Over the years I've developed and refined a process for working with new (to me) lifters. I thought it might be helpful to share these thoughts with those of you interested in the art of coaching.
Diagnosis: This process begins the first day when I run a new athlete through the standard exercises of overhead squats, overhead presses, and front squats. I look for joints that are lacking in range of motion, improper alignment of the spine, improper alignment of the skeletal components while supporting a weight overhead and anything else that might prove to be a hindrance to proper performance of the snatch and clean & jerk.
Sports and parental history: I also talk with the athlete to find out what sort of sports background in which this athlete was involved. Is it a bilaterally asymmetrical activity? How long was the involvement? Did the athlete have the opportunity to develop an athlete lifestyle? How tall are the parents? What was their sports involvement. All of these factors have to be taken into consideration in the planning of a training program.
Preliminary Training: I usually begin by teaching the technique of the snatch first and here I'm looking for motor learning ability and movement patterns. If the athlete can't respond to simple cues and lacks the ability to mimic the other athletes in the gym, then there will need to be some time invested in figuring out the best path to develop motor learning skills. I'm also on the lookout for faulty movement patterns. Inability to simultaneously extend the hips and knees along with plantar flexion of the ankles is a red flag. Inability to coordinate overhead extension of the elbows along with bending of the knees is another. Kinesthetic awareness problems also present themselves during this phase.
Onward!: Now the task of transforming this individual into a weightlifter begins. I need to figure out the one most troublesome factor that is inhibiting this transformation and make it a priority in each day's training. Some portion of each workout will be dedicated to solving this problem. If it is a neuromuscular issue, then it needs to be placed early in the sequence so that the nervous system can be trained while it is fresh. If the athlete is involved in other athletic activities that might fatigue the nervous system, they must be discouraged. Positioning issues are tackled next, and then strengthening issues. The capacity to train at greater volumes is the last priority.
As each area or problem is improved, the emphasis in training changes. The training will be the most varied during this period of development and will require the greatest amount of one-on-one time from the coach. Taking care of all these issues early in the development will provide the greatest results in the long term development of the athlete.
Check out Coach Takano's new book
, Weightlifting Programming: A Winning Coach's Guide