March 6

How State Champs Make Weight Without Losing Strength

Weight Cutting


Losing more than 1.5% of your weight in a week? 

You're actually actually destroying your muscle mass.

Have you ever seen your wrestler's "before and after" picture comparing how they look pre-season vs in-season?

They usually start off the season: strong, lean and muscular.  Because they've had months to focus on camps and training to work on their physique. But, after a few weeks of restricting calories they begin to look weak, deflated and have little definition.  

All that hard work your wrestler dedicated themselves to just went down the drain.  Quite possibly in a manner of weeks if they hit the panic button during weight certifications and started restricting.  And instead of that competitive edge they were hoping for..

Your wrestler is actually going into their season at a huge disadvantage compared to wrestler's who know how to make weight the right.  

Sounds frustrating, right?

Luckily, there's a simple way to determine exactly how your wrestler can make their weight without sacrificing strength.  It's called the 1.5% rule.

What happens when your wrestler loses weight rapidly?

In a perfect world, wrestlers would be maintaining their weight and eating a balanced diet when they're not in season.  That way, come alpha weigh-in time, there's not much work to do before hopping on that scale. 

The reality is though that many wrestlers sit about 5-10 pounds over their scratch weight in the off-season. 

Sometimes it's because they're multi-sport athletes (hello football) and have very different goals for different sports.   It could also be wrestlers being a little more 'relaxed' about their nutrition in the off-season.

Or maybe it's simply that they need to move down a weight class because someone else is taking the higher spot.  It's no ones fault.  But if weight loss is necessary before weight certs, it should be done in a way that isn't going to destroy a wrestler's performance during the season.

(To clarify, we're talking about high school and college aged wrestlers here. If your wrestler is younger than this they're doing more harm than good trying to maintain their weight. We do not recommend weight cutting in any capacity to youth athletes.)

Weight loss is tricky is because large calorie deficits are required if a wrestler is trying to lose significant amounts of body weight in a short time. Whether that's from exercising more or eating less, a deficit is necessary in order to lose weight.

The problem comes with the type of weight that's being lost.

Rapid Weight Loss = Rapid Muscle Loss

Ideally, a wrestler wants to be losing body fat when shedding pounds and holding onto their muscle mass.  This way, when they step on the mat they're as strong as possible going into their matches. 

Unfortunately, your wrestler's body isn't equipped to hold onto muscle mass when they lose weight rapidly.  The simple reason is that our bodies require a certain amount of calories and protein to be able to maintain muscle tissue properly.   When there isn't energy (calories) being supplied to the body, it will actually start pulling energy from your muscle mass instead.

So when weight loss is too rapid, the opposite outcome is happening: Your wrestler is losing muscle mass, retaining body fat and getting weaker with every pound lost.  

This is the exact reason that the 1.5% rule has been created. If a wrestler knows how much weight they can lose without sacrificing strength, it becomes a lot easier to create a plan around their goals.


  • Most wrestlers sit 5 to 10lbs higher than their scratch weight for both alpha certifications and during match weigh-ins.
  • Losing weight too rapidly results in the body going catabolic and burning a wrestler's muscle mass for energy.
  • Using the 1.5% rule will show a wrestler the maximum weight they can lose per week without losing strength.

2) Determine the ideal weight your wrestler should sit at

weight scale

So how can wrestlers who are looking to lose weight reach their goals without setting themselves up for failure?

The first thing to do is determine if your wrestler needs to drop weight in the first place.

If you naturally sit at 152 and are looking to jump down to 120, you may want to re-evaluate your goals. There's a good chance you would compete better at a higher weight class. This is because your wrestler can have more energy for training and come in with a better mental game by aiming for a weight class closer to their 'natural weight'.

Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all formula for determining the best weight class for your wrestler.  A wrestler's age, physical and mental maturity, stature and body composition as well as personal preference should be taken into account.

Chat with your wrestler and their coach to see what they suggest and what spots are available.  If it's possible to sit at a higher class, discuss the pros and cons of how this would impact your matches.

Assuming you do need to lose weight however, here's how to do it without flushing your performance down the drain at the same time.


  • Wrestlers, parents and their coaches should sit down to discuss pros and cons of aiming for a specific weight class.
  • Take into account individualized variables such as a wrestler's age, physical and mental maturity, body composition and personal preference.

Use the 1.5% rule to maximize your wrestler's strength

strong wrestlers competing

Research has shown that wrestlers who are looking to lose weight shouldn't be losing more than 1.5% of their total body weight in any given week.  If you're going over this number, there's a good chance that you're losing your muscle mass and holding onto body fat instead. 

Following this simple rule can help calculate how long it will take to reach their goal weight without sacrificing their performance. 

To use the 1.5% rule, you can calculate your wrestlers current weight by 0.015% to come up with their maximum weight loss per week. 

For example, if your wrestler sits at 132: We would multiply 132 by 0.015 to come up with ~2 lbs per week.  

From there, we simply work backwards to figure out the MINIMUM number of weeks it will take your wrestler to get down to their goal weight without losing their strength.

So if that same wrestler who sits at 132 is trying to get down to 126, we know they have 6 lbs to drop. By using our 1.5% rule we now know they need AT LEAST 3 weeks to get down to weight without sacrificing performance.

Not a big fan of math?  Neither are we.  That's why we created a free goal weight calculator.  Simply plug in your wrestler's current weight and goal weight and the calculator will tell you their maximum weight loss each week and give you a week-by-week plan to get there.


  • Using the 1.5% rule will determine the maximum amount of weight a wrestler can lose in any given week while preserving their strength.
  • To calculate your wrestler's max weight loss using the 1.5% rule, multiply their current weight by 0.015.
  • After calculating your wrestler's maximum weight loss per week, a plan can then be developed to determine the MINIMUM time it will take to get them to their goal weight safely.


Wrestler's spend hundreds of hours throughout the year training, attending camps and otherwise honing their strength to get a competitive.

Without a proper way to manage weight the body could be going catabolic and burning up a wrestler's mass.  This effectively makes wrestler's weaker throughout the season and destroying any hope they had of a competitive edge.

Luckily, the 1.5% rule is an easy to use formula to come up with an exact weight descent plan so your wrestler can hit their goal weight without sacrificing their performance.  

Instead of trying to starve or cut calories dramatically, following a weight descent plan is the first step to preparing a wrestler so they can get on the mat stronger and more aggressive than ever.

Goal Weight Plan Calculator



Take the guesswork out of your wrestler's nutrition plan

About the author 

Jackie Slomin

When Jackie isn't finding new ways to help her wrestlers nail weigh-ins and crush their performance goals, you can find her hitting the gym and trying to break new personal records on her lifting.

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Ready to Make Weight in 24 hours and Improve Performance WITHOUT aggressive cutting techniques EVEN IF you have 5 to 10 pounds to lose?

Check out our free training on The Roman Protocol hosted by world renowned sports dietitian and CEO of NOTM, Jackie Slomin. 


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losing muscle mass.