Weightlifting

Strength Development for Weightlifting

We sat down with Team Juggernaut Weightlifting Coach Max Aita to discuss his new book, Strength Development for Weightlifting. You can read the interview below, or check out the audio version HERE.

Chad Smith: Hey everybody, Chad Wesley Smith here bringing you a special little bonus interview for the JuggLife. I’m joined, as always, by magnificent Max Aita. It will be a little bit different today in that I will be the interviewer and Max will be the interviewee. How are you doing buddy?

Max Aita: I’m doing pretty well, doing pretty well. How are you doing Chad?

Chad Smith: Good, good. Talking to Max today because he’s got a new book coming out this week “Strength Development for Weightlifting.” Just wanted to give you all, the listeners, the fans, the athletes and coaches, a better understanding of what this is, why Max has created it, and how it can help you. Let’s just dive right into it with that first question. Max, what made you want to create this book?

Max Aita: What made me want to create this book is that when I started lifting there was no great resources in terms of learning what the right path take, learning a lot about how to actually balance program, how to create long-term training strategies, and then also how to really assess what I needed as a lifter. Because I didn’t have those resources I feel like personally I ended up in a position where I made a lot of mistakes. I had a lot of fun doing it and I got fairly good at lifting, but I made a lot of mistakes and I think I ultimately ended up in a lot of pitfalls, falling short of where I could have, putting too much emphasis on some things, too little on some things, then outright just not being aware of some aspects of programming. This book serves as a way to set the stage for people that maybe are self-coached, or don’t have a coach, or a new coach looking to get a good bearing on where to actually start with the principles of training, more so than just taking a system, and copying it, and applying it to people.

Chad Smith: On that note, as we look at what these principles, and the key areas in strength development for weightlifting success what do you see those being?

Max Aita: The key areas for developing strength in weightlifting are really a matter of, and I kind of like this phrase, I’m stealing it from Mark Bell a little bit, but strength is never a weakness, but it isn’t always the answer. What we want to know is that at what time is it appropriate to really emphasis the development of strength, at what point in someone’s career is it necessary to really start to develop and push strength? Then also what areas they’re weakest at need to be addressed. We want to find balance in strength. It’s not just a matter of having the biggest overhead press, or the biggest back squat. It’s a matter of how much back squatting do I need to do, how much overhead pressing do I need to do, and finding balance in those things.

I think the biggest area that people overlook is that you always need to be getting stronger to be a better weightlifter, that’s obvious. You need to lift bigger weights, but at some point the strengths you have, strength differences you have, the ratios you have between different strengths will affect your technique and affect the way you perform the lifts. We really want to have an ability to assess those and then correct them.

Chad Smith: As you look at maybe over the course of a lifter’s career, whether it’s powerlifting where I deal or weightlifting in your realm, lifter’s needs change throughout the course of a career. Particularly for weight lifters as they get into this balance of strength, and technique, and the energy needed to develop both of those, how do you see the demands of strength training changing over the course of a lifter’s career?

Max Aita: Well brand new lifters and beginning lifters really their focus or strength is primarily on two things, developing some base of fitness, some GPP, preventing some injuries, and then really focusing on using strength as a way to augment the learning of technique. If you want to learn it clean, for example, doing squats and developing strength in that motor pattern is going to transfer well and help you learn that technique. As lifters become more and more advanced, strength work becomes on one side more important because you have to lift bigger weights, so you must get stronger. The other side, it becomes so fatiguing and so demanding that you can’t simply just smash yourself to pieces with tons and tons of strength work and expect to be able improve at the more specific things like the classic lifts. We have to understand where that balance is, when those shifts occur, and then how to deal with them, how to actually plan for a shifting from using strength to augment your lifting skill to focusing on strength to develop your results.

Chad Smith: If you could look at the total group of athletes that you coach now and you’ve coached over your career, you have hundreds of athletes that you coach currently through our Juggernaut online coaching, is there an area where you see more lifters lacking in strength?

Max Aita: I would say that the two things that people end up lacking specifically would be definitely in up body strength. I think that’s an area where you see a lot of people either neglecting to develop the upper body, and it doesn’t just mean having a big bench press, but really the entirety of upper body strength, the ability to support weights overhead, the shoulders, the upper back. Then maybe the secondary is the development of balance between leg strength and back strength. It’s really easy to develop a humongous squat or have a really, really strong back, but never really find the solution to balance those out. Those are the two areas I would say are probably the most common.

Chad Smith: I think looking at our elite female lifters on Team Juggernaut, many of whom have a crossfit background, I think that’s a difference that I pick up on seeing girls who have always been weightlifters, versus coming over from crossfit into weightlifting where the crossfits have better developed upper body strength from high volume pressing and handstand pushups, and all that kind of stuff they have to do. Where weightlifters, as a whole, the squat is given too much attention and that kind of leads me into the next question. What are some common mistakes you see lifters making when looking to develop their strength with the goal of being a better weight lifter in mind?

