T Nation

How Much Fat is Too Much for a Newbie Powerlifter


I would like to openly discuss and exchange on health and performance aspects of that question.

How do you value progress vs. fat accumulation?

When do you say "Its getting to risky (for health reasons) gaining anymore fat"?
How does this change for people whose family has a heart problem history?

How much of a caloric surplus to you really need to make consistent gains at an acceptable speed?

And i would really like to leave looks out of this discussion if possible...


There are probably a lot of people not willing to admit this hobby could have negative long term health impacts on them. How much of an impact you'll never really know though, being 30lbs overweight to increase your lifting totals could mean you shorten your lifespan by 6 months or more, but you can also lose the weight and get still cancer to die 10 years earlier than that. Unless your trying to break a state/national/world record what is really your reason for doing this? If health is a concern then do something about it, you can still train to lift a lot but when your 60+ does it really matter if your bench was 400 vs 500 back in the day? To most either is still impressive.


I think the first question is: what weight class do you want to be in? and then: is getting fat the best way to fill out that class? There is definately some benefit to a few extra pounds of fat and water as far as stability and improving leverages but I think some people take it too far. If you're going to be a 308 or SHW then yea you're gonna have to carry some fat, probably a fair deal of it. But if you're goal is to fill out the 198s or 220s is gaing a bunch of sloppy weight really ideal? As far as I can tell the best lifters in the light and middleweight classes tend to be pretty lean, muscle moves weight and if you have a weight limit it makes sense to fill it out with as much muscle as possible.

As far as weight classes go, I think there is something of a natural equilibirum for most people's bodyweight, ie: the weight you would be if you didn't lift or eat excessively. For example, I weighed 145 my first year of highschool, my dad was about 150 at my age, and my grandfather was around 160. I currently weigh 220, I can probably increase to the 242s and maybe even the 275s but going to the 308s or supers I feel posses alot of health risks for me. My body just isn't built to carry that kind of weight, and the stress it would put on my system could be very dangerous. In contrast I've trained with guys who were into the 200s in high school, these guys have bigger frames that carry 300+ much more comfortably (their blood work, cholesterol, HR ect are acceptable), so for them being a super is a viable option.

just my thoughts


"Get rid of all excess in life. The more you own, the more that owns you. Strip yourself of all things, of all the FAT, and leave nothing but brain, muscles, and cock. That is life." - Jim Wendler


For The Win!


All rubbish--your entire post. You think a hobby of lifting weights and being strong as fuck could have negative long term health impacts? Compared to what? The fat office drone who eats jelly donuts for breakfast, candy bars for lunch, and 80% carb dinners and follows it all up with 5 hours of television every night? I guarantee I am going to outlive that guy.

I hear a lot of people bringing up "state/national/world records" a lot...what is the point? Is that somehow nobler than just striving to reach your genetic potential? Fuck that....I lift to be as strong as I possibly can be--I don't leave anything on the table...I couldn't even tell you what the records are in my weight class.

And your comment about 400 vs 500 bench is equally as beta....who cares what the general population finds impressive? Most people are impressed at somebody that can bench 185, do you really set your bar based on that? Like I said, if you are not reaching for and attaining your true potential, what the fuck is the point?


It's common sense that participating in a sport will bring net positive health impacts... As long as it's not taken to the extreme (ex. elite spheres who willingly sacrifice for the win, or retards who don't know any better).


I think that for myself, I just go where my weight takes me. I would not purposely gain or lose weight excessively to make a weight class or try to get a better trophy. I went up a weight class for a short time but I felt like crap and the increase in my total wasn't worth it.

Why would anyone want 10lbs on a total if they would have to gain 20lbs to get it? I would never cram a ton of food into my face just to get heavier, I would just train harder and get stronger. I like to be able to carry my bag into the gym and not be sucking air. Powerlifting is a sport with 3 lifts and none of those lifts is done with a fork.



