres,
and each fibre is made of lots of tiny strands.
When they slide past each other your muscles get shorter and thicker.
This is how they move the bones in your body.
When you want to lift something,
your brain sends signals to your muscles
telling them which part of your body to move.
You have over 600 muscles in your body,
they weigh more than all of your bones.
In fact, muscles make up half of your body's weight.
Men usually have more muscle fibres than women,
so they can usually lift heavier things.
OK, so, we can see your blood pressure now is 143/84,
so that's a bit higher than it was when you were at rest,
showing that your body has been put under quite a bit of stress.
It'll be interesting to see what Kristin's does with her first lift.
And here she goes.
Completely different than Tim,
there doesn't seem to be any dip whatsoever,
so no blood is being forced out of the muscles.
I can't wait to see what her blood pressure's doing.
So, 144/87, your blood pressure has gone DOWN from your resting level.
Unbelievably, Kristin's blood pressure
is lower than it was before the test.
It's as if she's doing absolutely nothing,
but actually she's lifting incredibly heavy weights.
Let's see how they get on with the next lift,
more weights have been added.
Now Tim has to try and lift 125kg, this is like lifting a small pony!
Will he be able to do it?
-This time blood's flooded out of the muscles,
he's really tensing up and working hard.
Tim struggled with that, but impressively he managed the lift.
Wow, I've got dots in front of my eyes!
-It's gone up.
-It's gone up.
You are putting your body under a lot more stress now.
Whilst lifting the weight, Tim's blood pressure went up,
but when he put it down
his blood pressure dropped quickly in his head,
which made dots appear in his vision.
You may have had this yourself after sneezing
or standing up too quickly.
It's Kristin's turn at the second weight.
Last time, not only did she easily lift the weight,
but amazingly her blood pressure went down.
How will she do this time?
Much bigger dip this time,
much more blood being forced out of the muscles.
-You made that look really easy.
-That was still pretty easy.
Blood pressure, bottom number which is the most important one,
still only 80, that's LESS than you were when you were at rest.
I'm feeling good.
That's amazing. So Dr Megan makes it even harder.
The weight is now 150kg, that's twice as heavy as Tim.
Will he do it?
Wow! Tim's managed to lift the weight, but it was really hard
and just look at his little red face!
His face has gone red because when you lift something heavy,
your muscles tense up, and get shorter and fatter.
As they change shape,
your muscles squeeze
the blood vessels inside them
and blood is squashed into other areas of your body, like your head.
All this extra blood in your head makes your face look red
and the veins in your neck stand out.
If you keep straining like this for too long, very thin blood vessels
can bulge so much that they actually burst and you can get a nose bleed.
But as soon as you put down the heavy weight,
your muscles relax and blood flows around your body normally.
OK, it's 149/96.
Your heart's being put under quite a lot of pressure now
to get the blood around to your muscles.
-That looked pretty hard to me.
Dr Megan is worried about the damage Tim could do to his body
if he tries to lift any more weight.
OK, Tim. I've got Super Test Two and Three still for you to do.
It's important you don't get injured.
So, that's IT for you.
-OK? Take a seat, let's get Kristin in.
Tim's blood pressure has gone up with each lift which is normal,
but amazingly Kristin's has been getting lower.
So how will the world's strongest woman get on this time?
Well, the weight seemed easy enough for her to lift,
but what happened to her blood pressure?
OK, so 147/90, a little bit higher than you were on the last lift
but still less than you were before you started.
Now, you looked really comfortable.
Are you happy to up the weight again?
Yes, I can definitely go up.
Kristin is going to lift even more weight.
She's going to attempt to lift an incredibly heavy 200kg,
that's the same as lifting a pony with Tim on top of it!
Kristin's NOT like an average person.
She's really trained, she's got fantastic muscle strength.
She knows what she's doing.
THEY CHEER AND CLAP
-Unbelievable, that's incredible.
Yeah, that was definitely tougher.
-I think my face got red like your face.
I don't think it was nearly as red as my face, that's amazing!
-At the end of the test despite being a woman,
so not built to lift as much as a man,
Kristin lifted an amazing 200kg, whilst Tim reached his limit at 150.
I felt like such a weakling next to Kristin.
Luckily, nowadays we've got machines to lift heavy things for us,
but this wasn't always the case.
