I’m writing this with the new coaches in our sport in mind. I see that there is a big problem trying to figure out where and how to access reliable information for the training of weightlifters.
At one point there was a very brief period when weightlifting coaches could accumulate instructional content that was reliable if not entirely organized. New coaches coming into the sport at this point are faced with a different set of issues in this digital information age and although I can’t offer any actionable solutions, I can outline where we stand on this issue.
The Body of Information
Any reasonable discipline has a sound body of knowledge that by and large can guide a practitioner toward mastery of the discipline. This body of knowledge for weightlifting has existed for several decades now and although it may be difficult to seek out, it does in fact exist.
Let me begin by reviewing what was available in the pre-digital era and the information explosion that took place in the 1970’s and ’80’s.
The Pre-digital Days
· Strength & Health magazine was a publication of the York Barbell Co. and started in the late 1930’s and continued until the mid 1980’s. It was very American which meant that weightlifting coaching was treated as a folk art. Nonetheless each issue (which came out on a monthly basis) featured one or two articles with usable information. During a brief period in the late 1960’s when Bill Starr and Tommy Suggs were editors, the number of good articles per issue was even greater. Most of the coaches who came up in my generation learned a good deal of their coaching chops from S & H.
· International Olympic Lifter magazine was published by Bob Hise, II and was perhaps the only purely weightlifting publication with significant instructional content from 1973 to 1996. It featured a wide variety of authors from many countries and it bridged the gap from folk art coaching to science based instructional materials. Most of the folks that grew up with IOL swear by it and consider it to be an irreplaceable source of content.
· soviet sports review was edited and published by Michael Yessis. Although it carried information about a variety of Olympic sports, there was always at least a couple of weightlifting articles that were of value.
· Bud Charniga was a tireless translator of Soviet weightlifting texts and much of what we now know about weightlifting training was derived from a study of Bud’s texts.
· Reno’s Newsletter was (and is) an information packed publication by Denis Reno. Although it didn’t feature that much instructional content it did have the occasional book review, and by reading regularly one could get a feeling for who was a viable authority in the sport.
· Books about the sport of weightlifting are rarely published but those that make it to the point of actually getting racked contain plenty of helpful information for aspiring lifters and coaches.
· Primary sources or Peer-reviewed articles may be cumbersome but many articles were published at one point by Weightlifter/Scientists that can be of immense value. Michael Stone and John Garhammer were the most prolific authors and all of their research was focused on actual weightlifters rather than freshman PE students.
So you can see that with all these resources available at one time, an aspiring coach could accumulate a reference library that would provide a comprehensive background for training weightlifters.
USAW Had a Bookstore
At one point back in the day, USAW (then known as USWF) actually had a bookstore which featured the most relevant texts available at the time. This meant, significantly, that the leadership was vetting these titles—something that is sorely lacking today.
What We Have Now
We are currently plagued with a new set of circumstances.
· The ease with which an individual can post/publish has allowed just about anyone to create content and rise to the level of celebrity author.
· The belief that anything new replaces that which came before rendering all the sources in the Pre-digital section to be inconsequential. In reality all of the information from the pre-digital sources is still valid and works very well. Almost all new information about training and training methodology in the sport applies to the extremely talented, elite level athletes.
· The marketing community has convinced all content providers that the validity of the content is not as important as the marketing vehicle. Thus content deliverability is more important than the effectiveness of the information provided.
· There is no vetting of new content by a respected source. We have a circumstance in which we have a multitude of enthusiastic voices vying to fill the void created by the transition to the digital era with the winners to be decided by who has the best marketing.
What Is Needed
We are in dire need of a clearinghouse, a vetting body staffed by reviewers sufficiently knowledgeable with the training of athletes to determine the validity of new material. This could be a daunting task as there is a considerable number of forums with both experienced and novice contributors offering critiques and advice. Our current path in the provision of information is only bound to create confusion and misdirection for a generation of new coaches.