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  1. #1
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    The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    This morning I was on campus and I ran into a guy who I've known for some time. He lives here in town and trains at the local Gold's.

    Of course our discussion evolved to training and he made the comment that he is training "heavy" now so he is carrying "some extra" body fat.

    By my guess, I'd say he was close to 20% at about 5'10" and 240ish. He was wearing a t-shirt and jeans so I cannot be more accurate in my guess. However, I'd seen him last summer and I can certainly say he was not less than 15-16% at that time.

    Regardless, I asked him, "why do you need more body fat to train heavy?"

    He answered by say "Well, I'm bulking and pushing more weight on my core lifts."

    I answered, "Fat doesn't move weight. So how does being fatter help you bench or squat?"

    His answer "You know, it's for power."

    I answered "No. I don't know. Explain how being fatter gives you more power on your core lifts."

    After verbally sparring with him for a while longer, he grew tired of it and finally acquiesced and said "You are right - fat doesn't life weight."

    I left it at that as I could tell he got the point.

    So, I wonder why is there such a lasting urban myth that being fat somehow betters one bench or squat or whatever and enables them to lift heavier.

    Now, if one were training for "strong man" contests or playing offense line in football, I could see how being fatter would contribute those types of activities.

    Sure a basic level of fat is necessary for cushioning and joint support in repetitive movement exercise but being fat is just not going to contribute beyond that.

    I think I know the answer to my own question but I'll float it to the board just to prove a point.

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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    I think a lot of people get caught up in this. I think it might be because when people "bulk" they also tend to go down in reps and do heavier lifts. That's how I have always done it. Winter = bulking and strength and spring/summer = cutting and reps. Maybe people just think from doing it this way that being a little more fat helps u lift... It is ridiculous but that's the only thing I can think of.
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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    I think it has a lot to do with power lifters who are trying to put on as much size/weight as possible and taking in whatever food neccassary (good or bad calories). They are eating like machines, fueling their bodies, getting stronger but also putting on fat. They got bigger and stronger but fat came with it so it must have had something to do with it right? Wrong.

    The other part of is being bigger in general helps. Big belly = less ROM on a PL style bench. Big belly/body gives something to load up against at the bottom of squats.

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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    When I drop below 10% my strength falls off.

    At 245lbs my arms are 19", my BF 10-12%, I am strong as ****. At 7-8% BF my arms at under 18", my weight is 216-222lbs and my bench will fall off from high 300's down to mid 200's.

    I don't correlate this directly to BF% but the overall size of the muscle. Big muscles move big weight.

    (with the above stated there is always some freak guy that can PL incredibly lean, but they are flukes, they are far and few between)
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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    Bench belly means less range of motion. A belly will also provide an artificial stretch reflex for a conventional Deadlift and a squat.

    Powerlifting requires much more calories than bodybuilding does. Strong man requires significant calories as well, but you are incorrect in saying that body fat is of more use there. Conditioning is required in strong man.

    You don't have to be a giant fat disgusting shit to powerlift, but 20 to 25% body fat is not unreasonable.

    I worked with spongy to get my weight down for a PL meet. He had me dialed right in at the top of my weight class. Perfect! But, the caloric restriction knocked about 50lbs off my squat.

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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    Originally Posted by PillarofBalance View Post
    Bench belly means less range of motion. A belly will also provide an artificial stretch reflex for a conventional Deadlift and a squat.

    Powerlifting requires much more calories than bodybuilding does. Strong man requires significant calories as well, but you are incorrect in saying that body fat is of more use there. Conditioning is required in strong man.

    You don't have to be a giant fat disgusting shit to powerlift, but 20 to 25% body fat is not unreasonable.

    I worked with spongy to get my weight down for a PL meet. He had me dialed right in at the top of my weight class. Perfect! But, the caloric restriction knocked about 50lbs off my squat.
    Ah yes the calorie deficit that goes hand in hand with lower BF%..................
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  7. #7
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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    omg, I have thought this over and over and I agree with you, I will never understand the "having to have fat" concept
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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    Originally Posted by Jenner View Post
    omg, I have thought this over and over and I agree with you, I will never understand the "having to have fat" concept
    Baseball players joke about how the old time players were fat and never had injuries. "Can't pull fat" is something you'll hear. I think a little fat does something for injury prevention.

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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    Okay, let's assume for a second that there is some benefit for power lifters, that still doesn't explain the persistence of this myth for the general lifting population.

    I've got my own theory and it is multifaceted.

    The first is what I call "Big Guy" syndrome. "Big Guy" syndrome is characterized by a male fixation on how much one actually weights. Over the years, I've seen this thousands of times. A guy gets it in his head that if he weights a certain amount then he is a "big guy." This is despite the fact that most of the time, when he is lean he looks better. I know that this is exactly the problem with the guy I mentioned in my first post. If he is less than 240 then he feels "small" even though he looks a lot better when he is lean. Everyone has told him so but he is stuck on the number 240 as the sole metric that he incorrectly relates to being a "big guy."

    So that's the first thing - "Big Guy" syndrome.

