Lester Ho started the training geek to share his interest regarding the scientific concepts and mechanisms in training. His interest predominantly revolves around the sport of weightlifting. Learn more about the science of lifting, the intricacies of the movements and how to improve your own technique.
The Victorian Masters Weightlifitng Championships was held on the 16th of February 2019. This was the first competition of the season for many of our competitive lifters and more so our masters athletes. It was the largest local competition for Masters-level weightlifting in the State of Victoria, held at the Eieiko Weightlifting Stadium at Hawthorn.
As usual, our representation in such events was one of the highest, having 12 competitors in different age groups and weight classes.
Here is a recap of how the team went!
Leading the charge for TG Strength, we had Benjamin Silva (50-54; M67kg). Being a seasoned competitor, this was Ben’s first time competing for TG Strength. He went 6/6 to finish with a 75kg snatch and a 90kg clean and jerk for a 165kg total, earning the the Victorian Masters Champion title for his age group and weight class.
First timer on the platform, Jim Athanasopoulos also had a great day out competing for the first time as a weightlifter, also finishing with a 6/6 record in his first ever competition. Nailing a 60kg snatch and a 83kg clean and jerk, we saw him also take the title of Victorian Masters Champion in the 50-54years age group, M81kg class.
Kicking the ladies’ competition off in the 40-44y, F49kg category, we had remote athlete Ella Mason who was under our roster for the first time. But with ease, she came through with a 99kg total (42kg snatch and 57kg clean and jerk). A miss on the last attempt of snatches at 44kg, this made her hungry to achieve that 100kg total but still got her the Victorian Masters Champion title in her age group and weight class.
Vanessa Robinson was also another first-timer on the competitive platform for us. Still avid in the competition in Crossfit, she just finished a team competition the weekend before and still managed to handle a 6/6 performance with a 45kg snatch and a 61kg clean and jerk. She also managed to drop down to the 45-49Y, 55kg weight class and eventually stood on the podium at the top with a 106kg total.
First of the seasoned competitors was Louise Webb. Having to cut 2kg the night before, that definitely took a toll physically but also emotionally. But she also managed to handle herself and finish off with a strong 54kg snatch (equal competition PB). Unfortunately, she did not manage to achieve an successful attempt in the clean and jerk but it gave us a few things to work on in the coming months to nail a solid overhead position in the jerk.
Having one of her best competitions to date, Brooke Morrison managed to PB her clean and jerk by 3kg with a 67kg successful last attempt as well as her total (112kg for a 5kg total). Alot of work in training has gone into getting her mentally ready and it paid off on the platform, earning her the Victorian Master Champion title in the 45-49year age group, F76kg weight class.. The performance at this competition has definitely allowed us to set up bigger goals for her in the coming year.
Competing in the 40-44years F55kg weight class, we had Monika Endres who like a few of the others, was competing for TG Strength for the first time. A strong lifter in the lighter weight classes, she was focused on taking down some records. And so she did. 55kg for the National Masters Snatch Record and 123kg for the National Masters Total Record. And obviously, the Victorian Masters Champion title for her age group and category as well. But it was also a great stepping stone as we push her for the bigger comps this year.
Topping off the biggest coaching session for TG Strength was Toni Lane (45-49y, F59kg weight class) who was also a first-timer under the TG Roster. Making a few changes with her lifting technique, we were focusing on sustaining those changes and hitting good lifts. In the end, we walked away with great lifts for a 6/6 performance as well and ended up qualifying Toni for Senior Nationals with 60/80kg for a 140kg total.
In the third session of the day, we started off with Justin Kendrick (35-39y, M102kg). Being restricted in some of his movements due to an injury in his hip, we basically didnt focus on any squatting movements. So heading into this competition, he was definitely in great shape and even managed to hit some easy and solid lifts (75kg snatch and 100kg clean and jerk) for the podium win. Eventually, he was able to pull off these numbers due to the recommendation of Shermain (our practitioner) and now we are set for bigger numbers ahead.
Also in that session, we had Luke Scott competing in the 35-39y M96kg class. With only a 4-week preparation, he was gaining some consistency in his training and his strength was on its way back. Being able to hit comfortable openers (95kg snatch, 115kg clean and jerk), his time away from competition did have a toll on the later lifts. But we are optimistic with a longer preparation period, he will be surpassing his bests on the platform in the coming competitions for the year! His 210kg total still got him a silver medal in the weight class.
