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Body Fat Percentage: point of diminishing return?
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By Optimistic
From New Paltz
Jun 19, 2012

chuck claude wrote:
I'm not saying any limitations because the inverse to this in the extreme is no limiations and you get what America is today with obesity rates approaching 50%. Also most peoples behavior reside in the grey spaces in a not so black and white world. What I am eluding to is there is a percentage of the population in sports where being lightweight has some advantages, ie: climbing, running, gymnastics,.... that will take this to the extreme and endanger their health, and to endorse the behavior carte blanche is a disservice to them. I've seen it both in running (having come from a a couple of groups of runners where a fair percentage were trying to make the Olympic Trials or Olympic; and within this group eating disorders were prevalent, and I personally saw it destroy a young womans life) and also the climbing population.


Well, keep in mind that the goal of my original post was to get insights from people on how low I could safely and productively go...


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By Aerili
From Salt Lake City, UT
Jun 20, 2012
Get down from there! <br /> <br />May 2013 <br />Photo by Duc

I talked to a friend who told me he felt Tommy Herbert's regimen to get ultralight ended up pounding him with major injuries as a result. The whole picture is probably more complex than that (and this is just hearsay).

Body fat and performance are not a perfectly linear relationship. There are many phenotypes out there, and when you take into account the complexities of performance (motor learning, psychological, nutritional, etc.), it gets more blurry. I think this would be especially true as you push the boundary of strength-to-weight ratio.

As a female with a generally small bone structure, long bone lengths, and crappy, genetically defective collagen holding my joints together, I find losing weight/fat helps my performance a lot. I don't have great mechanical advantage in my build and I seem to excel at medium-to-high(ish) power outputs requiring endurance. However, I have several female friends who are very short with gymnast-type builds and amazing raw strength/power (and certainly better connective tissue than I have). They weigh more than I do (despite being many inches shorter). Losing weight/fat doesn't seem to be as necessary for them to excel, but they have a radically different phenotype from me.

Lastly, keep in mind that regardless of how accurate a body fat measurement method is, the most important thing is to be consistent in measuring over time with the same method/person because the changes will be precise. Getting a DEXA scan (or even a water submersion or Bod Pod test) is not always that feasible or affordable per se. Anyway, I've measured hundreds of body fats in the past, and that is my two cents.


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By Optimistic
From New Paltz
Jun 21, 2012

Thanks Aerili...
Any sense of whether there is much to be gained using multiple caliper points versus just one? I use anterior superior iliac point...


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By DBarton
From CENTENNIAL, CO
Jun 21, 2012
Moab, Potash Road and Ice Cream Parlor

Aerili wrote:
I talked to a friend who told me he felt Tommy Herbert's regimen to get ultralight ended up pounding him with major injuries as a result. The whole picture is probably more complex than that (and this is just hearsay). Body fat and performance are not a perfectly linear relationship. There are many phenotypes out there, and when you take into account the complexities of performance (motor learning, psychological, nutritional, etc.), it gets more blurry. I think this would be especially true as you push the boundary of strength-to-weight ratio. As a female with a generally small bone structure, long bone lengths, and crappy, genetically defective collagen holding my joints together, I find losing weight/fat helps my performance a lot. I don't have great mechanical advantage in my build and I seem to excel at medium-to-high(ish) power outputs requiring endurance. However, I have several female friends who are very short with gymnast-type builds and amazing raw strength/power (and certainly better connective tissue than I have). They weigh more than I do (despite being many inches shorter). Losing weight/fat doesn't seem to be as necessary for them to excel, but they have a radically different phenotype from me. Lastly, keep in mind that regardless of how accurate a body fat measurement method is, the most important thing is to be consistent in measuring over time with the same method/person because the changes will be precise. Getting a DEXA scan (or even a water submersion or Bod Pod test) is not always that feasible or affordable per se. Anyway, I've measured hundreds of body fats in the past, and that is my two cents.



This is right. The only way to know if you have gone past the point of diminishing return is to see a decrease in performance then recognize where it happened. I have a tall skinny guy phenotype (6'1" 150lbs) and have exceptionally low body fat (i.e. consistently less than 4) and climb pretty hard. However, this is how my body wants to be, if i lose any weight i see a decrease in performance. For the record, I am always trying to keep my weight up, I have never been on a weight loss diet. I also think that the type of climbing you do (if you specialize) may dictate the training that you will want - as opposed to a generic one size fits all approach.


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By Legs Magillicutty
From Littleton
Jun 21, 2012
Function over fashion.  My newest pair of climbing shoes.

