Talent Identification In Weightlifting

Nature versus Nurture in Weightlifting

It is accepted theory in Weightlifting that genetics plays a substantial role in the ultimate performance of the individual (12, 33).  A typical belief is that Weightlifters of the highest performance levels have a greater ratio of fast-twitch to slow-twitch fibres (29). Similarly, a common opinion in the Weightlifting community is that certain anthropometric characteristics strongly influence success such as shoulder circumference (38) and shorter height and limb lengths (34). Furthermore, many researchers have found that Weightlifters as a group are amongst the most mesomorphic of all athletes (25).

How does Weightlifting sit in the nature v nurture paradigm

Figure 1: Relative contribution of nature (natural ability) and nurture (influence of environment) on success in Weightlifting

However, environmental factors also play a highly significant role in success in Weightlifting. These factors include the coach’s leadership skills (8), the coach’s knowledge and effectiveness (7), the culture within the training environment (22) and the degree to which the athlete develops a sense of belonging or relatedness to their sport and their training colleagues (30). These factors will affect the motivation of the athlete to pursue training over the many years of deliberate practise (10) at increasingly higher levels of commitment needed to attain high performance. Furthermore, environmental factors will impact on the athlete’s ability to cope with the psychological pressures of extreme heaviness in critical moments in competition and training.

For these reasons, success in Weightlifting should not be considered as predominantly dependent on genetics as is a popular view, but instead on a relatively equal contribution of genetics and environment as portrayed in Figure 1 above.

Critical Performance Factors

Figure 2: Factors that influence success in Weightlifting

The sport Olympic Weightlifting demands not only training for muscular strength and technique (37) but also the attainment of several other factors critical for success. Weightlifters must move with speed (Sokolov, 32) and the goal is the attainment of speed-strength (9), the ability of muscle tissue to contract forcibly at a high rate of speed. Flexibility in the major joint complexes is an essential quality for the Weightlifer (21) and training must continually work on this quality for performance improvement and injury avoidance (20). Olympic Weightlifters have been found second only to gymnasts on a battery of flexibility tests at one Olympics (3).

Table 1: Anthropometric,  flexibility and somatotype
Elbow extensionAbility to extend elbows to at least 181˚ (21)
Elbow flexionAbility to flex elbow sufficiently to comfortably sit bar on shoulders
Ankle dorsiflexionAbility to squat low, feet flat, with upper 2/3 of trunk in upright position (21)
Hip internal rotationInternal rotation of the femur assists achieving a low/upright squat position
Arm lengthShorter arms reduces necessary vertical displacement of the bar
Hand sizeLength of fingers and thumb, ability to hook grip the bar (21)
SomatotypeAll bodyweights high in mesomorphia, lighter bodyweights with elevated ectomorphia, higher bodyweights with elevated endomorphia

Psychological skills and attributes including motivation, coping with emotion, confidence and ability to focus are exceptionally important. Irrespective of the natural physical gifts that a person possesses, ultimately an individual’s ability to master a lengthy training process will determine their level of success. To endure increasingly higher levels of stress, individuals must be intrinsically motivated and find the training process rewarding, enhancing of self-perception, building competence, and satisfying the need for self-determination (36). However, even highly motivated individuals need to acquire mentals skills for coping with anxiety and fear brought about by the very nature of the sport. It is necessary for athletes to develop a special focus that reduces distracting thoughts (26) and enables a state of flow (19).

Current AWF Talent Identification System

A nationwide program in which youth are screened or pre-selected for entry into Weightlifting does not exist at present. Queensland has an “Introduction to Weightlifting” program conducted by qualified coaches in physical education classes. Although the program does assess student competencies, it is considered a promotional/awareness campaign (I.Moir, personal communication, 5 March, 2015). Western Australia has implemented an innovative competition program for children under 13 which focuses on technique by limiting weights lifted to 50% of bodyweight (J.Saxton, personal communication, 31 March, 2015). Victoria conducts a Schools League Program comprising schools visits by state association staff, coaching at schools, and 6 league competitions rounds (S. Francazio, personal communication, 01 April, 2015). These diverse programs exemplify the fragmented manner in which Australian Weightlifting works, and the tendency for state associations to develop their own initiatives to suit local conditions.

