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The Pitfalls of Progressive Overload

By April 18, 2012September 14th, 2016Strength, Strength Training

If you’re an old-time lifter like me, then chances are you’ve fallen into this pitfall. If you’re a younger lifter, I’m sure you’ll fall into this trap several times throughout your lifting career. I’m talking about the pitfall of progressive overload, and it works like this:

The Progressive Overload Pitfall

  1. You notice increased strength on a particular lift, causing you to want to really push the limits and see how far you can go.
  2. You need to feed the machine, so you make sure to consume plenty of food to ensure continuous PR’s.
  3. You achieve steady strength gains for several weeks straight. Your body is looking amazing.
  4. You keep pushing the boundaries, eating more and lifting heavier loads than you’ve ever lifted.
  5. You finally reach your desired strength destination. You look in the mirror and realize that you’re fat.

This has happened to me time and time again throughout my lifting career. For example, I’ve never been a good squatter or bencher. I was able to achieve a 405lb squat and a 335lb bench once in my life – I was eating like a horse and finally achieved these feats at a bodyweight of 250. And I looked like crap. In fact, I remember filling an entire blender each night with whole milk, oats, 8 scoops of whey protein, flax oil, peanut butter, and a banana each night and guzzling down half of it before I went to sleep and the other half when I woke up in the middle of the night to relieve my bladder. I was consuming an extra 1,700 calories while others were sleeping!

This is me when I benched 335 x 1 and squatted 405 x 1. My face was fat and I had a big belly. I was strong but looked like crap.

I’m sure I could easily reach my current goal to deadlift 600 lbs if I quit caring about my looks. All I’d need to do is get up to 250 lbs again and I suspect I could pull it off (I deadlifted 565 in January so I’m pretty sure gaining an extra 25 lbs would do the trick). But this wouldn’t make me happier.

Your Physique Goals Should Keep Your Strength Goals in Check

When I looked the best I ever looked, I wasn’t that strong. I was in amazing shape but I think I weighed 215 at the time. And I was much happier with my image than I was when I weighed 250 lbs but was much stronger. Time and time again throughout my lifting career, I’ve looked in the mirror and realized that it’s time to chill out in the strength department and drop back down in bodyweight to bring my bodyfat levels back to ideal ranges.

This is when I think I looked my best. I wasn’t incredibly strong and I only weighed 215ish but I felt great!

If you’re a powerlifter and you don’t care about your weight class, or your sole goal is to get strong at any cost, or if you’re a skinny beginner with a fast metabolism, then eat all you want. But if your goal is to look good, then you need to keep your bodyweight in check.

The “Stay the Same” Weight Myth

Right now I weigh 225 lbs. I’m not quite satisfied with my belly fat and want to drop some fat in that area. Guess what I tend to say to me to make myself feel better without having to be hungry? Something like this: “I’m gonna get strict, eat clean, focus on my workouts, and get a lot stronger. This will allow me to lose 5 lbs of fat while gaining 5 lbs of muscle which will make me look much better.” Reality check – unless you’re relatively new to lifting, this won’t happen overnight. Simultaneously gaining 5 lbs of muscle while losing 5 lbs of fat can be done, but it’ll probably take a year of doing everything right (unless you’re new to lifting or haven’t been training very hard).

It’s more effective to drop down in bodyweight while attempting to hold onto your strength as much as possible. The biggest problem in the physique-enhancement world is people’s inability to accurately gauge what weight they can reside at and still be lean. For example, I’d love to weigh 245 lbs and be ripped. I’d love to look like The Rock. But I can’t! I’m not genetically gifted like that. No matter what, if I weigh what he does I’m going to carry much more bodyfat than him and my arms will never be as jacked as his.

In a perfect world I’d have The Rock’s physique, but in this lifetime it’s probably not going to happen.