I've always been a bit on the thin side. Over the past month I have dropped 10 lbs, which is a lot for me. Hot yoga, climbing, slight diet modifications and weekly marathons are doing the trick. I'm at 120 lbs and 8% body fat. I think I may finally weigh less than Langston now!! :-) I can feel a huge difference in my climbing and running. I feel stronger and can get up 10s and 11s with less effort. I even feel less weighed down when I'm slogging up peaks. If I lose anymore weight tho, I will be at that point of diminishing return. I would just end up losing muscle since my body fat percentage is pretty low for a female. There would be no advantage to my climbing if I lose anymore. I guess everyone is different.


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By LeeAB
Administrator
From ABQ, NM
Jun 23, 2012
Once we landed we headed to Font to find a place to stay for the night before doing a day of wine tasting and heading to Buoux.

David Horgan wrote:
Yes, and ditto for most of the climbing guides I've met. This, along with the really high concentration of gravity around me during my recent first trip to the Red River Gorge, was what got me started on this program to increase my level of fitness (not just weight reduction) dramatically and (as JLP also points out) continuously. The new way of thinking is (until Father Time starts to catch up) I'll never be "done" getting in better shape.


Better shape does not necessarily mean lower body fat %. You could also get stronger, which is probably what those guys are focused on more than anything.

Looking at your profile though you could probably gain more from working on other aspects of climbing. Don't get too hung up on weight, yes there can be dramatic improvements by dropping some and the 9 pounds you mention is not insignificant in this respect. However, if you have 5.10 technique you will not climb harder no mater how light you are. There are several aspects to climbing harder and they all need to progress: Technique, Sport specific Strength (specifically grip/forearm), Mental and Weight, the second and last could be combined into Strength to Weight ratio if you like.


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By NickinCO
From colorado
Jun 23, 2012
after the hard stuff, into cruiser hands.

You guys are making me feel like a fat ass... I'm 6'1" 190lb. Time for diet.


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By Optimistic
From New Paltz
Jun 23, 2012

LeeAB wrote:
Better shape does not necessarily mean lower body fat %. You could also get stronger, which is probably what those guys are focused on more than anything. Looking at your profile though you could probably gain more from working on other aspects of climbing. Don't get too hung up on weight, yes there can be dramatic improvements by dropping some and the 9 pounds you mention is not insignificant in this respect. However, if you have 5.10 technique you will not climb harder no mater how light you are. There are several aspects to climbing harder and they all need to progress: Technique, Sport specific Strength (specifically grip/forearm), Mental and Weight, the second and last could be combined into Strength to Weight ratio if you like.


Hi Lee, good advice there...

I definitely agree that dropping weight or lowering fat %, along with raising general fitness, is not a complete solution to all my climbing woes...it was just something that I knew I'd be able to do during a time when my work schedule was going to prevent me from doing much climbing. It also squared well with this Wind River trip I have coming up: heavy loads, big approaches, etc.

Pretty regular hangboard workouts have been part of the plan as well, so as at least not to LOSE too much arm/finger strength during this time.

And as far as "5.10 technique"...I WISH that's what I was climbing with, but I'd say I manage the 9's and 10's I get up with more like 5.7 technique straight out of the first edition of "Freedom of the Hills"! Either way, tons of room for improvement there, and I'll be climbing much more now so hopefully that'll help.

EDIT: I do think we climbers have a tendency to look for one aspect of training and settle on that as the magic bullet that will fix everything. I'm trying to stay away from that and look at the weight reduction as just one of many things I'll be working on going forward to get better. Working a lot on footwork and especially body position have already been super helpful in making gains for me, much more so than any strength or fitness changes I've made.


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By Rajiv Ayyangar
From Portland, ME
Jun 26, 2012
Cut! Sadly my flash attempt met with dismal pump-failure two bolts later.

I'd like to add that while losing excess weight is a great strategy for improving performance (provided you don't cross the threshold of diminishing returns), it's important to recognize that weight shouldn't stop you from attempting hard projects.

In my experience, there's causation both ways between hard sends and weight loss. Progress on projects make me psyched to get fitter, which in turn helps me climb harder, etc.

This past weekend I climbed with three other guys who were also bigger climbers (~6ft+, 190+) and none of us have exceptionally low fat%. It was inspiring to see them all working 8a's (I sent my first as well!), especially since I'm at times insecure about my own weight/body composition.

I've been slowly losing weight for the last year (from 200 to ~185), with occasional fluctuations usually depending on my climbing psyche. I'm always trying to better my diet and fitness, and I know that I'm far away from diminishing returns (visually I can tell I've got plenty extra to lose). But at the same time it's nice to know that at my present level, weight is not preventing me from seeing progress. A brief flirtation with the RockProdigy hangboard regime had a far greater effect on my performance than a year ago when I dropped from 200 to 172 over a few months.


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By Rajiv Ayyangar
From Portland, ME
Jun 26, 2012
Cut! Sadly my flash attempt met with dismal pump-failure two bolts later.

