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Chinese Weighlifting Technical Mastery and Training

Copyright © 2018 by Ma Strength, LLC
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner
whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Ma Strength, LLC, Manuel Buitrago, and Ma Jianping advise that the exercises and techniques described
in this book may not be appropriate for all individuals and are for information purposes only. It is
strongly recommended that the reader consult a physician before engaging in any of the activities or
practices illustrated or described in this book. Ma Strength, LLC, Manuel Buitrago, and Ma Jianping
disclaim any and all liability for any injury sustained or condition arising from the performance of any
exercises or practices of ideas described in this book.
Photography: Manuel Buitrago, unless otherwise noted
Illustrations: Manuel Buitrago
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, 2018
For questions, comments, feedback, interests in hosting seminars or camps, please contact us at:
Ma Strength
www.ChineseWeightlifting.com
2
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
3
LIST OF TABLES
10
LIST OF FIGURES
12
Introduction
16
Chapter 1: History and Development of Weightlifting in China
21
Weightlifting in Ancient China
21
Weightlifting in Recent Centuries
24
Contemporary Weightlifting
25
Chapter 2: Chinese Weightlifting Philosophy: 3 Principles and 5 Words
35
3 Gravity Principles
35
Analysis of Weightlifting Techniques
38
5 Words
45
Close
45
Fast
48
Low
49
Timing
50
Stable
50
Conclusion
51
Chapter 3: Power, Strength, and Speed in Weightlifting
53
Power and its Components
53
The Role of Strength on the Barbell’s Height and Speed
54
Lifting Speed on the Barbell’s Height and Speed
55
Comparison of Strength and Speed
56
Conclusion
60
Chapter 4: Weightlifting Coaching Methods
62
Goal of Coaching
62
Best Practices for Coaching
62
Methods for Communicating Theoretical Concepts
64
3
Methods for Teaching Technique
65
Demonstration and Explanation
65
Decomposition Method
66
Repetition Teaching Method
70
Transformative Method
70
Verbal Commands
71
Kinesthetic Method
72
Methods to Correct Mistakes
73
Methods for Preventing Injury
73
Conclusion
75
Chapter 5: Weightlifting Training Principles
77
Adaptation
77
Characteristics of Adaptation
79
The Goal of Weightlifting Training
81
Best Practices for Weightlifting Training
83
Conclusion
86
Chapter 6: Athletic training
88
Goal of General Athletic Training
88
Best Practices for General Athletic Training
88
Methods for General Athletic Training
90
Goal of Specialized Athletic Training
93
Best Practices for Specialized Training
93
Specialized Training Methods
97
Conclusion
99
Chapter 7: Technical Training
102
Goals of Technical Training
102
Best Practices Weightlifting Technical Training
104
Movement Structure of Weightlifting Movements
106
Snatch and Clean
108
Start Position
108
4
Deadlifting the Barbell
115
Knee-Extension Stage
116
Knee-Hip Extension Stage
116
Pre-extension Stage:
117
Extension
118
Low Squat Support
119
Catching the Barbell
121
Recovery
124
Dropping the Barbell and Breathing Method
125
The Jerk
125
Start Position
126
Jerk Dip and Brake
128
Extension
131
Catching the Barbell
132
Recovery
136
Dropping the Barbell and Breathing Method
136
Phases of Technical Training
137
Conclusion
138
Chapter 8: Psychological Training
141
Factors that Affect an Athlete’s Mental State and their Effects
141
Goals of Psychological Training
141
Best Practices for Psychological Training
143
Psychological Training Methods
144
Simulation Training
144
Training to Increase the Lifting Success Rate
146
Self-talk
147
Visualization
149
Relaxation training
151
Concentration training:
152
Training Willpower:
153
5
Conclusion
154
Chapter 9: Tactical Training
156
Goal of Tactical Training
156
Best Practices for Tactical Training
156
Tactical Training Methods
157
Body Weight Adjustment
157
Attempt Selection
161
Conclusion
164
Chapter 10: Recovery Training
166
Goals of Recovery Training
166
Best Practices for Recovery Training
166
Recovery Methods
167
Recovery During the Training Process
167
Recovery Outside of the Training Process
169
Psychological Recovery Methods
173
Conclusion
173
Chapter 11: Intellectual Training
175
Goal of Intellectual Training
175
Best Practices for Intellectual Training
175
Methods of Intellectual Training
177
Conclusion
177
Chapter 12: Mentality Training
179
Goal of Mentality Education
179
Best Practices for Mentality Education
179
Mentality Training Methods
180
Conclusion
181
Chapter 13: Exercise Load
183
Physical Indicators of Weightlifting Load
183
Biological Indicators of Weightlifting Load
185
Psychological Indicators of Weightlifting Load
187
6
Arranging Exercise Load
190
Common Situations in Arranging Exercise Load
193
Conclusion
195
Chapter 14: Strength Training Theories and Methods
197
Classifications of Strength
197
Factors Influencing Strength
199
Neural Factors
199
Physical Factors
200
Best Practices for Strength Training
203
Methods for Building Maximum Strength
206
Repetition Method
206
Intensity Method
208
Bulgarian Method
209
Eccentric Method
210
Isometric Method
212
Electromotor Stimulation (EMS) Method
213
Best Practices for Power
214
Power Method
215
Starting Force Method
215
Reactive Strength Method
216
Bodybuilding
218
Conclusion
219
Chapter 15: The Training Plan and Training Diary
221
Best Practices for a Training Plan
221
Long-Term Training Plan
221
Annual Training Plan
225
Phase Training Plan
227
Weekly Training Plan
228
Daily Training Plan
230
Training Diary
236
7
Assessing Training
237
Conclusion
239
Chapter 16: Athlete Assessment
241
How to Build an Assessment Model
242
Observation and Gathering Evidence
242
Selecting Assessment Indicators and Determining Standards
243
Testing Indicators and Modeling
247
Adjusting Training
248
Conclusion
250
Chapter 17: Youth Training
252
Goals of Youth Training
252
Stages of Youth Training
252
Special Considerations When Training Youth
256
Strength Training
256
Mentality, Tactical, and Psychological Training
257
Exercise Load and Recovery
258
Training Program
258
Conclusion
262
Chapter 18: Women’s Weightlifting
264
History
264
Special Considerations when Training Women
265
Athletic Training
265
Technical Training
267
Psychological Training
267
Exercise Load
269
Training and Competition during Menstrual Period
272
Conclusion
276
Chapter 19: Selection Methods for Weightlifting
278
Selection Stage 1
278
Structural Makeup
279
8
Physical Functionality
286
Psychological Quality
286
Physical Qualities
288
Selection Stage 2
290
Selection Stage 3
291
Conclusion
292
Chapter 20: Sports Injuries
294
Types of Injuries
294
Reasons for Injuries
295
Conclusion
298
Bibliography
300
About the Authors
312
9
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1 – 1: Change in Weightlifting Training 1950’s – 1990’s .................................................................. 27
Table 1 – 2: A Record of Chinese Olympic Weightlifting Champions ........................................................ 32
Table 3 – 1: Comparison of Equipment Weight and Speed Across Explosive Sports ................................. 53
Table 4 – 1: Simple Decomposition Method for the Snatch, Clean, and Jerk ............................................. 67
Table 4 – 2: Progressive Decomposition Methods for the Snatch, Clean, and Jerk ................................... 68
Table 4 – 3: Iterative Decomposition Methods for the Snatch, Clean, and Jerk ........................................ 69
Table 4 – 4: Repetition Teaching Method ................................................................................................... 70
Table 4 – 5: Examples of Commands .......................................................................................................... 72
Table 6 – 1: Sample Generalized Training Program used in Morning Training........................................... 91
Table 6 – 2: The Relationship Between the CJ and Various Assistance Exercises ...................................... 96
Table 6 – 3: Barbell Lifting Height Based on Athlete's Height and Lifting Level ......................................... 96
Table 6 – 4: Main Assistance Movements for the Snatch, Clean, and Jerk ................................................ 98
Table 6 – 5: General Exercises for Small Muscle Groups ........................................................................... 99
Table 7 – 1: Regression Results Table of Clean & Jerk results Derived from Snatch Results.................... 105
Table 7 – 2: Main Technical Movements for the Snatch and Clean and Jerk ........................................... 107
Table 8 – 1: The Symptoms, Reasons, and Effects of Stress Among Young Weightlifters ........................ 142
Table 9 – 1: Training Considerations based on Weight Loss before Competition .................................... 160
Table 9 – 2: Types of Strategies for Competition Attempts...................................................................... 164
Table 10 – 1: Sample Weightlifting Recovery Plan ................................................................................... 168
Table 10 – 2: Sample Daily Schedule for High Intensity Days ................................................................... 171
Table 10 – 3: Recommended and Actual Dietary Habits among Chinese Weightlifters ........................... 172
Table 13 – 1: Sample Load Calculations .................................................................................................... 183
Table 13 – 2: Summary of Biochemical Response to Training Stimulus ................................................... 186
Table 13 – 3: Sample Weekly Training Rhythm ........................................................................................ 190
Table 13 – 4: Ranges for Different Levels of Exercise Capacity ................................................................ 192
Table 14 – 1: Loading Characteristics of the Repetition Method ............................................................. 208
Table 14 – 2: Loading Characteristics of the Intensity Method ................................................................ 208
Table 14 – 3: Loading Characteristics of the Bulgarian Method ............................................................... 209
Table 14 – 4: Loading Characteristics of Eccentric Training ...................................................................... 211
Table 14 – 5: Loading Characteristics of Isometric Strength Training ...................................................... 212
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Table 14 – 6: Electromotor Stimulation Protocols .................................................................................... 214
Table 14 – 7: Loading Characteristics of Power Training .......................................................................... 215
Table 14 – 8: Number of Foot Contacts by Athletic Training Level .......................................................... 218
Table 14 – 9: Loading Characteristics for Bodybuilding ............................................................................ 219
Table 15 – 1: Sample Long-Term Training Plan ......................................................................................... 223
Table 15 – 2: Sample Phase Training Plan................................................................................................. 228
Table 15 – 3: Types of Weightlifting Training Content ............................................................................. 229
Table 15 – 4: Sample Weekly Training Overview ...................................................................................... 230
Table 15 – 5: Sample Stimulation Methods .............................................................................................. 231
Table 15 – 6: Sample Weekly Training Arrangement................................................................................ 234
Table 15 – 7: Sample Detailed Weekly Training Arrangement ................................................................. 235
Table 15 – 8: Sample Training Diary.......................................................................................................... 236
Table 16 – 1: Sample Athlete Assessment ................................................................................................ 245
Table 17 – 1: Long-Term Training Plan for Youth Athletes ....................................................................... 254
Table 17 – 2: Male and Female Weightlifting Standards by Weight Class................................................ 255
Table 17 – 3: Comparison between Raoping Sport Institution Athletes Before and After Incorporating
Assistance Movements ............................................................................................................................. 260
Table 17 – 4: Sample Weekly Training Content for Beginning Youths ..................................................... 261
Table 17 – 5: Sample Training Week for Beginning Youths ...................................................................... 262
Table 18 – 1: Success Rate Statistics on Snatch Attempts during Training............................................... 268
Table 18 – 2: Difference in Loading Arrangements between Women's and Men's Weightlifting ........... 269
Table 18 – 3: Sample Training Adjustments during Menstruation ........................................................... 274
Table 19 – 1: Physical Selection Standards for Children 12 – 13 ............................................................ 279
Table 19 – 2: Questionnaire on Mental Indicators ................................................................................... 287
Table 19 – 3: Flexibility Indicators for Major Joints .................................................................................. 288
Table 19 – 4: Physical Performance Standards ......................................................................................... 289
Table 19 – 5: Sample Training Program during Selection ......................................................................... 291
Table 19 – 6: Comparison of Weightlifting Results Over the First Training Year ...................................... 292
Table 20 – 1: Weightlifting Injury Statistics .............................................................................................. 294
Table 20 – 2: Survey Data on Reasons for Injuries .................................................................................... 296
11
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1 – 1: Timeline of Chinese Dynasties and Main Strength Events ..................................................... 21
Figure 1 – 2: Samples of Ding Lifting, Qiaoguan, and Stone Lifting ............................................................ 23
Figure 1 – 3: Founders of the Chinese System – Huang Qianghui and Zhao Qingkui ................................. 28
Figure 2 – 1: A Simple Model of Vertical and Horizontal Forces ................................................................ 35
Figure 2 – 2: A Human Model of Simultaneous Forces Used During the Snatch or Clean ......................... 37
Figure 2 – 3: A Human Model of Simultaneous Forces used After the Extension ...................................... 38
Figure 2 – 4: A Human Model of Simultaneous Forces Used During Stabilization for the Jerk .................. 39
Figure 2 – 5: Comparison of Low and Moderate Hip Heights on the Body ................................................ 40
Figure 2 – 6: Foot Mechanics During Extension .......................................................................................... 41
Figure 2 – 7: Barbell Trajectories from Several Lifting Methods ................................................................ 42
Figure 2 – 8: Single-Bend vs Double Bend Method during the Jerk Dip and Extension ............................. 43
Figure 2 – 9: Comparison of Single-Bend and Double Bend Methods During the Jerk Support ................ 45
Figure 2 – 10: Technique Principle of "Close" ............................................................................................. 46
Figure 2 – 11: Comparison of Close and Backward Center of Gravity ........................................................ 47
Figure 2 – 12: The Effect of Posture on Leverage Forces ............................................................................ 48
Figure 2 – 13: The Effect of Height on the Angle of Stability ...................................................................... 51
Figure 3 – 1: Power Output Relationship .................................................................................................... 54
Figure 3 – 2: Force Velocity Curve .............................................................................................................. 57
Figure 3 – 3: Force, Velocity, and Power Requirements for Weightlifting ................................................. 58
Figure 3 – 4: Force Velocity Curve for Young Athletes ............................................................................... 59
Figure 3 – 5: The Effects of Training Strength or Speed Only ..................................................................... 60
Figure 5 – 1: The Cyclical Process of Training Adaptation .......................................................................... 78
Figure 5 – 2: Adaptation Under Excessive Sports Load .............................................................................. 78
Figure 5 – 3: Organization of Loading and Recovery for High Level Athletes ............................................. 79
Figure 5 – 4: Chinese Weightlifting Training System for Reaching the Best Competitive State ................. 82
Figure 6 – 1: Sensitive Periods for Basic Athletic Qualities ......................................................................... 89
Figure 7 – 1: Overview of the Snatch and Clean ....................................................................................... 109
Figure 7 – 2: Optimal Distance to Stand from the Barbell ........................................................................ 110
Figure 7 – 3: Effect of Knee Position on the Distance between the Barbell and Body ............................. 111
Figure 7 – 4: Hook Grip vs Normal Grip .................................................................................................... 112
Figure 7 – 5: Establishing Grip for the Clean ............................................................................................. 113
Figure 7 – 6: Torso Lean and Balance Point in the Snatch and Clean ....................................................... 113
Figure 7 – 7: Effect of Curling the Wrist in the Start Position ................................................................... 114
Figure 7 – 8: Balanced vs Imbalanced Squatting...................................................................................... 121
12
Figure 7 – 9: Internal vs External Rotation Overhead (Viewed from Behind the Athlete) ...................... 122
Figure 7 – 10: Extended vs Neutral Wrist in the Snatch .......................................................................... 122
Figure 7 – 11: Effect of Head Position and Shoulder Position on the Catch during the Snatch .............. 124
Figure 7 – 12: Overview of the Split Jerk and Squat Jerk .......................................................................... 126
Figure 7 – 13: Balance Point during Start Position for the Jerk ................................................................ 128
Figure 7 – 14: Using a Stick to Find Optimal Dip Depth ............................................................................ 130
Figure 7 – 15: Change in Base of Support for Split Jerk and Squat Jerk.................................................... 133
Figure 7 – 16: Common Beginner Errors in the Split Jerk and Squat Jerk ................................................. 135
Figure 7 – 17: Extension to Landing Position for the Front Foot in the Split Jerk ..................................... 135
Figure 8 – 1: Factors that can Influence Mental State .............................................................................. 142
Figure 9 – 1: Weight Fluctuations over the Training Cycle ....................................................................... 158
Figure 9 – 2: A Process for Identifying an Athlete’s Ideal Body Weight ................................................... 159
Figure 13 – 1: Relationships between Physical and Psychological Stimuli and Responses ...................... 188
Figure 13 – 2: Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale ........................................................................................ 189
Figure 13 – 3: Volume and Intensity Decision Tree .................................................................................. 193
Figure 14 – 1: Classifications of Strength .................................................................................................. 198
Figure 14 – 2: Factors that Influence Strength ......................................................................................... 200
Figure 14 – 3: Change in Muscle Size on Moment Arm ............................................................................ 201
Figure 14 – 4: Altering Structural Mechanics in the Squat to Emphasize Leg Strength............................ 203
Figure 14 – 5: Simulated Strength Trajectories Among Boys and Girls .................................................... 205
Figure 14 – 6: Methods for Developing Maximal Strength ....................................................................... 206
Figure 14 – 7: Force Velocity Curve for Eccentric Movements ................................................................. 211
Figure 14 – 8: Testing Reactive Strength Capability.................................................................................. 217
Figure 15 – 1: Sample Annual Training Plan ............................................................................................. 225
Figure 15 – 2: Process for Creating a Competitive State Assessment Model ........................................... 238
Figure 16 – 1: Outline of the Programming Process ................................................................................. 241
Figure 16 – 2: Process for Creating a Competitive State Assessment Model ........................................... 243
Figure 16 – 3: Sample Competitive State Assessment Result during a Microcycle .................................. 248
Figure 16 – 4: Sample Cycle Adjustment for Pre-Competition ................................................................. 250
Figure 17 – 1: Sensitive Periods for Strength Qualities............................................................................. 257
Figure 18 – 1: Sensitive Period for Athletic Qualities between Boys and Girls......................................... 266
Figure 18 – 2: Different Training Adjustments During the Menstrual Cycle ............................................. 273
13
Figure 19 – 1: Effects of Upper Body Proportions on Weightlifting Performance ................................... 281
Figure 19 – 2: The Advantage of the Hook Grip ........................................................................................ 282
Figure 19 – 3: Effects of Hip Size on Weightlifting Mechanics .................................................................. 283
Figure 19 – 4: The Effect of Femur Length on Work ................................................................................. 284
Figure 19 – 5: The Biomechanical Effect of Leg Length on Weightlifting ................................................. 285
Figure 20 – 1: Injury Occurrences over the Year ....................................................................................... 298
14
15
Introduction
The Chinese weightlifting team is currently the most successful team in the world in
Weightlifting. Of the 564 gold medals awarded by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) in
World Weightlifting Championships, Chinese weightlifters won 58.9% of these gold medals (Yang 2013).
At the Olympic level, Chinese weightlifters won 29 gold medals, 13 silver medals, and 8 bronze medals.
In addition to this success, Chinese weightlifters have made other significant contributions to pushing
the level of achievement in weightlifting. From 1907 to 2012, the Sr. and Jr. World records for men and
women have been broken 4420 times by weightlifters from 53 countries, and during this period Chinese
weightlifters accounted for 21.7% of these records. Given this rise over previously dominant teams such
as Russia/Soviet Union and Bulgaria, it is important to learn from the Chinese experience.
The reason behind the Chinese Weightlifting team’s success is in part due to an organized
system of athlete selection. Elite weightlifting is a combination of both genetic talent and acquired
training, and athlete selection pertains to finding talented athletes from an early age as they progress
through the path toward elite performance. Their initial selection process aims to assess children using
standard criteria along with visual inspection. Because the children being scouted have not gone
through weightlifting training, the guidelines are flexible to avoid missing potential talent. Later
selection includes providing basic weightlifting training to observe their potential. Candidates who move
onward undergo longer and more specialized training to observe their performance, with the top
candidates moving forward to one of the hundreds of city schools where almost 10,000 children
participate in amateur weight training. Within 6 years on average they graduate to one of China’s 39
provincial weightlifting bases and the best athletes graduate to one of China’s 8 national weightlifting
bases. Due to team quotas, other highly-talented weightlifters who are not selected for a national team
will graduate to one of China’s 101 reserve weightlifting bases to maintain a strong pool of athletes
ready to fill in spots for outgoing athletes (Li and Liu 2013).
Although many people believe that this method of early selection is the sole reason behind
China’s success, time has shown that simply recruiting athletes at an early stage is insufficient for
success. While this method allows recruiters to select talented individuals early on and provide them
with the training to succeed in competition, even the most talented athletes can get bored or burned
out, despite having these initial training conditions. Other athletes can work hard, but still have short
careers due to injury. Therefore, the key to maximizing an athlete’s talent is to implement a system of
organized training, which is what China has done. In the 1960s, the founders of Chinese weightlifting
believed that the first step in implementing an organized system is to have a universal concept of
technique. Therefore, they combined art with biomechanics to develop a unique philosophical approach
to weightlifting technique that is easier for coaches to teach and for athletes to learn than other
systems. Their philosophy is based on the 5 Words: Close, Fast, Low, Rhythm, and Balance. “Close”
means that the athlete and barbell should remain close to each other so that the athlete can maintain
their balance through an entire pull, “fast” means that barbell’s speed must be fast, “low” means that
16
athlete must catch the barbell as low as possible, “timing” means the lift must achieve a specific rhythm
to reduce stress on the body, and “balance” means the athlete must catch the barbell in the most stable
position. With these 5 Words, coaches can guide an athlete to perform a perfect lift without
overwhelming the athlete’s thought process during a lift.
The biomechanical basis underlying these 5 Words is based on 3 gravity principles: “equal
magnitude, simultaneous, and opposite direction.” This means that the horizontal forces produced by
the joints of the body must be exerted so that the magnitudes are equal. These forces must also be
exerted simultaneously. Some joints produce forward forces while others produce backwards forces, so
“opposite directions” means that these joints must produce horizontal force in their respective
directions. These 3 gravity principles inform how to lift the most weight in the most efficient way, while
minimize the risk of injury. They form the foundation underlying the 5 Words, which then inform the
movements needed to teach technique and organize initial training.
Armed with a solid technical understanding, the founders of modern Chinese weightlifting then
sought to create a way of training so that athletes could consistently implement the 3 gravity principles
and 5 Words at the highest intensity. They formed 7 training systems focusing on Athletic, Technical,
Mental, Tactical, Recovery, Intellectual, and Mentality training. Athletic Training aims to improve the
body’s functions to improve the athlete’s ability to endure training loads. Technique training aims to
build an accurate and stable technical style to maximize their ability to lift weight. Psychological Training
helps athletes learn how to develop and adjust their mental condition to better participate in training
and prepare to complete difficult tasks in competition to win. Tactical Training teaches athletes to utilize
methods to maximize their own ability while limiting the opponent’s strong point and obtain victory.
Recovery training aims to speed the body’s adaptation, recover their working capability, and prevent
injury or disease. Intellectual training educates athletes on basic exercise theory and weightlifting to
improve the athlete’s self-consciousness during training and accelerate the improvement of
weightlifting techniques. And mentality training works to develop and adjusts an athlete's’ motivation to
keep them interested in completing training and competition goals. We find that many amateur lifters
and coaches outside of China do not implement a system supporting a concept of technique. While
readers will have different experiences and training with each of these systems from their prior sports
backgrounds, neglecting any of these systems will ultimately limit one’s performance. For example, if an
athlete trains without implementing adequate recovery, then they will be at greater risk for injury. If an
athlete does not train their intellectual understanding of the lifts, then they might struggle in selfcorrecting in between sets or reps which affects their technical progress. Additionally, they will be
unable to train without an instructor, which is suboptimal during times the athlete must lift alone.
Throughout this book we describe each system in detail and provide best practices used by professional
Chinese coaches so that readers can implement this training into their current programs.
17
One strong factor for the success of weightlifting in China is that trained, professional coaches
agree on this technical concept, so athletes do not have to make major changes to their technique or
learn substantially different styles as they work with different coaches during their careers. Our
experience in seminars and private coaching shows that athletes outside of China learn many different
styles of weightlifting often based on a coach’s personal belief, which naturally changes from coach to
coach. This book will describe Chinese weightlifting philosophy and its scientific foundation in detail so
that readers can implement a logical technical concept in their training and coaching that will remain
consistent and successful throughout their career.
With an understanding of technique and a system created to support this technique, coaches
can then begin to construct training plans that incorporate these elements while monitoring their
athlete’s training so that they reach their highest level of ability on the day of competition. Training
plans are composed of interdependent layers, starting with a broad, long-term plan and then describing
more specific medium-term and short-term plans. During the planning stage, it is important to
understand fundamental training variables and training methods to implement a plan that supports
technique and the 7 systems. In addition to describing how Chinese coaches conceptualize a plan for
their athletes, this book also introduces fundamental training variables so that readers can construct
their own plans.
Because athletes have different backgrounds and talents, and because their bodies are
constantly adapting and changing, the founders of the Chinese weightlifting system realized that it is
important to monitor training on a short, medium, and long-term basis. Without such monitoring,
training can be aimless. We often see amateurs simply following a random training plan that they may
be unprepared for or repeating a previously effective training plan only to realize little/no results at best
or injury at worst. Additionally, some amateur coaches will implement the same programs for every
athlete, which ignores the unique differences among athletes. The founders of Chinese weightlifting
discovered early on that youth and female athletes need special training considerations to maximize
their results due to their physiological differences from adult male athletes. Therefore, they started
developing unique training programs for youth and women. This book provides guidelines and best
practices applicable to men and women but also details the special considerations for youth and female
athletes.
Up until now, there is little published work on professional Chinese weightlifting techniques and
training methods outside of China. This book is the result of several years of compiling and translating
decades of Chinese weightlifting research combined with best practices developed for Chinese coaches.
It describes how the best team in the world trains and reflects how we teach weightlifting in Ma
Strength seminars, training camps, and personal coaching. We feel that the Chinese style is the best way
to lift maximal weight with the least amount of stress on the body, and therefore feel that there is much
to learn and implement even if you started late in the sport and outside of China. The aim of this book is
to provide coaches and athletes with the tools to best understand and teach weightlifting technique as
18
well as create the most effective training programs to improve the level of weightlifting in their gyms
and respective countries.
19
20
Chapter 1: History and Development of Weightlifting in China
Weightlifting in Ancient China
China has is one of the most dominant countries in men’s and women’s weightlifting. This may
seem like a recent phenomenon China has a long history and culture of strength sports leading up to the
development of modern weightlifting. Gao (2013) describes how the development of ancient Chinese
weightlifting was closely related with labor productivity, military combat, and the development of
Chinese Martial Arts. Early primitive societies lacked modern tools and technology to fulfill basic needs,
so the level of productivity was low while environmental conditions were harsh. People had to rely on
their own strength and labor to move or lift heavy objects, hunt for food, and defend themselves.
Therefore, the most successful individuals were those with the most strength and who could apply it to
important lifting movements. Strength competitions determined standards which were used to
determine who could be the most successful and was part of determining leadership among groups of
people.
With the creation of tools and weapons, human productivity grew which made it was possible to
create a surplus of goods and increase one’s social wealth and power. Additionally, one’s strength could
be used to subdue competitors to further increase their own wealth and power. During this early period,
the design and weight of such tools and weapons were rudimentary, dull, and heavy (Li 2013), making
physical strength an important part for success in agriculture and for determining a soldier’s lethality. In
fact, as early as 2300 years ago military officials used strength tests for selecting soldiers, determining
their positions, and conferring prestige, but these activities took on various forms over time as shown in
Figure 1–1 (Yang 1987).
Figure 1 – 1: Timeline of Chinese Dynasties and Main Strength Events
For example, the Qin and Han dynasties tested strength by lifting dings which were originally
metal wares with 3 legs and 2 ears, used in various cultural aspects of Chinese society such as worship,
cooking for the emperor, and punishment. They could weigh between several hundred to a thousand
pounds and were usually carried on the shoulder by two people using a pole as shown in Figure 1 – 2 but
a single person could lift it overhead by holding the handles (Huang 2014). Due to the cultural
importance of dings, the strength required to lift them became an essential part of Chinese culture. For
example, historical records describe Emperor Wu of the Qin Dynasty as strong in stature and an admirer
21
of weight lifting performance such that he awarded high posts to strongmen at that time (Yang 1996).
The Han dynasty continued ding competitions from the earlier Qin dynasty but also created a special
ding known as the Han-ding made specifically for sport (Peng 2012). A "ding officer" was established in
court responsible for arranging ding lifting contests at court and authorizing the title of ‘the mighty ding
lifter’ to winners. During this time, other accounts tell of spectacular strength feats. For example, the
‘Book of Later Han’ tells of a famous harmonious couple, Liang Hong and Mengguang. Liang Hong
recorded how his wife Mengguang lifted a heavy mortar stone making it the earliest record of Chinese
women weightlifting (Yang 1987). There were other events such as barbell stone lifting, broadsword
performance, and weighted carrying, along with weighted acrobatic performances (Peng 2012).
Although the weightlifting patterns and training methods are different from modern competitive
weightlifting and general strength movements, the movements sought to test strength, speed, and
power.
After the fall of the Han dynasty, the ding was gradually replaced by the qiaoguan as the formal
weightlifting instrument in the subsequent Jin and Tang dynasties. Qiaoguan refers to the broad and
thick bar(s) used to bolt city gates shut, and strongmen would lift them from there ends and even try to
raise them overhead as shown in Figure 1 – 2. The origins of qiaoguan appear as early as the Spring and
Autumn period (771 to 476 BCE) with historical references to Confucius lifting qiaoguan in the capital
city (Gao 2008). However, qiaoguan lifting was a greater part of military culture than sport during the Jin
dynasty due to frequent wars and the need to lift qiaoguan quickly to protect city gates. Therefore, Jin
emperors installed strength standards with qiaoguan along with martial proficiency for county, state,
and military officials (Qin 2012). The Tang Dynasty further institutionalized and regulated the practice of
enlisting strongmen with Empress Wu Zetian setting up a military examination that included qiaoguan,
weight carrying, and bodybuilding as some of the examination items (Gao 2008). At that time the
qiaoguan was about 168cm long, diameter 11.7cm and was to be lifted for 10 repetitions (Yang 2013)
and candidates also had to lift a qiaoguan in each hand and walk with them for a prescribed distance (Li
2013).
After the fall of the Tang dynasty and the rise of the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279), the urban
middle class began to rise while militaries shifted their focus on strategies over brute force. This shifted
weightlifting events away from military culture and more into the public culture. As a result, strength
was expressed by street and private performers through various activities requiring artistry as well as
performance such as stone lifting or stacking, handling elaborate weapons, and balancing acts as shown
in Figure 1 – 2 (Li 2013). Later in the Ming and Qing dynasties stone stacking became part of the military
examination system. Other notable events included using one’s hands to rotate a 50kg broadsword
around one’s body, and the famous general Qi Jiguang ordered his soldiers to shoulder an iron dummy
weighing 150kg and walk around for 500m to enhance their physical fitness condition (Yang 1987). In
the late Ming dynasty, the precursor to the modern weightlifting barbell appeared made of wood with
22
Figure 1 – 2: Samples of Ding Lifting, Qiaoguan, and Stone Lifting
23
stone bells attached at the ends and were used in strength competitions and acrobatics up through the
Qing dynasty (Qin 2012).
Weightlifting in Recent Centuries
As traditional weightlifting activities persisted in China, they were strongly affected by exposure
to Christianity (Zhang 2015) and the ideals put forth through the communist movement (Dong 2001).
Prior to the 1800s, traditional weightlifting activities were limited in widespread adoption outside of
military or performers due to the influence of Confucianism, which emphasized civility and
strengthening the mind rather than manual labor, physical exercise, and martial activity. However,
during the 1840s, Western powers began forcefully brokering treaties with the Qing government, which
allowed missionaries to enter China. At this time, ideals of masculinity emphasized physical prowess and
gave rise to the idea of “muscular Christianity,” which was the belief that having a strong body was
commensurate to being a good Christian, since the body was believed to be an instrument in service of
the Lord (Zhang 2015). Missionaries with these beliefs established the Young Men’s (Women’s) Christian
Association (YMCA and YWCA) in China which taught Christian values and physical development to
children and adults on a mass scale. After the 1911 revolution that overthrew the Qing government,
Mao Zedong wrote articles stressing the benefits of exercise in an effort to modernize Chinese culture
and instill virtues of physical health for the common man and woman.
Initially in China, sports were relegated to military or individuals rather than organizations
designed to bring sports to the masses. With continued exposure to western sports, international
barbell weightlifting was gradually introduced and during the mid-1920s while the YMCA and YWCA help
set up and manage the first Chinese sporting organizations. Iron barbells could be seen in the foreign
consulates in Shamian, Guangzhou and yards of the foreign companies in Shantou prefecture. In 1929,
the Shanghai Jingwu Sports Committee made an iron barbell to launch competitive weightlifting
activities, and it became the symbol of modern weightlifting in China. The Shanghai Hu River University
fitness committee in 1930, used instruments like barbells and dumbbells to launch weightlifting and
bodybuilding activities. Meanwhile, modern barbell weightlifting was embraced among overseas
Chinese in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.
Missionaries and Chinese converts also organized national and international events which
integrated China into the global sports scene, and in 1935, China joined the International Weightlifting
Federation (IWF). It was in October of 1935 that the 2nd China National Sports Meeting was held in
Shanghai, during which weightlifting was listed as a competitive event for the first time. 14 people
participated among 5 weight classes in the snatch, press, and clean and jerk, with results establishing
the first batch of national weightlifting records. In May 1936, a weightlifting selection competition was
held in Shanghai to select the athletes who would represent China at the 11th Olympic Games in Berlin.
Huang Sheji, Shen Liang, and Wang Kangting became the first Weightlifters to represent China at an
Olympic games. Huang Sheji totaled 255 kg between the snatch, clean and press, and clean and jerk (70
24
+ 80 + 105), while Shen Liang totaled 242.5kg (72.5 + 75 + 95), and Wang Kangting did not total (77.5 +
75 + 0). Their performance and representation in the games helped the sport of weightlifting to
gradually gain greater acceptance in China. For example, weightlifting was formally listed as a
competition event at the 7th China National Sports Games in Shanghai in 1948, with 23 athletes from 5
weight classes competing.
Contemporary Weightlifting
After the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, the National Sports
Promotion Association was reorganized, and weightlifting developed rapidly under the Communist
Party. It was a popular activity for athletes and an important method to develop other sports events.
The work of teaching, training, and researching weightlifting were quickly carried out and the technique
level of weightlifting increased rapidly. Looking back, Yang {2013) notes that Chinese Weightlifting has
undergone 5 distinct phases of development: the startup period during the 1950s which laid the
foundation for professional weightlifting; the first half of the 1960s where professionals engaged in
scientific research and innovation to improve weightlifting results; 1966 – 1972 where weightlifting and
other sports halted activities as they became targets during the Cultural Revolution; 1980s – 2000 where
Chinese weightlifting reached an elite level; and 2000 – present where the weightlifting program
incorporated multidisciplinary scientific methods to enhance its performance. Table 1 – 1 (Ma, Wang,
and Li 1995) shows the change in weightlifting training throughout most of this period.
The 1950s was the startup period for modern weightlifting under the Communist party and was
motivated by China’s desire to centralize their political ideology, strengthen their national defense, and
develop their economy (Dong 2001). Achieving these goals would dispel the international notion of
China as a weak country, alleviate China’s fear of western intrusion on the Korean peninsula, and
overcome the humiliation from foreign power forcing treaties prior to the PRC founding (Dong 2001). To
do this, the Chinese government began to finance sports in rural areas for the first time by requiring
physical education in schools, setting up a centralized system of sports schools at the city and provincial
level, and integrating exercise in work. These policies had the economic impact of opening up sports as a
paid profession for the first time since coaches were needed to teach technique and develop athletic
abilities. Gifted athletes were also able to receive financial support at various stages of their
development for their performance.
At the same time, the government passed laws that expanded opportunities for women.
Previously, girls were often forced into arranged marriages at young ages either by patriarchs or by
human traffickers and were not allowed to divorce or receive inheritances. Additionally, girls would
become part of the husband’s family and cease to have responsibility for caring for their own family
upon marriage. These rules made having daughters an economic burden for their biological families and
reduced incentives to invest in women’s education or work. To gain greater authority, the communist
party abolished traditional systems of forced marriage by raising the legal marriage age to 18 years and
25
requiring all marriages to be registered by the consenting couple. Marriages could be rejected by
officials if they were found to be forced, which shifted the marriage authority from the family to the
state and allowed couples more freedom in choosing their partners while keeping relations with their
families. Therefore, the party launched propaganda extolling the equality of sexes and the value of
women to popularize the law. This changed the economic incentives for having daughters but still
required an active campaign to change gender norms. So, the party sought to promote ideals of hard
work, sacrifice for ‘the cause’, and increasing one’s labor productivity. As a result, education was
expanded to girls, eradicating the 90% illiteracy rate among them and introducing them to sports
through school. These policies broke the norms of gender inequality and gave women a newfound sense
of assertiveness, confidence, and independence, while creating a large new pool of athletes.
While different regions of China set up their own weightlifting teams and engaged in national
competitions, their totals were low because of a lack of a scientific training knowledge or a training
system. China knew they needed to change this if they wanted a chance at winning, and since the Soviet
Union was the first socialist superpower (Dong 2001) and was investing in systematic sports
development programs through large-scale scientific research, China sought to follow their systems.
Under Friendship treaties, Soviet experts assisted their Chinese counterparts in building their programs,
while a delegation of 9 Chinese weightlifters went to train in the Soviet Union (Chen 1985). They learned
about all aspects of training such as the organization and duties of individuals in the coaching and
management teams, financial incentive structures, organizing training camps, programming, nutrition,
recovery, and weightlifting technique.
During their training, the delegation found that the Soviet had a network of training facilities
that were chosen based on the requirements of the competition venue. They also noticed the cadre of
coaches, researchers, therapists, and doctors present during the training and each playing a clearly
defined role. Everyone was paid a salary and were retained or promoted based on results and the needs
of the team. The Chinese delegation found that their athletes had less endurance than their Soviet
counterparts because Chinese athletes were used to training with low sets and reps. Furthermore,
Chinese athletes did not incorporate very much upper body training, which resulted in imbalanced
strength development between the upper and lower body. This was reflected in their technique as
Chinese weightlifters relied on lifting more with their quads rather than assisting with the hips, back,
and shoulders, thereby limiting their range of motion during the pull. In addition to inefficient training
and technique, Chinese weightlifters lacked an organized recovery plan and only used recovery methods
when injury occurred rather than as integral part of training. Additionally, their nutrition plan had more
fat and carbs with fewer vitamins than Soviet athletes which resulted in significant differences in body
composition. The delegation took all these differences into consideration and sought to copy Soviet
practices in China.
All these differences heavily influenced the early systemic organization of Chinese weightlifting.
The 9 athletes increased their total results by 272.5 KG within 5 months of their stay and convinced
26
Period
Lifts
Table 1 – 1: Change in Weightlifting Training 1950’s – 1990’s
1950’s
1960’s
1970’s
1980’s
Snatch;
Clean & Jerk;
Clean & Press
Snatch;
Clean & Jerk;
Clean & Press
Snatch;
Clean & Jerk
Snatch;
Clean & Jerk
1990’s
Snatch;
Clean & Jerk
1. Full 3 lifts,
2. Full 3 lifts and 3. Full 2 lifts and 4. Full 2 lifts,
5. Full 2 lifts,
Main Training
performed
for
decomposed
decomposed
Power
versions,
snatch pull,
Activity
technique and
strength
Secondary
Training
Activity
Program
Training
Amount
(sets)
lifts variations
for technique
and strength
variations for
technique and
strength
front squat,
back squat,
snatch pull,
clean pull,
power jerk, rack
jerk
6. Overhead Press9. Same as before10. Various
11. Various pulling 12.
7. Bench Press
weightlifting
variations,
8. Bodybuilding
supportive
Various
with DB and BB
overhead and
technical
for biceps,
lower back
variations,
triceps, lower
movements
Supportive
back, obliques,
combined with
assistance
and
bodybuilding
movements for
abdominals.
overhead and
core
13. Mainly strength
14. Mainly complex
15. Various
16. Much more 17.
training, relying training
activities,
individualized
on 80 – 90%
multiple sets,
intensity to
mainly used 80
strengthen the
– 85% intensity
full movement
18. Total around 19. Total around 20. Mostly 30+, 21. About 10 for 22.
20+
30+
maximum 50 main training
60
activities
clean pull, front
squat, back
squat
Deadlifts with
shrugs, speed
pulls,
Supportive
assistance
movements for
overhead and
core
Mainly strength
training, relying
on 90 – 100%
Main training
activities
around 4 - 6
Chinese weightlifting teams to adopt systematic training (Yang 2013). Chinese coaches emphasized
physical training and they also adopted the squat style for the snatch and clean and jerk which greatly
improved weightlifting results within a short time. For example, a year after the delegation's visit to the
Soviet Union, Chen Jingkai set the first world record by a Chinese weightlifter by jerking 133kg in the
56kg class in Shanghai. In 1956 – 1959, the weightlifting totals of Chinese weightlifters over 7 weight
classes increased at a rate of 12.5kg each year while the totals of the whole world increased at a rate of
2.7kg each year. During this time, China got closer to reaching an elite level of performance.
Taking the information they learned in the 1950’s, the first half of the 1960’s were a period of
innovation and improvement. While the experience with Soviet teams laid the foundation for Chinese
27
sports systems and brought various sports to a higher level, Chinese coaches realized that indiscriminate
copying of Soviet training practices still prevented Chinese athletes from achieving the success of the
Soviet Union and other countries because copying ignored athletes’ training histories, infrastructure
practicalities, and demographic characteristics (Dong 2001). During the 1950’s, Chinese coaches
believed that by simply copying the Soviet system and emphasizing quality of movement would be the
key to success. This meant that innovation was often discouraged or ignored but resulted in inefficient
techniques and training methods. However, two former lifters and world-record holders became young
coaches and are credited with changing the way China approached weightlifting and founding the
Chinese weightlifting system (see Figure 1 – 3).
Figure 1 – 3: Founders of the Chinese System – Huang Qianghui and Zhao Qingkui
The first of these record holders was Zhao Qingkui, a lifter from Tianjin who started weightlifting
at age 15 in 1951 and joined the national team in 1955. Over the next 5 years, he broke the world record
in the clean and jerk and won national and international titles. He attributed part of his rapid progress
and success to conceptualizing the lifts in his own way, summarized by 3 words: close, fast, and low.
After retiring from competition in 1960, he became a coach and rose up to become the head coach for
the National Team, as well as director of the National Technique Commission. The other record holder
was Zhao’s older teammate, Huang Qianghui, who began weightlifting at age 18 in 1952 and quickly fell
in love with it while studying at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Harbin Institute of
Technology. He also entered the National Team in 1955 but relied on his own biomechanical
understanding of the lifts to improve his understanding and performance. As a lifter, he also broke the
clean and jerk world record in national and international competitions before becoming a coach in 1960.
As coaches, Zhao and Huang combined their understandings to develop a concept of technique
and training that was grounded in scientific analysis. They engaged in weightlifting research themselves
and recruited researchers to further analyze training theory, training loads, training methods, technique,
28
and strength training. Additionally, scientific research on rehabilitation, medical supervision, material
selection for weightlifting equipment, recruiting and selecting athletes, and other topics were analyzed,
thus allowing them to make great progress. As a result, training shifted to more complex training and
Chinese local, provincial, and the national weightlifting teams increased their training load to 5 - 6 times
a week and at least 30 sets per day. Zhao’s philosophy was eventually extended to 5 Words and 3 gravity
principles, each with an underlying scientific analysis (see Chapter 2 on Weightlifting Philosophy).
Through developing their own philosophy grounded in mechanics, and reorganizing their training based
on scientific experiments, eventually 8 Chinese athletes broke 11 world records in the press, snatch, and
clean and jerk. To this day, Zhao and Huang are credited as the founders of the Chinese weightlifting
system and their methods are still used by educated coaches throughout China as well as by Ma
Strength.
The third period of Chinese weightlifting was one of chaos and recovery (Lu 2016). Due to the
Cultural Revolution, weightlifting events and development were disrupted during 1966 – 1972. Mao
Zedong was the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party and called for a cultural revolution which
opposed elitism and advocated the rise of the proletariat. Since sport was seen as a form of national
popular culture which could be used to propagandize political ideology, the Cultural Revolution
questioned the role of mass and elite sport. Mass sport was viewed positively as a way to unite the
workers, improve their health, and improve national defense, while winning medals at international
sports competitions was now viewed negatively as a practice of the capitalist road. As the revolution
grew, sports officials who had foreign relations or who used to have connections were seen as counterrevolutionaries or spies which led to their exile or imprisonment. Additionally, celebrity champion
athletes were condemned by rebels as representatives of bourgeois and capitalist ideology. This
resulted in disbanding many national, provincial, and regional sports teams, closing down sports schools,
and stopping participation of international sports competition for a period of 6 years.
Sports research and training recovered in 1973 due to a change in foreign policy where China
used sports exchanges and competitions to establish relations with the world. Coaches and athletes
were released from prison or exile and returned to their posts and teams across all levels began to train
again. However, the situation was unstable due to power struggles among factions in the Chinese
leadership, so athletes and coaches experienced persecution based on their political allegiances. Teams
did not have a unified understanding of training due to lack of access to information and fear of using
foreign developments. Therefore, China weightlifting greatly lagged the world level. By 1977 the Cultural
Revolution ended, and modernization became the new guideline for economic and social activities. The
sports ministry adopted a formal policy of promoting mass and elite sport but also emphasized elite
sport to catch up to the rest of the world. At this time, coaches such as Huang Qianghui and Zhao
Qingkui returned to research and develop sports programs. The clean and press was abolished in 1972
so countries adapted their training programs to specialize in the snatch and clean and jerk. This required
China to adapt and learn from other countries. The result was adopting twice a day training, training 8 –
9 times per week, increasing daily volume to 50 - 60 sets, which promoted the recovery of China
29
weightlifting results. In 1979, the world record of Youth weightlifting was broken 20 times by Chinese
athletes, which signified a new development of Chinese weightlifting.
The fourth period spanning the mid-1980’s – 2000 was the period where Chinese weightlifting
reached an elite level. During 1980 – 1984, world records in 10 weight classes increased by a total score
of 241.5 kg, while China’s records increased only 145.5 kg. This severe situation put forward new
challenges to Chinese weightlifting and forced the exploration of training laws and training methods
stemming from three aspects: first, learn more from the advanced experience of foreign nations such as
Bulgaria; second, reform training by increasing specialization and increasing frequency to 11 – 15 times
per week; third, innovation in practice by individualizing programming. Because of these changes, the
level of Chinese weightlifting increased rapidly, and by 1984, Chinese weightlifting had reached the
world advanced level once again. For example, on the men’s side, Chinese athletes won 4 gold medals
(Zeng Guoqiang, Wu Shude, Chen Weiqiang, Yao Jingyuan), two silver medals in the 23rd Olympic Games
held in Los Angeles (Yang 1987). In 1986 - 1988, Chinese athletes He Zhuoqiang, He Yingqiang, Liu
Shoubin broke the world record total in the 52kg class twice, and the 52 and 56 kg snatch world record 7
times. In the 24th Olympic Games, China won 1 silver medal and 4 bronze medals.
This trend of increased specialization in the training of high level athletes continued into the
1990’s with workouts consisting of even higher intensity, but fewer sets to compensate. After the
1990’s the level of Chinese men's weightlifting continued to improve, with light and medium weight
classes reaching elite levels. At the 25th Olympic Games in 1992, China won 2 silver and 2 bronze
medals; in 1995, China won the team championship in the world weightlifting championships. In the
Olympic Games of 1996 – 2012, China’s men’s weightlifting team won 11 gold medals, 7 silver medals, 2
bronze medals, and won the team championship several times (Yang 2013).
During this same period, China also developed the world’s highest level of women’s
weightlifting. Women’s weightlifting teams were set up in several provinces in 1984, and by 2012, there
were nearly 50 women’s weightlifting teams and 4000 women weightlifters in China. During the 1st – 6th
Women's World Weightlifting Championships (1987 – 1992) Chinese women won 137 of the 162 gold
medals available and broke most of the world records. However, the IWF felt that the team’s dominance
would prevent other countries from developing women’s weightlifting programs and hurt the chances
of including women’s weightlifting into the Olympics (Yang et al 2000). Therefore, after 1993, China
reduced their performance in the World and Asian Championships but continued to win the team
championship. The IOC introduced women's weightlifting as an official event during the 27th Olympic
Games in 2000 and set up 7 weight classes, but restricted teams to a maximum of 4 representatives.
This allowed weightlifting to develop in many countries and allowed rivals from Bulgaria, India, South
Korea, North Korea, Poland, USA, Hungary, and Chinese Taipei to compete. Chinese women continued
to shine by winning 14 gold medals and one silver medal which is 50% of the total women weightlifting
gold medals awarded by the IOC during 2000 – 2012.
30
Overall, the Sr. and Jr. world records for men and women have been broken 4420 times by
weightlifters from 53 countries and regions in the past 105 years from 1907 to 2012 (Yang 2013). In this
period, Chinese weightlifters broke the men’s world record 77 times and junior men’s world records 74
times, while women’s records were broken 544 times and junior women’s records 256 times. This total
of 960 records account for 21.7% of the 4420 records from 1907 to 2012. Additionally, Chinese
weightlifting teams won 113 gold medals for men and 332 gold medals for women, which is 58.9% of
the 564 gold medals awarded by the IWF in world weightlifting championships. At the Olympic level,
Chinese weightlifting teams won 29 gold medals (see Table 1 – 2 for more details), 13 silver medals, and
8 bronze medals, cementing China’s position in the development of world weightlifting. To continue this
growth, China has 8 national weightlifting bases, 39 provincial weightlifting bases, and 101 weightlifting
bases for high-level talent development. Almost 10,000 juniors participate in the amateur weight
training which feeds into developing junior weightlifting.
The final period runs from 2000 through the present, where Chinese weightlifting incorporated
multidisciplinary scientific methods to enhance its performance. While the foundation for Chinese
weightlifting had been set by Zhao Qingkui and others, many weightlifting instructors mainly relied on
observation and experience from guiding athletes through various aspects of training (Xu 2015). Despite
achieving excellent results through much of the 1990’s, relying primarily on observation produces two
major issues: the first is that there can be disparities between individuals observing the same situation,
which can result in inconsistencies in the accuracy of suggestions for improving technique or other
areas. The second is that athletes will develop different and inconsistent understandings based on the
instructor’s suggestions and cues. This can result in different levels of performance at the individual level
but can also result in a province systematically lagging others in terms of recruitment, performance, and
injury prevention (see Fan 2004; Shen and Song 2013). This is significant because China’s national level
competitions are battles among the provinces and determine the future of the national team. Thus,
Chinese weightlifting coaches realized that in order to consistently achieve high-level results, the system
must be built on consistent programming and an agreed upon foundation of knowledge.
While becoming a champion in the high-level competition depends on hard work and diligent
practice, selecting talented children and juniors and training them scientifically is the prerequisite for
bringing up great athletes to the world elite level. Yang (1999) analyzed the age characteristics of highlevel weightlifters and found that that since 1960s, weightlifters have starting training at a younger and
younger age. Specifically, 50 years ago the age of athletes when they began training was about 16 – 17
but now the average age is about 10 – 12 years old. Additionally, during 1960 - 1990 the average age of
men’s Olympic weightlifting champion dropped from 27.9 to 24.5. Currently the average age to reach
the world level is about 21 for men and 20 for women. Because of these decreasing trends, Chinese
scouts and sports scientists pay attention to physical characteristics as usual, but now they place more
importance on development potential, especially the level of testosterone because this is a great
determinant of an athlete’s strength and muscular potential.
31
Table 1 – 2: A Record of Chinese Olympic Weightlifting Champions
Name
Sex Level Total
Competition
Date
Location
Zeng Guoqiang
M
52 kg
235 The 23rd Olympic Games 1984/7/30
LA
Wu Shude
M
56 kg 267.5 The 23rd Olympic Games 1984/7/31
LA
Chen Weiqiang
M
60 kg 282.5 The 23rd Olympic Games 1984/8/01
LA
Yao Jingyuan
M 67.5 kg 320 The 23rd Olympic Games 1984/8/02
LA
Tang Lingsheng
M
59 kg 307.5 The 26th Olympic Games 1996/7/22 Atlanta
Zhan Xugang
M
70 kg 357.5 The 26th Olympic Games 1996/7/24 Atlanta
Yang Xia
F
53 kg
225 The 27th Olympic Games 2000/9/18 Sydney
Chen Xiaomin
F
58 kg 242.5 The 27th Olympic Games 2000/9/19 Sydney
Lin Weining
F
63 kg 242.5 The 27th Olympic Games 2000/9/20 Sydney
Zhan Xugang
M
77 kg 367.5 The 27th Olympic Games 2000/9/20 Sydney
Ding Meiyuan
M
75 kg
300 The 27th Olympic Games 2000/9/24 Sydney
Shi Zhiyong
M
62 kg
325 The 28th Olympic Games 2004/8/16 Athens
Zhang Guozheng M
69 kg 347.5 The 28th Olympic Games 2004/8/17 Athens
Chen Yanqing
F
58 kg 237.5 The 28th Olympic Games 2004/8/17 Beijing
Liu Chunhong
F
69 kg
275 The 28th Olympic Games 2004/8/19 Beijing
Tang Gonghong
F
75 kg
305 The 28th Olympic Games 2004/8/24 Beijing
Chen Xiexia
F
48 kg
212 The 29th Olympic Games 2008/8/09 Beijing
Long Qingquan
M
56 kg
292 The 29th Olympic Games 2008/8/10 Beijing
Zhang Xiangxiang M
62 kg
319 The 29th Olympic Games 2008/8/11 Beijing
Chen Yanqing
F
58 kg
244 The 29th Olympic Games 2008/8/11 Beijing
Liao Hui
M
69 kg
348 The 29th Olympic Games 2008/8/12 Beijing
Liu Chunhong
F
69 kg
286 The 29th Olympic Games 2008/8/13 Beijing
Lu Yong
M
74 kg
394 The 29th Olympic Games 2008/8/15 Beijing
Cao Lei
F
85 kg
282 The 29th Olympic Games 2008/8/15 Beijing
Wang Mingjuan
F
75 kg
205 The 30th Olympic Games 2012/7/28 London
Li Xueying
F
48 kg
246 The 30th Olympic Games 2012/7/31 London
Lin Qingfeng
M
58 kg
344 The 30th Olympic Games 2012/8/1 London
Lv Xiaojun
M
69 kg
379 The 30th Olympic Games 2012/8/2 London
Zhou Lulu
F
75 kg
333 The 30th Olympic Games 2012/8/6 London
New theories and training methods have greatly helped to scientifically systematize
weightlifting, making the arrangement and control of training more accurate and quantitative. For
example, Zhao Qingkui’s philosophy was expanded to 5 Words: close, fast, low, timing, and stable. Other
32
developments are influenced by the rapid innovations in modern technology and applied scientific
knowledge. For example, physiological and biochemical indexes are implemented to monitor the
athlete's’ physical condition, while scientific prediction is used to study the growth law for the athletes’
performance. 3D motion analysis makes it possible to quantitatively analyze athletes’ technical
movement, which can help to make technical movements more efficient. Electrical stimulators used to
facilitate athletes’ growth of muscular force. Finally, multidisciplinary scientific knowledge is used to
adopt physical, psychological, and nutritional strategies to accelerate athletes’ physical recovery and
strengthen bodily functions. Therefore, technological innovations and the application multidisciplinary
scientific knowledge will bring about a greater improvement of development of modern weightlifting.
33
34
Chapter 2: Chinese Weightlifting Philosophy: 3 Principles and 5 Words
3 Gravity Principles
In China, modern weightlifting is divided into 3 movement categories (Li 2000): 1) extension,
such as during the lifting portion of the barbell, driving the jerk after dipping, or standing up after
catching a bar, 2) squatting, such as the squatting to during a snatch or clean, and dipping during a jerk
or squatting to catch a power or squat jerk, 3) support, such as catching a clean on the clavicle and
shoulders, and supporting a snatch or jerk with straight arms overhead. The question is “how does one
perform these movements to lift the most amount of weight in the easiest way?” To answer this
question, Gu (1994) presented the following model shown in Figure 2 – 1:
Figure 2 – 1: A Simple Model of Vertical and Horizontal Forces
This model shows that lifting an object is a combination of horizontal and forces, depicted by
the lower case 𝑓′𝑠 and designated by the arrows. The combination of horizontal and vertical forces
results in a diagonal force which is designated by the capital 𝐹′𝑠. In this model, box 𝑀 is balanced
directly over its center of gravity 𝑂 and the shortest distance for the box to reach a certain height is in a
straight line. This requires that the vertical forces 𝑓3 and 𝑓4 be equal, otherwise one side of the box
would lift higher and the box would tilt and swing which requires more energy to stabilize. In order to
preserve a straight movement, the following 3 gravity principles must also hold: 1) the horizontal forces
𝑓1 and 𝑓2 must be of the same magnitude, 2) 𝑓1 and 𝑓2 must be applied simultaneously, and 3) 𝑓1 and 𝑓2
must pull in opposite directions. If 𝑓1 increases in magnitude after applying 𝑓2 , or 𝑓2 decreases in
magnitude after applying 𝑓1 then 𝑓1 > 𝑓2 which violates “equal magnitude” principle. In this case there
will be an imbalance in the resultant forces (𝐹1 > 𝐹2 ) such that box 𝑀 moves diagonally and leftward
from the center of gravity 𝑂. While the box will eventually reach the required height, we know from
mathematics that a diagonal line is longer than a straight line so following a diagonal path takes more
35
time, work, and energy than a single straight line. If 𝑓1 were applied first followed by 𝑓2 or vice versa
then the “simultaneous” principle is violated and of the object will move upward but it will oscillate
which takes more time, work, and energy than a straighter path in the same direction. And if 𝑓1 and 𝑓2
are in the same direction then the “opposite direction” principle is violated and the box 𝑀 will also
move horizontally in that direction. By moving along the straight line formed by the object’s center of
gravity, the 3 gravity principles ensure that the object travels the minimal distance required to reach a
desired point. Additionally, using the 3 gravity principles allows the vertical force to be maximized
because horizontal forces balance each other out.
The results above imply that if the human body can preserve its stability then it can fully utilize
its strength to effectively lift a weight. Thus, the techniques of the snatch and clean and jerk are the
techniques that allow the weightlifter to achieve stability to make the most use of endogenous force
(weightlifters’ physical fitness) and external force (the counterforce of the bearing surface, elastic
energy, gravity of the barbell) during extension, squatting, and supporting. The model above was
extended to analyze the human body during weightlifting movements. We can see that the ankles, knee,
hips, and shoulders are a system of levers that each apply a vertical and horizontal force (lower case 𝑓)
which results in a resultant force (capital 𝐹) as illustrated in Figure 2 – 2 (Gu 1994):
When the ankles and hips extend, they produce a forward force as well as a vertical force;
however, when the knees extend, or the shoulders retract, elevate, and externally rotate, they produce
a backward force as well as a vertical force. If the athlete exerts these forces strongly then the
movement naturally resembles a vertical jump. In a vertical jump the athlete is balanced over the ball of
the foot (or 60% of one’s foot length measured from the heel) and pushes through it to achieve maximal
height. If we draw a vertical line through the balance point in foot, then we establish line 𝑂 which is a
path that a barbell can follow to preserve the athlete’s balance as they produce vertical force. At heavy
weights, the combined center of gravity of the barbell and the athlete is approximately balanced over
this line. For the barbell to move closely along this line during the lifting portion of a snatch or clean, it
requires the following condition from the body:
𝑓1 + 𝑓3 = 𝑓2 + 𝑓4
This condition means that the magnitude of the backward forces generated by the shoulders
and knees (left-hand side) must equal the magnitude of the forward forces generated by the hips and
ankles (right-hand side). Additionally, these forces must be applied simultaneously and in their
respective horizontal directions to ensure lifting along a stable center of gravity. Failure to satisfy the
requirements of the 3 principles results in an ineffective application of force during the movement.
There are many ways to miss a lift, but the reasons can all be traced to violating one or more of the 3
gravity principles. Hence, this analysis forms the foundation for Chinese coaches and researchers to
analyze an athlete’s force application.
36
Figure 2 – 2: A Human Model of Simultaneous Forces Used During the Snatch or Clean
After extending, the athlete must squat under the bar which requires the body to move
downward and inward. This requires the body to exert downward forces after extension as shown in
Figure 2 – 3. During the squat the forces of the shoulder, hips, knees, and ankles are opposite from the
forces during extension because these joints must now bend the joints and lower the body (Li 2000).
Specifically, the hips and ankles must flex to produce a backward force while the knees and shoulders
produce a forward force. While the magnitude of force used depends on the barbell, body weight, and
the musculature, the movement requires that horizontal forces are equal in magnitude, applied in
opposing directions, and applied simultaneously (𝑓1 + 𝑓3 = 𝑓2 + 𝑓4 ). To minimize the horizontal
distance for the joints to travel and preserve a stable squat position, the body should be upright and
balanced over the midfoot instead of the 60% mark. This is because the barbell starts in front of the
body during the lifting and extension portion but must end directly overhead in a squat position.
Finally, supporting movements must also implement the 3 principles. Supporting movements
are static actions because they do not generate speed nor position changes, but the muscles are tense
and apply force to realize the greatest support strength (Li 2000). In the squat, the forces are illustrated
in Figure 2 – 3 and continue until the athlete reaches their bottom position. For the split jerk, the
support requires the extension of both legs and the principles are illustrated in Figure 2 – 4. Because the
legs are split, and the barbell is overhead, the balance point is the center of surface formed by the split
and line of gravity runs directly upward through the athlete’s body and the center of the barbell. To
maintain balance over this point, each leg must exert a horizontal force that is of equal magnitude, in
the opposite direction, and applied simultaneously (𝑓1 = 𝑓2 ). This allows the athlete to
37
Figure 2 – 3: A Human Model of Simultaneous Forces used After the Extension
concentrate the vertical forces from both legs to support the barbell and keeps the torso along the
center of the support surface.
Analysis of Weightlifting Techniques
Huang Qianghui and others used the 3 gravity principles for analyzing the mechanical efficacy of
different weightlifting techniques and overcome historical controversies in technique. The first technical
issue is the hip height in the start position, which is often framed as the choice between a low-hip
position and moderate-hip position. Figure 2 – 5 shows an analysis comparing hip heights and their
effects on the body (Gu 2000). With a moderate-hip position, the body is positioned as in a vertical
jump, so the barbell’s center of gravity is over the balance point(𝐷). However, in a low-hip start the
femur approaches a more horizontal position which shifts more of the body’s mass and balance
backward. The shins incline forward to compensate for the hips which pushes the barbell forward and
creates a gap between the barbell’s center of gravity and the new balance point (𝐵). If the athlete uses
a low-hip position, then the barbell must travel horizontally or diagonally to reach the vertical line point
𝑂 which means the athlete must exert a large horizontal force backwards to counter barbell (which
violates the “equal magnitude” principle) and the torso must lean over to avoid falling (which violates
the “opposite direction” principle). The knees must push forward to compensate the body’s lean once
the barbell clears the knees otherwise the athlete will fall backwards. This compensation imparts a
deceleration in the barbell’s velocity and the torso, hence the increase in horizontal forces leads to a
38
Figure 2 – 4: A Human Model of Simultaneous Forces Used During Stabilization for the Jerk
decrease in the vertical force component of the barbell and body and results in less end velocity during
the deadlift phase of the pull (Gu 2000).
The moderate-hip position is a more efficient position because the athlete does not have to
waste time, work, or energy to bring the barbell over point 𝐵. Additionally, one can see that the joint
angles are greater in the ankle (∠5 > ∠6), knee (∠3 > ∠4), and hip (∠1 > ∠2) in the moderatehip position which reduces the resistance torque on each joint and makes it easier to lift heavier weight.
Some athletes will naturally be low due to shorter femur and/or shin lengths, but still be balanced on
line 𝑂 over the ball of the foot. This is appropriate, and they should not artificially adjust their posture to
achieve a moderate-hip positive (and likewise, taller athletes should not artificially lower their hip
positions since they will change their balance in doing so).
Another controversy is the location of the balance point in the foot. Earlier, Chinese coaches
used a range of locations but pushing through the ball of the foot was found to greatly increase the end
velocity of the barbell as it reaches a finished deadlift position, offer faster initial and end velocity from
the extension, increase the barbell’s height, and allows for a straighter bar path. Figure 2 – 6 shows
these mechanics adapted from Lu and Liang (1989), where the left panel shows how the ball of the foot
acts as the fulcrum 𝑂 to apply force 𝐹 to the heel to lift the resistance of the body 𝑅 through the tibial
articulation. The right panel shows how a change in one’s arch or a backward change in one’s balance
from point 𝑂1 to 𝑂2 decreases the force from 𝐹1 to 𝐹2 , the speed from 𝑆1 to 𝑆2 , and the height from
39
Figure 2 – 5: Comparison of Low and Moderate Hip Heights on the Body
𝐻1 to 𝐻2 if the heel lifts at the same angle 𝛼1 = 𝛼2 . However, the barbell must reach a minimal height
to catch it overhead in a stable squat. At 𝑂2 the athlete can achieve the same force, speed, and height if
they lift the heel at a different angle, but this can introduce a horizontal force in the forward direction.
This force can cause the athlete to lose contact with the ground and jump forward or lean back
excessively to stabilize the barbell which wastes time, work, and energy.
Beyond start position and balance, Gu (1994) noticed that Chinese weightlifters used several
general methods for pulling the barbell shown in Figure 2 – 7. The first is the “balanced method,” where
the athlete pushes through the legs and extends the hips at the same time and such that the backward
and forward force components are equal magnitude and exerted at opposite directions. This method is
currently the most effective way to lift a barbell and catch it on the shoulders or overhead. The second
method is known as the “back-extension method,” where the athlete loads the hips and hamstrings by
shifting their balance backward to take advantage of a strong hip extension. In this method, the forward
force produced by extending the hips is significantly stronger than the backward force produced from
pushing through the legs, and (to compensate) the shoulders move upward and backward which results
in a very forceful back extension. The third method is known as the “hip-extension method,” where the
shoulders do not move back very much, but the hip extension is performed very early and obviously
while the leg drive is weaker, occurs later, and moves in the same direction as the hips. Through
analysis, researchers have found that the balanced method is the utmost effective way to lift the
barbell.
Figure 2 – 7 shows that no method fully achieves a perfectly straight barbell movement but
instead achieve more of a slight “S” shape. This a result of the multi-lever system created by the body
40
Figure 2 – 6: Foot Mechanics During Extension
and barbell which prevent the barbell from travelling completely straight. Specifically, Gu (1998) notes
energy must transfer through the legs and upward through the body so shrugging the shoulders, raising
the elbows, and extending the ankles occur slightly later than hip and leg extension. The reason is
because extending the ankles at the same time as the legs makes the ankles leave the floor too soon,
which reduces their range of motion and the amount of time to impart force onto the floor and
decreases the overall force from transferred to the legs and hips. To maximize this force and transfer it
through the body, the ankles should also extend slightly later than shrugging and raising the elbows.
However, the athlete should stay balanced on the ball of the foot and continue to exert force through
that point during the lifting and extension portions. Additionally, the movements from the joints should
feel simultaneous and exerted in magnitudes to maintain the athlete’s balance.
In practice the balanced method allows the barbell to move closest to the vertical line because
the forward forces coming from the hips and ankles are balanced by the backward forces coming from
the knees and shoulders, their directions are the opposite, and exerted at the same time. These
characteristics result in smaller forward and backward horizontal forces and larger vertical force than
other methods (see Figure 2 – 7). Under the backward-lean method, the force generated from hip
extension is excessive and the shoulders travel backward and upward which leads the barbell to first go
forward and upward then swing backward and upward, which creates a large arc as shown in Figure 2 –
7. In this case, it is possible for the athlete to jump forward or backward depending on the size of the
arc. By contrast, under the hip-extension method, the shoulders do not produce a large backward force
but still maintains its upward force. The knees are unable to counter the forward force of the hips and
41
Figure 2 – 7: Barbell Trajectories from Several Lifting Methods
ankles alone, so it gets pulled forward and exerts a forward force, which makes the barbell move
upward and forward in a large arc as shown in Figure 2 – 7. In this case, the athlete often gets pulled
forward. Both methods should be avoided because they violate the 3 gravity principles, and in practice
the hip-extension method has greater instability than the back-extension method.
In terms of the jerk, Gu and Gao (1993) highlighted 2 general methods shown in Figure 2 – 8.
The first is known as the single-bend method where the upper body remains very upright, but the knees
bend forward and allow the hips to drop vertically over the heels. In this movement the mass from the
thighs and calves are in front of the line over the balance point which is located at the ankle bone. This
knee movement creates a strong forward lean torque and since there is no backward torque to balance
these forces, the “equal magnitude” and “opposite direction” principles are violated. Therefore, the
total center of gravity shifts forward resulting in instability. The second method is known as the doublebend method where the hips and knees bend at the same time and the upper body arches slightly
forward by a corresponding degree. Although the upper body and knees have forward torque, they are
balanced by the backward torque produced by the hips (which stays behind the balance point), so the
total center of gravity drops along the straight line to create a stable base of support. However, if hip
flexion is stronger or happens sooner than knee flexion, then the total center of gravity will move away
from the balance point and line above it which creates instability.
