What I learned from my first competitions: Coach Zach


Coaches Corner: Coach Zach

Form > Speed > Weight

This summer I decided to try my hand at competing in the sport of weightlifting.  There are plenty of reasons why I decided to focus on weightlifting for a while, the biggest being that I’m not very good at it.  I’ve started to apply Joe Rogan’s mantra, “do more of what you suck at,” to my life in order to make things more interesting, or as CrossFit likes to say, “focus on improving your weaknesses.”  Take this blog post for example, I’m no writer, yet here I am writing about my experiences last summer.  


Over the summer there were a lot of lessons learned, some big, some small, but one of the most important was one of patience.  When I say patience, I am referring to the application of a proper progression, and creating a base to build off of.  When I decided to go to my first meet, I started by picking up the heaviest bar that I could, as often as I could.  I love moving heavy weights, so I dove in head first.  Now, I have a fairly lengthy training background, so this wasn’t ALL bad.  My cleans and squats went through the roof because I had already spent months and years building my base for those movements.  While having a heavy back squat is cool, it doesn’t mean squat (puns are fun) if you can’t put it to use in your competition lifts.  This idea of lifting heavy all the time didn’t do me any good in my jerks or snatches because I hadn’t built my base and focused on the basics.  The lifts, while heavy relative to my personal bests, moved slow, and I made little, if no progress.  When I made it to the first meet, sure I had a lot of fun, but my performance was frustrating because I knew I was capable of more.  I’m hard headed, so I tried this approach again for the next meet, but got the same results.  

This  was the time I decided to re-work my approach.  I took a step back from the heavy weights, and drilled technique for a while.  I know this isn’t the sexiest part of training, but it is the most necessary.  Whether we’re talking snatches, golf swings, or free throws, it all starts here.  Positions are the first thing to drill, the start of a lift is just as important as the finish.

Once I felt that my technique was where I wanted it, I added a little more weight and focused on moving as fast as I possibly could.  This is where things started to get a little more fun, and where I saw some of the most exciting progress.  Speed work gives you the satisfaction of putting a few more plates on the bar, but takes that form we’ve been drilling and applies it to the lift.  Because the weights are on the lighter side, we can accumulate more work here too, meaning a few more repetitions, and reps are fun.

Last we add the weight.  I like to think of higher percentage weights as an opportunity to challenge the technique and speed that I have been working on.  In other words, a fast, beautiful, heavy lift is always the goal.  From here, the percentages slowly build until test day, or in my case, the meet.  After taking this step back in my training, I ended up hitting personal bests in each lift, and my best total, at the NC State Weightlifting Championships.

This progression of technique to speed to heavy weights is not a one time thing, but a lifetime pursuit.  Repeating this process over and over is the best way to build strength and skill for the long haul.  Now that my competition has passed, it is time for me to start back at the beginning and build that base up for more PRs.