Olympic Weightlifting definitely has its ups and downs, but so does training in general. There will always be times when we have to take a step or two away from our regularly scheduled training regimen because of professional responsibilities, school, or perhaps a nation-wide shutdown due to a looming pandemic.
Whatever the case may be, getting back in the gym after an extended absence should be treated with extreme care. We’ve all had that excited and eager feeling after weeks, months, or even years away from the barbell, but how do we get back to slamming bars and killing PRs the right way?
Honestly, the following points
are should be part of training at every level of experience, but here are 5 main points to consider before you get hurt while trying to imitate your favorite Chinese Instagram Weightlifting celebrity:
1: Don’t skip your warm up and cool down exercises.
While this might sound like a no brainer, you’d be surprised how many athletes tend to neglect this part of their training under normal circumstances.
Whether you’ve been performing the lifts sporadically or haven’t done them for weeks/months/years, your body will be de-conditioned from your inactivity. But don’t misunderstand the terminology here…we’re talking about “conditioning” in the sense of, “Your joints and connective tissue are de-conditioned from doing literally nothing.” Not, “Your conditioning is so bad that you can’t run a sub 7 minute mile.” Big difference!
Be smart and listen to your body — Spend extra time moving, opening up, and doing the not-so-sexy prehab exercises before you start reaching for those bumper plates.
2: Spend time increasing your flexibility and mobility.
Yes, we know that you “should be able” to do this easily, and you “used to be able” to do that without pain, but guess where all that not stretching has brought us.
The good news is that we can do something about it! But! Don’t expect your flexibility to improve by not working on your flexibility. Dedicate at least 20 minutes per day after your training sessions.
Don’t know what to do? Try ROMWOD.
Don’t want to pay for stretching? Try YouTube.
3: Make technique your priority.
All skills degrade over time if they are not used. The Olympic Lifts are a skill-based movement, so…
It’s to be expected that your lifts won’t feel like they used to. It will feel awkward…maybe even embarrassing…but back the weight down and focus on moving properly.
Remember what you were doing when you first started Weightlifting? Hopefully, someone taught you how to do the lifts and you spent an extended amount of time practicing them from various positions with zero weight.
Remind your body how to move again. We can say with the utmost confidence that the last spot on Team USA will go on without you even if you snatch over 90% on your first day back. Slow it down and focus up!
PRO TIP: If you are an experienced lifter and know your previous 1RMs, reduce them by 20% use that as your current 1RM. After 2 weeks, raise it by 5%; two more weeks, another 5%…etc, etc, until you’re working near or at your previous 1RM. (This is all assuming that your lifts don’t look like hot garbage. If that’s the case, don’t increase!)
4: Exercise a little perspective and patience.
Remember that whole “trust the process” thing? Wherever your training was when you stepped away from the gym took time to build. Ramping back into training is no different.
Focus on YOU and what YOU need to do. Who cares how much weight Johnny Snatchalot is doing on Instagram — Do not compare yourself to other lifters’ skill levels or their weights; what you can do is relative to YOU.
If you take the time to do #1-3 while exercising a little patience, your skill will most definitely come back with time.
INSIDE INFO: We once coached a young man that lifted for the Cuban national team when he was a child/teen. When he first started at the age of 10, his first 12 months was with a broomstick. The next 6 months was with a trainer bar alone! We’re not saying go back to #PVCLife for 18 months, but realize what kind of practice goes into training a skill!
5: Have FUN!
Easily the most forgotten part of training for all you mopey Weightlifters out there. If you’re in a gym lifting weights with your team, LIFE AIN’T SO BAD!
Don’t let one lift/training session/week(s) ruin your perspective. Dig deep and try to remember where and why you started and why you keep coming back for more.
Weightlifting is fun and you love it so it’s OK to act like it every now and then!