History of Olympic Weightlifting
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by Boris Severov, Finland, 2008
Translation by Arthur Chidlovski
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The main reason behind writing this program was a pure accident. After I moved to Finland for a permanent residence, while being unemployed, I dove into Olympic weightlifting with all my passion. I re-read all materials that I brought with me including sports physiology and biochemistry textbooks. In addition, I found a lot of published materials on training methodology in the archives of the Weightlifting Union of Finland. I found out that there were many experts that taught clueless northerners about the right way of the Olympic weightlifting. The list of visitors included lectures by A. Nalbandyan, A. Rykov, A. Medvedev, P. Sotsko, O. Pisarevsky, V. Krylov and many others. Every guru, from Vasily Alexeev to Ivan Abadzhiev, left their instructions in written form on what the right way of training is. Besides, I had my own notes from the Soviet period when I worked as a coach and a consultant in the Dynamo and in the Kalev sports clubs. When I re-read all of these and added all methodology articles from multi-volume subscription to the Olymp magazine and the Tyazhelaya Atletika Annual reports, I decided to summarize all these priceless materials and my training experience into some system that would determine all advanced aspects. Then I re-processed all these statistically for a publication in the TEMPAUS, Finnish magazine on weightlifting.
That was the story behind this program of strategic planning. It doesn't repeat the program of multi-year training by A. Medvedev (1986). It is based not only on processing of modern training methodologies but relies on the basics of sports physiology and biochemistry, particularly, on adaptation theory by Italian physiologist G. Selie and works by such biochemistry scientists as N. Yakovlev, N. Volkov, A. Khnykin, H. Embden and H. Hubs. Interestingly, in regard to training of the beginners of the first year, Medvedev recommends a 4-time per week training with weights using 4-5 reps per set in classic lifts. In squats, it reaches even 4-8 reps per set. In other words, in terms of reps per set in training, there is no difference between the beginner and the master of sports level which is, in my opinion, is not quiet correct. Medvedev's program for the sports schools was created based on statistical processing of training journals of the national Team USSR. Although, at the moment of the program creation, Bulgarian team led by Ivan Abadzhiev was breaking all the dogmas of the Soviet weightlifting school - especially, in regard to the intensity of training and the harm of the over 100 percent pulls. I managed to keep this Bulgarian 8-week training program published in 1986. In the program, on the preparation stage, Bulgarians lifted 70 percent of their pulls' volume on 100-120 percent weights. The pulls with 110-120 percent weights took almost half of the lifts.
The article offers my multi-year training program in a compressed form that shows the dynamics of the development of the training process from stage to stage. It consists of 18 stages depicted in the tables. The length of each stage is individual for each athlete. It varies from 6 to 12 months and depends on adaptation abilities of the athletes. Transition to the next training stage is to be made after the end of adaptation process in the athlete's body for a specific training load - in other words, when the body would adopt to a specific load and doesn't react anymore on suggested set of training sets for a specific training stage. Stoppage in strength delopment will be a good indicator of this. Adaptation abilities are different for every athlete and so is the length of each stage. Needless to say, the speed to adaptation to specific loads or adaptation abilities do not necessary mean overall ability of an athlete. The same result can be achieved by one athlete in 6 years, by another one - in 8 years and the third one might need 10 years of training. We know athletes who became Olympic champions after 8-10 years, others needed 12-14 years and some needed 18 years. The most important part is that the end result can be achieved by almost everybody under the assumption that all suggested means and methods are used.
The program tables show most important parameters and means of training process that determine more or less the degree of results grows for lifters. Usage of the training means takes place in steps or stages from a simple level to a more sophisticated one, from small to big maintaining adaptation processes in the athlete's body and muscles in constant dynamics due to consistent involvement of new stimulus. Jumping over stages in program are not acceptable in terms of both usage of training and rehabilitation resources.
