Expect Top Notch Advanced Results?
Start with Basic Skills First!

By: Leo Totten


Certifications are awesome!  They certainly serve a purpose of continuing education and constant growth for professionals.  However, it is one thing to know the material but can you actually teach it?  Do you have the knowledge of the teaching methods to actually get the point across to the students?  I teach many of the certifications that are out there myself and I know how many coaches want to push, push, push, without utilizing the materials taught.

One of the problems that we in the U.S. face is the lack of coaching/teaching education.  Everyone gets the knowledge to get the letters after their name, but it is difficult to find programs that actually show you how to break it down and teach it.

That being said, it is important to get back to the beginning.  Where do we start?  If you check out YouTube you will find the latest, greatest videos of what the best in the world are doing or should be doing.  But do they really get to the basics of how to teach the concepts you see?

For coaches, the concept of “walk before you run” is a pretty effective way to go.  Teach the basics before trying to have your athletes do the more advanced stuff.  In all fairness, the coaches are not all at fault for the need for immediate gratification that most of us are used to and the tendency to just skip right to the more advanced skills.

The problem goes back as early as training and educating our youth.  How many elementary physical education classes have gone by the wayside?  How often do you see sport coaches pushing their young athletes to compete year-round and specialize way too early?  Heck, for that matter, how many times do you see kids sitting inside playing on their video games rather than being outside playing?

Having taught high school physical education and weight training for many years, it was frustrating to ask the kids to do a simple “power skip” down the gym for a dynamic warmup and a handful of the students didn’t know how to skip!!  Forget trying to do anything more advanced when they didn’t even know the basics!

Unfortunately, with our education system deleting physical education programs, these basic skills are not being taught.  It is being left up to the “professionals” who are certified as coaches and trainers to catch up with skill development that should have been covered long ago.  But, is your academic background preparing you to go out and teach what you are learning from those certifications?  Can you “bridge the gap” between the knowledge and the practical application.

To paraphrase some of the concepts of LTAD (Long Term Athletic Development), coaches should be cognizant of the principles and train their athletes accordingly.  (Again, basics first – walk before you run).

For example:

FUNdamental Stage:   Males age 6-9 / Females age 6-8

  • Basic overall sports skills leading to physical literacy
  • Introduced through fun and games
  • Developmental progression of fundamental movements and skills
    • Fundamental locomotor movement
    • Speed and agility
    • Strength and power
    • Endurance
    • Balance and stability
    • Body control
    • Object control

Learning to Train Stage:   Males age 9-12 / Females age 8-11

  • Further develop all fundamental movement skills and teach general, overall sports skills.
  • Further develop endurance, flexibility, speed and change of direction
  • Develop strength with bodyweight exercises as well as medicine balls and swiss balls
  • Structure competition to address differences in training age and ability
  • Ratio of 70% training to 30% competition
  • Still continue to encourage unstructured play

The reasoning behind showing this general information on the LTAD strategies is to let our certified professionals know that there is more to be done than just learning the science or the academics behind training.  It is to reiterate to professionals in the field that we are responsible for getting kids caught up with the basic skills that they have sorely missed in their upbringing.  And, even more importantly, getting our professionals caught up on the basic teaching skills that they have been missing in their educational “upbringing”.



By: Leo Totten, MS, USAW 5


People often ask me why the U.S. is behind some of the other countries in weightlifting.  Well, first of all, I really do think we are making major strides toward moving up in the world.  Our rankings are steadily on the rise.  Our most recent performances at the Pan Ams and Worlds as well as Youth and Junior successes are a good indication of that positive, upward move!

In my eyes, there are many factors that lead to success as a nation in our sport.  The first factor that most people consider is, oh yeah, the other countries are still using drugs and we are trying to be as drug free as possible.  Granted, that may be one factor, but other factors are an influence as well.

More about the drugs in a minute, but let’s consider some of the other factors.  I think one of the major things to consider is our lack of a “national” plan.  Most of the very successful countries in weightlifting have a national plan that all of the local and regional clubs feed into.  There is a plan where everyone is on the same page with the same basic philosophies and strategies setting the stage for success at the national and international level.  The U.S. is doing well and improving, but it is pretty much a system of individual clubs doing their own thing and not really on a “national” plan.

