Powerlifting Made Me Gain Fat Around Belly

Ok, so this is weird for me. I’ve been doing multiple forms of training for years, and I’ve been sporting a single digit body fat percentage for the past 2 years, but ever since I’ve taken powerlifting seriously, my body fat has increased. I have been eating clean, and even in a caloric deficit, but I’ve gained fat around my belly and sides. My skinfolds EVERYWHERE ELSE went down, but my belly and sides have gained. Not much, but enough for my 8 pack to be downgraded to a faded 6 pack. Needless to say I’m not too happy about this.

What on earth is causing this? My calories are in check, my food is cleaner than ever, but I’m developing a mild belly. Now when I look at pretty much all powerlifters I see the same physique happening, 10-14% bodyfat, lots of muscle, lots of strength, but just a bit of extra fat around the waist. Very few are in single digit body fat from what I can tell. Is it the stress from regularly going to 90%+ of your 1rm? Is it your bodies way of trying to protect itself due to the intensity of the workouts? And, most importantly, how do I get my body to let go of the fat, without doing so much endurance that my muscle fibres change? Even in a caloric deficit I can’t lose the belly fat, everywhere else goes down but the belly fat stays. I find this appalling because I literally had less fat working a lot less than I am now. With everything I have learned I should be leaner than ever because of a faster metabolism, but it just isn’t the case. How do I fix this?

(Oh, and btw, my macro’s are in check too, I eat 30-40% protein with the rest divided equally between carbs and fat.)

If powerlifting could cause fat gain, we would use it to solve world hunger.

You gotta use occam’s razor on this one dude.


Depends on what you did for previous training. Powerlifting itself doesn’t cause fat gain; but the demands are more than likely different than that of your previous training. My bet is you aren’t putting in the same kind of work or effort as your previous training. Not to say you aren’t working hard, but the end goal is different.

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Just don’t start squatting out of a monolift, I hear that can cause impotence.


This is a wild, wild guess but I have a feeling you being fatter is entirely due to eating more than you need to grow combined eating without paying too much attention to what goes into your meals.

Whatever made you fatter, your training isn’t it.

Regularly going 90+ percent of your max…?

Not many PL programs have you do that. Some exceptions, sure. But it’s not the norm. Most PL programs have the vast majority of the volume in the 70-85% range.

My guess is that you’re going too heavy too often and that your overall training volume is a lot less than what you were doing for the other programs. But given what you’ve told us I’m grasping at straws here.

What program are you following that has you going so heavy so frequently?


I would assume you have a relatively low volume for your training days.

  • Start incorporating higher volume for your main lifts so to aid more caloric output.
  • After going high intensity for your main lifts, kick back and work on lighter weights on assistance movements. Even consider doing supersets or increasing time under tension for your assistance movements. This can increase your heart rate (which comes hand in hand with caloric output) at the same time it doesn’t neglect your main lifts and can even benefit them in the long run. More muscles > More potential for strength gains.

That would be one hell of a world though.


Calories in VS Calories out is likely the issue but there could be some weird hormonal thing, we’re not Doctors, go get some blood work done if you’re super concerned.

As for powerlifting making you fat- what exactly is your training compared to your previous training style?

How do you KNOW you’re in a caloric deficit, what are you basing your macros/calories on? What’s your height, what’s your weight?

You’ve given us virtually no information to go off of.

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Not exactly contributing much to this discussion but maybe you’re just gaining trunk mass. What was your training like previously and how does it differ now?

This was my thought as well. In the past couple of years I’ve gotten thicker through the middle despite staying in the same weight class. This is evidenced by the need to move my belt to new holes.

CT wrote an interesting post about this recently.

Ok sorry guys for the total lack of info. Here is the real deal here:

My training INTENSITY has gone up immensely but you guys are on spot with the volume being lower. Most of my life I have been doing endurance based activities (mostly extreme sport and martial arts), and for the past 2 years my training has looked like this: (I did powerlifting for a while 2-3 years back, but when I moved and couldn’t afford a gym membership that changed.)

