Should I Change?
by Erik Mata
Everyone knows the name of Erik Mata; he’s been one of the top junior 93kg lifters in the UK before moving into Seniors and now moving up to the 105kg class. Are you thinking of changing weight class, or just interested in why you’d would, or what it’s like? Read on!
Over the last 9 years I’ve competed in three weight classes. I started out in the 93kg weight class but my heaviest weight at the time was in the mid-80s. After realising I would be competitive as an 83kg lifter I cut weight and spent 3 years lifting in this category. As soon as I pulled my third deadlift at 2018 Worlds, I knew it was time to move back up to 93kg; since my total would have secured me the same position without an aggressive cut. Finally, I have moved to the 105kg weight class after a final competition as a 93kg lifter at the 2021 World Championships. Initially, I made some mistakes – such as not being fit enough to feel good at the weight; however I know long-term it will prove fruitful.
So, how do you know when it’s time to move weight class? Let me give you some food for thought, to help with your decision.
A key reason to move up a weight class – muscle and lean body mass. If you’re taller than the best lifter in your class, consider moving up sooner because in the lower weight class, the amount of lean body mass you can gain is limited by your height. Regardless of height, if you have already gained a lot of muscle and have a lower body fat percentage, being in a calorie deficit to make weight and stay in the lower class will slow down your long-term progression. This is because being in a calorie deficit, or even staying at maintenance calories makes it extremely hard to gain muscle mass. Therefore, you should think about long-term progression over being competitive at the time. During the time I did it, I thought cutting to the 83kg class was the right thing to do. In hindsight, I wish I never did - during that period I could have gained so much more lean tissue and would likely be considering a move to the 120kg class now.
Just my opinion here but, the athletes dominating our sport right now ALL have high levels of muscle mass and I do not think that's a coincidence. Another reason is the reduced risk of injury – being in a calorie deficit hinders recovery and if you’re not recovering after sessions, you’re more likely to get hurt.
Now you might wonder, should one ever move down a weight class? The answer can be yes.
For instance, cutting weight can be good for your health. If you have a high percentage of body fat cutting down some weight can reduce the risk of blood pressure problems or other weight related issues. Whilst moving up, I’ve gained a lot of muscle however as a bulk requires you to eat in a calorie surplus, I’ve also gained some fat too. Having my blood work checked and ensuring I get my steps in and doing 15 minutes a day on the spin bike are my ways to ensure my bulk is not impacting my health. Carrying a lot of body fat might boost your total but if you have health issues, then you might consider cutting, addressing them and potentially moving up in the future.
Another reason to cut down might be if you have the chance to take national or international records in that respective weight class. If you’ve not fully filled out your current class, moving down might not be that difficult – if the record means enough for you to make a cut worth it, then you should go for it! However, unless you are already an international level athlete, who has the muscle mass and experience of cutting, moving down can be risky. As mentioned earlier, would it be worth hindering your long-term progression to place 8th instead of 10th at nationals?
Moving up or down can be stressful- adjusting to new eating habits can take time - whether that be cutting or bulking. Weighing out the pros and cons and possibly seeking out a second opinion of an experienced individual can help. There is no definitive answer to this, and therefore you should make a decision that you understand and are happy with. Ultimately, you lift for yourself, so do what makes sense to you, just make sure that decision is planned and calculated.
I hope this has given you some good points to consider and helps you with your decision.