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Monday, September 5, 2016

Of Weightlifters Passed- the persistence of memory

Is it normal that a bunch of your weightlifting friends and acquaintances will die in their early 30s? And is it normal not to fully know why?

I just found out former weightlifter and dear friend of mine Amanda Wilson just passed away. 

To understand my disbelief, we have to talk about USAW’s Junior Squad. 

Back in the late 90’s, there was this thing called Junior Squad.  Every year, the best junior lifters in the country were sent all expenses paid to the United States Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs, Colorado for a 2 week training camp.  There was a boy’s camp and a girl’s camp held at separate times.  Under the guidance of the now famous Coach Burgener , or “Coach B”, the girls camp trained. This was also in the era when Lynn Jones, Dragomir Ciroslan, and Bob Morris coached at the OTC. Every other year, we were given a new USA warm-up suit with “National Junior Team” printed on the front of it and “USA” printed on the back of it.

I made every team from the first ever full team in 1997, until 2000. By 2001, I was at Georgia Tech studying my ass off and not bothering to compete at Junior nationals. 
 
Several of those junior squads, I met or even formed relationships with a number of lifters who would impact me forever.  Several of them would die before the age of 35, several of unclear causes. Lifters from this late 90s era with whom I crossed paths that befell this strange fate of an early death included: Corey Wilkes, Robert Murphy, Andrew Garcy, Anthony Martin, and, now , Amanda Wilson.

My dear friend Amanda Wilson is the latest to have passed on. Though we had communicated for years, even recently, the last time I had saw her was at the 2008 US Olympic Trials held at GA Tech in Atlanta. She was no longer competing and came to see her friends, including myself, compete.
Interestingly, also in 2008, was the last time I would see my friend Andy Garcy.  I competed at a final World University qualifier at the US OTC in late 2008.  At the time, he had coached a youth lifter female who was practically cleaning double bodyweight (almost 60kg weighing almost 30 something kg, if I recall??). Yes, I think he would have went one to be a great coach.

It is funny how memory works.  Recently, I made a new friend that bared only the very slightest resemblance to my friend Andy Garcy, maybe he conjured only the slightest of analogous feelings.  Days later, suddenly, I could remember in detail the face of Andy, strangely associated with my new friend.  A month ago, I wouldn’t’ have been able to do so.  And, now, just days later, my friend Amanda passes.

As memory seems to be more of a network , a web of slightly related topics linked together- something hardly linear-- I might as well discuss my two unrelated friends in a related way, in the way that I associate with them in my mind.

The first time I really got to know Amanda was at the 1998 Junior Squad. It was my second JR squad, so the OTC didn’t quite contain the same magic it first had.  We got along pretty well.  We liked opposing baseball teams. We eventually went to opposing colleges. We would make jokes about eachother’s states.  She liked preppy cloths; I ‘m more rock and roll, and, nowadays, I often enjoy wearing Ralph Lauren to be ironic and live out a New England fantasy.  But, you know what, she was always someone that I could go and talk to. Like if you’re in a crowd of people, and you’re not sure to hang out with, or who to talk to, Amanda was always a person I could hang with. Like that person that’s there for you and won’t leave you out there alone. A person that will always be your friend and not treat you like a passing fad.  She wasn’t one of those annoying fake nice people, or fake-caring people; she was authentic.  

She was a very talented lifter.  When I was at GA Tech, I went to watch her at a weightlifting competition that CJ Stockel had put on in college park Atlanta. She did something like 160kg or 165kg total that would have put her on the junior world team (I was sad to see that she didn’t do quite as a well a few weeks later at Junior nationals).  Amanda could really lift well when she was on, and she was pretty damn strong too.   She was lifting for Coffee’s Gym.  I always looked-up to the strong women of Coffee’s Gym; probably why, I would at one point compete for Coffee’s Gym (she actually encouraged it years before I did).  I would see her at multiple Junior Squads as well as multiple times in Georgia by virtue of going to GA Tech and here living a couple hours away. By the way, don’t get your hopes up my Ramblin’ wrecks—she was a UGA fan (her only flaw ?;).

Andy was also a good person. He was a talented weightlifter, and he just so happened to be gorgeous. Seriously, I can substantiate the gorgeous claim with fact: once Rolling Stone did an article on athletes that trained at the OTC, and, guess what, Andy happened to be one of the few athletes profiled. At the time, every month a Rolling Stone magazine came to my house, and , holy shit, one day, I opened-up Rolling Stone to see Andy staring back at me!  

He became my friend when I went to Junior Squad, as he was a resident athlete at the OTC. The first Junior squad I ever went to was the inaugural full girls team junior squad in 1997. Going to the OTC for the first time was like magic!  Wow, I got to lift where Wes Barnett and Pete Kelley and Tim McRae lifted. I got to hang out with some of the resident athletes- wow, could they be the next Olympians too?!

