positive psychology

Started from the Bottom. A Year in Weightlifting…

Everyone bombs. In this blog article I will go through a year of training and competitions for one of the more talented girls that I coach. Going from bombing out in record time at the Scottish Seniors in 2015 to the winning the British U23s with a clutch Clean and Jerk on the final lift.

Scottish Seniors 2015

this-is-fine-memeLeading up to the Scottish seniors the training had been pretty standard with a 2 week taper and hitting every opener on the Saturday session going 5/5 Snatch and 3/3 in the Clean and Jerk and opening at her PR double or ~90%. Consistent errors were jumping forward on the Snatch, the bar was drifting away from the center line and an aggressive early extension of the hip.  At the seniors Zoë bombed on the snatch. Some of the lessons learned from this competition were to lower the energy level for the snatch, (2 scoops and shouting is simply not needed. A lot of lifters go through this phase, it doesn’t really help and bleeds you of so much energy come lifting time.) better clock management and it was time to start addressing technical issues if she wanted to progress. The great thing about competing is that it forces you to lift under a microscope. Once the pressure is on, it is more likely you try to muscle the barbell and abandon everything.

Looking at the video you can see most of the problems listed above in action. She was still pretty new to lifting so mistakes were to be expected. The bar drifts around the knee, the vertical speed decreases above the hip (a common problem with an early extension of the hip. This is due to you losing drive from the legs) and an excessive horizontal force is being introduced to the barbell. Bad day at the office for sure.

Training post Seniors

This was the last competition that Zoë lifted as a 63kg/light 69kg, I maintain the goal is being a jacked 120kg with no neck but for now @Shovelhands_69kgs lives in the 69kg class. The next competition she was going to compete in was the BUCS (British University and Colleges Sport) Championships and a lot needed to be worked on before then.

  • Strength
  • Improve speed qualities as a lifter
  • Improve technical mastery

Between the Seniors and BUCS there were 4 months + change to improve these aspects. Using a 3:1 (3 weeks active // 1 Week deload/rest) rotation; her training was broken up into 4 blocks. Hypertrophy / General Strength / Specific Strength / Peak.

During the Hypertrophy block the aim is to add muscle mass. Training involves a wide exercise selection and larger repetition schemes. It is the horrible period of training where you go to the squat rack hating life. It can be harder to motivate the athlete in this phase, the classical lifts might decrease due to the high volume of strength work. Some athletes panic and quickly change program. Motivation is maintained through the exercise selection and the ability to get “default PRs” on random stuff.

zoe-hypertrophy-blockIntensity for exercises was in the 60-70% range with an accumulation of intensity over time. (A total increase of about 7% in intensity from week 1 to week 3). The third week was a hard overreach microcycle. A days training (over 2 sessions) would look similar to:

The exercise selection has her technical flaws in mind and over the 3 week period the stimulus is constantly increasing. I started incorporating the option to do more work if lifters had the energy (before it was implied). The green boxes are there so the lifter has the option to do more work if they feel the energy level is still high. (Technical failure is not acceptable.) Whenever people get to make choices they tend to be more accepting of an outcome. I found this to be a useful change throughout my programming. A potential problem could occur here if an athlete does so much work that the risk of injury increases. For now this risk is acceptable if this moves the lifter closer to her/his maximum recoverable volume.

During the general strength block the main goal is to improve the force production capabilities whilst addressing the individual lifters’ weaker areas. For female lifters it is common to have a weaker upper body compared to male athletes. For Zoë; she has a longer femur compared to total leg length so positional strength when the lever arm is at it’s longest is a concern. (Other sessions included pause squats, stalling lifts or lifts from challenging block heights. A days training (over 2 sessions) looked something like:zoe-str-block

The intensity in this block was within the 70-80% range and increased roughly 6-7% comparing the first and third week.

The sport specific strength block is similar in intensity to the previous but the exercise election is reduced and a greater focus is placed on technical outcomes. This is when technical adjustments are a major factor in performance. You should have an increase in horse power to work with and need to start putting it to use. Video sessions were a greater priority in this block, important for the lifter to get immediate feedback. An average training day looked something like:

zoe-sport-str-block

The intensity in this block was within the 70-85% range and increased roughly 5-10% over the 3 weeks. Snatch variants went slightly higher.
The peaking blocks goal is an increase in competition performance. The volume of the lifts were low and the intensity building towards 90%. Deadlift variations are often removed at this point. An average training days would look something like:zoe-peak

A week before the competition there was a large drop in volume to prepare the lifter for weigh-in, travel and competition.

