Pittsburgh Sports Performance Center
331 Station St.
Bridgeville, PA 15017


The Pittsburgh Barbell Club
The Pittsburgh Barbell Club

My 2 Cents on “Programming”

It is pretty well known in our gym that I have an aversion to writing prescriptive training programs for Olympic Weightlifters, especially the 8, 12 or 16 week variety.  This is particularly true for beginning and newer lifters – those that have major technique flaws they are still working though.  I’ve seen so many “newbies” grinding away on fancy programs they’ve seen on line all the while yanking bars off the floor with rounded backs, bent arms and other eye straining technique glitches.  They are simply reinforcing their inferior technique and bad bar paths by cranking out rep after rep of God-awful looking snatches, cleans and pulls.  Working from the hang, or blocks or integrating heavy pulls prematurely in a lifters routine almost never leads to the kind of long term improvement that perfecting technique first will result in.
The overwhelming majority of athletes I work with are newer and haven’t “mastered” the classic lifts (as very few of us ever do).  So what would I suggest and what do I do?  First, after assessing beginning technique and flexibility I start from the hang (usually with the clean) and as quickly as the athlete can handle it I get the bar to the platform.  I see athletes that have been lifting for years and can still hang clean more than they can full clean!  They never mastered the transition to pulling properly from the platform into the second pull and final pull-under.  The “hitch” remains; the bar slows down around mid-thigh as the athlete strains to find “the spot” to initiate the strong final pull.  Learning to execute a smooth pull and accelerate the bar once it gets above the knees is one of the most important factors in training a successful weightlifter.

To do this I simply have lifters do full snatches and full cleans early and often.  I guess I’m a Joe Mills wannabe with a little Bulgarian thrown in.  New lifters especially should keep it simple, skill development comes first, getting strong is easy (or easier) and can come later.  Snatch, Clean & Jerk, Squat and repeat, all under the watchful eyes of a committed coach.  I don’t even like to add pulls in a workout until an athlete has developed a pretty smooth and repeatable bar path on the lifts.  Ever see a lifter with a max clean of 100 kilos doing clean pulls with 140?  Then you know what I’m talking about.

For me a model training program for a newer lifter would look something like this; full snatch or clean, snatch or clean pulls, front or back squat and maybe an overhead movement like a push press.  Depending on the needs of the lifter I might add in RDLs, overhead squats, jerks from rack or even classic barbell rows sometime during the week.  They can finish with 15 to 30 minutes of conditioning work of their choice and some stretching.  The K.I.S.S. principle in action.

The kind of club we want to be!

As we head into an exciting summer weightlifting season, I want to remind everyone to help keep the high standards that have made us such a great club and such a terrific training facility.  We hosted a great LWC Championships in June and look forward to the World Team Trials and PA State Championships in August.  We are thrilled with the new website, the upgrades to the facility and the ever increasing quality of our team.  It’s shaping up to be a great year!

When I first joined this gym 20 years ago I was impressed with the collegial atmosphere, the decorum and professional attitude exhibited by Craig and Faith Wolfley.  I began barbell training in 1972 and have trained in gyms from Harare, Zimbabwe, to Helsinki, Finland, to Shanghai, China, including many of the “famous” weightlifting facilities in the US.  I have never seen a better training atmosphere than what we have in Bridgeville.  We encourage each other, we treat the newest, greenest lifter with the same civility and respect we do national champions.  In short, we have a really great thing going on here, we are starting to get national exposure and recognition, and, it’s only going to get better.

One of the things that differentiates us from “meat head” gyms and “meat market” gyms alike is our family atmosphere with no inappropriate language, no temper tantrums and no “big league” attitudes.  Please keep it this way.  Be supportive and professional, don’t swear, be considerate and pay attention to others.  Look and act like a professional, if you train with your shirt off (which I don’t encourage) put it on when you’re done.  Offer assistance to others; minimize gossip and do more lifting than talking when you’re in the gym.  If you can’t or don’t want to do those things, this is probably not the gym for you.

We didn’t set out to make the Pittsburgh Sports Performance Center a commercial success and we have succeeded - we lose money every day we open the doors.  But that is not how we measure success, we measure it in how much fun we have, how much we grow as athletes and people, how many friends we make and in the experiences we’ll enjoy for the rest of our lives.  Let’s keep it up and have the best summer season possible!  I'll see you all in the gym,