Posted by on Aug 15, 2013

Strength Training

Zach is a powerlifter and a law student. He holds or has tied every NASA Powerlifting state record in the 242 class and is looking to break the NASA Powerlifting national bench press record for the 198 class in November.

Visit Zach on Fitocracy.

There are many powerlifters who will inevitably have to go through one of the most dreadful things as a lifter: cutting weight.

The goal of a weight cut for a powerlifter should be to increase their Wilks score, a strength to bodyweight ratio put in the most simple form. Many lifters suffer greatly during weight cuts because they tend to have too much volume, train too often, or don’t eat enough.

Good news is it’s entirely possible for even the most experienced lifter to do this if they follow a few core tenets.

Pump Down the Volume

A popular amount of volume for beginners and even lifters with volume days is 5×5 and sometimes even greater. When you’re running a caloric deficit, the entire goal is to decrease the energy you’re expending. When you’re at a deficit, it’s going to be a much greater challenge to pump out set after set with 80% of your max. On a cut, try to have 1-2 work sets where you really go all out on either squat, bench, or deadlift. Along with that, keep assistance exercise to a minimum. You should really only be doing the bare necessities on a cut. A general rule of thumb for a cut is if you’re above 12 work sets, you’re doing far too much.


This is a little more individual oriented. For me, I have to keep my training to three days per week because of time constraints, and if I train more than that my body feels like it’s about to break. There are very few people that I can think of that train more often than three days per week on a weight cut and do it successfully. If you are accustomed to high frequency training, I would probably cut back training to four days per week. You have to remember the overall goal: decrease energy expenditure during exercise.


This is where it gets really flexible depending where you’re at in your cut. At the beginning of your cut, you should drop all cardio just to see how your body reacts to this decrease in calorie expenditure. You may find that you actually have more energy for your lifts on your cut initially. If your weight loss begins to stall, add in 10 minutes initially of something that will get your heart rate up. Try this for two weeks and see how your weight loss goes. Every two weeks, evaluate your progress. If you’re happy where you’re at, stick with that amount of cardio. If it’s going too slow, add in another 5 minutes. But remember, cardio isn’t going to make up for your dietary habits. On your cut you will need to constantly evaluate your dietary choices. It would be a good idea to cap cardio at a max of 30 minutes.

Never Forget the Goal

This is the most important and most often overlooked part of a weight cut. Cutting weight sucks, but the awesome thing about cutting weight correctly is you will come out the best possible you.

In order to achieve this goal, you have to have the right mindset. Always remember the end game. For me, that’s getting to 198 by November 16. If you’re thinking about quitting, ask if your future self would be disappointed by your lack of effort now.

If you’ve tried to cut weight in the past and failed, look at why you failed. Was it because your cravings got to you? Was it because you cheated and felt like there’s no point in continuing? Are you surrounded by people that make you susceptible to breaking your goals?

Evaluate what has made you fail in the past or what you could see making you fail in the future and avoid it. Just remember, we’re all gonna make it.

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