“How did you decide to go up a weight class?”
This is a question I have gotten frequently these past few months. As most of you know, I recently went up to the 63kg/138lb weight class after having competed as a 57kg/125lb lifter since I started powerlifting.
From my first official powerlifting meet back in the summer of 2014, till Raw Nationals in 2016, my wilks score increased by almost 50 points. During that time, my out of meet bodyweight went from 117lb to 128lb. At my next competition 8 months later, IPF Classic World Championship 2017, my wilks only increased by 3 points. I had no more weight I could gain while still staying in my weight class and my lifting was starting to stagnate.
Looking around the platform at Primetime Raw Nationals and Classic Worlds, it wasn’t hard to spot the difference between me and my competition…
When you put me next to the best of the best, it became shockingly apparent how much taller and lankier I was than my competition. At 5’5, I was almost a half foot taller than the other ladies in the 57kg weight class. Once you get to the highly competitive levels of powerlifting, weight classes become essentially height classes. Here’s a really easy calculator to see what weight class is, on average, the most competitive for your height. For my sex and height at 5’5, that would be the 72kg/159lb weight class.
It puts you at a disadvantage to be significantly taller or shorter than “optimal”. Ideally, you want to be at a weight that allows you to have them most muscle mass possible while limiting excess fat to only what you need for good hormonal health. If you are too tall for your weight class, you wont be able to reach your full muscular potential. More of your bodyweight will be from bone, tendons, etc. as opposed to all muscle, and you will also have to move the weight a greater distance than your competitors. If you are too short, your bone structure will have already reached the limit for the amount of muscle you can put on it, meaning more of your weight will come from fat. Your competitors will likely have more muscle than you just because they have more surface area on their bones to grow muscle on. There are of course exceptions to this, but looking to see which weight class has most competitive lifters your height is a good place to start. I highly recommend this article from strongerbyscience.com if you are interested in learning more about this.
Once I decided to go up a weight class after Worlds, my lifts and wilks skyrocketed. At Raw Nationals 2017 I ended up totaling 135lb and 25 wilks points more than I did at Worlds just 3.5 months prior! For me, it was obviously the right decision. In only 3.5 months, my wilks went up 50% as much as it did the previous 2 YEARS!
Going up a weight class is always a gamble though. Even if you are tall and would theoretically fit better in a heavier weight class, adding muscle takes a ton of effort and time. Genetics and muscle memory play a huge part in this. Some people just cant develop as much muscle mass, while others develop more than average. If you were heavier and more muscular before, you will likely fill out the weight class up more quickly and effectively than someone who has never been that weight. I credit my winter bulk to a large part of why I was able to go up a weight class so quickly and with such success. Persons at a lower bodyfat percentage gain muscle better than ones with a higher bodyfat percentage, which is another factor. I still have room to grow in this weight class. I have more muscle to build and fat to lose. Once my bodyfat percentage is similar to where it was as a 57kg lifer, I will likely bulk up another weight class to the 72kg class.
If you have decide to go up a weight class, the next step is to get on a program designed for muscle hypertrophy, and listen to your body. More posts on that to come in the future!