Written by Alanna Casey
Should you move up or down a weight class? It depends. Your decision to move up or down a weight class is a big decision and depends on two main factors: your experience level and your goals.
In this context, I will define “experience” in terms of the length of time involved in the sport, and level of accomplishment. Time alone does not an expert make. Just because you’ve been doing something for twenty years, does not make you an expert. You could have been doing something incorrectly for twenty years. I will also define the below in a general sense. They will not apply to 100% of the lifting community.
Beginner: Someone who has competed in two or less competitions or who has been participating in strongman/powerlifting for 1-2 years.
Intermediate: An athlete who has competed 2-10 times or, who has been participating in Strongman/Powerlifting/Olympic Lifting for 3-4 years. Some athletes are still intermediates though they’ve had 10+ years’ experience.
Advanced Athlete: An athlete who is ranked in the top 5 nationally AND who has international competitive experience. An “advanced” athlete could also be a coach who has a record of working with the top athletes in the sport.
To Participate: You want to have fun! Your goal is to get your foot in the door and to try your hand at the sport. You’re not concerned about winning; rather, you’re happy to be involved. You train when you can and enjoy many aspects of the sport.
To Compete: You are training specifically with competition in mind. You want to do your personal best. You want to win but, you’re content with a personal record (PR). You make training part of your schedule and sacrifice to train. You own multiple blender bottles and tubs of protein.
To Win: You enter every contest to win. You are not happy with a PR; you want to dominate everyone, every time. Training is at the center of your schedule, you sacrifice daily for your sport. Every time you train you are fighting. Every time you eat, you’re building your body. Everything you do is calculated. Losing makes you nauseous, you cannot accept it.
My personal advice to all beginners is not to worry about your weight. Generally speaking, most beginners will end up losing weight initially. This is because they are more than likely carrying around fat that is not contributing to their athletic endeavors. As a beginner advances to an intermediate, they will most likely find themselves gaining weight as they start to put on muscle mass. As far as your weight class goes, don’t worry about it. Compete as you are, at whatever body weight you come in at. Your main concern is doing your best and having a healthy contest. Don’t risk that by drastically dieting to make weight because as a beginner, that doesn’t matter yet. Your goal is to get experience and learn what and what not to do.
As an intermediate, your weight class starts to matter. This is where your personal goals come in to play. If your goal is to be a competitor, then I would suggest cutting to the lower weight class if you are 5lbs away from it as a woman, or 10lbs as a man. If your goal is to win, I suggest cutting if you are 10lbs from the lower weight class (for women) or 15-20lbs away (for men). If you are cutting you need to make sure you are doing it the right way. Don’t wait until a week before the contest to cut 10-15lbs and think it’s not going to affect your strength. It is, and in a BIG way. Cut weight slowly (1.5 a week). The week prior you should only have 5-7lbs of water weight to lose. Cutting slowly will have the least impact on your strength.
As an advanced athlete, your weight class matters, period. If you’re going for national or world records, your weight class will most likely have a big impact on that. However, your personal goals are still the single most important factor. If your goal is to win at all costs, you most likely want to compete in the lowest weight category you can. My caveat to that being: you need to find the lowest weight class for yourself where your strength is proportionately the highest.
I will use myself as an example. When I was a beginner, I competed in North America’s Strongest Woman as a lightweight (under 140lbs). Almost 3 years later, I walk around at about 158 lbs. So, I could cut to 140lbs and compete as a lightweight, or I could compete as a middleweight (165lbs). Even though it would be possible for me to cut to 140lbs I refuse to do so. The strength and muscles mass that I would inevitably lose to cut to 140lbs is not worth it. For me, I’d rather be one of the smaller middle weights because that is when my strength is the highest. I am still very competitive as a middleweight, and I feel my personal strongest. That is where you want to be: your strongest.
Generally speaking, I recommend that you not worry about a weight class. Instead, worry about becoming the strongest that you possibly can. Your body has a point where it is the strongest, without being made to feel bogged down with extra weight/fat. It takes time and experience to find that “golden weight.” If you think that by just putting on mass you will become stronger, you’re wrong. Finding your ideal weight is a delicate game. I find that most people need to become stronger at their current weight before they worry about “putting on more weight.”
If your goal is to be the best, to win, you need to do some research. Find out who the top 5 nationally ranked athletes are in your weight category. If you look at the top athletes and find that they all are stronger/faster than you, why the heck would you go up a weight class? Instead, focus on getting stronger, not necessarily “bigger.” Most times, as you get stronger, you will get bigger. However, my point is that increasing your strength, not weight, should be your main focus.
If you are the badass mother f***** in your weight class, then by all means move up a weight class. Go ahead and present yourself with another challenge. If you’re not the baddest dude/chick in your current weight class, don’t expect going up a weight class to change that. Moving up a weight class means you’re competing against a whole new animal of competitors. To sum this up my advice is simple; find the weight that you feel the best at and compete in that weight class. Put your overall strength, power, and speed ahead of your body weight. Find your “golden weight” and you’ll be the happiest competing at that weight. Not everyone’s frame can support 300lbs of mass. Your body is unique. Just because one person competes at a certain weight does not mean you that need to compete at that weight. Find what works for you and stick to that.
By Alanna Casey, LBEB Athlete World’s Most Powerful Woman 75kgs