This was before I realized that not everyone who lives at the OTC ever becomes an Olympic athlete or even an Olympic medalist for that matter. That was before I realized that there were many much more mythical weightlifting places in the world. Either way, I really looked-up to every weightlifter who lived there. For a brief, moment in USAW history, they were like the weightlifting chosen ones in America…yeah, that didn’t last long. It seems this way when you are an adolescent, but as you become wise to world, you learn, once again, that they are just human and other mythical human creatures exist outside the walls of the OTC.  Even Peschalov once told me that he was “only human”, and he was one of the greatest Olympic champions of the 1990’s/2000’s.

Regardless, Andy was my friend.  He was always nice and respectful to me, and I don’t think he ever got enough credit for how much of a good person he was.  Again, much like Amanda, he was an authentic person.  I watched my first ever Adam Sandler movie with Andy and my friend Catherine at the OTC—this was when Adam Sandler movies were still a thing.  I will forever remember the feelings of watching “Happy Gilmore” for the first time with them; it was one of Adam Sandler’s masterpieces, even better than “Billy Madison”.  Ironically, Amanda and I did see and Adam Sandler movie together with the Jr squad kids: “Big Daddy”.    Andy was also the reason I had met Blaine Wilson, a quasi-famous American gymnast who recounted stories to Andy in the cafeteria as I listened on.  The following year I casually knodded to Blaine as Amanda introduced herself, noting that they shared a last name though they were unlikely related (she really wanted to meet him). Anyhow, like Amanda, I would also see Andy at another subsequent junior squad and national competitions. Then it would be several years till I would see him a few last times in 2008. 


As I reflect on my weightlifting friends, it is probably why I don’t write much about American weightlifters, because its too personal. I don’t like to write about my close friends, nor really the OTC. Perhaps, because, the mystique I once had for places like the OTC had long left my soul like a mist evaporating in the morning sunlight.  To me, the OTC had become just another place devoid of that magical realism type qualities you only find in a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book. Maybe the OTC was special for a tiny speck of time when just the right combination of people were there.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Don’t take my word for it- just listen to Pyrros Dimas


If you read this blog or any weightlifting blog or new site, you probably know who Pyrros Dimas is. He is the most decorated Olympic weightlifter of all time, having won 3 Olympic gold Medals and one bronze.
Recently, it was pointed out to me that there is an excellent docu-series on Pyrros Dimas, that supports a lot of what I write about on weightlifting theory and science.   Pyrros did an amazingly well done interview with the two doctors ( or , the “two bakers” as we affectionately call them at Risto Sports* ) Dave Boffa and Jonas  Westbrook along with Nat Arem of hookgrip.  I actually watched it through posts on ATG.  Ok, honestly, I’m not sure why I haven’t watched it sooner, I was probably too busy translating Russian or improving my French.

The interview is great as it takes you form how he first got into lifting through how he trained in his Olympic Medal winning days.  The team does a great job narrating - the writing is entertaining and keeps you interested.

Anyhow, this interview supports what I have written about on the Soviet , Chinese, Kazak, and Bulgarian systems either in my book, articles, or this blog.  Which, my dear friends of the internet, really should come as no surprise, as my information is based on having trained in all these places or trained with someone who is an expert in a place’s system.  

First, I would like to encourage you to watch both part 1 and part 2 of the series and read the rest of this article. It is very easy to watch, and, of course, who wouldn’t want to hear Pyrros Dimas- the man, the myth, the legend- speak for himself.

Key points Dimas makes in this documentary:
-          Always start in the Soviet system to get a solid base
-          Use the “right system at the right time”
-          Used a “Bulgarian system” at his elite level, the video references Abadjiev
-          Took him  4 years to acclimate to the Bulgarian system
-          He is pretty clear that he did not max out everyday***
o   He max-xed out 3 times a week-- ie planned max out points as part of his program
o   His subsequent training days were based on the max’s hit on prior days


As I wrote in the Kazakhstan Weightlifting System book – just like Pyrros Dimas reports-- the Kazakh team uses the Soviet system, then after a certain age and level of sport mastery, uses a different system.  Usually this is around 18years old and Master of the sport level must be achieved.  The Kazakhstan book contains a program that shows the flavor of that system.  And, on top of that the national team has a system  developed with Enver Turkileri (Enver Turkileri famously worked with 3 time Olympic Champion Naim Suleymonglu in Turkey, with whom Suleymonglu won 3 Olympic gold Medals**). The Kazakhstan coaches actually elaborated on how this system differed from the soviet system when they attended Risto Sports’ seminar in 2013 in Eliot, Maine, USA.   Like the system Dimas described, its fewer reps with more intensity, and again not the same as Abadjiev’s system.  This very much echos what Dimas says about using the right system at the right time.

