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Goals, What You Want and What You Need

Training this week has been a bummer. I can’t Snatch because my previously mentioned shoulders aren’t being cooperative. Apparently, forcing them to “cooperate” isn’t a valid workaround as that approach just made them worse. If I were to describe this week’s training with one word, it’s this: disappointment. Disappointment doesn’t necessarily mean dissatisfaction, however. No, because of my broken body I’ve actually learned quite a bit, and it’s given me another outlook to discuss. Today I’m going to list the three most pertinent epiphanies I’ve had this week about training, and wrap up at the end with what I think it all means.

Idea number one: Injuries suck. Of course, you already knew that, and I’ve already written about mine. I’ve had to re-organize a lot of my training around my current shoulder situation. Sometimes there’s a silver lining to these things, however. Admittedly, my problems were beyond me, so I enlisted the help of a professional. As it turns out, my hips are the principle problem, lacking internal rotation capacity, especially on the left side. What this has done is promulgated deranged movement patterns, forcing my upper-body into, for lack of a better term, a sub-optimal position. I suppose this a good lesson, though: often times whatever kind of problem you’re trying to fix may not actually be the problem you ought to solve.

Idea number two: Be honest with yourself, and resist the urge to obscure the difference between what your training goals are and what they ought to be. When I write training programs, especially for the more advanced lifters, I plan anywhere from six to twelve months in advance. Now, when I do this, I don’t mean exercises, sets, and reps. The most I write that in advance is two or three months. What I do have written is a conceptual plan that outlines what our focuses need to be, and in what order they need to be addressed in. Think of it like building blocks; even though what we’re looking for is that peak at the top we still need to lay a foundation, and everything in between that leads to our apex (conceived of as the most important competition of the season). Within that plan I allot time for injuries, life events, whatever. Detours are a simple fact of life. That said, I usually conceptualize these as marginal changes where I don’t have to rapidly reformulate the plan. I know it’s probably becoming a tired point, but my injuries are the most prominent feature of my training right now.

With both an injured leg, and shoulders, that means there’s actually a lot in Weightlifting that I shouldn’t do before I solve these issues. It’s immensely frustrating, and at least one or two chairs have felt my wrath as a result. I’ve been fixated on how to program around these issues, and still manage to achieve all the little sub-goals I’ve made for myself that need to be attained to build the foundation that leads me to my desired peak. For my purposes, I have no big competition to go for, just numbers. I want a 300kg total before I feel as though I can live with treating this as a hobby. I use the little in-between goals to guide me because they break my singular, grand goal into more easily attainable chunks. Here’s the thing, though: that’s not always the case.

If I can’t move properly because of mobility restrictions and injuries, should I really be that focused on my ultimate goal of a 300kg total? It seems clear to me that I should focus the bulk of my attention on fixing my underlying issues, which, in doing so, will enable me to achieve my goal. Suddenly those little sub-goals don’t make much sense to fixate on, do they? If you have movement problems, injuries, technique problems, and so on… Don’t get set on numbers or your ultimate goals. Sometimes it makes more sense to take stock of your situation, be disciplined, and focus on what you’re fundamental goals are as opposed to your ultimate ones since the fundamentals are what will enable the ultimate ones. Is it disheartening? It can be. It’s certainly put a major damper on some of my plans, but that’s my ego getting in the way. The fastest way to Snatching 130kg is first putting my body in a state where it can healthily Snatch with proper technical consistency.

Idea number three: For the most part, you never truly regress. We all hit walls in training for myriad reasons both related, and unrelated to lifting. Occasionally (and I am guilty of this, too) I hear some of my athletes claim, after a frustrating session, that they’ve regressed. No, they haven’t. The weight on the bar might have gone down for whatever reason or you might not like that new technique change. Put things in context. I can’t Snatch what I want to right now, but that’s because, anatomically, I can’t receive a bar properly. In having to address my shoulder issue I’ve actually hard to learn a lot of new material that I’ve, in fact, already begun employing in my coaching curriculum. Seems like growth to me, no? As long as you’re at least attempting to constantly improve in some way, you’re getting better, just not directly so. Because of my injury status I’ve learned a fair bit more about hip and shoulder anatomy than I knew a few months ago. It’s going to help me lift properly, and pain free in the next month or so, but more profoundly, it will enable me to keep doing so if I run into this problem again. You only regress if you make the decision to stop getting better at whatever it is you’re working on.

Like all rules, there’s always an exception. In the past I’ve said that it’s prudent to focus on the present, to spend most of your attention on what you’re doing at that moment in your training in order to avoid over complication and analytic paralysis. I think my training week is a case study in this sense, however, for when it’s not a good idea to place too much weight on the moment, and instead, look at everything indirectly affecting your goals. Sometimes the goal isn’t what you should look at. Sometimes you should take a step back and simply take stock of what simply enables you to even have those goals in the first place.

By |April 16th, 2015|Articles, Blog, News, Nutrition, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Goals, What You Want and What You Need

The Enemy of Progress: Self-Doubt

Being awesome at something is hard. I think I made that pretty clear last week, while also suggesting ways to be awesome without cracking. Last week’s writing was essentially a primer – an introduction – to what I’ve observed to be the path people awesome-er than I have taken to become excellent at Weightlifting. There’s something, however, that I neglected to mention, something that is the enemy of all progress in training: doubt.

We’ve all done it. You approach the bar with confidence, having gone through visualizations of what you want to do. You actively think about those visualizations, and how you’re going to perform them. You get set, grasp the bar, wrap your fingers around your thumb. Your back is tight, your mind made-up, and you pull. The bar glides up your legs, into the power position. You explode, ripping your elbows up while racing under… Then it all goes to shit. The bar sails behind you, wrenching your shoulders, crashing on the platform. You know what you did wrong. You think “dammit, why can’t I keep my chest up when I catch?!” Your coach coach is as dumbfounded as you, having tried myriad cues attempting to help you understand how to perform this basic task. You know just as well as they do what the problem is. So why can’t you fix it?

I know that was my problem last Saturday when I was Snatching. I was still beat-up from the previous weekend at Provincials, my shoulders were being uncooperative, and as a result, everything felt off. Frustration would simmer within, and for a brief moment, I thought to myself: “what’s the point?” I’ve done this long enough, however, to realize that I’ve asked myself that same question more times than I can count. And, you know what? Every time I’ve asked myself, I’ve had an answer: “because I want to get better.” It’s a simple problem, just a hard one to crack. Getting better requires accepting failure, and in Weightlifting, accepting both frequent and consistent failure is necessary, especially in your first year or two. Everyone is going to have a handful of problems along the way that are a constant constraint on their growth. So, why beat yourself up? Well, I know why, but you shouldn’t. Resit the urge! For instance, when I first started in this sport, it took me about nine months to learn to Jerk properly. Then I got really good at it, and between the Snatch, Clean, and Jerk, I was best at the Jerk. Now that I’ve gotten back into the game with seriousness, guess what? My Jerk is easily my worst lift again, and I’m not looking forward to the idea that it might take me just as long to get good at it again. In fact, at this point, I’m hoping I can be competent at it again in six months rather than nine. There hasn’t been one person I’ve coached for any real length of time that hasn’t had at least one or two erroneous tendencies in their lifting. Often times, they’re simple, and frustrating, but they’re there. They eventually do get solved, but you must be patient!

