Weight Cutting for Powerlifting

When weight cutting for powerlifting, the goal is to be able to cut the desired amount of bodyweight without losing strength or having to take drastic measures. I personally I am not experienced or knowledgeable enough to comment or give advice on more drastic weight cutting measures. But the below protocol easily takes care of about a 3-5% drop in body weight, which for the vast majority of competitors should be the top end of how much they should cut for a meet. Optimally if you are under a 2 hour weigh-in process, it would be best to not really have to cut at all, but if the time calls for a cut I have a fairly easy go-to plan that has worked for many. The below article in my opinion is probably the best there is on weight cutting, but it is fairly detailed an all encompassing. I instead want to give a simplified version for the very specific approach of a 3-5% body weight loss, as well as add some information gained from other sources and that has worked extremely well through experience.


So if you look at that article, one of the first charts is the water loading process, which is the same for 24 hour and 2 hour weigh-ins for the most part. The weight cut I use is a combination of this water loading process and a gut cut, emphasis on the gut cut. When all that is needed is a 3% or less body weight loss, many times I will only do a gut cut only, as that is where most of the weight loss comes from. What is a gut cut? Basically it is getting rid of all the “poop” that is in your intestines. Gut weight does not have any effect on strength, so if we can limit the amount of built up food in your intestines, then we can achieve a fairly high amount of weight loss (2-3% of body weight) with no impact on your performance. If we need more than a 2-3% loss, then I will also add the water loading process. The scientific detail of the exact physiological processes of why a water load works is beyond my scope of knowledge, but if you are interested in the actual mechanics of it, take a listen to The Strength Athlete Podcast Episode 15, where Reid Reale goes into detail about that (TSA Podcast Episode 15). Basically you drink excess water than you need, which then tells your body to start to urinate more, and then once you cut water back you continue urinating at the same rate yet your aren’t drinking as much water. So since we’ve got the details of what is happening physiologically, let’s lay out the actual plan.

Gut Cut

3 Days Out 2/3rds of your calories from Protein Shakes and Almonds, and 1/3rd from very calorically dense foods and zero fiber foods (most likely high sugar foods with low weight). Maintain your normal caloric intake. For example if your intake is 3,000 calories, what you will do is account for 2,000 calories, or 2/3rds, to come from protein shakes and almonds, and the other 1,000 calories to come from sugary/zero fiber foods.
2 Days Out 2/3rds of your calories from Protein Shakes and Almonds, and 1/3rd from very calorically dense foods and zero fiber foods.
1 Day Out 2/3rds of your calories from Protein Shakes and Almonds, and 1/3rd from very calorically dense foods and zero fiber foods.


Water Load

2 Weeks Out 1 Gallon a day for a minimum of a week prior to the water load.
4 Days Out 2 Gallons
3 Days Out 2 Gallons
2 Days Out 1 Gallon
1 Days Out .5 Gallons

The protein shakes and the almonds are the key to the gut cut. Protein shakes have basically zero gut weight to them, and almonds are super calorically dense and also are dense in all 3 macro-nutrients. The is no real need to do this for more than 3 days prior to weigh-ins, as longer is not better. If someone only needs to lose 1-2lbs., I may even only have them do this for 2 days instead of 3. But this 3 day gut cut should yield around a 2-3% loss in body weight. I actually have most people used salted almonds, as sodium is still important and if all you are eating is protein shakes, unsalted almonds, and sugary foods you are also accidently doing a sodium cut as well. In cases where we may have a large weight cut, then I will go unsalted so that we cut down on sodium as well, but otherwise I keep it as salted almonds.

For the water load, it is a must that at least a week prior to starting the load that you consistently consume 1 gallon a day to get yourself acclimated to that intake. At 4 days out you will start loading with 2 gallons, which by the second day of that you will most likely be urinating non-stop. 2 days out you drop to 1 gallon and then 1 day out is .5 gallons. Make sure this water is accounted for within the protein shakes. That last day you have to be pretty sparing with water, and most likely every drop will be used for your protein shake consumption.

Now for some caveats to this:

  1. Make sure to weigh every single morning, with the most important days being 2 days and 1 day out. Based on where you are at, you can adjust. In particular what commonly happens is that 1 day out an athlete has already hit weight, and if that is the case I will increase the water intake to .75 or maybe even 1 gallon so that they do not have to suffer as much.

  2. The gut cut is the main priority and where the majority of the weight loss will come from. You MUST weigh and track your food. Do not eyeball. The small details are extremely important, and 20 almonds does not necessarily equal 28 grams of almonds. Same goes for water loading. Make sure to measure out every ounce/liter you drink.