Also, Dimas’s description of the Abadjiev Bulgarian system aligns with what I have written about. As I mentioned in previous posts, they do not max out everyday. They have planned max out points.  In Pyrros’s case, he describes maxxing out a planned 3 times a week.  Think about it though- your max is the max of that day.  In other words, everytime a lifter maxes out on their planned max day, they might not hit 100% or more, they might hit, say 95% or 99%.   Certainly, one would guess, over some period of time, their personal record would have to increase to stay on the team. 

 Here is a sample graphics to describe what the above might look like. Again, this data is just illustrative and not actual data (ie not every training session or training day is shown).

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
100kg (max for the day)
85kg (max of previous day)
95kg (max of the day)
81kg (85%of previous days max)
102kg (max for the day

 
From the above table, you can get the idea of the rhythm described.

Secondly,  there are Bulgarians who did not use this specific system. Again, I had trained in Bulgaria to prepare for the  2008 US OLYmpic Trials.  The Bulgarians I trained with didn’t use this exact system, they had their own variation which was slightly more soviet; lifters who showed-up to train and were not doing an Abadjiev-style system at that time included: Olympic Champion and Multi-time Olympic medalist Nikolai Peschalov, and world champion Stefan Georgiev. They were being coached by European champion Drazco Stoichkov  (Stoichkov who would have probably won the 1984 Olympics had Bulgaria not boycotted it).

As I have probably alluded to in previous posts,  at Risto Sports,  we do not use the “Bulgarian system”- the specific Abadjiev-style with frequent max outs--because of  the low volume and high intensity is not optimal for clean athletes. Long term, it has super human recovery demands that most clean athletes will not do well on. The whole point of the Soviet system is to use high volume to naturally increase hormone levels.  We had worked closely with Dr Hererra who was part of the Soviet system development in the 70s-80s, and he is incredibly against-doping/ for natural sport because of the ravages he saw on athletes, and he was able to produce clean champion.   Again,  I’m sure there are people who have done the Abadjiev style “Bulgarian system” clean; I am only saying that at least one expert believed that it is less optimal for producing a clean champion than a high volume soviet based system. And, max-xing out multiple times per week is something you certainly would not want to do with novice youth athletes.

 Side bar—on an overall intensity an volume view – Are the Bulgarian System and Soviet System much different?

In the Soviet System booklet published by Risto Sports, there is actual data from the late 1990’s comparing the training of Bulgarian, Russian, and Chinese lifters. 
Two sentence, incomplete summary: work in the highest intensity zones wasn’t as drastically different between Bulgarian and Soviet based systems –  likely because Soviet system goes up in intensity towards the end of the cycle.  The Chinese did the most volume of the 3 and, likewise, won the most gold medals at the World Championships.  I am working on a full soviet system book project, and, hence, you can read more on this in a few months. So, yes, if you want the full picture- including volume and intensity break down by lift  by System and analysis-- then check out the Soviet System book in a few months.

One last summary and recommendations
My recommendation for American lifters—especially anyone who has been training in a strength sport less than 7-10 years (the 10,000 rule)---should be using a soviet style system. And high performance lifters (people who can make a World team)  in the USA may want to vary their program, and a fully "Bulgarian System" is not recommended unless you have incredible Natural recovery methods and resources.
-OR-
What Pyrros said--> get a "base" in the Soviet System, use the "right system at the right time"


 Footnotes:

*I say this with admiration and affection -based on the two doctors having visited Risto Sports for a work out and used so much chalk it looked like a bakery . It was cute=)
** the documentary credits the “Bulgarian system" with Suleymonglu's success. He won all his Olympic  gold medals under Turkish flag. His coach Enver Turkileri was an ethnic Turk form Bulgaria as well.
***Note-Internet folklore says Bulgarians max out every day this is something I have personally tried to dispel and taken undue flack for by faux-expert internet trolls.

**** again, there’s other Bulgarian coaches out there doing different things. Yes, I am going through much pains to articulate this point. For example, there are Bulgarian coaches in Colombia; there are also Cuban coaches there (more Soviet school). The Colombian training is not identical to what Mr Dimas describes.
Other side note-- the documentary uses Russian and Soviet system interchangeably. I am using the term "Soviet System" for simplicity.
Who doesn't love Pyrros Dimas
Some more references:

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/five-more-gold-medals-for-turkey.aspx?pageID=438&n=five-more-gold-medals-for-turkey-2005-04-25

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Statistics- How good are the US Women versus the World?

Weightlifting is full of data.  We can do many statistical analyses to interpret who our best lifters are and how they stack up versus the rest of the world with readily available continuous data.

