August; Program Design

One of the greatest challenges, that a coach faces, is to develop a program that allows the athlete to improve their performance. While no single program is the answer to every athlete’s goal, every program should be based upon sound principles that are known to produce results. All programs should include the following goals:

  • Improve Performance
  • Increase Work Capacity
  • Correct Technique
  • Prevent Injury


Training can produce two things: Improvement or Collapse. When coaches understand the principals of training and incorporate them properly, improvement can be maximized and collapse minimized.


General Concerns


When developing programs the following concerns need to be addressed.

Time: How much time, both per day and per week can the athlete devote to training? It is important to realize that younger athletes and novice athletes cannot train at the same level as adult or experienced athletes. Programs must me modified to meet these concerns.

Athlete Level: What type of innate ability does the athlete possess? The selection of exercises and progressions are an important factor in developing confidence in an athlete. Writing programs that athletes cannot complete serves little purpose, as the athlete will become disenchanted, making training even more difficult.

“X” Factor: What is the athletes’ motivation? Understanding the athlete’s personal goals is an important factor when writing programs. Those athletes, whose desire to achieve is high, will certainly respond to intense training with more enthusiasm than the less motivated athlete will.

Rational of Program Design


USA Weightlifting has spent a great deal of time researching, developing

and readapting   training programs that fit into the American lifestyle.

The program listed below has proved successful in developing beginning weightlifters into competitive athletes.

The program is based upon sound principles of progressive overload, active rest, and neuromuscular adaptation. These programs are designed to improve the performance of competitive weightlifters and as such the concepts of Volume, Intensity, and Duration have been modified to produce such a result. These programs will not look, at all, like the programs seen in fitness centers, health clubs, or ‘muscle magazines’. The reason that they don’t is because, once again, these programs are designed for competitive weightlifters and must meet the demands of that sport.




Volume: The amount of work attempted in a program

Intensity: The level, or difficulty, of work attempted.

Duration: The number of sessions, or length of a session

Repetitions: The number of successive movements performed in an exercise

Sets: A group of repetitions performed after a period of rest

Micro Cycle: The daily program

Mini Cycle: The weekly program

Meso Cycle: The monthly program

Macro Cycle: The yearly program


All training should be purposeful. That means that all training, from daily to yearly, has a reason to it. Each cycle should have definite goals and should fit, smoothly, into the next cycle. Coaches should understand that training programs are templates and not  ‘etched in stone’. If an athlete has a tendency to miss jerks, after cleans, the coach will need to place in more overhead movements in order to make the correction. If athletes are showing fatigue modifications in the volume and or intensity should be made. One of the great challenges that a coach must meet is to adapt programs to the needs of each, individual athlete.


Compilation Principles for Daily Program Design

In putting together a schedule of lifts and exercises for each days training the following principles should be kept in mind.

  1. Always warm up thoroughly.
  2. Include lifts demanding high skill levels early on in the training session.
  3. Include high skill fast movements before slower strength building movements.
  4. Short or partial movements should be done towards the end of a session.
  5. Try to alternate pulling with pushing movements, where possible
  6. Try to get two snatch movements and two clean & jerk movements per week.
  7. Try to include a competitive lift or lift related movement, and overhead or jerk movement, a leg movement, a pull movement, a lower back and abdominal movement in each training session.
  8. With beginners try to give a great deal of variety with the lifts and exercises, without a lot of volume.


The program example, given below, follows the principles listed above. There are example of both three-day a week programs and four-day a week programs. It should be noted that these examples are general in nature. That is, this program is used for athlete progressing at an acceptable rate without any major flaws in technique in either of the competition lifts. The letters, listed after each exercise, will be explained in the section on Training Planing.

General Training Program Examples



Exercises (3 sessions per week)

Day One             Day Two     Day Three

Warm-up and stretching                 Warm-up and stretching     Warm-up & stretch

Snatch: (A)                                        Cleans: (A)                            Snatch: (A)

Snatch Pull: (C)                                Clean Pulls: (C)                    C & J: (A)

Neck Jerk: (A)                                   Rack Jerk: (A)                       Back Squat: (B)

Back Squat: (B)                                Front Squat: (B)                    Goodmornings

Goodmornings                                 Goodmornings                     Abdominal Work

Abdominal Work                               Abdominal Work                   Plyometrics

Plyometrics                                       Agility Drills


Exercises (4 sessions per week)

Day One                    Day Two                    Day Three                 Day Four

Warm-up                    Warm-up                    Warm-up                    Warm-up

Snatch: (A)                Clean: (A)                  Snatch:(A)                 C & J: (A)

Snatch Pull: (C)        Clean Pull: (C)          Snatch Pull:(C)         Clean Pull: (C)

Neck Jerk: (A)           Rack Jerk: (A)           Push Press: (A)        Front Squat: (B)
Back Squat: (B)        Front Squat: (B)        Back Squat:(B)         Goodmornings

Goodmornings         Goodmornings         Goodmornings         Abdominal Work

Abdominal Work       Abdominal Work       Abdominal Work       Agility Drills

Plyometrics               Agility Drills               Plyometrics


Training Plans

In order to insure that ongoing progress and development of both strength and skill occurs a program must have in it times of ‘work’ and times of recovery. Programs that do not include recovery phases will result in a collapse of both strength and skill. Programs that do not have phases of intensity will fail to produce improvement. The program listed below has elements of both work and rest, over a 13 week period that help to produce the results of both improved performance and increased work capacity.

