Monthly Archives: June 2013

By Edward Baker

There aren’t any videos of our training this weekend because instead, I went up to Nashville to help out my friend, Jordan Pepe at a local competition. I’m not trying to turn this into my personal blog, but I can’t help but want to brag about the performance I saw this weekend.

Jordan went up to this meet with the intent to qualify for this year’s Senior Nationals, and boy did she convincingly do so. She ended up going 6 for 6 and totaling 16 kilos more than she needed to qualify. Each attempt looked routine, each one looking just as easy as the last. The highlight for her was clean and jerking a PR of 96 kg, but it ‘looked like a toy’, as John Coffee would say. 

I also had the pleasure of helping out Zan Hamilton and Sara Beth Phillips; this was Zan’s first meet and she did great considering that! No matter how hard the cleans, she jerked everything with ease. If you read this Zan, I would recommend front squatting at least once a week once you finish the squat program you’re on; it’ll help you stand out of those cleans with ease! =D

Of course I have to brag about Sara Beth too; she started off by missing her opening snatch at 70 kg. As most weightlifters will agree, this is probably one of the hardest situations to overcome. She overcame it alright, snatching it on her 2nd and then making a much more convincing snatch on her 3rd at 73 kg. In the clean and jerk, she hit 90 on her opener, then went to 94 on her 2nd attempt, gutting out the clean and then missing the jerk. Most people (including myself) would have contemplated just giving up and giving the bar no more than a tug, but she went back out on her 3rd and again gutted the clean, and nailed the jerk. Having that level of tenacity is a great quality to have, a quality that every coach wishes their athlete has.

I really felt compelled to just brag on each of these girls that I helped out this weekend. They each are more involved in CrossFit, but they each could become great weightlifters if they ever decided to dabble in the sport more one day. I look forward to seeing you all at the Senior Nationals next month!


– 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympic champion Kakhi Kakhiasvilis performing a squat the way it should be done.

     I know that what I am about to write will piss some people off, but I’m an old man, 66, and don’t have anything to lose. I also know that many people will disagree with what I am about to say and it is certainly their right to disagree. What I have to say is only one man’s opinion, but it’s the opinion of a man who’s been around the block a few times with this iron game.
     Lately, from several sources, I have noticed that the so called ‘low bar’ squat is being taught as a legitimate way to perform an exercise that many people (myself included) consider to be the best and most productive exercise that can be performed with a barbell. This ‘low bar’ squat style seems to be particularly prevalent in some CrossFit circles. I have also had people show up at my gym performing squats in this style after reading about it in a certain book.
     I will start my argument by stating that after well over 50 years as a competitive lifter, coach, and gym owner, I have never seen a top-ranked bodybuilder, Olympic lifter, or serious track or football athlete doing low bar squats.
     The squat movement, whether it be high bar full back squats, front squats, half or quarter squats, or Hatfield bar squats, to my mind, should be about developing and strengthening the quadriceps, as well as the glutes. The high bar squat, when done properly, should not involve the hamstrings much at all. These muscles should be developed with straight legged deadlifts and Good Mornings (always with the knees slightly unlocked) as well as the various leg curling and glute ham gastroc movements. The hamstrings are also strongly involved in Olympic lifting movements such as snatches, cleans, and pulls.
     I can remember the first powerlifting meet held in Georgia at the old Butler Street YMCA in Atlanta in December 1965. It drew a diverse crew of bodybuilders, Olympic lifters, and men who already considered themselves powerlifters. As one can imagine, all kinds of squat styles were used. A few years later virtually everyone at powerlifting meets were setting up with the bar half way down their deltoids, using a relatively wide foot stance and barely breaking parallel; and this is as it should have been. Squatting in this style allows one to lift the most weight while staying within the parameters of the rules for the squat movement in competition.
     In the old days at Coffee’s Gym in the 1980’s, the powerlifters would do high bar squats until about a month out from the competition, at which time they would put on their super suits, widen their foot stance, and set up with the bar half way down their shoulders. Immediately they would squat 100-200 pounds more than they’d been doing on the high bar squat. After the competition they’d go back to their high bar squat routine. Not only did these men become very strong in the squat movement, they also possessed very good quadricep development.
     In closing, I would like to say that most trainers should stick to high bar squats, front squats, or squats with the Hatfield bar if it’s strong legs and good quadricep development you seek. If it’s the posterior chain you want to strengthen and develop, stick with Romanian deadlifts, Good Mornings, Olympic lift movements, as well as hyperextensions and various leg curls.
      The low bar squat is not an exercise for leg development; it’s a way of doing a strength feat that allows a man or woman to lift the most weight while staying within the rules for the lift, but it’s not a movement that those who wish to develop leg strength for sports or to improve the shape and appearance of their legs has any business doing.
     If one wishes to develop real leg strength, every effort should be made to keep the torso upright when squatting. When the torso is inclined forward, much of the effort is transferred to the butt, lower back, and hamstrings. This is not what we want. I would also like to add that all squatting and pulling movements should be performed with the back strongly and rigidly arched. In my opinion the very best test and developer of real leg strength is the full front squat with the back strongly arched. The full high bar squat is not far behind. The low bar back squat is not even on the list.