In celebration of the Olympic year, this article examines the distribution of female weightlifter totals by weight class, and the percentile which the current top US woman in each weight class would score.  Using descriptive statistics, we can understand the level of competitiveness the US women and have insight on which females are best positioned to medal at the Olympics.

Method:
The dataset for each weight class was obtained from the IWF Olympic individual qualification rankings.  Specifically, the IWF dataset for individual qualification includes only the highest total registered for an athlete from every Olympic qualification event since 2014 through the present.  Further, there is one athlete total per weight class per country-- it is not the complete ranking list with every single athlete from every country that has competed internationally.   So, for example, Jenny Arthur is the highest totaling US 75kg in the last 2 years, so only her total out of all US 75's that competed internationally, is shown.  This is actually a better way to do the rankings since a country can only enter a maximum of two athletes per weight category, and, at the Olympics, no country can send a full team.  In effect, it is highly unlikely that a country with prospects of medaling in multiple classes will send 2 athletes in the same weight class. Outliers were not cleaned form the data as these stats are from actual people who lifted at actual weightlifting championships.  Plus, it would not be rational to remove the top lifter or even the worst lifter from the data; it makes physical sense that they should be outliers in many cases.

For comparison, the current USAW Olympic ranking list was used to compare US totals to the World ranking list.  To be consistent with the IWF ranking list, the top US total from each woman's weight class was compared to the IWF list, and the percentile rank was calculated. 

Results and Analysis

What the world looks like on the whole by weight class:

First, let us take a look at the distribution of totals by weight class across the world.

Here is a dotplot of each total in each weight class. The dotplots show the frequency at which each total occurs.  So a really high stack of dots means that multiple lifters hit a certain total; itt is the same idea as a histogram.  The dotplot is a little bit better visual to see frequencies, hence it is utilized.
 
The data tells us which weight classes have very large variation and hint at whether the data is normal (normality test must be done to confirm).

For example, the 48kg weight class seems to have the tightest distribution of the classes. This may be the effect of bodyweight --that there is no class lower than 48kgs for which to compete in, hence athletes can only move up and not down from this weight class.  Interstingly, the data is marginally normal; an Anderson-Darling normality test yields a .06 p-value.

In terms of medals, the data shows a clear favorite for the gold medal evidenced by the top total being in an echelon of its own.  Silver and bronze, however, are anybody's game as the athletes are so tightly clustered between 2nd through 8th place.

On the other hand, the 75+kg weight class has the most variability. Although at a first glance, the data looks non-normal, an Anderson-Darling normality test shows it is a normal dataset with a p-value of .307. 

More interesting are the top 2 totals in the 75+kg class- Tatiana Kashirina's 348kg total and Lulu Zhao's 334kg.  Kashirina's total is almost a full standard deviation from 3rd rank (Graboetskaya of Kazakhstan).  It can be implied that there are two lifters truly vying for Gold and silver at the Olympics, assuming both lifters are healthy, compete, and total at the Olympics.  Such can be said for the bronze medal between the 3rd, 4th, and 5th ranked athletes who are grouped around a 300kg total.  The remaining athletes are around 280kg or less. 

Here is where 75+kg, gets really interesting-- again, countries can only send a max of 4 female athletes to the Olympics. Its highly possible that not all the athletes in the 300kg total grouping will even show-up at the Olympics. It then makes the bronze medal anybody's game around the 280kg total mark.

The 75kg class is another fascinating weight class because it just doesn't have the same depth as the other middle weight classes (53,58, 63, 69,75) . Like 75+s, it has clusters of high totals, then a whole chunk of athletes over  a standard deviation away from the top. It is one of the easier weight classes.

69 women's appears to be the most competitive class for winning an Olympic Gold medal as there are 6 athlete totals in proximity to the first place total.

How the US women rank

This May, US women will be competing at the Olympic Trials in Salt Lake City, Utah for Olympic slots. The USA currently has 3 Olympic slots for women. 1 slot has already been designated to our top 75kg lifter, Jenny Arthur.  Mattie Rogers and Sarah Robles are ranked in the remaining 2 slots, per USAW's site.

The data can be examined rather easily for: (1)our best lifters in each weight class score versus the rest of the world, and (2) which athletes would be the top 3 in the USA based on their percentile rank in their weight class.

1. How US Female lifters score in their weight class on the IWF rankings

Per the below table, Mattie Rogers scores the highest across all weight classes with an 86th percentile rank.  Sarah Robles is in the 84th percentile, and Jenny Arthur is in the 82nd percentile.

The next closest lifter, Lucero, is in the 65th percentile. Interestingly, Morghan King scores equally well as a 53kg or a 48kg with  58th and 56th percentiles respectively.