For a 200lb. athlete, typically I can expect about a 6-7lb. loss from this protocol, with times where I have seen up to 11lbs. and other times as low as 4lbs. So what that means is try this well before a competition. If you have never cut before, don’t let your first time be the week of the competition. Typically I will have new athletes practice this during a deload week a couple months out just to see how their body responds. If done correctly and with precision, this is a very effective protocol that is much easier on the body and strength levels than subjecting yourself to a sauna for hours on end.


Proper Squat Descent Speed

What is the proper descent speed on a squat?

The fastest speed at which you can stay in control of the movement. This includes maintaining proper positioning, keeping the bar path over your mid-foot, correct bracing patterns, keeping your knees out and tension in the hips, and much more. But the main point is the descent speed is dictated by if you can keep all the technical specifications of a squat in order. You may even notice with yourself that as the intensity increases, you start to slow the movement down a bit, which is very common. That is a natural reaction to make sure you stay in control of the weight, versus the weight controlling you. Lighter weights will be easier to control than heavier weights, so many times as you work up in intensity, descent speed will start to change. For some, they can almost dive bomb a squat and stay in proper positions, while others basically do a tempo squat. There is a benefit to speeding the eccentric up, as the elastic rebound is greater, but when the eccentric speed reaches a point where it compromises form, it is detrimental.

One of the first things I have my athletes do when there are technical breakdowns in the squat is to slow down the eccentric. If the eccentric loading process is correct, usually the concentric portion of the squat will follow suit. What commonly will happen with lifters is that during the last 1/4th range of motion during the eccentric, things will start to show an internal bias. Knees cave in, upper/lower back rounds, hips and knees push forward, and ankles pronate. Not always, but many times this can be fixed by slowing down the movement. A good tell is if a lifter has great form at lighter weights. If they do, that means they have the ability to hit proper positions in a squat, it’s just that at certain intensities that breaks down. And if that is the case, slowing down the movement can help to alleviate these issues.

The take home message is to only go as fast on the eccentric as allows you to maintain optimal movement quality. If you consistently experience breakdown in form, slow down the movement until you can maintain proper position and tension throughout the movement. But if you can speed up the movement, do so, as that elastic rebound will aid in strength if you can control the movement through the entire range.


Volume vs. Intensity Induced Powerlifting Injuries

When it comes to powerlifting injuries, one of the single biggest questions to ask is if it is volume or intensity induced. What that basically means is that if it is volume induced, at a certain volume level pain starts to increase. On the other hand if it is intensity induced, that means at a certain percentage of your 1RM pain starts to increase.

Volume induced injuries usually are overuse based injuries, such as tendinitis or other types of inflammation. What it boils down to is you are just doing too much of something, whether that is the total volume of a lift, volume of one specific movement pattern (Ex: only competition squatting, no variations), or possibly too much frequency with not enough time to recover between sessions. Volume induced injuries usually are minor at first, probably described as “discomfort” rather than pain, but when left untreated they build and build and build until they eventually start affecting your training.

Intensity induced injuries on the other hand usually are due to form breakdown. If at X% someone starts to feel pain, I can almost guarantee that is also the % that they start to alter their movement in a negative way. Unlike volume injuries, intensity based injuries are more acute and happen quickly, such as muscle strains or possibly even tears. While there is definitely overlap between these two, in my experience each injury definitely fits more into one than the other and we can adjust training based off that.

So how we do we know which it is? There isn’t a perfect answer for this, but usually three factors play into it:

  1. What is causing pain?

  2. Has this issue slowly built up over time?

  3. When you warm up, does it feel okay until a certain weight?

“What is causing the pain” can many times dictate the answer right off the bat. If you know it is some type of tendinopathy, then we know it is probably volume induced. If it is a strained hamstring from a max attempt deadlift, we know it is probably intensity driven. The second question helps to determine if this is an overuse injury or an acute injury. If it has very slowly worsened each passing session, that follows the characteristics of an volume induced overuse injury. If you’ve had zero pain and then all of a sudden it’s now “7/10” on the pain scale, then that sounds more like an intensity induced acute injury. And lastly, if when warming up you do not experience any pain until a certain weight, that is leaning towards an intensity based injury.

So how do we treat this?

First let us understand that knowing if it is volume or intensity induced is not the end all be all. There are many more variables that go into play in determining a proper rehab protocol. But with the knowledge of knowing it is caused by volume or intensity, we can definitely make alterations to the training plan to adjust for this.