After 5-10 years of heavy training, gains are very hard to come by. I can be big, or I can be lean, but I can’t be both. If I weigh 240 I look big and intimidating in clothes and my absolute strength is great, but when I take my shirt off I have a gut. If I weigh 205 I look ripped with my shirt off but I’m weak and look really skinny in clothes. So I tend to hover in between 215 and 225, which is the range that represents a perfect happy-medium in terms of looking good with and without clothes on.

Pick Your Ideal Weight and Try to Be as Strong as Possible at that Weight

Last December, I returned from New Zealand and trained incredibly hard at a sweet gym in north Scottsdale. The gym allowed me to perform my favorite five lifts repeatedly: squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, bench press, and weighted pull ups. My weight stayed the same, but that month I went up 30 lbs in my deadlift, 20 lbs on my bench press, 20 lbs on my pull-ups, and 40 lbs on my hip thrusts. I hadn’t been training or sleeping optimally before this so my body responded very well – I stayed the same weight but lost an inch around my waist. Key point – I stayed the same weight while getting stronger, and I imagine that during the month I lost 1-2 lbs of fat while packing on 1-2 lbs of muscle.

I know that my ideal bodyweight in terms of looking good naked and looking good with clothes on is around 220lbs. So if I want to look my best, I make sure I’m hovering at around 220 and I try to be the strongest I can possibly be at that weight. What I don’t do is chase strength goals while allowing my bodyweight to rise indefinitely. I’ve learned from past mistakes that while this route can allow you to initially look better, after a few weeks of pigging out it will catch up to you and backfire.


If you’re like me and you like looking good (your primary goal is aesthetics with strength/power/etc. serving as secondary goals), then don’t fall into the progressive overload pitfall. You should definitely try to get stronger over time. But don’t do so by eating like a horse week in and week out, as chances are your bodyweight will continue to rise and all of a sudden you’ll look in the mirror and not like what you see. Most of us normal and natural lifters can’t exist at 250lbs and 8% bodyfat levels. A 200lb man with 10% bodyfat is a pretty good starting goal, so keep that in mind. Chinning 100, military pressing 200, benching 300, squatting 400, and deadlifting 500 are excellent goals too, but you’ll appreciate these goals much more if you stay relatively lean throughout your journey. Always remind yourself that you’re training to look good first, and strength gains that come along are an added benefit.

Don’t be married to strength goals at the expense of becoming fat! You’ll be forced to slim down in order to climb your way out.


  • Teresa M says:

    Great article, Bret! Being female, I also find all of this to be true. I’ve been lifting since 1982, was around 170 in the last years of my USAF career and competed at powerlifting from 1990-1994 (retired in 1998). Managed to “eat clean” afterwards and got down to about 150-155 and returned to powerlifting from 2003-2007, but now am hovering around 165. On top of that, I’m 30 years older now. My strength isn’t ever increasing (and with some back and left knee arthritis, I’ve had to back off a little from some things). Your insights are soooo right on! I need to keep goals of health and looking good ahead of chasing increasing strength. I’ll still be ahead to maintain as much as I can!

  • Damon says:

    Man, you hit the nail on the head with that post! I’ve been suffering from program/nutrition ADD for a while now. It’s hard to totally neglect strength goals, but at 36 feeling good and looking good are definitely taking priority. It’s great to see your numbers improve, but I realize keeping healthy and athletic will keep me in the iron game a lot longer than being out of shape and feeling like a slug. Although, I still plan on hitting a 550 deadlift one of these days…

  • Nice article Bret,

    As an athlete, I have noticed similar tradeoffs between gym numbers and field performance. Sometimes worrying to much about how much I can lift causes my sports performance to suffer a little. Maybe my lifts go up, but at the price of a slightly sore knee, which makes me a little slower on the field. Nothing is for free!

  • Heather says:

    Love your posts. Keep ’em comin’! This one, in particular, really helped my brain absorb what I already knew, just by putting it in persepective. Thank you!

  • Andrew says:

    Bret,I really enjoyed this post as our goals are very closely aligned. It is often tough to balance the desire
    for increased strength while maintaining a bodyweight that you feel you look best at. Out of curiosity, what was your programing like during the month last December when you accomplished these goals?

