Lasha Talakhadze of Georgia is one of the most decorated weightlifters in the world. Currently competing in the 109+kg weight class, he is a 2016 Rio Olympic gold medalist, a 4-time World Weightlifting Champion (2015, ’17, ’18, ’19), a 4-time European Weightlifting Champion (2016, ’17, ’18, ’19), and has set eighteen world records. His most notable are the current world records for the snatch (220kg/485lb), clean & jerk (264kg/582lb), and the heaviest total in the history of the sport: 484kg/1,067lb.
Ukrainian weightlifter and former Olympian Oleksiy Torokhtiy recently had the opportunity to interview Talakhadze and his coach coach Giorgi Asanidze, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist.
The interview covers how Talakhadze warms up before his training sessions, his current goals, and even his thoughts on the competition at the highest level. Asanidze discusses how he programs those sessions and how he taps into the Talakhadze’s emotions to fuel his competitive fire.
Check out the entire interview and an inside look at the entire Georgian National Team’s training sessions below from Torokhtiy’s YouTube Channel:
[Related: Watch Lasha Talakhadze hit the heaviest clean & jerk ever caught on film]
The interview took place in Kam’yanets’-Podil’s’kyi, Ukraine in the training facility of the Georgian National Weightlifting Team. The interview kicked off with Talakhadze telling the tale of how he first got into weightlifting — it ran in the family:
“All I knew as a child about weightlifting was that my father did the sport. I did my first workout with him and he introduced me to Giorgi Asanidze — a great athlete and my future trainer.”
An important aspect of Talakhadze’s training is an emphasis on warming up. Before each training session, Talakhadze does thirty minutes of massage therapy to heat up his muscles with a “special ointment”. After that, he spends ten to fifteen minutes performing exercises involving resistance bands and light weights.
“Training with light weights can be a very large amount of time and sets. This helps keep proper form while lifting.”
Talakhadze wraps his knees with medical tape rather than weightlifting sleeves. He understands the concession in durability but finds a comfort with the medical tape as it is what he has used after a knee injury earlier in his career.
“After I injured my knee for the first time, I wrapped it, I got used to it, and I haven’t trained without it since.”
Asanidze makes it a point to note how important stretching is for competitive weightlifters.
“…it is necessary a lot of time to stretching before and after weightlifting very large loads. One should not lose flexibility. When [weightlifters] are young, they don’t always have a serious attitude towards stretching, but everything makes sense with experience.”
Although Talakhadze is considered one of the best weightlifters on the planet, he still abides by the rules set for the Georgian National Team. Asanidze made it clear that if a rule is broken by Talakhadze or anyone else, they all suffer the same punishment. (He didn’t specify what “punishment” entails.)
Although each athlete has their own individual goals, according to Asanidze, the team as a whole —first squad, second squad, and junior team — aspires to garner more popularity for the sport of weightlifting through their collective competition success.
During normal training sessions, Talakhadze relies on the trainers to help fuel motivation.
“I consider the trainer responsible for 60% of the athlete’s success.”
Asanidze stands by that assessment. He believes that a good trainer needs to not only program the athlete’s training properly but also understand the emotional state of the athlete in their charge at all times to properly “ignite their competitive anger”.
“Sometimes it is necessary to kiss and other times to slap. We’ve been working for seven years with Lasha. It is quite enough time to know his physical abilities and mental features.”
[Related: Finding your why: what to do when motivation goes away]
In the video, Talakhadze performed countless snatches, snatch cleans, clean & jerks, and back squats with light weight and intensely heavy weight. Here were some of the notable weights he lifted:
- 210kg/463lb snatch
- 305kg/672lb back squat
- 215kg/474lb power clean & split jerk
- 275kg/606lb clean pull
Even though Talakhadze has already set the all-time world record total in the 109+kg class, he believes there is still plenty of room to lift heavier. He intends to do so and is focused on ensuring that he avoids injury in the process.
“It is very important to train correctly in order to not get injured. It’s always wiser to do a few sets with lighter weights instead of heavier weights and risk getting injured.”
It is rare for Talakhadze to miss any lift he attempts. However, when he does, he is keenly aware to fix any mistake he notices before continuing with the training session. If he is not able to correct the issue and lift the weight, he literally loses sleep over it.
For all the heavy lifts Talakhadze has performed, by his own recollection, the heaviest lift he has ever hit successfully was a 340kg/749.5lb back squat for three reps.
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Talakhadze has his sights set on a 500kg/1,102lb total but does not believe that he would be satisfied with that milestone — not to mention being the first person to total that much weight.
“If I reach 500kg mark, then I will immediately have a new target of 505kg, 510kg, etc.”
Asanidze believes it is possible for Talakhadze to hit that weight but needs to work on his jerk more.
Talakhadze is currently in a class of his own — chasing his own records rather than trying to best a competitor. He did comment that he would like to see others reach the same level so that he does have competition to better fuel him.
“I don’t want to be alone. I would also like many other athletes to be strong. It will be even better for me if I have strong competitors. It will also help to increase the popularity of the sport all over the world.
Asanidze shares his belief in order to achieve a goal, it must be both ambitious and realistic while not losing sight of those who can help you achieve them.
“Just ambition is bad. It is important to listen and trust the trainer. Discipline, respect, and lot of training is necessary to aspire forward. I wish for all of the guys to achieve their goals and live the result of the dream they are working on.”
Talakhadze wraps things up with his last piece of advice — that in order to achieve an impressive result, one must forget about entertainment and not second guess oneself. Focus, effort, and sticking to a routine is what leads to success.
Feature image from Oleksiy Torokhtiy’s YouTube channel.