I’ve have a sense of humor, born out of the inherent desire to agitate people. There’s no doubt about it. I also feel an underlying need to help people. Like a lot of people that work in “fitness” or “athletics” or one of the fringe businesses associated with it, I tend to want people to improve my way. Now, I know some shit, I’ve been around the block a few times, but I also take everything into consideration. I feel like I can learn from everything and everyone. I’ve learned things from coaches who have a lot less experience and knowledge, and of course learned things from people who have an infinity of accomplishments compared to myself. There are certainly many ways to accomplish a single goal, but with that said there is still a right way and a wrong way.
I’ve been a coach of a legitimate Weightlifting team for a few years nows, and it was very early on that I realized that when you go to a meet, you have to fight for equipment to warm-up with. Weightlifting equipment is expensive, and naturally the people that run meets don’t have the capital to be spending cash on the newest and shiniest stuff. Not only is the equipment usually sparse, it usually isn’t that great either, which isn’t ideal when you have 6 women all in the same session, and not only do they have to work around each other, but share it with a bunch of random lifters too. So I dropped a couple grand on my home gym, and got myself some nice plates and bars that I could bring with me to meets for MY team.
It never fails however, that someone comes over and just starts using our stuff to warm up. I love the sport of Weightlifting. I love that people who don’t have a coach, or a legitimate gym are still at meets competing. I love Weightlifting so much, I want you to kick ass at it whether you’re on my team or not, but you are out of your mind if you think that I’m going to let you use my stuff if your warm up is going to effect the warm-up of my lifters. I didn’t spend thousands of dollars on equipment, lug all that shit out of my basement into my car, unload it at the meet, load it back up when we’re done, and lug it all back into my basement, just so you can use a nicer bar than what the meet director/host gym provided.
What kills me, is that not one person has ever even asked if they could use our stuff. They just walk up and start using it, like “hey here’s some sweet shit, that looks way better than all the other equipment around. I guess I’ll just use this.” The most frustrating is when people come pick up plates of ours and start to walk off to bring them to another area, and when I stop them, they cop an attitude about it. Even if it weren’t our stuff, that would still be pretty rude. There’s usually half a dozen of us all standing there around a bar wearing the same team shirts…you think maybe we’re using it?
Now it has been my observation, that a lot of Weightlifters here in America, especially people who get most of their training advice from the internet, tend to favor intensity over volume. This is no surprise, because everyone wants to be a Weightlifter to lift heavy weights, and doing a ton of reps totally sucks. It’s hard, it’s tedious, and there isn’t much glory in it. (except for the fact that it works…)Recently a kid was in town visiting family and was training at our gym for a week. He was following Cal Strength’s online programming, and had days where he legitimately did a total of 5 snatches, and 6 front squats, I know they have various programs available, but I don’t think I’ve ever written a program with that few reps in my life.
What I find frustratingly ironic about this situation is that these same kids who probably do a total of 20 snatches all week, are the same kids who at meets are taking lifts at 90% (and missing them) an HOUR before their session even starts. These kids do more lifts the day of the meet, then they do in a whole week of normal training. Remember that thing earlier about there being a right way and a wrong way? That’s the wrong way. Competition day should be your easiest day of training. You should have put in all your hard work leading up to the competition, and now it’s time to execute. Competing is in the very simplest form, maxing out. What is a one rep max? It’s a lift done at a weight that you can only do once. Needless to say that’s going to require quite a bit of effort, so why the hell are you spending an hours worth of energy warming up?
At this past meet, I saw a kid who competed in the 94kg class, taking snaches with 85kgs multiple times (and missing it) while the session before him was still snatching. You’re talking about being over an hour out from your session starting, nevermind the time it takes before you’re even called to the platform.
I learned how to time warm-ups from my good friend Billy. He was the men’s 56kg national champion in the DR back in 2000, and has been lifting since he was 14 years old (he’s a masters lifter now). He also holds a bunch of New England records these days. Needless to say, Billy knows his shit. In fact, I count on Billy to help me with my lifters come meet day, he’s just got a great knack for squeezing the most performance out of a lifter when it comes to warming up. Everyone is different. Some people need more lifts and time to warm up than others, with that said, I’ve NEVER seen him have a lifter take more than 10 lifts in a warm-up. Most people are getting it done in 6. Even if you took 10 lifts, at 2 minutes per lift, that’s still only 20 minutes of time. That means you shouldn’t even be grabbing a barbell until there are about 20 attempts before you, and at local meets, it’s not uncommon for there to be 30+ lifters in a session.
So let me be very clear: The volume is supposed to be in the training, not on the warm-up platform. To help you out, here is a list of things you should never do:
- Miss a lift in warm-ups (okay sometimes it happens because you’re nervous, having spatial issues, but most of the time it’s because you’re lifting too damn heavy for too damn long).
- Lift a heavier weight in warm-ups than the weight you’re going to take on the competition platform. This is just dumb. Why would you do that?
- Take more than 20 minutes to warm-up. You’re just wasting energy at that point
- Do more lifts in warm-ups than you normally do in training
- Lift a weight in warm-ups that you’ve never lifted before. Yeah, I’ve actually seen this happen. No it didn’t end well for them.
- Take people’s equipment without asking first
As you are increasing the weight as you go through warm-ups, you are allowing your body to acclimate to the load. Your nervous system is making adjustments to your bodies functions, increasing essential function, and decreasing non essential function. Your last warm-up set should leave you prepared for a max effort, or near max effort lift. The perfect amount of preparation, with the most energy sparing (saving it for the big lift on the competition platform). That moment must be timed perfectly. If you let yourself cool down and then ramp back up again, you will not be performing optimally (that’s why C&J is such a tough lift, because of the break between sessions, it’s also why most people C&J more in the gym). Or if you try to maintain your “high” for too long, you’ll burn yourself out. Contrary to popular belief, [natural] lifters should hit their best numbers in competition. If you’re consistently doing 5-10kg less in competition than you do in the gym, you really need to reevaluate your training.
A final note: I’ve had a few people try to hop into your “system” of warming up, and they haven’t done well with it. I attribute this to them simply not being used to it, accompanied by the fact that some people have themselves convinced that it’s not “what works best for them,” which is an attitude sure to guarantee failure. If you’re used to always taking 5kg increases in training, and then suddenly you take a 10kg increase (even if intensity wise it’s miniscule) it can mess with people, but I promise you, in the long run, you will get much more out of your lifts come competition day.
So be smart about your warm-ups, and when it comes to using equipment at a meet, don’t be a dick!