BUCS Championship

Competition preparation went well, openers were stable. Going into the meet Zoë was working on warming up quicker (to preserve energy) and lifting at a lower arousal level (having been a problem during the seniors). This competition went very well. Going 5/6 and winning the 69kg class.

There were technical improvements across the board and lifted well under pressure. Overall pretty happy with the result of the competition with a result of +17kg in 4 months of training. This is somewhat skewed since the bomb out at the Seniors.

Training Leading up to the Easterns and British U23s

The training followed the same phasic structure with alterations based off of experience working with Zoe. Some minor injuries and holidays slowed down progress. This is to be expected and must be taken into account with program design / workout volume. The summer training was largely uninterrupted only missing about 1 month in total. As mastery level increases speed factors become a more important part of weightlifting. Block work is one of the ways to improve speed under the bar and maintain high volume, this started to take up a larger section of her programming. Accessory work and hypertrophy was important to filling her out as a 69kg lifter.

Easterns and British U23s

Going into the the Eastern districts a two week taper was used and the openers went fairly well, although some sad news had an impact on the energy levels in training.

For some reason I have a nasty habit of not filming the first lift. Zoë went 5/6 and had an increase in competition total of +4kg. On the whole I was satisfied with the competition. The clean and jerk being the weaker of the two lifts. Errors include; the bar crashing down when transitioning under the barbell and the Jerk getting pushed forward a little.

The British U23 Championships followed in three weeks time so there was not much that could be done training wise. Openers were redone and front squats were used to stall out any decline in leg strength / minimize the injury risk of a high average intensity for such a long period of time.

The competition was neck and neck all the way in the British, the stage made for an intimidating experience for a first time lifter. Kudos to British Weightlifting for making the stage similar to international venues. The MC putting the hype levels over 9000.

Zoë was opening the highest on the snatch so she had an opportunity to set the pace of the competition and only lift what she needed to. Going out for her first lift her hands were visibly shaking when going to grip the bar. Deciding to abandon everything she worked on over the past couple of months she did her own thing. It did not go well. An early hip extension and a large horizontal force on the barbell caused it to loop behind. In this situation with a more experienced lifter I would have moved the bar to 71kg. In her current state it would be a dangerous gamble to take. Missing the second lift would put her under enormous pressure and could lead to a bomb out. The lift was repeated and was an easy make. Explaining that a larger jump was needed on her third snatch to remain competitive. I wanted to move the bar to 72kg framing it with carrot of winning, she countered with 73kg (1kg less than the Eastern districts but still a 5kg jump in the snatch which can be a lot for female lifters). The third snatch was spot on and put her 3kg behind going into the Clean and Jerk.

The clean and jerk warm up was a little more jumbled with quite a few misses of other athletes forcing the clock to run long. This meant the timings had to be slowed down and some pulls used to stay warm and conserve energy. To keep her mind off of proceedings I didn’t pay that much attention to her lifting so she wouldn’t be stressing out. After every lift she was asking “what happened / was it good?” Quite funny considering how much lifting she has done. Knowing that she was 3kg behind on the snatch yet the lightest of the girls I wanted to move the bar to 84kg to take first place and force other lifters to “make lifts”. Zoë panicked a little and didn’t want to move the barbell past 83kg. (I cri errytime) This meant the first lift was somewhat of a waste, only securing second (although it meant we used none of our changes). After making the first Clean and Jerk we moved the bar 1kg over the other lifters (to 86kg) to see how they would do. The girl in first place missed her second clean and the lifter in third place moved up into second having made 85kg. Zoë had the chance to move into a large lead with one lift remaining by making the second clean and jerk. She missed. Explaining to her that we want to take the chance to win it on the last lift regardless of the others I moved the bar to 88kg (1kg above the others, knowing that the lifter in second was out of changes). They both missed their last lifts of 87/88 (meaning Zoë would have won with 86kg). She had the opportunity to win it on the final lift, so hype. Luckily she made the lift, (I was feeling the heart flutters) it was an exciting competition performance and luckily it went our way on the day. That made sense to me but no doubt read horribly.