    • Bret says:

      I trained 4-5 days per week and each day I’d pick a squat (front or back), pick two hip dominant lifts (deadlift, rack pull, back extension, or hip thrust), pick a press (bench press, incline press, close grip bench), pick a pull (pull up, d-handle pulldown, seated row, hammer strength row, db chest supported row). Worked incredibly well!

  • Nick Horton says:

    I can relate to that!!

    One point of clarification for the shorties in the room. If you are tall(er), then 200 pounds at 10% is a good goal. If you are a card carrying member of the Smurf family like me, then 150 to 175 pounds at 10% is a more realistic goal.LOL

    I’m 5’6” and genetically gifted toward muscle gain, and yet when I was 205#’s, it was all I could do to stay under 15% bodyfat.

    Now I’m back down to 170, lean, feel great … but ain’t nearly as strong as I was.

    New goal: 185, 10% bodyfat, stronger than I was at 205. Realistic? only time will tell! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Bret says:

      Good call Nick! Cut me some slack…I was up late. Didn’t mean to ignore the Smurf family ๐Ÿ˜‰ Best of luck on your goal!

  • Wazzup says:

    Re weight … don’t forget that length has a lot to do with weight… 200 lbs still gives a big difference between 5.5 ft an 6.5 ft

  • Bret –

    I think you’re sexy no matter how much you weigh…;o) But in all seriousness….excellent post.

  • nathan says:

    Don’t post this pretty boy stuff on a strongman competitors site ;-P

    Just kidding (well, still don’t post this there)–I think you’re just right and this needs to be said. Bulk up diets have their justified place but too many people who’ll never be linemen or sumo wrestlers carry too much fat to keep their #’s higher.

    Balance is key for almost all people, well said Bret.

    • Bret says:

      Yep; when I was in high school I just wanted to be big…so the lineman look appealed to me (anything beats being skinny!). But as most of us age, we realize that the Men’s Health look is more realistic as most of us cannot be huge and ripped at the same time. We can be huge with big bellies, or skinny and ripped, so we find a happy medium that still allows the abs to show through.

  • Shane says:

    Great post, Bret!

    Completely relevant to me right now because I’m going through this process. Being a smurf like Nick at 5 foot 8 I had worked my way up to about 190lbs and 16-20%-ish bodyfat and while my strength levels were insane (for me) and in my head I thought I looked great, the pictures from a friend’s engagement party proved otherwise. Huge biceps – check; big chest and traps – check; massive bloated cheeks – shiiiittttt!

    A combination of Jason Ferruggia’s ‘renegade diet’ and Joe Defranco’s ‘built like a badass’ will hopefully get me to where I need to be by summer.

    • Bret says:

      Haha! It’s always a picture that drops the bomb on us and alerts us that we’re out of control. You’d think we’d realize this by looking in the mirror everyday, but something about a 2D picture paints a really good picture and exposes the fat cheeks! But oh the strength gains are fun while they last! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Etienne says:

    Hey Bret, great article, I agree completely. I’m unsure if you purposely implied it, but would relatively high-frequency training help with achieving this goal, with a lot of concentration on the ‘main’ lifts? I’m personally aiming to emulate your example with 4-5 full-body workouts (I’m personally a fan of, and seem to respond well to volume).

    Random thought: Seems like aiming for a “x Bodyweight” strength goal would help a fellow aim to stay lean while getting stronger. I’m personally aiming for 1xBW OHP, 1.8xBW bench, 2.4xBW squat and 3xBW DL. Seems like respectable enough goals; I would think that the aesthetics would be A-OK if I reached those goals at my bodyweight? (5ft7in, fluctuate between 152-158 lbs)

    • Bret says:

      HFT works great for me, but it’s hard to say (and it’s hard not to be biased). I know folks who swear by HVT and even HIT, so I try to give them the benefit of the doubt. I think HFT would work best for the majority of folks but some do in fact do better with HVT (less frequency but more volume). Of course those goals look good!

