When it comes to weightlifting, lifting weights, and strength training in general, the barbell is the signature tool we think of, and for a good reason. Various strength-training movements with the barbell can produce phenomenal results when done correctly. However, traditional barbell training can come at a cost. Learning Curve Understanding how to perform various barbell movements such as the deadlift and back squat takes a fair amount of skill. From the set up to […]
Happy New Year!
I was hoping to post a recap about my first weightlifting meet experience sooner (it was December 14th) but I got sidetracked with a few things.
First, I have been working hard on finishing up both my Food Shelves eating guide and my first E-book (stay tuned to learn more).
On Sunday December 22nd, thousands of people in my area (Lansing, MI) lost power after a brutal ice storm. They finally restored power on my street at about 4pm on Thursday December 26th. Not having power at your house makes you really appreciate what you have when you have it.
Of course all of this happened around the holidays, so life has been quite busy.
At any rate, I wanted to share my first weightlifting competition experience with you all. It was a great experience and I really enjoyed everything that came along with it. The preparation, getting coached, learning new techniques, meeting new people, and competing were a blast.
How It Started
In September, I had my weightlifting coach, Wil Fleming, come to my facility and put on an Olympic lifting clinic for my team. I knew I had a lot to work on after the clinic was done and I wanted to get better, fast! I started to enjoy the process of learning the complexity of the Olympic Lifts. There are so many factors that are involved when trying to complete a good Snatch or Clean & Jerk. I was humbled by the fact that I had so much to work on. I had been a trainer for 12 years, and lifting weights for over half my life. So finding something that I needed to improve upon motivated me to work hard again.
After I competed in my second CrossFit competition in October, I decided that I needed some extra motivation to really dive into learning the Olympic lifts. One of the events in the CrossFit competition included a max Clean and a max Jerk from the rack. I was pretty disappointed with my results, and being disappointed again was not an option. I am a big believer that if you are going to learn it, teach it, and preach it, then you need to do it. So the best way to do this was to hire a coach and find a competition.
I traded some emails back and forth with Wil and he found the Indiana Open that would take place in just over 6-weeks. He developed a program for me, gave me some key points to focus on, and off I went. I must admit, I was a little nervous to start the program. I was venturing into unknown territory for me. I was mediocre at best at the Snatch and Clean & Jerk. But I knew that by hiring a coach and committing to a competition, I would force myself to work hard at learning and practicing each lift.
I am a total meathead, workout buff, and exercise junky, or whatever you want to call it. Most of all, I love to lift weights. But, I was not used to almost exclusively using the barbell as my tool of choice. I knew that performing and learning the Snatch and Clean & Jerk would obviously be my focus, but I didn’t realize how much I would be squatting!
I was also not used to lifting as heavy as I did during the 6-week program. I was basically squatting and pressing over my head, heavy, everyday. After the first week I was like, “wow, I am sore.” It wasn’t a bad sore, but a good sore. I was following exactly what my coach designed for me so I just stuck to the plan.
About half way into my third week of training, my right shoulder and both knees really started to bother me. I thought nothing of it and just kept going. I figured it was all part of the process. A few of the weightlifters at my gym that compete as well just said get used to the soreness in the shoulders and knees. I was cool with that. I actually enjoy feeling like I am working my ass off in training and don’t mind the pain. It makes me feel like I am an athlete, if that makes any sense.
But the right shoulder was a different issue. I think it was actually a pre-existing condition with my right scapula/shoulder area that I did not take care of when I should have. My mobility has been far less in my right shoulder than in my left shoulder, and it did bothered me after I performed a high amount of kipping pull-ups, toes to bar, and handstand push-ups. So, I can’t blame the training. I can only blame myself for not clearing up the issue.
Overall I loved the workouts. My coach, Wil, put together an awesome program for me. I looked forward to improving my technique and getting stronger. And I did both. My squats went up past my lifetime max (455 in 2004) to 465. Yes, that is only a 10 pound jump, but I had not done back squats this much since I was competing in bodybuilding (2003-2006).
