Reading Louie Simmons’ postings on the internet and reading through his book, it seems like his basic point is that U.S. Olympic lifters spend too much time and energy perfecting their technique with not enough time and energy put into strength building.
This line of criticism of U.S. Olympic lifting is just not true. Of course U.S. Olympic lifters spend lots of time practicing various pull and squatting exercises as well as various hyperextension, good morning, and pressing exercises. Also, it should not be forgotten that snatches and clean & jerks are splendid exercises for developing strength and power themselves. It’s not all technique.
I don’t think there’s much difference in the way U.S. lifters train than the way lifters in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle east train. The difference in the performance of the top U.S. lifters and the top lifters from many other countries has to do with the way children in these countries are tested and selected for the sports they are most predisposed for. This plus more thorough medical attention for the top athletes from these countries.
Here at Coffee’s Gym, we’ve gotten used to medical personnel showing up at the gym totally unannounced to get urine samples from some of our top ranked lifters over the years. U.S. Olympic lifting is one of the most thoroughly tested sports in the world.
U.S. lifters lift very well considering they are all pretty much drug free. Today, top U.S. lifters lift about the same weights U.S. lifters were able to lift before testing became so efficient.
Last year was one of the rare years when the Senior World Weightlifting Championships was held in the USA. I attended for the whole 10 days it took to run it off down in Houston, Texas. Each day I would spend several hours watching the athletes in the training hall go through their pre-competition routines. I never did see Louie Simmons there. Even an expert like him may have picked up some tips watching these top men and women in the world train.
In particular, he may have wanted to observe the way these world class weightlifters perform their squats: torsos totally erect and perpendicular, chest and head held high, all the way top to bottom, hips on heels. No doubt very different than the way squats are performed at Westside. Almost a totally different exercise. Of course I’ve seen these world class men and women weightlifters train many times before. They all possess very prominent quadriceps development. This is the kind of leg development Olympic weightlifters get doing their squats so upright and deep. When the bar is held low at mid delt, the feet placed very wide apart, trunk inclined forward as powerlifters do, then you get development in the hamstrings and hips, in contrast to the quad and glute development Olympic lifters get squatting the way they do. Olympic lifters get their hamstrings doing various snatches and cleans, pulls, and bend overs with the legs held straight. The quadriceps and the hamstrings are both worked very effectively during the course of an Olympic lifting workout.
Many ex-Powerlifters who become ‘experts’ at various CrossFits and gyms teach this low bar form of squatting under the mistaken impression that this is the way weightlifters should squat. This is incorrect.
Louie brags about how many 1000+ lb squatters he has in his gym and I assume all these men are wearing multi-ply suits, holding the bar at mid delt with feet set so wide that they can only barely break parallel, and it goes without saying that these gentleman are all well-steroided.
In the May June 2015 issue of Power Magazine, Stan Efferding is interviewed by Mark Bell. Mr. Efferding states that squatting with vertical shins would not transfer very well to sprints, “for that you want to be doing things like a front squat or a high bar squat”.
Perhaps Louie having conquered the powerlifting training world now wants to become the strength guru to Olympic lifting. Sorry Louie, this arena is already taken care of.
I did go to the trouble and expense of buying Louie’s book. There is absolutely no useful information in the whole book. Only complaints about how Olympic lifters don’t do strength work in this country.
Doing a classic powerlifting type workout does develop some general strength, but this type of training would have very little usefulness for any athlete including Olympic lifters.
I assume that Louie is angling to become some kind of strength training guru for Olympic lifting. Unfortunately, he will probably succeed in getting some people to take him seriously. Based on what I’ve seen that Louie has posted in the internet, Louie Simmons has absolutely nothing worthwhile to offer to Olympic lifting. Please don’t pay $500 for a weekend Louie Simmons Olympic lifting seminar.

– John B. Coffee

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Robin Goad, ’94 Senior World Champion, amassed 20 medals at the Worlds. John Coffee mainly employed the lifts, squats, and pulls in her training. 

 

Commentary on Louie Simmons Debacle
By John Coffee and Edward Baker

Edward Baker:

A few weeks ago, powerlifter Louie Simmons released a book providing his interpretation of strength training for weightlifters. This literature is falsely written under the premise that a bunch of random exercises are going to be the answer to make American weightlifting great again. Louie confuses the trend of a routine consisting mostly of the lifts, squats, and pulls to a lack of knowledge, when there is a general consensus that the movements that most similarly mimic the snatch and clean & jerk correlate to improvement of the respective lifts. John Coffee and I felt the need to put out this article to make sure that nobody actually takes this book seriously.