In terms of the number of reps per set, Part 1 of the Program (stage 1-5) was mostly developed according to the ideas of Merited Coach of Russia L. Imkhanitsky. The details of his methodology are covered in the Olymp magazine (2/1996). In terms of intensivness of the weights lifted, the program relies on the well-known research work by A. Prilepin. The program suggests to begin training of the first stages using minimal loads in regard to the weights as well as intensity, the number of reps and selection of exercises. For example, in the first stages do not offer any pulls at all. Needless to note that beginners are mostly children and there physiology and psychology differ from the adult ones. Loading them at the first stages like it would have been done for adults is not acceptable. Instead of pulls, beginners are offered to strengthen their muscle surrounding of the spine, to use bends and abs development exercises. In the end of training sessions, there should be used such exercises as hangs on the … and parallel dips. In order to create a team atmosphere, coaches should consider organizing outdoor trips with young athletes (fishing, mushroom gathering). It is highly desirable to create an atmosphere of a CLUB. One needs to remember that beginners are usually 10-11 years old and they are children. When administering competition at this age, it is better not to determine winners by the Sinclaire or Starodubtsev tables. There is a risk that one can loose future heavyweights. It is recommended to determine winners by the techniques or by the growth of results like it was done by Movladi Abdulaev in the weightlifting school of Shatoy, Chechen Republic. This stage is dedicated to learning the lifting techniques. Therefore, more attention is paid to dives under the bar in snatch and clean-and-jerk lifts. Snatch and clean lifts are to be performed from various starting positions but always to a low squat. All cleans should be completed with jerks. Strictly cleans are not to be used at all. It is useful to offer youngsters various jumps, acrobatic exercises, shot throws or kettlebar throws overhead over the tree branch, etc. The main goal of stages 1-6 is to teach an athlete to perform the snatch and clean-and-jerk lifts with perfect technique and with the maximal efficiency of muscles. This is why it is recommended to use 1-2 reps per set in lifts. Overall, in stages 1-6 re-synthesis of ATP in muscles is done on 80-95% due to creatine phosphate reaction.
At stages 4-6, training process becomes more specialized. By stage 6, the volume of training sessions doubles compared with stage 1 - from 500-600 reps per month to 1100-1200 reps per month. The number of training sessions per week increases from 2-3 to 4-5 sessions. Training intensivity also goes up. The number of 90+ percent snatch and clean-and-jerk lifts doubles and reaches up to 40 lifts per month on stage 6. Training is also becoming more diverse. Training plans now includes new supporting lifts such as clean pulls and semi-jerk. Still, it is being used in small amounts - 6-8 lifts per session and with 1-2 reps per set. Dynamic press lifts are also included. There can be new progress schemas in lifts. For example, 60x3, 65x2, 70x1, 75x3, 80x2, 85x1. Due to the fact that 80% of lifts is being performed with 1-2 reps, the process of ATP re-synthesis in muscles takes place without a significant lactic acid development and the process of recuperation goes fast. It allows young athletes to be fresh on all training sessions. This is the time of sexual development for young boys and this period usually is associated with growth in lifting results as well as in bodyweight. Young athletes shouldn't slow down their bodyweight for extra points in competitions and they shouldn't in any way lose weight deliberately before the contests. On the average, athletes reach Class A level or even become Candidates to Master of Sports.
Lets take a look the third phase of the program which includes the 7th, 8th and 9th stages of training. On those stages, the share of 3-6 reps lifts increases up to 35-45 %. That automatically transforms the ATP re-synthesis mechanism in muscles into the Glycogen-lactic acid system mode with its 35% of overall load. The number of training sessions increases from 4-5 to 6-7 times per week and, during these stages, the students are ready to complete the Master of Sports level with a clean approach to training. At this stage, training loads go up also due to high intensity and usage of combined lifts such as pull + snatch, pull + clean-and-jerk, push press off the rack + jerk off the rack, front squats + clean pull + jerk off the rack and so on. Training now requires a more professional attitude and the recuperation means play a significant part. Saturday and Sunday now include two training sessions. With all these said, the morning training should include only 1 rep lifts with the weights less than 90%. The sports beverages now include additions of protein mixes. Food should include such components as potassium and zinc and also honey, nuts and caviar. There is a significant increase of the 3-6 reps lifts (up to 35%), the pulls, squats and push press lifts. For diversity reasons, it is recommended different variations of weight increase on the bar. In the snatch and clean-and-jerk lifts, the number of lifts with 90+ percent weights increases from 50 to 70. Various dive-under-the-bar exercises take place in the beginning of the session as tune-in instrument for the snatch and clean-and-jerk techniques and as a relaxation in the middle of the training. Following the Bulgarian example, in between heavy exercises we recommend to set a break point (20-30 min), rest and use energy drinks.