I’ve coached a lot of lifters, for instance, who have a real rough time standing up with a heavy Snatch or Clean. I’ve never had this problem because I’ve always been stronger relative to my technical ability. The opposite is true in many. What’s universal, however, is the self-doubt that we often cast upon ourselves when comparing our performances to those of others. So stop! Thoughts like: “dammit, why the hell does she jerk so well yet my feet move like they’re made of cement?!” are both unproductive and, well, kind of dumb actually (hint: the answer is because you’re not her). Thinking about why you, and only you, might not be doing something properly is far more productive. At least that question gives you useful feedback. Comparing yourself to others is only wise when you’re comparing the differences between your technique and there’s, thinking about what they might be doing that you’re not, and going from there. You can go ahead and skip the self-denigration, though.

Going back to my Saturday workout I can remember asking myself why I couldn’t receive the bar like everyone else I was training with. I looked down at my feet for a moment, noticed that my chest blocked out everything but my toes, and then remembered that everyone else I was training with didn’t mangle their shoulders with years of heavy Bench Pressing. Still, it seemed like everyone else I was training with was training much better than I was. I was admittedly starting to get a little emotional. Then I thought about the time I raged out on a disposable cup, and decided to tone it down.

It’s not productive to be too invested emotionally in each session. Sometimes, believe it or not, you need to just phone it in. The more emotional you get the more you’re going to get stuck in your head. And when that happens, then you become hypersensitive to everything that you perceive to be going wrong (it’s rare I see someone harp on what they’re doing right). No, just because every rep wasn’t perfect doesn’t mean you’re learning things incorrectly. We learn in chunks, and through progressions. That’s why if I see three things wrong with someone’s lifts, but they’re consistently getting better at, say, problem number one I don’t call them on the other two. I want them to solidify perfecting problem number one before we tackle problems number two and three. Allowing yourself to be too emotionally attached clouds your judgement, disorganizing your ability to focus on getting better. Pick one thing you don’t like and stick with it. Forget about everything else because it’ll still be there to solve after you fix the first problem. Going back to my aforementioned Snatch workout. As I saw it, I had a few options. I could say to hell with it because there’s no technique cue for dysfunctional shoulders and quit my workout. Or I could go with Plan B, which was deciding to just work my pull and start position because there was nothing I could feasibly do to fix my receipt problem that day. I wasn’t happy, but I still did things to get better that day. The point I’m making is that, as frustrated as I felt, I just had to find a way to remain productive, even if it wasn’t what I wanted right then and there. Sometimes you need to accept that you’re going to have a bad day. But, then, is it necessarily that bad a day?

Part of the problem we face as lifters is that we often become attached to our best workouts, even though they’re exceptionally rare occurrences. The problem is that these days are the exception, not the norm, and so it makes little sense to hold them as the measuring stick for a good workout. I know I’ve written quite a bit about finding and embodying the feel, but there are some days where finding the feel is going to be a struggle, and this simply needs to be accepted. Be humble and accept what you can and can’t do on a given day. Speaking of attachment, it’s also not conducive to fixate on a program nor on how you feel. There are going to be days where your body, despite you and your coach’s best efforts, is not going to be able to do a given day’s workouts well. There are also going to be days where you feel awful, and yet you are able to perform your workouts well. It’s not going to feel good, certainly not like one of those workouts you look back on fondly, but you still need to do it. This is simply the reality of it, and more than likely, your coach is prepared to deal with this. No one who’s good ever trains at 100% anyway, so there are always going to be workarounds involved in the performance of any program. I know in my own life, nothing, and I mean nothing, has ever gone to plan. Sometimes these deviations are even useful because they highlight details and deficits the two of you may not have been aware of previously. Expecting optimum conditions, and thus, performances, is the surest way to discourage yourself.

The ultimate point I’m attempting to get at is that training is an organic process filled with ups and downs. Knowing this, then, you have to resist the urge to be too hard on yourself especially if you want to be the best you can be. If you’re someone who’s particularly critical of their training, then, I have good news for you! This is a quality I’ve seen over and over in the strongest lifters I’ve ever coached! The experienced ones, however, who are the best out of that group, are the ones who learned to temper their nerves, and yet still be cognizant of their weaknesses.

By |April 9th, 2015|Articles, Blog, News, Nutrition, Uncategorized|Comments Off on The Enemy of Progress: Self-Doubt

On Being Awesome

We’re going to switch gears a bit this week. As I’m sure almost all of you are aware, the Ontario Senior Championships were last weekend. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t train a whole lot last week, so there’s not a lot to comment on (although I did have an excellent Snatch workout!). The standard of competition in this province has increased dramatically. As a consequence, the team and I were surrounded by high-level competitors, many being national-level competitors. We saw some great feats of strength, both from our own team, and from other competitors. I think we can all agree that we’d like to be good at what we do, that we’d like to be the best that we can be. But, what does “the best that we can be” actually mean? How do we know how good we can be? The truth is, we really don’t. That’s just a padded aphorism that says: “strive to achieve personal greatness, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make it to where you want to be.” Even so, I still believe it’s a central tenet that we all need to keep in follow. What we’ll be discussing today is how we can each develop our own sense of what “the best we can be” is, and what it ought to be.

Being the best you can be is a nebulous concept. You probably have an idea of just how bad you can be because it’s easy. If you’ve done this long enough, you know what happens when you train inconsistently, when you miss a meal, party too much, or don’t sleep enough. It’s hard to imagine, though, what happens when you dial everything in, and push. As far as I know, no one can actually predict, with any real accuracy, just how good they can be. There’s no identifiable gene cluster (yet, anyway) that indicates what your max possible Snatch can ever be. Just because you added 20kg to your total in your second year of training doesn’t mean you’ll do the same in your third. Yes, there actually is research that has identified a general tendency for athletic growth in Weightlifting, but does it account for confounds like injury? What if your dog gets sick? You get dumped by the love of your life? To put it eloquently, shit happens. More realistically, shit will happen. You want to know the awful truth, though? None of that matters, and is irrelevant to being your best.

