Stronger VS Lighter – Friends or Foes?

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by J. Humenay

Ever see “Body weight” on a workout and cringe a little bit?

I do. At 5’8″, I hover somewhere between 190 and 200 pounds. As a woman, I’m still challenged by many ‘body weight’ lifts. While squatting and dead lifting my body weight (and then some) isn’t an issue, I can’t (yet) bench press my body weight and movements like pull ups are challenging to say the least. My Olympic Lifts are coming along, but it’ll still be a while until I hit that 200 lb mark. However, when my trainer gave me a Metabolic Conditioning workout today that included a large number of kettle bell swings at 25% of my body weight, I didn’t shy away from it.

If you’ve read my other articles or followed my blog, you know that I’m a fan of dethroning the scale as a measure of mood, self worth, and fitness progress. Now, that doesn’t mean I completely advocate throwing caution to the wind, but I am a big fan of storing it in a closet most of the month. Knowing a ball park figure is enough for me.

When I was hammering out those kettle bell swings, I started wonder what the body weight stuff would be like if I was lighter.

I am assured this is a common dilemma among athletes. If I lose ‘weight’, will I lose strength?

The truth is, there is no easy answer. Sometimes, yes, they DO go hand in hand. Losing ‘weight’ can also mean muscle loss, which would result in a decrease of strength. I’ve lingered long enough in highly reduced calorie diets and other “fad” diets that I have been “lighter” several times in my life.

But I’ve never been stronger. And I’ve never been fitter.

Sure, if I was ‘lighter’, a workout calling for a kettle bell 25% of my body weight would be lighter. But then again, would I be gaining the same strength I gain from swinging this 50lb beast? My metabolic rate would be different and I may (or may not) wear a smaller clothing size. (Although, ironically enough, the clothes I wore when I was ‘lighter’ now fall off…although I’m decidedly ‘heavier’.)

Yes, the ‘weight’ still slips off. Like most, I have body fat left to burn off. I’ll be entering an Olympic Weight Lifting competition soon, and my “weight” will play a part. For the local Strongman competition I’ll be competing in, it will mean that I will playing with heavier women. I’ll be moving heavier loads and the like.

When faced with questions like, “How do you feel about your weight?” all I can think of to reply is, “I’m stronger than ever. I dethroned the scale a long time ago.”

When weighing out strength vs weight, it can be discouraging. The scale often goes up while the muscle comes on. Eventually, if the intake lines up, it will go down. Trusting the process isn’t always easy. Keeping strength in perspective can make the body weight, well, a little less “heavy” on the mind.

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