2. Athletes best positioned to medal, or place the highest
The data shows us that Rogers, Robles, and Arthur are really in a grouping of their own at this point. The data supports the US ranking system which has all 3 currently projected to make the 2016 Olympic Team.

That being said-- this can all change should any of the other lifters on this list, or even any lifter competing at Nationals for that matter, have a huge Personal Record. The lower weight classes are more sensitive to change as, well, the totals are smaller. So, Morghan King might have the best chance of upsetting the 3rd ranked Olympic team spot should she have a big PR. For example, a 188kg total as a 48kg would put her in the 84th percentile.  However, by the USAW Olympic Games qualifying totals, King only needs 174kg to bump Rogers.

In this case, one could argue that the USAW ranking system has some deficiencies, which will always happen when rankings are based solely on percent of an average qualifying total. As mentioned in previous articles on this site, the population cannot be described by an average alone.


Weight Class N Maximum Mean StDev Minimum Q1 Median Q3 Top US female Percentile
48 52 205 164.13 23.07 91 153.5 163.5 180.75 170 KING 56th
53 58 233 178.43 25 104 157.75 181.5 194 184 KING* 58th
58 62 252 183.35 36.09 75 165 190.5 205 199 LUCERO 65th
63 61 261 195.66 35.95 75 180 197 214 206 MYERS 63rd
69 57 268 208.02 33.5 115 190.5 209 230 238 ROGERS 86th
75 53 292 215 35.93 120 193.5 217 238.5 244 ARTHUR 82nd
75+ 46 348 228.85 54.37 126 189.25 232 264.5 279 Robles 84th



The last table is the USAW current Olympic Ranking for female's. The USAW ranking method based on averages has the following athletes in spots 1 through 3:  Robles, Rogers, King.  Note Arthur is not even in the Top 3 per this method.    This differs from the percentile method where, again, the ranking would be Rogers, Robles, and Arthur per the same data.

PATH 1 PATH 2
 
RANK RANK NAME CREDITS <=2000 CAT BWT COMP TOTAL OG/100% %
1 1 Robles 2 1988 75+ 148.01 15WWC 279 290 96.21%
2 2 Rogers 2 1995 69 67.74 16NJCOQ 238 256.4 92.82%
3 3 King 4 1985 48 47.73 15WWC 170 186.6 91.10%
4 * ARTHUR 3 1993 75 74.65 15WWC 244 269.2 90.64%
5 4 Winters 1 1993 48 47.97 15WWC 165 186.6 88.42%
6 5 Chan 0 1987 53 52.84 15AO 187 212 88.21%
7
King 4 1985 53 50.44 16NJCOQ 184 212 86.79%

Conclusions

Based on the current US female totals, the data clearly shows that the US female athletes with the highest percentile score are Mattie Rogers, Sarah Robles, and Jenny Arthur in that order.  This implies that these would also be the USA's best chances of medaling, although a more complex model can be created to forecast medal potential.  Just going by raw ranking, all three lifter would place about 8th or 9th on the IWF ranking list. And, considering that countries cannot send full teams to the Olympics, these 3 women would be likely to score even higher at the Olympics assuming they do the same or greater total.
 
Secondly, the data supports the USAW decision to give Jenny Arthur an early qualification to the US Olympic Team.
 
Thirdly, the data tells us that the USAW may have a more accurate and fair model of ranking their athletes should they use percentiles of the IWF ranking list and not percent of an average.  The current ranking system gives a positive bias to the 48kg weight class and gives an negative bias to the 69kg weight class among others.  
 
Sarah Robles at the 2012 Olympics,
singlet by Risto Sports, official 2012 sponsor of podium attire
 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Top 7 signs your weightlifting coach is full of Sh*t

Weightlifting has gone main stream. People are now looking to cash-in and make as much money as possible off of unsuspecting new clients.  So, buyer beware.  The below list gives you some guidelines on how to know if your coach is legit. 


1. Your coach can only name weightlifters from the last 5 years

If your coach has only heard of Ilya Ilyin and Dmitry Klokov, then they probably have not been around long, nor have a basic understanding of weightlifting history.  An extra minus 5 points if they cannot name a single female weightlifter outside of Lydia Valentin.   Minus 20 points if they can't name the last American to medal at the Olympics in weightlifting.

I understand that not every coach is going to have geek-like encyclopedic knowledge of weightlifting stats like I do. And its ok. They just need a general understanding of what some of the biggest lifts have been done pound for pound as a measure of goodness.  One must know where the sport has gone before trying to move the sport forward.

2. They use terms like first pull, second pull, pockets, and triple extension

These terms do not exist in the scientific communities of weightlifting.  These are simply pop culture terms of people trying to dumb down weightlifting to the masses; unfortunately, this winds-up bastardizing technique at the same time.

