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MikeM 04-07-2012 03:51 AM

Bulk or Cut?
I'm 5' 7.5" 190ish lb with some obvious fat around the middle. I believe I need to cut some fat and compete in powerlifting at 181. However, many people seem to have improved dramatically by simply eating and lifting their way into a higher weight class. Surely, there is plenty of rock hard people who have simply maximized their smaller frames.

So, my question. Do you think it's better to eat your way up, or cut your way down? Are there physical/physiological things you would consider? What are they and why? Is height a factor? Bone structure? Inherent tendencies? Eating habits?, whatever?

I'm pretty sure I should cut down to my proper weight class without the fat I have enjoyed for a while, but I'm wondering if there is a tipping point, and what that is.

What is the line for deciding one way or the other?

BendtheBar 04-07-2012 10:18 AM

Right now you're adding strength. Whatever you're doing is working. I wouldn't change anything dramatically diet wise. Continue to ride that strength wave. You certainly could try to drop a few pounds if you like, but I wouldn't try to purposely bulk and add weight.

You should be adding some muscle along the way, so it's likely you will gain a little weight. The next 12 months you should see more changes. We're not talking 20-30 pounds, but maybe a solid 5-10 in the next 12 months. Focus on the basics...getting enough protein and healthy fats, eating a variety of nutritious foods, all that. We're getting older, so make every calorie count.

I would rather see you not worry about weight classes and just build strength and some muscle. If anything, ask yourself what is best for my health. You look to be at a very good weight for your height, meaning you look healthy.

I would stay the course for a couple years, get stronger and see where this takes you. I wouldn't try to fit into a weight class, but rather focus on strength building.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is ruining a good thing. You're on a roll right now. Keep it rolling. When it stops rolling, then make adjustments. That's my opinion Mike.

Cut if you want, but save the bulking and weight class thoughts for down the road when you are looking at competing at a national level - which I think you will achieve if you continue to enjoy this path in life.

JTurner 04-07-2012 10:50 AM

I've found myself in a very similar situation. I went from around 176lb last summer to 200lb around christmas with some decent strength increases and competed at 198. I think 198 is a good class for me but it just seems to be escaping me and at this rate I'll likely be in the 220 class.

I agree with what BtB said and it's basically the conclusion I came up with. This early in the game it's better to concentrate on getting stronger and not what class to compete in but I need to avoid using that as an excuse to pile weight on.

As for eat your way up or cut your way down, I'd say neither for now, just keep it steady and get stronger. Once I surpassed 181 I thought I'd eat my way to the top end of 198 and I soon shot through that and regretted it.

MikeC 04-07-2012 11:16 AM

Really good advice by JT.

MikeM 04-07-2012 02:11 PM

Yeah. excellent advice, no question. Thanks BtB too. I am going to naturally lose some fat as I really focus on eating better this year, so we'll see what happens. I get that you just do what you do and see where the chips fall, but is there more to it than that? And for me, standing next to those natural 198s, they are just bigger taller wider, well not in the waist, but everywhere else. But the 181 guys I felt way more in tune with size wise. And they're still stronger than me, so I'm not saying this just so I place better in some meet because it will be a long time before I do that, if ever!

I was more thinking of other people in general who might have a similar question in their minds. Weight gain or weight loss is a year long process at least. How do you know which way to go?

For example. LtL started out at 181 or 198, but now is 230 or 240 and monster strong. How did he know to go up in weight? Would he have made similar gains if he stayed lighter? Max is 170ish I think, why not eat his way up to 181 or 198? Would he be even stronger? JB is ridiculous strong at 300, but Honeycutt stays at 198 and is just as ridiculous strong respectively, but why didn't he go up to heavyweight too?

I get that if you're 6'3" you're going to eat your way up to your frame because at 181 you're not maximizing your potential, and if you're Franco Columbo you're probably never going to carry 275 lbs safely. But what about those sizes in between? Where do you draw the line?

I'm not just talking about winning a weight class or anything like that. I'm talking about what are some clues from your body/size/bones/temperament/etc. that help you make decisions about where you are going over the next year? Two years? etc.

Might be rambling at this point. But, this is something that perplexes me.

BendtheBar 04-07-2012 07:36 PM


How did he know to go up in weight? Would he have made similar gains if he stayed lighter?
He would have made great progress.

