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Gaining Weight as a Prerequisite to Gaining Strength?

Most of the people I’ve interacted here with so far and most of the posts I’ve read advocate gaining weight as a prerequisite for gaining strength specially for powerlifting. I’m not here to argue against this statement because I really do agree that strength and better recovery for better training will come in faster in a surplus of calories. However, I’ve always wondered how for example olympic lifters can lift so much at only a certain body weight? This gave me the notion that one could get stronger (as in add more weight to the bar over time, not just newbie gains) while weighing/maintaining a certain weight. Or do olympic lifters gain weight then cut? Care to enlighten me? Really just curious about it. @chris_ottawa, @bulldog9899, @shralpinist

There are a lot of examples of high-level athletes that maintain a low weight and low level of lean mass and get incredibly strong. Olympic lifters, gymnasts, etc… Even a guy like Cailer Woolam is walking around at a lean 215ish so not really massive, but strong as fuck. I think a lot of it has to do with their ability to take advantage of their individual leverages better than others, but it’s also because these are elite athletes. They work hard and won the genetic lottery. So I wouldn’t hang my hat on what they are able to do.

For the general population, more weight, particularly more muscle, is going to translate into being stronger or at least having stronger lifts. I think it was Dave Tate that said something like if you want to increase your bench add 10-20 pounds of weight. It just seems to work out that way, generally.


Sure no probably… im too lazy and type too slow to give you the long drawn explanation.

Well understand that comparing weight lifting and Powerlifting is like comparing apples to oranges. Weight Lifting requires more athletic qualities and is more technical.

But yes part of it is doing a weight cut before a actual comp which is common in most sports that have weight categories.

A few things to look at is your more advance high quality (lighter weighted ) lifters have added lean quality muscle onto their frame from when they originally started lifting along with either keeping excessive body fat off of their frames or dropping some.

people also when the hear about big weights being used by lighter individuals overlook the height of the individual. Some people need to understand that most high end lifters have a huge amount of usable muscle tissue in relationship to their height and frame size.

@anon50325502 hits on several points on his post.

Also I could list a few other factors but I assume other will point them out.


You can get stronger without gaining weight. You can gain weight without getting stronger. Neither are efficient. Training to get stronger is easier in an environment with an energy surplus.

Unless you are in a sport that has weight restrictions, the path of least resistance is to maintain a slight or moderate caloric surplus if strength is your goal. If you are just exploring the theatrical concept of strength and size being mutually exclusive, you would be better off not going down that rabbit hole. Just because something is possible, doesn’t mean it is probable or advisable.

I’ll just add this, which is basically the same response I have been giving in most of these threads summarized:

Just because you want something to be, doesn’t make it so. This is not splitting atoms, it is repeatedly resisting gravity while replenishing expended energy over time in hopes to gradually get better over time at resisting gravity. Ambiguous questions about theoretical applications and their merits is not needed for 99% of the lifting and fitness community.



Interesting conclusion to draw. You observe the genetically elite, top of the field, in many cases hand selected and groomed for their unique abilities to excel at one specific task and extrapolate it to mean that it should be a consistent principle among a greater populace. Akin to observing large men running very fast in the NFL and concluding that bodyweight should have minimal impact on footspeed.

A null hypothesis you could also construct is that these Olympic caliber weightlifers have excelled in their sport as a result of their unique ability to be able to move such great weight while maintaining very light bodyweight (along with levers specifically suited for the task of weightlifting). That there may in fact be a weeding out process wherein, at the local, and then regional, and then national level, those lifters who DO NOT possess these attributes are removed from the pool of potential competitors, such that, once you reach the top of the sport, ONLY those outliers remain. It becomes a competition of outliers against outliers, rather than a large sample pool drawn out across the population.

The second hypothesis is the one I would draw from. In contrast, among the great populace (both humans and otherwise), we tend to observe that those that are the largest are also the strongest.


UFpwrLifter on you-tube is an example of this, he benched 410 at 152 body-weight.If you watch his videos you will see that hes been benching the same weight for a long time now. This is probably because he never goes higher than 160 body weight. I would guess there is a natural limit to what you can lift at a certain body weight.