Exercises have been placed into 3 categories. “A” lifts are the competition lifts, and their related  movements. “B” lifts are squatting movements and “C”  lifts are pulling movements. If progress is to occur the proper amount of time and effort must be placed upon each category.

When working an “A” lift priority must be given to proper execution. It does the athlete no good to become stronger and stronger in an improper movement. Athletes should perform because of their technique, not in spite of it. As the barbell gets heavier all the athletes focus, and energy, should be on performing the lift correctly. Performing sets with repetitions of 3, 2, and 1 help keep technique in its best form. Remember in competition the athlete only has to pick the barbell up once.

“B” lifts are squat movements. Here the focus is strength. Muscular and neuromuscular strength are best developed when repetitions are kept to 5 and below. When repetitions increase beyond 5 the strength developed moves more towards endurance and hypertrophy training. While this type of training my have some purpose for general development it is not “sport specific” to the needs of a weightlifter.


“C” lifts are pulls and shrugs. Studies here have produced a wide debate, all the way from doing them with incredible amounts of weight above an athletes maximum lift, to not doing them at all. For the purpose of developing the beginning lifter pulls are very important and therefore important to do correctly. The rational for doing pulls the way listed in this program comes from an article done by the Finnish Weightlifting Federation. (Komi, Viitasalo, Hakkinen and Kauhanen 1984) In this article the Finns recognized that when a significant amount of weight, more than 20% of what was lifted that day, was added to a “pull” this “pull” did not look like the pull phase of a lift. They found that “pulls” where slower and had a greater lateral displacement than the pull phase of an actual lift.

They suggested that an athlete only perform pulls at a weight, and for repetitions, that allowed the pull movement to mimic the pull phase of a lift. “C” lifts need to demonstrate a balance between strength development and technical execution.

The program below has been given the name “Supercompensation” as it allows the athlete to compensate periods of high intensity with periods of rest. This program is the result of work done by Lyn Jones, National Coaching Director, USAW, Dr. Michael Stone, Dr. Jay Kerney and Dr. Andy Fry, of the USAW’s Sports Science Committee as well as the efforts of National Junior Coach John Thrush and his National Junior Squads. With all training programs, the key to success is the cyclical variance of the volume and the intensity. Matveyve’s principle of progressing from high volume and low intensity to low volume and high intensity, with built in periods of recovery, is the basis of the following program.

Special Note: Listed below are the “target sets”. Athletes are expected to complete 3-5 warmup sets prior to the target sets

  1. Cycle one (Volume)

In this cycle emphasis is place upon preparing the athlete for the work that lay ahead. This phase is also known as a ‘target phase’ cycle. This means that after an athlete warms up they are to perform multiple sets and repetitions at the same weight.


  1. a) Week One (“Base” week)

1) “A” lifts are done 3/3 at 70%

2) “B” lifts are done 3/5 at 70%

3) “C” lifts are done 3/5 at 70% +10kg


  1. b) Week Two (“Volume” week)

1) “A” lifts are 4/3 at 75%

2) “B” lifts are 4/5 at 75%

3) “C” lifts are 4/5 at 75% + 10kg


  1. c) Week Three (‘Compensation’ week)

1) “A” lifts are 2/3 at 65%

2) “B” lifts are 2/5 at 65%

3) “C” lifts are 2/5 at 65% +10kg


  1. d) Week Four (“Performance” week)

1) “A” lifts are 2/3 at 80%

2) “B” lifts are 3/5 at 80%

3) “C” lifts are 3/5 at 80% +10kg


  1. II) Cycle Two (Strength Development)

In this phase the athlete continues to use the ‘target set’ philosophy. There are changes in both the volume and the intensity as the athlete attempts to develop the strength necessary to improve performance.


  1. a) Week One (“Base” week)

1) “A” lifts are 3/2 at 75%

2) “B” lifts are 3/3 at 75%

3) “C” lifts are 3/3 at 75% + 10kg

  1. b) Week Two (“Volume” week)

1) “A” lifts are 4/2 at 85%

2) “B” lifts are 4/3 at 85%

3) “C” lifts are 4/3 at 85% + 10kg

  1. c) Week Three (“Compensation” week)

1) “A” lifts are 2/2 at 70%

2) “B” lifts are 2/3 at 70%

3) “C” lifts are 2/3 at 70% + 10kg


  1. d) Week Four (“Performance” week)

1) “A” lifts are 2/2 at 90%

2) “B” lifts are 2/3 at 90%

3) “C” lifts are 2/3 at 90% + 10kg

III) Cycle Three (Neuromuscular or Performance Training)

In this phase the program changes to “Segment” training. In this type of training the athlete performs sets and repetitions at an increasing weight and then repeats that entire “segment”. The reason  is that this training best mimics what can occur in competition. It is not uncommon, that in competition, after an athlete takes their opening attempt they fall back into the rotation in such a way that it may be 5 to 10 minutes before they go out for their second attempt. Segment training conditions the athlete to go back into the warm-up and perform a lift (usually at 80% of their next attempt) in order to keep themselves mentally and physically prepared for the task at hand. Experienced coaches and athletes can attest to the successfulness of this type of training.