  • Jini Cicero says:

    Spot on Bret. Great article. I think it can be a constant battle. Like so many things, it’s a trade off. Somewhere along the line, you have to make peace with yourself Thanks for the reality check and for your ideas on how to walk that line.

    Great meeting you at the conference by the way. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • phil starr says:

    Hello, Bret,

    I’d bet you began pondering this dilemma after returning from Las Vegas! Anyway, isn’t there an alternative to your “either/or”quandary ( not referring to Kierkegaard). Can’t you eat heavily immediately after a hard workout and include complex carbs in this meal, but not in others during the rest of the day?

    • Bret says:

      Haha. I put on 10 lbs in 2 days in Vegas. I can never control myself at buffets. And sure you can eat big immediately following a workout, as long as you compensate later in the day to adhere to your calories and macros.

      • Teresa M says:

        LOL–I did not go to a single buffet in Las Vegas during ACSM HF Summit (27-30 Mar). In fact, I did not have any sit down-meals, unless you count ordering crepes at a window, picking them up, then sitting around the corner eating them (at Paris).

  • Vicki says:

    Thank you for sharing your feelings about strength which validate my change. Of course re injury is a great motivator. I recently noted the following.

    I am letting go of my desire to be really strong. I do envy the GGS (Girls Gone Strong) and would be with them if my body allowed. I have learned pushing for maximum strength gets me in trouble, takes over my life, and is not worth it.

    My desire is to feel good with good body movement, energy, and strength to live an active, enjoyable life.

  • Eric says:

    Love the article as usual. Being in the short group, mass is easy and I am really lean at 165, “thick” at 180, and a bowling ball at 190. My best advice to others is to be honest about your abs when you get out of the shower. Also, this is just anecdotal, but “stocky” lifters like me tend to thrive on a VLC diet w/o sacrificing too much strength. Good luck all!

    • Bret says:

      Thanks Eric! My former best friend and training partner (he moved away) was 225 at 5’7″! He was a tank…strongest dude I’ve ever trained with, but he did resemble a bowling ball ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Eric says:

        To further that point, I gave up on being “ripped” a few years ago. The strength loss is definitely not worth it. I’m happy with some veins in my arms and chest with a solid 4-pack 6 months out of the year. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • stiffsailor says:

    Great post, Bret.

    However, my question is: why are we stronger with more fat? How could having more bodyfat be making us stronger?

    Or is it caloric deficit required to lose fat that’s affecting strength? But then… if you’ve lost some fat and stay on the same level (having average calorie intake) why would the strength not be as good as when you had more fat, say, half a year ago? You still have same amount of muscle and your muscle fibers are trained to fire and handle loads just as well. Why the loss of strength?

    • Bret says:

      Good question…I’ve thought about this. Might be influenced by hormonal status, total muscle, improved leverages (Budha belly acts as a counterbalance) for the squat, etc.

      • Barry says:

        When you eat a lot you get fat, yes. But you also add muscle. Lyle McDonald has written about this but in essence for every pound you add to your body some will be fat and some will be muscle. That’s why a heavy person, even if he has never worked out, can be extremely strong.
        Also, improved leverage.

  • Marc says:

    Great post I hope yu had a great weekend and learned a lot so you keep keep us posted
    With good information.
    Ciao m

  • Derrick Blanton says:

    Damn, you are on a freaking roll, lately! Now you’re just showing off, rolling out of bed and cranking out quality articles.

    Just to be difficult, I do believe that you could get to 240, and lean. But you might have to stop writing and working so hard, start sleeping, and become a high frequency, high volume, high rep, high everything trainer, with an absolute lockdown, controlled diet..

    As I told a young woman I know who wanted the fitness magazine cover look. You have no idea how miserable, and uncomfortable that model on the cover is..

    Look at it this way: If I offered you a million dollars, to get to 240 with 8% BF by July, you would probably find a way to make it happen, huh?

    • Derrick Blanton says:

      Actually I just did a little math..Maybe July of next year? Ha..but I do think you could get there,

      Your point is well taken, though. Balancing sustainable progress between strength, size, and body composition esp. as we get older becomes the real focus.