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Figure 2 – 8: Single-Bend vs Double Bend Method during the Jerk Dip and Extension
Many coaches in China used to teach the single bend method but coaches Zhao Qingkui and
Huang Qianghui along with sports scientists moved to adopt the double bend method because it is
superior along many factors that result in effective jerking (Dan 2005). During a jerk dip, if the athlete
increases the dip acceleration (all else equal) then the final velocity of the barbell before the brake also
increases, which in turn adds to barbell’s momentum and upward elastic force. However, the increased
momentum also increases the pressures on joint during the dip. Because the knees absorb large
pressure in the single-bend method, further pressure created by a fast dip only increases the forward
movement of the knees which can violate the “equal magnitude” principle and create more instability.
This instability enhances the energy consumption of hip and ankle muscles and forms a weak lower body
support which slows down brake velocity. This slow brake buffers the barbell’s downward momentum
and reduces the barbell’s upward elastic force. Additionally, the athlete is forced to dip shallowly to
offset these forces which further reduces the ability to generate elastic energy on the barbell. By
contrast, Zhang et al (2005) found that the pressure on the joints is spread out under the double-bend
method because the knees and hips are both bent which prevents instability and conserves energy in
the hips. This makes the weight feel lighter and allows the athlete to dip deeper and accelerate as fast as
hip strength allows to increase the upward elastic force of the bar without worrying about going too
fast. Additionally, from Figure 2 – 8 one can see that the ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders form an arc
during the extension for the jerk in the single-bend method (see dashed lines). By contrast, the doublebend method allows the ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders to connect in a straighter line over the
balance point. This extension allows the shoulders to rise higher over a greater range of motion and
43
produce greater upward force on the barbell which, when combined with a stronger brake, helps
establish a clear rhythm to receive the barbell. Therefore, the same amount of force results in different
barbell height and velocity between the single-bend and double-bend method.
Gu and Gao (1993) argue that the athlete who uses the single-bend method must compensate
from an overly long pressing movement, which is much weaker than the strength from hip and knee
extension. This compensation means these the shoulder muscles remain tense throughout the
movement, which makes it difficult to rotate the shoulders to a 180° angle and hence fulfill the
“opposite direction” principle. Combined with the body arch from excessive hip extension, the
movement’s rhythm becomes unclear which makes it difficult for the athlete to complete the split or
squat support quickly. The middle panel of Figure 2 – 9 shows that when the shoulders cannot rotate
enough to achieve a solid overhead position, the center of gravity of the barbell (𝑂2 ) will be in front of
the athlete (𝑂1 ) which forces them to rely on the front leg to support much of the load and exert a
strong backward force. This will violate the “equal magnitude principle” between the front and rear legs
thereby pushing the hips, torso, and shoulders backward and causes the barbell to fall forward. In some
cases, athletes will rush to lean their heads forward forcefully and cause the hips to move back naturally
as shown in the right panel of Figure 2 – 9. The left leg produces a strong forward force in this case
which violates the “equal magnitude” principle and cause the front knee to flex forward which violates
the “opposite direction” principle for the split. As a result, the athlete’s gravity (𝑂1 ) to be in front of the
barbell’s gravity (𝑂2 ) which causes the barbell to fall backward. By contrast, the shoulders are highly
relaxed in the double-bend method which allows them to quickly rotate to complete the split or squat
support. Additionally, by having the body and barbell centers of gravity close to the line over the balance
point, the barbell, shoulders, and hips forms a straight line of support while the total center of gravity
remains over the original line 𝑂 as shown in the left panel of Figure 2 – 9. Since there is no gap between
the center of gravity of the barbell and the athlete, the lift is much more stable.
This analysis shows how gravity principles can be used to analyze the efficacy of different
weightlifting techniques and find optimal movement patterns. Through this analysis, researchers have
found that the balanced-method is currently the most effective way to lift a barbell and catch it on the
shoulders or overhead. It allows for superior balance and release of vertical force over other methods.
Additionally, the double-bend method for jerking is superior over other methods because it creates
strong lower body support, allows for a deep and quick dip and brake, imparts strong elastic force on
the barbell, conserves energy which allows the body to release maximum force, and delivers the force in
a straight line so that the barbell achieves superior height, velocity, and movement rhythm.
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Figure 2 – 9: Comparison of Single-Bend and Double Bend Methods During the Jerk Support
5 Words
The process of weightlifting is guided by 3 gravity principles to ensure stability and maximize the
athlete’s vertical force. This is useful for developing the understanding among weightlifting instructors
and researchers but in practice the instructor must ensure these principles are satisfied in the
movement of their athletes. To achieve this goal, the instructor must use an effective framework to
convey understanding and achieve compliance of these principles to their athletes. Pioneered by Zhao
Qingkui and refined after long-term practice and research, the technical philosophy of weightlifting
movements can be summed up as “close, fast, low, timing, and stable.” Based on the 3 gravity
principles, the 5 Words are interrelated, mutually complementing, and indispensable to each other.
Close
The technique principle of “close” means that the pathway of the athlete’s and barbell’s
combined center of gravity should be close to the vertical line over the balance point of the foot as
shown in Figure 2 – 10. This technique principle keeps some muscles closer to their resting length which
is conducive to displaying the maximum power of the human body. This is because the length-tension
relationship states that when muscles are at their resting length they can generate the greatest force of
contraction (tension).
The technique principle of “close” is conducive to maintaining the body’s balance through the
entire movement. If the combined center of gravity is beyond the balance point of the foot when lifting
the barbell, the inertial resistance of the barbell's gravity and acceleration will impose a resistance
torque to the body which undermines the balance and steadiness of the movement. But if the barbell is
close to the athlete, then the gap between their centers of gravity is smaller which allows the athlete to
45
Figure 2 – 10: Technique Principle of "Close"
effectively concentrate their power to elevate the barbell vertically and avoid introducing horizontal
components that waste energy. This is an important reason for being off during the lifting and squatting
movements of the snatch or clean and is shown in the Figure 2 – 11. In diagram 𝐴, when the action line
of barbell’s center of gravity 𝑃 goes through or is close to the balance point of the foot then there is
little to no horizontal component produced which will help to concentrate human’s power to pull the
barbell upwards along the line 𝐹. When the action line of barbell’s center of gravity 𝑃 is far from the
balance point of the foot as in diagram 𝐵, the athlete will pull the barbell upward and backward to avoid
falling forward and overcome the forward force from the barbell’s center of gravity. This will introduce
the horizontal component 𝐹2 and result in 𝐹 moving upward and backward.
Additionally, it is possible to estimate the effects of being close. The weight of the barbell is the
resistance, the resistance point is in the athlete's hand, and the fulcrum where the athlete exerts force is
the center of the hip joint. Snatching or cleaning the barbell can be regarded as a lever motion in which
distance between the muscles exerting force and the hip joint (known as the force arm) is fixed.
According to the leverage formula:
𝐿1 ∗ 𝐹1 = 𝐿2 ∗ 𝐹2
𝐿1 is the force arm, 𝐹1 is the force from the body, 𝐿2 is the distance between the barbell and the axis of
the hip joint (resistance arm), and 𝐹2 is the downward resistance force of the barbell. When lifting the
barbell, the force arm 𝐿1 and resistance 𝐹2 are fixed, therefore a shorter resistance arm 𝐿2 implies a
smaller muscular force 𝐹1 . Because 𝐿2 is the distance between barbell and the hips, 𝐿2 can be
46
Figure 2 – 11: Comparison of Close and Backward Center of Gravity
shortened and the athlete can exert less 𝐹1 if the barbell is close bod as shown in Figure 2 – 12. 𝑂 is the
balance point of the foot, 𝑃1 is the action line of gravity and is close to the body when in a correct
posture, the gravity of the barbell 𝐵 is the resistance of the lever, the resistance point is in the hand of
the weightlifter, and the fulcrum of the hips is 𝐴. The resistance arm is the distance between the
barbell’s center of gravity 𝐵 and the fulcrum of the hip joint 𝐴. When the action line of gravity is far from
the body (such as line 𝐶), the new resistance arm 𝐴𝐶 is longer than the original 𝐴𝐵, and according to the
leverage equation, more muscular force is required to lift the same weight. One can also see that the
action line of gravity is 𝑃2 , which is longer in this case. Therefore, one can conserve energy by keeping
the bar close to the body through proper posture.
47
Figure 2 – 12: The Effect of Posture on Leverage Forces
Fast
The term “fast,” on one hand means the ascending velocity of the barbell should be fast. When
lifting the barbell, the athlete should pull it with great power to make sure the barbell can continue
moving quickly and upward on its own after extension (known as inertial force). On the other hand, the
principle also means that the athlete should extend the body to optimize the barbell’s inertial force so
that they can squat quickly to catch the barbell. The technique principle of “fast” has several
advantages. First, being fast is conducive to generating greater force and power. According to Newton's
second law:
𝐹 = 𝑚𝑎
𝐹 is the amount force produced by the athlete to move and accelerate the barbell, 𝑚 is the mass of
barbell, and 𝑎 is the barbell’s acceleration. The formula shows that when the mass of the barbell is
fixed, then only by speeding up the athlete’s movement can the barbell achieve greater acceleration and
hence produce greater force. To speed up the movement, the athlete must rely on the speed of their
muscle’s contraction, since faster muscle contraction results in greater energy released and greater
weight the athlete can lift. Hence, speeding up the muscle contraction is essential to generating greater
force and power. Many beginners misinterpret this concept and simply pull the bar forcefully off the
ground and lose position. Instead the athlete should push the barbell off the ground as smoothly as
possible while maintaining a speed that satisfies the ‘close’ principle. Once the athlete reaches their
point of extension, they should extend as fast as possible while maintaining their balance and then squat
forcefully.
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Another advantage of being fast is that it enables the barbell to gain a greater lifting height
which will help the athlete catch the weight more easily. When lifting the barbell, the athlete can
complete the squat and catch only when the barbell’s center of gravity is higher than the body’s center
of gravity. According to the kinematic equation:
𝑎𝑡 2
𝑑=
2
Where 𝑑 is the barbell’s height 1, 𝑎 is its acceleration, and 𝑡 is time. The formula shows that the greater
the barbell’s rising acceleration, then more height it will reach. Athletes must extend quickly for the
barbell to achieve this greater acceleration and height. This greater height yields the third advantage of
giving the athlete more time to squat down and catch the barbell. This is because after extending, the
barbell rises under its own upward force (inertia) and the athlete needs a certain amount of time to
squat to catch the barbell. According to the formula:
0F0F0F
𝑡=
𝑉
𝑔
𝑡 is time, 𝑉 is velocity, and 𝑔 is the acceleration due to gravity. The equation shows that the faster the
barbell moves after extending, then the longer it will take for the barbell to rise. This greater time allows
the athlete to squat and catch the barbell. Thus, the athlete should lift the barbell quickly to create a
greater time and height for squatting and catching the barbell. And athletes should drop as soon as the
barbell’s center of gravity exceeds the body’s center of gravity to maximize the amount of weight lifted.
Low
The technique principle of ‘low’ means that the athlete should catch the barbell in the deepest
position possible while maintaining their balance and tension. To fully this principle, the athlete should
1) extend as forcefully as balance allows, 2) drop their body quickly and actively keep their body low,
and 3) the barbell’s path should be shortened to the greatest extent under the premise of maximizing
vertical force. This technique principle is captured by the following formula:
𝑊 = 𝐹𝐷
𝑊 is work, 𝐹 is the force of gravity of the barbell, and 𝐷 is height. The equation shows that when the
barbell’s mass is fixed (i.e. 𝐹 is constant) and the athlete’s body is lower, then the barbell needs to be
lifted to a lower height which means it can be lifted with less work. Dropping the body quickly to shorten
the barbell’s path is an active movement and must occur after a fast extension so that the lift can be
coordinated.
1
Technically d refers to an object’s displacement but in the context of weightlifting, the equation describes the
amount of displacement during the pull which is the height.
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Timing
The “timing” principle refers to coordinating body parts and muscles at the right time to exert
the largest and most concentrated force and achieve a very distinct rhythm of movement. During the
entire process of lifting the barbell, some muscles are in tension and others are relaxed. Some are in
isotonic contraction while others are isometric or even eccentric contraction. In competitions one can
spot athletes with good timing because the barbell moves fast while the body seems to move very
smoothly and easily even while lifting heavy weights. The rhythm measured from the moment of
extension to the finished catch position is very short. Other athletes might move their body very fast,
but the barbell moves slowly and achieves a low height. In this case the entire movement looks difficult
and the rhythm long or unclear.
If the athlete does not exert horizontal forces equally, simultaneously, or in opposing directions,
then they will not apply their strength fully which will result in a slower speed during extension and
squatting. For example, if during extension the athlete drives insufficiently with the legs, then the upper
body can lay backwards which causes the hips to extend a bit early or for too long because the athlete is
unable to stop the force abruptly. During squatting, if the athlete only bends their knees due to limited
flexibility or lack of vertical force during extension then they must rely on pushing the bar upward with
the shoulders and appearing like a slow dragging motion. This insufficient motion causes a lack of
concentration in energy, a submaximal ascending speed, and an unobvious rhythm. Thus, only when the
body uses energy equally during movement, including in moments of increasing and decreasing effort,
can the maximum strength can be achieved and result in maximum effect of barbell lifting. This comes
from coordinating the pulling sequence of extension, squatting, and support as well as coordinating the
muscles to comply with the 3 principles.
Stable
The technique principle of “stable” means that the barbell should be caught in the most stable
position possible. To fully implement this principle, the athlete must complete several goals or else risk
injury or missing an attempt. First, the athlete must increase the angle of stability which is the angle
formed by the edges of the feet and connected by the vertical line that runs through the center of the
support surface that runs up to the height of the fixed barbell (see Figure 2 – 13). The greater the angle
of stability is, the more stable the movement and vice versa. Since the length of the athlete’s feet are
fixed, the support surface they create is limited, so the athlete must keep their body low to the greatest
extent in order to increase the angle of stability.
In order ensure a stable catch the athlete must fulfill several requirements. First, the athlete
must balance the barbell over the correct point. For snatch, clean, and squat jerk, the barbell should be
balanced over the midfoot. In the split jerk, the barbell should be in line with the torso and balanced
over the middle of the surface created by the split (see Figure 2 – 9). If the projection point of the
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Figure 2 – 13: The Effect of Height on the Angle of Stability
barbell is not correct and the weight is heavy, then it becomes more difficult to achieve a stable support
regardless of foot size, because horizontal forces pull the barbell away from balance point. The second
requirement is that the athlete’s support should be precise. To do this, all parts of the muscles and joints
should quickly convert from the state of relaxation into a state of support. Otherwise the back might
round during a snatch, clean, or squat jerk; or the arms might bend when the barbell is overhead during
the snatch or jerk; or the elbows might drop during a clean. The final requirement requires the athlete
to shorten the downward distance traveled by the barbell (fulfill the “low” principle). The greater the
distance traveled by the barbell, the greater the downward momentum it has, which
requires greater energy to stop and support. This is one of the most common reasons for imbalance or
failure to support in the barbell overhead or in the rack position.
Conclusion
Applying forces “simultaneously,” in “equal magnitude,” and in “opposite directions” are the 3
essential gravity principles which serve as a foundation for analyzing weightlifting technique. An athlete
cannot keep their total center of gravity moving up or down along the straightest path unless key joints
of the body such as the knees and hips are balanced by acting at the same time, having equal magnitude
of forward and backward forces, and exerted in the opposite direction from each other. These gravity
principles are the foundation for the 5 Words Chinese weightlifting philosophy which provides an
effective framework for teaching weightlifting technique. Among the 5 Words, “close” is the foundation;
“fast” is the key; “low” is an important tool; “timing” is an optimum condition; and “stability” yields a
guaranteed result. Differences in body shape among different athletes can result in unique
characteristics, but the fact that weightlifting is a full body movement relying on lever theory will result
in very minor differences.
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Chapter 3: Power, Strength, and Speed in Weightlifting
Competitive weightlifting is a power sport, which means it relies on explosive force while
executing a highly technical movement. It is similar to throwing, jumping, sprinting and other events;
however, Gu (1992) collected data on these power sports presented in Table 3 – 1 and Du and Yu (2007)
outlined several importance differences. First, they note that the weight of the competition equipment
from various power sports is much lighter than the barbell used for weightlifting. Additionally, the
weight of the competition equipment used in power sports is constant, whereas in weightlifting the
weight on the barbell changes with every successful attempt. Furthermore, the speeds reached in
various sports are far greater than the speed used to set world record snatches. Because of these
differences, it is important to understand power and clarify the relationship between strength and
speed for weightlifting in order define desirable athletic qualities of potential weightlifters and
implement training in a healthy and effective manner.
Table 3 – 1: Comparison of Equipment Weight and Speed Across Explosive Sports
Event
Equipment weight
Speed
Results Level
(meter/seconds)
Weightlifting
56kg class
Snatch 135kg
1.80 m/s
World
Record
110kg class
Snatch 200.5kg
2.00 m/s
World
Record
110+kg
Snatch 210kg
2.50 m/s
World
grade
Record
Throwing
Javelin
0.8kg
30 m/s
International
Discus
2.00kg
26 m/s
International
Shot Put
7.2kg
13 m/s
International
Jumping
Long Jump
About 75kg (body weight)
9.30 m/s
8.00 m
High Jump
About 75kg (body weight)
4.0 m/s
2.28 m
Sprinting
100m (Male)
Around 75kg (body
12.46 m/s
World
weight)
Record
Power and its Components
Power can be viewed in several ways, as shown below:
𝑃=
𝑊 𝐹𝑑
→
→ 𝐹𝑉
𝑡
𝑡
Formally, power 𝑃 is defined as the amount of work 𝑊performed per unit of time 𝑡. However, using the
fact that work is composed of force and displacement (see Chapter 2 On Weightlifting Philosophy) the
power equation can be rewritten to refer to the amount of force produced by the athlete and the
amount of height reached by the barbell over a period of time. Furthermore, the amount of height per
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Figure 3 – 1: Power Output Relationship
unit of time can be rewritten as velocity of the barbell 𝑉 when it moves through its own inertia (which is
produced by the athlete’s speed). Hence power is ultimately a combination of the athlete’s ability to
produce force and the ability to move the bar quickly, and this relationship is depicted in Figure 3 – 1.
This curve is known as the power-output curve and shows an inverse relationship between the
mass of an object (and hence the force required to overcome it) and the ability to move it quickly. If one
exerts no force, then there is no power even if there is velocity (which means moving along the
horizontal axis). Additionally, if there is no velocity, then there is no power even if there is force (which
means moving only along the vertical axis). Ultimately, power is produced from a combination of an
athlete’s strength and speed. Power is the most important quality for a weightlifter because one’s
maximum strength (see Chapter 13 on Strength) is independent of the time it takes to complete a
movement. Since power is composed of strength and speed, the power output curve implies several
strategies for developing power: an instructor can use exercises and techniques that focus on
developing speed, developing strength, or both. The choice of the method requires a closer examination
of the role of strength and speed on the barbell’s height and speed.
The Role of Strength on the Barbell’s Height and Speed
Strength directly determines the performance level of weightlifting by allowing the athlete to
exert more force by increasing the amount of mass they can move (i.e. heavier barbell). To see this, Gu
(1992) uses following kinematic equation to describe the barbell’s height from Chapter 2 (On Chinese
Weightlifting Philosophy):
𝑎𝑡 2 𝐹𝑡 2
𝑑=
→
2
2𝑚
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Where 𝑑 is the height of the barbell’s movement, 𝑎 is its acceleration, and 𝑡 is the time where force is
exerted. When 𝑎 is constant, 𝑑 is proportional to the square root of 𝑡. This means that if the athlete’s
speed during the pull does not change drastically, then increasing the time to exert force will result in
the barbell reaching a greater height. Therefore, some Chinese athletes seek to increase the range of
motion for a lift by extending with the whole body (such as Wu Jingbiao, 56kg). Additionally, 𝑎 can be
written as force divided mass using Newton's second law from Chapter 2 which yields the right-hand
equation. During the time to complete a lift at a given weight (i.e. a constant 𝑡 and 𝑚) results in 𝐹 being
proportional to 𝑑. This means that the athlete’s force is related to the height achieved by the barbell.
Therefore, it is common practice to prescribe strength training when an athlete fails to achieve enough
height.
In addition to barbell height, strength has a direct effect on the barbell’s speed. To see this, use
the kinematic equation for velocity and substitute the rearranged version of Newton’s second law for 𝑎:
𝑉 = 𝑎𝑡 𝑉 =
𝐹𝑡
𝑚
Where 𝑉, 𝑎, and 𝑡 are defined from earlier equations. The relationship above shows that for a given
weight, the barbell’s velocity is related to the force and the time used to exert force. Hence, with greater
strength an athlete can produce more force and more barbell velocity. Sometimes an athlete can lift a
barbell quickly to the required height but fails to catch the barbell since they cannot exert enough force
to continue moving it overhead. However, after spending some time building strength with movements
that assist in pulling past the extension (such as speed pulls and muscle snatch), they can produce more
force to lift the same weight at a faster speed and successfully catch it even if technique and other
factors remain constant. Additionally, there are some athletes who lift a barbell at slow speed but can
fully extend and create a large range of motion (while still maintaining balance) to increase the time
spent producing force which also allows the barbell to achieve a faster speed.
The Role of Lifting Speed on the Barbell’s Height and Speed
To examine the role of speed, Gu (1992) uses the rearranged version of Newton’s second
equation:
𝐹
𝑎=
𝑚
This equation shows that if amount of force constant then a decrease in acceleration results in an
increase in the amount of weight the athlete can lift. However, reducing lifting speed during a snatch or
clean and jerk is not recommended because in each of these movements the athlete’s body must extend
upwards and then quickly squat (or split) downward. At this instant, the barbell moves upward through
its own inertia with velocity obtained from the force of the extension, and a greater velocity results in a
longer duration for the barbell moves upward. Using the equation presented in Chapter 2:
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𝑉
𝑔
𝑡=
Where 𝑡 and 𝑉 are defined as in earlier equations while 𝑔 is the acceleration due to gravity and is
constant. A slower lifting speed reduces the velocity the barbell can attain, which in turn reduces the
amount of time the athlete will have to get under the barbell. In practice, one can observe the effects of
insufficient speed. For example, some athletes can lift the barbell to the required height during the clean
(or even higher), but the speed after extension is not enough so the barbell does not travel upward very
much as the athlete attempts to squat which results in a failed lift. This can also occur in the jerk where
a lack of upward speed prevents the athlete from having enough time to split or squat.
Additionally, lifting speed influences the height the barbell can achieve from the athlete and the
barbell’s own inertia. Consider the free fall formula:
𝑑=
𝑉2
2𝑔
Where 𝑑 is the height that the barbell achieves while other variables are defined as before. The
equation shows that if the barbell moves at a slow velocity, then it will achieve a lower height. This is
seen when an athlete lifts a submaximal weight slowly and/or extends slowly such that they cannot
squat under the barbell.
Comparison of Strength and Speed
Based on the analysis above, both strength and speed affect power by affecting the barbell’s
height and speed. With insufficient height it is impossible to complete the lift even if the other
requirements are met (such as barbell speed). Similarly, with insufficient speed the lift can fail even if
there is sufficient height and other requirements are met. However, there are several important reasons
why strength is considered a more important contributing factor in China. First, high speeds can only be
maintained at light weights. This is observed in Table 3 – 2, but to prove this, consider the rearranged
version of Newton’s second law established earlier. In peak condition, the maximal force the human
body can produce is a constant and can change only after long-term training. Given this, the equation
shows that the barbell’s acceleration is inversely related to the amount of weight. This result yields the
well-known force-velocity curve in Figure 3 – 2:
This figure along with Newton’s equation show that the force must decrease (weight must be
reduced) to achieve greater speed. However, reducing the weight to achieve high speed is in contrast to
the fundamental goal of weightlifting training and competition which is to lift heavier weights.
Therefore, simply increasing speed does not necessarily imply a better weightlifting result. By contrast,
the performance in throwing, jumping, and sprinting is determined by maximum initial velocity when
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Figure 3 – 2: Force Velocity Curve
the equipment leaves the hand or when the body is in the air because the weight of the implement and
other factors are essentially constant. In these sports, faster is better.
Another reason why strength is more important is that the speed required to lift barbells of
varying weight is essentially the same, which means only a sufficient speed to complete the movement
is necessary. Research by Guo (1990) shows that the required barbell speed to successfully complete a
snatch is very similar across weight classes and within weight classes, falling between 1.70 – 1.80m/s for
lightweight classes and 2.00 – 2.20m/s for heavyweight classes. For the clean the required speed is
1.50m/s for lightweight classes and 1.80m/s for heavyweight classes. This required speed is shown in
the shaded area of Figure 3 – 3. Since the speed to ensure a successful lift is roughly constant, then
lifting heavier weights at the same speed can only be achieved by developing more strength and
catching deeper. Visually, this requires the initial force velocity curve (solid line) to move upward as
shown by the dotted line in Figure 3 – 3. If the speed is to the left of the shaded area, then the athlete’s
velocity (and power) is insufficient to move the weight quickly which makes the movement difficult or
impossible to complete. On the other hand, greater speeds can produce excess power over what is
needed which can throw off an athlete’s coordination and rhythm during a snatch, clean, or jerk. This is
Chinese athlete are taught to develop a sense of how much strength is required to lift a certain weight
and control their movement so that their speed is only sufficient to complete the desired movement.
Any excess speed should be diminished by increasing the weight on the barbell which decreases power
output until it intersects with the force velocity curve, but it maximizes the amount of weight the athlete
can lift.
A third reason for why Chinese training places more importance on strength is that the relative
barbell height for a successful lift is very similar across weight classes and within weight class, about 73%
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Figure 3 – 3: Force, Velocity, and Power Requirements for Weightlifting
of the athlete’s height for the snatch (Ai 2015) and 60% for the clean (Xu 2015). Given that the barbell
speed is relatively constant, lifting progressively heavier weights to these heights requires more
strength. Additionally, Gu (1992) argues that building strength is relatively more important because 5/6
of the height achieved during a snatch is achieved by the effect of strength while the remainder is due to
the barbell’s inertia after extension. So, while speed does influence the barbell’s height, strength is the
main factor that determines barbell height.
The fourth reason for the greater importance of strength is that it is an easier quality to train. In
the early stages of training there are certain times known as ‘sensitive periods’ where the body is
particularly responsive to training a physical quality (see Chapter 6 on Athletic Training). The sensitive
period for developing speed occurs much earlier and is much shorter than the sensitive period for
developing strength. Additionally, speed is much more influenced by genetics than strength. Therefore,
outside of the sensitive period, the ability to build speed is much more difficult and slower than building
strength outside its own sensitive period. Therefore, in China the strategy of increasing speed to
promote greater force production (left panel of Figure 3 – 4) is used mainly in beginners as part of an
effort to develop the central nervous system, muscle flexibility, muscular coordination, and a habit of
moving fast.
Outside of the sensitive period, speed should be developed to the amount required to
guarantee the completion of the lift. Therefore, adolescents should focus more on developing power
with moderate weights while the proportion dedicated to absolute strength or greater speed should be
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Figure 3 – 4: Force Velocity Curve for Young Athletes
low. This results in the force velocity curve straightening as shown in the right-hand panel of Figure 3 –
4. During power training, athletes with better or excess speed should train heavier to focus on improving
strength, while those with better strength should train lighter to develop strength as long as they meet
the speed requirement. As long as instructors develop the athlete’s physical and psychological
characteristics and reasonably arrange the training load and rhythm, then athletes can still experience
strength increases while focusing on power training without affecting their development.
The remainder of an athlete’s career will be spent on building enough strength to increase
performance, rather than building speed (as in Figure 3 – 3). Therefore, supportive and squatting-type
movements are important parts of an experienced athlete’s weightlifting program. It is not
recommended for instructors to blindly pursue strength at the expense of speed and technique as this
will cause the force velocity curve to pivot as in the left-hand panel of Figure 3 – 5. This creates stagnant
weightlifting results because strength performed with slow speeds is not useful and too much emphasis
on strength can reduce speed. Additionally, simply training speed at the expense of strength can create
stagnant results, since it will only assist in lifting lighter weights faster and can reduce an athlete’s
maximal strength (see right-hand panel of Figure 3 – 5). Therefore, some high-level Chinese athletes will
incorporate frequent, but short, high-intensity sessions so that more of their volume is spent training at
high-intensities without inducing too much fatigue to maintain their speed (Luo and Xie 2006).
Additionally, as athletes reach higher levels of strength, they should work on converting excess strength
into speed to achieve the necessary amount for successful lifting. Therefore, many athletes shift their
training from building strength to focusing on power methods and movements which require speed but
are closely related to the snatch, clean, and jerk. This results in an improvement over the entire range of
the force velocity as in Figure 3 – 3. As they use their strength to build more speed, the instructor should
emphasize the coordination and accuracy of various muscle groups so athletes direct their strength
effectively and efficiently. Also, they should remind athletes to rhythmically go from a state of high
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Figure 3 – 5: The Effects of Training Strength or Speed Only
concentration and exertion to a state of relaxation which reduces fatigue and thereby preserves speed
performance.
Conclusion
The goal of weightlifting training is to improve the athlete’s athleticism and training level so that
they can lift the heaviest weight possible in competition. Because the weight of the barbell is variable,
weightlifting training is unique from other power sports. Therefore, while speed is an important quality,
the sport requires only a sufficient amount to complete the movement while excess speed should be
converted to lifting heavier weight (Zhang 2011). Therefore, strength is considered a more important
quality for weightlifting in China. However, while it is tempting to only focus on building strength for
quicker results, the analysis above does not mean that one should only build strength and ignore
training speed or allow speed to decrease below the required amount. Both qualities have sensitive
periods for development and will take relative importance at different times during an athlete’s
development.
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Chapter 4: Weightlifting Coaching Methods
Chinese weightlifting philosophy is only as powerful as the ability to convey it to an athlete.
Coaching and training are the two basic stages of the athlete’s weightlifting educational process.
Coaching is the stage where the athlete possesses no weightlifting knowledge or an elementary
knowledge consisting of essential knowledge, skills and techniques. Training is the stage where the
athlete begins with a certain level of knowledge or has advanced knowledge. Since coaching is the
beginning stage of weightlifting education and is essential to building and utilizing qualities for
weightlifting, coaching precedes chapters on training. This chapter summarizes the approaches used by
professionally trained coaches in China.
Goal of Coaching
Weightlifting coaching is a process that intentionally and systematically teaches athletes to learn
certain skills and techniques to develop their weightlifting performance. The goal of weightlifting
coaching is to get the athlete to 1) build a good mentality and work ethic, 2) learn basic weightlifting
knowledge, skills, techniques, and methods, and 3) improve their athleticism and performance. Effective
weightlifting coaching must follow a general scientific understanding as well as an expertise in teaching
skill formation.
Best Practices for Coaching
Through practical experience and research, there are 6 coaching guidelines that allow the
instructor to summon the greatest potential out of their athletes. First, the instructor should emphasize
mentality training because human actions are controlled by our thoughts and if the athlete does not
resolve their mindset then the coaching goals cannot be realized (Jiang 2015). For weightlifting,
mentality training should focus on teaching athletes to understand the purpose of training purpose and
being self-aware when learning. Additionally, it should develop a strong willpower, discipline, a strict
training style, high training standards, and comradery through collectivist thinking. The instructor can
build a good mentality by explaining the training content to athletes and making sure they understand
the training requirements and how to progress. Instructors must present this information at the
beginning of every session, reinforce it during and after each session, and evaluate afterwards.
Second, the instructor should combine theory, practice, and skill development so that athletes
can gain a greater understanding of the sport and what works best for themselves (Jiang 2015). The
theoretical portion should incorporate systematic teaching of technique, seminars, audio-visual
education, self-study, discussion, or other methods based on the objective of the weightlifting session or
training cycle. The practical portion consists of training and competition, while the skill development
portion mainly consists of preparatory activities, competition rehearsals, and learning how to compete
and referee. Since beginners come with little knowledge, coaching should start with teaching technique
so beginners can understand key points of the lifts and master the proper movements quickly. From this
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practice, beginners can gradually learn about the theory behind their technique and training to build a
habit of analyzing and solving problems. Then they can apply these skills and knowledge during test
events. The experience of coaching in China has shown that combining theory and practice in the
context of actual sports practice yields good results.
Third, there is a Chinese saying that the “officer teaches soldier, soldier teaches officer, soldier
teaches soldier,” which means that instructors themselves should be open to learning from others when
coaching to fully develop the knowledge and pioneering spirit of everyone involved. Instructors should
organize students to mutually observe, analyze, and correct each other’s actions to take on the role of
“little coaches”. Combining the instructor’s guidance and athlete’s initiative allows both of them to
brainstorm better and mutually learn and grow (Duan and Yang 2007). For example, athletes may have
different sports backgrounds or experiences and hence process cues differently. The instructor may cue
a movement or task in the way they themselves understand, but upon hearing how their students
understand the concept allows the instructor to develop a greater understanding of the movement and
greater ability to teach it to others. Additionally, students can relate to each other and share their own
understanding to help each other improve.
Fourth, it is important to inspire and avoid overwhelming the athlete during coaching. This
allows the athlete to maintain interest in the sport, inspires them to try harder, and reduces the risk of
injury. There are several ways to implement this practice. First is the principle of “easy to tough” (Shi
2008). When teaching the snatch, clean, and jerk, the instructor should not jump into the full
movements early on since they are too complex for beginners to understand and execute correctly. So,
it is better to start with easier movements such as the deadlift before moving onto more complex
movements such as high pulls and power snatches. Additionally, the snatch is less complicated since it is
one motion compared to the clean which is two motions, so the snatch should generally be taught first.
Second, is the principle of “shallow to deep” (Ma 2013), which means the instructor should teach power
versions of the lifts from various depths before full squat versions. The standard method involves
teaching power snatch into a quarter squat position, then moving onto a half squat position, then
graduating to the full squat position. This allows the athlete to analyze the movement and gradually
develop awareness and strength through the entire range of motion of the lift while minimizing
mistakes. Third, is the principle of “light to heavy” (Ma 2013) where the instructor emphasizes using
light bars or weight to ensure the athlete masters the correct technique. Lifting heavy weights early on
will cause a large stress on the central nervous system and muscles, and the human body is unable to
adapt to such weights from the beginning so using overweight equipment will affect the correct
mastering of the technical movement. Teaching athletes about safety should also be emphasized to
guard against injury and prevent reckless behavior, but also inspire the athlete to train confidently and
securely.
Fifth, it is important to know each athlete’s individual characteristics and utilize an individualized
approach (Pan 2015). The instructor should always go into the session trying to understand the athlete’s
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thoughts, learning style, training style, lifestyle, athletic qualities, and other aspects. With this
knowledge the instructor can coach based on situation at hand. For example, some athletes learn
through auditory means so emphasizing verbal cues or the rhythm of a lift will help them understand.
Others are more kinesthetic and need to physically practice to understand, so incorporating footwork,
guiding the lift slowly, or doing complexes can help these athletes understand the lifts. Additionally,
some athletes are naturally strong but lack coordination while others are the opposite, so
uncoordinated athletes might need more technical drills compared to others. In all these examples, the
instructor should evaluate the athlete early on to understand their athletic qualities and learning styles
(see Chapter 19 on Selection Methods for Weightlifting, and Chapter 7 on Technical Training).
Finally, the instructor should strive to improve their own coaching capability. The question of
whether the content and organization of one’s teaching and training methods are reasonable depends
on one’s ability to understand, convey, and implement information. Therefore, the instructor should
stay up to date on the latest research, trends, and patterns surrounding theory, technique, coaching,
training, and other topics. They should assess this information with their own experience and aim to
continuously enrich their coaching methods, improve teaching methods, and improve teaching quality.
Additionally, they should discuss these topics with other instructors, observe another instructor’s
training session, and learn from the experiences of others. In a team environment, the head instructor
or teaching committee should inspect an instructor’s training syllabus and teaching progress to ensure
high quality coaching. The head instructor can organize seminars so instructors can learn from other
experts or hold an open session amongst themselves so everyone can learn from each other and
improve together.
Methods for Communicating Theoretical Concepts
Effective communication allows athletes to gain a greater understanding of the sport and the
meaning behind their instructor’s teachings. This understanding allows the relationship between the
instructor and athlete to be more synergistic and help the athlete reach their greatest potential. There
are 5 main methods the instructor can use to realize this understanding, but the choice of methods
depends on the athlete’s learning style as well as their (and the instructor’s) time constraints.
The first method is known as the classic method, where the instructor emphasizes the key
points of difficult concepts. For example, the instructor can emphasize to extend the joints
simultaneously during the extension so the athlete can apply this gravity principle. This method can help
the athlete understand the substantive content of weightlifting literature, but it is heavily verbal which
can be boring and requires focused attention from the student. Therefore, it is not conducive to
teaching a wide variety of students. A more modern method is known as the multimedia approach
which uses videos, audio, charts, graphs, and other media to provide a holistic presentation of the
details and key parts of the teaching content. In this case the instructor could show videos of athletes
executing proper force application, and even comparing videos of the athlete themselves to such videos.
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More advanced athletes could study force production graphs and other data. This multimedia approach
is more intuitive and better for memory retention but also requires more work for the instructor which
can be difficult when managing large groups of athletes.
Another method is known as the discussion method where athletes prepare questions based off
their experience or content they have read while other athletes discuss possible answers under the
guidance of the instructor, who provides a summary and final explanation. For example, an athlete may
question the meaning behind a cue where the intention is to extend more forcefully and vertically, and
teammates can discuss the possible meaning or how they internalize the cue. Meanwhile, the instructor
guides the discussion to bring clarity of the cue. The instructor can also show athletes a video of their
lifts and have them analyze the strong and weak points while guiding the discussion. This method
integrates teaching and learning so it is very conducive to learning quickly and inspiring athletes to think
about their training. However, this method takes more time if there more than a few athletes involved.
Sometimes athletes may not know what to ask or how to verbalize their concerns, so an
alternative method is known as the inquiry method which involves 3 steps. First, instructors provide
information, then the students analyze their way to learn the concept, and the instructor guides the
athlete through this process. For example, the instructor can challenge athletes to find the best way to
produce vertical force, then the athletes analyze the problem with feedback from the instructor until
they realize the 3 gravity principles. This teaching method can motivate students to learn through
exploring and discovery; however, it also takes more time to learn compared to dictating to athletes.
Methods for Teaching Technique
There are many methods by which to teach proper technique to athletes. Instructors should
have a general approach to teaching technique that implements the 3 gravity principles and 5 Words of
Chinese weightlifting philosophy, but their approach should be flexible to account for the athlete’s level
of understanding, their athletic background, habits, and performance. Different methods have
appropriate places at different times during an athlete’s learning process and instructors are
encouraged to use more than one method if needed. This will improve the athlete’s enthusiasm to study
and learn more about weightlifting while enabling them to master weightlifting technique.
Demonstration and Explanation
Demonstration and explanation is the basic method to help athletes build a correct concept for
weightlifting movements. “Demonstration” means the instructor (or an experienced designated athlete)
uses concrete movements as examples so beginners can visualize a proper movement and analyze its
structure. “Explanation” means the instructor uses language to explain the name, purpose, key
requirements of a movement to guide the athlete to conceptually understand the technique. Since
beginners lack an in-depth understanding of weightlifting and their bodies, a proper demonstration and
explanation will have a great impact on how athletes understand the snatch and clean and jerk and
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conceptualize it in the future. In general, demonstration and explanation are combined to enhance the
athlete’s learning but usually demonstration comes first, followed by explanation. There are cases
where explanation is done before demonstration, but this is usually reserved for athletes with a prior
level of knowledge.
When utilizing this teaching method, it is critical for the demonstration to be correct because
athletes will try to copy the demonstration and build a conceptual understanding around it during
training. An incorrect demonstration is one of the most common reasons for an athlete’s incorrect
movements and a source for developing bad technical habits. Additionally, the instructor must choose
the best demonstration direction and distance, both of which can vary according to the movement and
purpose. For example, the best position for demonstrating the snatch and clean and jerk is from the
front and diagonal angles because the athlete can observe the entire movement without being obscured
by plates on the barbell. Demonstrating from the side allows the athlete to observe the barbell’s path or
splitting motion for the jerk while demonstrating from the front allows the athlete to observation
proper foot adjustment when catching in a deep squat. In terms of distance, the main factors that
determine demonstration distance are the size and layout of the training space. However, barring this
constraint, complete movements are best demonstrated about 4 – 5 meters away from the athlete,
while individual or detailed portions of a movement can be demonstrated much closer.
Explanations should also be correct, but more importantly they should be in line with the
athlete’s level of understanding. It helps to be concise, easy to understand, and articulated clearly and
logically (from the athlete’s point of view) to avoid overwhelming the athlete. Additionally, the
instructor can enhance their explanations, enrich the athlete’s understanding, inspire positive thinking,
and motivate athletes to learn by using visual aids such as charts, tables, models, slides, films, and
videos. When evaluating the athlete’s understanding of an explanation, it is not recommended to lead
the athlete when questioning them or else the athlete will tell the instructor what they feel the
instructor wants to hear rather than their own understanding.
Decomposition Method
This method divides the snatch, clean, and jerk into parts based on the breakdown established
in Chapter 7 (on Technical Training) and then connects the parts to form a complete movement. The
instructor mainly uses explanation, demonstration, and practice to allow athletes to understand the
purpose, key points, and main muscles involved of each section. In the beginning phases of training,
athletes often execute snatches, cleans, and jerks with nervousness, lack of control, and excess
movement. Therefore, the benefit of this method is that it simplifies the coaching process so that
athletes can master the movements in less time, as long as they realize the relationship from one partial
movement to the next. This quicker understanding and mastery can push the athlete to think positively
and develop the ability to observe and analyze movement.
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There are several decomposition strategies for the snatch, clean, and jerk, each of which has a
time and place. The first is the simple decomposition method where the athlete learns each step in the
sequence then moves onward to the next step. Once all steps are mastered then the steps are
combined to form a full movement. For example, Table 4 – 1 shows an example of this decomposition
for the snatch, clean, and jerks. When learning the snatch using this method, the athlete first learns the
start position, then learns the snatch deadlift, then learns the snatch pull, and finally an overhead squat.
Once the athlete masters each of these movements, they then attempt to put them together into a full
snatch. The advantage of this method is that it allows the athlete to focus exclusively on specific steps,
but the instructor must guide the athlete to link the steps into a holistic movement otherwise the lift will
be segmented and have an unclear rhythm. This method can work well with beginners since they do not
yet have a complete concept about technique and can instead focus on mastering general movements.
Table 4 – 1: Simple Decomposition Method for the Snatch, Clean, and Jerk
Snatch
Step 5: Full Snatch
Step 1: Start Position Step 2: Snatch
Step 3: Snatch Pull
Step 4: Overhead
Deadlift
Squat
Clean
Step 5: Full Clean
Step 1: Start Position Step 2: Clean Deadlift Step 3: Clean Pull
Step 4: Front Squat
Split Jerk
Step 5: Split Jerk
Step 1: Start Position Step 2: Jerk Dip
Step 3: Jerk Drive
Step 4: Split
Power Jerk/Squat Jerk
Step 5: Power/Squat Jerk
Step 1: Start Position Step 2: Jerk Dip
Step 3: Jerk Drive
Step 4: Overhead
Squat (quarter or
full)
The second method is the progressive decomposition method where the athlete learns a first
step, then learns a second step, and then combines these steps into a single movement before learning
a third step. The ‘first step’ in this method progressively becomes a greater proportion of the entire
movement. Table 4 – 2 shows this method for snatch, clean, and jerks. Taking the snatch as an example,
the athlete first learns the start position, then learns how to initiate a snatch deadlift. Once the athlete
masters these two steps, they add force to form a snatch pull. The athlete then learns how to turn over
the snatch from the top of a high pull and then combines this step with the snatch pull to form a power
snatch. Finally, the athlete learns how to overhead squat and then combines this movement with their
power snatch to form a full snatch. This method integrates movements earlier and more frequently than
the simple decomposition method and it allows athletes to tighten the relationship between steps and
aim to have identical movement patterns between different movements. The instructor must stress
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Table 4 – 2: Progressive Decomposition Methods for the Snatch, Clean, and Jerk
Snatch
Step 7: Full Snatch
Step 5: Power Snatch
Step 3: Snatch Pull
Step 1: Start Position Step 2: Snatch
Step 4: Muscle
Step 6: Overhead
Deadlift
Snatch
Squat
Clean
Step 7: Full Clean
Step 5: Power Clean
Step 3: Clean Pull
Step 1: Start Position Step 2: Clean Deadlift Step 4: Clean
Step 6: Front Squat
Turnover
Split Jerk
Step 5: Split Jerk
Step 3: Pre-Squat Force
Step 1: Start Position Step 2: Jerk Dip
Step 4: Drive Legs, Split, and Recover
Footwork
Power/Squat Jerk
Step 5: Power/Squat Jerk
Step 3: Pre-Squat Force
Step 1: Start Position Step 2: Jerk Dip
Step 4: Drive Legs and Squat with or without
Slide
identical movement patterns otherwise the carryover from an easy movement (i.e. deadlift) will have
less carryover to a more difficult movement (i.e. snatch pull) and the athlete will not develop the correct
muscle memory needed for technical mastery. Hence, this method works well with athletes who already
have some experience with basic lifting movements and are establishing a correct concept of technique.
The third method is the iterative decomposition method where the athlete masters a first step
and then iterates the first step through a greater range of motion until the full motion is complete. The
main difference between the progressive and iterative method is that the progressive decomposition
breaks the movement into separate steps to while the iterative decomposition focuses on a certain
aspect of the range of motion where the athlete might have trouble. Using the snatch example in Table
4 – 3, the athlete can start with power snatch above the knee, then bring the bar down to above the
knee and perform a half-snatch, then bring the bar down again to perform a full snatch from above the
knee. Since the power snatch is easier than the full snatch, this method is known as going from “easy to
tough” and is useful for newer athletes. The instructor could reverse the order of the movements which
is known as going from “tough to easy” and this works well for intermediate athletes who have some
understanding and proficiency in the lifts. The advantage of either variation of this method is that it
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Table 4 – 3: Iterative Decomposition Methods for the Snatch, Clean, and Jerk
Snatch
Step 4: Full Snatch
Step 3: Full Snatch
Above the Knee
Step 1: Power Snatch Step 2: Half Snatch
Above the Knee
Above the Knee
Clean
Step 4: Full Clean
Step 3: Full Clean
Above the Knee
Step 1: Power Clean
Step 2: Power Clean
Above the Knee
Split Jerk
Step 4: Split Jerk
Step 3: Power Jerk
Step 1: Overhead
Step 2: Push Press
Press
Power/Squat Jerk
Step 4: Squat Jerk
Step 3: Power Jerk
Step 1: Overhead
Step 2: Push Press
Press
forces the lifter to iterate over a problematic area. Therefore, this method requires the athlete to have a
firm grasp of basic movements and their relationship to each other but needs guidance in maintaining a
proper movement through fuller ranges of motion. If it is used too early, then athletes will be
overwhelmed or let bad habits dictate the execution of their movement.
The strategies above all have a place in learning technique and the number and type of steps in
the progression can increase or decrease depending on the athlete’s understanding, athletic
background, habits, and performance. In a study of 43 young lifters of various abilities in Jilin Province,
Shi (2008) found that decomposition strategies can be augmented by recommending that athletes first
observe the full movements prior to decomposing them. This will instill a complete image of the lift and
make it easier for athletes to understand the relationship between different movements in the
decomposition and coordinate them. Additionally, this will help athletes develop an ability to analyze
the lifts. To realize these advantages, instructors should make sure the athlete masters each step in a
progression and exhibits fluid movement when combining steps before moving onward to subsequent
steps, otherwise athletes might not grasp the entire movement well enough and have segmented
movements.
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Repetition Teaching Method
Technical mastery requires thousands of repetitions, and technique can change easily with
increased weight, the number of repetitions, and the amount of rest. Therefore, instructors use the
repetition method to isolate problems and practice lifting at certain weights to improve technique.
Based on the intensity, volume, and rest period, this teaching method can be divided into low, medium,
and high intensity repetition methods as shown in Table 4 – 4, but all these methods are reserved for
athletes who already have a basic understanding of proper technique and experience. When using these
methods, the instructor reminds the athlete about issues to focus on to increase the quality of the
movement.
Factor/Type
Percentage of 1RM
Repetitions per set
Rest time
Table 4 – 4: Repetition Teaching Method
High-intensity
Medium-intensity
90 – 100%
70 – 90%
1–3
3–5
Full
Relatively sufficient
Low -intensity
50 – 70%
5–8
Relatively sufficient
The low-intensity method is used for beginners who can perform a complete movement, but it
is also used for higher level lifters coming back from injury or a break from training. The mediumintensity method is the most commonly used method in training, especially during periods far away
from competition because it allows athletes to develop power and strength while sharpening their
movements. The high-intensity method is used with more advanced athletes who are preparing for
competitions or simply need to maintain a level of high performance. The advantage of these methods is
that they repeat the same technical movement to create an ingrained motor pattern. Additionally, they
focus on the entire movement which helps integrate portions of the lift learned from earlier methods.
At the same time, these methods are not conducive to addressing individual parts where the movement
might breakdown, so constant repetitions may lead the athlete to ingrain a poor motor pattern.
Therefore, the instructor must consistently pay attention to correcting mistakes and guide the athlete to
a masterful movement.
Transformative Method
Occasionally, athletes can get frustrated when learning technical movements, so the goal of the
transformative method is to transform the athlete’s reaction to further enhance their enthusiasm for
learning and gain a better grasp of weightlifting technique. This is done by adjusting the volume,
intensity, and teaching method. For example, during the pull an athlete might not apply force properly
which causes them to fall out of balance and pull with their arms. However, there are times when tips
and demonstration fail to resolve the issue so continued practice not only contributes to developing a
poor motor pattern, but also can cause the athlete to feel frustrated and resentful. In this case it is
useful for the instructor to transform the teaching method by reducing the intensity, practicing other
movements or drills, and using other ways to teach the lifts. This strategy diverts attention away from
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the situation and saves practice for another time. The advantage of making such changes is that it still
allows the athlete to train with a correct motor pattern and develop weightlifting characteristics. The
disadvantage is that excessive use can affect the athlete’s ability to overcome hardship and lead them to
avoid resolving technical issues.
Verbal Commands
Because the snatch and clean and jerk are fast movements the technical requirements for the
movement’s direction, speed, path, and rhythm are very stringent. The instructor must guide the athlete
through this movement, and research by Hu et al (2001) notes that the efficacy of a cue depends on a
handful of factors. First, it is important for the instructor to have a correct understanding of technique
to cue appropriately and help athletes quickly establish a proper sense of direction and rhythm. Second,
the instructors must be able to detect whether athletes make any mistakes during a movement.
Therefore, instructors must be aware of the 3 gravity principles, the 5 Words, and the movement
structure of the lifts. Third, there must be an understanding and degree of trust between the instructors
and athletes to use cues, otherwise verbal commands can be distracting or fail to convey the intended
outcome. Fourth, the intentions behind the commands must be concise and correct. Usually most
commands include numbers, single-words, or short phrases. For example, during the snatch pull, the
instructor can use the word “fast” to help form the correct position and speed during the extension.
Additionally, one can use the phrase “raise elbows” to enhance the timing, extent, and other
parameters influenced by raising the elbows.
Regardless of the word or phrase, the instructor should pay attention to the rhythm of the
movement and make sure the tone and speed of the command match the technical requirement of each
action. For example, Table 4 – 5 shows an example for the snatch. The start position is the longest phase
of both lifts, so the command can be neutral to keep the athlete focused. The barbell moves relatively
slowly as it breaks off the floor so the command during the deadlift is also neutral; however, as the
athlete applies maximal force during the extension then the cue must be short, powerful, and loud.
Additionally, the catch must occur almost immediately afterwards, so the command here is also intense.
Table 4 – 5 also shows a different usage of commands for the clean to reflect the technical requirements
inherent in the clean. One can follow the same commands during the start position, extension, and
catch as in the snatch since they are the same types of movements; however, because the lifter must
stand up after catching a clean (which is often a slow, steady movement) one must cue the recovery
accordingly.
The instructor does not have to cue each phase of the lift listed in Table 4 – 5. Instead, the use
of commands should follow the factors outlined by Hu et al (2001) and account for the health and
mindset of the athlete. Some athletes need verbal commands to get them excited, others need it simply
to reinforce one part of the lift, etc. So verbal commands should be tailored to individual and developed
between the instructor and athlete. Finally, verbal commands should be phrased in a way that cues the
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Table 4 – 5: Examples of Commands
Snatch Command Usage
Movement Phase
Start Position
Deadlift
Extension
Command
Balance...
Smooth
Go!!!
Clean Command Usage
Movement Phase
Start Position
Extension
Catch
Recovery
Command
Balance...
Go!!!
Up!!!
Balance…
“!!!” Indicates that command has to be short, powerful and loud
“...” Indicates that command has to be steady and slow
Catch
Stable!!!
Lowering
Down
athlete to perform rather than avoid a certain task. For example, if the athlete fails to keep the barbell
close enough during the pull, it is easier to cue the athlete to keep their balance rather than avoid
getting off balance. This is more positive for the athlete’s mindset because it frames the task in terms of
putting in more effort rather than avoiding a mistake. Phrasing commands in this way prevents the
athlete from hesitating in their movements. For example, sometimes athletes fail to extend fully due to
an imbalance in the timing or magnitude between knee extension (which produces a backward
horizontal force) and hip extension (which produces a forward horizontal force). Assuming knee
extension is slower or weaker, in this case it is easier to command lifters to apply more force in the
knees rather than avoid limiting the force produced by the hips.
Kinesthetic Method
In some cases, especially with beginners, the athlete lacks the vocabulary to process and
internalize verbal commands. Additionally, they lack the necessary body awareness to adjust their body
or movement upon verbal command or may (erroneously) believe they are replicating demonstrated
movements correctly. In these cases, the kinesthetic method is a highly effective tool for athletes to
overcome the obstacles above. This method requires the instructor to use a stick or their hands to put
the athlete in the proper position. The instructor can point to key joints, balance points, muscles, etc. to
remind the athlete of a specific task. For example, in the start position athletes sometimes relax the
back and do not maintain a strong enough arch so the instructor can pat the athlete’s erectors or tap
their upper back with a stick to remind them to active those muscles. Additionally, if the instructor can
use a stick as a boundary which forces the athlete to stay in a certain space as they perform the lift. This
is used in jerking when the athlete has a habit of leaning forward too much in the split, so the instructor
holds a stick in front of the body so that the athlete has a reference point they cannot cross. Another
variation of this method is to physically guide the athlete through a motion. For example, an athlete may
have difficulty balancing the backward horizontal forces of the knees with the forward horizontal forces
of the hips during extension. In this case, the instructor can place their hands on the knee and on the
glute to guide the lifter to apply force simultaneously in those areas. The kinesthetic method is a highly
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effective way to guide lifters who are unaware of their flaws and who have trouble responding to verbal
or visual instruction.
Methods to Correct Mistakes
There are many causes for a mistake such as technical flaws, physical weaknesses, and improper
teaching, but the instructor should take steps to identify mistakes before attempting to correct them.
The standing location of the instructor is very important for identifying mistakes and they should stand
in a spot where their vision is broad so that they can easily observe most of the athletes’ practice and
identify problems immediately. Additionally, the instructor should look for other similar spots in the
training facility and travel around them so they can view training from various angles to ensure the
athletes’ quality of movement is high. This practice can help the instructor stay vigilant and organized
during the training session. At the individual level, a 90° angle provides a very clear view for analyzing
and athlete’s balance and whether they are following the 3 gravity principles. However, because the
weight plate obscures the barbell, instructors should stand at 45° from the athlete to analyze joint
movements and technical details. From here, the instructor can then work to correct mistakes.
Generally, instructors use several methods for correcting technical mistakes. The first method is
the individualized method which addresses technical issues of an individual athlete at the moment they
occur to keep the athlete from developing a bad habit during training (Pan 2015). The second method is
the collective correction method where the instructor stops the team’s practice and gathers everyone to
correct the athlete’s technical issue through demonstration, explanation, group critique, or other
methods to remind the team of universal technique issues. This method is best arranged at the start of
practice or near the beginning of an exercise so that athletes will still have time to correct their technical
problems after the instructor’s commentary and summary. The third method is the assistance method
where the instructor uses a variety of assistance movements to improve the athlete’s athletic
foundation and improve in all aspects of training. This method works well when the technical error is
due to strength (i.e. only occurs at higher intensities).
Methods for Preventing Injury
Instructors should learn and teach proper spotting methods to prevent injury and allow athletes
to better master technical movements. There are several methods, all of which should be taught at an
early age and taken seriously by athletes. The most common method is the double spotting method
which requires a spotter to stand about 15 – 20cm and face the barbell with both palms facing upwards.
It is optimal for the spotters to cup their hands and interlock their fingers, and then place their hands in
front of their body with both arms slightly bent. When the athlete lifts the barbell, the spotters will place
their hands slightly below the barbell and follow its movement without changing their hand shape and
without touching the barbell. When the athlete fails the movement or is unable to support, the spotters
should catch the barbell in time with both hands as protection and allow the athlete to move away
before putting the barbell down on the ground.
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The spotters must always be focused on the athlete and barbell and take responsibility for
protecting the athlete. When spotting, being fast and accurate is key as both spotters need to catch the
barbell at the same time or else it may cause injury when one side catches while another side misses it.
Thus, spotters should discuss their strategy with the athlete so that the athlete is prepared and so
spotters can agree on what signs to look for when taking over the lift. This agreement allows spotters to
only focus on the barbell and athlete rather than wait for confirmation from the athlete or other spotter
which can result in hesitation during spotting. This method can be used for assistance movements as
well as competition movements. Spotting for a snatch or clean is usually reserved for beginners who
may not yet have the mental confidence or technical familiarity for a certain weight or movement.
These cases are generally rare since athletes gradually build technique before moving onto heavier
weight or more difficult movements, but they exist and can occur if an athlete is harmed when dropping
a barbell. Additionally, if the athlete is lifting less than a 10kg plate on the bar, then they do not have the
height of the plate to buffer dropping the barbell, so spotting is important at this stage.
Another safety measure is the single spotter method, where the spotter stands in front or
behind the back of the athlete based on the movement but does not obstruct the athlete from
completing the movement. This method is generally used for the squat snatch, deep squat, bench press,
and other exercises. For these movements the spotter places both hands on the chest or near the bar
while staying focused on the athlete’s movement. However, when spotting beginners for movements
such as snatch, the spotter should be ready to catch the barbell. When the spotter detects a failure, they
should immediately assist by holding on to the bar to give supportive strength or catch the barbell in the
case of a snatch. This method is not as safe as the double spotter method since one person is
responsible for the entire load of the barbell, so it is important for the spotter to be strong enough to
manage weight on the barbell.
The final safety measure is the self-spotting method which is reserved for when the athlete is
more familiar with weightlifting techniques; however, the instructor should first teach the athlete how
to spot themselves. For the snatch, when the center of gravity of the barbell is too far forward then the
athlete should push away the barbell with both hands towards the front while jumping backwards or
straightening both knees to prevent the knee joint from being hit. When the center of gravity of the
barbell is too far behind then one should externally rotate the shoulders to push the barbell towards the
back while jumping forward and/or arching the back to move the body out of the way. This maneuver
can also be used in back squatting if the athlete senses the barbell shifting forward or simply cannot
stand up. Another way to self-spot during a snatch is to have one hand straighten and hold the barbell
while the other hand lets go and the body turns 180o toward the direction of the hand holding the
barbell, which helps the body to quickly avoid getting struck.
Self-spotting for the clean is like the snatch: when the center of gravity of the barbell is too far
forward then the athlete should push the barbell away with both hands towards the front and jump
backwards. Alternatively, the athlete can bend their torso forward while straightening both knees to
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protect the knee joints. However, it is important that the wrists NOT relax before the barbell leaves the
body or they can be sprained. This safety precaution can also be used when front squatting. When the
center of gravity of the barbell is too far backwards then both hands should push away the barbell even
harder towards the front while taking the same jumping or knee straightening procedures outlined
above.
Self-spotting for the jerk depends on the style of the jerk. During a split jerk, if the center of
gravity of the barbell is too far forward then the athlete should push the barbell forward and arch the
torso away from the barbell to shift their balance backward and be able to push the front leg back as
well. If the center of gravity of the barbell is too far back, then the athlete should push the barbell
backward and arch the torso forward forcefully to shift their balance forward and enable the back leg to
move forward as well. In the case of a power jerk or squat jerk, the self-spotting procedures for the
snatch apply.
Conclusion
Coaching is a process of teaching and guidance to give athletes essential knowledge, skills, and
techniques. Because different athletes learn differently, instructors should implement a variety of
methods to communicate ideas, teach technique, correct mistakes, and prevent injury. However,
coaching is also a learning process for the instructor. While the recommendations in this chapter provide
a foundation for these tasks, one’s coaching will strengthen over time if they learn how their athletes
process information differently and apply this experience to more and more athletes.
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Chapter 5: Weightlifting Training Principles
After an athlete undergoes enough coaching to develop familiarity with basic knowledge,
techniques, skills, and strength for weightlifting, they enter formal weightlifting training which is an
organized education process to improve the athlete’s technical level. The formal weightlifting training
process must follow general weightlifting training principles to ensure the athlete’s improvement and
health. Coaches throughout China are strongly encouraged to understand these principles to avoid
overtraining or injuring their athletes.
Adaptation
Under normal conditions the functions of human organs are closely related and affected by one
another, but rest in a relatively balanced state. When the external environment changes, the body’s
internal environment must adjust and realign to maintain the balance between the internal and external
environment (Ji and Feng 1999). This process is called adaptation and is a fundamental law of biological
activity. When applied to a training situation, training adaptation is the planned use of sports load to
stimulate the body to reorganize within a certain range to improve its fitness level and regain balance.
There are 2 categories of sports load stimuli. The first is physiological load which refers to the
use intensity and volume during general athletic training and weightlifting training including technical
training, tactical training, and competition. The second is psychological load which refers to the
psychological load of long and arduous training, participation in intense competition, adaptation to new
social environments, and the load from striving to succeed. After being subjected to stimuli, the
athlete’s body exhibits a temporary decline in functional ability, movement quality, skills, mental ability,
and tactical ability; however, after training the body enters the recovery period during which these
abilities reach their original states. Once recovered, the body enters the supercompensation phase
where it adjusts to the training stimulus by undergoing further adaptation so that its abilities improve to
a higher level. Imposing another stimulus at this new level leads to another new imbalance which, after
training and adjustment, will again form a new level of adaptation. Figure 5 – 1 shows this cyclical
process of adaptation forms the sport training cycle that leads to a continuous upward trend in
development (Liu 2012).
The sports load must be applied during the supercompensation period to get the best result and
surpass the previous fitness level. If there is no supercompensation, then the load will be introduced at a
point where fitness levels are not at their peak. Since fitness can only be restored to the corresponding
applied load level and the new load cannot exceed the previous highest level, then performance will
only be maintained or lower than the previous highest level. Liu (2012) shows that in the long run this
excessive loading and short recovery periods cause the continuous decline in performance as shown in
Figure 5 – 2.
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Figure 5 – 1: The Cyclical Process of Training Adaptation
Figure 5 – 2: Adaptation Under Excessive Sports Load
Additionally, sports load will only be effective within a certain dosage. If the sports load is small,
then there is little stimulation imposed on the body which requires a small level of adaptation and
results in a small amount of improvement. On the other hand, if the sports load exceeds physiological
limits, then the body will not have enough energy to recover and supercompensate. This can adversely
affect the athlete’s health, and induce fatigue, overtraining, sports injuries, and a decline in competitive
status. The ideal training load is based on individual physical and psychological characteristics, all of
which change as the athlete enters different stages of development within their multi-year plan (see
Chapter 15 on The Training Program and Training Diary). Additionally, the load is affected by athlete’s
technical level and the use of recovery methods. Hence, instructors should continuously summarize,
research, and amend the standards for an athletes’ training load.
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In practice, novice athletes will be stimulated by single training sessions and can reach higher
fitness levels by applying a new round of higher loading after supercompensating from the last bout. For
intermediate athletes, the stimulation to induce adaptation may require a series of training sessions and
longer recovery because the body has reached a fitness level that can recover quickly from a single dose
of training. For advanced athletes, instead of applying a new round of loading after supercompensating
from a single training session, sports loading should be applied multiple times a day for several days or
even weeks to accumulate enough loading stimulus to induce adaptation, which is shown in Figure 5 – 3.
Figure 5 – 3: Organization of Loading and Recovery for High Level Athletes
Overall the body’s reaction towards a certain amount of stimulation will gradually decrease,
hence there should be a gradual increase in sports training. Therefore, the entire training process of an
athlete is a cyclical process of stimulation and adaptation, with the completion of each cycle resulting in
a higher fitness level. However, instructors cannot continuously increase the amount of sports load
without limit, but instead must regulate sports load based on training rhythm to continue introducing
new and varied stimulation. If the training duration is long and lacks variation such that the athlete
becomes very comfortable, then their technical level cannot increase. So, instructors should avoid this,
especially when training experienced athletes.
Characteristics of Adaptation
In order to effectively use training to induce adaptation, the instructor should be mindful of
several adaptation characteristics. First, adaptation is a universal process. As the body engages in an
activity such as weightlifting, the nervous system adapts to the movements by coordinating motor
pathways to become more efficient at performing weightlifting movements. This systemic adaptation
results in psychological adaptation such as improved motion perception, concentration, willpower,
tactical behavior, intelligence, and more stable emotions. Additionally, there are physical adaptations
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from organs such as bones, ligaments, joints, and muscles which adapt to become more effective at
absorbing physical stress and at transforming chemical energy to mechanical energy. Other systems,
such as the circulatory and respiratory systems, improve their functionality so that athletes recover
faster under rest. Metabolic pathways also improve to provide aerobic and anaerobic energy.
Ultimately, these adaptations improve physical qualities such as strength, speed, endurance, and
flexibility. However, these adaptations can occur even if the athlete learns poor movement patterns and
engages in poorly planned training, but this adaptation will produce inferior competition results
compared to athletes who adapt to proper movement patterns under well-planned training. Therefore,
instructors should follow best practices in all areas of technique and training to ensure the correct
adaptations occur.
While adaptation is universal, Chen (2009) notes how adaptation is heterogeneous because
different parts of the body require different amounts of time to adapt. For example, generally the
nervous system and muscles exhibit the earliest adaptive response while metabolic activity and
structural changes such as joints, ligaments, and bones require a longer time to adapt. Additionally, even
within each response there are elements that exhibit different times to adapt. For example, the central
nervous system exhibits earlier an adaptive response than the autonomic nervous system. Therefore, a
systemic loading can have deep effects on the body over time, so the instructor should gradually
increase loading so that the slowest areas of the body have sufficient time to adapt.
Adaptation is also a unique process in that different types of loading cause different training
adaptation on the body. For example, strength training causes growth in muscle volume and improves
the ability of the central nervous system to recruit motor units and muscle fibers. Endurance training
increases aerobic capacity and work capacity. However, both types of training can interfere with each
other’s development. Additionally, different types of loading also affect energy systems (Niu 1995). For
example, speed training consumes large amounts of creatine phosphate (CP) and the body adapts by
producing more enzymes to allow for the more muscle contraction. Meanwhile, endurance training
does not rely on CP or deplete phosphate stores, but instead causes an increase in the storage of muscle
glycogen. Therefore, different types of training cause different adaptations. Since most of the loading in
weightlifting is characterized by high intensity, short time, and high load, instructors must implement
training methods that induce adaptations conducive to the sport.
However, even within weightlifting, different aspects of the sport have different rates of
adaptation. For example, the adaptation of tactical methods generally form after the athlete adapts to
proper weightlifting technique. Additionally, within an aspect there are different elements that adapt at
different rates. For example, when developing an athlete’s psychological characteristics, adaptation to
movement occurs at earlier stages due to imitation and movement perception while other
characteristics such as mobilization and adjustment (see Chapter 8 on Psychological Training) are
relatively slower. Hence, it is important to use loads that allow all aspects of weightlifting characteristics
to develop.
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Finally, adaptation is a continuous process. Building an athlete’s weightlifting capabilities
requires a long and gradual accumulation of loading, but if there is an interruption in training then this
can affect their progress and even decrease the athlete’s technical level. This is because once adaptation
to a given physical or psychological loading stimulus begins, subsequent application of the same loading
stimulus will have less of an effect. And after complete adaptation, the loading stimulus cannot be used
to improve the athlete’s performance. Therefore, it is important to keep the adaptive process going and
avoid periods of stagnation or reversal. In conclusion, instructors must realize that adaptation is a
universal, heterogeneous, unique, and continuous process to create continuously higher levels of
adaptation. Thus, instructors must choose a sports load that reflects these characteristics and allows for
gradual adaptation of the entire system.
The Goal of Weightlifting Training
Understanding the law and characteristics of adaptation, the main goal of weightlifting training
is to improve the athlete’s athleticism and training level so that they can lift the heaviest weight possible
in competition. Instructors and researchers in China believe that athletes must build their athleticism,
technical proficiency, tactical ability, intelligence, psychological, mentality, and recoverability to improve
their athleticism and training level so that they can reach the highest competitive state (Deng 2010).
