Will Weightlifting be Dropped from the Olympic Games?

A January 22, 2019 press release from the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) revealed six doping violations from the 2018 IWF World Championships, all involving Thai athletes.

These doping violations come at a pivotal time for the sport.  In June 2017, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach told reporters:  “The IWF has until December 2017 to deliver a satisfactory report to the IOC on how they will address the massive doping problem this sport is facing.”

Since June 2017, the IWF has taken several measures to clean up the sport.  Most notably, in October 2017, the IWF banned nine countries–Russia, Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Turkey, China and Kazakhstan–from participating in international competitions for twelve months.  The countries, referred to as the Tbilisi Nine, incurred three or more positive results from the retesting of frozen samples from the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games.

The Tbilisi Nine were punished with a one year ban for having three or more positives across two competitions.  Thailand had six positives in a single competition.  With a delegation of 19 athletes, Thailand’s doping violations amounted to a 32% doping rate amongst their athletes.

The first two of Thailand’s World Championships positives were announced on Dec. 23: women’s super-heavyweight bronze medalist Duanganksnorn Chide (above) and 17-year-old Teerapat Chomchuen, the only male among the six. The other four, named by the IWF on January 22, are reigning Olympic champions Sopita Tanasan (48kg) and Sukanya Srisurat (58kg), plus Thunya Sukcharoen and Chitchanok Pulsabsakul. Photo credit: Tim Scott, Lifting.Life

 

The ban on the Tbilisi Nine sent a clear message to the weightlifting community that countries with athletes who dope will be punished as a whole.  Nothing less than a one year ban for Thai weightlifters should be accepted by the community.  In fact, greater punishment is warranted in Thailand’s case.  The astounding number of positives suggests systematic doping, an act that resulted in Russia’s removal from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.  In addition, Thailand’s doping occurred after the ban on the Tbilisi Nine, suggesting that a one-year ban is not enough to deter countries from doping.

Interestingly, the 2019 IWF World Championships are slated for September in Pattaya, Thailand.  To assure the IOC that weightlifting is standing strong against doping, the IWF should relocate the 2019 IWF World Championships, ban Thailand from participating in the sport for at least a year, and completely remove them from the 2020 Olympic Games.  Anything less may jeopardize weightlifting’s presence as an Olympic Sport.

Photo Credit: Lifting.Life

Is Weightlifting Cleaning Up?

For many years, the sport of weightlifting has been fraught with instances of illegal drug use, a.k.a. doping.  Clean athletes stood on the sidelines as their drug-enhanced counterparts took home the medals and glory of championship titles.  Cynicism abounded in the United States.  No one believed that U.S. athletes could bring home medals because of athletes–and countries–who flagrantly violated anti-doping policies.

In recent years, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has stepped up its measures to clean up the sport:

  • In June 2017, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President, Thomas Bach, warned that weightlifting may be excluded from the 2024 Olympic Games if it did not provide a satisfactory report to the “massive doping problem” by December 2017.  IOC president Thomas Bach told reporters:  “The IWF has until December 2017 to deliver a satisfactory report to the IOC on how they will address the massive doping problem this sport is facing.”
  • The IWF subsequently implemented the IOC’s recommendations to clean up the sport, including introducing a new Anti-Doping Policy and securing WADA compliance.
  • In December 2017, the IOC acknowledged the IWF’s efforts but determined that the status remained unchanged, and that the sport’s inclusion in the 2024 Olympics was “subject to the IWF further demonstrating that it has fulfilled certain conditions.”
  • The IWF has continued to take measures beyond those recommended by the IOC, such as new bodyweight categories and a new Qualification System designed to reward nations with a history of clean weightlifting.  In addition, the IWF partnered with USA Weightlifting and USADA to provide worldwide anti-doping education to weightlifters.
  • In June 2018, the IOC again revisited the matter of inclusion in the 2024 Olympic Games and again determined that weightlifting’s inclusion was still pending review.

So, is the sport actually getting cleaner?

The 2018 IWF World Championships, held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, November 1-10, displayed plenty of evidence that the sport is, in fact, cleaning up:

Rainbow of Representation on the Podium: The podium was not dominated by a handful of countries. Of the 30 medals contested in the Men’s sessions, 17 of these medals went to different countries.  Only five countries took home multiple medals, with only China (9 medals) taking home more than two Men’s medals.

