Should I Go To Youth Nationals?

With Youth Nationals a mere five weeks away, and a registration deadline of May 17, 2018, it is time to make a decision: Go to Youth Nationals or Not?!

Participation in USA Weightlifting’s National Youth Championships, aka Youth Nationals, has exploded in recent years.  In 2017, around 900 youth athletes participated in the competition held in Atlanta, Georgia, making it the largest youth weightlifting competition in the world.

For some athletes, participation at Youth Nationals is a no-brainer.  Some youth weightlifters have been participating in the sport for years and look forward to the competition as a time to set new personal records, reconnect with old friends, and buy the latest weightlifting merchandise.  For newer athletes, however, questions remain:

  • Am I good enough to compete at the national level?
  • Will I fall apart under the pressure of such a big competition?
  • Will I embarrass myself in front of a huge crowd?

For parents:

  • Is it really worth the money to attend this competition?

For coaches:

  • Do I have enough experience to coach my athlete in such a large setting?

I spoke to Coach Wes Cravy of Pivotal Weightlifting Club in Santee, California, and his first-time lifter, Teagan, about their decision to participate in the 2018 National Youth Championship.  If you are on the fence about attending this year’s competition, consider their approach:

Set aside your fears, and embrace the privilege.  At only 13-years old, Teagan, has participated in soccer, gymnastics, CrossFit and weightlifting.  She recently qualified for the 2018 National Youth Championships.  When asked about her decision to participate in the competition, Teagan responded:

It is a privilege to attend this competition.  If you have qualified for Nationals, don’t pass up the opportunity to perform on the big stage.  You have worked hard to get to this point.  Don’t take that away from yourself.

Welcome the opportunity to learn new things.  Although Coach Cravy is new on the weightlifting scene, he is not letting a national competition intimidate him.  Cravy says:

Competitions are the fun part for a coach.  They are the payoff for the long hours spent training.

As for being a new coach, Coach Cravy is not worried:

I like to learn from other coaches, but I don’t let their competition strategies interfere with what I am doing.  As a coach, you have to focus on your athlete and your plan.  Don’t worry too much about what others are doing.

Take a leap of faith.  Recently, Teagan made a tough decision to give up gymnastics training to focus more on weightlifting.  She really enjoys weightlifting and wants to see how good she can become once she devotes more time and attention to the sport.

Similarly, the decision to attend Nationals for the first time requires a leap of faith. It may be intimidating to compete against other youth athletes in front of a large crowd, but the feeling of accomplishment once your performance is complete will be that much more satisfying.  Your confidence will grow from the experience, and you will be more motivated to train harder.

Incorporate the competition into a vacation.  Weightlifting offers travel opportunities like no other sport.  Use the trip to Nationals as an opportunity to explore a new part of the United States. Experiencing a new city will create a great memories and inject future training with enthusiasm.  Teagan says:

I am excited about the experience and the travel that Nationals offers.  My favorite part about out-of-town competitions is staying in hotels.

For ways to enjoy Grand Rapids, Michigan once the competition is done, consider these ideas.

To register for USAW’s National Youth Championships, click here.

See you at Nationals!

Sleep vs. Training: Which is More Important?

It is 5:00 AM, and my phone alarm begins playing a soft melody, attempting to gently coax me out of a restful sleep while bluntly reminding me: “You are an adult. This is not a vacation. Get up and face reality.”  I roll out of bed, wake up my son and daughter, and try to put on my best parent/coach face along with whatever workout clothes are on top of the stack.  Weightlifting training begins at 5:15 AM.

Some mornings, however, I do not want to get out of bed.  I find myself questioning the early morning training sessions and wondering . . .

  • If an athlete is tired, is it better to sleep than to train?
  • How much sleep does a young athlete need?
  • What is the worst that could happen if an athlete trains tired?

And I always vow to go to sleep earlier the next night . . . which rarely ever happens!

Recently, I discovered some great articles written by Tuck, a sleep consultant firm, that contain research on sleep and athletes.  Of particular interest to youth weightlifters:

An adolescent athlete needs at least 9 hours of sleep per night.

Thirty-second Snatch Grip Lift-Off Holds are a favorite way to develop the posterior chain. They can be done with minimal weight (50 to 65% of snatch max) and build strength in the first pull.

Sleep allows the body to recover from the physical stresses of the day, as well as process new information and commit it to memory.  During sleep, the body experiences higher activity levels of cell division and regeneration, which speeds up muscle recovery.  The stress hormone, cortisol, is also regulated during sleep.