In North America, 100 years ago,
before chainsaws and forest machinery,
trees were cut down and processed by hand, by lumberjacks.
To cut down trees using axes and crosscut saws,
the lumberjacks needed very strong arms.
While transporting logs down rivers,
they balanced on the floating tree trunks, needing very strong legs.
The lumberjacks' job was one of the most dangerous jobs in the world!
Although they were tough and brave,
lumberjacks were best known for their immense strength.
They would often compete with one another in the forest
to see who was the strongest
and even today modern competitions are held in honour of these
incredibly strong people.
For Super Test Two
I'll be sending you both to the sugar sheds in Greenock.
That's where the sugar was brought into Scotland from abroad.
A lot of heavy lifting went on there.
I should be able to lift some bags of sugar!
-It'll get a bit tougher than that.
-I look forward to the challenge.
Unfortunately, I've been called away to a medical emergency,
so I won't be able to be with you,
but Dr Ron's going to supervise the test for me.
-He'll meet you there.
Greenock is famous for shipbuilding.
And Tim and Kristin will need nerves of steel to survive this super test.
Dr Megan's told me all about Super Test Two.
You're going to lift and carry... THESE.
I don't think it's going to be as easy as that.
It's going to be that easy.
Well, actually, it's not going to be easy.
In Super Test Two,
Tim and Kristin have to lift these 115kg frames on their shoulders
and carry them over a 20 metre course.
Dr Ron will be testing who can carry them the furthest the fastest.
Throughout this test, more weights will be added
and Dr Ron will monitor how their bodies cope
with the different weights.
Tim and Kristin, you'll wear these belts
whilst you go through Super Test Two.
These record your heart rate and breathing pattern whilst you lift.
This is a dangerous business and it's not the sort of thing to do
without appropriate medical supervision.
-Is it dangerous?
-It definitely can be dangerous.
-OK. Thank goodness you're here.
Dr Ron will be monitoring their heart rate and breathing
and results will show up on his computer.
The green zone means their hearts and lungs are not working very hard.
The orange zone means they're beginning to work harder
and the red zone means they're under a lot of strain -
their hearts are working incredibly fast and they could be in danger.
When you carry heavy weights, your heart beats faster
to pump more blood to your muscles.
You breathe more and you start to sweat.
As the weight gets heavier it's harder to control.
You could pull or tear a muscle,
or drop the weight and break your foot.
Really heavy frames could start to crush the bones in your back.
And in extreme circumstances,
you could put your body under so much strain
that you have a heart attack and die.
Kristin has years of weight training under her belt,
but can Tim's puny frame manage these 115kg giants?
-Let us get in position.
Kristin's off, and look how fast she's going!
So what I see here is that Kristin's doing really very well,
she's running smoothly, she's under control.
Her heart rate's high but she's in the orange zone.
OK, this is...quite heavy on your shoulders, right now.
Tim is working really quite hard, he's moving much slower.
Tim is up in the orange zone and he's moving into the red zone now.
Tim's heart rate is already in the danger zone,
and he's only just started.
But for Kristin, this is like a stroll in the park.
That's Kristin finished at 20 seconds
and Tim's still got a long way to go.
Tim's finding this much harder than Kristin
because his muscles aren't as strong.
You can make your muscles bigger and stronger
by exercising them regularly.
When you push your muscles to the limit,
the fibres they are made from
get very tiny tears in them.
Your body sends special cells, called satellite cells,
to heal these tears.
These cells become part of your muscle fibre
and over time your whole muscle gets bigger and stronger
so you can lift heavier things.
Kristin finished the test in 20 seconds,
but Tim's a long way behind.
Argh, there we go. OK, this way.
OK, keep going.
There you go.
That's Tim finished at 40 seconds,
that's 20 seconds later than Kristin.
-How was that?
-When you put it down you feel like you're floating!
You've probably just shrunk an inch!
-Reckon you could do that with weights on?
-OK, do you think I could?
-You could. You did good, you finished.
-That's a plus!
-That's a plus.
Tim found it tough without any weights added to the frame,
so how will he get on with a total weight of 155kg?
5kg heavier than he lifted in Super Test One
That is heavy. That is really heavy.
Kristin is still in the orange zone.
She's still moving fast and she's not in any trouble at all.
Tim, on the other hand...