In the past, however, the AWF has successfully implemented a nationwide promotional/screening program within schools. The program, known as the Schools Clean and Jerk Competition began in Victoria in 1979 with 504 participants and by 1987 had grown to over 47,000 participants nationally. This program was responsible for the recruitment of many national champions, and six (6) medallists at Commonwealth Games, two of whom were gold medallists (P. Coffa, personal communication, 18 March, 2015; Commonwealth Weightlifting Federation, 2015).

Talent Identification – an Introduction

It is important to state at the outset, that the meaning attributed to the term ‘talent’ determines how a talent identification process is developed. In some sporting contexts, perhaps in Weightlifting, the term ‘talented’ might be used to describe a person with certain natural or genetic attributes. Possession of these attributes is considered to elevate the performance expectations of the individual. In other sporting contexts, such as team sports, the term ‘talented’ might be used to describe a person who has developed key skills and competencies to a significant level through the training process.

Thus in developing a talent identification system for Weightlifting it is necessary to consider whether the primary object is pre-selection, that is quantitative assessment of natural abilities for high sporting performance (14) or individuals already engaged and demonstrating the development of key competencies.

In either case there are contentious issues. A talent identification system that aims to test for natural abilities among youth with no previous experience of Weightlifting must deal with the confounding problem of unpredictable growth and maturation (27, 35) and that a delay in a single major component that leads to success significantly affects the validity and legitimacy of a TID selection process (4). Equally, a talent identification system that aims to identify youth and junior athletes already within the ranks of Weightlifting must take into account that present performances may not be indicative of future potential. In particular, the number of years of training that an athlete has undergone training will have a large effect. In essence, therefore, a talent identification system must have a predictive value of future performance (27).

Future performance is not determined solely by physiology and anthropometry, but also psychological factors. These factors include psychological health (23), psychological maturity (15), trainability (27, 4), accelerated expertise acquisition (31), perceptual function and ability to learn motor skills (17). Many of these factors cannot be gauged adequately by ‘snapshot testing’ (4) and the predictive value of a talent identification system is strengthened if it also takes into account the development, progress and behaviour of the athlete (1).

The primary aim of talent identification is therefore to recognise participants with the greatest potential to excel in a particular sport (35) and to maximise the number of gifted athletes participating (17).

Historical factors

In the 1970’s and 80’s, the seemingly unbridgeable gulf between performances of athletes in Weightlifting on both sides of the ‘Iron Curtain’ developed a fascination among coaches of the West in the methodologies adopted by nations such as Bulgaria, the Soviet Union and East Germany. Among these methodologies was a systematic identification and development of children considered to have high potential for sport.

During the years in which Bulgaria was a phenomenon in Weightlifting, all pupils of 8 or 9 years of age were subjected to fitness tests with a view to determining ‘children capable of athletic development’ (24). At 10-11 years, children in these groups were then tested for sports specialisation purposes, and such testing included specialised tests for Weightlifting. Children who showed good results were then admitted to children’s boarding schools where preliminary training began (24).

In the former Soviet Union during 1970s, the first stage of selection into sport involved organisation into groups which took all comers having a medical examination and desire (11). Thereafter the talent identification system involved three more stages in which the youth sports player was assessed by coaches for prospects of higher performance. A key aspect of this system was the existence of 4000 children’s sports schools which, at the higher level, provided the sports player with a combination of high school classes and everything needed for intensive training (28).

In East Germany, primary school children were observed by experts during compulsory sport classes and measured for height, weight, sprinting speed, endurance running, coordination, and performance in broad categories of sporting activity (17).

The history of East European nations in talent identification and development, and the phenomenal results achieved has left an indelible mark in the belief systems of HP coaches in Weightlifting worldwide. Despite the suspicion of rampant doping in this era, there exists a belief that success in Weightlifting requires the discovery of people with a genetic predisposition and a commencement of training in early teens.

The Issues in Talent Identification

Undoubtedly, there are many senior coaches and administrators in Australian Weightlifting who would advocate that some form of talent identification system is necessary. A reliance on athletes walking through the door is not realistic and proactive initiatives that identify and recruit athletes with capacity for higher performance are required. However, in developing and implementing any talent identification system, it is necessary to address a range of issues of feasibility (Table 1) and impact on infrastructure (Table 2) below.