In addition, during REM sleep, the Hippocampus works to transfer recently learned information to the neo-cortex for later recall.  In other words, you are creating so-called “muscle memory” during REM sleep.  “Muscle memory” is the ability to quickly recall how to conduct frequently performed tasks.  This is important in a sport like weightlifting, which requires fast reaction time.  Fractions of a second can be the difference between missing and making a lift.

The Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine conducted a study in 2014 that found adolescents who played a game after getting fewer than 8 hours of sleep were nearly twice as likely to get injured.  

Lack of sleep can shorten an athlete’s career.

A 2013 study published in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine followed 80 Major League Baseball players over three seasons. Their sleeping habits were recorded before the start of the 2010 season and ranked according to a sleepiness scale. Players who scored high for sleepiness were less than 40 percent likely to still be playing three seasons later, compared to 72 percent of players who scored low on sleepiness.

Growth hormones are released during deep sleep.  

Human Growth Hormone (hGH), which promotes muscle strength, tissue repair and recovery of the body and muscles, is produced during deep sleep.  An natural increase of hGH can be promoted by both exercise and sleep.

Some top-level athletes attempt to gain a competitive advantage by taking supplements of human growth hormone.  However, hGH is prohibited both in- and out-of-competition under section S2 of WADA’s List of Prohibited Substances and Methods.  You can encourage your body to produce more hGH naturally by getting extra sleep.

hGH is a powerful hormone.  Maximize your body’s ability to make it by getting more sleep.

More sleep = better athletic performance.

The researchers at Tuck presented four sleep studies performed on athletes.  In all four instances, increased sleep led to improvements in athletic performance:

  • Swimming: In 2007, researchers asked a group of swimmers to sleep 10 hours a day for six to seven weeks and found notable improvements. Swim times were faster, and reaction times and turn times in the water improved. Kick stroke count increased as well.
  • Football: A similar regimen (10 hours of sleep per day during heavy training) for football players also produced improvements. Sprint times for both 20-yard and 40-yards declined by 0.1 seconds. The players also reported improved mood.
  • Tennis: When women’s tennis players increased their nightly sleep to 10 hours, they also experienced improved sprint times by 1.5 seconds as well as their serve accuracy by 23.8 percent.
  • Basketball: A 2011 study of basketball players found that getting two hours more of sleep each night boosted their speed by 5 percent and their shooting accuracy for both free throws and three-point shots by 9 percent.

Bottom Line: Sleeping less to train more is the equivalent of trying to fill a bucket full of holes with water by turning on the faucet to full blast.  No matter how much water you put in the bucket, you will not make progress until you stop to fill the holes.  Similarly, sleeping less to train more will produce sub-optimal results.  Sleep allows the muscles to recover and rebuild, “filling the holes” of the body’s water bucket, and allowing a weightlifter to make gains.  

If you want to improve your weightlifting performance, try sleeping more!

As for my family, we are going to experiment with 10 hours of sleep.  5:00 AM minus ten hours–ooh, that means bedtime moves to 7:00 PM.  Is it even possible to go to sleep at 7:00 PM?  I will keep you posted.

For more research on sleep and athletic performance, review these articles by Tuck:

Sleep and Athletes

Sleep and Human Growth Hormone

Are You Doping?

Me?  Doping?  Of course not!  I don’t manipulate doctors for unnecessary prescriptions, buy from shady characters in dark allies, or even buy generic supplements.  I only buy brand-name supplements from reputable manufacturers at legitimate retailers.

If these are your thoughts, keep reading . . .

On March 29, 2018, Abby Raymond, a 14-year old weightlifter from Roselle, Illinois, was sanctioned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for consuming the illegal performance-enhancing drug, ostarine.  Ostarine is an Anabolic Agent that is prohibited under the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing, the United States Olympic Committee National Anti-Doping Policies, and the International Weightlifting Federation Anti-Doping Rules, all of which have adopted the World Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.

How did a 14-year old athlete get her hands on ostarine?

On February 15, 2018, Raymond provided USADA with an out-of-competition urine sample, which tested positive for ostarine.  In the course of the USADA investigation, Raymond provided information on the supplements she used.

One of the products was tested by a WADA-accredited laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The testing results confirmed the presence of ostarine, although the label did not list ostarine or any known synonym on the Supplement Facts label.  The supplement was subsequently placed on USADA’s High Risk List – Supplement 411.