The universe is callous, and, as far as I can tell, has no regard for what’s fair, what’s right, or what you think you deserve (your belief system may say otherwise, however, and I’m cool with that). The point I’m getting at has to do with the mindset of a competitor. When you go on Youtube and see a world record get thrown over their head by an elite lifter, you think: “wow, she’s amazing!” You may even get your imagination going a bit and think: “gee, I wish I could do that.” What actually separates you two, however? The immediate answer that I think tends to go off in peoples’ minds is: “she’s super talented!” This, then, turns into: “she’s genetically gifted!” and following that, unfortunately: “she’s on drugs!” The above may actually all be true, but we all tend to miss something. We saw them perform, at their best, for what? Six attempts? We saw maybe ten minutes of their lives unfold. If you dug around the web, maybe you saw clips from their competitive preparation. That’s cool. Did you see her getting yelled at by her coach? Did you experience the disappointment both she and her friends felt for skipping the 400th invitation to a Friday night out? Did you see that nagging shoulder injury of her’s pain her throughout the entirety of her 16 week training cycle? Did you see how she handled any of the otherwise normal life struggles that we all share? Didn’t think so. If you’re giving into any of the above, then, you’re not working towards being the best you can be as a Weightlifter (this is a crucial distinction; more on this shortly).

As I sit here writing this, I’m currently wearing six strips of Kinesio Tape between my right shoulder and adductor. I’m still going to train today. It’s not going to be pleasant.. Don’t care. I need to be just as tough as the athletes I coach. I might be reckless, perhaps even a little crazy, but I’m not an idiot; I’ve also blocked off time and money for a few weeks, maybe even months, to receive treatment for these issues.

I could radically restructure my program to work around this and not only train productively, but comfortably. But would I be training optimally for the goals I have? Probably not. Certainly not if we ignore the injuries. Let’s switch gears, though.

Thus far I’ve made it seem like to be the best you can be at Weightlifting you ought to eschew everything else in your life for the bar. No, I just illustrated the length at which an elite competitor goes to be the best they know they can be. The fact of the matter is that the “best you can be” has a lot more to do with simply trying to be the best at something. Don’t get me wrong, as a competitive coach, I think it’s both an amazing and honorable endeavor to commit to something like that, and I have nothing but admiration for those individuals. The best you or I can be, however, might be something different, and it might involve more than just Weightlifting.

Greg Nuckol’s, world-class Powerlifter and strength coach, has recently begun injecting one of my favorite phenomena of social science into training theory (check out his site, Strengththeory.com; it’s amazing). You may have heard of it, the Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule, by the Italian sociologist/economist/engineer Vilfredo Pareto. While his work originally found that 80% of the land in Italy (at the time) was owned by 20% of the population, this ratio has been extended into virtually any endeavor that involves production, and thus far, seems to be a tenable model in that respect. For our purposes, let’s assume 80% of our training results come form 20% of the actual work we do. How are we defining work? Training, recovery, lifestyle, essentially, anything you do with the intention of reaching your training goals. That’s a pretty damn good return I’d say. But, what about that last 20%? That’s where it gets tough, and that’s what will define whether or not you’re actually attempting to become the “best you can be.” For me, that last 20% means finding ways around my injuries, sacrificing time and money to both train and recover because I expect myself to get that last 20%. That 20% I’m talking about, however, doesn’t refer to the absolute 20% I could get if I dedicated myself completely to becoming a Weightlifter. That 20% just refers to the last slice of my life I’m willing to give up in my quest to be the best Weightlifter I can be given everything else I’m responsible for.

I want to be the best I can be as a coach and a weightlifter. If you just do this for fun and fitness, though, don’t let me alienate you. Yes, we are a competitive club, and I am a competition coach, but fundamentally, I got into this because I saw the potential for a community to share in something I love. An opportunity for people to better their lives through the passion that I and a handful of others shared. It’s been a hard life at times, but whose isn’t? What I’m getting at is that, regardless of whatever you want to be the best you can be at, it’s going to require sacrifice. It’s going to require you to embrace discomfort, to delay gratification, and to be courageous enough to weather the storm of doubt, disappointment, and the unexpected. The best way to do this?

Have a solid foundation. The 80/20 rule stated above to me implies that if we can achieve 80% of our desired result from 20% of the effort, then, we better get that foundational 20% down pat. This is easier than you think. So, if you train as a Weightlifter, but still have a job and family, yet want to maximize your return in Weightlifting? Let’s order the fundamentals first. 1) Show up to training consistently three times per week. 2) Pay attention to what your coaches are telling you, and focus on what you’re doing with your time during your workouts. 3) Eat well, and consistently get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. That’s it. You’ve already laid the foundation for achieving 80% of your potential (obviously this is a scientific formula for gains). Then you’ve got plenty of time and resources to organize that 20% effort for whatever else it is you want to be the best you can be at. It’s after this point that you can start deciding just how far you want to go to try and achieve that notion of being your best.

The final part of this statement we need to discuss should be obvious: what is your best? Perhaps we should rephrase that. What is the quantifiable and qualifiable point at which you think could demarcate your best? For instance, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to Clean and Jerk 270kg. Don’t come at me with that disingenuous and saccharine “if you dream it you can become it!” cliche, either. For one, no one before me has done it, I wasn’t raised on an athletes’ compound in some secret training lab in Kazakhstan, and I’m definitely at least 15 years too old to even conceive of doing this. An Olympic Gold Medal? Probably not in the cards. In fact, I’d rather put the work it would take to attain that into one of my athletes instead. Snatching of 140kg while simultaneously growing a business and competitive team? That might actually be in the cards if I work both hard and smart enough. I’m far from lifting that at the moment, but that’s only 20kg away from the most I’ve ever been able to Snatch. Over a timeline of three or four years? That’s not impossible, and I’m willing to put in the work, and experience all the discomfort that can come with that.

As men and women trying to hoist the heaviest weights we can over our heads, we should always strive to be better versions of ourselves as time goes on. What better actually means is up to each of us in relation to whatever else it is we want or need to be good at. All I’ve endeavored to do is give you an idea of how to think about what that might be. Bottom-line, however, excellence in anything necessarily requires sacrifice. The questions that need answering are what to sacrifice, and how much. Of course, there’s nothing that says you have to do this all at once. All of the athletes at our club who brought home medals with them this past weekend started training three times a week with the ambiguous intention of just getting better at Weightlifting. Their goals, and thus, what they we’re willing to give up for them, changed over time. This was reflected in their performances. Perhaps, then, the best you can be has nothing to do with the weight on the bar.

The truth is, the further I get into writing, and reflecting on this article, the more I realize that I don’t have more than a few guidelines as to figuring out what our aphorism of being the best you can be means. I’m still figuring that out for myself. I’ll tell you this, however. I saw some stunning performances this past weekend, with athletes pushing their capabilities to the max. I’m certain many of the people I saw, athletes and coaches alike, were living in a way that reflects the ethic expressed above. Maybe, then, being the best you can be simply has to do with whether or not you’ve followed through on what you know the best you could be. You’ll never know until you try!