Table 1: Issues of Feasibility
AccessGaining access to schools to conduct screening and/or awareness programs
ScopeTarget schools within reach of established Weightlifting clubs or extend nationally?
FundingFinancing promotion, cost of school visits, rewards, and follow up of TID programs
Safety/ethicsRisk management practises to ensure testing is conducted safely and ethically
StaffingSchool staff and/or visitation by representatives from Weightlifting

In regard to funding, it should be noted that Australian governments tend to target funding towards sports with greater potential for medals in Olympic and Commonwealth Games e.g. rowing, cycling and diving. As a result there is less funding for Weightlifting talent identification and development of athletes, and no Australian Institute of Sport program.

Table 2: Impact on infrastructure
ClubsAdditional space and equipment in existing clubs. New clubs hard to create
CoachingNeed for accelerated development of coaches to match the needs of athletes emerging from TID programs and advancing towards high performance
CompetitionsA successful TID program may create a need to alter the existing competition structure to cope with increasingly longer duration competitions i.e. over 2 days.

Whereas in Weightlifting there tends to be a want to discover athletes with superior genetics, there is a plausible counter-argument that our collective efforts would be better spent on improving the development process for existing athletes so that they may attain higher levels of performance. In his Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent, Gagné (13) proposed that a development process that transforms natural abilities into ‘talent’ requires the interaction of ‘catalysts’, which he collected into three groups – Environmental, Intrapersonal and Chance. Table 3 examines developmental catalysts in the context of Weightlifting.

Table 3: Developmental process catalysts
EnvironmentalAthletes are helped or hindered by local standards of performance, expectations, support, culture and practises of their existing training environment.
IntrapersonalKey intrapersonal factors that shape prospects for attainment of high performance in Weightlifting include motivation, resilience, mindset, tendency toward perfectionism, temperament, self-management and mental skills.
ChanceSocio-economic status, quality of parenting, encounters with Weightlifting, access to experienced Weightlifting coaches. Sports must be proactive in matching up quality talent with quality coaches and not relying on chance meetings (16)

The need for proactive programs that attract and engage youth in Weightlifting has been long discussed by the national and state bodies. However, at present, there is not any systematic and holistic approach to the issue of attracting, identifying and nurturing talented youth. The AWF strategic plan 2015-2018 does contain strategy to ‘develop relationships and potentially co-invest with key Olympic sport talent identification programs’ but as yet there are no concrete plans for the inclusion of Weightlifting into the AIS Sports Draft (2) or other similar national programs. The AWF strategic plan also includes strategy to assist state bodies to develop a targeted schools program but as yet there are no guidelines available or allocation of funding. The development of talent requires a strategic approach, which entails systematic and deliberate programming that allows access to best possible coaching, facilities, sports science support and competition experiences (5).


  1. Developing a systematic and holistic process

Developing talented Weightlifters who can compete more favourably at international level requires a systematic and holistic process. There is a need to determine the constituent components of such a process and to realise that if any one component is missing, the system will not deliver.

  1. Collaboration

The development and implementation of a systematic and holistic process for the identification and development of athletes requires the collaboration of all major stakeholders, namely the state and national bodies.

  1. Consultation

The development and implementation of a systematic and holistic process requires a thorough process of consultation particularly with involving persons who coach or have the potential to coach HP athletes. The consultation process needs to identify the practicalities of implementing a systematic approach to talent identification and development.

  1. Coaching development

A key element of such a system is that coaches are continually progressing in their knowledge and skill, and imbued with positive beliefs and attitudes towards the future of high performance Weightlifting in Australia. Education plays a vital role not only in helping coaches to learn training methodology but also to develop a deeper understanding of factors that lead to success in athlete development.

  1. Long-term athlete development

In creating and improving a systematic development process, the organisation of training should be different at various stages of athlete development. It is important for coaches to emphasize learning rather than immediate performance otherwise early achievers may end up ill-prepared to transfer from youth to senior level (35).

  1. Knowledge management

The acquisition, dissemination and management of knowledge is a key aspect that facilitates the long-term approach needed to achieve success. The acquisition of knowledge should not be a matter of chance nor solely the responsibility of individual coaches. A systemic approach should be taken involving researchers, writers, reviewers and knowledge managers.


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Training Principles

It is no easy thing to make progress towards higher levels of ability as an athlete in the sport of Weightlifting. The level of commitment to training is uncomfortably high and beyond the contemplation of most individuals who enter the sport. For the average athlete who lifts weights 3-4 sessions per week and who reach intermediate performance goals, the next step in the improvement process often involves not only increasing the training commitment to 5 sessions per week but also a quantum leap in understanding how to training effectively. The following article provides some advice on how to take thst quantum leap.

