At Arkitect Fitness our entire program is based upon tailoring our training to the individual. Each and every one of our clients programs is based on their goals, their fitness level, and their schedule and life style. With that said, it has been shown time and time again that strength is the foundation of all human movement, so it makes sense that we look to the greatest of all strength sports, Weightlifting, as a way to build stronger, healthier, fitter people. Weightlifting is a small part of what we do here at Arkitect. Currently out of 80+ clients, we only have about 6 active Weightlifters (less than 1%). Weightlifting is to human performance, like Formula 1 is to the automobile industry. If you don’t know what I mean, a lot of the safety and performance features in your daily driver were actually developed on the race track. In fact a lot of what we now know about the science of exercise was developed by sports scientists in the 50s-80s in the Soviet Union from working with athletes in Track & Field and Weightlifting. Weightlifting is still influencing sport and training culture today, as it is one of the biggest aspects of CrossFit, which is arguably one of the biggest fitness trends of all time. Because Weightlifting requires not only strength, but speed, flexibility and coordination, it challenges athletes and general fitness enthusiasts alike to create a broader range of physical attributes. This has blown the lid off of the fitness industry, creating new markets AND new athletes. The mobility required to snatch and c&j have exposed a whole slew of inefficiencies that people have. And although CrossFit utilizes techniques from powerlifting, gymnastics, rowing, running, kettlbells, and more, none of those sport have experienced the crossover that Weightlifting has. The reason why is simple: Weightlifting is one of the most exciting, challenging, and athletic sports in the world, and its techniques are a great way to cultivate physical attributes for other endeavors like track, field, football, soccer, hockey, MMA, and more.
As a demonstration of the athleticism Weightlifting can develop, check out former Olympian and American record holder Shane Hamman doing a backflip at about 350lbs body weight:
Naturally we take our Weighlifting seriously, and we compete at the highest level this country has to offer: The National Championships. For those that don’t know there are two events contested in Weightlifting: The snatch, and the clean & jerk. You get three attempts at each, and you combine your best (heaviest) attempt from each event for a “total.” The person with the highest total (in your weight class) wins. 2015 was the second year that our Weightlifters Gunnar Mattson, and Mackenzie Roy qualified to compete in the National Championships, which this year were held in Dallas, TX. On top of training like full time athletes, both of them work full time, and Gunnar is also in Massage Therapy school after just finishing his associated degree in English. To say these young athletes are hard working is an understatement. Though Weightlifting is statistically safer than school age soccer, injuries do happen. Usually in the form of aches and pains (not breaks for tears). Both of our top athletes were training through some pain heading into the biggest competition of the year. Gunnar with a sore shoulder, and Mackenzie with a bad case of tendonitis in her knee. Despite the injuries we approached the meet with an open mind and big expectations.
There is No Crying in Weightlifting
We had planned to open Gunnar with 115kg in the snatch which is about 87% of his best. Typically in competition we open at about 96% of a lifter’s personal best, so to say this was conservative was an understatement. When the session got started, we saw that Gunnar was set to be the first athlete to take an attempt. Gunnar looked me in the eye and said “I’d rather bomb out than be the first lifter.” He’s been a game day competitor, so I trusted he could handle a little more weight and bumped him up to 120kg for his first attempt. Still the lightest we’ve opened him at a competition in a long time. During warm-ups he looked good as we moved up through the weights. I made one more change to his opener calling for 121kg just to buy him a little more time in the warm-up room and had him take 116kg for his last warm-up set. He missed it. Missing in the warm-up room is quite possibly the worst thing that can happen during a meet. It certainly doesn’t inspire confidence when your warm-ups are supposed to be easy, and you miss one of them. At that point I was out of changes, and couldn’t pull him back down for his opener. We had to take the 121. It wasn’t time to panic just yet though. Gunnar had missed a warm-up set last year at the 2014 University National Championships, where he went on to set an all time PR in the snatch, and take the bronze medal in both the snatch and the total. When it was time for him to take his first lift, I had confidence he was going to make it. The weight was still relatively light for him despite not having been feeling great in the gym in the months leading up to this moment. I was wrong. Gunnar missed his first lift, and it wasn’t even close. Still, no need to panic. He’s got two more chances. We told the scorers table that we’d be trying that weight again. In Weightlifting when they call you to the platform to lift, you have 60 seconds to begin your lift. If yo have to follow yourself (meaning you’re lifting twice in a row with no other competitors going between you), you get a two minute clock. Gunnar had ample time to rest between his first two attempts and went out to take his second try at the weight. Again he missed. This time he wasn’t slated to follow himself, as there was another athlete slated to take this weight. The clock switched over to the other athlete, only to have the coach approach the scorer table and move that athlete up to a higher weight, making Gunnar the lifter again. I point this out, because in this instance, Gunnar did not get a two minute clock even though he was following himself. In Weightlifting once the clock changes to another lifter, your potential of a two minute clock goes away, and you’re given the standard 60 seconds.