John B. Coffee
USA Weightlifting Senior International Coach


Just recently, a user on Pendlay Forum asked John Coffee a series of questions; we feel the need to share the questions (and John’s answers) on our website as they may serve value to someone.

Coach Coffee,

Just a few questions if you don’t mind:

a) Regarding brand new lifters that want to take up Weightlifting. Do you have any general guidelines to get them started? For example, do you teach them the full lifts right away if they have flexibility? Do you teach the snatch before the cleans? Etc..

JOHN: In general I usually teach the full squat snatch first, starting with overhead squats, drop snatch, shrugs from the hips, snatch from the hips, and then working down to the floor – mid thigh, knees, mid shin, floor. Sometimes I can have someone doing a fairly good squat snatch in 30 minutes, and then again some take much longer. The great ones usually can learn quick. I do the same with the clean & jerk. Of course technique must always be practiced and criticized and often modified.

b) I noticed that when you observe your lifters during each lift, you tilt your head sideways. I’m just wondering, but does this help you observe the bar path better?

JOHN: I do this so that I can get a better idea of what’s happening during the critical stage when the bar should brush (not bang) the hips.

c) What are some Weightlifting books would you recommend to someone who wants to learn more about the sport?

JOHN: I think Artie Dreschler’s Weightlifting Encyclopedia is very good. Both of Tommy Kono’s books are very good as are Carl Miller’s books. Bob Takano’s book, Harvey Newton’s book, Matt Foreman’s book are also good books. One should read a wide variety of weightlifting material from as many different sources as possible. The Russian books that Bud Charniga has translated are well worth a close look. It’s even good to read old stuff from old issues from muscle magazines: Strength & Health, Muscle Builder, and Ironman.

d) About upcoming coaches. What advice would you give them?

JOHN: The most important thing for aspiring coaches to learn is how to teach technique and to always remember that people are different and may need slightly different variations in technique. Some may have hips a little higher at the start of the pull than others, a few people may do better with the split style of snatch or clean. It’s also worthwhile to learn about many styles of training and not to be a slave to just one way of doing things. Different people may have wide variations in recovery ability and need to do more or less volume and intensity. One can never know it all, and one should never stop striving to learn more.

Best wishes, John B. Coffee

– From left to right: Shelly Truesdell, Colleena Collins, John Coffee, Rachael Bommicino, Jordan Pepe, Edward Baker

This past weekend we had the pleasure of having Jordan Pepe train at our gym! She just recently placed 15th at the CrossFit Southeast Regionals (which is getting more and more competitive each year), and after the lifts we saw the past couple of days we can see why she did so well! Jordan is currently trying to qualify for the 2013 Weightlifting Senior Nationals, and we have no doubt she’ll be able to do so. Hopefully she’ll train with us again soon!

– Edward Baker

This may be a day late, but on June 11th, we had the pleasure of having Nat Arem, the owner of hookgrip, at our gym. He’s no less than a great guy who takes great photographs of weightlifters! Be sure to check out his website at to get some great posters, we have a few of his up at Coffee’s and people love them! (Including me)

– A shot of our platforms, courtesy of Nat Arem

– Edward Baker front squatting 200 kg, courtesy of Nat Arem

– From left to right: Edward Baker, Rachael Bommicino, John Coffee, Nat Arem

VIDEO: Yesterday, Rachel York worked up to 95 kg in an exercise complex that consisted of 2 front squats, followed by 2 jerks. In the next couple of weeks, everyone is going to be tapering off for this year’s Senior Nationals, so expect to see some big lifts soon! Here’s the video; please subscribe to our channel!

– Edward Baker