John Coffee’s Trick to Push Lifters to Their Full Potential

John Coffee’s One Weird Trick to Push Lifters to Their Full Potential
by Edward Baker

It’s finally time for people to know: How did the relentless John Coffee push his lifters to their full potential?

He didn’t. He held them back instead.

As I was growing up and playing sports, I came to believe that based on how I was coached, that being a coach entailed motivating and psyching up athletes. It meant helping athletes learn how to reach their full potential by pushing them harder than they’ve ever been pushed. In the football strength & conditioning community, you hear of head coaches talk of how great their strength coach is by their ability to ‘motivate and push the players inside and outside the weight room’. Once I started working with John, his attitude towards my training said otherwise. I wouldn’t consider myself the hardest worker in the world, but I have trained to injury to the extent that I would have trouble walking and sitting, and John would have to step in to stop me from worsening my injury to the point that it became completely debilitating. A phrase that he said to me years ago has stuck with me:

“From my experience, being a coach is more about holding someone back then pushing them harder. Everyone wants to go heavier”.

Mental toughness is an ability that’s cultivated through years and years of successes and failures; that can be in a sport, in school, or just life in general. Many of the athletes that I’m fortunate enough to work with have a background in gymnastics, and make me look like a baby. They’ve ripped off a torn callus mid set and kept lifting where I would have stopped to tape my hands up and start over. There have been more serious issues that they would gladly push through on their own will.

John has had lifters in meets hyperextend their UCL after a missed Snatch and they would insist to go out and make another attempt, yet he would step in and pull them out of the meet. This very instance happened to me at the 2011 Junior Nationals. I had one more attempt and wanted more than anything to make the lift. He withdrew me from the meet, and told me “I know you’re pissed off, I’m a little pissed off too. But you don’t want to (mess) with an elbow injury. This is something that could take a week or two to recover, but chances are if you go out for another attempt while the ligament is lax, then you’ll go and blow it out”. Sure enough, two weeks later and I was back to putting weights overhead again. I’ve seen others whose coach made the other choice, and they in fact blew their UCL out.


In training, he is very much the same way. He has a rough plan of what he wants his lifters to do each day, but nothing is set in stone and is based appropriately on how the athlete says that they’re feeling and how the warmup sets look. When the athlete gets to what John deems as a top working weight, he’ll say “that might be a good weight for today”. Most of the athletes that he has worked with are plenty self-motivated, and always want to put more weight on the bar. Sometimes with convincing John will allow the lifter to go heavier, but there are also times that he will put his foot down and keep them there as well. One of the only times I’ve ever been cussed out by John was when I decided to go heavy on the Clean & Jerk on a day that was supposed to be moderate. I still remember Kelly and Caleb Williams asking if I was okay after he left the room.

Pushing an athlete to fight through their physical limits in the incipient stages of their lifting career (when they may not have yet acquired the resilience that takes time to develop) is tantamount to expecting an athlete to perform too much weight for too many reps; their body is simply not capable of it. If an athlete like CJ Cummings fell into the hands of a coach that wanted to push him hard right from the get go, I wonder If he would have stuck around to win the International meets and break the World Records that he has. It also makes me wonder how many potential lifters there are out there that will be turned off by a coach who expects the world of them on day one? It’s incredibly tempting for coaches to stumble across a talented athlete and become greedy and push them to improve at the expense of their enjoyment of the sport or worse, at the expense of their physical well-being. John is never one to boast about the personal accomplishments of his lifters, but he is always proud to say that in his coaching career a Weightlifter under his guidance has never required surgery.

In my article Misconception of Developing Strong legs that appeared in the December 2014 issue of the USA Weightlifting e-magazine, I wrote something that I still feel is relevant today:

“One can take a look at the training system of the weightlifting superpowers of the world and mistakenly presume that mimicking their training program will yield excellent performances, when they have little relevance to athletes that don’t have the training backlog of their much stronger counterparts, don’t have the leisure of training as an occupation, and must attend an educational institution or work a full-time job.”

