The Massive Weightlifting Story You Never Heard About (with Seb Ostrowicz)

Today I’m talking to Seb Ostrowicz, founder and mastermind behind Weightlifting House. They’re a media company and equipment supplier dedicated to the sport of Olympic weightlifting. What started as a passion project became a full-time career for Seb, and he’s traveled to all corners of the globe to bring weightlifting to more people than ever. We talk about how the sport has changed in the past five years, from all-time world records to blockbuster-level organizational corruption, and where weightlifting might be headed next. Along the way, we find some common ground in our love for strength sports and talk about the people who have inspired us most on our journeys.

Seb Ostrowicz Weightlifting House

On this episode of The BarBend Podcast, host David Tao talks to Seb Ostrowicz about:

  • We Seb is the “people’s fan” (1:45)
  • Some of Seb’s favorite legacy battles from early 2010s weightlifting (4:30)
  • Early YouTube weightlifting and mythical feats that may or may not have happened (8:00)
  • Building a career in weightlifting media, and a chance meeting with Glenn Pendlay (11:30)
  • How has weightlifting changed in the past five years? (18:30)
  • Widespread allegations of corruption in international weightlifting (22:00)
  • Where Seb goes for his weightlifting news — including what you hear in person (24:20)

Relevant links and further reading:


 …he had a one-track mind that did not deviate from, “How can I make the best weightlifter possible?”

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend” podcast where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches, and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tau, and this podcast is presented by


Today I’m talking to Seb Ostrowicz, founder and mastermind behind Weightlifting House. They’re media company and equipment supplier dedicated to the sport of Olympic weightlifting.


What started as a passion project became a full-time career for Seb and he’s traveled to all corners of the globe to bring weightlifting to more people than ever. We talk about how the sport has changed in the past five years, from all-time world records to blockbuster-level of organizational corruption and where weightlifting might be going next.


Along the way, we find lots of common ground in our love for strength sports and talk about the people who have inspired us most on our respective journeys. I hope you enjoy.


Seb, thanks for joining me. It’s a little weird to be sitting on this side of the virtual table, so to speak because I’ve been on your podcast before. Now you’re on our podcast. The roles are reversed. I have a lot of anxiety because I have to do as good a job hosting…


..or try to, as you did when I was on your podcast. Thanks for coming on.


Give us a little background on how you got fascinated by the sport of weightlifting because there are fans, there are super fans, and then there is you’ve created a whole new category of lovers of the sport of weightlifting, and I would like to hear about how that started.


I refer to myself sometimes as the people’s fan. I’m just sort of the conglomeration of everybody’s interest, and I get to be the person that goes out and watches and talks to and then relays all the information back to people, which is kind of cool. I got interested in weightlifting, well, lifting weights, when I was maybe eight years old.


I just had this desire to want to cull the dumbbells that my dad had at our house. It wasn’t until maybe I was 20 years old, sort of 2012-ish, that time, 2011, that I really got into watching the sport of weightlifting. I just remembered seeing Lu Xiaojun snatching a world record, and I remember seeing Hossein Rezazadeh old footage of him lifting weights, and I just got obsessed with it.


I’d been interested in sports my whole life. I was a rower at the time, which I absolutely hated, but I happened to be good at it, and I just way more enjoyed the training process than the competing part of all of the sports that I took part in.


Then when I found out that there was a sport that almost looked like training all the time, like you just trained, and then when you competed, you did the same training exercise.


You didn’t have to do something different. I was just totally hooked. I loved the idea of doing an individual sport because I was always in teams. I always felt like I tried extremely hard and didn’t get the outcome I wanted so an individual sport was the way for me.

David TaoDavid Tao

The platform can certainly be a solitary space in a good way for a lot of folks, but it’s also frustrating because if you mess up, it is purely on you. I tell people who are new to weightlifting. It’s like it’s a little bit like golf.


You can do it your whole life. It’s accessible for a broad range of people and it will be the thing that you’re addicted to but frustrates you most and keeps you up at night like nothing else.

It’s so true. That’s what I like about it. There’s no lying. You can’t accidentally snatch a 20-kilo. When I played basketball or rugby, you can do something that’s 10 percent better than you’ve ever done it before just by fluke. That doesn’t happen in weightlifting.