On the women’s side, athletes from 13 different countries were represented on the podium.  Only four countries took home multiple medals, although China (10 medals) and Thailand (6 medals) each took home a large number of Women’s medals.

In comparison, only 15 countries were represented on the podium in the Men’s sessions of the 2015 World Championships, and only 9 countries were represented in the Women’s sessions.

Guangzhou, China is home to over 13,000,000 people.

China took home 19 of the 60 total contested medals, or 32% of the medals, at the 2018 World Championships.  This sounds like a disproportionate share.  However, when you consider that 25% of the world’s population lives in China, China’s medal haul does not seem out of line.

Performance of the Tbilisi Nine.   In October 2017, the IWF banned nine countries–Russia, Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Turkey, China and Kazakhstan–from participating in international competitions for twelve months.  The countries, referred to as the Tbilisi Nine, incurred three or more positive results from the retesting of frozen samples from the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games.  None of the nine participated at the 2017 World Championships in Anaheim.  All nine countries, however, participated in the 2018 World Championships in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

In a December 11, 2018 article by insidethegames, Attila Adamfi, director general of the IWF, pointed out some interesting points of performance from the 2018 World Championships in Ashgabat:

Apart from China, the “Tbilisi nine” showed a marked drop in performance in the recent IWF World Championships in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, which is seen as an indicator that the IWF’s tougher stance on doping is working.

Adamfi called Ashgabat “a milestone event” and said, “It is interesting that more than half of the athletes from the nine did not even make the A Groups, with 64 of 122 in the B, C and D Groups.”

He said there was “a clear distinction between China and the rest” based on their doping record of only two positives since 2011, the evidence of which “suggests their recent success was not supported by doping”.

“Take out China and look at the other eight,” said Adamfi.

“Azerbaijan, all seven athletes in C or D Groups, not even one in B.

“Out of 20 in Kazakhstan’s team, 12 in B and C Groups, and only two medals in total.

“Their role was more realistic, their performance level much more equal to the others.”

Lower Posted Totals from Tbilisi Nine Athletes.  Excluding China, fourteen athletes from Tbilisi Nine countries competed in both the 2015 and 2018 World Championships.  Of these fourteen athletes, only four posted higher totals in the 2018 World Championships.  The other 10 athletes posted lower totals in 2018 than in 2015.

Of this group, the average decrease in total weight lifted for Men was 3.8%, and the average decrease in total weight lifted for Women was 5.3%.  This decrease suggests cleaner athletes with more realistic totals.

Artem Okulov secured Russia their first of two medals of the 2018 IWF World Championships. Photo Credit: Mahassen Hala Paiva @liftinglife

Fewer Medals Claimed by Tbilisi Nine Athletes.  Again excluding China, Tbilisi Nine athletes claimed 29% of the Women’s medals at the 2015 World Championships but only 10% of the medals in the 2018 World Championships.  Similarly, these countries took home 42% of the Men’s medals at the 2015 World Championships but only 23% of the Men’s medals at the 2018 World Championships.

What does this mean for youth weightlifters?

It appears that weightlifting is cleaning up!  This is encouraging for all youth lifters and their coaches.  It gives us all hope that hard work will pay off.  Do your part to keep the sport clean by familiarizing yourself with the material on the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency website and checking all of your supplements–including protein powders and vitamins–for banned substances.

Cover Photo Credit: Ryan Paiva @liftinglife

Lessons Learned from the Youth Olympic Games

In October 2018, Peyton Brown and Jerome Smith traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina to represent the United States at the Youth Olympic Games. Both athletes delivered outstanding performances, with both placing higher than any U.S. athletes have ever placed at the Youth Olympic Games.

Peyton Brown (58 kg), age 17, earned a bronze medal making her the first American to bring home a medal at the Youth Olympic Games. She totaled 186kg with a 85kg snatch and a 101kg clean & jerk. Photo Credit: USA Weightlifting

 

Jerome Smith (69kg), age 17, finished 4th with a best snatch of 127kg, best clean & jerk of 155kg and total of 282.

Jimmy Duke, personal coach of Jerome Smith, shares the highlights and challenges of the Youth Olympic Games:

The Youth Olympic Games was a really cool experience. It was incredible to see an Opening Ceremony that was for my athlete. It was cool to see all of these buildings that had been constructed just for this event and know that my athlete would be a part of it.

The 2018 Youth Olympic Games had a lot of cool firsts. For starters, the opening ceremony was held in an open town square, not in a stadium. The Games were free to the public; you just had to wait in line. It was great to see the Argentine government compensating their people for the inconvenience of the Games by offering free admission.