Main sport was (still is during winter when the swell is big) surfing, especially big wave surfing. Lots of paddling, lots of getting pounded by waves, 2 hours is a ‘quick’ session and when the waves are firing it’s more around 6-8 hours of water time in a day, often for 3 days in a row. During flat spells I’d be working with kettlebells and with a big tire, doing everything from kettlebell sport (mostly with a pair of 20kg bells since that is the heaviest pair I have, and my heaviest single is 28kg, when I had access to heavier bells I’d work with a pair of 32kg bells, so when dropping down to the 20kg bells my volume went crazy) kettlebell juggling, tire flips, and all kinds of conditioning type work. Before surfing basically took over my life I did martial arts for about 8-10 years on top of school sport (mostly rugby and athletics) and skateboarding for hours. My average amount of hours doing some sort of physical activity of a decent intensity was around 20 hours a week minimum. With powerlifting this has decreased IMMENSELY, but the intensity of the workouts limits me to around 3-6 hours a week, due to the need to recover. On top of that I’m ALWAYS hungry, as my body just WANTS to grow, since I’m doing both high intensity and high volume. I do however control this by making sure as much of my diet as I can control (I live with others and dinners are more often than not out of my hands, although it tends to be healthy, lean meats with veggies and some starch.) is weighed and my macros and calories counted to make sure I don’t overeat. I did however only start doing this about 3 weeks ago when I noticed that I’m gaining fat. Most of my work is 70-85% of my 1rm but I make a point of it to do at least 1 rep with a minimum of 90% of my 1rm on whatever specific lift I’m doing. Look, I’m still lean by most standards (11% bodyfat) but I’m used to being around 6-8%, maximum 9% during the festive season. (I’m in the southern hemisphere, so Christmas is in summer and most of the crazy stuff I do happens in winter.) I have one big issue though, if I want to get to my goals in powerlifting I can’t start doing an excess amount of endurance training. How do I get my body to stay in single digit body fat while focusing on pure strength?

Be patient and diet smart and make gains slowly. This is why if you go to a powerlifting meet you will see guys and girls of all shapes and sizes. Its not exactly advantageous to to stay at single-digit bodyfat while also training to get bigger and stronger.


Yea this is what I realized looking at powerlifters. But quite frankly I miss abs so defined that it turns into an 8-10 pack. I miss having veins on my fucking abs. But quite frankly, I can’t complain about what happened to my arms and legs, it’s flippin amazing. I’m just one of those idiots who wants everything at once. But I think if I do 6 weeks of pure powerlifting training and diet, getting to 12% bodyfat, followed by 2 weeks of mixed training till I’m at 8% bodyfat. (It doesn’t take me too long.)

Oh yea, also, I’ve been under quite a bit of stress the past while, and that is probably the number one cause of WHERE the fat went.

As many others have covered, the basics of it is calories in vs calories out so if you feel you have put on weight, fat in particular, then you are either eating more than you think and an appreciable amount of calories are slipping through the cracks somewhere, or you have your numbers set too high for the volume of training…simply put if all that vigorous activity before burns an average of 400 calories more per day than you do now in powerlifting and you havent tweaked your calorie intake to match that, that’s where it’s coming from. Also have you actually gone and gotten a more in depth bf test done to be sure? If you said that your other skin fold measuring spots have decreased, but your bf has increased around the stomach that screams insulin sensitivity possibly. Without seeing every detail of what you calculate and do it’s hard to try and give definitive answers, but someway, somewhere, you are missing something based simply on the pretty much immutable cal in vs. cal out.

You can still do a lot of conditioning while powerlifting. Granted, you have to ease into it.

Basically, it’ll kind of look like HIIT. Do something really intensely like sprint push a sled or battle ropes or sledge hammer or heavy bag work for 15 seconds then rest 30s. Rinse and repeat for 10-30 minutes.

In addition, you can also do some feeder workouts. Start with just some light easy accessory work meant to prevent injuries and build muscle balance like TKE’s, band pull aparts, ultra high rep band tricep extensions and some light bodyweight or db work. Start with 2 15 minute sessions. Normally, it takes a long time to work up to 4 30 minute sessions, but with your background, it might not take long at all.

Regardless, if any of that is taking away from the main training sessions, you’re doing it wrong. It’s easier to do too little and add, than it is to do too much and subtract.

I know Louie Simmons, head of Westside BB, has tons of good info on conditioning, feeder workouts, and doing assistance work that can help immensely with body comp. Like supersets, trisets, giant sets, 2-4 minute sets where you can rest but never let go of the weight.

If you like your abs so much, go back to your previous routine and drop the powerlifting.

In all honesty, your training intensity hasn’t gone up. You only just started strength training or what you like to call it, “powerlifting”.

What were your gym lifts before you started “powerlifting” and what are your current lifts? What’s your height/weight? Attach photos of what you used to look like and what you look like now.

Call me crazy but the issue isn’t powerlifting, the issue is you. I’ve friends who compete in the physique category who mainly train using a powerlifting styled program.


Powerlifting didn’t make you fat. Eating too fucking much made you fat.


If I’m trying to up my strength(which is different from gaining muscle) I generally train more singles in the 75-90 range trying to move them as fast as possible. Keeps the volume low and works your absolute strength.

After the main work, I use very high reps and light weight; sets of 20-50 using a combination of bands and light dumbbell work. It allows me to get a pump and push blood to the areas I worked without lifting heavy and putting on anywhere near as much muscle as if I was using medium weight for lower reps.

For instance, if it’s a bench day, I’ll work up to a few heavy singles. Then hit the triceps, delts, upper back and biceps for 1 or 2 sets each of very high reps.

The biggest thing is nutrition. You want the energy to lift heavy so carbs are good on training days. If it’s a non-training day, then try and keep it mostly fruits and veggies for carb intake.

Training more than 4 days per week probably isn’t a good idea if this is your goal. No matter what, there’s always gonna be a tradeoff.

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