Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Interview with Weightlifting Coach and First Pull Author Jean-Patrick Millette

https://www.instagram.com/p/7sl19Tjybn
Weightlifting coach and author of First Pull: Jean-Patrick Millette

About three years ago, I noticed articles being shared across my Facebook feed from one particular website. That website was none other than First Pull. For those unfamiliar with it, First Pull is run by Jean-Patrick Millette. He's a weightlifting coach at Les Géants de Montréal based out of Montreal, Canada, who writes about the sport. He’s written weightlifting articles on numerous topics, including technical details and programming, and has published interviews he has done with international athletes. The site delivers excellent content without any ads and gimmicks. I instantly began to follow it.

Fast forward to the spring of 2015 - my friends and I took a trip to Montreal. As I sought to learn more about coaching, I reached out to Jean-Patrick, hoping to use my visit as an opportunity to meet with him. I thought it would be perfect to interview the man who's interviewed other weightlifters. Jean-Patrick was more than happy to meet and talk. We agreed to rendezvous at a local Starbucks.

It's amazing how quickly an hour can pass during good conversation. Enjoy.

Introduction

When did you know you wanted to start coaching and how did you get involved?

I always wanted to teach. I remember wanting to teach psychology at the university level when I was a teen. Then, I wanted to teach sport. As my love for weightlifting kept growing as a teen, I found myself wanting to teach it. I did not know I would end up teaching it full time or as a career.

I got involved more and more in weightlifting and the wheels started spinning. Through my bachelor, I got proposed a job coaching - just a few hours a week, maybe six hours a week, through a Crossfit gym. It was great at first, but if you do it part time, you can’t coach full time serious athletes. Although people might want to train full time with you, you cannot offer it.

It was great to coach part time in Crossfit gyms. I met a lot of people and coached a lot of different people. Le Club d’haltérophilie les Géants de Montréal is the reason I am now coaching full time. My boss, Pierre Charbonneau, is an ex-elite weightlifter that dreamed about having his own club and hopefully live off his passion. 30 years later, I am the head coach of the club and him and the club are responsible for me living off my dream job. I am eternally thankful for this opportunity.

You said growing up, your father was naturally strong. How does your family view your career as a weightlifting coach and your work on First Pull?

They liked the idea of me developing First Pull. For them, it's just a way for me to be out there and to share my passion. As far as being a weightlifting coach, I think it was unexpected for them because I was working in a lab as I was doing a masters in neuroscience (after my kinesiology bachelor). I stepped out of that to become a full time weightlifting coach as soon as I got the opportunity. Yes, I did end up turning down a grant. You can’t escape your passion, though.

As for my father, he is one of the strongest individuals I have seen in my life and I have witnessed a 200+kg CJ. He is about 5'6 and 100kg. He’s extremely muscular and strong. I’m tall and on the skinny side. He used to do strength tricks to impress me as a kid. I have seen him lift a car and move a car by himself and he used to bicep curl me when I was 10 years old. He apparently had weightlifting friends and used to talk to me about how they lifted many plates above their head.

That's pretty good. Hopefully it runs in the family.

All my sisters are pretty strong, I didn't get as lucky. Fun fact: The first time my sister tried the deadlift, she did 305 lbs. That was her first deadlift ever. She stopped because it was her first time and she did not want to push it. The first time she squatted, she did 135 for 20 reps.

Some guys can't even do that their first time.

Did you think First Pull would become so popular in such a short period of time?

I always do things because I feel like doing them rather than for the reaction they might cause. So, I thought nobody would read it. Even at first, I didn't even buy the .net, I would just use the firstpull.wordpress.com and I would have ads on the page. The main reason I think it got popular quick is that Gregor from All Things Gym noticed me after one or two posts. He asked me to write a guest post and I got a lot of followers quicker because of that. I thank him for that.

With the development of First Pull, what opportunities has it given you?

It helped with me finding a full time weightlifting coach job. It's a good resume of how I work and how I think. It got me a few seminars in school, too. My goal with First Pull was to make the sport grow, and as an indirect consequence, I ended up coaching full time.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKb2WFYDw9K
Young athletes training together and hard at work

Snatch, Clean, Pulls

When the snatch is taught, it's explained in more detail compared to the clean. Is there anything you have observed in the clean that tends to be overlooked by athletes and coaches when they teach it?

I think with the clean, people tend to not finish their pull or finish it incorrectly. They'll bring the bar above their kneecaps and bang it on their thighs to try and bring it to their shoulders.

I like to teach my athletes to bring the bar at least to mid thighs - or slightly lower depending on their arms’ length. By doing so, it is easier to keep the shoulders directly over the bar, while still being bent at the knees. The resulting action of the leg, back, and shoulder vertical drive makes it a more power movement. A good clean is usually when the bar is met at around parallel and ridden down in the hole for a bounce. Most elite lifters will do that because it’s quite hard to stand up with a huge bar when it crashes on you.

I know the snatch is more technical and the clean is more about strength, but they lose sight of the fact the clean is still technical to an extent. It's not pure strength.

You cannot bring a bar to mid thighs and bang it forward and expect to lift 200 kilos. It still has to be close, it's just that the movement is shorter and it’s easier to maintain balance in the receiving position compared to the snatch. With the snatch, the bar is going above head so it's a little bit trickier whereas in the clean the bar is going to your shoulders. A lot of emphasis should be put on meeting the bar. Sometimes you see a lot of people have the bar bang on them because they don’t finish their pull correctly, leading to the bar going forward and incorrect arm action.

Yes, a very abrupt catch. It looks like it crashes into their deltoids.

You can get away with that if you are very strong. You can do big numbers like that, but you're upping your risk for injuries, especially the knees and back. The goal is not to get away with it, but to do it better and better so that you can lift more and hopefully for a longer time period.

Coaching


In the Weightlifting Scoop episode featuring you, the discussion at the end of the episode debates how many steps are necessary to teach the lifts.

You've discussed action occurs faster than a lifter can consciously process it and said if a lifter is thinking too much, thinking will disrupt actual execution. How should a coach avoid that issue - should they teach the lifts in minimal steps or describe each step? What is best for the athlete?

When starting someone, I believe that you should use as little information as possible. You don't coach somebody that is starting baseball the same way you coach somebody that throws for a professional team. The movement is not the same, although it might look the same. Training is the difference between the two. One has an idea of what he is doing and can feel what he is doing, whereas the other one is learning to feel what is a good throw and what is a bad throw. The better or the more experienced you get, the more precise the coaching has to be.