1. Listening to your body

In attempting to train on a highly frequent basis, and maintain high levels of effort, the athlete must take account of soreness, pain and feelings that something is not quite right. This means that the exercise schedule needs to be frequently altered to rest individual body parts or to reduce intensity to accommodate the need for extra recovery of individual body parts. For example if a wrist appears to have an issue, the wrist is rested that day, and some other exercise replaces the exercises that would have further stressed the wrist. Injury is the greatest cause of athletes failing to progress and injury is most likely to appear just after athletes have performed in training and competition at their very best. Buoyed by success, athletes and coaches very often make the mistake of trying to repeat high levels of performance rather than immediately adopt recovery measures. Athletes should expect that wonderful sessions are followed by recovery sessions to restore the body. Training is only as good as recovery.

2. Working on strength

In periods of training where the number one goal is increasing strength, maximal muscle contraction is more important than muscle endurance. It is commonplace in Weightlifting for athletes to engage in sets of 5’s due to the belief that such training promotes hypertrophy but this practise has questionable benefit for the Weightlifter.  Although higher reps per set may induce strength-endurance, Weightlifting requires one-off maximal muscle contraction. It is arguable that the goal of hypertrophy can be achieved by low repetition sets (1’s, 2’s and 3’s)  and that the emphasis should be on achieving a lower number of repetitions at a higher intensity rather than a higher number of repetitions at a lower intensity.

3. Rate of strength improvement

A common tendency among athletes in strength training is to plan 5-10Kg increases in strength over relatively short periods of time, for example 6 weeks. This rate of progress is unreasonable for intermediate and advanced athletes. Intermediate athletes (2-3 years experience) should be looking for 2kg increase every month on strength exercises such as squats, and for advanced athletes (training longer than 3 years) perhaps about 1kg per month. Furthermore, planned increases should be proportional not only to level of experience but also to body weight. If these levels of improvement after 4 years experience can be sustained, the athlete will have a formula for success. Athletes must plan targets for strength improvement and accept that the use of fractional discs to gain improvement is entirely necessary.

4. Volume of Work

High frequency training per week e.g 7-10 sessions per week, is the mechanism by which high performance athletes achieve the necessary high training volume required to achieve further adaptation. Frequent shorter high quality sessions are preferred than less frequent but longer sessions which result in greater fatigue. After about 2 hours, it is generally thought that further training has insufficient or no benefit (as quality drops). Weightlifting is not a marathon sport. By increasing the frequency therefore, the athlete can increase the volume of work with less resultant loss of quality. Volume can of course be increased by higher reps per set, but this is not the required character of Weightlifting but is more a case of bodybuilding. The character of weightlifting training is high intensity not endurance.

5. Intensity

Good decision making is required on a day to day basis by the athlete and coach in regard to intensity. Mistakes are often made in this the regard. If intensity is too high on a frequent basis, there is a risk of injury and detriment to skill, confidence and motivation. Too low an intensity on a frequent basis, and the athlete will improve very slowly or not at all. The critical factor is that judgment about the appropriate level of intensity is best made DURING the session rather than according to a prior planned schedule of percentages. It is difficult for athletes to make such decisions due to lack of objectivity. If athletes are forced to make the intensity decision on their own, as is the case when the coach is not present, prior guidance should be given on how to do this. Coaches also have difficulty determining appropriate intensity as well. The key to success is that the coach must have a good understanding of the athlete and be well informed about how athletes adapt to training.

6. Selection of exercises

Training should be focused on the achievement of planned objectives. Working on weaknesses is a basic objective that should always be present. For high performance athletes, it can be very hard to determine their own weaknesses. Their performance can be so outstanding that even coaches may find it difficult to pinpoint weaknesses. Nonetheless, the principle must be understood that every athlete is limited by their weaknesses. However, this issue can be complicated by over-dwelling on weaknesses. This may cause a confirmation in the athlete’s mind that the problem is fixed or immutable. Thus if an athlete works on a perceived weakness at high intensity on a frequent basis, they may experience failure and this confirms and entrenches the weakness. Working on weaknesses is not just a matter of training to get stronger at a particular exercise but instead a change in the manner in which an exercise is performed and this requires subtle understandings of the coach as to what contributes to quality training.

