Written by Team Juggernaut
Colin Burns and Samanta Lower are two of the top weightlifters in the US today. Colin is a 94kg lifter based out of Louisville, KY and was a bronze medalist in the snatch at the 2013 Pan-Am Games and gold medal winner in the snatch at the 2013 USAW Nationals. Samantha Lower, a 58kg lifter based in Austin, TX is a 2x American Open Champion and has competed on the World level as a youth, junior and university lifter.
Here are some excerpts from a recent Strong360 Q&A with these two great lifters!
Q: Does training instruction need to be individualized to a weekly basis, or are longer periods of projection reasonable. Which produces more gains?
A: Colin Burns- Individualizing training and how often to do so depends very much on the development level of the athlete. Most new athletes can be on a very general program for a bit. After time you will start identifying weaknesses and technical flaws that trend more then others, and that is when you start adjusting to fix those. More advanced athletes I don’t write more than a week at a time to give me room to make quick adjustments.
Q: What are the operating principles guiding and governing a strength training program?
A: Samantha Lower-Systemic and sustainable. Meaning you need to have a plan in place that allows you to train long term.
Q: What types of athletes thrive better on percentage of 1RM, and which thrive better on RPE-based programs?
A: Colin Burns-I don’t use any RPE. There are days when shit feels stupid heavy but you keep making it when you would have stopped. snatch is especially notorious for not being reliable based on how things feel. It’s more about how the training is going. if there are misses, things need to change. if you are making all of the lifts but they feel really heavy, it happens.
Q: Over-analytical athletes both in technique and training approach, and moderating that temperament
A: Colin Burns- Athletes who are overanalyzing themselves need to have a sit down and be told to simply quit it. No problem with them giving their feedback, but when it comes to training programs and coaching cues, that is coaches job. If I want to fix something, i’ll fix it. if i ignore something it isn’t because i don’t want to fix it, it is because it is not at the top of the priority list. You can’t fix everything and you have to create a bond with your athletes to the point that they trust you completely with coaching and program. If they say something always sucks and they want to work on it, consider it, but athletes cant guide their own programs more often than not.
Q: I tend to have my back knee straight and my back foot flat (toes angled out) when I jerk. Any tips on correcting this?
A: Colin Burns-If turn your foot over and keep the back knee under you- hips are probably rotating towards that back foot- keep them square. Try to get all 5 toes on the floor
Samantha Lower-Bending the back knee isn’t something you HAVE to do, but can as long as you have the flexibility for it and can keep your hips under you rather than titled forward and chest/arms pushed forward. But if you are pushed forward I would suggest playing with keeping your chest back with a back knee bend, allowing you to keep your hips straight and leaving room for a deeper split and getting under weight.
Colin Burns-Sam and I have almost complete opposite jerks when it comes to that back knee- mine kicks really straight and hers is very bent.
Q: Do the following have a place in the training for weightlifters; bands and chains, hypertrophy work, undulating periodization, beltless work, floor pressing?
A: Colin Burns-Bands and chains are dumb for weightlifting, all work is speed/strength work, Hypertrophy rarely is a purpose- work capacity is a much more common goal. All training is undulating in some fashion. Beltless training is almost never specified that I know of, and I will never in my life prescribe a floor press.
Q: My C&J seems really weak compared to my snatch so I have been doing C&J before snatches in training. Do you see any problem with that?
I was planning on going back to snatch first, C&J second about two weeks out from my next competition.
A: Colin Burns-I am a fan of always doing the more technical work first. There may be days clean and jerk is more important so it is the first lift, or you have a short power snatch session before it- something that isn’t really taking away from the clean and jerk session. Or, look at why your clean and jerk is bad. there is a likely culprit, and it starts with SQUA….
Samantha Lower-I say practice how to compete. But get some focal days on cj. Where your not doing it first over snatch but it’s the focus of the day so you feel fresh and get some good work in.
Q: How do you each use blocks in training? I have been itching to build some but I don’t know if they are worth the time/effort/cost? I would really like them for jerks since lowering weight down nearly kills me each time (and does kill my shoulders).
A: Samantha Lower-Yes! They are totally helpful and necessary in my case. I broke my first rib in 2011 so dropping it back down on myself isn’t even an option or risk I’m willing to take. They are great for doing overhead work and allow you to reset each rep so your not practicing sloppy technique.
Colin Burns-Jerk blocks are nice, mostly when it gets heavy. pulling blocks can be used to help save stress on the back while still doing the movements. pulling from the floor al the time when you are doing a ton of strength work can push you over the edge sometimes. blocks just help take some of the stress of at strategic times
Q: Less technical, more mental aspect question. We were discussing during training today about missing lifts, as you’re approaching a PR or exceeding one. There’s a confidence when you know you can lift it. But as the percentages climb it starts to get to your head and your confidence. What’s your best advice for getting over this and just going for it? Especially in meets and in practice when it’s time to exceed your 100%.
A: Colin Burns-Ignore what’s on the bar. at a meet, don’t even pay attention. Your coach will hopefully be handling numbers. you lift the bar. That’s your only responsibility. Lifters who get numbers in their head need to ignore the number on the bar.
Samantha Lower-Just do your movement, nothing changes.