TLDR : Knees weak, arms heavy, mom’s spaghetti. #Anothaone

Going forward,hopefully she learns from the competition. I know I will be altering some parts of training. For example: openers being a higher intensity wave series so people getting less fixated on a number. It was a great return on a years training and I look forward to competition season being over. Next year the goals are to compete at the British and move her total up in the region of 175-180.

Initial total 53/72=125

Final total 73/88= 161

Improvement over 1 year = 36kg.

With training; staying the course and waiting on your body adapting is very difficult. You think micro adjustments are required after one bad session, as long as the work is getting more difficult over time and you are improving your technical mastery you will have a good time. Put your trust in delayed transformation.

Regarding the blog: I find writing super taxing (I am the sort of writer that goes back to the start and constantly frets) but will be trying to write on a more consistent basis, even if it is just to work on finding more dank memes.

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SCOTTISH OPEN – PT 2/3 – 85/77/69 LIFTERS

Second part of the “thrilling” series going over the lifts at the Scottish Open. This is where the aesthetic guys should be hanging their hats and making lifts with great tekkers. Time will tell if that is the case. Same format as last time, lots of pictures of key frames so the format will likely be an eye sore, there is no way around that. I will show my thoughts on the day in a paragraph written in Italics to show how I was thinking “in the moment” and highlighting my thought process. Some lifters were after I had competed on the previous day so there is a change of mindset since some pressure was off, some slang/netspeak involved.

Lifter 1 : Jack Walsh(85)

No concerns for Jack. Seems to respond well to a competition environment. Make sure to keep the warm up slow as he will likely be running on to the platform and not utilizing his full rest, his work capacity is solid though so with these weights it shouldn’t be a problem. Wants me to load 100+kg on his 3rd snatch regardless of the previous, ignore this if he has a mare. On the cleans make sure to get him to focus on finishing his pull and keep a positive mood with telling him about his cray cray jerk.

Snatch 1 91kg – 0:12

Great opener from Jack, controlled the barbell and received early overhead. Argument for a PR power snatch in there somewhere. Balance a little to the rear, probably excited and over cooked it.

Snatch 2 96kg – 0:32

Solid lift from Jack again, had to squat fully to receive the weight, a little more stable – didn’t have to recover to the rear on this lift.

Snatch 3 100kg – 0:54

Great lift from Jack for a healthy PR on the day, jumped forward a little but completed his extension for the most part. The jump was to counter the swing on the barbell as his hips came through a little more than his previous lifts. Good recovery though, damn him and his proportionate upper body strength.

Clean 1 121 – 1:18

Jack - Jerk 1The clean was sooth enough, received the bar early. On the jerk the front foot didn’t step out enough and made for an awkward angle on the recovery, this meant that he had to recover back foot -> front foot and his hips didn’t get to go down as much as they could of. Surprising for Jack since his jerk is money. (Picture to the lefts shoes the front shin angle, he gets away with this since the weight is comfortable for him, but this will punish him with big weights.)

Clean 2 125 – 1:50

Jack - Jerk 2The clean was a little more ropey for the 125, his hips didn’t open quite as much as the previous lift, this cause him to have to move his center of balance a little further onto his toes on the clean recovery. Jack is still getting to grips with the clean readjust and dun goofed, most lifters have had it happen but it is always scary when it does. On the jerk the foot timing was a little off and the front foot was a early, this trapped his hips causing him to press the weight out. The bar was very high so a frustrating miss for him. His charming smile couldn’t swing the judges round to his point of view.

Clean 3 126kg – 2:24

Similar to the 125 clean, hips are a little closed so his upper back is doing a lot of work to recover this clean. The readjust on this lift still gives me the shudders, he lost the pinky on the barbell and for him that is usually a death sentence. The jerk was not too shabby all things considered. The front foot could travel a little more so the shin is coming towards him. Good effort considering the calamity of the readjust, great fight from Jack.

Going forward for his training, he needs to spend more time work his flexibility for the receive position for both lifts and tidying up the footwork a little on the jerk. Incorporating footwork drills in the warm up is an option till the pattern is second nature. His numbers/ratios are good compared to his strength levels so the obvious comment is “just get stronger”.