A comparison of different training scenarios on rate of improvement

[MM_Access_Decision access=’false’]

The purpose of this article is to illustrate how differences in the athlete’s commitment to training will effect their ultimate performance capability in the years ahead. In this illustration, let’s assume that a physically talented individual walked into your gym one year ago and began training in Olympic Weightlifting. Let’s also assume that this individual has enjoyed participating in some competitions during their first year, weighs around 70Kg and has achieved a creditable 180Kg Total. What is the future in store for this athlete?

There are of course many factors that will effect the rate of progress of an athlete, some of which the coach can influence, and some not. One critical factor is the athlete’s commitment to training, and this in turn will be dependent on their self-confidence and belief in their own abilities. This is a factor that the coach can influence through the quality of the athlete-coach relationship, by their efforts to educate the athlete in training methodology and by enabling the athlete to consider higher levels of training.

To this end, three different scenarios are presented for our talented 70Kg individual who has one year of training experience. Chart 1 below provides an indication of the rate of improvement and ultimate performance potential of the athlete, dependent on which level of commitment scenario they pursue. The characteristics of the three scenarios are described in Table 1 below.

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[MM_Access_Decision access=’true’]

The purpose of this article is to illustrate how differences in the athlete’s commitment to training will effect their ultimate performance capability in the years ahead. In this illustration, let’s assume that a physically talented individual walked into your gym one year ago and began training in Olympic Weightlifting. Let’s also assume that this individual has enjoyed participating in some competitions during their first year, weighs around 70Kg and has achieved a creditable 180Kg Total. What is the future in store for this athlete?

There are of course many factors that will effect the rate of progress of an athlete, some of which the coach can influence, and some not. One critical factor is the athlete’s commitment to training, and this in turn will be dependent on their self-confidence and belief in their own abilities. This is a factor that the coach can influence through the quality of the athlete-coach relationship, by their efforts to educate the athlete in training methodology and by enabling the athlete to consider higher levels of training.

To this end, three different scenarios are presented for our talented 70Kg individual who has one year of training experience. Chart 1 below provides an indication of the rate of improvement and ultimate performance potential of the athlete, dependent on which level of commitment scenario they pursue. The characteristics of the three scenarios are described in Table 1 below.


Chart 1: Rate of improvement dependency on training commitment

The difference between scenarios 1 and 3 is perhaps the difference between achieving national team status or remaining as an averagely good athlete by virtue of their natural talent. It is very conceivable that our 70Kg athlete, under the right conditions (scenario 3), could progress into the 85Kg category and achieve a 320 total in their 5th year. At this level, they would be a strong prospect, in many nations, to participate in World Championships and be a possible contender for Olympic Games selection. Furthermore, as Chart 1 indicates, the athlete’s improvement has not reached a plateau and further increases in performance are probably likely in years 6-10 of their career.

Table 1: Commitment to Training Scenarios
Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3
Commencing at 2 sessions per week rising to 3 sessions per week after 1 year, maintaining this level of commitment for next 3 years. Commencing at 2 sessions per week, rising to 3 sessions per week after 1 year and 4 sessions per week after 2 years Commencing at 3 sessions per week, rising to 4 sessions per week after 1 year, 5 sessions per week after 2 years, reaching 8 sessions per week (“double day” training) in their 5th year
Some attention to improvement of technique, relatively little effort to learn about training methodology. Significant attention to technique, developing good training habits, learning principles of training methodology Maximum attention to technical development, achieving a high level of organisation and discipline in training, immersion in the principles of high performance training methodology. To all intents and purposes, a “professional” approach to sport participation.
No particular goals for Weightlifting, enjoying the sport for fitness Setting goals to compete at National Championships. Setting goals for National Team selection to compete in World Championships, and Commonwealth and Olympic Games
No particular effort on increasing bodyweight, not employing specific measures for recovery from training Some attention to diet and increasing bodyweight, some effort to employ measures for recovery from training. Planning the bodyweight category that is optimal for the lifter, significant attention/effort to reaching and maintaining the required bodyweight. Including regular recovery measures as part of the training process.

