American Weightlifting: Seven Questions for Greg Everett

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American Weightlifting is a documentary on the sport of Olympic weightlifting in America. Produced by Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics, the feature length film examines the training of a competitive weightlifter and gives viewers an in-depth look at the stories behind some of our nation’s most successful gyms and coaches. The film also delves into some of the reasons behind America’s less than stellar history in international competition, a serious issue that definitely needs addressing.

As an avid weightlifter and at least a national level weightlifting fan, I’ve been waiting for something along the lines of American Weightlifting to come down the pipes for some time now, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a very well produced film and really seems to capture the essence of why I got sucked into the sport in the first place. All in all, American Weightlifting is a must watch, whether you’re a competitor, coach, fan, or even just a meathead. I look forward to the possibility of more films like this.


Questions for Greg Everett about his new movie American Weightlifting

Jordan Houghton (JH): You and others went into great depths about the various problems that we’re facing on a national level. Do you have any thoughts on how to go about addressing some of these issues?

Greg Everett (GE): None of the problems are easy to fix, but I think in the simplest terms, we need to focus on getting more participation in the sport by younger athletes. More participation will encourage more participation, and more participation means more interest from media and companies willing to sponsor athletes, clubs and events. Most importantly, more participation means greater odds of finding the top tier athletic talent we need to develop world and Olympic champions. We’ll never have those things if we’re working only with a tiny number of athletes who only find the sport in their 20s, have very few places to train with qualified coaches, and don't have any way to financially support themselves for the long period of time it takes to progress to that level.

How do you get more participation? You have to approach it from as many directions as possible. We need more American lifters in the public eye, and the internet is allowing that to be possible. Lifters are creating followings by posting training videos, blogs, and other communications. We need to educate parents, teachers, and school administrators about the sport so that we can get past all the ridiculous myths of stunted growth and injuries and get the lifts into schools. If you can get discus and shot put into junior high school programs (I was exposed to these things in seventh grade), there isn't any reason why we can’t get the snatch and clean and jerk into schools. Kevin and Paul Doherty, along with some other U.S. coaches, are high school physical education teachers and run great weightlifting programs that channel hundreds of kids through them each year. We need this happening in far more schools. Hopefully, American Weightlifting will appeal to people outside the sport and get them interested and excited about either participating or watching the sport and telling more people about it. Think about it this way—if each person who’s involved in weightlifting convinces one more person to participate, you’ve just doubled the number of lifters in the country. Keep that up and you’re talking exponential growth.


JH: What advice would you give someone who wanted to open a weightlifting club?

GE: The best education is experience. There aren't any real weightlifting education programs in the U.S. In some European countries, you can get a doctorate in weightlifting. Here, weekend seminars and certifications are the best that you can do. You have to learn the same way the best craftsmen have always learned—apprenticeship. You need to spend time as a competitive weightlifter training with a good coach and, ideally, with a team. If you have that experience, starting your own club is easy.

That said, anyone can start a club. If you want your lifters to actually compete, you do need to get certified by the USAW and they need to be members. However, while some people might demand that all clubs be amazing, I figure that any clubs are good for the sport—the more opportunities for people to train, the more people can get into the sport. Bad clubs and bad coaches won’t last or have much of an impact, but they can still have an impact on the total number of people in the sport, which is always good.


JH: Your recent article regarding certain powerlifting coaches has gotten quite a bit of attention. What do you think weightlifting could borrow from the powerlifting community and vice versa?

Greg Everett: I think that there is something to be learned by weightlifters from the world of raw powerlifting regarding the development of strength. Program design elements can always be altered to suit the needs of another athlete if you understand them well. I don’t really know what powerlifters can learn from weightlifters—I don’t coach powerlifters and have never been one, so I don’t have much of an opinion on what they should do or how they should do it. I do think a more harmonious relationship would be in the best interest of everyone though. However, that won’t happen until people from both camps quit telling each other they’re idiots and doing everything wrong.


JH: Aimee touched on the difficulties of training alone. What advice would you give to someone who can’t regularly work with a coach or team?

GE: Make yourself part of a community one way or another. With the internet now, that’s pretty easy to do. You need some people to share your training with regularly and get feedback, encouragement, motivation, and accountability. Something as simple as being a regular on a lifting forum and interacting with people there can make a big difference.


JH: Obviously, CrossFit has increased the exposure to the lifts exponentially. What do you think is the best way to take advantage of that increased exposure?

GE: I don’t think that there’s necessarily anything to be done with CrossFit per se. I think the weightlifting community just needs to exploit this current landscape of market opportunities to grow. In other words, weightlifters and coaches don’t need to run CrossFit gyms or have some kind of business relationship with the company or affiliates. What they need to do is take advantage of the opportunity that presently exists to get paid for coaching and instruction, which will allow their clubs to grow and recruit more lifters. They need to create opportunities for new lifters to get into the sport by opening their doors to anyone with an interest (like the millions of CrossFitters out there) whether or not they have the potential to become great lifters. Get people excited about the sport, they’ll get others excited about it, and eventually the real talent will select itself.


JH: What would you suggest for a powerlifter looking to make the switch to weightlifting?

GE: Same as anyone else—find a good coach and team to train with. Let that coach and team help you. Many athletes who have been successful in another sport (and even those who weren’t actually very successful) bring big egos to weightlifting and believe that they already know what to do and how to do it. It’s fine if that’s how you want to approach it (it won’t work well), but do it by yourself instead of wasting a coach’s time by not listening to him or her.

Educate yourself, but most importantly, train. People spend so much time online reading, watching videos, arguing, discussing, and pontificating rather than getting into the gym, training, and finding out what works and what doesn’t. Even poor training is better than no training, so don’t waste time just thinking about training.


JH: Do you have any plans in the works for another movie?

GE: No, I actually have plans to not start any new projects for a while after this. I’m burnt to a crisp after a couple years of non-stop work on a number of big projects, and I need a break and some time to focus more time and energy on my team. Whether or not I’ll actually be able to not start something new is yet to be seen.

Overall, I was very impressed with American Weightlifting. To say that I had high hopes for it would be an understatement, and I wasn't let down in the least. For those of you who are weightlifters, I don’t think that I need to do any convincing, but for the powerlifters and general strength guys and gals reading this, considerate it a must buy. Having seen it already, I’ll still be ordering my copy as soon as it hits the shelves this month.

Buy American Weightlifting, the first feature length documentary movie about the sport of weightlifting in the United States.

American Weightlifting is the story of a sport in turmoil and the athletes and coaches whose passion drives them to succeed despite the odds. Amateur athletes and coaches with little or no financial support struggle to compete with the professionals who dominate the sport internationally.

Training in garages, working full-time jobs, ignored by the public and the media, American weightlifters and coaches strive to compete with the best in the world.

Mental Aspect of Olympic Weightlifting by Jordan Houghton


Greg Everett's Five-Week Squat Program

The following program is a simple five-week squat cycle appropriate for intermediate weightlifters who want to boost their leg strength quickly before their next complete training cycle. It’s important to start with accurate max numbers for the back and front squats.

This program will also be available along with over eighty other programs in the 2013 edition of Programs That Work™: Volumes I and II, which will be available soon. All proceeds from these manuals will benefit the Make-A-Wish® foundation.

 

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