Guo and Xu (2010) show this process in Figure 4 – 4 which summarizes the Chinese weightlifting training
system. The qualities developed by the 7 training systems form an athlete’s basic training level, which is
their ability to participate in exercise. With their training level, athletes can perform a basic amount of
lifting to meet the needs of training which is known as their athletic state. As athletes train and prepare
for competition, their athletic state forms their ability to peak and participate in competition, which is
known as their competitive state (Guo 2010). The best competitive state is the state where athletes can
display their highest lifting ability for competition. To reach this level, the 7 training systems much
achieve the following goals:
1) Athletic Training: improve athlete’s health, continuously improve the capability of body
functions, improve the capability of enduring the amount of exercise, develop general physical
qualities and weightlifting qualities.
2) Technique Training: establish a correct and complete technical concept, develop body
awareness, train the athlete’s muscular coordination to self-correct, and build an accurate and
stable technical style to master the correct technique.
3) Psychological Training: help athletes learn how to develop and adjust their mental condition to
better participate in exercise training and mentally prepare to complete difficult tasks in
competition to win.
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Figure 5 – 4: Chinese Weightlifting Training System for Reaching the Best Competitive State
4) Tactical Training: utilize methods that correctly distribute the athlete’s physical, technical, and
mental strength based on the competition condition of both sides to limit the opponent’s strong
point and obtain victory.
5) Intellectual Training: educate athletes on basic exercise theory and weightlifting to improve the
athlete’s self-consciousness during training and accelerate the improvement of weightlifting
techniques
6) Mentality Training: develop athletes’ motivation to complete the training and competition goals.
These seven systems train the athlete from different angles through different methods (which
are described in subsequent chapters) but shape the athlete towards a unified direction. The logic
behind this system is as follows: in order to lift heavy barbells, athletes must have sufficient strength
and speed but views that only promote strength and speed are incomplete because these physical
qualities can only be fully realized by mastering proper snatch and clean and jerk technique (Tian, Liu,
and Xiong 2007). Therefore, athletic training be arranged based on the requirements of technical
training. In addition to physical qualities and technique, the athlete must have strong psychological
qualities such as confidence, concentration, and willpower to improve weightlifting results. These
qualities are especially important when attempting new personal bests, breaking records, and
participating in competition. Therefore, it is necessary to develop psychological qualities through
organized psychological training as well as throughout the entire training process. This will allow a good
psychological mindset and habits to spill over into each time the athlete lifts new weights or overcomes
new difficulties.
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As the athlete builds up their confidence, concentration, and willpower, the instructor must
guide this progress in competition so that the athlete will be prepared to work hard to win against their
opponents, this is where tactical training comes into place. Although weightlifting is different from ball
sports where there exists many group tactics and coordination between teammates, the athlete does
have tactical tools to maximize their performance and put their opponents in disadvantageous positions.
Improving the athlete’s tactical awareness will help the athlete display their physical and technical
ability efficiently (Tian, Liu, and Xiong 2007), establish a tactical plan, and adapt to changes in
competition in a seamless manner. However, all this training described so far is only one half of the
process of athletic development and achieving high results. The other half is recovery training (Ji and
Feng 1999), which is tailored to the amount of training and allows the athlete to withstand greater
amounts of exercise.
Over time the athlete will notice patterns in their training such as how they feel after certain
loading arrangements, how they respond to certain exercises, how they process and understand an
instructor’s teaching, etc. As athletes become more experienced with their own training and
competition performance, the instructor should guide the athlete to obtain a deeper understanding of
technique and reasons behind an instructor’s decisions. This will increase the athlete’s awareness about
their own training with goal of helping the athlete find what methods work best for themselves and
make more effective training decisions with the instructor. The athlete must train for years to develop
enough intelligence to make their own training decisions and they might find the training process long,
arduous, and monotonous. Therefore, instructors should strive to create an environment where the
athlete feels positive, supported, and willing to bring this mentality to training daily. Otherwise the
athlete will hold back and possibly quit training.
The Chinese weightlifting system is composed of 7 training systems. The goals of these systems
are closely related, mutually affect each other, and should all be incorporated during the training
process. All the systems and their accompanying methods are becoming increasingly scientific by
incorporating various new disciplines and techniques to understand and advance all aspects of training.
Due to the physical and psychological differences among athletes coupled with different requirements
throughout the training season, some goals may require more focus than others. However, realizing
these goals should still revolve around the main goal of weightlifting training which is to improve the
athlete’s athleticism and training level so that they can lift the heaviest weight possible in competition.
Best Practices for Weightlifting Training
To complete the training goals above, the instructor should follow several practices. First,
instructors should implement progressive and continuous training over the stages of an athlete’s
development (Chou 2013). Athletes go through various stages of physical and mental development and
follow a pattern of development as athletes move into subsequent stages of training. For example,
children undergo different “sensitive periods” for the development of physical qualities (see Chapter 6
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on Athletic Training) and it is easier to learn technique at early ages (recall adaptation is
heterogeneous). Therefore, if training is systematically conducted according to sensitive periods of
development, then athletes can reach high levels with less effort compared to building qualities later in
life.
Second, technical training must be continuously refined (Luo and Xie 2006). At early stages of
learning, technical training must systematic progressions that go from “easy to difficult”, “surface to
depth”, and “light to heavy.” This is because adaptation is heterogeneous and unique. Therefore,
athletes can develop skills and qualities more easily and safely if technical training follows systematic
progressions. At later stages, technical training must be continuous otherwise movements will be less
automatic, the level of physical qualities will decrease, and the athlete will be unable to perform at their
potential. These results are because interrupted training breaks the adaptation process and brings the
athlete closer to their baseline level of fitness. Therefore, continuing training in a systematic way allows
athletes to retain the skills and qualities without regressing.
Third, instructors must combine general athletic training and specialized weightlifting training
(Luo and Xie 2006). Every sport focuses on developing certain physical qualities and sport techniques,
but at the same time this focus results in weaknesses or imbalances which will limit the effect of training
on the functionality of organs and systems and ultimately limit the development of physical qualities.
This is because the body always acts as one full unit when completing a movement, so the activity of
every organ and system is mutually related and mutually restricting. For example, the split jerk imposes
different stresses and positions on each leg, which over time can result in a strength imbalance that
normally lies around 10%, but if the strength imbalance becomes greater than 20%, then it can
imbalance the performance of bilateral movements or result in injury (Xiong 2014). General athletic
training (see Chapter 6 on Athletic Training) focusing on unilateral leg strength and power can
strengthen motor skills, build work capacity in the weaker leg, and provide rest for the overstressed leg
so that there is balanced adaptation in both legs. Hence, athletic training can build a good foundation
and make up for the inadequacies of specialized weightlifting training which, in this example, allows the
athlete to jerk heavier weights safely and perform squats and pulls without relying on one side to
dominate in force production. While too much specialization can limit an athlete, so can too much
generalization because it can take up too much energy and time such that the athlete cannot effectively
specialize (recall the body’s organs and system are mutually related and restricting). Therefore, athletic
training should be combined with specialized weightlifting training for the final purpose of improving the
athlete’s technical level in competition. This is done by using enough athletic training to develop
physical qualities and skills that are insufficiently addressed in specialized sport, build a work capacity to
endure weightlifting training, and provide rest for overstressed areas, while not interfering with
weightlifting training.
Fourth, instructors should implement training cycles so that each cycle builds on the former
cycle to allow for continuous improvement in the athlete’s technical level. Training cycles are based on
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the pattern formed by the competitions chosen throughout the year (which can range from 1 – 3) and
divided into a preparation period, basic period, competition period, and recovery period, which are all
closely linked but have their own goals, training methods, and loading (see Chapter 15 on The Training
Program and Training Diary). Additionally, these characteristics are implemented into each training
week of a phase. This means that the athlete’s competitive state will appear only after a period of
systematic training. The reason is because the body’s functional capacity continues to increase during
the preparatory training, reaches its highest level during competition period, and then maintains for a
short period before decreasing during the recovery period. The training process depends on the changes
in body function during these periods to improve body function and have good control throughout the
training cycle and adjust as needed. After understanding the competition results of a training cycle and
assessing the athlete’s condition, the instructor can then arrange the next cycle’s training goal, content,
loading, and methods to guarantee a high competition condition during important competitions and
create excellent results.
Fifth, instructors must balance strict training requirements with the athlete’s individual
characteristics (Pan 2015). Various parts of training are universal and hence must have strict
requirements or else training will be insufficient to achieve high quality standards. For example, during a
training session the body’s capability rises from a low level to a higher level after warming up, then
gradually decreases after using energy during the training. This is universal, so generally it is better to
put highly technical or high-intensity strength movements early in a session or during the week where
the body’s capability is high or highest. Then it is prudent to put endurance exercise in sessions when
body capability begins to decline, and lastly place small-muscle strength exercises or relaxation exercises
at the end of a session or on light/off days. Additionally, the instructor must implement a high
physiological load that the human body can withstand during physical exercises to stimulate adaptation
and improve the body’s motor functions and weightlifting results. However, training variables such as
loading, stimulation methods, effective exercises, strength training methods, etc. must be based on the
individual because the age, sex, physical development, physical characteristics, training level, mental
characteristics, recovery capability, and competition results will differ (Pan 2015). To find what works
best, the instructor must assess the athlete and the training program while adjusting throughout the
training cycle (see Chapter 15 on The Training Program and Training Diary, and Chapter 16 on Athlete
Assessment), otherwise the load might be too much for some athletes or too little for others.
Finally, instructors should balance the effective number of sets with training intensity. During
weightlifting training, weights at less than 70% intensity of the athlete’s one rep max (1RM) are usually
not included in the calculation of exercise volume because this intensity does not induce a strong
stimulation and hence is reserved for improving technique or early during a preparation phase.
Generally effective weights are measured at 80% and above, with weights in the 80 – 90% range
performed for 2 - 3 repetitions for several sets to provide enough stimulation on the body. Most
athletes use 85% as their effective intensity, but athletes with higher training level can use 90% intensity
for their effective sets. Weights above 90% are considered maximal intensity training and certainly have
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their significance, but they usually can only be repeated once. Although the intensity and stimulation on
the nervous system is great, the volume is low so the stimulation on the muscle is not deep enough.
Therefore, for less experienced athletes, instructors should not purely seek out high intensity, but
instead implement a good combination of volume and intensity during training to achieve good results.
This will allow volume to turn into quality movement which then can become a learned response. At
higher levels, athletes tend to adopt “multiple high-intensity, high-density, fast-paced” training sessions
that mimic competition conditions to build volume at high intensities (Luo and Xie 2006).
Conclusion
Science provides the foundation for training and programming. By understanding the law and
characteristics of adaptation, instructors can arrange training in a reasonable way and adjust their
program based on the adaptive response of the athlete. In China, athletes must develop along 7 major
aspects to maximize their results. Understanding the 7 training systems provides instructors with the
requirements to incorporate into the training program and can act as a checklist for instructors when
writing their program or forming competition strategy. With this knowledge, the instructor can ensure
that the training leads to maximal competition performance.
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Chapter 6: Athletic training
The basic athleticism of the human body is displayed through strength, speed, endurance,
coordination, flexibility, and other physical qualities. Good physical qualities are the basis for mastering
weightlifting techniques, improving competition results, reducing the risk injuries, and prolonging the
athletic lifespan. Physical qualities will grow as an athlete grows, so a healthy body is the precursor and
foundation for developing athleticism. Developing the athlete through different stages as part of a longterm systematic plan can greatly enhance athleticism. For example, improving muscle quality (i.e.
contractibility, excitability, extensibility, and elasticity) when an athlete is young assists in developing
strength and power later on. This is the heart of athletic training and is the first step in the Chinese
weightlifting system.
Goal of General Athletic Training
All sports will change an athlete’s physical qualities to a certain extent even if the sport is biased
towards a particular quality. For example, weightlifting training can significantly develop strength, but it
can also affect speed, flexibility, coordination, and endurance. Therefore, training physical qualities can
be divided into two types: general and specialized. Strength training is the specialized athletic quality for
weightlifting, while training that is done to develop all other body qualities falls under the definition of
general athletic training. The main purpose of general athletic training is to develop general physical
qualities to build a good foundation for mastering weightlifting techniques. This foundation allows
specialized training to reach a higher level and ultimately improve weightlifting results. Additionally, it
also improves the athlete’s health, the functions of various organs, and the capability to endure volumes
of training.
Best Practices for General Athletic Training
In China, beginner weightlifters start at age 8 – 13 and it is important for instructors to build
agility, flexibility, and speed in this order to support weightlifting strength later on. The instructor should
implement the following best practices when conducting athletic training. First, the instructor should
conduct athletic training based objective laws of the physical quality development of children and
youths (Sun 1998). During a child’s development there are certain times known as “sensitive periods”
where the body is particularly responsive to training a physical quality, which can bring athletes closer to
their athletic potential. Figure 6 – 1 shows the sensitive periods that overlap for both boys and girls for
basic athletic qualities, however see Chapter 14 (on Strength Training Methods) and 18 (on Women’s
Training) for a detailed breakdown by strength and sex. The figure shows that coordination, reaction
time, and agility can be easily developed starting at about age 6 through 11 while flexibility can be
developed between ages 8 – 12 (Gao 2015), after which further development is possible but much
slower and harder to improve. Speed comes next, developing best between ages 9 – 12 and another
during ages 14 – 15 perhaps because neural efficiency (NE) improves most dramatically between the
ages of 13 – 14 (Ma 2013). Broadly speaking, absolute and maximal strength develop fastest between
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Figure 6 – 1: Sensitive Periods for Basic Athletic Qualities
age 12 – 16 (Yang 2013) peaks between ages 20 – 30 for both sexes (Ma 2013). Finally, boys and girls
develop endurance easily around ages 14 – 18 (Gao 2015). While physical qualities can be trained and
improved over the athlete’s career, training them based on these sensitive periods makes athletic
development a much faster process, brings the athlete closer to their athletic potential, and reduces
injury risk compared to developing physical qualities out of this order. However, if the sensitive period is
missed then athletes should still work on building the quality they missed while working on other
qualities to catch up.
Second, instructors should also combine general athletic training with specialized athletic
training. This is important because must apply their physical qualities to support their strength and
weightlifting technique. While weightlifting training focuses on developing strength for the snatch and
clean and jerk, the instructor should not neglect or remove training other physical qualities but instead
arrange such training according to the athlete’s age and their physical quality development as shown in
Figure 6 – 1. As athletes mature they can either maintain their general athletic training or conduct extra
sessions to develop individual qualities such as speed, flexibility, etc. The type of arrangement depends
on the athlete’s age and their physical quality development. For example, if athletes missed the
sensitive period for flexibility or developed insufficient flexibility then much of their general training will
emphasize flexibility training. They can perform this in the morning as a separate session to prepare for
later training, or they can stretch the most critical areas immediately before and after training. In the
adult stage the specialized training and competition demands no longer allows athletes to spend their
effort on general athletic training, and even if some is arranged, it is part of a very specialized athletic
training method. For example, if an athlete is injured or at risk of injury then the instructor can develop
a general quality to build strength, range of motion, or speed to a given area.
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Third, instructors should combine training general physical qualities with technical training.
Physical qualities are the foundation for mastering a skill, but physical qualities can only be fully exerted
with good technique. For example, the snatch pull is an accessory movement for developing vertical
pulling strength, but the start position, deadlift, and extension must be performed with good technique
or else the snatch pull will be slow or inaccurate even if the athlete increases their strength through
other means. Another example is when an athlete has very strong squat strength but cannot snatch or
clean and jerk an amount that is commensurate with that strength (see Chapter 14 on Strength for
standards). So, when an instructor conducts general athletic training, they should teach proper
technique for focus on the snatch and clean and jerk so that athletes can apply their strength accurately
and early on in their career.
Methods for General Athletic Training
Weightlifters need strength but they also speed, reactive strength, flexibility, coordination, and
endurance. In China, these qualities are trained by incorporating other activities such as gymnastics,
track and field, team sports, etc. to obtain a good level of development. It is not important for
weightlifters to be elite in these other activities but rather to train physical qualities that will carry over
to weightlifting. People with higher levels of athleticism can maintain a longer weightlifting career
because good athleticism prevents early fatigue, reduces the possibility of injury, and increases that
ability to withstand greater amounts of exercise. Table 6 – 1 shows a sample week for beginners that
trains such characteristics. For example, weightlifters and sprinters usually have high amounts of fasttwitch muscle fibers and both sports require the nervous system to activate fully at high intensities and
within the shortest amount time (usually less than 150ms). Therefore, starting force is an essential
quality for weightlifters and sprinters to move quickly. Formal sprinting methods (10 – 100m) and games
using sprinting as the main content (such as basketball, soccer, or simple chasing games) are useful for
developing starting force and speed. While formal sprint technique and detailed methods are beyond
the scope of this book, instructors should incorporate study methods and progressions from track and
field in their youth speed development.
For example, 10 – 15m hill sprints for multiple sets are effective for building acceleration and
position as well as 10 – 30m on flat surfaces. Athletes can race against each other or chase each other to
make these activities fun. Meanwhile, the instructor should look for signs of fatigue and technical
deterioration to determine volume and err on the side of caution. With each set, the instructor should
give athletes feedback on their movement and ask the athlete how they feel so that they can improve
on the next interval. At longer distances (30 – 80m) the instructor can incorporate flying runs aimed at
improving the athlete’s top speed and maintain that speed for longer distances. This involves breaking
the distance into different zones to signal the athlete to accelerate, then maintain a top speed with
minimal effort, and then decelerate. The instructor can use markers to analyze technique and
consistency at different phases and use the athlete’s fatigue determine volume. For speed endurance,
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Table 6 – 1: Sample Generalized Training Program used in Morning Training
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
Jog 400 –
Jog 400 m Jog 400 –
Jog 400 m Jog 400 –
Jog 400 m Off
1200m
1200m
1200m
Gymnastic Gymnastic Gymnastic
Gymnastic Gymnastic Gymnastic Off
Stretching Stretching Stretching
Stretching Stretching Stretching
Hill Sprint
Sprint Flat Pull-ups 5 x Basketball Sprint Flat Basketball Off
Work 5 x
Surface 5 x 5 - 10
30 min
Surface 5 x 30 min
10m
30m
30m
Pushups 5 Triple
Sit ups or
Pushups 5 Broad
Cool Down Off
x 10
Jumps 5
Hyper Ext 5 x 5
Jumps 5
10 min
sets
x 10
sets
PVC Snatch PVC CJ
PVC Snatch Vertical
PVC CJ
Off
Work 30
Work
Work 30
Jump 5
Work
min
30min
min
sets
30min
Cool Down Cool Down Cool Down Cool Down Cool Down
Off
10 min
10 min
10 min
10 min
10 min
instructors should focus on 80 – 100m with several minutes of recovery. At all distances technique is the
critical determinant for progressing to longer runs and greater volume.
In addition to starting force, weightlifters should build reactive force in the legs to assist in
overcoming an external force with speed. Jump training is the main tool for developing this reactive
force. Because weightlifting requires both legs to have balanced development in strength, most jump
training should focus on jumping with both legs; however, the split jerk imposes different stresses at
different positions for each leg so unilateral leg training must also be included. Regardless, both bilateral
and unilateral jumping impart significant stress on the joints, so instructors should teach athletes to
jump smoothly and effortlessly. Instructors can begin with low intensity body weight movements such
as jump rope, rhythmic jump squats (at quarter and full depths), ankle bouncing (standing or bent over),
all of which primarily focus on extending the calves. Moderate intensity movements include standing
broad jump, vertical jumps with and without running starts, hurdle barrier jumps, jumps to a box or
platform, and frog jumps which build starting explosive strength (these jumps also have unilateral
variations). More advanced methods that build reactive explosive ability include depth jumps (50 –
110cm) with low heights used for developing maximum speed and higher heights for developing
strength. Additionally, the instructor can use weighted jump squats and vertical jumps with a few steps
to gain momentum. When implementing jump training, the instructor should start with easy and partial
movements before moving to more intense and full range movements to assess technique. Additionally,
volume should be moderate and regulated based on the athlete’s fatigue and performance. Finally, the
instructor can create jumping games for athletes or implement sports such as volleyball and basketball
for athletes to train jumping ability.
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Flexibility is another important weightlifting quality because it helps satisfy the “low” principle
by making it easier to achieve weightlifting positions and increasing the lift’s range of motion which also
increases its relative force. It also helps satisfy the “timing” principle by allowing for more graceful
coordination which can reduce the possibility of injury (Ma 2013). It is best trained through stretching
and other sports such as gymnastics due its high demands for full-body flexibility. For the snatch,
athletes must be able to extend the mid-lower back and develop flexibility in the wrists, latissimus dorsi,
pectoralis, and shoulders so that the arm can extend comfortably and allow the shoulders to be in line
with the frontal plane. Otherwise, the barbell’s position is will affect stability of the shoulder girdle.
Additionally, the hip flexors, hamstrings, hip adductors, and especially ankles must have high degrees of
flexibility to squat deep with an upright torso and maintain a high degree of stability. The clean has the
same requirements as the snatch, but athletes must also have sufficient triceps flexibility to maintain a
solid rack position. The jerk requires adequate mid-back extension as well as flexibility in the wrists and
latissimus dorsi. Therefore, a good foundation of flexibility should start very early and persist daily as the
athlete grows during their teen years to maintain a greater range of motion to lift and catch weights.
Developing coordination and body awareness is another important weightlifting skill to satisfy
the “timing” principle. This is because increased coordination and body awareness allow athletes to
form an accurate judgement of their own movement and the force of the bar, and then respond quickly
and accurately (Liu, Zhang, and Gu 2002). It is possible for technique to break down during attempts, so
athletes must train their coordination to maintain their positions and time their movements accurately.
Instructors can employ various somersaults from gymnastics, footwork drills in soccer, dribbling in
basketball, etc. since these movements require coordination and body awareness under conditions that
require power, speed, endurance, flexibility, and, rhythm. When incorporating this training, instructors
should avoid training for too long or for high repetitions because fatigue will slow down the athlete’s
rhythm, coordination, and speed. In fact, it is best to incorporate this training near the beginning of a
session when the athlete is energetic and has a strong desire to practice.
Endurance training allows the athlete to overcome fatigue and bear greater training loads which
increases training efficiency (Ma 2013). Endurance training increases an athlete’s stroke volume, heart
contractility, and cardiac output which can help prevent chronic injuries due to increased blood flow
throughout the body. However, since the physiological characteristics of endurance athletes such as
long-distance runners are different and even opposite from weightlifting athletes, training long-distance
running is generally is not a suitable method for general athletic training unless the athlete’s respiratory
and cardiovascular system are lacking. For most athletes, instructors can implement 50 – 100m sprints
alternating with 50 – 100m jogging. Alternatively, athletes can run for 60s or until their heartbeat
exceeds 180 beats/min and then either walk or jog until the heart rate reaches 120 beats/min. Other
techniques include 200 – 300m hill sprints at a 15 – 25 incline for 3 – 6 sets with 3 – 5 minute rest per
set, mid-distance running (1500m), longer soccer or basketball games, and continuous jump roping.
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Finally, the instructor can incorporate body weight and weighted movements to develop overall
strength. For example, pull-ups, dips, handstands, and push-ups (with body weight or free weight) are
great for developing upper body strength. Core strength consists of sit-ups, planks (body weight or with
free weight) and medicine ball throws are used for developing both core and upper body explosiveness.
Instructors can also use light barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells are used to develop small muscle
groups. Movements such as curls and dumbbell extensions are used for upper body strength, dumbbell
raises and side-bends for core rotation strength, and calf raises, and dumbbell jumps for developing
lower-body strength. There are many options to build an athlete’s physical qualities and the choice of
movements will depend on equipment availability as well as the instructor’s ability to teach and manage
certain activities. The main point is to build all the qualities above during the athlete’s growth and
development stage. Therefore, the instructor should have long-term views for their athletes and aim to
build a good foundation for general physical qualities during the youth stage. It is important to keep
athletes engaged in this type of training so that they can build an appreciation for their health and their
sport. Once athletes develop, they can train general physical qualities during their resting period after a
big competition as well as during morning exercises within their basic preparation period or after
weightlifting training (see Chapter 14 on The Training Plan and Diary).
Goal of Specialized Athletic Training
Specialized training refers to actual strength training for the sport of weightlifting. The goal is to
develop the athlete’s ability to exert the greatest force in the shortest period of time with the heaviest
weight. This characteristic can be developed with frequent strength training since it can improve the
central nervous system’s (CNS) ability to control muscle recruitment and firing patterns with more speed
and less inhibition. For example, the CNS can reduce antagonistic contractions which allow more force
generated by agonist muscles. With long-term training, the CNS can program this pattern of firing such
that it becomes a learned response. Additionally, strength training can improve neural motor control
and improve the transmission of nerve impulses, causing some inactive muscle fiber to be active again.
Usually, individuals with a low training level recruit about 60% of their muscle fibers while athletes with
proper training can recruit more than 80% of their muscle fibers to work. This is commonly observed in
lightweight athletes who, after many years of training and without increasing their body weight or lean
mass, are still able to greatly improve their results. Thus, the goal of specialized strength training is to
develop a foundation of physical and neural capabilities in order to perform the snatch and the clean
and jerk with masterful technique while minimizing risk of injury.
Best Practices for Specialized Training
In the early stages of specialized training young athletes follow the directions of the instructor
but as they mature they should work with the instructor to devise an optimal program. This
collaboration begins with the athlete writing in their training diary and the instructor adding in their own
comments (see Chapter 14 on The Training Plan and Diary); however, the instructor should follow some
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rules when conducting weightlifting training that the athlete can learn from, internalize, and incorporate
as they mature.
Firstly, the strength required in both the snatch and clean and jerk must have balanced
development and strength training should focus on achieving that goal. Unbalanced results in snatch
and clean and jerk are mainly due to unbalanced development of the strength required in both events.
This can result in inadequate technique, increased risk of injury, and limited competition total. For
example, without supervision athletes will train based on their interest, so those who favor back
strength will focus on training pulls while those who favor leg strength will focus on squats. Over time
this will cause unbalanced strength development in these 2 areas and cause the lifter to rely only their
strongest areas to move a weight which can result in a vast difference in snatch and clean and jerk
results, overuse injury, and an insufficient total to overcome peers who have excellent snatch and clean
and jerk development. Hence, the instructor must ensure balanced development according to the
athlete’s performance when arranging a training program.
Secondly, the instructor must focus on primary and secondary muscles when developing
balanced strength of each muscle group for the snatch and clean and jerk. Otherwise the secondary
muscles can become too weak which can result in straining them and preventing primary muscles from
exerting their full strength. For example, sometimes the athlete is assumed to have weak legs so training
focuses on primary muscles in the legs, but the issue might actually be that the secondary muscle groups
such as the lower back, abdominals, and deltoids are too weak maintain a stationary spine which causes
the upper body to lean forward, relaxes the abdominals and back, and affects the completion of
standing up from the squat. If an instructor focuses training on upward pulling strength and leg strength
while neglecting support strength, then this neglect can cause weakness in arm extensor strength and
increase the risk of elbow injury. So, the instructor must understand the movement structure (see
Chapter 7 on Technical Training) of the lifts and perform an analysis to fully understand which muscle
groups are required to complete the lifts with good technique.
Thirdly, the instructor must develop the various types of strength required in the snatch and
clean and jerk. Weightlifting relies on power, but it is also important to develop static strength and even
eccentric strength to support weight in various positions of the snatch, clean, and jerk. For example,
athletes may engage in various overhead movements to develop support strength for the jerk, but they
may neglect training their ability to hold weight in the locked-out position for more than short time. This
neglect is commonly observed in lifters who have difficulty in waiting for a down signal in competition
resulting in a missed lift. Additionally, some lifters bounce out of their catch position when snatching
instead of settling with the weight which can create additional instability during the recovery. Eccentric
training is useful especially in training so that the athlete can have enough strength and endurance to
perform multiple repetitions when practicing different aspects of the lift. For example, it is much easier
to practice and execute jerks for multiple repetitions when the body is not fatigued from lowering the
bar. It is also easier to ensure a smooth jerk dip at heavy weights if the body has sufficient eccentric
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strength. Therefore, it is important to train various types of strength to ensure good technique and
minimize the risk of injury.
Fourthly, while it is important to overcome weak areas during strength training it is also
important for athletes to continue to train their strengths. Some weaknesses are temporary and can be
overcome by identifying them and using focused training to allow the weak area to catch up with overall
strength. However, some weaknesses are long-term and not caused by the training program. Instead
they are caused by other factors such as physical training history during childhood, physical features,
and innate differences in strength qualities, all of which reflect the characteristic of that athlete. For
example, some athletes have weak legs due to bone structure so while the athlete can emphasize leg
strength training during their entire sports life they will still have weak legs; however, usually such
athletes have good pulling strength and show this ability during snatch. Hence, athletes who have longterm weaknesses must train the weak part to avoid being affected by it, but they must also train their
strengths to overcome their deficiencies. Otherwise, if the athlete continuously focuses on identifying
weaknesses while neglecting strengths, then they will be unable to fully perform their strength.
Fifth, the instructor should make sure that main assistance movements are developed
proportionally to the athlete’s results of snatch and clean and jerk. Deficiencies in assistance
movements indicate that basic strength cannot support increases in the snatch and clean and jerk and
can increase the risk of injury. On the other hand, excellent performance in assistance movements but
poor performance in the snatch and clean and jerk indicates that strength has not been fully exerted.
Hence, the growth of assistance movements and the snatch and clean and jerk should adapt. To do this,
Table 6 – 2 introduces the proportions between some major assistance movements and the snatch and
clean and jerk (Guo 2014). Chinese researchers are developing indices and statistics to create standards
that instructors can follow, but the following values can be used for reference when constructing a
training plan and to check the effect of training.
Sixth, the technique of assistance movements for the snatch and clean and jerk must be
consistent to ensure a high degree of carryover to the competition lifts and train high-quality
movement. Assistance movements are usually some portion of the competition lifts; hence the speed,
force exertion, and the rhythm of the movement needs to be consistent with the competition lifts
otherwise it will affect the technique of the competition lifts. For example, high pulls are frequently used
for developing strength and speed in the competition pull however they can negatively influence an
athlete’s position, rhythm, and speed if not performed properly. Therefore, Table 6 – 3 provides
reference values for the optimal height of the high pull based on an athlete’s height.
Finally, instructors should remind athletes that training assistance movements should be
difficult in order to train technique under fatigue. This idea gradually received attention and achieved
good results, especially in competition where an athlete had to follow themselves. Our pioneers in
weightlifting first considered this idea when developing an athlete’s pulling height, where they
95
Table 6 – 2: The Relationship Between the CJ and Various Assistance Exercises
Movement
%
KG
Clean & Jerk
–
Base
Military
55
70kg less
Press
Push Press
78
35kg less
Power Jerk
87
20kg less
103
–
110
Rack Jerk
5 – 16kg
more
Front Squat
118
30kg more
Back Squat
131
50kg more
Power Clean
80
32kg less
Snatch
80
32kg less
If > then work
on strength
If < then work
on technique
Table 6 – 3: Barbell Lifting Height Based on Athlete's Height and Lifting Level
Snatch Pull (height in cm)
Clean Pull (height in cm)
Athlete Height
(cm)
145.1 – 150
Novice
Class 3
Class 2
Class 1
Novice
Class 3
Class 2
Class 1
95
90
88
87
82
75
75
72
150.1 – 155
155.1 – 160
160.1 –165
165.1 – 170
170.1 – 175
175.1 – 180
180.1 – 185
185.1 –190
99
103
106
109
112
116
119
122
93
96
99
102
105
108
111
114
91
94
97
100
103
106
109
112
90
93
96
99
102
105
108
111
85
88
91
94
97
100
102
105
82
84
86
89
92
94
97
99
78
80
83
85
88
90
93
96
75
77
80
82
84
87
89
92
distinguished the pull from risers from the snatch pull off blocks. Pulling from risers lengthens the range
of motion of the lift and mainly develops pull strength at the start of the lift. Snatch pulls off blocks
develop pulling strength during extension from a stationary position which increases the difficulty of
lifting and extending. In both cases, high pull training usually requires both knees half squatting after
extension to emphasize the coordination of extending and squatting (known as a ‘speed pull’), but some
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training emphasizes training on high pulls without a squat to develop and increase the upward force
from the traps and elbows lifting (which is more difficult on these muscles).
Another method to increase difficulty and intensity is to not place the barbell back on the
ground until the last repetition in a set, so each rep is performed from a suspended position during the
set. This is used extensively in overhead movements such as push press and jerks to build strength and
endurance. To increase difficulty for the squat, instructors will arrange for athletes to squat without
locking the knees at the top to increase time under tension and build strength endurance. Additionally,
athletes engage in complex work suited to their needs such as snatch pull follow by power snatch or full
snatch, or muscle snatch followed by power snatch (these arrangements can also be used for the clean),
or clean followed by front squat. All these combinations come from the idea assistance movements
should be difficult so that they combine technique and strength.
Specialized Training Methods
To develop the muscular strength needed for snatch and clean and jerk, the instructor must
arrange the training based on the analysis of the movement’s structure and the muscles involved. From
there, the instructor has several tools to build strength and overcome weaknesses. The first choice is to
use a movement listed in Table 6 – 4 that emphasizes the area. For example, if an athlete loses balance
only at the extension then the instructor can implement hang snatches to practice and emphasize this
section. This choice of training is used frequently and plays a major role in increasing weightlifting
strength.
The second choice is to include movements that do not have a close relation with snatch and
clean and jerk technique but strengthens a certain area. Table 6 – 5 lists a sample of exercises used for
this purpose and their variations. For example, instructors can use deltoid raises, back extensions,
triceps extension, reverse calf raises, and biceps curls to help support the dip for the jerk since fatigue in
these small muscles can change an athlete’s rack position and compromise their ability to drive the bar
upward. While these muscles may seem unimportant, research by Wang et al (2013) analyzed kinematic
and EMG data on non-elite male weightlifters and found that upper body muscles such as the deltoids,
triceps, biceps, erector spinae as well as the anterior tibialis muscles contract significantly (absolutely
and statistically) harder as the load increases. Hence, this research concluded that these muscles play a
relatively important role in increasing an athlete’s capability to lift heavier weight, so instructors should
train these muscle groups to further enhance athletic performance.
The third option is to create a complex by combining multiple movements from Table 6 – 4
within the same set. This can be used to increase the difficulty of a movement and create fatigue which
requires the athlete to focus harder on using good technique rather than compensating by physical
strength, which thereby increases psychological and physical strength. For example, the instructor can
require 1 – 2 squats after a clean but before performing the jerk. This will cause the athlete to focus
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Table 6 – 4: Main Assistance Movements for the Snatch, Clean, and Jerk
Snatch Assistance
Clean Assistance
Jerk Assistance
Snatch Deadlift αβχ
Clean Deadlift αβχ
Overhead Press θλ
Snatch High Pull αδ
Clean Grip ‘Sumo’ Deadlift
Half Press from Rack θλ
Snatch Speed Pull αδ
Clean High Pull αδ
Push Press λ
Muscle Snatch
Clean Speed Pull αδ
Rack Jerk λμ
Power Snatch αδεζ
Power Clean αδεζ
Jerk Dip Іλ
Snatch Balance
Clean Grip Upright Row
Jerk Drive
Snatch Grip Overhead Squat
Back Squat ηІκ
Jerk Recovery μ
η
Snatch Press Behind the Neck Front Squat ηІκ
Split Squat
θ
Snatch Push Press Behind the Clean Grip Shrug
Static Squat ε
Neck
Snatch Grip Upright Row
Clean Grip Overhead Squat η
Snatch Grip Shrug
α can be done off risers, floor, or various block heights
β can be done with an arch or rounded back
χ can be done partially to the knee with maximal weight
δ can be performed from various hang positions
ε can be caught at a quarter squat or half squat height
ζ can be performed with or without shuffling the feet
η can be done starting from standing position or from squat position
θ can be done standing, split, or seated
І can be done dynamically, with a pause, without lockout
κ can be done with narrow stance or regular stance
λ can be performed from the rack position or behind the neck
μ can be performed using the split, quarter squat, or full squat positions
Note: exercises with more than one letter can combine letters to yield another variation.
For example, ‘power snatch from the floor without shuffling the feet’ (αζ).
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Table 6 – 5: General Exercises for Small Muscle Groups
Arms & Shoulders
Legs
Abs
Back
Biceps Curls Variations
Calf Raise
Ab Rollouts
Back Extension
Triceps Extension Variations
Reverse Calf
Planks
Hyper Extension
Raise
Wrist Curls Variations
Leg Extension
Side Planks
Reverse Hyper
Extension
Deltoid Raises (bent over,
Leg Press
Sit Ups
Good Morning
circular)
Variations)
Triceps Kickbacks
Hamstring Curl
Leg Raises
Bent Over Row
Variations
Banded Circles
Step-ups
Side Bends or
Dips
Raises
Pushups/Overhead Pushups
Split Squat
Ab Rotations
Pull up
with weight
Static Shoulder Raise
Lunge
Lat Pull Variations
Deltoid Fly Variations
Hack Squat
Stiff Legged
Deadlifts
Handstand Pushups
Lateral Squat
Rounded Back
Deadlifts
Pushup Variations
Single-legged
Squat
Upright Row Variations
Glute Bridges
Note: most arm and leg movements can be done unilaterally or bilaterally. Arm and back
movements can incorporate various implements such as barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells,
plates, and bands. Leg movements can incorporate machines, bands, or partner-assisted
resistance. Many ab movements can be performed from hanging off a bar and can use
various implements or partner-assisted resistance.
intensely on the jerk and rely on technique to move the barbell rather than force it up. Additionally,
complexes can help emphasize a weak area so that it can catch up to stronger areas. For example, the
instructor can require 2 – 3 jerks for each clean performed if the athlete is lacking technique in the jerk.
Conclusion
Great athletes must be developed by laying a solid foundation of athletic training that develops
physical qualities at the times where the body is most sensitive to developing these qualities. Therefore,
the first step of the Chinese weightlifting system is to incorporate athletic training at an early age and
99
target the athlete’s training accordingly. There should be no rush to move on to other qualities
(especially strength) until the athlete reaches the prime age to make the greatest developmental strides
in that particular quality. This will allow the athlete to reach their maximum potential quicker while
reducing risk of injury. Therefore, instructors should have a long-term view of training and focus on a
strong athletic and technical foundation when beginning their work with athletes.
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101
Chapter 7: Technical Training
Any training that is done to build a correct and complete technical concept, or to improve,
increase, and become familiarized with the techniques for the snatch and clean and jerk is called
technical training. Because technique is built from the athletic qualities develop in the previous chapter,
it is the second of the 7 training systems and forms the foundation of all subsequent training in athlete’s
career. The concept of “technique” refers to finding the most effective and reasonable way to fully exert
the athlete’s physical capability based on the 3 gravity principles and the 5 Words. However, “most
effective”, “most reasonable”, and “fully” are relative terms because techniques are slowly perfected
over time according to practical training. Technical training is a process of building a learned response.
The more automatic the response, the more potential for their weightlifting technique. This is the
fundamental starting point of how technical training should be conducted. In China, technique is
developed continuously even for elite athletes who are familiar with weightlifting technique in order to
consistently improve.
Goals of Technical Training
There are 4 goals the instructor must complete in order to build effective and reasonable
technique that allows the athlete to fully express their strength in competition. The first goal of technical
training is for the athlete to understand the technical goal they are trying to achieve. With an
understanding of 3 gravity principles and 5 Words outlined in Chapter 2, instructors can guide athletes
toward executing proper technique; however, the instructor must impart an understanding and
internalization of these concepts in the mind of the athlete so they can understand and master the
correct technique. This process of creating an understanding is known as building a technical concept.
This is an important process in an athlete’s training because all motions are completed by the brain
commanding the muscles to contract, and words can become signals capable of producing learned
responses. An improper conceptualization of weightlifting movements can result in the athlete
ingraining poor motor patterns and misunderstanding verbal cues. For example, some athletes may hear
the word “close” and try to lean back or pull with their arms before reaching extension resulting in a
poor movement. Some athletes might hear the word “fast” and focus on moving their body fast instead
of moving in a way that allows the barbell to move fast. With a proper technical concept, the instructor
can communicate more clearly and the athlete can learn good technique faster.
The second goal is to develop body awareness so that athletes can sense when their movements
are correct and incorrect. While athletes develop this quality through gymnastics, track and field, and
team activities they must apply this quality to weightlifting. Specifically, athletes must feel the force
exertion of their muscles, which is a skill that is slowly formed by a process of repeated practiced,
feeling, and summarizing after lifting. The instructor is instrumental in guiding this process. Eventually,
when an athlete completes a lift they should be able to clearly feel and state the strong points of their
movement as well as any mistakes. This is an indication that the athlete is maturing in their technique.
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The third goal is to train the athlete’s muscular coordination to self-correct. This quality is built
from athletic training and applied when the athlete engages in formal weightlifting training. While being
aware of one’s faulty movement is important, it is also important for the athlete to be able to know how
to adjust their technique to reproduce a good movement. Therefore, the instructor must also ensure
that the athlete can adjust their force accordingly to create a technically sound movement which
requires training to coordinate their muscular force. During a lift, agonist, antagonist, synergist, and
stabilizer muscles must use the accurate amount of strength and speed to complete the required
movement in a specific order and time. Developing this coordination and keen sense of muscle force
highly depends on the having a correct technical concept as well as good body awareness.
Finally, the fourth goal is to develop an accurate and stable technical style so that the athlete
can actively reproduce a technically sound movement. As the athlete develops a greater understanding
of weightlifting movements and learns how to apply muscular force in a coordinated manner, the goal of
training an accurate and stable technical style begins to take shape. Since weightlifting competitions
only allow three attempts per lift at weights that are near an athlete’s limit, it is important for the
athlete’s weightlifting technique to be accurate and stable. If an athlete can only produce a near-limit
and technically sound lift with a low probability, then they may not be able to fully realize their potential
in competition or go beyond their current limit. It also opens the athlete to losing to an opponent’s
competition tactics. For example, the opponent can choose a weight that forces the athlete attempt a
near-limit lift or the opponent can adjust their own attempts that limits the rest time between the
athlete’s near-limit attempts. So, a stable technique depends on understanding the technical concept,
developing self-awareness, the ability to self-adjust correctly, and repeating this process with heavy
weights.
The four goals above form a cyclical process that is characteristic of technical training. The
instructor explains the meaning of the 3 gravity principles and 5 Words to build the technical concept
while the athlete focuses on developing their body awareness during training to continuously increase
their knowledge of the technical concept. With this greater knowledge, the athlete gradually increases
their coordination of muscular force and ability to self-correct from one lift to the next, which forms the
entire practical process of technical training. Therefore, whether it is building the athlete’s
understanding of technique, developing their body awareness, developing their muscular coordination
to self-correct, or building stability in their technique, these are long processes which are
interdependent through the entire technical training process. Sometimes even with the correct concept
and a keen sense of muscular force, the athlete’s movement still cannot achieve the required
coordination to self-adjust. This is usually due to weakness in a certain body part or deficiency in a
certain athletic quality. Thus, technical training can only be fully realized with a good foundation of
general and specialized athletic training.
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Best Practices Weightlifting Technical Training
While the goals of technical training require a long time to develop, there are best practices
which allow instructors to teach technique effectively. First, technical training should be a combination
of training and thinking. When athletes are lifting, they need to constantly think of the main technical
requirements of a movement and use their body awareness to evaluate their own movement. This
thinking helps establish links between concepts and feeling to master the correct motor pattern. For
example, the instructor can have athletes pause at key positions such as the high pull position or catch
position so that athletes can evaluate their balance and muscle activation. During their rest periods
within the session, the athlete can study the lifting of other athletes through observation and all can
learn mutually under the guidance of the instructor. To fully develop visual awareness, one can watch
technical videos, graphics, and other training content, and combine it with technical training.
Second, while it is necessary to follow basic technique requirements, it is also important to
consider the athlete’s personal characteristics. The basic technical requirements are the movement’s
structure and the key actions of each section which are both universal of the movement’s technique. For
example, the extension for the snatch, clean, and jerk is a critical part of these lifts and must occur fully.
However, athletes differ in terms of athleticism, body type, and strength of each body part, all of which
make differences in technical details inevitable. For example, some athletes (such as Wu Jingbiao, 56kg)
are very mobile in the thoracic spine and can elongate their extension to the point where it looks like
there is significant layback in the torso in order to achieve greater barbell acceleration. This is not
required for a successful lift but is a strategy usually employed by lighter lifters. Additionally, athletes
will display their own particularities and occasionally may not appear to fulfil the technical goal, but for
that athlete it is reasonable and effective. For example, some athletes (such as Zhang Guozheng, 69kg)
may be unable to extend their arms fully in the jerk so it appears that they are not locked when it reality
they fully extended. Instructors need to be aware of these minor differences so as not to force the
athlete into unnatural habits.
Third, every lift should be taken seriously to ensure correctness and a high success rate. During a
training session, athletes need to lift the barbell over a hundred times, so they must think about the
essential points before lifting while analyzing and summarizing after lifting to make the most out of each
lift. At the same time, the should develop the habit of increasing the success rate of their lifting. Some
athletes are too obsessed with rushing into heavy weights and neglect the correctness and success rate
of the movement. They do not analyze the reasons for their missed attempts and continue to train, and
sometimes they rush through warm up lifts. This will negatively affect the correctness, stability, and
certainty of their lifting, which can decrease their confidence. Therefore, the instructor and the athlete
need to develop the good habit of setting strict movement requirements.
Fourth, after mastering the correct technique the athlete must work to express this technique at
heavy weights. This is important because strength has a significant impact on the formation of a learned
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response and weight is an important conditioned stimulus for strength. Excessively light weights will
reduce stimulation and some muscles may not need to contract strongly to complete the lift which
hinders the formation of a complete movement. On the other hand, excessively heavy weights will shift
the athlete’s focus from the technical movement to the weight on the barbell which can easily lead to
mistakes. Therefore, if the objective is to improve technique then weights should be lighter, but if it is
meant to identify existing technical problems or to improve strength then the weights should be
heavier. Technical training should use weights based on good technique and over the long run the
athlete should strive to train their technique at 80 – 90% of their best result.
Fifth, it is important to constantly overcome weaknesses and develop the snatch and clean and
jerk proportionately. Technical training is a process where the instructor must identify mistakes and
problems, find an effective method to resolve them, and then concentrate on building strength. Over
time athletes will be able to see an improvement in their training level. It is common for the snatch and
clean and jerk to be unbalanced, and it requires the instructor to identify weaknesses to make the two
results develop proportionally. In China, instructors work to keep the snatch within 35kg of the clean
and jerk on average. The difference can be smaller for lighter weight classes and young athletes, but the
difference is often larger for adults and heavier weight classes. However, Table 7 – 1 provides reference
values for athletes with different abilities.
Table 7 – 1: Regression Results Table of Clean & Jerk results Derived from Snatch Results
Snatch
CJ (kg)
%
Snatch
CJ (kg)
%
Snatch
CJ (kg)
%
(kg)
(kg)
(kg)
157.5
197.5
0.80
117.5
150
0.78
77.5
100
0.78
155
195
0.79
115
145
0.79
75
97.5
0.77
152.5
190
0.80
112.5
142.5
0.79
72.5
95
0.76
150
187.5
0.80
110
140
0.79
70
92.5
0.76
147.5
185
0.80
107.5
137.5
0.78
67.5
90
0.75
145
182.5
0.79
105
135
0.78
65
87.5
0.74
142.5
180
0.79
102.5
130
0.79
62.5
85
0.74
140
177.5
0.79
100
127.5
0.78
60
80
0.75
137.5
175
0.79
97.5
125
0.78
57.5
77.5
0.74
135
172.5
0.78
95
122.5
0.78
55
75
0.73
132.5
170
0.78
92.5
120
0.77
52.5
70
0.75
130
165
0.79
90
115
0.78
50
67.5
0.74
127.5
162.5
0.78
87.5
112.5
0.78
47.5
65
0.73
125
157.5
0.79
85
110
0.77
45
62.5
0.72
122.5
155
0.79
82.5
107.5
0.77
42.5
60
0.71
120
152.5
0.79
80
105
0.76
40
57.5
0.70
105
Finally, technical training must be innovative. Throughout weightlifting history, the appearance
of new techniques has greatly increased performance. For example, the replacement of the split-style
with squat-style lifts fully realized this fact. One of the main reasons for Chinese national athletes
breaking many weightlifting world records in the late 50’s and early 60’s was due to their early
mastering of the innovative squat-style method and changing their technical training in sports schools.
In the recent years, national and international records in the clean and jerk have been broken with the
power jerk. Instructors and researchers in China are engaged in ongoing research surrounds questions
such as whether the power jerk is better than the split jerk and capable of replacing it, and whether the
squat jerk will take over after resolving balance, support, and leg strength issues. They are also exploring
training methods and techniques to determine to optimize squat jerk performance. So, instructors and
athletes should build upon established technique and then dare to experiment and innovate.
Movement Structure of Weightlifting Movements
Weightlifting movements consists of 9 aspects:
1. Three start positions: snatch, clean, and jerk starting positions;
2. Two barbell deadlifts: snatch and clean deadlifts;
3. Three extensions: snatch, clean, and jerk extensions;
4. Three supporting catch positions and one dip supporting position: snatch, clean, and jerk
supporting positions and jerk dip;
5. Three recovery movements: snatch (overhead squat), clean (front squat), and jerk recoveries
6. Two barbell fixing movements: snatch and clean and jerk barbell fixing;
7. Two barbell drops: dropping the bar from overhead for the snatch and clean and jerk;
8. Two breathing methods: snatch breathing method and clean and jerk breathing method;
9. Two sequences:
● Start position followed by deadlift, knee bend, extension, low squat, support, recovery,
barbell fixation, and then dropping the barbell.
● Start position followed by deadlift, knee bend, extension, low squat, support, and
recovery, then jerk dip followed by extension, support, recovery, barbell fixation, and
then dropping the barbell.
While the biomechanical foundation for weightlifting technique in China relies on the 3 gravity
principles and 5 Words, there are several reasons for deconstructing the snatch and clean and jerk in
this detail. First, the level of weightlifting performance has risen over the years which requires greater
attention to detail during technical training to extract maximum efficiency in an athlete’s movement.
Additionally, many training methods have been devised to solve some of these technical details which
require a deep technical understanding to implement these methods effectively. Furthermore, some
instructors and athletes do not have a deep understanding of technical training, or they only catch the
main aspects and neglect the secondary aspects which exposes weak points during competition. For
106
example, some athletes can lift the barbell strongly but do not know how to control their transition to
catch the lift in a balanced position so they cannot not fix the barbell steadily and might stumble around
the platform.
While technical training includes the snatch and clean and jerk, the instructor can breakdown
the athlete’s movement along the 9 aspects and prescribe assistance exercises accordingly. The main
technical movements for the snatch and clean and jerk are listed in Table 7 – 2. However, to understand
why these movements are used for technical training, the following section goes into the 9 aspects in
greater detail for explaining the snatch, clean, and jerk.
Table 7 – 2: Main Technical Movements for the Snatch and Clean and Jerk
Snatch Assistance
Clean and Jerk
Snatch α
Clean α
Snatch High Pull αδ
Clean High Pull αδ
Snatch Speed Pull αδ
Clean Speed Pull αδ
Muscle Snatch
Power Clean αδεζ
Power Snatch αδεζ
Clean Grip Upright Row
Snatch Balance
Push Press λ
Snatch Grip Overhead Squat η
Rack Jerk λμ
Snatch Push Press Behind the Neck
Jerk Dip λІ
Snatch Grip Upright Row
Jerk Drive
Jerk Recovery μ
Clean Grip Overhead Squat η
α can be done off risers, floor, or various block heights
δ can be performed from various hang positions
ε can be caught at a quarter squat or half squat height
ζ can be performed with or without shuffling the feet
η can be done starting from standing position or from squat position
І can be done dynamically, with a pause, without lockout
λ can be performed from the rack position or behind the neck
μ can be performed using the split, quarter squat, or full squat positions
Note: exercises with more than one letter can combine letters to yield another variation.
For example, ‘power snatch from the floor without shuffling the feet’ (αζ)
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Snatch and Clean
The snatch is the first movement in weightlifting competitions and is characterized as a fast,
continuous motion that lifts a loaded barbell from the floor to a fully extended position overhead (see
Figure 7 – 1). The clean and jerk is the second competition movement in weightlifting competition and
hence requires high degrees of will power, technique, and stamina. It consists of 2 movements the clean
which lifts the barbell to the shoulders in one continuous motion, and the jerk (see Figure 7 – 11) which
uses a dip and drive to launch the barbell from the shoulders to a locked overhead position. These
combined movements allow more weight to be lifted compared to the snatch. The complete technical
movement for the snatch and clean and jerk comprises of the 9 aspects outlined above, each with their
own details and requirements. However, every athlete has their own actual execution even among elite
athletes (Bi et al 2015); therefore, instructors should develop technique based on the 3 gravity
principles, the 5 Words, and the athlete’s own characteristics. Below are some introductions of the
general technical rules for each aspect.
Start Position
The goal of the start position is to psychologically and physically prepare the body to be in the
most favorable position for lifting the barbell overhead. The correctness of the start position affects the
execution of all subsequent stages which makes it the foundation for the entire snatch and clean. In fact,
there is a saying among coaches which reinforces this point: “perfect start, half done.” Establishing the
most favorable position for lifting requires achieving the proper balance point; therefore, the start
position is best established from the ground up.
To begin, the athlete must walk confidently towards the barbell and stand symmetrically at the
barbell’s center. The distance between both legs is around the same width as the hips, like a vertical
jump. This stance allows leg strength to be fully exerted and concentrated during the pull. If both feet
are too wide, the leg strength during the pull will be weak and the athlete cannot extend the body as
high as with a hip-width stance. If they are too close, then the leg muscles must bend excessively to
achieve a start position which makes them too tense during the start position and can fatigue them prior
to the lift. If the athlete has very strong legs but their heel, hip, or knee flexibility is lacking, then they
can slightly increase the distance between both feet but in other cases the athlete must stretch or
engage in soft-tissue treatment to enhance mobility. On the other hand, if the athlete has weak leg
strength but high levels of flexibility in the heels, hips, or knees, then the distance between both legs
can be closer reasonably. Regardless of stance width, Chinese athletes are taught to stand about a fistwidth away from the barbell as shown in Figure 7 – 2. This intuitive approach will allow athletes to
balance themselves at point 𝑂 bend more easily in subsequent steps. This distance will place the barbell
directly over the ball of the foot which is the balance point through the upward portion of the snatch
108
Figure 7 – 1: Overview of the Snatch and Clean
109
Figure 7 – 2: Optimal Distance to Stand from the Barbell
and clean. From here, the athlete can turn the feet outward to create more room lower the torso
between the legs.
Once the stance is established, the athlete should turn the feet out slightly and bend the knees
forward until the shins touch the bar which situates the combined center of gravity of the barbell and
body over the ball of the foot. This balance point is the same for the snatch and clean, and it fulfills the
concept of “close.” Hence, athletes should strive to maintain this balance point through this entire
phase of each lift. From here, Chinese athletes are taught to push the knees outward to move the thighs
outside the trunk and allow the lower back to naturally tighten and straighten. This movement reduces
the distance between the barbell’s center of gravity and the body’s center of gravity by the amount 𝐴as
shown in Figure 7 – 3. Next, the athlete bends the torso over to grip the bar; however, it is important to
avoid moving the bar during this step to avoid changing the combined center of gravity. If the bar is far
away from the shins or the athlete sits backwards to squat to the bar, it violates the principle of “close”
which affects the combined center of gravity of the athlete and barbell and affects force production (see
Chapter 2 on Chinese Weightlifting Philosophy).
110
Figure 7 – 3: Effect of Knee Position on the Distance between the Barbell and Body
It is important to note that the balance point established above is independent of body
proportions. When jumping, athletes across different heights, body proportions, and weight classes still
exert the most force by pushing through the ball of the foot and relying heavily on the quadriceps and
glutes. As mentioned in Chapter 2, athletes with short torsos relative to the legs will have a high-hip
position and bend the body over the bar to a large degree in order to achieve a balance point over the
ball of the foot. Due to their structure, such athletes rely on strong hip extension to generate force and
lifting speed. Athletes with long torsos tend to have a lower hip position and a more upright torso
position, which shortens the resistance arm and reduces the burden of the hip in favor of the knee
extensors. However, these differences small and the balance stays the same in both cases.
After the lower body position is established, the athlete can then reach toward the barbell and
establish their grip. Athletes can use a hook grip which is characterized by the index finger and middle
finger pressing onto the thumb or a normal grip which is characterized by the thumb pressing onto the
index finger and middle finger (see Figure 7 – 4). The hook grip is the most secure grip because the index
finger and middle finger can hook the thumb tightly which reduces the ability of the hand to slip during
the pull (see Chapter 19 on Selection Methods for a biomechanical analysis). A normal grip is used
during warm-ups, when using straps, or when actively trying to increase hand strength during assistance
movements, but it is not recommended for competition.
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Figure 7 – 4: Hook Grip vs Normal Grip
The grip width is wide when performing the snatch, which has several major advantages. First, a
wide grip reduces the required lifting distance of the barbell by about 10 – 20 cm which saves energy.
Another advantage of a wide grip is that it allows the arms to extend and achieve a support position
more conveniently and quickly because the required lifting distance is lower. Additionally, a wide grip
increases the angle that the torso is bent over the bar, which means the working distance of upper body
is greater as it extends. This allows large muscle groups (such as trunk extensor muscles) to play a larger
role in exerting strength. Further, a wide grip allows the body to maintain greater balance since the
center of gravity of the barbell is lower when catching in deep squat position. Finally, a wide grip
positions the barbell closer to the hip the joint which allows the body to impart more force during the
extension stage. Given these advantages, it is easy to believe that a wider grip is always superior to a
narrower grip. However, a wide grip is more taxing on hand strength and the flexibility of the wrist.
Additionally, since the grip limits the pulling strength of the shoulder and arm flexors while increasing
the load on the hips and back, a wider grip might not be suitable for athletes with strong arms and
weaker hips and back. Therefore, grip width is different for every individual and should be based on the
athlete’s arm length, flexibility in the shoulders and wrists, and relative strengths.
For the clean, the grip width is narrower than the snatch and Chinese athletes are usually taught
to grip one fist-width outside the shoulders or outside of the dashed lines as shown in Figure 7 – 5. This
grip will affect the degree of lean in the upper body, but overall the balance point remains the same as
in the snatch as in Figure 7 – 6. The hip angle in the clean is greater than in the snatch which means for a
given weight there is less torque on the hips and less stress on the back. The advantage of a narrow grip
is that the joints are aligned more upright which decreases the distribution of force and is more
conducive to lifting the barbell. Additionally, a narrow grip is more conducive for catching the bar in a
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Figure 7 – 5: Establishing Grip for the Clean
Figure 7 – 6: Torso Lean and Balance Point in the Snatch and Clean
front squat and standing up. Some athletes with inflexibility in the upper limbs joint will have difficulty
with a narrow grip, so they can reasonably widen their grip to compensate.
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Finally, the athlete should remove all slack from the body to finish the start position for the
snatch and clean. This will put more stress on the clavicular head of the pectoralis muscles and allows
the athlete to transmit force through the body more effectively. After reaching for their grip, athletes
should lift the chest up and push it outward so that the arms are straight as shown in panel A of Figure 7
– 7. If the athlete flexes the wrist as shown in panel B, then this will introduce a horizontal force 𝑃that
the athlete must overcome by exerting force 𝐹 in the wrist order to satisfy the “close” principle. It is
impossible to overpower the barbell with the wrist for the duration of the deadlift and extension, so the
barbell will swing away from the athlete and beyond the balance point. Some athletes will adjust their
shins backward in to avoid this problem as shown in panel C but this even worse because the balance
point is too far towards the athlete which makes it easy to fall backwards and hence will affect the
athlete's ability to exert a backward force with the knees and shoulders. Additionally, the issues in the
wrist remain so the barbell will swing away from the athlete and violate the “close” principle. For similar
reasons, the athlete should avoid bending the arms at this stage and throughout the deadlift. So, with
straight arms, the athlete should lift their head up so that the chest can push outward and allow the
upper back to naturally tighten and straighten. It is very easy for athletes to shift the position of their
hips or move the barbell as they attempt to remove slack from the body, but this is discouraged because
it changes the balance point established earlier.
Athletes must achieve this position either statically or dynamically. A static start position
involves following the progression outlined above and allow the muscles to provide isometric support
during each step. This style allows athletes to ensure they reach and maintain their proper balance and
gives athletes time to feel confident in their position before lifting. It also works well for athletes who
deadlift the barbell slower off the floor (see next section). A caveat to this approach is that the muscles
can fatigue prior to the lift if the athlete takes a long time to achieve their start position or clear their
Figure 7 – 7: Effect of Curling the Wrist in the Start Position
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mind. Therefore, instructors must ensure that the athlete develops enough strength-endurance and
isometric strength so that they still have enough strength to accelerate the barbell quickly in subsequent
stages while maintaining balance and closeness.
By contrast, some athletes use a dynamic start position which involves moving the body to
create a stretch in the muscles so that they can contract more forcefully upon exertion. Athletes can
approach a dynamic start in different ways. First, the athlete follows the steps above to reach the start
position and they then relax some combination of the legs, hips, and/or back to prior to deadlifting the
barbell. Some athletes will relax and contract up to several times before exerting force. Alternatively,
some athletes will place and grip the barbell in the proper location while maintaining their hips up and
back rounded yet still maintaining their balance. Then they bend the legs and straighten the back until
the shins touch the bar and then exert force. There are other approaches used outside of China that
involve rocking, bouncing out of a deep squat, etc. but the approaches above are encouraged since they
involve little/no change in balance, which allows athletes to maintain accuracy and precision in their lift.
Dynamic approaches are usually reserved for more experienced athletes who require less time to set up
or for athletes who rely on an explosive pull to accelerate the barbell in later stages. Athletes often
naturally gravitate to a style based on preference and relative strength, but the instructor must ensure
that the athlete achieves and maintains their proper balance as they lift the barbell from the floor
regardless of style. A final method is a compromise of the static and dynamic approaches. In this case,
the athlete simply follows the steps above but then holds the start position as briefly as briefly as
possible. This is not a true dynamic start but serves as an alternative for athletes who are uncomfortable
with a true dynamic start or have difficulty maintaining balance when fully using that method. This also
works well with intermediate athletes who require less time to set up but still have not created an
automatic motor pattern as with more advanced athletes.
Deadlifting the Barbell
The purpose of the deadlift is to use the strength from the knee and hip extensors to generate a
smooth initial speed on the barbell and move it upwards to a suitable height to create the best condition
for force exertion. Due to the sequence and nature of muscle force exertion, it can be separated into
several stages which are the same for the snatch and clean. The first stage is known as the “kneeextension stage” because it heavily depends on the knee extensors (along with glutes and shoulders) to
lift the barbell vertically from the floor to just below knee level. This is shown in from panels 1 to 2
panels of Figure 7 – 1. The second stage is shown from panels 2 to 3 panels of Figure 7 – 1 is known as
the “combination extension stage” which relies on the strength of knee and hip extensors to lift the
barbell from below the knee joint to above knee joint. The third stage shown in panels 3 to 4 is known as
the “pre-extension stage” where the hips continue to extend and the knees bend to lift the barbell from
above the knee joint to a position of one-third of the thigh. This stage plays an important role in
continuing the deadlift but also keeps the barbell’s and body’s center gravity to be closer to each other
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which reduces the resistance arm (formed by the barbell’s center of gravity and the fulcrum of the hip
joint) and creates the best mechanics condition for exerting force through the knee extensors.
Knee-Extension Stage
Once the start position is completed, the athlete should adjust their breathing by exhaling and
then inhaling a mouthful of air to push the chest out, tighten the back muscles, and fix the shoulders.
This breath will stabilize the spine and increase the support of the torso which will allow the knees, hips,
and shoulders to exert greater force during the deadlift and extension phases. It is important to
coordinate the timing of the breath with contracting the back muscles. Once completed, the kneeextension phase begins by pushing the knees outward and contracting the knee-extensor muscles while
raising the hips and shoulders together to maintain the athlete’s balance over the ball of the foot. Due
to this combined work, the knees will rotate outward and produce a vertical and backward force that
cause the barbell to rise about 15 – 20cm on average.
It is important for the athlete to maintain their balance during this phase by balancing horizontal
forces according to the 3 gravity principles. The hip extensors are in relatively stronger position during
this phase than the knee extensors, so it is tempting for athletes to shift their balance onto the hip
extensors. This shifting can produce the backward-lean or hip-extension-methods (see Chapter 2 on
Chinese Weightlifting Philosophy). Therefore, it is also important for the knee-extensors to push
actively, but only to the degree to maintain the athlete’s balance. If the knees produce too much force,
then knees push back too fast which can cause the hips to distort their position in response and the
glutes to rise too fast which can produce the backward-lean method. However, if the force from the
knees is too small then the knees will move too slowly and will be unable to balance the forward force
from the hips which results in the hip-extension method.
Therefore, the optimal movement is the balanced method which requires the knee-extensors to
push actively while maintaining their established balance during the knee-extension phase. Once the
athlete drives with the knee-extensors, the body will bend according to the athlete’s bodily proportions.
For example, the glutes will move upwards and slightly backwards for athletes with long torsos and
short legs, otherwise the shoulders will extend too far forward which increases the resistance arm and
hence the difficulty in lifting barbell. If the body type is balanced, then the glutes will move in a vertical
direction. These physiological differences affect the speed, degree, and route of upward motion in
glutes and shoulders, but the critical issue is to ensure that the athlete bends in a manner that maintains
their established balance point at the 60% mark.
Knee-Hip Extension Stage
In this stage the knee extensors continue to exert force, but the hip extensors start taking a
larger role to move the barbell vertically. This is because when the barbell is slightly below the knee
joint, the knees have rotated outward to clear a path for the barbell and the hip extensors are in an
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elongated position which allows them to contract. It is important to avoid lifting the barbell around the
knees or scraping the knee, which often occurs when an athlete stops exerting force at the knees and
relies on the glutes or shoulders to move the bar. Instead, the athlete should continue implementing the
balanced method by pushing the knees outward which allows the knee extensors to continue to exert
vertical and horizontal force to maintain balance. In this method, the barbell moves upward along the
vastus medialis rather than around the patella and the glutes are contracted to maintain static support.
Additionally, the shoulders play a greater role in this stage to maintain balance and raise the
barbell. At the end of the knee-extension stage, the upward movement speed and distance of the hip
extensors are greater than the speed and distance of the shoulder, so it is easy for the upper body to
lean forward or round which will elongate the resistance arm. However, the hip extensors are not in a
position to exert maximum strength and doing so will throw the athlete’s off the 60% mark. Therefore,
the shoulders must exert greater force to maintain the body’s position and keep the chest pushed
outward. This coordinated effort from the knees, hips, and shoulders moves the barbell by only about
10cm. While the instructor must be aware of the role of the joints in this phase to analyze an athlete’s
movement, the athlete should be primarily concerned with using the whole body to maintain their
established balance point.
Pre-extension Stage:
When the barbell passes over the knees it enters the pre-extension stage of which the purpose
is to create the best condition for the extension phase. Pre-extension is characterized by lifting the
barbell above the knees to a height of one-third of the length of the thighs. Due to the backward forces
created by the knees and shoulders along with the forward force of the hips from the knee-hip
combination stage, the degree of upper body lean is reduced compared to earlier stages but is still large.
Additionally, the shoulders and hips are far from the barbell’s center of gravity, while the knees are no
longer in a suitable position for extension which places a lot of stress on the upper body.
To overcome this position, the athlete must rely on the continuous strength from the hip
extensors so that the shoulders can lift the upper body. They must also rely on the knees actively
bending which will cause the hips to move forward and downwards at different degrees. This
coordinated movement allows the knee extensors to be used twice during the lifting process which
creates the best mechanical condition for extension. It also keeps the barbell’s and body’s center of
gravity close to the vertical line over the balance point which is the most beneficial position for quickly
exerting force (see Chapter 2 on Chinese Weightlifting Philosophy). Additionally, this movement reduces
the resistance arm which allows for the hip extensors to contract and increases the speed to exert force.
At this point the barbell naturally accelerates. Finally, the knee extensors lengthen during this motion
which causes a stretch reflex that contracts the muscles and allow for greater strength when exerting
force. The instructor should note that this coordinated movement will cause the angle of knees to
decrease while the angle of the hips open (and hence increases). For the athlete, this entire motion is a
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natural adjustment of the body if they strive to actively keep their balance and barbell close, so athletes
should avoid trying to force themselves into this position or risk introducing unnecessary horizontal
force. This active balance maintenance keeps the deadlift coordinated and continuous while gaining
inertia from the barbell all of which directly relate to the efficacy of the extension later.
The duration of the pre-extension stage and degree of joint angles is determined by grip width,
the athlete’s body proportions, relative strength of body parts, and the flexibility of related joints.