OK, so I'm feeling it in my lower back really quite badly.
Oh! I nearly lost it then.
Ah! If it overbalances your back, it gets absolutely bad.
Ah, keep going.
I have to stop talking for a minute.
Kristin is still making this look easy.
That's 22 seconds for Kristin and Tim is miles behind.
Tim looks like he's finding this really difficult
and is in lots of pain, but why?
Your muscles are connected to your bones
by stiff cables called tendons.
Your muscles are so powerful that if they are used to their full strength
they would actually pull your tendons right off your bones.
A special part of your tendon - called the Golgi tendon organ -
stops this happening.
When your muscles start using more than 2/3 of their full power,
it sends a signal to your brain making you feel pain
so you know to stop and don't injure yourself.
But in a life or death emergency,
your body produces a chemical called adrenaline,
which allows you to override your Golgi tendons
and use more muscle power, but this would damage them.
But right now, Tim is just feeling pain in muscles all over his body.
I'm out of breath and I'm feeling it in my lower back.
Kristin didn't seem to feel any pain and finished ages ago,
but poor Tim still has half the course left.
Ooh! And here we go!
Tim's arms, muscles, ligaments, tendons are carrying 155kg,
that's a big stretch and that's going to make him feel real pain.
He's really close to the limits of exhaustion now,
he hasn't got very much more to deliver.
And there's the line, I can see the line.
Tim has taken over three times as long as Kristin
to finish the course.
I'm quite out of breath now.
You were just gliding along and gliding back
and I'm really struggling.
-OK, shall we try more weights?
-Let's do more weight.
I don't believe I'm saying this. Let's try more weights!
An extra 65kg is being added to the frame,
making the total weight 220kg!
This is almost three times as heavy as Tim.
Ready... Steady... Go!
Amazingly, Kristin is still finding this easy,
and not surprisingly, Tim can barely lift it off the ground!
That did not go very well.
So Kristin's a very well-trained individual.
She's much stronger than normal, she's carrying loads far above
what any normal person could manage to shift.
So how does Kristin do it?
Kristin's muscles are much bigger than average
because she spent many years weight training.
This has meant that her muscle fibres have grown
really thick and strong so she can lift more.
She's also learnt the best techniques to use when lifting
and pulling extremely heavy things so she doesn't hurt herself.
Before exercising, Kristin warms up her muscles
and mentally prepares herself,
making her body release a chemical called adrenaline,
which lets her body perform at its peak.
All of these things make Kristin the world's strongest woman.
Well, Tim's not the world's strongest man,
but he's certainly having a good go.
Tim's muscles just aren't big enough to cope with the load.
Oh... OK, that's not going entirely well.
Kristin's finished and Tim, well, he's still on the starting line!
So, Kristin's finished in 24 seconds and that's amazing,
that's only two seconds slower than the previous test,
even though she's carrying all that weight.
Hmm, something tells me it won't be the same for Tim.
Oh! OK, there we go, there we go. I've got it, I've got it.
Arghh, it's my lower back, that's where I'm feeling it,
right down there.
HE GROANS Wow, that's tough!
Right, Tim's back's really hurting, we have to stop now.
If he damages his back it could take months to recover.
It's all over for Tim. Remember, don't try this at home.
Lifting heavy things can seriously damage your muscles and back.
You need to stop.
You're going to do more damage than is good for you if you keep going.
-Is that right?
-Yes, stop now.
-Sorry, Dr Ron.
-The pain is telling you to stop.
At the end of Super Test Two,
Kristin is still proving to be much stronger than Tim.
She glided through all the weights, Tim took much longer
and could barely lift the last one.
It's becoming clear to me that Kristin really does have
but sometimes ordinary people can find superhuman strength
they didn't know they had.
In Virginia, America,
Alec Kornacki was changing a tyre on his car
when the car slipped and landed on top of him.
Alec was knocked unconscious and stopped breathing.
Luckily, he was found by his 22-year-old daughter, Lauren,
when she came out of the house.
Lauren was so shocked at finding her dad under the car
that adrenaline rushed around her body,
giving her extra-ordinary strength.
Unbelievably, Lauren lifted the car
which weighed 1.5 tonnes and pushed it off her dad.
She then used first aid to save his life.
For Super Test Three we've come to Govan, in Glasgow.
Guys, welcome back to Glasgow.
