As I’ve progressed along my weightlifting journey, the emphasis and focus has understandably veered. For the most part it’s enlarged my scope on the sport and required me to develop fresh perspectives. As a young lifter my emphasis was understandably placed on my own performance and the search for methods to improve the qualities needed as an athlete. When I concluded my own lifting career and put more emphasis on coaching, a greater emphasis was given over to understanding the science behind training and optimally analyzing biomechanics. Moving forward I have shifted my attention to coaching education and now to clarifying the comprehension of the performance of the two classic lifts.
As I enter into this next phase of my journey I’ve established some core messages that will provide guidance as I strive to create products.
The Brief Version of My History
Just to provide some perspective for an audience that is new to me I’ll provide a very brief synopsis of my career. I’ve been married for 16 years. I have a BA in biology and taught junior high science for 8 years. I taught AP Biology and Physiology at Van Nuys High School for 30 years and finished off my teaching career as the Magnet coordinator for our Medical and Performing Arts Magnets. I lifted competitively for 21 years, and have been coaching weightlifting for 51 years. 35 of my athletes have lifted in the National Championships, four have won it and two have set national records. One has represented the USA at the Olympics. I’ve been on the coaching staffs of 5 world championship teams and was inducted into the USAW Hall of Fame in 2007. All these experiences have influenced my perspectives as I move forward.
Principle 1: Training should be science based
Let me begin with a definition of science. Science is the process of determining empirical truths of the physical universe and the body of knowledge that is developed from that process.
With respect to the performance of weightlifting the human body is a collection of levers, mainly third class. Understanding the interactions of these levers requires an understanding of the mechanics of levers.
A competition barbell is a well engineered implement whose physical characteristics can greatly affect the dynamics of the lifting performance.
The process of modifying the functional properties of the body through the application of training stresses requires a working knowledge of human physiology.
Furthermore the evaluation of data regarding sports performance requires some skill in scientific reasoning.
Skirting all of the aforementioned in an attempt to train a weightlifter leaves very few tools with which to effect some type of performance improvement.
To train an athlete a coach needs to understand the applicable science.
Principle 2: There are no legitimate institutions offering weightlifting coaching education
I’ve performed a number of internet searches and found that there are no institutes of higher education in this county offering coaching degrees in any sport.
There are thousands of colleges and universities offering degrees in exercise science, sport science, kinesiology, biomechanics, sports physiology and athletic training, but not a single one offers a sport coaching degree for any sport, let alone weightlifting. Anyone claiming to have a degree in weightlifting coaching earned it in a sports institute in the old Eastern bloc and if their claim is legitimate they are the real deal.
The body of knowledge that must be mastered to become a professional coach is considerable, but apparently no institution feels a degree in coaching is a viable proposition. Another problem in setting up an academic department is finding PhD’s to provide leadership. Furthermore setting up the practical application part of the training could be problematic. Thus coaching education in this country is left up to the private sector and it is not going well.
Principle 3: There is too much confusing information online.
With no entity vetting or curating the credentials or information that crops up on the internet, literally anyone can establish their credentials as an authority. New athletes coming into the sport have no way to determine the veracity of competing voices.
It’s now a common practice for athletes with no coach to post videos of themselves lifting on Facebook and ask for critiques. The result is that all the one-trick ponies (many of them well-intentioned) chime in and point out technical errors that are not having a significant effect on the execution of the lift. This all just serves to confuse the athlete and in many cases to send them down rabbit holes seeking solutions to their perceived technical difficulties.
Somehow we’ve got to perform a service for the weightlifting community and identify the more or less valid authorities.
Principle 4: Weightlifting competition is a performance
Although the snatch and clean & jerk have gained popularity as a training modality recently, it is inevitable that practitioners will ultimately want to compare the results of their heaviest singles with others. This will eventually lead to competition. Many coaches have come into weightlifting without much of a performance background. They don’t fully understand that athletes in competition are in an altered state and that in that state they can perform feats that are unattainable in the training environment.
Coaching an athlete to achieve proficiency in a particular skill is one step in the process, but it is not the same as being able to groom an athlete to use the conditions of the performance venue to achieve feats at the ultimate level. Coaches who have developed through the fitness funnel are often lacking in the personal performance experience to the extent where eliciting a maximal performance is not possible.
The aforementioned 4 principles are the current guideposts for me as I move forward in my weightlifting journey.