The World’s Strongest Toddler aired June 10 on TLC, about 3-year-old Liam Hoekstra, a pint-size boy from Roosevelt Park who has 40 percent more muscle mass than typical 3-year-olds. Liam Hoekstra, “the world’s strongest toddler,” has a rare condition called myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy. Hypertrophy means increased muscle mass. But Liam Hoekstra is small for his age. Liam Hoekstra, “the world’s strongest toddler,” does not have big muscles, but he’s rather buff.
The world’s strongest toddler does not have a soft, “baby” look to his body, and has very little body fat. His mother Dana says he’s always hungry and eats large quantities of food, but oddly, the show did not report how many calories a day he eats. The World’s Strongest Toddler talked about several feats of strength that Liam Hoekstra has performed in the past. But again, strangely, there were no videos shown.
The World’s Strongest Toddler said Liam Hoekstra was walking at five months. If YOUR baby was walking at five months, you’d take a video. The show provided no video evidence. The World’s Strongest Toddler said that Liam Hoekstra was moving furniture around before his second birthday. Again, why weren’t videos of this shown? Seems to me that if a person sees their 19-month-old baby pushing around furniture, they’d immediately grab the video camera. If they didn’t own a video camera, this would be a pretty good reason to go out and buy one, and then film the feats of strength.
The World’s Strongest Toddlergave the viewer only a photo of a baby Liam Hoekstra being held up by an adult into a standing position by his hands; he appeared to be about six months old. The greatest feat of strength that the show gave us, was Liam Hoekstra climbing a gym rope. Barefoot, he was able to slither up the last several feet, though however, at the bottom, he got a little assistance with his feet. Nevertheless, even just for several pulls without the assistance at the top, that was impressive. The video conveniently left out the entire climb; we see only the begining, and only the end.
Liam Hoekstra did 17 sit-ups in one minute, though it was not clear if his feet were anchored; only the first sit-up was shown, and his feet were not anchored, and this first sit-up appeared to be a sample sit-up before the actual test. The other 3-year-old boy, whom Liam was being compared to, could only do one sit-up. Liam’s grip strength is the equivalent of a 7-year-old. He’s able to do a pull-up, though not from a pure hanging position with straight legs; his legs were bent and flopping around, which makes the pull-up easier.
However, other kids in his preschool class weren’t even able to do even THAT; they had to put their feet against a wall in order to even attempt a pull-up, and most couldn’t even do the pull-up that way. So, it’s clear that Liam Hoekstra is definitely stronger than most other 3-year-olds and slightly older kids, but at this point, without video evidence, I can’t believe he was walking at 5 months, moving furniture, and I think the show said he was climbing up stairs at 12 months or something like that.
The World’s Strongest Toddler spent too much time showing Liam Hoekstra doing things that I myself have seen other kids about his age doing, including hanging effortlessly on bars (though not doing pull-ups). The World’s Strongest Toddler showed the boy running just slightly faster than another 3-year-old, but this wasn’t convincing, because in any random pair of preschool boys, usually one runs ahead of the other. I would have loved to know what Liam Hoekstra’s time for a 30-meter dash would have been, and then compared to that of 10 other 3-year-old boys.
Liam Hoekstra and the other 3-year-old (who only did one sit-up) were instructed to do pushups. Neither of the boys understood how to do a pushup, but then Liam, while in a sunken pushup position, casually flipped over and supported himself on one hand, in a side-bridge position, to look at his father, sustaining the bridge position. A 3-year-old normally cannot do this.
The World’s Strongest Toddler said that Liam Hoekstra’s adult-height projection was 5-6. Later in the show, his father told a highschool football coach that it was 5-6 or 5-8. This creates a problem, because the father dreams that his son will play pro football. This short stature eliminates a number of sports; it would be useless to prime Liam Hoekstra for Olympic-caliber swimming, though he takes swimming lessons, and his swim instructor says he has the makings of a great swimmer. Short stature is an impediment in elite-level swimming, but certainly not diving!
The World’s Strongest Toddler noted that should Liam Hoekstra become serious one day about sports competition, his genetic condition might be seen as an unfair advantage. Well, we can attribute an “unfair advantage” to many Olympic athletes. Take Michael Phelps. His height, relatively long torso, relatively short legs (less drag in the water), and relatively huge feet (like fins), can be considered genetic anomalies that give him an “unfair advantage” over other swimmers.
An NBA player who stands 7-2 has an unfair advantage, no? Or how about that super thin marathon runner, or that very short gymnast? Or that giant-slalom skier with the relatively LONG legs that provide a solid base of support while skiing downhill? One has to wonder how many Olympic or pro athletes might have the same genetic condition that Liam Hoekstra has, and were simply never tested for it.
It was only by chance that Liam Hoekstra was diagnosed. His grandfather was boasting about the boy’s strength to his friends, one of whom was a doctor. The doctor became intrigued and recalled reading about cows that had abnormal muscle mass due to a genetic anomaly, and he wondered if perhaps Liam Hoekstra might have the same condition. One thing led to another, and soon, Liam Hoekstra was diagnosed.
Now what if Gramps never boasted to the doctor? Liam Hoekstra could have gone on to be just an ordinary boy who had a very fast metabolism, ate a lot, had unusual muscle definition for his age, and was a little stronger and faster than other kids his age. And as he got older and excelled in sports, nobody would be accusing him of having an unfair advantage, because nobody would know about his genetic condition, because it wouldn’t have been diagnosed, because Gramps kept his mouth shut.
The reality is that the whole town knows about Liam Hoekstra, and now, after TLC’s airing ot The World’s Strongest Toddler, the whole nation knows.
The World’s Strongest Toddler showed Liam Hoekstra climbing a refrigerator, but — oddly again, the video footage was shown in TWO segments! Dang ! The first segment showed him grabbing the refrigerator’s handles and hoisting himself upward, feet against the appliance. He then reached for the top of the appliance. Just when I thought I was going to see Liam Hoekstra amazingly hoist himself higher and hang from the top, the footage switched to another angle, showing him ALREADY hanging at the top! A crucial transition element was left out!
The World’s Strongest Toddler made no mention of the possibility that Liam Hoekstra could grow into his strength, or, to put it another way, his biological age could catch up to his biological strength at some point. Will he always have 40 percent more muscle mass than kids his age and then the average adult? Or will his muscle development slow down and eventually match pace with his chronological aging?
Ideal sports for Liam Hoekstra, considering his adult-height projection: Sport climbing (big time!), Gymnastics, Power lifting, Sprinting (some elite sprinters are short), Rugby, Soccer, Cycling.