Weight Cut

Going up a weightclass? Or going down a weightclass? The eternal dilemma that every arm- wrestling athlete will have wondered at least once. 

How do you manage your weight? Everyone will know (and if you didn’t know today you will have at least one more notion), that in armwrestling competitions there is a subdivision by weight categories, as well as by age, level… ideally you would like to enter the lowest possible weight category, in which, logically, the opponents will be weaker in an absolute 

sense. 

in the case of athletes whose weight approaches one of the category scales, I would say that the grit does not even arise. Do you weigh 90.5kg? So, skip a lunch from your grandmother of parmigiana cooked in enough oil to attract the attention of the United States for possible oil exploitation, and you should make it. Are you 96kg the morning after dining in rice crackers and sadness? I would consider throwing away the biscuits, eating the parmigiana (yes, even the oil) and showing up relaxed at the weighing in. But how? Didn’t we say it’s better to go down as much as possible in category…? Of course, as long as the average strength difference of the lower category is greater than the loss of strength caused by the weight loss. 

Assuming (purely for example) that for each category there is an average 5% shot of strength of the various athletes, it goes without saying that it will not make sense to go down to gain that 5% if to go down in the category we lose a 10%. 

Without going into too much the concepts of “bulk” (increased daily caloric intake for the purpose of weight gain, ideally lean mass) and “cut” (reduction of caloric intake, or increase in daily activity for the purpose of weight loss, ideally fat mass), we need only know that unlike a sport such as bodybuilding, in armwrestling, arm joint and tendon stress is very high. And so…? Well, have you ever wondered why weight gain is an immediate increase in strength? Our body has different forms of “limiters,” almost all of which are susceptible to our weight fluctuation; so, a possible cut could cause us to lose much more strength than the simple muscle drop might suggest. The numbers in the gym may remain the same, but our performance at the table may suffer, followed by some examples. 

Although fat does not directly affect our performance, its simple accumulation (in moderate percentages!) helps to protect our joints, forming a kind of padding around them. A loss of weight will therefore be perceived by our body as dangerous, which will consequently stop us to avoid stress in those joints that he perceives as fragile (it is noted that an excess in the opposite direction is equally deleterious, as an excess of adipose tissue induces a state of perennial joint inflammation). 

Another mechanism unknown to most is the Golgi tendon reflex. This reflex consists of a muscle-tendon protection mechanism that, in response to certain thresholds of mechanical tension, signals our brain to stop muscle contraction. 

Participating in a competition while in caloric decift could mean having a much lower threshold of this reflex, due to a slower or only partial recovery of our tendon and joint structures. 

However, there are two ways to get around these problems, the first one, suitable for 

everyone, consists in performing a cut with a fair margin to fall into the desired category at least 1-2 months from the competition in which you want to take part, from that date start a diet in caloric surplus in order to give our body time to adapt following the weight loss and take advantage of the benefits that a higher caloric intake guarantees to ours performance. 

The second method consists of the so-called “water cut” very dangerous methodology in inexperienced hands, which consists of dehydrating in a planned manner for a temporary weight loss that can vary from 2% to 10% of the athlete’s weight. 

This all-encompassing practice can have as disastrous results as the great benefits if done correctly, and therefore, deserves a thorough separate discussion aimed at outlining its appropriate use. 

To conclude, attention is drawn to the fact that the more we are at the beginning of our sporting journey, the more we force ourselves into certain categories rather than others is detrimental. 

The author advises to aim for a shape in whom you feel comfortable, possibly healthy, and to live with serenity both the competitions and the path that leads to them. 

A factor not to be underestimated is the stress induced by a possible weight cut, which could lead us not to rest as needed and therefore lose lucidity and promptness of reflexes; better to arrive relaxed at the weighing after a pleasant dinner and deserved sleep, than to start a race already exhausted by the hardships, as well as to increase in a sensitive way the % of injuries. 

(Remember that while in a cut for aesthetic purposes the cut itself represents the ultimate goal, in the arm wrestling reaching a certain weight is nothing more than the beginning of the competition. Always keep in mind that the ultimate goal is the expression at the table, not the number on the scale. 

Although quite intuitive, it is clarified that most of the above indications are addressed to novice-intermediate athletes, and that in the preparation for senior or professionals categories it may make sense to take more risks in the face of possible more significant results). 

Good luck!

Martino Doni
Author

Martino Doni

SBFI Athlete; Medical Student; Personal trainer; Training Methodologist

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