You’re totally exposed to the effort and training that you put into it. That’s what I love. That’s what I love about [inaudible 3:55] as well. It’s an incremental thing. It’s all on you and your team. It’s not like we randomly got this thing that happened. It’s very much you put in the work and you excel out of it.

David TaoDavid Tao

Let’s talk a little bit about some of that because that’s an era where I was very interested in weightlifting. That’s I found weightlifting a little bit for you, but certainly remember watching some of those early YouTube videos, grainy videos of Rezazadeh’s world records, Lyu Xiaojun, Ilya’s series of dominant come.


Also coming from behind competition house cavities competition wins. Are there any lifts? Are there any battles from that era of weightlifting that you recommend people go and check out that just like really captured your attention?

Yeah, that era, I think you’ve got to be looking at 2011, 105’s in Paris. The battle between Dmitry Klokov and Khadzhimurat Akkaev, the two Russians, they were on a different level to the athletes that we see these days, for obvious reasons, maybe for good reasons.


The landscape has changed in weightlifting, but that was a fierce battle. Then that weight category has stayed exciting. If you’re interested in the larger, not super heavy, but the larger men you’ve got the 105s in 2014 where, as you mentioned, Ilya comes from behind three world records in a row.


Then a few years later, another three world records in a row in the same category in 2019 with the 109s, I suppose it was at that point in the snatch we had 197, 198, 199, just back-to-back world records. That category always seems to be exciting.


This is before my time, but I’ve gone back through the history of weightlifting quite a lot. The battles between Kakhi Kakhiashvili and Szymon Kolecki. Kakhi was the three-time Olympic champion, one of the greatest weightlifters of all time.


Unpopular opinion, but the best Greek weightlifter of all time. I know a lot of people won’t agree with that, but he just was. [laughs] Him going up against Szymon Kolecki, who was the young 18, 19-year-old sensation. Those were a lot of fun.

David TaoDavid Tao

I find it interesting you say Kakhi is the greatest Greek weightlifter of all time. I’m sure Dimas fans might disagree. Obviously, there are a number. What’s interesting to me is that you…This is not debatable, he competed for Greece, but he also competed for the Soviet Union. He was from what is now the Republic of Georgia.


I agree that you didn’t call him the best Georgian weightlifter of all time…


..because there is another name.

There’s one other.

David TaoDavid Tao

There is a currently active name, Lasha, who has that one on lock for a generation or two, I would think.


 I would agree with that. Also, I know I’m taking this off somewhat a little bit different…

David TaoDavid Tao

Oh, it’s OK.

…on Lasha very quickly, the most exciting moment of my weightlifting career was at the World Championships in 2021. I was maybe four meters from the platform, filming him with my handheld camera as he snatched that 225 kilos and then clean & jerk 267, just all-time world records, mythical weights…


You will have had plenty of these conversations back in the day where you talk about, is 220 ever possible. Is 225 for reds? Is that ever going to happen? The answer was always, no, it can’t happen. Then to be there filming it, it was electrifying.

David TaoDavid Tao

I was at Anaheim in 2017 at the World Championships and that was the weird year where the US had hosted the World Championships back-to-back years because 2016, you have the Olympics. It was at Houston in 2015, Olympics in 2016, Anaheim in 2017. I had to catch an early flight out, and I left five minutes before the super heavy snatch session.


I remember thinking to myself, “Lasha is going to win, but he’s going to put up 215. It’s going to be great.” I had seen him double 210 in the training hall. I was standing right there, and I was like, “I’m not going to see anything better than that.” It’s fine. It was the first time 220 had ever the mythical weight.


David TaoDavid Tao

In my early days of weightlifting, this was the very early YouTube phase. One of my coaches was a former Soviet coach and athlete. You hear about these mythical things. You hear about these mythical weights that some Soviet or Bulgarian athletes had done in the ’80s. We’re talking juiced to the gills, no testing, just the strangest conditions.


Then to hear about these mythical weights and over a decade later, see Lasha hit weights that are bigger than those mythical weights because a lot of those training lifts, they say, “Oh, Pisarenko hit 280 in the clean & jerk.” He didn’t. There’s no way, you know what I mean? He didn’t do that.


