Fil’s Fast Thoughts: Not everything needs a solution
5 min read
Weightlifting is a simple sport – but not an easy one. You pick things up and you put them down. Somebody judged whether you’ve done it correctly or not. So why are we over-complicating things so much?
Weightlifting is a simple sport – but not an easy one.
You pick things up and you put them down. Somebody judged whether you’ve done it correctly or not. So why are we over-complicating things so much?
There’s no real hidden secret to getting strong, or getting good at specific movements such as the snatch and the clean and jerk. You practice them, deliberately, over and over again over a long duration of time.
You show up, you do the thing, you go home, you come back a little bit stronger (over weeks months and years not session to session).
Not Just Complaining: The Issue At Hand
If you’ve been into your strength training for any length of time, you’ve likely experienced this yourself already: When you first started training, you probably didn’t put much thought into it, you just did something and improved rapidly by practicing it.
That’s partially thanks to “newbie gains” - you’re so un-trained to begin with, that even the slightest training stimulus is enough to trigger massive (relatively speaking) performance gains.
It’s why adding 50kg to your total as a beginner is far far easier than adding 5kg as a seasoned vet.
But time spent training and how acclimatised you are to the sport isn’t everything. It’s your attitude: what did you do as a beginner?
- Stretch off
- Do some snatch technical work, work up to something challenging in weight
- Do some clean and jerk, work up to something challenging in weight
- Do some squats and deadlifts (your strength work)
- Stretch off
- Go home with a smile on your face because you had a good workout with some gym-friends
- Stuff your face with food and go to sleep
So why are you over-complicating stuff now? A year or so into training?
Why do you need 4 different lift variations a week, complex recovery and warmup protocols, programs written by Olympians, and percentages you take as gospel?
We get it. You want to be the best you can be but, trust us, you’ll have far greater success by just getting on with it and letting yourself be a beginner for longer. Most beginners and intermediates need to stay on the same path, and just keep polishing up the basics or years at a time.
Practice deliberate practice, perform every lift deliberately and every squat, deadlift and overhead press like you would your competition lifts.
You’ll be surprised how quickly all those movements (performed with deliberate intent) add up to a substantial volume of training time.
Error Correction: The Essence of Deliberate Practice
But what about my errors!!
Well, not every problem needs a solution.
The number 1 solution to any technical error? Not doing it. And you can only do that when you practice the movement with intent regularly. Being more attentive and practicing not-doing-it-wrong makes you better at doing-it-right faster and more reliably than any other intervention.
And your solution at the moment is probably not hang snatches, power snatches, no hook no foot snatches, or any other fancy lift variation.. it’s just not doing it wrong. These have a place, but it’s a good chance you’re not lacking in them.
Perform the movements correctly and repetitively until you develop a consistent technique. If you can’t? Back off the weight. Be willing to autoregulate – your program is a guide and not set in stone.
If your program pushes you to use weights that compromise your technique, it’s not doing its job. You need to move well and with intent, and weight is secondary to that.
Only once your technique is consistent, can you implement meaningful changes. Specific exercises are good, but specific practical intention is far more useful. Being an athlete and correcting on the fly is the most important factor for beginners and early intermediates!
Weightlifting training for beginners: how should you train?
Allow yourself to be a beginner - don’t overcomplicate things too quickly.
If you’re training 3 times a week, only add in a 4th session once 3 sessions aren’t enough to progress any more.
If you only do back squats twice a week and do 5 working sets each time, don’t start squatting 3 times a week until you actually have to. Add some additional uni-lateral (single leg) movements into your routine instead, it’ll be more ‘bang for your buck’ and won’t leave you as lift-ruiningly sore!
It’s a strength sport. Any strength and stability building exercise you perform will improve your weightlifting in some way. Most of the best strength training around is going to happen in the accessory exercises – and not just in doing more of the same.
Add in some novel stuff that doesn’t have the exact same format and intention as everything else you do all week long. You don’t need to chuck your lifting shoes on every session – get your feet on the floor and get some odd, varied, “general” strengthening done – because you need to be generally strong for the best specific strength.
Get it? It feels like we’re all overlooking the background of being a strong, athletic human these days.
Have some fun with it, if you want to throw a slam ball at the floor because you had a long day at work. Do it. It’s a brilliant core and power exercise, and you’ll never regret being stronger and more coordinated
Keep it simple, stupid. Don’t let instagrams “get rich/strong/better/faster/funnier QUICK” rhetoric distract you from what’s really important. Slow, crawling, well-rounded development as a backdrop for regular, attentive reps to improve tekkers.
Your problem is that final word, “quick”. And it will be your Achilles heel. You aren’t going to get better at anything quickly.
You know what you can do quickly? Pull muscles. Snap tendons. Bulge disks. Don’t focus on how quickly you can add 20kg to your squat. Focus on how many squat cycles you can do and remain injury free. Over the next 10 years, that’s going to be the main factor for who does well and who is still around.
As in competition, the athlete who makes the lifts wins. And how are you going to reach your 10,000 hours of deliberate practice if your injured for 2 weeks of every month?