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Beginners Guide To Olympic Lifting with Coach John Cortese


Beginners Guide To Olympic Lifting: What you need to know!


John Cortese is an influencer in the Northern California weightlifting world and a USAW National Coach. Owner of CTS Strength & Conditioning, John trains amateur and professional athletes and authored  “The Parent’s Guide to Strength & Conditioning for Sports”.

How to be Successful in Olympic Lifting

Success in weightlifting can mean something completely different to each lifter. Maybe it’s hitting a new personal record in training. Or perhaps you qualified for your first national meet after 4-5 years of training? Whatever it is, it’s important to establish personal goals to make training fun, meaningful, and have purpose. This athlete will work hard and continue to “raise the bar” with maximal effort.
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I think the most successful trait in a weightlifter, or any athlete really, is the willingness to keep going and never quit. That person will be the most “successful” in the long run because they understand these things take time, and the work will compound with rep after rep.

These lifts require practice and dedication to be the best – as with any skill or sport, the more you refine and perfect your craft the better you will be and more likely you will make continual progress with hard and smart training.


What to Look for in Athletes and How to Train Them

We will train any athlete, lifter, or client as long as they want to get better. Everyone can get involved in Olympic weightlifting. If you can snatch and clean & jerk with proficient enough technique, you can begin competing. We have had athletes that competed in their first meet at 10 years old all the way up through middle school, high school and college athletes, as well as adult clients looking to compete in a sport AND reach their health and fitness goals.
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We focus on technique, posture, and speed at first with the snatch and clean & jerk variations from different “positions” the lifter will need to get to to lift the most weight. Think exercises like hang snatch or clean, power snatch, power clean, snatch or clean & jerk off low or high blocks, rack jerks, etc. We then begin incorporating the classic strength exercises such as squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, lunges, weighted abdominal and lower back work, various body weight exercises, and sleds to help build muscle, promote balance, and ultimately improve the snatch and clean & jerk.

Each client trains on an individual program, customized to fit his or her training schedule per week (2, 3, or 4-5 times per week), their ability and experience, and their personal goals. We use this approach to make sure each athlete and client gets the most ideal training program to suit HIM OR HER. This also helps us record important data such as weights made, missed, body weight, vertical jump, and more. Everything is recorded – if you can write it down, you can improve it!


How Athletes’ Prep for an Olympic Lifting Meet

The athlete needs to be consistent and make all scheduled sessions to maximize performance and “hit their peak” when it counts in competition.

Depending on the meet and the athlete, we will usually just train through it. In other words, we will treat the competition like a heavy max out day. We usually let them go for a heavy single or double in most exercises as they get closer to the meet to build confidence and also stimulate a competition environment. Keeping athlete’s competitive will build motivation and keep drive up when training gets hard.

If it’s a bigger meet, national qualifier, or national event, we will “taper” around 7-10 days out. This simply means we reduce the overall training volume and work load significantly to allow the body to recharge and be recovered to be able to see the best results in the lifts!

The hard work always pays off in the end – it’s not easy but it’s worth it!

John Cortese
CTS Strength & Conditioning