Programming Pointers from Hassle Free Barbell

A good coach is always searching for the best tools for his athletes.  One tool is the plan, or program, used to develop an athlete.  A good program generates growth while keeping the athlete injury-free.  As mentioned in an earlier article, a weightlifting program is not like a cookie cutter.  A plan designed for one athlete will not produce the same results for another athlete because each athlete is different.  However, experienced coaches have some tried and true methods for producing good results.

In this article, Kevin Doherty, personal coach of Olympian, Jenny Arthur, and coach of Hassle Free Barbell Club in San Francisco, California shares some pointers for creating a successful plan:

Coach Doherty, pictured with Olympian Jenny Arthur, knows what it takes to create a successful weightlifter.

Use warm up exercises to transition into the lifts.  Doherty’s lifters progress into the Olympic lifts with a series of exercises.  For example, on a day with a snatch emphasis, the program might include:

Snatch Push Press + Overhead Squat: 6 sets x 3 reps (up to 80% of snatch)

Snatch Pull from the Knee + Snatch from Knee:  6 sets x 2 reps (50-70% of snatch)

Snatch Pull + Snatch: 4 sets x 1 rep (80% of snatch)

Snatch: 2 sets x 2 reps (80%)

Mix it Up.  Change up your weightlifting complexes regularly.  Complexes are a great way to increase intensity without increasing weight on the barbell.  They are also a great way to keep your lifters from getting bored.  Some of Doherty’s complexes include:

Power Jerk + Overhead Squat

Clean + Front Squat + Jerk

Snatch Push Press + Overhead Squat

Front Squat + Press

You do not have to work the Olympic lifts every day.  Weightlifting is all about the snatch and clean & jerk.  However, you can step away from the full lifts during some training sessions to focus on a specific muscle group.  For example, a training day with a shoulder emphasis might look like this:

Back Squat: 6 sets of 3 (75%)

Push Press: 6 sets of 3 (75%)

Power Jerk: 6 sets of 3 (75%)

Jerk: 6 sets of 3 (75%)

Romanian Deadlifts: 6 sets of 3 (75%)

Hassle Free lifter, Seth Tom, is one of the best youth weightlifters in the U.S. He holds all three American Youth records for the 50 kg weight class, including an impressive 98 kg Clean and Jerk.

Accessory Work Counts.  Finish weightlifting sessions with some accessory work.  Hassle Free lifters perform movements such as:

Sit Ups (5 sets of 20)

Tricep Extensions (5 sets of 10)

Rows (5 sets of 10)

Pull Ups (5 max effort sets)

Romanian Twists (5 sets of 20)

Glute Ham Raises (5 sets of 10)

Mobility Matters.  Flexibility is important for success as a weightlifter.  It wards off injuries and allows a lifter to execute the lifts efficiently.  Try these movements at the end of your training sessions:

Wrist rolls (5 sets of 10)

Bridges (5 sets of 20)

Foam Rolling (legs, back)

Keep workouts under 90 minutes.  Coach Doherty has produced numerous record holding youth weightlifters.  He says, “It is very rare that any of our record holders train for more than 90 minutes daily.”

 

Photo Credit: Viviana Podhaiski at Lifting.Life

 

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Growing Trees: Developing versus Discovering New Talent

“Everybody wants to own a forest, but nobody wants to grow the trees,” weightlifting Coach Boris Urman has observed.  Every weightlifting coach wants a team of strong, mature lifters, but fewer coaches are willing to work with youth weightlifters.

Urman, of Shawnee, Kansas, has spent over 30 years developing youth weightlifters.  He has helped develop international level lifters such as Kelly Lynch, Dean Scicchitano, and Nathan Damron.  Urman continues to welcome young lifters into his weight room because he believes they are the future of the sport.

Consider these facts:

  • So, the average Olympic gold medalist began weightlifting around age 14 or 15.

If our goal as a weightlifting community is to have the strongest weightlifters in the world, the focus should be on developing the younger generation.  Sure, it is great to discover raw athletic talent in college-age lifters and channel that talent into competitive weightlifting.  However, a lifter who begins at age 20 is behind her international counterparts who have been lifting for 5+ years.  This lifter has the potential to become a world class lifter (e.g. Sarah Robles), but lifters like this are few and far between.

Searching for talented collegiate athletes to convert into weightlifters is like panning for gold rather than investing in a gold mine.  

It takes time to learn technique, develop flexibility, form neurological recruitment patterns, and build the strength required for competitive weightlifting.  It takes time to build maturity within the sport, learn how to deal with the stress of competition, and handle the frustration of setbacks.

The most sustainable way to produce a stream of world class lifters is to develop youth weightlifters.

Take an athletic child with an interest in weightlifting.  Start with the hardest stuff to teach–technique–to develop neurological recruitment patterns.  Register the young athlete in competitions so he can mature within the sport.  Teach him how to deal with the stresses and frustrations of weightlifting.  Add in some mobility work, strength training, and fun, and you have an athlete who is primed to compete with the best weightlifters in the world.

13-year old Abby Flickner has been lifting with Coach Urman since she was 7 years old.

How can we promote youth weightlifting?

As a coach . . .

  • Don’t turn away kids!  Youth lifters may require more patience and creativity, but they will also yield the biggest payoffs down the road.
  • Actively recruit youth lifters.  If your adult lifters have kids who are sitting on the sidelines watching their parents lift, invite the kids to lift alongside their parents.
  • Keep things fun.  Kids love challenges and games.  Make your training attractive to younger lifters by mixing up the training routine often and creating frequent challenges for your lifters.

As a parent . . .

  • Speak up.  Dispel the myth that weightlifting is bad for children.  Weightlifting is more than lifting heavy objects; it builds discipline, maturity and focus.

