The U.S. sucks at Olympic Lifting! That is not just my opinion, I have stats to back it up. From 1904 to 1968 (nine Olympic games) the US won 38 metals, of which 15 were gold. From 1972 to 2008 (nine Olympic games) we won 3 medals and none of them were gold. (Seriously if you are putting up the “women medaled” as a defense I just feel sorry for you as a man). When basketball only got bronze in 2004, it was all over the media and our country was pissed, but basketball got a medal in every Olympics they have competed in. So apparently no one in this country cares about Olympic lifting since we have sucked so bad for the last 40 years and no one says shit about it. Well as a fan of everything strength and a proud American, I’m saying something about it!
When I’ve asked the top Olympic-lifting athletes and coaches why we never win they always look at me with this strange look. Then they fire back about the other countries cheat and take “supplements” that they can’t. Well if I’m not mistaken USADA (United States Anti Doping Assholes) tests all of our athletes and our other Olympic sports athletes seem to win gold medals. Then they follow with the lame excuse of “no youth program, lack of money in the sport, lack of popularity in the U.S. for Olympic lifting.” I then point out that powerlifting has even less money/interest/youth program and no popularity, yet American powerlifters seem to win world championships all the time. This dose of logic usually produces a pissed off “you’re fat” kind of childish response that ends in them stomping away.
The real problem our Olympic lifters have is the way that they train. I lived in Colorado Springs for a summer in college (yes it had to do with a girl) and had access to Olympic lifters and coaches at the OTC (Olympic Training Center). My girlfriend’s sister was training there to try to make the Olympics in Olympic lifting. Back then I didn’t know shit about training, but I copied down all the programs that they had for her and some other guys that I got to know (all really good people). They were training twice a day and 80 percent of their training revolved around doing the actual movements. Back then I thought “Hey, these are the Olympic coaches, they are the best in the country,” but what I know now is that these coaches haven’t brought home any medals – ever – from the Olympics. So like I always say, don’t take diet advice from a fat person, or financial advice from a homeless person, why does 99 percent of our Olympic-lifting club teams follow what the head Olympic coaches are doing when they aren’t winning?
Tommy Kono, who was the last great Olympic lifter for the U.S. always talks about the “Seat of Power,” also known as the posterior chain. This is one of the reasons why he was so good, he knew the posterior chain had to be extremely strong to move big weights. Later in his career he worked a lot on technique, but for some reason his messages have been switched. The club coaches and head Olympic coaches push technique above all else. It’s like the guy with perfect bench form on a 100 pound bench, unless you’re 13 years old, who gives a f&*%? You are still weak as shit. One time a big name Olympic coach came into Westside with his new prodigy and the guy was showing off his “perfect technique” on a max snatch when Chuck V. went over threw the weight over his head in an awkward, I’ve never done this shit before fashion, and said “what’s so hard about that?” The lifter and coach were amazed. It’s not amazing, it’s called strength. Get some!
In the Olympic lifting practices that I’ve seen since figuring out “my ass from a hole in the ground,” I’ve witnessed people who couldn’t squat their own weight and the coach has them spending all of their time on technique, with a broomstick or PVC pipe. I’ve also witnessed Olympic lifting coaches “fix” a lifters technique with a broomstick over four weeks. The only problem with that is the lifter got a crap ton weaker. The best part is they look at this “technique improvement” as a success, when his numbers just went down. It’s ridiculous. To me it’s simple, follow a proven, effective plan that has shown to produce winners. That system is the Conjugate System. Just like a football team doesn’t play a game every practice, neither should Olympic lifters only do the lifts. We all know what would happen if football players played a game every day, they would get beat up, never improve and get worse. This is how our Olympic lifters are being trained.
Every lifter has a weak link that limits his strength. As a coach, our most important job is to identify that weakness and bring it up so it isn’t a limiting factor. This can never happen if all you are doing 80 percent of the time is the clean and snatch. In the Conjugate System, 80 percent of the time is spent bringing up weakness, not doing the competition lift. A perfect example of this from my training is when I deadlifted 760 pounds in a meet. Six months later I pulled 804 pounds without doing one conventional deadlift from the floor between meets. What I did was work on my weaknesses and get a lot stronger. That’s what is missing from our Olympic lifting programs. The Conjugate System was adapted from Olympic lifting for powerlifting by many great contributors to the strength game. So I’m not quite sure why I always hear that it only works for powerlifting.
The bottom line is that we suck at Olympic lifting and unless there is a major shift in training paradigm, that trend will continue. It makes me feel really bad for the athletes who train their hearts out only to be set up to fail. It also makes me feel bad as a proud American because we get our ass whooped every game by countries that I’ve: 1.Never heard of and 2. couldn’t even begin to pick out on a map. We are the United States, home of the free and apparently land of the weak. So please call your Senator and demand an Olympic lifting medal and maybe something will start to change because I just can’t take us losing in the premier strength sport in the Olympics anymore.