I’d like to say that I take my training seriously, but if the livelihood of me (and a possible family) were at stake based on my performance in this sport then I could certainly see how my mentality would change. That isn’t the case in this country though, and it’s only recently that some Weightlifting coaches in this country can make a living just coaching. I’ve heard the argument that coaches don’t want to push their athletes hard enough because they want them to stick around and keep paying; John coached during a time where there was no money to be made at all (he actually gave up plenty) and did so in the ‘hold them back’ fashion, so that decimates the argument that he does so to get his lifters to ‘continue to pay him’. It also makes me wonder if a Weightlifting coach’s salary in other countries is dependent on their athlete’s performance in competitions as well? If mine were, I could see how I might push lifters harder than ideal. It’s easier to push someone else rather than oneself to the brink of injury; if it’s someone else and they do in fact get hurt, that someone else is the one stuck with living with that injury.

I’m only slightly familiar of the physiological effects of anabolic steroids based on what I’ve learned in my college education along with second hand knowledge, but it seems to be that steroids (and other performance enhancing drugs) enable one to train harder and more frequently. Could this be juxtaposed with the use of the stimulant Adderall on children with ADHD:
Say that holding (presumably) drug-free athletes to the same standard as steroided athletes in their ability to train hard and frequently would very loosely be analogous to expecting children with ADHD that aren’t administered Adderall to perform to the same level in the classroom as children with ADHD that are (in terms of the reduction of inattentive and oppositional symptoms). This is not to completely discredit the Weightlifting superpowers of the world by throwing out the word steroids, but it should be noted that it does cause a significant change. That’s why they’re used in the first place.

Perhaps the times are changing and John’s approach to coaching is becoming more irrelevant as Weightlifting moves more towards a sport where lifters can make a little bit of a living competing. It could very well be that his success was just happenstance, and that he was in the right place at the right time. Or perhaps his lifters could have performed even better with the quality of lifting overall in this country being higher? Maybe Robin Goad could have done more than an 80 kg Snatch and 100 kg Clean & Jerk as a 48 kg lifter (when she was 30) had she not been lifting to break her own National Records and to beat the World Standard in her weight class in her earlier years? I honestly find it quite fascinating that many different approaches are used in this country, and that many are successful. Success will speak for itself, or as Bob Hoffman would say, “Proof is in the puddin’”!

Also, A few weeks ago I posted this Facebook status:

Question to experienced coaches: In your experience, do you find that you more commonly have to push talented athletes to try heavy weights, or hold them back from doing so?

 

Here are a couple of responses from authorities:

“Easily, hold them back. No question. The best athletes are HUNGRY for heavier weights but also usually have some sense of when the right time may be. If the coach has their trust, and can be completely objective on their behalf, it can be a powerful partnership.” – John Thrush

“Talented lifters or not, coaches are often challenged to hold a lifter back. Many times that’s what’s needed for long-term progress. Developing lifters are more likely to be the ones that need encouragement to attempt lifts they may think are beyond their capabilities. Here we encounter the science of coaching vs. the art of coaching.” – Harvey Newton

Common Sense: Approach to CJ Cummings' Training

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Common Sense: Approach to CJ Cummings’ Training
by Edward Baker

American Weightlifting is flourishing with talent, and it could be argued that CJ Cummings is the front runner for what appears to be a Renaissance for the sport. My first memory of CJ is him lifting at a meet about four years back in Flowery Branch, Georgia where he Clean & Jerked 96 kg weighing 48 kg (double bodyweight). I had thought to myself, “how would you train someone that young with that much talent”? A couple of weekends ago at the American Open I got the chance to sit down with Ray Jones, who has been CJ’s coach since day one, and want to share bits of his training philosophy that he sums up as: Common sense.

Listening to Your Body

This is commonly overlooked. As Ray said to me, a lifter needs to listen to their body and the signals that it elicits, and this becomes especially important as they start handling heavier weights. “Little things become big things when you try to push through them”.