    • Bret says:

      Yep; I’d slam down some D-bol sandwiches for 3 straight months haha! I see your point, and I agree – bodybuilding is a 24hr/day job. I suppose my priorities just aren’t conducive to optimal aesthetics right now.

  • Eric Bach says:

    Great Post! I find training for strength to be the way to go. I hit my deadlift goal of 500 this past February right after my graduation. Although I was stoked at reaching my goal I have since dropped 10-15 pounds and sit at about 6%-8%BF at 168 lbs. I am much healthier, only slightly weaker, and much happier overall. Keep goals as focused bouts of effort, but be sure to deload both your nervous system and digestion system after training and eating to move big weights!

  • nathan says:

    Hey Bret,

    great article. I have virtually the same problem (albeit at a lower body weight) and every time i go to aesthetics over training numbers. I worked out a few years ago that nobody really cares what the answer is to the time-old question “how much can you bench?” – Not even the ladies! As long as you look like you bench big, thats fine!

    I think everyone wants to look their best? I think the scales, measuring tape and the calipers are an essential tool that everyone should use… they never lie.

  • Joe Blackmore says:

    Enjoyed the post Bret. I have been experiencing this process myself over the last year. It seems as though I can either be ridiculously lean, but also weak at 150lbs (height 5’11) or try and eat to progress my lifts and get belly fat in the process. I guess my question is whether for someone so skinny, such as myself, is an extended progressive overload that allows for bodyfat to increase worth it for the potential strength/LBM gains? Thanks.

    • Bret says:

      A good rule of thumb is to simply never allow yourself to go over 15% bf. If you are over, focus on cutting down. If you’re under, then you have more wiggle room.

  • Scott Rawcliffe says:

    Wow – are you living in my head?! Totally relate to that entire article, except the massive shake before bed. I tried to have a couple mass 3500 shakes in my day. Great article!! Always good to know that I’m not the only big guy out there who was not born with gifted genetics. Thanks for the honesty.

  • Bret, I’m really surprised by this article and could not disagree more. This sentence especially shocked me “Always remind yourself that youโ€™re training to look good first, and strength gains that come along are an added benefit”
    Really? Aesthetics is why people should train? I think that’s exactly the mindset that we should be changing in people, and that training should be for performance, rather than looks as that’s the key to better health and self-esteem.
    You speak about sacrificing your looks for performance, but I believe you have been too simplistic in your definition. Most likely (and these are assumptions), with all that additional bodyfat, you were less agile, less flexible, your conditioning wasn’t as good, etc. So really you just sacrificed looks for strength, not overall performance.
    I agree that at a certain weight/bodyfat % there is a strength limit you will reach. But presuming that any extra weight you gain will be fat, and make you look worse is not true.
    Weight gain can be done cleanly, but it’s a slow process. People should not look for the quick fix, especially in terms of strength, or body composition. That’s what leads to unhealthy fat gain.
    I’ve successfully gained ~10kg of muscle over the last year, while only fluctuating slightly in terms of bodyfat. And I’m training for overall performance and health, not aesthetics.
    I usually love your posts which is why I was so surprised by this one.

    • Bret says:

      Daevid, I think I didn’t do a good job of explaining myself. What I meant was, if you’re like me, and your goal is to look good, then you have to constantly remind yourself about it (since you’ll become overzealous about chasing strength goals). My first goal is to look good, and my second goal is to be strong/powerful/flexible/etc. So perhaps 50% aesthetics, 30% function, 10% psychological benefit, and 10% health/physiological benefit. I totally agree that you can look great while focusing on performance, and I really think we’re saying the same thing. If you train for performance, you won’t let yourself gain too much weight or bodyfat or else performance starts to suffer. But then of course you have to define function/performance, and everyone has a different definition. Crossfit believes they have the ultimate formula, and I can deadlift most X-fitters max for 20-30 reps. But they can out-HIIT me to death. Different strokes for different folks I guess…but I do agree with you. Thanks for speaking up! BC

      • Daevid Anderson says:

        that fair enough. I guess it just surprised me as I had always taken you for a performance oriented trainer/person, rather than aesthetics oriented.
        But that’s cool – each to their own.
        Cheers for the reply

    • Phil says:

      Daevid I have always found that the Assman has always had a refreshing sense of humour to balance out the science of things. Maybe different people have different focus points in helping them keep perspective.

