Big Muscles: Cutting Water Weight, and Combat Effectiveness

It is true that really big muscles like for example those of power lifters make fighting more difficult? Are speed but not very muscular characters actually plausible as fighters?

So, there’s two different things here, power lifters and body builders. Power lifters tend to look really bulky, rather than describing them as having, “really big muscles.”

This doesn’t really help powerlifters offensively. How hard you can hit someone is a function of power generation, not raw strength. So, just because you can support the weight of a midsized car with your legs doesn’t mean you can throw a punch with the power of that sedan.

Defensively it helps, some. If you’re a walking wall of meat, and someone (who doesn’t know what they’re doing) is trying to throw a punch, it’s not going to get through. It doesn’t help, as much, against a trained opponent, because, ultimately, your body is still put together like any other human, and a skilled fighter is looking to exploit the inherent limitations, which you can’t really bulk your way out of.

If it sounds like I’m being dismissive, I’m not; power lifters are incredible athletes, and I have a lot of respect for them. However, they’re not training to fight people, and it is unfair to judge them based on that.

On the flip side, being a body builder has no upside for combat. Those really clearly defined muscles make finding pressure points incredibly easy. On top of that, body builders are intentionally abusing their muscles to cause swelling. When they bulk up, it’s their body crying for help.

A common element to increasing muscle definition is called, “cutting water weight.” This sounds benign, but it really means they’re intentionally dehydrating to the point where it’s adversely affecting them. In some cases, you’re looking at a guy (or women) who is a couple hours away from loosing consciousness due to lack of water. Yes, it gives them incredibly well defined muscles, but it’s actively dangerous.

In most cases, when you’re looking at a bodybuilder (at least, during a competition), they are not in fighting shape.

The thing with a lot of professional martial artists is, they are pretty muscular, but it’s sleek. You’re more likely to see someone who has a very athletic build. There’s a lot of strength there, and in some cases, more raw strength than a body builder, it just doesn’t look like it. At a glance, you could mistake them for just being lean or fit, but, the reality is, you’re just not seeing their muscles.

When it comes to professional sport fighters, (like boxers and MMA practitioners), you’ll often see them cut water weight for their formal weigh-ins. This is the practice of weighing a fighter and assigning them their weight class. It’s advantageous to be put into a lower weight class if at all possible, you’ll be matched against smaller competitors. However, after weigh-in, they’ll rehydrate and get back into fighting shape before the match. You can track some of the visual effect water weight if you look at a fighter who’s trying to weigh into a lower class at their weigh-in versus when they show up for the match. In some cases, it’s a pretty striking difference.

Cutting water weight is also really common in Hollywood action films. You’ll frequently see actors who are on the edge of passing out, specifically to give them clearly defined muscles for a scene or two.


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