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Can an Athlete Get Stronger While Losing Weight?
We get a lot of you asking the question: Can an athlete get stronger while dropping a weight class or losing weight? The answer is not easy. It’s yes and no. It simply depends on a couple of factors. Here are some questions that need to be asked:
1. What’s your body fat percentage?
2. Are you an efficient lifter with perfect technique?
3. Do you really need to get stronger?
An optimal body fat percentage for a weightlifter is between 8-15%. If you are a guy, you want to be on the lower end. A girl can be closer to the high end. From what I have read, there isn’t a lot of credible information that gives exacts here. However I can say that most of us will have a level where we can still make gains, and a level where we will start to struggle. There is probably going to be a little trial and error to find the most optimal percentage for you.
Here’s what I can tell you. If you are above that 15% marker, there is a good chance that you will be able to get stronger while losing weight. Body fat doesn’t help with lifting heavy weight. You could lose some weight without losing any muscle. You could even gain some muscle mass, while losing weight. You can for sure do that over time by alternating cut phases and mass phases with the goal of maximizing lean muscle mass.
The point here is that if you are on the high end, you have a lot of room to play. You should easily be able to work your way down. The key is a steady decrease not to exceed 1-2 pounds per week with mass phases staying around 1-2 pounds gained per week. Remember the mass phases work best if accompanied by some hypertrophy work to emphasize muscle growth.
If you are already fairly lean, you can still get stronger. It all depends on your level in the sport that you are participating in. Whether you are a powerlifter or a weightlifter, it will take you five or more years of focused training to perfect your technique and movement pattern.
If you are still new to the sport, solid practice will make you more efficient at the movement. This efficiency will increase your strength from a neurological side. Basically you will get better at the movement allowing your body to recruit more fibers in turn lifting more weight.
It’s like any other sport. Do you remember when you first threw a football or softball? It probably didn’t go very far. However after a summer of practice, you could sling the ball a long ways. Did you add muscle mass? Maybe a little, but really what happened is that you became more efficient at throwing the ball.
Do you really need to get stronger? Most of us might think that this is a crazy question, but there is something that most people don’t consider. Whether powerlifting or weightlifting, one weight class down might mean a world team or a championship. If you can lose 2-3% of your body fat and drop a weight class while maintaining strength, pound for pound you just got stronger. This move could take you from a top 5 finish to a Gold Medal. It could take you from barely qualifying for Nationals to the A Session.
I have watched multiple athletes make the move to lose weight. Travis Cooper was an 85k lifter, and then decided to make the move to 77k. The move earned him multiple International Squads, and put him really close to the Olympic Team. He did it gradually and methodically performing multiple cutting phases along with mass phases. My athlete Adee Zukier did the same thing.
The bottom line is that it can be done. You might want to get the help of a professional to guide you along the way. If not, I suggest that you make sure that you know what you are doing. Our “Eat and Lift What You Want” E-Book is an inexpensive way to figure things out on your own. The key is to make a plan, commit to the plan, and stick to it.
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