So … please … stop reading this article for a second, go to USADA’s High Risk List – Supplement 411and confirm that none of the supplements that you are taking are on this list.

As a result of the positive drug test, USADA rendered Raymond ineligible to compete for three months from the date the sample was collected.  Raymond was also disqualified from all competitive results obtained on and for three months subsequent to February 15, 2018, including forfeiture of medals won and records set at the American Open I Series (March 1-4, 2018) in Columbus, Ohio.

In determining the period of ineligibility, USADA applied the contaminated product rule set forth in its Code, which provides a substantial reduction in the period of ineligibility if the athlete can establish a reduced degree of fault or negligence for the violation and establish that the positive test resulted from use of the contaminated product.

USADA also considered Raymond’s age.  Brad Horn, USADA Communications & Media Relations Director, explained, “In all USADA cases where there is a strong evidence of contamination, the result is a significantly reduced sanction. The typical sanction range for an adult with a contaminated supplement is in the 6-9 month range.  This is the first contamination case we have had featuring a minor. Because of the athlete’s age, the slightly lower sanction length is warranted.”

If you think this could not happen to you, consider this–

An examination of the products placed on USADA’s High Risk List in 2018 include the following product claims:

  • No: Artificial flavors, colors, fillers, binding agents or synthetic ingredients.
  • FOCUS / ENERGY / PUMP / ENDURANCE
  • 100% PURE NATURAL GOODNESS GUARANTEED
  • Manufactured in an FDA Inspected Facility
  • POWERFUL ENERGY, EXPLOSIVE STRENGTH, LASER FOCUS
  • 100% NATURAL
  • NO ADDED SUGAR, NO FILLERS, NO PRESERVATIVES
  • LONG LASTING CLEAN ENERGY

If you spotted a new, all-natural supplement line at your favorite store, with claims that the products would boost your performance, would you buy them?

You would likely research the products and ingredients.  If everything seemed to check out, you probably would buy the products.  You would have no reason to suspect banned substances in the products, and you certainly wouldn’t hire an outside laboratory to double-check the products’ ingredients against the Supplement Facts labels.

The moral of this story . . .

You can get punished for taking a banned substance even if it was a mistake!  Raymond received a three month sanction.  However, other athletes have received much longer sanctions for mistaken use of the same drug.  For instance, in  February 2018, a 33 year-old UFC athlete received a 9-month sanction from USADA for testing positive for ostarine from a contaminated supplement.  Will you get a three month sanction for making the same mistake?  Don’t count on it.  USADA evaluates the circumstances of each situation independently, and you may not be so lucky.

How do I prevent this from happening to me?

Examine the supplements you are taking.  Are you very, very, VERY sure they contain no banned substances?  You may think you are protected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a government agency that protects the public health by assuring the safety of our food supply.  The FDA, however, regulates dietary supplements under a different set of rules than conventional foods.  Per the FDA website:

The [FDA] does not analyze dietary supplements before they are sold to consumers. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the “Supplement Facts” label and ingredient list are accurate, that the dietary ingredients are safe, and that the content matches the amount declared on the label. FDA does not have resources to analyze dietary supplements sent to the agency by consumers who want to know their content. Instead, consumers may contact the manufacturer or a commercial laboratory for an analysis of the content.

If I can’t rely on the FDA to keep me safe from banned substances, who can I trust?

You are liable for what you put in your mouth.  Period.  Only use stuff you trust.  This is easier said than done, though.  How are you supposed to only use “stuff you trust?”  Are you supposed to set up a laboratory in your basement and test every supplement before using it?!  Surely there is an easier way.

There are a few solutions to this problem:

Do not use supplements.  Brad Horn, USADA Communications & Media Relations Director, advises:

All athletes have a responsibility to investigate the supplements that they are using. From USADA’s standpoint, any supplement use should be avoided, as athletes assume some amount of risk that a product could contain a prohibited substance due to the unregulated nature of the industry.

Look for the “NSF Certified for Sport icon on supplements.  Products that display this emblem have undergone a certification program, which verifies that:

  • The products do not contain any of 270+ substances banned by major athletic organizations.
  • The contents of the supplement match what is printed on the label.
  • There are no unsafe levels of contaminants in the tested products.
  • The product is manufactured at a facility that complies with the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practice and is audited twice annually for quality and safety by NSF International.

