29 August 2011

What, Exactly, Is Ideal?- The "To Cut Or Not To Cut?" For Meets Edition

One of the most interesting online debates (from a topical perspective, rather than a content perspective) is that in which someone asks the shockingly weak online assemblage if they should cut for a meet.  Hilariously and predictably, the answer is almost invariably "no".

The negative response is derived entirely out of fear, though it's fear of the wrong thing.  Instead of lifters fearing embarrassment due to the fact that their numbers suck and they're fat, they're worried that they'll lose weight off of their generally unimpressive lifts.  This fear is compounded by the fact that they'll be unused to cutting, which will presumably cause their bodies to enter into some sort of shock from which they cannot recover.
Somehow, I don't think Li Hongli's losing any sleep over the fact that somewhere in the world a fat man outbenches him.

All of this is, of course, fucking nonsense.  One's primary concern when entering a strength competition is winning.  As such, you should be focused entirely on what it takes to win.  If you're already focused on what it would take to win, you should be focused on what you can do to fucking embarrass everyone around you for even showing up.  Thus, having the highest possible relative strength should be your primary concern, rather than the greatest absolute strength.  This, of course, flies in the face of the conventional online wisdom that "he who lifts the most wins", as anyone who's not a sloppy fucking mass of adipose tissue would be far more impressed with a stupendous lift by a guy with visable musculature than they would with a Louis Cyr lookalike's world-shattering lift.  This is why everyone shits their pants about Stan Efferding, Joe Ladnier, and Matt Kroczaleski when there's a new record broken in the squat by a different circus fat man every 45 minutes.  This is also the reason why most of you know who 170 lb Bulgarian Olympic Ivan Stoitsov is, and have seen his pic a thousand times, but have no idea who Tatiana Kashirina is, in spite of the fact that she probably clean and jerks what you deadlift.
Quick!  Someone email Lu Xiaojun and tell him he's a bitch because he's only 170!

If you're wondering why no one knows the name of a fat Russian chick who holds the world record in the clean and press and the snatch (a chick who probably outlifts the vast majority of us on just about everything), don't.  Fat people aren't really people- they're placeholders where people should be.  No one wants to look at them, strong or not, nor be around them long enough to locate their genitalia and fuck.  They look like shit, wheeze when they breathe, and are in mortal danger of stroking out when doing anything other than doing a single repetition on one of their pet exercises or eating.  This doesn't change much when a fat guy or girl picks up something heavy- we expect them to be able to do so when the object they're lifting is a fraction of their bodyweight, no matter how heavy that object is.
Jeff Lewis squats 1202 in a bulletproof squat suit.  Given that he's 525 lbs and has cellulite on his knees, I can tell you confidently that I don't give a flying fuck.

Thus, if really doesn't matter that a fat person is all that strong.  You might be thinking, however, that you're not necessarily morbidly obese, but just have a "powerful torso" or somesuch.  All that means is that you're leaving weight on the table by which you might be able to fuck up the competition.  For instance, if you're competing 235 and sitting on something around 20% bodyfat, you're doing yourself a fucking disservice if you're competing at 242 because you're too fucking lazy to diet a bit.  That extra bodyfat is doing nothing but holding you back from greatness, as you could ostensibly be crushing shit at 220, or dominating everyone and looking ridiculous (Chinese Olympic weightlifting style) at 198.

Cutting weight is not, as some people would have it, the death knell for a lifter's total.  Provided cutting is done sensibly and fairly slowly, one's strength can rather easily be maintained, and can even be increased slowly if the cut is managed correctly.  The added volume you'll probably implement to cut the weight will just contribute to your total workload in the gym, and you could see random lifts jump up as you increase your mobility and strength to weight ratio.  Additionally, you won't feel like you need a nap if you have to take the stairs one day when the power goes out.

Throw on top of that the fact that strength does not increase proportionally with bodyweight- the law of diminishing returns kicks in like a motherfucker.  This means endless weight gains to shut up the fat guys talking shit on some message board are probably pointless.  At some point, you're going to hit a wall where your body's pretty much at it's upper limit for maximizing strength for your bodyweight.  Thereafter, your strength gains will probably be incremental, while your bodyweight increases could be exponential.  There's no point in asking other people at what point that will occur, either- it's entirely individual and completely unpredictable.  Thus, you should experiment with your bodyweight to find your "sweet spot".
Not a bodyweight sweet spot.  Also, is anyone else wondering why the Special Ed kids loaded that bar?

