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Preface: Miller’s Masterpiece

The Sport of Olympic-Style Weightlifting, Training for the Connoisseur


Our lifelong friend, Carl Miller has just released his fifth book: The Sport of Olympic-Style Weightlifting: Training for the Connoisseur (Sunstone Press, 2011). All of Carl’s books are about Olympic Weightlifting in one form or another. He’s written about teaching weightlifting in high school and college, weightlifting for specific sports, and weightlifting for fitness. But his new book is truly his magnum opus, his masterpiece. It’s the book he was destined to write. It’s about what he knows best, perhaps better than anyone else: How to excel at Olympic Weightlifting. We carry this book $22.95, see our ordering page).

Carl has devoted his life to practicing, observing, and coaching Olympic Weightlifting. As a teenager, Carl learned the Olympic lifts from World and Olympic Champion Frank Spellman; he and Frank (now in his 90s) are still in regular contact. At 19, Carl snatched 245, a US national record for teenagers his weight. Years later, at the age of 51, he snatched 270 and clean & jerked 341. A few years later he made his all-time best C&J: 352. During all the years in between (and after) he studied and taught Olympic-style Weightlifting.

Armed with a Bachelors degree in exercise physiology and biomechanics from UC Berkeley and a Masters from the University of Arizona (He organized Olympic Weightlifting teams at both institutions), Carl joined the Peace Corp, which opened the door for his first foray on the international lifting scene. His first stop was Columbia, where he assisted Olympic Weightlifting coach, Ney Lopez, and worked with the track and field team, helping with strength training. While in Columbia, Carl traveled throughout South America (every country but Venezuela) and had contact with lifting coaches from the Soviet Union, East Germany, and other lifting powerhouses who were invited to conduct lifting clinics in South America.

At the end of his Peace Corp assignment, Miller was invited to Japan to (among other things) weight train a women’s volleyball team, which went on to win the Gold Medal at the1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Carl was later named US National Olympic Weightlifting Coaching Coordinator, which afforded him the opportunity for more travel in this country and internationally. During this time he traveled to many large, international competitions and clinics. He toured training halls in Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, Romania, Japan, and Russia, meeting with the top coaches and lifters. (In Moscow for the 1975 World Championship, Carl learned the hard way that jogging in Red Square is forbidden. He spent a few unpleasant hours in a Moscow jail.)

Miller teamed up with Tommy Kono to coach the American lifting team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, which was America’s last medal winning appearance at a fully attended Olympic Games—until the year 2000, when our women lifters scored Gold and Bronze medals.

Between coaching assignments, Carl taught physical education at Carlos Gilbert Elementary School in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he (of course) organized Olympic Weighting competitions patterned after international competitions he had attended. (His students still tell him how he changed their lives.) Since 1982, he has owned and operated a very successful fitness center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he teaches members from 9 to 90 how to do the Olympic lifts and other athletic-type movements.

I’ve only scratched the surface of Carl Miller’s lifetime immersion in Olympic Weightlifting. (He has even devised a way to work an image of the two-arm snatch into his signature.) You’ll find many more fascinating details about Carl’s background in the inspiring and informative six-page Introduction co-author Kim Alderick has written for the new book. If Kim’s Introduction doesn’t fire you up to read Carl’s opus on training for Olympic Weightlifting, I don’t know what will.

As the title implies Carl's new book is for competitive lifters or serious recreational lifters who want to excel at Olympic lifting. It’s not for beginners. The Sport of Olympic-Style Weightlifting: Training for the Connoisseur is available from Ripped Enterprises. (We have five copies with Carl's unique autograph.) For price and other ordering information: GO

To further whet your appetite for Olympic Weightlifting, Chris Roche, Co-owner of PR FITNESS, Brownsburg, Indiana (about 20 minutes from Indianapolis), has written the following article about the benefits of Olympic-style lifting and how he teaches it to members of his fitness center, athlete and non athlete, young and old. If you’ve always eschewed Olympic Weight lifting, you may think anew after reading what Chris has to say. He has walked his talk and knows his subject.

 Olympic Weightlifting: For Athletes and Non-Athletes, Young and Old

By Chris Roche, Co-owner PR FITNESS, Brownsburg, Indiana

While many strength coaches shun the idea of Olympic lifting for the “average” client, non-athletes, or for those who did not learn these movements at a young age, personal experience convinces me otherwise.  Most people, of virtually any age, can productively practice the quick lifts and/or progressions and modifications thereof (see suggestions below).  Olympic lifts and their progressions are safe, effective, and fun.

·     Safe: While there is a certain element of risk involved with just about any exercise, Olympic lifting has a bad rap.  In my 18 years as a trainer/coach, I’ve seen far more injuries involving treadmills, torn biceps from Biceps Curls, shoulder issues from the Bench Press, knee deterioration from Leg Extension machines, back problems from Leg Press machines, and chronic joint pain from Aerobics/Spinning/Zumba, et al, than I’ve ever seen with Olympic lifting.  Studies have proven that performing the Clean and Jerk and/or Snatch holds no more risk of injury than traditional forms of resistance training, and in fact the injury rates are often lower!  As with any form of training, the way to reduce the risk is to obtain guidance from a good coach, start slow, and progress as your body is ready to progress.

