YAY BURPEES – or as Coach Burgener calls them “motivational consequences.” Don’t answer loud enough. Burpees! No hook grip. Burpees! Drop your PVC. Burpees! And let’s face it, nobody likes burpees. So even though the fear of “motivational consequences” left us hanging on every word Coach B said, he didn’t need them to keep us captivated for the entire weekend.
Coach Burgener was everything I hoped he would be and there’s no shortage of adjectives I could use to describe him – engaging, inspiring, personable, a wealth of knowledge. But if I had to sum him up in one word, without a doubt it would be passionate. Coach B’s passion for Olympic weightlifting was evident from the time we sat down for his “fire your ass up” motivational video till the time we walked out of the gym the following afternoon. Passion is a quality so rarely seen today – a passion for anything not just in sport.
You want to know what it means to be “passionate?” Coach Burgener has been teaching Olympic-style weightlifting for upwards of 40 years – correcting the same faults, giving the same coaching cues, delivering the same speeches. How many of you get fed up when you have to explain the same thing to someone even two or three times? Oh, and to top it all off, the majority of his coaching career has been with kids…highschool kids – yikes! Now that’s the mark of true passion! Anybody else, motivated by anything less, would be crushed under the same circumstances.
For all the unbridled praise I’m throwing towards Coach B, the actual Olympic Weightlifting course left me with mixed feelings. Before I get into it, let me give you a little background into my personal experience with oly lifting. I’ve been doing cleans and snatches since the day I started training with Tim at Maxability about 7 years ago. Although my form was far from perfect, I at least got some exposure into how to move my body together with the barbell as one unit. I was mediocre at best, not really understanding the finer points of the technique – using a shit ton of arms – to manipulate the bar. Then, during my senior year at BU, I started training with Neil Thompson at Crossfit Boston exclusively on my Olympic lifts. This is where all the fine-tuning and skill work came into play. I have never done, nor heard of, things like snatch pulls, or 2-position cleans, or snatch balance etc. It really opened my eyes to a ton of supplementary movements that focused on driving home technique and exposing my weaknesses – before I used to think if you wanted to get better at the clean or snatch all you had to do was clean and snatch a lot. WRONG! Repetition leads to stagnation – especially when it comes to trying to put some weight on your lifts. With this new information and strategy to attack these lifts, my numbers began to soar with practice. On top of that, with my compulsive attitude, I couldn’t get enough – I watched every video, read every article I could get my hands on dealing with Olympic lifts. I know I joke about this all the time, but after that first time you hit that perfect snatch, I guarantee it’ll make you look at Oly lifting completely different.
Now back to the Olympic Weightlifting Seminar. The objective of the course was to prepare us, as coaches, with the ability to teach the clean and jerk and snatch to a client who has never attempted these complex movements. And for all intents and purposes, the class succeeded without question. However, for me personally, the course tended to be a reiteration of many of the concepts I learned in Boston, or read online – that’s not to say EVERYTHING was; some concepts such as sweeping the bar back at the start or the proper active shoulder position were completely new ideas to me. But for the most part, many of the topics discussed were more of a review rather than groundbreaking information.
But even that wasn’t enough to leave me with mixed feelings, wanting more, by the end of the weekend. Maybe this is selfish, but in the presence of a world-renowned Olympic lifting coach, I wanted to lift heavy! I was hoping to not only set a couple of PR’s that weekend, but get personalized advice by Coach on what I’m doing wrong or what I needed to work on. You don’t get very many opportunities to lift in front of someone with that much experience, and I was hoping to take advantage of the situation. Didn’t happen.
All in all, I had a great time over the course of the weekend. Great coaching, great people – but that’s come to be expected at any Crossfit event. Of course, it wasn’t perfect, but for the goal it set out to accomplish, it far succeeded it.