Max Aita: I would say a couple common ones are one, they don’t apply training that is successful in the sense that maybe it’s haphazardly programmed. You might have someone doing squats, that has no real intent. They’re not moving from a minimum volume to overload stimulus to maximum volume. They’re program is just kind of we’re squatting this day for the sake of squatting. There’s no progression, there’s no overload, there’s no intent. It just eats up energy and doesn’t really produce much result.

The other area I see is a big mistake is a lot of people make is an excessive amount of training devoted to squatting, to the detriment of performance of lifts. You have people that squat big weights, or squat a lot, or squat really frequently and end up in a position where their speed qualities might diminish. They start to become much worse at aspects of the lifts, especially the jerk. They might have huge leg strength or do tons of squats but not really have proportional results in the lifts.

Chad Smith: This is an area where you may have some personal experience in this.

Max Aita: I do.

Chad Smith: You’ve done a few squats in your day. Tell us a little bit about that experience and how you feel it may have negatively affected your lifting.

Max Aita: I squatted every single minute of my life for the first 13 years of weightlifting. We spend an enormous amount of time on squatting. It’s kind of one of those situations where if the only tool you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail. Every problem was solved by squatting more. Oh you missed your snatches today, do an extra squat workout. Your clean was good, but you missed 15 jerks in a row, do some more squats. Ultimately, it leads to the more intense and the more aggressive you are with something in terms of training it, they faster it’s going to solidify, the faster you’re going to become the thing you’re training. I became a guy who was awesome at front squatting and pretty bad at most other things I did. That lends itself to a career that’s very stifled and limited on the results you can make.

Chad Smith: Your best front squat was 270 at 90?

Max Aita: 600 pounds at probably about 95-97 kilos. I don’t remember. I haven’t been under 100 kilos in a long time. Too many desserts.

Chad Smith: Can you talk a little bit too about the technical disruption that you think occurs with too much squat training?

Max Aita: One of the biggest things that’s probably not super obvious to people with the technical disruption squats cause doesn’t just come from doing a bunch of squats, and making your legs really strong, and then oh my legs and back are not balanced so I can’t maintain position. I believe what happens is when you do too many squats, and you see this a lot, people lose the speed qualities in the second pull. The speed with which they can transition from pulling the bar to making contact, to exploding, that time increases. You see people that have really big squats and a very, very slow or very long explosion phase. This is a big problem because we know weight lifters need to be fast. That’s probably the biggest area you see is a sluggishness in their lifting, despite being very, very strong.

Chad Smith: For lifters and coaches out there thinking about buying “Strength Development for Weightlifting” how is this book going to be useful to them?

Max Aita: The book basically sets out a road map for them to establish a couple things. One is training objectives based on tangible things. We have an audit section in the book in which you basically outline and breakdown your own lifting or an athletes lifting and make some assessments. We base some of these objectives on technical aspects of your lifts. We rely on the technical mastery, concept, and equation from the weightlifting technique triad to give us a goal or a guideline as to should we be spending more time now developing strength qualities or should we be spending more time developing technical qualities.

From there, the next steps are going to be basically assessing your minimum requirements for the amount of volume you should do on the strength exercises, how should you train them, and then assessing weak points. What areas are weakest and where do we need to devote the most training volume we’re doing in order to develop balance in our lifting and improve strength qualities evenly in accordance with what we want as a weight lifter.

Chad Smith: All right, anything else you’d like to add?

Max Aita: I think that covers it.

Chad Smith: All right, so that is Max Aita, author of “Strength Development for Weightlifting,” as well as the Weightlifting Technique Triad, and head coach for Juggernaut Weightlifting including athletes like two-time Pan Am team member and World Team member Alyssa Ritchey, American record holder in the snatch forever at the 75 kilo class, Quiana Welch, as well as a lot of other great lifters. Go check out the book. It is available for presale beginning on Tuesday, July 24th at store.jtsstrength.com. It will be on presale for three days at its most discounted price. Then beginning on Friday, July 27th there will be some special early bird pricing going through the end, midnight, on Sunday, July 29th. Then it will be at its regular price. Check that book out, “Strength Development for Weightlifting” pairs really well with the Weightlifting Technique Triad so you can as a coach or athlete begin taking a real systematic approach to your program design giving athletes what they need based on their individual differences and unique proportions of more strength work, more technique work, well selected work either more for the legs, more for the back, more for the upper body, more for bar height, for trajectory, for time to fixation, and fit all these concepts together. Check out that book out, that’s “Strength Development for Weightlifting” available for presale on July 24th at store.jtsstrength.com. “Strength Development for Weightlifting” by Max Aita. All right buddy, thanks, have a good day.

Max Aita: You too.

Chad Smith: All right.

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