I had two options that this point: Have Gunnar take his last attempt with barely enough time to recover from the previous lift, or move him up to an even heavier weight to buy him more time. Neither was a great option, and I went with my gut. I train my athletes to be in shape. We take short rest in the gym for this very situation. Gunnar walked out on that platform having just tried this weight which he’d already failed twice… Now this is the part in the story where I should slow down time, pointing out every intricate detail, and walk you through that triumphant moment where the athlete pulls through and saves the day. But this time it just wasn’t meant to be. Gunnar gave it his best shot, and of the 3 attempts, the third was certainly the closest to a make, but it just wasn’t there. Gunnar had bombed out of the 2015 National Championships. “Bombing out” is a term we use in Weightlifting when an athlete fails to make at least 1 snatch and 1 C&J. Without making at least one of each, you cannot have a total, and be placed in the final rankings. For the next half hour we had to sit and watch as other lifters hit weights that Gunnar has crushed both in the gym and on the competition platform. When the day ended not a single athlete in his session posted a better total than Gunnar has done previously. It’s frustrating for an athlete to not be able to perform at their best and to be beat by people who you know you have the capability of defeating in competition. Before the C&J portion of the competition had started I asked Gunnar if he wanted to withdraw from competition. This isn’t uncommon when people bomb out in the snatch. Sometimes it’s not worth the risk of (further) injury if you can’t place. He wanted to continue, and I was happy that he did. We opened him with 146 in the C&J, again a conservative lift. He made the lift easily. Next we moved him up to 155kg, and he missed the jerk. We took it again, and he crushed the lift with ease. The lift was still 11kg shy of his personal best, but it was the most he’s lifted in or out of the gym in almost two months. I was happy that we were able to get some solid lifts under his best on the biggest stage in the country.
The next day, Mackenzie was slated to lift, and things went just about as good as they could have considering the situation. She hadn’t really put in any legitimate Weightlifting training in nearly 7 weeks. Mackenzie’s warm-ups went perfectly and we walked with confidence out to the platform for her first attempt, which was set at 81kg. Mackenzie missed the weight, in a fashion that she rarely does. I smiled at her as she walked off the platform and said “what happened?!” She just laughed and shook her head. We took 81kg again and she smoked it, as well as her third attempt at 83kg. Her final snatch was 7kg below her personal best, but was the most she’s snatched since she hurt her knee, and was heavier than what she snatched at last years Nationals.
The C&J went mostly the same during warm-ups. She took 101kg for her first lift, and the jerk got slightly behind her and she was called for a pressout. When we took the lift again, like in the snatch, the 2nd time was solid, but the judges turned it down. Mackenzie’s elbows don’t fully extend from years of playing hockey. When her arms are extended over head, they look like they are slightly bent. This is something we point out to the refs before every lift, but apparently they weren’t paying attention. She was frustrated that a good lift was turned down, and understandably so. I told her there was nothing we could do about it, and she just had to go out and do it again. This last time she crushed the lift with ease, and though it didn’t look much different than the attempt before, this time all three judges gave her white lights, for a good lift.
At the end of the day although Mackenzie’s performance was 11kg below her personal best total, it was still a huge improvement over last year’s performance, it was the most weight she’s lifted since her injury, and most importantly, she finished 10th in the country in her weight class, which was last year’s goal for Nationals, one that we fell short of. Despite not having a dream of a weekend, both my athletes remained positive, and were excited to get back in the gym to start working towards next year.
The Best of the Best
The rest of the weekend was filled with relaxing, catching up with friends from all over the country and watching the best athletes in the country throw down. There were a ton of great performances this year, including the men’s 94kg snatch record being broken by Jared Flemming, 69kg junior lifter Mattie Rogers snatching a massive 98kg, Caine Wilkes snatching a crazy 186kg(409lbs) and jerking 230kg(507lbs), and 15 year old CJ Cummings being crowned National Champion in the men’s 69kg class, defeating Alex Lee, who arguably has the best technique of any lifter in the country.
