originally Posted on Monday, January 09, 2012 2:16 PM
I've tried to avoid posting about bodyweight and weight classes for many reasons.  As a former wrestling coach, I realize the difficulty in finding a good, sustainable weight for an individual and what a difficult decision making that weight can be.  As a trainer, I tell my trainees to eat healthy, lift, and do conditioning.  I don't offer much advice on eating beyond this: eat lean meats, lots of vegetables, avoid bread and pasta, and drink more water; I also tell them to eat as much protein as they can.  That's all the advice I believe I'm professionally qualified to give.  I have several athletes who are Paleo, Paleo Plus, Gluten free, etc. and I let them talk and share their experiences, but not too often do I get into prescribing a diet for someone.  For instance, two of my Junior lifters (they're brothers, and one is a 105 and one a 105+) are starting their yearly cycle and we're doing a lot of GPP.  My advice to them is to eat as much meat as they can several times a day, drink water and milk, and have some ice cream.

When you're finding that ideal weight class for lifting or strongman, here are the things to consider:

1.  Can I make the wight fairly easily without losing strength?
2.  Am I lean in the weight class?
3.  Will I truly be better and more competitive at a lighter weight class?
4.  Will I be best at a heavier weight class even if I can't fill it out?
5.  Be honest with yourself.  You may want to go to the Olympics one day, and that is an awesome goal.  But until you start hitting weights that will place you in the top 5 at any national meet, don't plan on going down a weight class by leaning up to be top 2.  Going from 10th in the nation to 9th in the nation in a particular class isn't much of a difference.  But if losing, or gaining, weight makes you feel good and is done in a healthy manner, go for it.  

If you're a beginner lifter, don't try to make weight for a meet.  Heck, don't try to make weight for a meet until you're close to qualifying for Nationals or the American Open.  Meets are fun and should be just that for most people.  If you come in at 87 kilos and hit PRs, that's great.  if you need to make 85 and those same PRs will get you to the American Open or Nationals, then plan on losing a couple pounds and start a month out. If you suck the weight off in a couple days, feel like crap, and miss the PRs, then what's the point of losing weight?  D0 things smart, feel good and confident in your body,  That's why 99% of us really do this stuff.

Let's talk about leanness here.  For general health, I'd like to see 20 something male lifters anywhere from 8-15% bodyfat, women anywhere from 12-25%. Those are big generalizations, I know; some people perform better at different levels.  And please don't let the indications of a "six pack" determine your BF%.  I've known men with 15% who've had a six pack, and when I was at 8% and 227 pounds back in 1994 I didn't have one.  A six pack is not relevant to performance.  
As for light supers who want to drop weight, I normally advise against it, especially women.  By light I mean women in the 190 pound range or men in the 250 pound range.  If a woman weighs 180, she needs to decide if she's losing or staying at Super.  generally, I'd like her to be hitting good lifts while maintaining a healthy bodyfat with good blood pressure and heart rate before she considers going down.  When she's totaling 160 or so, we can talk about the BW loss and see what happens; I rarely see a trained up 180 lbs woman lose 10-15 pounds and lift much better; I have seen women go from 180 to 165 and completely lose their strength and become a worse lifter.  I'd much rather see someone eat healthy and not worry about "leaning out" while hitting good lifts.  Usually, I'd say stay at a healthy 180 and lift a few kilos more. For men, a fat 250 means you're a 105.  A lean 250 means you're going to gain some weight or just compete as a super.  If you're 242 and have 8% bodyfat, eat more and lift more.  
The decision for Supers, especially women, to lose weight and become too thin or lose leg strength occurs because our upper limit weight class is too low.  I'd love to see the old 83 kilo class brought back, and a 110 for men.  Hopefully these changes will happen in 2013, but they may not.  I honestly think if the 110 class were around when I started training again and weighing 290 I would have lost the weight; getting my body to 105 was just too far.  
If you are a strength athlete, how do you lose weight and change your body compostiion?  I'll tell you a dirty little secret;  you get your heart rate up for an extended period of time.  Tabata intervals, sprints, all that good stuff for an extended period of time works.  An extended period of time is not a 20 minute AMRAP, or even a 12 minute AMRAP.  An extended period of time is maybe an 8 minute tabata, which will kill you if done correctly.  A set of 10-15 sprints at about 80% of your top speed will pull fat off your body if your diet is good. 
Also, do the hardest conditioning on the heaviest lifting day.  Tonight, I'll do KB swings because it'll be too cold to sprint.  So I'll do swings with my 32 for sets of 20; I do one hand and usually switch after 10 reps.  I might load up the core blaster, though, and do sets of 20 at 100-150 pounds with two hands.  But either way, I'll do five sets.  These work for me to lose some weight and get my heart healthier.  I also like jump rope ladders, stone lifts, and strongman variations.  Here's a little suggested five day conditioning program which includes the stuff I do in the winter.  I do the hard stuff on the lifting days after I lift.
Day 1
Heavy KB swings, 100-150 total reps (I use a 32 kg bell for one hand or the core blaster with 2 hands loaded to 150); I do sets of 20.
Day 2
Concept 2 2000 meter row
Day 3
Jump rope Ladder:  25, 50, 75, 100, 125, 150, 125, 100, 75, 50, 25 or Tabata Jump rope for 8 minutes.  If you do the ladder, time your sets and rest for 1/2 the time the previous set took.  If the 125 jumps takes 60 seconds or so, then rest 30 seconds.
Day 4
Barbell Complex
Thick bar, start with 60 kilos (less than 50% of my clean):  deadlift, clean, front squat, press, back squat, press; add 5 kilos and repeat.  I can get to 100 kilos or so before my body doesn't like me.  I avoid the continental clean on this complex.
Day 5
Tire flips, sprints, or stone loads.  Tire flips:  My heavy tire for sets of 3, five sets.  Or the light tire for sets of 5 sets of 10 (I can do my heavy tire for a set of five at about 90% of my best; my light tire for a set of 15 is about 90% of what I have).  Sprints:  I usually use the speed ladder and do 40 drills; if I sprint on the grass, I do 10-15 sprints, usually jogging the first couple to warm up and the last few because I'm tired.  Sprints 5-8 are usually the only full speed ones, the others are at 80% or so.  Stone loads are my 135 pound stone for 10 sets of 10 or my 240 for sets of five.  I don't have a number for the sets of five I'll do, as sometimes 2 is enough and sometimes five is no problem.  
Something to remember about conditioning is this:  Strength for Time is a bad idea.  Notice I'm not doing my 240 pound stone AMRAP in 10 minutes.  Also notice that the loads are, for me, light to medium and the goal is to get my heart rate up and then to let it go back down.
PLEASE make sure you prepare your body for all this stuff; don't just do it because you think it's cool, and make sure you have a coach; also make sure that coach or trainer knows WTF he or she is talking about. Don't just look at what I do and think to yourself that you can do it, too; also don't think that I suck because I use lighter stones, etc.  We all do what we can do.  It's better to save some for tomorrow than not to be able to walk for a week.   As always, this blog is just me and what I do and think, and is not a prescription, challenge, or even a suggestion.  You undertake any workout at your own risk.  

Michael McKennaComment