He didn't know to go up in weight, he wanted to. I believe Ltl chose to eat more aggressively because of personal choice. I do not wish to speak for him, but I am certain his decision was a conscious choice based on some of the reading he did about Blakely.


Max is 170ish I think, why not eat his way up to 181 or 198? Would he be even stronger? JB is ridiculous strong at 300, but Honeycutt stays at 198 and is just as ridiculous strong respectively, but why didn't he go up to heavyweight too?
Max hates fat and lardocity. Simple. Max has no interest in gaining weight. Again, I do not wish to speak for him, but have been his friend long enough to know that he made a conscious decision not to gain weight because he does not want to get fat.

All of these choices are individual. The reasons are all personal. This is a decision you need to make yourself. Larger lifters lift more. Some people want to lift as much as they can, bodyweight be damned. Some people want to lift as much as they can and keep their weight more regulated and on the healthier side.

Let's face it, there aren't many 60 year old men that weigh 300.

The answer is personal choice. You can have it either way in this sport. You need to stand in front of the mirror and ask yourself who you are, and if the weight gain risk is worth the reward. That is the question you are seeking.

I do not personally want anyone to gain a lot of weight before they get there numbers up. Use the weight gain, if you decide to go that route, when progress becomes a struggle.

LtL 04-08-2012 02:39 PM

I can't speak for others but I will chime in with my decision making in bulking. Originally I was training purely for aesthetics, not to compete in PL. I bulked up to around 95-96kgs (210lbs or so) but wasn't in great shape. That was also about 9 months out from my wedding so I started dieting, eventually getting down to a self-measured body fat of around 7-8% @ 78kgs (175lbs). Looking back I think I was probably more like 10-12% but regardless I could see most abs and was lean by anyone's standards. During this cut two things changed in my training:

1. I got bored of lifting high reps and discovered a love of smashing heavy low rep sets.
2. I decided to compete in PL.

During my cut I used 5/3/1 and made good strength gains despite my diet. After the wedding though I knew I felt small and wanted to get bigger again. I was around 82kgs (180lbs) when I got married and decided to compete at 90kgs in my first push/pull meet. With the increased food intake my progress was much faster and I felt happier being bigger again.

After that meet in December 2010 I competed at 90kgs again 2 months later at the end of Jan and had to diet from 95.5kgs to 93kgs and then cut water to make weight. I hit my goal of qualifying for nationals but didn't leave much on the platform and with my daughter on the way, I decided to take a year out and go up a weight class so that I could maximise gains again and also not worry about dieting to maintain a weightclass. Also the winning totals in the 90 and 100kgs class are almost the same so why suffer.

I competed again in December at 102.5kgs (no weight classes at my gym meet so I didn't cut water) and put up a 77.5kgs PB total.

To summarise here are my gains over the last two years:

Jan 2010 (BW 85kgs and dieting) - SQ 130 (high) BP 100kgs x 2 (TnG) DL 160kgs (with straps and awful form)

Aug 2010 (BW around 80kgs just before wedding) - SQ 140kgs x 1 (to depth) BP 115kgs (TnG) DL 180kgs

Dec 2010 Push/Pull meet @90kgs BW - SQ 160kgs (training) BP 122.5kgs (meet commands) DL 200kgs (meet)

Jan 2011 Full Power Meet @ 90kgs BW - SQ 182.5kgs BP 132.5kgs DL 215kgs Total 530kgs

Dec 2011 Gym Full Meet @102.5kgs BW - SQ 227.5kgs BP 147.5kgs DL 232.5kgs Total 607.5kgs

So my decisions to gain weight and move to the 100kgs class were basically twofold:

1. Being bigger and not dieting constantly would make me stronger.
2. I like being big.

I feel as if I've waffled here but if you have any more specific questions, let me know :rockon:


austin.j.taylor 04-08-2012 02:59 PM

What I have don in the past is eat a surplus(+800 cals) on training days and a slight deficit (-300) on off days. The progress in seeing changes is very slow. I was able to continue making strength gains, shed about 3 inches off my waist, and stay at about 250 pounds over the course of about 8 months. If you are unsure about what route you want to go, this may be an option for you. I plan on doing this again here in a few weeks as I want to keep getting stronger and maintain a bodyweight of around 265.