Therefore, while the pre-extension movement maintains the athlete’s established balance point, keeps
the barbell close, and lifts the barbell 10 – 15cm on average, the movement should also consider the
athlete’s physical characteristics. However, the balance point must be maintained through this
movement. Additionally, the chest and back muscles should continue to contract while the arms should
naturally extend, resulting in static support of the upper body. In fact, the movement of the shoulders
will result in greater stress on the clavicular head of the pectoralis muscles during this stage. If the back
muscles are relaxed, it will lengthen the distance the barbell must travel up the thigh, shift balance, and
disrupt the transfer of force through the body.
Extension
The extension is shown from panels 4 – 5 panels of Figure 7 – 1. It occurs at the instant after the
pre-extension in order to exert maximum force in a very short period of time. While the extension is
shorter in the clean than the snatch, it must be quick and coordinated in both cases to fulfill the concept
of “fast.” A proper extension allows the barbell to gain the maximum acceleration to be lifted to the
required height and build a good condition for supporting the bar in a deep squat. The force from the
extension comes from the whole body. The ankles, knees, hips, elbows, and shoulders coordinate to
drive the legs straight, squeeze the glutes, extend the back, and pull the bar with the arms, shoulders,
and traps. The instructor must note that the leg drive and glute activation are performed
simultaneously; therefore, the backward horizontal force of the knees must balance the forward force of
the hips for this extension to happen quickly and allow the rest of the body to speed up and assist in
generating maximum acceleration on the barbell. The leg drive and glute activation allow these large
muscle groups to fully exert force, and maintain the hips close to the bar which keeps the athlete’s
balance on the ball of the foot. Immediately following the leg extension, the ankles will plantar flex, the
torso extends, and elbows and shoulders begin to pull the barbell; however, this sequence must be
coordinated and fluid. The ankles, torso, elbows, and shoulders add force to the extension and can
increase its intensity. However, if these movements occur before the extension of the legs and hips,
then it will disrupt the rhythm of the lift, reduce attainable acceleration, and decrease the intensity of
the entire extension. Because the timing of this sequence is so fast, athletes should focus on maintaining
their established balance and feel as if they use the entire body simultaneously to lift the barbell fast
while keeping it close.
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The point of contact for the extension is dependent on grip width and the length of the legs,
arms, torso so it will differ for every athlete, however most athletes will exert force around the crease of
the hips for snatch and about 3 – 9 cm lower for the clean. The athlete should feel comfortable with
their extension point and be very accurate in exerting force consistently at this point. Athletes should
not try to extend before the extension point because this will reduce the height and speed the barbell
can achieve will throw off the athlete’s rhythm and ability to catch the bar low. Additionally, athletes
must be confident in exerting force at the extension point. If the athlete hesitates or pauses in their
deadlift, then this will decrease the barbell’s inertia and make it difficult to increase its speed and
height. Therefore, athletes should treat the extension as a natural transition from their deadlift rather
than 2 separate motions.
During extension, the chest should remain up, the waist straight, and spine stabilized in order to
transfer force from the legs and through the upper body. The upper back can lean backwards slightly
because the barbell needs to move upwards by crossing the front of the body, so a slight backward lean
can compensate for the barbell’s center of gravity and form a strong upward force for the entire
extension. However, the athlete should avoid leaning back through the lower back because it will cause
the torso to move away from the bar and the athlete will be unable to keep the bar close. A strong
extension will result in plantar flexion which causes the heels to lift off the ground and increase the
intensity of extension. This action must be short, and the athlete must push off their established point or
else the forward horizontal forces will be too great, and the athlete will either topple forward or push
the bar away from the body, which violates the concept of “close.”
Actively pulling with the elbows and shoulders helps fulfill the “timing” principle. The arm,
shoulder, and trap muscles increase the strength of the extension strength, guide the barbell upward
and close to the body, and allow the body to quickly transition into a low squat after extension as shown
in panels 6 – 10 of Figure 7 – 1. It is important for the athlete to aim to pull the barbell to the height
necessary for catching the bar in a deep squat. For the snatch, Chinese athletes are taught to pull the
bar to the bottom of the chest while the clean should be pulled to the navel. Inexperienced lifters often
pull higher than this due to lack of coordination and strength but eventually they pull lower as they as
their movements become more controlled and efficient. Overall, pulling too high throws off the
athlete’s balance and timing by increasing the descending distance of the barbell which can increase the
stress of catching it and standing up from a deep squat. Conversely, pulling too low results in inadequate
height to catch the bar.
Low Squat Support
The squat occurs immediately once the athlete pulls the barbell with the arm, shoulder, and trap
muscles and is therefore shown in panels 6 – 10 of Figure 7 – 1. The purpose of the deep squat is to
make use of the barbell’s upward inertial force after extension while bending the body into a squat in
order to reduce the lifting distance of the barbell. While the squat happens instantly after the extension,
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the force produced by the arms, shoulders, and traps is still occurring during this phase of the snatch
and clean, and these muscles are assisted by the barbell’s upward inertia. This is because the range of
motion and duration of exerting force of the arms is much longer than that of the heels. The athlete
should aim to pull the bar to the bottom of the pectoral muscles during the snatch and up to the navel
during the clean. These heights allow the athlete to ensure they have enough room to catch the barbell
without any excessive drop of the barbell onto the body, known as crashing.
As the body squats, the athlete’s balance changes to midfoot to maintain balance. The knees
should always bend to shorten the necessary path to catch the barbell which fulfills the “low” principle;
however, the body must remain stable as the knees bend. If the athlete solely goes into a deep squat
but loses tightness in the back and waist, then the athlete might shift their balance away from the they
will have difficulty in stabilizing the barbell. This is because the upper body will lean forward, and the
arms will not be properly locked overhead. In China, athletes are taught to slide the feet outward as
they move downward to mimic their actual back squat or front squat motion and position (which is
about shoulder-width and with the feet pointed outward). This foot movement has several advantages.
First, it can increase the size of the athlete’s base of support which allows for more stability. Second, it
keeps the athlete connected with the ground which fully utilizes the strength of the external rotators to
provide a braking force. This causes the athlete’s center of gravity to drop quickly and in a stable
fashion. Third, it can open the thighs which allows the athlete to land with their balance over the
midfoot and keep glutes close to the vertical line formed over the midfoot which enhances stability.
Fourth, it will allow the athlete to use the inner thigh muscles to stand up in the recovery.
It is important to avoid sliding the legs outward too much. A catch wider than the athlete’s squat
can violate the principle of ‘low’ because a wide catch requires even greater flexibility to achieve the
same depth as a shoulder-width squat. Even if an athlete has great flexibility, a wide catch is still
suboptimal because the inner thigh muscles will be stretched too much and result in the knees caving
inwards and downwards which is unstable. Additionally, a wide squat will reduce frontal stability since
the glutes will have difficulty staying close midfoot. Athletes should also avoid jumping outward to catch
as this can result in a wide catch. It is common for beginners to jump outward as they extend but this
has several problems. First, it creates a moment where the athlete can no longer exert force because
they are in mid-air. Second, it lengthens the amount of time the athlete needs to enter a squat position.
Third, it wastes using the barbell’s upward inertia to assist in lifting the weight which can result in the
barbell crashing onto the athlete in a deep squat position. Therefore, athletes should focus on staying
low to the ground and slide their feet the instant after completing the extension.
Recall that the squat produces horizontal forces and that these horizontal forces must follow the
3 gravity principles. Therefore, the shoulders and upper torso should move forward quickly to situate
below the bar and this must be coordinated with the squatting motion as shown in the left diagram of
Figure 7 – 8. This movement will place the barbell directly over the dashed line which is over the
athlete’s balance point formed by their squat. If the athlete only bends the knees when squatting as
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shown in the middle diagram, then the torso and shoulders cannot quickly situate below the barbell and
will remain behind the bar. So, the athlete will be in a partial squat but unable to support the bar since it
is front of their balance point. If the athlete only bends at the hips as shown in the right diagram, then
the torso will lean forward too much, delay the squat, and place the barbell behind dashed line. Hence,
if the torso, squatting, and pulling movements are not coordinated, it is very easy to miss the bar in
front. All those errors violate the “simultaneous” gravity principle which then violates the principles of
“stable” and “timing.”
Figure 7 – 8: Balanced vs Imbalanced Squatting
Catching the Barbell
As athletes squat they must actively secure the barbell’s position and from here the snatch and
clean differ. During the snatch the athlete must lock the elbows and shoulders as they finish their deep
squat, which is shown in panels 9 – 10 of Figure 7 – 1. In China, “locking” refers to turning the arms
inward while extending them overhead and extending the wrist back as shown in the right panel of
Figure 7 – 9. This position has several advantages. First, it causes the elbow to rotate forward which
causes the olecranon to enter the humerus which restricts the movement of the ulna and results in
greater stability of elbow joint. It also tightens the shoulders and shifts the load onto the back muscles.
Additionally, it provides a natural restriction to stop the shoulders and both arms from moving backward
excessively. Athletes should avoid pushing the shoulders forward since this can cause the humerus to
glide within the shoulder joint and cause discomfort. Athletes should push the head slightly forward and
downward to align the head with the torso’s forward movement described earlier and ensure that the
load of the barbell is absorbed by the middle and upper back muscles. Some athletes simply look down
to achieve this position. By contrast, external rotation places the crook of the elbow toward the
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Figure 7 – 9: Internal vs External Rotation Overhead (Viewed from Behind the Athlete)
downward force of the barbell which makes it easier to bend. This places more stress on the biceps and
shoulders rather than the back muscles which creates an unstable and weak position overhead.
Extending the wrists when the arms are internally rotated allows the barbell to rest on the base
of the palm as shown in the left panel of Figure 7 – 10. If the wrists are neutral rather than extended,
then this increases the height where the barbell will be caught which in turn limits the maximal depth an
athlete can achieve in the catch. This violates the “low” principle. Additionally, neutral wrists are an
unstable position since they can easily move forward or backward. So, athletes should focus on
extending the wrists while getting their head through the barbell and locking the arms overhead as they
enter a deep squat.
Figure 7 – 10: Extended vs Neutral Wrist in the Snatch
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Figure 7 – 11 shows the effects of internal and external arm rotation in the catch. External
rotation allows the arm to extend backward beyond the midline of the body which introduces a
horizontal backward force that the rest of the body must now balance. Usually, athletes must flex the
hips and lean the torso forward to compensate as shown in the right panel of Figure 7 – 11. This places
excessive stress on the shoulders, lower back, and hips. If the athlete does not compensate in this way,
then the catch will approach the middle panel of Figure 7 – 11. In this case, the barbell is supported
mainly by the biceps and shoulders while the knees often must absorb more stress since the athlete’s
hips are farther away from the midfoot. By contrast, when the arms are internally rotated it is much
easier to restrict the backward movement of the shoulders and place the barbell directly over the
midfoot. During the deadlift and extension, the arms are naturally pronated so athletes must focus on
maintaining this pronation through the entire snatch rather than swinging the barbell backwards and
supinating their arms.
During the clean, the athlete should use the barbell as an axis to rotate the elbows forward and
this should be coordinated with the pull to place the barbell slightly behind the collarbone
(sternoclavicular joint) and on the grove of the deltoid (acromioclavicular joint). This rotation is shown in
panels 6 – 9 of Figure 7 – 1 and has important significance in controlling the barbell’s path to ensure the
concept of ‘close’. Additionally, the rotation accelerates the deep squat, thereby fulfilling the concept of
‘’fast’. The barbell should be placed on the collarbone before the body squats fully to reduce the
pressure of lowering the barbell (panel 9) and allow the athlete to utilize a stretch reflex from the squat
to aid in standing up (panels 10 – 11). Some athletes will be able to catch with the humerus parallel to
the floor, but most athletes catch at 35 – 78° with the exact angle is based on the flexibility and
structure of the arm (Wang and Tang 2009). Usually, athletes with longer forearms relative to the
humerus will achieve a lower position compared to athletes with shorter forearms. Additionally, arm
structure can affect how the athlete holds the bar in the catch. Some athletes will be able to hold the
barbell fully in their hands while others must open their hands if their forearms are too short. Regardless
of these individual differences, instructors should ensure that the barbell is comfortably on the
collarbone, the waist is tight, the upper body is straight, the head is up, and the total center of gravity is
over the midfoot as in a front squat. Athletes should focus on keeping the bar close and actively moving
into their natural squat position.
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Figure 7 – 11: Effect of Head Position and Shoulder Position on the Catch during the Snatch
It is important to avoid using the elbow as the axis and reverse curl the forearm because this
causes the barbell to loop away from the body which violates the “close” principle. Additionally, this
loop can change the combined center of gravity forward or backwards depending on how the barbell
lands on the body, which violates the concept of “stable.” Furthermore, the loop will delay the descent
into a deep squat, which violates the “timing” principle. Some athletes will try to squat fast despite the
loop but if the barbell reaches the collarbone after the body fully squats, it can stress the upper body’s
support and cause the athlete’s back to round. Additionally, if the barbell crashes on the athlete in a
deep squat position then the tendons and ligaments of the hips and legs can be overstressed and
damaged. Additionally, a loop can result in the barbell landing on the deltoids rather than on the AC
joint which can create pressure that impedes the athlete’s blood flow and breathing.
Recovery
The recovery for the snatch and clean are shown in panels 11 – 13 of Figure 7 – 1. Recovering
from a low squat mainly relies on the knee and hip extensors to complete the movement and the
coordination between these extensors must follow the 3 gravity principles. If the knee extensors are too
weak then the athlete will shift their balance backward to load their hamstrings and lower back. This will
cause the glutes will rise and the upper body will lean forward in response, which will shift the combined
center of gravity forward. The result is often a missed lift forward, but some athletes can compensate by
taking steps forward as they stand up. Therefore, it is best to extend the knees and hips when standing
such that their horizontal forces are simultaneous, in the opposite direction, and of equal magnitude.
This ensures that the upper body remains straight so that back muscles can remain tight and arms can
provide static support for the barbell for the snatch or clean.
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When standing from a squat, the resistance arm formed by the thigh is the longest when it is
horizontal and creates a substantial sticking point for many athletes. If athletes bounce out of the squat,
then they stretch the muscles which creates a state for them to return to their natural length and
provides elastic energy. This is known as the stretch reflex and, when coupled with the athlete’s own
active muscle contraction, allows the knees and hips to extend quicker and overcome the sticking point
when standing. If one solely depends on contracting the knees and hips to stand up, then standing up
becomes slower and harder. The lower limbs are taxed more, and it is more difficult for the upper body
to maintain a straight position and stable support, all of which requires more strength. Therefore, when
athletes reach their squat position in the snatch they should hold this position only as long as necessary
to assure their stability in standing. The stretch reflex in the squat dissipates quickly so athletes can still
use it provided they do not stabilize for too long. To complete the lift, the athlete must stand up straight
and in line with the barbell and then hold this position statically until referees give a signal to drop the
barbell. For the clean, athletes should make use of the stretch reflex immediately to quickly stand up
otherwise they will expend more energy to stand which can affect their energy reserve for the jerk.
From here the athlete adjusts their body in preparation for the jerk.
Dropping the Barbell and Breathing Method
After standing up from the snatch, the entire body straightens and both arms are extended.
After the referee gives the down signal, the athlete should first flex the elbows and wrists while
extending the shoulders to guide the barbell downward to shoulder height before releasing as shown in
panels 14 – 15 of Figure 7 – 1. Weightlifting rules state that both hands need to be lowered along with
the barbell to this level rather than simply throw the barbell down. Breathing for the snatch and clean is
done by holding one’s breath since it is performed in one continuous movement and the duration of
exertion is very short. When setting up for the start position the athlete should breathe normally,
followed by holding their breath to lock the chest, and then complete the entire snatch while holding
their breath. The breath should be quick as if sipping the air and only enough to stabilize the spine. A
slow and deep breath can change the athlete’s position and balance while allowing carbon dioxide to
accumulate. Additionally, a deep breath can cause the athlete to tense excessively which will reduce the
timing and speed of the movement. Once the athlete stands up they can then take another breath.
The Jerk
The jerk is composed of 4 stages – start position, dip, extension, catch, and recovery. It begins
with the start position, then uses a dip and extension to lift the barbell from the collarbone to overhead
with the arms fully extended, and then the athlete either splits both legs or squats ends with both arms
fully extended. The barbell travels about 20 cm on average which is a shorter amount of time to
generate momentum on the barbell compared to the snatch or clean. But because the jerk is still as
heavy as the clean, the jerk is the most technical the three movements and requires the most precision.
The split jerk is caught at a higher height than the snatch or clean there is a steep angle of stability (see
Chapter 2) while the squat jerk has a narrow base of support, so both styles have their own demands on
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the support strength of the core and upper body. Therefore, ways of improving support strength and
addressing stability issues should be emphasized during teaching and training regardless of jerk style.
Figure 7 – 12: Overview of the Split Jerk and Squat Jerk
Start Position
The start position for the split jerk and squat jerk is shown in the first panels of Figure 7 – 12.
The goal of is to create an optimal condition to execute the dip and extension. This requires the athlete
to adjust their breathing, barbell position, and stance after standing up from a squat. The stance should
be about hip-width for optimal leg extension, same as in the start position for the snatch and clean. If
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the stance width between the legs is too narrow, then it is difficult to create a space to lower the upper
body which can cause the upper body’s posture to bend or change incorrectly or cause the ankles to
bend excessively such that the feet may not stay entirely on the ground. If the stance is too wide, then it
is easier for the knees to fall out of alignment with the ankles and hips by caving inward which will
reduce the amount of force produced during the drive as well as limit the potential barbell height
compared to narrower stance. The feet should also be pointed outwards about 40o (Tao 2013) to allow
the athlete to utilize the thigh adductors during extension for the jerk while minimizing frontal
movement which aids in maintaining balance. Straight legs are recommended to save the athlete’s
energy when setting up for the jerk. If the knees are bent, then the muscles are supporting the load
rather than the joints and they may become too fatigued when initiating the dip and extension.
Additionally, bending the knees reduces the distance that the athlete can use to generate momentum
on the barbell and therefore requires exceptional explosive ability to overcome as well as strength
endurance.
The upper body must be straight to create a stable base to support the barbell and maintain
balance. This requires the athlete to tighten the back muscles and push the chest out upward and
outward (Liu 2004). Additionally, the core contracts to stabilize the upper body. The athlete can lift their
head up to gaze at about 45° to increase tension in the back and avoid hitting the chin during the
extension. Research by Li and Ma (2000) recommends that the humerus (and hence elbows) should be
angled at 40 – 60° to allow the barbell to be placed on the collarbone and the groove of deltoids which is
slightly lower than the clean. This position helps move the center of gravity backward which reduces
pressure on the chest, allows the upper body to remain straight, and allows for easier breathing. If the
elbows are lifted too high, then the barbell will press too hard on the neck which may impede blood
flow through the carotid artery and breathing through the trachea. Additionally, this position can fatigue
the deltoids prior to driving the barbell and overload the triceps. Some athletes have weaker flexibility in
various muscles or joints in the upper limbs or simply have a longer humerus relative to the forearm, so
they can use a lower elbow position to fully utilize the deltoid during the extension. However, this
position puts larger pressure on the chest. Additionally, the elbows should point outward to allow the
chest to expand and shift the support to the mid-back muscles and keep the back straight. Otherwise, if
the elbows are pointed inward then the back can round easily, shift the load onto the deltoids and
wrists, and force the athlete to push the barbell higher on the throat which can impede breathing.
In a proper position, the combined center of gravity of the barbell and body should be balanced
at about 30% of one’s foot length starting from the heel. This balance point is located at point 𝑂in Figure
7 – 13 and the vertical line projected from this point runs through heel joint and upward through the
hips and shoulders. This spot allows the athlete to achieve stability and use their strength economically
because the heel joint is the fulcrum for balancing the lower body, so positioning one’s balance over the
heel joint will result in zero rotational force and hence zero torque. If the combined center of gravity
falls in front of the balance point, then it creates a rotational force so there must be a corresponding
torque from the pull of the muscles to balance it. Oftentimes the lower back erectors, hamstrings, and
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calves must contract to provide a rotational force (torque) to pull the body back and provide stability
which depletes energy prior to the dip and drive. In this suboptimal position, increasing the weight of
the barbell will move the projection line of the combined center of gravity forward which increases the
horizontal distance between the downward force from the barbell and axis of the heel joint (moment
arm) and hence the necessary torque to stabilize. This makes it much more difficult to support the
barbell. Additionally, if the combined center of gravity of the barbell and body is too far forward then
the upper body will lean forward even more during dip and cause the barbell to form a rotating torque.
This can result in the barbell slipping or falling forward. Hence, in the start position for the jerk one
should try to reduce the resistance arm by keeping their balance over the center of the heel joint (ankle
bone) so that they can save energy while maintaining stability. As the barbell gets heavier, the athlete
should lean the upper body and head should slightly backwards and naturally just as when the body
naturally leans towards the left when the right hand is carrying a heavy load.
Figure 7 – 13: Balance Point during Start Position for the Jerk
Jerk Dip and Brake
In order to create momentum to jerk the barbell, the athlete must perform a dip and then stop
this movement in a braking fashion as shown in panel 2 of Figure 7 – 12. The dip and brake are
inseparable components of the jerk for creating the best condition for producing an upward elastic force
so that the barbell can move upward and reduce its pressure on the body. Guo (1990) estimates that the
elastic force produced by the psoas, quadriceps femoris, and plantar flexor muscles in an effective dip
and brake makes up about 30 - 50% of the work in a lifting attempt. However, in competition many
athletes fail in the jerk due to improper rhythm and coordination during the dip and brake. Therefore,
mastering the dip and brake is the most crucial technical aspect of the jerk both theoretically and
practically, and is the key to enabling athletes to lift heavier weight with limited strength.
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The effectiveness of the dip and brake is influenced by the 1) stiffness of the platform, 2)
barbell’s elasticity, 3) total weight of the athlete and barbell, 4) stability of each body part, 5)
acceleration, duration, and depth of the dip, 6) duration of the brake, and 7) balance between the body
and the barbell. While a stiffer platform and more elastic barbell allow for elastic force production,
these factors are controlled during a competition since every lifter uses the same barbell and platform in
a flight of athletes. Additionally, the total weight of the athlete and barbell has a minimal effect since
athletes are very similar in body weight for a given weight class and each flight of athletes attempt
similar loads. However, long-run gains in body weight can allow for the combined center of gravity to
favor the athlete and provide a competitive advantage for developing athletes and those who are
competitive in more than one weight class. On the other hand, the balance between the body and the
barbell weight, the stability of each body part, the dip velocity, depth, and time, and the brake time are
all related to the athlete’s individual skill level and technical understanding.
An effective dip begins after an athlete stabilizes the bar onto the chest and achieves a
comfortable start position. From here the athlete bends the knees along the lines formed by the feet to
create an eccentric contraction and accelerate the body downward along with the bar. The lower back
muscles are tight from the start position but must actively remain tight during the dip to avoid buckling
in the upper and lower back which can throw off an athlete’s balance. As the athlete bends the knees, it
might seem that the upper body is straight but in fact there is a very slight tilt due to the hips shifting
backward and downward. This tilt is characteristic of the double-bend method (see Chapter 2 on
Chinese Weightlifting Philosophy) and exists because when the human body squats down, the hips must
bend along with the knees to move along the 30% mark. Since the feet are turned out from the start
position earlier, the knees must also bend outward rather than strictly forward which allows the athlete
to lower their body with minimal forward shift from the knees and hence requires less backward
movement from the hips to maintain balance. Pushing the knees outward also ensures that the inner
thigh muscles are stretched to store elastic energy for the extension. Practical experience has shown
that there is little variation in position among experienced lifters, even if they possess different femur to
tibia ratios (Guo 1990). Therefore, instructors must understand the upper body tilt is very minor and
that the hips push back very slightly so that the athlete balances over the 30% mark.
Instructors should ensure athletes avoid caving the knees inward since it will put excessive
pressure on the medial side of the foot and prevent the athlete from pushing off the entire base which
affects their ability to brake and extend the barbell upward during extension. Additionally, caving the
knees makes it easy for the athlete to dip too deep and/or shift their balance forward from the
centerline of support. If the knees bend outward too much such that the lateral edge of the foot is
supporting most of the load, it is also easy to dip too deep and slow the entire dip and brake motion.
Instructors can remedy these issues by placing a stick vertically over the midline of the athlete’s foot and
making sure that the center of the athlete’s knees touches the stick as shown in Figure 7 – 14. This can
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Figure 7 – 14: Using a Stick to Find Optimal Dip Depth
help the athlete understand where their maximum dip depth should be and become spatially aware of
their knee movement.
The dip produces velocity and momentum which can be increased by dipping faster at a given
weight and dip duration or by dipping at the same speed with heavier weight. This greater velocity and
momentum will generate greater elastic force. However, the dip cannot be rushed or else the barbell
cannot be lowered quickly enough due to its own inertia and hence will separate from the collarbone.
Additionally, the dip must be fast enough such that the athlete can withstand the momentum while
maintaining position of the upper body (Liu 2004). If the chest sinks, back rounds, or if the legs are not
strong enough to stop the barbell’s momentum sharply, then the dip speed may be excessive.
Therefore, athletes should focus on dipping as fast as they can still maintain their posture.
After initiating the dip, the athlete must then brake the barbell which consists of decelerating
the barbell sharply by creating a concentric contraction until their velocity reaches zero. This movement
is like the “stepping” action in jumping events, so it must be proactive, coordinated, and brief in order to
store greater elastic strength for “jumping” (i.e. the extension). This is possible because the brake
changes the barbell’s downward momentum from the dip (thereby creating an impulse) and the
downward force of the barbell toward the ground to create an opposing reactive force to the barbell
which causes an elastic bend. The force that allows the ends of the barbell to recover is elastic force
which helps the barbell move upward and hence reduces its pressure on the body. For a given amount
of momentum, a shorter brake time means more force is exerted to stop the barbell which generates a
stronger impulse leading to a stronger force from the platform and hence a stronger reactive force on
the barbell that generates stronger elastic force on the barbell. If the athlete is slow to stop the barbell
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then this elastic energy will dissipate, and the barbell’s oscillation can introduce force that can throw off
the athlete’s timing. Therefore, the brake is highly dependent on the quality of the dip.
The more momentum generated by the dip, the stronger impulse the brake will have within a
fixed period of time. If the athlete accelerates the barbell at a constant rate, then the momentum can be
increased by either increasing the weight on the barbell or by dip the depth (which increases the
amount of time to generate momentum). Athletes with very strong hips and legs but only average speed
can rely on greater depth to provide more time to increase the dip’s end velocity and momentum while
athletes with weaker legs must rely on a shorter dip and greater acceleration to move the bar. However,
Guo (1990) estimated that the total distance travelled of this movement is approximately 10% of the
athlete’s height which corresponds to a knee bend of about 100 – 110°. Additionally, within this 10%
two-thirds of the distance consist of the dip and the remaining one-third is the brake. Excessively
shallow dips will prevent sufficient storage of potential energy in the legs and hence affect the muscle
contraction and speed when driving the bar upward. If the dip is too deep, it will increase the resistance
arm and create a forward lean in the upper body which means more energy must be used to stabilize
and correct the body and less for braking the bar quickly. Therefore, the dip depth must be the shortest
distance to generate a large amount of momentum while still allowing the athlete to brake the bar
sharply.
Extension
After the jerk dip and brake, the athlete must extend the legs and arms to push the barbell
upward as shown in panel 3 of Figure 7 – 12. The goal of this extension is to create the best condition for
splitting or squatting under the bar. This is achieved by exerting the greatest force in the shortest period
of time so that the barbell receives the greatest upward speed and reaches a required height for the
athlete to catch it overhead with straight arms. It is heavily dependent on the speed of the dip, where a
faster dip allows the muscles to fully utilize their vertical upward force (internal force) and while also
utilizing the barbell’s elastic and inertial forces (external force). If the extension is delayed or the athlete
pauses after the brake, then the internal forces are reduced and the advantages from the external
forces disappear, which reduces the intensity of the extension. Therefore, one must extend the instant
when the brake is completed for the body to exert a counterforce to the barbell.
The athlete must extend their body forcefully to the ball of the foot while fulfilling the 3 gravity
principles and the 5 Words as presented in Figure 2 – 4. The main power from the athlete comes from
strong contraction of the quadriceps and ankles to extend the legs along with hamstrings and glutes to
extend the hips. The knees must produce a force that is backward and upward while the hips and ankles
produce a force that is forward and upward. If these forces are of different magnitude, applied at
different times, or in the same direction, then they can lose balance and create excess movement.
Hence, an optimal upward extension requires a balanced coordination of backward and forward
horizontal from these joints. This movement must be fast in order to increase the barbell’s velocity,
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otherwise the barbell may not reach enough height for the athlete to catch it or provide enough time for
the athlete to split or squat underneath the barbell.
The shoulders must also extend to produce an upward and backward force through the arms to
assist in reaching the necessary height to catch the barbell overhead. This force helps fulfill the principle
of ‘close’ by controlling the barbell so that it moves along a correct path that keeps the barbell’s center
of gravity close to the athlete’s center of gravity. The force exerted by the shoulders must occur as the
legs and body straighten to provide sufficient force to control the barbell and to actively lock the elbows
overhead. This timing can increase the inertial motion of the barbell after extension, allow the arms to
provide active support, and create a braking action to rapidly reverse the body in a split or squat. If the
arms engage before the body extends or engage without force from the shoulders, then the barbell’s
path will be disturbed (often forward) due to the position of the arms. Additionally, the braking motion
will occur early and force the lifter to push themselves under the barbell while lacking enough height to
catch the barbell. Finally, for these actions to occur optimally and maximize energy transferred through
the barbell, the athlete must be able to extend with stability and withstand the pressure from the bar.
This is possible by maintaining the upper body rigid with the chest position unchanged. If the body is not
rigid or the chest shape is distorted, then the barbell will slip which will cause the combined center of
gravity to move forward and hence reduce the intensity and effect of the extension. In practice, Cui and
Li (2000) note that athletes who use the squat style extend the bar up about 0.34m less than athletes
using the split style but Tao (2008) notes that in general the barbell falls 44cm during a squat jerk
compared to 6cm in the split jerk, which creates a momentum that is 7 times greater in the squat jerk.
So, the squat jerk requires a slight modification in the extension to reduce the downward momentum in
the catch, but the principles are the same for both styles.
Catching the Barbell
As athletes extend they must lock the elbows and shoulders actively to catch the barbell in
either a split or squat position as shown in panels 4 – 5 of Figure 7 – 12. The extension is insufficient for
reaching the necessary height to support the barbell overhead, so the solution is for the athlete to lower
their center of gravity by splitting their legs or squatting. This supporting position reduces the barbell’s
trajectory and causes both arms to straighten above the head to stabilize. The split style requires the
athlete to slide their legs frontally the moment after the extension with the help of the barbell’s upward
inertia while the squat jerk requires the athlete to slide laterally into their squat position as shown in
Figure 7 – 15. These movements increase the base of support from the lightly shaded regions to the
darker regions which aid in stability. The lateral movement for the squat jerk is the same as the catch for
snatch and clean. In China, athletes are taught both jerk styles because the movements are similar until
the catch and hence they carryover to each other. Additionally, the squat jerk and snatch carryover to
each other because the positions are similar apart from the grip. The decision to squat jerk or split jerk is
based on the athlete’s comfort and endurance. Some athletes naturally move better in a vertical motion
while others are more comfortable moving along a frontal place. Successful athletes who squat jerk
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Figure 7 – 15: Change in Base of Support for Split Jerk and Squat Jerk
have exceptional leg and core endurance which is necessary because needs to clean the barbell and
then catch it in a squat position. In practice successful athletes who squat jerk can squat for 2 – 3 reps at
95% and 3 – 5 reps at 90% although research is still underway to identify reliable characteristics for
squat jerking so that athletes can be identified early on and train accordingly.
Regardless of jerk style, the best time to split or squat is when the heels elevate from the
extension because this position reduces the pressure on the foot and allows the legs to move. If the legs
split or squat too early, then it will affect exertion during the extension. If the legs split or squat too late
(usually because the barbell’s upward speed is too slow), then it is difficult to complete a supportive
catch and the body is unable to reach a depth to lock out the bar overhead. It is important for the
athlete to follow the footwork shown in Figure 7 – 15 to secure the athlete’s balance. Top panel of
Figure 7 – 16 compares the optimal position with common split jerk errors seen in beginners. The left
panel shows a balanced split which requires the athlete to split the legs while maintaining the hip-width
stance established in the start position. If the athlete lands in a position narrower than hip-width, then
the split is too narrow as shown in the second panel of Figure 7 – 16. Geometrically there is no
guarantee that the area of the new base of the support will be greater than the original position.
Additionally, a narrow position places excessive stress on the medial side of the foot which can cause
the knees to cave inward and result in a very unstable position. This error violates the “stable” principle.
By contrast, if the athlete splits wider than shoulders with then the result is not much better because a
lateral movement will place the back leg in a difficult position to bend and catch the bar in a low
position. Additionally, a wide split requires both legs to travel a longer distance than in a straight line
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from hip-width which can affect the timing of the catch. Hence a wide split violates the principles of
“timing” and “low.” A balanced split also requires the feet to be equidistant from the vertical line
otherwise the support will be greater on one leg compared to the other leg as shown in the right panel.
This example shows the front leg traveling outwards while the back goes back straight but the opposite
also yields the same imbalanced result. In an imbalanced split, the “stable” principle is violated, and it is
possible for the pelvis to twist which will place the core muscles under rotational and axial stress which
can lead to injury.
The bottom panel of Figure 7 – 16 compares the optimal position with common squat jerk errors
seen in beginners. The left panel shows a balanced squat which requires the athlete to stand about hipwidth and then slide outward to shoulder-width. If the athlete does not move to this position as shown
in the second panel, then their base is too narrow to lower the upper body in between the legs and
squat deep. This will either limit the athlete’s ability to get low or require the athlete to bend in an
unstable way to achieve a deep squat, which violates the “low” and “stable” principles. A few athletes
are able to remain in the same spot during the squat jerk because their start position is the same as
their squat position. This is usually a result of the athlete’s hip structure which allows them to squat
most comfortably in a narrower position compared to other athletes. It is not recommended for the
athlete to stand wide on purpose because this will limit the height they can achieve in the extension and
throw off their timing. Additionally, the athlete should not try to slide the feet too wide beyond
shoulder-width because this will limit the athlete’s ability reach a deep squat and satisfy the “low”
principle. It is possible for the athlete to slide one leg beyond shoulder-width while the other leg slides
out to shoulder-width, but this kind is unbalanced catch is very rare and usually seen in injured athletes.
A more common unbalanced catch is when the athlete hops forwards (or backwards) as shown in the
bottom right panel of Figure 7 – 16. This error usually occurs because a problem in earlier phases of the
jerk.
Because the barbell is high during the catching phase of the split jerk, the front foot must only
travel 1.5 foot lengths forward while the back foot travels 1 foot length backward to create enough
depth to lockout the barbell (Gao 2016). Because of this difference in distance, the back foot lands
before the front foot but this difference is so small that the athlete should focus on landing both legs
simultaneously and landing on the balls of both feet. The front foot lands at a slight angle pointing
toward the floor rather than flat or on the heel as shown in Figure 7 – 17. This type of landing places the
balance of the front foot over the ball of the foot (i.e. the 60% mark) and creates a braking force that
flattens the foot and allows the front shin to be vertical or angled slightly toward the athlete. Both shin
positions will force the athlete backward which the athlete can counter by balancing the back leg over
the ball of the back foot. Because the back travels a shorter distance than the front, landing on the ball
of the back foot is a natural position. The Achilles tendon will limit the athlete’s depth and lock the back
leg into a supportive position. If the athlete lands on the heel or flat footed, it is much more difficult to
stop the momentum of the front leg and the knee which can shift the athlete’s balance forward as
shown in Figure 2 – 9. When landing in a split, the support must be active with the front leg exerting a
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Figure 7 – 16: Common Beginner Errors in the Split Jerk and Squat Jerk
Figure 7 – 17: Extension to Landing Position for the Front Foot in the Split Jerk
backward horizontal force and the back leg exerting a forward horizontal force as shown in Figure 2 – 4
to ensure the athlete remains balanced in the middle of the split. The upper body should remain straight
with the chest pushed out, core tight, and pelvis neutral (Liu 2004) with the combined center of gravity
balanced in the middle between both legs. For the squat jerk, the catch position is similar to the snatch
but with a jerk-width grip.
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As the legs begin to split or squat, the shoulders and arms actively exert force. This plays two
very important roles: first, it can increase the barbell’s upward speed and reduce its lowering time;
secondly, this movement allows the body to lower itself faster and increase the effect of force exerted
by the split. As the arms extend to exert upward force they should “lock” in same way as the snatch by
rotating inward towards the side of the head in order to place the barbell overhead and form a vertical
line over the middle of base of support. This extension and rotation must occur quickly and forcefully in
order to have a positive effect on the barbell’s trajectory and the body’s downward speed. Additionally,
extension and rotation must be coordinated with the movement of the head. Because the barbell must
form a vertical line with the upper body and because the body’s posture and stability react to the head’s
position, athletes should move the head slightly forward to ensure the barbell is over the combined
center of gravity formed by the split or squat as shown in panels 4 – 5 of Figure 7 – 12. A common
mistake is for an athlete to have their head straight or slightly back which makes it difficult to place the
barbell overhead and supported by large back muscles, and instead results in the barbell being slightly
forward and supported excessively by the shoulders.
Recovery
The recovery consists of the athlete standing up from the split or squat until the legs are in the
same plane with the barbell until the referee gives the signal, as shown in panels 6 – 8 of Figure 7 – 12.
In order to recover from the split, it is important to minimize horizontal movement. This is possible by
first bringing the front leg back to the center line formed by the combined center of gravity and then
bringing the back leg forward. If the athlete recovers with the back leg first, then it is easier to create a
forward horizontal force (due to the position of the back leg during the split) which is difficult to control.
Additionally, the recovery should be completed in two steps (one for each leg) rather than a series of
steps with either leg to minimize horizontal forces and momentum. At the end of the recovery the
athlete’s balance should be directly over the ankle bone. The squat jerk has a less complicated recovery
and simply requires that athlete’s balance should be directly over the midfoot as they stand. This
balance is because the angle of stability is very steep and the frontal support is less in the squat jerk
compared to the split jerk. In both styles, the shoulders and arms should remain locked, head through,
and the torso remain straight and tight during the recovery.
Dropping the Barbell and Breathing Method
After completing the recovery for the jerk, the athlete must drop the bar as shown in panels 9 –
10 of Figure 7 – 12. Once the athlete waits until the referee gives the down signal, the athlete should
first flex the shoulders and wrists to guide the barbell downward to shoulder level before releasing (as in
the snatch). The athlete can sit back and take a step back to move out of the way. The recommended
2
3
3
4
breathing for the clean and jerk is to take 1 – 2 deep breaths followed by to of a full breath before
lifting the barbell. The athlete should hold their breath during the pull and recovery for the clean,
followed by short breaths once they adjust the body and barbell’s position for the jerk. Before initiating
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2
3
3
4
the dip and drive, the athlete should breathe to of a full breath and hold it until the recovery is
complete. A slow and deep breath can change the athlete’s position and balance while allowing carbon
dioxide to accumulate. Additionally, a deep breath can cause the athlete to tense excessively which will
reduce the timing and speed of the movement.
Phases of Technical Training
Technical training is composed of several related phases: the technique improvement phase,
technique reinforcement phase, and technique automation phase. The technique improvement phase is
the first phase of technical training and its main objective is to correct wrong movement (Duan and Yang
2007). Because the motor pattern for the snatch and clean and jerk is not fully developed at this stage,
the athlete’s movement to tends to be stiff and uncoordinated which creates a lot of excess and
incorrect movements. Therefore, in this phase the instructor must build a correct technical concept
through ample demonstration to contrast correct movements from incorrect ones as well as provide
explanation and analysis to help the athlete differentiate between correct and incorrect movements.
This phase should use the decomposition method focus on identifying and correcting the main flaws one
at a time (Jiang 2015), but the instructor should also incorporate technical assistance exercises from
Table 7 – 2 to address secondary portions of the snatch and clean and jerk to prevent these flaws from
becoming bigger issues later. In the early entry of this stage, the athlete should use a light barbell for
training to remove any nervousness about the movement, keep their focus on the technical
requirement, and master the essential parts of the movement. If a very heavy barbell is used too early
for training, then the weight will act as a strong stimulus and cause the central nervous system to overexcite and inhibit other roles. This makes it easy for the beginner to lose focus of the technical
requirement and create a wrong movement. As the athlete becomes more comfortable, the main
training method consists of low intensity and high volume, usually around (
70%
3−5
8) which reads as 70% of
the athlete’s 1 rep maximum (1RM) for 8 sets of 3 – 5 repetitions (Ma 2013). The low intensity allows
the athlete to concentrate on the technical requirement while the high reputations and sets provide
enough volume to practice. Athletes should be taught to concentrate during training, treat every lift
seriously, observe and analyze their teammates’ lifting when resting to help the athlete build a correct
technical concept while training and improve their capability to analyze and solve problems.
The second phase is known as the technique reinforcement phase where the objective is for the
athlete to become more familiarized with the correct movement, coordination, and rhythm so that they
can use the correct technique when lifting new personal bests (Duan and Yang 2007). This consistency
will cause the main parts of the movement to trend towards becoming automatic and build a more
complete technical concept. Instructors should continue to use the methods outlined in the technique
improvement phase as the main flaws are corrected, but the ratio of full technical lifts for the snatch
and clean and jerk increases to train coordination throughout the entire movement. In this phase, the
lifts can be decomposed into fewer parts as the movement gradually becomes more fluid and accurate.
Therefore, fewer technical assistance movements are needed in this phase and should be used to
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address in moderation to address remaining flaws. As the athlete becomes more familiarized with
proper technique, the instructor can then increase the training intensity by using a linear loading
arrangement with back off sets such as
60%
3
2,
70%
3
2,
80−85%
3
4,
70%
3
2 (Ma 2013). If the athlete displays
proper technique for 2 sets of 3 repetitions, then they can try heavier weights and back off after several
increases to further reinforce the correct motor pattern. The athlete should try to lift new weights
according to this plan to check their technical proficiency as well as train their determination and
increase their enthusiasm. During this process the instructor should guide the athlete to understand the
relationship between decomposed movements by knowing each section’s function and position, and
how they support each subsequent section. The instructor can do this by allowing athletes to observe
and analyze athletes with good technical mastery and those with less. This will help students to
effectively master the movement correctly and in more detail.
The final phase of technical training is the technique automation phase where the athlete
reaches a level of familiarization such that they do not need to consciously control the main parts of the
snatch and clean and jerk. The athlete’s technique is a learned response so lifts are a completed with
more accuracy, more skill, and with less effort. However, because the movements are becoming more
ingrained it is important to remind athletes of bad habits they might be unaware of so that these do not
become ingrained. Therefore, the goal of this phase is to correct minor technical mistakes and use highly
individualized exercises to continue improving their technical level (Duan and Yang 2007). Technical
training in this phase mainly consists of the full snatch and clean and jerk along movements to address
weaknesses in the lifts. The barbell weight mainly consists of mid – high intensity such as
but occasional training at high intensity such as
95−100%
1
85−90%
2−3
8 − 10,
4 − 6 can be used for short periods based on
the athlete’s recovery capability (Ma 2013). The exact percentage and volume in the is phase depends
on at which intensity the athlete’s technique breaks down and how long they can maintain their
technique at a given percentage. This training ensures the athlete has more repetitive practice with high
intensity which can reinforce technique at a high level. At a given intensity, instructors should add more
sets before adding more repetitions to a set when accumulating volume to minimize fatigue. Training
technique at maximal weights is the ultimate purpose of technical training so one should strive to reach
this level.
Conclusion
Technical training is a never-ending process during an athlete’s career due to the continuous
evolution of techniques and the fact that technique can decay if not trained for a long period. This is
because a learned response is initially a temporary relation and takes time to ingrain completely.
Additionally, when arranging a training program must assume a certain technical concept to make sure
that the training content is chosen so that the athlete can lift with good technique at maximum
intensity. Otherwise, as athletes develop more strength, the way they exert force will change which can
change their technique. Therefore, athletes need to continuously practice their technique in order to
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adapt it to their current strength level and continue to practice their strength develops. Additionally,
instructors must choose exercises that allow athletes to lift according to the 5 Words and 3 gravity
principles.
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Chapter 8: Psychological Training
Psychological training is the planned training process of developing individual mental
characteristics so that athletes can adapt to and overcome changes in their general environment. These
characteristics are based on innate qualities (Du 2012) but also based on acquired learning and training
(Hu 2007). While strength training methods have a long history of development with well-established
and effective methods; psychological training is a newer field that can yield substantial results. For
example, a study by Zhang (2004) found that high-level youth athletes with good mental preparation
make at least 50% of their lifts and perform 2.5 – 10kg off from their best training total while those with
a poor mental preparation make at most 50% of their lifts and perform 10 – 20kg off from their best
training total or even bomb out. Therefore, there has been an increasing acknowledgement that an
athlete’s competitive potential is a combination of physical, technical, mental, and intellectual factors
(Fan 2005). In order to consider psychological training as part of the 7 training systems, the instructor
must determine which qualities to develop and to what level, consider which methods to use, and then
conduct and plan for psychological training. This is an area of ongoing research, but this chapter
summarizes current practice.
Factors that Affect an Athlete’s Mental State and their Effects
It is common to hear instructors say an athlete is a “training athlete” which means they perform
well during training but cannot produce these results during competition. Other athletes are
“competition athletes” who might have average performance during training but can perform well
during competition. Why is there such difference? In a survey of young athletes, Hu (2007) outlined the
reasons for experiencing psychological stresses, the symptoms, and their effects presented in Table 8 –
1. His research shows that psychological factors are widespread among young weightlifters are generally
due to feeling like the performance and results are outside of their control. These feelings can be
influenced by any combination of the factors shown in Figure 8 – 1 which can limit their ability to control
themselves, lose confidence, and become fearful. Wu (2011) finds that when athletes feel like they lose
control, they can become indifferent such that they do not exert their best ability. When they lose
confidence, they can feel distracted when trying harder. When they are fearful, they can lose the ability
to mobilize at the necessary times. These data inform why athletes with poor mental preparation
perform less consistently and under their personal bests compared to athletes with good mental
preparation (Zhang 2004). Li (2014) asserts that such feelings can become more difficult to resolve as
time goes by.
Goals of Psychological Training
The goal of psychological training is to teach athletes to develop and adjust their mindset to
reach an optimal state of arousal so that they can perform better in training and in competition.
Psychological training can be divided into two interrelated types (Ma 2013). The first type is called
general psychological training which is conducted over non-competition training. The goal is to form a
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Table 8 – 1: The Symptoms, Reasons, and Effects of Stress Among Young Weightlifters
Reasons
Fear of Losing
86.3
Overly Focusing on the Results
72.3
Feeling Unable to Control the Situation
68.6
Lack of Confidence
78.5
Fear of Opponents
75.1
Symptoms
Emotional Stress
88.4
Feeling Sick
68.5
Overtly Tensed Muscles
38.6
Indigestion/Nausea
41.3
Poor Appetite
26.8
Depression
62.3
Difference in Ability to Adapt to Stimuli
74.1
Results
Hyper-excitability / Insomnia
83.2
Difficult to Control Mood
82.7
Lack of Confidence
72.4
Difficulty Concentrating
82.3
Depressed urgency
71.3
Figure 8 – 1: Factors that can Influence Mental State
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mental process where the athlete can effectively participate in the competition. The second type of
psychological training is competitive psychological training which is conducted during the short-term
competition phase of training or actual competition. The goal is to teach athletes how to self-adjust and
form their best mental condition in order to perform their best in competition. General psychological
training forms the necessary mental foundation and preparation, while competitive psychological
training is a continuation and improvement under competition conditions. Fulfilling the goals of each
training will allow the athlete to feel mentally prepared for training and competition.
Best Practices for Psychological Training
While research is still ongoing on how to successfully implement psychological training, the
following 2 guidelines are used in weightlifting. First, the instructor must implement psychological
training gradually, repetitively, and integrate them with weightlifting training (Yu 2007). Athletes have
their own learned responses built from years of learning, so changing these characteristics requires
gradual and repetitive training. For example, increasing the athlete’s lifting success rate is a great way to
build confidence while training but the instructor should arrange small challenges that gradually
increase in difficulty. Instead of rushing into the target weight that causes doubt, athletes can work on
weights 5 – 10 kg less and accumulate successful lifts so that the athlete feels confident about
attempting heavier lifts. Instructors can also focus on building strength in other movements to give
athletes confidence in attempting the snatch or clean and jerk. For example, in the snatch athletes can
practice speed pulls and high pulls with the mentally taxing weight or heavier to give athletes confidence
and experience with a weight but without out the pressure of missing a lift. Methods for self-talk,
relaxing, concentrating, and summoning willpower also take time to become habits, so the instructor
should not rush when correcting negative feelings. Because psychological qualities take time to develop,
instructors should introduce such training in the post-season or off-season. Then during the training and
competition seasons the athlete can incorporate psychological training easily and as part of their overall
training rather than an extra activity.
Second, the instructor must tailor psychological training to the individual. Athletes differ
according to personality, age, sex, athletic experience, teaching level, and social and family background,
which results in different psychological characteristics, intellectual capability, and mental condition.
Some athletes are very good at adapting but lack concentration; others are quiet, calm, and steady but
lack willpower; others are very aggressive and emotional but have difficulty relaxing themselves (Wu
2009). Each case requires a different plan to help the athlete improve. Additionally, athletes with the
same issue may require different types of methods. For example, when increasing an athlete’s success
rate to build confidence toward a heavy weight some athletes will gain more confidence by performing
many sets of singles very close to or at the target weight while others will feel more confident by
performing 2 – 3 reps with lighter weights. So psychological training must be very individualized in order
to help the athlete improve.
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Psychological Training Methods
Simulation Training
Simulation training is the act of replicating actual competition conditions in every aspect during
a training session to allow athletes to adapt to the competition environment they will be facing (Li
2014). The reason for simulation is because various situations can occur or change which the athlete
cannot avoid during competition, so only by creating the same or similar environment prior to the event
can the athlete adapt. Simulation can test an athlete’s ability to relax, concentration, and arouse
themselves. Additionally, effects from training can be realized more as training conditions more closely
resemble competition conditions (Yu 2007). Figure 8 – 1 shows the various natural, material, and human
factors that can affect an athlete’s mental condition, therefore simulation and adaptation to the
competition environment training can also be divided along these factors.
For example, the athlete must adapt to human factors such as spectators, referees, opponents,
and other human factors. Usually increased attention from others elevates an athlete’s mental
condition, but this attention can make less experienced athletes nervous and lose focus when lifting.
Testing events can help treat such nervousness. The instructor or team can arrange simulations of
various degrees such as simply scheduling a training day using a competition format of 3 attempts for
snatch and clean and jerk or arranging teammates with similar ability train together. Other simulations
can be more elaborate by having other instructors or staff serve as referees, announcers, or other
officials, and have younger teammates serve as an audience. Additionally, instructors can stand farther
away from the athlete as they will in competition. They can also adjust the seating area and chalk stands
to resemble the pathway the athlete must follow to the platform and allow individuals take pictures or
videos of the athlete during their warm-up and lifting attempts. All these changes can be introduced
gradually depending on how nervous athlete feels about competing.
Simulations can also help athletes adapt to the sport factors surrounding competition, which are
the easiest to incorporate during training. For example, the instructor can incorporate technical details
such as the time limit to complete a lift, stabilizing a weight until given a down signal, dropping the
barbell appropriately, among other rules. If these areas are not emphasized during training, technical
fouls can occur easily during competition. During competition an athlete might have to follow
themselves and rest only 1 minute or they might have to wait 7 – 8 minutes or longer due to equipment
restrictions or changes in tactics of the opponent and themselves. Many athletes lack mental
preparation for these situations which can affect their mood and technique. Therefore, when simulating
competition, the instructor should arrange sessions where the rest periods are long and short based on
which situation tends to affect the athlete. Additionally, the instructor can devise a plan to keep the
athlete warm in between attempts such as scheduling lifts in between attempts but do so in a way so
that the athlete is not too fatigued. Also, the instructor can remind the athlete to keep a positive mood
regardless of the rest period so that they can learn to become resilient to changing circumstances and
mobilize their body effectively.
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Another sport factor that can affect the athlete is the method for increasing weight. Every
athlete has their own preferred method for adding weight: some by 5kg, 10kg, or 20kg per increase;
others add more weights at lighter weights and add less weight at heavier weight; others add weight
after each set while some will add weight after 2 sets. However, athletes must pace themselves during
competition, so the weight increases may be different than they are used to which can affect their
concentration, confidence, and will power. Therefore, the method of weight increase during precompetition training should be similar to the increase during competition in order to develop a ‘feeling’
for the weight. For example, if 1 – 4kg multiples will be added during competition, then they should be
used during pre-competition training.
While the athlete must adapt to a method of adding weight, they must also develop flexibility
during pre-competition training because the competition process can change unpredictably as
opponents change their openers and make or miss lifts. This can prevent the athlete from preparing in a
calm manner and can require a change in strategy or tactics. One method for developing flexibility is
known as the “jumping style” of increasing weights which consists of increasing weights by 30 – 40kg
after light lifting so that the athlete reaches maximal weight after 2 – 4 training sets. This method allows
the athlete to adapt to the situation where the opponent changes their attempts and the athlete does
not have enough time to prepare. Another method for developing flexibility is the “repeated jump”
method which consists of reaching maximal weight, then reducing the load by 30 – 40kg or even more,
and then adding weight again until reaching near-maximal weight. This kind of situation occurs after an
athlete follows their normal pattern of preparation but opponents become clustered around a certain
weight due to missed attempts or their own strategy, causing the athlete to wait 7 – 8 minutes or
longer. Such strategies will train the athlete’s technique to adapt to a variety of situations.
The athlete must also adapt to material factors specific to the competition such as the
equipment, lighting, audio, and stage elevation. Usually, these conditions are better than training
conditions which can produce positive mental effects. We commonly see many athletes feel happy
when seeing a new stage and new barbell, and some even feel they can lift another 5kg extra. However,
some athletes react adversely to these types of conditions. Additionally, athletes who have great
training during normal times tend to be less able to adapt to these new conditions. For example, some
will feel that the stage is too slippery, lights are too bright, or there is too much noise. Others complain
that the barbell is too rough to handle, the barbell’s oscillation is too strong or too weak, or that the
weightlifting plates bounce too much or too little. Most professional training bases in China have an
elevated stage, certified competition equipment, lighting, and audio systems to simulate these factors,
but instructors can simply hold or attend local meets if this option is not available.
Another factor that athletes must adapt to is the natural environment of the competition venue.
It is possible for the venue to have different natural factors such as humidity, temperature, time zones,
altitude, and natural differences from the athlete’s home. In general, the greater the intensity of the
change, the greater effect on an athlete’s biorhythms, sleep, and performance (Ma and Tian 2002). In
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China, even within domestic competitions it is common to hear southern people complain that the
weather is too cold when competing in northern areas, while the northern people will complain about
the heat when competing in southern areas. Additionally, coastal athletes feel uneasy when competing
in the heartland due to the dry weather. Therefore, high level athletes frequently visit other venues or
countries to simulate the environment where they will compete. Others will arrive early to the
competition venue to acclimate. If this option is not available, instructors can try to simulate these
conditions by adjusting the temperature of the gym to reflect the competition environment or sleep
according to the time zone they will compete to acclimate. Additionally, if normal training is in the
afternoon but the competition will be conducted at night, then the instructor should arrange for a few
evening training sessions to see how the athlete performs and simulate the competition situation.
Therefore, instructors can use various degrees of simulation to help athletes gradually adapt and
overcome their fears. Simulations can be tailored to the athlete in order for them to confront the issues
that affect their emotions and hence technique. For some athletes, simply lifting in front of an audience
is the main factor while for others it may be the rest periods that affect them. So, the instructor should
emphasize issues that most affect the athlete to help them overcome. While simulations require
resources available at the training hall, at the most basic level the instructor can explain the conditions
and having the athlete imagine themselves lifting in such conditions. This will allow the athlete to
mentally prepare and practice relaxing and exerting themselves at the right times. The instructor can
motivate the athlete to continue fighting, overcome difficulties, and work hard to adapt to competition
environment.
Training to Increase the Lifting Success Rate
An athlete’s success rate often has a large impact on their confidence, ability to fight, and
concentration (Yang 2008). This because training conditions often differ from competition conditions in
terms of load intensity, method of increasing weights, rest intervals, number of attempts, and other
aspects which can change the way the athlete feels during their lifting. The success rate has a large
impact on weightlifting results. For example, at the elite senior levels, Wang (2007) shows that the
medalists at the 2005 world weightlifting championships have a success rate that is 22% higher in the
snatch and 16% in the clean and jerk when compared to non-medalists., highlighting the importance of
the success rate. Additionally, he found that the overall success rate among men and women at the
2005 World weightlifting championships was 68% while the combined success rate of Chinese athletes
was 79%. Since the lifting success rate has a great impact on competition results, the instructor must
minimize the adverse effects of these conditions by taking several steps.
First, during competition preparation the instructor should emphasize the success rate of the
lifts. For example, competition lifts should be arranged at times when the athlete’s physical strength is
at maximum and when their level of excitement is high. Usually Mondays are good times because the
athlete is rested from the weekend while Fridays are also good because it is the end of the week and
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athletes feel determined to overcome before resting over the weekend. During such times the athlete
can feel confident when attempting heavy weights which can keep the success rate high. The instructor
should emphasize correct technique and success even at light weights to allow the athlete to feel in
control of their lifting ability and feel confident (Li 2014). Instructors can require athletes to warm-up
thoroughly at light weights and only allow them to move on if the lift is technically sound. This will help
athletes focus on technique and preserve a positive mindset.
Second, instructors should be flexible in their programming and seize the opportunity to lift
heavy or maximally when the athlete’s strength, technique, and excitement level are all high during a
certain session. Instructors can allow athletes to lift heavy on strength movements or technical
movements prescribed for that day if the athlete feels confident and the instructor feels that it is safe to
do so. If these are opportunities are missed, then the lack of heavy lifting will negatively affect the
athlete’s mental preparation even if their success rate is high at moderate weights. This is because the
weights lifted during competition are close to maximum, so if the weights lifted before competition are
too light then the athlete will also lack confidence. Therefore, being flexible in the training program will
allow the athlete to train their success rate at heavy weights and develop a good mental condition.
Third, instructor can combine movements and use volume to improve an athlete’s success rate.
For example, athletes can deadlift the weight and then perform several snatches from the hang (or
whatever point where their technique breaks down) to increase the intensity of the set. This strategy
will challenge the athlete to try hard while still allowing them to train their technique. This is especially
useful for athletes who strive for high intensity during normal training but neglect correct technique and
stability. These kinds of athletes have a low success rate and depend on luck to make their lifts. For such
athletes, training to increase the success rate is even more important and their intensity needs to be
strictly controlled to avoid injury.
Self-talk
Another class of psychological training is self-talk which consists of the athlete using internal
dialogue to instruct themselves, focus, and adjust their emotions and expectations to create a positive
mental state. Self-talk usually consists of short phrases or cues and can be useful if it moves the athlete
toward a positive state of mind. For the instructor to identify the type of self-talk athletes engage in,
they must encourage athletes to be aware of their inner dialogue. Instructors can help athletes identify
their own inner dialogue by reviewing videos or pictures of their lifting and asking them to recall any
feelings, self-talk, or emotions. If there is no media, athletes can try to visualize their prior performances
and verbalize their inner dialogue. Additionally, instructors can encourage athletes to write down their
inner dialogue as part of the training diary (see Chapter 15 on The Training Plan and Diary). There are
several methods of self-talk that athletes can use throughout their training (Ma 2013).
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The first method is known as the “mindset method” which is mainly used for learning and
overcoming technical aspects of lifting. When learning, instructors can cue athletes of key aspects such
as “speed” or “jump” when referring to the extension, or they can cue “smooth” or “knees out” when
referring to the deadlift. Athletes can then tell themselves these cues before or during their setup to
remind themselves of achieve these outcomes. It is important for the instructor to be brief in their cues
to prevent the athlete from overthinking. Sometimes athletes have bad habits that were not resolved
earlier or were learned from less experienced coaches. In this case, self-talk can be used to overcome
technical aspects. For example, if the athlete loses balance during the lift and jumps back then they
must focus on redirecting the entire movement more vertically and tell themselves to go upward rather
than backward. Instructors can cue to “use the legs and keep your balance” or “stay at 60%.” On the
other hand, the issue might be more minor such as not pulling enough with the arms through the
transition, so the instructor can simply cue the athlete to “pull harder” or “pull all the way overhead” to
address the issue. Regardless of the magnitude of the habit, the self-talk should focus on what the
athlete should do instead of what not to do. Otherwise, the athlete will hold back and be more focused
on avoiding mistakes rather than trying to overcome the habit.
Another method is known as the “self-adjustment method” which is mainly used to change selfdefeating thoughts into self-enhancing thoughts and dial in an athlete’s attention. The most effective
way to implement this kind of self-talk is to use facts and reasons so that the athlete can believe
themselves into thinking positively. For example, the athlete might think “the judging is so inconsistent
and they are going to red light me” so they can use self-talk to put themselves in control by saying “I
have never been red lighted” or “I will use the best technique I can do so one can say anything.” It is
natural to feel negative thoughts, but the key is to stop them from overtaking the athlete’s mind and
replace them with positive ones. It is very easy for them to lose attention on their current task when an
athlete misses a lift. They might dwell on their mistake and tell themselves “I should not have missed
that” or ask “why did I miss?” Additionally, they might focus on the future by thinking “if I go heavier on
the clean then I can overcome my miss in the snatch.” These thoughts distract the athlete when they
should be preparing for the next lift. Therefore, athletes should use self-talk to adjust their mindset to
focus on producing the current desired outcome. This can be a cue such as “close” or “balance” that
tends to produce a good lift and maintain the athlete’s attention toward the task at hand.
Finally, there is the “self-mobilization method” where the athlete uses self-talk to go from a
relaxed state to an aroused and positive state and control their effort. This is often used when preparing
to head onto the competition platform, to combat some adverse emotions, or achieve a new personal
record. Usually athletes will yell or shout phrases such as “easy!” or “come on!” to mobilize themselves
into action. Such phrases can increase the athlete’s adrenaline and breathing. However, the body cannot
be too tense when performing the snatch and clean and jerk, so athletes use self-talk to control their
effort while they are aroused. They may use any of the 5 Words of Chinese weightlifting philosophy like
“close”, “fast”, or “timing”, or they can use other words like “push”, “smooth”, “vertical”, and others to
direct their lifting in a desired way. This type of self-talk places the outcome within the athlete’s control
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which can give them more confidence. In cases where the athlete fails, they often attribute the failure to
lack of their own effort instead of uncontrollable factors such as luck, the competition environment,
referees, etc. Hence, they can work harder to persevere.
In each of the cases above, the instructor and other individuals can talk to the athlete to help
achieve the desired goal. Therefore, the instructor should always pay attention to their own actions and
speech during competition and training. Every word, action, and change in expression is feedback to the
athlete. A bit of incentive or encouragement from the instructor can increase the athlete’s confidence
and work effort (Wu 2011); but criticism, yelling, and coldness can make athletes feel nervous or
worthless. In practice the instructor should combine their talk with the athlete’s own self-talk to induce
the most positive mental state.
Visualization
Visualization refers to consciously using one’s imagination to learn, repeat, correct, and refine a
desired movement (Yang 2008). Like other methods, visualization can be used before training, before a
lift, and even after training as long as it is systematically integrated as part of regular training rather than
performed randomly or seen as a chore. Visualizations can be internal or external (Zhang 2012). During
internal visualization, the athlete sees themselves in a situation or performing a movement from inside
their body as they normally see life. When athletes use external visualization, they see themselves as
they would on a video and the angles can vary. While internal visualization has been shown to be more
effective when testing muscular strength gains (Zhang 2012) and improving the athlete’s success rate
(Yu 2009), some athletes may prefer one method while other athletes will switch between methods.
Regardless of the method, athletes must be able to control their visualization, make their visualization
vivid, and be aware of the factors that surround their performance to create a deep mental image to
enhance their performance.
When athletes can control a visualization, they are able to imagine the precise image they aim
to imagine and adjust factors to improve their performance. This is an important skill because without
control then athletes might dwell only on a particular poor performance (such as failing to total) or a
time where they were injured attempting a certain weight or movement. Furthermore, they will be
unable to imagine themselves as able to change that experience into a successful situation. Dwelling on
the negative experiences can create fear, low confidence, hesitation, and low concentration which will
make it difficult for the athlete to reach higher levels of performance. To train this skill, instructors can
have athletes practice a movement or a certain weight but emphasize body awareness during the
movement such as particular muscles, balance, and coordination. If this is too difficult at first, then the
athlete can perform a lift and then think about what happened afterwards. Instructors can ask athletes
if they felt the correction or if they could see themselves performing a correction after a successful
attempt. Instructors can compare videos of good and bad lifts and ask athletes to recall how the lift felt.
Then they can remind athletes to visualize proper movement when they watch their own flaws or
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recreate the feeling they felt when they performed a good lift. Eventually, athletes should be able to see
themselves performing a movement prior to lifting and can also use this visualization after they make an
error or miss a lift. This will enhance the success rate of the next attempt and athletes will feel more in
control of their own performance.
When athletes create vivid visualizations, they can recall more details about a lift or situation
such as the knurling on the barbell, the exertion of their muscles, the temperature during a competition,
the sound of the crowd, the sweat on their skin, the speed of the lift, among others. Additionally, a vivid
visualization stimulates bodily senses beyond the visual and can include auditory, olfactory, tactile, and
even gustatory senses. This provides more factors an athlete can mentally manipulate to imagine a
positive scenario and can put athletes more in control in how they respond to situations. To practice
this, athletes can arrive early to training and take note of the colors, arrangement, temperature, and
sounds of the training hall. They can also inspect the details of the bumper plates, barbells, support
stands, and other equipment. Then they can imagine their performance later in the day in the same
environment and include the encouragement from their teammates, the cues from the instructors, the
falling weights, and how they will feel emotionally and physically when lifting a weight. During actual
training, the athlete can be completely aware of their surroundings and avoid getting distracted. After
training, athletes can review their visualization from before training and during training and combine
them to create a total experience using all their senses. Then they can imagine a very detailed scenario
where they see themselves performing well which they can use for motivation and confidence in the
next training session. This process is cyclical, so athletes will be able to add greater detail over time as
they practice.
As athletes create and control vivid visualizations, they also need to identify which factors lead
them to feel positive of negative. Once athletes can identify these factors in their visualizations they can
take steps to override their influence or focus on factors that help improve their performance. For
example, athletes can vividly recall a positive moment such as when they set a personal record or won a
competition and then identify the what they did leading up to that performance. They can focus on the
feeling of success, how the weight felt, how the crowd sounded, as well as how they felt during their
warm-up or as they waited for their turn. They can then use these factors to visualize future
performance so that over time certain actions or stimuli become associated with success. To identify
and override distracting factors, athletes should first visualize negative experiences as calmly as possible
to avoid feeling fear, anger, nervousness, etc. and try to objectively identify how certain factors may
have triggered a reaction that led to poor performance. For example, they can recall how they felt from
watching their opponents lift, the strictness or inconsistency of referees, the presence of media crew
getting too close, the presence of the crowd, or other factors. Once they identify these factors athletes
can use self-talk, relaxation, or other techniques to put themselves in control. For example, if an athlete
identifies that they were angered by the refereeing at an event which caused them to tense up lose
coordination in the lifting, then they can focus on the referees and use self-talk methods described
earlier to form a strategy to deal with them and feel in control. They can then visualize how they will
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deal with such situations and subsequent success. Another way is for athletes to identify situations and
allow themselves to feel negative emotions but then work on overriding the feeling. For example, an
athlete might feel anxious about lifting a certain weight, so they can focus on what the anxiety feels like.
It might feel like chills, erratic breathing, tension, or something else. In this scenario the athlete can take
these feelings one by one and try to let them go by relaxing or breathing, then they can repeat the lifting
situation and let go of the next feeling. They can repeat this until the situation is clear of negative
feelings and then imagine themselves lifting successfully. Athletes can repeat this process so that when
they encounter this situation they will be able to remain calm and visualize success. Athletes can do this
for as many factors as necessary and can use both methods to form an overall plan for overriding
negative influences. Instructors can help athletes implement and assess their plan during simulation
training.
Relaxation Training
Relaxation training is the method of regulating tension, emotions, and energy in order to
physically and mentally recover after training, enhance kinesthetic awareness, and allow for other
psychological training to occur (Yu 2007). In order to regulate tension, athletes must first be able to
identify it. Instructors can teach athletes this skill by having them consciously tense a muscle group for a
few seconds followed by a minute of relaxation. This session should be introduced after training because
it is easier to relax when the athlete is fatigued. As athletes become more proficient in tensing and
relaxing muscle groups, this will enhance the athlete’s kinesthetic awareness so that they can remove
excess tension when they are nervous or anxious.