However you decide to go about it, you need to start with a simple task and complexify it as you go. As far as position, in my experience, I just do whatever clicks for that athlete. My default is to teach the pull and the squat first. From there, I move to powers and complexes.

I love that people write me emails to know what progressions I use for the kids because I post a lot of videos from the kids I coach. The truth is, my system is highly flexible. I will do whatever works for you in terms of learning progression. I just adapt to that person. Whatever works for you, I use it toward building sound technique (in the way of complexes for instance).

Whatever suits the athlete.

Yeah. And start simple, complexify it. What I do put a lot of emphasis on is what you look like in the starting position and what you look like at the power position. In between tends to vary between athletes because of their morphology. There are concepts that you want to have, like you need to be over the bar, you need to have your shoulders higher than your hip, weight should be distributed toward the back of the foot, and more, but that's going to be shown in a different way in everybody. Whereas in the power position, everybody looks the same: you're a little bit more vertical, your shoulders are over the bar not in front.

http://www.robmacklem.com/comparative-sequence-positions-in-snatch-94kg
Left to right: Min-Jae Kim, Vladimir Sedov, and Saeid Mohammadpourkarkaragh

Core concepts remain the same, but you'll see some variations.

Yeah, but I let people find their own way in between those positions and then I'll refine. One analogy I use is if you're going to use a big block of stone to sculpt something like a human statue, you will, at first, remove big chunks of stone with a hammer or something sharp. After a while, it's going to look a little bit more like a human-like form and you're going to use sand paper (or something similar) to make it look pretty and make the details come to life. That's how I see coaching.

That makes sense. A beginner will only be able to handle so much information. Then as they improve and have better motor skills and develop the lifts, they can incorporate the finer subtleties.

Yeah for sure. They'll also be able to relate to those little details.

One thing I've come across frequently is pulls are very important, yet very underrated. They should be emphasized in the program. What pulls have you found particularly helpful for athletes. On the flipside, have you found any movement that has little benefit to incorporate in the program?

The pull is the basis of weightlifting. Pulls develop position strength. Pulls will also make you have a long lasting career, because a strong back is usually a healthy back.

In my system, I tend to favor snatch pulls to clean pulls for one major reason. If you're a serious athlete and you train a lot (very frequently) snatch pulls are easier to recover from because they involve using less weight. Both type of pulls are important, though. In my experience, it also works the upper back differently because of the arm position. I do use clean pulls, but I will say my athletes do twice as many snatch pulls than clean pulls. That would be a rough approximation. When we do clean pulls, we push the weights a bit more.

I like pulls from the hang a lot. You stay under tension for a longer time which is super helpful because you can understand position better, improve specific hypertrophy and you can develop position better and positional strength.

We tend to call pulls from blocks ‘’Lazy pulls.’’ We do them when we are sick and tired. It’s not that they are bad, but the blocks definitely makes it easier to handle the weights and I am not sure if that is the way to go. I think your system should look for ways to make lifts harder, not easier.

Usually it's the other way around. Everyone recommends block work instead of hang work.

I like lifts from the blocks because they are useful for speed strength, but I don't like pulls from the blocks because they are not as useful. They could be potentially useful if you have a back problem but other than that, I feel like you need to really load that exercise to get a benefit and then it becomes a matter of recovering adequately, training priority, and the time of the year (how far you are from competition).

I know other people they like it and have had success with it. Whatever works for you should be kept in your program. Personally, I think there are better variations.

That makes sense - lighter load and better recovery. Why load up the lifts if you can achieve the same thing with a different movement.

I know you work primarily with children, or younger teens and adolescents.

Yes, we have about 15 kids aged 8 to 14 years old (average age being 12) who train with us. Our team won Les Jeux de Montréal (Montreal Games) last year again, meaning our youth team is the best in Montréal as per this competition.

Many juniors and seniors athletes are training in the club as well. I coached George Kobaladze at the 2016 Pan Ams Championships which was an incredible experience (Thanks George). I coach Michele Letendre as well. I just learnt today that my junior athlete Caroline Dupont is now on the national junior team.

I have worked as a consultant with world class rowers and Crossfitters before as well.

A video posted by Jean-Patrick Millette, Bsc (@firstpull) on


What are common issues you find with older lifters that begin with you? And expanding on that, what differences have you noticed between each age group - children, adolescents, and adults who start this sport?

If you're an adult and you're just starting this sport without a background, you need to train using the same system children use in weightlifting. I know that it is a tough pill to swallow, but you need to be building a base before anything else.

I know you are stronger than a kid, and that is exactly why you need to start slow if you don’t want to get injured. In most countries that are dominant in the sport, they ask you to do three years of general technique work and the numbers at that moment are not the priority.

The thing is with adults they come in and they want to push too soon in my opinion. This is a strength sport, but it also involves other athletic abilities - you need to be flexible, you need to be fast or powerful, which is a subset of strength. If you push without having all of the above, you may hurt yourself or get stuck at a plateau that is technical rather than strength based.

Too fast too soon.

Yeah. Another thing is that they are aware of social media so they're aware of people doing whatever it is they do on the internet. Some people max out all the time so they come back to the gym and they want to do that because they have seen it.

As far as mindset, I think children love the sport a bit more than adults. The kids come in the gym and they're just happy to be lifting. They don't care about the numbers and the performance aspect of it. They're just happy to be there and to lift.

Whereas a lot of adults come in the gym with a performance oriented mindset which is what you need. However, you need to be able to celebrate your accomplishments and be able to live through your failures. You need pressure on yourself to be good in this sport but you also need to enjoy it you want to get really good. Here is the truth: You don't get good in two years, you get good in 6, 8, 10 years. So you need that motivation, that enjoyment.

Going into a similar topic, many weightlifters and yourself have said mental strength is crucial. I have seen you referenece Tommy Kono's quote, "Weightlifting is 50% mental, 30% technique and 20% power." How should an athlete go about developing mental strength?

You have written about your gambling system where you encourage lifters to focus on their performance and then you have also changed the training in the middle of a session. What other strategies have you found for developing an athlete's mental strength?

I remove control basically. Here is an example: If an athlete is a program freak (does 100% of what is written, not more, not less - no matter how bad or good they feel) - I will stop handing out a written program and tell it exercise-by-exercise and set-by-set. This way they have to adapt to the unknown of the program, just as sometimes you need to do a kilo less or a kilo more than you planned to win a medal. Plans should be flexible.

Your athletes are lucky to have a coach. For one reason or another, athletes may not have access to one. For instance, Canadian weightlifter Christine Girard and as well as Amna Al Haddad. At one point or another, they did not have a coach. Fortunately, they do now and they have somewhere to train. What advice can you give to someone who has to train alone and does not have a coach?

I'm thinking of two things. The best advice is stay conservative and focus on feeling the movement well. It’s easy to train stupid when nobody is looking at you because you are not accountable. Your mindset should be on quality first, and from there you build a base to grow your numbers.

The second best advice I can give is to film yourself and just send the videos to any coach you might have heard of online. Everybody can be found on Facebook and they will give their opinions of how you are moving. A lot of coaches will do that for free just out of love for the sport. They might even give you one or two tips and that's going to be incredible for you and make a life changing experience in your training.


Weightlifting is a straightforward sport - take the bar from the ground and get it overhead. Do you think we complicate the movements in North America? Such as triple extension vs. catapult, knees in vs. knees out, so on and so forth.

I don't think you can ever complicate the movements. I think it's important to know the movements in all their details. However, a lot of people make the mistake of over complicating the movements when they teach. The coach needs to know everything there is to know about snatch, clean and jerk, and physiological response a person can experience from any type of reps and sets schemes and all that coach stuff.

However, the athlete doesn't need to know all of that. You are there to provide the assistance, and they are there to provide the effort. Together you work toward a common goal by playing your respective role. Good coach-athlete professional relationships usually ends up with high results.

It is good to know a lot of things, but there is a time and order for teaching every little detail and technical point you may know. One step at a time. From the biggest mistake to the less important ones.

Social media has changed weightlifting in a significant way. First Pull is a great example. Are there any issues when someone relies heavily on only videos and articles online?

It's not bad to read too much - I encourage everyone to get as knowledgeable as they can. However, it's bad to try everything at once. There's a time for reading and there's a time for doing and usually you can learn things through reading a lot faster than you can refine your technique and increase your results. You can learn a lot of theory faster than you can learn how to do it. That’s why, when you step in the gym, it's good to lose control just do what you got to do on that day.

I think that's the main difficulty with coaching adults. They come in with a diagnostic of their lifts. They are focused on that, and may forget the whole picture.

Who taught you weightlifting and what did you learn from your coaches? What have you learned from other coaches?

My story is a little bit funny because around 12 years old I saw weightlifting on TV and I thought that was so cool. I couldn't practice it because there were no clubs nearby and my mom wasn't so much into it. Around 16 years old I started buying books, just keeping up to date with the sport and I could only start training around 20 years old or something. I came from a Bulgarian-ish system based on intensity and little physical preparation. I don't believe in this system, especially for developing an athlete from scratch. I don't believe in having young athletes or beginners max out every day. I think they should max out in competition or maybe two weeks before and whenever it goes well. I guess I believe in a Soviet inspired system.

Right. You lean more towards 3-5 reps.

It's very rare that we do singles. We'll do singles when we feel good or when we're doing a test. I learned a lot by exploring the systems of weightlifting, reading books, even more books. When things don't work out, again you ask the question why is it not working out and you start having a hypothesis and you explore these hypotheses.

When the system I trained under did not work to my liking, I asked myself why and then I realized we were lacking a lot of tonnage and exercise variations. Through that, I created more or less my own system that is heavily inspired by Soviet literature and influential people I have met through my time in this sport.

As for your other question, which was what did I learn from other coaches, I will say that I learned the importance of general strength from watching athletes like George Kobaladze. I’m not talking just squats, but also the importance of variation of strength movements.

I learned a lot of non-common exercises from other coaches I have interacted with. Some of those exercises are not popular or known in Canada, but they have helped me fix back problems, transition problems, and speed problems.


You've been a coach for quite some time now. What are some hard lessons you had to learn? What advice do you have for new coaches?

Don't go too fast with your athletes. Take the time to build the base correctly. If you rush, aches and pains will remind you that you are skipping steps.

Don’t specialize too early. Variation is key when developing an athlete because through variation you can develop different type of athletic characteristics. It will also keep your athlete’s interest in the sport higher.

The broad exercise advice makes sense. It might not have direct effect, but it gives you a stronger, more solid base that you mentioned earlier.

Let’s say you train for three years and as you're building the foundation, you're getting strong, and you are learning the lifts through countless reps. Let’s pretend you do a 200kg squat after 3 years and a 140kg clean and jerk. You will be doing 160+ within a year with specialization training. That is because the base is good and your body can withstand the increase of training volume and intensity.

But if you push too soon, you will be skipping on the required tonnage (or have difficulty meeting the recommended number of yearly lifts). In three years, chances are that your numbers will be 10 to 20% less than they should have been. It will be hard to make up for that because your base will be small. You will know the lifts, but the general physical preparedness will be low.

What would you suggest to parents who are recreational lifters and are interested in getting their children involved in weightlifting?

Don't train at the same time, but bring your kid in weightlifting. Depending on the kid's age, a lot of kids will want to be weightlifting but they might be shy because the parents are there. They don't want that parental pressure because they feel like they have to look good in front of their parents. In my experience, that's what I've noticed. If you remove the parents from the room, what you see is the kids start to get more into it and they feel like it's their hour.

But bring them in weightlifting.

Weightlifting the Sport

Now, weightlifting is either there or not there in a country. What do you believe determines the popularity of the sport in a country?

Local heroes that appear in the media. For instance, there's a good story about weightlifting here. In 2000, Maryse Turcotte, amongst other female lifters, who was a great female weightlifter, went to many international competitions (including the Olympic games) and inspired many women to start in this sport. Her competitions were on TV and many people knew about her so a lot of girls started training because they wanted to be like her.

http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/olympians/001064-119.01-e.php?&photo_id_nbr=6750&&PHPSESSID=6b1fo667hu379mr4uiqhi8e8g1
Maryse Turcotte

A great parallel would be to look at the hockey situation in Canada. Everybody trains in hockey because they want to be like their favorite player. More often than not, the first page of our newspaper is hockey news, and the second page is usually a politic scandal haha.

You need media exposure and that media exposure needs to showcase heroes or people that people wish to be like. If you take Crossfit, for the longest time Camille Leblanc-Bazinet and Rich Froning where at the forefront of this battle. You couldn’t type Crossfit without seeing a picture of either of them.

A larger number of athletes attracted through the right media marketing will attract even more investors and the wheel will keep spinning while getting bigger and bigger.

Incentivize the program or system.

But you need people that are willing to do that, that are willing to be media representative and have a long term plan laid down.

We talked a little about Crossfit in the US. Crossfit has given a lot more popularity to weightlifting. How have you seen Crossfit affect Canadian weightlifting?

Slowly getting there. I think the situation is 5 years behind the US situation on that aspect.

What needs to start happening to improve Canadian weightlifting? That's a very short question with a broad answer. What are some key points?

Long story short, a leading voice. We need someone to rally all of the provincial federations and lay down a plan for the future that deals with all aspects. Three important aspects to talk about would be funding, development, and performance (in that order). We need somebody that is leading weightlifting in Canada to look for opportunities to expand the sport, so funding - especially funding - but also media exposure should be explored more.

We are at a stage where we need to lay down the equivalent of a business model. Like any business, we should be looking to expand and gather more support. If nobody is eating at your restaurant, it might be a good idea to change some of your recipes in order to attract more clients.

That's a very good short answer.

Short Questions

Which do you personally like more - the snatch or clean & jerk?

Snatch.

If you were not involved in weightlifting as a coach, where do you think you would be now?

Probably finishing my masters and doing a PhD in neuroscience.

What is your favorite thing about coaching?

Progress. Seeing 30kg become 150kg. Going through that process during which you see the evolution. And I like that persistence, that character and that devotion that it takes.

What is your least favorite thing about coaching?

Frustration of the athlete. If you're not making lifts and you're frustrated. Lack of seriousness.

What are your favorite books to read or websites to visit?

I read pretty much everything weightlifting. So now I'm looking for new books, maybe you have some that you would like to suggest? I have been re-reading the Medvedev books lately. I sometimes read about how other coaches from other sports get results and how they create their system (mostly interviews).

I actually like doing that too. Even watching training videos of shot putters and throwers - a lot of the field and track athletes. You definitely learn something new or something you wouldn't see in weightlifting.

For sure and the goal is still the same, it's to get better. How to assist your athlete in getting better is always based on technical learning, but also on motivating your athlete and keeping them interested and keeping the intensity going. So you can learn that from any sport.

You've conducted many interviews - of coaches and athletes - who is someone you would like to interview that's alive?

Akkaev because he's my favorite lifter. I would just love to be able to speak with the man who seems to have very hard opinions. He's a little bit in your face kind of guy. I like that.

http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Khadzhimurat+Akkaev/Olympics+Day+9+Weightlifting/BJK6fCjtWuw
Khadzhimurat Akkaev

Who is someone not alive that you would like to interview?

In weightlifting, most likely Alexeyev because he was influential. He helped put weightlifting on the map. Not him alone, but he was part of that movement of that era where the Soviet Union was winning everything. I think he would be interesting as he seemed to be quite mysterious.

Conclusion

Wrapping things up, do you have any plans on visiting the US or giving any seminars?

If I am invited to do so, I will do it!

Do you have any specific plans for the future that we can expect from you?

I'm thinking about writing a book for youth training in weightlifting. Not really a system book, but just my idea of how to start a child in weightlifting. It would include drills, games, tips, and how to communicate clearly the details of weightlifting to a kid.

A lot of kids are getting involved in weightlifting in North America which is new for us. I think this book could help assist many Crossfit kids’ programs. Back in the days, people would start weightlifting at 16 or 17 years old. But now we're getting a lot of 8, 9, 10 years old involved in weightlifting and there's not a lot of literature on it. So I think it's lacking, maybe I can help. I think it could be a fun project.

It would be your contribution to the sport. It would be a good contribution. There is literature on youth, but not specific to weightlifting.

Exactly.

Is there anything you would like to say to all your First Pull readers out there?

I'm super grateful people are following me and reading what I'm writing. It's wonderful to know that you are supporting my endeavors. I have enjoyed interacting with everyone that has reached out to me and we can keep growing this sport together.

I think that wraps it up. Jean-Patrick, thank you very much. It's been great.

Thank you, a pleasure.

Post Interview

Although the interview was done, we still sat and continued to talk about the sport and coaching. Getting the opportunity to meet Jean-Patrick was a highlight of my time in Montreal. He is passionate about his weightlifters and the sport.

I believe in this day and age, weightlifting is undergoing a transition. Experienced coaches are witnessing a new group of young and brilliant coaches come up. Jean-Patrick is one of them.
 https://www.instagram.com/p/BFcHTSPjyXf
The future giants of weightlifting

If you are in the Montreal area, I highly recommend contacting Jean-Patrick. Below you can find his website and social media pages, as well as the site for his weightlifting club.

First Pull Sites
Les Géants de Montréal Sites

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Pulling with the Quadriceps

http://nbbehring.photoshelter.com/image/I00006iTEmffItxw
2008 silver medalist Li Hongli and his developed quads
"For whatever reason, there's a tendency in this country at this time to think we have a dearth of hip extension strength (glutes and hams) and a wealth of knee extension strength (quads). That wasn't the case in 1998 when I first got into this profession. There was no big emphasis on hip extension.

Somehow, somewhere, the emphasis changed from triple extension to emphasis on hip extension and this new thing emerged: the posterior chain.

And what great timing it was, because suddenly we had become a nation of quad dominant, dysfunctional people, plagued by gluteal amnesia.
"
- Excerpt from "That P-Chain Thang"
by Physical Therapist Tracy Fober

When I started lifting weights in 2006, I had to take in a lot of new information. Technique was stressed repeatedly and it's still important to this day. While performing movements with good form minimizes risk of injury, it also makes exercises easier and allows us to derive more benefit from them for our goals.

It's training efficiency - getting the most bang for your buck in the training you do.

In my social media feeds, several training videos tend to show up. I watch a good number of them and it's apparent there's a disconnect in understanding technique. Technical deviations are common near maximal efforts, but most videos I see are submaximal.

The most notable issue I notice is pulling a barbell off the floor using the quadriceps muscles.

The popularity of gluteal training has cause the hips and glutes to be heavily emphasized in training. This is especially true for recreational exercisers who sit for long periods throughout the day. In many lower body movements, most people are taught to focus on their hips, such as sitting back when beginning a squat. Unfortunately because of this, the quadriceps muscle group gets overlooked. Remember the function of the quadriceps - to extend the knee.

When the mistake happens in deadlifts or weightlifting pulls, it's easy to observe. The hips are high and the movement ends up resembling a stiff legged deadlift where the legs are almost straight.

http://www.powerliftingtowin.com/powerlifting-technique-deadlift-setup
Notice the high hips and vertical shin

Sometimes trainees set up correctly, but either due to lack of knowledge or strength, their hips shoot up, the torso becomes almost parallel to the floor, and they end up pulling with their hamstrings, glutes, and low back. This doesn't make use of the quadriceps and ends up fatiguing the other areas sooner in the movement.

