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Lousy Training Right Before Weightlifting Competition
Matt Foreman

Most of us like it when things run smoothly.
 
As we get older, I think we develop a lower tolerance for bullcrap. Our patience level goes down and we get miffed when we have to deal with bad service, stupid people, careless mistakes, and…stupid people.
 
This is especially true in situations where the stakes are high, know what I mean? Sure, we get irritated whenever something screwy messes up our normal, ordinary routine. But if anything goes wrong with our important stuff, the things that are really vital in our minds, then we’re talking about temper explosions on a nuclear level.
 
Weightlifting is more important to us than most of the other things we do in life. Obviously this means we want our training to be sharp, efficient, and productive.
 
Sometimes, weightlifters have extended time periods of bad training. I’m not talking about an isolated bad day here and there. Those are normal. I’m talking about long stretches when training stinks like a dead rat in a hot swamp.
 
Lousy training is maddening. It pisses you off and screws with your mind. But you know when it REALLY drives you out of your skull? When it happens right before a big competition.
 
Many of you are competitive weightlifters. Ever had this happen? You’re 2-3 weeks away from showtime, and your training takes a nosedive into the toilet. Ever been there?
 
God almighty…this is despicable. You’re nearing the big day, and you’ve had some numbers in your head for weeks, maybe months, as you prepare for this thing. These are the goal weights you want to hit at the meet. Then, all of a sudden, you find yourself less than a month away and you’re struggling to make the lifts you were planning to OPEN with. Forget about those big PRs you wanted to nail on your third attempts. You’re wondering how the hell you’re even going to hit your first attempt weights!
 
And if you think this is stressful, try having it happen when the meets you’re preparing for have names like “National Championship” or “Olympic Trials.” I’m telling you something brothers and sisters, this will make you a downright disagreeable cuss.
 
I know weightlifters pretty well, so I know what some of you are thinking right now.
 
“Oh my god, I’m going through this right now!”
“Totally! This happened to me when I was training for a meet last year!”
 
Many of you completely understand where I’m coming from. The rest of you are pooping your trousers, hoping it doesn’t happen to you when you start getting close to your next meet.
 
Fortunately, old Matt has some thoughts that’ll calm you down, cool you out, and unclench that sphincter of yours.
 
When I think back about the 6 or 7 best performances of my career, most of them have one thing in common: I had some bad training right before meet day. It was usually the last heavy training week before the competition taper week, and sometimes even a couple weeks farther back than that. Seriously, I’m not just saying this to encourage you. I can remember the specific meets, how much I lifted, and what my workouts had been like shortly before I hit the platform. I write down almost everything about my training, so I could go back and verify this with specific numbers if I had to. But I won’t go into that much detail. Suffice to say I know what it’s like to deal with horrible gym performance before the day of the battle.
 
Why does this happen? There’s actually a pretty good reason. Contrary to all that garbage you tell yourself when you’re going through it, it’s not because you’re mentally weak, physically regressed, or technically lost. Sorry, those aren’t the causes. You just tell yourself those are the causes because you’re mad as hell and not thinking clearly.
 
It happens because there’s a specific condition you usually find yourself in when you’re 2-3 weeks away from a competition. You’re teetering right on the line between top physical condition and total exhaustion. If you’ve worked to your maximum physical level for several weeks or months to prepare for an important contest, there’s a good chance you might be feeling a little ragged. And when you’re talking about snatches and clean and jerks, feeling “a little ragged” can cause a massive dip in your performance. Hell, it’s hard enough to do this stuff when you feel perfect. When your joints feel like somebody beat them with a hammer, it’s ten times harder.
 
NOTE: It’s not always like this. Sometimes, final preparation goes perfectly and you flow right through training without any setbacks or flat phases. If this is how it shakes down, hallelujah. However, if you’ve got a lot of experience and you’ve competed a lot, you know it doesn’t always roll that way.
 
So that leaves us with one big question…“Is the shabby training going to lead to a shabby performance at the meet?” The answer to this depends on two factors:
  1. Final meet-week programming- If your meet week training is designed to freshen you up and give your body some rest after all the pounding, you should be just fine. You’ll show up on meet day and start your warmups, and you’ll say to yourself, “Holy #%$!, I haven’t felt this good in weeks!” When this happens, it’s one hell of a confidence booster. There’s nothing better than finding out during your competition warm-ups that your body is ready to rock and roll. This can psychologically change you from a nervous little punk to a hot wrecking machine in a matter of minutes.
  2. Your competitive toughness- Champion athletes are great competitors, first and foremost. They have to be. You don’t win shiny medals and trophies if you don’t have the strength inside yourself to overpower your doubts and fears. We’ve all got doubts and fears. Don’t let anybody fool you. We all have to fight those little gremlins in our hearts, no matter how talented or experienced we are. The lifters who have the most success are the ones with the strongest personalities, the ones who can beat the enemy in the mirror.
This is a long winded way of saying you’ll be fine, if you’ve got both of these areas covered. One of them is an easy programming fix, and the other one requires a strong mind. But I’ll let you in on a secret you might not know…you’ve already got a strong mind. You wouldn’t be a weightlifter if you didn’t. All you have to do is relax and let it carry you through. 

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Matt Foreman is the football and track & field coach at Mountain View High School in Phoenix, AZ. A competitive weightliter for twenty years, Foreman is a four-time National Championship bronze medalist, two-time American Open silver medalist, three-time American Open bronze medalist, two-time National Collegiate Champion, 2004 US Olympic Trials competitor, 2000 World University Championship Team USA competitor, and Arizona and Washington state record-holder. He was also First Team All-Region high school football player, lettered in high school wrestling and track, a high school national powerlifting champion, and a Scottish Highland Games competitor. Foreman has coached multiple regional, state, and national champions in track & field, powerlifting, and weightlifting, and was an assistant coach on 5A Arizona state runner-up football and track teams. He is the author of the books Olympic Weightlifting for Masters: Training at 30, 40, 50 & Beyond and Bones of Iron: Collected Articles on the Life of the Strength Athlete.


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2 Comments
Nik Cook 2015-11-30
Great one Matt.
Hunter 2015-11-30
And if you do poop in your trousers, don't sweat it, as hopefully you packed an extra pair of underwear.
Good luck to all of those competing
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