Strength and Fat Loss

vegpedlr

Level 6 Valued Member
The New Year is here, and with it, the New Year's Resolvers pack the gym hoping to gain muscle, lose fat, and look good nekkid. (For a funny story on this, check out the anecdote Mullet Season in Gallagher's Purposeful Primitive.)

More power to 'em.

It's a tall order to build new muscle at the same time as burning off fat. But what about just strength while losing fat? If hypertrophy isn't the goal, but strength is, how well does that work? Anybody have any experience in this?

Not everyone wants to be bigger and stronger, some folks want to be smaller and stronger.
 

ShawnM

Level 8 Valued Member
@vegpedlr - I think gaining strength while dropping fat isn't a big thing. As long as there is slow progression on both strength building and fat loss both are achievable at the same time. The issues come when one is put way above the other. Building strength slowly is easy as long as basic movements are used with a rep range the is best for strength building, 3-5 works great for most. Strength building doesn't require the big calorie surplus that mass building takes. As long as you plan properly you'll do great. @Anna C worked almost nothing but strength work for the better part of a year and if I'm not mistaken had to eat a decent amount to keep up her weight and build strength.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
If you're already in a calorie surplus and train for strength it would be difficult not to put on some size, unless you eat hardly any protein.

Anyone coming new into the gym even at a modest deficit is going to get stronger while losing fat. What happens after the first 2-3 months is another story.
 

offwidth

Level 9 Valued Member
What (I believe) @vegpedlr is getting at is strength to weight ratio. Getting stronger whilst not adding appreciable muscle mass. Those of us that are endurance athletes (and climbers) know that we have to carry our own engine. Bigger muscles usually equates to stronger muscles. We want stronger muscles not bigger ones. (Well except when at the beach...)
If the size / strength outweighs (pun) the weight penalty then all is good, if not then performance will suffer.
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
First off, it depends on how much you have muscle and how much you have fat. The more you have fat the easier to lose without losing strength, and the less strength or lean mass the easier to gain them in any circumstances.

One thing to notice is dieting may make one temporarily weaker but it's not permanent. Like losing water weight, having low energy, etc. When one gets off dieting it gets better, even if the fat stays off.

Gaining strength without mass is about efficiency, skill, nervous system. Low reps, heavy weights.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

What about a protocol such as dry fighting weight ?

If done with a regular diet (no surplus) I guess one can gain some strength (weight to bdw ratio) while improving body composition without too much size.

Below the rep/set frame usually admitted in function of the goal (size, strength, etc...):
The Set / Rep Bible | T Nation

Kind regards,

Pet'
 
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vegpedlr

Level 6 Valued Member
Offwidth is onto one aspect of it, power to weight ratio. That's key in a lot of sports. But I'm mostly curious about the process. People are generally advised, for good reason, to pursue hypertrophy or fat loss separately. There is definitely potential for interference. But what about strength, which is not the same thing as hypertrophy, and fat loss.

What experiences do people have getting stronger and leaner, independent of mass?
 

Bret S.

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
What experiences do people have getting stronger and leaner, independent of mass?
Ok, I'll play..
When starting with Al Ciampa last fall I weighed 182 lbs and was working to strengthen my right shoulder (rotator cuff) so I could snatch in the A+A format using a 24k bell.
Back then I could swing the 48, snatch the 24 with some pain, max get-up 44k.. Now I'm doing aerobic work, rowing, jogging and rucking (not rucking lately though) During summer I ran 16ish miles a week and lost weight, going down to sub-160 lbs at one point, now I've stabilized at around 170.
Most of my adult life I weighed around 215-220 with a fairly lean body comp, now I'm very lean with low BF percentage.
So at 170 lbs I can snatch up to 32k (on a rare good shoulder day), and the 28k is very friendly to all but my shoulder (sometimes it's really good). Snatching 24k is my 'own it' snatch weight. Max getup is still the same, swinging the 48 is much easier.. carrying double 48s is much easier.. Throwing in breathing work has the package complete.
Overall I've gained strength and lost over 20 lbs, much of that was muscle weight. I'll be 61 this month and I'm looking forward to more strength gains in the coming year. Al's program is steady base building, both strength and aerobic.. and it works.. for a long, long time.
I'll never go back to what I did before..
 

vegpedlr

Level 6 Valued Member
Ah, thanks @Bret S. That's the kind of story I was looking for. Not everyone, even those pursuing aesthetic goals, want to be bigger. And for many performance goals, bigger is not better either.

