How to Add 36 Kilos to Your Total

Garage Strength
Colt added 36kg to his total this meet. LETS GO!

Dude DM’s me on Instagram. 

“Hey I want to come up to your gym, check it out and then start lifting for you guys.”

I rolled my eyes, this happens more than people realize. On a regular basis we get direct messages of athletes wanting to come train, they want to be full-time, hit their goals and become champions. And then they come to Garage Strength. They step into a world of absurd intensity and accountability. They engage with a culture like no other. Maybe they train once, possibly twice and then disappear, never to be seen or heard from again.

Let’s go back to the original dude we are referencing. He was typical. Showed up to the gym, told me all of his lifting problems that he of course had all the answers for, told me he would be back to train full time, then disappeared for three months. He was gone, definitely not coming back. Or so I thought.

Three months later, we got an email from this guy, Colt Armstrong.

“Hey guys, just wanted to let you know I will be coming up this week and starting my regular, full-time training on your weightlifting team.”

What? Really? Well, let’s see what happens.

He came out on a Tuesday, trained and told me all his lifting problems again and how he had all the answers, then proceeded to listen very well and intently when given instruction.

Wednesday rolled around and he came back again. A little sore, a little fatigued, he still came out and trained hard, slowly listened to some technical advice and proceeded on with his training day.

Thursday came and he showed up again...and again...and again. I decided to challenge him. “Let’s do a meet at the end of the summer as a baseline.” He agreed, he took the meet and ended up going 5 for 6, totaling 297k, snatching 137k and clean and jerking 160k. A solid meet but nothing to write home about for a smaller 96k lifter.

But he was just starting to get his groove. He was just beginning to put down his guard, he finally changed his absurd snatch grip, he finally agreed to listen to Jake and alter his positions in clean and jerk and he gradually opened up to 100% full blown, training based criticism. Over a six month time frame, he worked his ass off and developed his squats, his technique, his pulls, his movement, his mobility, his nutrition. Every single day, one hour drive to the gym, one hour drive back home, all to go HAM at the American Open and add 33 kilos to his total! 

And this is how he did it...

1. Technical comprehension and focus.

Many coaches and athletes view technique a tad bit differently than we do at Garage Strength. We see things very clearly, very precise and we strive toward an execution of movement that follows multiple different technical models. Every movement we use on a platform is to improve the technical positions a lifter can achieve.

Technique struggles are common and Colt was no different. Colt was resistant to a point but not to a fault. He was open-minded enough to engage and discuss with the theory and ideas behind specific patterns that we were working toward. 

What’s the biggest struggle with technical improvement? There might be a 3-4 month DOWN period of implementing the new movement. The new movement and positions can change feeling, change aggression and lead to inconsistencies...BUT, that doesn’t mean the lifter should ignore technical work. This DOWN period is what turns a lifter that is an average lifter into an elite lifter. Not only do they learn how to be patient with different technical goals but they learn something even more important. They learn how to handle mental stress, mental adversity, doubt, frustration, all the emotions that are difficult to handle in Olympic weightlifting can be conquered if they are met HEAD ON during the period of technical comprehension and focus.

Colt isn’t done with his technical focus, he isn’t done with his technical development BUT he has made incredible strides through technical understanding and focus and that has contributed to his 33k addition to his total!

2. Applied strength gains.

Technique oriented coaches forget one BIG factor in Olympic weightlifting….there are still various strength components within the sport! I have fallen prey to this problem at times in my coaching career. I have spent thousands of hours breaking down technique and in turn have gotten obsessed with technique work and technical variations, forgetting the strength component behind Olympic lifting. Fortunately, I am able to check myself on a regular basis and this is something that no longer falls by the wayside.

This approach of “applied strength” is something we instituted with Colt. We have used various strength movements that have helped to dramatically improve his technical positions! This includes the classics, front squat and back squat. By pushing Colt’s PR double to 240k on the back squat, I knew he would be able to hold the necessary positions with a 150k snatch.

To note, I believe it is very important to prioritize technique work early on with a new lifter like Colt. It’s easy to add strength but it is not easy to fix technique (and we’re not done yet). Had we focused on strength early on, I believe that would have created a false sense of confidence, whereas Colt conquered many mental demons during his technical adaptations and his confidence blossomed once we started to apply big strength gains!

3. Consume TONS of protein.

I can hear the grumblings now…”Really? To add 36 kilos, we need to eat more protein?” 

Yes.

I never realized how LITTLE protein lifters eat until I started to work with Colt. Early on, he was getting hammered by the volume that we use at Garage Strength. We love using sets of 4 and sets of 5 on snatches AND even on our clean and jerks. These sets are incredibly difficult and can beat the shit out of a malnourished lifter. Early on, I recognized Colt was struggling with recovery. 

“Colt, you better be eating 230+ grams of protein a day.”

“Dane, are you freaking serious?”

“Yes.”

“Ok.”

Once he started to eat more protein, he began adapting better and his mind became clearer as well. He is 6’1 and was walking around at a paltry 95k (he freaking weighed in at 97k at the AO Final). He claimed to be a “hard-gainer” but instead it became clear that he simply just did not eat enough food!

Once Colt started consuming 2+ grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight, he started to grow and his weights started to blow up. This has been key to his development and must continue as we progress forward.

4. Be consistent with training, open minded and communicate clearly.

Talking with Dj Shuttleworth about Colt early on, Dj brought something up. He wondered if Colt was as serious as he claimed to be. He wondered if he would fall off because he was driving an hour each way. During the early days of training, Colt was showing up three days a week. Interestingly enough, after about 2.5 months, those three days a week turned into 5 days a week and now some weeks that is even 6 days a week. DJ and I both noted this after about 4 months that he was coming much more regularly and in turn his movement and execution was improving as well.

As he showed up more consistently, he grew as an athlete and I grew as his coach. I learned how to handle his questions, how to listen to him (and still make him do what I wanted) and I learned how to engage him effectively. By being consistent and open minded, Colt developed an incredible work ethic and over time we have slowly started to improve our communication outlets!

5. Understand long term progress takes time and every single day is an opportunity to improve.

Progress takes time, it takes effort, it takes patience, it takes consistency. The weightlifter who handles the various forms of stress the best is the lifter that will come out on top. By handling stress as properly as possible and approaching each training session as an opportunity to learn and improve, Colt has made incredible gains over the last six months. He is now able to power snatch more than his best snatch when he first started training at Garage Strength. To be clear, Colt never said, “In six months, I want to power snatch more than I can currently snatch.” Instead, he just came in, day after day, week after week, learning and adapting and improving. The recipe is simple but the accountability is not. Colt’s accountability is top notch and in reality, that is EXACTLY what it takes to become a champion weightlifter.

By following these very simple tips, you will be able to add a substantial amount to your total. BUT, you must recognize that it takes time, it takes effort and it takes patience. By constantly working to improve these skills, Colt has been able to achieve quite a bit in weightlifting in a very short period of time. His growth period is not over. He is going to continue to grow and improve his every day practice. Now Colt, go see Mobility Doc!

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