Then Lasha busts out 267 on a platform. We can have a whole episode on his accomplishments in weightlifting, but let’s figure it out…

 Let me ask you this really quickly. You said Pisarenko didn’t do 280. I’m working on a documentary on him right now.

David TaoDavid Tao

Oh, did he?

No, but he did clean & jerk 265 and he said that he did clean & jerk 270 in training, which I totally believe five kilos more in training. Then he said that he cleaned 280, but missed a jerk. That’s where it’s on the verge of it’s believable, but it’s also not.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s the apocryphal thing that I’ve heard. I’ve heard tales of, oh, the name’s escaping me. I’ve heard rumors of a 300-kilo jerk. Not Pisarenko, but I’ve heard all this weird, “The whole he cleaned 280.” That might have been what I heard. He cleaned 280 and missed a jerk, which I’m like…

Did he? [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

…”Did he?” It’s like prove a unicorn doesn’t exist.

That’s the thing. It makes the era more magical because we hear these things about, “Oh, apparently, Krastev snatch this or Botev hit this 280 or whatever.” Because you can’t disprove it, and because they were hitting enormous lifts. The fact that it could or couldn’t be makes it more exciting and engaging as an era because there was no proof. You have to pass down these stories.


David TaoDavid Tao

 It is a little more fun with the super heavies to talk about these because in the lower body weight categories people will hit…Frequently, top lifters will hit over-record lifts when they’re a little bit above body weight. It’s a little like, “Yeah. OK. That’s cool.”


It’s fun and you’ll hear a lot of crazy stories, but there’s something about the super heavies because it’s like maybe they could have done it on the platform because they didn’t drop five kilos of the body weight.


We did veer off a little bit, but I am glad we dove into that because that’s the best microcosm of how excited…Of how two giant nerds like you and me can nerd out about this all day.


Let’s talk a little bit about how your passion for weightlifting became a media career because I know it was gradual turning a passion for strength sports into a media career is something I’m a little bit familiar with as well. Not to toot my own horn.


David TaoDavid Tao

I would like to hear about that because for a lot of folks, what was that first blog article? What was the social media post for someone else like you should write about this more?” For some folks, it’s picking up a camera. Take us through that evolution.

To this day, cameras still terrify me, but I have to use them. I don’t particularly trust them or know how to deal with them. I got into the sport and I dropped out of a couple of universities because I’m not particularly made for that kind of education, that academic style of work.


I managed to get through eventually doing a degree in sports science. I was always aware the whole time that the moment I finish, I’m screwed if I can’t find a career in weightlifting because I can’t sit in an office doing something that I’m not passionate about.


As soon as I finished I started doing some coaching, but it was in meeting Glenn Pendlay, who obviously you are familiar with and a lot of listeners will be, but somewhat famous American weightlifting coach.


I met him and I went on a training camp with him and I said to him, “Look, Glenn, you should come to the UK and do a seminar tour. I’ll set the whole thing up for you. I’ll organize it. I’ll take payment. I’ll send you all the money. I’ll drive you around, I’ll make you food.” It was a thing where he couldn’t turn it down.


He came to the UK, I drove him around and once I was there, he said to me, “Do you want to do a podcast together? Oh, by the way, you’re so interested in weightlifting and you should have a website and talk about it.” He convinced me to buy a domain name. I bought a weightlifting house, which is what me and my friends called our house at university.


We called ourselves Weightlifting House. I started doing a few podcasts with him. Then that turned into doing it with more people, bringing out a few products along the way. Eventually flying out to competitions, filming, posting onto YouTube documentaries, and new style shows.


That has eventually led to the fact that we broadcast for major competitions now, which is amazing. That’s something that I never expected until the opportunity arose, but doing that, flying out to Columbia for the World Championships and filming it for everybody to watch, and providing the commentary that is the most enjoyable thing for me in the sport.


It started off with the podcast, a few blog posts into YouTube, and now the live streams.

David TaoDavid Tao

How big is your team now?


We have four of us here in the UK. I’m at the HQ right now. Then we have a couple of people in the USA who help out on a part-time basis and then a couple of people in Europe who do similar stuff. There’s four in the core team, but there’s maybe eight who are working on something almost daily.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s not just creating content that’s also fulfillment for equipment and gear and things like that as well.