All of this is of course heresy to the myriad fatasses of the world, who will likely hold aloft one person as the entire basis of their argument- Ed Coan.  Coan was a fucking freak of nature, however, and it's relatively certain that unless you've recently destroyed every record within reach, you're not fucking him.  So why, then, would they postulate something so absurd?  To justify the fact that they look like they do.  There's no other possible reason, as there will always be someone stronger than they are, which obliterates their supposition regarding absolute strength.  Additionally, I don't think you'll find any of them criticizing Coan for dropping to 242 after competing at 275 for a while, especially given the fact that he looked fucking awesome.
Laura Phelps is stronger, and probably leaner than you.  Food for thought.

So, when deciding whether or not to drop weight for a powerlifting meet, consider the following:
  1. Should you bother competing at all?  This is the most critical, and usually the most overlooked question of all.  If you're not one of the strongest people you know, there's really no reason to do so.  That won't stop many people from doing so, however, which leads me to the following question.
  2. Are there weight classes in this meet?  If so, you should probably think about cutting to make a lower class, thus ensuring the highest strength to weight ratio and thereby placing you further away from the possibility of embarrassing yourself, whether it be when you disrobe or when you lift in the meet.
  3. Do you have weight to lose?  Chances are you do, unless you're already ripped to shreds.  Unless you're planning on smashing a superheavy record or sitting at 5% bodyfat, there's absolutely no conceivable reason why you shouldn't drop weight.
  4. Can you see your genitalia without a mirror and a partner?  If the answer is no, it doesn't matter if you're going to smash a record in any weight class- you need to lose some fucking weight.  If the answer is yes, refer to question 3.
There you have it- a simple, easy to follow guide to whether or not you should cut weight for a meet.    In the next installment of this series, I'll fill you in on how I cut, and how other people cut.  Now, flame away, flamers.
None of this applies to chicks with big asses, as they should preserve the booty at all costs, strength to bodyweight ratio be damned.


  1. I agree with the booty thing. A tight waist and a big booty is a rarity and shouldn't be tinkered with.

  2. Thank you for this post.
    I get really tired of Internet powerlifters calling everyone a bitch for not weighing 350 and looking like a fucking slob on the platform.
    Powerlifting is becoming more and more of a joke every year.
    Olympic lifters can almost always squat, dead and (often times) bench more than powerlifters in the same class. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-Ixa38U9x0 --- Chigishev benching 500 at 270ish)

    Oh, and fuck the guys at 70s big and Mark Rippetoe for popularizing the "get fat-- it's an easy way to lift weights" mentality.

  3. Monica's sweet ass.

    Good post once again. Biggest thing around here is powerlifters drinking those "sugarbombs" by the liters between sets to replenish all of their lost glycogen. Never realising that fat gets turned into glycogen by hepatic means just fine.

  4. ... and with a truly shaky grasp on how glycogen reserves are depleted and replenished. Ah well- endocrinologists are probably psyched that they'll have future patients.

  5. Lol. I'm actually planning to bulk into a higher weight class for a meet in October. I currently weigh about 215 at ~11% bf, but I think I'll do better against the fatasses in u-242 than the guy I'm going to the meet with who is competing in u-220. We have virtually identical benches and deads, but he squats 640 raw, high bar Olympic style (which is a good 200 lbs better than mine) Fuck that. I need to build some muscle anyway. I'll cut after the meet.

  6. I'm psyched too, my minor at university is physiotherapy in the field of Internal Diseases. So fat people, diabetic people or a combination (metabolic syndrome) of both will probably be my biggest crowd of income. The future looks bright!

  7. I'm guessing there'll be a "To cut or not to cut" for everyday life edition? Because for powerlifting, your point is pretty obvious. But the reason why I lift isn't to compete in powerlifting, though I guess I will once I get stronger than everyone else, it's to be able to defend myself, be a strong worker and live up to the glory of my ancestors. None of that involves anyone giving a fuck about your bodyfat percentage, all that matters is how strong you are. Now I agree with you about the "circus fat men" but I think you're taking it a step too far. It doesn't matter if your bodyfat is 5% or 15%, nobody cares whether you have abs or not, except maybe dumb wannabe bodybuilder pussies who should have their mouths sown shut anyway. I'd rather be 20 pounds heavier and lift even a little bit more than be all ripped and know that my vanity is what's keeping me from greatness.