In a good pull that utilizes the quadriceps, the barbell and hips rise at the same speed. This is the quadriceps initiating the movement as it extends the knee. When done correctly, the back angle remains constant at the start of the movement.

Depending on whether a deadlift is being done by powerlifters or pulls by weightlifters, there are things to consider when looking at the technique and incorporating corrections.

Powerlifters

Powerlifters have a lot of freedom in their deadlifting styles. Conventional, sumo, low hips, high hips, narrow stance, rounded upper back, and any other number of variations or combinations of them. Pulling style will be up to the individual's build and preferences, especially if the person has a history of injury.

For reference, take a look at the following conventional and sumo deadlifts. Both show good pulling technique.


 

However, there are exceptions and this isn't the only way to deadlift. An experienced lifter won't necessarily have the same deadlifting style if they know what works best for them. For instance, Bob Peoples was well known for deadlifting with his legs nearly straight and a rounded back. It would generally be considered bad form and ill advised to perform deadlifts in that way, but it suited him the best based on his own build and experience.

For beginner and intermediate trainees, they have less time under the bar. More often than not, they unintentionally deadlift with their hips high. The issue tends to reveal itself at heavier weights.

A quick correction is to give a point to look at for the person to focus on as they straighten their knees or think about pressing their feet into the ground. However if a little more assistance is needed, guiding them with hands on their hips and low back can also do the trick.

If the quadriceps are lacking strength in this specific position, hack squats (previously discussed here) can be used as a correction.


Begins at the 3:35 mark

Done properly, a hack squat has the bar lifted without any issue. If the hips come up first, the bar will hit the hamstrings before it reaches lock out. It teaches to begin the lift from the knees by using the quadriceps and requires maintaining good positioning of the torso before finishing with the hips.

Fortunately for weightlifters, there is less range in pulling styles and simplifies the issue.

Weightlifters

Alex Lee at 2015 World Championships

Weightlifting should be straightforward, but for whatever reason lifters make the classical movements more complicated than necessary. The first pull is described as the portion of the lift from the floor to the knees.

Similar to powerlifters, for weightlifters the issue may be lack of awareness. Some simply pull too fast off the floor and lose their position. This is especially true if the main thought is to stay over the bar and emphasize hip extension after the second pull. Sometimes the quads are not taken into consideration.

Corrections for this were discussed in last year's FuBarbell + Training Geek seminar review. To recap the relevant section,
"From the start position, we were told to go straight up as if we were trying to draw a straight line from a pencil sticking out of our ear. Visually, a PVC can be held adjacent to the lifter. Keeping the ear in line to the PVC will force the lifter to pull straight up. If the lifter still needs further feedback, Diane demonstrated by having her hand on the upper back and told Lester to press her hand upwards. This achieves the correct pulling action.

They provided excellent cues to understand how it should feel. I particularly liked the emphasis on feeling the quadriceps contract in the start position and in extension. In the start position, "feel your heels float" gave the right idea of how far you should start over the bar - the weight is shifted forward just enough to have your heels stay lightly on the ground. If done correctly, the quadriceps muscles can be felt."
These cues are great for shifting the trainee's idea of the set up and execution without being overly analytical and verbose.

To exaggerate feeling the quadriceps, I learned a very good drill from Stephen Powell. When I reached out to him for coaching, this was one of the first exercises he introduced to me. It's a modified set up to perform pulls called Sex Pocket Pulls.


Demonstrated by Carlee Acevedo-Fuller

In the video above, Carlee is doing pulls on plates, but with her heels hanging off the back. This forces her to slow down and pull with the quadriceps. She has to find the right balance so her heels do not touch the floor. By ensuring her heels don't touch the floor, her pull is smooth and fluid.

These can be done with a snatch or clean grip or even a grip width in between the two.

Closing Thoughts

The quadriceps are strong and should be used to our advantage. By not using all our muscles, progress will be slow and the workload will be transferred to other muscles. Those muscles have to do more than required during a set and limits what we are capable of.

Whatever sport you apply yourself to, working hard is one part of the equation and can only take you so far. It's also important to work smart. Working smart makes our hard efforts all the more worthwhile and beneficial in the long term.

‘’Technique is the ultimate expression of strength in weightlifting.’’

- Robert Roman
Further Reading,

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Interview with Philippines Weightlifting Olympian Hidilyn Diaz

https://www.facebook.com/iwfnet/photos/pb.139828096051718.-2207520000.1452610757./1046208772080308

Welcome to the New Year. 2016 isn't just any year, it's an Olympic year. The 31st Summer Olympic will take place this August in Rio de Janeiro of Brazil. Weightlifting will be one of the many returning sports. For weightlifters, this is their most important competition. Winning an Olympic medal is unlike a medal from any other competition.

Most fans of the sport admire China, Russia, and countries that produce multiple top competitors. As a result, weightlifters from smaller countries may not receive as much attention. But not this time as I had the pleasure of interviewing Philippines weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz: the native of Zamboanga City is a two time, soon to be third, Olympian, and medalist at multiple international competitions. However before I get ahead of myself, let me provide a bit of background to how this came to be.

Before I arrived in Houston for the 2015 IWF Championships, I noticed Papa Yats would be in attendance as well. For those unfamiliar with Papa Yats (or Yatsek), he is a mentor of Hidilyn as well as a coach who provides alternative information about foreign weightlifting training methods and programming on his non-commercial Instagram account. Not only that, he's also involved in fundraising for Filipino weightlifting clubs. He is originally from Poland, has traveled extensively throughout Asia, and now lives in California. His weightlifting philosophy is rooted in Asian and Eastern European methods as he finds them most effective; he is not a believer of American methods.

I contacted Papa Yats to see if I could interview him when I arrived in Houston. He thought it would be more interesting if I interviewed Hidilyn instead. This didn't even occur to me because I assumed athletes would be tired from competition and would want to relax rather than sit down for an interview.

And so on my first night Papa Yats said I could come visit them at Hidilyn's hotel room. As I entered the room, I was greeted by Papa Yats, who introduced me to Hidilyn and members of the Philippines Weightlifting Association - President Roger Dullano and head coach Alfonsito Aldanete. It's at this point I realized I really am an amateur and very new to this sport.

Roger and Alfonsito left the room, leaving Papa Yats, Hidilyn, and myself to sit down and talk. I should mention at this point it was already around 10 o'clock at night and Hidilyn was tired. Also for both of them, English is their second language. Thankfully, Papa Yats knew answers to some of the questions I asked and was able to help Hidilyn if she might have needed clarification.

