The following is my interview with 2014 US National junior champion (105kg), Ian Wilson. At that competition he snatched 170kg and clean and jerked 205kg which were records. He was also a silver medalist at the 2011 youth championship. Ian is from Berkley but now lives in Seattle. He has been a weightlifter since he was 12 and has been making steady progress. He was kind enough to answer my questions.
Without further ado… here is the interview with Ian Wilson
1. I read that you started the sport of weightlifting at the age of 12 years old. What was your training like back then? Did you stick to the technical lifts all the time? What about intensity and volume?
I knew about lifting from my dad and one day I decided I wanted to start. I began with power cleans, and some basic strength exercises. Butch Curry (1980 Olympian) helped me with technique when I started along with my dad. I’ve always focused on the snatch and the clean and jerk, but I used to do more exercises like power clean, power jerk, power snatch and a lot more back squats.
2. Fast forward to 2014, how has your training changed or evolved? Many approaches are available or used, do you follow one where everything is planned in advanced (like say the soviets were doing) or do you follow more of a Bulgarian-type of approach where daily intensity is vital?
My dad and I discuss goals for each competition and plan what training numbers will be required to achieve the target.I mostly do snatch, clean and jerk and front squat. I mix in snatch pulls, clean pulls and back squats to let my body adapt to lifting heavier weights.
3. At 16 years old, you clean and jerked 182kg which made you the youngest American to clean and jerk that weight if I’m not mistaken. I bet you felt like a million bucks after that! Now, you repeated the same thing by being the youngest to clean and jerk 200kg in competition as well. What did these accomplishments mean to you in your career?
It’s a good feeling to know I’m the youngest to accomplish these, but I hope my career will be defined by international accomplishments. I’m prouder of my silver medal from the 2011 Youth World Championships because I beat lifters from some of the strongest teams in the world. I hope to win many more international medals throughout my career.
4. I think initially you trained under your father. You were later on coached by Kevin Doherty, Broz and Zygmunt Smalcerz. Could you describe your experience under each coach (in terms of training atmosphere, exercise selection/programming, and overall intensity/volume)?
My father is and always will be my coach. Kevin Doherty is my club (Hassle Free BBC) coach and helps at competitions. Broz never coached me and Zygmunt helps me when I’m at the OTC or an international competition. The bottom line when it comes to a good program is you need to train hard just about every day and do the lifts over and over. Training at 80% won’t get you to 110%.
5. You just moved up to the 105kg category – although you still have space to grow. Did you move up to because it was getting harder and harder to make weight?
Yes, I was losing about 5-6kg of body weight and it was terrible. I barely ate for a week before the 2013 junior nationals. 105 is a much better fit for me as I’m about 190cm/6’2” tall.
I don’t have trouble gaining weight, but I’m going up slowly because I want each gain in body weight to translate to a better total. Gaining weight too fast makes me feel fat and slow. When I’m a full 105, my training bodyweight will be 107-108kg.
7. Your last competition at 105kg was not too long ago (2014 junior nationals). You really performed well, snatching 170 and clean and jerking 205. You shattered Burgener’s records! How does it feel to have your name in the record book?
Good because my friend, D’Angelo Osorio took my name out of the record books by clean and jerking 195kg at 94 in December of 2013! Watch closely for him because he has already done 160 200 at 94 and is improving rapidly. I hope to further these records several more times this year. The senior American records are 172 and 220 at 105.
No! I always lift much more in competition when I am tapered and have an adrenaline surge. My best lifts on a regular training day are 156kg snatch and 197.5kg clean and jerk. The 210 was too far forward to stand up with, but I should make it soon!
9. It is often said that being tall and having long limbs are a mechanical disadvantage in weightlifting – although many champions had this kind of build. I am thinking of Taner Sagir, Zlatan Vanev, Galabin Boevski, a 94kg Akkaev, Yurik Vardanyan and more. As a generalization, I have noticed that taller athletes tend to pull and jerk pretty well but the squat is harder for them to improve. Was this the case for you? If so, what did you do to work on this weakness? If not, what do you think is your mean weakness in the lifts?