Another factor is the lack of state support in the U.S. that the other countries are able to take advantage of.  We are doing better with supporting our athletes financially, but it is still difficult if not impossible for our athletes to make a living at our sport.  Matt Frazier was a darn good weightlifter for the U.S. but now is making a lot more money as the top Crossfitter in the world!

Weightlifting has definitely gotten a lot more visibility and acknowledgment in the past 5 years or so and we have Crossfit to thank for a majority of that increase.  Not only are more adults exposed to our weightlifting movements, but now many more folks actually know what a snatches and clean and jerks are.  The best part is that is the adults doing Crossfit are exposed to weightlifting, then future generations will have a clue what we are about as well.

Weightlifting in our country is certainly on the rise.  But we continue to have questions about other countries having an unfair advantage using drugs while we in the U.S. are on a very stringent testing policy.  Until the playing field is leveled where everyone around the world is on that same stringent testing policy, it will continue to be one of the factors making it difficult to compete at the highest international level.  Performance enhancing drugs work and will continue to be a factor as long as some countries are able to get away with it while others cannot or will not.

That being said, U.S. athletes need to continue to train and compete drug free.  We need to continue to educate our coaches and athletes to do all the positive things they can do legally and ethically to get as close to the same results that performance enhancing drugs can get you.  Drugs are a short cut where one can cut corners so we have to continue to advocate proper training that covers these same bases.  It is a longer route to success, but it can be done with patience and proper training.  Push for better nutrition, proper hydration, consistent recovery methods, more mental training, plus intelligent training methodologies for the U.S. lifestyle.  Create an environment where athletes can thrive and succeed on a consistent basis while doing the right things, the right way.

Athletes will do anything to get that tiny bit of advantage over their competition.  That tiny bit of advantage makes a huge difference.  I once heard an athlete quip, “If eating Brillo pads would put 5kg on your total, there wouldn’t be a clean pot in the country!”   Well, that may not be totally true, but the message is clear.

Our East Coast Gold team motto is “Train Hard, Train Smart”.  That means you have to put in the work and be able to deal with the hardships that top level competition requires.  But you have to do it the smart and correct way.   Training smart means consistently doing the things the right way for consistent success.   Love to see the U.S. continue its rise to the top!



By: Leo Totten, MS, USAW 5


What is a “Snatch Balance” and why do we do them?  This might sound like simple questions because everyone knows the answer.  But do they really?  I have seen many posts on social media and YouTube of weightlifters and other athletes doing what they call a Snatch Balance that really isn’t a proper Snatch Balance.

It is always important to start with the “why” when doing any exercise.  What is the purpose of doing the exercise?  In the case of the Snatch Balance, we are looking for proper speed going under the bar and practicing a quick lockout to meet the bar overhead at the same time of hitting the bottom of the squat.  Timing is crucial so that the athlete is working on meeting the bar when it weighs “zero” instead of having the bar “crash” causing an unstable finished position.

Proper technique pointers to look for:

  • Start with the bar on the shoulders with hands in the snatch grip
  • Feet start in the pulling position
  • Short dip and drive (to mimic the triple extension action during the snatch movement)
  • The dip and drive is not excessive vertical bar upward movement
  • Quick “press under the bar” while dropping into a strong squat position
  • Arms lockout at the same time as the athlete hits the bottom
  • Tight catch, stabilize and stand to finish

However, some lifters and coaches miss the point of the exercise.  Instead of meeting the bar with a strong lockout while hitting the bottom of the squat, they do more of a “push jerk plus overhead squat”.  While that exercise is fine for working the dip and drive, developing a strong lockout as well as performing a strong overhead squat, it is a different exercise with a different goal in mind.

But, it is NOT a Snatch Balance!

As a general rule of thumb, we expect the lifter to be able to perform a “proper” Snatch Balance with at least 5% more than they plan on Snatching.  The speed and technique of the exercise correlates to the speed and technique of the Snatch itself.  It is a great confidence booster as well.  The Overhead Squat is another great exercise in and of itself and we expect the lifter to be able to do a minimum of 10% above the Snatch goal for strength, balance and, again, confidence with having the bar over your head!

When you see a big Snatch Balance posted on the internet, take a close look.  Would you consider that a proper Snatch Balance?