What To Do When You Lose Strength On A Cut?
February 23rd 2020
If you lose strength while cutting, is there any way to avoid this?
While trying to optimize your physique you might have adopted the idea to diet while following a strength training program.
Although cutting will help you lose body fat, it will also result in decreased strength.
This is because while you are on a cut, you are not providing your body the nutrients it needs to build muscle.
As a result, your body will actually burn fat and muscle in order to obtain the nutrient it needs.
This is why while on a cut, you will lose fat, but you will also lose strength due to losing muscle.
Is it possible then, to build or maintain strength while on a cut? What can you do in order to counteract these effects?
All of these questions and more will be answered in today’s article.
Losing strength while on a beginner strength training program?
If you are following a beginner’s strength program such as Starting Strength, you should not be on a cut.
This is because the program was designed to be run on a caloric surplus.
If you are on a caloric surplus, it decreases the chance that you will plateau and maximizes the amount of muscle you build.
However, if you are on a cut, you will not be able to build a sufficient amount of muscle needed to progress each week according to the program.
While on a cut, you’ll find yourself lacking energy, so you will not be able to lift as much weight as if you were on a bulk.
As a result, you will not be able to put enough effort into the gym which will result in decreased muscle mass.
What should beginners do if they are losing strength while on a cut
Beginners should accept the fact that if they are on a cut, they will lose strength.
There are ways to mitigate these effects, but no realistic ways to counteract these effects in the long run.
If you are not giving your body enough energy it needs to function adequately, you will not have enough energy to perform your lifts.
In addition, because of the effects of the cut, you are losing both fat and muscle.
There is no way to just target fat loss, you have to lose both which will result in decreased strength in the long run.
Finally, when you are at a lower weight, you will be less strong.
This is why you can see in powerlifting federations the athletes in the higher weight class usually have a higher total.
To put it simply, you will always be stronger at a higher weight.
So now that you understand the effect weight, and cutting weight has on your strength, what are some ways to mitigate the amount of strength you lose?
Is it possible to maintain or even gain strength on a cut?
The answer is yes, but for certain people.
It is possible to maintain or gain strength if the gains are due to developments of the nervous system.
As explained in other articles, strength does not depend solely on muscle size.
It also depends on how efficient the nervous system is in recruiting muscles to use.
For example, there could be two lifters with the same amount of muscle, but the lifter with a better optimized nervous system will be able to recruit more muscles which results in increased strength.
How you can optimize your nervous system is by lifting heavy weight, which forces your body to adapt.
While lifting heavy weight, you will gain some muscle, but you are mostly training your nervous system to be able to handle heavier and heavier weight.
Neurological adaptation is the primary source of “beginner gains” where beginners are able to progress on their lifts week by week for a long time without plateauing.
To put it simply, the reason you could progress each week while on a cut is not because you are gaining muscle, but because your nervous system is adapting to being able to recruit more and more muscle fibers while you lift.
This will continue until you reach a point where you are unable to continue adding weight each week.
At this stage, your nervous system might already be at its maximum optimization, and then you will need to build bigger muscles in order to get stronger.
How much strength do you lose on a cut?
How much strength you lose on a cut depends on how big of a caloric deficit you are undertaking, and how much weight you plan to lose.
If you are on a large caloric deficit, you will lose a lot more strength because your body is burning more muscle, and because you don’t have enough energy to perform the lift.
Similarly, at a lower body weight, all your lifts will be weaker than if you were at a high body weight.
Beginners will not lose that much strength because most of the beginner’s strength is due to neurological adaptations rather than muscle growth.
However, advanced lifters will lose a lot more strength because they are actually losing their muscle fibers.
All in all, a general rule of thumb is that while on a cut, you will lose at least 20 lbs in all your lifts.
How can you maintain your strength during a cut?
The only way you can maintain your strength while on a cut is to reduce the amount of calories you are cutting by, and by increasing your cutting period.
By increasing your cutting period (the duration you are undertaking the cut), and reducing the amount of calories you are withholding, you will be able to maintain your strength while you lose weight.
In the end, you will eventually be able to reach a point where you reach your goal weight with only a slight drop in strength.
The only downside to this is that by increasing your cutting period and working on the same weight every week, everything feels more like a grind.
You will be lifting the same weight week by week, and with slow changes in your body structure.
This is not ideal for most lifters, as we all want to see results immediately, but if your goal is to maintain your strength as much as possible, this is the only way.
The alternative to this is to focus on your cut and ignore your strength loss.
Once you reach your goal weight or goal body fat percentage, then simply work your way back up.
This will result in a lot more strength and muscle loss, but it will also make it so that you are able to have a short cutting period and are able to go back to strength training faster.
Whether you choose one option or the other depends on your experience and your goals.
If your primary goal is to lose weight, then focus on the cut and don’t put too much of an emphasis on the amount of strength you lose.
However, if your goal is to maintain as much strength as possible while on a cut, then you will have to accept the fact that your lifts will not increase by much.