  • andy says:

    hi bret,
    just on something you touched on earlier. im 6’6 and 220lbs, i dont think i could ever reach the goals you mention without putting on a lot of weight, am i right in saying taller guys with longer limbs arent going to lift as much as shorter limbed guys?

    • Bret says:

      Sure Andy, taller guys typically aren’t the best squatters and benchers (but there are a few who break the mold). But you should find certain lifts that you excel at naturally…perhaps the deadlift, row variations, hip thrusts, etc. Taller guys’ leverages are usually better suited for pulling than pushing.

    • Hey Andy,
      I’m 6’5″ and somewhere just under 225lbs at the moment. I’ve only been strength training properly for around one year and I’m getting close to reaching those goals. It will take time, and dedication, but it’s not impossible.
      In general though, taller guys like us do find it harder, and will struggle to lift the same weight (let alone percentages) as stockier guys.
      Remember putting on weight doesn’t mean putting on fat.

      Find a good program, gain a bit more muscle (at 6’6″ you could be over 225lbs and still be lean) and be consistent. You can get there if you want to.
      Good luck

  • steven says:

    dear bret, i recently re-read your past articles on t-nation and saw the best damn chest and tricep workout and realized that the 115lb weighted dip was really up there in peak activation for high,mid,low pecs and even the triceps. i wanted to ask you 2 very important questions.

    1.) you said you could of gone heavier on the guillotine press, how much heavier could you have gone in the weighted dips?

    2.) i was wondering if you can test the mean and peak activation on the shoulders with the weighted dips. if you already have can you tell me the results? it was not tested on the best damn shoulder and trap workout. how does the weighted dip size up with the shoulders?

    bret thank you so much, those articles helped a ton.

    • Bret says:

      Sorry Steven, I rented the Myotrace and don’t have it anymore. Once upon a time I could do a 160 lb dip but at the time of the experiments 115 was pretty heavy (I think I could bust out around 5 reps with that weight). My guess is that the weighted dip works a ton of anterior delt…should have included that in on the mix. Doh!

  • Sportsgirl says:

    I think this mainly happens to guys. I’ve never had this happen because I am so conscious of having a good bodyweight to lift ratio!

  • Emy says:

    Excellent. My goal from the beginning was “to look good”, which started approximately 16 years ago. I’m now 38 and amazed how far I’ve come. I knew lifting would form an athletic physique, so long as I kept at it and never gave up, which I did. Through my years of lifting, on my own in my home, I’ve never once been injured. So glad I played it safe while also keeping it challenging.

    Thanks for sharing, Bret.

  • Echo says:

    Ah, thank you, Bret, for letting me know I am not alone in the fight! A few of your readers commented on this but I think age is an overwhelming factor in how a person chooses to train and what their desired goal(s) are. My gosh, I could push/pull/run/HITT/go-go-go like a tazmanian devil when I was in my 20’s all the way up to about early/mid 30’s. There was no stopping me, my only gains were in strength and speed. I felt invincible, ate whatever, worked like a dog, slept standing up…you get the picture. ๐Ÿ™‚ Even having twins rocked me back on my heels just long enough to read a newspaper.

    Then, I turned 38 or 39. And. It. All. Stopped. Small injuries started creeping in when I didn’t prehab and rehab like I should. Pushing through tough workouts was a recipe for a weeks’ worth of suffering the likes of which were new for me. I found myself not moving heaven and earth to make sure I worked out. The love affair had dampened. I still felt fantastic after a good lifting session or a good run but they were harder to come by and I was better at making excuses.