If you are an Olympic Weightlifting coach and you have been coaching a few years, you are bound to come across just such individuals as in our illustration above. Your task as a coach is to find away to keep the athlete training, expand their perception of what is possible and help them achieve their potential. While there is always initial excitement about possibilities, there is soon a realization that the coach’s task is anything but simple. Your best efforts as a coach can be easily thwarted by many factors that constrain the athlete’s willingness to pursue training with increasing commitment. In such circumstances, the coach may well ask the question “why does the athlete not have the motivation to strive for important goals?”

It is probable that one chief reason why an individual will not strive for important goals is their lack of confidence in their own abilities. Although the athlete might state a desire to be a national team member, they do not really believe that they can rise to this level. The coach’s task is therefore to instill confidence that if the athlete pursues a proper process, it is probable that their efforts will be well rewarded. It helps if the coach has a good reputation and track record of success and has other athletes in their charge pursuing the same goal. But for the upcoming coach it is quite a hard proposition to achieve their first high status athlete, and sometimes some luck is involved. But in both cases, for the experienced and the upcoming coach, a great deal of time and effort has to be invested into gently “nudging” forwards the athlete’s self-confidence and belief in their own abilities.


Path to High Performance: Part 3

The first article, Path to High Performance: Part 1, provided a discussion about Technical Mastery and the paramount need for good quality coaching to avoid developing persistent errors of technique. This second article, Path to High Performance: Part 2,  discussed the magnitude of the training regimen required to achieve the superb physical adaptation of athletes who compete at the highest level.

This third article discusses the LIMITATIONS OF THE TRAINING ENVIRONMENT, a challenge faced by athletes, and one that is very difficult to overcome.

The progress of any athlete is subject to the attributes of their training environment including coaching, facilities and equipment, level of competition, training culture and support services. No training environment is perfect and therefore there will always be some limitations that impact on the athlete’s progress.

There are no universally accepted benchmarks that enable coaches and athletes to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the training environment in which they operate. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, coaches and athletes will tend to view their own training environments positively and see no reason for change. Such a view presents no problem when the object of training is for fitness, fun, friendly competition and/or socialisation. However, if High Performance is the goal, then close attention has to be paid to ensuring that all attributes of the training environment are as good as they can be. Continue reading

Do you train hard?

It was my original attention to write a page on the principles and practise of how to undertake serious training for the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. I mean the sort of training that a person would need to do to compete at the very highest level i.e. the World Championships. My motivation to write such an article stems partly from meeting and wanting to help so many talented people in Weightlifting clubs and Crossfit boxes who, despite their love of lifting, seem to have doubts about their own abilities and what they could achieve. Furthermore, my motivation arises from wanting to see the standard of Olympic Weightlifting in Australia go forwards.

So instead of writing a laborious article on the principles of training for high performance, I have decided that what is first needed is a more “straight from the heart” appeal to members of the Weightlifting and Crossfit communities. If you have a real love for lifting heavy weights read on. Continue reading

Developing a new culture for weightlifting

There are presently 188 nation members of the International Weightlifting Federation spread across the entire globe from the tiny populations of Pacific Islands to the might of China, reputed to have a population of weightlifters in the hundreds of thousands. In some nations there are great legacies of state sponsored sporting systems that, for decades, have produced results in Weightlifting that we continue to marvel, while in other nations results are achieved through the largely unaided effort of individual coaches and athletes.

 Where does your nation stand in the global pecking order of weightlifting nations? Do you have grounds for hope that weightlifters in your nation are making headway on the international stage, or do you come from one of the many nations permitted just one male and one female participant at the Olympic Games? How can a weightlifting nation move from being among the inconsequential into to the big league? Is this possible and is it really worth the effort?

A new culture is needed for the sport of weightlifting

A new culture is needed for the sport of weightlifting

Achieving such a change in international status Continue reading

The Path to High Performance: Part 2

In Path to High Performance: Part 1, the article identified four challenges that an athlete in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting will face. These challenges are:

  • The pursuit of technical mastery
  • The magnitude of the training
  • Limitations of the training environment; and
  • Self-imposed performance limits

The article followed with a discussion about Technical Mastery and the paramount need for good quality coaching to avoid developing persistent errors of technique. This second article discusses the magnitude of the training regimen required to achieve the superb physical adaptation of athletes who compete at the highest level. Continue reading

