Chinese Weightlifting Experience Part 3

My Experience in Chinese Weightlifting Part 3

Despite there being more similarities than differences in technical principles, there was another key difference in the delivery of concepts.

The Chinese coaches spoke a lot about how it should ‘feel’. It was almost as if they sat in the body of you as a lifter, and could ‘feel’ what you were feeling, and what you were not. I know it sounds rather strange, but I know within my own coaching career that I can see what a client can or cannot feel. It took time to develop, but I know it exists.

I felt as if the western coaches emphasised a lot on what they ‘saw’ and corrections were made based off what they could ‘see better.’ For example, training back at home, I might make the mistake of bending the arms early during the pull. A ‘visual’ coaching cue would be, ‘keep your elbows straight’ – the fix is based off what they saw. However, the Chinese coach might say ‘keep your grip loose’, as they ‘felt’ that I was gripping the bar too hard, which ultimately led to the premature arm bend.

I can’t say which is better, but I will say that my experience in China taught me to become acquainted with how my body moved the bar, as opposed to just learning ‘how to move the bar.’ I know it sounds like semantics, but my lifting changed when I realised weightlifting was not the sport of learning how to move the bar. Weightlifting was the sport of learning how to use our bodies to move the bar.

The most profound lesson I learnt from the Chinese lifters was the importance of feel in their training system. Progression was based upon how the weight ‘felt.’ Coach Pang would tell me to go up only if the weight felt ‘relaxed and effortless.’ One could slap a fancy term on it, like auto-regulation, but perhaps it’s just the way they train. Strength movements were progressed the same way. One days they ‘felt good,’ they would push their 3RMs. On days they felt tired, they wouldn’t. It was actually just that simple.

Lastly, I believe one of the pillars of Chinese weightlifting success is their national weightlifting system. Using my experience, as well as what I learnt from my coach, the Chinese government incentivises AND facilitates weightlifting performance. By facilitation, I mean that the Chinese government provides the infrastructure and human resources that all weightlifters need.

This was apparent from the junior level. A sports school had an entire gymnasium dedicated to the sport of weightlifting. Not a gym for bodybuilding, for the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. All coaches had strong fundamentals in the Olympic Weightlifting movements because they were once lifters themselves (some better than others). This is in contrast to a lot of private coaches in Sydney, who attend a weekend coaching workshop and become Olympic Weightlifting coaches. Of course, there are nuances to this situation, as there are in every situation, but I can’t help but think that the quality of the average coach in China is likely higher.

Furthermore, just like school sport in Australia, higher level lifters were moved to train at higher level facilities. Unlike in Australia, where most lifters stay within their respective clubs, in China, most lifters were part of a system that grouped the talented people together. As goes the saying ‘iron sharpens iron,’ when the best train with the best, they only make each other better.

So in summary, these are my thoughts from training in China.

-Chinese technique has more similarities to Western technique than differences
-Coaching language and delivery were different – English coaching language was more ‘hard and aggressive’, Chinese coaching language was more ‘fluid and relaxed.’
-Chinese coaches emphasised how the body should feel relative to the bar. Western coaches coached based off what they saw.
-The Chinese weightlifting system is far more advanced than what I had back home (Sydney), and this has undoubtedly led to much of their success.