The Distress of Weightlifting – Garage Strength

What's up everybody. Welcome to another episode of Dane Miller's strengths Secrets. So I've been thinking a lot lately. I've had a pretty interesting six weeks where I've traveled all over the world. I was in a world championships in Thailand for weightlifting and I came home and I flew back to Asia to get to Qatar and for the IWF world championships for track and field. Then I came home and I ended up having, I think two people leave the team, maybe three leave the weightlifting team. And then another guy just left the throws team at GS/Throws University mainly because he's, you know, older shop putter and he feels it's just time for him to move on and basically start a family and just focused on his job. Which again, that's great. That's perfectly fine. That stuff doesn't make me unhappy. But what makes me unhappy is when I sit there, I'm like, all right, why are some of these people leaving or struggling more? My focus is on why are they struggling so much with a sport that they've chosen to get involved with predominantly weightlifting. 

So one of those things with weightlifting is that it can be grueling. It can be challenging, it can be horrible. It can beat the shit out of your body and it can just do crazy things to you mentally. It breaks people emotionally, physically, mentally, all those things. It's one of those sports that it's very similar to wrestling. It literally will just break you. It'll break you down, you'll sit on a platform in tears, just wallowing in your own self-pity, wondering what you're going to do with life. And something that I've often thought about is why? Why is this? And I think that there's a lot of factors that come into play, but a lot of times it's because people aren't making the progress that they want to make in a sport. And that could stem from, I would say four to five specific things and then, you know, 300 nonspecific indirect things. So if we would break down what is somebody struggling with the most? That was the whole goal of this podcast is that I wanted to go over what is the aspect of weightlifting that makes it so damn difficult and so hard to stay happy and so hard to accept the process, the sport.

I think directly if we can start most of the unhappy aspects behind weightlifting have to do with you not making the strength gains, you're not making the technical gains. You don't have a good relationship with your teammates, you don't have a good relationship with your coach and there's no clear cut goals and means of success. I think that that sort of starts with right there. What we just said is that those means of success or the clear cut steps of success. It's sort of where that first step line is that a lot of people and a lot of athletes will sit on social media and they're making all these comparisons to other athletes online and they go, Oh wow, they're doing this and I'm not. So they immediately feel that they're not successful. That's just immature bullshit. You know, I wouldn't say that that's what most of my athletes are dealing with. What most of my athletes are dealing with is the hardest part behind the sport of weightlifting to be an elite weightlifter, And that is 100% technique. 

I believe what ends up happening when you're making these technical adaptations, at least for most athletes, if you're a freak of nature, if you're a freak athlete, you can make technical changes and you can find technical rhythm literally within two to three weeks of making these drastic, serious technical changes. For the mass population or the majority of the population, you make a technical change, It feels good for two to three weeks, Then all of a sudden as you start to push more weights, you start to revert back to your old movement patterns and now you're getting into a funk. You're trying to reestablish the new movement pattern that you've created, but at the same time you want to increase the weights that you're hitting and your body is sort of confused between, does the body execute the way it did previously when it might've been snatching 130kg or does the body execute the way you want it to when you might only be snatching 125kg and so then you start to play these mental games like, my technique was so much better before I should've just stayed with what it was cause I was hitting better weight.

You're not thinking about the long term and you play this game and then all of a sudden you've got 10 to 12 weeks of just misery going back and forth trying to establish motor patterns and you want to quit and you want to blame other people and you don't see the sport for what it actually is. It's a horrible existence. It's miserable. It's extremely difficult. It's extremely challenging. That's also what makes it so unique and so fun at the same time is trying to conquer those inner demons. So how do you deal with that? You know, what can you do? And I think from my own perspective is that over time, I've created this athlete reactive analysis where I analyze how athletes respond to different stimuli and how they handle adaptations and what happens in like that day to day adaptation phase versus what happens over a week of various stimuli. Then what happens over months of accumulation of training, I've figured out that athletes have, for the most part, three different types of adaptation curves. Each athlete has that. Then on top of that, each athlete has their own specific curve to comprehend how they're responding to training. And I think that as coaches, we need to really start to understand that when there's a technical change happening, it's got to be communicated that, look, this is going to be a six to an eight-month period of adaptation. I’m going to use Hayley Reichardt for an example, last year we were going to Junior Nationals and we had started to implement some technical changes right around the end of December or early January and Junior Nationals were in February and she lifted like garbage and afterward she was upset but she wasn't too pissed. Like she was upset. And one thing she said to me, she was like, “well, we've been making all these technical changes”. I had told her like, look, it's going to be hard cause we're making these technical changes, We're about six weeks in. And then, you know, we had another meet in the spring. She didn't do great, but she did a little bit better. And it was like, all right, well she's starting to imprint these and she's getting back to where she was.

Then by Junior Worlds in June, she hits a PR and got third in Junior Worlds. Then two months after that, all of a sudden she's hitting massive PR's. Now we're at a point where she's on the bubble of making a Senior Pan-Am team, In one of the stacked weight classes in the U.S. This is going on like 9 to 10 months of technical change. Now she's really, really imprinting those technical changes and her weights are now exceeding where they were previously, but it's that long of a period of adaptation. What I would recommend is that when you're making these technical changes to prevent any mental distress, so you're always going to have mental distress in the sport of weightlifting and even in throwing and other technical sports, but you've got to comprehend that there might be a period of 8 to 15 weeks where you should just solely focus on technical movement.

When you're just focusing on technical movement, there's a point where you've got to say, okay, now if I'm just focusing on technical movement, what's my measurement? What's my metric for success? Because it's hard to know you're moving better. You can look at your knees in the video, you can look at your back, you can look at your foot position or your hand position, whatever it might be, your chest position, but you still aren't getting direct feedback. What I recommend is that when you're in these periods of technical change, you've got to put a value on some of your strength movements. So if you're sitting there saying, all right, I want to focus on technical change, then all I'm going to worry about really as far as my means of success is my back squat five rep improving? Is my back squat two rep improving? Is my front squat improving or my clean pulls feeling stronger on the eccentric portion of the lift? Are these all transferring over? That's where that's the hardest thing to do for athletes, in general, is sit there and say, all right, I made this technical change but I feel so funky. So then they quit and then instead they quit making that technical change. Then what ends up happening, they resort back to their previous technique and their weights go up for a period because they're back on that, that technical comfort zone where they were prior. Then what ends up happening long term is they stagnate. I think that that's the whole goal is that we've got to understand that what is our technical models? Are those technical models the best? How can we execute them over and over a 5 to 10-year timeframe?

During that five to 10 year timeframe, there must be these negative periods where we're making a technical change and it's going to be a struggle, but you've got to find wins and success and things outside of technique. Then in that longterm, 8, 10, 12 months later, You're going to really start to see, wow, I'm at a completely different point now than I was a year ago. And when you're at a completely different point, that's when your weights are going to blow up. That's when you're going to hit a total that is 10 kilos, 15 kilos higher because you're committing to longterm technical change.

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