  1. a) Week One (“Base” week)

1) “A” lifts (75%/2,80%/2,85%/2)2

2) “B” lifts are 3/2 at 85%

3) “C” lifts are 3/2 at 85% + 10kg


  1. b) Week Two (“Volume” week)

1) “A” lifts (85%/1,90%/1, 95%/1)2

2) “B” lifts are 4/2 at 95%

  1. c) “C” lifts are 4/2 at 95% + 10kg


  1. c) Week Three (“Compensation” week)

1) “A” lifts are (70%/2,75%/2,80%/2)

2) “B” lifts are 2/2 at 80%

3) “C” lifts are 2/2 at 80% + 10kg


  1. d) Week Four (“Performance” week)

1) “A” lifts are (90%/1,95%/1,100%/1)2

2) “B” lifts are 2/2 at 100%

3) “C” lifts are 2/2 at 100% + 10kg


  1. IV) Competition Week

( A “loose” example. Every athlete prepares  differently and the coach and athlete need to   work together to develop the final week.)

Day One                                            Day Three

Snatch: (80%/1)3                             Snatch: (70%/1)3

C & J: (80%/1)3                                C & J:  (70%/1)3


Day Two                                            Day Four or Five

Snatch Pulls: (100%/3)3                 Competition

Clean Pulls: (100%/3)3

Bk. Squat: (80%/3)3




The “nice” thing about this program is that it has built in “check points”. An athlete can see progress from ‘Volume’ Cycles, to ‘Performance’ Cycles.  The athlete now has relative maxes for 5s, 3s and doubles. Goals can be set, during the next cycle, to increase relative maxes by 2.5 kilograms and such.

By changing the intensity each week, and making the assumption that as the intensity increases the athlete will need more warm-up sets prior to reaching the target sets volume is ‘automatically’ built into the program.


This illustrates, very simply, the basis of training program planning. As an athlete becomes more efficient in the sport more complex program can be developed and implemented. Volume can be increased by adding more sets, and even increasing the number of training days per week. Finally an athlete may even increase the number of training sessions per day, in order to bring about improved performance.



Goals of any program

  1. Improved performance
  2. Increased work capacity
  3. Correct technique
  4. Avoid Injury


Principles of daily program design

  1. Warm-up
  2. High Skills early in session
  3. Faster movements before slower movements
  4. Partial movements towards end of session
  5. Alternate pull and push movements when possible
  6. Competition Lift or related exercise

An Overhead movement

A leg movement

A pull movement

A back exercise

A waist exercise


  1. Beginners get the most variety
  2. Ideas in long term training


  1. As Intensity increases, volume decreases.
  2. Create both phases of “work” and “rest”
  3. Balance training between Hypertrophy, Muscular, and Neural cycles.
  4. As competition nears training should mimic competition conditions.

July: Coaching in the 21st Century

The Role of the Coach in the 3rd Decade of the 21st Century

Coaching is in its most dynamic era as coaches’ work with increasingly diverse populations and face heightening demands from their athletes and the general public.

There are broader aims, higher expectations and more defined roles. There is access to greater information and visibility to a larger community in this digital age. All these factors make coaching both more exciting and taxing than ever before. The International Council for Coaching Excellence has established a framework of six (6) primary functions of a coach that will help to fulfill the core purpose of guiding development and improvement


 The coach creates a vision and a strategy based upon the needs and development of the athletes and the organizational and social context of the program.


 The coach recruits and contracts to work with a group of athletes and take the responsibility for setting out plans for both training and competition. The coach also seeks to maximize the learning environment in which the program occurs through personnel, facilities, resources, best practices and the management of other coaches and support personnel.


 The Coach builds positive and effective relationships with the athletes and others associated with the program.  The coach is responsible for engaging, contributing and influencing the atmosphere of the organization and program.


 The Coach organizes suitable and appropriate practices that challenge the athletes and targets preparation for competitions for the athletes. Positive competitions are required experiences for continued development and improvement.


 The Coach observes and responds to all events (practice and competitive) appropriately. Development of effective decision making is essential to fulfilling this function.


 UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden made the comment “You have not taught until they have learned.”  When the coach focuses on what the athletes are learning instead of what the coach is saying development and improvement will occur at a more effective rate.

Although one of the main roles of a coach is evaluating training programs and sessions, coaches must also support the development and education of other coaches.

Recent studies have shown that novice coaches are ill prepared in the following areas:

  • Motivating athletes
  • Managing and resolving conflict
  • Building relationships
  • Effective communication
  • Management topics
  • Competition preparation

Coaches can no longer depend upon their love of the sport to carry them through the complicated maze that is todays coaching arena. Therefore, coaches must develop or have available a plethora of skills to meet the needs of the athletes who they aspire to service. These include:

  • Knowing how to effectively communicate with the athletes
  • Understanding the learning process and training principles
  • Understanding and implementing the appropriate training methods
  • Understand the various coaching styles
  • Advise athletes on safety
  • Understand the causes and recognize the symptoms of over-reaching and over-training
  • Understand how to reduce the chance of injury for your athletes
  • Understand individual differences between athletes
  • Assist athletes to develop new skills

One of the KEY elements to being a successful coach is to understand HOW ATHLETES LEARN.

The table below is an adaptation from the approach to learning recommended by the International Center for Leadership in Education. It is of prime importance to understand that poor habits learned early are almost irreversible and that the pursuit of proper technique is paramount in all aspects of training.



What are the skills the Athlete needs to know?



Can the Athlete successfully complete these skills?



Can the Athlete successfully complete these skills routinely and automatically?



Can the Athlete successfully complete these skills routinely and automatically in a unique situation? (competition)

Coaches need to realize that each athlete will pass through the quadrants at their own pace and the ability of the coach to differentiate both training and coaching to fit the needs of the athletes is a skill to be developed. It does little good to create tasks or training programs that the athlete cannot successfully complete, especially when dealing with youth or entry level athletes.

Knowing which quadrant an individual athlete is in allows practice to be more effective and, again, successful for the athlete.

Nothing is of more value than the emotional, physical, cultural and even spiritual health of the athletes entrusted to our care. You can never control the factors that influence winning or placing but you can influence the factors that influence performance and in the, very, end it is performance that matters.


For those of us that will mentor and guide coaches the quadrant can be applied to the development of confident, competent and effective coaches.



What are the skills the Coach needs to know?



Can the Coach successfully complete these skills?



Can the Coach successfully complete these skills routinely and automatically?



Can the Coach successfully complete these skills routinely and automatically in a unique situation? (competition)


The Quadrant may be used as a reflective tool to reference back to the original 6 areas of the Coaching Framework developed by the ICCE.

June: The Jerk

While most, if not all, competitors have experienced it, there may be no worse feeling, in all of weightlifting, than missing a jerk, especially after an ‘easy’ clean.

            Two Time Olympian Wes Barnett, who only missed 4 competition jerks in his entire career can attest to the empty feeling that a missed jerk leaves behind. “It is like you let everyone down.”

            With this in mind and with the expert input of the USAW’s Coaching Education Curriculum the USAW Community Development Training Site would like to present thoughts on the Jerk itself. Key Points, suggestions of a teaching progression, the  identification of common errors and possible corrections.


  1. I) Commonly accepted body positions for the Classical Split Jerk
  2. A) Body Position

                                    1) Straight and ‘tight’

                                    2) Head is forward and ‘neutral’

                                    3) Feet are in alignment and in the ‘pulling’ position




  1. B) Barbell Position

                                    1) Bar ‘rests’ on the anterior deltoids

                                    2) The grip is, actually, relaxed

  1. C) The “Dip”

                                    1) Drop Hips, as if sitting into a chair

                                    2) The Dip is short, shallow, straight and quick

                                    3) Maintain contact during the dip

  1. a) Do not allow the bar to get ‘separation’ from the


  1. D) The “Drive”

                                    1) As soon as the athlete ‘dips’ and feels that they are

                                    ‘flat-footed’ (This is often referred to as Jerking “off

                                     the heels”) The athlete drives upwards right back

                                     were they came from.

  1. E) The Split

                                    1) The feet move an equal distance fore and aft.

                                    2) The front foot should move One and One half shoe

                                     lengths from the starting position

                                    3) Both feet should land at the same time

                                    4) The Knee of the front foot should be behind the tip             

                                     of the shoe and the foot flat to the platform. (The shin

                                     should be perpendicular (90′) to the knee joint)

                                    5) The rear leg is slightly bent

                                    6) The rear foot is on the ‘ball’ with the heel ‘up

                                    7) The original ‘pulling position’ lateral distance is

                                     maintained. This means that the feet drive straight

                                     forward and not ‘wider’ or more narrow in width then

                                     their starting position

  1. F) Recovery

                                    1) Front foot comes ‘back’ a half step

                                    2) Rear foot comes ‘forward’ a half step.

                                    3) Front foot comes ‘back’ into alignment with rear



  1. II) Key Points

            Once the lifter has recovered from the clean, they should step their feet back into line until they are approximately in their ‘pulling’ position. This position, sometimes referred to as the ‘vertical jump’ position has been found to be most efficient for exerting upward force through the body and into the barbell. The barbell should rest on the shoulders and upper chest.

            It is essential that the lifter GET SET for the jerk in the most methodical manner possible.  Many athletes take a deep breath before jerking so that they inflate the chest cavity providing a solid ‘platform’ that supports the weight during the dip and drive phase of the movement.

            Arm position, prior to jerking is also ‘worthy of note’. The barbell should NOT be gripped tightly and, in fact a slack grip should be adopted  

            IF the lifter grips the barbell tightly the arms and shoulders may tense up and the lifter will tend to push the barbell away from their shoulders which will cause a re-action of pushing themselves away from the barbell, ending up behind it and losing the jerk out in front.

            A lot of discussion has been about, exactly, where to place the elbows and without getting into all the possible variations it is suggested that when the grip is relaxed, the elbows will go, comfortably, to where they should anatomically. Now this will cause each lifter to look different but if the basic Bio-mechanics that govern The Jerk are adhered to it will not create any concern.”

            WHAT IS IMPORTANT is that the elbows do not change position when the dip occurs. This is true for both ‘fingertip’ Jerkers or traditional Jerkers

            The DIP is, without question, the most important phase of the jerk.  When a jerk is lost it is usually lost here. This is when the lifter exerts maximum force on the barbell before moving into the receiving position.

            Keeping the body completely vertical the athlete bends the knees. “Drop your hips as if you are sitting into a chair.” This makes you both flatfooted and ‘sets’ the weight back and not forward. The athlete should feel the weight on their heels. The dip is quick and shallow. If the athlete dips to deep the weight will shift forward and a forward lean will result in a total disaster.

The speed of the dip is also of importance because if it is too fast the athlete will lose contact with the shoulders. Too slow and the athletes knees will get driven forward and the barbell will follow right along.

            As soon as the athlete dips they should ‘drive out of it’. The result of this is similar to the process of blocking in both the high jump and the long jump. The quick turn around of momentum will cause that force to be exerted onto the barbell and assist in the lift being successful. (In jumping blocking helps turn horizontal momentum into vertical momentum.)

