The Meanings of Lifts

Not all training days are that eventful but yesterday was one of the exceptions.  Six of my lifters will be competing in the 2019 Masters World Cup in San Diego on the October 4-6 weekend.  They’ve been training for the past four weeks for this event after having peaked at one of our local gym events in August.  Yesterday, September 16, was day one of week 2 of a four week pre-competition mesocycle following a demanding 3 week preparation mesocycle of 1083 reps.

Each athlete had to lift a maximum single, drop down 6 kg for another single, and then add 3 kg for another single.  There were two waves of this scheme for the snatch, clean & jerk and front squat.

The Best Results

Here are the results in which I’m providing the heaviest lifts that were performed at least once. The first number is the snatch, the second is the clean & jerk

Gina: 60-62

EJ: 85-105


Josh: 97-120

Kat: 69-81

Diana: 40-52

Christine: 79-99

Ann-Marie: 45-55

Chris: 88—114

I realize they’re not earth-shattering numbers as six of them are masters and none of them (save for Christine) has trained consistently for more than a year.  But the numbers have meanings.

What do the individual results mean?

The meanings of the lifts are numerous and varied for each individual.  Some of them exceed the lifters’ PR’s (which is a good thing as it will help them to stay addicted).  Some of them were disappointingly low (which is a good thing as the personality type that is attracted to the sport is usually stubborn and has a hard time accepting mediocrity).  Most lifters with a short history in the sport do not know how to interpret these results.  It is  one of my jobs to give the results meaning and to oftentimes present those meanings in an encouraging manner depending of course, on the personality of the athlete.

What questions run through my mind?

I need to run the results through a series of filtering questions:

·        Being week 2 of the pre-comp, how has the athlete recovered from the preparation mesocycle?

·        Is the problem technical, one of strength, one of athleticism, or psychological?

·        At what percentage does technical decay begin?

·        Being Monday, did the athlete enjoy the previous weekend too much?

·        What “outside the gym” factors might have influenced the results?

·        Does the lifter’s athletic maturity affect the results?

·        Should neither of us be overly concerned?

What adjustments need to be made in the training?

For some of my athletes there will be no adjustments.  For some I may need to cut back on training load.  For others I may need to add specific problem-solving exercises.  For some I may need to move more of the load into a different intensity zone.  All of these adjustments may need to be considered for some situations.  For some athletes I know that the training as written will resolve the issues in time for the competition.  The trick is to keep the athlete from being distracted by the modifications.  The concepts in this and the preceding section are all part of the art of coaching.  This is not covered in coaching courses and can only be learned in one of two ways:  many years of coaching with a self-questioning attitude or several years of coaching under the mentorship of an experienced coach. 

Why do we train athletes in this way prior to competition?

A big reason is to condition the nervous system to repeatedly lift heavy singles because that is the format of a competition.  A lifter will be taking 3 attempts at 90%+ and the success or failure of the attempts should not be dependent on neural fatigue.  During the preparation mesocycle, we are addressing the factors that affect contractility of the muscles.  During the pre-competition mesocycle we should also be addressing the recovery capacity of the nervous system. 

Coaching weightlifting is complex, fascinating and like actually lifting, addictive.