As a youth athlete . . .

  • Invite your friends to the gym.  You don’t have to sacrifice time with friends for training.  Invite them to train with you.
  • Be a good example.  Show others that weightlifting positively impacts your life.  Demonstrate good behavior in school, dedication to your studies, and maturity.

    USA Weightlifting recently partnered with the NHFS to increase weightlifting opportunities for high school students.

As a community . . .

  • Bring weightlifting into middle schools and high schools.  Physical education coaches or teachers with backgrounds in weightlifting can petition for weightlifting teams at their schools.  Hasslefree Barbell in San Francisco, California is a perfect example of a successful youth weightlifting program run out of a high school.  Hasslefree Coach, Ben Hwa, explains, “Weightlifting is an easy sport for schools.  It doesn’t require much space or equipment.  It doesn’t even require a team–just a coach and some committed kids.  And developing a high school athlete to the level of an international team is completely doable.”  It will bring pride to your school and generate even more interest in the sport.
  • Support youth weightlifting coaches.  Weightlifting coaches–especially youth weightlifting coaches–do not make a lot of money.  Any money they make from coaching goes back into their athletes in the form of gym expenses and competition costs.  If you have the resources, make a donation to your favorite coach to offset his expenses.  Alternatively, support the coach by participating in fundraisers or clinics offered by the team.  If you have more time than money, consider volunteering with your local team.
  • Support youth weightlifters.  Weightlifting competitions can get expensive, especially if travel is involved.  Support your favorite youth lifter or team by making a donation to offset travel expenses.
  • Keep weightlifting safe for children.  With the increased popularity of the sport, USA Weightlifting has taken measures to protect our youth lifters.  Some of these measures include background checks on coaches, Safe Sport certification, and rules protecting young athletes at weigh-ins.  If you choose to volunteer as a coach, ensure that you follow all of the regulations set by USAW to keep our youth athletes safe.

 

 

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Representing in South America

In December 2017, Team USA sent four Under 15 lifters to Lima, Peru to compete in the South American Junior & Youth Championships & Tamas Ajan Cup on December 13-17:

Haley Trinh – 53kg
Abby Raymond – 58kg
Dean Goad – 69kg
Julia Yun – +75kg

All four lifters represented Team USA admirably bringing home multiple gold, silver, and bronze medals and a Best Lifter award.

Dean Goad brought home six medals: 3 Gold for 15 & Under and a Bronze/Silver/Bronze for 17 & Under. Goad also won the Male 15 & Under Best Lifter Award.

I spoke to event coach, Ben Hwa, of Hasslefree Barbell Club, about Team USA’s trip to Lima:

Why did you attend this competition?

There are levels that lifters go through.  When you lift in a gym, it’s one thing.  When you go to an international meet and win a medal, you are motivated to work even harder and you want to experience it again.

When I saw the invitation to this competition, I immediately recognized it as a good opportunity for our kids.  When kids go to these meets, they come back so motivated.  I took two of our 13-year old lifters, Julia and Haley.  I wanted to show them how good they are in this sport to really help them commit.

Lima is located in west central Peru between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains.

Did the competition meet your expectations?

Abby Raymond brought home nine medals: 3 Gold medals for 15 & Under, 3 Gold medals for 17 & Under, and a Bronze/Silver/Bronze for 20 & Under.

My expectations of the competition were low.  I had gone to Columbia a few months before, and I was not expecting much.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Lima was very nice.  It is right by the ocean.  The food was really good.  The people were friendly.  And the meet was well organized for a South American event.

More importantly, though, it was great to see all of the 15 & Under kids–kids who I could see at the next Youth Worlds or Junior Worlds or even the Olympics.  Even in other countries, everyone starts at the same place.

What lessons did you learn from this competition?

Julia Yun competed against the European Under 15 record holder, Irene Blanco of Spain. Yun earned nine medals: 3 Silver medals in 15 & Under, 3 Bronze medals in 17 & Under, and 3 Bronze medals in 30 & Under.

Being in Peru gave me full faith in my reason for coaching.  I like being able to guide kids into a path that is full of success and growth and opportunity.  I saw the Peruvian coaches and the Columbian coaches.  They were all so supportive of the kids.

It also made me want to be a better coach.  My athletes invest their time training with me, and I always want to be there for them.  Sure, these competitions cost money–a lot of money sometimes–but as a coach, you have to be willing to give back to your athletes, even if it means taking time off work and spending money to travel.  As a coach, you can preach all you want, but when it comes down to it, are you willing to sacrifice your money to be there for your athletes?

Why are competitions like this so important for youth weightlifters?

Weightlifting offers travel opportunities like no other sport.  When kids get to see the world, they mature.

They see that the world is bigger than their neighborhood.  They see others who are in true poverty.  It helps them appreciate the things they have.

They understand how lucky they are.  This perspective helps these lifters focus better in practice.

When you give kids opportunities to learn and grow, they become more mature, and their weightlifting comes along with it.

Hayley Trinh brought home 9 medals for Team USA: 3 Silver medals in 15 & Under, 3 Bronze medals in 17 & Under, and 3 Bronze medals in 20 & Under.

Do you want to see more opportunities like this in the future?

Absolutely.  This is how we invest in the future of weightlifting.  Something that we can do as a governing body is invest in trips.  These kids come back different lifters.  The more kids we can give this opportunity, the better.

 

Will Team USA return to this competition in 2018?

According to Phil Andrews, C.E.O. of USA Weightlifting, “We plan to go again this year if we are invited to do so.  I thought it was a great competition, and Ben did really well in his coaching position.”

Photo Credit: Amy Yun

 

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