            Contrary to popular belief athletes do not drive the barbell up very far, nor should they try to. What they should strive to do is STEP THROUGH THE JERK. The lifter drives, with leg extension, up into the toes before splitting the legs both fore and aft. The athlete should not push with their arms against the bar (because in reality MOST athletes are jerking weights that are in excess of their body-weight) as this will result in them being pushed away from the barbell. To jerk well the athlete must drive with their legs and wedge themselves under the barbell. Once the athlete lands and is in proper position NOW they push against the barbell with their arms. This action is swift and dealt with authority and as such will accelerate the lifters descent under the barbell into the final receiving position with the hips and shoulders in alignment and the elbows locked out.

            When the feet land they should not stamp hard onto the platform. If this does occur the force is transferred back into the lead leg and causes it to straighten. This will, in the domino effect, cause the rear leg to be pushed out of its correct position and now the athlete is scrambling to try and save the lift.

            The recovery should be controlled and unhurried. IT IS important the athlete recovery front foot back first. When the athlete does this it pushes the barbell back into the shoulder girdle and onto a bone support position. If the athlete recovers back foot forward, first, the jerk can be lost forward after all the work has been done.

Jerking weights is an extremely complex skill. More and more in elite competition we are seeing vital, if not critical, jerks lost, there are many theories as to why. In my way of thinking the athletes are finding it very hard to hold weights overhead in the split with the shoulders, hips and arms in one line. Developing shoulder strength equal to the athlete’s hip and leg strength is a challenge that coaches and athletes must meet”.



III) Teaching Progressions

            When Zygmunt Smalcerz first became the Coach of the Resident Program he noticed that the athletes needed a lot of attention on the area of the jerk and developed a very effective set of teaching progressions that have become an integral part of the athletes training

The Jerk Progressions begins with the Press followed by the Push Press which is the press with a dip and drive. The third progression is the Push Jerk. The lifter begins the power jerk with the bar held on the chest and shoulders similar to the front squat. From this position, the legs are bent smoothly. When the athlete has lowered the bar slightly, the downward “dip” ceases crisply and the lifter drives the bar upward with the legs. As soon as this impulse is delivered to the bar, the lifter descends and the arms push upward against the bar, driving the body downward under the bar and locking the arms out rapidly.

A series of footwork drills, developed by Senior International Coach Artie Dreschler, have been developed to assist the athlete in progressing to the Split Jerk. These drills teach correct positioning and balance for receiving the bar.


 While practicing the footwork drills, the athlete can become comfortable with driving the bar over head by practicing Push Jerks.

The footwork drills contains four stages Split without Dip (pre bend)

Purpose: To ensure that the athlete is driving from the dip in a balanced position and not traveling forward in the split.

The athlete begins by standing with their hands on their hips and feet in the proper position. From this position, the lifter bends the knees slightly and pauses. The lifter then drives up and into the split position. The coach should ensure the lifter is properly balanced with weight distributed evenly.

Split with Dip (counter movement)

Purpose: To ensure that the athlete can mimic the dip, drive and receiving position.

The athlete begins by standing with their hands on their hips and feet in the proper position. From this position, the lifter dips and drives into the split position. The coach should ensure the lifter is properly balanced with weight distributed evenly.


Split without Dip with Stick Overhead (pre bend)

Purpose: To teach the correct torso position and bar placement overhead.

The athlete begins by standing with the bar overhead. From this position, the lifter bends the knees slightly and pauses. The lifter then jumps into the split position. The coach should ensure the lifter is properly balanced with weight distributed evenly and the bar properly placed overhead.

Split with Dip with Stick Overhead (counter movement)

Purpose: To teach the correct torso position and bar placement overhead.

The athlete begins by standing with the bar overhead. From this position, the lifter dips then drives into the split position. The coach should ensure the lifter is properly balanced with weight distributed evenly and the bar properly placed overhead.






Transitioning From the Footwork and Power Jerk Practice to the Split Jerk

Once the lifter has mastered the footwork and has learned to drive the bar up with the legs, the lifter is ready to begin practicing the complete split jerk. Coaches may have the lifter begin a set with one or two reps of the footwork exercise and then have the lifter attempt a split jerk for three reps.

Once the athlete is performing the jerk correctly, the initial footwork can be eliminated from the set and the athlete can practice the jerk.


Once an athlete has mastered the fundamentals they may use more of Coach Smalcerz advanced jerk movements to address more complex technique issues.

The most common Jerk Exercises used by the Resident Team are charted below

Press in Split
Starting Position: Barbell in the “catch” position of the clean

Athlete is in split jerk position

Movement: Press the barbell into a straight overhead position
Key Points: Proper position with the chest and head in upright position
Benefits: Warm-up exercise that teaches the athlete proper positioning. Also teaches the athlete to push against the bar in the split.
Weight: Very light weight 30-40%
Reps/ Sets 3-4 Sets/ 3 Reps


Jerk Step
Starting Position: Barbell in the “catch” position of the clean

Athlete is standing erect

Movement: Athlete steps forward quickly and effectively until they achieve the “Catch” position

The athlete returns to the erect position to finish reps

Key Points: Proper position with the chest and head in upright position
Benefits: Teaches the athlete proper landing position and distance
Weight: 40-60%
Reps/ Sets 3-4 Sets/ 3 Reps