Jared Fleming (-94kg, USA) snatching up to 170kg/375lb to set a new senior American Record. He also C&Jed up to 197kg/434lb to total 367kg and win his 2nd national title. He now owns junior and senior American records in the 94s with lifts of 158kg and 170kg. Lastly, as the #2 ranked male in the USA (behind Caine Wilkes), he is now locked in on the USA world team headed to Houston in about three months to compete at the first IWF world championship in the USA since 1978!
Posted by hookgrip on Tuesday, August 18, 2015
19 year-old Mattie Rogers (-69kg, USA) snatching 98kg/216lb at the 2015 USAW Nationals to set a new Junior American Record. She also C&Jed 120kg to win easily and set a 16kg meet PR in the total (although her prior PR was as a 63). She also holds the Junior American Record in the -63kg snatch with a 92kg lift that she did at the 2015 Junior Pan Ams in Colombia.
Posted by hookgrip on Sunday, August 16, 2015
Two looks at 15 year-old CJ Cummings (-69kg, USA) clean and jerking 175kg/385lb to set a new youth, junior and senior American record in the C&J and total. It is also an unofficial Youth World Record — which currently stands at 173kg. Just last year he made 153kg at 62kg which is also a senior American record. He is completely rewriting the American record books and he only turned 15 in June!
Posted by hookgrip on Friday, August 14, 2015
All Aboard the Gain Train
This year USAW announced that they had 21,000 registered members. A paltry amount compared to sports like running, soccer, hockey, etc…but still about triple the amount of a decade ago.
Olympian Lidia Valentin showing off how manly Weightlifting will make you
no doubt that it’s growing, and growing quickly. People are starting to realize they can reshape their bodies with Weightlifting techniques, and build healthier more fulfilling lifestyles. “Olympic” style Weightlifting, as it’s often called, has a HUGE caloric expenditure rate due to the dynamic and explosive nature of the training. Have you ever done box jumps? Now imagine doing that with weight for every Weightliting based exercise, multiple days a week. There’s a reason why Weightlifters are some of the leanest people on Earth (save for the very, very heavy weight classes). The men are lean, muscular, and athletic looking. Everything is proportional, there are no oversized pecs, or biceps, or cartoonish physiques. You can tell while very muscular, they look like capabale athletes, not just big refridgerators. The women are defined, lean, and athletic. When most people hear the word “Weightlifter” they think Bodybuilder, but the two sports couldn’t be any further apart, and despite what anyone thinks, women who compete in Weightlifting are no means “manly.”
In fact, Weightlifters can burn upwards of 1,500 calories in a single workout! The caloric expenditure is even greater when you’re newer, as your movements are not as efficient. While Weightlifting may not burn as many calories as fast paced running (when compared by calories/min), it’s important to remember that Weightlifting is a full body and dynamic activity. It’s common for runners to get over use injury from doing the same pattern of movement thousands and thousands of times. This can be avoided by adding in some smart weight training to compliment your running, but in practice this is rarely done by most casual runners. The sport of Weightlifting requires you to be strong, fast, flexible, and coordinated. It challenges every muscle in your body. You need strong feet to balance with the heavy loads. Strong grip to hold on to the heavy barbell. Explosive legs, glutes, and back to launch the barbell over head, and a solid core and shoulders to stabilize the weight above you. You must be flexible enough to enter a deep squat, and you must race the bar down to the bottom to catch it in the right position, else you’ll never make your lifts.
World Record Holder Lu Xiaojun squatting 260kg(572lbs) at a body weight of about 77kg(169lbs)
Weightlifting is beautiful, simple, and classic. In competition it is just you and a barbell. No special racks, rigs, etc… The sparsity of the equipment is part of what makes it so elegant. An athlete takes a heavy weight and hoists it from the floor to overhead. Strength, it has been contested since the dawn of man. The only sport older is combat, and for those who don’t care for violence, it is the ultimate test of mankind. Competitive Weightlifting was part of the first modern day Olympics in 1896 and today is still the only strength sport contested in the Olympics. That’s a claim that Powerlifting, Strongman, Bodybuilding, or CrossFit cannot make.
We’ve used Weightlifting techniques to improve the performance of Weightlifters, traditional athletes such as soccer and volleyball players, and those just looking for a new challenge on their fitness journey. If you live in the NH area and you’re interested in learning more about this type of training, and you’re not training with us, you’re doing yourself a disservice. We are home to 5 National level athletes, multiple New England Champions, multiple New England record holders, and to my knowledge I am the only level III National level coach in the state. So get on the gain train before it passes you by, and find out why Weightlifting is one of the fastest growing sports in the world!
P.S. someone should tell USAW Champion Morghan King to lay off the weights, she’s getting way too big: