How To Coach Olympic Weightlifting

Olympic weightlifting has seen a drastic increase in popularity in recent years. This has had many benefits for the sport, but has resulted in a dilution of the quality of coaching: the increased demand for coaches has meant a number of ‘overnight coaches’ have appeared with no more experience or knowledge than can be provided in a weekend course and a multiple choice exam.
Coaching for weightlifting is simple in essence, but difficult in execution: know what you’re talking about and learn to communicate it in a way that the athlete can receive, digest and apply to their movements. This has 3 main practical components:
1. Know what the movement should look like
2. Be able to identify problems in real-time
3. Understand how to fix these problems through technical coaching (such as cues) and long-term programming
Numbers 1 and 3 are those we can provide information on, with #2 being entirely the responsibility of the budding coach – assisting a more experienced coach and spending your time in the trenches will develop that anyhow. Those who have proper motivation for involving themselves in the sport (improving athletes rather than making money, for example) will find these enjoyable and easy to engage with, even if they are slow to learn and implement.
The coach must have a strong working knowledge of the three main areas of athlete progression: General Physical Preparation (GPP, specifically for newer athletes or the start of programmes), strength and technique. The application of these 3 aspects of successful weightlifting are transmitted through technical coaching and proper programming. An individual who does not have a solid foundational understanding of these areas is being generous in calling themselves a coach of Olympic weightlifting, and perhaps of any sport. Nobody wants to learn from a coach that doesn’t have a firm grasp of how the sport works or how athletes develop within the sport.
However, these are not enough to totally ensure that a coach is of good stock: the coach that develops this knowledge simply to show off how much they know on their blog or Instagram is not a good coach. The point of the coach is simple: use knowledge to improve the athlete’s performance. Having all the knowledge is not itself a practical benefit to the athlete, and thus a good coach has to be equipped with an effective coaching style and excellent communication skills. Einstein’s idea that you don’t know something if you can’t explain it simply has some value here – if you can’t distil your knowledge into effective programming and digestible coaching cues then you’d suit a research position much better than a coaching one!
In our new publication on coaching Olympic weightlifting, these topics are discussed at length in order to provide a much more solid foundation for those budding coaches who are overwhelmed with contrasting information and often simple mis-information. Through a proper grasp of the basics explained here, an individual can venture out into the wealth of scientific papers, well-researched books and opinion pieces with an effective frame of reference to decide whether statements are useful for the coach’s toolkit or simply content-mill tripe!

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