In the final session for the day, Sherri Stephen (40-44y F76kg) gave us a strong and power performance finishing with a 60kg snatch and 79kg clean and jerk to finish with a 139kg total. Not only did that get her the Victorian Masters Champion title, she also got plenty of compliments on her excellent lifting and explosiveness in her movements. For her, this is a good start to what we want to try to achieve for her in the coming year of local competitions.
Closing the day for TG Strength was Leora Yates (40-44y F81kg). Leading up, we had already solidified some of our preparation protocols for her and in each competition, it gets better and better. The results was a big testimony to the work Shermain and the team at Jurmaine Health have put in. Finishing with a snatch PB at 82kg, she hit her opening clean and jerk at 93kg (missing 97kg for a pressout and a last attempt at 100kg). Another strong start for her season as we have bigger competitions to dominate and numbers to achieve.
With each year, we grow in strength as a club. From last year’s 8 competitors, we grew our numbers to 12 in the competition. We walked away eventually with 10 Victorian Masters Champions. Our men’s team came in third and our women’s team finished on the top as the best Female Masters Club in Victoria.
This would only be possible with the support and help of our support network. Having a good team on our side to help with our athletes was the experience we wanted all our lifters to have going into competition. Big mentions to Shermain from Jurmaine Health to invest in our athlete’s wellbeing and movements to ensure that those who competed were ready to dominate with good numbers. Also big thanks to my assistant coach Cera who helped me out with the warm-ups for all the lifters and making sure their attempts were all counted on point to get them ready for their lifters out on the competition floor. She also played a big role in covering my coaching for those athletes in the warm-up area while I coached any lifter on the competition platform.
Like they say, it takes a village. For us, it’s this massive community that we have built at TG Strength that allows us to achieve massive change in your movements and mindset which eventually reflects in your performance on the platform.
If you are involved in the sport or you have done the snatch or clean and jerk before, you know that as much as it is a physical game, it also involves much mental fortitude when training as a weightlifter or using weightlifting movements for training. Here are some things that could help build up mental toughness to help you get better at the mental game in weightlifting:
1. Practise gratitude
Be happy that you get a chance to train. Be happy that you can move a barbell. Learn to look for the positives of every session, whether good or bad.
2. Accept change.
Sometimes it’s hard to accept things differently especially when we are all creatures of habit. Learning to embrace something different will not only challenge you but also allow you to grow through the challenge.
3. Do what you can with what you have.
We may be limited at the moment with what we have in regards to our skill, movement capacity or even strength. But we should not let these factors hold us back and stop doing the work that needs to be done for us to still improve.
4. Control the controllable.
Many outside factors will come along and affect us in our training. Learning to deal with what we can modify or handle will allow us to keep moving forward and gain momentum and consistency in our training.
5. Leave things behind.
Although it’s hard not to be affected by something negative like a failed lift or a bomb-out in comp, we need to learn how to take the lesson out of that experience and move forward. Brooding over it only keeps you focusing on the problem and does not provide a solution for you to resolve the problem for the future.
6. Don't repeat your mistakes.
This relates to the previous two points. If you move forward and do what is within your control, you will not repeat the same mistake and you will be better for it. Many of us get comfortable and repeat what we have always been doing, thinking that it will get us somewhere but the initial result should be a good reminder that we need to move onto the next solution.
7. Try and try again.
Even if you have moved on and seek a different solution, it’s not always that it will solve the problem. But not letting that hold you back once you hit a wall, you will learn to look at things from a different perspective from before to approach the problem from a different angle and find another solution to the problem.
8. Be patient.
Any form of change takes time to manifest itself. We all know that there is no quick fix in weightlifting and it’s a matter of allowing time to take its place. Of course the work needs to be done and the consistency needs to be maintained.
9. Compete against yourself.
To be mentally tougher, you want to have the mindset of bettering yourself each time. This does not have to be in the form of a PB or more range but the ability to see that you have improved from before. Do the things you need to see improvement in all aspects of your training and you will see that the competition you set for yourself will push you to be a mentally stronger individual.
