Tuesday, October 16, 2012

LRB/365 Excerpt - Losing strength while getting lean

Let’s be honest here about what getting into truly awesome shape does to you in terms of strength.  Namely, it zaps it.  You can’t get as strong as you can get, and also be in the best shape you can be in.  One is going to take a little bit from the other.  So think of it like a teeter-totter.  The heavier kid always gets his way on that thing.  The heavier your training is tilted to one said, the less the other side gets to have his way in the ups and downs of things.

The severity is going to be very individualistic.  Some people may not get much weaker, and some people’s strength may have totally gone into the shitter.  What people don’t realize is, you didn’t get weaker permanently, you’re just in a weakened state because of an energy deficit.  I know that sounds like an obvious statement, but I wish I had a dollar for every time some guy that ate himself into a whale to bench 3 plates told me he didn’t like to get in shape because he loses all of his strength. 

A lot of people think you need to get fat in order to get stronger.  This is retarded and completely untrue.  The reason strength rises while you are gaining weight, is because there is generally a calorie surplus involved.  So there is an abundance of BCAA, ATP, and glycogen readily available for your body to use for energy and contractile power.  This makes for a stronger you.  But the fact is, fat has no functional purpose for strength.  The “gives you more leverage” argument is bunk.  Even if your chest measurement increased by an inch, that’s not enough change in ROM or leverages to make up for the 30-40+ pounds on a lift people often get when “bulking”. 

Don’t think so?  Give me said fat guy, let me take away all of his carbs for the next 2 weeks, and watch his strength drop like a rock.  Now, his measurements didn’t change.  He’s still virtually the same “size”.  It’s the lack of energy coming in from food, and the lack of fuel resources that made him bottom out.  The extra fat he’s carrying isn’t really serving a purpose in helping him move weight or be strong.  

If you think being a fat ass is required to be strong, then all you have to do is look no further than Jamie Lewis, Stan Efferding, and Dan Green.  Who all own raw total records in the 181, 220, and 275 pound classes.  They all did so in single digit bodyfat.  

I don’t recall Ed Coan nor Doug Young nor John Kuc ever looking like lard asses.  I believe that Mariusz won the WSM title a record five times, lean as shit. 

Is it easier to just eat processed diarrhea all day long for that surplus of calories?  Sure.  Lots of guys do it.  They also look like fat frat boys that don’t even look like they lift.  There really is no reason why, other than being lazy as fuck, to not put some effort into making sure your calories come from quality sources 90% of the time.  Getting a surplus in can be difficult, however you would be amazed at how well a small surplus of quality makes you feel and allows you to train, in comparison to a big surplus of shit.  

I've gone down that route before myself, and each time I regretted it.  I looked back and saw that I looked like shit, felt like shit, and lifted like shit.  Have some go with your show...but shit man, have some show too.    

The reason for this long “speech” about this is, if you got weaker when you got leaner, it’s not something to panic over.  You lost strength because you have an energy deficit.  Which is also why you are leaner.  All that has to happen is for an energy surplus to return, and strength will come with it.  Don't be such a god damn baby about it. 


  1. Hi Paul,

    Am looking forward to your new book, I will definitely be purchasing that when its ready. I really appreciate and enjoy your blog too. After a long, long layoff from lifting, I started again in June this year and have been hard at it ever since. I used to be reasonably strong, but succumbed to the dark-side of the lard ass. My technique had slipped a bit and after energetic use of the search function on your blog and implementing a couple of your knowledge bombs, the problems I was having with squats and military press have disappeared faster than a cream pastry at a weight watchers meeting. I have no intention of competing, hence my interest in your forthcoming book. Thanks again for your committment and hard work with the blog. Panthera leo vibes to you from Germany.

  2. Nice piece Paul. I've lost 14 pounds in around 8 weeks and my not very good squat and bench have gone into the shitter. I'm still looking to drop another 10-15 pounds in the next 8-10 weeks. It's not easy to come to terms with the fact that a weight you can normally lift with ease is kicking your ass but as you say, it's only temporary. It is well worth it to beat old PRs while 25 pounds lighter and several percent of bodyfat leaner.
    My deadlift is actually more or less the same and my strict press has increased since I used the grip you recommended.

  3. Hey Paul,

    What are your thoughts on reverse grip bench pressing?

  4. About to run a 4 week "lose the chub" cycle myself. I anticipate not gaining any strength during the month, and thus have adapted my program accordingly (running the same cycle of 5/3/1 over and just hitting the required reps, focus on my conditioning workouts, and then pick up where I left off the next month)

  5. I just came back from a weekend camping/hiking trip that served as a reunion of college friends. Most of those folks hadn’t seen me since I started lifting, and I wanted to be at my best. I started using your diet guidelines at the end of July and switched from a conditioning focus to full body training. With the start of the diet, all my big lifts went into the toilet pretty quickly; especially the bench. I reset my maxes, and after about 6 weeks, everything came back with a vengeance and I started setting lots of Rep PR’s and projected 1RM increases.
    I also ended up as trim at the waist as I’ve been since I started lifting, and with more muscle separation than I’ve had EVER.