Lifter 2 : Eirik Mølmshaug(85)

Excited to see him lift, if he moves the bar vertical he will crush. Remind him that the barbell is his friend and he wants to remain on good terms with it. Killing it with his hips doesn’t help him. Up not out. The class is quite full so make sure to move between lifters and keep people on top of the warm ups. He is experienced as a competitor in other sports, should be GGWP.

Snatch 1 88kg – 0:10

For Eirik this was one of his better snatches technically, the bar moved vertically so the lift was up and down. His ankles are a limiting factor for his bottom position, this means that his powers are very high compared to him full lifts.

Snatch 2 93kg – 0:36

Eirik - Snatch 2Decent enough attempt on this snatch, not much went wrong other than the bottom position of the snatch needs to improve. The bar got to the neck height which is well above what is required to make the lift. Unfortunately not aggressive enough on the turnover and got pinged for a pressout. The silver lining being that positionally for Eirik this has come a long way from where he started.

Snatch 3 93kg – 0:54

On this lift he tried to muscle the bar a little too much. He banged the bar too far out, again the bar was high enough to make the lift but if it is out in front you have to have mad shoulder strength and fast feet to save the lift. A cheeky example beings Ilyin’s 3rd snatch at the Worlds where he ran across the platform with 190kg (lolwut).

Clean 1 112kg – 1:14

On this clean the bar came a little too far back and caused him to shift his balance too far towards his heels. This can be a nightmare to recover, luckily Eirik managed to get a foot out and rescue the clean. Eirik is a very good jerker (PR is well above his clean max) so this weight was no concern for him.

Clean 2 117kg – 1:40

Eirik - Clean 2This was his best lift of his 6 on the day, the clean was very smooth. Lovely and vertical, elbow turnover was very fast and had completed by parallel. The jerk was of no concern for this handsome individual.

Clean 3 121kg – 2:04

Eirik - Clean 3Somewhat disappointing lift from Eirik, his hips are moving slightly faster than his shoulders on his first pull. This traps the bar further away from the body for the second pull, meaning that his upper back will have to do more work to save the lift. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case and the clean rolled. The jerk would have been money no doubt.

For the foreseeable future, putting on some body weight and spending as much time stretching as possible is a good option for Eirik. Doing drills like no hip snatches or cleans will help to eliminate his his bang. Training with a camera and looking at the bar path trying to make that S as flat as possible.

Lifter 3 – Joseph Corbin(85)

First competition, try to get him to relax. Make sure he doesn’t care about how the lift looks. A to B for someone in his position. for the warm up make sure to be positive and that he doesn’t do too many lifts. Get warm and get ready, that is all.  He will be lifting at the lower end of the group, so he will likely be following on from himself, make sure that he uses the rest time he will get. Remind him to have fun, aim for 6/6.

Snatch 1 65kg – 0:05

Joseph 1First lift was a little scrappy probably due to nerves. Smacked the bar a little too aggressively with the hips. This meant that there was a lot of swing on the barbell so he had to work hard with the shoulders to save the lift.

Snatch 2 70kg – 0:22

Much better here, still a very high power snatch but the bar doesn’t have any where near as much swing on it. Decent lift from Joseph.

Snatch 3 75kg – 0:38

This is where powering lifts catches up with you. Good pull from Joseph but ducked out of doing a full snatch here, with more time on the barbell this will improve.

Clean 1 85kg – 0:49

Encouraging opener here, slight forward lean on the recovery of the clean but smooth elbow turnover and remained in contrl of the barbell throughout the lift. The Jerk is very robust. Shoulders position is spot on.

Clean 2 90kg – 1:10

Better positioning on the clean recovery, not as much torso lean. Very healthy jerk from the big man.

Clean 3 95kg – 1:32

Not much wrong with this lift either, the weight still looks light for him, he receives the barbell well above parallel. For his first competition he did well.

Moving forward – “forcing” lifts to the proper receive position is a good move for him. This can be done a number of ways. For example doing multiple reps from the hang or blocks can be a good way to move the lifter under a barbell since they tend to get tired towards the last rep and this will cut the pull height down but means they are working at a weight they are comfortable with.

Lifter 4 – Jordan Thomson(85)

Dat snatch brah, he’s so far past the water level roaming about limbo likeabawws. Concentrate on turnover here, won’t need to talk to him much. Make sure his arousal level is appropriate and he doesn’t burn himself out. Try to get him smiling. Once the snatch is over get him focused on the clean, arousal level goes up. Finish the pull and keep the upper back tight, don’t spend too long before the jerk.

