This week on Weightlifting House Interviews we have one of my current favourite lifters, Wes Kitts. To watch, Wes is undeniably an amazing athlete with bags and bags of talent. But what I learned from reading his answers is how structured and methodical Wes is with his training... Not only in his and coach Dave Spitz' approach to personal records, but also in his approach towards international medals and meets.
Before we start I want to remind everyone that my co-host on the Weightlifting House Podcast Glenn Pendlay aka the people's coach, is finally releasing his programming to the greater weightlifting community, not just the nations elite. It is programs like Glenn's that made Cal Strength what it is today, and ultimately provided a platform for athlete's like Wes Kitts to blossom.
Glenn has produced over 100 national champions in his coaching career, and so betting on his programming is about as safe a bet as you can make when it comes to improving your lifting. If you are interested thencheck out the teams here! I will be on the Pendlay STRONG 5 program. The new phase of training starts on Monday so get signed up quick.
When things didn't work out quite right he took his talents to the Grid League where he ended up on the same team as Cal Strength legend, Rob Blackwell. Of course it didn't take long before Rob spoke to head coach Dave Spitz about this freak athlete on his Grid league team named Wes. Dave watched a video of him lifting, called him up, and the rest is history...
Now a national record holder with a 174kg snatch and a national champion in only a very short career, I caught up with Wes to talk about where things are going, what his goals are, where he came from, and his take on the sport of weightlifting...
Most of us know your weightlifting numbers (175/215) but what are some of those numbers that we might not know of? What have you pressed, benched, deadlifted etc?
Press – 120/265
Bench – 184/404
Your current training is going in the right direction and you seem to be improving at a faster rate than any other 105 in the country. What do you attribute your increase in performance to?
This year we decided to cut back on the meets and really focus on training. With last year being an Olympic year, we spent so much time trying to get in shape for meets, that progress and health were set to the side in a way. Because of this I didn’t really get to capitalize on all the new training methods and techniques.
Another reason I may be seeing great progress is that I’ve probably been in the sport the least amount of time out of all of the international competitors. With such a late start at these specific movements, I have lots of room to improve my technique.
Lastly, I believe that I’m at the best gym in the nation, with the best coach, and the best team. This gives me a huge advantage in regards to training environment. Even my first month here I drastically improved my consistency in the Snatch with things I learned from Dave and my team. They have taught me with the knowledge that they’ve attained over their many years of experience and they push me to be successful. I couldn’t be in a better place.
I’ve heard Dave Spitz saying that he believes you have the potential to hit 190/235. How did you both come about these numbers? Do you think you can do even more or do you truly believe these may be your limit?
He made them up! Now he says 201 Snatch 240 clean and jerk. I’m not going to put any limits on myself. If he tells me I can do a number or we are training to hit something, I trust him. 237kg BTN jerk was a 10kg PR. He told me I could do it and that we were going for it and I did. Our trust in one another makes us an amazing team. It’s a huge part of my success thus far.
In terms of you hitting these numbers, what sort of strength numbers do you think you will have to hit? Is a 272kg (600lb) front squat on the horizon for example?
I think by the end of the quad he will want probably a 265-275kg front squat, and maybe a 320-340 back squat. We don’t exactly prioritize these often and just let them come organically through training. Also, in many ways, squatting at those types of weights is more of a skill than just sheer strength. It will take allot of practice to acclimatize to those squats so I don’t really know how or when those numbers will come along.
How did you get into strength training? Was it for football?
Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to look like these pictures I had of my dad from when he was younger and did a body building show. When I was 12 I had him show me how to lift. He showed me some basic things and I immediately started going down to our basement, where we kept all of our equipment, to train all the time. I played multiple sports so trying to get stronger and faster for those was always a priority and my dad told me that training was the way to do that. As I got older I just always enjoyed training. Getting bigger and stronger preparing for football was always so fun to me. I never minded the work at all and just loved getting results.
What sort of training did you do at college for football and how strong were you back then? Also for reference how strong were you as a teenager?
It was pretty typical football training for the time. We would do some Clean variations, Incline Bench, Bench, Front Squat, Back Squat. We would do a number of plyometrics and tons of sprinting as well.
I was definitely stronger than my peers when I was younger. Especially at Cleans and Squats. I don’t remember any specific numbers, but I remember being stronger than even the biggest kids at cleans and squats. I could always run faster and jump better than basically all my friends and any one I played against in sport. Plus I was naturally bigger, so I feel like that helped allot with my development and my transition into weightlifting.