Overall I believe it was a great conversation. Enjoy.

Recent & Upcoming Competitions

Niel: Welcome to the United States. Congratulations on your performance Hidilyn. How do you feel training reflected in this competition?
Hidilyn: It’s really hard, you have to adjust in weather and jet lag. I could not sweat to drop weight so I cut my hair. We arrived on November 15th and started training on the 16th. I didn’t sweat because it’s so cold here. In the Philippines, I start to sweat even when I would stretch.
Papa Yats: Their gym in the Philippines has open windows where there’s no glass and it’s exposed to the open air where in Manila it’s super hot. There’s no air conditioning or good ventilation. It’s tropical weather over there.
Niel: And the training hall here is kept air conditioned.
Papa Yats: Yeah and it’s kept cold. Today was a little better.
Hidilyn: Then the jet lag – I haven’t slept for days. Yeah for 3 or 4 days then training started. Pangit (Tagalog word): You know pangit? It’s “ugly,” I couldn’t train properly.

Niel: You still did well.
Hidilyn: Yeah, but my goal is 103kg snatch and 123kg clean & jerk. Three weeks before I did a 93kg snatch and a 118kg clean & jerk in training.
Papa Yats: She typically lifts much more in competition than in training. I’m talking about snatching seven plus kilos more in competition than in training. Since she snatched 93kg, that was an indicator she could hit 100-101kg in competition.
Hidilyn: But I also got sick. That’s why my performance dropped for one week. Maybe because I couldn’t sleep I got sick.
Papa Yats: She only did an 85kg snatch the first day she came here (to Houston).

Niel: Hidilyn, how’s your schedule been? You competed at the Southeast Asian Weightlifting Championships in late June, Asians in September, Houston now, and have Rio coming up in 2016.
Papa Yats: Hadie (pet name for Hidilyn) has a competition on December 7th in Qatar which is about two weeks from now. She already started lifting today (Tuesday) in the training hall for the first time after Sunday’s competition. She took Monday off and today she did very light training. Snatches up to 55kg which is very light. Some good mornings, little military press, side bends for the abdominal muscles, and that’s it. The Qatar Federation is paying for the whole trip and there’s a cash prize which is nice. That’s the goal.

A video posted by Papa Yats (@papayats) on

Pull with rebend/Panda pull/Chinese Pull

So schedule has been tight. Southeast Asian Games was the original plan and they, Hidilyn and Nestor, weren’t supposed to compete in Asian Championships, but the IWF asked them to compete if they wanted to win individual qualifications for the Olympics. (The Philippines is not going for team qualifications. There is no budget to send that many lifters to international competitions.)

You know the situation. They switched the Asian Championships from June because there was an earthquake in Nepal and it was changed from Nepal to Thailand in September. There was a little bit of change there and the schedule wasn’t exactly set. Her results were practically the same for all three competitions: 213kg for Southeast Asian Championship, 214kg for Asian Championships, and 213kg for World Championships. Basically, she remained in competition cycle from April to November, never had time to go back to basic preparatory cycle. She was unable to increase results.
Hidilyn: It made it hard to recover and control my weight.

http://www.sportivnypress.com/2015/the-2015-asian-weightlifting-championships/
2015 Asian Championships
Credit Sportivny Press

Niel: How do you like competing as a 53kg versus a 58kg? Is eating less more comfortable for you?
Hidilyn: I don’t like it.
Papa Yats: She means she doesn't like watching her diet.
Niel: You had to eat a lot to maintain and keep your weight as a 58kg, right? Now you have to watch your weight.
Papa Yats: When I saw the 58kg girls, they’re big now – so masculine!
Hidilyn: They’re so big and strong. Yes, I have to watch my weight, but it’s okay. The best strategy is to lower my weight to compete in a different class. Although I have to eat healthy.
Papa Yats: And the strategy worked.
Niel: Do you eat a lot of Filipino food?
Hidilyn: Yes, everything. I love Korean food, Japanese food, Mexican food, everything. And I love nachos. That’s why it’s hard for me to keep my weight, but I have a nutritionist now who plans my meals. I use to eat healthy food so I’m okay with 53kg now – until Rio.
Papa Yats: Then retirement from lifting.
Hidilyn: I don’t know. It’s really hard. You want to eat with your friends, but then your friends want to eat cakes, milk tea, pizza, and all those kinds of foods. I can’t eat sugar and sweets. Yes it’s hard, but it’s okay. You see I placed in the 53kg.
Papa Yats: Or maybe they’re going to a party or something like a birthday. For instance, she gave me her cheesecake because she couldn’t eat it. She actually brought it to me, because she couldn't decline it from her friends. She actually has chocolate all over the place here (her hotel room). Now it’s different, today is different. Although the Qatar competition is in two week, but maybe you can’t go that bad. (Note from Papa Yats: She went overweight there, and had to lift in 63kg class, because they didn't have a 58kg class. She still won.)
Hidilyn: It’s okay. I already ate chocolate last night so I’m good with that. You want some chocolate?

Papa Yats: Soon she’s going to have to watch her bodyweight again for the Qatar competition. We went for a nice steak dinner today with my friend Jonas (Dr. Westbrook from Two Doctors), but that’s about it. The athlete’s buffet is pretty good downstairs in the dining room.
Hidilyn: The food is good, but it’s the same every day.
Papa Yats: I just want to say in the Philippines, she doesn’t get any extra bonus for winning this. No money involved. She buys her own food. There’s no food fairy that provides food for the high level athlete. She gets some stipend in general from the Filipino Olympic Committee, but it’s not nice like in the United States Olympic Training Center. There are no dining facilities or even a kitchen for the lifters in the Philippines. You have to buy food outside.

In the US, the weightlifters have everything they need to train. At least that's what coach Zygmunt said when he was inviting her over to train in Colorado. Over there they don’t even have air conditioning. They don’t have proper equipment. The gym is falling apart. Niel, you saw the picture of the gym. I mean does it look good?
Hidilyn: You saw how old the plates are?
Papa Yats: Ten years old or more.

Training

Niel: I understand you had some issues with your leg. Has that been getting better and did it affect your performance?
Hidilyn: I don’t like to back squat, but I have special training for the squat. I bounce out of the bottom. I use it so my clean will bounce up when I receive the bar. I squatted heavy weights, but there’s a big bounce at the bottom. It helps a lot for my reaction in the clean, but my squat is still not too good. I don’t know why. The issue isn’t pain, I just don’t have strength for the back squat.
Papa Yats: She doesn’t like the squat exercise so she tries to avoid it.

