Category Archives: Blogroll

Look on the Bright Side.

IMG_0194So you were not designed by God specifically to break world records in weightlifting.  Yes, that is a tough pill to swallow, but it is what it is.  So you probably can’t simply max out on the competitive lifts  your whole career.  You will have to find a way to fix yourself.  Your future probably holds various exercises like squats, push presses, and deadlifts or pulls.  But look on the bright side, if you are like most people reading this you have two working hands to grip the bar and a body that works well enough to actually do a snatch or clean and jerk.  Some people are not so lucky.

But there remains the question, how to make the things we have to so beside snatch and clean and jerk carry over to snatch and clean and jerk as much as possible?  As I sit here writing this, I am watching Rachael Davis do push presses.  I have told her and told her to separate each rep with a pause on the shoulders.  Yet when she gets a little tired and finishing the set is in doubt she still lowers the bar straight into the dip portion of the dip and drive.  This makes the set a little easier to finish.  For most people anyway.  It is not really cheating, and the difference is slight, but there is a difference.
But, for an exercise to carry over, it not only has to work the same muscle or muscle group as the movement you want to affect, it has to use the same movement speed, the same basic force curve, and the same range of motion.  The more similar the two movements are, the more the carry over.  So if you want your push press to help the jerk, separate each rep with a pause.  Make most of your reps fast, as fast or almost as fast as a jerk.  Avoid ‘grinding’, or any reps with a noticeable slowing of the bar.  Dip to the same depth on every rep.

If you try to do this it still won’t make your push press carry over perfectly to your jerk.  But it will make it carry over a hell of a lot more than if you do them sloppy and slow.

An example that is a little more obvious is the deadlift.  In the past I have not been a proponent of deadlifts for weightlifters.  But after coaching enough lifters with a long torso/short leg body type I have softened by stance.  I am still not a big fan of pulls, feeling that the deadlift can be done heavier and at least in theory should lead to faster strength gains.  But if you have a strength deficit on the pull and are going to deadlift you sitll need to not only keep the same joint angles as when you do the weightlifting movements, you need to keep the same bar speed when possible.  So there should be very few pulls when the bar is just crawling up your leg.  When possible,  the bar should be moving at roughly the same speed as it does in the snatch or clean.  If the start position is the same, and the bar moves at roughly 2 meters per second, there should be a lot of carry over.
In my next blog in this series I will talk about how Caleb Ward made sets of 5 in the back squat as specific to the clean and jerk as possible.

Build it Yourself.

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If no assistance exercises at all is the ‘perfect’ training program, why do so many people do so well using assistance exercises for the bulk of their training?  Some people try a program with a brief exercise list, do badly, then switch to a program more like the Russian system, with a ton of assistance work, and do much, much better.  Why?

The answer is simple.  Most people are not genetically ideal for weightlifting.  As I sit here writing this blog, I am looking at James Tatum.  A very good lifter.  But far from a ‘perfect’ lifter.  His legs and arms are too long.  He is not a very good squatter because of this.  Recovering from the clean is very hard for him.  Recovering from a heavy clean and having enough energy left to complete a jerk is even harder.  On the other hand, with a 160kg (U77) snatch in training during the last training cycle, he is a pretty good snatcher.  And he is tough as hell, and sometimes able to pull off lifts that look so hard, they make my teeth hurt to watch.   But even so, if I was God and trying to design the ideal olympic weightlifter, it would not be James.

Jared Fleming has done some great lifting here at Muscledriver.  He is one of the most exciting lifters to watch.  Definitely one of the most exciting that I have ever coached.  But his torso is too long.  Because of this, the pull off the floor is really, really hard for him.  True, once he gets the bar close to his hips he can make some crazy things happen.  But the pull off the floor is sometimes so slow I doubt he is ever going to get it to his hips!  But in spite of this, he owns the American record snatch in the U94 class.

Travis Cooper has got to be everyones favorite.  He is such a nice guy.  And that goes way beyond weightlifting.  He is genuinely one of the nicest and best people that I have ever known.  But his arms don’t lock out quite right.  So the lockout on both the snatch and the jerk are always very hard for him.  We do a lot of extra work trying to make his lockout as strong as possible.  In fact all three of the athletes I mentioned do assistance exercises to help them build up their weak points.

Cooper is always trying to improve his push press, James knows his success or failure as a lifter is going to depend on getting his squat up higher, and Jared does deadlifts, a lot of deadlifts, to improve his bar speed off the floor.

Figure out what your weak point is, and pick assistance exercises to help bring the weak point up.  If your parents did not give you the ideal body for weightlifting, build it yourself.