Weightlifting is talked about in actions, periods, and phases. Think about it- there is no pause in the pull; it is one continuous motion.  That is why we cannot segment the pull. We can , on the other hand, discuss phases of the pull. You can read more on www.ristosports.com/blog

Here's a short educational video I made just for you:



3. You can hear them yelling, "squeeze" at every competition
This is a personal favorite of mine.  A lifter has a lift overhead and the coach is yelling, "Squeeeezzzzze". 

Squeeze?  Really? Really? Squeeze what? What is the lifter squeezing.  The lifter is keeping their muscles tight while they wait for the down signal -- so , maybe, yell "tight".  But "squeeze"-- that implies that the lifter has a walnut between their butt cheeks and is trying to crack it by squeezing their glutes (not advisable to ever do whilst lifting).

Bad cues make bad lifters.

4.  They brag about being "USAW level 1" certified or their level as a USAW coach
Look, USAW level 1 is a nice course.  It is definitely not designed to teach you everything you'll ever need to know about coaching. 

I mean Ivan Rojas is the Olympic Coach of Panama and has coached 2 international teams for the USA, and in the USAW system his official level is a "Club coach". 

It is far from a comprehensive system. Additionally, the science of weightlifting programming is not taught at universities in the USA , so there is about 0 formal academic training available in the USA on weightlifting.

When evaluating a potential coach, ask for how they were trained in coaching-- did they take actual coursework? Bonus points if they studied weightlifting coaching in a country where it is a profession like Colombia or Germany.  Did they at least apprentice under someone who was able to take courses in a formal weightlifting educational system?

5. Every problem is due to Mobility
Mobility, mobility, mobility.  It's like the biggest buzz word in crossfit and weightlifting. All they talk about is mobility, and everytime a lifter has a little problem with their technique, coach tells them to do more mobility exercises.

Guess what-- you know why a lot of new lifters have bad overhead squats - because their abs are too weak and they are squatting in sneakers.  Shit, if I had abs as about as supportive as a string bean and was squatted in shoes as squishy as a marshmallow, I probably would have a crappy position too.

Most people have weak abs; you can have a six pack and have weak abs relative to your leg strength.

The formation of people's bones and bodytype will also dictate what their bottom position looks like.

And, too much mobility might destabilize you in some positions.  Your coach should be able to tell you how much mobility is good.

Your coach should do a full diagnosis of your technique, strengths and weaknesses before jumping on the mobility band wagon.


6. They have a max-out day once a week and allow you to PR at anytime
Guess what if you want to get anywhere in the sport maxing out once per week does not work.  All modern weightlifting systems used by people who have produced Olympic medalists have planned max out points. 

Yes, when you are a beginner  maxing out is easy!  Sure, when you just start and you are lifting so far below your potential, you will PR frequently. This early period of improvement is temporary.  When you start lifting closer to your actual potential, maxing out whenever can lead to undue injuries and stagnant improvement.

7. They think you can be elite at crossfit and weightlifting at the same time
These three questions have the same answer:
How many Olympic medalists do you know compete at the Crossfit Games?
How many crossfitters who medaled at the crossfit games are competing at the Olympics?
How many Crossfit Games medalists also medaled at the last weightlifting World Championships? (guess what Thorisdottir, Davidsdottir, and Sigmundsdottir all lifted at the 2015 worlds)
Answer: 0 .

Weightlifting is all parasympathetic nervous system and fast twitch fibers.  Crossfit is a mixture of both nervous systems and uses type 1 and type 2 fibers, because it has those events with running and swimming and burpees ....etc...

Russian Olympic Silver medalist Oxana Slivenko almost qualified for the Crossfit Games in 2014, and she was not weightlifting at the level she lifted at the Olympics at the same time.
 

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Oscar Figueroa,Olympic Silver Medalist, World medalist, approves of Risto's

Oscar Figueroa,Olympic Silver  Medalist, World medalist, approves of Risto's
Pictured at Salitre with Oscar Figueroa in center. We will be proudly be sponsoring Oscar with a pair of Risto shoes.

Exceeding expectations - www.ristosports.com

Exceeding expectations - www.ristosports.com
Classic weightliftng shoe design with modern accents

In the Risto shoes

In the Risto shoes

Coach Jonny Pan AM champ

Coach Jonny Pan AM champ
Afternoon coach, doing pwr cleans while his lifters finish up

More wild custom shoes

More wild custom shoes
note pawprints

Abs

Abs
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Custom Weightlifting shoe

Custom Weightlifting shoe
Made to customer specifications, detailed embroidery

Custom Youth Sizes available!

Custom Youth Sizes available!
Little Gwen wears these for technique work in the gym. She also likes to match mommy and daddy in the gym. Lifting time is family time!