Instructions can use breathing exercises outside of training to regulate emotions. Athletes start
by laying down comfortably and quietly on a bed with both arms placed at the sides, both legs slightly
spread apart, and eyes slightly closed to achieve a relaxed state. Next, the athlete meditates to relax
their muscles as much as possible. Then, they take slow and deep breaths while holding each breath
comfortably for about 2 seconds. Afterwards, each breath is released in a comfortable, deep sigh and
combined with self-talk to allow emotions to enter a quiet state. Athletes can tell themselves that they
are relaxed or feeling more relaxed with each breath. As athletes progress, they will be able to slow
their heart rate and clear their mind. This state is like a light sleep condition which allows the muscles to
relax, while removing nervousness and fatigue. This method can be used in between training sessions or
in the few days leading up to competition.
During actual training, the athlete must regulate their energy so that they mobilize when
needed and relax when they are resting otherwise they will remain excited for too long which causes
deep fatigue. Additionally, weightlifting movements require some muscles to be relatively relaxed at
times in the lift (such as the arms relaxing during the deadlift) but if the athlete is too excited or stressed
then their muscles may be too tense which can disrupt technique. For the body to achieve a highly
positive state it is best to start when the brain is still in a light-sleep condition because a highly positive
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condition will appear earlier and faster. From here, athletes can regulate their breathing to cope with
emotional fluctuations. For example, active slow breaths can help the athlete relax when they are
emotionally stressed and are experiencing shortness of breath. Wu (2009) explains that rapid breathing
results in athletes inhaling a lot of oxygen but exhaling even more carbon dioxide which causes a gas
imbalance and signals the CNS to inhibit its protective response and allow increased tension. Hence,
athletes can counter this imbalance and eliminate tension by using deep and slow breaths. Conversely,
when the mood is low athletes can use long and powerful breaths to improve their excitement. During
this time, they can imagine increasing their energy with each breath while exhaling fatigue. In both
cases, athletes can combine breathing with self-talk and visualization to change the negative energy
from distracting factors into positive energy that increases their performance. For example, if an
opponent is lifting well, then an athlete can see this as a challenge to overcome and rise up. Instead of
feeling nervous from a crowd, athletes can turn that energy into a motivating force.
Concentration Training
Concentration training is the process of developing an athlete’s focus on a task for the required
amount of time. While athletes can concentrate on external factors such as lights, time clock, and
audience sounds, weightlifting requires a great degree of internal concentration such as on the muscles
and their coordination to place the athlete in more control of their effort and outcomes. Yu (2007) notes
that concentration plays an important role in the athlete’s alertness and can result in too much arousal
or tension, hence concentration be kept at a moderate level to keep athletes stable. Therefore,
concentration training should be introduced early on and emphasized throughout the entire training
process.
The instructor has several strategies to develop an athlete’s concentration. First, instructors
should make the athlete’s training purpose clear. For example, instructors can explain the reasoning for
exercise selection in the program to create a high level of self-consciousness and responsibility.
Instructors can explain how certain exercises will develop the qualities for athletes to reach their targets
so that they can concentrate. For example, if an athlete lacks leg endurance to stand up from a heavy
clean then the instructor can use pause squats for sets of 3 – 5 reps and explain that the purpose is to
build endurance to stand from a heavy clean. Then the athlete can concentrate on building this ability
during their training.
Second, the instructor can use actual training to help athletes concentrate. For example,
instructors can set clear goals for the athlete to focus on. In many Chinese training halls, athletes’ names
are posted with their current snatch, clean and jerk, and total (and sometimes other exercises).
Additionally, the target totals for the end of the competition season are posted so that athletes have a
clear purpose to concentrate on. Instructors can also work to keep the athlete is interested in training so
that their concentration will naturally be focused. For example, instructors can set weekly or monthly
goals to keep training interesting for the athlete and use simulation methods so the athlete can
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concentrate on their purpose. The instructor can also maintain an athlete’s interest through providing a
positive training environment. For example, encouraging athletes to support each other’s efforts and
help load for each is a great way to bond them and have each other concentrate on training.
Training Willpower
Willpower is the process where an athlete consciously controls and adjusts their actions to
overcome various difficulties and achieve their purpose (Yu 2007). For a beginner to go from lifting 30 –
40kg to obtaining good results requires thousands of training sessions, tens of thousands of repetitions,
and hundreds of attempts at weights they have never tried before. Furthermore, competitions are
fiercer as athletes improve their technical abilities and achieve new records. So, the athlete must
overcome many great difficulties which requires strong willpower.
Instructors can set goals and standards based on the training process such as technique,
intensity, volume, and other training factors to build willpower. For example, the instructor should have
strict requirements for technique, aiming for excellence and not neglecting even the smallest mistakes.
Athletes usually dislike technical and strength movements that they are not proficient at or are not
performing well on a particular day, but the instructor can encourage them during these movements to
overcome these weaknesses which helps develop willpower. Over time they will be able to recall a good
movement and cause their CNS to fire correspondingly (Wu 2009). In terms of intensity, instructors can
challenge athletes to attempt a new personal best either attempt heavier weights during assistance
exercises like squats, deadlifts, and presses. When using volume to challenge an athlete, instructors
should generally emphasize sets before repetitions because technical movements are sensitive to
fatigue. For example, instructors can set a threshold for the number of sets and then gradually increase
the repetitions (see Chapter 14 on Strength Training Theories and Methods for more).
Other training factors such as rest periods can be altered to increase the difficulty of an exercise
or training session to challenge the athlete and help them overcome under fatigue. Additionally,
athletes are usually tired by the end of a training session so instructors should increase their supervision
near the completion of a task and urge the athlete to go further with good technique. The key to these
strategies is that the instructor sets achievable standards and clear goals for the athlete. After
succeeding, instructors can praise the athlete for succeeding so that they have the confidence to tackle
new challenges. While instructors can set goals based on outcomes such as achieving a certain total by
certain date, these goals are less controllable and usually farther out. So they are insufficient to sustain
most athletes through daily training.
Another strategy that instructors can use for building willpower is to clearly remind athletes
about the purpose of training and competition. For example, instructors can remind athletes that a
heavy week will require great tenacity and perseverance. They can also explain how each day
contributes to the purpose of the week. With a clearer purpose, the athlete’s self-consciousness can be
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higher and the effort they put into overcoming difficulty can be greater, which over time builds a strong
willpower. Additionally, the instructor can emphasize willpower when an athlete experiences physical
discomfort. During the early stage of weightlifting it is common to experience swelling on the clavicle,
pinched skin, calluses, blisters, ripped skin, or discomfort in areas like the shoulders, hips, wrists, and
elbows when the athlete is not used to a condition. These minor issues can easily be handled with
wraps, straps, bandages, and massage, so the instructor should insist on continuing the training. Some
athletes might need encouragement, but on the other hand the instructor can help the athlete with selftalk and visualization to face sport injuries with the correct mindset. Athletes should confront injury and
post-injury training as a test of their willpower as they heal and train on uninjured parts.
Conclusion
Overall, psychological training methods overlap with each other in terms of the qualities they
build and can be used during training and competition. In weightlifting there are environmental, human,
sport, and material factors that can affect an athlete’s performance. Athletes have different
personalities and respond differently to these sources of stress which requires an individualized
approach to strengthen psychological qualities. Instructors can use simulation training, increase the
athlete's success rate, visualization, relaxation, concentration, and willpower training to develop an
athlete’s psychology.
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Chapter 9: Tactical Training
In weightlifting, the correct tactics are crucial to winning the competition. With no advanced
tactics or incorrect tactics, even the strongest athletes can become weak and lose. For example, reigning
champions can win the snatch but then bomb out in the clean and jerk due to fatigue, injury, or are
forced to take greater attempts than they anticipated. Others are forced to follow themselves and not
get enough rest in between attempts during competition. These situations have occurred in national and
international competition and are common among beginners. Therefore, instructors must incorporate
tactical training to place their athletes in the strongest position to win competitions.
Goal of Tactical Training
In weightlifting, tactical training consists of utilizing methods that correctly distribute the
athlete’s physical, technical, and mental strengths based on the competition condition of both sides in
order to limit the opponent’s strong points and obtain victory. The athlete must learn various tactical
methods to develop complete flexibility and adaptability in the face of the changing nature of
competition.
Best Practices for Tactical Training
Weightlifting is considered an indirect confrontational sport so the effect of weightlifting tactics
on the opponent is rather small compared to ball sports or fighting sports. Additionally, weightlifting is
an individual sport so there is less relation between the tactics of athletes from the same team. Finally,
most competitions are 2 – 3 hours long but the athlete has a maximum of 6 lifts total which amounts to
only a few seconds of actual competition. Therefore, the athlete’s performance rests only on a few
seconds. So, based on the characteristics of weightlifting, the instructor should implement the following
guidelines for effective tactical training.
The first guideline follows the teaching of the famous chancellor Zhuge Liang which is to “first
organize the inner, then organize the outer…first organize yourself, then organize others.” This means
the instructor’s primary concern is to prepare the athlete physically and mentally to maximize their
success rate, while limiting the opponent’s strong points is a secondary concern. Because the success
rate is based on a foundation of the athlete’s physical, technical, and psychological training levels, it is
unrealistic to go beyond this foundation and seek an impossible victory. Therefore, instructors should
tell athletes not to think too much about opponents and instead to only train with the purpose of fully
exerting their ability. Otherwise, the athlete might change or adjust their lifting based on their opponent
which opens the athlete up to being tricked and unknowingly allowing opponents to limit their own
strong points.
Second, the instructor should develop the athlete’s tactical awareness through simulation
training, self-talk, and visualization so that every activity before going on stage should be a tactical
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activity. With a strong tactical awareness, athletes can predict the progress of the competition, the
changes that may occur, and develop their own tactical plan. Additionally, athletes will not be easily
affected by their opponent, but can change their own tactics based on situations which can ultimately
affect the opponent. Ultimately, this will allow the athlete’s performance to be full of confidence, which
can make opponents afraid and nervous. By educating athletes in tactical methods they can improve
their ability to use them and consciously adapt these methods to the competition situation and fulfill
their tactical purpose.
Tactical Training Methods
Body Weight Adjustment
The goal of body weight adjustment is for the athlete to safely and predictably achieve their
competition body weight while preserving optimal performance. Body weight has an important impact
on an athlete’s competitiveness and results. Not only does body weight determine the athlete’s weight
class and the opponents they will face, but it also can determine their medal placement. For example,
Chen Lijun (62kg) was a favorite to win a gold medal during the 2016 Olympic Games but was unable to
complete any attempts in the snatch due to muscle cramping from cutting weight. Additionally, because
weigh-ins begin 2 hours before the competition begins there is little time to significantly adjust an
athlete’s body weight or overcome side effects that can hinder performance. Therefore, in order to
predictably adjust body weight and allow the athlete to perform optimally, the adjustment must begin
well before the competition as shown in Figure 9 – 1. Generally, adjusting body weight should be
incorporated in the training cycle with the bulk of the weight loss occurring gradually during the basic
preparation phase until 3 – 4 days before the competition where the final drop in weight is mainly due
to water loss. After the competition, the athlete enters their recovery period where they experience an
increase in weight due to water and nutrient uptake.
To implement the plan shown in Figure 9 – 1, Han et al (2008) developed a 4-step process for
identifying an athlete’s ideal body weight which is defined as the weight that both ensures athletes can
engage in a large amount of exercise and withstand the demands of high-intensity training (see Figure 9
– 2). This ideal weight ensures that weight loss measures can be taken to successfully reach competition
weight without significant decreases in body weight, fitness, or performance. The first step is to find an
athlete’s maximal weight. By considering the range of ideal weight fluctuation, ideal body fat
percentage, the training condition, and the status of body functions the authors found that women’s
maximal weight should be 2 – 6% over their intended competition weight by the start of the basic
preparation phase of training. Men should begin basic training at 3 – 7% over their competition weight.
This maximal body weight allows the athlete to recover better during the training cycle, lose weight
gradually at a maximum rate about of about 2% per week in order to avoid impacting performance,
avoid dehydration, and avoid the stress of rapid weight loss before competitions. If an athlete does not
weigh between these ranges, he or she should properly add or lose weight.
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Figure 9 – 1: Weight Fluctuations over the Training Cycle
The second step is to determine an athlete’s ideal body fat percentage. High body fat is “dead
weight” that produces greater stress on the joints while too low body fat can impact normal bodily
functions. Han et al (2008) found the ideal body fat percentage range for women is 12 – 18% and 5 –
14% for men. The third step is that instructors should monitor whether athletes can complete the
required workouts with good technique. As athletes drop weight, their athletic performances should
either remain the same or improve. However, if their performance declines to a large degree then the
instructor should identify the cause. If the weight loss is within the 2% weekly decrease but there is a
decrease in performance, then the instructor should evaluate the training plan and recovery. If the
performance continues to suffer despite these modifications, then the athlete’s ideal body weight
should be. Finally, if the weight loss is greater than the 2% per week and performance decreases then
the instructor must slow down the pace of the weight loss through diet. The fourth step is to examine
different physiological and biochemical indicators to monitor an athlete’s bodily function. When judging
whether an athlete’s bodily function is normal, the three following criteria should be met: 1) there
should be few unusual changes in different indicators, 2) the indicators should change along with the
intensity of the training, and 3) the athletes should be able to recover quickly. Sample indicators include
blood pressure, heart rate, sleep quantity and quality, the athlete’s mood, but Han et al (2008) also
considered biological indicators such as levels and changes in cortisol, hemoglobin, testosterone,
creatine phosphokinase and blood urea-nitrogen. Regardless of the indicators used, the point is that if
any of the indicators display unusual trends then the instructor should find the cause and adjust as
mentioned earlier. By satisfying these four requirements respectively, we can then argue that the
athletes are on track to reaching their ideal body weight.
In order to reach their competition weight, athletes must continue to restrict their food intake
however some athletes might need to restrict their water intake if their dieting did not go well during
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Figure 9 – 2: A Process for Identifying an Athlete’s Ideal Body Weight
the basic training phase. Instructors must be careful with restricting water because this can cause
dehydration, cramps, and overheating, so this should only be implemented in case of emergency. The
GSSI (2017) recommends that athletes should consume drinks or food high in sugar, electrolyte and
vitamins to quickly replenish the energy lost during the water reduction. Typically, athletes should drink
100 – 200 ml of fluid at 15 – 20℃ over frequent intervals until their urine is clear then on an as-needed
basis. Additionally, they should avoid foods that are difficult to digest to avoid upsetting the stomach.
Instead, athletes should eat bread, biscuits, snacks, sandwiches l to replenish energy, reduce hunger,
and maintain blood sugar levels.
Given the ranges in the figures above, it is possible for athletes to fulfill the requirements of the
four factors and hence be eligible to compete in 2 weight classes. This decision will affect the athlete’s
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personal ranking and the team’s ranking such that if the weight classes are chosen properly, some
weaker teams can win over stronger teams. So, choosing a higher or lower weight class is a tactical
question. Instructors should consider the following points when making this decision with their athletes.
First, it is important to understand the rosters for each weight class under consideration. Instructors
should assess the body weight, lifting results, and success rates of the opposition and then decide which
situation places their own athlete in a more advantageous position. Next, the decision should consider
whether it helps the team to win more points or medals. This is often overlooked and can limit the
number of participants in higher-level competitions and prevent the strongest athletes from
representing their province or country. Third, the instructor should assess the athlete’s body weight
relative to the date of the competition. Recall from Han et al (2008) that body weight decreases above
2% per week can negatively impact an athlete’s performance, so if the athlete’s body weight differs too
much from a usual weight class and the competition date is too close, then the athlete should enter a
higher class. Additionally, if a younger athlete is undergoing puberty and it is too difficult to achieve a
lower weight, then they should move up a weight class for long-term gains.
The amount of weight loss will affect training over the last week before the competition. Table 9
– 1 presents alternative strategies used by Chinese athletes based on their habits and weight loss needs
(Gao 2015). In general, the more weight an athlete must lose then the more rest days they need. This is
because athletes may need to restrict their food and fluid intake further to make weight, so they may
feel weak or less energetic during training. This can have negative psychological effects and increase the
risk of injury. On rest days, the athlete can sweat out excess water weight in the sauna and burn calories
by walking around leisurely. During training days, the athlete should lift light weights to train technique
and rehearse their warmup strategy. Additionally, they can do some bodybuilding to stimulate weak
areas and feel confident.
Table 9 – 1: Training Considerations based on Weight Loss before Competition
No Weight Loss
Day
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Arrangement
Train
Train
Train
Train
Train
Train
Compete
Low Weight Loss
Day
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Arrangement
Train
Train
Rest
Train
Train
Rest
Compete
Moderate Weight Loss
Day
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Arrangement
Train
Rest
Train
Rest
Train
Rest
Compete
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Attempt Selection
The main tactical method in weightlifting competition is selecting the athlete’s attempts. If the
selection is correct and is commensurate with the athlete’s athleticism and training level, then it will
allow for a high success rate and good results. However, if the selection is improper or unrealistic then it
will result in low success rates, results, and ranking, and introduces a greater risk of bombing out.
Selecting attempts is a subjective problem but instructors can use objective factors such as the athlete’s
own physical qualities, psychological quality, whether they are cutting weight, their competition
experience, and the attempts of opponents in order to make better decisions.
In terms of physical qualities, the instructor should assess the athlete’s best results, success rate,
stamina, recoverability one month out before the competition. As these qualities increase, the higher an
athlete can open at a competition and the closer the attempts can be to each other. Simulations are
very useful in assessing the athlete’s physical qualities and testing out attempt selection strategies. The
second factor to assess is the athlete’s mental state, of which there are several possibilities. Some
athletes are nervous and lack confidence before competition. This is common among beginners and
those have experienced an adverse experience in competition such as bombing out, failing to reach
targeted numbers, etc. Such athletes need to use psychological methods to remove psychological
barriers (See Chapter 8 on Psychological Training). Additionally, the instructor may need to lower the
first attempt to set a stable tone for the competition. Other athletes are full of confidence before
competition, but they overestimate their own ability. This is common among most junior athletes who
are still not mature after a few years of training and in athletes who have had good competition
experience in the past. Such lifters usually ask the instructor to open heavier, but the instructor should
remain firm in their assessment. While it is important to encourage the athlete’s confidence and
positivity, it is also important to guide this energy towards obtaining a high success rate during
competition. So, the instructor can instead challenge the lifter to make 6 successful lifts in competition.
In the long run, this guidance will help the athlete become a more effective competitor and avoid injury.
Finally, there are athletes who are full of confidence, have clear and calm mind, and are more objective
in estimating their own ability. This is common among senior athletes with more competition
experience. In this case the instructor should combine their analysis with that from the athlete when
determining attempt selection. Usually, both sides agree easily; however, the instructor should avoid
indulging the athlete too much.
The third factor to consider is whether the athlete is cutting weight for the competition.
Athletes in lighter weight classes tend to be impacted more by weight decreases than athletes in heavier
classes since the same amount of weight loss constitutes a greater proportion of a lightweight athlete’s
mass. Additionally, lean athletes experience a bigger impact compared with fatter athletes since there is
a greater chance of losing muscle mass among lean athletes. Athletes with good technique but less
strength will also experience a greater impact on their performance when cutting weight compared to
stronger athletes who are less technical. Finally, cutting weight can have psychological effects which can
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create stress and sap energy. So, instructors will have to monitor an athlete’s behavior and performance
during weight cutting while encouraging athletes to write down how they feel during weight loss in the
training diary. Instructors can use this information to choose and refine their attempt selection
strategies.
A fourth factor to consider when selecting attempts is the athlete’s competition experience. For
beginners with less experience, instructors should choose attempts that ensure a high competition
success rate to build confidence. Occasionally, there are beginners who are more daring and can meet
or exceed their best results even in their first competition. But even for such athletes it is better to let
them succeed in all six lifts and still have more potential rather than risk bombing out or relying on poor
technique. This is especially important in the first competition because it can leave a deep psychological
impression on the athlete that can take a long time to repair. As an athlete gains competition experience
they must lift weights that are closer to or greater than their training bests. However, some athletes
compete many times and still cannot maintain a stable performance. In this case, the instructor should
experiment with different attempt selection strategies if the outcome does not stem from physical or
psychological training. Other athletes bomb out or experience injury when they expect to do well. In
these cases, instructors should evaluate their attempt selection strategies as well as the entire training
process.
The final factor to consider is the attempt selection of the athlete’s opponents. When selecting
attempts, the instructor should analyze how the opponent performed in days leading up to the
competition or during warm-ups, the state of their psychological training, their selected attempts, and
evaluate their probability of success. These factors should not cause the instructor to completely change
their own athlete’s strategy but instead should cause them to review the strategy and consider
adjusting. For example, the instructor should stick to the athlete’s first attempt but the second and third
attempts can be more open to the opponent’s factors.
Once the instructor considers these 5 factors, it is then possible to implement their attempt
selection strategy. Since the athlete only has 3 attempts for the snatch and clean and jerk, it is important
that the strategy follow the principle of “first stabilize, then battle,” which means to build a up a total
before seeking to set personal best or competition records. In practice, the first attempt must be a
weight that the athlete is very confident with and has a success rate of +90%. In high level athletes this
equates to 5 – 10kg less than the athlete’s best lift under normal training conditions. For less
experienced athletes, first attempt can be more than 10kg less for the snatch since it is more technical
than the clean and they are usually most nervous on their first snatch. Selecting the first attempt in this
way provides insurance to change the attempt in competition because it is easier to increase weights
than decrease them and avoids falling into the trap of choosing an opener that is too heavy and that
cannot be changed. If the athlete misses the first attempt, then the athlete should not attempt a heavier
attempt on the second attempt but instead continue to lift the original weight. During this time, the
athlete should calm down, analyze the reason for the failure, search for countermeasures, and aim to
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fight for success in the next attempt. It is easy to conclude that the reason for missing is that the weight
is too light, so some instructors will blindly continue to increase weight, but this strategy adds a mental
and physical stress to the original situation and hence the possibility of failure will remain high. The
instructor can increase the weight only if the reason for the missed lift is due to a technical error and
that the athlete make the adjustment to overcome it with confidence. If the competition is stiff such
that the number of lifts is critical, the instructor and athlete must both agree that the success rate will
still be high after adding weight.
The second attempt should be highly possible, but the athlete may have to fight to ensure it.
Usually it is 5kg greater than the first attempt and will be close to or equal to the athlete’s best result
during training before competition. Second attempts should have at least an 80% success rate with
proper technical training. Of course, if the first attempt is very light, or if the athlete still has a lot of
potential, or it is strategically beneficial, then the second attempt can be increased by 6 – 10kg (with
10kg being more commonly used in heavy weight classes). In cases where the first attempt is successful
but done reluctantly such that the probability of succeeding with an additional 5kg is low, then the
second attempt should be increased by 2 – 3kg. In many cases the second attempt determines the
competition result, so the instructor should be mindful of how this attempt relates to previous
competition results.
The third attempt is the last chance for the athlete to try their best to fight for victory, so it is
usually a battle. The weight is often equal to the athlete’s best result or is an attempt at a new result.
When adding weight for the third attempt (especially in the clean and jerk) the instructor should focus
more on the opponent’s tactical position but also avoid an unnecessary fight and remain realistic about
what is possible. For example, if the opponent has a high third attempt that is beyond of the athlete’s
own capability, but the instructor knows that the probability of success is very low, then the third
attempt should be enough to force the opponent to take that weight or higher. The usual increase on a
third attempt is 2 – 3kg, but if the second attempt was easy then it is possible to add another 5kg.
Regardless, the third attempt should have at least a 50% success rate because otherwise the risk of
failure and injury is too great. In practice it is common to see athletes aim for a higher ranking by adding
too much weight below 50% certainty, but the result is that they achieve no ranking at all.
Following the requirements above and using 100kg as the best pre-competition lift results in 8
general strategies outlined in Table 9 – 2. In normal conditions Types 2 and 4 are more typical among
Chinese athletes, with Type 2 being suitable for beginners with less competition experience and Type 4
is better for higher-level athletes. If the athlete lacks confidence or is coming back from an injury, then
instructors can use Type 1 and Type 3 strategies which start lower. If the goal is to balance stability and
with combat, then the instructor can implement Type 5 and Type 6 strategies. Lu Xiaojun (77kg) often
uses one of these strategies during the snatch whereas Liao Hui (69kg) uses them often on the clean and
jerk; both are World and Olympic Champions. It is common to use Type 7 strategy for heavy weight
grades but athletes like Tian Tao (85kg) used this strategy to secure a silver medal at the 2016 Olympic
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Games. Finally, Type 8 strategy is commonly used under excellent strength conditions and mainly for
combat. This is a more common route during China National Weightlifting Champions and for athletes
like Tian Tao (85kg) who will sometimes clean and jerk 200 – 210kg in his first attempt and then jump to
a world record weight of +218kg and then skip the third attempt. Utilizing these strategies is determined
by the athlete’s habits for increasing weight during normal training as well as their strength, technique,
mental condition and opponent’s condition during competition. Additionally, athletes can use different
strategies for the snatch and clean and jerk.
Attempt
1
2
3
Table 9 – 2: Types of Strategies for Competition Attempts
Type
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
90
93
90
95
93
93
90
95
97
97
100
97
100+
100+
100
100
100
100+
100+
100+
100+
8
95
100+
Under normal conditions the instructor may have one of the strategies from Table 9 – 2
planned; however, they should be flexible in case the athlete does not feel good about their warm-ups,
is sick, experiences injury close to the competition, or some other scenario that it causes a disadvantage.
Usually the instructor should change only the second and/or third attempts if the first attempt remains
guaranteed. Additionally, the attempts should not jump by more than 5kg otherwise the risk of missing
a lift is too high. In fact, flexibility should focus more on reducing weight and save increases for
exceptional circumstances where the outcome heavily relies on using such an increase.
Conclusion
The main competition tactics for weightlifting are body weight adjustments and attempt
selection. Effectively using these tools allows the instructor to control as much of the competition
situation as possible and prepare to maneuver swiftly as the situation evolves. This puts the athlete or
team in a winning situation before the competition begins. One cannot only rely on strength to carry
them to victory in the face of strong and well-prepared opponents, so instructors should practice using
tactics during test events and assess their efficacy. Over time, their athletes will become more
comfortable with competitions and move with ease.
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Chapter 10: Recovery Training
Recovery training is the process of using recuperative methods to help the body overcome
stress and prepare for the next training. In China, recovery training is jointly constructed during the
creation of the overall training plan. This is because training cannot exist without recovery. Under
normal conditions the human body and its biological processes are in a relatively balanced state, but
when the external environment changes such as through planned training then the body’s internal
environment is affected and must adapt to regain balance (Ji and Feng, 1999). However, the speed at
which the body adapts is influenced by the ability to recover from stress, so recovery methods help the
body restore balance more quickly. This will allow the athlete to have more opportunities to practice
lifting heavy weights and raise their overall training level. For high level athletes, depending only on rest
is insufficient for ensuring optimal performance for the next training session. Instructors must
implement planned specialized recovery methods to improve the athlete’s training level. In China, using
recovery methods allows athletes to train 2 – 3 times per day (including morning exercises) or 9 – 13
sessions per week.
Goals of Recovery Training
There are 4 major goals of recovery training. The first is to remove physical and psychological
fatigue. Lifting weights induces damage to the muscles and other connective tissues which can cause
soreness, hinder coordination, and reduce power output. Additionally, lifting weights requires a lot of
concentration and willpower to overcome new personal records which can psychologically fatigue an
athlete. Allowing the mind to recover will help ensure optimal performance into the next session. The
second goal is to speed the body’s adaptation. Both physical and psychological fatigue follow the law of
adaptation so speeding up this process can bring the athlete back to a restored state and restore their
working capability. The quicker this process occurs then the quicker an athlete can reach a higher
training level. The third goal is to help avoid sports injuries and illness. During weightlifting training, the
loads can be very high and if the athlete is fatigued then they may use improper technique or
inadequate muscle activation which puts them at risk for sprains, pulls, or strains. Additionally, some
conditions occur gradually such as overtraining which is a prolonged imbalance between training and
recovery and can result in decreased performance. Avoiding injuries and illness will keep the athlete
progressing toward higher training levels. The final goal is to promote certain healing processes. This can
include promoting blood flow to injured areas, improving nutrient flow, promoting muscular relaxation,
and accelerating venous return. This healing allows injured athletes to return to training quicker and
allow non-injured athletes to confront the next training session in a healed state.
Best Practices for Recovery Training
Recovery training should follow the same principles as general training. First, the instructor
should arrange the type, amount, and duration of recovery training to the amount of exercise and the
athlete’s fatigue response (Ji and Feng 1999). For example, Table 10 – 1 provides a sample recovery plan
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that implements high amounts of recovery training on days where the training intensity is high (Monday,
Wednesday, Friday). The reason for this type of arrangement is because the fatigue response is high
when the loading of a certain area is large, which in turn requires more recovery measures to bring
athletes back into balance. Second, recovery training should be planned concurrently with the training
plan. Therefore, planning recovery training should vary daily, weekly, and monthly as the athlete
proceeds throughout their training cycle. Additionally, there should be a set period for recovery as part
of the annual training plan before engaging in another training cycle (see Chapter 15 on The Training
Plan and Training Diary). If the instructor simply prescribes training and ignores recovery training, then
the plan is incomplete and ultimately limits the athlete’s progress and health. Third, instructors should
regularly implement recovery training to achieve a noticeable effect. Some injuries or types of fatigue
will take more than one session to recover, but if the recovery training is performed infrequently then
the athlete is at risk of reducing their recoverability.
Recovery Methods
Recovery During the Training Process
A complete recovery plan should be a combination of physical and psychological methods used
during and after training to maximize recovery within and between training sessions. Instructors
typically emphasize the lower back, problematic areas, and increasing overall blood flow at the start of a
training session as shown in Table 10 – 1. The lower back is used extensively in weightlifting but can
easily limit one’s training if injured so instructors usually prescribe torso flexion movements such as
reverse hyperextension, regular back extension, reaching to the ground, sitting and reaching towards
one’s feet, or hanging leg raises. Usually these movements are performed for several sets of 10
repetitions, but the point is to use low intensity movements to warm-up the lower back to avoid any
strains or pulls when the lower back extends or flexes. If the lower back is especially tight, instructors
can prescribe light vibrating massage to the lower back or other tight areas prior to training. These
massages should be light enough to allow for sufficient range of motion, promote blood flow, and
relieve tension for the problem area.
The instructor can also implement recovery methods during and after training. For example,
during training the instructor can manipulate training variables for recovery purposes. One method is to
adjust the rest period within each set or even between each training session to give athletes more time
to recover. Another method is to change the training plan for the week, month, or year to adjust the
training load. For example, instructors can reduce the volume or intensity if athletes are having trouble
recovering. They can also implement alternative exercises to load areas that are under-loaded and
reduce stress on overloaded areas. For example, if the athlete uses the split jerk but have a habit of
leaning forward, then they will overload the front leg excessively. In this case the instructor can work on
technique or implement power jerks to train a more vertical movement. Additionally, they can
implement single-leg squats to strength the back leg to strengthen the back leg. At the end of training,
the instructor can implement relaxation exercises session to assist the athlete in transitioning from high
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Table 10 – 1: Sample Weightlifting Recovery Plan
Day of the week
Exercise intensity
Monday
2.5 hours
(high)
Tuesday
1.5
hours
(small)
Wednesday
2.5 hours
(high)
Recovery
Training
Method
Before
Training
1. Flexion
Movement or
Massage
1.
Hanging
leg lifting
etc.
1. Flexion
Movement
End of
Training
2. Inversion
Table or
Hanging
Movement
3. Partial
vibration
massage
5. Hot
Shower
6. Aqua
Massage
7. Deep
Massage or
Acupuncture
or Breathing
exercises
8.
Psychological
Recovery
2. Slow
Jog
2. Inversion
Table or
Hanging
Movement
3. Partial
vibration
massage
5. Hot
Shower
6. Aqua
Massage
7. Vibration
Massage
After
Training
Night
3. Partial
vibration
massage
4. Hot
Shower
5. Steam
Bath
6. Hand
Massage
Thursday
Body
training
1.5 hours
(small)
1. Partial
vibration
and
beating
massage
2. Hot
Shower
3. Aqua
Massage
Friday
2.5 hours
(high)
Saturday
2 hours
(moderate)
1. Flexion
Movement or
Massage
1. Hanging
leg lifting
etc.
2. Inversion
Table or
Hanging
Movement
3. Partial
vibration
massage
5. Hot
Shower
6. Aqua
Massage
7. Deep
Massage or
Acupuncture
or Breathing
exercises
8.
Psychological
Recovery
2. Slow Jog
3. Partial
vibration
massage
4. Hot
Shower
5. Steam
Bath
6. Hand
Massage
Note: Those with condition should add in 2 – 3 times of oxygen absorption or UV radiation
every week.
intensity training into recovery (Ji and Feng 1999). For example, slow, relaxed jogs for 800 – 1200m or 5
– 10 min can increase blood circulation of partially fatigued muscles (especially the lower limbs) and
prevent knee injuries. Additionally, the change from heavy weightlifting to a relaxed jog in an outside
field can reduce mental stress which aides in recovery. This also provides some sunlight exposure which
can aid in developing Vitamin D and promote recovery. Table 10 – 1 places slow jogging on Tuesday and
Saturday, but it can also be used on Thursday during morning body training which usually consists of
callisthenic training.
Athletes can use hanging exercises at the end of training to aide in transitioning into recovery.
The spine is always in the state of compression during training, and height measurements before and
after training have shown that body height can decrease by about 1.5cm after training. Hence, hanging
exercises at the end a heavy training session allows the spine to return to its original state. These
exercises include hanging off a pullup bar straight or bent legs while twisting or flexing left/right.
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Another option is to use an inversion table to stretch upside down and remove fatigue in the waist. The
legs are placed on hooks or special boots to hang the body on a bar, and the athlete controls the degree
of inversion which can allow their nervous system, muscles, especially spine to fully relax. The normal
stretching time to restore body height is 4 – 7 minutes; if the time is too long then the muscles and
ligaments can be overly stretched and enter a nervous, unrelaxed state. Other variations include
hanging the lower body over an object such as a pommel, jerk block, etc. These variations are
implemented daily through the training week.
Recovery Outside of the Training Process
When the athlete is not training, their emphasis should be on recovery. Table 10 – 1 shows that
at the end of training athletes usually receive different types of massage to calm the CNS, dilate
capillaries, improve blood circulation, improve nutrient flow, change the metabolism process, promote
muscular relaxation, accelerate venous return, and reduce the stress on the heart. One technique is
simple massage by hand on an athlete’s body which can be done for 20 – 30 minutes before and after
each training session, after a bath, or before sleep. It is mainly used on areas where the load is the
greatest such as the waist, back, shoulder, thighs, or glutes. This kind of massage can be performed by
training partners or instructors. When using the hands for massage, the technique mainly consists of
rubbing the joints, starting with light pushing, then alternating between rubbing and heavy pushing, and
then adding in pressing, and ending with light push and pull. When massaging muscles, the athlete
should be positioned so that the muscles are fully relaxed, and massage should first start with large
muscles followed by small muscles. Kneading techniques should be used for 60 – 70% of the total time
massage time. The technique also starts with light pushing, then alternating between kneading and
heavy push, pressing, light beating, vibration, and other methods, and ending with light push and
vibration.
Another kind of massage is known as a walking massage, where athletes walk on each other and
massage with the balls of their feet, heel, or arches. it is best for the receiving athlete to lay face down
on a mat and have another athlete stand with one foot turned outward on each of the receiving
athlete’s hamstrings. The standing athlete can use a wall or stick to balance themselves as they step on
the athlete in an alternating fashion. The standing athlete can use both feet for one side once the
receiving athlete relaxes and feels comfortable with the extra pressure. The standing athlete can work
their way up to the glutes while alternating their step and keeping their feet rotated outward. When
massaging the back, the standing athlete should stand sideways and step on the lower back with one
foot while the other foot is on the glutes. This will gradually introduce pressure to the lower back and
allow it to maintain a relaxed state. Additionally, this method avoids standing directly on the spine. The
standing athlete can event use both feet to walk on the back but should not walk for too long because
their body weight can restrict the receiving athlete’s breathing and cause them to tense. The standing
athlete can use their heel or balls of the feet to apply greater pressure to a tight area based on feedback
from the receiving athlete. When walking on the limbs or shoulders, the standing athlete should avoid
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bony prominences such as the shoulder blade, elbow joint, or knee joint. Additionally, the standing
athlete can massage the receiving athlete’s anterior quads if the receiving athlete turns over or sits on a
bench. Additionally, the outer thigh can be walked on if the receiving athlete is lying face down,
externally rotates their leg, and then raises the leg so that the knee forms a 90° angle. The inner thigh
can be walked on if the receiving athlete lays on their back and externally rotates the leg.
Immediately after massage, athletes use bathing methods which can remove excretions on the
skin, improve blood circulation, relax the muscles, and help remove fatigue (Ji and Feng 1999). Usually,
athletes use hot showers at water temperatures of 40 – 45 ℃ for 10 – 15 minutes or 36 – 39 ℃ for 10 –
20 minutes. Athletes can also use steam baths once a week for 15 minutes while other athletes use
contrast showers consisting of a several minutes of hot shower followed by 30 – 60 seconds of cold
shower. Another alternative is the use of whirlpool baths which is a combination of aqua massage and
hot shower.
In the evening, athletes with an injury or other condition can receive soft-tissue treatments such
as specialized massage by a qualified practitioner. Examples include Tui Na massage, cupping, or
electromotor stimulation (see Chapter 14 on Strength Training) which can be used sparingly based on
injuries and the recoverability of different body parts. Acupuncture is a more intense soft-tissue
treatment with various methods and a large literature detailing its effects on reducing fatigue and
promoting recovery (see Zhang and Wei 2011). Because using most of these methods require a
diagnosis and treatment from a licensed or specialized practitioner, they are beyond the scope of this
chapter to detail. For non-injured athletes, evening therapy can consist of breathing exercises and
radiation. Because weightlifting movements are mostly done while holding the breath, hence there is
always a lack of oxygen during training. Replenishing oxygen after training can accelerate the elimination
of fatigue and body recovery. The main breathing method is Qigong which can regulate the nervous
system, improve balance, lower blood pressure, and improve oxygen flow, all of which can improve
recovery (Xi and Wang 2003). Alternatively, a 2 – 2.5 standard atmospheric oxygen chamber for 5 – 10
minutes or inhaling moist oxygen are other methods that can be used during short-term, high-intensity
training (Ji and Feng 1999).
Despite all the methods presented above, the most important recovery is sleep. Athletes should
adhere to a routine sleep schedule and strive to obtain about 8 – 9 hours per night. Table 10 – 2 shows a
typical schedule for a professional Chinese athlete during a high intensity day. While this schedule might
not be practical for amateur athletes, the importance of sleep still stands. Generally, sleep should occur
at 17℃ ±3 for with minimal noise and light to ensure deep rest and relaxation (Ji and Feng 1999). When
athletes perform 2 training sessions per day, instructors encourage 1 – 2 hour naps in between the
morning and evening sessions as shown in Table 10 – 2.
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Table 10 – 2: Sample Daily Schedule for High Intensity Days
Time
5:30 – 6:30
7:00 – 8:00
8:30 – 9:15
9:30 – 11:30
11:45 – 13:00
13:30 – 15:00
15:30 – 18:30
18:45 – 19:45
20:00 – 21:30
21:45 – 5:30
Activity
Morning Exercise
Breakfast
Light Massage
Morning Training
Lunch
Nap
Afternoon Training
Dinner
Massage or Therapy
Sleep
Additionally, nutrition is an important recovery method for replenishing energy and repairing
muscle tissue. The 2017 weightlifting nutritional recommendations from the Guangxi Sports Science
Institute (GSSI 2017) encourage athletes to eat at least 3 meals per day with breakfast accounting for
25% of the total daily caloric intake, lunch accounting for 40%, and dinner accounting for 35%. Breakfast
is a smaller meal because, as Table 10 – 2 shows, it is after morning exercises (usually calisthenics or
team sports) but about 90 min before morning training. Athletes are not usually hungry because the
blood flow is concentrated in the muscles, but they must refuel before morning training and have
sufficient time to digest. Therefore, breakfast tends to be a smaller meal and emphasizes a balance of
protein, fat, carbohydrates and fiber to sustain athletes. Lunch is the largest meal of the day because
athletes usually have 2 hard training sessions in between so they need to replenish their body from the
first session and refuel for the second session. Therefore, athletes should focus on starchy
carbohydrates, fruits, and protein during lunch. Sometimes athletes will difficulty eating a lot during
lunch, so they can consume whey protein drinks and vitamin water during training to maintain their
energy and performance. Other athletes drink energy drinks containing 50g of sugar or eat various types
of bean soups with broth and sugar immediately after training to provide a combination of fast-burning
and slow-burning carbohydrates for energy and protein for muscle regeneration. Regardless of whether
the athlete consumes adequate carbohydrates before or after training, they should consume 1000 –
1500ml of fluid per kg of body weight lost during exercise. Fluids should contain sodium and potassium
to maintain adequate hydration and electrolyte balance. Additionally, drinks should be about 13℃ and
non-carbonated to hydrate quickly and avoid upsetting the stomach. Finally, dinner is moderately sized
because the athlete is less active for the rest of day. Since this is usually the last meal, athletes are
encouraged to eat protein and lots of vegetables to spur slow digestion through the evening and into
the next morning. They can also consume more carbohydrates if they did not consume energy drinks or
soups immediately after training.
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Table 10 – 3: Recommended and Actual Dietary Habits among Chinese Weightlifters
Macronutrient
Carbohydrates
Protein
Fat
Survey Results
25 – 53%
2 – 50%
25 – 45%
Recommended
55 – 65%
20 – 33%
12 – 15%
In general, the GSSI (2017) recommends weightlifters under 75kg of bodyweight to consume
2250 – 4200kcal per day while athletes over 75kg should consume 3700 – 4700kcal per day, however
exact amounts should be based on the athlete’s weight class, gender, and where they are in the training
cycle. The GSSI provides several macronutrient recommendations in third column of Table 10 – 3. First,
carbohydrates should account for 55 – 65% of the total daily caloric intake because weightlifters need to
replenish muscle glycogen used during training. In practice, athletes are encouraged to eat rice,
porridge, noodles, and buns at their meals. Additionally, athletes should consume fruits and vegetables
to provide carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Second, protein should consist of 20 – 33% of the
total daily caloric intake because protein is the building block for developing muscle tissue and hence
strength. Athletes should consume various types of lean meat, beans, and tofu for their protein. Third,
fat intake should consist of 12 – 15% of the total daily caloric intake and can be consumed by nuts,
seeds, and eggs.
However, the GSSI surveyed weightlifter diets and the results in the second column of Table 10
– 3 shows that athletes do not follow the recommendations on average. This is because there are
significant cultural differences in food preferences among Chinese provinces, some of which use fattier
meats which results in a high fat intake and low protein intake. Additionally, some Chinese cuisine
heavily rely on stir-fry or deep-fry cooking methods, so athletes tend to get double or triple the
recommended amount fat. Training bases are encouraged to use leaner meats and either steam or boil
food to reduce fat intake, but cultural preferences make this transition slow to implement. However,
implementing GSSI recommendations have been shown to stabilize blood glucose levels, lower total and
low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, lower triglycerides, increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL)
cholesterol, and improve body composition (Liu 2015). Therefore, bases that adopt these standards will
see improved results among their athletes.
Finally, supplements are used to address deficiencies and replenish other compounds. These are
necessary because athletes sometimes lose hunger during times of high loading. For example, Ji and
Feng (1999) recommend athletes increase their intake of Vitamin B, Vitamin C (100mg per day during
training, 300mg during competition), Vitamin D, and Vitamin E. Chen and Lai (2006) recommend using
creatine to enhance the ATP cycle which improves exercise capacity and performance during highintensity movements. They suggest loading for 5 – 7 days with 0.3g/kg of body weight and then
maintaining at 0.03g/kg of body weight. Athletes will also consume amino acid tablets if their food
intake is too low during main meals. Additionally, traditional Chinese herbs and remedies such as teas,
ginseng, royal jelly, and herbal soups are used to boost the immune system and promote recovery. In a
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study of Shandong athletes treated with herbal soups, Liu, Wu, and Xie (2004) reported that athletes
had greater lung capacity, lower heart rate, and lower rating of perceived exertion (see Chapter 13 on
Exercise Load) after treatment. They recommend consulting with a trained doctor of Chinese medicine
to prepare tonics that address the qi requirements of the athlete.
Psychological Recovery Methods
Weightlifting requires focus, confidence, and determination, which can drain the athlete’s
mental energy. So the athlete can incorporate psychological recovery methods tailored to their specific
needs. The primary strategy is to reduce the mental stress from weightlifting so that athletes are not
impacted or drained as much during and after training. To make the athlete’s mind more resistant to
stress, instructors should incorporate self-talk, visualization, relaxation, concentration, and willpower
strategies from Chapter 8. Additionally, Wu and Zhou (2001) recommend that athletes engage in
leisurely activities which they call ‘positive rest.’ Organizing a colorful leisure life twice a week for 30
minutes at a time on the night of the most intensive exercise of the week can help athletes take their
mind off training. This includes engaging in personal hobbies such as watching TV, shopping, going
online, etc. and is independent of leisure during off days. Listening to music is particularly effective in
easing an athlete’s mind and recovering from mental stress (Li 2015).
Conclusion
Recovery training allows the body to regain balance after training, reduces the risk of injury, and
promotes healing, making it an integral part of an athlete’s training rhythm. Recovery training can take
place around and within the training session and can be physical or psychological in nature. Additionally,
the amount of recovery training should be arranged in line with actual training, so instructors should
implement a recovery plan to balance their training plan. With an effective plan, athletes can train hard
while avoiding injuries or overtraining and reach their goals faster.
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Chapter 11: Intellectual Training
Intellectual training is the planned process of purposefully educating athletes on basic exercise
theory and weightlifting. Modern weightlifting training in China is becoming more scientific and
integrating knowledge from other scientific fields to advance results. For example, sports scientists can
produce kinesiological and kinematic data of an athlete’s movement using 3D motion technology and
even mobile applications. These data can be used to identify strengths and weaknesses in an athlete’s
movement. Additionally, researchers can statistically analyze the correlations of assistance movements
to the snatch and clean and jerk for a group of athletes to create standards for other athletes to follow.
Understanding these relationships can help athletes see where they need to improve and understand
their own programming better. Furthermore, sports doctors can provide summary statistics about an
athlete’s health and provide recommendations for the athlete to improve. For example, if the athlete
has high cholesterol then they can modify their diet. If their hormones indicate overtraining, then they
can work with the instructor to modify their training. As weightlifting incorporates modern scientific
knowledge, athletes must have a basic knowledge of general science, sport science, and weightlifting
theories.
Goal of Intellectual Training
The goal of intellectual training is to improve the athlete’s understanding of their body,
performance, and sport. When athletes possess a higher level of understanding then they will know why
and how they should modify their behavior to achieve greater results. They can also use their knowledge
of technical methods to understand the instructor’s intent faster, consciously master technique and
tactics, and use their understanding of the general training pattern to construct a more effective training
plan with their instructor. While on the surface some outsiders may think intellectual training has little
relation to achieving high goals, and in fact some believe that athletes should only focus on lifting, but
the Chinese weightlifting system integrates intellectual training as one of the main components of an
athlete’s overall competitive ability (see Chapter 5 on Weightlifting Training Principles).
Best Practices for Intellectual Training
Building an athlete’s understanding of basic anatomy, physiology, sports medicine,
biomechanics, sports psychology, biochemistry, and other training principles is a gradual process so it
should be included before/during/after training or during separate sessions. Many of the best practices
are the same as the best practices for coaching (see Chapter 4 on Weightlifting Coaching Methods). For
example, the instructor should combine theory with practice by using technology such as videos, charts,
data, and other media to clarify what the athlete must be aware of during their training. Technology and
teaching methods should fit the athlete’s learning style (i.e. auditory, kinesthetics, visual) to have a
maximum effect. One common practice is to have athletes write their thoughts in their training diary
and discuss with the instructor to learn about their training fluctuations. Advanced athletes can develop
their own training plan with reference to the training outline and under the guidance of the instructor.
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Another best practice is that instructors should provide explanations that are appropriate to the
athlete’s age and experience, establishing fundamental knowledge first and then building on higher level
explanations as the athlete gains experience, understanding, and body awareness. For example, if the
athlete does not get enough sleep and has poor training, the instructor can explain the basic importance
of sleep on the body and general recovery. Later, the instructor can explain the basic theory of training
adaptation as the athlete becomes more familiar with the training plan and realizes the results. When
teaching technique to beginners, instructors should rely on explaining and demonstrating the 5 Words
since they are easy to teach. Advanced concepts like the 3 gravity principles should be introduced much
later if simpler explanations and demonstrations fail to achieve sufficient understanding to fix a
technical issue.
Furthermore, athletes should watch and help each other so that all of them can learn and
improve. For example, the instructor can organize athletes to analyze each other’s technique during
training and suggest ways to improve (Duan and Yang 2007). Alternatively, the instructor can organize
athletes after training to watch technical videos and analyze the techniques they see. Additionally,
instructors can hold sessions explaining competition rules so that athletes understand how to perform
well and learn about competition tactics. During test events and competitions, the instructor can have
their athletes assist or observe by watching teammates warm-up, watch the scoreboard to analyze
competition tactics, help load, or judge lifts. Organizing these events should not affect normal training
and competition, and instead should have a complimentary effect on the normal training. The goal is
NOT to make the athlete an instructor but rather help them learn about weightlifting so that they can
obtain a deeper understanding of their own performance.
Finally, the instructor should implement a positive learning environment to inspire athletes to
ask questions and have a desire to learn. These steps build trust, respect, confidence, and a team
mentality. The instructor can do this by encouraging the athlete to ask questions and offer their opinions
when asked. This can keep athletes engaged during training and make them feel they are contributing to
the training session rather than simply participating. If an athlete gives a wrong answer, then the
instructor should guide the athlete to the correct answer rather than tell them they are wrong. For
example, when asking why an athlete missed a jerk it is easy for inexperienced eyes to focus on the
catch and say that the lockout was not strong enough. However, this is rarely the case for missing a jerk
and oftentimes the result is due to an improper dip and brake, or even an improper start position. In this
case the instructor can challenge athletes to try and notice any earlier problems during the start position
or dip and brake. Finally, the instructor should congratulate athletes who give the correct answer so that
they are more willing to stay engaged during training. This practice should does not have to be used
during every session, exercise, or lift but it should be used as a teachable moment that athletes can
apply henceforth.
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Methods of Intellectual Training
Intellectual training is part of an instructor’s general teaching style therefore the methods are
the same as those for communicating concepts, teaching technique, correcting mistakes, and preventing
injury presented in Chapter 4 (On Weightlifting Coaching Methods). The main difference is that
intellectual training uses those methods to teach athletes about a broader range of topics than simply
technique.
Conclusion
Athletes should strive to learn about themselves and their peers to master technique and tactics
to enhance their overall competitive ability. Intellectual training aims to provide athletes with an
understanding of general and weightlifting scientific knowledge so that they can understand the
instructor’s intent, modify their behavior to give their training more purpose, and reach their peak level
of skill quicker. Therefore, instructors should integrate knowledge gradually during the training process
as the athlete develops experience and understanding. This training is not meant to turn the athlete into
an instructor but rather to help them become their own expert
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Chapter 12: Mentality Training
Mentality training differs from psychological training in that mentality training focuses on
building the athlete’s general attitude to help them overcome the rigors of training and competition and
provide positive energy to inspire their teammates to do their best. By contrast, psychological training
focuses more on how to adapt to and overcome changes in the athlete’s general environment. Both
work on developing a mentally strong athlete capable of withstanding stresses from training and
competition. The athlete’s general mindset can greatly affect their physical performance which can be
advantageous or disadvantageous depending on the athlete. For example, athletes with a hardworking
mindset can endure the years of training necessary to become a champion; they can adhere to a training
program faithfully and work to realize its effects. By contrast, athletes without such a mindset might
give up or have suboptimal training even if the training program is sound. This mindset can spill over to
affect other athletes and reduce the team’s morale. Hence, it is important to complete training and
competition in a way to guarantee victory, and it begins by athletes undergoing mentality education
during the entire process of training and competition.
Goal of Mentality Education
The main goal of mentality education is to develop a positive attitude towards training. In
general, this goal consists of 2 elements which instructors should strive to build. First is to motivate
athletes to work hard and strive for success. This is necessary for athletes to continue to improve and
reach new personal bests. Second is to develop their passion in weightlifting and be faithful to the sport.
If athletes love the sport then they are less likely to feel bored or be deterred by fatigue, soreness, and
the rigors of training. Mentality training is not as obvious as technical training or athletic training, but it
underlies these systems and can guarantees their direction and smoothness. Hence, mentality is
essential for an athlete’s success.
Best Practices for Mentality Education
In China, athletes spend more time with their instructors and teammates than with their own
families. It is important for instructors to build relationships with athletes that are harmonious and
trusting for athletes to feel good about their training situation. Instructors are encouraged to have heart
to heart to understand their athlete’s thought process. For example, the instructor can learn what they
are motivated by, their feelings about training, how they process winning and losing, and assess their
relationships with teammates. With this knowledge, the instructor can persuade and convince athletes
of key points and facts to help find motivation, overcome fears, process winning and losing in
constructive ways, and maintain positive relationships. Over time the instructor will be viewed as a
mentor and friend but also an authority which athletes will be willing to work hard for and cooperate
with. To maintain this respectful relationship, instructors should avoid relaxing around the athlete or
using their authority to pressure the athletes.
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Additionally, the instructor should work to create a positive environment to provide such
coordination builds a support network for the athlete. Other instructors, leaders, parents, and training
partners should all be involved and united in supporting the athlete to build a positive attitude towards
training. While this effort could come from head instructors or officials, athletes generally respect their
own instructors the most so the instructor can take this initiative, especially in building a cohesive group
among training partners. It is important for the athlete to receive a unified message to establish and
reinforce norms of excellence, hard work, humility, and respect. When there is a discrepancy in opinion,
everyone must work it out and try to reach an agreement.
Mentality Training Methods
The first method in developing a positive attitude is to motivate the athlete to work hard,
analyze themselves, and strive to improve. The method requires several steps. First, instructors must
give athletes structure but also require athletes to be actively involved in the training process. For
example, instructors can make athletes responsible showing up on time to training, meals, and
appointments; warming themselves up, loading their own bar, writing down their reps and sets and
thoughts as part of the training diary (see Chapter 15 on Training Plan and Diary); taking steps to eat
properly and massaging each other after training. Additionally, instructors can include athletes in
scheduling these activities once they understand how to conduct them. Furthermore, the instructor can
provide options for these activities such as letting athletes choose how to load their own bar, how to
progress in weight, which foods to eat, etc. Second, athletes must understand the process so they can
train when necessary or when the instructor is away or working with another athlete. Instructors can
show how to implement certain methods so that athlete will need less guidance when conducting
training. Third, athletes must integrate training with their overall purpose. As instructors explain how
training methods will contribute to the athlete’s development and goals, athletes will see their success
as a natural outcome of their hard work. At this point they will automatically work on improving
themselves, adapting, and overcoming challenges because they know which methods work best for
themselves and they contribute to their overall athletic purpose. During this time, instructors can guide
the athlete through their training rather than actively manage it.
The second method for building a positive attitude is to build a cohesive team among athletes.
This is important because many instructors in China usually have more than one athlete and a negative
attitude from one athlete can affect the mentality of other athletes. Building a cohesive team requires
several steps. First, instructors can train athletes on the same platform, compete in the same
competitions, and attend presentations, seminars, and camps together. These situations provide
athletes the opportunity to interact with each other and form a group mentality. Professional training
bases in China are constructed to enhance this interaction by having athletes stay in the same
dormitory, eat at the same dining hall, train in the same gym, and require athletes to travel together for
competition. The second step is to establish norms of behavior that encourage athletes to try hard and
support each other. For example, instructors should require athletes to load for each other, massage
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each other, cheer for each other and point out how these individual actions contribute to the group’s
success. This will build trust and support among athletes and create value to being part of the group
which builds a positive mentality towards training. A related strategy includes establishing a rating
system that encourages positive habits and behavior. Such systems begin by the instructor setting an
example, motivating everyone to follow, and then rating athletes with clear criteria. For example,
athletes can be rated on the cleanliness of their rooms, how well they clean up the training area and
maintain equipment, etc. These types of activities build structure and discipline which the athletes can
apply to training and other aspects of their lives.
A corollary to establishing group norms is to establish appropriate rewards and punishments.
Rewards can be a combination of praise and material rewards while punishments should be carried out
with the purpose of educating everyone. When athletes fail to help their fellow athletes, instructors can
point out how this action can hurt their training partner but can also hurt the athlete. For example, if an
athlete allows themselves to become distracted and fail to spot an athlete during a heavy squat, then
the instructor can explain how this behavior will hurt the athlete performing the exercise and can
possibly injure the athlete spotting. When rewarding and punishing an athlete, the instructor must be
fair in using these incentives so that athletes can differentiate between what is correct and incorrect.
When athletes have good performances, the instructor should compliment them to increase their
motivation and passion for the sport; on the other hand, when they make mistakes the instructor should
critique them and encourage them to work harder. Over-complimenting athletes will make them boast
about themselves while over-criticizing them will demoralize them; therefore, the instructor should
critique at the right place and time to avoid hurting the athletes’ self-esteem but still maintain humility.
Conclusion
Mentality training involves creating an environment that the athlete views positively so that
they are willing to work hard and strive for success. Once this environment is in place, then it is much
easier for athletes to withstand the rigors of training and face challenges head on. If an athlete has a
negative or ambivalent view of training, then they are less likely to strive for their highest potential.
Additionally, their attitude can spill over to other athletes and prevent them from enjoying training.
While mentality training is not the most obvious of the 7 training systems of Chinese weightlifting, it
allows for an effective implementation of the other systems.
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Chapter 13: Exercise Load
Exercise load is the physiological load during training. From the law of adaptation, the exercise
load given to an athlete during training gives the athlete a certain degree of stimulus to promote
strength. The greater the stimulus, the greater the body’s reaction, and after recovery the more
supercompensation. If the exercise load is small, then the stimulus and body’s reaction is small, so the
body function cannot improve as well. On the other hand, if the exercise load is too large then the
stimulus can overburden the athlete and create too much fatigue prior to the next session or injury.
Hence, a level of exercise load is justified by whether the body function is improving over time (Ji and
Feng 1999). To maximize results instructors must arrange exercise loads within the limits of the athlete’s
recovery and their ability to endure exercise stress, known as exercise capacity.
Physical Indicators of Weightlifting Load
Before the instructor can arrange and manipulate load there must be a way to measure it. Loads
can be measured quantitatively such as by volume, intensity, duration, frequency, and qualitatively such
as by movement characteristics and psychological effects (Fan 2005). Table 13 – 1 presents some sample
calculations for various loading factors which can be used to assess exercise load, track their exercise
capacity, and modify training if necessary (Yang 2013).
Table 13 – 1: Sample Load Calculations
Volume
Sets
Snatch
CJ
Snatch
Pull
Push
Press
Back
Squat
Tonnage
8
Total
Reps
16
9
8
Intensity
Duration
Density
Movement
Best
Results
100
Avg
Intensity
0.86
Min
Sets/min
Reps/min
Property
1370
Avg
Wt
85.6
24
0.33
0.67
Competition
19
2030
106.8
130
0.82
27
0.33
0.70
Competition
24
2280
95.0
105
0.90
16
0.50
1.50
Heavy
8
21
1410
67.1
80
0.84
16
0.50
1.31
Moderate
8
23
3170
137.8
170
0.81
20
0.40
1.15
Heavy
1.07
221
41
103
10260
99.6
117.0
0.85
103
0.41
Total
Note: Avg WT = Tonnage/Total Reps. Avg Intensity = Avg Wt/ Best Results.
The first factor is volume which is the total amount of exercise and can refer to variety of
training aspects. As Table 13 – 1 shows it can refer to the number of repetitions, sets, or tonnage for a
given set, a given movement, or training session. Volume can also refer to the number of movements in
a training session or a combination of the factors above such as the average weight for a single
movement or entire training session. Another factor is intensity which is calculated as a percentage of
the athlete’s 1 rep maximum (1RM). As Table 13 – 1 shows, intensity can refer to the intensity of a single
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movement, average intensity for a single movement, but it can also be the total average intensity for an
entire session.
The third factor is duration which refers to the time for completing a single movement or all the
movements within a session. The duration values in Table 13 – 1 include rest periods but they need not
always incorporate them. For example, an instructor might be interested in measuring total resting time
which is how much time an athlete spends resting between sets, movements, or in the entire training
session. This is useful to learn how athletes pace themselves, provide clues about which movements
fatigue the athlete the most, also show how arranging movements affects an athlete through a session,
and provide an idea about an athlete’s recovery when comparing across weeks of training. When
calculating duration, one can also include the warm-up and cool down for a session or simply count the
pure training time, however, most calculations exclude these portions (Table 13 – 1 does not include
warm-ups and cooldowns). A related and fourth factor is the density of training which is the ratio of the
volume and duration, usually expressed as repetitions per minute or sets per minute. As with other
factors, density can be measured for the individual movement density and the entire session. Usually,
calculating duration statistics is more cumbersome especially for many athletes but they are useful for
measuring an athlete’s exercise capacity, minimizing session times to allow for more frequent training
sessions, or burning more calories if the athlete needs to lose weight.
The fifth factor consists of movement characteristics which qualitatively measure the amount of
stress on the body. Some movements create a large stress on the body such as deadlift while other
movements such as triceps extension will have a localized stress on the body. Generally, movements are
separated into competition movements, heavy loaded movements, moderately loaded movements, and
lightly loaded movements (as shown in Table 13 – 1). These are broad categories and can be subdivided
based on the movement’s characteristics such as static vs dynamic, squat-based vs pull-based, upper
body-based vs lower body-based, etc. Describing movements in this way has several benefits for new or
less experienced instructors. First it helps the instructor think of the overall stress of a training session
and which movements or qualities they want to prioritize. Second, it can provide a check to make sure
certain areas or qualities are not overtrained or neglected. Third, it reminds the instructor to arrange the
load of a movement according to its characteristics and the desired stimulus. For example, if one wishes
to avoid overstressing a local area like triceps, then they can prescribe a light movement overhead press
instead of push press or prescribe an alternative movement that does not use the area intensely like a
row (where the triceps act as dynamic stabilizers rather than a prime mover or synergist). This would
may require reorganizing the session. For example, if rows replaced push press in Table 13 – 1 but the
instructor still wanted to include heavy squats, then rows should be placed at the end to avoid fatiguing
the back too much prior. However, it is difficult to squat heavy after heavy pulls, so the instructor may
have to modify pulls as “moderate.” Alternatively, if the instructor wishes to strengthen the triceps then
they can prescribe jerk recoveries or triceps extensions while adjusting the program.
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Biological Indicators of Weightlifting Load
For most instructors and athletes, the physical indicators above are the foundation for tracking
loading; however, quantitative and qualitative biological indicators serve increasingly important roles for
furthering results in China. Researchers and scientists conduct biochemical monitoring to help select
athletes for weightlifting, help instructors test training methods, and evaluating the athlete’s recovery.
However, frequent monitoring for individuals is usually reserved for assessing high level athletes
because they require longer periods of loading to induce a training stimulus due to their high levels of
conditioning. Since these loading periods can easily lead to overtraining, it is necessary to use
biochemical indicators to track the athlete’s response to the load. While monitoring biochemical
indicators requires specialized sports scientists which limits its practicality, it is still useful to understand
biological indicators and how they respond to training so that instructors know how their training
impacts the athlete.
Currently there is no single direct biochemical indicator of exercise load, so in practice baseline
levels of a variety of indicators must be gathered by specialists for individual athletes and combined with
reference values (Gui, Chen, and Cao 2004). Table 13 – 2 summarizes the response for popular
indicators used by the Chinese National Team (Li 2013). The first is serum creatine kinase (CK) which is
one of the key enzymes for energy metabolism in skeletal muscle cells and can serve as indicator for
muscle damage. Zhang (2012) notes that CK increases in response to increased training loads and
decreases after adaptation, but that long-term increases of more than 200 IU/L indicate excessive
exercise. He also notes that the levels differ among men and women with normal ranges falling between
10 – 1000 IU/L for men and 10 – 60 IU/ L for women. Gui, Chen, and Cao (2004) remark that generally CK
levels rise mildly within 0 – 2 hours after high-intensity exercise, significantly within 8 hours, and peaks
within 16 – 24 hours before falling back to baseline; however, there are large individual differences in
recovery.
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Table 13 – 2: Summary of Biochemical Response to Training Stimulus
Biochemical Indicator
General Response to Training Stimulus
Creatine Kinase
Increases in response to the training and
decreases after adaptation. Long-term
increases can signify overtraining.
Testosterone
Decreases in response to loading but returns
to normal after recovery. Long-term
decreases can indicate overtraining.
Cortisol
Increased training intensity, the cortisol
increased
Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)
Increases early on in response to loading but
then decreases back to normal after training.
Large changes or long-term upward trends
can indicate overtraining.
Hemoglobin
When the training state is improved, the
content of hemoglobin increased, the
athletes to participate in the competition
results are generally better. Heavy training
early in the concentration of ketones will
increase, with the training, the athletes in
the state of excessive training, hemoglobin
content decreased, function
Testosterone and cortisol are two important indicators of exercise load and are usually assessed
together for greater accuracy. The level of blood testosterone has a direct effect on strength due to its
ability to enhance a muscle’s protein synthesis which can improve the muscle strength, assist in
recovery, and increase one’s training level and competition results (Tang 2001), among other functions.
Cortisol is a stress hormone which can serve as an indicator of an athlete’s recovery from stress. Ouyang
(1991) found that the level of serum blood testosterone for an ordinary man is around 20.97 nmol/l,
however the level among top male weightlifters are over 27.97 nmol/l or more. For instance, he found
the testosterone level of 1984 Olympic champion Zeng Guoqiang’s (52kg) 2 to be 35.66 nmol/l. Huang
and Zhu (2004) note that women’s serum testosterone is about 1/10th that of men, however Hu, He and
Wang (1994) found that female weightlifters tend to have higher testosterone levels (2.05 nmol/l)
compared to non-weightlifting women (1.43 nmol/l). Ouyang (1991) found that the level of serum
cortisol of weightlifters at is 545 nmol/l which is higher than the average level of athletes from other
sports event (471 nmol/l). While part of the differences between weightlifters and other individuals is
certainly due to athletic selection, Wang, Qi, and Chen (2004) note that the duration, density, intensity,
and overall stress from training can induce changes in serum testosterone. In general, they find that
3F1F1F
2
Zeng was China’s first Olympic gold medalist in weightlifting. He was also 1983 Youth Olympic Champion, 1984
World Champion and Asian Champion.
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short bouts of strength training at above-average intensity can increase blood testosterone levels while
long-term loading at high intensities can lower levels and result in overtraining if there is insufficient
recovery. Additionally, reasonable strength training at average intensities can also increase testosterone
or leave levels unchanged. Yan and Zhao (2005) found that serum cortisol increases largely after bouts
of maximal loading, periods of high volume, and repetitive training while testosterone trends
downward. However, they note that consistently high levels of cortisol can injure muscle cells and some
experts recommend that the ratio between testosterone and cortisol should not decrease by more than
30% over time (Li 2015).
Another indicator is the change in an athlete’s blood urea nitrogen (BUN) which can reflect their
adaptability to a training load. Zhang (2012) notes that BUN generally increases at the beginning of
loading due to increased catabolism but then returns to normal after recovery. He recommends
measuring BUN before training and the next morning. If the difference is greater than 3 mmol/L, then
the athlete has reached the fatigue threshold; a difference of 2 mmol/L shows that the loading is large,
but the athlete is capable of adapting; and a difference of less than 1 mmol/L indicates that the loading
is too small. He also notes that these changes should be combined BUN with upper limit thresholds
which can range from 4 – 8 mmol/L depending on the athlete. If a training cycle is assessed using blood
urea, blood measurements may be taken at the beginning, middle, and end of the training cycle to
evaluate whether BUN increases early on and then decreases back to normal levels. The amount of
exercise should be controlled at the beginning of the training period and increased, and then gradually
decreased to normal levels.
Finally, another commonly used indicator is hemoglobin (Hb) levels which are stable under
normal circumstances but are affected by training load, body function, nutritional status, hypoxia, and
air pressure (Cui 2014). In general, Hb increases as the athlete’s fitness increases and decreases when
they are overtrained (Wu and Liu 2006). The normal range of hemoglobin in males 120 – 160g/L and 110
– 150g/L in females, but training will be affected if Hb falls below 130g/L for males and 110g/L in
females (Zhang et al 2008). Additionally, athletes experience natural fluctuations such as lower Hb levels
during cold months and women will have lower levels during menstruation (Cui 2014). Because
individuals can also vary in their baseline Hb levels and in their response to training, instructors and
researchers should monitor Hb levels over time and create ‘average’, ‘high’, and ‘low’ standards for a
given athlete.
Psychological Indicators of Weightlifting Load
Training is not a purely physical activity; Figure 13 – 1 shows the interrelationship between
physical and psychological stimuli and responses as depicted in (Zhang 1995). An external stimulus can
be physical (such as a high-intensity lift) or psychological (such as an opening attempt at a competition)
or both (such as a PR competition attempt) as indicated by the double-arrowed vertical line on the left.