Specificity vs Adaptation



Everyone knows how to make the body adapt.  Simply do an exercise that you have not done before.  Or do several sets in a rep range that is outside the norm.  You will get sore, but over the next few days the soreness will go away, and when you repeat the exercise again and again, you will have less soreness each time.  Eventually you will have none.  The body has adapted.

But as weightlifters, we do the same exercises over and over gain.  Not exactly ideal for adaptation.  But if all you do is snatch and clean and jerk with near maximal weights, it is ideal for SPECIFICITY.   Every adaptation that your body makes will be perfectly suited to the task of heavy snatches and clean and jerks.

If you add heavy squats to the mix, it will surely help make your legs strong.  But, the increased leg strength will not be perfectly suited to the snatch and clean and jerk.  Squats do not occur at the same speed as the snatch, the force curve you need to apply with your legs is not the same as the force curve in a snatch, and the range of motion in the squat is not the same as in a snatch.  It is the same with every assistance exercise that we do.  Doing things other than heavy singles in the competition lifts allows us to greatly increase the adaptations in our bodies, but those assistance exercises also cause the adaptations to be less than perfectly suited to the of maximal lifts in the snatch and clean and jerk.  So there is a trade off between adaptation and specificity.  What is great for one, is bad for the other.
Abajiev was a proponent of training with a short list of exercises.  He pared down the 50 or 60 exercises used by the Russians until he was left with only the competition lifts, front squats, and the power versions of the competitive lifts.  But even that was not as far as he wanted to go.  He theorized that the PERFECT training system sould be maximal singles in the snatch and clean and jerk, and nothing else.  No squats, no front squats, no pulls.  He wanted to try this but he said the people who were paying him were paying for a proven system and he was not sure that a system without squats would work.  His system WITH squats definitely worked, so to make sure he kept producing he continued with the proven system.

My next blog will cover the REAL reasons we do assistance exercises!

Sept 15th 2015


This is the first digital watch I have owned in years.  As soon as I got done with my first 5k, I got the itch to run faster.  So yesterday I went out and invested in a new digital watch to help me keep track of my times more accurately.

Since I ran the 5k I have been doing a quick run every morning of about 1 mile, followed by a longer run later in the day of about 2.5 miles.  I don’t go that fast in the morning, but in the afternoon I have been getting steadily faster over the past 7 days.  The day after I ran the 5k I ran the 2.5 miles pretty slow, it took me roughly 40 minutes.  Definitely more of a slow jog than a run.  But I ran the distance faster every day, and yesterday I ran it in 24min and 25 seconds.  That is below a 10 min mile pace, and that milestone is what prompted me to go out and buy a new digital watch.

My friends know how tight I am with money, and they will understand how big a deal this was to me to prompt me to go out and buy something like a new watch.

I am now anxiously awaiting my second 5k, and hoping to complete it with a pace of less than 10 minutes per mile!



Our day of rest.  Do something relaxing.slide04

The Politics of Weightlifting


Those of you who follow this blog know that I normally stay out of the politics of weightlifting. I usually do my own little thing and leave the governance of the sport to people who like that sort of thing. Or at least dislike it less than I do. And when I do feel strongly about something, normally it is only the lifters I coach and a few friends that hear about it.

But I am going to address a current issue publicly now because I think it is important.

The 2013 International Event Qualification Procedures are being voted on by the Board of Directors on Wednesday, January 16th and I have a big disagreement with some of it.

As it stands now, we have several qualification competitions for each international event. The US team for an international event like the World Championships is determined by how athletes do at these qualifying competitions. It is pretty cut and dried, the person who lifts the most wins. Comparing between weight classes is done using a formula that is predetermined. At the end of the last qualifying competition, everyone knows who made the team, and who did not.

That is about to change if the 2013 Qualification Procedures is passed by the Board of Directors in its current form.

The current language allows athletes who have “made” the team via the qualifying competitions, along with athletes who failed to make the team, to all be invited to a training camp at the OTC during the time period between the last qualifier and the competition.

During this training camp, athletes who did not make the team via the qualification competitions can displace athletes who did and take their place on the team. In the event that an athlete is not able to travel to and attend the training camp, he or she can be displaced on the team by an athlete who was able to travel to and attend the camp.

I believe this is discriminatory against athletes who do not live at the OTC, and may not be able to come to the camps to “defend” their place on a team. Most athletes outside of the OTC (and most of the athletes who make international teams do NOT live at the OTC) go to school, or have jobs. Many of these athletes simply cannot drop out of their normal life to go to Colorado Springs for one or two weeks. Most of the coaches of these athletes cannot drop out of their normal lives to go spend time in Colorado Springs. The athletes who do not attend are left without a fair chance to defend the team slot that they have earned through the qualification competitions. Athletes who might be able to attend, but their coach cannot, are also left at a disadvantage when in competition for a team slot with athletes whose coaches can attend.