Snatch 1 95kg – 0:12

Technically pretty tasty, good opener.

Snatch 2 98kg – 0:26

Very fast, had to use the hips to save the lift but again not much wrong here.

Snatch 3 101kg – 0:51

Pretty smooth technically, the bar is right where it needs to be but his upper body strength let him down a little. Stronger shoulders would save the day here.

Clean 1 130kg – 1:03

Jordan 1Very fast under the bar (audible gasp), Jordan’s speed is a valuable asset to him when he finishes the pull. On the jerk it is a hard to say what went wrong, it looks in the right place. Speaking with him after he said it felt goofy and I understand the difficulty of overcoming a serious injury so I don’t want to drag it out. Foot position looked decent, although the back foot turns out ever so slightly. The bar was over the hips, a lack of pressing strength cost him here.

Clean 2 130kg – 1:32

A little rushed here on his usual pump and rise dynamic start, compared to all the other timings, this one is off slightly. Usually he moves his feet wider. Here his feet get trapped under him and gets spat out. This clean is one that you chalk up as a FUBAR and move on.

Clean 3 130kg – 1:44

Game overThis is the first time Jordan has encountered real pressure in making a lift in Weightlifting so it is a good experience for him. This time slightly forward on the clean so he has to recover the barbell to his throat to make the lift. Too much wobbling about at the top of the the suggests that the midsection probably needs a little work stabilizing the jerk drive. On the Jerk the back foot goes for a long split but not a deep one, the front foot gets caught on the ground and he can’t sink his hips. This means that the arms are caught pressing the barbell and it’s game over man, game over.

This comp came about 4 weeks too soon for Jordan, he has been recovering from a nasty shoulder injury that has prevented any sort of pressing work for about 3 months. Doubly unlucky as the goal for that training block was to improve that area. To his credit Jordan worked hard at what he could (becoming like a pretzel) and it takes a lot of mental effort to do the stuff you need to rather than the stuff you want to. Going forward we will be looking to make up for some lost time and start the beginnings of upper body muscles. Next stop 100 gurls. Addressing his shoulder flexibility is a must as well.

Lifter 5 – Ruaridh Murnoch(77)

Rough deal since I am competing in this class and won’t be able to help him out. I have trust that the people helping him will get the job done, Wish him well.

Snatch 1 50kg – 0:08

Runs and guns a little on this lift, needs to complete his pull to send the bar vertical. Work on extending more rather than bombing.

Snatch 2 55kg – 0:21

Slightly better here. Still pumps the bar a little forward but much more vertical on the finish. Good lift for a beginner.

Snatch 3 60kg – 0:36

You can see he is annoyed here after the lift. Slightly early finish with the pull means the bar loops rather than gets sent vertically. Not going under the barbell means it will have to travel further than is necessary. Deemed a pressout.

Clean 1 85kg – 1:02

Ruaridh 1Similar to the snatch, he needs to finish the pull a little too eager to rush under the barbell. At the top of the pull his shoulders should be behind the barbell rather than over it. the jerk is not too bad although his weighting is on the toes at the bottom of the dip. The foot weighting needs to be about mid foot and finish on the toes.

Clean 2 90kg – 1:22

Decent clean, still quick to go under the barbell and the back starts to round a little at the bottom of the clean. On the jerk the hips need to move down more in order for the arms to lockout. Deemed a pressout.

Clean 3 90kg – 1:44

Same as the previous lift, his winning smile got him the favor of the judges who were generous to award to lift.

A useful showing from Ruaridh in his first competition, with more steady training in the coming year his total will massively improve. To prevent the early pull in both lifts adding in things like slow cleans / slow snatches or going from the hip are also useful. To shift big weights on the lifts require you to finish the pull. He is new to the sport so getting stronger and lifting more often is never a bad thing.

Lifter 6 – Benjamin Greenhough(69)

Make sure to not remind him of the wrist injury. get him to relax and have fun. Stay on top of the warm up and keep him distracted. Have an idea where he is entering the class. After snatch get focus on Clean and jerk, can’t get lifts back. Aim for 6/6, remind him of A to B.

Snatch 1 57kg – 0:16

Opener on the board, felt comfier going for that power snatch like a lot of beginners. Bar swings out a little, rescues the swing with shoulders.