Use only supplements from trusted manufacturers.  This is a viable alternative, but carries some risk. You are relying on personal relationships and trusting that the manufacturer has taken every precaution to ensure no intentional or unintentional contamination of their products.

 

Finally, remember that supplements are not substitutes for good habits.  Show up to practice consistently, train hard, fuel your body with healthy foods, and get adequate rest.  These habits will take you further than any chemical substance ever could.

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Feature Athlete: Destiny Snider

Destiny Snider is our latest featured athlete!  Destiny is a 14-year old weightlifter from St. Louis, Missouri who currently competes in the 44 kg weight class.   Destiny won the championship title in the 44-kg weight class (14-15 age group) at USA Weightlifting’s 2018 Youth Nationals in Grand Rapids, Michigan in June 2018.

When did you get started in this sport? Who got you started?

I got started in weightlifting at Lift for Life Gym.  Coach Jimmy saw me playing basketball one day and asked me if I wanted to start weightlifting.  I worked out with him a couple times, and I fell in love with it!

What do you enjoy most about weightlifting?

Weightlifting is great because you can test how strong you are everyday.  I also have met so many great people through weightlifting.  Most of my best friends are weightlifters.  My sister (NeNe) is on the team as well.  I know people from all over the country because of weightlifting.  I have meet many of the clients at the Lab Gym, where we train.  There are tons of people there that congratulate me on my accomplishments while I’m walking though the gym.

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

I train at the Lab Gym 2 hours a day, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

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

We have always pushed squats really hard, but recently, we added dead lifts.  That has really helped.  Also, before the Junior Nationals, I was only training one hour on Tuesday and Thursday.  Since I qualified as an alternate to the Youth Pan Ams, Jimmy told me it was time to get more training in per week.  So we added two hours during the week.

What are your proudest weightlifting achievements?

My proudest moment in weightlifting is setting an American Record in the Snatch at Youth Nationals last year.

What is your diet like?

My diet is normal.  I drink a lot more water now.

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

Jerome Smith is a good role model for me.  He is good to talk to, and he is there for me when I need anything or feel down or if I’m having a bad day of training.

What qualities do great coaches possess?

The best quality from a coach is motivation.  When its time to get real, they help me get real!

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I have ever received is, “Don’t think too hard.”  Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to be successful and I make simple mistakes.

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

When I’m on the platform, I am ready to kick some butt and pass people up to make it to my dream.  Off the platform, I try not to take things too serious, especially if they are not serious things.

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

When I have free time, I like to spend it with my friends, both gaming and at gatherings. I find it very important to maintain a good social life.

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

I love playing basketball at Lift for Life Gym.  If I could master anything else besides weightlifting, it would be basketball.

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

Weightlifting has taught me that things do not always go right in life, but you have to get up and start over.  You don’t always have a team that can help you or someone looking out for you.  Sometimes you got to do it yourself!

What are your weightlifting goals?

My goal is to continue to make International Teams.  I want to stay in the sport and hopefully make the Olympics one day in both Weightlifting and Basketball.

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Should Girls Train Differently?

The sport of weightlifting is the same for males and females. At competitions each athlete executes six lifts: three in the snatch and three in the clean & jerk. An athlete’s total score is determined by adding the highest successful snatch and the highest successful clean & jerk.

So, if competitions are the same for males and females, shouldn’t they also train the same way?

Not according to Anna Martin, president of the Missouri Valley Weightlifting Association. Coach Martin, owner of Kansas City Weightlifting, knows a little about female weightlifters. Now a Masters weightlifter, Anna began weightlifting at 14-years old. In the course of her career, she made two international teams, participated in a World Team trials, and was the first alternate in the Olympic team trials. She has also coached at some of the most reputable weightlifting facilities in the country, including the Olympic Training Center and Northern Michigan University.

Anna currently coaches a number of successful weightlifters, including Janelle Schafer (63 kg), winner of the 2017 American Open Finals in Anaheim, California.

Coach Martin has observed over years that female weightlifters perform better with a higher volume of repetitions than their male counterparts. Says Martin:

My female lifters perform better when I keep the volume high. In practice, I always program doubles for the snatch and clean & jerk and sets of 5 or more for squats. Even when a lifter is going for a max, I make them double it.

If we are not in a major competition, I make my female lifters double everything in the warm up area.

I think girls perform better on the platform and recover better with more reps.

What does this mean for you?

