Technical issues or something else?
I’ll confess, as I write this blog I am sitting here watching the AFC Championship Game and not watching the East Coast Championships, which are live streaming. I love sitting down watching two future hall of famers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, go head-to-head in what could be Peyton’s last game. What does this have to do with Weightlifting, you ask? Well, a lot really. You see, in America, we are always fighting for championships. We dominate in basketball with athletes like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, we always compete for gold in gymnastics with athletes like Mckayla Maroney, compete with the best of them in baseball with athletes such as Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr., and even our women’s soccer team has won the World Cup under the guidance of Amy Wombach. We strive for greatness in America on all levels of sport, but we seem to be lacking in a major area. As a country, we struggle in the sport of Weightlifting. Why is this?
I can name a player or athlete in any sport that America dominates, but naming an athlete in American weightlifting becomes much more difficult to do. We have very few, if any, “heroes” in Weightlifting. Sure, if you have heard or follow Weightlifting you can name a couple of people, but ask a kid in high school if they have heard of any of them and you will probably get blank stares. On the contrary, you would be hard pressed to find a kid in high school who hasn’t heard of Tom Brady or Lebron James. If we are ever going to stand on the podium of the Olympics we have to get high school kids involved in the sport. Most of us who follow Weightlifting these days are past our prime and will not make it on an elite level. The Chinese, North Koreans, and Russians all get involved in the sport when they are still in grammar school. We have to give kids American athletes to look up to. Even most of the people I follow on Facebook or Instagram make posts about lifters from other countries, Dmitry Klokov being the most prominent. We can do our part and include posts of CJ Cummings, Chad Vaughn, Kendrick Ferris, and Mattie Rogers.
Enter CrossFit!! I know, I know. I’m walking a fine line here. Even mentioning CrossFit in most weightlifting gyms is like cursing in church, but I truly believe that American Weightlifting has been saved because of the sport of CrossFit. It is increasingly common to find kids inside of CrossFit Gyms working technique on their Clean and Jerk or their Snatch. These are kids who would have never even heard of these movements if it weren’t for the sport of CrossFit. Hell, one of the best Weightlifters, pound for pound, in my town, is in high school. She started Weightlifting due to CrossFit. We have seen a huge influx of Weightlifting popularity and much of it can be attributed to CrossFit. Yes, yes I know there are tons of videos of poor form in CrossFit gyms but there are just as many videos in other gyms. CrossFit doesn’t lead to bad form, bad coaching leads to bad form. I can walk into any weight room and find poor lifting techniques. It is the responsibility of coaches to fix these issues, it is not the fault of the sport. CrossFit has changed the face of weightlifting in America and its effects will be seen well into the future. And, the future looks bright for the USA.
Finally, I want to preface this part by saying I totally agree that the problem with America in Weightlifting is not the coaching. I firmly believe that we have some great coaches and are world class in the sport. One thing we are lacking is strength coaches. When it comes to spotting flaws in the snatch and clean and jerk, our coaches can spot flaws with the best of them. So if our coaches are so good at technique and spotting flaws, what is keeping us off the world stage? American coaches should look to other countries like China and Russia to see what successful strategies they can apply to American weightlifters. One coach I look to and feel many have ignored is Louie Simmons. The conjugate system he follows for powerlifting is based off weightlifting from the old Soviet Union. He has spoken to great depths on weightlifting and has been ignored by much of the western Weightlifting community. His knowledge of strength training is years ahead of most of us and if we only opened our ears and listened, we would be in a better spot. The crazy thing is he openly admits he did not create any of this but simply took knowledge and studies already completed by scientists such as Dr. Mel Siff, Dr. Y. Verkhoshansky, and Nikolai Petrovich. I am by no means saying that these are the only methods of strength training, but they are worth looking into. I have used these methods with my weightlifter and have seen tremendous results. These methods have been used with great success since the 1970’s. Why reinvent the wheel and follow an already proven strength training program?
I love my country. I served my country for 11 years and always wanted my country to be on top. I devoted myself to making sure whatever unit I was a part of, we were the best unit we could be. Now, I am in the strength and conditioning world and I want my country to be the best it can be. I hope that one day our flag can fly and our national anthem be sung at a world Weightlifting championship or in the sport of Weightlifting in the olympics again. I may never get the opportunity to coach a champion weightlifter, but maybe someone who reads this will and this will resonate with them.