The New Quad: Start Over, Take a Break, Competition Strategy
Last weekend was my best performance on the National Stage, finishing 10th in the 94kg Class at the 2016 USAW American Open. Although I finished 8th in the 85kg Class at the 2015 USAW Nationals, I consider this one better for a multitude of reasons:
- I didn't finish top 10 due to massive bomb outs
- I finished 3/3 in the Snatch and had an 11kg Competition Snatch PR while getting an 8kg Total PR and 5kg Life Time PR
- I had more fun than I ever had competing, even before I stepped on the platform.
After the 2016 Nationals, when I had to withdraw from the meet due to hyperextending my elbow, I had to sit down and really think about my goals, and what I wanted to do in this sport. The end goal is obviously the Olympics, and yes it's a big goal and maybe a pipe dream, but I don't want to sell myself short, so I had to sit back and think, "Ok, how do I make this happen?" Looking at the qualifying procedure, it's obvious that the first 2 years of the quad don't mean anything in terms of impact on your ability to get on the Olympic Team. You can make all the teams you want in the first 2 years following Rio, but until the 2 years leading up to the games, none of that matters. In addition to that, and reading an article from Renaissance Periodization, written by Dr. Melissa Davis, about chronic dieting and reduced performance, it really sunk in that if I wanted to achieve any international standings, I would have to take a break from the 85kg class, and move back up to 94s.
A silly thing in this sport is trying to hide your intentions - like not letting people know what your body weight is, or if you're going to this meet or that meet, so on and so forth. This isn't a sport like Football where your playbook is secret and you don't want the other team to know your calls and lineup, once that final start sheet comes up, you know and everyone else knows what you'll have to hit to win. It's especially funny in this day and age of posting PRs on Instagram, that you think people don't have a general idea about what you can do. So this is my plan, and the plan I recommend a lot of you out there getting in the Sport of Weightlifting should do if you're looking to improve performance.
Stop Cutting Weight
If you've been chronically cutting weight over the last few years to stay in a weight class, and you're seeing yourself peak, maybe you should just stop cutting weight. Moving up a weight class after the 2016 Nationals progressively made a huge impact in my training, and recovery. I was getting stronger, lifting more weight, hitting constant training PRs in the strength movements like the Squat and Deadlifts, which haven't budged in almost 2 years.
Besides pure weight lifted, my lifts started going up as well, getting PRs in the Clean and Jerk, but also being able to lift that weight successfully over and over and over. I cleaned 171 about 10 times before the American Open, and finally put it together to get a PR Clean and Jerk at 170 the week before my taper began.
Mentally and physically, I just felt better as well. Aches and pains dissipated, my emotions were more stable, and I just had more fun not feeling broken all the time, and not having to cut weight after 3 months of weight gain. Now is the time to train and put on muscle and size so that you can improve in the sport, and not have any repercussions on the long run. Unless you're an athlete who's receiving a stipend from USAW for your ranking based on your weight class, then you don't need to worry about hitting a total at every national meet to keep the money coming in. Go eat some non-paleo grains and ice cream and get strong.
Take a Break
You don't need be so concerned about performance now, so you shouldn't be ridiculously focused on meets. If you're already at the National level, you know you can get there and shouldn't have to freak out about qualifying. If you're trying to get to the National level, and find you're stuck, follow the aforementioned weight class change, and just train and have fun. Don't be so focused on "I HAVE to be a National athlete" that you take the fun out of the meet. I could've been in the A Session at the AO, but I realized that if I was there, I would be the mess of it, and having to deal with a bunch of egos and games that would have ruined the meet for me, so I purposely lowered my total to put me in the B session, where I would be at the end of the lifting, being able to follow myself or at least have an more steady waiting time between attempts.
People were shocked and appalled that I was having fun in the back at some points, running up to people I hadn't seen in months, giving them hugs, letting people stand in front of me while I was lifting rather than shooing them away, carrying conversations with people while I was warming up. It was almost like I didn't care I was there, and in truth, I didn't really. I was there to lift and have fun, and turns out, I beat out a lot of people in the A session, some of which were big name CrossFitters with large strength levels people expected to blow up on their first meet. If you can't get over your own ego when stepping into a new arena, then you're not going to do well. And I had a lot of events in the last few months hit me where I had to put my pride aside, and just train. It's ok if your peaking training isn't going well, or you're not hitting numbers you calculated to hit, or half your sponsors stopped responding to your emails and stopped paying you for no reason - none of that matters. Life goes on, and you can only worry about you.
There's no point in doing something if it makes you miserable, and if weightlifting and competing makes you feel like you wasted your time, then you should find something else to put your energy towards.
Get A New Competition Strategy
Going in to this, I started looking at some of the bigger names blowing up on the scene in recent years, specifically Mattie Rogers, CJ Cummings, and Harrison Maurus. Yes they're all very young and strong, but they all have one very common thread between them and their competition success: they curb their egos when it comes to attempts from meet to meet. Most people I've noticed, will start relatively close to either their competition max or their training max, and they may get out with a total, and at best 4/6. If you look at these three over the course of their career, they have (or more likely their coaches) have done the following:
- Open them well within their capabilities, but within recent history of their 1st and 2nd attempts
- 2nd attempts are still within competition history, but perhaps are within 1kg above or below their previous competition best
- 3rd attempts, if previous are makes, are for increasing competition lift and totals by maybe 1-2kg
While this seems majorly conservative, I will use Mattie Rogers as an example for this. I've followed her since she first got into Weightlifting thanks to the shared cheerleading background, and she's made what some would call a meteoric rise to the top, but she has been consistently adding a kilo here and there to her total, and when the time was right, making larger jumps to increase that total significantly. Usually her 2nd attempts are there to increase her total, and the thirds are there to solidify the increase and winning. Now she is at the level where her openers instantly claim victory, but this was a long and steady process of consistency and patience.
Harrison and CJ are no different, both have been around for a while, CJ longer than Harrison, and both have a similar approach to competition, of hitting numbers they know they are capable of on the first, and second attempts are to increase the total or solidify placement, and third attempts are there to increase the total indefinitely. CJ's Snatch and Clean and Jerk are prime examples of this, adding 1kg to his Snatch and Clean and Jerk, with the exception of a few stabs at the Youth World Record and missing, he's constantly increased his totals, and subsequently, the American Records.
This meet American Open is going to be my starting point for the next several years, and while it may not shoot my record up, I'm going to try and increase my total kilo by kilo over time. It may not be glamorous, but it's a method that's employed by some of our best and brightest starts, and if you want to improve your ranking, and the competition for the fans, consistency is needed. You can't just max out everyday and expect to see progress on the platform, similar to having fun, you need to curb your ego for a minute and ask yourself about your goal. Are you more interested in getting like on Instagram from your random PR that took you 4 hours to get on a Friday, or do you want to be on top of the Podium some time in your life? That's for you to decide.