    The second issue is a very obvious one. Discipline. It is easy to get fat and stay fat by saying "I'm training heavy" as an excuse for it. 90% of the guys in any gym in the country with a high body fat percentage will use this mantra. The funny thing is, that folks seem to give them a "free pass" on it. I don't understand that! Muscle is not made up of fat so there is no reason that 18% or 20% body fat needs to be part of a "heavy training" phase.

    Anyhow, these are the things that make me laugh when I have these type of discussions with folks like I had this morning.

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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    Originally Posted by Cashout View Post
    Okay, let's assume for a second that there is some benefit for power lifters, that still doesn't explain the persistence of this myth for the general lifting population.

    I've got my own theory and it is multifaceted.

    The first is what I call "Big Guy" syndrome. "Big Guy" syndrome is characterized by a male fixation on how much one actually weights. Over the years, I've seen this thousands of times. A guy gets it in his head that if he weights a certain amount then he is a "big guy." This is despite the fact that most of the time, when he is lean he looks better. I know that this is exactly the problem with the guy I mentioned in my first post. If he is less than 240 then he feels "small" even though he looks a lot better when he is lean. Everyone has told him so but he is stuck on the number 240 as the sole metric that he incorrectly relates to being a "big guy."

    So that's the first thing - "Big Guy" syndrome.

    The second issue is a very obvious one. Discipline. It is easy to get fat and stay fat by saying "I'm training heavy" as an excuse for it. 90% of the guys in any gym in the country with a high body fat percentage will use this mantra. The funny thing is, that folks seem to give them a "free pass" on it. I don't understand that! Muscle is not made up of fat so there is no reason that 18% or 20% body fat needs to be part of a "heavy training" phase.

    Anyhow, these are the things that make me laugh when I have these type of discussions with folks like I had this morning.
    I know that no one notices that I'm big until I cut. They just think I'm getting fat.

  11. #11
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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    interesting point i have lost 6 pounds and have added weight to my bench but i am pretty hefty. i would like to get my b.f. down to 20% but if my strength starts to decline i will up my weight. i think their is a balance between fat and strength, like mike said you get below x % b.f. and your power starts to drop. of course this is just a opinion. cash i don't believe you can be used as a example, i want to here from a normal human no greek gods

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    Senior Member sfstud33's Avatar
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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    It may be the opposite is what drives the thought that big is strong.

    I know last year i dieted down over a six month period to suit my doctor (at the time) views on BMI. He wanted me at 165lbs. At the time i was at 190. So i took it as a challenge and managed to get down to 165 by June of last year. Problem was i lost muscle, looked emaciated and could only push about the same weight as my wife. Not that i care what weight i push, but i think guys feel that if they diet they lose muscle. I know the muscle i most regret loosing most was my calves - they are not nearly as good as they were 18 months ago.

    Anyway, now i decided i dont care about BMI im just going to do what i want to feel good and look good.
    Powered by food, raw ambition, and an awesome woman.

  13. #13
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    The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    Originally Posted by Cashout View Post
    Okay, let's assume for a second that there is some benefit for power lifters, that still doesn't explain the persistence of this myth for the general lifting population.

    I've got my own theory and it is multifaceted.

    The first is what I call "Big Guy" syndrome. "Big Guy" syndrome is characterized by a male fixation on how much one actually weights. Over the years, I've seen this thousands of times. A guy gets it in his head that if he weights a certain amount then he is a "big guy." This is despite the fact that most of the time, when he is lean he looks better. I know that this is exactly the problem with the guy I mentioned in my first post. If he is less than 240 then he feels "small" even though he looks a lot better when he is lean. Everyone has told him so but he is stuck on the number 240 as the sole metric that he incorrectly relates to being a "big guy."

    So that's the first thing - "Big Guy" syndrome.

    The second issue is a very obvious one. Discipline. It is easy to get fat and stay fat by saying "I'm training heavy" as an excuse for it. 90% of the guys in any gym in the country with a high body fat percentage will use this mantra. The funny thing is, that folks seem to give them a "free pass" on it. I don't understand that! Muscle is not made up of fat so there is no reason that 18% or 20% body fat needs to be part of a "heavy training" phase.

    Anyhow, these are the things that make me laugh when I have these type of discussions with folks like I had this morning.
    I'm not sure if you read my above post cashout but your statement only works in a limited context.

    There are fat guys who lift. Then there are powerlifters. The difference is discipline and that WE COMPETE.

    If he doesn't hit the platform to compete he isn't a powerlifter. If he doesn't get tanned and hit the stage he isn't a bodybuilder. He's just a fat guy who lifts.

    But you keep referring to the fact that they "look" better leaner. I couldn't care less. At 236 my chiro told me I looked intimidating. At 260 I just look big. It's not about how I look its about how strong I am.

    Bloat is strength.

    Your argument is valid for bodybuilding purposes to a degree but not at all for powerlifting and somewhat for strong man.
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    Rest in Peace Robot Lord. First round of Natty Boh is on me when I make it up there with you brother.

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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    I agree with you and you are making my point for me!

