Cutting Weight – Powerlifting, Strongman, Olympic Lifting
Both powerlifting and strongman often offer 18-24hr weigh-ins prior to the start of the meet. This creates an opportunity for you to plan and manage your weight class with different objectives that cannot be realized when faced with a 2 hour weigh-in.
You may wonder why an athlete would wait to the last minute to cut weight instead of having the discipline to slowly diet down to the desired weight class over weeks or in some case months. The answer is simple: Performance. Properly managing your weight ABOVE your weight class can actually improve your performance on meet day. In this short piece I’ll detail the approach I take with the lifters that I coach.
In the slowly-dieting-down-to-a weight-class approach there are some negatives that come into play. Let’s take an athlete that’s 10-12lbs over their weight class. At two months out from competition this lifter will begin diet restrictions and slowly get down to their weight class for the meet. Unfortunately this will leave you training at a weight higher than you will be on meet day for majority of your training cycle. Of particular importance is the last 1-4 weeks when you’re finally getting close to your weight class. This is a time for 1) de-loading and 2) handling submaximal weights. These two factors combined give you a false sense of strength and don’t allow you to learn the impact of leverage changes due to weight loss. During the heavy training completed at one month out from competition you’re still quite a bit heavier than you will be on meet day. Additionally, in the last few weeks as you get close to the target weight, heavy lifts are reduced if not all together removed. You won’t get the chance to learn the balance and leverage changes at your meet day bodyweight. This approach may lead to underperforming or unrealistic meet day expectations.
Another important aspect to consider is taking advantage of the supercompensatory effects of both carbohydrate and water restrictions. A small weight cut and re-composition that can be done with an 18-24hr weigh-in can actually INCREASE performance on meet day when properly executed. The restriction period puts the body in a state of supercompensation. The body will take in and hold additional fluids and blood glucose that it wouldn’t normally retain. This is very similar to the supercompensation effect provided by weight training sessions. Typically anything over an 8lb cut isn’t going to net an increase in performance on meet day, and 5lbs for the lighter lifters. If done properly you can actually be a few pounds above your typical walking around weight on meet day after refueling and rehydrating giving the meet day performance boost.
With these factors in mind I like to see my athletes diet until they are 5-8lbs above their weight class at 4-6 weeks out from competition. This gives you the opportunity to spend several heavy weeks training at the weight you will be at on meet day. At one month out you can hit your max attempts (or close to) at your meet day weight and know exactly where you will be. Once the goal weight of 5-8lbs above your weight class is hit that weight must be sustained. If it begins dropping you need to UP your calories and keep your weight at the target.
To execute the weight cut, carbs are slowly cycled down over the last 3-4 days with zero carbs the day prior to weigh-ins. If you’re on the upper end of the weight loss spectrum, consider zero carbs two days prior. Water intake should be at 1 gallon a day the week prior to meet week with supplemented electrolytes (calcium 1000mg, magnesium 1000mg, and potassium 100mg all taken 2 times a day). Water is ramped up by ½ gallon a day to arrive at 2-2.5 gallons a day by 2 days out from weigh ins. Sodium intake is restricted to half normal daily amount at 2 days out and zero sodium the day prior to weigh-in. Water intake stays high keeping the athelete superhydrated till we cut off water at roughly 18hrs out. Timing may vary on this within a 12-24hr range based on actual weight to be cut and how the individual has responded in past. When water is cut off you should take 1500mg vitamin C, 2g of Dandelion root, and 1-2 Coors lights (or equivalent light beer) as your last fluid intake.
If any sauna time is needed, which it shouldn’t, do it at 15min on 15min off while making sure to fully dry off immediately upon exiting sauna each time. You want to be within 2lbs of your weight class when you go to bed the night before weigh ins, and this should have you at your desired weight upon waking. If your not there before bed that night then plan on sauna before bed to get to that point, or upon waking before weigh ins.
Food intake is allowed as either 4oz chicken on 2-3 occasions or a tablespoon of unsalted almond butter (or equivalent) the day prior to weighing in. Make sure the chicken has not been soaked in a salt solution is often the case.
Eat and drink all day post weigh in, forcefully pushing past state of being full. Mix in some pedialyte or Gatorade during the day and on meet day. Stay away from slow digesting heavy meals. Eat sweet and salty foods and nothing that has the potential of causing GI distress. Hitting some light training later that day after refueling and rehydrating with just a bar (I only use 1 plate) for a few 20 rep sets of Squats, Bench, Deadlifts, and Rows. This will help pull the fluids in through to your muscles and help everything fill out. NOT HEAVY, just enough to stimulate blood flow.
I do not recommend cutting more than 12lbs in this method unless you are chasing large world records or doing something very big. That’s elite level stuff that should not be ‘explored’ without an extreme understanding. I will not publish the modifications to this approach to achieve more weight loss. This is the reason I never list my actual walking around weight or my weight cut amounts in public forums.
Take this approach to the platform at your next meet. Now go out there and move some weight because… It’s time to get strong!