  8. But wouldn't you rather be stronger than everyone else AND leaner than everyone else? Plus who do you think get's more ass, the 'dumb wannabe bodybuilder pussies' or fat guys? I guarantee you most chicks are far more impressed by abs than they are by a 1000lb squat.

  9. For those of you who want to know how the chinese got that way...hell of a thread at Pendlay's forum.


  10. Brainwash92 - how many fat fucks do you see in MMA? Strength is USELESS without conditioning/a gas tank. In case you missed it, 155 pound Roger Heurta beat down a 240+ pound linebacker in a street fight in about 1 minute. And Roger was never known for his power.

    I'll line up against fat asses all day long because those guys throw 2 punches and they are done. Ask yourself how strong you are when your body is dying for oxygen? You aren't strong at all. You're weak as shit. If all your strength is good for is lifting a single, then you aren't strong at all. Walk down to your local fighting school and see how strong you are against an amateur level fighter who is in shape.

    Being lean isn't about vanity. It's about your function creating your form. If I'm in a situation where I'm sizing guys up, I'm far more worried about the buck-90 guy that looks to be in shape and fast but only benches 300, than the 300 pound slob who benches 600.

    You can encase yourself in an armor but that will evaporate if you ever come across a guy that spends his time fighting and conditioning while you are getting fat and lifting more.

    Be strong AND in shape. Being in shape means keeping the adipose in check and training the heart and lungs, as well as the muscle mass.

    And if you don't compete, I'm not sure what greatness it is you are trying to achieve. Basement lifts don't mean shit.

  11. Paul Carter: No, just no. Big guys, (yes, even fat ones) often have a huge endurance advantage over smaller leaner ones. Why? The smaller guy has to work much harder to move the bigger guy (assuming he isn't just jumping around throwing ineffectual jabs like a retard) and avoiding the big guy's powerful attacks. Back when I competed in Judo, I trained with one 250 lb fat ass who probably couldn't run a mile to save his life, but he would last longer than us ripped guys training with him. He would spar with all of us in one after the other and wear us all out. In a street fight big guys have even more of an advantage. Most street fights are pretty well decided within thirty seconds to a minute. Not really long enough for endurance to kick in. Innitial advantage is everything. You don't see a lot of fat fucks in MMA because of WEIGHT CLASSES, genius. Sure if you have to fight someone who weighs the same amount as you, its better to be ripped, but in a fight with no rules, it's better to be big, as long as you're still mobile. And I'm not surprised That a 150 lb MMA guy beat a 240 lb linebacker, he's a professional fighter! Skill plays a role. Some skilled fatass beat Mariusz Pudzianowski, but that doesn't prove that it's better to be a fatass than A Worlds Strongest Man winner.

    I'm right with you that in general, lean is preferable to fat, but if you just assume that anyone who is carrying some fat sucks in a fight, you're going to end up like this stupid kid: http://www.iviewtube.com/videos/179719/fat-kid-body-slams-skinny-bully

    I would never want to be fat, or even 15% bf, Being lean is awesome. I'm just calling out some silly bullshit.

  12. I'm not saying I want to be fat. My point is, as long as you stay within a certain healthy range, you'd do best to aim for the weight that lets you lift most. If that weight is 15% fat, there's nothing wrong with that. It's not like either you're ripped to shreds or you're the fucking Michelin Man.

    "Basement lifts don't mean shit"? It's not about the lifts, it's about how that strength carries over to real life. Like that dude in Quo Vadis, he probably wouldn't have won a powerlifting meet but he could still break a bull's neck. (Putting aside the fact that it's fiction lol)

    About the fat people, you'd be surprised. There's some fast fat people out there, and strong too when it comes to fighting just because there's 300+ pounds behind their fists. I'm sure you know that fat guy who fucks everyone up in soccer or basketball - just goes to show you can be fat and still be quick. Not that I'm saying those people wouldn't be faster if they were leaner, but you can't tell how fast or conditioned someone is just from looking at their gut.

