by Coach Jake Sterny
I’ve been a part of the sport of Weightlifting for the greater part of six years and believe that it is one of the greatest sports on the planet. It is challenging, fun and no matter how long you have been a weightlifter there is always something you can improve or make better through your efforts in training. When any athlete first begins Weightlifting there is the usual phenomenon that occurs once they begin a structured program where said athlete will continue to hit Personal Record(PR) after PR simply by showing up and doing the work prescribed. This tends to last for a while where PR’s are hit, percentages in programming are adjusted and a gradual uptick in performance improves. But, like most things this does not last forever. Pretty soon the athlete will find themselves in the barren land of no PR’s without the sign or hint of when the next one is coming. This can be a tough area to navigate as an athlete because training can become more of a burden or chore than an enjoyable practice. At this point if an athlete is committed he or she should hit a point where they begin to pose the question, “What can I do now to get better? What will make me better than my competitors”? For those athletes this article will be an attempt to shed some light on some fairly obvious things (or little things) that can be done to further their improvement and success in the sport.
If you’ve been exposed to the sport of Weightlifting you’re aware that those in our community love their food. We love to lift heavy, eat a lot to support that and then eat more because DAMN do we love food. For as enjoyable as food is, however, when an athlete has stagnated in training this is one of the first areas they can look to help bring forth continued success in the sport. For as big of a pain as beginning a nutritional overhaul is, once this area becomes a habit or routinized it can affect things that are essential to improvement such as recovery, reductions in inflammation (once again recovery) and body composition. Nutrition should be enjoyable but also used as a tool to support all of the hard work done in training. Training without nutritional support is sort of like continuing to drive your car without filling up once the gas gauge has hit E. In terms of what nutrition plans are best to follow it’s more or less of a crap shoot. Some things that will work for others might not work for you and vice versa. At this point it is either best to attempt to obtain research from reputable sources on the topic yourself or consult a professional who has a background in sports nutrition.
As minuscule as it may seem you have no idea the amount of athletes I’ve worked with (myself included) that do not drink enough water. Water is essential for recovery and when ignored, can hinder this process. Adequate water consumption is a large piece of muscular health as well as neural impulse conduction in our bodies. It also affects blood viscosity which in turn can affect blood to musculature and the brain which can result in poor muscle health as well as impaired thinking processes (if too extreme). I tell my athletes to drink to stay hydrated simply because every athlete is different with varying activity levels and what is enough for some may be too little for others. Proper hydration helps improve recovery and performance in the long run.
Mobility and Flexibility
This is one of those areas that shouldn’t be but can be neglected for an extended period of time while athletes continue to see results. If avoided, however, improved results tend to stagnate by virtue of some mobility limitations that have come as a result consistent training without regular mobility practice. If you can’t get into the proper positions in training your results and improvement may suffer and in some cases can become seriously limiting. Mobility is not something that you need to spend one to two hours a day on as athletes and should instead be a more focused 20 to 30 minutes of work. Areas where mobility can become limited through regular training when mobility work is ignored can range anywhere from the ankles all the way up to the shoulders and thoracic spine(one of which limits squatting depth and the other affecting overhead positioning). Working on this area of your training can lead to an improvement in range of motion and stability in that range allowing for a greater ability to hit the correct positions in your training, ultimately resulting in a greater number of quality training sessions as well as an increased chance of hitting more PR’s.
It can be easy to get by in the beginning as an athlete in this sport. Numbers increase quicker, but, there is a point where doing the minimum is no longer good enough. If you or your athlete wish to continue progress it is about hitting the little things consistently that matter. Hitting the little things are what will make you a better athlete. The approach I always take is to ask myself, “Am I doing something today that my competition is not”, “What can I do to give myself the edge”? Above is obviously not an exhaustive list of little things. There are things such as sleep and mental approach that I could spend an entire other post on, above are simply the first areas that I look as a coach to help my athletes have continued improvement.