Coaches: Social Media and Programming
5 min read
Programming for Olympic weightlifting, like any strength sport, can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. The fundamentals won’t change, but the advice you’ll get from Instagram this week will. If you take nothing else from this article, let it be this: ignore what you hear on the gram, it’s mostly..
Fitness Fads and Social Media - Weightlifting Programming
Fads in the fitness industry come and go like bad days, rolls of tape, or the gym’s chalk bowl. A few years ago CrossFit was the cool kid on the block. Now, weightlifting is next on the social media chopping block.
The Weightlifting Coaching Issue
There’s a select group of people out there who run successful businesses, provide excellent content, and know their stuff. They help people and that’s sick. We love coaching – that’s not the problem.
The issue is people with no chops in weightlifting trying to teach the things they “know” about the sport because they read it in a book or an article. It's those misinterpreting what little they know to come up with some horrendous solutions to problems which don't even exist. With a big enough following, its amazing what you can scare people into believing. Imagine needing toe spreaders, wide toe-box shoes and a selection of dog toys to perform a squat. Come on Aaron.
Whilst some of the content out there is legit.. save yourself the money. There's plenty of things you can do and learn (for free) before considering a paid-for service.
We'll get you started.
What Can You Do Instead?
Firstly - Support local and go find a real weightlifting gym with a coach that gives you eyes-on and on-the-ground coaching 1-to-1, and give them some of your time. Don’t forget. If you do something for long enough, with proper attention to detail, you’re going to improve. Especially if you're new to the sport. Get yourself to the classes included in your gym membership and learn what weightlifting is all about.
Secondly - Don't do anything special. Just show up to these classes consistently, practice, and you’ll find yourself getting increasingly technically proficient and stronger. We’re yet to meet a top level lifter who does anything ‘special’ in their training. They just do the basics really well. There's always going to be something you're not doing or doing differently to what another coach or IG account is promoting. Don't worry. Because no 'Top 5' things will beat hard (smart) work, consistency and time in the sport.
Thirdly - Find yourself some training buddies. (Most likely to be found in the gym-classes you've been attending). Training unattended, especially as a beginner, is an easy way to get into some bad lifting habits such as an early arm bend or jumping forwards. Training partners / buddies / pals, whatever you call them, will keep you accountable and make for a more pleasant training experience. If you're lucky, they'll be more experienced than you and you'll learn a thing or two from them too.
Lastly - Programming. Everyone's doing some sort of program and everyone's looking for the latest and the greatest. But do you really have to worry about your program that much? Lets find out.
Programming - An Overview
Here’s the cruel joke: beginners don’t need much guidance to get better, but they’re sometimes so worried about getting it wrong that they’ll pay strangers to give them advice you could quite literally get for free.
Whilst yes things do get increasingly complex as you progress from beginner to intermediate to advanced, that's simply because you're having to manage increasingly high training volumes in order to sustain some of that progress you saw as a beginner. Programming in essence is balancing the right amount of 'work' with the right amount of recovery to make that happen and make sure you don't snap yourself up, (which is actually a lot easier than Instagram makes it out to be). It just needs a little forethought and planning ahead.
Because that's all a program is, a plan. That's literally it. And whilst yes, having a coach or someone you can 'check-in' with to help you out is an important thing. How you approach the plan is more crucial than the plan itself. So don't worry about the plan too much, because plans change. Show up, train hard and be diligent. There’s no secret sauce above that which some flashy online coach can give you.
But I want one - so what makes a good program?
There's plenty of free programs floating around the net, some are massively complicated, others resemble shopping lists. Both are good, when used correctly.
As a good example, the Kazakh program – the absolute top level of competition in the mid-2010s – was just daily heavy front squat, snatch, clean and jerk, and pulls. Sometimes jerks, sometimes back squats, sometimes deficit pulls, (always gear).
In its simplest form, programming is a weekly structure and some pre-planning of exercises you’re going to do and what weight you should do these at. It’s nothing complicated, it’s just sensibly splitting different exercises up throughout the week to make sure you do a little bit of everything. Most elite coaches won’t even program specifics more than a few weeks ahead unless it’s, for example, “more squats after this comp”.
A good program is anything which aligns with your overall goal. Be that this training cycle or competition year.
If you're weak at squatting, anything which includes squats two or three times a week might be a good starting point. If you're bad at snatch (welcome to the club), a program which gives you the opportunity to practice the snatch more often than others will be the one for you. What's important is pick one and stick to it. Don't program hop every few weeks.
As you progress through your first few programs you'll go through an educational process, learning the balance between strength, technique and what sort of loading you expect to see at different points of a training cycle. After a few rounds you might even want to write your own! And we fully encourage that, its the best way to learn what does and doesn't work.
If you ever need a helping hand, be sure to drop us a message at email@example.com, we'll be happy to help!
In the meantime, if you need some help planning your program running into a big max out or competition, check out our article on tapering for competition.
General Problems Require Simple Solutions
Fancy programming, lift variations and intensity prescriptions do have a time and a place. But the overall objective of a good program is to expose you to more of what you're bad at. If you're new to the sport, that's likely everything and general programs will be your friend.
If you're more advanced, sure you might want some extra specifics - But its not life and death.
The problem with convincing yourself, or being convinced, you need some magic specific programming (rather than more time and practice), is that you'll spend a lot of money on coaching that is basically a spreadsheet and the poorly constructed technical model of someone who has barely trained more than you have. On the bright side, this may be all you need, but the problem is that a lot of people go in without knowing it. They’re paying huge price tags for very little – and that’s what we take issue with.
Get Better: Simplify and Work Harder
There’s a parable in Bodybuilding about a bloke in Africa curling a car axle having a better physique than you whilst you have access to 24h gyms, supplements, every convenience possible and still can’t gain/lose weight. Its true.
If you look at the kit at the eternally inspiring Clermont Sports Halterophilie, you’ll see athleticism in weightlifting finding root wherever there’s a bar and a dusty wooden board on the floor. You can’t pay your way to success: nothing in strength sports replaces hard work and time – except doping, which is already a dickhead move. Shouldn’t need to tell you that.
Fancy programming, graphs, video analysis and velocity tracking, recovery protocols, sports therapists and the latest tech will do sweet F-all if you’re not grafting. Granted, they can all help you make SMART training decisions. But they won’t make you a good athlete in isolation. So don't stress over these too much.
Find a coach you trust, one that you believe in and can have a long working relationship with, because longevity and regular training is the currency of getting better in this sport. And don’t forget to put in the work.
A crap shopping list program you believe in will outperform any macro enabled workbook and video analysis you paid for but can't follow.