By Jacob Sterny, Head Coach of Valhalla Barbell Club
The first thing I’ll lead off with in this article is…a class that meets once or twice a week (which most gyms call a barbell club) is in fact…NOT a barbell club. That is why today I’m going to break down why a full time barbell club is more valuable than a once, twice or three times/week class.
A Full Time Barbell Club
A functioning barbell club meets 5 to 7 days/week. Training sessions in these clubs sometimes last two hours or more and are often coached by one individual or a small group of individuals. These sessions are varied but focus on the core movements of the Olympic Lifts in addition to some form of squatting or pulling. Most clubs follow designed, in-house written programming to ensure progress in both disciplines of the sport.
A Weightlifting Class (NOT a Barbell Club)
A weightlifting class is usually an add on an athlete can select. More often than not these classes are intended to focus on a specific point of the lifts once or twice a week. Often to entice clientele to sign up the classes are varied such that the movement focused on changes frequently. This means you may see a full snatch one day and then see a squat jerk on the next. I’m sure programs plan these days out, but more often than not it seems sporadic an unplanned. Weightlifting is a sport that many dedicate their life to pursuing and for good reason, it is technical.
The movements of the Snatch and Clean & Jerk are not something that can be corrected by simply attending one weightlifting class. This is liken to believing that attending one guitar lesson makes you the world’s greatest guitarist. Consistent work on your part and attention from a qualified coach are needed to ensure steady progress. The following are a few reasons why working with a full time barbell club is better for this than attending 1 to 2, “weightlifting classes”, during the week.
Meeting with a coach consistently helps build a couple of things. First and foremost is the relationship you have with the coach. Initial sessions can be tough when working with a new coach as the two of you are attempting to feel each other out. “Does she understand my cuing”? “How much does he cue me and do I like how he coaches”? Over time athlete and coach begin to understand each other and a good working relationship can develop. The next thing consistency builds is a sense of continued and focused attention.
Only meeting with a coach during, “weightlifting class”, a few times a week leads to a lot of stopping and starting. If coach shows you how they want something done and then you have a long lay off of a week or even 4 days, there’s a greater chance that you will forget what you are supposed to be focusing on. This can be frustrating for a coach from the standpoint of having to repeat exactly what was performed last week. This can also be frustrating for the athlete as they never feel like they are making any progress. Continued and focused attention prevent this.
The Little Things
Spending time in a barbell club more than twice a week allows you to focus on more, “little things”. If you’ve been lifting for some time and haven’t set a personal record since what seems like the dawn of time, it is time to go back and look at the little things. Finding a Max once a week in whatever lift isn’t going to help you. These classes often pick one movement and work on refining technique in that one piece. This lasts only long enough for the movement of focus to shift to something else. See how frustrating this can be?
Allowing a coach to dissect your technique and tell you what he or she sees gives you an idea of what needs to be worked on to improve. In a full time barbell club you are then afforded the opportunity to work on perfecting that one thing until you then find something else that needs to be fixed. You’re not rolling into class hoping to work on Snatch only to have coach say, “Alright guys! Today we’re learning the no hook, no foot muscle clean”.
Receiving better coaching and time to work on the little things are what lead to long term, overall progress. Instead of attending a, “weightlifting class”, where the approach sits more on the side of throwing sh*t at the wall to see what sticks you are able to hone in on what actually needs fixing. You are no longer shooting yourself in the foot and working toward what needs to be addressed. What’s more is if the club is of any quality it will have in house programming written by the coach that each athlete follows. This further ensures progress as programming is designed to undulate and load and deload the body to stimulate adaptation to training stimuli. It is planned out, not sporadic.
Now it’s not all bad. These classes may in fact be a good way to get started. A less intimidating approach where beginners can work with beginners. But, the Snatch and Clean & Jerk are hard. They take years to master (master is kind of a joke because you never really master them). Sporadic practice every few weeks is not how you get better at them. Attending a full time barbell club where the coaching is consistent is not the only key but it is a good start. With more focused coaching and attention the chance that you will improve is higher than if you work on the lifts. It all comes down to how fast do you want to progress.