How long into training/at what age did you hit bench mark numbers. For example a 100kg snatch, or a 200kg squat.
I hit a 100kg Snatch the first or second time I did them I think (lol). They just came up on one of my summer training programs for a few weeks and then I didn’t do them again until I graduated from college and started training for football combines and tryouts. Even at that point they were not a priority. Just a small part of my training. I squatted 200 kg as a junior in high school. (To all the British people reading this, I believe a Junior in High School is 16y/o)
What is your philosophy on weightlifting?
For a beginner, prioritize the technique for a long time and let the weight progress as it comes.
For someone who aims to be elite, find a coach you believe in and some people you enjoy training with and work as hard as you can. If you believe in what you’re doing, you’ll be successful.
I think a lot of us weightlifting fans see you and perhaps one or two other US weightlifters as potential senior world medallists. Do you see yourself becoming one of the most dominant 105s in the world?
I intend to see an international podium. Hopefully I can make it when we host World’s this year.
If you could train with any two weightlifters, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
I guess I would say Oleksiy Torokhtiy and Ilya Ilyin. Both are amazing weightlifters and both are 105’s. I met Oleksiy at Cal Strength and learned so much from him. He was so knowledgeable and helpful and just a really great guy. Ilya is just a great mover. I feel like I try to move the bar the way he was able. His technique was insane and it would be cool to see what he had to share.
It is the 2020 Olympic trials and America has one spot. Which 2 athletes are you most nervous of?
I don’t fear any other athlete’s success. A big part of my mind set as a weightlifter is that regardless of what those around me are doing, I still have to do my best at my training. It does not matter how good anyone else is. I try to get as strong as I can and compete to the best of my ability and whatever happens, happens.
Since the sport doesn’t require direct competition, worrying about those around you is just a waste of time. You’ll never see me trying to one up other weightlifters in my training. That’s the last thing on my mind.
A lot of lifters are very interested in how to optimize their performance through nutrition. What macros/calorie intake do you strive for every day, and where does your weight hover?
My weight stays around 107kg. I hit 110kg a couple of times during the strength cycle in January, but I’m usually well below that. I eat around 3,200 calories a day. I try to get at least 320g of protein and then spread the rest between fats and carbs.
Do you have any funny stories from Cal Strength that you can tell us? The cameras don’t catch everything!
Well since I’ve been here Dave has broken at least 2 office chairs while lounging. Both instances he ended up flat on his back and we all had a good laugh. Those weren’t the first 2 either. It’s kind of his thing. Lounging and breaking chairs that is.
When are you finally planning to take down Wes Barnett’s CnJ record at 220? Does it happen when it happens? Or is there a competition you have your eyes on?
World’s in December!
What do you think of the retroactive testing? Is it good for the sport of weightlifting or bad because many big names are disappearing?
I don’t really mind anyone getting sanctioned for breaking the rules of our sport. USAW does their part to make sure that all of their athletes are clean. It’s only fair that all countries are held to the same standard. I’m sure there are many drug free athletes that are tired of competing against athletes that are not.
Finally, what 3 tips would you give to the new wave of weightlifters looking to beat you one day?
1) Find a system, 2) find a coach, 3) find a program, and 4) find a team that you believe in and trust. Without your peers supporting and helping you elevate yourself it will be a struggle to push yourself to new heights. I intend on setting the bar high for future 105’s. That will be my contribution to the sport. Giving our youth high marks to strive for and an athlete that they can support, look up to, and learn from!
There we have it. An interview with one of the most exciting weightlifters the USA has ever seen...
Next time we have Spencer Moorman AKA 'more man than you' on Weightlifting House Interviews.
This week on Weightlifting House Interviews we have rising young star Chris Murray. Chris has only been lifting for a few years and is already setting national youth records. His speed and tenacity is exciting to watch. I am very excited to introduce such an underground lifter to the weightlifting world.
Chris is an extremely talented young weightlifter and my pick for Britain's spot for the 2020 Olympics. After less than three years of training and weighing only 75kg his progress his been insane. It is the speed with which he is progressing that has led me to pick him as the one to watch from the UK and the most likely to take the spot and realise his Olympic dream. With that said, there are many lifters improving in the UK and he will have his work cut out for him.
Without further ado, here is the interview...
First of all can we get to learn a bit about you. How old are you, what weight class are you in, what are your numbers, and how long have you been lifting?
