Olympic Moments

Randall J. Strossen

Weightlifting Jumps into the Mainstream—and Makes a Big Splash

 Olympic-style weightlifting burst out of its usual conservative, low-profile shell in the United States this year—first with a major role at the mediagenic Titan Games in San Jose, California, and then with its debut at the Arnold Fitness Expo in Columbus, Ohio. Weightlifting is the only iron game activity on the Olympic program, which automatically gives it very special status, but it has a relatively small following in the U.S., usually assuming a quiet role far from mainstream interest. All that changed this spring, though, as the sport moved from the wings to center stage with those two big-time events.

Organized by the U.S. Olympic Committee and hosted by the San Jose Sports Authority, the Titan Games featured seven elemental, fierce Olympic sports contested four at a time, side by side in one arena. Imagine wrestling, boxing, karate and weightlifting enhanced by high-energy announcers and rock music laced with techno support you’d expect in a 21st-century Silicon Valley setting. Did we mention that gold medalists and marquee names were there as competitors, special guests and fans?

This festive, made-for-TV environment marked a new kind of showcase for weightlifting, and the USA’s Shane Hamman, a former champion powerlifter who once said, “Powerlifting is like poker; weightlifting is like chess,” closed out the night with a 500-pound (227.5 kilogram) clean and jerk, following his 407-pound (185-kilogram) snatch, to a standing ovation from a full house roaring its approval. Do they really rock like this at chess tournaments?

The Titan Games featured lifters from the USA, Hungary, Ecuador, Columbia and Venezuela—a competitors list that included world champions. Even though it was very early in the competition season, which meant that lifters were well below their peak-performance levels, there were still some very nice lifts, and Boris Burov smoked an outstanding world-class 182.5-kilogram (402-pound) snatch at a bodyweight of 96.58 kilograms (213 pounds). The American team produced many notable performances, and, underlining the big splash weightlifting made, Hamman and Cheryl Haworth received the Ultimate Titan honors at the end of the weekend.

A couple of weeks later weightlifting joined the feeding frenzy known as the Arnold Fitness Expo and managed to draw a crowd so large that at one point there was concern that the fire marshall would have to clear the place.

This event was the brainchild of meet directors Mark Canella and Megan Tornstrom, who leveraged Megan’s experience working with Jim Lorimer and Arnold’s interest in weightlifting to provide three different competitive formats over two days of lifting.

Weightlifting at the Arnold Expo featured U.S. lifters and drew its strength not from world-record-level performances but from the variety of formats, which were presented in the quick-moving rounds system, with only two attempts per lifter, superenhanced by the unstoppable wave of energy generated by the expo. Chuck Vinci, who won Olympic gold medals in weightlifting in ’56 and ’60 and was the last American Olympic gold medalist in the sport until Tara Nott rang the bell in Sydney, was on hand throughout the event, and everyone joined in celebrating Chuck’s 70th birthday.

Given the very nature of the Arnold Fitness Expo, there are always a lot of name-brand people milling about. Among the notables who came over to watch weightlifting were powerlifting superstar Ed Coan, World’s Strongest Man competitors Odd Haugen and Phil Pfister and kettlebell king Pavel Tsatsouline.

And just to make sure everything ended on the highest possible note, when the competition was over, a small group of lifters and coaches were whisked off to meet with Arnold at his hotel, where he exclaimed, “I love Olympic weightlifting!” Arnold told the group that he had begun his career as a weightlifter, that he’d been instrumental in bringing weightlifting to the expo, and that he wanted it back. USA Weightlifting president Dennis Snethen presented Arnold with an invitation to be honorary team captain of the 2004 U.S. Olympic weightlifting team.

One great sport, two great events.

Editor’s note: Randall J. Strossen, Ph.D., is the author of Ironmind, IRONMAN’s monthly sports psychology column, and he is the founder and president of IronMind Enterprises Inc., a name that’s synonymous with strength sports around the world. Visit www.ironmind.com for more information.


The Secret of Mega Motivation

Larry Scott

The Secret of Mega Motivation

One of my favorite pieces of reading material is the magazine The Physician and Sportsmedicine. I like it because occasionally I run across some excellent research that can be very helpful in my own training and in training our clients.

I always look at one column in particular. It’s written by Dr. George Sheehan. He’s a marathon runner and preaches the benefits of running. What’s captured me is his ability to find pleasure in the running discipline. In days past his own running times were quite respectable; consequently, the main focus of his earlier articles was how to improve runners’ marathon efforts. Now, however, he runs with the arm of Father Time hanging on his shoulder. Even though his times are not record breaking, he continues to be excited about his running and the progress he’s making.


Steve Holman


It was almost like slow motion. I vividly remember the time I nearly split open my head doing flyes in my home gym. I was clanging my adjustable dumbbells together at the top of each rep—I hadn’t discovered Arnold’s continuous-tension technique yet—when one of the collars came loose and sent a plate plummeting toward my cranium. Luckily, only the 2 1/2-pounder on the end slipped off with the collar. It left a small red-and-purple impression on my forehead, but no stitches were necessary. It also gave a whole new meaning to the term “drop set.”

Big Jay Cutler’s Training

The Precontest Bible Larry Pepe

Big Jay Cutler’s Training

“Jay’s training style can be described as high volume with high intensity. He flies through approximately 20 to 25 sets per bodypart, taking only 30 to 45 seconds between sets. Back is the only exception to the rule, as he does 25 sets in the morning session and another 25 in the afternoon session. Each session takes about 40 minutes, and his reps are usually in the six to 12 range.”

Cumulative Consequences

Randall Strossen

Cumulative Consequences

Maybe you remember the fable about the ant and grasshopper. While the ant toiled steadily, the grasshopper played. Days, weeks and months went by, and when winter came, there was a huge difference in how each was prepared to face the coming months. Consider how processes like that work in the gym—as well as out of it—and consider whether you’re running your life in a way that will help you reach your goals.

Goals Take You There

Dave Draper

Goals Take You There

You don’t take your bow to an empty field and randomly shoot arrows in the air, do you? You do! Well, so much for my brilliant analogy. Let me put it another way. When Tiger Woods steps onto the golf course and tees his ball, a specific goal consumes his mind, doesn’t it? He chooses his club, addresses the ball, concentrates deeply and swings with just the right amount of force and finesse to put the ball in the distant cup. Without the goal, he might just as well have used a baseball bat in place of a nine iron, a boccie ball in place of a golf ball, and beat the thing into the ground rather than seeking a hole in one or par for the course. He could have stayed home, practiced his swing or made another commercial; it doesn’t matter without the goal.