Arrived in the morning and already in training with @haidie20  I do believe that with a little luck we can squeeze a tiny bronze medal at World Championship in Houston 2015. I say "we" however in all honesty I'm just adding my little brick to the wall... All other lifters left the gym and there's only her and I. Extra work needs to be done. Her biggest weakness is getting up after a heavy clean.  Her leg is injured, and she is doing only minimum of full back squats. We are forced to do different #squat exercises to maintain or even increase strength of her legs (6 weeks only to Asian Championship). Half squat is nothing new, but these here are done with slow tempo and full control, lighter weights, working on feeling deep muscles, glutes, and abdominals. We finished with some electromuscle stimulation for quads (I'm using Compex, but Globus is a good one, too). For the record, I'm not really her #coach, just sort of friend, motivator, and impresario. Beyond certain level, disciplined lifters can really coach themselves, but of course they need that someone to be there with them. Don't be afraid of half squats, but do them for slow muscle building, not for #powerlifting records. When I program, I'm really big on different squat variations, and the results have been convincing to say the least.  #olympicweightlifting #oly #weightlifting #crossfit #usaw #coaching #filipinostrong
A video posted by Papa Yats (@papayats) on


Niel: You competed in the 2008 Olympics when you were 17. You have more experience now. How does your experience now compare to back then?
Hidilyn: At that time when I was 17, there was no pressure. I didn’t know what the Olympic was or anything. I just went there and was amazed thinking, “Oh, this is the Olympics.” I was able to go because I got a wild card. The Philippines Weightlifting Association didn’t expect anything from me, but sent me for exposure.
Papa Yats: She was happy to be there, but she also had kind of good results too. They don’t give wild cards for nothing.
Hidilyn: Yes. In 2007, they saw that I have potential because I got bronze at the Southeast Asian Games and I was only 16.

https://www.instagram.com/p/-kpBVjqIUz

Left to right: Hidilyn at Beijing in 2008, London in 2012, and 2015 now

Niel: Training can be very hard mentally. What helps you through hard days?
Hidilyn: I set my mind to compete in Rio. I tell myself this is my third time, it’s my third Olympic Games. I want to win, so if I give up then how will I be able to go there? How can I reach my goal? When I train, I always think “Rio, Rio, Rio” in my mind. I promised myself when I qualify that I have to win any medal. I have to win because it’s my third Olympics.

Weightlifting in the Philippines

Niel: Is weightlifting popular in the Philippines?
Hidilyn: No.
Papa Yats: Filipino weightlifting is more popular here in the US than in the Philippines. I’m sorry to say that she has more fans in America than in the Philippines.
Niel: That seems similar to many countries – there’s no recreational weightlifting. There’s only weightlifting to compete at a high level.
Papa Yats: Yes, there’s no recreational weightlifting.

Niel: Is there a Filipino weightlifting system?
Hidilyn: No.
Papa Yats: It’s everybody for themselves. Of course, their group of Nestor, Hidilyn, Jeffrey, Richard, and Chris train together some times. They’re going to have the same kind of training ideas because they have been training together.
Hidilyn: I’ve trained in China in 2007, 2008, and 2013. In 2007, I trained in Guangzhou for two months and in 2008 and 2013, I trained in Guangxi for three months each.
Papa Yats: Which one did you like better, Guangxi?
Hidilyn: Yes, Guangxi. There was Deng Mengrong, Lu Yong, and a 48kg girl. The place is good. China’s training is good.

A video posted by Papa Yats (@papayats) on

Deng Mengrong

Niel: They have a system and schools.
Hidilyn: Yes.
Niel: It’s not like America.
Papa Yats: She’s not familiar with training in America. She sees the videos on the internet, but she doesn’t understand why people would use or teach bad technique. She doesn't understand that you can become a weightlifting coach in one weekend. Obviously I’m not saying it’s everywhere. There are good coaches and systems here, like Coach Zygmunt Smalcerz. He’s doing good things.

Niel: Aside from more medals, what would the Philippines Weightlifting Association like to see happen in the country?
Papa Yats: Right now any kind of bump in popularity and introducing more kids to the sport, but for that you need money for equipment and facilities. It’s not easy, but hopefully with her and Nestor there can be some progress. This is the first time in a long time that the country had any kind of success in weightlifting.
Niel: Speaking of more money, the fundraiser you began passed its goal.
Papa Yats: It’s still not enough, but at least it helps one club. I’m going to set up the next one and I’m going to help Hidilyn's club in her hometown, Zamboanga City. There are many people that want to help, but they don’t know how to help.
Niel: Do you have more ideas in mind?
Papa Yats: Yes, I think everyone who donates will get a copy of Hidilyn's weightlifting program. You can either donate money to my crowdfunding, or donate equipment (shoes, plates, barbells). If you decide to donate equipment, I'll provide you with address of the club in the Philippines to ship it to. That way you can do it your way, and there is no middle man involved.

Short Questions

Niel: What do you like more, the snatch or clean & jerk?
Hidilyn: I love the jerk. But my clean is no good.
Papa Yats: In my opinion, her best lift technically is the jerk. Just the jerk. From the rack I think I saw her a few times do 125kg with good technique. Anything she can clean she can jerk. In the opinion of several foreign coaches, she actually has a better technical jerk than other competitors in her weight class. Actually, the same goes for Nestor.

https://www.facebook.com/iwfnet/photos/pb.139828096051718.-2207520000.1452611079./1046208768746975/
A successful 117kg jerk by Hidilyn in Houston
Credit International Weightlifting Federation

Niel: If you weren’t in weightlifting, what do you think you would be doing right now?
Hidilyn: I’d have six kids, ha. No, seriously. Six kids – Do, Re, Mi, Pa, So....
Papa Yats: Yeah, a bum no good husband and several kids. Weightlifting helps people grow over there in the Philippines. In many poorer countries, through sport you can finish school. If you look at kids from her neighborhood, who didn’t do any sports, that’s their future: Girls her age with several kids.

Niel: What’s your favorite thing about weightlifting?
Hidilyn: The process and when I struggle in training. When you’re an athlete, you don’t want things to happen so easy. I want to achieve that goal.
Papa Yats: It’s all about the journey, not going to the top.
Hidilyn: Yes, I want it that way.

Niel: What’s your least favorite thing about weightlifting?
Papa Yats: Injury? I don’t know.
Hidilyn: Yes…..and the stretching after training.
*group laughter*
Papa Yats: I think she’s talking about the mandatory partner stretching when you push a little over the limit.


