This article needs to be prefaced with a few statements. I believe weightlifting is a pretty dirty sport in terms of drug use. What I am going to talk about assumes drug use in many countries. I am not claiming that all British and American lifters are clean. Please don’t get offended by this article!
Weightlifting training in America is not weightlifting training in much of the world. What I mean by that is that we train very differently, and we have to. I think that assuming that some countries are on drugs is not a far fetched belief. In the 2008 94kg class the 9th place finisher now sits in 3rd after drug tests. Whole nations are being banned from the Olympics. In fact the documentary ‘Icarus’ revealed that 100% of all Russian athletes at the Sochi games were on PEDs. On top of the constant drip of news that we hear about athletes being popped, I have heard so many stories from athletes at a high level. These other countries are not quiet about it. It is no secret. They talk about it. Glenn Pendlay has told me that he has spoken to other countries’ coaches and athletes about their drug cycles. If you listen to the Jugg Life podcast with Max Aita and Chad Wesley Smith, they say the same thing. It is a different world in other countries. Drugs are seen differently. They do not hold the gravity and taboo that they do here. Last thing before I move on, I am not condemning anyone, nor do I believe that there is a way to trlly improve the drug situation. In fact I watch athletes who I believe are enhanced and watch in awe, repost their videos, and talk about them like they are Hercules himself.
Anyway where was I? Right, weightlifting training.
The purpose of training in any sport is to develop the qualities necessary to excel in that sport. In weightlifting those qualities are: strength (and muscle size), speed, technique, and mobility. All of these qualities are trainable. The biggest limiting quality for the clean/beginner athlete is strength (and muscle size). I’ve used this analogy before, but I will use it again. My technique in the snatch isn’t too far behind Zakharevich, perhaps if I had the same technique as him I’d eak out an extra 5 kilos, maybe even 6 or 7. BUT if I had the same strength as him I’d probably snatch nearly 200kg. I have developed some of my qualities far more than others, and it is clear that for most clean athletes, like myself, that strength is by far and away the limiting factor.
s such it is important to train the s**t out of it. Much of my training (as programmed by Coach Pendlay) involves me fighting for what feels like my life as I squeeze out heavy sets of 5 on the squat. I snatch deadlift as heavy as I can. I do as much strength work as my body can take. I’m not claiming to work anywhere near as hard as professional foreign weightlifters, in fact I’m sure my effort seems pitiful in comparison, but our training certainly looks different. These athletes are on anabolic drugs. By definition they grow muscle. They make you stronger so that you can spend time focusing on the other qualities. And they have figured out that the best way to maximise these other qualities (technique, speed) is to max out the lifts regularly. Their training is incredibly specific, because it can be. Mine and yours cannot be. We cannot afford the luxury of maxing the snatch and clean and jerk everyday with the odd heavy front squat. We would most likely regress. There isn’t enough stimulation of strength work to cause adaptation.
So yes our training is very different. On the podcast we spoke about how in weightlifting the majority of what we do is in the gym. Training takes up 99% of the sport. Competing maybe 1%. Within that 99% I am basically training to be stronger. Many of the top athletes are training to perfect their technique. They have developed the required qualities.
Clean athletes need to devote more of their recoverable capacity to strength training!
Another disclaimer – Yes they have been training longer than me, yes they have done a lot of strength work before, yes they are better than me in every way. I’m just trying to make a point! Clean athletes need to devote more of their recoverable capacity to strength training.