By |April 2nd, 2015|Articles, Blog, News, Nutrition, Uncategorized|Comments Off on On Being Awesome

Special Easter Weekend Holiday Hours

Special Easter Weekend Holiday Hours
Friday April 3 (Good Friday – No Morning/Open Gym)
Oly 2 – 4-6pm, 5-7pm, 6-8pm
Oly 1 – 5:30-6:30pm
Strength 1 – 6:30-7:30pm

Saturday April 4 (no change)
Oly 1 – 9-10am
Oly 2 – 10-Noon

Monday April 6 (Easter Monday – No Morning/Open Gym)
Oly 2 – 4-6pm, 5-7pm, 6-8pm
Oly 1 – 4:30-5:30pm
Strength 1 – 5:30-6:30pm, 6:30-7:30pm

By |March 30th, 2015|Articles, Blog, News, Nutrition, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Special Easter Weekend Holiday Hours

Injuries: The Reality Of

The title of this week’s post should say it all. Yes, I’m injured. It happened about two weeks ago. Last week I mentioned in the summation of my training experience thus far that I hit a 220kg Back Squat again. Yeah, that’s the lift that did it. Somewhere between catching the bounce, and hitting parallel I felt a twinge shoot from the middle of my adductor up my groin, and then to the bottom of my glute. No, I haven’t gotten it checked out, but I’m pretty sure it’s a strain in my right gracilis (one of the muscles in the adductor complex), and it probably has to do with both a drastic improvement in lower-body mobility as well as some tight musculature on the outside of my hips. You know what, though? I ain’t even mad.

That’s right, I’m not. You know why? Because I’ve played this game for a while, and I know this for certain: if you train hard enough to improve you are training hard enough to injure yourself. There is no amount of mobility work, extracurricular therapy, or whatever else you can think of that can prevent it. It’s going to happen. Now, this isn’t to say that injuries can’t be avoided as they most certainly can, and the easiest way to do so is not be a fool with a bar in your hands. No, what I’m getting at is the fact that, if you’re performing to the limits of your ability utilizing complex, multi-joint movements with appreciable intensity it’s going to happen. Does this mean you’re out of the game? In most cases, hardly. Today’s discussion is going to revolve around how to approach injuries and what you can do to maintain training productivity. Were going to start with the mental side of things.

As I noted above, my current injury probably has something to do with my new found flexibility. You see, I’ve been working really hard since I started back at this to improve the range of motion that my glutes, hips, and ankles can achieve. Not to pat myself on the back, but I’ve done a bang-up job so far. I’ve never been as flexible as I am now. One problem. My body has never experienced squatting a 220kg load to the depth I’m able to achieve now. Unsurprisingly, doing so exposed a weakness, and I guess you could say I’m paying for it now. I got lucky, though. It’s just a minor strain. In the past, I’ve tweaked things and trained through them anyway. You wanna know what that got me? Two torn erector spinae, and a torn calf. This time around I’m being a little smarter, not listening to my inner-man, and instead opting to only perform movements that cause little to no discomfort. The disheartening part is that this means minimal squatting, no heavy cleans, jerks or pulls. In short, most of what I like to do! What now?

Re-asses and re-focus my goals, that’s what. I’m sure as shit not going to be productive if I try to build my squat or pulling strength; that’s just not going to happen, and under current conditions would only serve to make my injury chronic. Supposedly the words “crisis” and “opportunity” are roughly the same in Mandarin. I have no idea if that’s actually true or not, and don’t want to spend time researching the claim’s veracity. The point I’m trying to make, however, is that I have two options: I can fold my arms, squish my face, and furl my brow, or I can remain calm, think about what I can and can’t do, and remain productive. Maybe not productive the way I want to to be, but productive. And you know what? Sometimes what you want to be productive at might not even be what you need.

My footwork in the jerk needs to tighten up. I don’t move my feet enough when I receive Snatches in the bottom, and I’m like a fish out of water when it comes to comfort and stability in the overhead squat. These are all things I can work on that don’t hurt. Thus far they haven’t really held me back from adding kilos to the bar, but I can tell you there will come a time when these technique deficits will certainly do so. What an “opportunity” I’ve been given to focus on them! To be clear, I was working on these things before, but they were more like tertiary goals, little details to work on when I had to train light. Now they’re primary goals because they’re all I can work on safely. In essence, then, all my injury has done is left me in a position where, rather than letting these less immediate imperfections get solved over a broad period of time as secondary focuses, they’re now my primary training goals… For now. That’s fine. I can live with that. In fact, I’m actually happy I can still train at all!

What’s important here is understanding that, even though you’re injured, you’ve still got a job to do. If you want to be better than you are now you have to do something productive whenever you have the opportunity to do so. Feeling angry about it or sorry for yourself isn’t going to get you better. Being disciplined enough to recognize you have to make a detour in the plan, while still being versatile enough to do so is key. After all, when was the last time you’ve ever had everything go to plan?

By |March 26th, 2015|Articles, Blog, News, Nutrition, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Injuries: The Reality Of

On Motivation

Today’s article is about something every individual dedicating themselves to learning something difficult must possess: motivation. More accurately, were going to pick the concept apart and think about what motivation should be in the context of what it means to be “good.” Motivation isn’t just about feeling compelled to do or be something. Motivation should go further than being an urge; it should should provide you with a deep understanding of who you are, why you want to do what it is you’re motivated towards, and leave you with a map of getting there.

I’ve heard countless educators, be they teachers or coaches, implore their students to be motivated. As a child, I was your classic unmotivated student in school. “Greg, you’ve gotta be more motivated! You’ve got to care! Why aren’t you motivated to do better” Umm… I dunno? Care to tell me what you actually want me to do? Motivation is one of those words that’s so base in meaning yet thoroughly rooted in our everyday language that I think we take it at face value, leaving it as more of a sense than an actual concept we can define. In fact, in writing this article I consulted a a few dictionaries, and one of the given definitions defined motivation as the act of being motivated. Helpful, right?I’m going to go ahead and just define motivation as being incited or insentivized towards a given end. Simple, no? In my case, I really, really, want to be good at the Snatch and Clean and Jerk. The next step to make this a more meaningful endeavor is answer the most obvious question: why? Let’s start with my incentives.