A question that I’ve heard John Coffee ask his lifters before every workout is “How do you feel today”? The training would then be based on the lifter’s response, coupled with the context of where the athlete was in their training cycle and how the warmups appeared. There is certainly a phenomenon that happens from time to time when a person is feeling completely run down when they enter the gym, but once they start lifting they seem to be in top shape (My best Snatch in training to date was done on a day that I was tired and getting light headed just warming up with the bar) but these days are the exception, not the norm.

When there are aches and ailments, it’s more sensible to train around the injury and to ‘live to see another day’, than it is to push through and possibly worsen the injury to the point that you can’t train at all.  Ray is very particular about this, and saves his lifter’s heaviest lifting for the day of the meet.

Squatting Frequency

When I asked Ray how many times per week CJ squats, he stated, “Everyday. He Overhead Squats, Snatch Squats, Clean Squats…” Ray was reinforcing the fact that many of the lifts we perform involve a squatting motion. When deciding the amount of times an athlete Front and Back Squats per week, one should remember that many of the exercises that are performed already involve squatting. Early on I Front and Back Squatted about everyday, and wound up with a bad case of patellar tendonitis (an overuse injury), so much of my training is predicated around limiting the amount of times I perform squatting motions each week.

Later, I rephrased my question to Ray as “How many times does CJ squat after un-racking it from a squat rack?” He replied, “about once a week, as leg strength isn’t a weakness now.” He also has CJ perform complexes involving Cleans and multiple Front Squats.

Snatch and Clean & Jerk Meets

As we were talking about his philosophy regarding squatting, Ray stated that he bases his lifter’s squat percentages off their best Clean & Jerk rather than their best Back Squat. As he sees it, we’re training to compete in the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk, not the Squat, so the training should be reflected as such. He’ll start with 100% of the athlete’s best Clean & Jerk and have them perform 5-6 sets with that weight, and will base a progression on how the squats look each time they’re performed.

Most Important Thing

Before Ray begins coaching a lifter, he prefaces it with telling them the most important thing to remember when doing this sport: Go out and have fun. If an athlete is going into a workout or a competition with big expectations about their performance, they can easily make the scenario into a bigger deal than it is; if you go about this sport by enjoying performing the lifts, and taking time to enjoy traveling, seeing friends, and enjoying the whole experience that competing in this sport entails, then you are much more likely to succeed.

I hope that lifters and coaches can find this article useful. As an athlete and as a pretend coach I can easily over-complicate training, or lose sight of the forest for the trees, as one might say. Go out and have fun, listen to your body, and use common sense.

The Coffee Complex: John's Lacking Trait

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by Edward Baker

– 70 medals at the Women’s Weightlifting Senior Worlds have been amassed by the United States. John Coffee’s lifters have earned 30 of them.

– The last Senior World Champion for the United States was Robin Byrd-Goad. Robin was coached by John.

– The first Women’s Senior Nationals took place in 1981. Since then there have been 36 Nationals contesting a Women’s division. Coffee’s Gym has won 19 of them.

All of these accomplishments, but after the 6 years I’ve spent with John, a lacking trait has manifested itself. Self-recognition.

Everyone likes to boast from time to time about their accolades, and rightfully so! You should be proud of anything you put your time into. I’ve loved to tell people about PRs that I’ve hit, people that I pretend to coach hitting PRs, it makes me feel good to share and get affirmation that I’m doing a good job. For others I’m sure it’s the same, people love to vocally exclaim how much they love their lifters, and how selfless of people they are, and how much they’ve accomplished in their time in this sport.

This boastful desire is absent in John. I trained at Coffee’s for months before I even learned that he has a women’s team. It wasn’t until a while later that I learned of the Olympians that came through there. None of this came from John’s mouth. Wear a Coffee’s Gym shirt out in public in Marietta and you’re sure to get someone to strike up a conversation, with the typical comment being “That was the place to train back in the day”.

He’s always so concerned about bettering and taking care of his lifters, and improving himself as a coach, that he has never really stopped to get acknowledged for what he’s done. When any other person would stop after an accomplishment and allow themselves to be recognized, John just goes right back to his obsession of making his lifters better, and becoming a better coach. I call this the Coffee Complex. Even those closest to John know that he isn’t one to proclaim himself as an expert, or elaborate on how much he does for his lifters. He is very much an ‘actions, not words’ kind of guy.