David, it looks like you've nailed the crux of improving at climbing: There's no silver bullet. Or rather, the question "what will give me the greatest performance returns on time/effort investment?" has an ever-changing answer.

Your present level of fitness and efforts to hone your body composition are commendable and will probably help you more further down the road. At 5.10, expect to see only slight benefits from getting leaner (still worthwhile!) and expect to see disproportionate gains from technique/beta-refinement.

I'm still surprised by how far a little technique goes. At some point (as per the RockProdigy thesis) finger strength and training time is truly the limiting factor for weekend warriors. However at 13-, I've found that some footwork drills (ankle weights) and learning to knee-scum had a huge effect on my climbing.

Also, strength and technique aren't really separable. There are some techniques that just aren't available to you until you have a certain amount of finger and body strength.


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By Will S
From Joshua Tree
Jun 26, 2012

Rajiv Ayyangar wrote:
It was inspiring to see them all working 8a's (I sent my first as well!)



They moved Rumney to France?


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By Rajiv Ayyangar
From Portland, ME
Jun 26, 2012
Cut! Sadly my flash attempt met with dismal pump-failure two bolts later.

Will S wrote:
They moved Rumney to France?

heh, I just like thinking of it as 8a because it seems like a whole new level, vs. 13b, which is just a little harder than 13a.


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By Optimistic
From New Paltz
Jun 26, 2012

Rajiv Ayyangar wrote:
David, it looks like you've nailed the crux of improving at climbing: There's no silver bullet. Or rather, the question "what will give me the greatest performance returns on time/effort investment?" has an ever-changing answer. Your present level of fitness and efforts to hone your body composition are commendable and will probably help you more further down the road. At 5.10, expect to see only slight benefits from getting leaner (still worthwhile!) and expect to see disproportionate gains from technique/beta-refinement. I'm still surprised by how far a little technique goes. At some point (as per the RockProdigy thesis) finger strength and training time is truly the limiting factor for weekend warriors. However at 13-, I've found that some footwork drills (ankle weights) and learning to knee-scum had a huge effect on my climbing. Also, strength and technique aren't really separable. There are some techniques that just aren't available to you until you have a certain amount of finger and body strength.


Definitely +1 on the value of improving technique. I've been amazed at what a few little tidbits, applied to my thinking, have been able to do for me. I guess the two most valuable of those being Matt Samet's adage "If you can see it, you can stand on it", and Arno Ilgner's "possibility mindset": instead of saying to yourself "there are no holds here" (or insert your problem of choice), say "what holds are here?" Amazing what a change in attitude can accomplish.

But really it was the relentless steepness of the Red, even at the lower grades, that lit a fire under me about the weight, and it feels great to finally be getting a little more honed. The same issue came up on a triathlon webpage I was reading: being lighter (up to a point) just makes everything easier.


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By hillbilly chippendale
From SF, CA
Jun 26, 2012

Aerili wrote:
I talked to a friend who told me he felt Tommy Herbert's regimen to get ultralight ended up pounding him with major injuries as a result.


What was TH's regimen?

I have accidentally fallen into a regimen by getting laid off, being too poor to buy plenty of food and having excessive time to be in the hills...The first 2-3 weeks were awesome..sending projects left and right. After 2 months thought it isn't quite working out...


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By Aerili
From Salt Lake City, UT
Jun 28, 2012
Get down from there! <br /> <br />May 2013 <br />Photo by Duc

David Horgan wrote:
Thanks Aerili... Any sense of whether there is much to be gained using multiple caliper points versus just one? I use anterior superior iliac point...

A single-site skin fold measurement will not tell you much other than how the millimeters are changing with respect to that single area. This certainly cannot be used to tell body fat percentage.

A complete body fat measurement by caliper method typically measures seven sites (same for both genders). However, the Jackson-Pollock version uses a 3-site model (different selected sites for each gender out of the comprehensive 7) and has been proven to be statistically no different from the 7-site measurement. Hence, the 3-site is typically used.

It should be noted that you cannot reliably do such measurements on yourself and that novice measurements (i.e. you think asking your friend to do it on you instead) will, in all likelihood, be quite inaccurate as well. You have to be taught properly how to do it and get a lot of practice.

Typically, measurements should be taken 3 times and averaged (unless you get two measurements that are both within 1-2 mm of each other, then a 3rd reading not necessary).

By the way, your selected site of measurement (ASIS) is actually a site measured only on women, not men-- unless the 7-site method is used, in which case all sites are the same.

www.topendsports.com/testing/density-jackson-pollock.htm




hillbilly chippendale wrote:
What was TH's regimen?

I don't know the specifics.