My incentives are many: I co-own the only dedicated Weightlifting gym in Ottawa, I’m Head Coach and direct the training of numerous competitive athletes in the sport of Weightlifting. Finally, the most obvious reason: I love to lift; that’s why I got into the business in the first place! What compels me to train hard, then, are both internal and external factors. On the external side, I want to set the standard for our community as to what it means to persevere, to train with both effort and intelligence. Lastly, I want those who’ve put time into coaching and organizing my training to feel that I was worth the time and care they put in. Internally, my motives are much simpler: I just want to be good. It’s on that thought where I feel as though we all share the same motivation. We might not have the same reasons, we might not all want it as badly as one another, but at some level we all want to perform well, and lift confidently. Is that what it means to be “good?” Sort of.

When we think of good lifting we often think of the giants of the sport that we can readily observe on the web. Everyone into lifting here knows Lu Xiaojun has an amazing Snatch, and that Squat Jerk? Whoa damn. We’ve all marvelled at the monster Illya Illin is. You’ve probably even seen some of the training hall footage from one of the recent World Championships. Good lifting, at least as far as what I think we all share in our conception of it, is modeled after the level of mastery these kinds of lifters display because, in our minds, they define our notion of perfection. They do so very simply: they lift more than anyone else in the world, and do so with technical precision that stuns us. I’d wager that, at one point in these athletes lives, they, too, had athletes that they were in awe of, and aspired to be like. Were these people that the current champions aspired to be necessarily the best in the world? Maybe not.

Being good doesn’t mean you have to mirror the elite. That wouldn’t be wise if just because most of us actually can’t be that good for whatever reason. No, the critical import of the example above is that it provides us with ideas as to the path we need to take. I myself have no aspiration to be the best. I just want to be the best that I can be. What does that mean? I’m not sure. But, I’ve seen lifts and lifters where I say: “I think I can do that.” I won’t name any names, but I’ve had a handful of people who train here actually ask how they can be more like some of our high-level athletes. It’s simple: you have to empathize with the people whose abilities you want to emulate.

Step one: find out why they do what they do, how they do it, and finally, then, look at the habits that you think make them successful. Step two: integrate some of them into your mindset and approach to what you do. It doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) all of them. I regularly watch interviews, lectures, or documentary clips of coaches and athletes I respect because I want to, at some level, integrate into my own thoughts and performances what I think they do well. Often times what I find is someone with similar thoughts or abilities to me that provide me with a potential trajectory to follow. In other words, they show me what possibilities are tenable in my own life. Not all of these people that inspire me at some level are all elite, either. I won’t name names, but some of these people that I attempt to emulate call this gym their home! Regardless, when I get the chance, I try to find the meaning behind why someones a coach or why they’re a lifter.

Should you do this, too, what you’ll find is that there are things you’ll immediately notice are compatible with who you are, some that might be, and some that simply aren’t. For instance, I just can’t train as much as the greats of our sport have. Admittedly, I also don’t have the same drive required to be an athlete of that level (and that’s okay). My primary ambition is to build a successful community and a successful team. Training just happens to be a part of that. What’s key here is that thinking this way forces me to be reflexive, constantly analyzing and re-examining who I am, what my motivations are, and why they ought or ought not to be things I strive for. In reality, the level of competence I wish to achieve (right now anyway) is already displayed at this club, and in the local competition circuit.

This is the crux of the matter: You have to select people to emulate that harbor the characteristics that most closely match what “good” ought to be for you. For me, I just want to be able to hang with the best in the club. Not because I want to compete with them, but because, mostly, I just want to be able to understand the training process as long as I can. I feel if I’m to lead the pack, then, I damn well better know what I’m expecting of people! One of the reasons I originally decided that I had to get back under the bar was because it would make me a better coach. As you all know, when the weights get heavier, little things can change. As you get better and more efficient with your lifting, new tricks, and technical subtleties become not just possible, but necessary. If I don’t master them how will I ever teach them effectively?

What I’d like everyone to take away from this is an understanding of how to derive, describe, and understand their motivations. To reiterate, examine what your incentives are, why they drive you, and towards what end. Following that, take a look at the examples of what you think your end should be. Look at how others accomplished the ends you desire, and let that define what your concept of “good” should be. That’ll automatically define what you’re means of getting there should be. Because of their dynamic and challenging nature, the Olympic lifts can provide numerous reasons for doing them. Maybe you just want to get good at something hard to impress you and your friends? Maybe it’s just a fun, and challenging way to get your exercise in? Or perhaps one day you want to be the next Canadian great? What’s important to understand is that your motivations define how you arrive at your destination. When I think about what works for me, I tend to think about it in the context of what it teaches me as far as empathizing with my athletes. If you’re doing this for fun that means don’t beat yourself up too much along the way, but at the same time don’t neglect pushing yourself either because missing lifts over a lackadaisical attitude is definitely not fun. In the end, all that matters is that your ambitions remain coherent with what you’re actually doing to reach them.

By |March 20th, 2015|Articles, Blog, News, Nutrition, Uncategorized|Comments Off on On Motivation

Quality Over Quantity

Week seven is almost in the bag. It’s been a good one. The numbers are starting to come back. On Monday I Snatched 102kg from the blocks (no straps!) and scored a 220kg Back Squat. Yesterday I Cleaned 130kg from the blocks, a 2kg all-time record! I haven’t moved weights like that in over six months. Tuesday’s workout was lighter, but everything felt fluid and crisp. I feel confident enough to say that, not only am I returning to where I was. I’ve made a realization of sorts, though. I’ve been so fixated on returning to where I was that I never reflected on what that actually consisted of. I’m also reliving bad habits and attitudes that have held me back in the past. This whole pursuit of mine isn’t just about returning to my old strength levels; it’s about being the best I can be. Today I’m going to discuss the one thing none of us can escape in our training: the failure to reach our goals, big or small.

Last week started out really well. I got some solid Snatch work in on Monday, and matched my Clean from blocks record on Wednesday. Of course, I thought, Max Out Friday™ is going to be it! I’m for sure going to set new records! Nope. From the moment my hands first touched the bar everything felt off. My positions were all not quite right while my timing was slightly off. I’d adjust, fixing one thing, but then do something else wrong. I had been dreaming of numbers I wanted to hit since after Monday’s training, and I guess somehow convinced myself that these were simply going to happen. And yet, here I was, struggling to do 70% of my goal properly, still thinking: “no, this is happening, 100kg+ is coming off the blocks above my head today.” I was getting angry. I went quiet. Everyone around at the time noticed something was up, and for the most part, decided they should stay away from me (I don’t blame them). Still with a bit of cool left in me, I decided to wave and work back up. Then it happened…

The bench I was sitting on had a booby trap. Someone had left an open cup of pre-workout on the side of my seat, obscured by the chalk bucket. As I was putting my belt on, the end of it must have made contact with the cup because before I knew what had happened there was red pre-workout all over my platform, my feet, and the bench. I lost it. It must have looked ridiculous, but I threw the cup across the room, into the floor, then proceeded to hit three ugly reps when I was only supposed to do one, and finished my tantrum by slamming the bar back into the blocks. I was gone at this point, having given into rage and frustration. People – my friends, athletes and training partners – were walking on eggshells around me. As I recall it now, I had already failed by this point in that session. I let my anger dictate how I lifted. I was ripping the bar, sort of getting it, but it was ugly, and I surely was not going to hit my target with a lack of technical attention. I did the worst thing I could do: I stopped listening to what the bar was telling me, what I was feeling, and instead just reacted to my rage rather than calmly think about what needed to be done.

