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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Did the competition meet your expectations?
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?
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.
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.”
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 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:
“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.”
This is Lovely, an accomplished 13-year old Filipino weightlifter. She has won numerous championship titles, including the Philippine youth national championship. Lovely trains with Team Angono six days a week, 2 hours a day. She is currently on the waiting list for the Philippine national team.
This is Lovely’s home.
I watched out the van window as a toddler played with a broken pink headband and a dirty toy gorilla under the overpass of a crowded Manila highway. A teenage boy, possibly his brother, sat nearby transferring bottles from one plastic bag to another. As we continued our drive, I spotted more and more street children—sleeping on the sidewalk, begging for money between lanes of slow moving traffic, selling handmade flower necklaces. These children—filthy, barefoot and unattended—jolted me out of my self-absorbed reality and sobered my thoughts.
My son, Hutch, and I had traveled to Manila in the Philippines for the Metro Weightlifting Championship held on December 16. Prior to seeing these children, I was thinking about how I was going to lose a kilogram of bodyweight in the next 24 hours. After seeing the children, though, my weight loss concerns were forgotten. Who cares about bodyweight when there are children—children—on the streets barely surviving?
It is not right. It is not okay. Children should be in school. They should be spending their free time playing sports or games. They should not be struggling for survival, without adequate clothing and nutritious food to eat. Someone should do something about this.
A few days later, I met Coach Pep . . .
Coach Richard “Pep” Agosto is a former member of the Philippine National Weightlifting Team. Pep was an accomplished weightlifter, medaling in numerous international competitions, including the Southeast Asian Games. While Pep was still on the national team, he witnessed the extreme poverty of children in his neighborhood and started a program to give them a better life through weightlifting.
Pep identified some neighborhood children who were scavenging in the dump and asked if they would like to train with him instead. Pep offered to pay for the kids’ schooling and feed them if they would train with him each day. The children’s parents initially refused Pep’s offer because it meant less money for their families. However, Pep convinced the parents that weightlifting and school were investments in the children’s futures.
While in Manila, I had the privilege of meeting Coach Pep and his weightlifting team.
When we arrived at Pep’s gym, a small, covered outdoor area next to his house, Pep’s weightlifters greeted us with smiles. The weightlifters, ranging in age from 9-18, were eager to show off their skills.
Given the children’s impoverished circumstances, I expected very little from them athletically. I was surprised. Pep’s weightlifters are powerful and technically polished. They rival any youth weightlifters I have seen in the United States or Germany.
Pep’s lifters have won numerous competitions in the Philippines, including the national championship, and have set new national records for their age groups. Two of his lifters are even on the waiting list to join the national team. Membership on the national team will open new doors of privilege, giving the kids better training opportunities and a generous monthly stipend.
More importantly, though, Pep’s training gives the kids a path to escape from their impoverished circumstances. When possible, they travel to competitions and see the world outside of their neighborhood. Pep’s program also gives them the opportunity to go to school, a privilege that is not afforded to all children in the Philippines. It is giving the kids tools to make better lives for themselves.
How does Pep do It?
In the United States, a coach like Pep would have social resources to help him with his program. In the Philippines, however, these resources are not available.
Pep funds the entire program with money he personally earns as a member of the Philippine Air Force and with donations from private sponsors. Pep also spends long hours coaching weightlifting at CrossFit gyms to earn money for his kids.
Talking to Pep, I could feel the strain it puts on him to feed, clothe, and educate twelve children—the nine children on the team, along with his own three children. Pep was proud that he had kept the program open for three whole years, but I could sense his concern with the long-term success of the program.
“I take on as much extra work as I can find to provide for my lifters,” said Coach Pep. “I coach weightlifting at CrossFit gyms, at seminars and to an adult class on Saturdays. Everything I earn goes to supporting my lifters.”
It is a daily struggle for Pep to provide for his lifters. Without outside benefactors, Pep’s program cannot survive.
How Much Does It Cost to Sponsor a Lifter?
It costs Coach Pep about $55 per month to send each lifter to school and feed them.
How Can I Donate to Coach Pep’s Project?