    Oh yeah, about the broads... I'm not the best looking guy anyway, so abs wouldn't really make a big difference. I get laid by acting like the biggest prole in the place and waiting for some girl with daddy issues to throw herself at me.

  13. In keeping with the whole strength and bodyfat thing, i don't know if any of you guys have heard of babyslayer, a kid who posts over at bb.com. He got up to 385 at 18 and was squatting and pulling 700+ benching 400+ and pressing 300+ and has now leaned down and is probably stronger and leaner than the majority of guys here. Getting super heavy is definitely a legitimate way to get very strong faster than if you stayed lean but are the health and aesthetic issue worth it? For myself i'd never do it but you have to give the kid credit for just saying fuck it and getting like that.


  14. Paul- I only need two words to destroy your argument, but I'll use four to job your memory- Anthony "Mad Dog" Macias. He got housed by Dan Severn of all people. Had he fought Tank Abbott, they would have had to rename the UFC Mortal Kombat, because Macias definitely would have left that ring in several hefty bags.

  15. Maybe this is the kick in the ass I needed. Doing kind of a Atkins/Dukan combo.

    Down a few pounds to 343 in 3 days.

    On second cycle of Smolov Jr for bench, can't do much else fractured foot complete with bone graft and screw.

    Thank you Mr. Pain

  16. Seems to me you forgot to say that being overweight is like carrying a loaded bar on your back everywhere you go. And that if someone were to lose that extra weight, they could add it directly to the bar for squats and such...

  17. Fat people are metabollically and mechanically inefficient. Even the ones who lift.

    Reason? Fat (especially in central obesity) is highly metabolical, because the body always produces leptine to burn unnecessary fat away. Leptine fails because of the overconsumption of fat and carbs. Leading to insulin levels that are too high. The R.A.A.S.-system kicks in because of orthosympathic overdrive (leptine failure and insulin resistance). Then shit like Superoxides kick in because your Krebs-cycle will be fucked. From there on, no matter how much you lift, your body is failing.

    Fat people also consume more oxygen for a given exercise (even walking) compared to lean people.

    I'm aware that fat strongmen have less of these symptoms because they train hard, but in the end it catches up anyway. It will be less clear, but bloodwork doesn't lie.

    Cheers, if you want some studies I can provide some titles.

  18. And more oxygen, I mean that as VO2max and the whole rise to maximal VO2.
    Same with diabetic people.

  19. Is over eating and being flabby to be stronger any more of a health risk than smashing roids in the name of the same goal? I'm not a user, but I'm not anti drug at all, but I can't see how one is awesome and another is shitty just because one is more likely to leave you with abs for the ladies in the clubs.

    Mark Hunt is another slightly pudgy MMA fighter and he duffed up Wanderlei Silva if memory serves. And I reckon if the sum total of a smooth Kimo's martial arts training had been more than watching 'No retreat, no surrender' he could have bested a lean Royce in UFC 3.

  20. Mark Hunt is also a Samoan, and there are tons of fat, athletic Samoans. Aside from that, he's a total freak and thus not much of an argument for anything.

    I also know a 250-pounder who deadlifts and squats 600-700, and is coming off of a pec tear to try and bench 405, who's surprisingly quite athletic despite being, by Jamie's standards, fat as hell.

    Royce Gracie also isn't much of a role model for lean, athletic people.

    Lastly, I find it funny that Dan Severn is brought up as a fat-ass when he's probably better conditioned than everyone here to this day.

  21. Nathan - That skilled fatass was Tim Sylvia. And that actually supports my argument, which I will get to.

    Second, you can't have it both ways. You can't say that you're not surprised that Roger Huerta beat that guy down in no time flat, then turn around and say a big guy has an advantage in fights.

    I'll go with Bas Rutten on this one over anyone speaking here. And his words are "it doesn't fucking matter how big they are." When a skilled fighter takes on an unskilled fighter, the fighter will prevail 8 or 9 out of 10 times.

    Jamie - You are comparing FIGHTERS. In a match between two highly skilled fighters, size and strength make a big difference of course, which is the reason for weight classes. But I could also throw Royce Gracie back at you, who choked out Severn after 30 minutes of being on his back against the bigger opponent. There are always exceptions to rules. That's why they are exceptions.