I'm 18 years old and have recently moved up to the 77kg class having broken youth British records in the 62kg and 69kg class. My current bests in training are a 132kg snatch and a 165kg clean and jerk but my bests in competition are 128kg snatch and 155kg clean and jerk and my best total is 280kg.
I bought my first pair of weightlifting shoes (reebok lifters) for my 15th birthday to help improve my squat and deadlift. Having researched what shoes to get I came across a lot of weightlifting videos. Naturally when they arrived I went to the gym and maxed out my clean and jerk (Naturally!). I made 75kg with the worst press out you have ever seen. I only worked on my clean there after,just to change up training, before finally finding a coach in August 2014. I competed in my first weightlifting competition in February 2015 1 year after buying my first pair of shoes. I came first, lifting 75/97, 6 months later I was representing England in the youth commonwealth games, where I won bronze in the 62kg class with a total of 202 (89/113).
One of the things that is impressive as hell is the fact that you haven't been lifting long. Did you play other sports before weightlifting? What do you attribute to your weightlifting abilities? Or is your speed just a natural talent?
I've always been quite sporty. Before finding my weightlifting coach I was partaking in rugby and diving outside of school. I believe diving helped with my proprioception which transferred into weightlifting by being able to gauge where the bar is in relation to my body and what my positions are like. All the jumping involved in diving helped develop my quads and the stretch reflex in my legs allowing for greater explosive strength. When it comes to my speed, I've always been quite quick which helped when it came to rugby. I attribute my speed to my dad who was a high level sprinter for Scotland before getting injured.
What does a typical training week look like for you? As such a technically solid lifter do you spend your training trying to get strong or is technique still the focus?
Training is based predominantly around the lifts. A typical session will include a snatch variation, a clean variation, and either one or two strength movements (squat, pull or press). Sunday is normally my rest day and Monday is a lighter day that eases me into the week. Tuesday and Wednesday are pretty full on. Thursday is therefore a slightly lighter day which is the only training session where I don't perform a classical lift. Depending on what I'm focusing on during my training cycle Thursday will consist of either back squat or clean pull and then some type of press or jerk complex. Friday is similar to Tuesday and Wednesday but might be at a higher intensity and lower volume. Saturday is technical work, performing different types of hangs. This is done at a similar volume and intensity as Tuesday and Wednesday. As I move up a weight class I've obviously focused on trying to get stronger but this has been done by increasing the volume as opposed to increasing weight.
What are your thoughts on 'body building' training? Do you use high rep work to build muscle size? This is a split topic in the weightlifting world with certain countries/teams falling strongly on one side of the fence.
My scientific knowledge on the subject is limited but high rep work is something I use for squats and pull but never on the classical lifts. From what I understand if performed correctly high rep work causes hypertrophy of the muscle leaving the potential to become stronger in the future. High rep work also increases joint stability by strengthening tendons and ligaments. The main benefit I find from high rep work is mental strength. Keeping your shape and pushing through the pain is what you need to make those top end clean and jerks in competition.
People love to hear about how the top guys squat. I saw you squat a 201kg PR recently. With a 165kg clean and jerk some people might expect a bigger squat. What is your take on squatting? Are you one of those squat every day type people or do you only squat once or twice a week?
Yeah most people are quite surprised by my strength numbers. I have a 201kg back squat and a 175kg front squat. My coach and I have never seen the point of pushing 1rm on squats as it increases the chances of injury. I understand that squatting is a vital part of lifting but I feel many people focus too heavily upon it. At the moment I'm focusing on my pull so am only squatting twice a week, which seems to be working quite well.
I remember at the seminar where we met you mentioned lifters not having big enough goals. Do you have set goals in place? If so are they focused on specific numbers you want to hit in your career or are they based on medals at certain competitions?
I feel you have to have both as you never know what your opponents are going to be lifting. I went to the European youths last year and having looked at the previous medallists I thought I had a good chance of a medal. I turned up and didn't even make the A group. It's tough to predict and I feel many people, including me, restrict their development by trying to qualify or medal at competitions. In my case I should have moved up to 77kg sooner, which has been shown by the rapid increase in both my lifts. At the moment my main aim is a 300kg total. I feel I should reach this by October, which is also the end of the qualification period for the 2018 commonwealth games. If that's enough to earn me a space great, but if it isn't I know I have plenty of time to go to the next one. It's hard to predict what will happen in the long term but I know I want to be an Olympian but I don't want to just show up I want to compete. I'd love to be able to say I made the top 5 at the Olympics but understand with the large amount of drug cheats and a lack of funding this may not be obtainable. Before the end of my career I would like to be able to say I competed at multiple Olympic and commonwealth Games and won a gold medal at a senior international competition. Lifts wise 200kg is a goal whether it's just the clean or a clean and jerk that would be absolutely insane, it'd probably be done at 85kg body weight though.
