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Coaching From All Angles
New coaches, especially in large class settings, often spend most of their time watching their lifters from the front. While this provides a reasonable angle for evaluating basic technique, "There's a lot to be offered by watching a lifter from all angles," says Olympic Coach Harvey Newton.
As an example of a coach's perspective on a lift and lifter during a typical competition Coach Newton filmed and analyzed TJ Greenstone's personal record C&J at this year's USAW National Championships.
This year's combined USAW National Championships and Olympic Trials were beautifully staged in Salt Lake City. A modest amount of spectators attended the three-day event that featured some outstanding lifting, including USA national records.
"But the meet also showcased a large amount of red on the scoreboard," says Olympic Coach Harvey Newton. "This has been the trend for the past several years, reflecting possible strategic challenges for coaches."
"Red" refers to the number of failed lifts reflected on the large scoreboard viewed by the audience. A successful lift is marked in blue, an unsuccessful lift in red. "The men's 85kg category was amazing," Newton continues. "Only 37% of the attempted snatches were successful; only 32% of the C&J attempts succeeded. No one made six-for-six successful attempts. The first, second, and third place finishers realized 67%, 50%, and 33% success rates."
Good weightlifting instruction includes teaching beginners how to safely drop a failed lift. "Learning how to safely drop a failed lift must be practiced," says Olympic Coach Harvey Newton. "We can't wait for the first unsuccessful lift to see if a lifter escapes injury by getting clear of falling weights."
Coach Newton recently witnessed an experienced lifter suffer several lower body injuries that resulted from a failed snatch. "Here’s some solid advice. Have novices practice dropping empty bars or dowels from various positions on the first day. Have them experience creating sufficient distance between themselves and falling weights so as to avoid injury."
Establishing or maintaining an effective competitive weightlifting career while serving in the US Armed Forces is a challenge. Coach Harvey Newton, a former US Marine, knows this all too well. "I gave up what should have been my best two junior years to serve our country. It was tough leaving the platform for the rice paddies in 1966, but I felt this was what I needed to do."
In his latest blog posting Coach Newton explains how many top USA lifters have managed military service and improved lifting performance. "Whether we're talking the first eight-time World Champion John Davis or 1976 Olympic silver medalist Lee James, many top American lifters have served their country both off and on the platform," says Newton.
Over the past year or two entries in USA Weightlifting national events have continued to reach previously unheard of numbers. This new trend has many positive aspects to it. However, according to Olympic Coach, “There can be some unintended consequences when meets become excessively large. I continue to emphasize that a national championship event is not for everyone, it is for the best individuals.”
Looking at the recently concluded American Open Championships it is also clear that a number of lifters are only marginally qualified. “A lot of newcomers lift once or twice locally and qualify for big national events,” Newton continues. “Lifting here is a totally different from lifting back in the “box.” We see a lot of red (missed lifts) in the snatch and this results in starting too high in the C&J in an effort to make the qualifying total.”
The Relationship of Key Lifts for Ongoing Progress
Weightlifting is largely a game of numbers. Whether it's technique analysis, program planning, or competition performance nearly everything in our sport boils down to numbers.
"One of the easiest ways to identify strengths and weaknesses in a lifter is to establish certain mathematical relationships between key lifts," says Harvey Newton, USA Weightlifting's first national coach. "Snatch and clean-and-jerk performance compared to one’s best squat result is a standard used by coaches for many years."
In his latest blog ("Are Your Lifts in Balance?") Coach Newton explains the details behind these relationships, along with showcasing the numbers produced by world champions and Team USA members at the recent World Championships in Houston.
I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the weightlifting certification. It was a major paradigm shift in many ways, especially learning of the important of the power position and ankle mobility for weightlifting.
At first I was somewhat frustrated, as I struggled conceptualizing the teaching of weightlifting in this manner to athletes. Then, I looked at myself in the power position and realized how closely it mimics a vertical jump, and changed my mind. After a week of focus on this position, my dunking ability is improving.
I also really appreciated your honesty on what your experience taught you to be true, and teaching us more useful information than we would have received otherwise. It was great getting to know you as a person and a coach, and I hope all is well with you."