In addition to that, opening up the qualifying procedures to events outside of open, sanctioned weightlifting competitions also could add a degree of subjectivity to the selection process. Even the best of us can favor individuals we like or are even just more familiar with without being conscious of it. Who are the athletes most likely hurt by any subjectivity that might creep in? Athletes who are not OTC residents, and athletes who might not have a coach that is able to make the trip. The same people who are least likely to be able to attend the camps.

I understand that this language is being inserted to deal with some perceived problems with our present selection process. But there are other ways to fix problems without opening the can of worms that this proposal opens. For instance, some feel that our qualifying meets are too far away from the international competitions. A reasonable solution would be to move the qualifying competitions closer in time to the international competitions, or if that is not possible, introduce another sanctioned competition closer international meet in question.

Whatever we do, let’s keep our qualifying procedures for international competition limited to sanctioned competitions where everyone has an equal chance to compete and win or lose on the platform. Let us NOT introduce procedures that lead to an athletes place of residence, job situation, financial situation, as well as their coaches situation give them an advantage or disadvantage.

Here is the URL for the 2013 International Event Qualification Procedures if you want to read it for yourself.

Here are the names and contact info for the Board of Directors. They are meeting Wednesday, January 16. If you agree with me please contact someone on the board, and let them know how you feel.

Name Membership Area Represented E-mail
CJ Bennett Grassroots
Terry Grow Grassroots
David Boffa Athlete Rep
Ari Sherwin Independent
Artie Drechsler At Large, Chair
Ursula Papandrea Technical
Les Simonton Technical
Jennifer Ullman Independent
Emmy Vargas Athlete Rep / AAC Rep
Michael Graber At Large

Strength vs. Technique?

Bill Kazmaier called him the strongest man who has ever lived. He will NOT win a gold medal in Olympic weightlifting.

Although within the sport of weightlifting this “debate” is ridiculous and has been recognized as such from the start, it still persists on various message boards around the internet. Wherever a shortage of experience and common sense exist, it rears it’s ugly head. This will be yet another attempt to slay this beast, and it will no doubt fail. Nevertheless, let us continue.

Let us imagine that the level of a lifters strength and technique are both illustrated by having a certain number of pebbles. Let us suppose that one could have between 0 and 100 “strength pebbles”. Zero indicates an inability to do a squat with your own body weight, no bar or weight added. 100 indicates a complete and total realization of any and all strength you could possibly have given your genetic potential. The technique pebbles operate along the same lines, and it is the person WITH THE MOST TOTAL PEBBLES THAT WILL LIFT THE MOST WEIGHT!

Now to make this realistic, let’s add a couple more conditions. First of all, let us assume that as you accumulate pebbles, whether they are strength pebbles or technique pebbles, each pebble of that particular variety becomes harder and harder to pick up and hold on to. So it is relatively easy to pick up the first 20 strength pebbles, and even easier to retain them. This might represent going from not being able to squat your own body down and up unassisted to being able to squat with a 150lb bar. Very easy to achieve that, and given any level of activity or training whatsoever, easy to maintain. But with each pebble you accumulate, picking it up becomes harder, as well as retaining it. So much so that picking up the last 10 is more difficult than the first 90. After all, isn’t going from a 500lb squat to a 600lb squat harder, and more time consuming, than getting up to 500lbs in the first place? It is for most people.

Second, let us suppose that once either strength or technique get a certain amount ahead of the other, further increases are useless and don’t count. After all, you might have the most beautiful pull in the world, and a transition to going under the bar that is poetry in motion, but if you are not strong enough to stand up with the weight, it is wasted. And if you are pulling the bar in a manner that makes bicep strength the limiting factor, is increasing the squat going to help you? Are your biceps ever going to be strong enough to break a world record? No, there is after all a reason why Zydrunas Savickas is not the Olympic gold medalist in weightlifting.

Think about these conditions and what they mean. If your imagination is lacking, let me help you out!

1.) To lift the largest weights, it takes a high level of strength AND a high level of technique.

2.) A relative lack of either quality makes subsequent focus on the other quality inefficient and self-limiting.

3.) Achieving a balance of both qualities is always the easiest and quickest way to a given level of performance.

4.) We should all be trying to increase both qualities, with a focus on whichever is lacking the most.

5.) There is no reasonable argument to be made that either quality should be prioritized to the point of letting the other fall behind.

So there it is, simple and logical. And it will make no difference whatsoever to those engaged in this silly debate.