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.
I’m just going to be blunt here.
If you are looking to be an overnight success in something, please don’t choose weightlifting.
During the American Open Series 1 in Reno, NV, I had the opportunity to chat a bunch with my coach and 2000 Olympian, Cara Heads Slaughter (yes, I’m totally name dropping). One conversation in particular was this idea that some athletes today think they can pick up a barbell and be instantly as successful as athletes such as Mattie Rogers or CJ Cummings, or even Cara herself (please note that she didn’t mention herself – I’m just sucking up).
I’m not saying that you won’t find instant improvements and be successful in weightlifting. However, how top athletes define success and how many of these athletes define success aren’t always in alignment. A beginner in this sport should be focused on the simple things; just get better. Become more efficient in the movements, learn to compete and make successful lifts in local or possibly regional competitions, and slowly improve your total. Making lifts in competition is a learned skill and it takes time.
Youth athletes entering the sport seem to grasp this concept fairly quickly. They start slowly learning and find joy in the daily improvements. This sets them up naturally to progress through the rankings and into the next levels of competition. They move from Youth Nationals to Junior Nationals and then to the American Open and Senior Nationals, with the top athletes making pit stops at Youth Worlds and Junior Worlds.
The problem I am personally seeing is from athletes entering the sport later (mostly collegiate age 18-23 range). Many of these athletes played other sports growing up, they had success there, and now they have found weightlifting. In my experience, they have forgotten the time it took for them to develop into that respective sport.
Weightlifting can give you instant satisfaction in the beginning. You could almost call it a superman complex. You continue to improve and progress almost daily and it makes you feel like the most powerful person on earth and then BAM! – you realize that this progress slows down and your dream of beating Olympian, Kendrick Farris in the 94 class with 6 months experience is not going to happen. Or maybe even more simply, your goal of even qualifying for Senior Nationals doesn’t happen that quickly.
I’m sorry if this is rude, but just quit now. Actually, I’m not sorry, because it’s kind of a slap in the face for anyone to think that they can just jump in and do what these athletes have dedicated years of their lives to be able to do. Don’t waste your coach’s time and don’t waste your own time. Weightlifting is not a one click and buy type of game. Go shop on Amazon.
Weightlifting is a slow and demanding process both physically and mentally. Only the strongest mentalities survive. Cara told me about a podcast she listened to where a Russian Coach said it takes 10 years to develop a National Champion weightlifter in Russia. I don’t believe it takes that long in the United States, yet. That time is coming though. The depth in our sport increases almost every competition. More and more athletes are finding the sport which will only make it harder to qualify and quite rare to win these championships.
The process is this: it just takes time.
Unfortunately, you can’t do much about the age you are when you find the sport. We welcome you all! I promise. The weightlifting community is incredible and almost everyone is willing to lend a hand. But what you need to do is realize that just because you are 21 doesn’t mean that you will lift the same as these other 21 year old weightlifters. They could have found the sport at 12.
Set goals, learn to succeed by first improving the total. Qualifying for these big meets will come, but rushing the development and overreaching doesn’t do you any good. You will either miss the total you need to qualify and build frustration, or you will make the total with less than ideal technique and a performance you can’t replicate, and then leave the bigger meet frustrated and angry. In my personal experience, every one of these athletes quit prematurely. They set unrealistic expectations and grew instantly bitter at the sport instead of remembering that they didn’t go from t-ball to the major leagues in 6 months’ time.
Give yourself time to develop into these levels. Treat weightlifting like you are entering t-ball all over again, and trust the process.
Featured image from @usa_weightlifting and @liftinglife on Instagram