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By MorganH
Jun 28, 2012

Legs Magillicutty wrote:
I've always been a bit on the thin side. Over the past month I have dropped 10 lbs, which is a lot for me. Hot yoga, climbing, slight diet modifications and weekly marathons are doing the trick. I'm at 120 lbs and 8% body fat. I think I may finally weigh less than Langston now!! :-) I can feel a huge difference in my climbing and running. I feel stronger and can get up 10s and 11s with less effort. I even feel less weighed down when I'm slogging up peaks. If I lose anymore weight tho, I will be at that point of diminishing return. I would just end up losing muscle since my body fat percentage is pretty low for a female. There would be no advantage to my climbing if I lose anymore. I guess everyone is different.


Isn't anything less than 14% dangerous in terms of osteoporosis for women?


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By diatom
Jun 28, 2012

DBarton wrote:
i.e. consistently less than 4%


I'm going to have to call BS on this claim. Nothing personal. I just think it's more likely that you're wrong/exaggerating/lying than that everything I've ever heard about what levels of bodyfat are sustainable is wrong.

Go to any fitness or bodybuilding message board on the internet and tell them you're consistently less than 4% bodyfat (that is, in the 3%s) and you will be laughed off the board. Or, no one will even look at your thread because they think you're a troll. ESPECIALLY considering you're saying that you're able to perform athletically at that level.


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By diatom
Jun 28, 2012

Guide to what people look like at different BF%:

Men:

thisiswhyyourejacked.com/a-body-fat-percent-picture-guide/

Women:

blogilates.com/best-of/5427378002


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By diatom
Jun 28, 2012

MorganH wrote:
Isn't anything less than 14% dangerous in terms of osteoporosis for women?


She's probably guestimating based on pictures of men.


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By Orphaned
Jun 28, 2012

diatom wrote:
Guide to what people look like at different BF%: Men:


"Sliced" - what you need for climbing.

--- Invalid image id: 107678752 ---


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By diatom
Jun 28, 2012

Yeah, except that:

"Condition can only be held for a few hours at a time. Not a healthy condition to stay in due to lower water level."

I know you were joking, though. Based on that article you'd probably want to be "Ripped" 7-9%. You'd probably get fatigued too easily at anything lower.

Those forearms on Adam Ondra's body.


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By NYClimber
From New York
Jun 28, 2012
Awesome slab climb right out of the water! Rogers Rock, Lake George, NY. Summer 2013.

CaptainPoopyPants wrote:
caliper measurements aren't that accurate seeing as how they are unable to measure visceral fat, only subcutaneous. You could be in the 20% range in reality and get a caliper reading of 11%. The only real method is to get a DEXA scan. Bio-impedance doesn't really work either due to the fact that varying levels of hydration can effect the conductance. and Ryan N...I would highly question your method of measurement that gave you a body fat percentage that low.


he's right. I am a RN. Fat calipers aren't an accurate way to truly measure body fat b/c much fat can be in-between organs and visceral fat too.


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By NYClimber
From New York
Jun 28, 2012
Awesome slab climb right out of the water! Rogers Rock, Lake George, NY. Summer 2013.

JLP wrote:
"Sliced" - what you need for climbing.


Impressive JLP - having been a former bodybuilder myself many years ago I have seen guys developed like that come down to the Gunks and fail miserably trying to 'muscle' their way up climbs but had shit for technique or skills to climb. While it certainly doesn't hurt being muscular or ripped that doesn't always equate to being a good climber - if that's your goal.


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By Nate Reno
From Highlands Ranch, CO
Jun 28, 2012
Ellingwood Point Summit, Little Bear in the background.

diatom wrote:
Guide to what people look like at different BF%: Men: thisiswhyyourejacked.com/a-body-fat-percent-picture-guide/ Women: blogilates.com/best-of/5427378002


hard->cut->defined->ripped->shredded->sliced, heh

What I've learned from this thread (2nd link) is that I like women in the 15-20% range =)


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By Monomaniac
Administrator
From Morrison, CO
Jun 28, 2012
Insurrection, 5.14c.  Photo Adam Sanders.

diatom wrote:
Guide to what people look like at different BF%: Men: thisiswhyyourejacked.com/a-body-fat-percent-picture-guide/ Women: blogilates.com/best-of/5427378002


Very interesting links. For the sake of a climber example, I would say that if I've done nothing for a while I might get to the "hard" stage, when I'm hangboarding I'm usually "cut", I've had some good seasons where the thinnest I ever got was "ripped", but all of my best sends happened when I was "Shredded". I don't recall ever getting "shredded" more than twice in a given year and never for more than 2 weeks or so. I've never been "sliced".

I always tell people I know I'm fit when I can see veins in my stomach. That's pretty rare though.

I wonder about the accuracy of the %'s. I think he's under-estimating them, but I really don't have a clue. I think the photos would be more useful if the models weren't flexing, since I generally don't oil myself up and flex in front of a mirror to gauge my body fat %. The text descriptions fit me to a T though.


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