This one is for the younger coaches out there who are just beginning their journey in building a weightlifting competitive team.

So you’ve developed your training process and ideology of the group.  Good.  This is one of the hardest parts of the job and requires continued analysis (and over-analysis) if your group is going to progress.  Such is the burden of coach;  You do the analyzing so your team doesn’t have to.

Now it’s your job to enforce the group process and ideology.  Give your team reminders of what your interpretation of Olympic weightlifting training is, what your group’s training process should look like and what you all collectively value in regards to Olympic weightlifting.  Don’t be shy about letting them know what things do not have a place in your gym and what Olympic weightlifting should NOT look like.  Do this, and your group is guaranteed to show continued improvement (provided your training process is a good one)!

There used to be this quote on the wall that I didn’t really get or was taken out of context.  But a more applicable version of it might sound like, “you either buy into the collective ideology of the group or you’re not part of it.”

It ain’t easy being coach.  Good luck!


Here’s a post for the younger crowd who perhaps coaches at a CF and goes to school.  Maybe you want to get into weightlifting coaching.  I was never all that great as a student, but here’s a few classes that have helped me.  

I wouldn’t say that a degree should nessesarily be a requirement of a good weightlifting coach but having studied exercise science in school, I’d say that there are both classes of high value to a WL coach and classes of very little importance.  Here’s my list of top 3 most helpful classes that have improved my weightlifting coaching and understanding:

3) Anatomy and Physiology:  I’m going to group this as one class because it is offered as such at some schools.  This one is really a no brainer.  Any good coach should have a basic understanding of the structures of the human body and how they work.

2) Kinesiology:  More advanced classes like biomechanics are also obviously helpful but I use the more basic knowledge of movement on a daily basis.

1) Motor Learning:  This class has been the MOST helpful to me as a coach.  Teaching people a skill set suddenly became a whole lot easier when I learned the basics of how a person actually learns how to do things.  Highly recommended even if you’re not in college.  Go on Amazon and buy a book on this subject.  Even just a base level understanding will arm you with knowledge on how to guide others through their learning process.

There it is.  I’m not saying I’m perfect (I’m far from it).  I learn something new every day and occasionally I’ll be surprised that I went so long missing out on a particular aspect of coaching.  An open mind is your best tool both in the lab and in the field.  These are just a few classes that have actually carried over to what I do every day.

This one’s straight out of the USAW handbook (I think.  Honestly I haven’t looked at that thing in so long.)  This is my favorite stretch to alleviate mild shoulder impingement.  I’ll superset this one with “hand slides” with my back flat against the wall and shoulder rotations with a wooden stick.

photo 1

"Sup, girl.  You want to alleviate some shoulder impingement?"

“Sup, girl. You want to alleviate some shoulder impingement?”

One relatively easy way to differentiate between an actual Olympic Weightlifting coach and someone who likes weightlifting is identifying over-eagerness when giving technical advice.  A true coach respects the fact that actual coaching is a relationship between the lifter/team, the program and the coach.  Experienced coaches (one who’s not assigned to a lifter) more often than not won’t say anything that could potentially interrupt the learning/adaptation process but will instead give general nuggets when asked by a outside trainee.  They key word being “asked.”  Of course, I’m not talking about seminars or anything in which trainees seek out help.  On the contrary, that’s why you go to those things; to gain a different perspective.  One of my long time lifters, Cameron attended a seminar from Don McCauley and my good friend, Jacob Tsypkin.  His lifting has benefitted tremendously.

In short, the coach is the person assigning the lifter/team work which facilitates learning and adaptation.  His or her goal is to guide the lifter through this process and make the weightlifting skill-sets as automatic and repeatable as possible.  He is not the guy taking bar sets for an hour and a half, hanging out on Facebook threads or forums waiting to give generic and often erroneous ques that could possibly be detrimental to this process.  Being a coach myself, I’ll often perform self checks to make sure the technique ques I give are genuinely NEEDED and not masturbatory in nature.  It suffices to say, sometimes you just gotta let ’em work.  My very first weightlifting coach, Kathy, gave me some of the best advice ever: “people are going to say a lot of crap to you regarding technique and training.  Smile.  Be polite but listen to me.”

Congratulations, sucker!  Now you’re gonna be hooked for life!  WE GOT YOU.  But seriously, thank you for playing our sport.  As someone that’s officially been playing since November of 2005, I mean that from the bottom of my rusted iron heart.  Hopefully by now, you’ve found yourself a reputable weightlifting coach, so this post will be completely unnecessary.  But for those of you out there that are more or less doing this stuff on your own or with others who don’t have a lot of meet experience, here’s a little advice:

1)  Your main objective is to make lifts and to look good while doing it.  I don’t care if your best snatch in the gym is 80kg and you really want to go for that 85 or 90 that you’ve tried time and time again to hit.  Don’t do it.  Don’t.  Do. It.  Go for a PR on your 3rd attempt by no more than 2-3kg, taking reasonable attempts to get there.  And if you miss one of your attempts, don’t go up anyway.  Make lifts.  Why?  Your family, friends and your local weightlifting community are there to watch you lift.  Chances are that most of them will have no frame of reference of what or how much you’re actually lifting, nor will they care.  No one will remember if you made 82 or 87kg.  They’ll just remember how you looked when you lifted it.  So look good.