Yes, it’s predominantly all backend stuff. I have one guy who does editing with me and then someone else who makes thumbnails. Other than that, I do most of the media because it’s a difficult thing to pass on to someone. I know that eventually, I’m going to have to do that because they’re a better editors than me.


The drop-off that you see when you bring someone new on, because there’s a learning curve they have to learn your style is a bit painful to get through. Whereas explaining to someone how to pick and pack and how to fulfill shipments and all these things is a little bit easier. I’ve been able to scale out that way, but the front-facing stuff is still predominantly me.

David TaoDavid Tao

Do you want to talk a little bit about your relationship with coach Pendlay? For those who don’t know, coach Pendlay did pass away some years ago. He was a large…I say looming in the best possible way. He was a big figure in American weightlifting.


Yeah, he was.

David TaoDavid Tao

In that, he was very influential. There was a generation of athletes that if they weren’t directly coached by him, they were coached or influenced by someone he coached.


David TaoDavid Tao

He has a coaching and athlete tree that goes very deep. He was a presence at competition. I have been attending national and international level meets in the United States for a long time at this point.


He had a bit of an aura, you would see other respected international-level coaches, asking him for thoughts, watching how he interacted with the officials, how he dealt with the cards, how he called attempts for his lifters. I will say that he had the best coaches lean of anyone I’ve ever seen.


 For those who don’t know you should, watching weightlifting is great, but what’s even better to do live is watch the coach of the weightlifters off to the side of the platform to see how they contort their bodies in…

Most definitely.

David TaoDavid Tao

…response, and he had the best series of coaches leans.

He could do a pretty good limbo.

David TaoDavid Tao

He would be below perpendicular to the ground at some point.


You know what I mean?

His head was lower than his hips leaning back.

David TaoDavid Tao

His head was lower than his hips.


I was like, “He’s still got a lot of mobility.”

For a man who weighed 350 pounds. That’s not bad.

David TaoDavid Tao

He’s basically doing a kettlebell windmill, but without the weight.


He was also a really caring person. He truly, pardon my French, he gave a shit. I wanted to give you the opportunity because I know you two were very close.


Is there anything you wanted to share about coach Pendlay that folks might not know from just watching the “Old Cal Strength” YouTube videos or something like that?

Yeah. More than anybody I’ve ever met matched and probably surpassed my interest for weightlifting. In fact, I have to say surpassed because he did it for so long. He had a one-track mind that did not deviate from how can I make the best weightlifter possible?


He was the most curious person I’ve ever spoken to in the spot of weightlifting. He didn’t have much of an ego when it came to programming. He was very willing to adopt new techniques, try things. I’ve seen him trying to get some of our athletes snatched with bands.


I cleaned with bands for a while with him, I saw him doing 10 training sessions a day, and they were all 30 minutes a piece because he wanted to see what that would do.


He did that back at MDUSA and he was obsessed. He always said that Louis Simmons, who also passed away a year ago, in power-lifting, was obsessed. Glenn was the weightlifting version of that. People maybe thought he was a bit odd from time to time, but like you said, he gave a shit.


It was because of that, that so many people feel like, as you said, they’ve been touched by him in some way. Whether directly or whether through him coaching someone who then coached them or reading or watching something, watching some Cal’s Strength. Glenn cared in a way that I’ve never seen anyone in weightlifting.

David TaoDavid Tao

I appreciate you sharing that. That’s something where I didn’t quite know when to bring it up during this conversation, but I thought it was worth giving some space. I do appreciate that Seb. I do want to get back to weightlifting house a little bit because now you are a true weightlifting company.


You’re not just a media company. You are a weightlifting company. Let’s call it vertically integrated or maybe horizontally integrated. I don’t actually understand the difference between the two.

You see weightlifting from a lot of different perspectives. The media side, the trends that things people want to watch. You’re at the competitions at the highest levels. You’re also seeing things people buy, how they train.

What has changed the most about weightlifting — in your opinion — over the last call it five years? Let’s say since like 2018-ish, which is probably around the time you and I were first connecting in some capacity.

