From Weight Training to Olympic Weightlifting - How I turned a hobby into a competitive sport
Weight training: everyone starts somewhere
My weights journey started when I was 17, I had recently started boxing at school and I soon realised that I needed to build up some extra strength and muscle to help me become more dominant in sparring and training.
I did the typical beginner thing, and rather amusingly my workout routine was entirely based on the floor plan of the machine based gym I worked out at – I would literally go clockwise around the room with my training partner Peter B doing 2 or 3 sets of 10 reps of whatever machine had been placed there.
Training at the university gym meant access to much better equipment, and I became accustomed to a lot of training with free weights and compound moves.
After leaving university I gradually lost touch with boxing, and after a brief experiment with MMA was over I got more and more into weight training. Soon however I noticed my motivation dropping off.
I had reached my aesthetic goals long ago and I was bored of training just to look good in the mirror, I wanted to train for strength and athleticism.
Focus on Strength on Athleticism
Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Standing overhead press and weighted chins and dips became the core of my training, every session I would focus on two big moves following Wendlers 5/3/1 powerlifting program. I did a lot of research, and I began to become fascinated by Olympic Weightlifting and the awesome speed, power, flexibility and explosiveness of these incredible athletes. Weights that seemed inconceivable to me (often upwards of 200kg) were being lifted overhead in a few explosive seconds. For those of you unfamiliar with the sport, Weightlifting is not Bodybuilding, nor is it similar to powerlifting. Weightlifting is the sport of lifting a loaded barbell overhead via two specific technical lifts - the snatch and the clean and jerk.
I decided that I wanted to see what I could do, and I started trying out the clean and jerk at my local gym. Snatches too but I struggled to teach myself this very technical lift properly. Learning the snatch felt more like learning ballet or mastering a musical instrument than lifting weights. My interest in Olympic lifting gathered more and more momentum and I started looking for a club where I could train. At grassroots level in the UK, Weightlifting still needs considerable development, watered down commercial gyms are not very strength and athletics friendly and I struggled to find a place I could train properly.
My enthusiasm didn’t falter and I bought tickets to watch two Weightlifting events at the London 2012 Olympics. As we were leaving, fate would have it that I recognised the head coach of one of the clubs I had tried to join, Phil Nourse, of the Sutton and Epsom Weightlifting Club in South London. I introduced myself and he gave me the chance to join the club in a training session.
I committed myself to train twice a week with the club (despite traveling for an hour and a half from the work to get to the gym), and set up the rest of my training to build strength and power to support the Olympic lifts. Training with a team behind me felt incredible, and we always have a lot of fun at training sessions - loud music, good banter and heavy lifting, a winning recipe! With the help of my coach and the other lifters I soon started progressing with my lifting, building up to 77.5kg in the snatch and 107.5kg in the clean and jerk. In December 2012 I felt ready to enter my first competition and I signed up for the Novice Open in Crystal Palace.
I was competing with two fellow lifters from my club but was placed in a separate group. The competition followed the standard format for the lifts, although we were placed in mixed weight groups and would be judged on our Sinclair (bodyweight to lifted total) ratio.
My warmup went ok, although I did manage to both drop a loaded bar on my head and uppercut myself in the jaw in the back room, but the nerves got the better of me and I ended up power snatching 65kg with my top lift rather than full snatching the 75-80kg I had been aiming for. Still, I was in a good position to take Gold in my group, in fact all I needed was a 95kg clean and Jerk to clinch it. But I didn’t want to lower the weight. I wanted to open with the 100kg I had initially planned. I ended up with 3 successful lifts, 100kg, 105kg and 110kg – blowing my old personal best out of the water and achieving a 175kg total. Second place was taken by fellow Sutton lifter Adam Potter and had Peter been in our group, all 3 Sutton lifters would have occupied the podium.
Video of my 3 Clean and Jerks and 3 Snatches, followed by my team mate Peter's attempts.
So what’s next? I want to continue competing and I have more determination than ever before to better myself and reach my targets. Since the competition in January I have boosted my snatch up to a milestone 90kg, now 5 kilos above my bodyweight, my next goal is the big 100 for a snatch, and a 120kg clean and jerk – then I can complete the 200kg total Challenge! Maybe by then I’ll be breathing down Alvin O's neck.
Competing is an incredible feeling in any sport, and the added drive and confidence it provides you with is unreal. Whatever your sport or hobby, see how far you can take it.
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