Bucharest Training Center

Bucharest Training Center
Ramanian Coach Doru, Ivan, Romanian Lifter Eiza

Nikolai Stoichkov- JR Bulgarian Lifter, son of Zdravco Stoichkov

Nikolai Stoichkov- JR Bulgarian Lifter, son of Zdravco Stoichkov
Training with a pair of Botev shoes. These shoes take a beating of 18000 to 20000 reps per year and heavy loads 90-100% - Also known as the Bulgarian system.

Custom Singlets too- Made to Order

Custom Singlets too- Made to Order

Future Champion- Tough lifters wear pink!

Future Champion- Tough lifters wear pink!
Gwendolyn Rojas getting ready to snatch 60kgs at 20kg bodyweight and 4 years old.

Stoichkov in Action

Stoichkov in Action
Coach Stoichkov adjusting my starting position.

Ivan giving training advice in Frankfurt Oder

Ivan giving training advice in Frankfurt Oder
Here Ivan, as a coach, is giving lifting advice to German Junior lifters at the Olympic Training Center in Frankfurt Oder, Germany. Yes, Ivan is fluent in German and is speaking German to the lifters.

Coach Ivan Rojas

Ivan Rojas is my coach and husband. Since training with Ivan, I have went down 3 weight classes while exceeding my prior best total (acheived while training by myself as a junior vs with proper training under Ivan).

During the 80's, Ivan trained extensively as a coach and lifter in former Eastern block countries as well as Cuba.


Working out with the Champs

Working out with the Champs
Gwen squatting wth Georgiev, Peschalov, and new lifter in background

Training in Bulgaria - Gwen and Coach Zdravco Stoichov

Training in Bulgaria - Gwen and Coach Zdravco Stoichov
Stoichov is coach of Peschalov, Georgiev, etc. Also of key interest: Similar to USA lifters missing out on their chance to medal at the 1980 Olympics , at the time of the boycotted '84 Olympic Games, Stoichkov outlifted the LA Games Gold Medalist at the Friendship Games/ Druzhba Games. The Druzhba Games were held in 1984 by Eastern bloc countries not participating in LA.

Ivan with Nikolai Gergov, Bulgarian Wrestling Champion

Ivan with Nikolai Gergov, Bulgarian Wrestling Champion
Ivan with the Greco wrestling world champ, Nikolai Gergov, after their workout. I still think its uncanny how elite athletes from multiple sports would just show up at Slavia for a workout (....and atleast one ask for lifting advice). Again, overall, Bulgarian athletes were humble or, rather, didn't "have an attitude" in the gym.

Gewichtheben - training at the German Olympic training center in Frankfurt am der Oder

Gewichtheben - training at the German Olympic training center in Frankfurt am der Oder
Me with the German Junior Team and Coach/German Olympian Lars Betker

Coach Burgener Shoe

Coach Burgener Shoe
Portion of all sales got to Charity. A perfect shoe for our CrossFit friends! A wonderfully patriotic, Americana themed shoe and T-shirt. GO USA!!!

Gwen posing with Peschalov

Gwen posing with Peschalov

Stoichkov during competitive years

Stoichkov during competitive years
Vintage photo of Stoichkov winning international Championship

Rumy, Bulgarian lifter

Rumy, Bulgarian lifter
Rumy,75kg lifter, stops by for a light workout in Slavia, Bulgaria

Botev stops by Slavia

Botev stops by Slavia
Gwen, Stefan Botev (multi-time Olympic Medalist and world champion), and Ivan

Gwen with Power Clean/slpit jerk with 80kg

Gwen with Power Clean/slpit jerk with 80kg
First workout in Slavia.

Size perspective for youtube video

Size perspective for youtube video
In Beijing, junior lifter

Ivan and Eric, the speedskater

Ivan and Eric, the speedskater
After a hard work out, Ivan and Eric go summertime cycling in Maine. Eric is a competitive Speedskater and a proud owner of weightlifting shoes. Ahhh ...nothing like summers in Maine!!

Stefan Georgiev

Stefan Georgiev
World and European Champion, 62kg. Rooting for him to medal in the 2008 Olympic Games!

Hanging out with Weighlifting heroes

Hanging out with Weighlifting heroes
Peschalov, Stoichov, self, and husband

Old Stuff - early Risto Weight lifting Shoes

Old Stuff - early Risto Weight lifting Shoes

Peschalov and Coach

Peschalov and Coach
Peschalov trained with Stoichkov leading up to his Gold medal win in 2000 Olympic Games

Training in Kennedy, Bogota

Training in Kennedy, Bogota

Euvgeni Popov, Stoichov, and Gwen

Euvgeni Popov, Stoichov, and Gwen
Popov - 1980's Bulgarian weightlifting team, also accomplished power lifter and strongman competitor.