Dr Ron told me that Super Test Two went really well.
Oh, it was really tough.
Well, Tim, I think my Super Test Three is going to be even tougher.
-See that bus over there?
Are we getting the bus to the test site?
-Ah, that bus IS the test site.
Super Test Three - the two of you are going to be pulling that bus.
Wow, this really is the ultimate test of strength -
who can pull a double-decker bus the fastest over 25 metres?
That's the same length as an average swimming pool.
Tim and Kristin will be harnessed to the bus
and use a guide rope to stay on course.
Although Tim thought this sounded tough,
Dr Megan is about to make it even tougher!
Can you pull a London double-decker bus...
with 31 rugby players I've put on board?
The combined weight is 10,700kg.
That's an awful lot of weight
and can put a lot of pressure on your body,
so there's a serious potential for injury.
You wouldn't be doing it unless it was under test conditions,
with all the health and safety teams I've got on standby.
So it's really dangerous?
OK, so what we're saying is,
if you do have a double-decker bus at home
and 31 massive rugby players,
don't try this without proper medical help.
This is really dangerous!
For safety reasons the bus' engine must be running,
but it won't be moving the bus -
that is down to Tim and Kristin's muscle power alone.
Tim's up first.
This is an incredibly difficult test, and it's against the clock.
OK, Tim. Three, two, one... Go!
Unbelievably, Tim is making the bus move, although not very quickly!
This is 10,700kg, I didn't think Tim would even get it started!
I didn't either.
This double-decker bus, along with all the rugby players,
weighs the same as nine hippos!
Oh, ahh, oh! This is hard.
It's incredible that Tim is managing to move it at all.
Oh, my goodness! HE GROANS AND PANTS
Tim's heart is really under pressure now,
the strain is really showing on his face.
After only a few seconds, Tim is starting to feel the pain.
Oh, my legs are burning, they really are burning!
This is really tough on the thighs.
Tim, you're doing really, really well!
He's getting on for halfway now, is that the hardest bit over?
Now your body wants to shut down. Your muscles are fatigued.
You can't breathe. Your arms are on fire and you
really have to just push and push and push hard until the end.
Tim is almost at the finish and all of his body is burning in pain.
No, don't give in now. Come on, come on.
Ooh! OK, Tim. Don't...
Tim is completely exhausted - mentally and physically,
but he did it in 1 minute 15 seconds.
How are you?
That's really tough.
That is really tough!
It's Kristin's turn.
Women have less muscle mass than men,
so this should be harder for her!
Will she be able to pull the bus 25 metres,
in under 1 minute 15 seconds?
She's doing it! But she looks as if she's finding it tough.
Amazingly, once she's started, she starts to speed up.
We know from Super Test One
that she's much better at keeping her blood pressure under control,
so the blood stays where it wants to be,
getting away from the muscles and filtering around her body.
At this stage, Tim's muscles were starting to burn with pain
and he was struggling to keep moving.
But Kristin is getting faster and faster,
making it look easier and easier!
-Incredible, Kristin. Keep going!
-Come on, Kristin.
And now she's not even using the guide rope! Completely amazing.
Kristin has done it in 55 seconds!
APPLAUSE Wow, wow!
-Get your breath back, how was that?
-That was good.
That's Super Test Three over.
Tim did amazingly well to get to the finish line,
but the real star here is Kristin.
Women aren't as naturally strong as men,
so just pulling the bus was an incredible feat,
but moving it so fast was truly astonishing!
I came to Glasgow looking for a Super Human
with incredible strength.
And I found one. Kristin Rhodes... you are Super Human!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Tim Fitzhigham meets the humans who defy science and puts their powers to the test - against himself. Tim meets Kristin Rhodes - the world's strongest woman. Does Kristin's amazing strength make her the real-life She-Hulk? Tim challenges Kristin to three super tests in order to prove, or disprove, these gravity-defying superhuman powers.
For these tests they are in Glasgow, Tim will attempt to match Kristin's strength as they both try to lift more and more weights and in the ultimate test - pulling a double-decker bus, full of rugby players. These tests are as tough as they sound, so Tim uses state-of-the-art technology, real medical science and his very own mission doctor as he prepares for his challenges.
Is Kristin Rhodes the real life She-Hulk? Prepare to be amazed by Super Human Challenge!