Snatch 2 60kg –  0:39

Clarked this lift, bar is high enough to make. Need to determine what is stopping the transition under.

Snatch 3 60kg –  0:50

A little out in front but massively improved from the previous attempt. Some swing on the bar so had to recover forward.

Clean 1 67kg – 0:58 (quick start)

Finishes with his shoulders over the bar so the pull is a little incomplete, he has to move forward to recover, front squat was for the fans (also known as the Pete). Jerk was a touch forward, front foot not far enough out so the leg was carrying more weight than necessary.

Clean 2 72kg – 1:21

Pretty much identical lift, recovered the jerk with the back leg suggesting the balance is too far forward.

Clean 3 77kg –  1:44

Very good clean from Ben, his shoulders finish behind the bar and he was able to recover well. The jerk is a little rough, the bar doesn’t go high enough for his split depth. Needs to improve a little on the footwork.

Hopefully Ben learned from his first competition, given time he will get smoother transitioning under the barbell. With beginners it is best not to focus on things that are too small. More time with the barbell and more time going from the hang will help his lifts a lot.

Mixed feelings coaching this rabble. I was frustrated having to compete on the same day as some of the lifters, this meant I had my focus split. Looking forward to the U23s for this reason. I also felt that I made some mistakes with allowing lifters to change weights when I should have stuck with the plan. I trusted their feelings but should have planted my foot and gone for what we set out for. The lifters did well and I look forward to some competing at the U23s on May 16th. Next up is Team Girl when I get a chance to write it.

Finding your “Flow” in Weightlifting

What is flow?

It’s always easiest to start with something that someone else said, rather than give my own horrible description that would only serve to confuse people.

In positive psychology, flow, also known as zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. Named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields, though has existed for thousands of years in other guises, notably in some eastern religions (1).

Remembering this definition, what are the requirements of flow and how they relate to Weightlifting?

A Clear Goal. The objectives are clear and not confusing.

This easily relates to Weightlifting. When you give yourself an adequate but not impossible challenge you have the obvious short term goal of lifting the weight. You also have the longer term absolute goals of hitting a certain total or qualifying for a particular challenge.

Immediate feedback. Almost any kind of feedback can be enjoyable if related to your goal. You know whether or not what you are doing is getting you closer to your goal, you can change your course if something unexpected happens. 

The obvious feedback of the miss or make of any given lift, but you also have the feedback of your coach or training partners. The only difference between feedback and criticism is the way that you hear it. Often people have an emotional attachment to a method and have a hard time letting go. That’s why it is often important to ask the person “How does that feel?” “why is that?” instead of “do this, do that”.

Challenges of the activity match the skills of the person. When is a game enjoyable? When your opponent is the same level of the other person. A task beyond your skill level leads to stress and one below your skill level makes you bored and you get distracted. Almost any new skill is hard to learn. But over time it becomes addictive. 

This is where experience and smart programming takes over, you often hear max every day and go hard or go home when it comes to work in the gym. This may work for some personality types. For others it will lead them to getting frustrated and venting at the bar/random chair people around them.  If you smartly and correctly choose the weights, you should feel that momentum when you approach that bar. Anyone who has been involved in high level performance (in any field) will tell you that momentum is a key component.

If a person is struggling with a particular weight or activity, it can help to avoid it for a period of time and focus on what they have a knack for. This may lead to an increased confidence in future sessions. Coaches can switch squats to the end of a particular tricky session so when the person leaves they have that recent memory of doing good work rather than the potential memory of having a rough time with a particular new skill.

A feeling of focus and concentration in what you are doing. Usually your attention is split throughout the day. In flow the split attention is focused into a single beam of attention. That is why you can achieve so much more. 

Once you have some degree of mastery of the sport (or anything else) it becomes quite easy to focus completely on the task at hand. The other factors have to be in place but it is an important aspect of performance. You should be thinking of nothing else. You often find beginners thinking about the lift whilst it is in progress and technique very quickly seems to break down and other errors occur. Weightlifting is a feed-forward motion once you start the lift, it should be an automatic process. The feedback comes later. For coaches this is useful on lighter weights as the lifter can be reminded about various technical cues, but in competition you want to focus them on the moment, not the possibilities that may occur. You will see people in the warm up room looking at X/Y and calculating. The only outcome you can affect is your own.

