By Leo Isaac
After more than 40 years in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, I am still doing my best to learn what makes a person become a great athlete, someone who can top the national ranking list, someone with the capability to compete in the international arena with distinction. I can tell you, it’s a puzzle, it’s still a puzzle to me! As I cast my mind back through all my years of coaching experience, right back to those halcyon days when I was a lifter, I try to think about the personalities of successful athletes I have known, the training that was done, and the experiences I have witnessed on the competition platform.
I have studied technique, I have investigated the sciences, I have experimented with training programs and in short, I have looked under every stone in an effort to find any secret of success. And I keep looking, thinking, reading and researching.
What is my latest view? Yes, my views have changed, and changed . . . . . . and changed. But through the mist of time and experience, there comes a theme, a proposition of undeniable truth, an inescapable reality.
The Olympic Weightlifter is a person who, for reasons that are most often unclear, has a deep and abiding love for strength training and the physicality that it brings. The illusion that we all have had at some time is that the gaining of perfect technique will somehow elevate the ordinary individual into the stratosphere of high performance. While differences among athletes in technical ability do profoundly influence the results of elite level competition, the attainment of elite status in the first place will largely be determined by the individual’s capacity to acquire the physical power and strength attributes required of the Olympic Weightlifter.
It does not pay to assume that all elite Weightlifters are born with a greater capacity for power and strength development. Irrespective of whatever views you have about the genetic traits of elite Weightlifters, the journey from day 1 to day 1,500 and beyond must involve a sophisticated and chronic overload process that leads to the acquisition of great strength. The process must be sophisticated because a great deal of effort must be made to minimise and manage injury and specific measures must be employed for nutrition and recovery to maximise the potential for gains. The process is chronic because the training stimulus is virtually daily, consistently on an unending basis without interruption.
As a coach, I am still going to make every effort to perfect the technique of the individuals in my charge. But I am also now aware that my job is to make athletes believe in themselves, and in this regard if I can encourage them to develop great power and strength, along the way they change physically and mentally. Once this starts to happen, a new level of self-confidence is achieved and barriers to performance begin to fall.