Great work!
 

Bret S.

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Ah, thanks @Bret S. That's the kind of story I was looking for. Not everyone, even those pursuing aesthetic goals, want to be bigger. And for many performance goals, bigger is not better either.

Great work!
Thanks man, appreciate it.. muscle is cool but it's expensive to keep in terms of recovery cost, I'm pretty thrifty with my training dollar these days :)
 

ali

Level 7 Valued Member
Is it the case that you can't gain strength and lose fat a mashed up bodybuilding/hypertrophy mass building view? ie growth?
There's some truth to it, of course but it's not the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Strength building....anabolic response requires energy.
Fat loss....a catabolic response releases energy.
There you have it.
It's just that other variables affect the outcome and the meaning implied from the outset distorts simple energy conversions. If by strength, 'muscle size and growth' is implied then maybe additional energy is needed.
If the training, nutrition is too drastic, too stressful and not 'ideal' or close to it, then it may back fire.
Overtime, a small decrease in dietary energy, steady strength training, steady easy increases in energy expenditure WILL result in increased strength and fat loss. If you stick with it.
Good going @Bret S.
Thermodynamics and consistency. Respect.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
What experiences do people have getting stronger and leaner, independent of mass?
Personally I have never lost muscle mass and gotten stronger, ever.

I have lost weight and gotten stronger, and maintained the same weight and gotten much stronger at specific lifts due to efficiency and loss of bodyfat.

At times have gotten considerably stronger at untrained activities maintaining a stable lean bodyweight.

When it comes to untrained activities like odd work demands, backpacking, I really saw a huge improvement in relative ease by putting on some lean weight. This was a real eye-opener and one I'd noticed for years at blue collar work - bigger people, even ones who are out of shape but not terribly overweight, have an easier time moving/manipulating odd heavy objects than lighter people, as long as the duration of work isn't too long. Obviously this will have an inverse relationship to other activities and anything with a large endurance component, where the challenge is pegged to bodyweight, or where the hands have to support bodymass.

This dynamic maybe hinted at by some of the rucking research from MTI:
  • Study #1: Physical Attributes Which Relate to Rucking
  • Study #1 found that body weight alone could account for about 45% of the variability in ruck times. Relative strength had a much smaller impact, at between 18-23%, and aerobic fitness was even less impactful, at 14%. So, out of our four initial questions (above), mass seemed to be the big winner.
  • Basically, what study #1 confirmed for us was that, as athletes got heavier, their ruck times got faster. GRAPH 1 (below) shows the relationship between ruck times and body weight.
 

Bret S.

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
This dynamic maybe hinted at by some of the rucking research from MTI:
Hey Martin!

This is interesting..
did the referenced study use a fixed load for participants with different bodyweights?
or was load calculated at percentage of each individuals bodyweight?

If the latter is true then there must be a tipping point where higher bodyweight people would suffer due to a higher overall combined weight being moved?
Add in heat and/or elevation and things become even murkier?
 

offwidth

Level 9 Valued Member
Hey Martin!

This is interesting..
did the referenced study use a fixed load for participants with different bodyweights?
or was load calculated at percentage of each individuals bodyweight?

If the latter is true then there must be a tipping point where higher bodyweight people would suffer due to a higher overall combined weight being moved?
Add in heat and/or elevation and things become even murkier?
High heat and altitude changes everything...
 

Sean M

Level 6 Valued Member
When I decided to get fit 3.5 years ago, I was under-muscled and over-fat. At 6'0", I was 230lbs with 44" waist, approx. 28% body fat.

16/8 intermittent fasting and S&S took care of both: I dropped ~35 pounds of fat (out of belly and face) and added ~5 pounds of lean mass (shoulders and quads/glutes), while working up from 24/16 swings/TGUs to 32/32 work weight for both movements; in 5-6 months.

My leanest was about a year into the process (so 6 months after reaching what would later be called "Timeless Simple"), I was below 200lbs and about 18% body fat (based on 37" waist). I had started deadlifting by then, but was still relatively weak: a shakey 1RM 24kg one-arm press, deadlift 1RM of 285.

Today I'm back at 230, but with +15 lean mass on my frame, and about 22% body fat (~40" waist). And I'm much stronger: 32kg one-arm press any day without warmup, deadlift 1RM near 400.