John Coffee:

In his book, Louie Simmons writes about how American lifters spend most of their training time on technique and fail to train for strength. Of course this is not true. American lifters spend hours each week doing pulls and squats, also hyper extensions, presses, glute ham raises, ab work etc. Louie fails to realize also that when a lifter does heavy doubles and triples and singles in the Snatch and Clean & jerk, they’re also working strength and power as well as technique. He also seems to fail to realize that when pulls and front squats with the same technique as the classics lifts are done, he or she also is working technique. I’m not sure Louie quite realizes exactly how Olympic lift training is done.
The latest training method seems to include working almost exclusively with low reps in the classic lifts, plus front and back squats. Many of the world’s top lifters seem to be training this way. Although I personally don’t wish to train my lifters this way, it is worth noting that some of the best lifters in the world do. The trend seems to do less variety of exercises rather than more.

“So how do you raise the Olympic style squatting? Simple: by not doing them. Yes, that means following the Conjugate Method” – Louie Simmons

Louie advises people having trouble with squats to not do squats, and to do box squats instead. How about reducing your squat weights so that you do your squats correctly and strengthen the legs this way? Many individuals have weak quads, this can be corrected by doing both front and back squats as upright as possible.

Edward:

As John stated, when an individual is performing the full lifts, they’re working technique while also getting stronger, and when performing squats and pulls, they’re getting stronger while also working technique; you want to do all of the assistance movements as close to the exact of motion as you can possibly get.

“If you pull your knees inward while recovering from a heavy squat, why do you think more squats will fix the problem? It won’t, of course. If you can’t hold the lockout in your jerk or snatch do you really think it will correct itself? No, you must at the very least do elbow extensions.” – Louie Simmons

If a lifter is performing squats incorrectly as Louie describes, then they would simply focus on squatting without the knees caving in; getting strong in the right movement pattern is the premise of Weightlifting.
Take this comparison for example: Bob Peoples clean & jerked 308 lb and deadlifted 725 lb weighing 181 lb, whereas Isaac Berger clean & jerked 336 lb and never could deadlift 500 lb, weighing 132 lb. Though Peoples deadlifted well over 200 lb more than Berger, he still clean & jerked less than him. Berger was stronger in the right movement pattern. There’s being strong, then there’s being strong in the right movement.

Louie also writes of accommodation:

“When I watch Olympic lifting in its current state, I can only think of one thing: Accommodation. When doing the same training—using the same exercises over and over with the same volume or intensity—a lifter’s performance will slow or even go backwards.”

“In the US, the expectation is that the result of exercise is always an increase in performance, but if nothing in the program is changed, the athlete experiences the principle of diminishing returns. This is a general law of biology and simply means if one does a constant stimulus, that stimulus will decrease over time.”

The principle of accommodation that Louie writes of is absolutely correct; if you do the exact same routine each week with no progression of volume and intensity then your progress will slow and eventually stall. However I know of no coach that has done this. In Vladimir Zatsiorsky’s Science and Practice of Strength Training he writes of accommodation, presumably where Louie got his similar explanation from:

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However Zatsiorsky follows up in the next paragraph with (and Simmons makes no mention of):

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Everyone’s progress begins to slow as they go further into their Weightlifting career; In the first couple of months of training a Weightlifter can improve their snatch and clean & jerk weekly, sometimes daily, but as they get further and further into their career, personal records become less plentiful. That’s just the way it is. The stronger you get, the harder it is to get strong. Success in a weightlifter’s training isn’t determined by the number of PRs made in a bunch of random exercises, but by what a weightlifter can Snatch and Clean & jerk on the platform. Ultimately, you have X amount of time and want to do the exercises that are the most productive and that most resemble the Olympic lifts.
There is constant mention in his book of American weightlifters being unsuccessful because they’re not doing the exercises he describes in his book; well what about steroids and the talent pool? In other countries, the most genetically predisposed people are picked for weightlifting, in this country, not more than a few percent of people hear about weightlifting much less practice it. It is certainly becoming better known, and hopefully will continue to. However until the United States develops a beat the drug test or WADA manages to successfully eliminate drugs from this sport, then we will continue to be on the outside looking in. (I certainly would prefer the latter method) The writings of Tommy Kono, Bob Takano, Carl Miller, Artie Drechsler, Harvey Newton, and Jim Schmitz, to name a few, have gifted American weightlifting with the knowledge we need to become a dominant Weightlifting power, we just need to keep finding the talent and get drugs out of the sport to do it.