If you—or your weightlifting team—would like to make a donation to Coach Pep’s lifters, click below.
Your donation will change the life of a child. It will offer a child who would otherwise be picking through trash in a dump to have the luxury of going to school and training. Your donation will allow a child who would otherwise have one meal a day to have two meals. And your donation will go directly to Coach Pep and his kids—no collection agencies.
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 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.
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.
Now that you know your lean body mass in kilograms, strive to eat 1 to 2 times that in grams of protein each day.
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.
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:
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
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
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 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.
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
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!
On October 16, 2017, USA Weightlifting (USAW) announced 13 Athlete Development Sites located in the West and Southeast United States. The announcement of these sites raised a number of questions:
What will the sites be used for?
Who can attend events at the sites?
What kinds of events will be hosted at the sites?
How much will the events cost?
I spoke to Suzy Sanchez, USAW Director of Development Programs, and gathered information about this new opportunity.
Q: Why did USAW create the Athlete Development Sites?
In April 2017, USAW created Athlete Development Camps. We executed a three-month trial run in the West and Southeast. After running the camps, however, we realized that we needed to restructure. The purpose of the camps was to attract new athletes, not to educate existing athletes. In fact, however, many of the athletes who signed up for the camps were seasoned athletes. There was some dissatisfaction from these athletes who felt that they did not learn much from the camps.
From this experience, we gathered that our members are seeking opportunities for continuing education. We created the Athlete Development Sites to replace the development camps and to offer continuing education opportunities for our members.
Q: Why did you select these particular sites?
The two largest pockets of weightlifting in the United States are in the West and Southeast. We wanted to create sites in areas where we could serve the most members. We also selected gyms that are run by coaches who are certified at the national level or higher. We are constantly working to foster good relationships between gym owners and USA Weightlifing and feel that this program will facilitate that. We also hope that the sites will link up talented athletes and talented coaches, creating more opportunities within the sport.
Q: What will the Athlete Development Sites offer?
The Athlete Development Sites will host five different types of clinics: Snatch, Clean & Jerk, Advanced Movement, Youth Weightlifting, and Introduction to Weightlifting.
Two of the clinics—Youth Weightlifting and Introduction to Weightlifting—will offer introductory instruction to beginners.
Three of the clinics—Snatch, Clean & Jerk, and Advanced Movement—will offer continuing education to seasoned athletes and coaches.
Q: What is the cost of attending a clinic?
We will be charging $99 for each clinic. We hope the fee for the clinic, along with multiple site locations, will keep costs manageable for athletes and coaches.
Q: How can people register for a course?
Registration will take place through WebPoint on the USAW website.
USAW will issue an official press release with more details in November. For further questions, contact Suzy Sanchez at Suzy.Sanchez@usaweightlifting.org.
“Today we will be doing panda pulls before the snatch and clean & jerk exercises,” explained Coach Ed, head coach of the Guam national team. Coach Ed continued talking, but my mind was consumed with getting out of the panda pulls.
Our family recently moved to Guam, and my son, Hutch, and I are trying to integrate into the weightlifting community by working out with the national team on Saturdays. Hutch and I have had a unique weightlifting journey. We began lifting in Kansas with Coach Boris Urman, who taught us Russian weightlifting techniques. We then moved to Germany, where we spent three years learning German techniques. Like German engineering, German weightlifting is sophisticated, powerful and efficient. I prefer this style of lifting and resist anything outside of the 38 established German weightlifting exercises.
So, when Coach Ed introduced the panda pulls, I wanted to say, “No, thank you. We don’t do ridiculous, useless exercises.”
However, I just wrote an article that advised people to be humble and open to new ideas:
Don’t assume that your way is the best way. Always seek to learn from other coaches.
Maybe, maybe not. The point is that you should be open to new ideas from other experienced athletes and coaches.
This does not mean that you should change your plan and programming with every new idea that comes along. Make a plan and stick to it, but be flexible enough to incorporate new skills and movements as you gain more knowledge.
When did you learn something unexpected? Share your story in the comments below.