Yeah, I can say that on the media side of things, what I’ve noticed is that it used to be very easy back in the day to post a video of a great weightlifter training to YouTube and get 200,000 views. Because it just wasn’t a lot of weightlifting out there and the supply didn’t meet the demand essentially.

David TaoDavid Tao

Yeah, if you post lost clean & jerk training there weren’t like 20 videos about that.

Now I think its Instagram really because everybody is posting lifts and nobody is holding anything back for it. Even the elite lifters from other countries now have either their own or somebody managing their own social media accounts. The ability to generate a single piece of content that does well and captures a lot of people’s interest is very difficult.


You can’t just post a training session with nothing else attached to it because everybody’s already seen the individual lifts posted by us, by ATG and hook grip, and by the actual athlete at the time when it happened on Instagram in various forms. Then to recreate that elsewhere is difficult.


I think the media landscape has changed a lot just because it’s almost of the supply is higher than the demand at this point.


I feel like, to some degree for just individual lifts but there’s still so much to go into in terms of understanding the stories of the athletes and of the sports, and the journeys, the couches, and everything. That’s what I think needs to be explored. Just like with all sports, I’m sure there were trainings in the product side of things.


There was a time when C4 was the hottest supplement in the world. I don’t know, maybe it still is but certainly was in weightlifting for a while. Everybody wanted to take C4 and then suddenly everybody wanted to wear Vaira’s clothing, and they still do. It was everywhere, and we just go through phases.


At this point, we’re just trying to deepen our equipment on accessory side of things. Our product range basically and we started off with one T-shirt and then we brought out one roll of tape and then we randomly brought out a barbell for some reason. [laughs]


We’re just trying to complete the full range at the moment. Product trends, I’m not so sure, but I think there are trends in weightlifting like in any other sport, but I notice it in the media side for sure.

David TaoDavid Tao

Where do you source your barbells from?

We have a manufacturer that I was fortunate enough to be put in touch by or in touch with by Glenn because obviously, Glenn set up MDUSA. He was selling 100 bars a day. It was a massive company. They did extremely well and then they did extremely badly…

David TaoDavid Tao


Yeah, they did extremely well until they somehow didn’t. [laughs]

Yes, exactly. He still had the contact. He sent me up with the guy. It’s a manufacturer in China that I work with. Beyond that, I probably won’t give any more details just because it’s one of those products where I just feel so fortunate that I have found this.


This bar is like I’ve had so many people say to me, “this is the best bar for weightlifting for the price.” It’s not an Eleiko, but it also doesn’t cost an Eleiko’s price. I just started working with them. Then gradually, you just start meeting other manufacturers and different countries.


We have a bunch of different people that we work with all around the world now to produce our equipment and accessories.


David TaoDavid Tao

Another Glenn Pendlay influence even the barbells. Every time you pick up one of your barbells, you can’t tie it to, not tie it to Glenn. I do want to talk a little bit about the competitive landscape as well. We’re back to the media side and the media coverage side.


It’s interesting to me, we covered a lot of this on BarBend and it did get traction, don’t get me wrong. There was a lot happening in weightlifting in 2020 and 2021, the Olympics being delayed, widespread endemic corruption in the sport being uncovered in like people talk about FIFA and that corruption and weightlifting is obviously a much, much smaller sport.


I can’t emphasize that enough. We’re talking over 10 million dollars disappearing from books, from the International Weightlifting Federation. That’s a big deal. I feel like a lot of that and some of the change it triggered in the sport and really the risk it brought to the sport when that was uncovered got overshadowed by a lot of other things happening in the world in 2020.


The pandemic, the Olympics being moved, doping allegations, and corruption in other sports, including soccer, it overshadowed that. I’m curious, on your perspective, have we come back to an equilibrium on that or is weightlifting still feeling the repercussions of that series of corruption scandals, doping scandals, voting scandals at the international level, things like that.


It’s a tricky one. Probably as a whole, weightlifting is the cleanest it’s ever been, but that almost comes with its own perils because we might find that there’s a bit of a balance between doping athletes and clean athletes.