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How Great Coaches Differ From Others
By: Edward Baker

            Right when I met John Coffee, I sensed that he was different from other coaches that I encountered. There was no self promotion, no speaking in condescension or complete certainty to me, and of course I never once felt like he wanted to keep me around because he wanted my money. However the trait that stood out to me the most is how he genuinely loved the sport. I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some of John’s weightlifting friends that have also been around the sport for decades, and they seem to share the same traits. They all love weightlifting. This love is what made them all great coaches.

            Rather than make a writeup on how I think coaches that came from John’s time differed from coaches today, I asked the lifters of Artie Drechsler, Bob Takano, and Gayle Hatch the question: “What makes your coach different from a typical coach people might encounter right now?” Here are their responses.

Athlete: Rhiannon Reynolds

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Coached By: Artie Drechsler (Author of the Weightlifting Encyclopedia, international level athlete, coach, and official in the sport of weightlifting. Last male from the USA to set a world record in weightlifting recognized by the International Weightlifting Federation.)

            On December 12th, 2015, exactly a week after the American Open,coach and I met after training at the Burger King across the street from the legendary Lost Battalion Hall. He had a pen and a notebook; he bought me a coffee and himself an unsweetened iced tea, and we sat at the back table tucked away from the rest of the crowd.

            I, too, had a notebook and a pen. Inside my notebook I had my goals written for the remainder of December and for the quickly approaching new year. You see, this is our ritual: before and after every meet, and the conclusion of every training cycle, he and I meet after Saturday practice and discuss what we are going to do next. I always sit in quiet anticipation as he reads my list of goals, hoping they align with his because I have the utmost respect for him and his opinion. We are always on the same page; we make a pretty good team. We call it the “mastermind alliance” – if you don’t know what that is, I encourage you to look it up. We evaluate my progress and change anything if necessary. I trust him with everything; I think of him as a father. He always approaches each obstacle as it arises with a rational mind. He does everything in his power to see me succeed; not only in weightlifting, but in every aspect of my life. He thinks of all things as an opportunity to get better; there is always something that can be learned no matter what.

            Sometimes he brings books, newspaper articles, and photographs to training for me. These are always a treat; not only do these gifts mean a lot to me, but they’re always something that I can benefit from greatly. Technique on world record lifts, how to develop the mindset of a champion, you name it – all things you can carefully dissect and apply. He is always innovating ways to make me better; ways to help me achieve my goals in a realistic way. He shares wise advice based on years of experience from his own weightlifting career. He has never once been disappointed in my performance – he’s been my shoulder to cry on for tears of joy and sadness.

            Arthur Drechsler is not only my coach, he is my role model and inspiration. I see and hear the passion in his voice whenever he talks about weightlifting: the places he had been, the people he had met, and the things he had learned. I am truly blessed to know and have the opportunity to learn from him. I would gladly pay any price to have his mentorship, yet he has never asked me for a single dime. Artie helps me because he wants to. There’s nothing in it for him. In his eyes, it is most rewarding to have the ability to share his knowledge and love for the sport. He values those with a good work ethic and character, and doesn’t pursue anyone. Most of all, seeing how much he believes in me has shown me how to believe in myself. Artie is my family, and I look forward to the all the coming years we will spend together in the iron game.

Athlete: Christine Na

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Coached By: Bob Takano (USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, Coach of an Olympian, four national champions, two national record holders, and 27 top ten nationally ranked lifters. Bob has been on the coaching staffs of 17 U.S. National teams to international competitions, five of those being World Championships.)

            One major difference that I learned with newer coaches is that they give TOO many corrections. It almost seems like they always need to say something after every lift, every mistake, and that can be overwhelming to novice lifters and too annoying for experienced lifters. Takano is a man with honesty and says it like it is. No bullshit, not trying to “sell” you. Weightlifting is an AMAZING, ADDICTING sport. if you love it, you will work your ass off and show up to train. Takano lets the beauty of this sport to bring people in, no salesmen here, which is VERY refreshing. He will push you to your potential, but you are the athlete, you’re the one lifting.


          You can tell he truly loves the sport and ALL of his athletes, from novice lifters to olympians. I used to have a coach who would rely too much on my success, like he was using my handwork and dedication to make himself become an established coach…I finally figured out his coaching was not genuine and had to move on. Then I found Takano!

Athlete: Matt Bruce

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Coached By: Gayle Hatch (USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, 49 USA Weightlifting National Championships. Athletes have competed in 1984, 1988 and 1992 US Olympic Weightlifting Teams and twelve USA World Teams.)