For volume induced injuries, your absolute best friend is data tracking. If you do not track volume, total sets, and just general training history it will make this much harder to know exactly what your tolerable volume limits were. If the injury is volume induced, as stated above, it means that you have done too much volume. So if we know a measured volume that you were able to sustain healthy training at, we know exactly where we need to be. A good recent example is my athlete Dan, who suffers from patellar tendinopathy that is definitely volume induced. Fortunately we track volume every block, and this past training block we specifically did a volume bump to see if he could tolerate it. Unfortunately he could not, but it was an easy fix as we know exactly where his tolerable levels of volume are from previous blocks where he was able to train pain free. We adjusted, and in a manner of one week he was already back to being pain free. They key comes down to reducing training volume. Usually at first I will drop volume more than needed though. If we continue at too high a volume the injury will get worse, but if we only drop to our normal tolerable volume most likely the injury will just maintain, neither improving nor worsening. So to initially to reduce inflammation, I will drop volume below their tolerable levels, allow them to recover, and once pain subsides then increase their volume back to the levels we know they can sustain.

As for the other side of things, with an intensity based injury the main fix is to adjust training loads to be below the threshold of whatever % causes pain. As mentioned before, intensity based injuries usually coincide with some type of form breakdown at that same %, so we will use that time at submaximal loads to specifically focus on fixing that improper movement pattern. Each session you can gradually increase loading, no more than 2.5-5% per session, and slowly work your way back up, always staying below that pain threshold. If you increase one session and pain is reintroduced, drop back down and stay under that threshold. Many times there will be “bad days”, so you need to autoregulate the training loads to account for that. To go along with reducing training loads, many times I use self limiting variations to accomplish this task. For example, we may still be able to keep relative intensity fairly high by doing a tempo pause squat variation that greatly reduces the loading demands, yet RPE wise can still push to higher levels. It is all dependant on the lifter, but the key here is staying below that pain threshold and working to improve movement.

For any injury there are always more variables that come into play than simply volume vs. intensity induced injuries, but this question is one that every lifter needs to ask themselves when experiencing pain. It is vital to know the route cause of the issue and address the training stress accordingly. Hopefully this helps better guide your rehab efforts, and any questions always feel free to reach out!




Database Of the Best Powerlifting Articles

One thing I will never forget is when I asked one of my clients who was 25 years old what his future career goals were, and it was to retire by 30. He was a software engineer, and I followed up that question with how in the world did he learn all the stuff he knows? His answer…..youtube. He watched youtube videos and learned enough to create a multi-million dollar software company. The information is out there, we just have to find it. I do not have a formal education in exercise science or kinesiology, I actually have a Master’s in Business Administration, but what I am is a diligent reader. I try to read everything I can get my hands on when it comes to exercise science, especially pertaining to powerlifting. So to make this a bit easier for everyone else, I compiled a database of all the articles I highly recommend reading. And I would be bold to say that anyone who reads every one of these articles could probably consider themselves in the upper 1% of knowledge in the realm of powerlifting. I’ll also try to continue to add to this database as I come across new material, so make sure to save this page and come back for updates. The articles are in no particular order of best to worst, so make sure to scroll and check everything out!

Strength Training Theory and Principles










































Bench Press






















Mobility/Warm-up/Movement Prep


Injury and Rehab







Powerlifting Meets and Competing




Weight Cuts



Powerlifting Warm Up Room Strategy

I’m going to have to say that the most butchered aspect of a powerlifting meet, and my biggest pet peeve in all of powerlifting, is the warm up room. As I look around at almost every meet I am at, I can’t help but wonder what 90% or so of the lifters in there are thinking. And while I could easily turn this whole blog post into a rant, as I get very worked up over this topic, I am going to do my best instead to educate on how to properly warm up at a meet.

So let’s begin with pre-meet warm up planning, which is non-existent for most lifters, and that is where the issue starts. You need to have a plan going in. You spend all this time training and working your butt off for meet day, and then you go in and wing it (shaking my head). Instead, take the 5 minutes to actually write out your warm ups, or just use The Strength Athlete’s free warm up planning document (click here: http://thestrengthathlete.com/freebies/). I still use this document to this day and edit it based on my preferences, and it makes it a breeze. The coolest part is that it even has the kilo plate loading chart so if you get to the warm-up room and there are these foreign red and blue objects that are Un-American, you will still know how to properly load the bar. So now that you’ve taken the time to plan out your warm ups, lets talk about how to actually time your warm ups, which is where things really get out of hand.

First and foremost, understand the Next Lifter results/attempt projection, or whichever program they will use to display all the results and attempts, is your absolute BEST FRIEND for timing your warm ups. In the USAPL, it is required of meet directors to have this visible for the lifters to see in the warm up room (I am not sure if this is required for USPA, but I believe it is as well). You are going to use those results for two main things. First, to see how the prior flight before you is moving, and second, to make sure to know where you are listed within your flight.