    However I am comparing guys who lift weights and don't fight, against fighters. Hell of a big difference, as the Pudz / Sylvia fight proved. Pudz is stronger and "larger" (muscular wise) than Sylvia, but he got destroyed. That's skill over size and strength. Fighting skill trumps size and strength in a FIGHT almost every time. Again, I don't use exceptions to create rules.

    If you want to be good at fighting and defending yourself, do that. If you want to big and strong, lift weights and eat big.

    Oh and it's always some judo or BJJ guy that talks about size. Most fights start standing up and a good martial artist doesn't get to the ground unless that is his discipline. And for street fighting, BJJ and Judo suck. There is a reason why we say "you punch a BJJ black belt in the face he becomes a brown belt."

  22. You didn't say a fucking thing about skill the in the first post. You were talking about endurance, and you were obviously wrong. You can't win an argument by changing the point you're making halfway through. That's like trying to bench 315, failing, and then deadlifting 315 and saying you accomplished what you set out to.

  23. Oh, and Judo practitioner who knows what the fuck he's doing isn't going to try to go straight to the ground; that's for BJJ morons. Judo's probably 70% stand up and 30% ground work.

  24. Paul- Macias just instantly sprang to mind when you mentioned it. Watching him flee a terribly unthreatening Severn for a couple of minutes was one of the better things I've ever watched.

    By the way, what do you guys think of the new logo and layout?

  25. I didn't? I think one of my first sentences was about the fact that Heurta (skill) beat down a guy that had 75+ pounds on him (no skill) in no time flat.

    If that's not good enough for you I wrote this in the first post....

    "You can encase yourself in an armor but that will evaporate if you ever come across a guy that spends his time fighting and conditioning while you are getting fat and lifting more. "

    Maybe reading comprehension isn't a strong point for you?

    Or maybe just making shit up is.

    "Judo is a modern martial art and combat sport created in Japan in 1882 by Kano Jigoro. Its most prominent feature is its competitive element, where the object is to either throw or takedown one's opponent to the ground."

    Got any more "silly shit" to add?

  26. Jamie - NOW I remember that! Severn suplexed him and just destroyed him. Ahhhh yes! I remember that now. But Dan was a fucking Greco Roman champion who destroyed guys his own size.

    Site update looks good!

  27. Jamie - the layout is good. I like it, I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the page.

    I have this concept in my head that perhaps a person with a slow metabolism can eat almost entirely protein and nearly jack shit else so long as they keep their glycogen up with a high carb meal twice a week or so, allowing them to stay as lean as keto dieters without keto by taking advantage of their freakish lack of calories.


  28. @ Rudy Van Horn: not trying to hijack Jamie his excellent work. But to answer your question: roids cannot be compared to plain old fat people. They affect different parts in the body system (although, those are somehow connected). My limited knowledge as well as the lack of good quality roid studies (conform the rules of statistics and research) make your question a hard one.

    @ Jamie: nice hatebreed-esque banner!

  29. ===> fat people: http://deadfix.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/fat_dad_skateboards.gif

  30. @thanos; I wasn't really talking about plain fat people, I'm just saying that I don't really see how taking roids (not mentioned in the article, granted, but implicit in the examples given) is better than carrying a bit of extra fat if it's going to help improve your lifts. To me, they both represent a sacrifice people are willing to make to get stronger (and of course you'll have people who will happily do both).

    Somatypes might be a load of old toffee, but some people are simply genetically disposed to carry more body fat, and may find that in order to get (or stay) lean will take drastic measures that will wreck their strength. Being lean and strong is undoubtadely awesome, but some blokes may have to pick one or the other. Or of course Vitamin S.

  31. I have to disagree with the "strength doesn't matter much in a fight" hypothesis. Now, I'm not referring to professional fighters here, just regular Joe Dicksmack.

    Unlike seemingly EVERY SINGLE POSTER ON THIS SITE, I am not a John McClane-type badass, and after a couple exchanges every fight I've been in ends up on the ground pretty quickly.

    At this point, strength and bodyweight play a pretty huge role, as the stronger person can generally gain control and starting raining down haymakers.

    Just my 2 cents.