Split Clean from Blocks
Starting Position: Barbell on the Blocks
Movement: Athlete performs a clean and lands in a split jerk position
Key Points: Focus is on the landing position
Benefits: This exercise is very beneficial for athletes that are not “stepping through’ the jerk and leaving their front foot ‘short’ of the preferred position and if the athlete has a tendency to lean backwards in the receiving position of the jerk and if the rear leg is too straight at the knee.
Weight: Up to 75%
Reps/ Sets 3-4 Sets/ 2-3 Reps


Jerk Behind + Jerk
Starting Position: Barbell on the shoulders in clean grip
Movement: Athlete performs a jerk from behind the neck followed by a jerk from the rack position
Key Points: Typically, when an athlete jerks with the barbell behind their head they, naturally, point the elbows downward. The bar is positioned below where it should end up and this makes the dip, drive and the step through straighter. The hope is that a jerk from behind the head will influence the athlete to perform the same Dip, Drive, and step through is a similar manner.
Benefits: This exercise should be used for athletes that lose their positions and put the barbell out in front.
Weight: Up to 80%
Reps/ Sets 2-3 Sets/ 2-3 Reps

May – Stop Pulls; A Tribute to Bill Starr

Bill Starr (1938-2015) was one of the pioneers of what is now the Strength and Conditioning profession. Two books The Strongest Shall Survive and Defying Gravity; How to win at Weightlifting are as relevant today as when he authored them in 1976 and 1981

When few knew much of anything about strength training Starr knew it all. A stellar career as a weightlifter for York Barbell in their heyday his ability to coach, instruct and share his knowledge “with an extreme ease in communicating” was his forte. His articles in Strength and Health Magazine are legendary.

I met him at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and like many my age, he forever influenced how I teach Squats and Pulls. His comments about how depth is more important than weight in the squat may be the most profound comment about squatting, ever.  Starr’s observations on how athletes should perform pulls are equally important.

Halting Clean Deadlifts where a standard movement during a 3 week USAW Training Camp at the COS OTC in August of 1987, that I was fortunate enough to be part of. Bob Takano was the Head Coach of the Camp and assisted by Dan Forrester.
Starr, himself, made the comment “When you do this correctly you’ll see the Great White Buffalo.” A reference to how difficult they are to complete. I can attest to this statement as they are as challenging as they are productive.

This is the only movement that is actually worse to watch then to do. While they look difficult, and are, once you are doing them your focus is so sharp that they only feel awful after you complete them.

STOP PULLS (Click on the Stop Pulls below my name to see the video clip)
1. Start Position: The classic static start is recommended as it is critical that the athlete establish “backward tension”. To accomplish this the athlete needs to push their hips backwards until they feel their hamstrings actively engaged. (The athlete should feel that if they release their grip on the barbell they will fall backwards.)
2. Initial Pull: As soon as the barbell leaves the platform the athlete halts the momentum. (This is similar to the Lift Off movement promoted in the USAW Level 1 Coaching Course Teaching Progressions)
3. Secondary Pull: as soon as the momentum has ceased the athlete then completes the pull finishing with a straight arm power shrug. There should be no horizontal displacement of the barbell. Keep it as close to the body as possible. 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps between 80 and 105% of a 1RM, depending upon both experience and efficiency, is the most effective way to train this movement.
4. 2 “Up” 2 “Down” approach. This is the movement demonstrated in the video clip and we (The USAW Community Training Site at Crown Barbell) have found it to produce solid results.
NOTE: MOST IMPORTANTLY the athlete must stay flat-footed, and maintain ‘backwards tension’ until they move out of the “Power Position”.

If you can accomplish this exercise you will be able to maintain better stability in the start and a greater acceleration both into and out of the power position. As Starr himself said “A critical consideration for any athlete.”

Stop Pulls

April, Spring and Youth Training


Please view MEET THE GROUP before reading this months post.

Just 10 days after returning from 2 weeks at the Youth World Championships I found myself at the USAW Masters National Championships. However my topic for this month has to do with an event that was going on in the same venue as our Masters. The American Celebration is a cheer leading competition. An event equal in it’s skill and pageantry. What was of interest was how varied the ages where. Athletes as young a 5+. This was no small event as the Salt Palace had more than half of its entire facility dedicated to non-stop sessions over a 4 day schedule. It was during this time that I came across an all to familiar incident. (This is in no way an aspersion on cheer leading as what happened here is common to all youth sports but it is an example of why this month’s topic is valid.)

A young girl, no more than 9, and still in her competition uniform was ‘hot’ walking down the back side hallway, with her mother at an equal pace but lagging a short distance behind. I have seen this “movie” all to often. The Walk of Despair. It was easy to see that things had not gone well.

Without breaking stride the young girl turned her head to the side her mother was trailing on and spoke these words.. I’m not feeling the fun.”

WOW. You could see the angst in the mothers eyes and before I could turn around they vanished down the ramp and into the garage.

If you consider Youth as U-11 to 17, Juniors as 18 to 20 the attrition rate is significant and for all sports. Youth to Junior is around 59% and Youth to Senior (21 and above) is about 77%.

The Number one reason athlete leave their sport is that… “It’s no longer fun.”

What is the difference between Play, Games and Sport?

French Theorist Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed that children come into the world with a sense of wonder and joy and society takes that from them early and in a severe way.

Play is unstructured where rules are made up and then are changed or abandoned. Outcomes have little or no long term effects.
Games have rules but little or no risk. Your feelings may be hurt but you recover quickly.
Sport is both super structured and ladened with risk. The loss of expected outcomes can have serious ramifications.