Consider watching:

to grab an insight in the sheer will and focus required for some sports. I can’t recommend this video enough.

Loss of background noise. You cannot worry about what is going on at home when you in flow. It is a great feeling to be in the present, you have total focus on that moment. Flow is a form of escape from reality.

This aspect of flow is somewhat similar to the previous. When you are on form, the distractions that surround you seem to fade away. A fun example of this being the oft quoted “Invisible gorilla” selective attention task(2):

This is important in all performance sports, if that noise gets to you it will break your focus. From a Weightlifting point of view. A clear example of this focused individual is Ilya Illyin, if you ever get the chance watch:

His mental game is on point. “By the time I step on stage I have already lifted the weight”. This is the attitude that you need when you step up to the bar. You have to be the baddest dude around.

Sense of Control: The most addictive part of the flow is experience is the sense of control or the illusion of control that you have when you precisely and correctly control the difficulty level of the activity.

This ties in with section 3, with smart programming you will have that feeling of control that is so addictive, there are so many forces in life that are beyond your ability to influence. But for that moment on the bar you have control over the outcome if you execute correctly. On the other hand if you are constantly trying to max out and missing you will very rarely have that positive feeling from a session and will kill your momentum.

Loss of Self-Consciousness: Thinking about yourself and what others think about you are a great source of psychic drain. In flow you are so involved that you are no longer aware of peoples’ opinions of you. When you reflect upon your experience you often enriched by it. 

You would have noticed that mid –session, no one cares how you look or what a person is wearing. To be honest most people simply aren’t interested. If they are, odds are they are there for the wrong reasons. 

Personal example: playing in front of a large crowd, the energy flowing around, you are disconnected from it. The beginning of the game I was terrified I would drop the ball or make some sort of mistake and get a rise from the crowd. About 30 seconds into the game that all melts away and you don’t notice anything other than your performance. 

Transformation of Time: In flow hours get condensed into minutes. Or a second gets stretched out for so long – dancer spinning – lasts an instant but often they feel the experience for a long time. 

I think this experience is quite common with people when they work for a purpose they believe in. You look at the watch and all of sudden it is time to pack up and head home. From a personal standpoint I know that when I am lifting and really enjoying a session, it is easy for me to burn through a couple of hours. The same thing applies to coaching lifters and when they are responding well you have that same experience.

How can this help me?

In terms of your own lifting, you can start to see why smart programming is an important factor in the training of the Weightlifter.  Missing weights that you should not be attempting tends form poor motor patterns. The lifts usually are being missed for a specific reason. Identifying that should be your priority, rather than attempting the same weight repeatedly. A recent example of this is the brilliant Tatiana Kashirina (Current +75kg World champion, holds all 3 world records). Quoted as saying:

“Tatiana and her coach could not remember the last time she missed a lift in training.” can you say the same about your training?

Consider reading:  http://thehumancircus.hookgrip.com/tatiana-and-the-2015-arnold-part-1-the-seminar/ for the full article.

If you train correctly you should be making weights every session, reviewing what could be improved either on your own or with the help of you coach. Then seeing how this fits in with your current goals for Weightlifting. This process would greatly enhance your experience in the sport. Max out errday may serve your ego occasionally but you will have a difficult time sustaining that momentum. If you miss, consider asking yourself how it felt during the lift, then ask how could this be improved? – If you don’t know that’s where the coach should be.

It is important to develop a routine for setting up so you can achieve the correct arousal state for your best performance. This will allow you to ignore what is occurring around you and focus on performance.

Flow can also loosely be applied to aspects of training that you do not enjoy. Throughout the book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience – Mihaly Csikszentmihaly” he gives examples of people going through what others may see as mundane tasks. The have a vision of how this can help them and what this task contributes to their current goals. So in the future when you skip out on stretching or assistance work try to see it as part of a process and how it contributes to your goal.

Hopefully you can take something away from this article, more a smattering of thoughts on my part. The “Flow” experience is critical to performance in my opinion.

Some further reading on this subject:

  • Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience – Mihaly Csikszentmihaly
  • Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
  • Start with Why – Simon Sinek
  • Legacy – James Kerr
  • Mind Gym: Wake up your Mind
  • Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind – Sunryu Suzuki

References

(1) Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

(2) Christopher Chabris (2011). The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuition Deceives Us