Summary of an article analyzing interview data from Olympic weightlifters discussing their body composition and weight class.
16 (8 male and 8 female) Olympic weightlifters with at least 3 years of experience in the sport, elite and amateur level lifters included across all weight classes (USA).
In-depth semi-structured 45 to 80 minutes-long interviews.
- athlete’s choice of weight class and body composition over the course of their career
- athlete’s decision to change their weight class
- the role that coaches and teammates had on athlete’s choice of weight class
- how athletes rationalized their body composition
- Two themes emerged:
- ‘mass moves mass’:
- body fat is accepted as a part of mass gain and potentially improving weightlifting performance
- a variety of body types can be successful in Olympic weightlifting (fat, skinny, muscular)
- understanding that fat has a function in weightlifting performance, and being ‘too skinny’ can negatively impact performance
- this concept was more often applied to the bodies of teammates and other athletes, but not their own bodies
- ‘muscle moves mass’:
- only muscles contract but not fat, so gaining fat is not considered beneficial for the improvement of weightlifting performance
- athletes did not believe that they will get stronger if they gain fat
- athletes focused on cutting weight for every competition, even if their performance suffered
- ‘mass moves mass’:
Take home message
Interview with the author of the original article
Monica Nelson is a weightlifter, researcher and PhD student at the University of Waikato, NZ. In the Evidence Strong Show we discuss how American Olympic weightlifters decide on which weight class to compete in. We also discussed aspects of body composition, leanness and fat.
Nelson M, Jette S. Muscle moves mass: Deconstructing the culture of weight loss in American Olympic Weightlifting. International Review for the Sociology of Sport. 2022 Aug 15:10126902221120183.
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