After 50 years of coaching in this sport without taking time off, anyone would agree for you to take all the time you need to recover. You deserve the rest. Please get well John.

Is This Rocket Science?

Is This Rocket Science?
by Splitter

Recently, I read an opinion on weightlifting technique nomenclature. Here is the truncated position – “the terms first pull, second pull, pocket and triple extension – these terms do not exist in the scientific communities of weightlifting. These are simply pop culture terms of people trying to dumb down weightlifting to the masses”. The author continues by stating that weightlifting is apportioned in phases due to the pull being a continuous motion with no pause, then offers to discuss phases of the pull. At the article’s conclusion is this statement – “weightlifting is all parasympathetic nervous system and fast twitch fibers”. Typically, comments such as this are the author’s attempt to validate themselves by using big words which will undoubtedly be taken as fact by most of the target audience whose expertise lie elsewhere.

At initial glance, the contrasting statements on pull technique seem to be a minor grammatical or semantic error – first pull and second pull do not exist yet phases and periods of the pull do exist. Simple deductive reasoning brings us to the conclusion of a first phase of the pull and a second phase of the pull. I assume the overwhelming majority of true olympic lifting coaches (not the self-aggrandizing internet strength coach) would agree with the previously quoted statement “there is no pause in the pull, it is one continuous motion”. Any pause, no matter how brief, during a competition lift would be counterproductive, not to mention against the rules. We all comprehend the continuous motion of the pull – mention of this point is stating the obvious.

Do terminologies which classify the pull into teaching and training segments exist in scientific weightlifting communities? Absolutely. To argue otherwise exhibits a lack of knowledge or at the very least, a lack of simple research. Alexsei Medvedyev, author of A System of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting writes “the first period – the pull – consists of 2 phases”. In Managing the Training of Weightlifters, Laputin and Oleshko segment the snatch into 6 phases. The Training of the Weightlifter by Roman utilizes phrases such as “first phase of the pull” and “second phase of the pull”. Tamás Fehér’s Olympic Weightlifting text categorizes the pull into “pull phase I – first pull and over pull” followed by “pull phase II – explosion and maintenance of power”. I assume agreement on the synonymy of “first pull” and “first phase of the pull”.

Now that we have established the use of pull segment terminologies amongst the scientific communities of weightlifting, we will examine the veracity of such practices in other sports.

A previous strength and speed coach whose career stints included an MLB team as well as an SEC football program, explained the segmented mechanics of a sprint – the start which comprises 2-7 steps (most sprinters cover 10m in 7 steps, Usain Bolt covers 10m in 6 steps), the transition which is characterized by a gradually elevating torso and finally the top end.

A former European Cup and American Cup bobsled athlete discussed the various phases of the sled push which can be categorized as a loaded sprint. The bobsled start is the “hit” phase during which contact is made with the sled bars. Alterations in mechanics exist based on position on the sled – brakes vs side. Following the start is the transition and top end.

Not only are movement patterns segmented for teaching and training within weightlifting, they are also segmented for teaching and training in many other sports. A complex movement pattern can be taught by utilizing both the complete range of motion as well as various segmented ranges of motion. One of my graduate school texts, Motor Control and Learning by Schmidt and Lee, validates this concept – “A very common technique for teaching motor skills is to break them down into smaller parts. This would seem to be an effective procedure when the task is very complex and cannot be grasped as a whole.” Examples of such include the separate practice of arm and leg strokes in swimming or performance of specific stunts in gymnastics that will later become part of a more complex segment. Both examples utilize partial movement pattern practice which will eventually become integrated into a more complex movement pattern.