By checking his channel you will see that he only gained 20 lbs in 9 years of being a bench specialist. His weight stayed the same. Hes probably at the peak of his genetic potential at that bodyweight.

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You really don’t see the “mass moves mass” principal at work until the higher weight classes.

People that weight a couple hundred lbs. but can only move a couple hundred lbs. are not strength or performance athletes.

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actually yes there is… at some times you have to get a bigger engine once you maximize technique and muscle recruitment in a given movement.

If you carry excess body fat you can stay the same weight and become more muscular, that’s another thing to consider. But in terms of not changing body composition at all and just getting stronger, you are really limited in how far you can go. You are looking at strictly neural adaptations and your muscles and nervous system can only become so efficient without more mass.

You mention Olympic weightlifting, go learn about Max Aita. He spent years training with Ivan Abadjev and another coach who used the same system, which was maxing out in the competition lifts and front squat multiple times per day, every, day, and no volume work. He made some very fast progress at first but then it ground to a halt and it took years for another PR.

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Don’t worry. I don’t aspire to be anywhere near their level. Where I am now, I’d be happy to hit a 2x BW Deadlift and a 1.5x BW Squat for 5 reps. And that’s already a long(ish) term goal for me. Haha. Was just really curious. Thanks!

Good point. On a different note, maybe this is why I’ve been afraid to gain weight for so long. Most of what I used to gain was fat, but that used to be before lifting. Hopefully it’s muscle this time.

Fallacy of hasty generalization. You’re right. I forgot about that. To be fair, I did just say “under the notion,” not under the conclusion. At least I’m more informed now. Haha. Thanks!

@chris_ottawa, I didn’t know Max’s lifting history was that deep. All I knew was that he and Chad puts out great content in their YouTube

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I just replied again to your last thread (I assume that’s why you tagged me) to hopefully clarify some more of what I meant.

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how much do you weigh, and how tall are you?

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I don’t think either is mutually exclusive. I think people will get stronger as a result of getting bigger, if they’re properly training. And people will get bigger as a result of getting stronger, if they’re training right. I think that’s why submaximal volume work and maximal singles/doubles are part of a properly executed training program.

I don’t think “mass moves mass” is exclusive only to higher weight classes. I’m definitely moving more mass now at 198 than I was at 181 and 165. You’ll also often see that the numbers for 198lbers are often significantly heavier than 181lbers. Of course there are freakishly strong anomalies, but these guys are still under 200lbs and hardly count as “higher weight classes”.

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It should go without saying that this should be the case.

I was referring more to guys like Mark Bell, Dave Tate, Brian Shaw, etc. that know they need to absolutely max out their weight and accept some fat gain as a result to break records or meet personal bests.

Like this-

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I agree. As a person with significant science and engineering education, I can’t stress this enough. People are just interpreting and using science in a wrong way. For example, you can’t just point out that high frequency training is the best method say “that’s science! bro splits are nonsense” because you read an abstract of a paper in which you barely understand the methodology.

Science is a collection of evidence, human body is a million of variables. By finding out what works for you, you are essentially doing a science experiment, you test a hypothesis, you perform the experiment, and you observe the result. This is better than blindly applying “science” to your own body. So, I just wish people would shut up, eat, lift and find out what works for themselves. This is really simple and there’s no need to involve “science” and this is coming from a person with science background.

Yeah, I think that works for them too

But I think athletes of all sizes can benefit from hypertrophy training to get stronger. But like when people rehydrate after a weigh-in. Its all water and food, but I think every pound counts. Add some fat to that, like in an aggressive bulk, and you got more mass to move mass.


@flipcollar 5’9 and currently around 156 to 159 depending on time of day

I think this is pretty clear. Showing strength in certain lift is based on:

  • form/effiency
  • leverages/ROM
  • mental readiness/focus
  • amount of muscle
  • how effective you use that muscle.

So its possible to gain strength without gaining muscle, even though building muscle is probably the most effective and easiest way to add pounds to the bar.

Form and effiency do play even bigger role in WL, so there’s that too. Of course there are genetic differences. A pound of Lu Xiaojuns muscle is not the same as pound of muscle in regular guys body.

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For sports like WL, sprinting, high jump, etc., the ratio of fast twitch to slow twitch muscle fibres is also going to make a big difference.