If it jiggles, you can't flex it. So, whats the point of having it on your body? Wanna know why there arent a whole lot of ripped up shw's?? Because its really really hard to get that big without getting fat.

Getting fatter does give you better leverages. Getting stronger just gets you stronger.


How fat are you talking about? Like where you have circulatory problems? If not, then a lot of this is just matter of being ok with how you look.

If you are starting to have health problems, then that is a different story. You gains will come much slower if you die.


I think it depends on how you die.


so do some of you actually do cuts?

I honestly feel like I can't put on any significant muscle without adding a little flub too. So getting stronger requires getting a little fatter


I went from 220 to 242 and back to 220. Initially I was having to come down to 220 so at first 242 enabled me to hit higher weights. But thru various measures I found how to lift at 220 what I previously was at 242. Its true fat does not lift the weight but a bigger belly sure as sugar helped my squat and bench


well, 1st off, we'd be foolish to think that the pounding we give our bodies doing this sport(if you really are doing this sport) is good for you. that along with all the heavy food we eat, and the quantities. we know this, though, and it's a sacrifice we make. however, as to the op's question, it's really pointless to find the line in the sand where you are too fat. If you've been lifting any amount of time, you know lean, big, fat, sloppy, etc. be whats comfortable to you. if you're really concerned, get your bloodwork done on a regular basis. it's all whats comfortable for you. be whatever weight class you like, just be strong.


It's all dependent on level of advancment, commitment, and weight class.

If your a hardcore superheavy who's been at it for a few years, than fat is going to do more to make you awsome than it would for a begginer or intermediate, or someone who's short enough to worry about having an efficient strength to weight ratio.

The concern for beginners and intermediates is that body fat apperently affects testosterone:estrogen ratios, and so in the long term they'll make more gains if they stay leaner. (The fat will help you lift more today, but it might cost you pounds down the road). For people who are more advanced, and commited, this isn't of the same signifigance.

As someone who's over 6 feet tall (and as such can never really be too heavy) I try to gain no less than 1 pound per month, but no more than 3. I did that for a couple years, and than I did a "cut" this winter / spring. And man do I miss that fat on squat day. But I'm just about back to where I was on most of my lifts, and I'm a good bit lighter.

Now I'll gain the weight back slowly, and be stronger than ever. But I can do that because I'm not "advanced" yet. I've only been at it for a couple years. When I've got enough years under my belt to be advanced, than I'll have to ask myself if I'm commited enough to be a superheavy, and at that point the fat will either be worthwhile, or I'll give up powerlifting, drop all my weight and go join a boy band. But until you get to that point I don't think it's worth it. Certainly not for a "newbie" as the thread title says.


I was thinking about this more in the car this morning, and I think that since the OP's question was about "newbies", some other things are worth mentioning. In no perticular order:

1) If you eat like a bird, you'll lift like a bird.
2) With that said, powerlifting is not an excuse to be sloppy fat either.
3) If your hungry EAT.
4) If your not hungry train harder.
5) Bodybuilding diets, and "healthy eating" fads will make you neither strong nor healthy. Stay off them.
6) Bodybuilders eat chicken breasts, egg whites, and skim milk. Fat slobs eat big macs, french fries, and large sodas. Both are overly extreme. Powerlifters, and strongmen eat whole eggs, roast beef, potatoes, and whole milk. This is what healthy men should be eating. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
7) GPP is the base onto which SPP is built regardless of what sport your competing in. If your a beginner who is out of shape, than take the time to get into shape before you worry too much about eatting your way awsome in powerlifting. True begginer's should not be competeing in the 308s even if competing in the 308s is their goal. Start healthy, stay healthy, finish healthy.
8) Don't let your 6-pack envy get in the way of your strength gains. When your at the beach remember that for every woman there who swoons over abs, there's another somewhere else getting wet for the smell of blue heat.
9) Take care of your joints. For most people, they'll go bad before your cholesterol, and all that shit catches up to you.


Thanks for all the info!