Monday, June 11, 2007

Welcome to the OTC

I recently spent four days and three nights at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where I was fortunate enough to observe the Resident Weightlifters in action. They are awesome. Their overwhelming athleticism is irrefutable evidence of the value of Olympic weightlifting, and provides instant incentive for any coach to include it in his or her programming.

Successful performance of the Olympic movements requires a large load to be moved over a long distance very quickly. High levels of strength, speed, and skill are brought to bear on a barbell, a controlled explosion that results in otherworldly amounts of weight being locked out overhead.

I thought I knew what this looked like. I've watched hundreds of videos of elite weightlifters at all levels of international competition, but pixels cannot to justice to the speed with which these guys move under the bar.

Natalie Woolfork, a 63-kilo lifter with more than a few American Records under her belt, gave an unscheduled clinic in the clean and jerk. She moved 105 kilos like she was throwing around a training bar, exhibiting great balance and timing through all of her lifts. To say I was impressed would be a criminal understatement.

I've read myriad criticisms of the US Team, including implications that they don't train hard enough to shine on the world stage. I'm calling bullshit. The sessions I observed on Friday were absolutely electric, and most of the athletes were only lifting around 80%. These guys spent the a.m. session power cleaning, squatting, jerking, and high pulling, and came back six hours later to perform the competition lifts. There were 100-pound women in that room working harder than any 200-pound firebreather I've ever seen. Casey Burgener was jerking 220 kilos like you and I do 95-pound thrusters. These guys are not taking it easy.

Inspired, Dave Picardy and I hit the platforms on Saturday morning for some technique work. We worked through our three-position snatches and three-position cleans, hammering good extension and a hard pull-under over and over again. We never even touched a bumper, and I was sweating my ass off.

Over the last three weeks, I've worked with four Oly coaches, ranging from a Club Coach to an Olympic Team Coach, and not a single one of them was worried about how much weight I had on the bar. It all boiled down to perfect technique executed with flawless consistency.

Removing the ego from weightlifting is a hard thing to do. Your worth as a lifter is indelibly connected to your total. Taking the necessary steps to ensure that technique is perfect before piling on the weight requires a heavy dose of humility. Nonetheless, I have no doubt that my totals will go up as my technique gets dialed in.

I can't get you in the OTC, and I can't give you the inspiration that the residents gave me, but I can impart two lessons: humility and speed. Don't worry about how much weight you're moving, and get under that bar as fast as humanly possible. The latter involves the rapid firing of the hip flexors in conjunction with a hard pull on the barbell. If you're letting gravity win the race to the floor, you're not going to make your lifts. Go faster!

Here's a quick look at Casey Burgener, Natalie Woolfolk, and a whole bunch of OTC Residents. If this doesn't make you want to grab a barbell, I don't know what will.

All photos and video by the author, courtesy of the fine people of USA Weightlifting. If you'd like to get involved, give the National Office a call at (719) 866-4508 or find your local club at


Blogger Whiterabbit1 said...

"Their overwhelming athleticism is irrefutable evidence of the value of Olympic weightlifting"

No, their overwhelming athleticism allows them to excel at Olympic weightlifting. Limb lengths, leverage and a nervous system granted by luck of the genetic draw is what predisposes them to success at these lifts. The lifts didn't grant those things, nature did.

I know they work very hard and I don't mean to take anything away from them. It's just that your statement makes it sound like you could take anyone and have them do some Olympic lifts and voila a super quick powerful athlete. It just doesn't work that way.

6/12/2007 03:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Ian Carver said...

Freakin awesome, Jon. That was an inspiring video. Their form was smooth like chicken lips. Very cool experience... I'm jealous! Best of luck to you and your coaching.

6/12/2007 07:23:00 AM  

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