Taking C.J. to Worlds

C.J. Cummings followed his older sister into the weightlifting gym when he was barely able to walk.  When he was 10, C.J. began lifting alongside his 11-year old brother, Omar.

Now, at 17-years old C.J. is the number-one ranked male weightlifter in the United States traveling to his second senior world championship competition.

I caught up with C.J.’s coach, Ray Jones, just hours before they left their home in Beaufort, South Carolina to fly to the 2017 IWF World Championships in Anaheim, California.

Q: What does it mean to coach the number one weightlifter in the United States?

It’s very hard for me to separate C.J. as a person from his status as a weightlifter.  I have been with C.J. since he was a little kid.  When I look at him, I see someone I want to guide and protect.  It’s way more than just weightlifting.  It’s about the kind of person C.J. is becoming and knowing that I had a hand in helping him become that person.

Q: C.J. is sponsored by more companies than ever before.  Is all of the sponsorship putting extra pressure on him to perform?

No.  C.J. had the same experience as a 15-year old when he attended the 2015 World Championships in Houston.  He is a veteran of this.  He knows how to perform under pressure.

Q: How does C.J. stay calm with all of the publicity that surrounds him today?

C.J. will stay in his room until he lifts.  He is sharing a room with Harrison Maurus.  The two of them grew up together on the weightlifting scene, and they are friends.  After he lifts, C.J. will talk to the media and whoever wants to talk to him, but beforehand he needs to have his own space so he can relax.

Q: What sets C.J. apart from other lifters you have coached over the years?

C.J. is the whole package.  I have coached other talented athletes, but none that have had the work ethic, mental toughness, self-belief and commitment that C.J. has.  He committed to the sport at an early age and consistently puts in the hard work required to be the best.

One thing that sets C.J. apart from other lifters is his perspective.  Going into competitions, he is able to stay calm.  He knows that no matter what happens, his friends and family will still love him and support him.  He can perform in high pressure situations because he knows that everything is going to be okay no matter what.

Q: I know that C.J. will be debuting his new squat jerk at the World Championships on Friday.  Is he feeling confident about the change?

Yes.  The squat jerk is so natural for him, and he loves doing it.  It makes him more motivated to do a better clean because he wants to set up for a good squat jerk.

Q: What does C.J. hope to accomplish at the World Championships this weekend?

We are going into the competition to break personal records.  When you chase someone else, you lose energy that could be focused on your own performance.  The only thing you can control is what you do.

C.J.’s training has been good, so we’re looking forward to having fun and setting some new personal records.  And the great thing is . . . when C.J. sets a new personal record, it is also a new world record.

C.J. will be lifting at 7:55 PM PST on Friday, December 1.  Download the ESPN app to watch C.J.’s performance live!

Photos courtesy of lifting.life.

How Much Protein Do Youth Weightlifters Need?

All weightlifters want to build more muscle, and building muscle requires protein.

But just how much protein is appropriate for a youth weightlifter?

According to Dr. Mark Lavallee, Chairman of the USA Weightlifting Sports Medicine Society, youth weightlifters should consume each day:

1 to 2 Grams of Protein per Kilogram of Lean Body Mass

Lean Body Mass is the amount of weight you carry on your body that is not fat.

Lean Body Mass = Body Weight – Body Fat

Written another way:

Lean Body Mass = Body Weight – (Body Weight x Body Fat %)

To determine your lean muscle mass, you must first know your body fat %.

How do you calculate body fat percentage?

There are several methods for calculating body fat.  Three of the most popular are:

Body Fat Scales

Body fat scales measure body composition by sending small electrical currents through the body.

Body fat scales use Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA).  A small, harmless electrical current passes through the body.  The current passes slower through fat and quicker through muscle.  The machine measures body density and then uses this reading to calculate a body fat percentage.

Are body fat scales accurate?  Not really.  Factors such as body type, body temperature, hydration, recent exercise, or even sweaty feet can produce inaccurate readings.

Skin Fold Calipers

Body fat can also be measured using a skin fold caliper.  Skin fold calipers are devices that measure the thickness of a fold of skin along with the underlying layer of fat.  A trained professional can measure your body fat, or you can attempt the process yourself with an online tutorial such as this one.

Are calipers accurate?  If administered properly, skin fold calipers can yield very accurate results.

Hydrostatic Weighing

One of the most accurate methods for determining body fat is the Bod Pod, which uses air displacement to measure body mass, volume and density.  This method is accurate but can be expensive at around $75 per session.