When I started lifting, I couldn’t front squat my power clean. By just working away for years, my legs are okay now. My best front squat is only 237kg, but I think I have a lot of room to improve this still. Snatch used to be my weak lift, but now I think my clean and jerk needs improvement. Usually I can clean and jerk 40kg over my snatch, but at junior nationals, I missed the clean at 210kg.
10. You have had the opportunity to compete internationally and hopefully make contacts. Do you think weightlifting is being practiced/programmed/coached differently in other countries then in the USA as many say it is the case?
Yes, I have a lot of international contacts. What I’ve found is the best countries have their athletes doing snatches, clean and jerks and squats at high percentages over and over. I have a friend who trains with the Chinese national junior team in Beijing twice per week. He told me thata typical workout consists of
clean and jerk
clean and jerk double
front squat or back squat
as a typical workout.
11. When it comes to technique, what are the most important aspects of the lifts in your opinion?
Keep the bar close to your body, move fast and be consistent.
12. Being Canadian, I am always surprised to see so much arguing over technique in the USA, most of it happening on different websites and forums. What do you think of all the technique controversy and debates that happened – and still happens in the US (E.G To jump or not to jump, to shrug or not to shrug, Catapult or no catapult)?
Yes, I’m always shocked by the ignorance of people online as well. The coaches who argue about insignificant technical differences are generally the ones who have never coached anyone good nor lifted a lot of weight. I think they do it for attention.
I trained with a Bulgarian lifter named Martin Pashov who was doing about 170 200 as a light 105 and at a local meet, a coach approached him and said
Coach: “you might’ve beat my guy today, but he’s been going 6/6, his technique is better than yours, you only went 3/6 and he’s going to beat you”
Martin “I snatched 170kg and clean and jerked 200kg, give me a call when your guy snatches 160 and we can have a competition” as he wrote his phone number down on a piece of paper. He’s still waiting for a call from that coach.
13. This is peculiar and just for talk, but I always wondered why you jerk with the backfoot heel down and turned in. Is it due to an injury or is it because this is a position in which you are quite stable?
It’s something that I do unintentionally. My left ankle is unusually flexible which is why it collapses and my foot goes flat. Ronny Weller jerked like this too, but I wouldn’t recommend it and I hope to correct this habit.
Nothing special. I don’t believe diet will make a noticeable difference in performance. This is a common question, but the bottom line is you get better by working hard, smart and building consistency.
15. One main difference between North America and the best countries participating in the sport of weightlifting is training camps. Do you think that the lack of training camps and salary that comes with it is a limiting factor for the U.S ?
Absolutely! The lack of financial reward is a huge problem. A salary can make people lazy, but if there were a big cash payout for world and Olympic medals, I guarantee results would be much higher. There was talk of making a prize fund for Olympic/world medals, but it is apparently not going to happen because a large incentive will supposedly promote cheating.
16. Now that you are done with the junior championships, what are your goals for this year?
I have the Pan American Junior Championships in April, Junior Worlds in June, nationals in July and hopefully Senior Worlds in November. I hope to continue making good progress throughout this year and I’m very excited for the US to host the world championships next year as well as the Pan American Games in Toronto.
17. Can we expect to see you in Rio 2016?
I hope, but nothing is sure.The US only had one male representative (Kendrick Farris) at the 2012 Olympics.First, we must qualify a team by achieving much better results than the US teams did at the 2010 and 2011 world championships.
They’re great! Your website provides insight into different people’s training, stories, etc. I wish your site were around 7 years ago when I was getting started because there was almost no coverage of lifting.
19. Thank you very much for doing this interview. Any final words?
Thanks for taking the time to interview me and good luck to everyone with training.