MikeM 04-10-2012 02:59 AM

OK, very good advice. I (perhaps stupidly) didn't realize personal choice had so much to do with what people were doing. I figured there must be some calculator somewhere that said if you're over 5'9" 180 or higher, and big boned, you eat until your frame is satisfied. If you're 5'8" 190 fat and small boned, you cut until your muscle mass is maximized.

However, Al's point about winning totals really hit home when I analyzed the meet I was in. There was a 181 lifter who totaled 1433 which would have crushed everyone up to 242 where he would have been second, and only one 275 beat him as well. So he was the third strongest of the day of the entire meet!

Bottom line, if I can hit 1200, I'm going to place respectably at 181 or 198 or even 220. I need to focus on the weights I'm lifting and eat clean. Then see what happens.

For example, 1200 would have placed 3rd in 181, 5th in 198, 5th in 220, 2nd in 242, and 2nd in 275+

Interestingly, If I want to "win", I'd avoid that cat at 181! He's silly strong. I'd be better off in the heavyweight class! :)

We'll see. Now that I realize personal choice has as much to do with genetics, I'll see what happens. I still think I'm better off clean fooding my way down, but if that doesn't actually work, well then calories here we come!


Fazc 04-10-2012 05:40 AM

Mike, I think your choice for now is relatively simple. Keep getting stronger. You just won't know yet, where you ultimate weight class is. The rest of this post is not aimed at you right now, and is a general look at weight classes in specifically single-ply powerlifting. Multi-ply seems to have a different tradition in terms of bodyweight, for whatever reason that may be. Multi-ply is something I don't know much about except just that the archetypal bodyweight seems to differ, so I won't comment on it. This is all aimed at single-ply powerlifting.


Originally Posted by MikeM (Post 231447)
OK, very good advice. I (perhaps stupidly) didn't realize personal choice had so much to do with what people were doing.

Perhaps personal choice is a motivator. But what is more important than being the best you can be?

If a lifter competes at 90kg carrying around 7-8kg of fat, he is doing himself a disservice if he doesn't cut that weight. Even if he just cuts for the Meet and then weighs 90kg for the rest of the year.

I'm going to give you a visual look at some of the best Powerlifters in Britiain currently as a comparison. I'm purposefully picking these guys rather than world champions because they are all successful in national level drug-tested competitions. National being a very good level of competition, but not out of reach for people with a willingness to work and a little luck.

Phil Richards who has dominated the 74kg scene for years. He is relatively short from what I understand, certainly under 5 foot 7. You can see he is relatively lean in that picture.

Tom Martin, won one British championship at 83kg against very good competition. He also beat Ed Coan's long standing junior deadlift record. Tom is about 5 foot 10, and has not been in the sport very long. He will inevitably move up to at least the 93kg.

Mark Gregory. My friend from my hometown. He is a very thickly muscled 5 foot 10 and is a seasoned lifter having won many championships over the years. He lifts at either 93kg or 105kg and will probably stay around there.

Ben Banks. I met him almost 10 years ago. He is a tall lad, about 6 foot 2 he has grown into the 125kg category very well.

Dean Bowring. Another seasoned lifter. He lifts in the open class.

With the notable exception of Dean, every one of these lifters competes at a relatively lean bodyweight. In any class except the Open there is absolutely zero point to carrying excess bodyfat. You are correct in your observation that the guys in the 93kg's or 105kg's look like beasts because they are. If you're smaller or naturally light-boned then the lighter classes will ultimately suit you.

In addition you'll find the heights get progressively taller as they move up. Tom Martin also being another exception in that he hasn't been in the sport long and he has had to cut weight to make the 83kg class and is currently planning a comeback in the 93kg class.

Now these illustrations are not there to say what you should do. I mean just because Phil Richards is about your height doesn't mean to say you should diet down to 74kg. It does however give you some indication of 1) The direction your weight should be going based on your height, individual factors will be involved here and 2) Some indication of the kind of competition you would go up against at the higher levels.

Personal choice is all fine and well but when you're competing against guys who are going the extra mile to watch their diet and stay lean year round and on top of that are cutting weight to make it at the competition then a casual attitude will only give casual results. As the sport grows more and more exceptionally gifted lifters will be drawn to it and the field only gets stronger.

Will you do what it takes to keep up?

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