Could You Lift A Car To Save Your Child?

Danous Estenor is generally known for his feats of strength on the football field, but recently the University of South Florida offensive guard, who stands 6’3” and weighs 295 pounds, showed a feat of both strength and mercy, lifting a Cadillac Seville off a tow truck driver long enough to get him out. Let’s just hope the owner of that Cadillac had good car insurance.

We’ve all heard about the power of adrenaline, and we’ve heard the stories about a woman lifting a car off her son or throwing a riding lawnmower out of the way to protect someone trapped under it. But are these mostly urban legends? Or, if put in a situation where it was necessary, could you too lift a car?

The answer, as a rule, is “yes,” but you might be surprised as to just why.

First of all, it’s true about adrenaline: it does give you more strength, at least in a way. Adrenaline lets muscles contract more than they normally would. It allows more oxygen to flow to the muscles by increasing the blood flow to them, and also arranges a sudden burst of energy by turning more of your body’s fuel source into actual fuel. There are still limits, of course: strength only goes so far. But adrenaline pushes your limits much higher.

But some credit also has to go to the human body. Your body, although you may not realize it, is designed to withstand incredible amounts of stress. Even the most out-of-shape among us can, when push comes to shove, take a real beating before collapsing.

Of course, you’ll cross the red line in terms of pain well before you hit your absolute threshold for punishment. That’s the one thing that all the stories of people tossing Cadillacs around and fighting off polar bears (no, really, that happened) generally leave out; the people doing them were likely in very serious pain afterwards. What adrenaline does is make us act. It allows us to do things we wouldn’t normally attempt without thinking; because if we did think, we wouldn’t be able to do it. We don’t normally deadlift cars, because well before we’d finish, our bodies would let us know that tendons are straining, muscles are tearing, and that it’s just generally a bad idea.

That’s where adrenaline comes in. When we’re on an adrenaline rush, we simply act so fast and without thinking we don’t have time to realize that while we chucked that half-ton of weight a few yards away, every muscle in our body is screaming in pain.

You’ll notice in any story of “hysterical strength” that the situation is something that requires you to act extremely quickly, usually because somebody’s life is at stake. This is why so many of these stories involve parents: they see their child threatened and react without thinking. Once the adrenaline wears off, though, your body will assert itself, and you’ll probably need a whole lot of Tylenol.

In short, it’s more than possible that anybody reading this could easily lift a car, whether they’re a constant visitor to the gym or only get exercise by picking up the mail. It’s less a question of possibility than of your personal limits. Still, a few trips to the gym can’t hurt: better to have more hysterical strength than less.

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