I decided to finally get in proper shape, and after lots of struggle, I managed it quite well. I lost 30+ pounds of needless fat, and gained several pounds of muscle throughout a few months of serious workouts. I went from not being able to run 0.5 miles to running nearly a 5K now. The caveat?

I am much weaker now than before. I have more muscle than I did when I was obese, but I have less strength. For example, I weighed around 200 lbs. and could deadlift 315 + lbs. without even barely exercising. I could also do chin ups and even climb ropes with just my upper-body -- no legs needed.

I dropped down to 150 lbs., and built up to 165 lbs. with a good portion of that being muscle weight. My arms are bigger and more defined than they were when I was 30 + lbs. more, but now I can barely do chin ups and can only climb a rope the same as when I carried all of that extra fat. I find this pretty disappointing since it's like I traded in strength for better looks. I have been doing mostly strength training, but some hypertrophy too. I do all of the same exercises as then, but I just seem much weaker comparatively. My arms at 200 lbs. were 13 -- not at 165 lbs. they are 15 inches almost.

Why the hell would I not be any stronger if I was pretty much just fatter? Literally I would flex and have almost no muscle, and smaller arms when I was obese -- but I was just purely stronger naturally.

After getting down to like 13% bodyfat and bulking for 4-6 months I gained considerable muscle mass with nearly no bodyfat change, but now I'm weaker -- can't barely lift my own weight nor other weight.

It's as if being simply a fatass made me stronger without having to do much of any exercise. When I was obese I simply ate nothing but garbage/junk food and didn't even get 80 grams of protein a day -- now I eat extremely well and get proper protein, fats, and carbs. Basically, I cleaned up my diet, got the results I wanted, but the strength was traded in for it. When I was obese I would not even have a workout regimen -- I just rarely worked out -- maybe once a week or every 2 weeks. Now I do 2-3 times a week and vary workouts. I even had a trainer for a while and they said that fat helped with leverage and extreme energy surplus manifested itself as large bouts of power concentrated output -- or something like that. They called it "fat strength," but said "fit strength" is better.

Any thoughts? Is it just simply that I was fatter, I was stronger? As stated, I ate nothing but junk/garbage all day, and didn't get any healthy protein/etc. -- mostly all just 3,000+K calories of carbs, with high sat. fats and low protein (I didn't really eat much if any meat back then).

I don't have any illnesses/diseases, and I don't feel weak per se -- just weaker than when I was fat.

It interests me because I was fat but:

1.Had a garbage diet with low protein.

2.Barely exercised and did zero cardio.

3.Sat most of the day and didn't do much of any hypertrophy/strength training really.

  • 5
    Okay, now to obvious question. How did you measure body fat % and how did you measure your muscle gains? 4-6 months is not a very big time to put on 15-lbs of muscles.
    – xCodeZone
    Dec 13, 2016 at 1:57
  • I have observed this myself, if I start going below a certain fat % the muscle definition does show up but strength is lost.
    – PravinCG
    Dec 13, 2016 at 6:04
  • 2
    You say your rope-climbing ability is "the same" now—so it didn't get worse? How many chin-ups could you do when you were fat, and how did you test that? How many can you do now, and how are you testing it? Dec 13, 2016 at 12:45
  • 1
    You haven't talked much about your workout regime other than runs. If all you did were runs, it wouldn't be surprising if you lost upper body strength.
    – andrewb
    Dec 13, 2016 at 22:14
  • 1
    @andrewb OP also said "I have been doing mostly strength training, but some hypertrophy too." — but it's unclear what that means, so I agree that we need more info. Dec 14, 2016 at 18:31

1 Answer 1


When you were fatter your own weight forced your muscles to build strength more than muscle. Since you mentioned barely doing any exercise, and then sparingly deadlifting and/or rope climbing, you probably then forced your muscles to build strength to handle your own weight through neurological means. In other words, your muscles got stronger because of the demand of your own weight. Since you mentioned a poor diet, odds are you had little reason to gain much muscle -- but you can certainly build power without barely any muscle. Also, you are weaker now because you probably slacked off during the weight loss and lost a good deal of that neuromuscular strength you had before which you used to carry your "fatass" as you called it. Since you got skinnier you could have lessened the challenge it once was to move yourself, and thus allowed your muscles to slack off in carrying your own weight around.

It makes sense and is pretty simple: your heavy weight demanded you to utilize more power to move yourself and pull yourself up, so your body had to get stronger. When you lost the weight you took both a mental and a physical toll -- you had less to carry and thus were challenged less.

As your weight gradually declined you were lifting less and less mass proportionally, and you gradually traded that neuromuscular strength you had for more compound muscle and lower weight.

In the end you got weaker because you lowered your own weight, and made it easier on yourself. You gained new muscle, but mentioned hypertrophy in the mix, which doesn't build as much as strength as a 200 lb. guy brute-forcing himself up a rope on a regular basis. A heavy guy yanking himself up a rope will make the nervous system respond and force yourself to get stronger more so than 12 reps of 70 lbs. on a straight bar would -- and it would increase explosive strength too, which can help deadlifting and testosterone overall.

It may sound counterintuitive, but you probably lost testosterone when dieting down to 150 lbs. You are building new muscle but not training with the same magnitude of power like you did with your own heavier set of mass. You need to go back to the older, serious workouts you did before at 200 lbs.

  • 4
    The fat loss would not affect testosterone. If anything, he should be producing more testosterone now with the increased muscle mass.
    – JohnP
    Dec 14, 2016 at 18:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.