Other methods for determining body fat include taking measurements (not very accurate), water displacement (accurate, but hard to find and expensive), and DEXA scanning (accurate, but expensive at about $125 per session).

Lean Body Mass Calculator

Once you know your body fat, you can calculate your lean body mass

Lean Body Mass = Body Weight – (Body Weight x Body Fat %)


Body Weight = 45 kg    Body Fat % = 15%

Lean Body Mass = 45 – (45 x 0.15)

Lean Body Mass = 38.25 kg

If math is not your thing, you can use this this easy calculator created by Bodybuilding.com to determine your lean body mass.

Protein Requirements

Now that you know your lean body mass in kilograms, strive to eat 1 to 2 times that in grams of protein each day.

For example,

An athlete who weighs 45 kg with a body fat of 15% would have a lean muscle mass of about 38 kg.

This athlete’s daily protein requirements would be 38g to 76g of protein.

Alert!  The body can only use a certain amount of protein for muscle building activities at a time.  So, it is wise to split up protein consumption throughout the day.

Here is a sample meal plan for this athlete—


For more tips on optimizing your athletic performance, read Health Mistakes Youth Weightlifters Make.



Body Fat Scales: Do They Really Work?” / Fitness. Accessed November 26, 2017. http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/body-fat-scales-do-they-really-work.html.

How To Measure Your Body Fat % Using Calipers.” Muscle & Strength. November 22, 2017. Accessed November 26, 2017. https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/measure-bodyfat.

Health Mistakes Youth Weightlifters Make

Do you get injured often?  Are you struggling to make new gains?  Do you just want an edge over the competition?

I spoke recently with Dr. Mark Lavallee, Chairman of the USA Weightlifting Sports Medicine Society, about health mistakes youth weightlifters make.

Boost your performance by fixing these mistakes!

Mistake #1: Not Enough Sleep

Did you know that LeBron James sleeps 12 hours a night?

And did you know that while training for the Olympic Games, Micheal Phelps slept 8 hours a night with a 2-3 hour nap in the afternoon?

Embed from Getty Images

In fact, Phelps said that sleep and training were equally critical to his success.  In an interview with CNBC, Phelps explained,

Sleep is “where you can naturally grow and your body recovers.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep:

  •  Allows the body to heal and repair itself
  •  Boosts muscle mass
  •  Supports growth and development
  •  Helps maintain a healthy balance of hormones
  •  Strengthens the immune system

How much sleep should you be getting?

According to Dr. Lavallee,

Youth athletes under 9th grade should be getting 10 hours of sleep for peak performance.  After 9th grade, athletes should sleep at least 8-9 hours.

Here are some tips for getting better sleep:

Photo credit: Don Lindsay
  • Remove electronic devices from your room—televisions, iPads, phones—all of it.  It is too tempting to stay up and play games, browse, or watch shows.  Plus, blue light exposure from electrical screens reduces melatonin release making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Make your room dark and cool.  Light slows the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.  Also, body temperature naturally drops when you fall asleep, so cooling the room can jumpstart the process.
  • Avoid caffeine.  Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake when you are trying to sleep.
  • Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day.  Sticking to a schedule helps regulate your body’s clock and can help you go to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.
  • If you train early in the morning, try to take a nap during the day.  A 20-30 minute nap can improve alertness and performance without interfering with nighttime sleep.

Mistake #2: Lack of Cross Training

Photo Credit: Unit 22 CrossFit

Single-sport specialization can lead to overuse injuries.  Cross training offers a solution to this problem.  Cross training is simply varying your fitness program to include different activities.

What does this mean for a weightlifter?

Mix things up!  Incorporate calisthenics, sprinting, stretching, throwing, and core work into practices.  Step away from the barbell occasionally to work on balance, flexibility, and yes . . . that loathed exercise called running.

Dr. Lavallee recalls:

I have seen weightlifters get winded from climbing a flight of stairs with their gym bag prior to a competition.  Athletes—including weightlifters—should have some level of endurance and overall athleticism.


Mistake #3: Using Supplements as Substitutes for Good Nutrition

Two oranges contain 168 mg of vitamin C.  A vitamin supplement containing the same amount of vitamin C should provide an equal benefit, right?


