She’s one of only a handful of American women to clean & jerk double her bodyweight in competition, and now, Alyssa Ritchey is headed to Miami this July after making her first Pan American Championships Team.
If you haven’t heard of Ritchey talked about among elite American weightlifters, just wait: in the relatively short time since she transitioned from CrossFit® Regionals competitor and GRID athlete to full-time weightlifter, Ritchey has made a quick ascent to become one of the nation’s top 48kg lifters.
We caught up with Ritchey to chat training, diet, and making the transition from functional fitness to weightlifting.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us about your athletic background?
I was gymnast for 3 years when I was 9-12 years old. I was a track & field athlete for 7 years (middle school into my freshman year of college), [and then] I played high school volleyball for 4 years. For a side hobby outside of high school, I skateboarded for about 4 years (I was pretty darn good, too).
After my sophomore year of college I decided to take time off from sports. I lifted weights to stay healthy. Until I began to miss being an athlete, so I decided to compete in a fitness show doing bikini. I joined a CrossFit gym to get in better shape for my next fitness show & made the switch to CrossFit within the first week of joining.
What made you decide to transition from CrossFit competition to full-time weightlifting? When did this occur?
I transitioned from CrossFit to weightlifting in October 2016. I was mentally and physically exhausted from CrossFit training. I was constantly tired after training, and I never had extra time for other activities. I needed more balance between my training and my personal life.
I was going to take the year (2017) off from all competing until Chad Smith & Colin Burns found out. They convinced me to join Team Juggernaut and cut weight to be in the 48kg weight class for the 2016 American Open. And this began my journey. I completely fell in love with weightlifting and my newfound strength.
Tell us about your coach and support system.
My weightlifting coach is Max Aita from Juggernaut HQ. He is unlike any coach that I have ever worked with. My back squat has increased 30lbs and I can squat my old 1 rep max for a 5 rep max. He understands that my body responds well to more rest. He thinks very highly of me as a person and as an athlete and I love that. He is super fun to be around and funny so its always a great time training with him.
My diet coach is Nick Shaw from Renaissance Periodization. He keeps track of my weight and encourages me through the tough time. He makes sure if my weight is not where it should be he will adjust my template or move me to the appropriate template to get my weight low.
My boyfriend Benjamin is the real champion. He lives with me and deals with me through the hardest most difficult part of weightlifting, the weight cut. He encourages me every step of the way. It is not easy living with a carb-depleted girlfriend! When I am going through the last two weeks of the weight cut there are no treats in the house, and he eats similar foods that I eat. He makes sure that my training is first. He keeps me in check. He is the best support system that I have.
And Chad Wesley Smith — he takes care of his athletes and is a great cheerleader in the training hall.
What is your training schedule like every week?
I train 5 days a week and rest 2 days. I do single sessions that last about 1.5-2.5 hours before or after I work. I squat 5 days a week because we have to keep the bitty legs strong! I perform snatch and clean & jerk 4 days a week and I always have some type of accessory work.
I do 2-3 cardio workouts a week to keep my weight down instead of cutting out food. Plus I love the feeling of an intense workout. It feels good to get my heart rate up.
What are your near-term (next 6 months) goals in weightlifting? What about a year and beyond?
I want to make as many international teams as possible. My number goals in 6 months would be 105kg clean & jerk & 83kg snatch as a 48kg weightlifter. Long term goal in weightlifting would to be at the Olympics competing for my country. My number goals in a year or beyond would be 110kg & 85-87kg as a 48kg weightlifter.
What are your training PRs in the: snatch, clean & jerk, front squat, back squat?
Clean & Jerk: 103kg
Front squat: 2RM at 112kg (haven’t tested a 1RM)
Back squat: 1RM at 132kg, 2RM at 125kg
Who do you look up to in weightlifting as far as other athletes?
I would say Morgan King and Mattie Rogers. They work hard and hustle. I love it.
What’s surprised you most about being a weightlifter?
I wasn’t sure how the volume from weight training was going to feel on my body. To my surprise it was not what I was expecting. I am resting more and training less than I have in the last 4 years. I train about 5 days a week for 1.5-2.5 hours per day. Sometimes I throw in a workout to keep my bodyweight low or just to feel the burn.
Also I am very impressed with how well USAW takes care of their athletes. If you need something they are there to help so you are able to be the most successful athlete possible.
Featured image: @alyssaritchey1 on Instagram