            Most gyms I walk in, your see a common theme when an athlete is going for an all time record. You hear load music and screaming at the person to motivate them. To me, my training was quite the opposite. My coach trainined his athletes in an “ole school” manner. Though the training psychology of my coach may be a dying breed, the point must be noted his great accomplishments. While most coaches in USAW would love to see 1 National Championship Banner hanging from their wall, my coach had over 50. That’s right, 50 National Championships as a team on the Junior, Senior and Master level. He produced many Olympians and World Team members under this training psychology, all which were born and raised in Baton Rouge and Coach Hatch never once recruited an athlete to his gym from another club.

            This training psychology was what most consider a military approach to coaching. Music was never allowed in the gym and if more than 2 people were talking in a group, you would be reprimanded. Everything was “Yes sir”, “No Sir”, and “What’s next”. He wore the same outfit everyday of his coaching career and considered it his “uniform”. To this day no athlete has been allowed to his house nor seen him away from gym hours or competition. He is known in weightlifting as a “Phantom Coach” and allows his athletes to do the talking for him. This style of coaching taught me discipline and I responded to this style very well. While seems to be a dying philosophy, the results speak for themselves. I myself have taken a little of this style, but have incorporated my own style. In the end, use what works best for you, but always remember where you came from.

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Current Strength Industry Dichotomy

By: Splitter

With today’s news headline featuring a strength coach, we have an interesting dichotomy – strength coaches are now paid more and are more highly visible (and possibly more appreciated) than in previous years. Which definitively points to industry progress. To a degree, yes.

But with every window we have into those who are responsible for this progress, what do we hear? We hear talk of motivating and energy, of cheering and mentoring. Do any of those things have to do with strength coaching? Sure, any coach needs to have these interpersonal skills but do we primarily evaluate football coaches on their ability to motivate and cheer? Nope.

How well does the coach implement his system, how well does he tailor the system to his personnel, how well does the coach gameplan for opponents. How well does he alter the gameplan when faced with adverse results. We laud coaches who can, via schematic alterations, make the second half look like a completely different game than the first half.

All the Xs and Os details have become such a visible part of the game of football recently. It is well documented, QBs like TB12 and Peyton who spend hours analyzing opponents film – again, the Xs and Os. Even novice fans know the importance of the gameplan. For those who are/have been involved in football, they truly understand the depth of detail involved in defensive coverages, in blocking schemes, the precision of route patterns and how pressure presents.  Football coaches have pages upon pages of detailed planning for a single game.

Now what about the specifics of a strength coach’s job? Almost always, the answer sounds nearly identical to this – “Absolutely, our guy does a fantastic job motivating and pushing the players inside and outside the weight room”.

I digress…

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On several occasions I have witnessed individuals correcting those who use the term ‘squat snatch’, as if it is a term that originated in the CrossFit community. This tells me right away that the individual most likely has not familiarized themselves with Weightlifting literature that uses the term, or even worse that they haven’t been around authorities that lived during the time when the term ‘squat snatch’ was common in Weightlifting.

There was once a time in Weightlifting history when a majority of the world records were set using the split style rather than the squat style that predominates today. Larry Barnholth, the ‘Father of the Squat Snatch’, coached brothers Pete and Jim George. The George brothers successfully used the squat style, and can be considered as the prototype squat snatchers; Pete went on to become Olympic champion in 1952, with his brother Jim earning a silver in the 1960 Olympic Games and a Bronze in 1956. The following link is an article written by Barnholth titled ‘Secrets of the Squat Snatch’:

http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2009/12/ffrom-secrets-of-squat-snatch-larry.html

Note that this article, taken from a Strength & Health magazine published in 1950, uses the term ‘squat snatch’ many times; this dispels the myth that CrossFit invented this term. We should pay homage to the Founding Fathers of this Iron Game and familiarize ourselves with these individuals and their contributions that paved the way to the sport of Weightlifting as it stands today.

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By: Edward Baker

The past few years have been excellent for the exposure of Weightlifting. Membership in USAW has almost doubled in the past year and with that almost double the number of USAW certified coaches. Thanks to CrossFit and social media the popularity of this sport is growing and more gyms are becoming interested in learning more about Weightlifting With the booming interest, more people with certifications and degrees are coming out of the woodwork proclaiming to be coaches. And unfortunately, there is a tendency for consumers to assume that those who possess letters after their name are automatically good coaches. Credentials don’t make coaches.