Your body absorbs more of the vitamin C in the oranges than in the supplement because oranges contain co-enzymes, which are molecules that help the body to absorb the vitamins in the orange. Plus, the orange contains fiber and minerals that the supplement won’t have.  The same is true for all fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Lavallee further warns:

Just because a food is labeled all natural does not mean that it contains co-enzymes.

When it comes to good nutrition, real food is always the best solution.

Reserve supplements, such as protein powders, protein bars, and vitamins for times when other foods are not available.  Do not use them as primary sources of nutrition.

Mistake #4: Haphazard Protein Consumption

This 72-oz. steak is served at the Big Texan Steakhouse in Amarillo, Texas.

Your body needs protein to build and maintain muscle, but did you know that your body can only use about 30g of protein for muscle building at a time?

A study by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association entitled “Moderating the portion size of a protein-rich meal improves anabolic efficiency in young and elderly” found:

  • A 30g serving of protein increased muscle building activities by about 50% (over fasting) in the subjects studied.
  • A 90g serving of protein—representative of the serving sizes of restaurant meals—did not produce any more muscle building activities.
  • Eating more than 30g of protein in a single meal does not result in further muscle building activities.

So, if muscle building is your goal, you will be better off spreading out your protein consumption throughout the day.

Dr. Lavallee and his family make protein a priority in their family meals.  They spend Sunday afternoons preparing protein-rich meals, such as chicken soup or beans and rice with steak.  Throughout the week, as life gets busy, the Lavellees have healthy, homemade, protein-packed meals ready-to-eat.

NOTE: If you consume more than 30g of protein in a meal, your body will still use that protein, but it will not necessarily go toward muscle building.  The body will break down the excess protein and convert it into glucose to use as energy or store the excess as fat.

Mistake #5: Poor Dietary Habits

Photo credit justharvest.org

If you are like most weightlifters, you clean up your diet prior to a competition and then indulge in a junk food feast afterward.

While a single day of bad eating probably won’t hurt you, Dr. Lavallee advises you to examine your daily habits:

Do you regularly eat junk food and then crash diet before competitions?

If you are a heavyweight lifter, do you eat junk food just because you can?

Even if you are in one of the “plus” weight classes, remember that food is FUEL.  If you are fueling your body with Cheetos and Oreos, you can’t expect to make big gains.

Plus, crash diets can harm you in the long run.  Consider the dangers of crash dieting cited on health.com:

Rapid weight loss can . . .

  • Slow your metabolism, leading to future weight gain
  • Deprive your body of essential nutrients
  • Weaken your immune system
  • Increase your risk of dehydration, heart palpitations and cardiac stress.


Mistake #6: Not Enough Balance in Life

Photo Credit: Rich Egger

Do you feel like you live at the gym?  Are you sacrificing every school dance, campout, religious activity, and social event in favor of practice time?  Have you given up all other hobbies, sports and activities for weightlifting?

If so, you are setting yourself up for burnout and unhealthy levels of stress.

Dr. Lavallee further points out:

If you spend all of your time weightlifting, you will never know whether you are a musical virtuoso.  Perhaps you are a gifted guitar player or singer.  Take time to develop other talents and explore new things.

Talk to your coach.  Work out a schedule that allows you to take at least 2 days off per week.

And during those two days, forget about weightlifting and enjoy the other things that life has to offer!



Clifford, Catherine. “Olympic hero Michael Phelps says the secret to his success is one most people overlook.” CNBC. February 14, 2017. Accessed November 08, 2017.

Pickering, Craig. “Sleep and Athlete: Time to Wake to the Need for Sleep.” Freelap USA. April 26, 2016. Accessed November 08, 2017.

Why Is Sleep Important?” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. June 07, 2017. Accessed November 08, 2017.

Cross Training-OrthoInfo – AAOS. October 01, 2011. Accessed November 08, 2017.

Symons, T. Brock, Melinda Sheffield-Moore, Robert R. Wolfe, and Douglas Paddon-Jones. “Moderating the portion size of a protein-rich meal improves anabolic efficiency in young and elderly.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association. September 01, 2009. Accessed November 08, 2017.

How Much Protein Can the Body Absorb?” Quick and Dirty Tips. July 16, 2015. Accessed November 08, 2017.

Miller, Bryan. “How crash diets harm your health.” CNN. April 20, 2010. Accessed November 08, 2017.




Hampton Morris – November 2017 Featured Athlete

Hampton Morris

Meet Hampton Morris — our featured athlete for the month of November.  Hampton is a 13 year old youth weightlifter from Marietta, Georgia and is currently competing in the 50kg weight class.