Many “Sport” Psychologists believe that American Children have too little “Play” time and are placed into Sport before they are ready for the emotional strain that Sports present,

It was very easy to lose sight of just how young the competitors at the Youth World Championships are as their performances would be impressive at both the junior and the open level of competition in their home country.

In speaking with all the coaches it is apparent that the majority of these athletes are on schedules that are preparing them for 2024. Most if not all of the 180 athletes competed well and seemed to be enjoying themselves but it will be interesting to see how many continue to the “Open” Class and reach the Olympic Games.

In my 14 years with the USAW National Junior Squad and 41 years as a high school teacher I experienced a lot of both. I had a handful of Major League Baseball Players come through Meridian High, fewer basketball players play College and in Europe. 1 Pro Football player, a golfer and a skateboarder. Then an equestrian a Boxer, Wrestlers, Track Athletes shooters and swimmers who got close but did not make any Olympic Teams. Most Freshmen teams of 30 athletes would be 8 to 10 Seniors. Of course most of the athletes where in between. They enjoyed high school but had no interest in continuing after graduation.

For the Junior Squad it was different. While almost all of the Olympians between 1988 and 2004 came through the National Junior and US Resident Programs, (I saw 11 and 12 year olds grow into Olympians and World Champions) in the end it was a small percentage of the total number of athletes that came into the “pipeline” (as it was called) What IS rewarding is the number of athletes that I worked with in the National Junior Program that are still involved in our sport as coaches, officials, and Master Lifters ( I will not mention the athlete’s name but in 1995 she won 3 bronze medals at the Junior World Championships and just set 3 National Masters Records in Salt Lake City.)

How do we, as coaches, ensure that the experiences of our athletes provide memories of joy and wonder as opposed to bitterness and regret?

USA Hockey has a program that I have always acknowledged and blatantly ‘borrowed’ from them as Director of Coaching Education ( 2012-2018 )

Play, Love, Excel IS the way to go. To ensure that the athlete has the very best of experiences and therefore the very best chance of attaining their potential the following steps are recommended.

1. Active Start: The athlete has a lot of play time and is encouraged to participate in as many activities as they are inclined to.
2. Learn to Train: The athlete is exposed to formal training but only Two to Three training sessions per week that are limited to 30 to 45 minutes in length.
3. Train to Train: The athlete increases their training schedule to 3 to 4 times per week with an increase in the number of exercises and experiences. However they are still encouraged to participate in Multiple actives.
4. Train to Compete: IF THE ATHLETE CHOOSES to do so they begin their transition from “emerging” athlete to “performance” athlete
5. Learn to Compete: The athlete accepts a higher level of competition and of performance
6. Compete to Win: The athlete dedicates themselves to the Highest Level possible for them (High School Varsity, Collegiate, National, International and, perhaps, even Professional.

A FINAL THOUGHT. Tom Brady was a 6th round draft pick out of the University of Michigan This means that no one, certainly Tom Brady, had the idea that he would, in fact, become Tom Brady.
Coaches need to remember this. We have no idea which or our athletes may be “THE” athlete so let’s treat them all with respect, dignity and ‘coach them up’. We have a stewardship to them physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually.

Let’s Play Love and Excel

February’s Thoughts

The very first weekend in February proved to be both rewarding and challenging as I woke to a raining morning with two assigments to complete.

I had agreed to speak at the Idaho Chapter of the National High School Strength Coaches Assocation but that was before I realized that our first Training Clinic had been scheduled for the same day. Fortunately I was able to make arrangments that gave me a two hour “window” between events and felt confident that the day would be a success.

I really appreciated having the opportunity to speak with high school S&C Coaches who where trying to advance not only themselves but their contribution to their sport, schools and athletes.

The topic was the USAW’s Supercompensation Model that promotes the understanding of a proper relationship between “work” and “rest”, that “sets” are more important than “reps” and that the athlete trains over 12 weeks, in a 3 Cycle format.

The participants were knowledgable, engaged and asked very good questions. It was rewarding to interact with a group such as this. There are good things happening at the school level and I hope that, like it was with athletic trainers, some 30 years ago, that schools will respond by placing a high value on the contribution made by those teachers that oversee the training and preparation of our youth athletes.

The 22 mile drive from the high school to our training site went quickly and I was set up and ready to welcome the 15 High School athletes that had registered for our inaugural Outreach offering on time.

Assisted by National Coach Patrick Corbett and Advanced Coach Kevin Burke the course went exceptionally well. The athletes were both cooperative, and appreciative.

I have been, formally, instructing the sport of weightlifting for USA Weightlifting since 1991 and I can attest that you will not find a better approach to learning how to become a competent, confident and effective weightlifter than the Whole/Part/Whole Top/Down teaching progressions promoted by USA Weightlifting.

It is the only approach where the remediation of skill acquisition is built into the progessions.

Add to this approach the 4 quadrants of how people learn; Acquisition, Application, Assimilation and Adaptation and success is practically guaranteed.

Results speak for themselves. The success of USA Weightlifting on the international platform over the past 2 “Quads” confirms that our approach is the correct one.

If you would like to learn more about what our Community Training Site can offer you, contact us or drop on by as we’ll be happy to assist you.