As a coach, try giving your female athletes more volume in their workouts. Be careful, however, not to overwork the joints through a combination of heavy weights and high volume.  Increasing the number of reps may require backing off the weight on the barbell.

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Photo Credit: Lifting.Life

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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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Carlos Millen – January 2018 Featured Athlete

Carlos Millen Jr., our latest featured athlete.  Carlos is a 17 year old weightlifter from Hardeeville, South Carolina and is currently competing in the 62kg weight class.  Carlos trains at Performance Initiative in Savannah, Georgia with Coach Kerri Goodrich.

When did you get started in this sport?

I started lifting weights about 2 ½  years ago (2015).

What (or who) got you started?

Two friends introduced me to weightlifting and that’s how I started weightlifting.

What do you enjoy most about weightlifting?

I enjoy getting stronger, meeting other athletes and competing.

You had an opportunity to represent the U.S. recently at the Youth Pan Ams in Columbia.  What was your favorite part about this experience?

My favorite part of the experience was in Columbia competing against other countries and touring the site.

What advice would you give to other young lifters who want to make an international team?

My advice to those who want make the international team is to give it your all in what ever you do.

What does your current training routine look like (hours per day, days per week)?

My current training routine is two hours per day, five days a week.

What is your favorite training exercise?

My favorite training exercise is the clean & jerk.

What is your least favorite training exercise?

My least favorite training exercise is the snatch.

What is your diet like?

I don’t have a specific diet, except I drink 100 oz. of water a day.

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

I admire Derrick Johnson because I can relate to his struggle in his personal life and how far he has come.

What friendships has the sport brought your way?

Weightlifting brought me friendship, like the one I have with Oscar Chaplin.

What qualities do great coaches possess?

One of the great qualities that a great coach possesses is leadership.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever received was to “get it before it’s gone”.

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

I have free time on Sunday’s. I go to church and watch Hulu.

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

From weightlifting, I’ve learned to clear my mind.

When was the last time you got discouraged with weightlifting, and how did you recover?

The last time I got discouraged with weightlifting was when I got kicked out the house by my mother a week before competition in Florida, but I recovered by focusing on my goals.

What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?

One thing that most people don’t know about me is that I like to write my own quotes in a book.

What are your goals with weightlifting?

My goals with weightlifting is to win gold at 2018 junior nationals and qualify for junior worlds.

 

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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Programming for Youth Weightlifters

When it comes to youth weightlifting, the first question people ask is:

Is weightlifting safe for children?

The next question is:

How do you program for youth weightlifters?

I answered the safety question in another article.  I have not written on the second question until now, however, because it is complicated.

A weightlifting program is not like a cookie cutter.  It yields good results when used by the athlete for whom it was designed.  When used by another athlete, however, results will vary.  For instance, a youth weightlifter with 3 years of experience will be able to handle more volume and intensity because this lifter has already spent time learning technique and building strength that will support such training.  A beginner who tries to follow the plan of an established athlete is setting himself up for frustration and overtraining injuries.

However, when you are just beginning, something is better than nothing.

The 8-week plan below should get you started—or give you new ideas to incorporate into your current training.

But first, a few words on programming for youth weightlifters . . .

The good news is that programming for youth weightlifters is very similar to programming for adults.  The sport of weightlifting is the same whether you are nine or eighty-nine, which means that the sport specific training is also the same.

However, there are a few differences:

  • General Athleticism: In addition to weightlifting specific exercises, a youth program should incorporate movements that develop overall athleticism.  As a coach, you want to build strong, healthy kids—not athletes with a single skill set.  Kids have time on their side.  They do not need to lift huge amounts of weight at age 10.  Rather, they need to build a strong foundation—core strength, balance, flexibility—elements that will set them up to lift heavy weights as their bodies develop.
  • Fun: Kids like to laugh and play.  If your program is boring, kids will quit.  Having fun does not mean goofing off in the weight room.  It means incorporating challenges and games regularly.
  • Percentages: Most weightlifting programs work by applying percentages to a lifter’s one rep max.  Percentages are less useful for youth lifters, however, because these athletes are constantly growing and developing.  Basing work off a one rep max might leave a youth lifter working well below his capabilities, or it might injure a lifter who is not conditioned to the programmed percentages.  A better approach is to watch your athlete and add weight if they reps are not challenging.  For this reason, the weightlifting plan below prescribes only reps and sets; weights are left up to the coach.  Choose something challenging.  Record the weights used each day, and you will soon discover the best loads for your athlete.
  • Age and Training Age: Consider the age and maturity of your lifter when designing a program.  Younger lifters will have a smaller attention span and will need shorter sessions. Attempting a three-hour training session with an eight-year old will be miserable for both of you.  Similarly, the training age of a lifter matters.  A teenage lifter with 2+ years of experience can handle significantly more volume and intensity than a teenage lifter with no experience.
  • Technique: Practice does not make perfect.  Practice makes permanent.  Every single repetition of a lift builds muscle memory.  If your lifter’s technique falls apart when you increase the weight, take the lifter back down in weight until the technique is fixed.  Your athlete will be mad about this, but he will thank you later in life when his lifts look sharp and his technique allows him to lift efficiently.
  • Positivity.  Keep things positive by giving encouragement and praise liberally.  Children are very sensitive to criticism.  You can make or break a champion by how you speak to your athlete.
  • Misses:  Practice making lifts, not missing them.  A miss on a lift once in a while is fine.  It is part of the sport.  Remember, however, that when an athlete misses a lift, it changes the way he perceives that weight.  An athlete who misses a certain weight repeatedly will develop a mental block at that weight.  Remove this obstacle by limiting max effort attempts.

And now for the fun stuff . . .

 

8 Week Program

Training Sessions Per Week: 3
Program Duration: 8 Weeks
Time to Complete Each Session: 1.5 hours

Written as Reps x Sets
Sets Programmed are Working Sets and do not include Warm Up Sets
Week 1
Day 1
Snatch: 4 reps x 3 sets
Jerk: 4 x 3
Snatch Pull: 4 x 4
Back Squat: 6 x 3

Core: 30 second plank hold, 30 seconds rest (5 Rounds); hold an increasingly heavy weighted object on the back each interval (e.g. 1st interval with no weight, 2nd with 2.5 kg plate, etc.)
Day 2
Clean & Jerk: 3 x 4
Clean Pull: 5 x 3
Push Press: 5 x 3
Front Squat: 5 x 5

Conditioning: Set up a circuit of objects to jump over; perform the circuit 3 times
Day 3
Snatch High Pull: 3 x 4
Power Snatch + Overhead Squat: 3 x 5
Strict Press: 3 x 3

Core: Using furniture sliders under the feet, perform a series of Inchworms across the floor, i.e. start in an upright position, bend at the waist and walk the hands out to a plank position, finish by dragging the feet to the hands
Week 2
Day 1
Snatch: 4 reps x 3 sets
Jerk: 4 x 3
Snatch Pull: 4 x 3
Back Squat: 5 x 4

Conditioning: Perform air squats to the song “Flower” by Moby. When Sally goes down, sit down in the squat and vice versa.
Day 2
Clean & Jerk: 3 x 4
Clean Pull: 5 x 3
Power Jerk: 4 x 2
Front Squat: 5 x 4

Core: Using a standard deck of cards, deal out 5 cards.
Diamonds = Sit Ups
Hearts = Good Mornings
Spades = Russian Twists
Clubs = Kettle Bell Swings

The suit on the card indicates the exercise, and the number indicates the reps. (Ignore face cards.)
Repeat 3 times
Day 3
Power Clean + F. Squat + Jerk: 2 x 5
Deadlifts (no shrug): 3 x 3

Conditioning:
—7 Rounds—
Push Ups and Pull Ups

Before each round, roll a dice. The number on the dice indicates the number of reps for each movement that round.
Week 3
Day 1
Snatch: 3 reps x 4 sets
Jerk: 3 x 4
Snatch Pull: 4 x 3
Back Squat: 5 x 3

Core: Plank Races
Using furniture sliders on the feet, race across the room in a plank position (hands will be pulling feet). Alternative exercise: Wheelbarrow Racing
Day 2
Clean & Jerk: 3 x 3
Clean Pull: 4 x 3
Push Press: 5 x 2
Front Squat: 5 x 3

Conditioning: 5 minutes to establish max continuous reps with a jump rope
Day 3
Muscle Snatch: 3 x 3
Snatch Pull + Snatch: 3 x 4
Dumbbell Press: 5 x 5

Core: Weighted plank hold. Hold a weight on back in the the plank position. Hold for 40 seconds, rest for 20 seconds. 5 Rounds.
Week 4
Day 1
Snatch: 3 reps x 4 sets
Jerk: 3 x 4
Snatch Pull: 3 x 4
Back Squat: 4 x 4