Dane Miller, owner of Garage Strength in Pennsylvania, coaches some of the most successful young weightlifters in the United States today. Miller’s athletes have claimed national and international weightlifting medals and include members of USA Weightlifting’s Junior National Team. Five of Miller’s athletes were on Team USA’s 20-person team at the 2017 Junior World Championships in Tokyo. Miller’s athletes have stunning resumes, including:
Hailey Reichardt: Bronze medal winner at the 2016 Youth World Weightlifting Championships and silver medalist at the 2017 Junior Pan American Championships
Jordan Wissinger: 2017 Junior Pan American Championship, silver medal in snatch, bronze medals in clean and jerk and total
Jacob Horst: 2016 Senior National Weightlifting Champion
Juliana Rotto: 5th place at the 2016 American Open, 5th place at 2016 Junior National Championship
Kate Wehr: member of Team USA’s 2017 Youth Pan American Squad
If a coach has a single successful athlete, he is a lucky coach. If a coach has an entire team of successful athletes, he is doing something right.
What is the secret to Miller’s phenomenal success?
First consider a few things . . .
Coach Miller was never a competitive weightlifter himself. Miller was a skilled collegiate shot putter and lifted weights as part of his training, but he did not enter the world of competitive weightlifting until one of his athletes expressed interest in competing in the sport.
Garage Strength is located in one of the poorest areas of the U.S. With 41.3 percent of its residents living below the poverty line, Reading, Pa., is the poorest U.S. city with a population of 65,000 or more. So, Miller’s athletes do not come from privileged backgrounds.
Miller only began training competitive weightlifters five years ago. In 2012, one of Miller’s athletes expressed interest in lifting weights competitively. Miller jumped in with both feet and helped this athlete achieve success, securing a spot on an international team within only 1 year.
Given Miller’s disadvantages, how has he been so successful in developing his athletes?
Miller only trains athletes that are “all in.” Miller was a champion thrower himself, and he wants to train athletes that are serious about success. To ensure that he and his athletes are working toward the same goals, Miller has frequent conversations with them. If athletes are unsure about what they want, Miller encourages them to take some time off to think about it. Once an athlete commits, Miller expects them to work hard to achieve their goals.
Miller respects the goals of his athletes. Miller trains weightlifters, throwers, and wrestlers. He wants to train hardworking athletes with big dreams. However, Miller does not try to convert all of his athletes into weightlifters. Instead, Miller listens to his athletes and provides them with the best training to reach their goals. Even if an athlete has the potential to become a great weightlifter, if the athlete has no passion for the sport, Miller knows it is better for the athlete to pursue another sport.
Miller provides his athletes with the tools they need to succeed. Miller knows that athletic success involves more than training. He educates his athletes on all matters related to their sport. He teaches them about recovery, mobility, and good nutrition. When Miller can’t find a good tool for his athletes, he creates one. In fact, Miller created Earth Fed Muscle, a line of nutritional supplements, for his own athletes. Miller noticed that many protein powders on the market contained ingredients that could flag his athletes during drug tests. He wanted a pure product that he could trust. So he made one.
Miller is a mentor for his athletes. According to Miller: “It’s not just about lifting; it’s about what you’re going to do or be after you’re done. I want to make champions, but I also want to make people who will positively impact society in other ways.” Miller recounts mistakes he made in his own career and wishes that he had someone to guide him during his difficult years. Miller tries to be that mentor for his athletes.
How can you apply some of Miller’s methods to your athletes?
Talk to your athletes. Instead of telling your athletes what they should be achieving, ask them what they want to achieve. You might be surprised by their answers. And you’ll definitely create more motivated athletes when the athletes feel like they are pursuing their goals and not yours.
Treat each athlete as an individual. It takes more work to deliver individualized programming and education. However, your athletes will perform better when they have tools that are tailored to them.
Constantly search for the best resources for your athletes. Remember that success is more than just time spent in the gym. Research the best recovery methods, nutrition, and mobility exercises for your athletes. If you don’t have expertise on a topic, find someone who does.
Be the coach you wish you had. Think of the attributes of the best coaches—the coaches you wish you had—and strive to be like them.