  32. Haha, don't worry, I'm a pussy in the gym compared to Jamie and Paul there, and likely anyone else posting here with over a year of lifting experience. That may have been sarcastic though. Dunno.

    Anyways, I did a fair bit of grappling, never reaching an advanced level due to being poor as shit and having a number of layoffs. I've known a few wrestlers and other assorted psychos and used to fight them out in the streets regularly for fun, all of them ranging from 230-300 pounds and me weighing 170-190 and having been better conditioned at the time. Fighting someone bigger and stronger isn't a big problem if you can take a bit of a beating.

    Not a tough guy douchebag, I just did what I enjoyed and it's relevant to the conversation.

  33. I don't know who the toughest man on this comments page is, but I'm the tuffest man on Earf.

  34. While you may be tuffest, I have the whitest dance moves.

    Step, clap, step, clap.

    Oh yeah!

  35. @rudy: No-one is genetically predisposed to carry more body-fat (Except people from India). What was once called genetic inheritance of fat is no slowly being called: cultural inheritance, i.e. your upbringing. The adipocyts (the fatty cells) only go through natural mitosis twice in the whole human life-span under normal conditions: after birth and just before puberty.
    The adipocyts that you have before that mitosis CAN get really filled up to the point that even during the growthspurt they'll start building up. Now, when the mitosis starts (in both cases) and you get crappy food, saturated in trans-fats together with little to no fiber, carbs and 5 liters of coke a day, those adipocyts will multiply like a rabbit with mixomatosis. That's when you'll get fat (and just before birth: if the motherhen eats to much junk, kids will get that shit through milk). Adipocyts cannot get lost, they can shrink but you'll never loose them (unless you like a vacuumcleaner in yur tummy), so fat people who are "gentically" predisposed to carry more fat, are just people who had the wrong diet at the wrong period of time.

    In extreme cases (mortal obesity), mitosis of the adipocyts might occur. Cause the cells will be to saturated to contain all of the fat. This only happens in extreme cases, but alas... Extreme cases seem to become the standard.

    Everybody is born with adipocyts, some just develop more, others develop less. Depends on the food and a variety of factors (not counting diseases like Prader-Willy syndrome), food seems to be one of the big ones though in contemporary research. I am aware that there are people who would like to claim otherwise, but no-one carries a gene in their chromosomes that makes their body go from lean to fat overnight.

  36. Thanos, I hate to answer a well written argument like yours with something like this but....

    ... you say no one is born to be more prone to carrying fat, but then give an example of some that do (Indians).

  37. Yup. Only people from India seem to be predisposed to carrying more bodyfat [I guess, though not claim that people from the rural region around it (Pakistan comes to mind) will be affected as well]. There is no clear, distinct reason for it (not pin point accurate yet), but it seems to have something to do with years of malnourishment and vegetarianism with a diet mostly centered around dairy.

    How much as I would like gene-studies and Heritability to be an accurate science, it's not at that point yet. Too much stuff is yet unknown (like Junk-DNA and it's funtion for example). The reason why I mentioned it, is because it's basic science to include the outliers (not in this case) and the exceptions in a discussion. Otherwise it's just a factparade centered around what fits into my store so to speak.

    Besides that, although the human chromosome differs between people only to a slight degree (talking about allells here), we all seem to have a different phenotype. Indians have a slightly different genotype, like Asian people differ from Caucasian genotypes.

    p.s. in my previous post no should be now, I mistyped.

  38. I want to cut, but checking my calories is a pain in the ass, I just eat paleo and I'm gaining muscle and strength, but no losing fat. Would sprints help?

  39. Would they fucking hurt?

    Lazy motherfucker.

  40. yes, they hurt after squating to cramp, you asshole

  41. K--
    If you lift all the time (7-10 times a week) then I wouldn't worry about sprinting. Walking, biking and easy shit would be probably be better.
    If you lift less frequently, sprint.
    Lost ten pounds in a month eating paleo and biking/walking for an hour a day (out of necessity because of class & work.)
    Kept lifting 10 times a week and got stronger.
    Swimming might be a good idea if you have access to a pool.

  42. Are these cramps you speak of during menstruation?

  43. no, I don't know about you, but as I was taught in school, men don't menstruate

  44. Keep your laws off my body, K.