The Games, however, presented some challenges for Coach Duke. Specifically, the United States was given a single coach credential, which was not transferrable. Coach Brown, Peyton’s personal coach was given the credential, putting Coach Duke in an interesting position:

The experience that Jerome and I had was different because I was not a credentialed coach. After Jerome got off the airplane, they took him off, and I had to find a taxi and go to my own hotel.  Things were made even worse by the fact that Jerome’s phone froze while we were on the trip, making it impossible to text or message him.

The Games were very spread out through the city of Buenos Aires, with some of the events even taking place outside the city. Fortunately for the weightlifters, the competition venue was only about a quarter-mile from the athlete village, and a shuttle bus transported athletes from the village to the venue.

It was a little more difficult for me. Since I was not credentialed, I could not go to Jerome’s training sessions or coach him at the event.

From this experience, Coach Duke learned some valuable lessons:

Prepare Your Athlete to Compete Without You.

As much as every coach wants to be at every competition with his athletes, this is not realistic. Says Coach Duke:

I love Jerome to death, and I’ll be at every single event that I can, but there will come a day when I can’t be at an event, and he will have to compete on his own. He needs to be okay with it. At the end of the day, your athlete must be able to make the lifts, with or without you.

To help Jerome prepare, Coach Duke began with a frank discussion:

Jerome and I went to a weightlifting camp in August. This was when I found out that there was only one weightlifting credential, and that I would not be getting it. I talked to Pyrros [Dimas], who had worked with Jerome several times in the past. Pyrros assured me that he would be there to coach Jerome. Before we left the camp, Pyrros and I sat down with Jerome and let him know what would be happening. I think this helped Jerome mentally prepare long before the competition.

Prepare Everything Before the Competition.

I wanted to mitigate as many issues as possible before the competition. I spent a lot of time before the competition going over things in my head to ensure that Jerome had all of the things he needed. Also, Jerome had already done all of his heavy training before we arrived. I gave David Brown [the team leader] and Pyrros the workouts, and they followed my plan in the training hall with Jerome.  Jerome competed on the fourth day of the games.

Get Credentialed!

For Coach Duke, credentialing was a major issue. Without it, he could not coach his athlete either in training or the competition. It was difficult for Duke to even get into the venue to watch Jerome compete because of long lines. Says Duke:

Getting the lowest level credential was almost impossible by the time the Games started. If someone had told me in advance, I would have volunteered just to get a credential. Interestingly, one man with a credential said that he would trade me his credential for my USA Weightlifting jacket. While it was an enticing offer, I declined.

Coach Duke advises coaches of potential 2020 Olympic athletes:

If you think you have someone eligible for Tokyo, fill out a volunteer application with the IOC [International Olympic Committee]. If you want to be in the back with your athlete, fill out the paperwork and take it seriously.

My biggest piece of advice: Don’t bother the IOC and don’t complain. If you are not willing to get credentialed by the IOC, expect to be disappointed.

Ultimately, Jerome pulled off a stellar performance, making five of his six lifts, and Coach Duke could not be prouder:

Even though I sat on the sidelines, it was a brilliant experience. Jerome competed great. He had some adversity in the warm up. He pushed hard, though, and did fantastic. I was so proud of him. At the end of it, Jerome was asked by an interviewer how he felt about placing higher than any American had ever placed in a Youth Olympic Games. Jerome responded, “I made 5 out of 6 lifts. I don’t really care how anyone else has done before me.” I gave the interviewer the same answer. It wasn’t about anyone else, it was about Jerome.

If you have done your best, you should be proud of your performance. Jerome understood that. As a coach, this made me very proud.

 

Combatting Perfectionism in Weightlifting

I recently observed an athlete perform 20 power jerks, 10 split jerks, 25 clean and jerks, 6 minutes of plank holds, and then finish by completing 120 dumbbell thrusters at 60% of bodyweight.  All of the athlete’s work was technically sound, and the athlete made no misses despite going up to 90% on the clean and jerks.

Even so, the athlete was not happy at the end of training.  The athlete bemoaned the fact that it took 15 minutes and 10 seconds to complete the thrusters, when it should have only taken 15 minutes.  The athlete denied himself the satisfaction of completing a rigorous workout by fixating on what he could have done better.

Perhaps you have this problem, too.

