Why Power Lifters are Fat and What We Can All Learn From the Way They Train
Mar 25th, 2012
I recently had a conversation via email with a beginner to weight lifting who was taking up lifting as a way to add some muscle to his scrawny 130lb frame.
He had done some research (on RippedOut.com and elsewhere) to try and figure out how he should structure his weight training to most effectively pack on muscle mass and came to the conclusion that focusing on strength training by lifting relatively heavy weights was the way to get there.
The only thing that was holding him back from fully committing to strength training was the fact that he had seen so many of the power lifter types that were very big and strong, but were also fat. He was worried that if he trained in a similar manner he would ultimately become fat as well.
Here is a video that shows the body type of the stereotypical power lifter as Zydrunas Savickas dead lifts a barbell loaded with hummer tires:
As someone who is always striving to be stronger, feats of strength like the one in the video above are certainly impressive to me.
But, unless gaining as much strength as possible is your only goal, and you truly don’t care much about what your body looks like, you won’t want to have that kind of protruding gut that characterizes so many of the power lifters in our day.
But is there a way to become big and strong without also getting fat?
Why Power Lifters Have So Much Body Fat
It is a common misconception that the way way in which one weight trains will determine whether their results will be more geared towards muscle growth or fat loss. However, this isn’t the case…
As I told the young man who was hesitant to use strength training as his means of gaining muscle mass, the way you weight train does not have much of an impact on how fat you are, as body fat is almost exclusively a function of your diet and cardiovascular training.
Weight training is for overloading the muscles and priming them for growth. Nutrition and cardiovascular training are for controlling your levels of body fat.
If you consistently eat an excessive amount of calories, you will get fat, regardless of how you are weight training. Likewise, if you are in a state of caloric deficit, you will lose body fat – regardless of how you are weight training.
Someone who is only concerned about building raw strength (like most competitive power lifters) is not going to have the motivation required to keep their diet under control and stay lean. This is why many of today’s power lifters are carrying around a considerable amount of body fat.
They simply have no desire to follow a structured nutrition plan to help them keep their body fat levels in check because it just doesn’t matter to them.
You Don’t Need to Be Fat to Be Strong
In case you are thinking that power lifters derive some of their power from their body fat, think again! Muscles push and pull weights – not fat. The amount of fat someone has on their body has little or nothing to do with how much weight they can move.
Don’t be deceived into thinking that you have to get fatter to be stronger because it is an absolute lie!
To help drive home my point, check out this video of power lifter, Oleksandr Kutcher, dead lifting 792lbs while weighing in at a ripped 165lbs:
I love how amped up Oleksandr is after pulling off a 792lb (360kg) dead lift!
The way a fat power lifter and a ripped power lifter train are essentially the same and both can become incredibly strong and muscular from said training. The reason one is fat and the other is ripped is purely a function of the way each is feeding their body.
Regardless of how one chooses to feed their body, training for strength should be constant for anyone who wants to add muscle mass to their frame.
In other words, if you want to build muscle mass and get stronger, continually lifting heavier and heavier weights is the absolute best way to do that.
There are different methods that people employ to ensure that they continually grow stronger, but as long as you are intentional about increasing the weights of your lifts, you will get bigger and stronger over time, regardless of how much fat you are carrying on your body.
Always remember that strength and muscle size are directly related to one another. This is a concept that was lost on me for most of my formative weight training years.
It is too bad because I would be much bigger and stronger if I would have only realized the true power behind training for strength from the beginning.
Like so many beginner weight lifters I was caught up in doing isolation movements for 10-15 reps with the same weights week after week. These are the kind of training plans that are detailed on many popular websites and in muscle magazines – and they are absolute junk!
Building Muscle While Cutting Fat
The best advice I can give to anyone who is looking to build lean muscle mass is to train for strength and monitor your nutrition to make sure that they are also leaning out their body fat levels.
Whether your goal is to work on gaining mass or shedding fat, your weight training should always be centered around mostly compound lifts and body weight movements, while being intentional about getting stronger. Having the goal of losing excess body fat does not change that fact.
Your diet and cardio program will always determine whether you cut body fat or not – even if your focus while weight training is building strength and developing your muscles.
Many people do not realize that building muscle and shedding fat are goals that can actually be attacked simultaneously. This requires having a specific structure to your training and nutrition plan, but it is completely possible and leads to incredible transformations when such a plan is followed.
I have detailed such a plan in my upcoming book that will explain exactly how both men and women can simultaneously build muscle and reduce body fat to build a sexy, lean and muscular physique.
Until my book is released, I hope this article has opened your eyes to the big picture about training to build muscle and the important role that nutrition plays in controlling your body fat levels.