It’s been a while since I posted about my progress with the deadlift, so I figured I’d write a more casual post this week (don’t worry, a more informative and interesting article will be up tomorrow). For this installment of Mastering the Deadlift, I’d like to discuss my experiences with strength gains on a cut.
Getting Stronger on a Caloric Deficit – Possible?
The question posed to us – is it possible to get stronger on a cut – will be answered in this post via anecdote only. I’ll discuss the research and science behind it in another post some day.
The quick answer is, yes, you can and will get stronger on a cut. The catch – the gains will run out quickly and you will plateau hard!
Let me explain why I’m cutting – I’ve been certified skinnyfat for years. I either needed to bulk hard as hell, then cut, or cut, then forever bulk. The former would leave me puffy for a while, and the latter would leave me rail thin. As a former fatty, I have an aversion towards being chubby, so after a bit of back-and-forth and spinning my wheels, I went on a slight deficit and kept my lifting sessions going.
So, things have gone pretty well. It’s been about two months of losing approximately 1 pound of fat per week, an my strength had been going up. Granted, I’ve been using 5/3/1 as an early-intermediate lifter for the deadlift and squat, but those lifts have been smooth sailing. I guess using slower progressions acts as a safeguard against plateaus.
As for my other lifts – up until a month ago, my overhead press was steadily increasing, and then it fell flat on its face. Boom. Hit a wall. I’ve since reset and am working my way back up towards my previous max.
Caloric Deficits Slow Down Your Progress in Strength
When comparing my numbers to “strength standards” for my bodyweight, I am plateauing earlier than I should. A novice is no longer a novice when he can no longer make workout-to-workout gains in his lifts; an intermediate is no longer an intermediate when he can no longer make weekly gains in his lifts; etc. I was no longer making quick progress, but was classified as a “weaker” lifter than my experience and plateaus dictated.
The only counter-measure I can think of right now that helps with gaining strength on a cut would be creatine (this is the creatine I’ve used – don’t waste your money on anything else but plain ol’ creatine monohydrate). Whenever I introduce it into my body, I see an increase in strength and strength-endurance. Whenever I cycle off of it, I get weaker.
On the bright side, bodyweight movements have gotten easier to perform. Pullups are a breeze now!
In conclusion, do not cut your calories if getting stronger is your priority.
Unfortunately, my deadlift will have to stick with slow-and-steady progress, given my priorities with body composition. Once I hit my goal for bodyfat and leanness, I’ll slowly ramp up the calories, and my gains in strength will continue on their merry way. Man, I cannot wait for that to come. Cutting sucks.
Here’s a video of Dmitry Klokov deadlifting 660 pounds. Happy pulling!