That last statement isn’t to say that there is no validity in possessing credentials. Quite the contrary, obtaining a formal education in the basics of exercise physiology and biomechanics can give an individual foundational knowledge to build upon, and attending different certification courses or seminars can provide new information, or remind and reinforce what an individual has already learned. One criticism of using a formal education to coach, is that much of the literature used is derived from a Physical Therapy setting, but what is applicable to a PT patient does not necessarily apply to a lifter. For example, Karl Klein’s ‘The Knee is Not for Bending’ article featured in Sports Illustrated back in 1962 misled many to believe that full squats caused laxity of ligaments in the knee. While this has been refuted, many exercise science programs still teach this as dogma (including the University of Georgia). Sure, a full squat wouldn’t be advisable for a soccer player who’s doing physical therapy after an ACL surgery, but a hammer thrower would be missing out on the benefits of the development of the glutes (important and powerful hip extensors) that would only help them in their athletic endeavors.

Lacking a formal education in exercise science means it is up to the individual to properly educate themselves on training methodologies, and there are plenty of Weightlifting coaches in this country that have done so. My coach and mentor, John Coffee, is a prime example. While he doesn’t have an Exercise Science degree, he has definitely read his fair share of literature so that it doesn’t hold him back. At 68 years old, he’s still making strides to educate himself on how to be a better coach.

Notice that I stated ‘foundational knowledge’ earlier in the last paragraph; While credentials can provide an excellent basis, a prospective coach must not stop striving to educate themselves. I feel that too often there is a tendency for people to either go into certifications or seminars just to obtain a credential, rather than aiming to further expand their knowledge on training methodologies.

Just as bad of a sin is that one stops trying to learn after completing the certification/seminar, with the mentality that most of what a coach needed to know was within the course material. And there are those individuals who completely scoff at certifications, seminars, or formal education altogether who, ironically, are the ones that would most greatly benefit from each.

Foundational knowledge serves as a great starting point on how to go about training an athlete, but truly learning to be a coach requires actively learning with each athlete you’re entrusted with. Everyone is different and everyone will need to be trained differently. At the end of the day, a large part of coaching is making lots and lots of educated guesses based on education and experience. When you provide a technical cue for an athlete, experience will say that it will correct a problem, but there’s no surefire way of knowing what we say will 100% work. This goes for programming as well. When I started training at Coffee’s, I hung around the gym everyday and got to see John work with people on a daily basis. This has tremendously helped me in my own coaching endeavors. The mark of a good coach is how well they convey the knowledge they possess to their athletes. Anyone can memorize a biomechanical analysis of the execution of a snatch, but that is only half the equation. If a coach can’t give the information to the athlete in a way that they can understand and execute the proper movement pattern, then it’s useless information.

In conclusion, coaches are made by education and experience. From my own personal experience, if you are aspiring to be a coach, find a well‐established, knowledgeable coach and ask if you can shadow them to see how they work with their athletes. “One can never know it all, and one should never stop striving to learn more.”

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Photo courtesy of: hookgrip

Smooth Off The Floor
by: Edward Baker

In technical analyses of the Olympic lifts, much attention is appropriated to the latter phases. The incipient phase of the pull is equally, if not more important, and in many cases determines the outcome of a made or missed lift. Echoing the sentiments of John Coffee, “If you can start it right, chances are you’ll end it right.”
The separation of the barbell from the platform must be smooth; not necessarily slow, but in such a way that body positions are not compromised. For example, when an athlete yanks or jolts the barbell off the ground, the back tends to round (it’s also not good practice for the sake of integrity of the shoulders.) Many times the athlete will rush pulling the bar from the floor and commit faults that severely hinder the possibility of successfully completing the lift. These faults include: Not getting the knees back enough, the bar drifting away from the athlete from the ground to the knees, and the bar coming off of the ground too fast.
Not getting the knees back enough will force the athlete to pull around the knees, and this horizontal deviation away from the body will result in more of an abrupt ‘sweep’ as the bar is being pulled from the knees to the hip (a forceful contact of the hips will result in anterior translation of the barbell.) The barbell drifting away from the athlete will result in the same fault.
Many athletes mistakenly assume that if they pull the bar off the ground really fast, then this in turn will mean that their second pull will be faster and that they will be able to get under the bar. The bar needs to be moving with the greatest acceleration as triple extension occurs at the top of the pull. If the bar accelerates off the ground fast, then there is a chance that the bar will actually decelerate as it gets to the hip. (The opposite of what we want.)
Being ‘smooth’ and controlled off the floor will assure that these faults are avoided, John will often iterate “I don’t care if it takes you five seconds to get to the knees,” to stress that hitting the proper positions in the first phase of the lift is more important then trying to come off of the floor fast.

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