Given the requirement of specific strength in weightlifting performance, the concept of strength gain within the component parts of snatch and clean and jerk is evaluated along with the aforementioned requirement of movement pattern proficiency. A deficit in strength when lifting a static barbell from the floor will render a suboptimal performance even within a highly proficient clean movement pattern. The same suboptimal performance will apply to an individual with an inefficient clean movement pattern who displays superfluous strength in lifting a static barbell from the floor. When faced with the former example (strength deficit), some coaches may prescribe strengthening movements intended to increase the performance when lifting a static barbell from the floor. Transfer to the clean of these strengthening movements will directly correlate with the specificity of joint angles, speed of movement and lifter-barbell center of gravity. Conversely in the latter example, building proficiency within the clean movement pattern may include training segmented portions of the clean in order to optimize the same 3 variables – joint angles, speed of movement and lifter-barbell center of gravity.

In regards to the comment on parasympathetic dominance during weightlifting (which can be easily invalidated via the Google), we will refer to my medical school text Gray’s Anatomy by Drake, Vogl and Mitchell – “the sympathetic system innervates structures in the peripheral regions of the body and viscera, the parasympathetic system is more restricted to innervation of the viscera only”. Interpretation – the sympathetic system promotes blood flow to skeletal muscle as well as secretion of adrenaline which increases heart rate. Conversely, the parasympathetic system promotes blood flow to the abdominal viscera and decreases heart rate. Draw your own conclusion as to which nervous system is dominant during weightlifting – the one which promotes digestion or the one which promotes skeletal muscle activity and adrenaline secretion.

 

Splitter

 

Response to Louie Simmons' BS

Reading Louie Simmons’ postings on the internet and reading through his book, it seems like his basic point is that U.S. Olympic lifters spend too much time and energy perfecting their technique with not enough time and energy put into strength building.
This line of criticism of U.S. Olympic lifting is just not true. Of course U.S. Olympic lifters spend lots of time practicing various pull and squatting exercises as well as various hyperextension, good morning, and pressing exercises. Also, it should not be forgotten that snatches and clean & jerks are splendid exercises for developing strength and power themselves. It’s not all technique.
I don’t think there’s much difference in the way U.S. lifters train than the way lifters in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle east train. The difference in the performance of the top U.S. lifters and the top lifters from many other countries has to do with the way children in these countries are tested and selected for the sports they are most predisposed for. This plus more thorough medical attention for the top athletes from these countries.
Here at Coffee’s Gym, we’ve gotten used to medical personnel showing up at the gym totally unannounced to get urine samples from some of our top ranked lifters over the years. U.S. Olympic lifting is one of the most thoroughly tested sports in the world.
U.S. lifters lift very well considering they are all pretty much drug free. Today, top U.S. lifters lift about the same weights U.S. lifters were able to lift before testing became so efficient.
Last year was one of the rare years when the Senior World Weightlifting Championships was held in the USA. I attended for the whole 10 days it took to run it off down in Houston, Texas. Each day I would spend several hours watching the athletes in the training hall go through their pre-competition routines. I never did see Louie Simmons there. Even an expert like him may have picked up some tips watching these top men and women in the world train.
In particular, he may have wanted to observe the way these world class weightlifters perform their squats: torsos totally erect and perpendicular, chest and head held high, all the way top to bottom, hips on heels. No doubt very different than the way squats are performed at Westside. Almost a totally different exercise. Of course I’ve seen these world class men and women weightlifters train many times before. They all possess very prominent quadriceps development. This is the kind of leg development Olympic weightlifters get doing their squats so upright and deep. When the bar is held low at mid delt, the feet placed very wide apart, trunk inclined forward as powerlifters do, then you get development in the hamstrings and hips, in contrast to the quad and glute development Olympic lifters get squatting the way they do. Olympic lifters get their hamstrings doing various snatches and cleans, pulls, and bend overs with the legs held straight. The quadriceps and the hamstrings are both worked very effectively during the course of an Olympic lifting workout.
Many ex-Powerlifters who become ‘experts’ at various CrossFits and gyms teach this low bar form of squatting under the mistaken impression that this is the way weightlifters should squat. This is incorrect.
Louie brags about how many 1000+ lb squatters he has in his gym and I assume all these men are wearing multi-ply suits, holding the bar at mid delt with feet set so wide that they can only barely break parallel, and it goes without saying that these gentleman are all well-steroided.
In the May June 2015 issue of Power Magazine, Stan Efferding is interviewed by Mark Bell. Mr. Efferding states that squatting with vertical shins would not transfer very well to sprints, “for that you want to be doing things like a front squat or a high bar squat”.
Perhaps Louie having conquered the powerlifting training world now wants to become the strength guru to Olympic lifting. Sorry Louie, this arena is already taken care of.
I did go to the trouble and expense of buying Louie’s book. There is absolutely no useful information in the whole book. Only complaints about how Olympic lifters don’t do strength work in this country.
Doing a classic powerlifting type workout does develop some general strength, but this type of training would have very little usefulness for any athlete including Olympic lifters.
I assume that Louie is angling to become some kind of strength training guru for Olympic lifting. Unfortunately, he will probably succeed in getting some people to take him seriously. Based on what I’ve seen that Louie has posted in the internet, Louie Simmons has absolutely nothing worthwhile to offer to Olympic lifting. Please don’t pay $500 for a weekend Louie Simmons Olympic lifting seminar.

