Athlete Blog: 4 Things You Should Know About Weightlifting
This blog was written by DJ Shuttleworth, an 94k weightlifter and coach for Garage Strength Weightlifting. DJ has medaled at the American Open series, as well as posting a top 4 finish at the US Senior National Championships.
Olympic Weightlifting is one of the most rewarding and most frustrating sports you could compete in. I started Olympic Weightlifting in May 2014 after my collegiate football career. I came out of college hang cleaning 160 kilos, never really snatching or jerking in my life. My first senior nationals the May 2015 I snatched 147 kilos and clean and jerked 175 kilos to place 5th place in a very stacked weight class. After 4 years of increasing my clean and jerk and still snatching the same weight I decided to take some time off after the 2018 senior nationals. I needed to clear my head while also enjoy the birth of my beautiful daughter Henley. I think if I took a different approach toward weightlifting, I might still be lifting right now. We all look back and say, “damn, I wish I would have known that before I started”. Here are 4 things I wish I could have told myself before I started Olympic Weightlifting.
1. Focus on technique and be patient
Many olympic weightlifters can agree that technique is the biggest key in being successful in weightlifting. You have an idea in your head of what “perfect” technique is and you try to replicate that every rep, set, workout. In your head you think, “That was solid, felt like I looked just like that.” Then upon watching the video or talking with your coach, the feeling was not even close to what you looked like. When stuff like that happens, it can completely challenge you mentally for the next set, rep, or training day. Some might say, “well, duh, weightlifting is all about technique”. A lot of people do not understand what it takes to have perfect technique. You need to have proper mobility to hit the perfect positions throughout each lift. You need to have a great program (which I did) and an even better coach (which I had). So why did I not continue to weight lift and become more successful? We will get to that.
2. Nutrition will aid in hitting bigger weights
One thing I had no idea about was nutrition. To this day I still do not fully understand some aspects. The first 2 years of Olympic Weightlifting, I did not follow a meal plan or watch what I ate at all. This caused me to weight in at about 92 kilos every meet, and Dane would be ready to kill me. So then I started a meal plan with Acceleration Diet, and followed it to perfection. I then was walking around at around 100 kilos and smashing weights. After about 3 months on the diet, I wound up clean and jerking 200 kilos at a local competition in March, where the December before at the American Open, I only clean and jerked 190 kilos. Being on a meal plan, I never felt tired during workouts, I felt strong and was crushing weights. With that being said, nutrition and meal planning takes true discipline and time to meal prep everything. That is why it is so hard to do.
3. Recovery keeps you alive
If you want to lift for a long time in this sport, stretching and taking care of your body may be the biggest key to a successful career. When I was following a meal plan, taking Earth Fed Muscle Supplements, following my program perfectly and listening to Dane, I felt like a machine. With doing so much stuff right, I still struggled to do the one thing that could keep me feeling this good: stretching. I hate warming up, but one thing I hated more was stretching after workouts. I could make a million excuses and say I was working all the time and after my workout I would need to get work done and eat before I started working again, but the fact is, I just did not stretch. This played a main factor in me deciding to take a break. So if you are a lifter reading this, STRETCH!
4. Make or Break: Mental Game
To be a great athlete in any sport, you need to be very strong mentally. In this sport, you need to even have a stronger mental game. Everyday you lift weights to make yourself better. When you lift well, it is easy, you enjoy life. When you lift terrible, life is not as much fun. This is just about training too, not even taking the platform, which is a whole other animal. Weightlifting is a short-term memory sport. Meaning after a missed rep, you think about what you need to fix, fix it on the next rep and forget about the missed rep. As soon as you start to dwell on a missed rep, your training session is ruined. Just like any other sport you start it because it is a challenge and fun, but once it really starts to challenge you mentally, that separates the good from the great.
For me, all of these aspects added up to eventually taking some time off. If I could have just focused on technique a little more and been patient, trust the process Dane had planned for me I might have continued to lift. If I would have continued my meal plan and proper supplementation maybe my body would have felt better. If I would have stretched every single day after workouts, maybe I would not have been in pain doing day to day life activities. If I would have meditated or read more to improve my mental game for everyday training and stepping onto the platform I would have enjoyed what I was doing. Knowing what I know now, I think I’m ready to start lifting again.