Beijing - Gongti Area

Beijing - Gongti Area
Gwen lifting at second training location in Beijing near Workers Stadium, Gongti

Sylvia, Bulgarian Junior lifter, wearing Botev shoes

Sylvia, Bulgarian Junior lifter, wearing Botev shoes
Schoolage Champ, one of Stoichov's newer lifters. Sylvia also trains in Botev shoes. Her pair is also several years old and has lasted over 18K reps per year!

Romania - Training Center in Bucharest

Romania - Training Center in Bucharest
Me trining with Romanian lifters in Bucharest. Former USAW National Coach, Dragomir Ciroslan, had once lifted in this gym.

Wrestling World Champion (Greco) Nikolay Gergov working out in Slavia (BG), me in background

Wrestling World Champion (Greco) Nikolay Gergov working out in Slavia (BG), me in background
Nikolay Gergov is a Bulgarian Wrestling World Champion - Greco Roman 66kg category. Nikolai is already naemd to the 2008 Bulgarian Olympic Team. He is also competing at a meet at the Colorado Springs US OTC later this month (FEB 08). Anyhow, Nikolai just stops by for a workout in Slavia. He saw Ivan and I working out and asked Ivan for some technique coaching.

Gwen with Chinese coach of junior team at Chaoyang Ti Yu Chang (Beijing)

Gwen with Chinese coach of junior team at Chaoyang Ti Yu Chang (Beijing)
The coach pictured with me had won a gold medal in the snatch lifting against Karolina Lundhal (world champion) at the 1998 Worlds in Finland in 75Kg class.

Lifters in Bucharest

Lifters in Bucharest

Ivan with Coach Chiu, gongti area Beijing

Ivan with Coach Chiu, gongti area Beijing
After discussion of Chinese pull technique. Chiu is a former Junior World Champion.

Good Leather Smells good

Good Leather Smells good
Really, this was a Candid photo..."wow, this smells good", says Little Gwen

Ivan Lifting in China - 2006

Ivan Lifting in China - 2006
Chinese training center, Chao Yang Ti Yu Chang in Beijing, a JR team pictured in background

Choayang Ti Yu Chang - Ivan with chinese junior lifters

Choayang Ti Yu Chang - Ivan with chinese junior lifters

Abigail Guererro, Almerimar, Spain 2004

Abigail Guererro, Almerimar, Spain 2004
In forefront, Abigail , who has been on the Spanish National Team, with teammates in background.

Me with Blessed Udoh, in Spain (DEC 2004)

Me with Blessed Udoh, in Spain (DEC 2004)
Blessed won the silver medal in 48kg at the 2001 World Championships representing Nigeria. She also trained in Bulgaria for the 2004 Olympics. Sadly to report that she died in Nigeria, last year.

Gwen lifting at Chaoyang Ti Yu Chang - Beijing,

Gwen lifting at  Chaoyang Ti Yu Chang - Beijing,
In Beijing, Chinese Juniors in background. Great kids, good sense of humor, listened to their formal coaches

Spain- Ivan and Miguel Borrazas

Spain- Ivan and Miguel Borrazas
Our good friend Miguel has coached Spain's national team.

Training Bogota

Training Bogota

Ivan with Coach Ediberto Barbosa, fmr Col natl team

Ivan with Coach Ediberto Barbosa, fmr  Col natl team

Mock Competition in Bogota

Mock Competition in Bogota
Gwen out snatches the challenger

Rick Bucinell, breaking master world record in Risto's!

Rick Bucinell, breaking master world record in Risto's!

Ivan arm wrestling Peschalov

Ivan arm wrestling Peschalov
My husband "attempting" to arm wrestle Peschalov with his good arm. Ivan remarked "Wow, he's strong..he was really trying to arm wrestle me" ..no kidding ....ha ha ha

Belts, singlets, knee and wrist wraps. Custom styles available

Little Gwen doing workout with new lifters

Little Gwen doing workout with new lifters

Team USA with Risto donated gear at 2010 University World Championships

Team USA with Risto donated gear at 2010 University World Championships
Me lifting for Team USA. We won 15 medals, Ivan was Assistant Coach to Team USA. Risto Sports donated gear such as USA polos and t-shirts. Got to represent our country well!

Risto Sports,Order at:

http://www.ristosports.com/
info@ristosports.com

(207) 319-7607

Training, shoes, singlets, knee wraps, belts, straps
Eliot, ME

Tanya Morillas - 2004 in Spain

Tanya Morillas - 2004 in Spain
Training session at Almerimar. Subsequently, Tanya has been on Spanish national teams.

Dare Alabi , 77kg lifter (Nigeria)

Dare Alabi , 77kg lifter (Nigeria)
Nigerian lifter, Dare, lifting in Spain

warming up power cleans

warming up power cleans