A high-intensity lift can cause the athlete to respond physically through increased heart rate, breathing,
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Figure 13 – 1: Relationships between Physical and Psychological Stimuli and Responses
etc. as indicated by the top horizontal line but it can also produce a psychological response such as
increased aggression as indicated by the downward diagonal line. A mentally stressful lift (but not
necessarily heavy lift) such as a first attempt at competition can cause the athlete to respond
psychologically through aggression or fear as indicated by the bottom horizontal line but can also cause
the body to respond physically through cramps, shakes, etc. as indicated by the upward diagonal line.
Additionally, these responses can reinforce each other as indicated by the right vertical arrows. Overall,
the diagram shows that training can be physically and psychologically stressful which produces
interrelated physical and psychological responses.
One important conclusion from Figure 13 – 1 is that psychological stress is not always consistent
with the physical stress from training. Sometimes the physical load is small, but the psychological load is
large such as during technical training, and sometimes the physical loads are large, but the athlete
experiences a small amount of psychological load such as during times when athletes accumulate
volume during the training cycle (Zhang 1992). In both cases the athlete performs a perceived exertion
based on their body’s physical and psychological reaction. Instructors must use observation to make
sure the athlete’s training is consistent with the expected reaction (Long 2014) but they can supplement
their observation by using the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale. There are many versions of RPE
scales but a scale from 1 – 10 as shown in Figure 13 – 2 is used primarily in strength training (Zhu, Tang,
Zhu 2013). The scale is used to subjectively rate the difficulty of an exercise, training session, or training
week and provides an indicator of an athlete’s ability for a given day. Research has shown that higher
loads have been reliably correlated with higher RPE values (Yi 2012) so an RPE of 10 is rated as a
maximal effort by the athlete and values 7 – 10 are being optimal for building power and/or maximal
strength.
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Figure 13 – 2: Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale
RPE values have several major advantages. First, they inform the instructor’s decision making.
Sometimes a movement looks good to the instructor but still feels very difficult for the athlete.
Increasing the load under this scenario can overload the athlete and lead to excess fatigue or injury but
this result will appear random because the instructor and athlete have different assessments of the
training. With RPE values the instructor has more information to base their loading decisions which help
them better analyze their athlete’s movement and adjust the training plan more individually. Second,
RPE values allow instructors to follow the training situation to manage the loading rather than predict
precise loads that may be too much or too little. This is because when the athlete is recovered then they
will lift a heavier weight for given RPE whereas a lighter weight will yield the same RPE value if they are
fatigued and this result holds across men and women (Gao, Bao, and Ji 2011). Additionally, when the
athlete is fully recovered they will be able to lift more volume to achieve or maintain a given RPE value
whereas less volume will generate the same RPE value when the athlete is fatigued. So, instructors can
encourage athletes to go heavier or do more volume when the movement quality is good and the RPE is
low, alternatively they can decrease the weight if the movement quality is good but the athlete reports
a high RPE. This concept can be extended over each training week as well. For example, if the athlete is
fatigued in one week and reported high RPE values for some sessions and on target RPE values for
others, then the instructor can modify the loading in the following week for sessions that were too
intense while leaving the loading for other sessions unchanged.
More advanced methods for measuring psychological load include the biological indicators
described above since physical stress can induce psychological stress; however, researchers also use
pure psychological scales to give instructors more data about the athlete. For example, the athlete
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burnout questionnaire (ABQ) is a 15-item questionnaire that measures a score for emotional and
physical exhaustion, devaluation of one’s self, and reduced sense of accomplishment in the sport, as
well as a global score (Tian et al 2008). Another popular scale is the profile of mood states (POMS) which
is used to measure an athlete’s tension, depression, anger, vigor, fatigue, confusion and a global score of
these feelings from a rating of adjectives that they feel or have felt recently. The degree of these
feelings is used to diagnose whether the athlete is overtraining. Regardless of the method, it is
necessary to measure an athlete’s psychological load over time to establish a baseline and trend.
Arranging Exercise Load
After a large amount of exercise, the fatigue reaction of the body will also be large, the changes
will be deeper, and the recovery process will be longer. However, it is not possible to wait until the body
completely recovers before conducting the next training session, so instructors need to rhythmically
arrange light and moderate amounts of exercise amounts to reduce the fatigue response and practice
weightlifting more frequently. Table 13 – 3 shows sample training rhythms based on the number of
training sessions per week. With 3 sessions per week, each session can have high amounts of loading
because there are more rest days (4) than training days. This does not mean that each day has the same
volume, intensity, exercises, or other loading variables but rather is arranged to produce a desired
effect. Additionally, this does not mean that a session over each week follows the same loading
variables. With a 3-day arrangement, these sessions form the core for more frequent sessions.
Therefore, an increase in training frequency should be the lowest amount that does not disturb this core
training.
Frequency
3
4
5
6
9
Table 13 – 3: Sample Weekly Training Rhythm
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday Thursday
High
High
High
High
High
Low
High
High
Low (M)
High
Low
High
Low
Med
High
Low
Med
Friday
High
Med
High
High
High
Low
Saturday
Low
L (M)
L (M)
Med
With a 4-day arrangement, adding a light session on Saturday is reasonable because each highload day has a rest day before prior. For a 5-day arrangement, the next reasonable step is to add a
session early in the week (i.e. Tuesday) because the athlete is fresh after the weekend and it distributes
the work more evenly and gradually. The athlete only performed 2 days of consecutive training up until
this point so adding a session early in the week creates 3 days of consecutive training followed by the 2
days which the athlete is accustomed to. If the session were added on Thursday, then there would be 4
days of consecutive of training which is a larger jump and can decrease performance. There are various
ways to progress from here: light sessions can increase in loading or another session can be added on
Thursday to create a 6-day arrangement. After this, training must occur more than once per day. In
order to preserve the core sessions, they should be performed in the morning followed by light sessions
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in the evening. The following day should have a moderate session in the evening because the athlete
needs time to recover from the double sessions the day prior. Since this session is not too intense, it is
possible for the athlete repeat the “high, low, off, medium” rhythm. While the exercise load cannot be
increased forever, especially for elite athletes whose load is added until it reaches their own limit, one
can rely on the rhythm of exercise load to produce new stimulation to the body.
Table 13 – 3 is a sample arrangement but it shows the thought process behind increasing
training frequency while preserving a training rhythm. In practice the training rhythm differs for each
athlete, so they should explore their own rhythm during actual training. Generally, young athletes can
increase their frequency as they reach higher training levels while older athletes’ may decrease
frequency as they age so they should proceed with a rhythm that allows for enough recovery to
maintain their performance or continue progressing. Additionally, athletes do not progress or respond
toward higher frequency in the same way with some athletes requiring a few weeks or months to
increase their training frequency. Therefore, instructors must combine training data and history with the
training situation to make an informed change. For example, they need to note when athletes feel good
about training and when they feel fatigued, when they report high RPEs, what
exercises/volume/intensity tends to lead to good performance and fatigue, and whether the athlete is
progressing. With this information, the instructor must note patterns in these data to find what works
for the athlete.
Knowing that athletes differ in terms of thinking, age, weight class, training level, physical
capability, and recovery capability, instructor should expect athletes to differ in exercise capacity for a
given training frequency. Even within the same athlete, their exercise capacity is constantly changing
because their capacity is closely related to recovery measures and nutrition; therefore, the definition of
“big, small, and medium” should be based on the athlete’s actual condition. Table 13 – 4 presents
ranges of exercise loads for different levels of exercise capacity. Since, exercise capacity differs by
individual and time, it is difficult to propose a unified standard. This table is based off elite Chinese
athletes; however, one can reference this table to build their own or compare their own load at
different levels of exercise capacity. Regardless, the main factors to consider when arranging training
sessions are exercise selection, load, and intensity which are discovered by assessing training and the
athlete (see Chapter 15 on The Training Program and Training Diary, and Chapter 16 on Athlete
Assessment). Time and load are closely related because in general the greater the load, then the longer
required time so training density generally does not change much unless sessions are broken up into
smaller ones.
There are nine possibilities when managing volume and intensity which are presented in Figure
13 – 3. The first step is to decide whether to increase, maintain, or reduce volume and then making the
same decision about intensity. To determine which method to use, the instructor needs to adjust the
loading according to the training period, training goal, prior training, and athlete’s habit since some
athletes are more sensitive to changes in volume than intensity. Additionally, the instructor needs to
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Table 13 – 4: Ranges for Different Levels of Exercise Capacity
Factors
Index
High Exercise
Moderate
Low Exercise
Capacity
Exercise
Capacity
Capacity
Amount
# of movements
5–8
4–5
2–4
# of sets per
8 – 15 sets
Around 8 sets
6 – 8 sets
movement
Total # of sets
Above 40 sets
30 – 40 sets
Below 30 sets
Total # of reps
Above 100 reps
80–100 reps
Below 80 reps
Total weight
Above 10000kg
7000 –10000kg
Below 7000kg
Intensity
Intensity per
90 – 100%
80 – 90%
65 – 80%
movement
Average
80 – 90%
70 – 80%
60 – 70%
intensity
Time
Actual training
Above 110’
80 – 100’
Below 70’
time
Total training
Around 150’
Around 120’
Around 90’
time
Density
# of repeated
Above 0.4
0.3 - 0.4 set/min
Below 0.3
sets during
set/min
set/min
competition
# of repeated
Above 0.8
0.6 – 0.75
Below 0.55
reps during
reps/min
reps/min
reps/min
competition
# of repeated
Above
0.35 – 0.5
Below 0.35
sets for
0.45set/min
set/min
set/min
assistance
movement
# of repeated
Above 1.2
1 – 1.2 reps/min
Below 1
reps for
reps/min
reps/min
assistance
movement
Movement
Competition
1–2
1–2
1
Properties+
Movement
Heavy load
2–4
1–2
1
movement
Moderate load
2–4
Around 2
1–2
movement
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Figure 13 – 3: Volume and Intensity Decision Tree
evaluate whether the athlete is progressing with a current loading. However, in general when increasing
exercise capacity for weightlifting the number of sets always come first, then repetitions, and then
intensity. The reason is because technique is less sensitive to the number of sets than the number reps
or intensity, and competition lifts must be performed with excellent technique as much as possible
during training. A common example of this is when athletes work up to a targeted intensity and then
reduce the weight during backoff sets but still perform enough sets and/or reps at similar difficulty
based on the athlete’s perceived response. Additionally, if there is no accumulation of volume and
instead the athlete just fights for intensity, then they cannot impose a new stimulus to improve and
technique can deteriorate easily which can result in injury.
Common Situations in Arranging Exercise Load
Athletes enter different training stages during their career which differ in training goals,
duration, frequency, and methods. Adjusting the loading according to these stages allows the athlete to
improve in a safe manner. If the instructor does not fully adjust the training load, then it will likely be
inappropriate for the athlete and hence ineffective or even harmful to the training process and the
athlete’s health. Below are a few lessons which have been learned through research and experience that
show the consequences of ignoring differentiation. Instructors, especially those with less experience,
should be mindful of these situations and take steps to prevent them from occurring.
The first scenario involves using advanced methods too early. During the 1970’s, Chinese
national athletes and Soviet athletes exhibited differences in their weightlifting results and
improvement (Gu 2005b). It was common for Chinese national athletes to equal or beat Soviet lifters in
most weight classes during youth competition. However, Soviet lifters had longer competitive careers
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and continued to improve once athletes entered the senior stage. Early pioneers in China’s weightlifting
history found that this phenomenon was mainly due to using exercise loads that did not match the
needs of young athletes. Youth training must focus on building a good physical foundation which general
and specialized athletic training. Because the foundation has not yet been established, the loading for
exercises and overall training must be moderate. This can induce quick improvement among young
athletes and some can even rise to the level of youth national (or world) champion. In response, it is
tempting for instructors to increase the loading or begin specializing in weightlifting training to induce
more adaptation, but this results in physical and mental fatigue and/or injury.
Another scenario involves using the same methods for too long. For example, some instructors
will use short training cycles, stable loading rhythm, and moderate load to successfully train youth
athletes and even have such athletes reach national level competition. However, when the athletes
reach the senior stage they experience slow or no improvement. This is often due to instructors using
the same loading arrangements across training stages, in this case applying youth training to adult
athletes. As athletes build a strong foundation and reach a high level, they must focus on specializing
their training toward weightlifting training and use large loads that surpass their previous highest level
to induce a deep stimulation and adaptive response. It is tempting for instructors to use methods that
have been previously effective, but it is important to switch training methods across different stages of
training for athletes to continuously improve. Even within the senior stage, athletes may experience
drops in performance or no progress after successful training despite feeling recovered. This is a sign
that the athlete has adapted to the stimulus, so in these cases the instructor must change the loading
variables to introduce a new stimulus (i.e. volume, intensity, exercise selection, etc.). Instructors should
take note of how often these drops in performance occur so that they can switch the stimulus
beforehand and continuously improve throughout the training cycle.
Another issue is having an unclear loading rhythm. This occurs when volume and/or intensity
are changed in a non-systematic way. For example, it is possible for loads to increase linearly over weeks
or months, but the load becomes so great that more exercise volume and/or intensity cannot be added,
or it is not possible to reduce the load during an adjustment. This can cause the athlete to maintain their
results after many years of training with no improvement. Some athletes may even overtrain and
experience a decline in their athletic condition such as a reduced ability to bear exercise load, slower or
incomplete recovery, poorer weightlifting totals, or injury. In this case, normal systematic training yields
no improvement but when athletes pause their training for some time due to injury or over training and
implement a strong recovery program, then they can see improvements in their results and even
achieve new personal bests. Therefore, instructors must adjust the loading rhythm to induce greater
adaptation.
Additionally, at higher levels of training the instructor must adjust loading across individuals by
basing training off the athlete’s own personal strengths and weaknesses. For example, athletes with
good technique but who have weak lower back strength can reduce technical training and other
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strength training to focus their loading on developing lower back strength. By contrast, healthy athletes
who reach a high level but whose weightlifting results are limited by leg strength can select loading
arrangements that allow for a focused and large stimulation while still allowing for recovery. In cases
like these, it is inappropriate to use methods for overall development because the athlete is limited by a
weakness and strengthening areas that are already strong can exacerbate the degree of weakness. This
can result is slow improvement, stagnation, or even regression in weightlifting results due to injury.
Conclusion
Overall, there are many ways sports teams in China measure loads and many variables to
manipulate to create new adaptation. Mastering load rhythm requires the instructor to be able to assess
their athletes and apply various methods at the appropriate times. It is a skill that requires time and
experience to master but will have a great impact on the training, performance, and improvement of
their athletes. However, instructors can learn this skill more quickly by tracking their athlete’s loading
and use those data to adjust the session, training week, and beyond.
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Chapter 14: Strength Training Theories and Methods
The primary quality for weightlifting is strength, which is the ability to produce force when
muscles contract or stretch. Strength is an important base for mastering technique with heavy weights
because muscle groups must work together to coordinate a successful movement. When a muscle group
is weak then this will result in a technical deviation or miss but bringing strengthening this area will
allow the muscle to contribute an appropriate amount of force to ensure the entire system is properly
coordinated. Additionally, Chapter 3 showed that strength plays a significant role in the development of
other qualities such as power. Proper strength training also has positive effects on injury prevention
during long-term training by avoiding imbalances and ensuring the muscle works efficiently during a
movement. So far strength has been treated in a general way, but weightlifters need a variety of
strengths because the nature of the snatch and clean and jerk contain static and dynamic elements.
Hence, it is important to understand different strength qualities and how to develop them to maximize
one’s training.
Classifications of Strength
Figure 14 – 1 catalogues the strength for weightlifting according to the type of contraction, the
relationship to weight, and the manifestation of strength (Yang 1992). Static strength is also known as
isometric strength which is characterized by producing force but no significant movement or
displacement of the body. The start position for the snatch and clean, the rack position for the jerk, and
catch position for the snatch and jerk are all static movements that require the muscles to support the
body in a proper position. In training, performing lifts from hang positions also require static strength.
Therefore, static strength is an important quality for ensuring the body maintains balance and directs
the bar along a proper path and into a proper position.
By contrast, dynamic strength, also called isotonic strength, is characterized by moving the body
and includes most other types of strength. Dynamic strength can be characterized by the relation of the
athlete’s body weight to the weight lifted. For example, absolute strength is the maximal potential force
that the body or body part can produce by contracting all muscle fibers to overcome maximal resistance
regardless of athlete’s weight. Usually, beginners are very far from exerting their maximum potential
force due to CNS limitations in recruiting motor units to fire all muscle fibers as well as proprioceptors
that protectively inhibit muscular activity when the stress is too great. However, systematic strength
training, psychological training, and adaptation can increase the ability of the CNS to recruit more motor
units, reduce inhibitors, as well as strengthen supporting tissues and organs to absorb greater stress,
which allows veteran athletes to exert force close to their maximal potential. For the super heavyweight
class and sports without weight restrictions such as throwing, absolute strength plays a decisive role in
performance. By contrast, relative strength is the maximal force per kilogram of body weight and is
important for athletes whose strength is limited by weight classes. It serves as an indicator of an
athlete’s ability to recruit motor units and can also be improved with proper strength training.
Therefore, weightlifters need to be strong in an absolute and relative sense for optimal performance.
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Figure 14 – 1: Classifications of Strength
Dynamic strength can also be characterized by the type of strength manifested such as
maximum strength, power, and strength endurance. For example, maximum strength is the largest
amount of force that athletes can voluntarily generate when confronting a surmountable resistance.
This force is measured by the maximum weight the athlete can lift for one rep, and changes with the
joint angle of a muscle which challenges athletes to continuously develop their strength. Because
absolute strength is one’s maximal potential force and there are limitations on exerting it, maximal
strength can differ from absolute strength, but the goal of strength training is to bring them closer to
each other. Additionally, since maximal strength is the greatest voluntary force one can generate, it
serves as the foundation for all other manifestations of strength.
Another manifestation of dynamic strength is power which refers to the ability to overcome
resistance in a short amount of time. Recall from Chapter 3 (on Strength, Power, and Speed) that power
is a combination of force and velocity. This equation is maximized for weightlifting when force is very
high, and velocity is sufficient to complete the lift. While maximum strength is the foundation of a
weightlifter’s strength, power is the most important strength quality for weightlifting. This is because
maximum strength is independent of the time it takes to complete a movement and there is an inverse
relationship between the mass of an object and the ability to accelerate it (see Chapter 3 on Power).
Weightlifting movements must occur in a short period of time, which requires the athlete to recruit as
many motor units as possible as quickly as possible. However, the time constraint means that the body
will be unable to exert maximum force (compared to the unconstrained case) which implies that simply
developing maximum strength can result in unusable strength for developing power. Therefore,
instructors should aim to also develop power so that is a high percentage of the athlete’s maximum
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strength while also increasing maximal strength to allow for greater potential power development 3
(Yang and Yang 1999).
4F2F2F
A final manifestation of strength that is important to weightlifting is strength-endurance which
refers to lifting loads repetitively. During training, weightlifters must repeat loads for several repetitions
over many sets while still maintaining technique and power. Additionally, when training small muscle
groups or weak areas it is easy to add volume through high repetitions. Finally, during competition
athletes must lift loads that reach or supersede their previous maximal efforts for up to 6 attempts. All
these cases require strength-endurance and are derived from the level of maximum strength. If the
maximal strength level is low, then low-intensity weights are more exhausting compared to an athlete
using the same weight but possesses a high level of maximum strength.
Factors Influencing Strength
Strength is affected by many factors which can be grouped broadly into neural, hormonal,
psychological, and physical factors presented in Figure 14 – 2. While many of factors have long scientific
literatures, a basic understanding of these factors can inform the instructor about the nature of strength
improvement and inform how to structure strength training. The role of hormonal factors was covered
in Chapter 13 (on Exercise Load) so this discussion focuses on neural and physical factors. The role of
psychological factors was covered in Chapters 8 and 12 (on Psychological Training and Mentality
Training). The remaining factors will be covered here.
Neural Factors
The state of the CNS directly affects the strength of a muscle and therefore is important for
displaying and developing strength qualities (Tang 2001). Broadly speaking, the CNS governs movement
by sending an impulse to electrically recruit motor units which are composed of motor neurons and
skeletal muscle fibers. These motor units work together to contract a muscle. Through this action, the
CNS acts through several channels to enhance force production. The first is through rate coding which
refers to the frequency of the impulse (Tang 2001). A higher frequency results in a stronger and more
explosive contraction until the motor unit reaches its contraction limit. This channel is especially
important in improving force production at intensities greater than 80% (Ma and Sha 2007). The second
CNS channel refers to the intensity of the impulse which governs the recruitment of motor units. In
general, the CNS recruits smaller motor units first and then larger ones as the intensity of the impulse
increases. Therefore, as the intensity of the load increases the CNS will send a larger signal to recruit a
greater number of large motor units which produces a stronger and faster contraction (Zhang et al
2008). The third CNS channel is by improving the coordination of motor units within a muscle
3
For example, if one’s maximal force exertion is 200kg and their power is 70% then this value (140kg) is greater
than if maximal force were only 150kg and power was still at 70% (105). In fact, one would need to use 93% of
their maximal force in order to match the power when maximal force is 200kg. Therefore, increasing maximal
force increases the strength reserve available to express power.
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Figure 14 – 2: Factors that Influence Strength
(intramuscular coordination) and between muscles (intermuscular coordination). This is important
because weightlifting movements require many muscles to work together but this can be improved by
increasing body awareness and practicing moving heavy weights quickly.
Physical Factors
An athlete’s potential for expressing force also depends on physical factors such as the size of
the muscle, its fiber composition, and elasticity. The collection of fibers within a muscle form a
physiological cross-sectional area which is measured as the total area at the largest perpendicular crosssection of a muscle. Generally, a larger the cross-sectional area corresponds to greater strength, all else
equal (Gong, Wu, and Zhou 2009). This is because each muscle fiber generates a certain amount force,
but fibers thicken in response to strength training which allows fibers to produce greater force while
also increasing the physiological cross-section of the entire muscle. Additionally, a larger muscle size
alters the muscle’s line of pull by increasing as shown in Figure 14 – 3 from line 𝐴 to line 𝐵. This will
increase muscles moment from the distance 𝑂𝐴to 𝑂𝐵which allows the muscle to exert greater force on
a joint. This figure shows that bigger quadriceps will extend the knee more forcefully, all else equal.
Since athletes compete in weight classes, increasing muscle size and minimizing body fat is a major goal
to maximize these effects. Sha and Ma (2007) note that intensities of 80 – 95% maximize hypertrophy
for strength so instructors should arrange most strength training at these intensities.
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Figure 14 – 3: Change in Muscle Size on Moment Arm
However, the size of a muscle also depends on its length. Typically, athletes with longer limbs
have longer muscles and tend to compete in heavier weight classes because their muscular potential is
greater. Yang (2013) provides the following example: consider 2 athletes with the same cross-sectional
area before training but one athlete has a triceps length of 20cm and another athlete has a triceps
length that is 1.5 times greater (30cm). The cross-section potential of the longer muscle is 1.52 = 2.25
times that of the shorter one and its volume is 1.53 = 3.375 times greater. Therefore, training the
longer muscle has a greater potential volume (and hence size and strength) which will increase the
athlete’s weight and make it difficult to compete in lower weight classes. Therefore, instructors should
place athletes with longer muscles in heavier weight classes to maximize their muscular potential.
Given the size of a muscle, the strength of its force also depends on its fiber composition. Sha
and Ma (2007) provide an overview of muscle fiber characteristics. They note that muscle fibers can be
divided into slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers intermediate muscle fibers, namely Type I, Type
IIA, and Type IIB, although more fiber types exist depending on the method used to divide them. They
point out that the Type I fibers take longer to reach maximum tension and are small, so they produce
lower force than Type II fibers which is why they are termed ‘slow twitch’ fibers. Type I fibers have a
high density of mitochondria, capillaries, and myoglobin which makes them suitable for endurance and
aerobic activities. By contrast, Type II fibers reach maximum tension 1/3rd the time of Type I fibers and
therefore produce a much greater force when contracting which is why they are termed ‘fast twitch’
fibers. Type IIA fibers are moderate in size and density of mitochondria, capillaries, and myoglobin but
are high in glycolytic capacity which makes them moderately resistant to fatigue and suitable for
moderate force production. Type IIB fibers are the largest fibers in size and have low density of
mitochondria, capillaries, and myoglobin but also have high glycolytic capacity which makes quick to
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fatigue but able to produce the greatest amount of force. Muscle fibers are recruited based on the
intensity of the movement, so Type I fibers are recruited first and preferentially at low intensities,
followed by Type IIA, and then Type IIB when the athlete must exert a high degree of force. Because of
these characteristics, it is preferable for weightlifters to have a high amount of Type II fibers especially
Type IIB, and Zhu (1985) notes that elite weightlifters tend to have higher proportions of Type II fibers
compared endurance athletes. While every athlete is born with a certain distribution of muscle fibers,
Sha et al (2007) remark that resistance training can induce a shift from Type IIB to Type IIA as an
adaptation to conserve energy. However, this process can be reversed quickly rate as the training
volume decreases. Therefore, instructors must emphasize high intensity and speed of movement to
ensure Type IIA and IIB fibers are trained but also reduce the volume so that Type IIB fibers can shift to
their original state. This is especially important when tapering for a competition. During general strength
training, instructors should avoid slow movements at low intensities to minimize the shift from Type IIB
to Type IIA.
Additionally, it is preferable for athletes to have longer muscles that insert at lower points on a
bone since lower insertion points lengthen the lever by which the muscles can produce force (called the
force arm). Lower insertion points also allow for larger muscle bellies which contribute to a larger
overall muscular frame to distribute the force from the barbell. Since insertion points are genetically
determined, athletes with higher insertion points will have to ensure that they maximize their muscular
potential to absorb the barbell’s force and exert their own force.
A related component to this is the elasticity of the muscle-tendon unit which is responsible for
storing elastic energy. When a muscle is stretched through eccentric contraction before shortening
through concentric contraction, elastic energy is produced and can be transferred from the muscletendon unit through the bones. Greater elasticity allows the muscle-tendon unit to tolerate more force
and store elastic energy which assists in moving a load (Xiao 2014). However, more elastic tendons
require more time to reverse and transmit force than stiffer tendons which means the muscle must
absorb more force as well. If the muscle is elastic and strong then it too can stretch safely, and a faster
stretch produces a greater concentric force. Fortunately, athletes can train their body with plyometric
work to make the muscle-tendon unit more elastic and stronger in order to transmit force more quickly.
Body proportions are another important because they determine the athlete’s posture and
overall demands placed on the body. The 3 gravity principles and 5 Words should be followed regardless
of bone structure; however, differences in body proportions determine the distance of the joints from
the barbell and thereby the amount of force a muscle must exert to move the barbell. For example,
athletes with shorter tibias have more difficulty in squatting upright than athletes with longer tibias (all
else equal) because the femur is relatively longer so the hips are farther away from the balance point
which results in a forward lean of the torso to compensate. This requires the short-tibia (long-femur)
athlete to use their lower back muscles more than the legs when lifting. One way athletes can
manipulate structural weaknesses is to widen their stance and/or push the knees out which will reduce
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the distance of the hips to the barbell and maintain the torso in a more upright position (see Chapter 7
on Technical Training). Additionally, athletes can adjust their grip to place more or less stress on the
back. Furthermore, many athletes often increase the heel height of the weightlifting shoe which can
increase the length between the floor and the knees which reduces the relative length between the
femur and tibia so that the body can squat more upright. This squat modification is shown in Figure 14 –
4. Notice how in both cases the athlete still maintains their balance over the midfoot. Instructors must
account for body proportions when assessing an athlete’s posture and strength, knowing that two
athletes may never look the same despite modifications to increase the mechanical efficiency of their
movement. However, athletes should still follow the 3 gravity principles and 5 Words.
Figure 14 – 4: Altering Structural Mechanics in the Squat to Emphasize Leg Strength
Best Practices for Strength Training
The first step in implementing strength training is understanding the optimal parameters for
various strength qualities otherwise the results will be suboptimal or ineffective (Yang 2013). For
example, if an athlete has a high level of maximal strength and needs to develop strength-endurance
then using parameters for building maximum strength (85 – 100%) will be less effective than using
parameters for bodybuilding (50 – 75%). Another example concerns athletes who are technically
proficient but lack the muscular development for supporting heavy weights, in which case they should
engage in bodybuilding to strengthen and develop muscles and connective tissues. Additionally, some
athletes get more fatigued by volume while others are more fatigued by intensity, so instructors must
understand that different athletes will perform best at different ranges of the parameters for the same
strength quality. Otherwise, the training might be too difficult for some athletes such that they cannot
recover adequately, while for others it might be too easy so they cannot adapt and improve. To
understand was is “too difficult” or “too little” and which methods are “best” requires the instructor to
gather data on their athletes using the loading indicators from Chapter 13 (on Exercise Load), the
athlete’s own feedback from the training diary, and an evaluation on the athlete’s athletic state and its
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development trend (See Chapter 20 on Competitive State Assessment). From here the instructor can
make an informed decision about the strength training that fit the athlete’s needs.
Given the different arrangements for different qualities means that strength training must be
arranged rhythmically throughout the training cycle. For example, if the goal is to build strength
endurance then this should be performed early in the training cycle instead of near competition because
it generates a lot of fatigue and the intensity is too light to prepare for weightlifting competition. In
general, the instructor should gradually increase strength training based on the athlete’s fatigue and
performance then decrease during adjustment period to allow the athlete to recover before
implementing a greater load. Additionally, the instructor must coordinate strength training with other
training. Oftentimes a lot of strength training conducted after weightlifting training, but this
implementation is ineffective for strength development because the athlete is usually fatigued from the
prior work. In this situation, it is difficult to increase intensity or volume for strength training so the
training stimulus is too small to create adaptation and weak areas will remain weak. Therefore,
instructors must have days where they arrange strength training before any other training or make sure
that any prior training is relatively lighter in volume and/or intensity. More broadly, the instructor must
account for the technical, physical, and psychological demands of the training phase when implementing
strength training otherwise the strength training might conflict with those demands and fail to support
the training objective. Instructors must also account for the impact of training on energy systems. For
example, weightlifting is an anaerobic sport but exclusively training in an anaerobic way can reduce the
functionality of the aerobic system which forms the foundation for developing and stabilizing the
anaerobic capability. This will reduce the athlete’s endurance and ability to handle other strength
training methods which limits options to create an adaptive stimulus. Hence, arranging some aerobic
training along with strength training can improve an athlete’s ability to train (Huang 2002).
Relatedly, instructors should continue building strength gradually and over a long period. Yang
(2013) notes that absolute strength can be divided into 4 stages for women and men (simulated in
Figure 14 – 5). He notes that women’s strength can improve by 46% between the ages of 10 – 13
especially in extensor muscles; 8% between ages 13 – 15; 14% between ages 15 – 16; 6% between ages
16 – 21; and around age 20 most women reaching the maximum strength of older adults. For men,
absolute strength can grow by 58% during puberty (ages 12 – 16); 37% during ages 17 – 20; 10% during
ages 21 – 22; and by age 25 they can reach the maximum strength of older adults. For both sexes,
absolute strength will peak between ages 20 – 30 but can be maintained or improved at a slow rate.
With this rate of growth, instructors do not need to rush into building strength.
The Chinese population is very diverse, so athletes will vary by age, gender, training level,
physical condition, technical and tactical style, and physique. Therefore, instructors must individualize
their strength training arrangements and use a wide variety of techniques to build strength. Practical
experience in China has found that combining resistance training, eccentric training, static training, and
other modes of muscle contraction during training produces the best results. The optimal load
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Figure 14 – 5: Simulated Strength Trajectories Among Boys and Girls
distribution to produce the best effect (on average) is shown in Figure 14 – 6 which consists of 75%
resistance training, 15% eccentric training, and 10% static exercise (Yang 1992). While individual athletes
may respond better to an alternative distribution, all Chinese athletes incorporate a variety of muscle
contractions to provide various stimuli for adaptation so that the body can increase maximum strength
faster. These methods effectively develop absolute strength and relative strength, and they are
important for developing power and strength-endurance.
Another issue to consider when implementing strength training is how the methods and
movements will carry over to how the athlete expresses their strength during the snatch, clean, or jerk
(Chen 2004b). For example, if an athlete performs too much lower back work, then they might use the
lower back muscles excessively during the deadlift or extension which will cause a violation of the any of
the 3 gravity principles and hence one or more of the 5 Words. Another example is performing too much
strength work at slow speeds which can condition the athlete exert their strength slowly. For example,
where an athlete performs too many strict presses they can have problems locking out the jerk fully and
quickly because they are conditioned to a slower lockout action than an actual jerk. So, the athlete must
continue to work on their technique as they develop strength to maintain the right positions to
maximize their vertical force.
Finally, all strength training must be conducted with proper technique. One aspect of proper
technique concerns breathing, which is an important element of strength. Heavy breaths are good for
bracing the abdominals and back muscles which can improve stability; however, it can increase pressure
in the trunk to resist blood circulation which can limit blood to the brain and result in passing out.
Additionally, high levels of pressure can result in tensing other areas of the body which can slow down a
movement. To avoid adverse outcomes, the instructor should encourage athletes to avoid heavy
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Figure 14 – 6: Methods for Developing Maximal Strength
breathing when the time of exerting maximum strength is short or in repetitive movements that do not
require a lot of force. Additionally, they should encourage athletes to avoid exhaling heavily as they
finish a movement so they do not have to gasp for air afterwards. Instructors should also keep loading
light so that athletes can learn to avoid training with heavy breathing. Instead, athletes should focus on
exhaling by narrowing the glottis (as if making a fricative ‘h’ sound) which can brace the trunk without
producing tension. Additionally, they should exhale slowly when finishing a strength movement.
Methods for Building Maximum Strength
Repetition Method
The repetition method is characterized by exerting force repeatedly with sub-maximal tension
until the athlete reaches exhaustion for each set. Table 14 – 1 shows the optimal loading parameters are
75 – 90% intensity for 6 – 10 sets of 3 – 6 repetitions (Yang 1992). The athlete can progress within a
session by intensity and/or volume. For example, an athlete can perform
75%
6
6 which is “6 sets of 6 reps
at 75%” and this way of progressing is known as the “constant weight” method. In practice, the ideal
number of sets will be based on the athlete’s target rate of perceived exertion for that day and
movement quality. Once the athlete perceives the set to be higher than the targeted intensity, then they
can move on to the next movement. Alternatively, the athlete can change the intensity per set such as
70% 80% 85% 90%
3
,
3
,
3
,
3
,
80%
3
3. This is known as the “back-off method” in which the athlete works up to a
heavy weight that reaches the targeted intensity but then performs lighter sets for additional volume.
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Since the athlete has already reached a targeted intensity, these back off sets will feel more intense than
80% so the optimal amount of sets and intensity to back-off depends on the desired amount of volume
the instructor wishes to achieve and the athlete’s fatigue response. A variation of this method is known
as the “pyramid method” where the intensity increases up to a peak and then decreases with each
subsequent set, for example:
70% 75% 80% 85% 90% 85% 80%
3
,
3
,
3
,
3
,
3
,
3
,
5
2.This example shows a symmetrical
decrease in intensity after reaching the heaviest set but this is not necessary. The goal of this method is
to accumulate volume but begin to touch higher intensities, therefore the back-off sets become
gradually lighter but can increase in repetitions to elicit the desired fatigue response. It is mainly used
during the middle of the basic phase (see Chapter 15 on The Training Plan and Training Diary) where
intensity rises but the volume rises faster.
The optimal progression for any loading method depends on the training phase and its
requirements such as the goals, the targeted intensity, and training content. Additionally, it depends on
whether the athlete responds better to volume or intensity, which can be gathered by using loading
indicators from Chapter 13 (on Exercise Load), observing the athlete’s performance, communicating to
learn their rate of perceived exertion, and reading the athlete’s assessment from the training diary. This
information is also important in determining how the athlete progresses over subsequent weeks. For
example, the athlete can perform
75%
6
6 in one week and then either
75%
6
7 or
85%
6
6 in the following
week. Both are clear increases, but athletes may respond more favorably to one increase over the other.
These data are especially important in cases where intensity and volume both adjust such as
one week and then
85%
5
75%
6
6 in
6. While the tonnage is greater in the first week, the intensity is higher in the
following week, so it is unclear which is better. However, knowing the training requirements of the
phase and how the athlete responds can guide the instructor to make an informed decision. The main
point of progression is to create a larger stimulus once the athlete no longer feels exhaustion from the
training arrangement, but this requires data.
The repetition method can enhance metabolism, induce hypertrophy, improve technical
coordination, and increase both maximal and speed strength (Sheng 2010). In practice, using 6 reps has
shown to be particularly effective for female athletes (Xu 2012). For example, Yang (2013) notes that
this method was heavily used by female Olympic champions such as: Yang Xia (53kg, 2000), Ding
Meiyuan (+75kg, 2000), Liu Chunhong (69kg, 2004, 2008), Chen Yanqing (58kg, 2004, 2008), Tang
Gonghong (+75, 2004), Cao Lei (75kg, 2008), Wang Mingjuan (48kg, 2012), and Zhou Lulu (+75kg, 2012).
They seldom attempted to lift the maximum weight and instead built their strength by focusing on
completing the necessary effective volume. This is partly due to women’s greater endurance and joint
elasticity (see Chapter 18 on Women’s Training).
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Table 14 – 1: Loading Characteristics of the Repetition Method
Intensity (%)
75 – 90%
Sets
6 – 10
Reps
3–6
Rest (min)
3
Intensity Method
Lifting heavy weights in a short period of time is a skill that requires practice, so the goal of the
intensity method is to develop this skill by requiring athletes to improve their coordination and success
rate at intensities above 85%. The loading parameters are shown in Table 14 – 2 (Yang 1992). Athletes
begin at around 85% and gradually build up proficiency using low repetitions and instructors can
evaluate the progress based on the success rate as well as athlete feedback and data. For example, if an
athlete can complete
85%
increase the volume to
6 with no misses but their technique is not perfect, then the instructor can
3
85%
3
8 or more to allow more practice. If the technique is solid, then the
instructor can move towards
90%
1−2
6 and build from there based on the success rate. Yang (2013) outline
the costs and benefits of this approach. On the one hand, this method provides a large stimulus to the
CNS by inducing and developing the secretion growth hormone and catecholamines such as
norepinephrine and epinephrine which prepare the body to respond to a high stress. Additionally, it
forces the body to recruit and coordinate a high amount of motor units and fast twitch muscle fibers. On
the other hand, the intensity method consumes a lot protein and phosphocreatine which, combined
with the CNS stimulation, can tax the body heavily. Therefore, this method requires the athlete to be
fully recovered between sets otherwise the CNS may fire suboptimally or the athlete may be too
physically or mentally fatigued to exert the necessary amount of force to complete a movement. Fatigue
can last throughout a training session or even between training sessions so while this method is
effective, it cannot solely be used to develop strength or for every movement. When used properly, this
method improves competition performance by allowing athletes to have high success rates at weights
closer to their maximum. Yang also notes that athletes who have successfully broken world records and
won Olympic gold medals using this method include Wu Shude (56kg, 1984), Chen Weiqiang (60kg,
1984), Tang Ningsheng (59kg, 1996), and Zhan Xugang (70kg, 1996; 77kg, 2000).
Table 14 – 2: Loading Characteristics of the Intensity Method
Intensity (%)
85 – 100%
Sets
6 – 10
Reps
1–3
Rest (min)
3
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Bulgarian Method
During the 1980’s, China engaged in cultural exchanges with Bulgaria and learned about the
“ultimate strength method” or “Bulgarian Method” popularized by head coach Ivan Abadjiev. The
Bulgarian method focuses exclusively on intensity by requiring the athlete to reach or exceed their
maximum and then back off by gradually by doing 2 sets with 10kg less and then another 2 sets with
another 10kg reduction. Bulgarian athletes would attempt maximal intensity lifts 4 – 5 times or more
and the exercise selection was very narrow in order to focus their energy on high-intensity competition
lifts. This method made the Bulgarian team a dominant force against the Soviet Union in world and
Olympic competition. Abadjiev’s used adaptation principles (see Chapter 3 on adaptation) on elite
athletes as the basis for his method. He knew that without new stimulations and adaptation, there will
be no development of the body’s functional capability and no progress for the training level. Therefore,
after adapting to an old stimulus, the body needs a new stimulus to continue progressing. Because elite
athletes already possess a strong foundation, he believed that conducting 4 – 5 hours of intense training
stimulated various hormonal pathways in the body and pushed the body (and its hormonal activity) into
a hyperactive state (Guo 1983) 4.
5F3F3F
Wan (1988) outlined the training protocol that the Chinese team adopted in Table 14 – 3. The goal
is to concentrate the training stimulation at the highest intensity so training sessions usually last about
an hour and the more sets the athlete can do at high intensity within that time frame, the better.
However, the ability to add sets is based on the athlete’s recoverability and most athletes should rest
about 3 minutes per set. Progression follows a stepwise method. For example, if an athlete can snatch
150kg prior to training then he can strive to lift this weight during each session until he can complete 2
sets. This can take a few days or longer, but reaching this goal is a signal that he has adapted to the load,
so he can enter the next stage of adaptive training. At this point the goal can increase to 152.5 – 155kg
and he can spend a few days working on successfully completing 2 sets at this new weight. After
completing the maximal set, it is permissible to 2 sets of 1 – 2 reps with 10kg less and then another 2
sets with another 10kg reduction. Usually these sets are performed if the volume leading up to the new
maximum is minimal so that the athlete gains more volume at maximal intensity. While these reps are
not maximal in terms of weight on the barbell, they still have a similar physiological and mental effect
because these sets occur after going to maximum and therefore performed under fatigue.
Intensity
Sets
Reps
Rest
(minutes)
4
Table 14 – 3: Loading Characteristics of the Bulgarian Method
90%
95%
97.5%
100%
3
2
2
2
3
2
2
1
3
3
3
3
The mechanisms for this adaptation were unclear during Abadjiev’s tenure.
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+100%
1–2
1
3
While Abadjiev used this program for long periods of time, Guo (1990) recommends using this
method on experienced athletes for at least 2 weeks but no longer than 2 months because long-term
increases in hormonal activity can cause excess fatigue and exercise diseases. More generally, sport
movements do not stress all parts of the body equally so training in such a specific manner neglects
training weak areas that can result in long-term imbalances and possible injuries. If there is a weak link,
it is more effective to strengthen it directly and transfer that strength in competition movements rather
than allow the area to only receive a small amount of training from. Relatedly, it is difficult to add
volume with the Bulgarian method which limits the development of other qualities useful for strength
development such as hypertrophy. As in the case of weaknesses, it is more effective to train
hypertrophy directly with higher volume than to try to add volume from competition movements.
Therefore, the Bulgarian method can be used on its own or combined with other training methods and
as part of a training cycle. For example, Guo (1983) notes that Bulgarian method is particularly effective
for just under 2 months as part of a competition phase where the first month brings the athlete up to
their best competitive state and the second month maintains this state until the competition (see
Chapter 15 on The Training Program and Training Diary). For example, an instructor can designate the
following:
1.
2.
3.
4.
Moderate training (2 weeks)
Heavy training (2 weeks)
Bulgarian training (2 weeks)
Moderate training (1 week)
Of course, the exact structure can vary based on the importance of the competition, the length
of the training cycle, and especially the fitness of the athlete. Because this method concentrates
stimulation at maximal intensities, it requires the athlete to have a strong technical and strength
foundation along with an adequate recovery program to withstand the physical and CNS demands of
this training. Yang (2013) notes that this method has been used by excellent athletes such as Wu Shude
(56kg, 1984), Chen Weiqiang (60kg, 1984), Zhan Xugang (70kg, 1996; 77kg, 2000), Shi Zhiyong (62kg,
2004), Zhang Guozheng (69kg, 2004), and Lu Xiaojun (77kg, 2012).
Eccentric Method
When a muscle shortens in response to an external force such as gravity or a weight, it is
performing a concentric contraction. Conversely when a muscle lengthens in response to an external
force then it is performing an eccentric contraction. This latter type of movement occurs during training
such as when an athlete slowly lowers the barbell during a set of multi-rep snatches, cleans, jerks,
squats, and presses. Figure 14 – 7 shows the force velocity characteristics for concentric and eccentric
movements, where concentric movements are characterized by greater velocity as the weight (and
hence force required) decreases; however, the opposite relationship exists during eccentric movements
where higher velocities are possible with heavier weights. The loading parameters for eccentric training
210
Figure 14 – 7: Force Velocity Curve for Eccentric Movements
are presented in Table 14 – 4 and vary between less experienced athletes and more experienced
athletes (Huang 2002). Usually, less experienced athletes use weights of 80 – 100% and longer eccentric
movements compared to experienced athletes who use 120 – 190% but for shorter eccentric duration.
The reason for these differences is because less experienced athletes usually lack the body control and
strength to handle such intensity. However, less experienced athletes can lengthen the duration to train
the eccentric with more intensity. This method is very taxing due to the high loads and should be used
sparingly and in combination with other methods. Additionally, Kong (1996) recommends athletes
perform a maximum of 5 sets and rest longer in between sets (3 – 5 minutes) so that they have enough
energy to lower the weight slowly while maintaining proper posture.
Table 14 – 4: Loading Characteristics of Eccentric Training
Intensity (%)
80 – 100%
120 – 190%
Sets
1–5
1–5
Reps
1–3
1–3
Speed
5 - 8s
4s
Rest (min)
3–5
3–5
There are several advantages to eccentric training. First, eccentric movements allow for loads up
to 120 – 190% greater than in normal practice which stimulates the CNS more intensely and results in
increased strength. Relatedly, the high loads preferentially recruit fast twitch muscle fibers more readily
and induce greater hypertrophy for these fibers which results in greater strength (Sha and Ma 2007).
Another advantage is that eccentric training can create a greater strength reserve to assist during the
concentric component of a movement by strengthening supporting muscles while also inhibiting
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resistance from the lengthened muscle (Kong 1996). For example, if the athlete’s best squat is 200 kg, he
cannot train with weights over 200kg, however he can emphasize the eccentric portion of the squat with
240kg which will help him train his posture and adapt to resisting heavy weight. Additionally, his quads
will resist the eccentric portion less and thereby save energy. So, after training, the eccentric portion of
a 200kg will feel very light and less taxing on quads during the eccentric which allows the athlete to
dedicate more energy to lifting 200kg. Furthermore, the ability of a muscle to stretch and absorb force
eccentrically will assist in storing that force in the form of elastic energy which the athlete can use to
assist during concentric lifting. Finally, eccentric movements aid in strengthening tendons which reduce
the risk of injury.
Isometric Method
Isometric strength training is characterized by exerting force without a change in velocity and
without a change in the length of the muscle. Table 14 – 5 shows the loading parameters for this
method. At non-maximal loads, this method can be used for reinforcing strength of some weak muscles
and positions in technical training (Meng 2015). For example, young athletes will hold the bottom of a
jerk dip for 30 seconds (s) to build balance, coordination, and strength in that position. This method is
also suitable for resuming training after injury. For example, if an athlete experiences an elbow injury
overhead, they can practice holding weights overhead to regain joint stability and strength. At maximal
loads, isometric training is characterized by the intersection between the force velocity curve and the
vertical intercept in Figure 14 – 7. At this point, the method is effective for developing maximal strength
because the load induces maximum force which trains the athlete to recruit a maximal amount of
muscle fibers in a synchronized way. For safety, athletes should rest sufficiently to ensure they can
produce the necessary force. Additionally, they should either take a breath that can last for a few
seconds before performing the movement or take rapid half breaths if the duration is longer.
Table 14 – 5: Loading Characteristics of Isometric Strength Training
Intensity (%)
Below 50
50 – 70
70 – 90
Over 90
Sets
2–4
2–4
4–6
3–5
Duration per set
Over 20s
12 – 20s
8 – 12s
3 – 6s
Rest
3–4
3
3
3–4
Purpose
Strength
Strength
Maximal
Maximal
Endurance
Endurance
Strength
Strength
Huang (2002) notes that isometric strength is primarily used as a supplementary method to
build strength due to several limitations. First, weightlifting movements require fast reaction, high
speed, explosive energy, and high flexibility and mobility, so too much isometric training will hamper the
development of moving speed and coordination. Instead, isometric training is effective for overcoming
weaknesses of some muscle groups and adapt to some static positions. Additionally, isometric training
builds strength mainly at the joint angle trained with little carry over to other positions so it is important
212
to choose the right angle in order to maximize muscle strength. Finally, because the tension produced
by isometric training is greater than dynamic movements, it can result in a lot of soreness, so it should
be arranged after highly technical movements (Sheng 2010). Because of these reasons, instructors
should combine isometric training with dynamic practice and make sure the isometric is consistent with
the movement it is being applied to.
Electromotor Stimulation (EMS) Method
EMS is a technique that causes muscular contraction using an electrical pulse instead of the
body’s own nerve impulse. There are two types of EMS: the first is direct stimulation which fixes two
electrodes on the ends of a muscles, and the second is indirect stimulation which transfers electricity by
two skin electrodes placed on the relevant motor neurons. Wang et al (1997) note that by controlling
factors such as current intensity, stimulation duration, stimulation frequency, waveform, and interval
duration, one can eventually control the contraction intensity, contracted muscle group, contraction
duration and contraction rhythm of the muscle which has several benefits. First, they note EMS does not
tax the CNS so there is less fatigue which allows athletes to train muscles with high intensity more
frequently. Second, the stimulation can prioritize the development of fast-twitch muscle fibers which
allows for greater power and strength development (Lu, Yuan, and Wang 2002). Third, one can use this
method to develop weak muscle groups or restore strength balance between muscle groups (Song et al
2009). This has a fourth benefit of reducing the risk of injury. In fact, EMS can be used to promote
recovery after training. For example, some muscles might be overactive after training so light
stimulation can induce the muscle to relax. Additionally, EMS can promote healing when a muscle is
injured, and the athlete cannot train. Thus, EMS can be used for strength development as well as
promoting local muscle recovery and healing soft tissue injuries.
Wang et al. (1997) performed a series of experiments between 1995 – 96 on elite male
weightlifters and determined effective protocols for building strength presented in Table 14 – 6.
Because China was behind internationally in clean and jerk performance, the researchers sought to
improve leg strength, back strength and support strength by targeting treatment to the legs, lower back,
and arms. For example, Wang and his colleagues found it effective to stimulate the lower back at an
intensity of 20 – 40 mA for 8 – 15s and then resting for 6 – 10s before repeating for a total of 30 times in
a set. Subsequent research found that applying electrostimulation for as little as 8 weeks can result in
noticeable improvements in a muscle’s ability to exert force explosively (Lu, Yuan, and Wang 2002).
However, most studies indicate that strength training after EMS subsides faster than traditional strength
training (as quickly as 15 days) so EMS must be combined with heavy barbell training for the CNS to
coordinate the muscles’ enhanced contractile capabilities (Lu, Chang, Li 2011).
In terms of recovery, Wang et al (1997) note that EMS can change the soft tissue environment
and hence has recovery benefits. For example, when treating the lower back, they found that each pulse
213
Area
Thigh
Lower Back
Arm
Lower Back
Knee Joint
Table 14 – 6: Electromotor Stimulation Protocols
EMS Strength Training Plans
Stimulation
Stimulation
Stimulation
Interval
Plan No.
Duration
Intensity
Time
010
4 – 12s
20 – 50 mA
10 – 25s
1012
8 – 15s
20 – 40 mA
6 – 10s
1020
4 – 12s
20 – 40 mA
10 – 25s
1022
EMS Recovery and Treatment Training Plans
Stimulation
Stimulation
Stimulation
Interval
Plan No.
Duration
Intensity
Time
2010
5–8s
Maximum
6–8s
1010
endurance
1015
Lower Limbs
Other Back
Muscles
1010
1020
10 – 15 s
Based on
athletes’
requirement
6 – 10 s
Total No.
of Reps
15x2
30x2
15x2
Total No. of
Reps
30x2
30x2
should occur for 5 – 8s at an intensity that the athlete can withstand and rest 6 – 8s between pulses.
This can be repeated up to 30 times before resting. This treatment should occur after all training has
finished due to its intensive nature but is effective since weightlifters experience huge loads on the
lower back, knee joint, legs, and other back muscles.
Best Practices for Power
Power is the ability to overcome resistance within the shortest amount time necessary, making
it the main determinant of an athlete’s weightlifting ability. Not only must the snatch and clean and jerk
be performed with a sufficient speed that that transfers energy effectively through the body and lift in a
coordinated way (Bian 2005), but many supplementary movements often require a fast burst of force.
The magnitude of an athlete’s power depends on absolute strength (Chen 2000) along with the speed of
a muscular contraction (Zhang 2002). Instructors can develop power by training it directly as well as
developing an athlete’s starting force and reactive force. Relatedly, training power should be combined
with methods to develop maximal strength to avoid or minimize slowing down one’s movements. For
example, after heavy squats it is easy for the legs to feel fatigued, but one can do push-presses
afterwards which forces the legs to work explosively over a much shorter range of motion.
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Power Method
Power training takes two forms as shown in Table 14 – 7 (Yang 1992). At 30 – 60% intensity,
athletes can lift for 5 – 10 reps and 5 – 6 sets. This arrangement is effective for building young athletes’
reaction to a fast-moving bar and for experienced athletes who are building absolute strength but need
to maintain their speed with little impact on the CNS (Yang and Yang 1999). At 70 – 85% intensity,
athletes can lift for 3 – 6 reps and 4 – 6 sets. This arrangement is heavy enough to synchronize motor
units (Liu and Liang 2004) and can be used during dedicated periods to convert strength in power. It is
highly effective with partial movements such as power, hang, or block versions of the snatch and clean
and jerk (Zhang 2011). In both cases, athletes should rest fully and for a similar amount of time to
ensure that the lifts are performed with the required speed. Instructors should focus on the athlete’s
technique and rhythm as well as the athlete’s perceived intensity to determine the intensity and
progression. Whether the goal is to maintain speed over different loads, increase power at a certain
angle, or improve speed for a given load, instructors must ensure that the loading preserves good
technique and sufficient speed to complete the movement.
Table 14 – 7: Loading Characteristics of Power Training
Intensity (%)
30 – 60
70 – 85
Sets
3–6
4–6
Reps
5 – 10
3–6
Speed
Explosive
Explosive
Rest (min)
3–4
3–4
Starting Force Method
In weightlifting, the barbell is at rest on the floor and the athlete must exert enough starting force
to overcome the barbell’s and begin to accelerate it. Training starting force involves training the body to
recruit as many motor units as possible in a controlled way from a dead stop. Athletes with weak
starting force lose position and balance easily during the first pull which causes them to
overcompensate at later portions of the lift. Some athletes have an uncontrolled starting force which
can push the athlete out of position early on and make it difficult to exert their force fully during
extension. The most common example of uncontrolled force is when the athlete pulls excessively with
the lower back off the floor such that the legs do not contribute much, which will result in violating one
or more of the 5 Words. Therefore, the athlete should train their starting force to ensure that they exert
a coordinated movement so that the barbell moves fast.
When training starting force, instructors can use a wide range of loads and exercises which makes it
difficult to have general prescriptions. For example, starting force can be trained by using plyometric
methods such as sprints on a variety of surfaces such as uphill, sand, stairs, or track while emphasizing
the start of the movement. Jumps such as squat jumps with a pause in the bottom or jumps from seated
215
position can be performed with or without a barbell can also be used. These methods can be performed
with just body weight. Alternatively, athletes can use the intensity method and incorporate breaks at
various positions. For example, athletes can perform box squats with a pause on the box to develop
force at a weak area. Squat jerkers can perform overhead squats from the bottom up to build up their
stability and ability to stand up. This method trains starting force at positions where the barbell has
momentum or can use elastic energy but the benefits of training the body to recruit as many motor
units as possible from this position will carry over to full lifts. Another method is to use supramaxmial
loads (+100%) over short ranges of motion. For example, athletes can perform heavy partial deadlifts
from the floor such that the athlete can only pull to the knees or they can perform heavy deadlifts from
the blocks at a weak position. In all cases the athlete tries to exert a coordinated force in the shortest
time possible (usually less than 150 millisecond).
Reactive Strength Method
Reactive strength is the ability for the body to stop quickly and accelerate in the opposite
direction (Yang and Yang 1999). It creates a stretch reflex as the muscles stretch during eccentric
contraction and shorten during concentric contraction and allows the muscle-tendon unit to store and
transmit elastic energy through the bones (Luo 2005). This ability is very useful when transitioning
between the extension and squat during a snatch or clean, and it is critical during the dip and drive
during overhead movements such as the push press, split jerk, and power/squat jerks.
Reactive strength is a combination of strength and speed, so some athletes will rely more on
strength while others will rely more on speed. So, the first step in implementing exercises that train
reactive strength is to test which quality athletes mainly rely on. One way to test whether athletes rely
on speed or strength is shown in Figure 14 – 8. First, athletes can perform a simple vertical jump by
descending into a quarter squat position and jumping up immediately while the instructor measures the
height. After some rest the athlete can perform a depth jump where the athlete stands on a low box
then steps off with both feet and performs a vertical jump upon landing on the ground. If the height of
the box jump is less than the vertical jump from the floor, then the athlete relies more on strength and
must train their reactive strength. However, if the box jump is higher, then this indicates that the athlete
relies more on reactive strength, so the next test is to determine the degree to which they rely on
reactive strength. So, the athlete performs another depth jump from a slightly higher box and if the
results are the same then the instructor can implement reactive strength movements that emphasize
the athlete’s speed but still train a little bit of strength. If the athlete’s jump from the box improves,
then that means the athlete can change their direction more quickly and transmit force more effectively
by relying on the elasticity of the muscle-tendon unit. The athlete can perform a third jump off an even
higher box to see if the athlete’s jump improves. If it does then the instructor can be confident that the
athlete relies more on speed than strength, so they should emphasize reactive movements that
emphasize strength. If the athlete does not improve then the instructor must implement a mix of
movements that train strength and speed.
216
Figure 14 – 8: Testing Reactive Strength Capability
The key to developing reactive force is to fully utilize the stretch reflex while recruiting as many
motor units as possible without the need for adrenaline, like naturally jumping (Xiao 2014). This will
minimize muscular and CNS fatigue while allowing the athlete to train this skill with more volume.
Exercises such as full-depth squat jumps with 20 – 50% of your max, heavy jerk dips with 125 – 200% of
your max clean and jerk, speed pulls with and without split, and pulls from the hip are popular choices
for emphasizing strength. Jumping exercises are commonly used for training reactive strength (Luo
2005). For example, athletes can perform depth jumps from a low box to (6 – 12 inch) to develop speed
or a high (+18 inch) box to develop strength. During athletic training, young athletes perform more
general movements such as triple jump, hurdle jumps, depth jumps, power skipping, sprinting after
establishing a jog, and vertical hops (single or double legged) with a lead up of a few steps to develop
the speed of their reactive strength. Additionally, athletes can perform rhythmic bouncing movements
such as skipping rope or other kinds of non-stressful hops to train reactive strength. Jiang’s (2013)
survey provides volume recommendations by athletic training level. In general, low-intensity
movements such as skipping rope can accumulate reps very quickly while high-intensity movements
such as depth jumps should be around 10 reps or less per set. The key to these movements is to shorten
the contact with the ground as the athlete jumps and focus on pushing with maximal force. Reps can be
determined by whether the athlete slows down or shows signs of fatigue.
217
Table 14 – 8: Number of Foot Contacts per Session by Athletic Training Level
Period
Athletic Training Level
Beginner
Intermediate
Advanced
Intensity
Preparation
60 – 100
100 – 150
120 – 200
Low – Med
Basic
100 – 250
150 – 300
150 – 450
Med – High
PreDepends on the Athlete
Med
Competition
Competition
Recovery Only
Med – High
Bodybuilding
Chinese weightlifting heavily incorporates bodybuilding for several reasons. First, bodybuilding
can easily introduce volume and time under tension to a specific muscle group which induces metabolic
stress and recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers. These effects allow muscles to hypertrophy and increase
their potential to produce force. Second, bodybuilding helps prevent injuries in 2 ways. The first way is
that greater hypertrophy increases the physiological cross-section of the entire muscle which allows the
body to absorb force over a greater area which can help avoid overloading a specific muscle.
Additionally, bodybuilding can help overcome strength imbalances and coordination issues arising from
weightlifting which can aid in preventing injuries (Luo et al 2006). The third benefit of bodybuilding is
that it can increase isometric and dynamic strength-endurance which aids in maintaining positions and
consistently exhibiting good technique.
Bodybuilding movements were presented in Chapter 6 (On Athletic Training) but selecting
bodybuilding movements should be based on weaknesses in the athlete’s technique and strength level.
Instructors should reference use the 3 gravity principles and 5 Words to guide their technical
observations. If the athlete already has some technical skill but 1 or more of the athlete’s joints are still
not moving simultaneously with the others, not producing a magnitude of force to equalize other forces,
or not moving in its designated direction, then the instructor should analyze the muscles around that
area and select exercises to help preserve the 3 gravity principles. For example, during the kneeextension stage of the deadlift it is possible for an athlete to shift their balance too far back which will
cause the torso to tip over and swing the barbell too close to the body. This can occur if the hamstrings
are stronger than the quadriceps, so the athlete can perform leg extensions, leg presses, etc. to balance
out this strength imbalance. Alternatively, the knees can push back too much if the external rotators of
the hips are too weak to allow the knees to open as they extend, which would require leg abduction or
glute exercises. Another possibility is that the back muscles are too weak to maintain the torso’s
position, so the legs do a disproportionate amount of work. Each of these cases have the same result
but require different bodybuilding treatment to restore proper muscular coordination. Therefore, the
instructor must have a strong knowledge of how muscles are related and select exercises to help
preserve the 3 gravity principles.
218
When incorporating bodybuilding, athletes should perform smooth eccentric movements
followed by explosive concentric movements for as many as 10 – 20 reps per set as shown in Table 14 –
9. The intensity should be set so that muscles approach or reach concentric failure near the end of the
set to stimulate larger muscle fibers (Yang 2013). These movements should be at the end of a training
session after technical and strength work. Usually the athlete performs 1 – 3 exercises with the volume
dependent on the workload from prior work. So, if the athlete performs many sets during weightlifting
training or reaches new personal bests then the athlete can perform little to no bodybuilding that day.
Additionally, exercises should be chosen in context with the remaining training for the week so that they
do not interfere with the next session. For example, if the athlete performs snatch-based training on
Monday but squats on Tuesday, then it would be unwise to do heavy or high-volume leg extensions on
Monday.
Table 14 – 9: Loading Characteristics for Bodybuilding
Intensity (%)
Sets
Reps
50 – 75
3–6
10 – 20
Rest
1–3
Conclusion
Overall, weightlifting uses various strength training methods to maximize and optimize an
athlete’s maximal strength and power. While this chapter provides guidelines for many methods, there
is quite a range in terms of volume and intensity. This is because there are many factors that determine
an athlete’s strength potential which can result in 2 athletes training the same quality with (sometimes)
vastly different methods and training programs. It is up to the instructor to assess each athlete based on
the factors that influence strength and their current strength development to make an informed
decision on which methods to use for strength development. At minimum, instructors can ask
themselves:
1)
2)
3)
4)
“what are the athlete’s limitations?”,
“what methods can be used to address these limitations?”,
“are there any drawbacks to the method and can they be addressed?”,
“what is the athlete’s training level and what training phase are they in?”
Additionally, if the athlete has experience then the instructor can ask:
1) “what methods do you feel worked in the past?” and
2) “what do you feel did not work?”
Once the instructor has this information and makes an informed choice, then they can monitor the
training situation and athlete response to test which loading is optimal for each method over time.
219
220
Chapter 15: The Training Plan and Training Diary
Weightlifting is a long-term sport that requires systematic training to achieve high levels of
success. The training plan allows the instructor to chart and monitor the athlete’s response to training to
ensure the athlete is continuously adapting to greater loads and improving. Without a plan, it is difficult
to monitor progress and training can become mentally and physically stale. Additionally, a plan is
necessary to bring the athlete to peak physical condition at the right times. However, even the most
experienced coach cannot feel what the athlete feels, so it is important to gather that information
through the training diary and loading indicators from Chapter 13 (On Exercise Load). Some athletes
express themselves better through writing and it allows them to reflect on the training, their body, and
thoughts which is valuable for assessing the training load. Hence, combined analysis of the training plan
and diary allow the instructor to evaluate the effect of training on the athlete.
Best Practices for a Training Plan
The goals of a training plan are to address technical issues technique, develop and improve
power, build strength in relevant muscle groups, and lay a strong athletic foundation for improving
specialized results. The instructor is in charge of making decisions for achieving these goals. Before
arranging a training plan, the instructor should make sure that the plan contains 6 basic requirements.
First, the plan should reflect the objective rules of training as much as possible. This means the plan
must have a loading rhythm that allows for progression and recovery to allow for supercompensation.
Second, the plan should be in line with the training target as much as possible but also be flexible to
account for actual training conditions. So, one should avoid blindly following the plan or being
subjectively one-sided about the plan. Third, the plan must be individualized and incorporate the
athlete’s age, sex, performance level, athleticism, techniques, tactic, psychology, intelligence, exercise
capability, recovery capability, nutrition, training duration, venue equipment, etc. It is especially
important to note that programming assumes a technical concept and should be structured to achieve a
technical goal. So, training programs in China assume the athlete is lifting according to the 5 Words and
3 gravity principles. Fourth, the training goal and training targets should be valid. If the targets are too
low, then the athlete can lack of responsibility which is not favorable for their positivity and creativity.
However, if the targets are too high, then the athlete can become fearful or lose confidence. Hence,
targets should be based on what is realistically achievable to ensure better results after hard work. Fifth,
training methods and arrangements should be specific to the targets. Finally, there should be a method
of assessment and adjustment to supervise the implementation of the plan, summarize the experience,
and improve future work. With these requirements, the instructor can proceed in effectively building
the blocks of the training plan.
Long-Term Training Plan
For the athlete to achieve their potential and reach excellent results, they must undergo many
years of systematic and strict training. Instructors need to develop a long-term training plan to
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implement this vision. The long-term training plan refers to the athlete’s sports training from the
beginning to the highest peak of their competitive activity. For children or youth athletes, a 9 – 12 year
long-term plan can be developed aiming to achieve national or international standards at around 20
years old. Elite athletes can use the Olympic Games or national sports events as their aim and develop a
four-year plan, aiming to obtain excellent results during competition. The purpose of a long-term plan is
to provide an overall framework of how to allocate resources among the 7 training systems. Since
information is limited, long-term training plans have limited accuracy farther in the future, but they
avoid training blindly, provide foresight, prevent training for short-term interest, and provide a goal to
strive for. Table 15 – 1 provides a sample long-term plan.
The long-term training plan can be divided into 5 stages: beginning stage (not shown in Table 15
– 1), basic training phase, the specialization phase, peak competitive peaking phase, and competitive
maintenance phase (Yang 2004). The beginning stage builds weightlifting characteristics such as
flexibility and coordination while training basic weightlifting skills to prepare athletes for preliminary
selection. The basic training stage gradually develops the athlete’s interests in sports and technical
proficiency of assistance and weightlifting movements. The specialization stage focuses on sharpening
weightlifting technique and improving performance in weightlifting assistance movements. During this
time, athletes can improve their flexibility and speed but these qualities improve at a slower pace so
there is a greater emphasis on improving strength, power, and endurance. This stage builds on the
previous stages by continuing general athletic training and instructors should avoid rushing into heavy
weights because their foundation is not yet solid. The peak competition stage consists of using
specialized weightlifting exercises and exercise intensity to vigorously improve the quality of
weightlifting ability and performance to reach an elite level. The maintenance stage focuses on
continuing competitive performance and maintaining the athlete’s sports life by tailoring training to
individual weakness correction.
It is possible to divide the stages further according to age to coincide closer to the athlete’s
predicted physiological and psychological development to create more accurate training goals and
targets. For example, see Chapter 17 (on Youth Training) for an example of how instructors divide young
athletes based on growing patterns, different physical features in different ages, and the age divisions
created by provincial competitions. Another modification is that elite athletes can follow a 4-year
training plan to peak for the Olympics, National Games, or Asian Games. Regardless, the table shows
that the long-term training plan includes these 5 basic requirements: it follows a gradual buildup of
training, incorporates the athlete’s characteristics into the training outline, states clear training goals,
provides an overall arrangement for training content, and allows for assessment methods.
