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Old 12-12-2011, 11:59 AM   #1
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Question Body Weight and Starting Great: I Am A Novice Powerlifter

I feel like at this point in my training career I should be gaining weight as much as possible, granted not tons of fat, but some fat is fine as long as the weights on the barbell are getting heavier. I want to compete someday, but I feel like I would benefit more in the long run by gaining as much as I can early on, that way when I do start competing I can find a weight class to cut down to. Is this flawed logic?

I understand that the goal is to be very strong in relation to your body weight, and that the heavier you are the more you are expected to lift. But my thinking is that, based on that very premise, if I weigh more I will be ABLE to lift more, nevermind expectations. They only assist my purpose. My goal is to be as strong as physically possible, for my body.

Consider Ed Coan, who was 5’ 6” at 220 lbs. He must have had much more lean body mass than I do, and he weighed 7 lbs more than me and was shorter. My point being that I absolutely have more lean body mass to gain, and while that proves I am carrying “too much” fat right now, doesn’t that fat help me get stronger and thus bigger?

It could be argued that gaining weight is necessary when adding weight to the barbell warrants it, but i would ask isn't that too late? If a lifter "waits" until he stalls then considers that maybe he wouldn't have stalled had he been heavier or had more mass, shouldn't that be curtailed by consistently increasing body weight until needing to reduce weight for some specific reason?

I do want to clarify that I'm not talking about gaining 300 lbs of fat for the sake of having more mass under the bar. I am really questioning the height/weight relationship and using it as a rule. With all the physiological differences from person to person these rules seem to put a limit on a lifter's potential that may be unnecessary. Since it is true that a man can be 5' 5'' and weigh 145 lbs and another man also at 5'5" can weigh 200 lbs, these height/weight “guidelines” seem a little bizarre. True, it depends on the musculature and fat content of the individual, but the fact that 2 men at the same height CAN weigh that differently speaks volumes about the possibilities.

While it is likely that the 145 lb individual is very lean, the 200 lb man could be either very muscular or very fat. While the 145 lb individual is considered “fit” because of his leanness and can maybe run well or swim well, it is reasonable to assume he couldn’t do the things the 200 lb man does well, assuming he’s not all fat. Even then, I’d bet the 200 lb man would make a better sumo-wrestler than the 145 lber.

What dictates how much you should weigh? First, I would say your goals. If you lift weights to get stronger or exercise for general fitness, surely leanness is a high priority. Your age should also be taken into account; a 70 year old man probably shouldn’t attempt bulking up 50 lbs.

So, let me appeal to those who have come before me and have thus earned and learned experience in the sport in which I aspire to be great. I am young and I want to be great in this sport. I want to be remembered in this sport. If you could start over, what would you do differently in regards to training, body weight, and anything else that would help you climb to the level of which I speak?

Guide me, those who are much more experienced in this wonderful sport! I am yours to mold.
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Old 12-12-2011, 01:12 PM   #2
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I want to compete someday, but I feel like I would benefit more in the long run by gaining as much as I can early on, that way when I do start competing I can find a weight class to cut down to. Is this flawed logic?
Well, I recommend a slower, controlled gain. Strength building takes years, and gaining weight can certainly add to lift totals, but if you go too aggressive you will end up with a long way to go and not much beneficial weight left to gain.

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But my thinking is that, based on that very premise, if I weigh more I will be ABLE to lift more, nevermind expectations.
It works more like this for me personally..."When I eat more I make better strength gains." This won't necessarily require over-aggressive eating or sloppy eating. So go slow, learn your body, eat "a little" extra and see what happens.

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My point being that I absolutely have more lean body mass to gain, and while that proves I am carrying “too much” fat right now, doesn’t that fat help me get stronger and thus bigger?
Well right now the weight addition while training hard would translate into more muscle, and that will help you move more iron. The extra food also helps recovery, so it assists you in multiple ways. It's the extra food that helps build and recover, not simply the bodyweight...though that can be beneficial for some lifts as well.

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It could be argued that gaining weight is necessary when adding weight to the barbell warrants it, but i would ask isn't that too late?
There are 2 levels for a natural lifter:

Level 1 - Below your natural muscular potential.
Level 2 - Close to your natural muscular potential.

The more muscle you have, the more strength potential you will have. But the more muscle you have, the less beneficial it is to bulk aggressively. Simply stated, aggressive eating is more beneficial the first several years of training as you pack on muscle and are building strength very rapidly.

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If a lifter "waits" until he stalls then considers that maybe he wouldn't have stalled had he been heavier or had more mass, shouldn't that be curtailed by consistently increasing body weight until needing to reduce weight for some specific reason?
True stalls are complicated and take a very long time to hit. I know many lifters on this board who are near Elite level who have never hit a hard wall. Even the biggest and baddest on this forum are making progress year in and year out.