The issue is, there’s more of a separation between the two because you do have athletes who are able to do things that almost nobody’s done for a long time. Then there are other athletes who are patently clean, in my opinion. The disparity between the two sides is almost greatening, which causes a little bit more insecurity or more instability in the system.


With that said, without a doubt, it’s a cleaner sport than it was 10 years ago or 20 years ago. You can see that based on the fact that the results are going down. It’s not like people are forgetting how to train or people don’t have the motivation to train as hard or anything. The numbers are getting bigger as well, so the competition is getting higher and higher.


It’s not a lack of experience in the athlete. It is the fact that it is getting cleaner, which is great. There are certain countries who are clearly still involved heavily in the PD side of things. I’m at a point now where I read a lot about what’s going on in the sport via what you guys post a good amount. Brian Oliver, I believe, posts a good amount.


Then I turn up to these competitions and I have dinner every day in the same room as all of the people in the IWF. At the start, they wouldn’t look at me. Then gradually, as they see me around more, I’d get head knots.


It’s very interesting being there and seeing, “That’s a person who has done this bad thing and they’re sitting on a table with these three other people from these three countries and they’re talking in touch tones.” [laughs] It might not be sinister at all. They might be talking about how well their kids have done at school or something.


Seeing the partition of these people within the IWF, you’ve got one group here, one group there, these countries here, there’s definitely a divide between the what do they call them, not the transformers, that would be way too cool to call them, but the people who want to progress the sport forward and then the old guard.


Occasionally you have a few people who are quiet…They’re able to split the difference and go between the two. Probably those are the people we need to push because having that dialogue between the two is clearly necessary.


David TaoDavid Tao

I do want to back step up here, the hush tones of buffets at international competitions, whether it’s athletes or officials, it’s really strange because everyone wants to keep themselves, they do want to talk to a few people.


My best example that I have of like, hey, people are talking in hush tones, it’s very serious, but it’s not about anything serious was again, at the 2017 World Championships in Anaheim, I stayed at the same hotel as most of the athletes, the Iranian team, the Georgian team.


A lot of these folks from countries you might not interact with on a daily basis as an American. At the breakfast buffet, everyone kept to themselves. Everyone had these different tables. The only time Lasha Talakhadze has ever talked to me was he came up looking extremely serious and he approached my table.


I’m meeting with someone else from the American media side. He looks at me and I’m like this guy has a…Maybe I did something in the training hall, maybe I got too close to his platform. He’s a giant person. Whatever’s going to happen. He’s dictating the terms here, not me.


He looks down at me, my heart is racing, and he points at a bottle of ketchup on the table and he’s like, “Can I?”


I was like, “Do you [inaudible 26:58] ?” All he said was, “Can I?” I was like, “Yes.” Then he grabs it and proceeds to put the entire bottle of ketchup on his breakfast. That’s my story. I had to shoehorn that in.

You are right because it’s interesting. You see people who are really high up in the IWF and then one head coach from one country goes and talks to them. You would never see Mike Gattone going up and talking to those people. Mike from the USA or you wouldn’t necessarily see Stu Martin from the UK do it.


Other countries have ins with some of these top people and it’s a very old-school business. The IWF, the way they handle things is very different. It’s almost like word is bond. There’s lots of shaking of hands, there’s very little writing of contracts, which I’m now aware of because we do business with the IWF and the way that we want to do things they’re not used to doing necessarily.


There’s a little bit of friction there almost because they’re a little bit more old-school in the way that they’ve been doing things for so long.

David TaoDavid Tao

Seb, where are the best places for people to follow along with Weightlifting House, besides and the work you all are doing in the sport, you and your team?

We’ve got the Weightlifting House podcast, which is specific to weightlifting. You’re not going to get all of the varied interesting people that you have on this podcast, but you get people specific to weightlifting like myself and like you when you want to come on and talk weightlifting with me.


Weightlifting House YouTube, Weightlifting House Instagram, we’ve even got TikTok now, which is a whole nother world that I’m struggling to get into. I know I’ve got to do it, so I’m doing it. Just search Weightlifting House wherever you are.

David TaoDavid Tao

Thanks so much, Seb. It’s always a pleasure chatting with you and hope to have you on again soon.

Oh, I’d love to. Thanks so much for having me. This is very cool.