Weightlifting Through the Levels

The Olympic weightlifting education progression.

There are a thousand ways to skin a cat, but each way the cat is getting skinned.

That’s the parallel Mike Burgener, the head Coach of CrossFit Weightlifting, used after being asked, “When it comes to Olympic weightlifting certifications, which one should you get?”

Burgener’s point became clear with an explanation: “There’s always going to be one person out there that needs something different,” he said. “So, I want to learn about as much as I can from everybody so that I’ll be able to take care of the people with whom I’m coaching.”

Diane Fu, the founder of FuBarbell, said something similar. “If you want to be a professional Coach, you need to get as much information under your belt, you need to get as much experience under your belt,” she said.

So, they both agreed there are multiple choices for Olympic lifting education. However, Coaches often have limited resources, and who wants to take a bad seminar? So, where do you start?

Fu said to ask yourself what your purpose is. Are you trying to become a better Coach to serve your Box, simply gain knowledge or grow as an athlete?

“Depending on what you want to do, there are different avenues that you can take,” Fu explained. “All of those avenues, unfortunately at this point, don’t quite intersect just yet because … the structure, especially in the United Sates, isn’t quite organized yet. I believe we’ll get there in the future, but right now it’s a little hazy.”

For example, Fu said if a Coach is interested in taking an athlete to a sanctioned meet, then they should get the USA Weightlifting Level 1 certification. If the Coach is looking for a teaching and learning progression, she recommended the CrossFit Weightlifting Level 1.

If you’re going the second route, Burgener explained that once you get your CrossFit Weightlifting Level 1, wait a year until you proceed to the advanced course. “Just because you have a certification doesn’t mean you can coach somebody in the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk,” he said. “What you get is the information, put it into practice, use it on your clients and then that’s where you learn how to coach, is working with people.”

Chad Vaughn, who runs the CrossFit Advanced Weightlifting course, said looking at the educator’s background, as well as how long he or she has been coaching, can tell you quite a bit about the seminar. But, practice makes perfect, and Vaughn said Coaches need to make sure they’re doing the lifts and going through movements on a regular basis.

Overall, he simply warned Coaches to be aware of what information they take in. “You just have to look out for an overload of conflicting information,” he said. “The thing about it is most Coaches are really trying to teach the same thing, but in quite a bit of a different way.”

Really though, a pursuit in Olympic weightlifting education is not only about a Coach’s own benefit, but CrossFit overall. Fu said that unlike NASM certified trainers, CrossFit Coaches don’t have to take continuing education units yearly. In the end, this is about the commitment as a Coach and the industry as a whole.

“I love helping people and being able to give people direction is something very gratifying to me because it’s not about me as a Coach, it’s about developing the next generation,” said Fu. “So, if we really want this industry to move forward and move in a good direction, we’ve got to be willing to help those that are reaching and seeking help.”

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at heather@peakemedia.com.