Weightlifting

The Switch: Transitioning from Powerlifting to Weightlifting


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My competition career began at the ripe age of 12. I was exposed to Powerlifting by a football coach who took me to my first competition and I was hooked! At the end of 2006 I decided to take a chance and leave Powerlifting, the sport I loved and had competed in for 12 years and make the leap to Weightlifting. Everyone I talked to thought I was crazy! “Why would you retire in your prime? You’re going to be starting over! How are you going to make that work?”

My entire life I had followed Weightlifting and now wanted to take the challenge head on and dream the dream of every Weightlifter: Competing in the Olympic Games.

Regardless of your reasons and goals for transitioning to Weightlifting it is worth it! So don’t look back.

Making the transition was a process and I made many mistakes. Since then I have been able to help other athletes follow the same path (without as many mistakes) and take on successful Weightlifting careers. Here are some tips to help you on your path to Weightlifting domination.

Mobilize!

You have spent your last years low bar squatting (yes please stop that yesterday and squat high bar), pulling heavy things and blowing your chest up…very little of which is going to help you now. Now you will be required to hit different positions in order to snatch and clean & jerk safely and efficiently. Assess mobility weaknesses at the top and work your way down. You will likely need to work on wrist stability and mobility, your overhead positions (work both internal and external rotation), get a good rack position with your whole hand on the bar, thoracic spine extension, open up your tight hips and hit a good bottom position, hit your ankles hard and work that dorsiflexion.

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There are resources everywhere on mobility in general and weightlifting specific. Let google be your guide and make sure you spend some time on Mobility WOD’s YouTube page where you can search specific problem areas and watch their videos.

Spend time every day focusing on becoming more mobile and it will go a long way in helping you be a successful weightlifter. Don’t be a meathead: “lift heavy, go home, stretching is for sissies.” Mobility work is also going to counteract some of the joint pain you will encounter as you train. It will improve but your body needs to adapt to the new positions.

Patience grasshopper!

This is going to be a challenge. When I first transitioned to weightlifting, I wanted it all and wanted it fast. You are likely stronger than most newbie weightlifters, like I was, so you will be able to cut some corners and hit some decent weights in a short period of time. However, if you take this route it is going to hurt you in the long run. You will need to learn how to apply your strength built from Powerlifting in a different manner. After I cut a few corners and made that initial surge in my lifts, I knew that to be successful in the long run I had to start again from scratch and learn to move properly and really understand how to snatch and clean & jerk.

Be smart and take the proper progressions and really focus on your technique every single rep you perform regardless of how heavy it is or isn’t. Don’t get caught up in how much weight you are lifting and what other people are doing. Keep your focus on how well you are moving day in and day out. It took me about 5 years of training before I felt I could really snatch and fully understood the ins and outs of the lift.

When it comes to training programs, find one that focuses on the basics and building strength in all the necessary positions and stick with it. Don’t jump around every 2 weeks or nothing will work. Use your program until your body needs a new stimulus to adapt to and only then should you look for a new one.

Don’t worry about all the YouTube videos, Instagram stars and everything else you see about people going to a max multiple times a day and doing a bunch of crazy things. No, you don’t need straps to snatch with….you need to learn how to snatch. Focus on the basics and you will succeed.

Get Help!

There are a ton of resources, videos and articles out there that can help you learn how to lift. With the expansion of Crossfit there are now more Weightlifting centers and teams than ever before. The hard part is sifting through all the info and figuring out what is “right” for you. Every lifter is different and you will have to find what works for you.

The most beneficial thing you can do….if you only do one thing….is get a coach. Every athlete needs a coach…even if you think you know what you are doing. I think it is impossible for you to coach yourself, program for yourself and be successful. I have had a coach from day 1…I began with John Coffee and have been blessed to work with Zygmunt Smalcerz for the last 4 years. So find somebody close to you that is knowledgeable in weightlifting, knows technique and can watch you train and give you instant feedback from rep to rep. If you can’t find someone close to you, than drive to where they are as often as you can. It’s that important. An even better situation is they have a Weightlifting team you can be a part of that gives you a great atmosphere to train in and a group to train with and learn from. If you live in the wilderness and there is no weightlifting coach in your region than get some wifi and email your videos to a good coach to analyze so you can get feedback on your training.

Weightlifting is a beautifully simple yet complex, frustrating and rewarding sport. You will have to be just as strong mentally as you will physically. Some days you will feel on top of the world and others you will want to quit and never touch a barbell again. But you won’t. You need to learn how to take one day at a time, and leave yesterday there. Every day is a new opportunity to progress.

It is a never ending process to learn how to snatch and clean & jerk well. We are never “there”, we never master this sport. We just get better. Always continue to learn and do everything you can to get better every day.

Don’t doubt making the switch….it is a rewarding process. But it is a process, so stay the course and come out on top!

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