222
Table 15 – 1: Sample Long-Term Training Plan
Training Stage
Age Range
Physical and
Mental
Characteristics
Male
Basic Training
Phase
Specialization
Phase
Competitive
Peaking Phase
10 – 15 years old
16 – 20 years old
21 – 27years old
●
●
●
●
Female
●
●
Daily Training Time (total
hours)
Daily Session Volume
(sets)
Weekly load (sets)
The percentage of total
effective sets per week
Training Days per Month
Training Days per Year
Measure
height,
weight, chest
circumference
for predicted
weight class
The best time
for strength,
plyometric
strength, and
flexibility
training
Growth spurt
begins around
10 – 12 years
old
Build speed
strength and
endurance
quality at 10 –
13 years old
Best time for
maximum
power and
strength
●
●
Growth rate
in strength,
flexibility,
and power
slow down
●
Competitive
Maintenance or
Downward Phase
28 – 33years old
Height is
stable, apply
strength and
explosive
force to
achieve the
best results
Stamina and
flexibility
gradually
decline
●
Height is
stable after
19 years old,
strength,
stamina,
flexibility,
and
explosive
growth
slowly or
stagnate
after 20
years old
2–3
●
Body shape,
speed,
strength,
power,
flexibility and
endurance may
decline with
age, but
psychological
quality and
experience is
strong
Body shape,
speed,
strength,
power,
flexibility and
endurance of
may decline
with age, but
psychological
quality and
experience is
strong
1 – 2.5
2–3
20 – 35
35 – 50
35 – 55
35 – 50
75 – 240
More than 70% of
the volume falls at
40% – 60%
intensity
160 – 270
50 – 70% of the
volume falls at
80% – 95%
intensity. 5 –
10% of volume is
at 100% intensity
More than 26
days
At least 290 days
180 – 270
40% – 60% of
volume falls at
80% – 95%
intensity. 5 – 10%
of volume is at
100% intensity
More than 26
days
At least 290 days
180 – 270
40% – 60% of
volume falls at 80%
– 95% intensity. 5 –
10% of volume is at
100% intensity
15 – 26 days
150 – 290 days
223
2–3
More than 26 days
At least 290 days
Main Training Goals
1.
3 – 8 times
35
6 – 12 times
20
6 – 12 times
5
Adopt various
training
methods to
strengthen the
body, increase
training load,
and raise the
technique level
2. Vigorously
improve leg
strength,
support
strength,
absolute
strength, and
relative
strength
3. Improve
tactical skills for
competition
4. Increase
medical
supervision and
monitoring to
avoid injury.
6 – 12 times
5
20
35
40
35
40
40
50
50
5
5
5
10
According to the
actual situation of
athletes all the
year round
Incorporate
systematically as
part of the
training program
4–6
4–8
Stabilize recovery
to ensure
improved
performance and
avoid injury
4–8
2.
3.
4.
Sessions per Week
Training
Athletic
Content
Training
%
Competition
Movements
Assistance
Movements
Tactics,
psychology,
mentality
training
Intelligence
and
Recovery
Training
# of Annual
Competitions and Test
Events
To
understand
and develop
interest in
weightlifting
and feelings
Learn
competition
movements
and
assistance
movements
Lay a solid
foundation
general
athletic
foundation
Gradually
develop legs,
time under
tender
tension, and
small muscle
strength.
1.
2.
3.
4.
Establish a
strong
mentality
Improve
technique
Improve
weightlifting
strength
Strengthen
intelligence,
tactical and
psychological
training,
grasp
weightlifting
tactics.
1.
2.
3.
4.
224
Improve
weightlifting
strength at
high
intensity and
volume
Vigorously
improve leg
strength,
support
strength, and
absolute
power
Cultivate
mental
strength and
competitive
will
Increase
monitoring
to avoid
injury.
1.
Maximize recovery
to avoid
performance
decline and injury
4–6
Annual Training Plan
The annual training plan should be developed based on the goals outlined for a particular stage
in the long-term training plan. For each stage, the athlete will compete a few times so the annual plan
must incorporate the competition schedule for that year. So, instructors should assess the athlete along
the 7 training systems to identify existing problems and develop measures to solve them for a given
competition period. There are many national-level competitions throughout the year for Chinese
athletes such as school-age, youth, junior, senior, and reserve talent competitions but athletes typically
plan 2 major national weightlifting competitions per year, one in mid-April and the other in late October.
Therefore, the annual training plan for weightlifting is usually based on two periods: winter training
(December – May) and summer training (June – November). Each period is then divided into 4 phases as
shown in Figure 15 – 1. For each phase, the instructor can outline some general objectives that help
prepare the athlete for competition and make the annual plan more manageable and clear. The
following paragraphs provide an example of how to construct the annual plan once the competition
schedule is sketched.
Figure 15 – 1: Sample Annual Training Plan
Each competition cycle begins with a preparation period which focuses on improving the
athlete’s overall physical capability, health, and ability to withstand exercise volume. It should also
improve basic techniques, teach relevant theoretical knowledge, and develop competitive will. It is
usually about 1 – 1.5 months long but the actual length depends on the athlete’s progress and any
issues that may come up such as illness, injury, etc. In general, the training load increases gradually for
the whole body. Weightlifting training is very low and focused on bodybuilding and athletic training, and
there is usually some arrangement for intellectual training and mentality training. The volume and
intensity are both low and should gradually increase, but the volume is relatively greater and increases
relatively faster than the intensity.
225
The second phase is the basic period which focuses on strengthening and improving
weightlifting techniques, increasing weightlifting load capacity, and improving weightlifting training level
to reach competition condition. This phase lasts about 2 – 2.5 months and mainly consists of technical
and semi-technical weightlifting assistance movements to develop strength of various parts of the
competition movements. The actual movements will be based on the athlete’s technical and physical
weaknesses as well as any lingering issues that must be addressed from the earlier phase. During the
first half of the phase volume continues to increase more than the intensity; however, in the second half
intensity increases more than volume. Because of these increases, recovery training should be
emphasized during this phase, again based on the athlete’s recoverability and the training load. If
athlete’s need to lose weight or gain weight to make a weight class, then the proper dieting measures
begin around this time. Athletes who need to make larger changes in weight should start sooner than
athletes who only need to adjust a small amount.
The third phase is the competition period which focuses on bringing the athlete to their best
competitive state. It lasts about 21 – 45 days (Guo et al 1995) and can be divided into pre-competition
and competition periods. The pre-competition period is about 0.5 – 1 month long and focuses on
improving weak body parts and technical training level, while strengthening psychological training and
strategic training in order to be fully prepared for the competition. Recovery training should be high as
training shifts from emphasizing volume to intensity. The competition period is also 0.5 – 1 month long
and focuses on peaking the athlete. So, bodybuilding exercises are reduced only to the essential
movements that mentally help the athlete and that address any remaining weaknesses in order to
withstand maximal weights. Psychological training and tactical training are heavily emphasized to
simulate competition conditions (Huang, Guo, and Ye 1997). Recovery training is lower due to the lower
volume and focuses more on relaxing the mind. This is especially true in international competitions
where recovery facilities and access may differ from domestic training bases. As a continuation of the
basic period, the intensity should increase throughout the entire competition period and reach maximal
intensity. While there are individual differences among athletes, research has found that training
volume should be reduced by 40 – 60% from the beginning of the pre-competition phase while training
frequency should be reduced relatively slowly, about 8 – 14 days before the competition date (Yuan
2010) to promote recovery throughout the entire phase. As the competition date approaches, the
intensity is gradually reduced to further ensure the body has a full recovery and can enter the
competition energetically.
The final phase is the rest period in which the main purpose is to allow the body to fully recover
after intense training and competition. Athletes maintain a certain level of training and conclude the
training experience for the entire cycle or whole year and prepare for the next cycle of training. This
phase is about 1 month long and consists of prehabilitation training and general body building that is
light in volume and intensity. During this time athletes may go on holiday or engage in other forms of
psychological training to recover from the stress of competition.
226
All these phases can be adjusted if the athlete will compete more than twice in a year. For
example, world-record holder and China National Champion Li Ping (58kg) won the 2015 Asian
Championships with a 226kg total then 2 weeks later won the IWF Grand Prix with a 230kg total in the
same weight class. To do this, she had to peak slightly less for the first competition and then resume a
pre-competition arrangement with low volume and a similar intensity to then peak for the subsequent
competition. Similarly, 2016 Olympic Champion Shi Zhiyong won silver in the 69kg class at China
Nationals with a 352kg total and then 5 days later won the 2016 Asian Championships with a 348kg total
in the 77kg class. While he could have competed at 69kg, it was much easier to recover and maintain his
performance by increasing his body weight and focusing on low volume strength training. These two
examples require different strategies to maintain peak performance but show the flexibility in adjusting
the annual training plan based on the competition schedule.
Phase Training Plan
Once the instructor outlines the general objectives for each phase to form the annual plan, the
instructor can then plan the specific training goals; loading indicators such as training time, volume, and
intensity; allocation of resources toward building certain qualities; description of training methods for
implementing the plan; and recovery methods for the training phase. It is not necessary to do this for
every phase at the same time, in fact it is better for subsequent phases to be detailed as they get closer
because this will allow the instructor to incorporate the actual training situation into the planning for
the next phase. Therefore, subsequent phases retain their general objectives but can be adjusted and
detailed based on the training in the prior phase.
Table 15 – 2 provides a sample phase training plan for an intermediate athlete with a long time
between their next competition. It is used frequently in professional training bases throughout China
but is very balanced and flexible. While in this example the goals and distribution of training content are
given, in practice they will differ based on the athlete’s needs. Goal setting will be based on the
instructor’s assessment of the athlete’s technique and athletic qualities. Additionally, the loading and
training methods will differ based on how sensitive the athlete is to volume and intensity changes. This
sensitivity along with any prior injuries will also affect their recovery plan. For non-professional athletes,
the weeks per session can be adjusted to suit their schedule. Regardless of the adjustment, writing a
phase plan forces the instructor to lay out the training variables and allocate them toward the goals of
the phase.
Therefore, the instructor must assess the athlete prior to the phase (see Chapter 16 on Athlete
Assessment for a thorough approach). At minimum they can ask themselves:
1. “what limits the athlete’s technique and what done to address those issues?”,
2. “how long will it probably take to fix this issue and what kind of frequency will that
entail?”,
227
Training Goals
Total Time
Total Weeks
Sessions per
Week
Session
Duration
Load
Distribution of
Training
Content
Training
Methods
Recovery
Table 15 – 2: Sample Phase Training Plan
Enhance leg and lower back strength, address existing technical
deficiencies during extension. Build triceps hypertrophy and support
strength to protect the elbow and enhance lockout for the jerk. Use media
and visualization strategies to develop body awareness during technical
sessions.
Slightly over 2 months
9 weeks
9 sessions
About 1.5 hours each
Volume
Repeat cycles of 1 week low/medium, then 1 – 2 weeks high
Intensity
Medium → High → Off → Low
Technique %
45 %
Intensity %
Up to 80 – 90%
Strength %
40 %
Intensity %
Up to 90 – 100%
Bodybuilding %
15 %
Intensity %
Up to 75%
Primarily assistance movements complemented with supportive technique
work. Arrange load gradually. Sustain good quality technique by using
moderate repetitions, focus on adjusting sets. Double technical sessions
on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays emphasizing upper and lower body
using the “key-point” method. Heavy strength-based sessions on
Wednesday and Saturday to maximize recovery. Thursday light recovery
day. Sunday off.
Use massage, especially for the legs and lower back after training to
enhance recovery and prepare for strength sessions. Stretch quads, glutes,
and calves to reduce soreness after strength sessions. Stretch lats and
triceps daily to improve overhead position. Use hot bath, deeper massage,
and relaxation according to the loading.
3. “what athletic qualities are lacking and what can be done to address them given the
time of the phase?”
Additionally, the instructor can ask themselves the questions about training methods discussed at the
end of Chapter 14. Then they can list the most important issues that they can address within the time of
the training phase. It might not be possible to address all issues in one phase, so each phase should be
part of larger purpose.
228
Weekly Training Plan
The weekly training plan should be developed based on the phase training plan and combined
with the actual training situation. Additionally, each week should have a specific training goal that
contributes to the goals of the phase. For example, one goal of the phase plan in Table 15 – 2 is to “fix
technical deficiencies during extension” so a weekly goal can be to use movements that focus on
pushing the chest out and coordinating the shoulders, traps, and elbows to pull vertically, thereby
satisfying the “close” principle. Table 15 – 2 also mentions to “build triceps hypertrophy and support
strength” throughout the phase so one weekly goal can be to include bodybuilding work and emphasize
overhead support strength for the jerk. Given these weekly goals, the instructor can then proceed to
choose training content. Yan and Guo (1999) outline the content for weightlifting in Table 15 – 3 which
consists of technical movements (usually includes snatch, clean and/or jerk, and various derivatives of
these movements), strength movements (assistance lifts for developing pulling strength and leg
strength), supportive movements (which assist in building overhead, lower back, and ab strength), and
bodybuilding. The instructor can organize movements such as those presented in Chapter 6 (on Athletic
Training) or organize movements as in Table 15 – 3 to easily find exercises that help achieve weekly
goals.
Table 15 – 3: Types of Weightlifting Training Content
Technical
Strength Movements
Support Movements
Movements
Snatch
C&J or CSquat
Pull
Push
Lower
Abs
Type
only or
Type
Type
Type
Back
J-only
Type
Type
Bodybuilding
Arms
Shoulders
Mid/Upper Back
Legs
To satisfy the technical goals for the week, the instructor can choose movements like high pulls,
muscle snatch, speed pulls, or even static holds in the high pull position. For triceps and support
strength, the instructor can include bodybuilding movements for the triceps and back as well as strength
movements like jerk recoveries and jerk dips. In practice, the optimum training frequency depends on
training level, recovery, nutrition condition, and actual training effect. Table 15 – 4 presents a weekly
plan based on the goals and requirements of the phase plan. The logic for the weekly plan is as follows.
Since there are 9 sessions per week, instructors can split up the training according to upper and lower
body emphasis to minimize fatigue from other sessions while still emphasizing the upper body strength
and technical requirements outlined by the phase. Additionally, upper body movements should be
performed in the morning while the athlete is fresh and further prioritize the upper body. Monday,
Wednesday, and Friday are the core training days, so they should be heavy. Tuesdays and Thursdays
should be light/moderate single sessions in the evening to provide more recovery time from the double
sessions on the prior days. Since Thursdays and Sundays are very light or off days, it is prudent to place
heavy strength training on Wednesday and Saturday. Furthermore, strength training can be emphasized
229
Frequency
AM
PM
9
Table 15 – 4: Sample Weekly Training Overview
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday Thursday
Friday
Upper
Upper
Upper
Technical
Technical
Technical
Lower
Upper and
Lower
Upper
Lower
Technical
Lower
Technical +
Technical Technical +
+ Strength Technical
Strength
or Active
Strength
Recovery
Low
High
Med
Low
High
Low
Low
High
Saturday
Strength +
Lower
Technical
Med
first on Saturday since Sunday is completely off. Using the phase plan and logic, the weekly plan begins
to take shape.
For this example, the week follows a medium/high/off/low rhythm and the weekly loading will
be 1 – 2 weeks heavy followed by one light week as prescribed by the phase. This is a typical weekly
rhythm used in China, but athletes can vary in the number of heavy weeks they can withstand and how
long they need to deload. This type of plan is very balanced, but instructors can substitute the training
content or distribute it differently based on the training goal, the type of stimulation (see below), and
the athlete’s exercise capacity. For example, if the athlete can only train 6 days per week then they can
simply remove the morning sessions. If they can only train 4 days per week then they can remove the
Tuesday and Thursday sessions to maintain the intensity from the core training days. Notice how this
follows the loading arrangements discussed in Chapter 13 (on Exercise Load). After the weekly plan is
formed, instructors must avoid making too many changes but also not remain too long on the same
plan. If the main training goal is completed, or if the athlete is significantly bored with the plan, then the
plan needs to be revised appropriately.
Daily Training Plan
Once the weekly plan is sketched out, the next step is to construct the daily training plan which
is based on the weekly training goal, the distribution of the training content, and exercise capacity.
Within those guidelines, the principles of arranging a daily plan are: main movements first, secondary
movements follow; technical movements first, strength movements follow. During a training session,
one can arrange movements to elicit an overall, key point, or focused stimulation and Table 15 – 5
presents examples of these arrangements using the principles of arranging daily training content. All
these arrangements can be used exclusively by certain types of athletes or combined either within the
week or throughout the training cycle for athletes transitioning into higher levels.
Overall stimulation arranges movements of different nature in a training session to stimulate
the upper limbs, lower limbs, and torso while also including content for snatch and clean and jerk. An
example of overall stimulation is the “complete combination” method shown in Table 15 – 5. This
230
method stimulates various parts of the body, but the stimulation of each part is not deep. The method
can arrange exercises to balance work performed by the upper and lower body but can also be arranged
to balance out general movements such as pushing and pulling. Because no area is overstressed, this
method works well for training young/beginner athletes or training before competition. However, it is
not used for general training for advanced athletes because they need more stress to induce an adaptive
response. The next method is the” key point combination” method which arranges 2 – 6 movements to
focus on stimulating a certain area and adds other movements that have high carryover but are less
specific. For example, the table shows wide grip clean and jerks and push press being used on the snatch
day. While these movements are used to train the clean and jerk, the wide grip makes the pull more like
the snatch. Additionally, the footwork from the push press has general carryover for all weightlifting
movements. This arrangement produces a deeper stimulation than the overall stimulation method and
is widely used by intermediate athletes.
As athletes progress, they will use focused stimulation which is characterized by using a few
closely-related movements to focus on a certain part of the body within a single training session. One
popular method is known as the “event combination” method which arranges training based on the
Table 15 – 5: Sample Stimulation Methods
Complete Combination Method
1. Snatch
1. Power Snatch
1. Power Clean
2. Rack support
2. Clean & Jerk
2. Push Press
3. Seated Press
3. Push Press
3. Snatch Pull from Blocks
4. Snatch Pull
4. Front Squat
4. Wide Grip Clean & Jerk
5. Back Squat
5. Clean Pull
5. Deep squat (front or back)
6. Hyperextension
6. Sit Up
6. Hyperextension
Key Point Combination Method
Mixed Snatch Key Point
Mixed Clean & Jerk Key Points
1. Power Snatch
1. Muscle Snatch
2. Snatch
2. Clean & jerk
3. Wide grip clean & jerk
3. Clean pull
4. Snatch Pull
4. Snatch Balance
5. Push Press
5. Deep Squat (front or back)
6. Deep squat
6. Good Morning
Event Combination Method
Snatch Training Group
Clean & Jerk Training Group
1. Power Snatch
1. Power Clean
2. Snatch
2. Clean & Jerk
3. Drop Snatch
3. Push Press from Rack
4. Snatch Pull
4. Clean Pull
5. Snatch Deadlift
5. Back Squat
231
6. Snatch Grip Upright Row
6. Jerk Dip
Dragon Combination Method
Pull Strength
1. Power Snatch
2. Snatch Pull
3. Clean Pull
4. Clean Deadlift
5. Upright Row
Leg Strength
1. Clean
2. Front Squat
3. Back Squat
4. Jerk Recovery
5. Half squat in Rack
snatch and clean and jerk. A session can be fully snatch-based or fully clean and jerk-based by including
competition movements, semi-technical movements, and assistance movements for different
strengthening parts of that lift. This works well for intermediate athletes who are becoming more
advanced. Another focused stimulation method is the “dragon combination” method which is arranges
movements from lightest to heaviest so that the athlete can max out but continue adding weight. For
example, an athlete using the dragon method for developing pull strength could start with power snatch
and then max out. Afterwards, the athlete can leave the weight on the bar and proceed with snatch
pulls until they reach a weight they can no longer pull to the required height. Then they can continue to
add weight and perform clean pulls which require less height. Then they can proceed to clean grip
deadlifts which are even heavier and do not require a pull past the point of contact. Finally, athletes can
cool down and perform some light upright rows for extra trap, shoulder, and upper back stimulation.
This can also be performed for leg strength as shown in Table 15 – 5. Similarly, one can use the dragon
method to focus on the competition movements such as muscle snatch, then power snatch, then full
snatch, then snatch pull, then snatch deadlift. The benefit of this method is that it provides deep
stimulation to a certain part of the body, movement, or strength quality. Hence it is used by advanced
and elite athletes to accelerate strength increases and improve results. The disadvantage is that it can
excessively load a particular area or cause strains. Therefore, the instructor should start with 2 – 3
movements and gradually add more as the athlete adapts. If the athlete’s movement quality declines or
there are signs of fatigue, then the instructor should either move on to the next movement or end the
method for that day. Additionally, the instructor must arrange for adequate recovery due to the deep
stimulation.
The phase plan prescribed the “key point” combination method throughout the phase,
therefore each session should be balanced along planes of movements or types of movement.
Additionally, the stimulation should be spread throughout to avoid deep stimulation. Using Table 15 – 4
and the information about stimulation methods yields Table 15 – 6. The morning sessions consists of 3
movements and balance out pushing with pulling while including bodybuilding to build up the
weaknesses that will be addressed in this phase. The evening sessions consists of 4 – 5 movements
balance out snatch and clean and jerk movements, alternate between squats and pulls each day, and
alternate between bodybuilding and support movements each day. Additionally, the heavier loading on
Wednesdays and Saturdays is balanced by a relatively lighter day on Thursday and off day on Sunday.
232
Also notice that out of the 34 movements during the week, the share of technical movements is
45%, strength and support movements
13
34
= 38%, and bodybuilding
5
34
15
34
=
= 15% which is very close to
the targets set by the phase. There is nothing special about having 34 movements, athletes may require
fewer or more exercises based on their exercise capacity and the type of training phase. However, if the
instructor were to adjust the number of movements then they should strive to maintain the proportions
dictated by the phase plan.
Once the stimulation methods are established, the next step is to determine the specific
movements along with intensity, number of sets, and number of reps using methods discussed in
Chapter 14 (On Strength Training Theories and Methods). In practice it is difficult for young instructors
to complete the daily plan for an entire week within one attempt, so they may have to revise the steps if
the daily plan does not look effective for reaching the goals of the week or phase. Using the outline from
Table 15 – 6 along with the “constant weight” progression method for simplicity as well as intensity,
power, and bodybuilding methods yields a sample plan presented in Table 15 – 7. From here the
instructor can test this program and adjust based on the actual training situation. Additionally,
subsequent weeks may simply progress by volume and/or intensity or they may have different goals and
hence different exercise selection, stimulation methods, and different loading methods. This is based on
how well the athlete fulfills the goals of the week and phase.
233
Table 15 – 6: Sample Weekly Training Arrangement
Day
AM
Monday
Tuesday
Snatch
Type
J Type
Heavy BB
PM
Rhythm
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Pull Type
Pull Type
Support
Push Type
Support
Push
Type
Heavy BB
Triceps
Snatch
Type
CJ Type
Snatch
Type
CJ Type
Snatch
Type
C Type
Snatch
Type
J Type
Snatch
Type
CJ Type
Squat
Type
Pull Type
J Type
Support
Push
Type
Pull Type
Volume
BB
Abs
Squat
Type
Heavy or
Volume
BB
Low High
Low High
Med
234
Abs
Saturday
Rest
Squat
Type
Support
Type
Snatch
Type
CJ Type
Pull Type
Low
Low High
Sunday
Med
Off
Day
AM
Table 15 – 7: Sample Detailed Weekly Training Arrangement
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Muscle
Snatch
Snatch
Snatch
High Pull
Speed Pull
85%
85%
off Blocks
5
5
3
3
85%
5
Sunday
Rest
3
Push
Press
85%
5
3
Jerk
Recovery
100%
5
3
Triceps
Extensions
𝑋
5
𝑋
Rows 6
5
Drop
Snatch
85%
5
3
Chest
Supported
Row
85%
5
10
3
PM
Snatch
w/straps
85%
6
3
Muscle
Snatch
80%
5 or
3
85%
3
Power
C+J
85%
6
3
3
Power
C+Push
Press
85%
5
Hang
Power
Snatch (no
split)
80%
6
3
Clean
80%
5 or
3
85%
2−3
3
2−3
Muscle
Snatch
80%
5
3
Snatch
5or
85%
1−2
90%
1
3
Back
Squat
85%
5or
3
90%
1
Push
Press
from
Rack
70%
5
CJ
5or
85%
1−2
90%
1
5
Jerk Dip
120%
5
3
3
3
Back
Squat
85%
5 or
3
90%
1
3
Snatch
Speed
Pull
85%
6 or
Rack Jerk
80%
5or
3
85%
3
3
Jerk
Recovery
+100%
5
Deadlift
100%
5
3
3
Muscle
Snatch
80%
6or
3
85%
3
100%
2−3
5
Weighted Front Squat
85%
Sit-ups
5 or
3
𝑋
90%
5
10
3
3
3
Pullups
𝑋
5
10
1
Side
Bends
𝑋
5
10
𝑋
Power C+
Power J
80%
6
3
RDL
5
Dips 5
10
or
𝑋
Rows 6
85%
3
5
Rhythm
Low
High
Med
Low High
235
Low
Low High
Med
Off
Training Diary
The final part of arranging training is the training diary which provides valuable information
about the athlete’s performance, health, and feelings along with the instructor’s own assessment. It is
an indispensable part of the training process and must incorporated into the instructor’s programming.
Table 15 – 8 provides a sample page of a training diary which highlights its key elements. First, a typical
diary includes training data such as the athlete’s performance for that day and the calculated loading
indicators. It is important for athletes to fill out this information because it allows them to gauge their
own progress. It also allows instructors to compare the athlete’s progress against established standards.
Additionally, this information allows the instructor to see how closely the athlete followed the program
and makes deviations clear to spot. Furthermore, this information can reveal how the athlete warms up,
how they regulate volume and intensity, and which lifts they tend to make or miss. Given these data, the
instructor can understand which loading methods are effective and then use this information to modify
the training for the next day or next week.
Year
Content
1. Snatch
Table 15 – 8: Sample Training Diary
Day
Time
Exercise Load
Sets
Reps
70 80 90 100 90
8
16
, , ,
, 4
Month
3
2
2
1
2. CJ
3. Back
Squat
4. …
Exercise Capacity
Body
Pre-Training
Weight
PostTraining
Selffeeling
Instructor
Comment
2
Heart
Rate
Morning
Evening
41
Sleep
103
Tonnage
1370
10260
Appetite
The second main component of the training diary is health data such as body weight before and
after training, morning and evening heartbeat, the amount of sleep, and their appetite. These data are
important for instructors to see whether the athlete is overtraining and require interventions. For
example, if the instructor notices that the athlete loses a lot of weight between training and has little
appetite afterwards, then they can recommend vitamin/mineral supplements and/or drinks containing
protein, carbohydrates, and electrolytes to replenish the body and sustain the athlete during training.
236
Additionally, an increased heartbeat or irregular sleep pattern over a prolonged period can indicate
overtraining which means the instructor must reduce the training and/or increase recovery measures.
The third component is the subjective feelings of the athlete and the instructor. This is a critical
component because it shows whether the athlete and instructor agree on the training. Otherwise it is
possible for the instructor to think that the training went well and hence increase the loading while the
athlete actually felt overloaded. This can place the athlete in a position for injury. So in this section, the
athlete should write about their rate of perceived exertion from individual sets and exercises as well as
they the overall training day. They can include thoughts about their performance, cues they used to
overcome, reactions of their body, any physical or mental pain, and parts they liked and disliked. This
will inform the instructor about how the athlete responds to different loading, inform which cues they
should emphasize, provide insight to the athlete’s psychological state, alert whether certain areas need
recovery or intervention to avoid injury, and how to maintain the athlete’s interest. This information will
greatly help instructors learn how to best train the athlete. The instructor can also write their own
assessment, expectations, tips, and encouragement in the comment bar so the athlete can learn what to
focus on and approach the next training confidently. Overall, the training diary is the athlete’s first-hand
information, and diligent writing can develop the athlete’s analytical skills while also providing
instructors valuable data to improve their teaching and programming.
Assessing Training
It is difficult for new instructors to know what exercises, volumes, intensities, strength training
methods, loading periods, and recovery periods work best for the athlete. Instructors can identify
effective training variables by assessing training as shown in Figure 15 – 2. This process starts with the
instructor observing training patterns. At minimum, the instructor should observe how long it takes the
athlete to reach their peak performance. For example, sometimes athletes may need 5 weeks while
others need 6 weeks. Additionally, some athletes can make consistent progress during this time while
others might improve for 2 weeks then maintain for one week and then they continue to improve the
next two weeks before stagnating or declining. Instructors should also observe whether there are any
particularly good or bad training days in the week and if they occur in any regularity. Finally, the
instructor should observe whether the training goals were achieved during the training cycle. Observing
and noting these patterns with the training program can leave clues about how the athlete responds to
training.
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Figure 15 – 2: Process for Creating a Competitive State Assessment Model
Once the instructor observes the training patterns, they should look for any common variables
between those patterns. For example, they should look at particularly good days or weeks and examine
the volume, intensity, exercise selection, athlete responses, etc. Additionally, they should compare this
with poor training days to figure out if there are important differences between good days and bad
days. This can provide evidence as to what works for best for the athlete. The instructor can supplement
this review with the athlete’s training diary and feedback to see if there any common reactions to these
days. It is possible for athletes to report feeling good and achieve personal records in training, but it is
also possible for the athlete to feel good but not perform well. Additionally, the athlete can report not
feeling good but still performs well (or not). Instructors can also examine whether other variables
affected the athlete’s performance such as particular recovery or mental strategies, etc. This
information can help find what differentiates good days from bad days.
The instructor must then select the variables they believe have the largest and most consistent
impact. The variables must be sensitive to training otherwise there is little information that the
instructor can gain. For example, some athletes have excellent endurance and can perform high
amounts of work regardless of whether their performance improves. While it is good to know that the
athlete has high endurance, looking at volume changes is not a very informative training variable. On the
other hand, if the instructor notices that the athlete performs particularly well on days or weeks that
have high volume then volume changes become informative. If the variable is quantitative such as
volume, then the instructor must also determine a standard for each variable based on their
observations. For example, the instructor must define what is low, medium and high volume for an
athlete that is response to volume changes.
The next step for assessing training is to test the variables in the next training cycle. The
instructor can use certain exercises, volumes, intensity, etc. to see if they elicit a similar training effect or
athlete response. If yes, then the instructor can be reasonably confident that a certain exercise, volume,
or intensity works for a given athlete and use it as a tool for subsequent training programs. If no, then
the instructor should look back at the previous training cycle to see if they missed anything, revise their
variable selection, or revise their standards. As instructors test these variables, they should continue to
look for patterns in the training cycle to gather more information. Over several training cycles the
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instructor gains more information by which they can create more effective training plans for the athlete.
This assessment is very much an art and requires trial and error. Therefore, the instructor must be a
vigilant researcher as they train the athlete. For this method to be effective, the instructor must keep
very good training records. Additionally, they must be in constant communication with the athlete to
receive their response. It also requires the instructor to be open to alternative and unique training
methods and arrangements. However, over time the instructor will be able to produce reliable results
for both young and elite athletes.
Conclusion
In the beginning, the training plan is an educated guess based on scientific principles and
methods for developing an athlete. It gives the instructor a sense of organization and direction while
also pointing out possible flaws. However, programming is also an art and when combined with a
detailed training diary the training plan becomes a more informed plan that is tailored to the individual
athlete. Instructors should then assess the training to learn what is most effective for an athlete. This
allows the athlete to train optimally and accelerate their results. Additionally, it allows the instructor to
improve on their ability to organize training. Overall, the training diary and training assessment allow
the athlete and instructor to learn from each other, communicate, and improve together.
239
240
Chapter 16: Athlete Assessment
Assessment is the process of gaining knowledge about an athlete’s lifting ability, how an athlete
responds to training, and then using this information to make training decisions. While the training diary
is a useful tool for gaining athlete feedback, the information is analyzed after training. It is important for
the instructor to use their own analysis and combine it with the athlete’s response to make decisions
before and during training. Experienced instructors have an “eye” for analyzing their athletes and hence
can write a training program that uses the methods that work well for their athletes and brings them to
their highest level of lifting ability at the right time. In fact, experienced instructors in China follow a
programming process as shown in in Figure 16 – 1. They first assess the athlete’s level of lifting ability
known as their athletic state. Based on this state and the date of a competition, the instructor can set
goals and write a program that will achieve these goals and conduct training while adjusting based on
their analysis of the athlete and training situation. Adjustments can be within the training session or
between training sessions, weeks, or cycles. Examples include which weights to choose, when to
continue or stop, when to change a movement or rep scheme, when to deload, etc. These adjustments
are necessary because the human body is a complex system that is constantly adapting to the training
stimulus.
Figure 16 – 1: Outline of the Programming Process
However, when the instructor is new, or when the athlete is new to the instructor, this athlete
knowledge is lacking. Therefore, it is difficult to set precise goals and write a detailed training program.
In this situation, the instructor only has a general idea of where they want the athlete to be at the end of
training, so the instructor must follow an assessment process for gaining more information to make
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more informed decisions. This can be conducted scientifically and through training experience. The
scientific method recruits researchers, medical staff, and other specialized workers to develop physical
and biochemical indicators which are used to accumulate long-term data and develop reports that show
the athlete’s actual level of lifting ability (see Chapter 13 on Exercise Load). This method can be very
accurate at assessing an athlete’s condition and how they respond to training but is expensive, requires
specialized workers to interpret data, and therefore is used mainly by professional weightlifting teams
and elite athletes. Most instructors must rely on the experience method which requires communication
with the athlete, collecting and reviewing training data, and combining it with the athlete’s response.
New instructors should shadow an experienced instructor to discuss their data and interpretations.
Once the instructor knows how the athlete responds to training then they can they can set appropriate
training goals, form a training plan and adjust when necessary to make sure athlete’s peak at the right
time.
How to Build an Assessment Model
Observation and Gathering Evidence
Figure 16 – 2 outlines the process for building an assessment model which is very similar to the
process for assessing training. The first step is to observe an athlete in training and note how they
physically, technically, and mentally react to certain loads, movements, rest periods, and other factors
within a session, between sessions, and even within a training phase and between phases to determine
how athletes respond to training (Tian et al 2008). In terms of physical function, instructors can look for
signs of fatigue, examine the athlete’s heart rate and breathing, see if they rub certain joints or muscles,
and observe the difficulty they experience in completing certain movements. In terms of technical skills,
instructors can observe how well the athlete adheres to the 5 Words and 3 gravity principles while
looking for signs of breakdown and compensation. In terms of psychological status, they can observe the
athlete’s body language and demeanor to gauge their level of focus, will power, confidence, excitability,
and other factors. The instructor should look for patterns as these signs arise.
Gathering evidence is the second step in the assessment process. It is an extension of
observation where the instructor tracks the athlete’s performance during training and competition given
the factors they have observed. For experienced instructors, this step usually occurs simultaneously with
observation, but newer instructors may need time to observe an athlete before gathering data on
physical, technical, and psychological indicators. In terms of physical function, the instructor can
measure the training load, the movement speed, and basic indicators such as heart rate, sleep quality,
weight, etc. If the instructor uses the experimental method, then they can gather evidence on biological
indicators (see Chapter 13 on Exercise Load). In terms of technical skills, the instructor can take videos of
the athlete’s lifts to review them more closely and in slow motion and evaluate the relationship
between assistance movements and competitive lifts (see Chapter 14 on Strength Training). More
advanced methods rely on researchers to provide EMG measurements, force production, 2D and 3D
motion analysis to gather statistical and graphical kinematic information such as velocity, acceleration,
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Figure 16 – 2: Process for Creating a Competitive State Assessment Model
and position of the body and barbell (Bi et al 2015). In terms of psychological status, the instructor can
use the athlete’s rate of perceived exertion (see Chapter 13 on Exercise Load) and feedback from their
training diary (see Chapter 15 on Training Plan and Diary); however, more advanced methods such as
psychological scales can be implemented by experts.
Regardless of the evidence gathered and the method used, instructors should use the following
principles to obtain a greater understanding of their athletes and develop their ‘eye’ for assessing
athletes. First, it is better to use more than one method for gathering evidence because there is no one
method that can completely summarize an athlete’s response to training. This includes using more than
one method for measuring physical function but also includes using at least one method for physical
function, technical skills, and psychological status. Using more than one method will help to develop a
comprehensive understanding of the athlete and how they respond to training. Second, it is important
to carry out these measurements over a period of time to gather enough evidence of the athlete’s
response to various stages of training and examine the trend. Additionally, the instructor can identify
patterns in performance in response to training. Third, the evidence should be evaluated specifically to
the athlete. For example, hemoglobin has individual differences and therefore should be analyzed for
each individual case (Cui 2014). The same goes for an athlete’s reaction to volume, intensity, certain
exercises, and mental stress.
Selecting Assessment Indicators and Determining Standards
After observing the athlete and gathering evidence about the indicators that affect the athlete’s
competitive state, the instructor must choose the indicators they believe have the largest and most
consistent impact. Additionally, the indicators must be sensitive to training otherwise there is little
information that the instructor can gain. For example, some athletes have a very strong work ethic and
mindset such that they maintain their mental effort regardless of how stressful the training is physically.
In this case, “psychological condition” would not be an informative indicator for the instructor to
evaluate the athlete’s competitive state. However, if the athlete’s psychological condition changes with
their performance then psychological condition is an informative indicator. Furthermore, the indicator
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must be consistent in its effect otherwise its fluctuation may be random and difficult to predict. Once
the indicator is chosen, the instructor must also determine a standard for each indicator based on their
observations of the athlete and how they feel it will affect the athlete’s competitive state as shown in
Table 16 – 1. The purpose of determining standards is to allow the instructor to define what shape the
athlete is in and make more informed training modifications. It is not necessary to build such a table in
its entirety from the beginning, instead it is best to have several factors which seem the most obvious
and then add over time.
There are several issues to keep in mind when constructing such a table. First, in practice the
instructor can choose greater or fewer levels depending on the athlete’s training level, the requirement
for prediction and evaluation, and the need for accuracy. Elite athletes need more refined levels
because their competitive state is relatively stable and high due to many years of systematic training.
For example, they might need 5 or 6 levels rather than the 4 levels outlined in the table. By contrast,
young athletes are at a lower level and in a period of frequent change and growth, so they do not need
such refinement since a small change has a big influence on their competitive state. For example, the
instructor may simply divide intensity as “low, medium, and high” for a beginner where “low intensity”
is simply an empty bar while “medium intensity” is 2.5 – 5kg extra and “high intensity” is 5 – 10kg extra.
A second issue is that while the table is mainly qualitative, it can become more quantitative and
accurate as the instructor learns about their athlete. For example, “short sleep” is a qualitative
descriptor but the instructor can gather sleep data from the training diary and the athlete’s feedback to
understand that “short sleep” might be 7 hours for one athlete and 8 hours for another. Third, it is not
always the case that indicators move together. For example, an athlete might have poor sleep which
indicates they might be in a low state, yet they still might be able to lift well or even set a personal best
in loading or strength quality. The opposite is also true. So the instructor must consider all the indicators
and summarize the athlete’s competitive state.
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No
1
Competitive
State
Indicator
Loading
2
Strength
Quality
3
Weightlifting
Technique
4
Injury and
Weakness
Table 16 – 1: Sample Athlete Assessment
Low State
Medium State
Semi-High
75% ± 5%
85% ± 5%
State
95% ± 5%
Athlete lifts
Athlete lifts
Athlete lifts 90
about 70 – 80% about 80 – 90% – 100% but it is
and it looks
or less. CJ is too not easy and is
very difficult
close to snatch
unable to go
further
Strength
Strength
Strength
movements
movements
movements
have a lot of
look slow but
look fast and
grind, slow
smooth,
smooth but
speed, and
repetitions look
except near
repetitions look
hard near the
maximal
hard to achieve.
end of a set.
weights, Sets
Light weights
Moderate
are easier to
elicit high rate
weights elicit
complete. Only
of perceived
high rate of
heavy weights
exertion
perceived
elicit high rate
exertion
of perceived
exertion
Slow
coordination
and rhythm
even at low
intensities.
Compensation
is obvious,
balance is
difficult to
maintain. Body
awareness is
low, and lifts
are difficult to
self-correct
The original
injury is shown
obviously, may
become more
serious, adverse
Improved
coordination
and rhythm
improved
around
moderate
weights.
Compensation
is still obvious
but is possible
to self-correct
Good
coordination,
rhythm, and
speed near
maximal
weights. Slight
adjustments
necessary to
attempt
heavier weights
Injury has some
impact on
technique or
strength
Injury has little
impact on
technique or
strength. Only
evident near
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Highest State
100%*
Athlete easily
achieves 100%
in both lifts and
can attempt
personal bests
Strength
movements
look fast and
smooth even at
maximal
weight.
Possible to set
a new best.
Sets are easy to
complete; even
heavy weights
elicit low rate
of perceived
exertion.
Excellent
coordination,
rhythm, and
speed at
maximal
weights. No
need to
compensate or
adjust. Ready
to attempt
personal bests.
Injury has no
effect on
technique or
strength.
5
6
effect of weak
sport quality or
body part is
shown
obviously;
Immunity
Increased
Adaptability
susceptibility to
moderate colds,
loss of appetite,
very easily
fatigued, very
sensitive to
loading
SelfBarbell feels
Consciousness
heavy, body
unable to
warm-up,
muscles feel
tense, body
feels sluggish,
some feel too
hot or cold,
difficult to
mobilize the
body for even
moderate
weights
7
Psychological
Condition
8
Recovery
Low Selfconfidence,
irritable, low
energy,
reluctant to
speak, low
concentration,
low willpower
Sleep quality
low or short,
elevated heart
rate, weight
loss, needs long
maximal
attempts.
Susceptible to
minor colds,
appetite still
insufficient,
easy to fatigue,
moderately
sensitive to
loading
Feelings still
persistent but
les so, difficult
to mobilize the
body for heavy
weight;
Immunity and
appetite
restored, less
sensitive to
loading, only
fatigued from
heavier sets
Immunity and
appetite
restored, not
fatigued from
heavy sets
The various
feelings have
recovered, feels
relaxed, can
mobilize the
body normally
Feels very
relaxed and
energetic, very
easy to
mobilize the
body
Feelings have
improved but
still affects the
athlete to lift
moderate
weights
Feelings have
improved but
still affects the
athlete to lift
near maximal
weights
Feels confident,
high energy,
able to
concentrate,
willing to try
personal bests
Sleep quality
improved but
not consistent,
heart rate
normal, weight
loss might be
Sleep quality
normal, heart
rate normal,
needs normal
rest periods,
high stamina
Sleep quality
good, heart
rate normal,
weight stable,
rest periods
normal or
246
rest periods,
low stamina
9
Physiological
and
Biochemical
Index
Decreased
hemoglobin,
increased
urinary protein,
lactic acid
increased
minor, needs
moderate rest
periods,
moderate
stamina
Various indices
have improved
short, very high
stamina
Various indices
reach normal
levels
Various indices
reach peak
standards
Testing Indicators and Modeling
The next stage of the assessment process is to test the validity of the indicator by comparing
their assessment with the athlete's feedback in future training. If the athlete’s response and instructor’s
assessment are similar, then the instructor can feel confident that they are accurately assessing the
athlete. If there is a large difference, then the instructor should look back at the previous training cycle
to see if they missed anything, revise their indicator selection, or revise their standards. As instructors
test these indicators, they should continue to look for patterns during training to gather more
information and update their table. Over several training cycles the instructor gains more information by
which they can use to assess their athlete.
After the instructor observes, gathers initial evidence, selects an indicator, establishes its
standard, and compares the assessment with athlete feedback, then it is possible to model the athlete’s
competitive state. For example, Figure 16 – 3 plots an example of an athlete’s competitive state level
over an 18-day microcycle based off actual assessments (Gu 2005b). From the graph, one can identify
the competitive state level on a particular day or whether it is increasing, decreasing, or maintaining
during a particular period within the microcycle. For example, in Figure 16 – 3, the 4th day of the
microcycle (point A) lies on the 4th day of the loading period. The athlete reached 95% of their best
competitive state and decreased afterwards due to continued loading. By contrast, on the 10th day of
the loading period (B) the state was at its lowest level but experienced an upward trend due to recovery.
Finally, the model shows that the athlete reached a peak on the 16th day. Knowing this model can help
the instructor plan training for competition or test events. Another athlete may have a different graph
due to their sensitivity to training so they might peak earlier or later. However, this information cannot
be known unless the instructor performs the earlier steps to identify, measure, and test indicators that
summarize an athlete’s competitive state.
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Figure 16 – 3: Sample Competitive State Assessment Result during a Microcycle
Adjusting Training
When the instructor understands the athlete’s competitive state, they can set training goals and
construct a program to reach a certain performance level by a certain date. However, even with a good
understanding and a good program the athlete must conduct immediate, short-term, and long-term
adjustments because adaptation is heterogenous (Gu 2005b). These adjustments are shown in Figure 16
– 1. Immediate adjustment refers to adjusting the training within the training session to evaluate if the
athlete’s competitive state is in line with the originally planned state and trend. Additionally, the
instructor can examine the athlete’s training diary from the previous session, observe their body
language, ask the athlete how they feel, evaluate their performance and rate of perceived exertion
during warm-ups and even after completing parts of the daily training plan. Then they can refer to their
competitive state assessment from Table 16 – 1 to a get a sense of their competitive state and adjust
the training accordingly.
Short-term adjustment refers to regulating the loading and recovery during a microcycle to
ensure that the athlete’s competitive state is improving and reaches its peak at a particular date such as
competition or test day. This can be achieved by either shortening or lengthening the loading period
and/or recovery period which can prolong or shorten the microcycles as shown in Figure 16 – 4. For
example, the top panel shows that an athlete’s peak will be delayed following the original model and
underlying training plan therefore one strategy is to shorten the first microcycle by reducing and
shortening the loading period which allows the athlete to enter the recovery period sooner but for a
shorter time. This adjustment allows the instructor to load the athlete again but early enough to peak by
week 6. The second panel shows an alternative strategy by shortening the loading and recovery periods
248
so that there are several microcycles to allow the athlete to peak on time. The third uses a more refined
strategy by maintaining the length of the loading and recovery periods but reducing the intensity during
the recovery periods so that the athlete reaches a higher competitive state by the end of the microcycle.
There are many other ways to adjust the training to ensure the athlete peaks at the right time. In
general, the training cycle will be shortened if either the loading periods, recovery periods, or both are
shortened ceteris paribus. Conversely, the training cycle will lengthen if either the loading or recovery,
or both are lengthened. Regardless of the strategy, the instructor should adjust the training for the
athlete to follow the competitive state trend line so that they reach a higher competitive state by the
end of the training cycle.
Finally, the instructor should implement long-term adjustment after one or several training
cycles. This is necessary because indicators change over time. For example, if the instructor uses the
athlete’s total, exercise capacity, total number of reps, set, necessary rest, etc. as indicators of their
competitive state, then these indicators will not change very much in the short-term since it takes time
for athletes to adapt to greater loads. This is even more significant for higher level athletes since they
are highly conditioned to weightlifting training and hence require longer loading times to induce
adaptation. Therefore, indicators can change, and this is a relatively longer process for higher level
athletes. If the indicators do not change over time, then the original intensity, sets, and reps will induce
a smaller stimulus which cause a smaller change in the competitive state. This means that the loading
must lengthen otherwise the necessary recovery period will be shorter which shortens the entire
microcycle and the athlete will reach their highest competitive state early. Relatedly, if the original
indicator and standards are used to predict the competitive state level and development trend of the
entire training cycle, then they will not be accurate and reliable because the body’s response will be
different from the original model. Therefore, the instructor should inspect, modify, and add/delete
indicators and standards based on the athlete’s improvement, maintenance, or decrease in competitive
ability as well as unexpected factors such as illness, injury, etc. to accurately reflect the athlete’s actual
condition.
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Figure 16 – 4: Sample Cycle Adjustment for Pre-Competition
Conclusion
Diagnosing an athlete’s competitive state is mainly a qualitative judgement to supplement the
training diary and develop an “eye” for training the athlete. However, the process is based on theory
and concepts between stimulus and response. Coupled with practice and experience, the instructor can
obtain accurate and reliable results and make well-informed changes to the training program so that the
athlete continues to progress.
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Chapter 17: Youth Training
Over the past 50 years the age of beginning weightlifting training has greatly decreased (Yang
1999). In the 1960’s it was generally accepted for athletes to begin systematic weightlifting training at
16 – 17 years old, but by the 1980s athletes began training at 11 – 12 years old. Yang (1999) also notes
that over this period, the average age of all levels of the world's top 10 elite athletes dropped from 27
years down to 23.4 years old and has remained roughly stable ever since. He feels this phenomenon is
due to the fact that various athletic qualities and foundations are formed and capable of rapid
improvement during a youth’s growth. Currently, one must start from youth and train systematically for
about 8 – 9 years to reach a world class level and 8 – 12 years become Olympic champion (Xie 1994).
While much of this book is applicable to all athletes, it is important to understand special considerations
of youth training to maximize results in a safe manner.
Goals of Youth Training
Training youths is the first phase of the long-term training plan and directly impacts athletes’
future competition results, so its goal should be clearly outlined. First, the athlete must develop an
interest in weightlifting and the will to exercise. Young people have a high level of curiosity and broad
interests, but they can easily change their mind. So, during their development it is necessary to make
weightlifting training interesting and fun. As the athlete matures, then their training can become more
serious, but the athlete should still enjoy training. This approach will enhance their dedication and will
to exercise while also accounting for other sports, knowledge, and interests and develop comprehensive
development of a weightlifting athlete.
Second, the athletic foundation of children must be established first and foremost. Youths must
develop their athletic qualities according to their sensitive periods in order to easily reach a high level
when they become adults while minimizing the risk of injury throughout the process. The best time for
developing speed, agility and flexibility and other physical characteristics is under 13 years of age (see
Chapter 6 on Athletic Training) so instructors should use this feature of youths to develop general and
special physical fitness according to different age groups. Third, the athlete must learn and master basic
techniques for snatch, clean and jerk, and various sports techniques. The mind of youths is very flexible
and impressionable, so they are good at imitating and can learn and master actions quickly. However,
for teenagers the excitability and inhibition process in the mind is not balanced enough and they gain
strength quickly, so there is less stability in mastering techniques. Hence, during technical training it is
important to establish the correct technical concepts early to avoid instability later.
Stages of Youth Training
Youth weightlifting training occurs during the basic training stage of a long-term, systematic
program (see Chapter 15 on The Training Program and Training Diary), however this stage should be
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divided into annual stages to account for the large physical and mental changes that athletes will
experience during this stage. Table 17 – 1 shows these stages which are based on young athletes’
growth patterns, different physical features during different ages, and the age divisions created by
provincial competitions (Yang 2004; Qiu 2013). The percentages differ slightly from guidelines presented
in Chapter 15 due to the different years but still provide a general allocation of training content.
The first stage of youth training is the School Age stage (10 – 11 years old) which aims to
develop interest in weightlifting and establish a solid athletic and technical foundation. Athletes should
participate in a variety of activities such as track and field, gymnastics, soccer, and basketball to keep
their training fun while building coordination, flexibility, agility, and body weight strength. Instructors
can also arrange general athletic training programs to build overall strength (see Chapter 6 on Athletic
Training). Weightlifting training is broken down into steps discussed in Chapter 7 (on Technical Training)
and mainly composed of practice with a stick or light bar. Additionally, since the intensity is light and
volume is based on time spent practicing, there is no prescription for effective load or intensity. These
sessions can be prescribed 3 – 5 times per week based on the athlete’s interest and training times
should be around an hour to make time for other activities.
After 1 – 2 years of training, athletes can graduate to Jr Group C (12 – 13 years old). In this stage
athletes can continue to develop speed, agility, and flexibility but the time spent on these qualities
decreases. Instead, athletes increase the number of training days and time spent per day training to gain
more practice performing full weightlifting movements and assistance exercises with a barbell. These
movements can be weighted to begin developing absolute strength, but this should occur as athletes
show signs of puberty. Additionally, athletes will start competing in formal competitions throughout the
year and instructors should expect children to reach Class 2 or 3 status at this stage (see Table 17 – 2).
As athletes reach Class 2 or 3 status, they are ready to enter the third training stage which is Jr.
Group B (14 – 15 years old). Because athletes are well into puberty at this age, the goal is to gradually
increase absolute strength while continuing to train general athletic qualities from earlier stages.
Additionally, athletes must continue to focus on technique as their bodies change during puberty.
Athletes have enough training experience to understand basic weightlifting movements, so instructors
should implement intelligence training to further their understanding as the intensity of their lifting
increases and their body is undergoing change. Athletes also compete more than they have in earlier
stages so psychological training becomes more important so that athletes can feel comfortable
performing in competition. Additionally, mentality training is very important during this stage to
maintain an interest in weightlifting and prevent burnout as athletes lift heavier and compete more.
With successful training, athletes in this age range should reach Class 1 status by the end of this period.
The final stage is Jr Group A (16 – 17 years old) which determines whether athletes will become
professional-level. Athletes already have a training foundation of 6 – 7 years, therefore the goal in this
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Age
Training Goal
Sessions/Wk
Sessions/
Month
Sessions/ Year
Duration/
Session
Sets/Session
Table 17 – 1: Long-Term Training Plan for Youth Athletes
School Age
Jr Group C
Jr Group B
Jr Group A
10 – 11
12
13
14 – 15
16 – 17
● Develop an
● 11 – 12
● Develop
● Continue to
interest in
Continue to
speed,
develop
weightlifting
develop
absolute
absolute
● Athletic
speed and
strength,
strength,
training to
flexibility
power and
endurance,
improve
● 12 – 13
endurance.
and power
flexibility,
Begin
● Develop
● Develop
coordination,
developing
intelligence,
tactical skills
speed, agility,
absolute
mentality,
● Continue
and body
strength for
and
intelligence,
weight
the entire
psychology
mentality,
strength
body
● Build
and
● Learn
● Learn
technical
psychological
technique,
competition
mastery at
training
decompose by
and
heavier
holding sticks
assistance
weights
and technical
exercises.
● Raising
movements.
competition
● Use initial
levels
selection
methods
3–5
3–6
4–6
5–6
6–9
13 – 20
13 – 26
21 –
21 – 26
21 – 26
26
150 – 230
150 –
186 –
238 – 290
238 – 290
290
290
1 – 1.5
1–2
1.5 – 2
1.5 – 2
2–3
NA
Sets/Month
NA
Effective
Volume
NA
13 – 26
21 –
26
25 – 35
25 –
35
50 – 70% @ 75%
254
21 – 26
21 – 26
30 – 40
30 – 50
50 – 70% @ 80%
40 – 60% @ 85%
General
80
35
30
25
15
10
Athletic
Training %
WL Assistance
10
35
40
40
50
55
Work %
Competitive
10
30
30
35
35
35
Movements
Competitions*
2–3
4–6
4–6
4–8
4–8
/ Year
*Can include test events which are informal, scheduled events to test an athlete’s ability
Table 17 – 2: Male and Female Weightlifting Standards by Weight Class
Men
Level
Class 3 Lifter
Class 2 Lifter
Class 1 Lifter
Age
52 kg
56 kg
63 kg
69 kg
77 kg
85 kg
94 kg
105 kg
105+ kg
Women
Level
12 – 13
130
150
175
205
225
240
248
263
273
13 – 14
170
195
210
245
275
290
298
305
323
14 – 15
200
230
250
275
305
320
330
340
353
Class 3 Lifter
Class 2 Lifter
Class 1 Lifter
Age
44 kg
48 kg
53 kg
58 kg
63 kg
69 kg
75 kg
75+ kg
12 – 13
100
112
125
137
150
162
172
182
13 – 14
120
132
145
157
170
182
192
202
14 – 15
140
152
165
177
190
202
212
222
255
Master
Sportsman
16 – 17
230
260
280
310
340
355
365
375
388
International
Sportsman
17 +
Master
Sportsman
16 – 17
170
182
195
207
220
232
242
252
International
Sportsman
17 +
285
305
330
355
375
383
393
403
200
215
230
242
252
262
272
stage is to specialize in weightlifting training and continue to develop strength. Athletes train much
longer and more frequently than they ever have, and their training consists almost entirely of
weightlifting competition movements and assistance movements. Additionally, athletes continue to
develop their strength qualities since they are still in the sensitive period for strength. However,
instructors should build strength gradually because athletes are still growing. Because of this increased
specialization and higher intensity, athletes will require more mentality training to maintain a positive
mindset about training. Additionally, they will need more intelligence training to increase their
understanding of the movements at high intensities and reproduce them in training and competition. In
earlier stages, athletes incorporated psychological training to simply perform comfortably in
competition, but tactical training becomes an important focus since competitions are more competitive
and of higher significance in this stage. Athletes should expect to reach Master Sportsman status, but
some can reach International Sportsman status. Beyond this stage, athletes be eligible to join the Jr
National team where they are expected to reach International Master Sportsman by age 18 – 20 and
their training will be similar to adult athletes. Some athletes can become national and world champions
by this stage.
Special Considerations When Training Youth
Strength Training
Chapter 6 covered the concept of sensitive periods for general athletic qualities, but sensitive
periods also exist for various strength qualities which are presented in Figure 17 – 1. For example, Ma
(2013) notes that power grows quickly during ages 7 – 14 for both boys and girls but slows down after
age 14 for girls and after age 16 – 17 for boys. Strength-endurance can develop rapidly for girls between
ages 7 – 13 while for boys the period is longer ranging from ages 7 – 17. Gao (2015) finds that absolute
strength develops most quickly between ages 11 – 16 for girls and ages 12 – 17 for boys. Given these
results along with the fact that children’s bone growth is incomplete, it is recommended for instructors
to avoid intensive strength training with young children and instead focus on building strengthendurance and speed first. Full-body strength can be developed through light loads, especially in body
weight exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, and squatting.
256
Figure 17 – 1: Sensitive Periods for Strength Qualities
Mentality, Tactical, and Psychological Training
An important feature of the long-term training plan is for weightlifting athletes to enjoy training
from early on, otherwise athletes will get burned out and less likely to follow through many years of
training. Mentality training can accomplish this by allowing children to see results after putting in effort
into the learning and training process. For example, the instructor can emphasize that the athlete has
performed an increased number of sets, reps, or amount of weight lifted. It is also recommended
combine the high level of curiosity with the need to develop specific athletic qualities. For example, the
instructor can arrange jumping games while developing reactive strength, chasing games to make
running and sprinting more fun, and team sports to train agility, coordination, and flexibility. Instructors
can also encourage young athletes to overcome the muscle pain after training, pain when the barbell is
supported on the collarbone and wrist, and various difficulties faced during overall training. This will
improve their willpower, develop courage to confront difficulties, and promote training with a positive
attitude.
Because young athletes have less stable technique and are not ready for heavy weightlifting
competitions, the instructor should arrange various types of competitions during teaching and training
in order to build tactical ability. For example, instructors can compare which of two athletes has a better
mastery of technique, who can complete the workout better, and who has the highest lifting success
rate. They can also judge assistance training competitions such as deep squat competitions, and other
types of lifting competitions. These types of competitions can make training more exciting and teach
athletes how to select their attempts, how to psychologically mobilize themselves to reach new personal
257
bests. Instructors should encourage athletes to stay humble when winning and never give up in a
competition.
Exercise Load and Recovery
In general youths are only able to withstand about 30% of the maximum loading capability of
adult athletes. This is because the organs such as bones, muscles, and tendons, and bodily systems such
as the central nervous system of a youth athlete are not fully developed and have not experienced
continuous adaptation and improvement from long-term systematic training (Gu 2005a). Hence it is
impossible to use high intensity for youth athletes, therefore instructors should rely on volume-based
loading to achieve a training effect. Additionally, the training time should be shorter compared to adult
athletes because youths have less endurance to withstand long hours of large training loads (especially
intensity-based loading). Relatedly, the loading rhythm for youth athletes varies less and therefore is
more stable compared to adult athletes. This is because the loading stimulation is less, so the physical
depletion is relatively smaller which means small changes can stimulate adaptation. By contrast, adult
athletes have a strong foundation and hence must endure large training loads over multiple sessions or
multiple weeks to form a sufficient stress to produce a new training adaptation and improvements.
Additionally, youth athletes have weaker recoverability but faster metabolisms than adults
which means they require shorter amounts of rest between movements but longer recovery between
sessions than adults. By contrast, adult athletes may need a few minutes of rest between heavy sets but
can train multiple times per day because they have a stronger recoverability due to long-term
systematic training. However, because the stimulation in adult training is very deep, athletes must use
physical, psychological, nutritional, and other types of recovery methods. By contrast, youth athletes
mainly rely on adjusting rest periods during training as well as sleep and other natural methods for
recovery.
Hence, the intensity will not be high when training beginners, so the focus should be on
technical mastery and relying on volume. Mastering technique with light weights does not imply
stagnation because it builds coordination, confidence, and develops supporting muscles that may be too
weak to handle heavier loads. So in a sense, technical training is strength training. Some instructors
blindly look for results during youth training and insist in increasing weight despite the student
performing poor movement patterns. This should be discouraged. Instead, it is encouraged for
instructors to require the athlete to lift the weight 3 – 5 times with the correct technique and relaxed
movement before adding weight.
Training Program
Training plans for the snatch and clean and jerk should be developed based on youths’ physical
and skill features. Competition movements are difficult for beginners to grasp right from the start if they
are taught the complete version. To help young weightlifters quickly and correctly learn these
258
movements it is important to use teaching methods discussed in Chapter 4 (on Weightlifting Coaching
Methods). Following the principles of going from easy to difficult, static to dynamic, and single action to
compound movement, and to break down steps before completing moves is an effective training
method. The snatch is easier to perform relative to the clean and jerk, so it should be taught first. The
clean and jerk should be divided into two parts, starting with the clean and then moving on to the jerk
once the clean is familiarized. Young athletes generally imitate coaches’ demonstrations when learning
movements and can learn quickly by imitation. They only know that “it is the way” but not so much on
“why so.” As their ages and understanding increase (age 10 – 17), they will obtain increasing degrees of
analytical ability. So, the instructor should avoid overtly technical descriptions or reasoning when
teaching beginners and instead break down the movements so young athletes can grasp the
comprehensive concepts of the competition movements.
Youth weightlifting training should not be arranged like adult weightlifting training because
young athletes do not have a strong athletic foundation are undergoing sensitive periods of athletic
development. Additionally, children can easily gain and lose interest, so it is best to arrange more
assistance exercises to engage young athletes’ interest in weightlifting while strengthen areas to ensure
they lift according to the 5 Words and 3 gravity principles. This arrangement has been proven to
improve children’s sports results as well. For example, a study by Qiu (2013) found that the training
plans of youth teams at the Raoping Sports Institute mainly focused on competition movements with
little attention to assistance exercises. They had 5 training session per week, consisting of 1 session for
athleticism training and 4 barbell training sessions. The barbell sessions contained 6 – 8 competition
moves but only 9 – 11 assistance exercises. During the experiment, Qiu rearranged the barbell sessions
to consist of 3 – 4 competition movements while the remaining exercises were mainly assistance
exercises. As a result, the 18 members from Raoping weightlifting A and B teams improved their results
after two months of training (see Table 17 – 3). Therefore, instructors should avoid training young
athletes as they would adults in order to maximize the interest and performance of young weightlifters.
259
Table 17 – 3: Comparison between Raoping Sport Institution Athletes Before and After
Incorporating Assistance Movements
Name
DOB
Gender
Prior Total
Post Total
Snatch
CJ
Snatch
CJ
Zhang Siyi
2001
F
30
35
40
45
Liu Sixun
2000
F
25
35
40
45
Yu Yilin
2000
F
0
0
25
35
Zheng Xiaojia
2001
F
0
0
25
30
Huang Yi
1999
F
55
70
65
80
Zhang Wanyi
2001
F
20
20
30
40
Yu Yifen
2000
F
45
55
60
75
Yu Jiatong
2000
F
25
30
35
45
Zhang Kaixin
1998
M
60
70
65
75
Li Xiaohao
1999
M
50
72
60
75
Zhang Huanjia
2001
M
50
60
50
65
Zheng Junxin
1999
M
60
70
65
80
Cai Peiwang
1997
M
80
90
85
100
Chen Shuo
1999
M
45
55
50
60
Li Zeqin
1998
M
55
65
70
80
Yu Jinyuan
1997
M
55
70
70
80
Xu Zhefan
2001
M
0
0
30
40
Lin Mo
2001
M
0
0
30
35
Given these kinds of results and using the categories of weekly weightlifting content from
Chapter 15 (on The Training Program and Training Diary) beginner youth training should consist of 5 – 7
movements per day and 3 – 5 sessions per week as shown in Table 17 – 4. This training is independent
of athletic training programs shown in Chapter 6 (on Athletic Training). There are 2 snatch-based
movements, each of which are performed once per week, 1 – 2 clean-based each performed once per
week, and 1 jerk-based movement once a week. This provides enough variety to maintain an athlete’s
interest and develop various parts of the lifts. Pulling strength is performed daily because it forms the
foundation for many assistance movements. Since Chinese weightlifting technique is heavily dependent
on quad strength, there are usually only 2 squat movements per week. Sometimes 3 movements are
possible if the loading is light enough, but instructors should make sure that athletes are recovered
enough to use their legs explosively for other work. There at least 1 – 2 support type movements (push,
lower back, abs) per day because young athletes to develop joint strength and core strength which
ensure stability and safety. Finally, instructors can arrange bodybuilding movements as needed to joint
strength and muscular balance.
260
Day
Conten
t
Table 17 – 4: Sample Weekly Training Content for Beginning Youths
Monday
Tuesda Wednesday Thursda
Friday
Saturday/Sunda
y
y
y
Pull Type
Rest
Pull Type
Rest
Pull Type
Rest
Snatch Type
Snatch Type
Clean Type
Push Type
Jerk Type
Push Type
Squat Type
Lower Back
Squat Type
Bodybuildin
Bodybuildin
Bodybuildin
g
g
g
Abs
Abs
Abs
We know power is the combination of strength and speed, but we also know that the sensitive
period for speed occurs earlier than strength. Therefore, instructors emphasize barbell and lifting speed
early on when performing assistance movements to develop power. This requires moving weights that
are light, sometimes either an empty barbell or an amount equal to their body weight. Additionally,
instructors should select assistance movements that help such as speed-pulls, power variations, and
block work in order achieve good speed and make the lift feel light (Li 2005). Applying this knowledge
yields the following sample program in Table 17 – 5.
261
Day
Content
Table 17 – 5: Sample Training Week for Beginning Youths
Monday
Tuesda Wednesday Thursda
Friday
y
y
Snatch
Rest
Snatch Pull
Rest
Clean Speed
Deadlift
with Pause
Pull from
𝐵𝑊
𝐵𝑎𝑟
blocks
6
6
3−5
3−5
𝐵𝑊
6
3−5
Power
Muscle
Power Clean
𝐵𝑊
Snatch w/o
Snatch
6
3−5
𝐵𝑎𝑟
Split from
6
3−5
blocks
𝐵𝑎𝑟+5𝑘𝑔
5
3−5
Front
Jerk
Overhead
Squat
recovery
Squat
𝐵𝑊
𝐵𝑎𝑟
𝐵𝑊 𝑜𝑟 𝑙𝑒𝑠𝑠
6
6
6
3−5
Pushups
𝐵𝑊
5
10
3−5
3−5
Back
Extensions
𝑋
5
10
Leg Raises
𝑋
5
10
Saturday/
Sunday
Rest
DB Wrist
curls
2−5𝑘𝑔
5
Back
Squat
𝐵𝑊 𝑜𝑟 𝑙𝑒𝑠𝑠
3−5
6
Pullups
𝐵𝑊
5
10
10
Conclusion
If one can understand youths’ physical and psychological features then appropriately arranging
training content and exercise capacity can promote positive athletic and psychological changes.
Instructors should consider building the athletic foundation and be patient in doing so. Missing the
favorable opportunity of growth and development of youths will affect the improvement of technique
level in the future. Additionally, if one does not follow the pattern of growth and development of youth,
has unreasonably high requirements, rushes into adult training, and always focuses on results, then one
risks damaging the youth’s health, development, and interest in the sport.
262
263
Chapter 18: Women’s Weightlifting
Over the past century many sports, including weightlifting, were seen as unsuitable for women
due to women’s “inferior” strength, endurance, and stamina compared to men; however, reality has
shown that women succeed and thrive in these sports. The creation of women’s weightlifting ushered in
records that were once thought unimaginable and only attainable by men. Additionally, including
women's weightlifting as an Olympic sport resulted in some countries investing in this event as an
important area of development to focus for medaling in the Olympics, including China. This progress has
accumulated a rich experience and heightened interest in scientifically training women. This chapter
discusses China’s experience in women’s weightlifting, presents issues surrounding women’s
weightlifting training, and presents an introduction to guidelines of scientific training based on existing
experience and continuous innovation.
History
Women’s weightlifting in China has a history of nearly 35 years. Ma (2001) points out that these
years in women's weightlifting training development process can generally be divided into three stages:
the exploratory phase (1982 – 1987), the development phase (1987 – 1997), and the mature stage (1997
– present). Prior to the exploratory phase, women's weightlifting training in China was prohibited due to
concern about the impact of high intensity weight lifting training on women’s health. However, during
this time countries such as the United States were successfully carrying out weightlifting programs
which spurred national interest in China to study the health effects of weightlifting on women. During
the exploratory phase, specialized organizations such as the National Sports Bureau conducted many
experiments on women’s weightlifting proved that intensive weightlifting training programs did not
cause physiological damage to Chinese women. Therefore, the first pilot program was established in
1984 in Shandong Province and then Shanghai, Liaoning, Sichuan, and other provinces quickly followed
to set up women's weightlifting teams. In 1985 China's first women's weightlifting competition was held
in Jinan with 23 teams and nearly 150 contestants.