Tokyo 2020... Is this a goal or are you looking further ahead?
2020 is the goal, I'll still be a relatively new lifter by the time 2020 comes around and a lot of GB lifters will have more experience than me. It all comes down to how many places we qualify for the games. Having only qualified one spot at 2016 it narrows my chances slightly. But my goal has always been to be an Olympian and if I don't make 2020 it will be 2024.
Who are your favourite lifters to watch?
I loved watching the old cal strength videos - spencer morman, Jon North, Donny shankle and rob Blackwell. They had a bit of character which you don't see too much on the international stage. I really enjoy watching the Colombians lift as they are just crazy fast under the bar. Another favourite is Max Lang, in my opinion he is one of the best technical lifters out there.
What is your mentality like in training? Are you a loud, quiet, aggressive, light hearted lifter? Do missed lifts really get to you or do you just dust them off?
In training I'm fairly relaxed, at the end of the day I go to the gym to have a good time. I find if I start stressing about lifts and weights it affects my performance. Obviously there are weights at top end that you have to psych yourself up for but for me I prefer sticking to my routine, which is fairly relaxed. Very little shouting or slapping of legs. During competition is the same coach and I will always be joking about in the warm up room as I find it keeps me relaxed.
Finally, what are your plans after your competitive career? Do you want to coach, or get a normal job and settle down?
I have zero clue if I'm honest. Being 18 I am due to start university in September but will most likely take a year out in order to train full time. The lack of funding means this will be the only time I can do so. I then have 3 years to figure out what I want to do with my life and what will be best after my weightlifting career has finished.
Big thanks to Chris for doing this interview with Weightlifting House.
To learn more about the training of Ian Wilson, D'Angelo Osorio, James Moser, and more top weightlifters, check out more Weightlifting House Interviews here!
On this week's Weightlifting House Interviews we have the reigning USA 105 national champion D'Angelo Osorio! I spoke to D'Angelo before and after he won the senior national title about his training during the build up to his win, the improvement in USA weightlifting, and also his feelings after winning his first senior national title.
D’Angelo began weightlifting at a young age, competing in his first School Age Championships in 2008 where he earned a silver medal as a 77kg lifter. Over the last 9 years D’angelo has improved year by year, winning medals at Junior Nationals, Senior Nationals, a gold at the American open, and even a gold medal in the snatch at the Junior Pan Ams. D’Angelo has competed on several international teams, and up until recently held the Junior American Records for the clean and jerk and total in the 94kg class at 195kg and 350kg respectively.
Now a 105, D’Angelo has set his mark as the number one 105 in the country heading into the new quad. After years of competing, D’angelo is now the 2017 Senior National Champion, a title of which he is incredibly deserving. Check out his winning lifts and follow D'angelo at the social media links below.
I am extremely excited to announce that this week on Weightlifting House Interviews we have James Moser. I first started watching James when I began weightlifting and was so excited when I saw that he was back to lifting after an 8 year hiatus in the sport.
James' answers to some of my questions truly are some of the most thought provoking things I've ever read. Prepare to be inspired by the deep thoughts of James Moser. But first, a bit about him...
'...the moment I limit myself with a program and goals is the moment I stop realizing my potential...'
On this week's Weightlifting House Interviews we have Kevin Cornell.
If you want to learn why Kevin believes Glenn Pendlay would be the last man standing in an all-out Cal Strength fist fight and why Donny would be knocked out early on, keep reading...
Kevin Cornell is well known for being part of two of the most famous teams in USA weightlifting - California Strength and MDUSA. At high school Kevin played many sports, including basketball, football, and wrestling, but it was during his time playing collegiate baseball that Kevin fell in love with weightlifting.
Now not only an athlete, but also a business owner, an actor, a salesman, and a husband, Kevin hustles every day to be the best version of himself...
Follow Kevin at the social media links below
Weightlifting House was built with the sole purpose of bringing the athletes closer to the fans, as well as providing in depth original content on and around the sport we love. Through weekly interviews, weekly podcasts, and weekly articles, I aim to contribute as much to the world of weightlifting as it has given to me.
If you want to contribute to Weightlifting House please get in contact using the social media links below.