Reflections of a First Weightlifting Competition

USA Weightlifting Community Development Training Site at Crown Barbell

All lifters have their first competition etched into their memory. The USAW Community Development Training Site, at Crown Barbell, felt that it would be appropriate to share the thoughts of an entrant athlete as they went through the Learn to Train, Train to Train, Train to Compete and Learn to Compete instructional model promoted by our Training Site.
The athlete was exposed to the Whole/Part/Whole, Top/Down, 3 Cycle Periodization Model developed by USA Weightlifting.

Learn to Train
Please share your thoughts on the challenge of learning effective weightlifting technique and the approach used by the Training Site.
The biggest challenge for me in the Learn to Train stage was forcing myself (with excellent coaching) to be patient and not get frustrated. It’s the old cliché of Trust the Process and the Process worked!

Train to Train
Explain the differences between your previous training experiences and training as a weightlifter, especially in terms of Sets, Reps, “Load” exercise selection and an undulated periodization training program as you went through the 3 Cycle program.
The USAW Community Development Site taught me that you didn’t need to find a 1 RM or a 21 RM max for that matter to become an effective weightlifter. By using the set, rep and load scheme provided by my coaches I was able to become a more efficient and technical Olympic weightlifter. For example, my coaches at Crown Barbell started me off the blocks for both the snatch and clean, as well as utilizing blocks to refine the overhead Jerk. This was not a training technique that I was accustom to, but it very much helped me break down the different “pulls” in each lift and refining the Jerk.

Train to Compete
Cycle Three is the Competition Preparation phase of the training where the full competitive movements are practiced and at times in the same session. Give your thoughts on how well this cycle prepared you for the competition.
The Train to Compete cycle was by far the most enjoyable. As the six week cycle progressed I could feel myself improving each session. Was there bad training days? Yes of course, but just as in the Learn to Train stage I knew I had to stay patient and trust my coaching and most importantly trust myself.
There was a day when I could not make a single snatch 6kg below the weights I used the week before. After ‘a few’ misses my coach reduced the weight by 5 more kilos and had me complete 3 singles and picked up the technique flaw that had appeared out of nowhere. By the next snatch training session we addressed the flaw, adjusted my start position, and I only missed one snatch over the final 4 weeks of the cycle.
There were also some very good days, for example when I hit my first “training lift PR” C&J and at that moment knew I had more in the “tank” for the competition and sure enough had a successful “all time” PR C&J in my very first meet!

Learn to Compete
How did your training assist your performance and where your overall expectations realized?
Ah the competition….Was I nervous as I entered my first competition? Hell Yes I was! I also had a weird calming sense as I entered the event because I knew that my coaches at Crown Barbell had prepared me for this meet. And not just in training. I knew what to expect for Weigh-Ins, completing my Attempt Card as well as Introductions, Warmup Attempts and what to do inbetween my attempts and during the intermission. Oh… and waiting for the Down Signal. I went 6/6 at my very first meet and surpassed my goals by 2kg’s in both the Snatch and C&J. Yes, I would say my expectations were met!

If you could write a letter that your past self could read before they started this challenge what is the single most important thing you would say?
Leave your ego at the door. If you’re willing to listen and be coached you’ll know doubt see the results.

What would you tell someone who was considering competing in weightlifting?
Give it a shot. Why not? Most importantly enjoy it!

Why Crown?

For the past 6 years all of my efforts had been focused on being the Director of Coaching Education for USA Weightlifting.


I’m eternally indebted to USA Weightlifting for giving me the opportunity to have this position as it was always my dream job. I truly enjoyed it and believe that we had an unprecedented success that continues today.


As great as it was it truly was a 24/7/365 experience and when my tenure ended, January 1st 2018, I took some substantial time off to reflect and consider my future. My club, Idaho Weightlifting, was for all intentions, dormant as only a few athletes could weather the storm of my constant and prolonged absences caused by my Director duties.


It was during this hiatus that USA Weightlifting contacted me and asked if I could make myself available to assist with their Summer Training Camps, Two at the Rogue Facility in Columbus Ohio and another two at the USOTC in Colorado Springs.  It was during these camps that I realized that I am at my very best when I am actively working with athletes and coaches.


I decided that I needed to apply for a USA Weightlifting Community Development Site. This idea made perfect sense, at least to me. The experience I had garnered in over my tenure with USAW would be of little value if I just went back to my club. However if I could continue to represent and promote USA Weightlifting the outreach would, potentially, have a greater impact within our LWC and the surrounding area.


I approached Crown Barbell for a number of reasons. They were a new, up and coming club that had established a collaboration with 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist Pole Vaulter Stacy Dragila and her, two time Olympian Discus Thrower, husband, Ian Walsh and their Vault Company. The facility was ideal for meeting the Community Development Site Requirements. After a serious conversation with Kevin Burke and Kris Foster that resulted with the 3 of us being of the Athletes First Cadre I was convinced that this was the very best way for me to return to ‘day to day’ coaching.  Finally I found Kindred Spirts in the coaching approach used by Stacy and Ian, and that closed the circle of the Weightlifting/Sports Performance/Functional Fitness trifecta.


In October we were one of 76 applicants, nationwide and very fortunate to be among the 24 locations selected for 2019. The process included strict adherence to a series of requirements that needed to be completed by December 15th as well as an interview and a final review by a committee at the national office.


If you have read this far then you can just go to our Mission Statement on the Main Page and get the gist of how we plan to operate.


I say this with absolute sincerity. The USA Weightlifting Community Development Site is here to assist everyone in achieving their goals for 2019 and beyond.