So let’s start from the beginning, when you are about to warm up for squats. Within this, there are two main examples, being that your are either in the first flight of the day, or that you are in any other flight that is not the first flight.

Squat Flight 1 Warm Up

The first thing to know is the start time, and this may change depending on how weigh-ins went and if the meet director was able to keep things running on time. From that start time, for most lifters I will have them start warming up about 30 minutes prior. If a meet is being ran correctly, the rules briefing should be 30 minutes before start time, so this would mean I would have my lifter start warming up immediately following the rules briefing. I do not use that as a set in stone measurement of when to start though, as you can’t rely on the rules briefing to be perfectly on time. Prior to that, I usually tell the lifter to start whatever mobility, foam rolling, movement prep, etc. about 45 minutes out, so that they have a solid 15 minutes to do what they need. As well as to make sure to plan a bathroom break during that time, and get some extra fluids in and any snacks they’ d like to have. Once it is 30 minutes out, we then start. I am baffled to this day when half the warm up room, especially when it is a female only first flight, is warming up an hour before start time. If you did your pre-meet planning, you will probably notice that you only have 5-8 warm ups depending on your opening weight. That WILL NOT take an hour to do. Unless you are squatting over 600lbs., you do not need more than 30 minutes to warm up. Let’s take the example that you have 6 warm up squats planned, and it is 30 minutes out.  That is 1 warm up every 5 minutes. Going back to what I said about the results projection, know exactly where you are lined up in your flight with your opening squat. If you are first in your flight, work backwards from there. So if you know the start time is 9am, and you are the first to squat, then your last warmup should be around 8:55am. Your second to last warm up around 8:50am, third to last warm up at 8:45am, and so on. I personally really focus on the final 4 warm ups, and making sure those are timed perfectly, and that will make even more sense once I talk about what to do for all the other flights who are not first. Now if you are last in your flight, or at least later within the attempts, you most likely will take your final warm up right at start time. If you take the same strategy as above and hit your final warm up at 8:55am, but you are the last squat in a flight of 12 lifters, you might end up going 15 or more minutes without hitting a squat. So instead plan back now from your final warm up attempt being at 9:00am.

Squat Flight 2, 3, or 4 Warm Up

Now let’s look at the example of everyone else who is not in the first flight. This is where the results projection comes even more into play. If you are in Flight 2, you do not know when Flight 1 will end, so you have to use the results to track the speed of the prior flight. And just like mentioned above, know exactly when you will be lifting within your flight, as its all about planning back. Let’s first look at the example of someone who starts their squat early in their flight, specifically using the example of someone squatting in flight 2. Usually it takes about 10-15 minutes for a flight to go through a full round of attempts. So if you are starting early in flight 2, here is the breakdown of your warm ups….

Last warmup: halfway through the 3rd attempts of flight 1. Depending on where you squat within flight 2, you could push this to maybe 3/4ths of the way through flight 1.

2nd to last warmup: beginning of 3rd attempts of flight 1.

3rd to last warmup: halfway through 2nd attempts of flight 1.

4th to last warmup: beginning of 2nd attempts of flight 1.

And then let’s also look at the attempt selection of someone starting later in their flight…

Last warmup: at the end of the 3rd attempts of flight 1. If you are last in your flight, you may even hit your last warm up when the first lifter of your flight hits their 1st attempt.

2nd the last warmup: halfway through 3rd attempts of flight 1.

3rd to last warmup: beginning of 3rd attempts of flight 1.

4th to last warmup: halfway through 2nd attempts of flight 1.

Any warm ups prior to that are usually pretty light, so not as much thought needs to go into their exact timing, but just make sure to get them done in a manner where you have about 5 minutes between each warm up, and complete the 5th to last warm up 5 minutes prior to when you are scheduled to start the above protocol. If you start too early, you will end up just sitting around and likely getting cold, so it is vital to plan backwards. I would say for the vast majority of lifters I have coached on meet day, I start their warm ups right when the prior flight starts. I then start to gauge the speed of the flight, and then make sure that things will line up so their 4th to last warm up will be when the 2nd attempts begin or halfway through the 2nd attempts, depending on where they are squatting within their flight. This is where having an experienced gameday coach helps so much. As a lifter, this is just a lot to keep track of, but when you have someone there doing this planning for you, it makes it so all you have to worry about is lifting.

