The Weightlifter Paradigm

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The Weightlifter Paradigm

At the 2017 Pan American Championships, I roomed with John Broz one of the most famous American Coaches. It was a blast. This guy oozes Olympic weightlifting. His knowledge of weightlifting history is second to no one. I’d say he has spent the majority of his adult like reflecting on the sport of weightlifting. During the week that I roomed with John, I learned so many things. However there is one that has really stuck with me.

We were at lunch with Coach Sean Waxman when Broz told us about the “Weightlifter Paradigm”. I am going to relay it to all of you. When a weightlifter begins the sport, to him or her it looks like taking the bar from the floor and putting it over your head. Then we begin to learn all of these things about the sport like physics, biomechanics, bar path, mobility, and technique. Now your mind is blown, and the sport feels like a foreign language not of this world.

The technique debate alone will leave you shaking your head is confusion. Every coach seems to have the perfect technique figured out. If you don’t perform their technique, then you are going to fail. Let’s stop right there. Does that make any sense? No! Coach Sean Waxman teaches a totally different technique than Coach Don McCauley. However both have produced very impressive International level athletes. The crazy part is that their athletes look very similar when lifting. Now how does that happen?

I was talking to my friend, Coach Kevin Simons while I was at the Senior Pan American Championships as well. He was talking about the coaching cues that he learned from Pyrros Dimas such as finish vertical and get high on your pull. We would call that a jump and shrug, and that’s no what we teach. Is Pyrros wrong? I think not, and his three Gold Medals prove it. Are we wrong by teaching a slightly up and back pull and shrug down technique? I think not, and our eleven Team USA Athletes in the last year and a half proves that.

Here’s what I have determined. Coaches are going to focus on two things: strength and technique. If their athlete is weak in the strength markers, they are going to focus on strength. If their athletes are strong with less than optimal technique, they are going to focus on technique. However at the end of the day if you talk technique day in and day out, you run the risk of clogging a lifter’s brain. You will make a simple sport seen overly complicated, and now the weightlifter will look at the sport like a foreign language from another planet.

Am I a triple extension coach or a catapult coach? Neither really, I am a coach that will cue my athlete in whatever way necessary to get them to perform the lift optimally. That’s it! I suggest that if you have a dogmatic approach, maybe opening your mind to this concept. Everyone’s brain processes information differently. If “jump and shrug” somehow transfers to a powerful second pull and a great transition under the bar, then “jump and shrug” it is. I prefer to coach like Don McCauley, which is coaching the way things really happens. Others will use cues that aren’t actually what happens to somehow get the athlete to perform the movement correctly. Blows my mind, but it obviously works as well.

Programming can also become complicated. I have looked at programs from other coaches. Some will look like plans from NASA to start a colony on Mars, and some will look like the simplest program ever with a Snatch, Clean & Jerk, Squat, and repeat plan. Here’s the thing. Programming is very unique to the athlete. Some athletes respond well to low volume, high frequency, and high intensity/load. Some respond better to high volume, moderate frequency, and moderate load. You will find these answers over time, and it simply requires a coach to make notes on how the athlete responds. There really isn’t a scientific way to figure this out. It’s all trial and error. Once again just lift the bar from the ground to overhead.

That’s where I am right now. I am into less complicated coaching, and more of an approach to pick the bar up and put it overhead. I want my athletes to have more fun with their training. My goal is to write a program that is fun but still challenging. If you keep your athletes laughing, they will get stronger. If you beat them down with science of weightlifting, you are going to wear them out. Here are a few pieces of advice:

• If you are focusing on strength movements, give the competition lifts a break.
• If you are focusing on the competition lifts, ease up on the strength movements.
• Use whatever technique cues that work for the athlete.

Otherwise let your athletes lift and have fun. Challenge them daily, and let their competitiveness take over. Truth is that a good atmosphere will always be the best coaching tool. Let them pick the bar up and put it overhead!

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