First off, I want to say that I probably shouldn’t even waste my time writing this response. There has already been a plethora of comments in response to the original article. I agreed with many of them in full, others in part, and some not at all. As citizens of this great country of ours, we have a right to our own opinion and the freedom of speech, so I'm taking that freedom to respond to what I believe was an article full of misinformed judgment on training for the sport of weightlifting.

However, this isn't an article based on personal attack of the original author. I hope this is seen as an article that is trying to clear up some of what he had to say about weightlifting. I do agree, even as a competitive weightlifter, that the US can do much better than we have in the sport of weightlifting. As a country though, we're at a disadvantage in several areas. I will get to those disadvantages throughout this article, but first I’d like to get right to the meat of what I believe is wrong with the original article.

In his article, Mr. Holdsworth says that American weightlifters use the “lame excuses of no youth program, lack of money in the sport, and lack of popularity in the US for Olympic lifting” as a means for why we don’t do well compared to other countries. Then he tells of how powerlifting is in the same boat but does well for itself. I’d like to address this head on…

Youth in Training
This is a big point. My personal opinion, which I’m sure you’re all dying to know, is that there really aren’t that many youths who are exposed to weightlifting. I’ll throw in another reason why we don’t do as well because it relates very closely to this argument. I didn’t take the time to crunch the numbers, but I’ll give my right arm (I’m right-handed) if I’m wrong here. We probably have around five percent of China’s active lifters right now. Honestly, in comparison to the number of active lifters from China, we probably don’t even have that much. USAW has about 7000 registered lifters. About 3000 of those are active lifters within the past year. So you can see that the talent pool we have to pull from is far less than in comparison to other countries. China has more active women lifting than we do total lifters. Then there are other countries like Russia who have one of their premier lifters, Dmitry Klokov, performing on their rendition of Dancing with the Stars (DWTS).

On the American version of DWTS, we have NFL players. Go figure. If we asked the American public who Kendrick Farris or even Tommy Kono was, do you think they’d have the slightest clue? What about Peyton Manning? Think about it…

Have you thought about the previous question on who the public would recognize? Now think about what kids are exposed to when they first start lifting for sports in middle school and into high school. The bench, squat, deadlift, and maybe power cleans if they’re lucky. Wait a minute—those are mostly power lifts, aren’t they? The exposure to the power lifts is much greater than the Olympic lifts, so generally you’re going to have more potential in the sport because of the larger numbers of kids exposed to them when they first start training. I’m curious as to how many active lifters are active in the USAPL or any of the other US powerlifting federations.

Honestly, I don’t blame anyone for the lack of exposure to the Olympic lifts because the power lifts are easier to learn and perform. Not to say that they don’t take dedication and years to perfect for competition, but let’s be realistic—the motor patterns to learn the snatch, clean, and jerk are far superior. This is what “does them in” because coaches usually don’t want to take the time to teach the movements. It’s understandable, but the lifts can really be taught in one session. I’ve seen it done on several occasions. What takes time is turning those raw, blocky movements into fluid movements.

Yes, sometimes coaches may have to start lifters with a dowel rod or stick, but this doesn’t mean they will always continue with this light implement. Again, that is why it's better to start lifters at a young age when they have more time to dedicate to learning the movement before worrying about gaining strength and putting up big weight, which comes later. Unfortunately, our average youth lifters probably don’t start learning the lifts until around the age of 12 while countries like China start the bulk of their youth at around eight years old.

I understand that some coaches may take the technique to extremes, but if you look at the sport as a whole, you will see that many weightlifters could compete at a powerlifting meet and do quite well. What about powerlifters switching over to weightlifting? They may have equal strength to weightlifters but will they be able to complete the lifts? No? Why not? Oh, their technique isn’t good enough! Not trying to get into a debate over which athletes are stronger, so I digress…

I’ll be honest—I have no idea about the money situation that the USAW has to deal with or the politics that may be involved, so I won’t try to pretend I know anything…moving on!

Some of what I wrote in the ‘youth’ section applies here as well. Kids aren’t exposed as much to weightlifting through television and training as other sports including powerlifting. Therefore, they wouldn’t even know there were competitions in weightlifting. I performed power cleans for football in high school but didn’t even know about the sport of weightlifting until I was 21. Pretty sad considering I'm an exercise science major going to school to become a strength coach. Do any of you know that in some countries there are degrees for specific sports? Just a side note for all of you.

If you consider that most of the US's best athletes are being guided into ball sports such as football, basketball, and baseball, you will see that we are very limited in the amount of athletes who even attempt to compete once in our sport let alone make a career in weightlifting. On the other hand, other countries treat weightlifting as the US does football or baseball. Their athletes are paid to train and compete, and if they do well, they are given large bonuses. Have you ever noticed how for other countries you usually won’t see the same athletes in multiple Olympic games? This is because often if they do well, they will retire on the money they made from training for and competing in the previous Olympics.

Very few weightlifters in the US are paid to train and compete. They usually have to pay their travel expenses to international meets as well. So not only are they not paid, but they’re working out of their own pockets to compete. Combine this with the normal 9 to 5 jobs they work and one could argue why it would disrupt any recovery between training sessions. What are lifters doing overseas while US lifters are working? Most likely they’re getting all the care they need to fully recover before their next training session.

Much of the argument as to why we don't do as well as other countries revolved around the idea that we train the lifts too much without ever training our weaknesses. There may be some truth to this, but let me ask you a question. Which is a harder lift to miss—the snatch or the bench? What about a clean or deadlift? The Olympic lifts are obviously more dynamic and harder to complete from a technical standpoint. Therefore, wouldn’t this take more practice? I know I’m just pulling in another technique debate but think about it…

There was also talk about the importance of the posterior chain. Of course, the posterior chain is important! Most weightlifters might not do smaller, accessory movements like the glute ham raise or reverse hypers, but as all of you should know, we do Romanian deadlifts and pull variations of each lift. If done heavy enough, does that not work on weaknesses off the floor for the lifts? What about pulls from different box heights? Does that not work on certain portions of the lifts that may be weak? So you see, weightlifters train their weaknesses differently than powerlifters. While powerlifters work on the specific weak muscle with different exercises, weightlifters work more on the weak point in the movement of the snatch, clean, or jerk with varied resistance and similar movements. I understand that many of you will bring up working on deadlifting from pins or benching with boards to work on points within those movements. This is basically the same thing and that’s fine. However, my argument is that putting in work for both sports is enough to bring up weak points of the lifts from either one. You may have an entirely different viewpoint, but this is mine and I’m sticking to it.

There you have it—some of the disadvantages we face as a nation compared to others. This is not an extensive list, but it’s enough to shed some light on why we “don't do as well as others.”