Conditioning:
—5 Rounds—
Box Jumps
Kettle Bell Swings
Sit Ups

Roll a dice before each round. The number on the dice indicates the number of reps of each movement for that round.
Day 2
Clean & Jerk: 3 x 3
Clean Pull: 4 x 3
Power Jerk: 3 x 4
Front Squat: 4 x 4

Core: TABATA Russian Twists

Work 0:20, Rest 0:10 for 8 intervals. Score = lowest number of reps in any interval
Day 3
Hang Clean + 2 Jerks: 2 x 4
Clean Pull with 3-second hold at top of shrug: 3 x 4
Push Press: 3 x 3

Conditioning: Shuttle Sprints

Set up three objects at varying distances from the starting line. The athlete must touch each object, returning to the starting line between touches.
Week 5
Day 1
Snatch: 3 reps x 3 sets
Jerk: 3 x 3
Snatch Pull: 3 x 4
Back Squat: 4 x 3

Core: Cut up 6 pieces of paper and number them 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30. Fold the papers and put them in a cup.

Athlete selects a piece of paper. The first paper indicates the number of reps of the first movement. After that movement is completed, the athlete continues to draw numbers until all exercises are completed:

V-Ups
Toes to Bar
Kettle Bell Swings
Russian Twists
Sit Ups
Push Ups
Day 2
Clean & Jerk: 3 x 3
Clean Pull: 3 x 4
Push Press: 4 x 3
Front Squat: 4 x 3

Conditioning: Using a standard deck of cards, deal out 5 cards.
Diamonds = Box Jumps
Hearts = Pull Ups
Spades = Lunges
Clubs = Dips (using bench)

The suit on the card indicates the exercise, and the number indicates the reps. (Ignore face cards.)
Repeat 3 times.
Day 3
Hang Snatch: 3 x 4
Snatch Grip Deadlifts: 3 x 3

Strict Press: 3 x 3

Core: 100 Partner Ball Sit Ups.

Two people do sit ups facing each other. They pass a weighted ball after each sit up. So, an athlete will be holding the ball every other sit up. The ball must touch the ground above the head of the athlete doing the sit up.
Week 6
Day 1
Snatch: 3 reps x 3 sets
Jerk: 3 x 3
Snatch Pull: 3 x 3
Back Squat: 3 x 4

Conditioning: Partner Workout
Partner A: Holds weight plate above head
Partner B: Lunges

One partner lunges while the other partner stands with a weight plate overhead. The workout is done when the partners accumulate 200 lunges. Partners switch as needed. The weight plate cannot touch the ground or there is a 5 burpee penalty.
Day 2
Clean & Jerk: 2 x 3
Clean Pull: 3 x 4
Power Jerk: 3 x 3
Front Squat: 3 x 4

Core: Handstand Walking or Hand Stands

For beginner athletes, hold a handstand for 20 seconds and rest for 20 seconds, for 8 rounds.

For advanced athletes, do four 50-foot handstand walks, with about 3 minutes rest between attempts.
Day 3
Clean + 2 F. Squat + Jerk: 2 x 4
Deadlifts (no shrug): 3 x 3
Handstand Pushups: 3 Max Effort Sets

Conditioning: TABATA Squat Jumps (air squat, then jump)

Work 0:20, Rest 0:10 for 8 intervals. Score = lowest number of reps in any interval
Week 7
Day 1
Snatch: 2 reps x 3 sets
Jerk: 2 x 3
Snatch Pull: 3 x 3
Back Squat: 3 x 3

Core: Do planks to the song “Flower” by Moby. When Sally goes down, plank with elbows on the ground. When Sally goes up, plank with hands on the ground. The athlete will be in a plank during the entire song.
Day 2
Clean & Jerk: 2 x 3
Clean Pull: 3 x 3
Push Press: 3 x 3
Front Squat: 3 x 3

Conditioning: 100 Kettle Bell Swings. Every minute after the first minute, the athlete must stop and perform 12 sit ups before resuming the kettle bell swings. The workout ends when the athlete completes all 100 swings.
Day 3
Snatch High Pull: 3 x 3
Power Snatch + Overhead Squat: 3 x 5
Seated Strict Press: 3 Max Effort Sets

Core: Using a standard deck of cards, deal out 5 cards.
Diamonds = Push Ups
Hearts = V Ups
Spades = Mountain Climbers
Clubs = Toes to Bar

