The prodigal son returns. After a full year away from the barbell, three-time Olympic Champion weightlifter Lu Xiaojun — who recently announced his intent to campaign for Games qualification yet again — is getting back in shape ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The first episode, entitled “Comeback Training”, was published on Aug. 22, 2022:
Xiaojun’s brand has also revealed several other insider clips from the Chinese weightlifting center in Beijing, where Xiaojun is making his return to form.
Team China, renowned in the sport of weightlifting for their prowess on the platform (and penchant for bagging more gold medals internationally than any other country), is typically somewhat reclusive regarding how they prepare their lifters.
This behind-the-scenes look at Xiaojun, one of their most high-profile competitors, is a rare glimpse at a world-class athlete who doesn’t appear to be in fighting shape.
What Happened to Lu Xiaojun?
Since his international debut in 2004 at the International Weightlifting Federation‘s (IWF) Junior World Championships, Xiaojun has steadily and regularly competed at the highest levels of weightlifting.
Some of his most prominent accolades include:
- World Weightlifting Championships: 5 Gold Medals (2009, 2011, 2013, 2018, 2019)
- Olympic Games: 3 Gold Medals (2012, 2016, 2020)
An elite amongst elites, Xiaojun’s levels of strength served him well throughout the qualification period for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (held in 2021).
Following his gold-medal finish in Tokyo, Xiaojun took a hiatus from competition for an undisclosed reason — he hasn’t taken the stage at an IWF event since August 2021 and, judging by the footage revealed in his documentary, hasn’t been resistance training much at all.
Historically, Xiaojun is one of the strongest squatters in weightlifting. Weighing around 80 kilograms (176.3 pounds), Xiaojun has squatted in excess of 270 kilograms (595.2 pounds) many times.
Per an interview with Weightlifting House from 2020, Xiaojun’s best back squat ever as a 77-kilogram athlete was an extraordinary 305 kilograms (672.4 pounds). However, in an Aug. 30, 2022 Instagram post, you can see Xiaojun visibly struggling through a 180-kilogram (396.8-pound) squat:
View this post on Instagram
[Related: Weightlifter Kuo Hsing-Chun (59KG) Squats Triple Her Bodyweight for Three Reps]
While a 400-pound squat is still inordinately strong by most metrics, it’s a far cry from the level of strength that made Xiaojun one of the most dominant weightlifters ever.
How an Olympian Gets Back in Shape
Throughout the various videos that have been published already, Xiaojun can be seen performing staple accessory exercises for any weightlifter — lots of back squats, deadlifts and all their variations, explosive rowing, and even some cardio training as well.
View this post on Instagram
An Aug. 31, 2022 Instagram post (above), captioned, “First time training clean and jerk in over a year,” showcases Xiaojun clean and squat jerking 90 kilograms. His best clean & jerk in an IWF competition is 207 kilograms, which he hit in 2019 — at the time, a World Record.
The Effects of “Detraining”
To be fit for the sport of Olympic lifting is about far more than just how much weight you can lift over your head (though that certainly matters a great deal).
For an Olympian like Xiaojun, a comedown from that level of fitness undoubtedly takes its toll, especially considering how long he took off from specialized weightlifting training.
According to some research, strength levels for elite athletes begin to decay after only three weeks away from training, (1) with strength slipping away at an increasing rate the longer the athlete is on a break.
Furthermore, the negative consequences of “detraining” are magnified by age. At 38 years old — 12 years older than the silver medalist in his class from Tokyo — Xiaojun is liable to lose more strength and power output than his younger contemporaries across an equal time period. (2)
In practical terms, this means that Xiaojun will have to work harder, recover smarter, and train longer than he once did if he wants to get back to the kind of world-class weightlifting he’s known for.
Follow Along With Lu
Should Xiaojun qualify for, and win, the 2024 Olympics (where he’s said he’ll compete at 73 kilograms, since his prior weight class of 81 won’t be held in Paris), he’ll have a strong case for being the greatest weightlifter to ever live in terms of medals earned.
Only the Greek athlete Pyrros Dimas has won medals at four different Olympics, multiple of which being gold. Dimas earned three gold medals and one bronze during his career (1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004). To bag four golds at four different Games would be nothing short of extraordinary for the Chinese veteran.
However, if any weightlifter could pull it off, it’s Xiaojun. He’s among the most decorated strength athletes in the modern history of the sport, and is no stranger to training — and competing — at the highest levels.
- McMaster, D. T., Gill, N., Cronin, J., & McGuigan, M. (2013). The development, retention and decay rates of strength and power in elite rugby union, rugby league and American football: a systematic review. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 43(5), 367–384.
- Lemmer, J. T., Hurlbut, D. E., Martel, G. F., Tracy, B. L., Ivey, F. M., Metter, E. J., Fozard, J. L., Fleg, J. L., & Hurley, B. F. (2000). Age and gender responses to strength training and detraining. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 32(8), 1505–1512.
Featured Image: @luxiaojunbarbell on Instagram