Olympic Weightlifters: Grow the Fu*k Up!
We all know those lifters...or maybe you are that lifter, the dude who is about to set up to snatch 47% of their best and someone walks in front of them. They start huffing and puffing, they can’t believe Little Johnny just walked through their field of vision, how dare Johnny do such a thing. Does he not recognize what that 47% rep could do for that training session? Ok, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. Maybe you are the lifter that has a failure at 94% of your max and you break down. You just freaking lose it. You lose control of your emotions, you dump your head in between your legs and the tears just start flowing. Maybe you are the lifter that needs to learn about the five keys to every strength program!
These two scenarios seem ridiculous but at the same time, they are very real. They happen in every gym. They happen all the time and it even happens to the absolute best lifters in the United States. I know these responses all too well. They are consistent across many different age groups and many different skill levels.
This past week I was in Guayaquil, Ecuador for Youth Pan Ams. I was surrounded by some of the best coaches in the United States, surrounded by some of the freakiest high school weightlifters in the country and we were set up in a less than ideal training hall with a less than ideal competition stage. It made me start to think about my own lifters, my own experience back home at Garage Strength and even got me thinking about some things that absolutely drive me insane. Here I was, on another continent, recognizing that young kids were in a stressful environment and they were just DEALING WITH SHIT. They didn’t cry, they didn’t blame Little Johnny, they didn’t look for an out. They just dealt with shit. That sparked me to think about the three biggest things that freaking piss me off that weightlifters tend to do in training.
Losing their minds when people walk in front of their platform.
I know, I basically covered this earlier but I wanted to share a story. Any warm-up hall in the Pan America’s is likely going to be hot as fu#k. It’s going to be stinky, there will be chalk, food, and people EVERYWHERE. Hell, it’s not just the Pan American warm-up room that is like this, every World Championship hall is packed with people, stench, cameras, screaming and ammonia sticks. Go to US Nationals or the American Open series and what do you get? You get people everywhere, dudes farting, swearing and slamming bars, screaming like they just won the Olympics.
So, let’s go back to Little Johnny. Johnny has no clue what is going on, he is a 5th grader who just started to lift weights. He wants to be a 5-star recruit for football in 6-7 years, but along the way, he has no idea how many glares he will get from Olympic weightlifters. Johnny comes to train, he is ready to throw down, he walks through the gym ready to smash weights. Little does he know, the adult lifters who are lifting 20 feet away from him have such poor mental focus that he will not only distract them during their lift, but they will also blame him for the waterfall of negativity that will happen after they miss the lift. They will proceed to blame Johnny and the rest of the session will be worthless.
Maybe that's an exaggeration but I have seen it happen in my gym, I have seen it happen in other coaches gyms. Adults….yes, ADULTS will be about to snatch, someone walks in front of their view and they will miss a lift and then blame it on the person who was in their view.
Let’s go back to the warm-up halls. The same lifters who are distracted by a fly cruising around their dome will then have to warm up in a warm-up area PACKED with lifters. Get to the World Champs, guess what?!?! You will have cameras in your face while you are lifting. Want to conquer the world of weightlifting, it’s time to stop letting the little shit bug you and start focusing on the internal coordination to make a damn lift.
I want to beat a dead horse. Think about this in terms of other athletics. Tom Brady walks to the line, he makes an audible, his wide receiver can’t hear him because of how loud it is. The wide receiver runs a bad route, Brady throws a pick-six. Does Bill Belichick ease up on the receiver for running the wrong route? Do you think Billy B thinks the excuse is ok? He is standing there watching the pick-six go down, “Well, it’s ok. It was loud and he didn’t hear the audible.” Hell no! He is losing his mind that the wideout wasn’t paying attention to the best QB of all time!
When is it ok to stop traffic?
I know a few people are grumbling right now. But in tennis they stay quiet before a serve, in golf they stay quiet while they are on the tee, if Tiger gets silence then our beloved weightlifters better get some respect from Little Johnny!!!
I have made a simple percentage number for protecting my lifters from Johnny B. Goode.
If my lifters are attempting any technical lift or heavy variation that is 92% or higher, they are warranted a traffic stop. This is up to the coach to pay attention to the room, make sure everyone is on the same page and everyone knows what is about to go down. You are thinking, “really, not 90%?” NOPE!!! 92%. That’s it. Typically, 92% will be the last warm-up or the first attempt at a competition. That means that is the starting point for stopping the sheep from crossing the road. Otherwise, become mindful, learn how to focus and execute without external distractions. Do you want to be a fucking champion? Train like one.