    Unless a guy is power lifting in meets, he is just a guy lifting and again, what is the point of carrying around 20% body fat and passing it off as "heavy training."

    That is my whole point. That is why I wrote in my last post "assume for a second that there is some benefit for power lifters." 90% of guys never enter a meet so they are just fat guys lifting. For those that do meets and are actual PL, its is plausible.

    Now, as you wrote, if you are a PL it could matter but you and I both know that 99% of guys in gyms across the county will never enter a meet. I'm not talking about the 1% of real power lifters - I'm talking about the gyms full of fat guys who lift.

    Originally Posted by PillarofBalance View Post
    I'm not sure if you read my above post cashout but your statement only works in a limited context.

    There are fat guys who lift. Then there are powerlifters. The difference is discipline and that WE COMPETE.

    If he doesn't hit the platform to compete he isn't a powerlifter. If he doesn't get tanned and hit the stage he isn't a bodybuilder. He's just a fat guy who lifts.

    But you keep referring to the fact that they "look" better leaner. I couldn't care less. At 236 my chiro told me I looked intimidating. At 260 I just look big. It's not about how I look its about how strong I am.

    Bloat is strength.

    Your argument is valid for bodybuilding purposes to a degree but not at all for powerlifting and somewhat for strong man.

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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    I will say that I've never gotten weaker as I've gained weight.

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    The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    Originally Posted by Cashout View Post
    I agree with you and you are making my point for me!

    Unless a guy is power lifting in meets, he is just a guy lifting and again, what is the point of carrying around 20% body fat and passing it off as "heavy training."

    That is my whole point. That is why I wrote in my last post "assume for a second that there is some benefit for power lifters." 90% of guys never enter a meet so they are just fat guys lifting. For those that do meets and are actual PL, its is plausible.

    Now, as you wrote, if you are a PL it could matter but you and I both know that 99% of guys in gyms across the county will never enter a meet. I'm not talking about the 1% of real power lifters - I'm talking about the gyms full of fat guys who lift.
    lol

    I am sick and haven't slept well for a couple nights! Mercy!
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    Rest in Peace Robot Lord. First round of Natty Boh is on me when I make it up there with you brother.

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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    Originally Posted by Cashout View Post
    I agree with you and you are making my point for me!

    Unless a guy is power lifting in meets, he is just a guy lifting and again, what is the point of carrying around 20% body fat and passing it off as "heavy training."

    That is my whole point. That is why I wrote in my last post "assume for a second that there is some benefit for power lifters." 90% of guys never enter a meet so they are just fat guys lifting. For those that do meets and are actual PL, its is plausible.

    Now, as you wrote, if you are a PL it could matter but you and I both know that 99% of guys in gyms across the county will never enter a meet. I'm not talking about the 1% of real power lifters - I'm talking about the gyms full of fat guys who lift.
    ok i will enter the next benchpress contest their is....just because i am not competing does not lesson the importance i put on my training nor does it make those that compete better than those of us that haven't. my goals are just as important to me as yours are to you and just as worthy of respect.

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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    i would also like to point out i have nothing but respect for cash and pob and understand they have a far greater knowledge of this thing of are's than i do but competition is not the only valid goal

  19. #19
    Senior Member Curiosity's Avatar
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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    Originally Posted by PFM View Post
    When I drop below 10% my strength falls off.

    At 245lbs my arms are 19", my BF 10-12%, I am strong as ****. At 7-8% BF my arms at under 18", my weight is 216-222lbs and my bench will fall off from high 300's down to mid 200's.

    I don't correlate this directly to BF% but the overall size of the muscle. Big muscles move big weight.

    (with the above stated there is always some freak guy that can PL incredibly lean, but they are flukes, they are far and few between)
    I will have to say that I do believe that carrying some BF helps people to gain muscle more easily, and thus get stronger. I'm talking about my experiences at <7% BF, where my strength drops, my energy drops, and I look awesomely shredded, vs. 10-12% BF, where I can make strength and scale weight progress much more easily without really going above that BF range.

    I believe that the human body, when it is at a very low BF%, enters a sort of "survival mode", where your brain knows that you have no fat stores to draw on, and thus no energy reserves, so it slows down your metabolism and uses the food you eat only for basic functions. Obviously this type of feedback loop would be beneficial in the wild, where you don't know when your next meal is coming. I think that it is very difficult to build muscle in this state.

    Now, as far as needing to be 20% BF to build muscle, that's just an excuse to be fat. But I find that over 10% BF I have an easier time gaining muscle and strength than I do when I'm shredded.

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    Re: The "myth" of being lean and lifting heavy...

    Ken neither POB nor I are stating that anyone's goals are more or less valid. We are both agreeing that in some case there is a functional purpose for having a high body fat.

    My point with this thread was and still is that the overwhelming majority of guys do not have a functional purpose for carrying a high degree of body fat but use the "heavy training" excuse to get a free past on being sloppy.

    As a few have mentioned, 10-12% is more than adequate for growing. I also agree with them.

    Beyond that however, there better be a functional purpose otherwise its just being fat.

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