The suit on the card indicates the exercise, and the number indicates the reps. (Ignore face cards.)
Repeat 3 times.
Week 8
Day 1
Snatch: 2 reps x 3 sets
Jerk: 2 x 3
Snatch Pull: 2 x 3
Back Squat: 2 x 3
Mobility: Stretch
Day 2
Clean & Jerk: 2 x 2
Clean Pull: 3 x 2
Power Jerk: 2 x 3
Front Squat: 2 x 3
Mobility: Stretch
Day 3
Power Clean + F. Squat + Jerk: 2 x 5
Russian Deadlifts: 5 x 5
Dumbbell Press: 5 x 5
Mobility: Stretch

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The Mind of an Olympian: An Interview with Hidilyn Diaz

If I had to pick one word to describe three-time Olympian, Hidilyn Diaz, I would choose “gracious.”  Hidilyn is visiting Guam for the week, and she agreed to let me interview her before her weightlifting practice.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think things through very well, and I ended up conducting the interview while sitting on some tires behind the gym.  The music in the gym was very loud, and all of the seats were occupied by active weightlifters, so we headed out the back door.  I scanned the area for a suitable sitting surface and hastily decided that some tires lying on the ground would do just fine.  I sat down, and Hidilyn joined me without hesitation.

Hidilyn’s unassuming attitude became all the more impressive once I learned more about her.

Hidilyn (pronounced Heidi Lynn), age 26, has competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2012 London Olympics, and the 2016 Rio Olympics.  At age 17, Hidilyn was the youngest competitor in the women’s 58-kg weight class at the 2008 Bejing Olympics.  And in 2016, Hidilyn became the first Filipino woman to ever win an Olympic medal when she earned a silver medal in Rio.

Hidilyn Diaz (image from http://www.philstar.com)

Hidilyn began weightlifting at age 11.  Her cousin, a university student, was coaching a group of young boys in weightlifting.  Hidilyn asked to join them, and her cousin began training her.  She began competing soon after and was offered a place on the Philippine national team at age 12. Membership on the national team offered a number of perks.  Hidilyn received a scholarship to attend school.  She was able to travel and see the world when she competed.  Most importantly, though, she was able to help provide for her family with her monthly stipend of 4000 Pesos (about $80).

Hidilyn explained: “My family was poor.  I lifted weights to provide for my family.  I was the breadwinner.”

I asked Hidilyn when she developed a passion for weightlifting.  I was surprised when she said, “2014.”  By 2014, Hidilyn had already been in the sport for 12 years and competed in two Olympic Games!

Hidilyn explained, “2014 was a difficult year for me.  I injured my knee, and recovery was taking a long time.  My performance suffered.  My coach of ten years was fired from the national team, and I felt lost.  I was injured, had no coach, and was beginning to wonder if I should just retire.”

“Mentally, it was very difficult.  I had no one guiding me, and I had to decide for myself if weightlifting was what I wanted to do.”

After taking time to reflect, Hidilyn decided to continue her training and aim for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.  A friend pointed out that Hidilyn could contend for a medal if she dropped into the 53-kg weight class.  Hidilyn made the weight drop, trained hard, and secured a silver medal in Rio becoming the first Filipino in 20 years to win an Olympic medal.

Hidilyn continues to train for four hours a day, while simultaneously attending college to earn a degree in business.  She hopes to make a fourth Olympic appearance at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

In the future, Hidilyn wants to own her own business.  She also wants to raise awareness of weightlifting in the Philippines, serve as a mentor to younger weightlifters, and use her experience to help other coaches develop their weightlifters.  Consider these points of advice from Hidilyn:

To Coaches:

“It is important to spend time on mobility as well as general strength and conditioning.”  Focusing only on weightlifting exercises can lead to injuries, boredom and burnout.

Also, “Always look for ways to innovate.  Constantly seek new ways to challenge your athletes and keep things interesting for them. “

To Youth Weightlifters:

“Enjoy weightlifting first.  Then, dream high.  It is the dream that will fuel you.  You also need to work hard, but be smart.  Sometimes weightlifters work hard, but it is not productive because they are not getting enough rest.  You need to rest.  Take advice from others.  Practice self-discipline and consistency in training.  One of the hardest things about weightlifting training is being consistent.”

Advice on Competing:

“Above all, you must believe in yourself.  When you step onto the platform, if you do not believe that you can lift the weight, it will not happen.”