T Nation

Bodyweight and Strength Relationship


I've been dieting since early January and have lost 25lbs. I've also lost some strength along the way and am wondering what is "normal" in terms of strength loss.


IMO.....some loss of strength is to be expected. This is very lifter specific and I do not beleive there is any guide or chart. If you have reached your goal & you intend to remain at the lower bodyweight for any length of time(ie. more then 6-8 weeks) your goal should be to reach the stength levels you had at the higher bodyweight. Again this is very lifter specific....I have seen lifters who can do it a couple of months and others that take up to eight or more. Usually in the beginning a lifters recovery is inhibited at the lower body weight and adjustments should be made to the strength portion of the training with this in mind. You will have no trouble finding lifters that struggle 'in their head' with a reduction in their strength levels while dieting, it can be very challenging.


I think it depends. The earlier on you begin to lose weight, if you do it correctly can be mostly fat. You are essentially just as strong, and if in fact still lifting for strength purposes, can still get stronger.
I myself lost about 15lbs since my last competition yet I am going to be putting up about 100-200 more pounds (or at least I am capable of it) at my next meet.

I think it all really comes down to muscle recruitment. The more elite guys will become weaker when lose weight b/c they wont have the same leverages, and essentially weight moves weight.

The less neurally effecient can still get stronger tho...


There is certainly a point where excess fat becomes a liability, but that mostly seems to play out in agility and speed, but not in raw strength. As someone already said, weight moves weight, and that holds true even for non-muscle mass.

Obviously you would be stronger with 300lbs of muscle vs. 300lbs of fat, but if we are talking about two guys with equal lean mass and one guy with 20lbs of fat and the other with 50lbs... my money is on the 50lber. That won't always hold water, but from everything that I've seen in 16+ years of lifting, that is the safer bet.


I think the lack of calories/carbs over the first couple of weeks really crushed my energy levels. It didn't get better I lost more weight.

I am focused on getting back to me previous strength level and beyond.

Before the diet I was doing a lot of singles and doubles but that's not working for me at the moment so I'm doing a 5x5 type program to get where I need to be.


I've seen excess fat being compared to carrying a weighted vest; useless. I wonder if it's the associated water bloat and superior glycogen stores that (?) is associated with being fatter (?) that is responsible for this advantage?


I think Andrew described it best. Also, not all lifts are effected equally. My dead and raw squat suffer a little from being lighter. But my bench and lot of my heavy back work go to utter shit when I go under much under 270. I notice the difference in terms of limit strength. But my rep strength, stamina, and and work capacity stays the same.

I hear there is poitn of dimishign returns in terms of weight gain. However, it's so much hassle just tryign to stay over 275-280, I don't know if I'll get to the point where that's a problem.


Do you guys think the strength loss is from your body adjusting to the decreased calories, or a direct loss of body mass?

What I'm trying to get at is, you decrease calories to get to target lower weight, but as soon as you hit it, you balance out your calories to stay at homeostasis, which would be a more valid period to test the bodyweight/strength relationship since everything is "balanced" again.

Personally I lose a bit of strength DURING a decreasing phase, but as soon as that period is over, I regain my old PRs in a few weeks at the lower bodyweight


People often change their training when they're dieting which leads to the strength loss. Other than that, minus a huge wieght loss. Such as 5 lbs a week, you really shouldn't lose that much strength, if any at all.

Don't forget the psychological aspect as well, soon as people started telling me I lose strenght when I lose weight I had started losing strength. even though that never happened before. I've since blocked that bullshit out.


makes sense.

if your body is going through hormonal changes, and neurons going haywire and all i can totally see numbers going down just from internal stress.

and at the same time i agree w/ Andrew. if youve got more weight its just gonna be easier to move more weight from a leverage standpoint.


weightloss affects lifts differently. For me it affects my squat the most as my leverages change (and I dont have that extra mass for "stability" in the hole) and then bench is next. Weightloss hardly affects my dl at all and for some it actually goes up.

I agree that the first goal should be to get back to your pre-weightloss strength levels and then beyond.

I also like to switch up my routine when I cut so I don't notice strength losses as much (different exrecises, higher reps, shorter rests, etc) otherwise I get discouraged.


I'm not absolutely sure what causes this drop in strength. You can lose weight without being in some vast caloric deficit. Of course, if you decide to crash diet and use diuretics then you have to expect your body to give you the finger when you ask it to perform.

I always assumed (maybe incorrectly) that what you ended up with was simple physics. You are simply looking at mass exerting force on mass. If you roll a bowling ball into a brick wall you get more energy against that wall than rolling a tennis ball. No muscle required at all, you ask a 300 lb guy to push a car it is going to be an easier task than if you ask my 9 year old son. There are going to be some variations in there, like muscle mass and efficiency of motor patterns, blah blah... look, no matter how awesome my son is and how perfect his form is, he is going to get trounced by the big boy. Why? Mass. As someone already pointed out, this doesn't impact every lift equally. Large mass will mean a better deadlift, but won't necessarily mean a better pullup. More mass may mean a better bench press by virtue of your girth reducing ROM and thus giving you better leverage than you would otherwise have.

I look at this from the perspective of strongman or olympic lifting (power lifting not so much because gear can create forces that you, yourself, are not generating. No hate for gear, but that lift is not all your doing). Amazing strength and skill will only take you so far. At some point if you want to move more weight you are going to have to weigh more. In weighing more you sacrifice some relative strength. That is to say that a super heavyweight is never going to have a 2x BW clean and jerk, while a smaller guy might very well. However, in absolute terms, a 200lb guy isn't going to have a 500+lb clean and jerk. There isn't enough muscle and skill to overcome the need for more mass to move that weight (at least not yet... humans are amazing and we may see that some day).

Still, that one 200lber will be an outlier, and not someone fitting into the overall statistics and patterns of humanity. At this point we have a pretty significant number of HW and SHW guys that have 500+ lb overhead lifts. We have no (to my knowledge) 200lb guys with this kind of strength.

So in the end I think that when you lose weight, depending on how you do it and how much weight you are talking about, that loss of strength will be there, but it will come in varying degrees. Also, since very few of us are elite level lifters at the absolute pinnacle of our development, there is nothing to say we can't surpass our strength as a heavier guy. Doesn't mean you wouldn't have been that much stronger if you hadn't lost weight, it jsut means that you still had a lot of room for improvement that was untapped when you lost weight. I would say that is very common.


Seems like I'm doing ok given all the feedback. My BW reduction and strength loss are about 2 to 1. I'm down a little over 10% BW and my strength is down a little less than 5% on the most impacted lifts (squat and bench). Also good to know others see the same lifts impacted by dieting. Another couple of weeks and I'll be done dieting down and can track how long it takes to get back to my previous levels.