The Path to High Performance: Part 1

If any athlete starting out in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting should aspire to reach a high performance level, they will face a succession of challenges through which their destiny will be determined. The beginner athlete will possess little prior knowledge that adequately prepares them for these challenges. They must seek knowledge from all sources including coaches and athletes in their immediate training environment, coaching staff in other places wherever possible, and all forms of literature and electronic resources. And yet there is a scarcity of literature that deals directly with the topic of High Performance in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting save a few good texts that have emanated from Eastern Europe in the late 70’s and early 80’s. This article seeks to assist by identifying four challenges that will surely present to any athlete who would tread the path to High Performance in Olympic Weightlifting. These challenges are:

  • The pursuit of technical mastery
  • The magnitude of training
  • Limits of the training environment
  • Self-imposed performance limits Continue reading

5 Decisions for High Performance in Sport

Okay, so you love Weightlifting and you really want to be a part of a future Australian team to the Olympic or Commonwealth Games!

If you have any chance of achieving such a goal, you will need to make some tough decisions.

Decision 1: Can you devote 30 hours a week to this goal?

Before everyone throws up their hands and says “What!”, consider the following. If you want to be a High Performance sports person, then your training is your job. You will need to train 8-10 sessions per week, each of which will take approximately 2 hours. As a more serious athlete, you will spend more time warming up and more time on flexibility. So 2 hours per session is not unreasonable. You will incur a significant amount of travelling in order to attend training. If you live close to the gym, you might be lucky to keep travelling down to around 4 hours per week. The remaining 6 hours a week will be a combination of many factors including visits to the physiotherapist, injury management, planning training, monitoring training, discussions with your coach, and travel to and waiting around at competitions. This does not even take into consideration that you may need extra sleep. Continue reading

Leo Isaac – Olympic Weightlifting Coach

Leo Isaac at the 1980 Commonwealth Championships

Leo Isaac at the 1980 Commonwealth Championships on the way to a new Commonwealth Record in the 67.5 Kg category

This website has been developed by Leo Isaac whose  career in Olympic Weightlifting spans 40 years as an athlete, coach, coach educator and administrator. He is an accredited Level 3 (National) coach and recently (2015) completed a Masters in Sport Coaching through the University of Queensland.

He is currently active as a Weightlifting coach in Hobart, Tasmania, and as a leading coach educator for the Australian Weightlifting Federation.


  • Masters in Sports Coaching, University of Queensland
  • BSc (Hons), Physical Education, Sports Science and Recreation Management,
    Loughborough University, England
  • Grad Dip Teaching, University of Queensland

Voluntary Roles Currently Held

  • Member of the High Performance Program Panel of Australian Weightlifting Federation
  • Director and Head Coach of the Weightlifting Academy of Tasmania
  • President of Weightlifting Tasmania Inc.
  • Coach Education Program presenter for the Australian Weightlifting Federation

Overseas Coaching Appointments

  • Head Coach, Australian Team, 2018 Commonwealth Games, Gold Coast, Australia
  • Head Coach, Australian Team, 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
  • Head Coach, Australian Team, 2017 Commonwealth Weightlifting Championships, Gold Coast, Australia
  • Head Coach, Australian Team, 2016 Commonwealth Weightlifting Championships, Penang, Malaysia
  • Head Coach, Australian Team, 2016 Oceania Weightlifting Championships, Suva, Fiji
  • Head Coach, Australian Team, 2015 Commonwealth Weightlifting Championships, Pune, India
  • Coach, Australian Team, 2014 Pacific Cup Weightlifting Tournament, New Caledonia
  • Head Coach, 1991 Junior World Championships, Wolmirstedt, Germany

Professional and Voluntary Roles Previously Held

  • Former National Coaching Director of Australian Weightlifting Federation
  • State Administrator of Queensland Weightlifting
  • NSW Coaching Development Officer

International Appearances

  • 1979 European Championships, Varna, Bulgaria, 9th place, 67.5Kg category
  • 1979 World Championships, Salonnica, Greece, 10th place 67.5Kg category
  • 1980 Commonwealth Championships, Cardiff, Wales, 1st place 67.5Kg category
  • 1980 European Championships, Belgrade, Serbia, 8th place 67.5Kg category
  • 1980 Olympic Games, Moscow, Russia, 14th place, 67.5Kg category
  • 1982 EEC Championships, Lommel, Belgium, 2nd place, 75Kg category
  • 1982 Commonwealth Games, Brisbane, Australia, 4th place, 75category
  • 1985 World Championships, Stockholm, Sweden, 9th place, 67.5Kg category