Patience grasshopper, patience.

For all those aspiring weightlifters out there, the end is NOT IN SIGHT.

Starting a weightlifter is a long process. It honestly is. The sport itself is a long game also.

As a weightlifting Coach, I get asked a lot about why when someone asks me how long will it take me to learn weightlifting, that I respond with:

“Well, it usually takes me about three months to start a weightlifter, then they can move into the beginner stream of training.”

~me, virtually every time I get asked this question.

Here’s why.

Let’s say you wanted to learn bookkeeping for small business. This is a qualification that can be obtained from the Australian Technical college or TAFE system as a Certification IV.

Now, that Cert IV, they say, takes 575 nominal hours, 11 hours of study a week, for the full 12 month course.

You’ll learn a lot of skills and ins and outs equipment and processes and what not during this course.

Let’s now say, that you want to learn weightlifting. Of which there are substantively 30 baseline movements and depending on which form you use, this could be more, but certainly not less. Definitely more if you are learning more than one technique as you develop as an athlete. Which is commonplace in starting weightlifters.

So, on average, it takes an athlete 200 repetitions of a complex movement to learn it to the point where they can begin to move more than just a bar or stick. (It’s actually significantly more, closer to 1000 repetitions.)
In the context of that, lets include:

1. Tier 1 Snatch (1000 reps required)
 11998921_10153020325861857_8567295157610391040_n2. Tier 1 Clean and jerk(1000 reps required)
3. Front squat
4. Back squat
5. Snatch deadlift
6. Clean deadlift
7. Snatch pulls
8. Clean pulls
9. Hang snatch
10. Hang clean
11. Snatch balance
12. Drop snatch
13. Strict press snatch
14. Strict press jerk
15. Push press snatch
16. Push press jerk
17. Power snatch
18. Power clean
19. Power jerk
20. Power split jerk (short split jerk)
21. Press in snatch
22. Press in jerk
23. Jerk balance
24. Muscle snatch
25. Muscle clean
26. Romanian deadlift
27. Overhead squat
28. Good mornings (Chinese and cantilever / catapult variants)

So, that’s 28 movements. Tier 1 and 2 combined.
200(reps) X 26(Tier 2 movements) + 2000 (Tier 1 movements, snatch, clean and jerk)= 7200 repetitions.

Let’s also say, four movements per session at an average of 20 repetitions per movement.
4 X 20=80 repetitions per session.

Now, let’s say you train Three days a week and never miss a workout or a week ever.
80 x 3=240 repetitions per week.

Now to accumulate the required 7200 repetitions you need of all of the movements, you’ll need;

7200 / 240 = 30 weeks.

There are 4.3 weeks to a month (averaged):
30 / 4.3 = 7 months.

That’s 7 months, and then you can be called a beginner.

Of interest, if each training session lasts one and a half hours. With our 30 weeks at three sessions a week, that’s:
30 x 3 = 90 sessions, which is 135 hours of workload.

So, after all of that, why can’t you just train five days a week and be done in 3/5ths the time? Because as a beginner, you won’t be able to tolerate the training from a recovery perspective.

Weightlifting training aches you to your bones. DEAD BONE TIRED. Weightlifting training is a skill, just like book keeping. BUT it also has a physical side. DUH. Guess what, your body needs time to adapt to the training, so therefore… you can’t train five days a week as a beginner.

But, you can sit in front of a computer for hours and read books for hours, and learn about bookkeeping or underwater basket weaving or whatever.

So, there’s clearly a lot of if, buts, and maybes here. There’s always exceptions to the rule.

But the above model is a simplification of what is actually required of a human to be a starting weightlifter. There’s a LOT more to it.

So what about Crossfit, they weightlift too right?
Of interest, if we overlay that onto the Crossfit training paradigm, you’ll train the snatch and clean and jerk possibly only once a week, at a combined 40 repetitions. Plus let’s also say that the athlete does at least one tier 2/3 movement each training day at the same rep count of 40. Then let’s say that the athlete also trains three days a week.
That’s 40 (Tier 1) + 120 (tier 2 and 3)=180 repetitions a week.

Which means, also assuming the athlete never ever misses a session…..

7200/180=40 weeks.
40/4.3=9.3 Months of training in order to get the basics down.

However from my experience, the clean and jerk and the snatch are practiced only once or twice a month at best. Teir 2 and 3 movements are much more prevalent. This distance between the practice of the Tier 1 movements also makes it harder for muscle memory and skill to develop which also slows the starting process dramatically because of the re-learning effect that the athlete experiences.

Love to hear your comments on this article, so feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Fast feet, Strong Backs.
Ben Winter-Giles
Head Coach
Unbranded Weightlifting