My Experience in Chinese Weightlifting Part 1
Back when I first started Olympic Weightlifting, Chinese weightlifting methodology was a unicorn. The Chinese were famous for producing world-champion Olympic Weightlifters, as well as a technique that was very much unique to their nation.
The question us outsiders would always have was this: ‘what is Chinese Weightlifting?’
This was approximately 10 years ago. This was a time when Instagram was used mainly for photos, Snapchat was still in its’ infancy, and YouTube had just moved away from cat videos. There were only a couple of resources online that showcased Chinese Weightlifting, developed by hobbyists who would venture into Chinese Weightlifting schools. Every time a new video would surface, I would watch it multiple times, scavenging every detail possible. I would then spend hours in the gym trying to practice what I thought to be true.
After approximately 2 years into my training, I was fortunate enough to have a personal connection to one of the schools in Guangzhou, China. After a couple weeks of negotiation, we eventually agreed on the best time to visit. And off I went!
When I first arrived, I was perplexed by the sheer size of the school. Having grown up in Sydney Australia, I was accustomed to ‘Sydney-scale’, not ‘Guangzhou-scale.’ To put the sheer size difference into context, New South Wales has a population of 8 million people. Guangzhou has a population of 16 million. That’s double the amount of people – for a margin of the land size. New South Wales has a land size of 801,150km, Guangzhou has 7,434km. Let that sink in for a moment.
This was a sports school, where students were specifically given the facilities to excel in sport. To say this school was impressive is an understatement. There were basketballers (all tall, by the way), volleyballers, table tennis players, Olympic Weightlifters, judokas, gymnastics, to name a few. This was my first exposure to multi-tiered system that is Chinese sports.
My coach was a man in his late 30s by the name of Coach Pang. He is to this day, one of the calmest people I’ve ever met. He was only a small man (as are most weightlifters). I’m about 165cm, and he was a bit shorter than me. At his best, he competed in the U62kg division with a snatch of 140kg and a clean and jerk of 177.5kg (a world record at his time).
On the first day, I just remember walking into a gigantic weightlifting hall. The women trained on one side, and the men on the other. There were rows of platforms lined next to each other, as well as bars and bumper plates to match. Each platform had about 2-3 kids, and each coach was in charge of a group of 12 or so. Here I was, living the dream as an Olympic Weightlifting enthusiast. I couldn’t wait to begin training.
After observing in awe for a few minutes, Coach Pang handed me my program for the duration I was going to be there. It looked something like this.
Day 1 – Snatch 6×3, Back Squat 6×3, Snatch Deadlift 6×3, Bodybuilding 30 mins.
Day 2 – Power Clean and Jerk 6×3, Front Squat 6×3, Clean Pull 6×3, Bodybuilding 30 mins
There were a few other days, but they’re not too important. What’s important was the simplicity of the program. I remember sitting there thinking ‘hold on… this is just like what I’d get back home.’ It was by no means outrageously different or uniquely ‘Chinese.’ So then, what was it that made the Chinese so different?