My PR’s for my Olympic lifts also went up. I became more comfortable with both my snatch and clean & jerk each week. The limiting factor on both Olympic lifts was not my strength, but rather my technique. My coach had me doing some OLY lifting techniques that I had never done before. Snatch balances, paused rep cleans and snatches, and various complexes were exercise that really helped break down each lift.
Due to my crazy schedule, it was hard getting all of the high-volume workouts in. But somehow I managed to get about 99% of everything in each day. I was not used to having workouts last more than an hour, 5-days per week. Luckily, I was motivated to make sure that I was getting the proper nutrition and supplementation in each day. I was doing pretty good before I started to train for the competition but I ramped it up a bit by taking more Turmeric, fish oil, protein, calories, and being more diligent about my pre, peri, and post-workout nutrient timing.
The Day Of The Meet
Despite the horrible weather that we had going down there and back, we made it in one piece. My Dad drove me, so I was able to relax, read, write, and stay focused. I decided to get to the meet many hours before I had to weigh in since my friend, Aaron Seminski, was competing in the 69 kg division. He actually ended up winning the division with a 214 total (93 kg snatch and 121 clean & jerk).
I was glad that I arrived at the meet early. I was able to get comfortable with a scene that I had never been to. I talked to various competitors, coaches and spectators. For a couple of hours, I was able to watch, analyze, and take notes on how each lifter approached each one of their lifts from start to finish. It was by far in my advantage to go later during the day.
My coach and the rest of the Bloomington Barbell competitors were very helpful backstage while I warmed up. My coach had one of his athletes coach me through each warm-up progression, and let me know how many lifts that there were before it was time for me to take the platform. I can honestly say that without the help of my coach and his team, I would have not been as well prepared to lift. Having people help me through the process made me much more confident and prepared.
My first lift was a 75-kilogram (165.3 lbs.) snatch. I had made this lift many times, but doing it on the platform in front of a bunch of people did change the game a little. I wasn’t at State of Fitness anymore. Luckily, I had two more chances after this lift. I ended up power snatching the weight, as it felt light as a feather! I was pumped!
My second attempt was 80 kilograms (176.4 lbs.), 1.4 lbs above my PR. Once again, I received the bar almost in the power position. My confidence was up and I was ready to nail a big lift.
Here is a video of my 80 kilo snatch
My coach and I decided on 83 kilograms (about 183 lbs.). I totally lost concentration and missed the lift. Looking back at the video all I needed to do was to get under the bar! Live and learn as they say.
I had a little bit of a break and then it was time to warm back up for the clean & jerk. As I was going through my warm-ups, Wil noticed that I was not locking out my right arm on the jerk. My shoulder was actually killing me but there was no backing down now. Wil did make a good decision and dropped my opening weight down to 95 kilograms, down from 103 kilograms. At first I was a little mad, but quickly realized that going down in weight to make my first lift was the best thing to do.
I hit 95 kilograms (209.5 lbs.) with ease.
My shoulder was still killing me, but it was time to suck it up and do it. We decided on taking a chance on 103 kilograms (just over 226 lbs.). The clean was easy, but the judge called off my jerk since I did not lock my right arm out.
I wasn’t frustrated since I knew that I could hit a weight even higher and the clean was feeling easy. We decided on 105 kilograms (231.5) on my 3rd and final attempt. Wil was wrapping my shoulder with Voodoo Floss Bands to get some temporary relief, and off I went. I just barely completed the lift! But hey, I got it!
Here is a video of my 105 kilo Clean & Jerk
I ended up with a 185 kilogram (407.9 lbs.) total. I made my goal of a 80-kilogram snatch, my new personal record, but fell short on the clean & jerk (I wanted 111 kilograms).
Overall, I was happy with the outcome. I learned a ton, made some new friends, and went through the process of what an Olympic Lifter has to do in order to compete.
I have not found a competition that I would like to enter yet, but I am looking! I am always ready for a new challenge. I have a lot more to learn and so much improvement needs to be made. I have continued to study the Olympic Lifts and all of the training that comes along with becoming a successful weightlifting coach and competitor. I am firm believer that competition drives us to improve in all aspects of our lives, not just as a coach and competitor. So competing is something that will always be on the horizon. I will keep you posted on my next weightlifting and/or CrossFit event