All that to say: if you are "out of whack" like I was, it took only marginal changes to "right-size" me. I think I could lean down a bit without much or any strength loss or slowing strength progress, but only to a point - I think if I were under 200 again it would stall my strength progress (my main goal). I think me at 210-215, 19-20% bodyfat ~38" waist, is about right.

Edit: Chart of lean mass and fat mass gain/loss, indexed to starting point on 1/1/17:
chart (1).png
It's derived from body fat percentage (derived from waist, neck, and height) and weight, but the trend is clear.
 
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North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
Hey Martin!

This is interesting..
did the referenced study use a fixed load for participants with different bodyweights?
or was load calculated at percentage of each individuals bodyweight?

If the latter is true then there must be a tipping point where higher bodyweight people would suffer due to a higher overall combined weight being moved?
Add in heat and/or elevation and things become even murkier?

This is the last installment they published, might be more on their FB page:
Upcoming Study - Ruck Deep Dive #3: Putting Training Plans to the Test - Mountain Tactical Institute

the load was fixed at just over 60lbs. Have noticed this at work:
"how can this out of shape functional alcoholic hold up his end of a 300+lb oddly shaped machine part and not look like he's having the same challenge I am?"
answer - he weighs 230lbs and I weigh 182, that's a lot of ballast if nothing else.

Backpacking last Oct had my usual approx 90lb load and it actually felt light. My absolute strength is a little better than it has been in quite a while, but also carrying 20+ lbs BW over my historic top-end - overall RPE was no where near what I expected, and over almost continual elevation changes. I don't think it was just being stronger, the added mass seems to allow one to dispense with a lot of small balance adjustments necessary from handling a load that's a higher % of BW. Again, this is maybe hinted at by the lack of correlation between relative strength and rucking ability.

On the flip side, I did some indoor bouldering at about 195lbs over the Summer and it was a lot tougher than I expected, so definitely pros and cons.
 

Bret S.

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
This is the last installment they published, might be more on their FB page:
Upcoming Study - Ruck Deep Dive #3: Putting Training Plans to the Test - Mountain Tactical Institute

the load was fixed at just over 60lbs. Have noticed this at work:
"how can this out of shape functional alcoholic hold up his end of a 300+lb oddly shaped machine part and not look like he's having the same challenge I am?"
answer - he weighs 230lbs and I weigh 182, that's a lot of ballast if nothing else.

Backpacking last Oct had my usual approx 90lb load and it actually felt light. My absolute strength is a little better than it has been in quite a while, but also carrying 20+ lbs BW over my historic top-end - overall RPE was no where near what I expected, and over almost continual elevation changes. I don't think it was just being stronger, the added mass seems to allow one to dispense with a lot of small balance adjustments necessary from handling a load that's a higher % of BW. Again, this is maybe hinted at by the lack of correlation between relative strength and rucking ability.

On the flip side, I did some indoor bouldering at about 195lbs over the Summer and it was a lot tougher than I expected, so definitely pros and cons.
Hmmm..
The linked article doesn't say much at all about details.
- doesn't say if loads matched percent bodyweight
- doesn't say what 'gym' exercise programs were
- doesn't conclude anything really

I don't do f-book so can't see a follow up..

Getting back to strength to weight ratio, I think right now that's at an all-time high for me, of course the last time I weighed 170 lbs was 43 years ago.. so there's that.
I feel great though and really enjoy slow jogging, it's probably my favorite part of training.. never thought I'd say that Haha

Mass is cool and I do like to have some muscle, right now I have pretty much all muscle and some bits of fat. When it comes to running it took awhile to get cooperation from my calves. No surprise there when you consider running is a series of thousands of jumps.

I haven't tested climbing or even rucking lately, just enjoying training while dealing with life and stress etc..
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
When it comes to untrained activities like odd work demands, backpacking, I really saw a huge improvement in relative ease by putting on some lean weight. This was a real eye-opener and one I'd noticed for years at blue collar work - bigger people, even ones who are out of shape but not terribly overweight, have an easier time moving/manipulating odd heavy objects than lighter people, as long as the duration of work isn't too long. Obviously this will have an inverse relationship to other activities and anything with a large endurance component, where the challenge is pegged to bodyweight, or where the hands have to support bodymass.
Very well stated! Tons of good points in this little paragraph. And thus the endless "which is better" debates and "it depends" answers...
 
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