What's Happening When People Suddenly Gain Superstrength?

Many of us would like our lives to be like a movie with a cool plot. Some people might want a dashing prince to fall for them or to be recruited as an international spy. But sometimes, it's the really scary moments in our lives, not the exciting ones, that make us look like movie heroes.

Early in 2016, 19-year-old Charlotte Heffelmire, a Virginia resident, was watching her father work underneath his truck when the jack slipped, and the truck pinned him. Even worse, the fall caused a spark that caused the truck and nearby gasoline to ignite. So Charlotte did what any comic book superhero would do — she lifted the truck off him


Perhaps you're confused. Is Charlotte Heffelmire some sort of giant? Did she slam some spinach before her feat? She must've had superstrength!

Well, she kind of did. While we've long heard reports of folks with hysterical strength, or unnatural strength under high stress, there are a few things going on that might allow a teen to Hulk out. One is pretty basic: Heffelmire, and others who have reportedly lifted cars, aren't deadlifting the vehicles into the air. The wheels that remain on the ground bear some of the weight

But let's be realistic: Even if the car is 3,500 pounds (1,588 kilograms), we're still talking lifting hundreds of pounds to get a corner mere inches off the ground. So what's going on? Simply put, we're stronger than we know. Even elite athletes who wring out every ounce of their strength aren't using 100 percent of their theoretical potential. An adrenaline rush, like the one Heffelmire must've had, floods our body with more blood and oxygen, so our muscles can perform better than they do normally. And the fear we experience in stressful situations might cause analgesia, or the inability to feel pain, when our muscles would normally tell us to stop lifting.