Gao (2015) notes that by 1987, China women’s weightlifting entered a period of rapid
development and reached a dominant position. For example, during the first world women’s
championship, China set 22 out of 27 world records. During 1987 – 1992, Chinese women won an
average of 23 out of 27 gold medals. Additionally, the team won the gold medals in the snatch, clean
and jerk, and total across 9 weight classes in the Asian Championships 5 years in a row. Part of this
success is due to starting off with professional training from the beginning. For example, the 5 Words
and 3 gravity principles were already established and many of the first coaches for the women’s team
were retired professionals from the men’s team. They already had technical and training expertise
unlike men’s training which underwent much more trial and error. Additionally, the government
invested in developing training bases throughout China at the city, provincial, and national levels to
create a system of professional development. Finally, there was a huge pool of willing athletes to choose
264
from because tough economic conditions in China during the 1980’s made weightlifting a lucrative
option for young women.
The mature stage is characterized by the gradual, scientific formation of a women's weightlifting
training system. Gao (2015) claims this was spurred by doping violations found in the 1994 Asian Games
which alarmed the Chinese government and created strict punishments for coaches administering
banned substances. Additionally, China was securing the Olympic Games and required a strategy to
perform well without banned substances. Therefore, China invested in manpower, material resources,
and technology which paved the way for in-depth scientific research on women's weightlifting training
especially in areas of athlete selection, psychological training, injury prevention, and recovery methods.
This research gradually formed the data used to form a women's weightlifting training system and was
applied to a large reserve pool of talent. By 2001 there were 50 professional women’s weightlifting
teams with more than 5,000 female athletes nationwide. Of course, this training system is still in the
process of continuous improvement and perfection as outlined at the end of Chapter 1.
Special Considerations when Training Women
Athletic Training
Chapter 6 (on Athletic Training) covered the concept of sensitive periods, however there are
differences between boys and girls in the timing of those periods (presented in Figure 18 – 1). Gao
(2015) finds that the sensitive periods for women’s athletic qualities occur 1 – 2 years before boys but
the periods last about the same amount time for qualities such as speed, endurance, agility, endurance,
and absolute strength. However, because the sensitive periods are shorter for power, strengthendurance, and flexibility for girls, instructors should emphasize activities that develop these qualities
early on. Gymnastics is an excellent option because it builds plyometric ability, flexibility, and strengthendurance with one’s body-weight. Additionally, female athletes must continue to focus power
throughout their training career than male athletes to compensate for this shorter sensitive period.
Yang (2013) notes that the muscle mass in an adult man comprises about 40 – 45% of their body weight
but women’s muscle mass comprises about 35% of their body weight, so their muscle strength is
generally 2/3 that of men and they have less muscle to produce speed and exert force. Therefore,
women need to include more strength training and bodybuilding (especially in the upper body) to
maximize their lean muscle mass and express their strength.
In addition to less muscle mass, women have thicker subcutaneous fat compared to men and
women gain fat more easily than men. Male athletes in light weight classes usually do not gain weight
easily; however, even female athletes in the 44kg or 48kg group can gain weight easily. Hence when
training women for weightlifting, the instructor should focus on increasing general body training such as
gymnastics, running, plyometrics, basketball, etc. to improve functions of internal organs and improve
explosive power of lower limbs while controlling body fat.
265
Figure 18 – 1: Sensitive Period for Athletic Qualities between Boys and Girls
Women also tend to have smaller joints than men, so the strength of the wrists, elbows, and
shoulders in female athletes is weaker which can result in higher injury potential as the weight
continues to increase. Research by Hu, Lu, and Wang (2003) surveyed the types of elbow injuries
experienced by female weightlifters and found that the ulnar collateral ligament, humeral condyle, and
olecranon are the most common sites for injury. Hence, it is necessary to arrange supportive exercises
such as wrist flexion and extension, dumbbell side raises, triceps extensions, etc. to increase the muscle
and joint strength of these areas to ensure safe training. Additionally, women should train their core
strength through trunk flexion, side flexion, trunk rotation, and static trunk exercises to develop to
support the upper body. Furthermore, they should do overhead presses, handstands, jerk recoveries,
overhead squat variations, and drop snatches to improve overall support capability.
Women generally have better joint flexibility compared to men, and this may be why they
develop it over a shorter period than boys. Under usual circumstances their shoulders, elbows, wrists,
ankles, lower back, hips, and knees can meet the needs of the technical movements of weightlifting,
whereas men need to develop their flexibility all year round. As weightlifting ability and strength
increase, joint flexibility can decrease but this can be avoided as long as measures are taken during
morning exercises and warm-ups before every training session. However, it is much more common for
266
some female athletes to be hyperflexible in the shoulders, elbows, hips, or knees and which can affect
their support stability and strength when doing technical movements. Such athletes should not increase
flexibility but instead work to increase strength of the muscles around the relevant joints to increase
stability and support strength of the joint and avoid sport injury. Finally, women’s better flexibility
translates into better coordination and balancing capabilities compared to men.
Technical Training
Instructors should base technical training on women’s different features. Practice shows that
given women’s advantages in flexibility, coordination, and balance, they can fulfill the movement
requirements for the snatch and clean and jerk quite easily and generally master the technique faster
than men. However, Gao (2015) notes that women have weaker leg and lower back strength than men,
so women take a wider stance in the start position which creates several important technical
differences. First, a wider stance shifts the tension onto the hips which are relatively stronger than the
legs in most women. Second, the stance will lower the contact point for extension on and require the
athlete to lengthen the extension by laying back slightly more than men to fully utilize the force of the
hips while still maintaining their balance over the 60% mark. Other women will simply take a wider grip
to overcome this difference. Third, the stance results in women not sliding out as much as men to
achieve a squat position during the catch since they are already closer to their squat position during the
pull. This allows women to begin catching the weight faster than men but at the expense of fully
exerting their leg strength. However, women can overcome the lack leg strength exertion because they
are generally more flexible than men so they are able to increase their range of motion by catching
lower (Zhu 1998).
Psychological Training
In China, the traditional view that weightlifting is a men’s sport has changed, but it is a relatively
recent change. At the same time, the stereotype for many women in China has been to portray
themselves as timid, and hence they lack self-confidence. Additionally, beauty standards promote skinny
bodies so women have been taught to be fearful of weights, developing muscle mass, and strength for
fear of losing their femininity. Therefore, the instructor must work against traditional stereotypes and
help develop courage and self-confidence during training to quickly improve the level of weightlifting
training. Additionally, the instructor must pay attention to developing the athlete’s independence so
that the athlete can combat difficulties on their own.
One method used to develop courage, self-confidence, and independence is the use of verbal
prompts consisting of simple, specific instructions that the athlete can grasp to increase their technique
and confidence. For example, using high-level female athletes from the Shandong, Shanghai, Jiangsu,
PLA, and National teams and the Shanghai Institute of Athletics, Hu et al (2001) compiled statistics on
groups that received verbal prompts and those who did not. Table 18 – 1 shows the snatch success rate
267
Table 18 – 1: Success Rate Statistics on Snatch Attempts during Training
Group A: Received Verbal Prompts
Athlete #
# of 85 –
# of
Success
# of 100%
# of
Success
90%
Successes
Rate %
Attempts
Successes
Rate %
Attempts
1
48
45
94
20
8
40
2
54
48
89
20
9
45
3
46
42
91
20
6
30
4
56
53
95
20
11
55
5
60
55
92
20
7
35
6
49
44
90
20
6
30
7
52
49
94
20
8
40
8
50
46
92
20
12
60
9
54
49
91
20
7
35
10
62
58
94
20
9
45
Group B: Did Not Receive Verbal Prompts
1
48
42
88
20
5
25
2
54
46
85
20
6
30
3
46
39
85
20
4
20
4
56
47
84
20
5
25
5
60
52
87
20
5
25
6
49
44
90
20
7
35
7
52
46
88
20
6
30
8
50
46
92
20
5
25
9
54
50
93
20
8
40
10
62
50
81
20
4
20
at 85 – 90% and 100% intensities between female groups who received verbal prompts and those who
did not. The data clearly shows that the group who received verbal prompts experienced substantially
higher snatch success rates at both intensities. Discussions with athletes and coaches reveal that verbal
prompts enable athletes to maintain a good attitude, grasp the importance of snatch technique, and
motivate the athletes to pay attention to the details of the snatch process. This allowed to approach
heavy weights with more confidence and courage while making them feel more capable.
Female athletes’ determination and hard work can vary widely. Some women lack
determination and hard-working mentality, so they tend to complain over minor pains and fatigue and
want to reduce the amount of exercise. While such athletes are usually young, the instructor must
implement psychological and mentality training to help them overcome and develop a hard-working
attitude. Another group of women consciously do huge amounts of training. Even when their collar bone
is injured by the barbell, have blisters on their palm, torn calluses, or other minor injuries or sickness,
268
they never complain and continue their training without saying anything. These athletes have very
strong determination and high self-consciousness, so instructors need to completely confirm that these
qualities are good but also need to make sure they do not train too much or hide potentially serious
injuries to ensure better results from training.
Additionally, cultural norms can push some women into having low self-esteem, so they do not
respond well to frustration, difficulties or defeat during competition, or to too many harsh comments
about their mistakes. For some, this will make them feel that their movement cannot be corrected,
believe their result is always subpar, and think that they are not made for weightlifting. Others will feel
ashamed and cry. So during training and competition, if the instructor can give more encouragement
and positively reinforce successful attempts, then this will usually create better effects. Additionally,
using positive education such as first acknowledging even the smallest improvement and then kindly
pointing out their shortcomings will help in building an athlete’s confidence.
The instructor can also modify training variables to resolve psychological issues that women
athletes face. For example, athletes can attempt new strength records on the condition of being sure
they will be successful. The instructor can reduce the intensity when the athlete’s energy is declining to
ensure that every attempt is successful and arrange a proper weight to ensure the success rate in
competition. These modifications are known as the “successful attempt method” which aims to ensure
every attempt is successful to set up and solidify the athlete’s courage, self-confidence, self-esteem, and
help them develop a correct estimation about their abilities. Of course, not every attempt will be
successful in every training and competition but the reason for the failure (be it objective or subjective)
should be quickly determined. Then the instructor should give encouragement by approving of their
attempt and criticizing less on their faults.
Exercise Load
The characteristics of the women’s weight training can be summed up into 3 relationships (Ma
2001): 1) the intensity-volume relationship, 2) the training-recovery relationship, and 3) the techniquepower relationship. Table 18 – 2 shows the individual components of these relationships.
Table 18 – 2: Difference in Loading Arrangements between Women's and Men's Weightlifting
Intensity
Volume
Method Recovery Training Training
Training
Arrangement Arrangement
of Wt
Cycle
Duration
Emphasis
Increase
Women
+90%
6 – 10 sets
Small
Slow
3–6
Long
Technique
weeks
Men
+90%
3 – 6 sets
Large
269
Quick
3
weeks
Short
and powerbased
Strengthbased
The "intensity-volume relationship” is one of the main areas differentiating men and women's
weightlifting training. Specifically, the intensity must exceed 90% during men’s heavy training sessions
and they generally complete about 6 sets of 1 – 3 reps (usually 1 rep). As the intensity increases the
number of sets should be cut down because it is easy to produce fatigue and injuries with greater
volume. By contrast women's heavy training requires intensity to also exceed 90% but they maintain this
intensity for 10 sets and often for more than 1 rep. Additionally, men take greater jumps in between
sets which cuts down on training volume, while women build up more gradually.
An extension of the “intensity-volume” relationship is the "training-recovery relationship" which
refers to men's quicker fatigue under training but also relatively quicker recovery phase compared to
women. Men can maintain absolute high intensity but it can only be sustained in shorter duration,
whereas women's can maintain higher average intensity over a longer duration. This relationship holds
within the daily training plan but also over an entire phase. So it is common to observe men training at
high intensity for less than 2 hours and for only 2 – 3 weeks before fatiguing while women train for
several hours and maintain high intensity for 3 – 6 weeks. Because men train in shorter bouts and have a
shorter training cycle, they only need 3 – 6 days to fully recover before engaging in heavy training or
testing. However, since women train in longer bouts and have longer training cycles, they accumulate
more fatigue and require about 6 – 10 days to fully recover.
Finally, the "technique-power relationship" refers to the different emphases in men's
training compared to women’s training. For example, men’s training will focus their training on
absolute strength such as squats, deadlifts, and other absolute strength training. By contrast,
women pay relatively more attention to front squats, pulls, and methods to develop power (i.e. lifts
from hang, touch and go lifting, lifts from blocks, etc.). Table 18 – 3 combines these differences to
compare a sample 6-day training program between women and men.
There are a few reasons why women can maintain such high intensity and volume arrangements
for long periods of time while avoiding fatigue and injury. First, men have greater muscle mass and more
Type II muscles than women, so the absolute strength of male athletes is much higher than that of
female athletes even at equivalent body weights and body fat. Therefore, men rely more on absolute
strength compared to women and this induces more fatigue and results in men performing higher
intensity but lower volume training than women. By contrast, women have fewer Type II muscle fibers
so they need to perform more volume at heavy weights to adequately train their Type II muscle fibers
and adapt their Type I fibers to performing explosive work. This results in higher volume but lower
absolute intensity during their training sessions.
Another reason for the training differences between men and women is because female
athletes have higher subcutaneous fat compared to men which provides more energy and endurance in
training (Gao 2015). During exercise, muscles produce a large amount of heat while subcutaneous body
fat insulates heat. Since male athletes usually have greater muscle mass, longer limbs, and lower fat
270
Table 18 – 4: Sample Detailed Weekly Training Arrangement between Women and Men
Day
Women’s
Training
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
Snatch
w/straps
85%
8
Muscle
Snatch
80%
5
Power
Snatch +
Hang
Snatch
80%
6
Muscle
Snatch
85%
5
Snatch
85%
5
Back Squat
85%
6
Rest
Power
C+J
80%
8
Power
C+Push
Press
85%
6
Clean from
Block
80%
6
CJ
Jerk
Dip+Pause
120%
5
Back
Squat
85%
5
Snatch
Speed
Pull
85%
6
Rack Jerk
85%
6
Push
Press
from
Rack
80%
5
3
Jerk
Recover
y
+100%
5
Dips
𝑋
5
Weighte
d Sit-ups
𝑋
5
Front
Squat
85%
5
3
Triceps Ext
𝑋
5
3
3
1−2
3
3
1+2
1+3
3
1+2
3
3
3
10
10
Volume
Men’s
Training
Side
Bends
𝑋
5
10
163
Snatch
w/straps
85%
5
2
Power
C+J
85%
6
1+3
1
1−2
5
5
Deadlift
off Risers
100%
5
Muscle
Snatch
85%
6
Side
Bends
𝑋
5
Power C+
Power J
80%
6
3
RDL
100%
6
5
10
10
95
Muscle
Snatch
85%
3
3
Power
C+Push
Press
85%
5
Snatch
Speed
Pull
100%
5
2−3
3−5
113
Hang
Power
Snatch (no
split)
80%
6
3
Clean
85%
3
2−3
1+2
Back
Squat
90%
3
85%
Rack Jerk
90%
5
1
3
3
50
Muscle
Snatch
80%
5
94
Back Squat
90%
5
CJ
Jerk Dip
120%
5
1
1
3
Push
Press
from
Rack
70%
5
3
Jerk
Recover
y
+100%
5
3
271
89
Snatch
90%
3
90%
1
3
Deadlift
100%
5
3
3
Muscle
Snatch
85%
3
2−3
Pullups
𝑋
5
10
Rows
𝑋
5
10
Front
Squat
90%
3
1
Side
Bends
𝑋
5
10
𝑋
Power C+
Power J
80%
6
1+3
RDL
5
Dips 5
10
or
𝑋
Rows 6
85%
3
5
Volume
81
84
82
45
71
60
Off
than women, they will produce heat quicker but also cool down quicker. The combined effect of having
lower fat stores for energy along with greater heat production and faster cooldown is why men tend to
train for shorter periods of time but recover faster than women.
Third, men have higher testosterone than women and can harness great aggression to
overcome high intensity as they proceed through the training cycle, but this taxes the nervous system
greatly so the intensity cannot be sustained for very long. While women can also be aggressive, they do
not fatigue as much as men. In fact, many Chinese women maintain a calm composure at high intensity.
This hormonal difference provides the reasoning for why men tend to emphasize strength lifts in
training more than women. By contrast, women must rely on speed, power, and flexibility to overcome
high intensity, usually by lengthening their extension and range of motion so that the barbell has more
time to accelerate (Wang, Yang, and Liu 2010). Thus, loading arrangements are an important factor
differentiating men’s and women’s training.
Training and Competition during Menstrual Period
Menstruation is a normal physiological aspect that can affect training and performance and
hence is a topic of weightlifting research. Female weightlifters begin menstruating as early as 11 yearsold and as late as 17 years-old, but about 82% of women begin at 13 –15 years-old (Ma 2013). This is not
significantly different from untrained Chinese women. Additionally, there are no large differences
between female athletes in weightlifting and other sports such as swimming and track (Liu 1990).
Surveys also show that 75% of female weightlifters have regular menstrual cycles, meaning they last no
more than 6 days in a month. The remaining 25% experience non-regular cycles but this proportion is
lower than results on untrained Chinese women in college of whom 39% experience non-regular cycles
(Ma 2013). A survey of 124 elite Chinese female athletes found no adverse effect of weightlifting on the
menstrual period or pelvic organs (Bai et al 1993). In fact, some research (Wang, Hu, and Zhu 1999)
shows that menstrual blood declines while testosterone and hemoglobin rise as training volume
increases during menstruation. This indicates a possible adaptation to long-term training. Thus, it is
possible to train during menstrual periods without adversely affecting the endocrine system; however,
women will usually have different reactions to the menstrual period in terms of period length, the
amount of menstrual blood discharge, and discomfort. Hence, weightlifting instructors need to have
272
different measures to different reactions of women to help to protect the health of female athletes and
to improve the level of sports training.
Figure 18 – 2 shows the 3 basic measures that the instructor can take to adapt to the onset of
the menstrual cycle (Gao 2015). The first measure is to continue normal training cycle without adjusting
for the menstrual cycle as shown in the top panel of Figure 18 – 2. This works for women with low
discomfort and low discharge of menstrual blood. In fact, some women actually feel stronger during
their period so they do not need any downward adjustment in their training. This approach has the
added benefit of training women to perform at a high level regardless of her menstrual state which is
advantageous during times when a major competition coincides with the menstrual period.
Figure 18 – 2: Different Training Adjustments During the Menstrual Cycle
Note: dotted lines indicate onset of menstrual cycle, solid lines indicate training intensity
and volume
The second measure is to partially adjust training in terms of intensity, exercise selection,
and/or volume, and rest period as shown in the middle panel of Figure 18 – 2. This is reserved for
women who experience moderate discharge, discomfort in the waist or abdominals, or other effects
during the menstrual period. In such cases, an instructor can reduce the intensity of the exercises to be
performed that day (say 90% to 80%) and/or reduce the number of sets or reps for a given exercise.
More often, it is prudent to avoid heavy low squatting positions and core work for women who
experience moderate symptoms. One can swap snatch for power snatch, clean and jerk for power clean
and push press, squats in favor of partial squats or jerk dips which are less intense movements in terms
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Table 18 – 3: Sample Training Adjustments during Menstruation
Day
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
Partial
Adjustment
Power
Snatch
w/straps
85%
5
Muscle
Snatch
80%
5
Power
Snatch
from
Blocks
80%
5
Rest
Power
Snatch
85%
5
Muscle
Snatch
85%
6
Rest
Power C+
Push
Press
80%
5
Push
Press
from
Rack
85%
6
3
Snatch
Speed
Pull from
Block
85%
6
Clean Pull
Block
80%
5
Snatch
Pull
85%
5
Seated
Press
𝑋
5
Deadlift
80%
5
Triceps Ext
𝑋
5
Overhea
d
Press
70%
3
Snatch
Push Press
off
Blocks
60−70%
5
3
Lat Pull
𝑋
3
Muscle
Snatch
60−70%
5
Muscle
Snatch
60−70%
6
Bench
Press
70%
5
Power
Clean off
Blocks +
Push Press
60−70%
5
3
3
1−2
2−3
1+2
1+3
Dips
𝑋
5
10
RDL
6
80%
3
1−2
3
5
10
10
3
Full
Adjustment
Push
Press
60−70%
3
5
3−5
Pullups
𝑋
3
10
Power
Jerk
Recovery
70%
5
10
Rest
3
3−5
5
Rest
2
1+2−3
Bench
Rows
70%
3
3−5
Leg Curl
𝑋
5
10
Dips
𝑋
3−5
10
Reverse
Fly
𝑋
5
Bench
Rows
70%
3
3−5
Leg Ext
𝑋
5
10
10
Bumper
Fly
𝑋
3−5
10
Biceps
Curls
𝑋
3−5
Bench
Rows
70%
3
3−5
Leg Ext
𝑋
5
10
10
of range of motion. Some women may need greater training adjustments so some instructors by
prescribe upper body training such as seated press, military press, upright rows, dips, and pullups which
can still be performed with high intensity. Another method of adjusting training is to increases the
274
number of sessions per day or rest days in the training week. These types of changes are shown in Table
18 – 3.
The third approach is to stop training or introduce a recovery week during menstruation. This is
reserved for cases where the menstrual period induces severe waist or abdominal pain, lack of strength,
dizziness, nausea, or heavy menstrual flow. The instructor can tailor training cycles based around the
menstrual cycle and avoid missing high-intensity weeks. While this approach is safe, it can be
problematic if the menstrual period occurs during an important competition. Therefore, in this case it is
advisable for women to consult with the team doctor to about their ability to compete and discuss any
medications that could minimize the symptoms.
These approaches are standard practice but recently there are some instructors who account
both the rhythm of exercise amount and the athlete’s menstrual cycle into the training plan. For
example, some instructors will arrange more volume and/or intensity before the menstrual period, then
reduce the exercise amount during the menstrual period by making appropriate adjustments discussed
above, and then increase the amount of exercise after the period. This will achieve better results and
should be considered a better way of arranging women’s training. Survey data has shown that most
female weightlifters in China train at 70% intensity and volume during menstruation, which is lower than
the regular volume.
Some athletes always face the issue of having their menstrual period start during competition,
which yields only two choices: the first is to continue taking part in the competition during menstrual
period, and the other is to medically control the menstrual cycle to avoid clashing with competition
period. Athletes who do not experience adverse effects during menstrual period and the menstrual
blood discharge is low, can continue normal training and do not need to control their menstrual cycle.
Experience shows that these women can still perform at a high level during competition and even
improve their sport results. Athletes with obvious adverse effects during the menstrual period must
decide whether to hasten or delay the menstrual period to participate in competition. This depends on
the athlete’s reactions to the menstrual cycle. During normal training some women have good strength
and excitability 2 – 3 days before menstrual period, and they can even produce new personal bests.
Such athletes should use medication to delay their menstrual period such that they participate in
competition before the menstrual period. By contrast, some athletes have better strength and
excitability a few days after the end of menstrual period. These athletes can then use medication to
hasten their menstrual period and ensure they participate in the competition after their menstrual
period. All in all, controlling the menstrual cycle should be based on individuals’ reaction types with
different treatment to allow the athlete to participate in the competition under their best physical
condition and obtain better results.
275
Conclusion
Women’s weightlifting is a broad subfield of weightlifting research with its own analysis of
technique, psychological training, loading methods, and other topics such as training during
menstruation. Practical experience and subsequent research shows that accounting for women’s
characteristics allows for greater results. Therefore, instructors should take different approaches when
training men and women. Additionally, instructors must communicate with their athletes to learn about
how they react to menstruation so that they can adjust training accordingly.
276
277
Chapter 19: Selection Methods for Weightlifting
Selecting weightlifting athletes is an important topic in sports science research used by many of
the world’s great weightlifting countries as a strategy to produce and maintain a stock of world class
athletes. The purpose is to carefully choose athletes from other sports or various stages of training who
exhibit favorable qualities for reaching a high level in weightlifting. Ma (2013) cites five reasons in favor
of selecting athletes. First, as sports results increase and get closer to the limits of human potential,
further progress can only be achieved accounting for all aspects that are directly and indirectly related
to training, including the athlete’s genetics. Second, economic development and adoption of science and
technology decreases the gap in training conditions and resources between countries which forces
people to work harder in selecting and training athletes. Relatedly, since information about new
techniques and methods can spread more quickly, programs can no longer keep such information secret
which increases the importance of athletes’ genetics. Additionally, since the 1960’s the average age of
top world and Olympic athletes has fallen from 27 to 24 years of age (Yang 1999), so it is important to
begin systematic training earlier to remain competitive which also requires selecting athletes at an early
stage. Finally, simply recruiting large numbers of athletes wastes a lot of human, material, and financial
resources whereas targeted has a higher success rate.
Elite weightlifting is combination of genetic talent and acquired training (Guo 2010), and while
selection pertains to finding talented athletes it also highlights the properties that must be trained to be
successful at high levels. In practice, there are some athletes who do not have very good initial
conditions (and can barely achieve minimum standards early on) but can still reach a high level through
their own work ethic and tenacity. Additionally, some athletes have good initial conditions but do not
have the work ethic to improve. The best case is finding an athlete with excellent genetics and who has
the mental strength to train hard, and this is the usual case for the highest athletes in China’s
weightlifting. Athletes with weak initial conditions and poor work ethic will always have poor results and
hence do not last long in the sport. Therefore, it is important to combine genetics with good training
conditions to ensure that they reinforce each other.
Selection Stage 1
In China, the selection process is divided into three stages. Stage 1 of selection is also known as
“pre-selection,” which aims to assess children using standard criteria along with visual inspection. Stage
2 is known as “secondary selection,” which provides weightlifting training for one month to those who
have been selected during pre-selection to observe their potential during this period. Candidates who
move onward enter Stage 3 known as “trial training,” which provides longer training to observe their
performance, with the top candidates moving forward to an amateur school for weightlifting training.
This process allows recruiters to select talented individuals early on and provide them adequate training
to increase their chances of success in competition. The first selection stage is performed by recruiting
coaches who visit amateur sports school and PE classes to find children who have had track and field
training (Xie 1994) or similar sport training such as gymnastics. Usually recruiters select girls at age 10 –
278
12 and boys at age 12 – 13 who have excellent structural makeup, physical functionality, psychological
quality, muscle fiber makeup, and hormone potential relative to standard criteria. Additionally, girls are
selected earlier since they tend to mature earlier; however, there are exceptions where children can be
selected as early as 8 years old. Since children being scouted have not gone through weightlifting
training, the guidelines are flexible to avoid missing potential talent.
Structural Makeup
During the first stage, recruiters assess the athlete’s structural makeup which refers to the
athlete’s general body shape such as height, weight, measurements of the chest, legs and arms, body
length, waist, and shoulders, and various body ratios. These measurements have a great influence on
the biomechanics and body function of weightlifters, therefore recruiters reference the criteria and
standards for selection presented in Table 19 – 1 (Ma 2013; Yang and Liang 1986).
Table 19 – 1: Physical Selection Standards for Children 12 – 13
Height
1.2 – 1.5m
Weight
Boys 42 – 57kg; Girls 40 – 51kg
Bust
60 – 64cm
Shoulder Width (Frontal Plane)
31cm or more
Height: Wingspan
About 0.994:1
Arms (Forearm: Upper Arm)
0.77 – 0.79:1
Shoulder Width: Pelvic Width
1.5:1
Pelvic Width (Frontal Plane)
21cm or more; narrower than shoulder and
round butt
Legs (Femur: Tibia ratio)
1.2:1 or less
Body Shape (upper body: lower body ratio)
0.89 – 0.951:1
Foot Length
20cm or more
Foot Arch
About 3cm
Joints
Thick
Hands
14cm; long fingers; developed flexor pollicis
brevis
Overall Body
Muscular body with low fat
The first criteria to consider is an athlete’s overall height and weight. There is a strong
correlation between performance and an athlete’s height and weight, with shorter athlete’s tending to
outperform taller ones in the same weight class since shorter athletes can maximize their muscle mass
more easily than taller athletes (Gao 1986). Among these two criteria, height is more important when
selecting athletes because height directly affects the athlete’s muscle ratio, limb length, and potential
weight class. Weight can always be adjusted upward or downward to suit an athlete’s height. Therefore,
the main consideration during selection is “what is the best height in selecting athletes for various
𝑊
categories?” This requires a weight/height ( ) index to measure how many grams of weight an athlete
𝐻
279
carries per centimeter of height (g/cm). Typically, boys with a
𝑊
𝐻
index of 350 – 380 and girls with an
index of 330 – 340 are optimal for weightlifting. On average, 12 – 13 year-old children who are 1.2 –
1.5m and weigh 42 – 57kg for boys and 40 – 51kg for girls are selected; however, it is important to make
sure that the children are lean at these body weights to ensure the athlete has a large amount of muscle
for weightlifting. Recruiters and instructors should also strive to achieve balance in their selection to
build an adequate stock of athletes across all weight classes. Instructors should allow athletes to
develop during actual training and monitor their changes over the course of several years until the
athletes stop growing in height. Then they can determine the athlete’s weight class based on their best
𝑊
𝐻
index and actual sports result. It is common for 12 – 13 year-old athletes to change 3 – 6 weight
classes after a few years of training and reaching adulthood.
While overall height is an important factor, limb lengths and their proportions to other parts of
the body help differentiate among athletes of the same height since these characteristics have
biomechanical implications. For example, in terms of the upper body, when the barbell is supported
overhead, the entire torso forms the support plane for the arms. Using Figure 19 – 1, a greater 𝐸 (wider
shoulders) will provide a wider lateral base of support while a greater 𝑃 (thicker torso) will increase
frontal support. Additionally, a thick and wide torso disperses the forces over a larger surface area which
reduces the pressure over a single area of the body. Therefore, recruiters should select athletes who
have a thick torso and wide shoulders as defined by the data in Table 19 – 2. Body proportions can fall
into 4 types: long type (long limbs 5 but short torso), middle type (limbs and torso have a balanced ratio),
and short type (short limbs, long torso). Arm length affects the athlete’s grip width, point of contact,
rack position, the distance the barbell must travel overhead, the angle of support when the barbell is
overhead (see Chapter 2 on Chinese Weightlifting Philosophy). Practice has shown that athletes with
longer limbs excel in the snatch while athletes with short limbs tend to excel in the clean and jerk.
However, if the limbs are too long then usually they will be too thin and cannot support enough muscle
or strength. This can be overcome by bodybuilding but may push the athlete into a higher weight class.
If the limbs are too short, then it will affect height and coordination of weightlifting movements and
result in subpar performance. Therefore, instructors look for a height to wingspan ratio of about 0.94
which is slightly greater than the athlete’s height.
6F4F4F
Given the athlete’s arm length, the proportion between the upper arm and forearm affect the
ease of pulling the barbell upward after extension. A short forearm shortens the distance between the
elbow and the barbell and the distance between muscles and the barbell which makes it easier to lift
upward. This follows from a general biomechanical result depicted in Figure 19 – 1. When the arm bends
or extends, it does so using the elbow as a fulcrum to exert force on the forearm. For example, the
biceps exert an upward force 𝐹 that causes upward rotation around the elbow (torque). The lever that
5
In terms of the upper body, ‘long’ limbs are defined as a wingspan greater than the athlete’s height whereas
‘short’ limbs are defined as a wingspan shorter than the athlete’s height.
280
Figure 19 – 1: Effects of Upper Body Proportions on Weightlifting Performance
produces this torque is called the force arm and is formed by the distance between the force and the
elbow joint (segment 𝑂𝐴 ). This force is countered by the downward force produced by the barbell
𝑅 and downward rotation it produces on the elbow. The lever that produces this torque formed by the
distance between elbow joint and the barbell (segment 𝑂𝐵1 ) is called the resistance arm. If the forearm
is shorter, then the barbell is closer to the body, so the resistance arm length is shortened 𝑂𝐵2 which
produces less downward torque while the force arm is unchanged. This makes the barbell relatively
easier to lift. Hence, instructors look for a proportion of 0.77 – 0.79:1 between the forearm and upper
arm.
12 year-old hand length should be 14 cm or more, and foot length should be 20 cm or more.
One of the most important muscles for gripping the barbell is the flexor pollicis brevis (FPB) which is
shown in the shaded area of Figure 19 – 2. The left panel shows that the FPB is a strap-like muscle that
flexes the thumb at 2 joints: the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint which lies at the wrist, and the
carpometacarpal (MC) joint which lies at the base of the thumb. This flexion moves thumb inward
toward the palm and allows the thumb to bend. The right panel shows that when the athlete uses a
hook grip the thumb acts as a force arm of length 𝐷𝑂 which is formed by the center of MC joint and the
length of the end segment of the thumb (distal phalanx). This force arm exerts an upward force 𝐹1
against the downward resistance of the barbell 𝑅1 . If the athlete does not use a hook grip then this force
is not utilized and is instead replaced by weaker muscles that adduct the thumb to tighten the grip.
Therefore, a standard grip is weaker than a hook grip and is why athletes, especially those with small
hands, must strengthen their hand muscles with dedicated grip work to feel comfortable when gripping
the barbell. During selection it is preferable to find athletes with long thumbs and developed FPB since a
longer force arm such as 𝐴𝑂 along with a thicker muscle can exert greater a greater force against the
barbell which makes it easier to hold. In general, the hand should be about 14cm in length to assist in
gripping the barbell.
281
Figure 19 – 2: The Advantage of the Hook Grip
The hip joint helps exert force so that the barbell can attain initial speed before extension,
straighten the torso during extension which reduces the work performed by the lower back, and
stabilize the torso during the catch which are affected by the size of the pelvis and the strength of the
legs. If the distance between the center of the pelvis and the hip joint is too wide, it will increase the
resistance arm formed by force of gravity (segment 𝑂𝐷) as shown in Figure 19 – 3. Lu and Liang (1989)
use the following example: each side of the hip joint bears about 1/3 of an athlete’s weight because
each leg is about 1/6 of an athlete’s total body weight, so a 60kg athlete will bear about 20kg on each
side. Assume the distance between the axis of the hip joint and the center of the pelvis is 𝑂𝐷 =
0.15𝑚, then the resistance arm due to gravity is:
𝑅 = 20𝑘𝑔 ∗ 0.15𝑚 = 3𝑘𝑔/𝑚
If an athlete has wider hips such that 𝑂𝐷 = 0.20𝑚, then 𝑅 = 4𝑘𝑔/𝑚 which means the force arm
formed by the axis of the pelvis and the axis of the femur (segment 𝐷𝐴) must overcome this force with
more effort and energy from the surrounding hip abductors compared to the athlete with narrower
hips. And if each athlete lifts a 120kg barbell evenly then moment arm due to gravity for each side of the
hip joint is:
𝑅 = (20 + 60)𝑘𝑔 ∗ 0.15𝑚 = 12𝑘𝑔/𝑚
For the first athlete and:
282
Figure 19 – 3: Effects of Hip Size on Weightlifting Mechanics
𝑅 = (20 + 60)𝑘𝑔 ∗ 0.20𝑚 = 16𝑘𝑔/𝑚
for the second athlete. Hence wider hips put a greater strain on the hip joints and require more
muscular effort from hip abductors; therefore, recruiters should look for young athletes with shoulders
that are 1.5 times as wide as the hips which equals about a 21cm hip-width. Otherwise, athletes will
have to undergo more training to strengthen the hip abductors later in their careers. Girls will often
have wider hips than boys, but if the recruiter is selecting girls to fill lightweight classes then their hip
bones cannot be too wide since wide hips are a sign that the athlete will grow larger and find it difficult
to stay in a lightweight class. While the hips should be narrow from the frontal plane, the hips should be
wider when viewed from the side. Figure 19 – 3 shows the difference between an athlete with narrow
hips and smaller glutes (left) compared to an athlete with wider hips and larger glutes (right).
In both cases, the glutes exert a downward torque along the hip joint which is defined as:
𝐹1 = 𝐹𝑠𝑖𝑛 α
This equation shows that increasing the pulling angle of the glutes α increases the torque 𝐹1 which
makes it easier to overcome the resistance from the barbell and eventually approaches 𝐹2 . However,
larger muscles increase 𝐹 in general and the larger hip joint from the athlete on the right forms a larger
force arm (segment 𝑂𝐵) which allows the glutes pull on the hips more easily than the athlete on the left
(segment 𝑂𝐴), all else equal. This is important because the athlete on the right will be able to maintain a
higher pulling back angle which distributes the force from the bar more evenly throughout the body and
makes it easier to keep the back flat. Hence, the athlete on the right will be able to stabilize the torso
more easily when pulling the barbell off the ground and extend the hips more powerfully during the
second pull. The athlete on the left will need to build strength and hypertrophy for the glutes to stay
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competitive. Therefore, athletes with narrow hips relative to the frontal plane and wider hips relative to
the sagittal plane will be more effective pulling and squatting the barbell.
In terms of the lower body, the proportion of the femur relative to the tibia is an important
factor for selecting athletes. Figure 19 – 4 shows the distance travelled from 𝐴1 to 𝐴2 is 𝐷1 for a
relatively longer femur and 𝐷2 for a relatively shorter femur which travels a distance of 𝐵1 to 𝐵2 .
Recalling the equation for work from Chapter 2 (on Chinese Weightlifting Philosophy):
𝑊 = 𝐹𝐷
𝑊 is work, 𝐹 is the force of gravity, 𝐷 is height. Since 𝐷1 is greater than 𝐷2 , the athlete must perform
more work to overcome the same amount of force from the barbell. Therefore, it is preferable to select
athletes with a femur to tibia ratio of 1.2 – 1.0 or less (Ma 2013). Additionally, the legs should be slightly
longer than the torso with an optimal ratio of 0.89 – 0.951:1. Otherwise, such athletes will have to
emphasize quadriceps and lower leg strength and reduce the demands on the knees by implementing a
greater heel height in their shoes or turning their feet outward (see Chapter 14 on Strength Training
Theories and Methods).
Figure 19 – 4: The Effect of Femur Length on Work
Another important trait for weightlifting is the size and shape of the feet. Figure 19 – 5 shows
the base of support by the shaded area formed between the feet. In general, larger feet produce a wider
base for the athlete to balance during the catch, especially in the frontal plane. Therefore, recruiters
look for youths whose foot length is at least 20cm. Additionally, the feet should have an arch of about
3cm because it creates enough space for elastic soft tissues to spread ground reaction forces and store
energy. This function buffers the pressure on the feet and transfers energy when the calf contracts,
which is advantageous during the extension. The second panel of Figure 19 – 5 was presented in Chapter
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Figure 19 – 5: The Biomechanical Effect of Leg Length on Weightlifting
2 (On Chinese Weightlifting Philosophy) in terms of balance, but it can also show the differences in force
production when an athlete has a strong arch compared to a lower arch. With a strong arch, the point of
support is 𝑂1 while the downward resistance of the barbell is 𝑅 and the athlete can exert an upward
force 𝐹1 at an angle 𝛼 which produces a height and speed of 𝐻1 and 𝑆1 . With low arches, the point of
support shifts to 𝑂2 which produces a lower amount of force, height, and speed if the weight on the
barbell and the angle lifted is unchanged. Reducing the weight on the bar runs counter to the goal of
lifting the most amount of weight and changing the lifting angle can affect the athlete’s balance and
coordination. Therefore, lower arches can result in less force during the extension so athletes may need
to undergo stretches and soft tissue massage for the lower leg, as well as orthotics to overcome this
condition.
Overall, recruiters are looking for children with a balanced and muscular look. Athletes should
have a thick and wide torso which is almost equal in length to the lower body. The upper and lower
portion of the arms and of the legs should be almost equal. Additionally, the muscles should be thick
and well-developed including in the hand and there should be little subcutaneous fat. Practical
experience has shown that such a body type can usually achieve a high level in weightlifting, especially
with the biomechanical criteria discussed above. It is rare for one child to possess all the desirable
characteristics conducive to weightlifting, so recruiters and instructors must assess children overall
when selecting athletes. Additionally, the instructor must know the implications of body structure for
training and avoid implementing a generic plan that overlooks the advantages or disadvantages that an
athlete may have. However, it is important to avoid selecting children with structural deformities that
are detrimental for weightlifting performance such as a depressed chest, valgus, and excessively mobile
knees and elbows.
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Physical Functionality
Once children with suitable structural makeup are selected, the next step in the initial selection
stage is to test their physical functionality which refers to the condition of their internal organs and
systems. This is important because those with stronger internal organ functionality generally have a
greater ability to withstand exercise load and better recovery capability. Currently, research in this area
is limited so recruiters and instructors do not have standardized values or indices to assess children on a
wide scale, but developing such methods is an active area of research. Fortunately, weightlifting is a
power sport so it has relatively fewer requirements than pure endurance sports or sports that require
strength and endurance. Therefore, instructors can use some basic tools to assess children.
The first selection index involves an overall visual inspection. Recruiters should look for children
with bright eyes, shiny dark hair, and an even skin color free of discoloration or blemishes other than
acne since these may indicate health issues. This is admittedly subjective and relies on the recruiter’s
experience, but it does rule out clear health issues and provides a first step to analyze children further.
Recruiters should look for children who exhibit male characteristics such as facial hair, arm hair, acne,
and deep voice prior to puberty as this is indicative of higher testosterone production (Zhou and Xiao
2002). Afterwards, it is important to analyze the shape of the spine to rule out any abnormal bending,
curvature, cracks, or disc issues because the torso must withstand great amounts of static load during
weightlifting training. At young ages, it is normal for children to not feel discomfort or pain in their daily
life and some can even train normally, reaching a certain level. However, they are unable to withstand
heavy exercise loads and feel pain in their back when attempting heavy loads. Even with recovery
measures, the pain returns as the intensity increases so these athletes will find it difficult to reach a high
level in the sport. Therefore, children should undergo an X-ray by a physician to assess their spinal
conditions in the initial selection stage if this situation occurs or if the recruiter is unsure of the spine’s
shape during initial inspection.
The next selection tool is a family health assessment to discover the existence or possibility of
cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, musculoskeletal, or digestive diseases. This informs recruiters
whether the child can safely withstand increasing exercise loads and can recover properly. Another issue
to investigate (particularly common to China) is the existence of Hepatitis B within the family. If the child
is symptom-free and has other ideal or exceptional qualities conducive for weightlifting, then it is
important to conduct medical tests and order vaccinations while monitoring the stability of their
condition over time.
Psychological Quality
Weightlifting is a long-term sport that requires repetitive technical practice and gradual buildup
of physical qualities, hence athletes must have a suitable mindset to endure this kind of training. Table
19 – 2 shows the consensus of a sample of instructors on the characteristics most important for
weightlifting (Jiang 2011). The 2 major characteristics most agreed upon by instructors are a strong
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interest in weightlifting and will power in training and competition. Generally, athletes who enjoy
weightlifting are process-oriented which allows them to enjoy the journey of training as well as the
results from training. Athletes who only enjoy competition have difficulty enduring long hours of
training and pushing themselves to improve. Instructors believe will power is the key for athletes to
work hard, refuse to give up easily, and control their emotions. Confidence is another important quality
that athletes must have for themselves and their ability. This allows athletes to accept greater
challenges without doubt or fear, which will occur often as they attempt to set new personal bests
throughout their careers. Because athletes will be developing over their careers, it is important for
athletes to have high self-awareness, which will allow them to easily imitate movements and make
changes to their movement in order master technique more quickly, both of which ensure the stability
of their technique. All these qualities allow for athletes to perform well in isolation but athletes must
have a positive attitude toward competition to display their full potential. Athletes with such an attitude
will become more excited and strive harder to perform their best when they encounter a stronger
opponent or enter a tougher competition.
Strong Interest
in WL
Will Power
Attention to
Detail
Athletes
Personality
High IQ
Steady Prior to
Competition
Positive
Attitude
Toward
Competition
Self-Expression
Confidence
Level
Self-Awareness
Excitability
Table 19 – 2: Questionnaire on Mental Indicators
Very Important
Important
Somewhat
Important
72.9
22.9
4.2
Not Important
75
43.8
22.9
50
2.1
6.3
29.2
56.3
12.5
2.1
25
33.3
56.3
45.8
14.6
14.6
4.2
6.3
56.3
39.6
4.2
50
66.7
41.7
33.3
8.3
52.1
45.8
39.6
45.8
8.3
8.3
It is possible to perform psychological tests to evaluate children’s personality but during the
initial selection stage it is easier to gather information by watching children play. Children can be either
lively or quiet, each has their own benefits. Lively children are generally cheerful, extroverted, and
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sharp. They can quickly excite and suppress themselves, imitate movements easily, and master
techniques quickly. Quiet children are more stable, have strong self-control, and are consistent in their
technical mastery. So, recruiters can observe children in games such as soccer, racing, basketball,
volleyball, etc. and focus on how they interact with others during the games and how they behave when
winning, losing, or encountering difficulty.
Physical Qualities
The final aspect of primary selection tests a potential athlete’s physical qualities to make sure
they can be successful for weightlifting. Among the various physical qualities during the initial selection
stage, flexibility in the shoulder, wrist, and ankles are the most important. If the flexibility of a joint is
unable to meet the requirement range of motion, then it may affect the performance or completion of
technical movements or techniques such as the advanced deep squat. Additionally, greater flexibility
allows the tendons and ligaments to store more elastic energy which affects the athlete’s strength,
speed, and coordination during a lift. The sensitivity period for flexibility occurs during ages 8 – 12 which
is earlier than other physical qualities (Gao 2015) so it must be assessed and emphasized early on to
avoid difficulty in improving it later. When gauging the quality of an athlete’s flexibility, it is important
for the joints to be flexible and strong at the end range of motion rather than soft in order to fulfill the
supporting strength demands from weightlifting. This issue is especially important when selecting
female athletes, who are generally more flexible than boys but can be too soft when holding positions.
The recruiter can use the reference values in Table 19 – 3 to assess flexibility (Ma 2013).
Shoulder flexibility is important for mastering overhead positions in the snatch and jerk as well as the
rack position for the clean. The recruiter can assess this by having children stand against a wall and raise
both arms back to the wall and look for children who can reach 180o but no more than 185o. The wrist
joint should be flexed and extended to reach 90o in each direction but an extra 5o in either direction is
permissible. This range of motion allows the athlete to achieve a stable and strong elbow lockout. For
the lower body, the main concern is for the child to squat in a position where the chest is up, the back is
straight, and the body is low and stable. When doing a full squat with legs spaced at about shoulderwidth, the ankles should flex to achieve a back angle from 70o which is optimal but some athletes can
achieve of up to 85o. This requires flexible ankles and hips, as well as knees that can flex to 30o and
extend from 180o. To test the flexibility of these joints, recruiters can have children squat with a stick
held in a shoulder-width grip and assess the depth and back angle achieved by the flexion of the joints.
The position should be deep, stable over the middle of the foot, comfortable, and the lower back should
be tight.
Table 19 – 3: Flexibility Indicators for Major Joints
Shoulders (Flexion)
180 – 185 degrees
Wrists (Flexion – Extension)
90 – 95 degrees
Knees (flexion – extension)
30 – 180 degrees
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In addition to flexibility, it is important to assess an athlete’s strength and speed. These qualities
are affected by muscle fiber makeup, neural efficiency, and other factors that are difficult to measure.
However, Huang (2005) and Jiang (2011) outline standards for physical tests in Table 19 – 4 that can
provide some indication of such factors. For example, the standing long jump displays an athlete’s
explosive force from the hips and hamstrings but also measures their ability to coordinate the upper and
lower body to stick the landing over as far a distance as possible. This kind of coordination is essential in
weightlifting. The vertical jump also tests this coordination while emphasizing the explosive force from
the quads and calves. Another important tool are short sprints at 50 – 60m which provide a reliable way
to test an athlete’s explosive ability from rest, acceleration, and speed. These qualities are important
since the barbell is at rest on the ground and the athlete must overcome the weight from a resting
position, accelerate it, and achieve high speed during extension.
Dips, pushups, and pullups are used to test upper body strength and can be conducted on
parallel bars, a pullup bar, or some other horizontal bar. Recruiters can also assess the athlete’s
coordination in their movement. More advanced methods include using dynamometers to measure
relative grip and back strength, both of which are critical for maintaining balance, stability, and
confidence through the pull. Since these two strengths are highly correlated with an athlete’s size and
weight, recruiters focus on relative strength:
𝑤𝑒𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡
∗ 100
𝑔𝑟𝑖𝑝 𝑜𝑟 𝑏𝑎𝑐𝑘 𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑒𝑛𝑔𝑡ℎ
Because specialized equipment is not always available, there is little data optimal standards.
Yang and Liang (1986) note that 10 – 12 year-old athletes usually have a grip index of 52% and back
strength index of 152% while junior athletes at age 17 achieve a grip index of 86% and back strength
index of 289%. Another way a recruiter can assess grip strength is to have athletes hang off a pullup bar
to see who can last the longest. While this method assesses grip endurance rather than maximal grip
strength, practice has shown that athletes with the strongest grip excel at both maximal and endurance
grip strength.
Age
(Years)
8
9
10
11
12
13
Table 19 – 4: Physical Performance Standards
Standing Vertical
Standing Long
60m Sprint
Dips or
Jump (m)
Jump (m)
(s)
Pushup
Up 0.45*
Up to 1.85
10
3
Up 0.45*
Up to 1.95
9.9
4
Up 0.5
Up to 2.0
9.5
6
Up 0.5
Up to 2.1
9.2
8
Up 0.55
Up to 2.2
8.8
9
Up 0.55
Up to 2.3
8.6
10
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Pullup
3–4
4–5
6–7
8–9
9 – 10
10 – 11
Overall, some candidates have fast reflexes and can display speed frequently in sprinting and
jumping events but they are not very strong or cannot move fast when performing dips or pullups.
Others are very strong and complete dips or pullups easily (sometimes beyond the standard in the table
above) but are slow in performing them or slow in sprinting and jumping. Both types of athletes must
devote a lot of time to building their weakness to achieve a high level. Recruiters should instead look for
athletes who can overcome their weight quickly and those who can maintain their speed as fatigue
increases or the weight increases. For example, they can perform many dips and pullups but cannot
grind out repetitions and instead shut down quickly (and seemingly unexpectedly). Additionally, they
can maintain their speed and jumping performance over many trials. These athletes might not be the
fastest or the strongest but are still near the top when evaluating strength and speed, and they will have
the most potential to reach a high level.
Selection Stage 2
After selecting athletes based on structural makeup, physical function, psychological quality, and
physical qualities, students will enter the sports school and be evaluated by the school’s selection team.
The students during the initial selection stage are youths who have not been through specialized
weightlifting training, but in Stage 2 they will undergo a short period of training and must pass certain
technical requirements. Li (2005) outlines the 5 testing methods and their criteria: (1) overhead squat
test with a wooden stick held at shoulder-width, (2) vertical jump with both legs, (3) weighted deep
squat, (4) power snatch from above the knee, and (5) a mid-weight clean & jerk. During the overhead
squat the student should assume a natural standing position, lift the chest and hold the waist, then
extend both arms using a shoulder-width grip, then squat. The knees should push towards the toes until
the student reaches a deep squat position. Additionally, the head should extend slightly forward and
down. The students are evaluated by whether they can maintain their elbow and shoulder extension,
and if they can keep their torso straight and lower back locked. During the weighted deep squat, the
barbell is positioned at the base of the neck. The student should stand in a natural position with the
chest up and lower back tight before squatting. As in the earlier test, the knees should push towards the
toes until the student reaches a deep squat position. Students are evaluated by how close their glutes
come to the floor and the ankle angle. Under 30° is best, 30 – 40° is acceptable, but above 45° can make
it difficult for the athlete to stand up at heavier weights.
For the power snatch from above the knee, the student stands in a natural position and holds a
10kg bar in a snatch grip. From there, they should lift the chest up and tighten the lower back, then they
should bend the torso forward slightly and bend the knees as if they were going to jump vertically until
the bar is right above the knee. Then they perform a power snatch several times. Students are evaluated
on their ability to imitate the movement and their stability. For the clean and jerk, the athlete attempts
the movement from the floor several times. During the clean, students are evaluated on their ability to
rack the barbell on the collar bone. During the jerk, students should be able to naturally extend fully.
Like with the snatch, students are evaluated on their ability to imitate the movement and their stability.
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Although the assessment appears subjective, it is important because weightlifting relies on a
fixed set of movements so if they cannot perform these basic movements well, then their development
will be limited. The assessment for the 5 movements occurs after about a month of practice. At this
stage, training focuses on the normalizing snatch, clean, and jerk technique and develop lower back, leg,
and arm strength to improve stability. Li (2005) shows a sample program that accomplishes this in Table
19 – 5. Instructors should note that the program is very general and focuses more on the success rate
and technical quality rather than percentages or heavy weights. Instructors should use the techniques
discussed in Chapter 7 (on Technical Training) when implementing such a program. Once athletes pass
this stage, they can engage in more structured youth training as shown in Chapter 17 (on Youth
Training).
Day
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Table 19 – 5: Sample Training Program during Selection
Morning Exercise
Training Content
Required Success
(Afternoon)
Rate
Slow Jog 1600m
Snatch 12 sets
90% or more
Flexibility Exercises
Front Squat 12 sets
Multi-steps frog Jump Bodybuilding Exercise
Slow Jog 1600m
Clean & jerk 12 sets
90% or more
Joint pressing
Snatch pull 12 sets
60m x 6 speed run
Bodybuilding Exercise
Slow Jog 1600m
Snatch above the knee 90% or more
Flexibility Exercises
12 sets
Standing Jump
Bodybuilding Exercise
Cross-country 3km
Ball-type activity
Slow Jog 1600m
Snatch 12 sets
90% or more
Flexibility Exercises
Clean & Jerk 12 sets
Multi-step frog Jump
Slow Jog 1600m
Push Press 10 sets
90% or more
Joint pressing
Back Squat 10 sets
60m x 6 speed run
Lower Back Exercise
Selection Stage 3
After students have been selected into the sports school, they undergo 1 – 2 years of general
athletic training as well as specialized weightlifting training. During this time, they are undergoing the
third stage of selection. Instructors work to build a solid foundation for weightlifting by emphasizing
general athleticism, standardized technique, and movement speed (Li 2005). The athletes who are most
likely to be selected are the ones with the best speed, rhythm, and balance. Table 19 – 6 outlines some
typical results from such athletes after a year of training, which is usually about a 20 – 30kg increase in
their total. As instructors monitor the athlete’s progress, they should assess whether athletes are
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Table 19 – 6: Comparison of Weightlifting Results Over the First Training Year
Name
Year of Birth Enrollment Date
Assessment Dates Snatch Clean & Jerk
Tian XX
1989
03/2002
06/2002
27.5
32.5
06/2003
55
65
Xie XX
1990
06/2003
08/2003
05/2004
85
95
107.5
117.5
An XX
1988
09/2001
11/2001
06/2002
82.5
97.5
105
117.5
reaching training targets and standards such as those presented in Chapter 17 (on Youth Training). In
addition to the standards, instructors should monitor how athletes respond to training. The student
should continue to enjoy training, working hard, and seek to improve themselves, otherwise they may
be selected out of the program. Additionally, the instructor should assess how athletes handle the stress
of test events such as their ability to perform under pressure compared to training, their reaction to
opponents, and their attitude toward competition. Instructors can use the methods described in
Chapter 8 (on Psychological Training) to assist athletes in performing at least as well as their daily
training.
Conclusion
A system of selection requires a set of criteria, a test of the criteria, and then implementing
training for a short time to assess athletic potential. In China, selection follows these steps: the first level
is based on the biomechanical advantages from the athlete’s body shape and athletic potential, the
second level verifies these advantages teaching athletes weightlifting technique and assessing the
quality of their movements, and the third level is based on how athletes respond to training and
competition. Selection is an important step in producing a stock of athletes who can reach an elite level
and be competitive while proper training guides them to that level.
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Chapter 20: Sports Injuries
One of the fundamental factors for success is whether one can persistently train throughout the
year and train systematically over many years. Sports injuries and illnesses can reduce the effectiveness
of training, hinder performance, prematurely end the athletes' athletic career, and lower the athlete’s
confidence and self-worth. Additionally, they can affect the overall training atmosphere by reducing
team morale or instilling fear or doubt among other athletes. Historically injuries were attributed to
specific symptoms (such as fatigue) and treated according to localized injuries; however, this approach is
reactive and ignores underlying causes that led to fatigue and hence the injury. With this reactive
approach, it is common for new injuries to occur once old injuries are under control or for old injuries to
relapse. Luo et al (2006) note that there many cases of young athletes reaching international standards
but they are forced to retire due to repetitive injuries. Instead, preventing injuries is proactive and more
important to than trying to treat an injury (Kang 2011). The first step in preventing injuries is to
understand the kinds of injuries that occur and then determine the reasons for injuries.
Types of Injuries
There are many case studies on weightlifting injuries, however Huang, Li, and Mai (2003)
conducted one of the largest comprehensive surveys of amateur and professional male lifters of various
levels and produced statistics presented in Table 20 – 1. They found that 71% of the injuries during the
snatch occur in the lower back, shoulder, and wrist while 77.5% of the injuries in the clean and jerk
occur in the lower back, shoulder, elbow, and knee. While this study focused only on men, another large
survey which compared male and female athletes of various levels found similar incidences of injury in
these areas except that women experience injuries more frequently, especially in the knees (Wang et al
2000).
Table 20 – 1: Weightlifting Injury Statistics
Trunk
CJ
Snatch
CJ (%)
Snatch
(%)
Upper Limbs
Lower Limbs
Other
Clavicle
Low
Back
Neck
Shoulder
Elbow
Wrist
Hip
Thigh
Knee
Ankle
Other
27
3
3.9
1.1
108
27
15.5
9.8
11
4
1.6
1.5
107
51
15.4
18.5
143
27
20.5
9.8
41
34
5.9
12.4
16
7
2.3
2.5
34
21
4.9
7.6
182
83
26.1
30.2
11
4
1.6
1.5
17
14
2.4
5.1
Kang (2011) found similar injury sites in a study of male and female professional athletes in
Fujian Province and outlined how these sites can experience injury. For example, the lumbosacral area
of the spine is the core area that transfers force between the upper and lower limbs such as during the
dip and drive in the jerk or the extension during a snatch or clean. Additionally, the lower back transfers
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force through heavy movements such as squats, deadlifts, and speed pulls. So, if the lower back cannot
maintain its position as these forces transfer quickly through the body, then sacral muscles, ligaments,
or fascia can become injured. Huang, Li, and Mai’s study show that the lower back is more prone to
injury during the clean and jerk than the snatch, perhaps because the clean and jerk has 2 parts which
makes it more demanding on the back. Wang et al (2000) find that the most common back injuries are
muscular injuries around the lumbar spine and psoas fasciitis.
Injuries in the upper extremities are another source of injury, occurring mainly overhead during
the snatch and jerk. Wang and Tang (2009) reason that if the barbell has a large backward force then the
elbow must produce a forward force to counter. This can pull on the ligaments and tendons and crossing
the elbow joint which can lead to injury or elbow dislocation. Zhu and Chen (1988) find that the
shoulder, especially the supraspinatus of the rotator cuff, is another frequent injury site. This
supraspinatus is important for internally rotating the shoulder as the shoulder flexes upward, which
affects the athlete’s ability to perform a high pull or catch the barbell overhead. During the catch, since
the barbell’s center of gravity is high and the athlete is lowering their center of gravity, then the
supraspinatus must be active to avoid impinging other tissues in the shoulder joint or causing friction
that can result in subacromial bursitis or inflammation (Wang et al 2000). Relatedly, Wan (2013) notes
that the wrist can experience injury overhead if its extension is slower than the elbow’s extension
because this will press on the joint in an unstable position. During the clean, if the wrist and elbow are
not coordinated then the barbell will be supported by the wrists instead of the shoulders and clavicle
which can overstretch the wrist ligaments to the point of tearing, strain forearm extensors, and even
dislocate the joint. A poor rack position can also overstress the wrist in the overhead position, clean, or
front squat which is why wrist synovitis is one of the most common wrist injuries (Wang et al 2000).
Many weightlifting movements require the knees to be at half squat or full squat position and
withstand huge loads, making it one of the most common injury sites. Types of knee injuries include
patellar tendinosis (accumulation of small injuries that do not heal properly) and chondromalacia
(softening of the knee joint) which occur with excessive squatting volume and/or intensity (Zhu and
Chen 1988). Another site for injuries is the lateral and medial collateral ligament (LCL and MCL) which
prevent the knee joint from turning inwards or outwards. However, it is common for athletes to cave
the knees inward as they stand up from a squat due to weak quadriceps, too wide a stance, or an
unstable rebound making it possible to injure the MCL (Su, Zhang, and Zheng 1990). Caving the knees
can also force the meniscus to experience friction and impingement (Huang, Li, and Mai 2003) and is
often a precursor to MCL injuries.
Reasons for Injuries
Regardless of the body part, gender, or lifting ability, the research on sports injuries either
verbally or statistically point to similar reasons outlined in Table 20 – 2. However, the underlying issue
behind most of these reasons is improper loading (Liu 2010; Luo et al 2010). Firstly, the most cited
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reason for injury is improper training characterized by either excessive intensity and/or volume, both of
which compose the overall training load. There are many examples of this. For example, the instructor
can simply increase the intensity and load so much that the athlete cannot adapt and hence results in an
acute injury or the load might be too high for too long which results in overtraining and chronic injuries.
Another scenario is when the training program has an unclear rhythm either by lacking deload sessions,
weeks, or phases which will cause the athlete’s fitness to decline. This scenario is common among elite
athletes because they need longer loading periods to spur adaptation but must also avoid going too far
and overtraining. For younger athletes, improper training is often characterized by using training
programs made for older and more experienced athletes. These programs may demand short-term and
long-term loading that is not line with a young athlete’s ability to perform or recover, change exercises
too quickly which prevents building proficiency, etc. Therefore, instructors must assess the athlete’s
fitness and apply the load accordingly.
Table 20 – 2: Survey Data on Reasons for Injuries
Zhu and Chen (1988)
Kang (2011)
Reason
No. of
% of Total
No. of
% of Total
Cases
Injury Cases
Cases
Injury Cases
Excessively high training intensity or
59
29.9
21
20.6
volume
Chronic fatigue or
52
26.4
16
15.7
training/competition before fully
recover
Athlete’s personal technical mistake
25
12.7
10
9.8
Insufficient preparation activity
24
12.2
3
2.9
Inadequate equipment or arena
5
2.5
6
5.9
Over fatigue
12
6.1
Improper training method
11
5.6
29
28.4
Other reasons (mental, physical)
9
4.6
17
16.7
Total
197
100
102
100
Chronic fatigue/inadequate recovery is the second most-cited reason for injury and can result in
acute or chronic injuries. Wang et al (2000) found that 74% of the injuries they surveyed within a large
sample of male and female weightlifters were chronic in nature. At its core, chronic fatigue is a loading
problem because the training load is consistently greater than the amount of recovery and can worsen
over time if the volume is not reduced. Wang et al (2000) note that 95% of athletes train through
chronic injuries but are usually forced to do so at a reduced capacity. In these situations, it is better to
reduce the load so that the athlete can heal quickly and resume sooner to training fully.
Another common reason for injury is a technical error. A well-executed lift in accordance with
the 3 gravity principles and 5 Words presents a very low injury risk. There are rare instances where an
296
athlete is technically sound and seems prepared to attempt a new weight but commits an error that
results in an injury. However, a more common scenario is when the instructor or athlete rushes to
attempt weights despite exhibiting technical errors at lighter weights, which is a loading issue at its core.
Imbalanced horizontal forces can move the barbell away from the center line and load certain joints
excessively during the movement (see Chapter 2 on Weightlifting Philosophy). This prevents the athlete
from fully exerting their strength and results in compensation by overexerting certain body parts over
others which can lead to injury. For example, instead of allowing their legs and hips to drive the bar in a
balanced way, an athlete may extend their back early during a pull to achieve greater speed or rhythm
(especially as weights get heavier), but this results in hyperextension in the lower back which overloads
the lower erector muscles and results in injury. Additionally, such compensation can affect the catch and
result in excessive stress to the muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons. Therefore, the instructor should
not rush through technical training or technical development. Instead, they should allow the athlete to
build strength and coordination to perform the lifts correctly.
Insufficient preparation is another oft-cited reason for injury. Figure 20 – 1 presents data from
Kang (2011) who finds that most injuries occur during the winter and summer, which are the periods
when most athletes undergo adjustment after competition due to holiday or possible injury from
competition. So, if there is no transition in the loading, then it is easy for athletes to experience injury.
Additionally, these periods form the base training periods for most of the year so chronic fatigue can
develop during these long training phases if the loading is excessive relative to the amount of recovery.
Therefore, athletes must devote sufficient time to warm up the body prior to weightlifting and perform
a sufficient number of repetitions at low intensities with gradual buildup to build coordination and
assess their preparedness for the session. Additionally, they must avoid resting too briefly or too long in
between sets or exercises otherwise the body might not be prepared to perform. Athletes might also be
mentally unprepared for certain loads. For example, low concentration, morale, or excitement can affect
an athlete’s coordination and ability to achieve the necessary speed and height to lift a weight
successfully. These circumstances may be due to insufficient recovery from prior loading or other factors
which affect the athlete’s mood, so if an instructor insists on loading under these circumstances then
the athlete may injure themselves from the stress imposed on the body. Instead, athletes should either
take the time off to recover or perform less technical work such as bodybuilding.
Another issue arising from improper loading is unbalanced development of athletic abilities. All
sports result in localized muscular imbalances (Luo et al 2010). For example, among split jerkers it is
normal for the strength between the legs to differ by less than 10%, however a difference of 10 – 20% is
moderate and requires training while a difference above 20% is abnormal and may result in injury (Xiong
2014). Zhang (2002) found the strength ratio between knee flexion to knee extension among
weightlifters is 0.66 while rowers and track athletes have more balanced ratios between 0.80 – 1. Luo et
al (2006) note such imbalances can result in injuries and argue for balanced strength training such as
bodybuilding as a preventive measure. Another example, is during the backward lean method (see
Chapter 2 on Chinese Weightlifting Philosophy) which often results in athletes loading their lower back
297
excessively relative to their middle and upper back to lift the weight. In both situations, the muscles are
loaded in an imbalanced way which can create localized fatigue even if the athlete’s overall capacity is
still good and result in injury. The solution to these cases is to load underdeveloped areas and/or allow
loaded areas to rest when possible. This requires instructors to analyze the muscles around the injured
area and arrange movements to load a weak area or unload a stressed area. For example, if the strength
imbalance between knee extension and flexion is too great, then the instructor can implement leg curl
variations and other hamstring work like good mornings. Additionally, the instructor can implement only
power versions of the lifts to avoid stressing the quadriceps with full versions of the lifts. Another
example is when leg extension strength is greater than hip extension which can cause the athlete to
slide backwards in movements such as snatch, clean, push press, etc. In this case, the instructor can
implement kettlebell high pulls which lengthen the range of motion and force the athlete to extend
more with the glutes.
Figure 20 – 1: Injury Occurrences over the Year
Conclusion
There are many reasons cited for injury but the fundamental cause is improper loading.
Therefore, instructors should choose the load intensity, volume, rhythm, and methods carefully to avoid
the symptoms and injuries. Additionally, instructors must monitor their athletes to make sure their
movement quality is good. It is also important to communicate with the athlete about how they feel
physically and mentally at various points in training such as during the warmup, between sets, and even
298
after training. This will inform that the instructor about the athlete’s competitive state and make safer
loading decisions. Furthermore, the instructor should assess the affected areas to determine
movements that will load weak areas and allow overloaded areas to rest. This will allow the athlete to
train consistently and avoid injury.
299
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About the Authors
Manuel Buitrago, PhD
Coach Manuel received his honorary coaching credential in weightlifting from
Chengdu Sports University in Sichuan, China. He has been traveling to China
since 2003 and furthered his weightlifting knowledge by studying and
translating Chinese sports science research articles, manuals, and textbooks
on weightlifting written by Chinese sports scientists and coaches. Manuel was
mentored by Ma Jianping where he learned Chinese weightlifting technique
and training methods. He’s furthered his lifting ability and knowledge by traveling to various training
bases in China where he trained with professional Chinese weightlifters.
Coach Manuel has taught Chinese weightlifting technique, theory, and programming in China as well as
around the world. His knowledge of Chinese language and culture allows him to bridge language barriers
and convey the essence behind Chinese weightlifting methods to Western audiences without changing
the content. He has conducted Chinese Weightlifting seminars in Spanish, Portuguese, and is working on
Italian translations.
Ma Jianping
Coach Ma Jianping was coached by Zhao Qingkui, one of the founders of the
Chinese weightlifting system. He was a member of the Chinese National
Team from 1978 to 1988 and represented his country in the 69kg class at the
1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. He also won a silver medal and two
bronze medals while competing in four World Championships and World
Cups. He is currently a 2-time World Master’s Champion.
Coach Ma has been a coach at a variety of levels for over 23 years, beginning as a Provincial coach and
rising as National level coach for China’s Junior team. More recently, he was the head coach of the
Seychelles (Africa) National Team and the USA World University National Team from 2003 to
2007. Coach Ma received an undergraduate degree from Anhui University in China in 1989 and received
his master’s degree in exercise science from Xi’an Sports University in China in 2007. His lifters include Li
Ping, 2005/2007 World Champion and 2010/2011 Asian Games Champion in the women’s 53kg class
and 2002 World Silver medalist Sun Ruiping in the women’s 75kg class.
He is now the head coach of Lindenwood University’s weightlifting team where he teaches Chinese
weightlifting and strength & conditioning, and is consistently one of the highest rated instructors by his
students.
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