·     Effective: Quick lifts hit practically every muscle in the body and train lifters to move heavy loads with control and speed.  As a result, one can experience gains in strength, speed, power, mass, agility, mobility, flexibility, coordination, work capacity, performance--and improved body composition.  From a neurological standpoint, full body, explosive movements stimulate the nervous system to fire more quickly and also teach full body neural recruitment, helping one to become more coordinated and balanced.  As workloads and intensity increase, there is also a tremendous activation of the hormonal system which boosts the release of growth hormone, testosterone and so forth.  These hormones cascade throughout the entire body and, consequently, produce total body strength development and increased muscularity.  Additionally, Olympic lifting helps to build confidence and trust in one’s ability.  As a coach, I see the fear rise in people as they work to pull themselves under the bar in a full Squat Clean, especially as the loads increase.  With practice and persistence, however, they learns to manage this fear properly and ultimately overcome the fear.  There is a direct transfer of this ability to deal with fear into daily life; a wonderful life-skill!

·     Fun: Personally, I didn’t venture into Olympic lifting until my late 30s; an age that many conventional coaches would say is far too late for these movements.  As anyone who has stepped up to an Olympic bar and done a Clean and Jerk knows, the quick lifts are actually quite fun!  Unlike mastering the Machine Chest Press (which I could teach any novice within a matter of minutes), the Olympic lifts are so complex and challenging that one can spend a lifetime learning and improving.  Even past ones “physical prime,” one can continue to improve technique and see increases in performance and max lifts.  While we all have a limit to our physical potential, there is no limit to our skill development.  As a result, we can spend years having fun and gaining wisdom from these two lifts and their variations.

Matching Lift and Student

Form and technique are paramount to safety and long term improvement.  At our gym, students begin by learning the proper movement patterns using only a 5 foot PVC pipe; there is essentially no load.  The concept here is to instill optimal efficiency and feel for the movement.  We are setting the neuron-muscular pathways and establishing a movement pattern or “groove.”  For those incapable of performing the lift through the fullest range of motion, we simply accommodate the mobility they have and scale the range of motion.  For example, if a student lacks the mobility to squat down into the proper set up for a Clean or Snatch, we start them off in the high hang position (rather than starting with the bar on the deck).  Further, we teach the student specific and general flexibility and mobility drills.  Those who follow this prescription find that within a relatively short time, they are able to achieve the desired starting position.  At times, we have a client who has an acute, chronic or permanent physical malady which keeps them from mastering the movement patterns necessary for the Clean and Jerk or Snatch.  In such cases, we simply modify the movement in a fashion that best suits their abilities.

My experience is that, with rare exception, virtually everyone can benefit from the Olympic lifts or variations.  Our goal is to maximize the client’s potential, adapt movements to make them suitable, while always holding their safety and well-being uppermost.  Here are some of the common adaptations we make with our students:

Start the Clean or Snatch from the High Hang position (just above knees), rather than starting with the bar on the ground.

R  ●Receive the bar in the “Power” position, rather than the Full Squat Position.

·    ●Keep the loads VERY light until proper movement patterns are firmly entrenched.

·    ●For those who lack the ability to go overhead with the bar, we focus on Cleans and Power Cleans until they are capable to completing the Jerk.  Once they are able to Jerk, we can begin to work on the Snatch.

·    ●If the Snatch grip (wide) elicits pain in the shoulder joint, we go with narrow grip Snatches.  Not only is this an option for modifying the movement, it’s also a great exercise for athletes with healthy shoulders.

·     ●Another outstanding option for those who are uncomfortable with a bar overhead is the One Arm Dumbbell or Kettlebell Snatch and Clean and Jerk.  Often, this option allows the client to begin adding some intensity to the exercise and at the same time accommodate their mobility restriction; it also helps to resolve such restrictions.  With time and attention to flexibility and mobility work, these same people often end up on an Olympic bar, moving substantial weight.  If not, they will still receive most of the benefits of doing the lifts with a bar. (In some ways, one arm lifts provide a unique advantage.)

·    ●As a trainer/coach or athlete, it is vital that you learn to be adaptive, creative, encouraging.

·    ●The key is safety, form and technique first, intensity second!


Once we have firmly engrained the proper form and technique we allow our athletes to begin adding “intensity,” meaning we move them to an unloaded Olympic bar.  Once again, it is important to progress with mindfulness and caution when adding intensity.  As a coach, my goal is to challenge the client without putting them at risk.  Once the person becomes a more experienced lifter, I want them to err on the side of going too light while maintaining proper form.  It is not until the athlete has proven a higher degree of proficiency that I will allow them to work towards more substantial loads or attempt a one repetition maximum.  In fact, with some students, attempting a true one rep max may never be appropriate, which is totally fine.  This approach will ensure that clients progress appropriately, becoming stronger and more fit, and remain injury free.  I view volume and intensity much like medicine; the right dose helps one to become healthy, but too much can be harmful.

I hope this article has encouraged those who have never tried the Olympic lifts to consider doing so.  Regardless of your fitness goals, these lifts will not only help you achieve those goals, they will also add a new dimension of fun and challenge to your workouts.  Just be sure to consult with a coach who is experienced in teaching the Olympic lifts, or attend an Olympic weightlifting clinic in your area.  I also hope that this article will inspire fellow coaches who have never learned and taught the Olympic lifts to get out of their comfort zone and learn something new—the Olympic lifts!  And, as the saying goes, “don’t knock it ‘til you try it!”

Be Well,
Chris Roche

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