How to be a successful weightlifter

Akkaev, Credit @ Macklem
Akkaev, Credit @ Macklem

Weightlifting is an amazing sport, but it is also an incredible test of one’s character. The lifts will expose your physical and psychological weaknesses quicker than you can think. There is a natural tendency shared by many to talk about all kind of things related to weightlifting in such a precise way that the bigger picture of human performance, where those things should be applied, is often forgotten. A simple question, such as ”How can you be a successful weightlifter?” is thus left without its logical answers. We want to hear about technique, recovery or programming, and what we forget are the core principles of success and that they may not even be related to lifting.

1. You need a strong will to become a champion

Sure, talent helps and it is probably needed in the grand scheme of things. However, talent won’t get you far if you don’t have the will to be a champion. A strong will is important because you will want to work at getting better and better. You will most likely always be goal oriented as well.

2. Constancy

I have yet to see somebody with a strong will to succeed miss a work out or take some time off. The workout may get adapted according to schedule, but you cannot afford to miss a workout because you do not feel like it or because you have plans with friends. If you are injured, you do what you can. If you are stuck at work, you do what you can. If you are sick, you do what you can. You don’t have to work as hard when you feel like your body cannot tolerate it, but you have to be constant and show up to do what you can.

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3. You have what you have and you do with you have

Excuses are excuses. You are a victim of your genetics and that should be acknowledged. Some people tolerate higher intensity year long whereas other people deal better with a volume phase followed by an intensity phase. If you are 6feet tall, with the longest femur even found in a human being, or if you are 5feet1 with t-rex arms, you have to do with what you have. Sure the short lifter with T-rex arms has a mechanical advantage, but it’s not like you can do anything about it either. People of different anatomical built have been successful in weightlifting. Find what works for you based on your own physiology, biomechanics and ability.

4. Trust in your coach and your program

Part of the job of the coach is to teach proper weightlifting technique. The other part is to ensure proper programming so that you keep improving. The program is based off the time you are there to train with us. I have often seen athletes max out on their own a few days before a meet just to test out the water and see if the coach’s programming is working. I have also seen athletes train under a coach and on off days go somewhere else to train their own way and tire themselves. Either way, it is not conductive to high performance. In one case you are putting your performance at the meet in peril and in the other case, you are spending scheduled recovery time training which won’t help you by any means in the long run.

5. You have to see weightlifting as a (FUN) job

Whenever you are a worker, your goal is to be productive during the time you are at work. You show up on time, you do what you have to do, and you go home. Nobody serious miss work because they felt like going out to party with their friends just like nobody can tolerate a job they don’t like for long period of times. You have to love weightlifting and have good work ethics towards it.

6. It is okay to be selfish during training

I think a lot of people are scared of weightlifting clubs because of this. Weightlifters can often appear to not be social. We tend to sit on chair, not talk too much, and put our work in. Most people come in and expect to see a social club where people are bound by the love of iron. Well, we are bound by our love of the sport but I think that there is a time to goof around and a time to be serious. I coach a few women lifters and I always remind them to stay serious during the training and goof around during the warm up and warm down.

7. You need supportive family members, girlfriend/boyfriend, friends

It’s not easy to become a champion. Our sport is difficult in the sense that funding in north america is absent. You have to train to become a champion and it may take out from  work time ($). Your boss, your wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend have to be OK with the fact that you have to train and respect the training schedule. It’s hard on them as well and whoever has support from their family should make time to show their gratefulness.

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8. You need an exemplary lifestyle

Proper nutrition, proper recovery, proper sleeping schedule, staying away from stresses, being able to resist to peer pressure, etc. are a must as well. Showing up to train in sub par conditions on a regular basis can not, logically, lead to great success.

9. Staying away from injuries

In the quest of human performance, it is easy to lose focus and start training way too hard, way too often, way too much. You have be patient and not rush things up. Training is like studying from an exam. People have different study strategies, but all that matters is what they put on the paper come exam time. It’s not worth it to push in a way that your body cannot handle it (at least for now). So your programming has to be reasonable. Now, some injuries are involuntary and proper care should be done to fix it.

10. Did I mention you need to love the sport ?

Unless forced to do this sport, nobody will stick to it if they don’t like it. You love the bar and it will love you back.

Jean-Patrick Millette

Jean-Patrick Millette is a full time weightlifting coach located in Montreal, Canada. He has a bachelor in kinesiology. He coaches dedicated weightlifters of all ages (Youth to senior) as well as running the well respected First Pull website. He has been very active at promoting the sport of weightlifting.

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