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Olympic Weightlifting

10 Things You Need To Know Before Starting Weighlifting

The nature of the sport of Weightlifting is such that it creates a sort of persona in each of us once fully committed.  Some of these traits are great, and others are slightly less than desirable; that is until, of course, you have them.  It is at that time they become a necessary evil.  There are exceptions to every rule, so these are in no way absolutes.  Given my experience in the sport of Weightlifting, this is a list of 10 things anyone who is interested in becoming a weightlifter should consider before diving in.

1)  Your thumbs are going to hurt

This is a simple fact of life in weightlifting.  Your thumb is constantly being crushed between the bar and your other fingers, so yes, it is normal.  Over time, you will develop a very appealing callus as well as potential loss of sensation in most of your digit, but stand fast- you will be more powerful than everyone around you.

2) Your knees are going to hurt

You squat often, and you push a lot of weight.  You don’t get to reach your hips back and keep your shins vertical, because posture is too important.  You will likely develop tendonitis at some point in one knee or the other, then you will complain about it for the rest of your career.  This will not stall training though.  After all, it’s just pain, nothing structural.

Learn how to stay healthy through heavy training in The Best Damn Squat Mobility Article, Period. 

3) Your soul is going to hurt

Hours in the gym with your hands on the bar will cause you to become more in tune with your primal self.  This will of course give you greater insight into what is wrong with the rest of humanity.  Why don’t they squat?  How do they live without squatting or putting something heavy overhead in one or two quick movements? More importantly,WHY would someone want to live without squatting? Questions like these will vex you to eternity.

Learn how National Champ Colin Burns stays mentally tough through the ups and downs of training in Inside the Mind of a Weightlifter

4) Your pants will no longer fit

Lets face it, who wants to be able to wear normal jeans anyway?  We consider it a great badge of honor to be required to get our jeans tailored in order to be able to go into public in something other than loose fitting athletic pants or spandex. But let’s be serious.  Why in the world would you need to go out in anything else? With all of the work you have put in, spandex is the only option.  Quads are to be displayed for all.

Build a bigger squat with Training the Squat for Weightlifting

5) You will not have a social life

How can you expect to make an international team if you are out having beers on Thursday night? Isn’t Friday a big day for the lifts?  Friday night is out too because you have those heavy squats.  Saturday night?  Not a chance.  You are completely wiped out and wouldn’t risk having your one day off be wasted with a hangover.   Don’t drink? You still can’t go out because your internal clock is tuned so finely that you start shutting down about 9:30 anyway, whether you like it or not.  Sunday is recovery for Monday… This is a vicious cycle.

6) You will develop an elitist mentality towards anyone doing the movements less than perfectly.

This snobbery will gain you many enemies in CrossFit, and many friends in Weightlifting. Even those who come from a CrossFit background will begin to cringe at the local CrossFit competitions where people from other gyms clearly don’t have a weightlifting guru like yourself to enlighten them in the ways of the barbell.  It is clearly their own fault that they have not gone the extra mile to seek you out.  You will sit in the back at weightlifting meets and chuckle to your other weightlifting convert about how you can’t believe these people made a national meet with technique like that.  Even other weightlifters are not immune to a weightlifters judging eyes.

You are doing what with a kettlebell?!?!

You are doing what with a kettlebell?!?!

Is there a problem with training the lifts for high reps? Check out The Not-So-Evils of High Rep Weightlifting

7) All other sports not under the realm of a certain drug testing body are on drugs

Everyone- Powerlifters, CrossFitters, the Chinese Badminton Team (well they probably are…), and your local high school Underwater Basket Weaving Team are all gassed to the gills with the latest cocktail of performance enhancing substances.  It doesn’t really matter if they are or aren’t, it’s the simple fact that they don’t have to deal with the unrelenting practices of a group of people who spontaneously arrive at your front door at 7am on a Friday morning while you are trying to enjoy your breakfast to stalk you from that point on until they get to see you pee in a cup. While we are on it, who signs up to be that person anyway?

8) You will understand the proper terms for the sport and the movements involved, and will grow irrationally annoyed by those who say it wrong.

The sport is called “Weightlifting”.  Something deep inside of you will boil the next time a person says “oly”.  “Clean” does not mean clean or power clean, it means “Clean”.  “Squat Clean” is a redundant term and should not be used in front of fellow weightlifters, as you will receive very strange looks, and be assumed a CrossFit spy.  Anyone who giggles at the word “snatch” is immediately reprimanded for their lack of maturity and blatant disrespect for the  sport.  Attempted “Squat Jerks” are to be met with surprise and awe at the ability to simply try such a movement in America, even if it is missed.

9) You have to pick a side

The two major parties in weightlifting are the Catapulters and the Triple Extenders.  It is required that you pick a side. No one wants to play Switzerland.  You must know, and recognize, the major players from both your side as well as the opposition.  This is so you know who to properly ridicule in secret at national meets, like catty school girls about to haze the new kid.  Once you have chosen, there is not switching sides.  Doing so will only leave you in weightlifting purgatory, an outcast from both sides.  No one wants a traitor.  It should be noted that you don’t need any coaching experience, scientific biomechanical knowledge, or even an ability to site a single research paper to argue either side.  You just need to know someone else who claims to have said experience or knowledge.

Triple Extension or Catapult...choose your side!

Triple Extension or Catapult…choose your side!

One of USAW’s best coaches, Sean Waxman discusses these technical disputes in 5 Questions with Coach Sean Waxman.

10) All other good athletes should become weightlifters

It is all too easy to get so engulfed with the sport that you become a zealous representative who is responsible for converting all other great athletes from all other sports into the sport of weightlifting.  Football has become the biggest consumer of great potential weightlifters, selfishly trading in our possible Olympic Medals for millions of dollars.  Many other team sports hold highly prized talent as well, but it is not as abundant.

Weightlifting is a small, relatively unknown sport in this country, but full of pride.  Having knowledge of these 10 things (and knowing that they were written with tongue firmly planted in cheek) will give you a better chance to assimilate yourself into the weightlifting community.  Good luck, and see you on the platform!

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Colin Burns

Colin Burns is a resident athlete at the Olympic Training Center. He currently holds the American Record in the Snatch with a lift of 169kg. Burns won the 2014 USA Weightlifting National Championship and was a member of the Senior World Team. A USAW Sports Performance Coach and CSCS holder, Burns has served as a physical preparation coach for the US Olympic Training Center, University of Wisconsin Badgers football program and University of Michigan Olympic sports programs.

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