The following stages 10-12 of the program are more suitable for professionals because the number of sessions per day now is from 7-8 to 9-10. In other words, we introduce twice a day training on the weekdays. Most important, there are new training means used including the method of weight changing during the performance of the lift. For example, in the squat, the assistants add or decrease 10-20 kg after each squat rep. This method can also be used in classic pulls as well as in the classic lifts. At this stages, the share of work by muscles in the creatine phosphate reaction mode of the ATP re-synthesis decreases to 50 percent of total volume and, in the glycogen-lactic acid system, due to reps increase to 3-6, it increases to 43 percent. On stage 11-12, in squats and leg development exercises the number of reps can go up to 8-10 per set. The number of 90+ percent lifts in snatch and clean and jerk reaches 100 on stage 12. Total number of lifts in preparatory period reaches 1,800 - 1,875 lifts per month. The strength growth mostly is attributed to the enlarging of diameter and hypertrophy of the muscle fibers of athletes. To speed up the recuperation process after heavy sessions on these stages, we recommend low-intensity cardio vascular exercises including breathing, walking and jogging. Pulse shouldn't go over 120 per minute. Assortments of recuperation means include also sauna and physical therapy. Sleeping and balanced eating are very important. For example, Gleb Pisarevsky had a habit of 1-2 long nap after morning session and lunch. In any case, when he visited Finland with his father, afternoon nap was always a part of his daily routines. In this time of training program (especially in super heavy sessions), under the guidance of the doctors, one can used allowed substances for recuperation (orotat of potassium, inosine, pantokrin, etc.) Under the condition of following all requirements, athletes should reach the Master of Sports International Class level.
Stages 13-15 include perfecting of skills within national teams in the weightlifting Olympic centers with a stricter approach to all components and means of training process. Montly total volume reaches 2,200-2,400 lifts. On these stages results of athletes depend more on their mental and psychological abilities and health overall.
The last stages 16-18 are practically a period of multi-year maintenance of shape. Both Bulgarians and Chinese succeeded at this stage despite different approaches in programs.
In conclusion, I'd like to note that the program of multi-year strategic programming is not the last word on the subject but an attempt to look at the training process from a distance through currently accumulated knowledge of the process. The most important part is that the program gives a clear direction to the training process and allows to escape from searching for a light in the darkness. Some statistical data play very important role and attention has to be paid to those - specifically, the number of snatch and clean-and-jerk lifts of 90-100 percent weights, because these data directly correlate with the results. Overall, the data in the tables are rounded and approximated but they are approximated in a way to give a signal to a coach to move in a right direction. They help to see the goal and means of its achievements, the directions in which to go - not with trials and errors but consistently, from one stage to another.
If one is a developed athlete and wants to join the program, it is necessary to determine what stage to begin with. This has to be done not based on Sinclaire points but on the analysis of the athlete's training means and knowledge of the passed training volumes. For example, his result in Sinclaire corresponds with the stage 5 when it is required to train 5 times a week and the athlete has already been training 6 times per week which equals the volume of stage 7, then it is more reasonable to start with stage 7 or 8 although his results do not fit suggested stage. It is quiet often that usage of new exercises from the stage assortment helps the athlete to improve his results. Basically, in terms of rhythm and speed, all assistance exercises (pulls, squats, press lifts) should be performed accordingly to classic lifts. For example, back squats should consist of two phases - moving up to the "dead zone" and moving past the "dead zone". In pulls after explosion, it is desirable not to "freeze" the "on the toes" phase but instantly perform the first phase of squat under. The program includes typical plans for each stage. The first 9 stages has been tested in Finland and brought 100 percent true result. I hope that the program will help young coaches and athletes in their search to reach the top in their sports careers.
Note: Please scroll to the right to view the whole table.
Note: Please scroll to the right to view the whole table.
Boris Severov, 59 is an experienced Olympic weightlifting athlete and coach. He is the USSR Master of Sports and the Coach/Instructor 1st Class. He holds the Master of Science degree in Olympic Weightlifting and Sports from the Institute of Physical Culture, St. Petersburg, Russia.
His personal best results as a competitive lifter includes 477.5 kg total (press+snatch+ clean-and-jerk) in 1972 and 335kg total (147.5+187.5) in 1974 in the middle heavyweight class. After retirement from competitive weightlifting, Severov coached weightlifting in Estonia and Finland. In 1974-1975, his best student, Viktor Perepelkin managed to break all Estonian records set by legendary Jaan Talts in the 90kg weight class. Perepelkin took the 4th place at the 1976 USSR Championship in Karaganda behind David Rigert, Sergey Poltotatsky and Adam Saydulaev.
Boris lives in Tampere, Finland and can be reached at email@example.com
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