Partner assisted stretching

Hidilyn: After training, I have to stay in the gym to do stretching to prevent injuries, but I don’t like stretching.
Papa Yats: Who likes stretching? No one. I hate stretching, mobility, but of course even I do it almost every day or I try to.
Hidilyn: I had injury before, last year that’s why. Lesson learned. After training I have to stretch and I have to do general preparation exercises

Conclusion

Niel: So to wrap it up, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Hidilyn: Dream big. Do it. Believe in yourself. The thing is, if you dream big, everything is possible. If you want it, you can get it.

Niel: That’s very encouraging. Do you plan on visiting the US again?
Hidilyn: Maybe yes.
Papa Yats: And you need to spend some time with my kids then. You’re going to miss my kids!
Hidilyn: Yes, of course.

Niel: Are there any specific plans for the future we can expect from you? Besides Rio.
Hidilyn: I don’t know yet. Maybe after Rio I’m planning to rest for a while. I want to be some place and I want to explore. I want to relax my mind because for how many years? For 13 years in weightlifting, I don’t even get five days of rest. Only during the holy week, I have only two days rest so I have to enjoy life. I want to see the world and how beautiful it is. Yes, then maybe do some charity work, teach weightlifting to kids.


Niel: Is there anything you would like to say to all your fans out there?
Papa Yats: She doesn’t even know she has fans, but I keep telling her she does.
Hidilyn: Thank you for the prayers, for the support, and for believing in me. Because of them I have the courage to train because sometimes they message me words of support like “You can do it.” I get encouraged by them. Thank you for that.

Post Interview

At this time, Papa Yats and I left to walk around the convention center as well as check out the late night sessions. On our way to the competition hall, we ran into IWF member Aveenash Pandoo (see the previous post), as well as other weightlifters who came to watch the championships, which provided us with additional opportunities to talk more about the sport. For me, this was great. I quickly learned to walk around as much as possible during the rest of my stay and interact with as many people as I could.

Thank you to Hidilyn and Papa Yats for taking the time to sit down with me for this interview. Hidilyn, I wish you much success in 2016 and Rio!

UPDATE: She placed 2nd and won the silver medal! Be sure to send her congratulations on an excellent performance! Her social media sites are linked down below.

https://www.instagram.com/p/4ZOABjIoj5

If you enjoyed reading this interview and want to stay updated on Hidilyn's journey, you can follow her and Papa Yats on the following social media sites below.

Hidilyn Diaz

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Recap of the 2015 IWF World Championships

https://www.instagram.com/niel.patel

During Thanksgiving week this past November, I traveled out to Houston for this year's World Weightlifting Championships. It hasn't been in the United States since the eighties and I couldn't pass up on the chance to go. While I could only be there for three days, it was plenty of time time to take in everything.

This post is more of an interlude before the next one which also relates to the championships. That one will be an interview I had the opportunity of conducting while I was in Houston, but more on that next time.

Here I'm writing about my experience on the trip and that essentially amounts to a bunch of random thoughts. It ends with a compilation of the Instagram posts I did when I came back from Houston. What I won't be doing here is providing an analysis of the competition. That kind of commentary can be found on blogs, podcasts, and eventually Sportivny Press.

Overall
 
There were sessions at all different times of the day, but every session had great lifters to watch. Not only that, but there was always a crowd. For instance, one night on my way to the last session, a coach and his wife went to watch even though athletes from their country weren't in the session. In the competition hall you saw fans, athletes, and coaches watching all the lifters on the platform.

I sat on the far side of the hall. On my first day, I ended up with Enver Turkeleri sitting in front of me, an Azerbaijan coach next to me, Chinese men's head coach Chen Wenbin across the aisle, and the entire Russian and Ukraine team sitting in the rows behind me. It made for interesting observations during the men's 77kg A session. For example, I noticed many of the coaches paid more attention to the scoreboard than the actual lifts happening on the platform. Or when Su Ying missed a jerk, Chen Wenbin immediately demonstrated to the athlete with him the correct movement using only his hands. It was one quick motion and few words.

That moment didn't click in my mind until later that night. It was when Papayats had introduced me to weightlifting coach and IWF education and development commission member Aveenash Pandoo. He gave a lecture earlier that day and said that demonstrating corrections is visually processed faster by the cerebellum rather than explaining it to a person.

Let me say in all the time I've been reading, practicing, and been involved with lifting, that has been the first time I had ever heard that. Saying my mind was blown would be an understatement.

All in all, the atmosphere and venue were great. It also helps immensely if you speak a second language to converse with athletes and coaches. Seeing as how most didn't speak English, it limits the amount of people you can connect with. However if you were able to chat someone up, they were often very friendly.

Random Thoughts and Observations
  • While the men's sessions were interesting, I thought the women were more enjoyable to watch. The men had more missed attempts 
  • Every time a Russian lifter came out for their attempt, the entire Russian team began to clap. Unfortunately, they were always out of sync
  • The Iranian fans win gold for enthusiasm
  • Papayats and I were on the elevator with a Korean coach and his athlete and this very same situation happened:


    When Papayats greeted him, I pretty much stood there clueless
  • I missed the Indian weightlifters compete! I arrived after they had all competed, but I did get to chat with their 77kg weightlifter Sathish Sivalingam and team physiotherapist
  • I also ran into the Two Doctors and Gregor on an elevator ride and managed to get a good laugh out of them. Can't say the same thing for the elevator ride with Zygmunt, but that's because everyone on the elevator stood there quietly when he walked in
The most valuable lesson I came away with from this trip was that there are so many people who know so much more than me. They were some of the best people I had conversations with. Sadly, most people will probably never hear of them because they aren't some Instagram famous person.

Instagram Interviews

If you don't follow me on Instagram, I did quick on-the-spot interviews of athletes and coaches in Houston. It was anyone who would agree to four simple questions: which do they like more snatch or clean & jerk, favorite thing about weightlifting, least favorite thing about weightlifting, and advice they would give themselves.

It provided a bit more substance than just taking pictures, but I didn't plan any of these individuals. The people chosen were based on if I ran into them and they weren't busy. Some people I didn't want to rudely interrupt while others were usually heading somewhere and I didn't want to delay them.

Click on the the person's name to be taken to their full interview. Enjoy!

Dave Luk

A photo posted by Niel Patel (@niel.patel) on


A photo posted by Niel Patel (@niel.patel) on


George Kobaladze

A photo posted by Niel Patel (@niel.patel) on


Hani Kanama

A photo posted by Niel Patel (@niel.patel) on


Ruslan Zhabotinsky

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Jared Fleming

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