Lift - A Journey for Strength and Performance #1: Weight management for performance

I'm going to reflect on my journey for strength and performance over the past year for my first few posts. Specifically, my pursuits in classical weightlifting: the Clean & Jerk and Snatch, but I'll include some feats with my favorite counterpart strength implement - Kettlebells!

In an ideal world I could lift heavy continuously hitting new PRs while training for the 90-miler Adirondack Classic Canoe race and sneak a sunset surf session in at the end of the day - perfection! Unfortunately, the reality is, if you want to excel at something you need to focus on that one thing = law of specificity. Right now my primary focus is on weightlifting - specifically hitting new PRs in the Clean & Jerk and Snatch. My first and last meet was in the spring of 2015, I competed in the 77kg weight class, hit 75kg in the Snatch and would have hit 97kg in the Clean & Jerk, but I got red lighted for pressing it out at the top. After that meet I spent the majority of the next 2-years on the water either canoeing, SUPing, or surfing until October 2016 when I moved to Washington, DC with my wife to change things up!

Since October 2016 I've been focusing back on strength! I'm a tall skinny guy, definite ectomorph, always walking around 10-12% body fat without much effort. Since October I've put on a solid 5-6lbs of muscle with only a +1-2% increase in body fat and I've hit PRs in both my Overhead Squat and Front Squat. You may be thinking, "5-6lbs over 12 months isn't that impressive!" and I would reply by saying, "You're obviously not an ectomorph!".

Any hard gainer will tell you, it's not easy putting on weight, and it's especially difficult doing it without eating "dirty". To make weight for the meet above I was eating everything - most notably Little Debbie's Oatmeal Cream Pies - Soooooo good! As nice as the eat anything to get your macros approach to weight gain is, it's not the best approach for enhancing pound-for-pound strength and performance. I can feel the difference in weight now compared to that first meet and my numbers are showing that.

I'll end this post with some wisdom from my experience both gaining weight and cutting weight (I cut down to 150lbs when I competed in the Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament just months before my first weightlifting meet at 169lbs). Not only is it helpful to have pre-planned breakfast, lunches, and dinners 4-5 days out of the week, but even before that it's important to understand what's realistic. If you want to perform or just feel your best at a particular weight it needs to be gradual aka 0.25 to 0.5 pounds a week in either direction. The rare exception in performance sports is Bodybuilding and Physique Competition, but if you decide you want to look like one of them make sure you do your research - it's literally impossible to maintain a healthy lifestyle in the physiological state that these men and women are in during a competition AND all that muscle and leanness is the result of discipline and dedication. If you want to be successful in altering body composition WHILE maintaining optimal performance remember these 2 things:

  1. One pound of tissue = 3500 calories, to gain/lose half a pound in a week all you need to do is add/remove about 250 calories a day - That's 1 or 2 snacks for most of us! 
  2. The foods/liquids you take in the most in any given day/week is a good place to start for modifying - changing its portion size will give you the biggest bang for your buck!

My plan is to write a post for every day I lift and discuss why I did what I did, how it went, and reflect a bit. I hope you got something useful out of this!

- Jared