Training Levels of Weightlifting
Updated: Dec 29, 2020
I view training for Weightlifting a little bit like training for golf. It isn’t as much of a sport about brawn. People might disagree with me about this. And, possibly for good reason because there a lot of Weightlifters out there that are putting up huge numbers on the squat. However, in the early stages of training that isn’t going to be a big point of emphasis.
When discussing Weightlifting, I think it is important to realize there are genetic freaks out there that would’ve been successful no matter what sport you threw them in to. It is important to not use these people as a point of reference. Most people you train will not be like that. In all reality, most people you train will not have received much from the genetic lottery when it comes to performance. This is all right, but it becomes a lot more important to know how to train these folks.
I think it is important we separate Weightlifting athletes into three categories: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
At Lift Lab, we work with a ton of beginner lifters. Some who have never even touched a barbell before or some that have never done a snatch or clean and jerk before. I think we have a very solid system in place to quickly develop these types of lifters.
Beginner lifters in Weightlifting need the basics. And when I say the basics I mean overhead squatting, overhead pressing, snatch deadlifting, clean deadlifting, paused deadlifts in certain positions, snatch and clean pulling, pressing from the split jerk position, etc. Similar to a beginner Powerlifter, I don’t think a beginner in Weightlifting needs as much specificity of the competition lifts. Their lack of experience in the sport will significantly decrease the utility of the full competition lifts. They will be way better off at mastering the basics that I discussed above, so that when they start increasing the volume of the full lifts, they can get more out of them. Most of a beginner’s progress will be purely from technical gains and not strength gains.
I think the intermediate level will be where most people spend most of their career. I think there is very wide-ranging talent at the intermediate level. I would classify all lifters that qualify for an American Open Series event at the Senior level would be considered intermediate. If you’ve ever been to one of these events you probably have noticed there is a lot of discrepancy with talent. There is a world of difference between the A session lifters and the D session lifters. To build a picture of what I’m thinking, I would say most of the A session lifters at these events are still at the intermediate level.
Now, let’s get to the point. Intermediate lifters will need more specificity of the competition lifts. Intermediate lifters might need a bit more strength training than beginners. An intermediate level lifter’s program will see less of the basics from the beginner and more full lifts. Most of the intermediate lifter’s gains will come over time from more practice with the lifts and some strength gains as well. An intermediate lifter might get to the point where their lack of strength is a limiting factor. (When they clean a few kilos less than their front squat). However, I still think those are unusual cases.
Let me start this out with a little disappointment. To be an advanced lifter in the sport of Weightlifting you have to be born with some genetic advantages. If you’re 6’5” tall, I’m sorry, you’re just never going to be an advanced lifter. Some people’s physical structure and talents will favor them to be more advanced in the sport than the rest of the population. That’s just what the sport selects for.
To me, an advanced lifter in the sport of Weightlifting is someone who is competing in international events. I would also say, if you are in the A session of Senior Nationals you probably qualify as an advanced lifter as well.
As a disclaimer, I will say that I have not coached any advanced lifters through multiple, continuous training cycles. I have trained with advanced lifters and have been involved coaching some, but just slightly. So, feel free to completely not listen to what I have to say next.
Advanced lifters in the sport of Weightlifting have, more than likely, put way more hours into the sport than your average individual. Following is some boring news….For an advanced lifter to continue to get better, they just need to continue to put in the hours of work. I think for an advanced lifter, because they have been in the sport for so long, might need a more “balanced” approach so they can stay healthy. Most people hate the word balance, and I do too, but you have to remember these folks have been in the sport for close to ten years. Some even more. That’s a huge demand physically and mentally. So, as a coach, I think it is important to know how to keep these individuals engaged physically and mentally, especially in the “off-season” with no competition in the near future.
Time for the X’s and O’s, which everyone loves. For an advanced lifter, they probably need WAY more specificity than anyone else. The technical gains you are looking for in an advanced lifter are very small. They probably aren’t going to get anything from a 1/3 deadlift like a beginner would. Their technical gains will mostly come from gaining more repetition from the main lifts. I also think you can overload advanced lifters in certain lifts. Like a behind the neck jerk, and other various lifts from blocks where they might be a bit stronger. This way, it can lend to some strength gains on the main lifts.
In conclusion, the goal for beginner and intermediate lifters is to make them better from a technical standpoint and a strength standpoint. For an advanced lifter, I think you just have to make sure you don’t screw them up. The beginner lifter will adapt to almost anything, and an advanced lifter already has the tools, you just have to keep them on the right track.