– John B. Coffee

Commentary on Louie Simmons Debacle

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Robin Goad, ’94 Senior World Champion, amassed 20 medals at the Worlds. John Coffee mainly employed the lifts, squats, and pulls in her training. 

 

Commentary on Louie Simmons Debacle
By John Coffee and Edward Baker

Edward Baker:

A few weeks ago, powerlifter Louie Simmons released a book providing his interpretation of strength training for weightlifters. This literature is falsely written under the premise that a bunch of random exercises are going to be the answer to make American weightlifting great again. Louie confuses the trend of a routine consisting mostly of the lifts, squats, and pulls to a lack of knowledge, when there is a general consensus that the movements that most similarly mimic the snatch and clean & jerk correlate to improvement of the respective lifts. John Coffee and I felt the need to put out this article to make sure that nobody actually takes this book seriously.

John Coffee:

In his book, Louie Simmons writes about how American lifters spend most of their training time on technique and fail to train for strength. Of course this is not true. American lifters spend hours each week doing pulls and squats, also hyper extensions, presses, glute ham raises, ab work etc. Louie fails to realize also that when a lifter does heavy doubles and triples and singles in the Snatch and Clean & jerk, they’re also working strength and power as well as technique. He also seems to fail to realize that when pulls and front squats with the same technique as the classics lifts are done, he or she also is working technique. I’m not sure Louie quite realizes exactly how Olympic lift training is done.
The latest training method seems to include working almost exclusively with low reps in the classic lifts, plus front and back squats. Many of the world’s top lifters seem to be training this way. Although I personally don’t wish to train my lifters this way, it is worth noting that some of the best lifters in the world do. The trend seems to do less variety of exercises rather than more.

“So how do you raise the Olympic style squatting? Simple: by not doing them. Yes, that means following the Conjugate Method” – Louie Simmons

Louie advises people having trouble with squats to not do squats, and to do box squats instead. How about reducing your squat weights so that you do your squats correctly and strengthen the legs this way? Many individuals have weak quads, this can be corrected by doing both front and back squats as upright as possible.

Edward:

As John stated, when an individual is performing the full lifts, they’re working technique while also getting stronger, and when performing squats and pulls, they’re getting stronger while also working technique; you want to do all of the assistance movements as close to the exact of motion as you can possibly get.

“If you pull your knees inward while recovering from a heavy squat, why do you think more squats will fix the problem? It won’t, of course. If you can’t hold the lockout in your jerk or snatch do you really think it will correct itself? No, you must at the very least do elbow extensions.” – Louie Simmons

If a lifter is performing squats incorrectly as Louie describes, then they would simply focus on squatting without the knees caving in; getting strong in the right movement pattern is the premise of Weightlifting.
Take this comparison for example: Bob Peoples clean & jerked 308 lb and deadlifted 725 lb weighing 181 lb, whereas Isaac Berger clean & jerked 336 lb and never could deadlift 500 lb, weighing 132 lb. Though Peoples deadlifted well over 200 lb more than Berger, he still clean & jerked less than him. Berger was stronger in the right movement pattern. There’s being strong, then there’s being strong in the right movement.

