Fly on the Wall: What I learned watching a World Class Athlete

This weekend I had the privilege of assisting one of our weightlifters, Elise Caron, as she competed at the American Open Finals in Anaheim. It was an awesome experience. She did an incredible job, making four out of her six lifts and placing well in her session.

Watching some of the best lifters in America, including an Olympian, was so exciting! There was so much to learn from watching people on the platform; different set ups, varying speeds off the floor, and distinct styles in the lifts. And while the main platforms are where you see the big lifts, I think the best spot to really learn was in the training hall.

In large national competitions like the American Open most lifters come from out of town a few days before competing, but usually still have some “light” work to do leading up to their session. So the venue has a training hall for them to lift in the few days prior. After Elise’s training was done on Friday I hung around in the training hall just observing athletes and coaches. After about 10 minutes the platform directly in front of me was occupied by Jordan Cantrell, an 85kg World Team member.

I stayed and watched his entire training session, taking some notes, and here is what I learned and wanted to share with you.

1.) Warm up
  • Cantrell spent at least 30 minutes warming up before he touched a barbell. Some foam rolling, static and ballistic stretches, as well as some band work.
  • When he started moving with the barbell it was not rushed. He treated his empty barbell work and lighter sets with great importance.
  • He did full snatches from 40kg up to his last set at 100kg. Catching it fairly high and riding it down to a full squat every time.
2.) Setup
  • Cantrell’s setup and execution for every lift was exactly the same.
  • He starts with his shoulders in front of the bar and finishes very tall at the top of his pull. It seemed like a big emphasis was made to reach triple extension before pulling under the bar.
3.) Heavier lifts
  • As the lifts became heavier and heavier his mechanics stayed exactly the same.
  • His movement from the floor up to the hip was smooth and controlled, he was not in a rush.
  • I also noticed that he would spend a minute or so after every other set to stretch his thoracic spine.
  • He also warmed back up with an empty barbell when he moved on to his clean and jerk.
4.) Mindset and Demeanor (this was my biggest takeaway)
  • The thing that struck me the most was how he carried himself in the training hall. There were some other lifters in there being overly loud and making a scene. They were much bigger than Cantrell, but he was fitter, faster, and stronger than all of them. While they were yelling and trying to get themselves amped up, he was busy concentrating on moving correctly and with great focus. He let his lifts speak for themselves.
  • He did not rely solely on aggression and speed to make his lifts.
So the next time you’re in the gym working on your olympic lifts, remember this;
1.) Slow down– speed from the floor doesn’t mean speed at the hip.
2.) Work your positions– the more locked in these are the faster you will progress.
3.) Respect your warm up– don’t wait until the bar gets super heavy to focus on your technique.
Treat the light weights like they’re heavy and the heavy weights will feel light!!
Written by Michael J Miller

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