4 Simple Steps to Get More Out of Your Weightlifting Training

Athletes play sports because it is fun. If it wasn’t fun then you would quit. You know what else is fun? Having success in that sport. It doesn’t matter what phase of your sport you are in (beginner, intermediate, or elite), if you are investing time and money to compete in a sport, don’t you want to get the most out of it?

I think athletes anticipate the thrill of competition so much that they overlook the details necessary for the success they desire. Don’t be too hard on yourself; I am guilty of all of these which I why I am able to list these tips to help you get the most out of your training.

1. Save playtime for activities that require less skill

Athletes play sports because it’s fun. Otherwise, what’s the point? I’ve been competing in weightlifting for 13 years. I can promise you that I would not still be competing if I wasn’t having fun. However, I feel athletes (especially weightlifters) are often times emotional people that get carried away in the moment. In order to get the most out of training, it’s important for athletes to look at the bigger picture. The real fun is in seeing progress on the platform. If your actions during training aren’t going to transfer to the platform then they should come second. Period.

My husband, Jason Poeth, is a strength and conditioning coach. During this time of year he works with the football players heading to the combine and/or or their pro days. Jason is a big advocate for having fun while you train, but also being in control. If you are having so much fun that you aren’t moving through your assignments correctly or efficiently, you are doing yourself a disservice. For these athletes, every second translates to money in the NFL. They must move through the drills effectively.

Weightlifters are no different. Every incorrect movement pattern translates to kilos lost. If you are a beginner learning a new exercise or movement, or even a veteran trying to create more efficient movement patterns, it is best to save playtime for a less skillful exercise. Is the short term fun worth it if your actions now are not going to transfer to success on the platform?

2. Turn down the noise

During my time as a resident at the Olympic Training Center, Coach Zygmunt Smalcerz (Olympic Gold Medalist) had a rule that he did not allow the athletes to listen to music while performing the Olympic lifts in training. If you had squats or pulls he was fine with it, but during technical lifts he wanted the athletes’ full attention. He also wanted the athletes to be able to hear his feedback without distraction. You don’t have background music on competition day, so it’s not a bad practice to have.

Most days I don’t listen to music when I train either, but most gyms won’t follow this style. Try not to become attached to or distracted by the music. Play it at a tolerable level so that you can hear (and focus) on your coaches cues and make the necessary adjustments.  

3. Learn to control frustration

US Olympian Cara Heads Slaughter and I recently had a conversation about using training as a tool to get you where you want to go. Sounds obvious right? But not really.

Keeping composure while you feel frustrated or angry is a skill. Don’t believe me? Get married. (HaHa! Just kidding, Jason.)

If you compete long enough, especially in a sport like weightlifting, you are going to find that you have great days, terrible days, and lots of variations between the two. Different athletes respond to frustration in different ways, but it’s important to recognize the emotion and make an adjustment sooner rather than later. As Cara explains, “frustration is a distraction.” Generally athletes take feedback, make the best adjustment they are capable of, and continue training. When athletes have off days, they sometimes reject feedback by caving to the frustration, getting angry, crying, etc.  

In my case, I don’t generally cry. However, it wasn’t long after Cara began coaching me that she realized I can get goofy or even a little sassy when I become frustrated. Regardless of how an athlete reacts to frustration, it can become a distraction to training if you let it. These days can add up, and in the end they won’t help you reach your long term goals. Cara says, in order for athletes “to get to your goals as quickly as possible, practice being coachable and efficient during training. Listen. Receive the feedback. Execute.” She also believes it is important that “if you lose control of your emotions or your ability to be productive in training, regain your composure and get back to work.” You can listen to more of our conversation below.

4. Coach yourself

No, I don’t mean drop your coach.

Rather, internalize the cues and corrections your coach repeats and remember them for yourself. There will be other athletes in the gym that will also need coaching, so chances are you will attempt lifts “unsupervised” sometimes. Learn to correct your own mistakes.

In my case, Cara coaches me remotely. This is something I wouldn’t recommend for most people. It works for us because she makes the time for me, but in return, I don’t take my time with her lightly. I really make an effort to write down and absorb the coaching so I can repeat it when she’s not there. It takes a lot of effort and communication on both sides to make the process work.

As an athlete, it is your job to understand what the movements are supposed to look like and learn what it feels like to do them correctly. Personally, I think the best way to do this is to keep a training journal, and honestly, you should be doing that anyways. When you keep your log, record more than the exercises and weights you are lifting. Record what you felt when you did a movement correct. Writing things down and reviewing my notes before the next training session helps me get back to the correct movement pattern more quickly. You have to teach yourself if you want to be good at your craft. In addition to the training log, you can video your lifts. Most people do this already, but take your videos for more than Instagram likes. Put your camera at different angles to see if you notice things you wouldn’t normally catch.  

I am a very visual learner, so it helps me to video my lifts and then watch them back. Often times I will notice mistakes early in the training session that I can address myself, and sometimes I will show them to Cara and she can point out things that I wasn’t even looking for. It’s also a good way for you to see your common errors as well as the progress you are making over time.

Playing sports should be fun. As athletes (and coaches) we have to keep that in mind or we (or our athletes) will lose interest and eventually quit. We also have to remember that having success where it matters and reaching our ultimate goals takes a certain level of commitment and attention to detail. Decide on the level of success you are willing to commit to and direct you actions in training to accommodate for that level of success.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured image: @sam_poeth on Instagram