Interview: Aleksey Torokhtiy Talks Building His Brand, Training, and What’s Next

If you’re into weightlifting, or strength sports in general, then there’s a good chance you’ve seen Aleksey Torokhtiy. Since his 2012 London Olympic gold medal, he’s been very active in the strength training world and has been putting out a plethora of weightlifting content.

At the 2012 Olympics, Torokhtiy competed for Ukraine in the 105kg weight class and took home gold with a 185kg snatch, 227kg clean & jerk, and 412kg total.

In the last couple years, Torokhtiy has been working on building his Warm Body Cold Mind brand. While building his name and brand, Torokhtiy has been traveling around the world teaching seminars, and performing epic strength feats like this 255kg power jerk at the 2016 Reebok CrossFit® Games Vendor Village.

In addition to his coaching and seminars, Torokhtiy has also filmed light hearted videos of himself trying ballet and CrossFit for the first time. Having written a variety of articles on Torokhtiy, we wanted to learn more about his post-Olympic gold life, and inquire about his current career plans and ask about training.

Note: The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

Career & Warm Body Cold Mind

BarBend: Where does the name Warm Body Cold Mind for your business come from? What was your inspiration?

Torokhtiy: I think the slogan was always in my mind. I managed to formulate it for myself at my first seminar at California Strength, which I held with Sergey Putsov. That day I did a demo in snatch, and honestly, I felt as though it wasn’t that good (I had a long flight the day before, and there was a change of few time zones).

Dave Spitz announced that the record of the gym was 180kg, and hinted that breaking the record of the gym would be steep feat. When I reached 170kg in the snatch, I already knew that the bar was heavy. In general, I don’t remember much from that day, and I ended up snatching 185kg on the second or third attempt. But what I do remember is that I had to pull myself together and catch the barbell, while standing on the edge of the platform (I even joked that I hung over the platform like an eagle).

It was at this moment that “Warm Body Cold Mind” crystallized in my head, and I realized that this is mine.

BarBend: That’s a really cool story. Recently, you’ve been putting out a ton of awesome training videos. What sparked this idea for you? How many do you plan on making in total?

Torokhtiy: The motivation behind my videos is that people want to spend a minimum amount of time, while at the same time get maximum information. That’s how the idea to make short videos popped up in my head. The goal is to create no more than 60 seconds to show the maximum useful information.

My people have such a proverb: “It is better to see once than hear a hundred times.” 11 videos for the basic exercises were made in this format. But we’re not stopping there, now we are working on a new batch of 50 videos for different exercises, and combinations that will be useful for weightlifters and functional fitness athletes. I plan to post all these videos on my website in the new section “TOR LAB” for the middle of October.

BarBend: Very cool. Besides your weightlifting video breakdowns, what can we expect from Warm Body Cold Mind & yourself in the future?

Torokhtiy: Projects that I’ve been working on that are set to launch this year are:

  • “TorWod” – web training diary + app for cell phone.
  • “TorLab” – web platform with a set of training videos in several languages.

And I hope that I will have time to finish my textbook on weightlifting, which I’ve been working on for several years already.

Training Questions

BarBend: What exercises should absolute beginning weightlifters start with? When do you usually have them start doing full movements?

Torokhtiy: This question is complex and simple at the same time. In our country (Ukraine), children are taken to weightlifting sections from the age of 12.

In fact, a coach starts working with the child when all their growing bodily systems develop, so much of the training process is aimed at the correct and harmonious development of the young organism, which is building a youth’s foundation for future work.

But, we also have another category of “newbies”. They are adult, mature men and women, who come in for CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting. As you can see, these are two completely different categories of beginners, and approaches to working with them are very different, even in training the movements.

BUT, with all these features, my opinion is that the whole range of exercises should be directed as to: First, learning the movements, not development of strength, because weightlifting is a sport of “smart” strength, i.e. strength, which must be applied properly, so the movement is primary. I will share it with you in my book, which I hope is soon.

BarBend: What’s your favorite fix for missing lifts because of falling forward, or catching weight too much over the toes?

Torokhtiy: I’ll probably have a non-standard response to this question. One Chinese coach asked: “What is the main skill which the SQUAT helps to work out?” Everyone responded with “STRENGTH”. He said, “Wrong. Squat is an exercise for stability.”

Movement goes first, and only then – STRENGTH comes. A shift from the center of gravity shows that the athlete can’t work with their own body, and we see this mistake when he can’t compensate it with his strength.

BarBend: That’s an awesome response. Let’s talk accessory lifts, what are your favorite accessory movements for the squat, snatch, clean, and back.

Torokhtiy: My favorite accessories for those four are…

  • Squat: Front squat, box jump
  • Clean: Hang clean, Block clean, and Clean pull with pauses
  • Snatch: Hang snatch, power snatch, snatch pull+snatch, and snatch with pauses
  • Back: Hyperextension without weight, but in different dynamic and static combinations, superman variations, and good mornings

BarBend: What’s your favorite snatch complex?

Torokhtiy: My favorite complex is the #TOR_Complex (Torokhtiy’s snatch complex). It consists of: snatch+snatch balance+snatch push press+ovehead squat.

Task: Lift as much as possible, as according to percentage of your body weight. For example: my best result in this complex is 190kg/418 lbs with my own weight 108kg / 238lbs. As a percentage, it’s 176%.

Try it! And don’t forget to upload it to Instagram with the hashtag #TOR_Complex.

BarBend: You actually shared one of our writers doing your #TOR_Complex! Moving to jerks, how do you help athletes decide between squat jerk and split jerk in the clean?

Torokhtiy: The main way to help a lifter decide is by teaching them how to perform the movements, and then give them a chance and time to practice. As a result, the athlete can then make the decision on their own for what’s better for them.

I hear questions like, “What’s best for me?” at every single seminar. So I will try to give an example: If you’ve never tried peanut butter and someone asks you if you like it, then you can’t give an honest answer, because you’ve never tried it. At the Soviet weightlifting school for the first two years, a beginner athlete performs a split jerk on different legs, and at the same time practices power or squat jerk during different training sessions.

Thus, at the initial stage, doing all of these allow an athlete to develop the body harmoniously, and gives a coach/athlete the opportunity to catch the athlete’s characteristics, which will help determine the movements that are more rational and comfortable in the future.

But now the problem is slightly different, many coaches don’t know the peculiarities of a relatively new technique squat jerk or power jerk, and everyone is taught to do split jerk with one leg. And in this regard, there’s a disproportionate development of body parts.

BarBend: If you had to pick one to do for the rest of your career between the clean or snatch, which would you choose, and why?

Torokhtiy: It definitely would be the clean. I like this exercise and have always worked a lot on this exercise. Your jerk depends on how good your clean is, and your finish at a competition often depends on the result in these two exercises.

BarBend: That’s a perfect answer to end on. Thank you for your time and training insights! 

Feature image from @torokhtiy Instagram page.