The definition of a stall needs to be understood. Progress slows over time, but that doesn't mean what you're doing is wrong. A slow weight gain can certainly add strength, but an experienced lifter should still be able to make yearly gains even if they aren't gaining much if any weight.

Adding weight can aid hard work and a good training approach.

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What dictates how much you should weigh?
At minimum you want to add as much muscle to your frame as humanly possible. Though some powerlifters might not look like bodybuilders, they have gained quite a bit of muscle mass compared to where they started.

Again I come back to food as the primary focus and not bodyweight. Food is the anabolic and recovery tool, and weight gain is the result.

There are guys like DW on the forum who compete under 170 and are deadlifting closer to 600 pounds. He is very lean, but has added a good amount of muscle over the last few years.

I added a lot of strength and muscle my first 2 years without adding much, if any fat. My point is that for the first several years that extra food will help build muscle and add weight and might not require a 30-50 pound weight gain. You could gain 15 pounds of muscle and easily be lifting 300-400-500 or more.

My only point in all this is to not worry about weight per se, but to worry about eating enough so that you are building muscle, and getting good recovery.

I am able to build strength while cutting, but it is much slower. I gain strength while eating more, but it doesn't have to be a lot more. You can get brutally strong at 200-220 pounds or less. Take your time and add weight slowly, unless you are extremely underweight. then I recommend training hard and adding weight more rapidly until your weight is normalized.

I hope I made sense. Mileage may vary.
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Old 12-12-2011, 01:23 PM   #3
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My only point in all this is to not worry about weight per se, but to worry about eating enough so that you are building muscle, and getting good recovery.
Excellent point, and the whole message summed up nicely. I say let your lifts dictate your eating. If you are in PR territory, then eat a lot. If you are deloading or working back up or breaking in new lifts, then just eat regularly.
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Old 12-12-2011, 01:31 PM   #4
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It is more about adding muscle mass than it is weight gain. You must eat to fuel your body. After a ME session, your body needs the food to repair and grow. When you go through a heavy squat cycle your body will require you to eat more. It is only natural. My suggestion is to have a solid protien intake, lift as hard and as heavy as you can, eat well, sleep well, and you will grow. I have been well over 300lbs, and am now into the low 280s. I am every bit as strong at 280 as I was at 320. Sometimes just adding too much fat hurts your lifts. Take a look at guys like Donnie Thompson. He was 370lbs+, and while I doubt he could run across the room, he did not carry much fat.
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Old 12-12-2011, 01:31 PM   #5
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I think with the way it sounded as though you're question is going, Steve couldn't have answered it any better. There's a difference between eating adequately, and over-eating only to become excessively heavier than need be. And with your hopes to become awesome; you need to respect the truth that major results take time.

Slow and steady wins the race of strength and size, every time.
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Old 12-12-2011, 01:32 PM   #6
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Thanks for such a thorough response. It made plenty of sense.

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Excellent point, and the whole message summed up nicely. I say let your lifts dictate your eating. If you are in PR territory, then eat a lot. If you are deloading or working back up or breaking in new lifts, then just eat regularly.
That would confuse me a little because at the beginner/intermediate phase you are supposed to constantly train in that PR territory. I can see the application at advanced levels.
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Old 12-12-2011, 01:45 PM   #7
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That would confuse me a little because at the beginner/intermediate phase you are supposed to constantly train in that PR territory. I can see the application at advanced levels.
Progression is key, but staying heavy for lengthy periods of time always ends in disaster. Don't read too far into linear progress, because it all comes crashing down eventually and you have to find a way out. Train smart.
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Old 12-12-2011, 01:47 PM   #8
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Thanks for such a thorough response. It made plenty of sense.



That would confuse me a little because at the beginner/intermediate phase you are supposed to constantly train in that PR territory. I can see the application at advanced levels.
As a beginner, everything is going to be PRs. That's why it's recommended to eat slightly over maintenance. As progress slow to a crawl, that's PR territory and will require more food to keep progress going. At some point you'll probably have to cycle the weights and that's the time to ease up on the heavy eating. Make more sense now?

Less intense = moderate food
More intense = more food
Really intense = Lots of food
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Old 12-12-2011, 01:53 PM   #9
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Progression is key, but staying heavy for lengthy periods of time always ends in disaster. Don't read too far into linear progress, because it all comes crashing down eventually and you have to find a way out. Train smart.
right, but at that point you are an advanced lifter by definition.
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Old 12-12-2011, 02:02 PM   #10
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right, but at that point you are an advanced lifter by definition.
No. Not even close. At that point you're reaching about the intermediate level and are now learning that things just became much harder.
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