Bench Warm Up

You most likely are going to be benching significantly less weight than you squatted, so even less warm up attempts are needed, probably somewhere around 4-6 warm up attempts. The only issue I find sometimes with bench is since everyone is starting wayyyyy too earlier, if I don’t have my lifters jump in, we lose our spot in the rack (this happens on squats too, but usually it is less of a problem). So many times I will have them start earlier with the other lifters, and then just hit the 45lb. bar for like 3-4 sets just so we can not lose our bench, while also simultaneously doing their upper body mobility, movement prep, bathroom break, etc. during that time. And by early I mean when the previous flight starts. Usually you don’t need to starting warming up on bench until about halfway through 1st attempts, or if it is a female lifter with a fairly weak bench press, they probably don’t even need to start warming up until the prior flights 2nd attempts. As for the warm up protocol, it is the same as above. Except now even flight 1 follows the previous flight for their warm up attempts. The only consideration for flight 1 is that usually a 5 minute break is taken after the final flight of squats, so I also go and make sure to ask the meet director or and official if they will be doing that. If they are, then you can use this protocol if you are benching early in your flight…..

Last warmup: at the end of the 3rd attempts of the previous flight. Since there will be a 5 minute break, you’ll have some time after the end of the previous flight now.

2nd the last warmup: halfway through 3rd attempts of the previous flight.

3rd to last warmup: beginning of 3rd attempts of the previous flight.

4th to last warmup: halfway through 2nd attempts of the previous flight.

And then let’s also look at the attempt selection of someone starting later in their flight…

Last warmup: during the first attempt of the first lifter in your flight

2nd the last warmup: at the end of the 3rd attempts of the previous flight.

3rd to last warmup: halfway through 3rd attempts of the previous flight.

4th to last warmup: beginning of 3rd attempts of the previous flight.

For all other flights that will not have a break before bench starts, you will use the previous protocol listed above in the “Squat Flight 2, 3, or 4 Warm Up”, but again just make sure it is timed correctly with the consideration of bench press requiring less warm up attempts.

Deadlift Warm Up

Funny enough, deadlifts are usually not an issue with people starting too early. Usually by this point they have either learned their lesson and/or are just wanting a break from being exhausted. Deadlifts will be fairly similar to squats, where you will have the lifter do any mobility, movement prep, bathroom breaks then get into warm ups as soon as the prior flight starts. As above with bench press, there may be a small break between bench press and deadlift, so the first flight will want to know the length of that break and plan accordingly. Using the above protocols based on the scenario, warm up based on your deadlift position within your flight. I would say deadlifts are the least affected by maybe finishing warm ups a bit early. If there is a lift that I don’t mind my lifters maybe finishing up a tad early to really have time to get their mind right, it is on deadlifts. But for the most part I follow the same protocols as above based on the flight they are in, and then go out there and finish strong!

Hopefully this shed some light on how to properly warm up at a meet, and gave you some ideas to implement next go around. You have a big leg up just by having a plan going in, and even a bigger advantage if you time things right and use the results projection to your advantage. To end, here are a 10 unofficial warm up room rules so that I can finish with small rant!

  1. 3-4 lifters to a rack per flight. Be courteous before just jumping in and ask those already there to make sure you are not overloading that warm up station.

  2. Do not switch racks/platform come bench or deadlift because you like someone else’s setup better and try to hop in before them to steal it. Get to the meet early to reserve your warm up rack if it is so important to you.

  3. Download BarCalc for $1.99 if you don’t know kgs. Don’t ask someone to put 315lbs. on the bar when you are using kilo plates, and put the conversion burden on them.

  4. Do not randomly jump in wanting to warm up with just the bar or 135lbs. when it is clear that particular rack/lifters are already well into the 400s. Find a different rack. Or have a better plan coming in then jumping in for a couple warm ups 5 minutes before your flight starts.

  5. As a coach, I am happy to help everyone, but I am there for my lifters. I will happily help load weights for other lifters in the same rack, but if you are screwing around and not paying attention to when it is your turn, I’ll also happily skip over you so that my lifters stay on track.

  6. Try as much as possible to choose a warm up rack with other lifters of your weight class and height. Don’t be the 93kg guy trying to work in with 52kg women, and vice versa.

  7. Don’t steal someone else’s plates that they’ve obviously set aside for their warm up rack.

  8. Be respectful of the gym’s equipment. They have graciously hosted the meet, treat their equipment as such.

  9. Unrack your weights when you are done. Don’t leave 405lbs. on the bench press rack and make the next flight have to unrack and break it all down to deadlift.

  10. Get to know the other lifters. In the end it’s all about having fun and the community of powerlifting is a big part of that. Leave with friends, not enemies.