Louie also writes of accommodation:

“When I watch Olympic lifting in its current state, I can only think of one thing: Accommodation. When doing the same training—using the same exercises over and over with the same volume or intensity—a lifter’s performance will slow or even go backwards.”

“In the US, the expectation is that the result of exercise is always an increase in performance, but if nothing in the program is changed, the athlete experiences the principle of diminishing returns. This is a general law of biology and simply means if one does a constant stimulus, that stimulus will decrease over time.”

The principle of accommodation that Louie writes of is absolutely correct; if you do the exact same routine each week with no progression of volume and intensity then your progress will slow and eventually stall. However I know of no coach that has done this. In Vladimir Zatsiorsky’s Science and Practice of Strength Training he writes of accommodation, presumably where Louie got his similar explanation from:

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However Zatsiorsky follows up in the next paragraph with (and Simmons makes no mention of):

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Everyone’s progress begins to slow as they go further into their Weightlifting career; In the first couple of months of training a Weightlifter can improve their snatch and clean & jerk weekly, sometimes daily, but as they get further and further into their career, personal records become less plentiful. That’s just the way it is. The stronger you get, the harder it is to get strong. Success in a weightlifter’s training isn’t determined by the number of PRs made in a bunch of random exercises, but by what a weightlifter can Snatch and Clean & jerk on the platform. Ultimately, you have X amount of time and want to do the exercises that are the most productive and that most resemble the Olympic lifts.
There is constant mention in his book of American weightlifters being unsuccessful because they’re not doing the exercises he describes in his book; well what about steroids and the talent pool? In other countries, the most genetically predisposed people are picked for weightlifting, in this country, not more than a few percent of people hear about weightlifting much less practice it. It is certainly becoming better known, and hopefully will continue to. However until the United States develops a beat the drug test or WADA manages to successfully eliminate drugs from this sport, then we will continue to be on the outside looking in. (I certainly would prefer the latter method) The writings of Tommy Kono, Bob Takano, Carl Miller, Artie Drechsler, Harvey Newton, and Jim Schmitz, to name a few, have gifted American weightlifting with the knowledge we need to become a dominant Weightlifting power, we just need to keep finding the talent and get drugs out of the sport to do it.

How Great Coaches Differ From Others

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How Great Coaches Differ From Others
By: Edward Baker

            Right when I met John Coffee, I sensed that he was different from other coaches that I encountered. There was no self promotion, no speaking in condescension or complete certainty to me, and of course I never once felt like he wanted to keep me around because he wanted my money. However the trait that stood out to me the most is how he genuinely loved the sport. I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some of John’s weightlifting friends that have also been around the sport for decades, and they seem to share the same traits. They all love weightlifting. This love is what made them all great coaches.

            Rather than make a writeup on how I think coaches that came from John’s time differed from coaches today, I asked the lifters of Artie Drechsler, Bob Takano, and Gayle Hatch the question: “What makes your coach different from a typical coach people might encounter right now?” Here are their responses.

Athlete: Rhiannon Reynolds

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Coached By: Artie Drechsler (Author of the Weightlifting Encyclopedia, international level athlete, coach, and official in the sport of weightlifting. Last male from the USA to set a world record in weightlifting recognized by the International Weightlifting Federation.)

            On December 12th, 2015, exactly a week after the American Open,coach and I met after training at the Burger King across the street from the legendary Lost Battalion Hall. He had a pen and a notebook; he bought me a coffee and himself an unsweetened iced tea, and we sat at the back table tucked away from the rest of the crowd.

            I, too, had a notebook and a pen. Inside my notebook I had my goals written for the remainder of December and for the quickly approaching new year. You see, this is our ritual: before and after every meet, and the conclusion of every training cycle, he and I meet after Saturday practice and discuss what we are going to do next. I always sit in quiet anticipation as he reads my list of goals, hoping they align with his because I have the utmost respect for him and his opinion. We are always on the same page; we make a pretty good team. We call it the “mastermind alliance” – if you don’t know what that is, I encourage you to look it up. We evaluate my progress and change anything if necessary. I trust him with everything; I think of him as a father. He always approaches each obstacle as it arises with a rational mind. He does everything in his power to see me succeed; not only in weightlifting, but in every aspect of my life. He thinks of all things as an opportunity to get better; there is always something that can be learned no matter what.