    Looking forward to hearing more about the 365 book!

  6. I never have any trouble getting into the weight room and getting after it. (actually thats kind of the highlight of my day)

    I'm 160 lbs and have been so for the last year and a half. I'm trying to bulk up but I swear my body absolutely doesn't want to. I've gotten up to 162-163 only for it to quickly fall again. As far as the energy deficit goes I was reffing basketball tournaments in the summer (20 games in a weekend sometimes) I lost 6 lbs and my 1RM bench dropped probably 25-30 lbs. I have gained that back since fortunately. You stated 90% of your calories should come from quality sources. At 160 lbs struggling to gain weight should I just stuff myself? I try to eat quality sources (milk, pb, bananas, whey, creatine, fish oil, water, protein bars, oatmeal, eggs, ww bread, etc) Being in college I find it easy to go grab mcdonalds and other crap. Probably 40-50% fo by sources aren't quality.

    1. You're like 20 and 160 pounds......eat garbage if that's what you gotta do.

      It's the guys that are well over 2 bills that eat like shit to do that that I'm talking about.

    2. Dude, reffing 20 games in a weekend?... all of the effort that you put into bulking on Wed and Thurs meals are gone. Paul's right; when I was 20 I had just finished playing national team water polo eating 6000 calories a day (3% bf) at 175lb (6'5"), and I managed to put on 12 lb in the next year by eating the equivalent of $20 lunches EVERY day for 8 months whilst at university...

      Find food, eat it...buy 4lb ground beef packs and 2 taco seasoning packages, there's you lunch for 2 days...It's ALL about volume when you're that lean...BTDT.

  7. Paul,

    My training is set up for 2x per week upper/lower split. I remembering you mentioning that cycling a bench movement and an overhead movement is not a good idea so my question is if using the Press Behind Neck what sets and reps would you use for low to moderate volume as you recommend in SLL?


    1. Not sure what context you are talking about when you say cycling a bench and overhead movements is not a good idea...???

      For PBN - 2-3 x 8-12

    2. Paul,

      I think the context was you mentioned that you don't like to cycle more then one movement in the same workout unless it is squat/dl with a previous questioned I had asked. If the possibility arises that I can add another training day I do plan to cycle the military press with the PBN being the back-off for that movement same concept you use with bench and inclines are used as the back-off.

    3. There's almost always 2 pressing movements in my programs. But you don't need an extra day for PBN or overheads. Just do em after bench.

    4. Paul,

      That is what I am doing but I was cycling both the incline press and the PBN in the same workout but I am thinking that I will do far better in the PBN is I don't cycle it and just try to get 2-3 sets in and bang out reps to get stronger on them and put the mass on my shoulders.

  8. Paul,

    This doesn't have much to do with this post, but thought I'd share this interview with Lamar Gant in case you haven't seen it yet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBU43km7Qdg

    At 2:30-2:50 he briefly talks about what you have been writing about singles and reps.

    1. Yup. No one listens though. Singles are fun, and lazy. so people do em.

    2. True. Made some of my best gains on 5/3/1 while doing nothing but keep pushing and pushing the reps, not touching a single single (bad pun intended) until the 10th cycle.

      Something more relevant to this particular blogpost:
      Have been using a "2 Big/1-2 Small" layout in combination with some ideas from your SLL Conditioning chapter to get leaner and more in shape. Dropped down from 13% to 8% (before that got from 15 to 13 by just eating a bit better). Managed to keep strength on some lifts, lost a bit on others and started to feel like shit when training in the last few. Who cares, expected and accepted that before I started.

      It has been 2 months now since I dropped the deficit and started using the framework of your Intermediate Offseason Mass Split for my training. Gained a few pounds already, still looking lean as shit, still in shape and starting to hit PRs everywhere, smashing weights that I did at my old weight. Hit a tiny little bit over 3 times BW deadlift last week.

      Anyway, I don't post here often, prefer to read, listen and put your stuff in to work. But just letting you know that I love the blog and the books man, thanks for that, can't wait for LRB365. I'm planning on using variations of the offseason mass split for a long time to keep getting stronger and gain more mass, so I guess the LRB365 would be nice for some more ideas and structure to it.

    3. That's awesome Lorenzo! I have a new split in the manual with some cool percentages and old school shit I'm outlining.

    4. Sounds good Paul! Will it be e-book only or also a hard copy? Where do you find/read about the percentages and old school stuff? I love reading stuff like that. I guess you still use the percentages from own experiences, but was wondering if you have some good sites/books where you find the old school training info.

      I'll probably also be buying a hard copy of SLL. Was thinking of printing the E-book version, but it seems that it will be about the same costs as getting it from Amazon, so might as well get it there and support you. SLL definitely is a book I want on my bookshelf next to some other great training books.

  9. Fat people don't have dicks. They have giant clits where dicks should be. Fix it.

    That's what I read. I'm pretty sure it's in there if ya mix the letters around.