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.
As a very talented athlete, Wes took to football very well. He remembers being faster and stronger than all the kids at school and even everyone he played against. It didn't surprise many that after college football he trained for the NFL combine in a hope to play professionally.
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 175kg 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 (180/216) but what are some of those numbers that we might not know of? What have you pressed, benched, deadlifted etc?
Press – 265#
Bench – 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 265-275kh 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 acclimated 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 and 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 number, ie a 100kg snatch, or a 200kg squat.
I hit a 100kg Snatch the first or second time I did them I think. 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.
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?
Find a system, coach, program, and 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!