As you know, I have been around Australia inter-state to boxes who have been generous enough to host my Biomechanics Seminars as well as even internationally (the U.S. with Diane Fu and back in Singapore for a few professional development seminars). Not only did we teach people more about the sport, we ourselves learnt so much about the sport in general. So here are some of the more common lessons we learnt and taught to those who attended:
1. Positioning for the lifts.
One of my key teaching tools and one of the things I emphasized in my seminars is the need to attain good positioning. With good positions, you achieve the desired movement. With good movement, you get the outcome you want. Having good positions is not just following the textbook and making sure that you look like the illustrations you see in the instructions. It needs to be suited to your body and it needs to allow you to feel the most stable and most rigid in the torso. Only then will you be able to hit a good position from the start to the end.
Each seminar would start with introducing the positions and us going around making sure that they were adjusted based on their individual characteristics. Limb lengths, torso lengths, arm lengths, grip width, foot stance etc were all considered to allow the individual to feel the ability to remain balanced as well as hold a rigid trunk in any of the positions. All in all, everyone began to understand what they needed to work on in terms of strength or mobility/flexibility to be able to hit the required positions for them to be effective and efficient. What I saw was that there was too much emphasis on moving weight and not utilising leverage to make the lifts feel easier. Teaching them to use more of their legs than their arms was one of the things I did for most places and everyone went away realising how easy the lifts could actually feel.
The understanding of hip contact is misinterpreted as a violent bump against the hip to get force imparted to the barbell. From a biomechanical standpoint, hip contact should be a result of the hips moving upwards along with the barbell moving upwards. Rather than a head-to-head confrontation of the hips with the bar, it should almost be a meeting of the barbell and hips in an upward direction. A direct bumping of the hips to the bar will only result in the bar being projected out and away from the lifter and not upwards which completely defends the purpose of using the hips. Science tells us as well that the amount of horizontal displacement at the point of contact is a determinant of the outcome of the lift.
When we talk about using our legs, we are trying to change the direction of the force created from the hips to a more vertical one rather than a horizontal one. The age-old understanding of the sequence of joint extension in the vertical jump and its correlation to the lifts should be revisited. We used to think that the joints extend in this order: hips, knees, and perhaps abit of ankles, in order for us to create “triple extension” to create leg drive on the bar. However, based on some data that I have (which I had written into a paper but got rejected), the sequence found in the lifts was closer to the order of knees, hips and again perhaps abit of ankles. But this speaks volumes because then we understand that trying to #useyourlegs actually means to drive from the knees into the hips which then transfers to the barbell to displace it. So this is always mentioned when I present my seminars and talk about the correct sequence of movement for the lifts.
3. How to Improve in Weightlifting.
Despite myself coming from a weightlifting background, I have done most of my work within the Crossfit environment. Most of the boxes I have visited were also Crossfit facilities. This opened us up to trying to cater specific weightlifting knowledge to match up with the demands of the Crossfit athlete. The constant struggle with such an environment is the lack of focus on getting better at the lifts without putting in enough time for it. Weightlifters get better at weightlifting because they train for the sport and ensure that the movement skills are practiced consistently. If you want to get better at weightlifting movements, you need to have that same consistency.
Most of the seminars I have presented are not only to coaches to develop their coaching skills but I have also worked with their members whom consisted of mostly recreational Crossfitters. So my efforts were directed to pointing out to them that the stuff we taught them was only the start to helping them improve. Time and effort needed to be set aside to practice the lifts on a constant basis to allow them to get better at weightlifting and subsequently Crossfit. This highlighted to me the need that if you are coming from an environment where weightlifting is not a main focus but still a priority, it is critical to ensure that good movement patterns are developed first to give a good foundation of movement. As much as most of the people at TG Strength are previous Crossfitters whom have converted to weightlifting, my aim in my seminars was to show that focusing on the correct points in your lfits a few hours per week practicing the lifts will definitely help!
Of course there were many more things that I learnt but these were the common few that struck out as a pattern for me. Till this day, I have managed to share some biomechanical concepts with everyone I have met and the content was thankfully interesting enough for everyone! With that, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the facilities that have hosted my seminar thus far and everyone else who attended the seminars.