My friend and JustLift athlete, Justin Reeson, nonchalant and completely unphased by my frenzied acrimony, approached my bench and said: “Man, you should read your own articles. Relax. Feel what the bar is telling you, and just do what you can for the day” before moseying back to his platform. I laughed. He was totally right. I wanted a max – a record – but it really wasn’t in me that day. Deep down I knew that forcing it wasn’t going to make it happen. Still, I tried to force it. I’m stubborn (and occasionally dumb) like that. All my energy was going into sloppy technique and emotional nonsense. I was wasting my workout! The point of training is to get better, and better doesn’t always mean weight on the bar. If anything, I was de-training all the work I had previously put to being technically proficient.

I wish I could say my lifting, like in one of the many Rocky training montages, suddenly got better after this realization, but it didn’t. Well, no, that’s a lie. It did get better. The numbers just weren’t what I wanted. I ended up only Cleaning 115kg from the blocks that day, 13kg less than last Wednesday. I should be satisfied, though, because that’s all I was good for that night. I should have taken my own advice such as when, a few articles back, I mentioned assuming you’ve already failed in order to take the edge off of your anxieties. Quality matters. Especially for someone like me who still has many technical and physiological qualities to improve upon. In fact, for most of us, quality should matter the most. Sometimes you just have to accept what the bar is telling you… even if you really, really, don’t like it. Time for another metaphor…

You, as a trainee, are like a child, and the bar is like a well-intentioned, but nagging parent moulding you, telling you to do your homework, and park yourself in bed before it’s too late. Deep down you know they’re right, that being a diligent and well-rested student is probably in your best interest; not that that actually tempers your defiance. The difference is that each of us is (for the most part, anyway) no longer a child. We have the perspective to understand that a little bit of temperance goes a long way.

The next time you feel like losing your shit over a poor workout, don’t. Take a few deep breaths through the nose, into your belly. Then remind yourself that a complete training cycle is anywhere from 36-60 workouts. Not getting your way for a handful of them isn’t going to really screw you up, and no, going down in weight is not a waste of your time. What is a waste of your time is lifting like a jackass, throwing a fit or getting into a sour mood because the weight on the bar isn’t what you want right this minute.

Lifting better, as I am rapidly re-experiencing, pays dividends in the end. Less than a week after the worst workout I’ve had in recent memory I easily surpassed both the Snatch and Clean targets I had for that Friday. What matters most is, as I’ve said before, the process. This is proof of that.

By |March 12th, 2015|Articles, Blog, News, Nutrition, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Quality Over Quantity

You, Your Bar, and the Pursuit of Perfection

Six weeks in. It’s starting to come back. I can feel it. I’m still waking up sore and stiff, but not the kind where you roll out of bed going “oh man, what the hell did I do to myself?” No, this is the kind where you get out of bed, and you feel the fruits of your labor radiate throughout your body. The kind that make you feel like: “Ha, you sonuvabitch, I took your best shots, and that’s it?!” That tightness in my lower back? That dull ache in my quads? They’re not nagging pains slowing me down anymore. They’re badges of honor. Markers that I’ve weathered the storm, that I’ve survived the barbell’s best efforts to beat me back. Now I’m the one pressing forward.

The feel has been a constant theme in all of my writings thus far. There’s a reason for that. How the bar feels should tell you two things: what you’re doing well, and what you need to be doing better. But, what about when it all feels just perfect? If you’ve been training long enough, it’s quite likely that you’ve had a taste of it – like an addict – where that one lift you did felt like magic, like everything was just indescribably “right.” As Weightlifters, I think we all share that desire for perfection. To experience those moments of perfection in our training. Today I’m going to tell you about the day I first Snatched over 110kg. Why 110? It was after that moment that I felt I had begun to come into my own as a lifter. I’m certain it had to do with the feel, and moreover, my connection with the bar. For those of you still searching for that perfect moment in your lifting, maybe my story will help you discover it sooner.

The day in question sticks out because I had no idea I’d be hitting a record. It wasn’t a competition. I didn’t peak in my training for this. Nothing was planned. It just happened. At the time I was training instinctively. I had a regularly scheduled Snatch workout that day, and decided I was going to do some doubles, then, add weight if they felt good. My warm-ups started like any other… 50-60-70-80-90-95…. They were flying. I didn’t feel anything special yet, but I have to say, I did feel confident. What made this workout exceptional, however, was that I wasn’t feeling particularly good or bad. Positivity or negativity never entered the equation. I was just lifting weights.

100-105… I’d never done either of these weights for a double before. 108 was my all-time heaviest Snatch up until then, and it was awkward the one time I had done it. Prior to this workout, the bar was just an object I’d pick up and move around with. That night was different, though. The bar was my partner. It was like when you’re with someone you just click with, sharing the same head space, thinking the same things at the same time. We were synchronized that day. From the moment the bar broke from the floor to the point at which we would stand together, it was like we were working in unison. There was never a moment of the bar not “doing” what I wanted it to do.

After the double at 105 I decided on singles next. After all, I had just doubled within 3kg of my best! I felt a PR in me, but not like I normally might. There were no pre-lift jitters, no excitement, no anxiety. 110 was on the bar, a red and a blue. Two minutes had elapsed between 105×2 and my next attempt. I stood from my seat, approached the bar, and got set. Without a moments hesitation, I lowered my hips, gripped the bar, and pulled. I could feel the bar sweep up against my thighs, and then, in a second, before I could even process what had happened, I was standing up with 110. I though I had a religious experience, that something in me had changed. My lifting had never felt that good before. Ever. So, I did the only thing I could: I added more weight to the bar.

112 went up just as easily, with the same precision and confidence expressed in my prior attempt. I was now emotionally somewhere between extreme focus and pure bliss. I felt amazing, unstoppable even, and yet still just a man lifting weights. I was completely in-tune with my abilities that night. Already completely satisfied, I thought it’s a good night, why not? 114. Once more, I setup. The bar broke from the floor with control, pressed against my shin, clearing my knees, and then scooping into my quads. As my chest rose, my legs became charged. I exploded with an audible crack, whipping my shoulders up and under. That moment my senses paused, like my pull under the bar stopped time. All of a sudden I was standing up with 114, a 6kg PR!

