Ask The Trainer #11 – Ultra-Low Bodyfat


Hi Chad, does it happen that when a person gets very lean, (below 8%) joints start hurting? Recently I have developed severe pain in my elbows and my left shoulder. I’m at 7.5% and my goal is 5%. But I’m wondering if this pain continues to grow in this manner, I won’t be able to do many pressing movements! Like you, I’m also natural, so thought you would be the best person to ask. Thanks!



I don’t believe that lower body-fat levels directly causes joint pain. In fact, studies have confirmed that higher levels of inflammation in the body are associated with higher percentages of body fat.

However, I can see how downsizing your body to become more shredded could possibly affect your joints indirectly. When your body-fat levels are higher, the circumference of your body and limbs are also greater. In other words, there’s extra cushion wrapped around your joints. This extra layer increases the mechanical advantage of your arms and legs, alleviating some of the stress on the joints.

Chad Shaw
Therefore, the leaner you are, the more it reduces mechanical advantage. Thus, it adds more stress to your joints.

For example, I could bench press much more weight when I was a chunky 225 pounds, compared to the much leaner 180 pounds I am currently. Think about it. I probably shaved about an inch of fat off of my chest, and another inch off my back. Now when I bench press, the loaded bar must travel an additional 2 inches! Not to mention, there is almost no fat encasing my joints to provide extra recoil on my press.

Reduce The Weight

Needless to say, I’ve had to significantly reduce the amount of weight I handle on the bench press to prevent overtaxing my shoulders and elbows. I realize stripping weights off the bar can be a bit of a blow to your ego. BUT, it’s worth the sacrifice, especially in the long run.

Try reducing the weight you currently use by about 1/3. Then, slow down your rep cadence when you’re training. I’d suggest a cadence that takes 3 seconds to raise the weight and 4 seconds to lower the weight. This slower tempo will help take some of the stress off your joints while placing more where you actually want it: on your muscles!

You may also want to consider supplementing with Kre-Celazine. You could also add the herb Cissus Quadrangularis. I’ve had great luck relieving my joint discomfort with this combination.

I believe the only reason anyone should get body fat levels down to 5% would be for a bodybuilding competition or an important photo shoot. This is NOT a condition you would want to maintain long-term. You should be aware that keeping your body fat levels under 9% for a prolonged period of time could result in sub-optimal hormone levels. Obviously, that can hinder your ability gain muscle. Your cortisol levels will also begin to elevate, causing testosterone and growth hormone levels to dwindle.

If that’s not enough, you could compromise your immune system. This is why you often hear of bodybuilding competitors getting sick right before a competition.

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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