            Sometimes he brings books, newspaper articles, and photographs to training for me. These are always a treat; not only do these gifts mean a lot to me, but they’re always something that I can benefit from greatly. Technique on world record lifts, how to develop the mindset of a champion, you name it – all things you can carefully dissect and apply. He is always innovating ways to make me better; ways to help me achieve my goals in a realistic way. He shares wise advice based on years of experience from his own weightlifting career. He has never once been disappointed in my performance – he’s been my shoulder to cry on for tears of joy and sadness.

            Arthur Drechsler is not only my coach, he is my role model and inspiration. I see and hear the passion in his voice whenever he talks about weightlifting: the places he had been, the people he had met, and the things he had learned. I am truly blessed to know and have the opportunity to learn from him. I would gladly pay any price to have his mentorship, yet he has never asked me for a single dime. Artie helps me because he wants to. There’s nothing in it for him. In his eyes, it is most rewarding to have the ability to share his knowledge and love for the sport. He values those with a good work ethic and character, and doesn’t pursue anyone. Most of all, seeing how much he believes in me has shown me how to believe in myself. Artie is my family, and I look forward to the all the coming years we will spend together in the iron game.

Athlete: Christine Na

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Coached By: Bob Takano (USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, Coach of an Olympian, four national champions, two national record holders, and 27 top ten nationally ranked lifters. Bob has been on the coaching staffs of 17 U.S. National teams to international competitions, five of those being World Championships.)

            One major difference that I learned with newer coaches is that they give TOO many corrections. It almost seems like they always need to say something after every lift, every mistake, and that can be overwhelming to novice lifters and too annoying for experienced lifters. Takano is a man with honesty and says it like it is. No bullshit, not trying to “sell” you. Weightlifting is an AMAZING, ADDICTING sport. if you love it, you will work your ass off and show up to train. Takano lets the beauty of this sport to bring people in, no salesmen here, which is VERY refreshing. He will push you to your potential, but you are the athlete, you’re the one lifting.


          You can tell he truly loves the sport and ALL of his athletes, from novice lifters to olympians. I used to have a coach who would rely too much on my success, like he was using my handwork and dedication to make himself become an established coach…I finally figured out his coaching was not genuine and had to move on. Then I found Takano!

Athlete: Matt Bruce

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Coached By: Gayle Hatch (USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, 49 USA Weightlifting National Championships. Athletes have competed in 1984, 1988 and 1992 US Olympic Weightlifting Teams and twelve USA World Teams.)

            Most gyms I walk in, your see a common theme when an athlete is going for an all time record. You hear load music and screaming at the person to motivate them. To me, my training was quite the opposite. My coach trainined his athletes in an “ole school” manner. Though the training psychology of my coach may be a dying breed, the point must be noted his great accomplishments. While most coaches in USAW would love to see 1 National Championship Banner hanging from their wall, my coach had over 50. That’s right, 50 National Championships as a team on the Junior, Senior and Master level. He produced many Olympians and World Team members under this training psychology, all which were born and raised in Baton Rouge and Coach Hatch never once recruited an athlete to his gym from another club.

            This training psychology was what most consider a military approach to coaching. Music was never allowed in the gym and if more than 2 people were talking in a group, you would be reprimanded. Everything was “Yes sir”, “No Sir”, and “What’s next”. He wore the same outfit everyday of his coaching career and considered it his “uniform”. To this day no athlete has been allowed to his house nor seen him away from gym hours or competition. He is known in weightlifting as a “Phantom Coach” and allows his athletes to do the talking for him. This style of coaching taught me discipline and I responded to this style very well. While seems to be a dying philosophy, the results speak for themselves. I myself have taken a little of this style, but have incorporated my own style. In the end, use what works best for you, but always remember where you came from.