My speed and position from the floor felt as close to perfection as a Snatch had ever felt. Once the bar left my hip I felt like a bullet going off. Jumping up and pulling under was one movement. There was no perceptual distance between my arms and the bar; that bar was simply an extension of my body.

I recall that session as a milestone in my lifting career not because of the number on the bar, but because of how it all felt. Sure, the numbers were great. I knew with numbers like that I could confidently say I lift. The real PR was what I felt. I experienced a connection with my lifting like I never had before. The bar and I weren’t at odds anymore. Rather than fighting we were working together.

What has me so excited about my training right now is that I can remember feeling as I do now just before that night. My struggles with the bar reached an apex before I finally started lifting well. I’m not a talented athlete. My colleagues can attest to the fact that between us, I have always been technically the weakest. I’m just stubborn. Because of that stubbornness I often frame my internal conflicts as combats, contests of the Will. You know what, though? It worked. That session changed me. It was like every session prior to that was bootcamp, the bar screaming at me like a drill instructor to do better. When I stood up with those three lifts, 110, 112, 114, it was like being congratulated by the bar for graduating.

I know full-well that the only life the bar has is what I give it. If you recall a few articles back, I mentioned the importance of metaphors in how you think about your training. This is the metaphor that works for me: the bar as an agent sent to work me into the ground so that I may emerge a better person. It adds life and meaning to what I do, and why I do it. I won’t go so far as to say I’m good, merely that I was competent at one point (and will be again!). Beyond any program, technical style, or coaching cue, what I think has made the biggest improvement to my lifting is the way I think about and embody it.

Russian weightlifting culture dictates that it’s sacrilege to step over a bar, that there is an expectation of respect and reverence for what they do. The Chinese have combined Confucian philosophy with modern sport science. What these teams have have done (and what I did) is make their training efforts and aspirations richly meaningful, but also immediately applicable to the way they view their worlds. If you have any desire to be the best you can be, I urge you to find your inner-metaphor, the symbolic glue that makes your lifting both a meaningful and fulfilling experience for you. Your lifting will change for the better, but more than that, PRs will no longer just be numbers; they’ll be life events.

By |March 5th, 2015|Articles, Blog, News, Nutrition, Uncategorized|Comments Off on You, Your Bar, and the Pursuit of Perfection

Weightlifting – Enjoying the Process

The end of a year is usually a time for reflection, and I had a bit of an epiphany the other day. I’m having a lot of fun training and just being at the gym. That may seem like an odd thing for someone to suddenly realize, but it’s true, and it’s kind of a big deal for me.

Weightlifting is a tough sport. Not just physically, but mentally as well. There’s been more than a few times that I’ve wanted to quit, walk away, and to never touch a barbell ever again. I’ve had that inner conversation with myself many times just staring at the bar, asking myself, “why am I doing this?” I’ve had crushing defeats that brought me, as an adult, to tears. My second year of competing, my goal was to qualify for Nationals. I was on track to do it at Provincials, but I had a rough day on the platform, went 2/6, and failed to qualify. I had the qualifying weight racked in the clean, only to fall backwards. The next year I qualified for Nationals at Provincials in March, but that victory was short lived when I combined my first Nationals with my first bomb out, a weightlifter’s worst nightmare.

I’ve gone through periods where I had to train alone, uncoached, and it is a constant fight with yourself to keep going, especially when you’re lifting poorly. That`s when the stressful thoughts from other parts of life would creep into your head when attempting a lift. I’m probably not the only lifter that has gone through a complete existential crisis while training. That usually doesn’t go very well. Anytime you’re trying to throw heavy weight over your head, that should be the only thing your mind is focused on!

Throwing heavy weight overhead requires the ability to clear your mind and focus only on the task at hand

Other times I think the sheer frustration was with how a few of us trained very early on. It didn’t seem like weights were progressing, or technique was improving, even though I was putting in the time and effort. You’re certainly not going to feel 100% all the time, that`s just how training goes, but we were really beating ourselves up. I’ve learned a lot since those early days, and I’ve managed to find a much better balance and I’m still making progress. Back then it seemed like I was destroying myself in the gym for what seemed like no return, which is incredibly frustrating.

Lately though, I’ve been having a lot of fun and just enjoying the process. At JustLift, I’m now surrounded by a bunch of great people that I truly enjoy coaching and training with. Even those bad days, when my body hurts, when the movements feel completely foreign again, and the weight feels heavy, I`m surrounded by people that make me smile, that make me laugh, that push me, and that inspire me. I have teammates to share my victories, and to console me in my defeats. I didn’t always have that. Bad days were really bad. Like go back to my apartment, stare at the ceiling and cry sort of bad. When I really think about it, it’s hard to really remember when I last had a bad day at the gym like that.

Every now and then I have this idea that when I move into a house, I`ll have a garage gym and how great it will be because I’d be able to train anytime I wanted to, I wouldn’t have to waste time going to and from the gym, and I can set it up exactly how I want it. Then I think about how incredibly lonely it would be. I may not necessarily need a coach at this point in my lifting career, but I think I will always need a team. That`s what I have now at JustLift, and our family is growing. We’re not just growing in size, but we’re growing closer. Our lifting lives and our social lives are more intertwined.

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The JustLift Team at the 2014 Ontario Scholastics

Community, a support network, and a feeling of purpose are often cited as important aspects of health and longevity, not just “diet and exercise”. I came from a small town (like really small, like total population 1600 people small) and moving to a “big city” like Ottawa was really intimidating for a while. At first I didn’t really feel like I belonged here. It`s kind of a strange feeling, feeling alone in a city of almost a million people. I spent a lot of time living in the past, thinking about how much I missed how things used to be. When I show up at JustLift and see all those familiar, smiling faces, I don’t feel like that anymore. I have that sense of belonging. I have that sense of purpose when I`m training or coaching. I no longer feel alone. I’m enjoying the process, having fun, and living in the moment.

By |December 28th, 2014|Articles, Blog|1 Comment

What To Expect At Your First Weightlifting Meet

We will be having our Fall Club Weightlifting Meet in about a month’s time, and for some of you, this will be your first experience following a weightlifting competition protocol. We will be going over what to expect in training, but I thought it would be good to have something written down for all of you to follow. This will be a friendly club meet to introduce you to the idea of competition. While the results will be official and count for those that need to qualify for Winterlift/Provincials, for the majority of you, think of this meet as more of a practice session, just structured in competition format.

Weigh-In

Weightlifting is a bodyweight sport, therefore you only compete against those that are in the same weight class as you. The weigh-in is the first official part of competition day. For your first meet, athletes should not be concerned with what they weigh, as the main goal of the first meet is to make your lifts, so we’re trying to limit the amount of stressors involved.

