One of the more exciting elements of the World Championships was getting to see the athletes in the training hall. Competitions are exciting–and this one was no exception–but the training hall is where some real action is taking place. In a competition, you’re going to see an athlete do six lifts, at most. A training hall gives you the opportunity to see several times that number, as well as the potential to see things like athlete interactions, coach interactions, training styles, etc.
Before I go any further with some of my observations, a caveat: I saw a handful of training sessions over a few days before a major international competition. Trying to pull some larger picture or philosophy out of this that can cover training in general, training as it happens over the months and years that precede the ten days of competition, is absurd. The observations in the training hall should be taken for what they are: things I saw in the days immediately preceding a competition.
Right. I might as well start out with some Chinese lifters, mostly because this video of Lu Xiaojun snatching 140 is so goddamn impressive.
Lu is fast in a way that redefined what the word meant for me. His warm-up and progression to 140 was pretty typical of what I saw from other top countries. After throwing his shoes on and taping up, he spent a few minutes doing general stretching and warm-ups and then went to the bar for a few minutes. I wasn’t timing anybody, but I’d say that total time spent warming up and with the bar was 10-15 minutes, tops. This was followed by a quick progression through the weights: bar, 60, 90, 120, 140. The Armenians I watched train progressed with similar speed and jumps.
The time between sets was typically brief. Typically a minute or two, even at the heavier weights. And there was absolutely no fooling around in between sets; the mood was serious, almost severe. At most, a bit of conversation, maybe with the coach or a teammate. But this was kept to a minimum. The most conversation I saw in between sets where times when a coach was explaining something related to the lift to an athlete.
Athletes also rarely shared platforms, although this might have been due to the fact that there were 62 of them available for use, each with a full set of weights. But even if they were doing similar weights teammates would each use their own platform.
Also, the women’s and men’s teams of the top countries didn’t seem to train together, or even nearby or at the same time in some cases. I certainly don’t recall ever seeing them chumming around in the training room. Although this might be more of a reflection of these countries’ attitudes toward the sexes than of their training philosophies; nobody ever accused the Armenians of being too socially progressive, for instance.
Technique was uniformly good, although it certainly varied. The Chinese and Russians are the standouts in this area, although I think the edge goes to the Russians for classically perfect form. Where the Chinese win out is in consistency and precision, which is impressive given their country’s lax manufacturing standards. In their training, the top Chinese, and some of the Koreans to a similar extent, look almost robotic. Here is where you can see the effect of hundreds of thousands of repetitions, no doubt started when most of these lifters were kids, allowing their brains to hardwire their whole bodies for weightlifting.
Those were the most important components of training that I saw. Nothing too surprising. They trained hard, they trained quickly, and there was no fooling around. Period.