2)  Find someone to count your attempts.  If you don’t know what that is then ask your coach.  If your coach doesn’t know what that is then chances are your weightlifting coach is not an actual weightlifting coach but rather someone who just likes to lift weights.  This is one of the PRIMARY functions of an actual weightlifting coach.  I don’t care if you can throw a baseball 100mph, it doesn’t make you a pitcher if you don’t know how to play the game.  The same is true for weightlifting so learn and understand the rules of play (or at least pay someone who does).

3)  Have fun.  Chances are if you follow steps one and two, you’ll have a good time.  Even if you don’t or have a bad meet, you’ll still probably have a good time.  Either way, I’d like to welcome you to the club.

Here’s me at my first WL meet.  I had found a coach at that time and went 77/106.  And I’m still playing and enjoying the game today.

I picked up a couple of new lifters recently.  One of them was warming up for clean and jerks last night before I quickly pulled him aside and drew him a quick sketch.

Right=bad.  Left=good.

Right=bad. Left=good.

This represented an exaggerated sketch of what he was doing vs. what I was looking for.  I explained to him my criteria while watching a successfully performed jerk ending the brief lesson with, “I want more stuff stacked on top of stuff.”  Eloquent, I know.  This is true for everybody but especially important for people with lanky body types.  The dude is 6 foot, 75kg. soaking wet in a Dragonball Z gravity chamber so mastering correct posture and footwork is “CROOCHE” (crucial).  For more “rotund” bodies this may not be as big of a deal (but still correct).

I’m no fashionista, be every now and then I’ll find myself in a non-gym situation.  These situations require pants.  For the most part, you’ll need jeans.  Let’s just say you’re a big guy like me and you weigh 240+ (assuming you’re not tall) and squat between five and six hundred pounds.  What are you going to do?  Forget Levi’s.  That ship sailed once you passed 240, you big biscuit.

I’d recommend taking the designer jean approach and get yourself a pair of Sevens.  Seriously.  If you ever want to have full ROM wearing jeans, you’ll get yourself a pair of Sevens.  Don’t be deterred by your bros who are required by law to start hating on you for paying 100 bucks on jeans.  “Nice skinny jeans.”  They’re not skinny jeans bro.  If you had anything resembling an ass and quads, you would know that.  And honestly, at a higher bodyweight, you don’t want to have a whole lot of excess room in your clothes  otherwise you end up looking like The Thing from the Fantastic Four trying to blend into the crowd.  Sevens have a tiny bit of spandex blended into the fabric so  you can now do things like tie your shoe or climb into your vehicle without fear of a blowout.  Now obviously at this price point, you can only afford to pick up one or two pairs per year, so choose a wash that will suit most occasions.  Take note that the dye will fade as you wash so I’d recommend a darker color so you have the option to dress them up or down.  Don’t let the price point rule this option out for you if that’s a key determining factor.  Look for deals online or hip consignment boutiques.  I’ve found them for as low as 35 bucks (SCORE).

SO discreet.  Fun fact: I actually had this action figure as a kid.

SO discreet. Fun fact: I actually had this action figure as a kid.

Lets say you lose a little bodyweight and can now afford to wear non-stretchy clothes with a little more room.  Or you’d just prefer not to wear designer or form fitting clothes.  That’s cool too, bro.  For this, I’d recommend all things Carhartt.  At a very competitive price point, their clothes are basically indestructible, sporting heavy duty rivets, triple stitching and heavyweight materials.  Plus you get the added benefit of feeling like a real DUDE while wearing them.  Fair warning: when I say non-stretchy, I mean non-stretchy.  So you really need to let that imaginary size 32 waist when you were in high-school go, bro.  Because it’s just not gonna happen.  With such competitive pricing, you can now afford to diversify your color scheme.  Or you can blend both approaches together and save your designer stuff for nice occasions.

Your results may vary and obviously personal taste plays a role in your options.  But in my opinion, these two options give you enough leeway to fit most stylistic tastes and you will have the added confidence that dat 600lb squatting ass won’t blow your jeans out while you are out bowling with your buddies (true story).

If your are familiar with the brands, feel free to list some other competitive options in the comments section below.  Keep in mind the two different price points noted above.

Ben’s Quick Tip #2.

January 23, 2014

Actually, it’s just an opinion.

Johnson&Johnson is the absolute BEST brand of athletic tape you can buy.  It tears easily, contains just enough adhesive and has the right amount of “give.”  Buy in bulk so you can save yourself a few bones.

Ben’s Quick Tip #1.

January 15, 2014

If you’ve got the opportunity to lift double days, Do the majority of your stretching, foam rolling and mobility work in the morning so you can come in the evening session hot off the blocks.  Personally, I can hardly bend my knees in the morning when I wake up and I my joints feel like they’re made of rusted iron.  So I’ll stretch before AND after my first session.  If you’re the type that can loosen up after taking a few sets with the bar, then maybe just after the first session would be best.