    As we age we get better at making deals with our bodies, we acknowledge the inevitable limitations, but we also get smarter about how to train around the limitations, and we find success in different goals. Being realistic, as you pointed out, about training goals (and not having too many!) keeps things achievable without running our bodies into the ground.

    At 20 I would have wanted to burn out like a solar flare doing the most, with the heaviest, in that fastest time possible. At 42 I want to be able to do what I did this morning in another 10 years and be ready to tackle whatever comes up for the rest of the day. At 20 I would have called this compromise a failure, at 42 I call it a plan for sustained success.

    • Cassye says:

      thank you for your reply to this post, Echo. I was in the same boat as you in my earlier years, and now at 47 I feel like it’s the year that I’ve gotten old. I’ve had to let go lot of my identity around lifting, and just accept what I’m able to do at this point. The good news is that I don’t have to train nearly as often and as hard as I used to think I did. So I’ve let go of a lot of fear and am able to enjoy life a little more while training quite a bit less.

  • Great reality check for the natural trainee and +1 for being the only person in the world without e-stats. Your strength accomplishments are all many people with average genetics can hope to achieve, so you can be proud of them.

  • maureen says:

    I agree with tony your sexy no matter what your weight..Love reading your stuff… I put your video instructions on my phone and take you to the gym ….when in doubt I pull out bret….Thanks

  • Phil says:


    Whats the science say on being able to lift heavy but still keeping your bodyweight down? I know it seems to be everybody’s experience that you lose strength when you drop the weight but is there science to it?

    • Matt B says:

      Great question and great post Bret! I compete in bjj and muay thai and my constant struggle is trying to increase my strength but keeping myself just above the lightweight division before competition. I get excited when my squat and bench goes up, but usually it’s an indication that I gained a couple pounds that I then must shed before a tournament (thus losing some of my strength gain). If you know any books/research out there that aims specifically towards wrestlers/fighters who want to increase strength, but keep weight down it would be greatly appreciated! -Matt

  • pete says:

    Thanks for the article Bret. I would suggest that the message is not presented in the best way. A guy should never look in the mirror and decide it’s time to ‘chill out in the strength department’! Also, do you really think you looked fat in that picture? Are you crazy? Someone could be reading this who is getting progressively stronger and sitting at the 12-15% bodyfat range (the type of skinny guy who is happier at sub 10%, but certainly not ‘happy’ as he has no muscle) and decides, ‘to hell with this, Im gonna get my sixpack back’. All his effort is for nothing as he stops eating and gets back down to a bodyweight that he has never been happy with before because it makes him look like a marathon runner. But at least you can see his sixpack (and ribcage)! I would think an article on how to gain weight sensibly and turn into a Jim Wendler looking motherfucker would be a good follow up to this!! Hope you don’t take offence to this, it’s just my opinion.

  • Thomas says:

    I actually really like this article and you and your other posts, Bret, but I have to ask: who was this written for? Or were you just documenting your own thoughts?

    If someone is of the same mindset and don’t want to get fat but wants to get bigger and stronger, surely they won’t need convincing and will just cut back on the eating once they don’t like being fat?

    On the other side of the coin, there are those of us who are interested in being strong and don’t mind gaining some fat in getting there (which you admittedly acknowledge). And I don’t think this article will change that.

    It has given me some food for thought, though (perhaps your original intention), so again, thanks for a good read. Keep liftin’

    I especially like the bit about looking good with and without clothes. I have a skinny friend who loves to show off his abs but looks frail in a t, and I look a lil chubby with my t shirt off but closer to being a man with one on. LOL

  • Kalvin says:

    What a great post! This is my story, too. I got up to deadlifting double my bodyweight for nearly 20 reps (18). I used to look n the mirror, hold in my gut, and convince myself that I was doing great. Then one day the truth hit me: I looked like crap. I spent 6 months losing the excess flab. I now do much more calisthenics. I like that fact that getting strong with calisthenics forces you to keep your bodyweight in check.

  • Martin says:

    thats not due to progressive overload, thats due to consuming too many calories.

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