One question I receive often from prospective bodybuilders is “How much do I need to weigh to compete?”
The answer is simple: Bodybuilding and physique building is not about how much you weigh. Bodybuilding and physique building is all about how you look!
Women can get caught up in this too and many of them feel that the number on the scale is the end all be all. Meanwhile the more accurate way to track your progress is to look right in the mirror.
If you look fat and out of shape then you are fat and out shape. If you look skinny and frail then guess what? You are skinny and frail. The mirror has no friends and it has no interest in lying to you like random Facebook or Instagram flunkies.
Think of the mirror as that person you know who will always keep you honest and will not blow smoke up your rear just to protect your delicate ego. I have a few people like this in my life and I appreciate them. Always stay connected with folks like this!
Going back to the physique, the goal has to be to look fit, lean, symmetrical and muscular. The number on the scale is the not the most important number when it comes to how your physique looks.
Let me tell you my story. When I competed in my first bodybuilding show (Mr. Natural Philadelphia) in 2011 I chased weight. This was my first time ever preparing for a show and I had limited guidance and the almighty internet.
The great Joe Franco (picture to the right) told me at one of his posing classes exactly what I’m telling you today. “Eric, you do not need to chase weight. You just need to look your best.” I should have left it at that.
These insights were coming from the best bodybuilding coach in the Tri-State area. These insights were coming from an IFPA Professional Bodybuilder. This was coming from a man who was shredded with full muscles.
But in the era of information overload, I read myself into total confusion. While some of things I read online were informational, most of what I read was pure dango.
When you subscribe to the dango, you will never succeed. Unfortunately, some of the dango crept into my thought process.
I was under the impression that in order to appear leaner and more cut that I needed to drop more weight despite what I was told by Joe Franco. Keep in mind as I’m thinking this I am only weighing 160lbs at 5’11 and a half. Great idea Fitman.
When the show began I was 152lbs. I have not been 152lbs since my days at West Chester University when I ran track. This formula for me to get super lean backfired like an NFL team running the Wildcat offense in 2014. It looked good on paper but the execution of this plan was absolutely atrocious.
On stage all I had was legs. My upper body had become progressively smaller in my quest to chase weight.
Genetically I do not hold weight or have natural strength in my upper body. I’ve had to work overtime for every single ounce of muscle and strength in my upper body.
When I get into contest shape I have to be very mindful of how much weight I lose. Once I get to certain bodyweight numbers my upper body suffers badly and being 152lbs did nothing positive for my upper body. This was an egregious mistake to chase weight and I ended up not bringing my best package to the stage.
I was 100 percent wrong and Joe Franco was 100 percent right. Youth is always wasted on the young.
Fast forward to 2012. This time I had no weight goal I just knew that I needed to look much better than I did the previous year!
I had worked up to 170lbs in the offseason. During the pre-contest, I just followed my macros and adjusted my calories accordingly. I ended up at 162lbs and leaner than the previous year.
My muscles were fuller, my body was more complete, I was much leaner, and I was 10 pounds heavier. So what was the value in losing weight to look better on stage?
There was NO VALUE.
Obviously, if you are overweight then you need to lose some weight. But it cannot be the main goal when it comes to true physique building.
The main goal during the pre-contest has to be to lose body fat and maintain your muscle mass. You will not be gaining much if any muscle since your overall caloric intake will be lower during the pre-contest period.
When you have a number in your head of what you must weigh to be successful and look your best on stage you will derail yourself. You could be thinking your best look is 185lbs but in reality, your best look was 195lbs.
This is where taking pictures comes in. By taking pictures each year and tracking where you are, you will able to determine a good weight range where you are at your leanest and most muscular. Like Lee Haney says “Stay within striking distance.”
What ends up happening in bodybuilding is that men and women are always chasing the carrot as the show approaches.
Can I get leaner? Could I be even more shredded? If I drop 5 more pounds will I have an 8-pack? The answer in most cases is undoubtedly no.
Say you are reasonably lean and have been “dieting” for 12-16 weeks and you have not arrived in contest shape. You either had more body fat on you then you thought or you came down improperly. You have essentially spent the last 3-4 months spinning your wheels like the old Sprewell rims.
By trying to lose 10lbs in 2 weeks to appear more shredded on stage you will only appear flat, weak, and stringy on contest day. I’ve been there and I continue to witness many bodybuilders show up in this dilapidated state.
Bodybuilding is all about illusions. The judges do not know or care how much you weigh. The things that most judges are looking for is your degree of muscularity, how lean you are, your bodies’ symmetry, and how you pose. Your weight means zero on stage.
With correct posing, you can appear massive even if you are not a large bodybuilder. With awful posing, you could be a bigger bodybuilder, but on stage, you will look the small like Peter Parker before the spider bite.
Frank Zane weighed 180-190lbs during his prime years. He won Mr. Olympia against much larger competitors from 1977-1979. They all had him beat in bodyweight but on stage, he did not appear dramatically smaller than anyone.
Frank Zane was leaner and more muscular than everyone he faced in his prime. He also had symmetry and balance that still has not been matched by the current crop of mass at all costs bodybuilders.
The bottom line is that for a bodybuilder you should not chase weight. It will get you going nowhere fast like someone wasting time on the elliptical. Focus on gaining muscle, losing fat, creating a symmetrical physique, and mastering your posing. You will look and feel much better.
Like the late, great Vince Gironda would say create an illusion!
You may also be interested in:
DID YOU LIKE THIS POST?
Join our mailing list and be first to get the latest news.