In February 2015, I competed in my first powerlifting competition and placed first, holding the collegiate total record for the 72kg weight class. I hit a 231lbs squat, 138lbs bench press and 297lbs deadlift.
After this meet I began my prep to the stage in July 2015. I ended up losing ~25lbs bodyweight and continued to hit PRs in the gym right up until I stepped on stage. I placed first in my class at the Ottawa Natural Classic, qualifying me for provincials in August 2016.
My coach knew what my goals were, and we shared the aspiration of having me compete at the Ontario Provincial Championships for powerlifting in October 2015. Together, we reached that goal and I ended up hitting a 248lbs squat, 145lbs bench press and 314lbs deadlift in the 63kg weight class, placing second in Ontario. Not only can you maintain strength while cutting, but also evidently you can increase strength.
It’s not easy, but it definitely is possible.
Here are 5 important points to keep in mind about maintaining strength while cutting, whether it be for a bodybuilding show or not.
1. Accept the bad days
During a cut, your body will respond differently on different days due to an array of factors. If you’re having a bad day at the gym, it is important to remember what you are putting your body through and accept that you are going to feel weaker some days. Listen to your body and don’t push it on days it doesn’t want to be pushed. This is important for avoiding injury and allowing your body to recover as it needs.
2. …and Praise the good days
That being said, you will also have days where you surprise yourself with your performance and strength. Engrave this feeling and those days into your mind. Hold on to them during your weaker days so you don’t get discouraged.
3. Rep PRs instead of 1RMs
Going from powerlifting to bodybuilding was a drastic change, and even though I continued to incorporate powerlifting into my workouts, the intensity was significantly decreased. I was still hitting PRs though, and something my coach did amazingly well was make sure I knew when I had hit a PR, even if it was a new 8 rep max. It is important to keep track of your progress, every form it may take. I couldn’t expect to go into the gym during the last few months of prep and hit a new 1RM, but I was able to see strength gains in other ways. This kept me motivated, which in turn kept me strong.
4. Eat strategically
When the amount of carbs you are allocated begins to decrease, it is important that you plan to consume the majority of those carbs around your workout. Post workout especially, but also pre workout and even intra workout if you can afford it.
Feeling full became very mental for me during prep. I put so much effort into planning my meals so that they were exciting and lasted as long as possible on my plate. The fuller I felt, the better I would perform in the gym because I would feel stronger.
5. Learn the value of sleep
There is a limited amount of factors you have control over during prep that can positively influence your strength, and the main one that gets overlooked is sleep. It is so important to prioritize sleep no matter how hectic your schedule becomes. Not only will you feel more energized throughout the day, you will perform much better in the gym.
About the author
Maggie Morgan is a competitive powerlifter and bodybuilder, as well as a devoted macro-counter. She’s passionate about lifting and all things flexible dieting (mostly donuts). She is a nutrition and training coach at LiftHacks, and hopes to share her learned knowledge with as many people as possible.