So You Want To Cut Weight For a Weight-Specific Strength Sport?
When I first started writing this post it had a different tone and feel. I initially started writing it for me because I wanted to share my story. The more I asked around and spoke with fellow strength-sport athletes, the more I realized that this isn’t about me and my experience it is about all of us. I discovered I was not alone and that 90% of the women I spoke with shared a similar story. I was shocked.
All except three or four women I spoke with said that they cut weight for their very first competition. Something I did as well.
For my first competition I gave up all “feel good foods” and slashed my carbs to get water weight off. I was so strict and so conscientious of every gram I put in my body because I thought I had to be. I didn’t think I had to do this because a coach specifically told me to… But I also wasn’t told to not do it. I didn’t know I had an option I just thought, “ok, I’m competing now, this is what you do.”
I thought this because I legitimately didn’t know better. There wasn’t education out there about why you shouldn’t cut weight. It was all about how to cut weight.
In my humble opinion, we must earn the right to cut weight. How do we do that? We put in the work.
In a recent USA Weightlifting Podcast, Cheryl Haworth (3x Olympian) speaks about this topic and how it’s a big problem with her beginning female athletes. How they come to her talking about their bodyweight and asking about which weight class they should squeeze themselves into.
“Just eat and drink as much as you can and wherever you fall, will be fine. This is competition number one that is [cutting weight] not a priority.”
I started out thinking I would compete as a 69kg/152# lifter - I had been weighing 150#-155# for about two years prior to starting. I was also playing soccer at the time and running in circles daily. I soon realized that my goal of getting a lot stronger meant I needed to gain weight. I started increasing my calories and focusing on strength. I quickly shot up towards 75kg/167# & above. During that time I did my first competition and then continued to go through cycles of trying to put on more muscle mass and then cutting off kilos for competitions. I was miserable. I was very new to the sport and all I wanted to do was lift like my idols.
You know what you can’t do while trying to do that? Focus on the damn scale.
That is when things really started to take off. I focused on strength, eating an appropriate amount, recovery and I embraced the thicccc life. Building my foundation became the number one goal. My numbers shot up. I stopped focusing on cutting weight for meets and focused on my total. I didn’t care what I weighed in as because I was getting stronger and that’s what mattered. Weightlifting is a strength sport after all so shouldn’t that be the goal?
I will admit things did get a bit out of hand and I put on more weight than I had intended but it was all part of my learning experience.
My heaviest weight during that period was somewhere around 87kg/192#. Not going to say it was the greatest look or that I was comfortable in my skin but for me, it was important to go through those ups and downs.
Almost exactly a full year after I stepped on the scale and saw 87kg I did my first meet back as a non-super. The weight classes had changed so instead of 75kg it was 76kg/167#. I felt strong, didn’t mind what I saw in the mirror and was ready to embrace and get to know my lower bodyweight. I got there by letting my body do it’s thing over time not by forcing it.
When I talk to newbie weightlifters about their first competitions the first thing I suggest is to go in and weigh whatever you have been weighting and to not worry about the class, yet.
I now only cut weights for meets if I’m looking to qualify for something. Doing this allows me to have more flexibility in my life while still competing in a sport I love. It also allows my body to properly recover and work to the best of its ability. Your goal as a strength athlete should never be to be the smallest you can be. Gaining strength and improving your technique should be your main focuses. Let the rest happen naturally. I promise if you do this not only will you be a happier and healthier person, your body will thank you for it in the long run.
As athletes our bodies are our greatest weapons. We use them for purpose. They are the greatest tool in our toolbox but just like that great tool, if not maintained and oiled properly they will break down and our foundation will crumble.
Build your strength.
Build your technique.
Build your pancake stacks.
And when you’re ready to cut weight, BIN will be here to support you and guide you the best we can but not until you’re ready.
Author: Acacia Jennings, BIN Admin, @acacia_leibka