Do you regularly think . . .

  • Nothing good comes from making mistakes.
  • I must do things right the first time.
  • I must do everything well, not just the things I am good at.
  • If I can’t do something perfectly, there is no point trying.

Or do you often . . .

  • Have difficulty completing work on time because you are so concerned about getting one task done perfectly?
  • Refuse to take credit for doing well because there is always something more you could do?

If so, perfectionism might be something you want to work on.

Wesley Cravy, head coach of Pivotal Weightlifting Club in California and Applied Sports Psychology consultant, shares his insights on helping weightlifters who struggle with perfectionism:

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a personality style characterized by striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards accompanied by tendencies for overly critical evaluations of one’s behavior.

Why is perfectionism so bad?

  • Striving for perfection can increase anxiety and decrease self-confidence.
  • Perfectionism can trap you in an unhelpful cycle of thoughts, physical sensations, emotions and behavioral impulses.
  • Perfectionists are often LESS successful than non-perfectionists because the fear of mistakes makes it hard to be creative, innovative or open to new ideas.

As a weightlifter, perfection is not realistic, nor is it necessary!  Technical proficiency makes it easier to lift a heavy barbell, but it is not evaluated in competition.  An ugly lift will get three white lights just as easily as a beautiful lift–assuming both lifts comply with the rules of the sport.

What can I do to control my perfectionism?

 Take a day-by-day approach.  Let go of the need to be perfect and simply strive to do better each day.

Keep a training journal.  At the end of each training session, take note of the positive attributes of your session. If it was a terrible day and 80% felt like 100%, record your resilience and ability to push through even though you were clearly fatigued.  In your notes, make positive comments on what you want to focus on when you revisit the training day the following week.

Be flexible and realistic.  You will rarely train under perfect circumstances.  When you can’t hit the percentages designated in the training plan, make adjustments and just keep working.  Time spent training will make you a better weightlifter regardless of whether you follow your training plan exactly.

Celebrate your victories.  Suppose your goal for a competition was to take home a first place medal.  You didn’t meet this goal, but you still went 6-for-6 or made a new personal best on one of your lifts.  Take satisfaction in your performance!

As a coach, how can I help my athletes who struggle with perfectionism?

Utilize Imagery.  Imagery is the use of images to visualize or enhance performance.  It activates the same neurophysiological pathway as physical exertion.  Imagery does not guarantee success, but it clinically shows an increase in performance and is used by professional athletes to immediately combat anxiety.

How do I use imagery with my athletes?

  1. Use imagery in training sessions.  Imagery is a learned skill and will not produce the desired result if applied for the first time in competition.
  2. As your athlete is performing a dynamic warm up, encourage the athlete to take 3 minutes to visualize the barbell warm up and any exercises the athlete will be performing that day.
  3. As the athlete enters the pre-competition phase, a nightly visual walk through of the event should be done. The athlete should visualize the upcoming event from warm up to last lift.  The athlete should see, smell, feel and reflect a confident positive analysis of the event. This is best done after a 3-5 minute breathing/relaxation technique. Once thoughts become cloudy, distracted, or negative, cease the exercise and use positive words to end the session.
  4. During warms up, both in training and competition, keep the visualization short–around three minutes.  You don’t want to completely eliminate the athlete’s anxiety.  Somatic anxiety is actually helpful to an athlete’s performance. Symptoms of somatic anxiety include experiencing butterflies, sweating, heavy breathing or an elevated heart rate.  Visualization is intended to combat cognitive anxiety, which includes negative thoughts, feelings of apprehension or nervousness.
  5. At competition, encourage your athlete to focus on the current task and only that.  The athlete should focus on visualizing the current lift.  When that lift is complete, the athlete must erase the last lift and focus completely on the next lift.

Take a problem focused avoidance approach.  When you see your athlete becoming overwhelmed, encourage the athlete to block out everything except for the task at hand.  This is especially critical at competitions when an athlete misses a lift.  You must help the athlete put the missed lift behind and focus on the next lift.  Focusing on the last missed lift will only facilitate a decline in performance.

Help your athlete keep perspective.  You know your athlete’s numbers and abilities.  Don’t let other competitors rob your athlete of feeling satisfied at a competition.  Enter the competition with a game plan.  Execute the plan.  And then leave satisfied, knowing that you accomplished your goals.

Cover Photo by Viviana Podhaiski of Everyday Lifters.

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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!

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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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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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.”