“If you could restart your weightlifting career, what things would you do differently?”
The other day someone asked me this question.
This really got me thinking. There are actually a lot of things I would change. Mainly because I know way more about the sport now than I did when I first started. I started learning the snatch and clean and jerk as part of my college strength and conditioning program. I loved the lifts so much I decided to compete. My coach and I were brand new to the sport, so there was TONS to learn. Fortunately since then, I’ve had the opportunity to lift alongside many high-level weightlifters and be coached by and learn from two of the best coaches in the country. I can now look back and see how silly some of the things I was doing actually were. I want to take some time to share a few of the biggest mistakes I made early on in my weightlifting career in hopes you guys won’t end up making some of the same ones.
I Would Have Moved Up A Weight Class Sooner
When I first started weightlifting I was a pretty skinny 56-kilogram lifter. I lacked muscle development in many places – so once I started training hard, I gained weight and muscle fast. In no time at all, I was up to weighing 62-63 kilos on a regular basis. However, not knowing much about how cutting weight over and over again affects your development as a lifter, especially a young one, I continued to make the cut down to 58 kilos. I also didn’t have the knowledge about nutrition that I do now, and I learned everything I knew about cutting weight from the wrestlers at school. Starving myself and doing extra cardio every day took a drastic toll on my strength and performance. Thankfully, I met coach Don McCauley, and he finally convinced me to go up to 63 kilos. After I made that decision, my strength shot up!
I see so many people making this same mistake. Either they’re too focused on aesthetics or are trying to make the cut down to qualify for the AO series or Nationals. Although this immediate satisfaction may feel good, letting your body grow and develop will pay off in the long run. If you’re just starting out, already have a healthy body composition, and your goal is to become a great weightlifter, I encourage you to put the weight cut on hold for a while. Take a moment to see what your body is capable of before depriving it of necessary nutrients and energy to recover and adapt properly to training.
I Would Have Done More GPP
Like I mentioned above, when I first started weightlifting, I was playing college softball. At that time, I was still getting plenty of conditioning, weight training, and plyometrics. Once I graduated from school and made the choice to really focus in on my weightlifting career, the extra GPP (general physical preparedness) work became almost non-existent. I was training under a coach whose program consisted mainly of the Olympic lifts, a few of their variations, and squats. I soon found myself feeling un-athletic and unbalanced.
When I started training under Coach Mash, he programmed so many variations of exercises and muscular balance work – some I hadn’t seen before and some I hadn’t done since college. At the same time, I started working at a few CrossFit gyms and would jump in on some metabolic conditioning workouts here and there. I quickly began to feel like my old athletic self again, and it showed in my Olympic lifts. I do recommend having structure and a good plan with extra GPP work added to your programming. It’s a necessary part in being a healthy, balanced athlete.
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I Would Have Done Way More Local Competitions
I was pretty naturally talented when I first started, and the qualifying totals and competition level were nowhere near the level they are today – so I found myself easily qualifying for Nationals and the American Open. I chose to make those meets my main focus and didn’t get in any competition experience outside of those major meets. At the time, there was one Nationals and one American Open per year, so my meets were few and far between. Some people are naturally great competitors and always crush weights at competition, but I’m not one of those people. I was constantly going 2 or 3/6 at these big competitions and not getting the experience of making lifts in competition.
If I could go back, I would have either done more local competitions with the goal of showing up and making lifts and going 6 for 6. I’m still today working on becoming a better competitor. So, if you’re a newer athlete, or a coach of a newer athlete, get out on the competition platform or get your lifters out on the completion platform often. Learn to make lifts now, and you’ll be more likely to do it in the future when you do qualify to compete at the national level. Plus, making lifts at competition is much more fun than going 2/6 or bombing out.
Those are three major things I would change. We all make mistakes as athletes and learning from them and moving forward is the best way to become better. Through all these mistakes, I’ve learned a ton and can now take my personal experience and share them with you, hoping you can learn from them and grow as an athlete.
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