The start list for each session will be posted close to the weigh-in area. The start list will show the session weigh-in time, start time, athletes names, declared weight class, and each athlete’s lot number. The standard weigh-in time starts 2 hours before the start of the competition and lasts for one hour. Athletes are then called to the weigh-in room one-by-one, beginning with the lightest weight class and lowest lot number within the weight class. Once in the weigh-in room, the athlete will step on the scale to determine their bodyweight, declare their opening attempts in the snatch and clean and jerk, and then initial their start card that lists their name, bodyweight, and declared opening attempts. The athlete should know what their opening attempts are prior to the weigh-in having discussed them with their coach. Typically for your first meet, this will be a weight that you can consistently make.

If an athlete is not present when their name is called, the next athlete on the list is called, and the athlete that wasn’t there must now wait until all other athletes have been called before they can weigh in. Also, if an athlete is trying to “make weight” and weighs in above (or below) their intended category, they have the remaining hour to try and drop (gain) a bit of weight, come back, and be weighed again. In this case, you wouldn’t sign your card until you make weight or run out of time.  As stated before though, “making weight” isn’t something to be concerned with at your first meet.

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Mohamed and James in the warm up area at the 2014 Ontario Scholastics

Warm-Up

After the weigh-in has concluded, the start sheets will be updated to include the athlete’s bodyweight, declared opening attempts, and their new start number. If there were no athletes that moved from their declared weight category to their actual weight category, the start number order will be the same as the weigh-in order. Athletes and coaches should then be looking at this list when it is made available to determine when the athlete should begin their warm-up. In competition, the weight of the bar only goes up, therefore the lightest weights are lifted first. If you have the lowest declared opening snatch, then chances are you’re lifting first, which means you should be probably be the first one warming up! If you have one of the heaviest declared openers, you’ll need to wait for everyone else to lift before you, and need to time your warm-up accordingly.

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Julia and Chenoa lining up for the 2014 Ottawa Regional Inter-Club Meet

There is a “Presentation of Athletes” 15 minutes before the start of the competition. Athletes are lined up in the back room by one of the officials, brought out to the platform, and presented to the audience. The announcer will introduce each athlete individually, usually stating their weight class and what club they are representing. Since this is close to the start of the competition, those lifting first will likely be in the middle of their warm-up, while others may just be loosening up. Once all athletes are introduced, it’s back to the warm-up room, and then the announcer will give the time remaining to the start of the competition.

Usually we define a warm up in terms of general warm up and specific warm up. General warm up includes any mobility type stuff, arm swings, leg swings, air squats, etc. I’ll include empty bar work with this as well. I’ll then define specific warm up as anything with weight. At this point, this should primarily be the full lifts performed for minimal reps. Some may prefer to do complexes/power for the first few sets, but once we really get going, this should be full lifts for mostly singles. The coach should be back and forth between the warm-up area and the competition area to keep their lifter on track so they’ll be ready to lift before their name is called.

Competition

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Chenoa approaching the platform at the 2014 Ontario Scholastics

Ok, so now you’re weighed in and warmed up. Get ready to have your name called and be ready to lift! You will be called to the platform by the announcer, and the clock will start running. Once your name is called, you will have one minute for your attempt. The clock will stop once the bar leaves the floor, so you can take as much time as you need in the bottom of a snatch, or to set up for the jerk after the clean, as you need. There will be a warning buzzer when you have 30 seconds left. Most lifters will try to either make sure they lift before or after the signal to avoid having it buzz as you are lifting. Once you have the bar overhead under control, with your feet in line, you will either get a down signal (buzzer) along with a light, or the centre judge will give you an audible “down” signal while motioning with their hand. You then need to place the bar back on the platform in front of you in a controlled fashion, keeping your hands on the bar until it is below shoulder level.

Once you’ve completed your attempt, the judges will give their decision of good/no lift. Some informal club meets may be run with just one judge, but for the most part, it will be 3 judges, and majority rules. There are a few reasons you may get the bar overhead and not be awarded the lift. The most common is finishing with a press-out (incomplete extension of the arm). Others include (but are not limited to) lowering the weight before the down signal, elbow touching the knee in the clean, double dipping in the jerk, and having any part of the body other than the feet touch the platform (dropping to one knee).

Counts in CrossFit, but in a weightlifting competition, this is a "No Lift!"

Counts in CrossFit, but in a weightlifting competition, this is a “No Lift!”

If you were successful in your lift, you and your coach will then decide on your next attempt. If you don’t declare a weight immediately, you will be automatically incremented by 1 kg. You can then make 2 additional changes to your attempted weight, provided they are made before the 30 second warning. If you were unsuccessful, you will have the option of repeating the same weight. In either case, if you happen to follow yourself (lift next with no other lifters between you), you will then have 2 minutes on the clock for your attempt. The flip side of this is that if there are a lot of other lifters between your last attempt and your next attempt, you may need to go back to the warm up room to do some more lifts to prevent from cooling down. When following yourself, the first weight change must be made within the first 30 seconds. Each lifter has 3 attempts to put up a number for their snatch score. The highest weight successfully lifted then becomes the first part of your total score.

After everyone has completed their snatch attempts, the competition will then move on to the clean and jerk portion. There is a standard 10 minute break in between the snatch portion and the clean and jerk portion of the competition. Often in larger sessions, usually with 10 lifters or more in a single session, the break is either shortened or eliminated. If there is a change in the length of the break, this will be announced beforehand and lifters and coaches must be prepared to time their clean and jerk warm ups appropriately. Each lifter then has 3 attempts to put up a number for their clean and jerk score. Their best snatch and best clean and jerk are then added together to give their final “Total” score.

weightlifting_competition_clean_james

James racking 115kg while Coach Greg looks on

Have Fun!

If this all seems like a lot to take in, don’t get discouraged or worry about it. A lot of the technical parts of competing are ultimately the coach’s responsibility. The athlete’s responsibility is to listen to their coach and do what they are told, when they are told, and focus on just making their lifts. Competing in a weightlifting meet is what makes this a sport and is what differentiates a weightlifter from someone who trains using snatches and clean and jerks. Performing in a competition is a skill that has to be practiced and will improve with experience, just like every other aspect of the sport. In the beginning, don’t be discouraged if you aren’t breaking records every time you compete. There’s a big difference between hitting a PR on a random training day when you get to control a lot of the variables, and lifting against the clock, at a specific time, on a specific day, with just 3 attempts, and no option for lowering the weight. That being said, performing well in a competition is one of the most rewarding experiences you will have in this sport knowing that the effort you put in to your training is proven on the competition platform.

For some more info on weightlifting competition, check out the following articles by Uncle Bob Takano:

Weightlifting Competition Etiquette

Preparing for the First Olympic Meet

By |September 24th, 2014|Articles, Blog|Comments Off on What To Expect At Your First Weightlifting Meet