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!
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