When did you get started in this sport?

My first meet was on July 9th, 2016.

What (or who) got you started?

My dad.

What do you enjoy most about weightlifting?

Making new lifting friends.

What does your current training routine look like (hours per day, days per week, where you train, who you train with)?

I usually lift 3-4 days per week, 2-3 days in competition weeks, and I try to mobilize as often as possible.  I usually train in my basement or at Crossfit Dwala.  My dad is my coach.

What one or two things do you currently do in your training that has been impactful?:

I think one of the most impactful parts of my training is how often I mobilize.

What do you carry around with you in your gym bag that has nothing to do with weightlifting?

I usually have only lifting-related items in my gym bag, but if I know that I will have a lot of time that I won’t be lifting, I may bring a book or some homework.

What is your diet like?

I just eat normal food.

Who do you look up to in the sport?  Why?

I look up to CJ Cummings and Harrison Maurus because of how successful they have been and how early their success began, and it inspires me to believe that I can do just as well as them.

What friendships has this sport brought your way?

Some friends that I have that I probably wouldn’t have if I weren’t a weightlifter are Logan Davies and Destiny Karch.

Are you coachable?


What qualities do great coaches possess?

Understanding how their athlete works, and how to help them work around setbacks.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?  Did you take it?

Ignore the things outside of your control, and focus on the things that are in your control.

What characteristics do you strive for (on and off the platform)?

I always try to stay calm, patient, and I always try to have fun.

If you gave everything that you owned away except three things, what would you keep?

I would keep my Kindle with all of my favorite books, including A Prayer for Owen Meany, my vintage Adidas lifters, and my Coffee’s Gym T-shirt.

When you have random free time, how do you spend it?

If I don’t feel like watching whatever’s on TV, I will probably read a book while listening to music, or play with my sister.

If you could master anything (besides weightlifting), what would it be?

I would master soccer.

What have you learned from weightlifting that helps you in other parts of your life?

I have learned how to stay calm during difficult situations, and that it’s always important to be patient.

The last time you were knocked down (or discouraged) in this sport, how did you get back up?

I just stopped thinking about it and focused on what I could do to get past it.

What is the question no one has ever asked you that you’ve always wanted to answer?

I don’t know of any.

What are you most grateful for?

My awesome family and my adorable dog, Dexter.

Where does your strength come from?

I challenge myself and get challenged by others to do my best, every day.

Cultivating New Talent

C.J. Cummings’ coach, Ray Jones, shares his formula for identifying and creating successful youth lifters.

Step 1: Assess Commitment

For two weeks, Coach Jones limits his new athletes to bodyweight and core exercises. This period is all about attendance. Teaching weightlifting technique is time consuming, and Jones wants to invest his efforts into athletes who are serious about showing up to practice.

Step 2: Assess Abilities

During the two week trial period, Coach Jones observes how the athlete’s body moves. He has the athlete do overhead squats with a broomstick or PVC pipe to check flexibility. He also tests balance, core strength and overall athleticism.

Step 3: Design an Individualized Plan

Coach Jones firmly believes that each lifter must be treated as an individual. Some kids are naturals; some kids require more work before they can lift weights. Jones does not lump all of the kids together. Rather, he gives each child exercises that will challenge their personal abilities. Coach Jones says,

I go with whatever level the kid is at, and make them better.  I’m going to take each kid and treat them as an individual.  I’m not going to take a more athletic kid and make them work at the same level as the non-athletic kids.

Step 4: Find a Competition

Once Coach Jones determines that an athlete can move well with the barbell, he finds a competition. Jones says:

After a week or two of executing full movements, I find a competition that is about 6 weeks away. My goal is for the kid to go 6 for 6 at the competition. Competitions build confidence and commitment, both of which are necessary for success in the sport.

Step 5: Use Positive Reinforcement

Coach Jones is a firm believer in positivity. He says:

Everything that comes out of your mouth needs to be a positive. Nothing is ever negative. Combine sweet and sour. If you’re going to say something sour, you need to have something positive to say as well.

If you agree with Coach Jones’ philosophies and would like personal mentoring from him, Jones is now offering a Coach Mentorship Program to help less experienced coaches develop their athletes.  For more information on Jones’ new program, see RayJonesWeightlifting.com.

Photos by Lifting.Life, Wall Street Journal, and Island Packet