The, “I just failed a snatch PR now I must stand here and cry” reaction. Or the “I just missed a jerk, I need to throw a chair” reaction.
Trust me, I know this reaction all too well. Why? Because I was the idiot that would throw shit. I would throw chalk bins, I would break chairs, I would rip plates off and throw them into walls. I was a shot putter that did weightlifting for sports performance. While training at the shot circle, I would throw my chalk if I had a bad throw, I broke numerous chairs, I broke numerous tape measures and I would lose my mind. What did this do for me?!?!?! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! I was the ultimate underachiever. I was wired, explosive, a good athlete. I never was on the elite level because I could not focus during training with logic. I was an emotional freight train.
The crying reaction is the same response. A missed clean forward? Break down and cry. A missed snatch behind? Break down and cry. A failed jerk? Break down and cry. This is just a different emotional embodiment of throwing shit and raging. This is a failure to handle stress, a failure to identify failure from a logical perspective.
One more call out for the “I am lifting bad and must express an illogical response” crowd. The giant babies that lift poorly during a training session and get “hurt.” First, I want to clarify that if one of my athletes is actually injured, I have no issue in recognizing they are injured, I will back off their lifts and figure out what is causing the injury. Now that I provided my surgeon general warning, let’s get back to the stress pain. WITHOUT FAIL, I have a few lifters (I know numerous coaches who have these same experiences) that will get a random “injury” 2-3 weeks out from major competitions. Typically, they even get hurt while doing a movement that isn’t even heavy. They might be squatting 70% of their max and all of a sudden their knee hurts. Maybe they catch a snatch funky and their entire shoulder implodes (or so they think). This is consistent with the level of competition that is encroaching. The competition causes stress, their sphincter shrivels up prematurely and they find some excuse to claim “injury.”
What’s the solution to this “I am lifting bad and must express an illogical response?” Hmmm, I wonder. How do I know? I was the loser who constantly sabotaged my athletic career, what could I have done better? Approach training with LOGIC. Why did I throw poorly? My technique sucked. What could I have done? Focused on technique. Why did someone miss a snatch? Because there was a technical flaw. It wasn’t the chalk bins fault. It wasn’t the platform's fault, there isn’t a need to cry, there is a need to fix the technical movement. What about the injured homies? Well, they need to approach mindfulness training, they need to recognize when they are stressed and understand their consistent pattern of “injury.”
A lack of training goals and note-taking.
This one is a bit more abstract but bear with me. Over the years, all of my training programs have places to insert weight and track progression. Every program has a way to study the athlete reaction (Click here to learn more). Every program has a place to put total reps hit and weights used and to write notes. Yet 87% (yes, I did a precise in house inventory of filled out programs) of the programs lack any sense of training goals or even note-taking to see how the athlete felt on a given day.
Let’s walk through this training day. An athlete comes in, they look at the training session and they start to warm up. They don’t write down any goals for the lift, they don’t look and see what they hit the previous week, they don’t look to see how they felt the previous day and they don’t even comprehend how they feel on that specific training day. This is one of the most absurd aspects of training that Olympic lifters have done under my watch. Holy shit, fill out your god damned program!
Another great story. I have had an individual try to understand total volume, try to understand peaking, try to understand the technique. They have formulated equations to generate numbers that will then tell them how they feel. The kicker? They struggle to even fill in their own program with the freaking weights they used for each working set!
The fix? First, fill out the effing program. Write down warm-ups, write down the weights hit, the weights missed, take note of general feeling and take note of any sore areas or injured areas. Do this every freaking day for optimal tracking! The next step? Set up daily goals. Set three main goals for each training session to focus on. Those goals should be quantifiable but they can also be technically related as well. Set those goals and track if they are accomplished. Each week, establish a set of three big goals. Make sure you hit those big 3 goals each week in training and all frustration will start to go by the wayside. You will start to understand your body and understand the athlete reaction curve in training!
Strength is simple at Garage Strength. Lack of accountability is the enemy and creating a clear plan is the key to your strength and fitness gains. It can be difficult to stay motivated on the path to success. Athletes like you will learn more than lifting weights with our team. Accountability, planning, and hard work are an integral part of the plans we develop. Pick up a custom program while the GOLD level is still available! https://www.garagestrength.com/