Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend the Dmitry Klokov seminar. Dmitry is a Russian weightlifter who competes in the 105kg category. He is a World Champion and won the silver medal at Beijing. Had he not been injured directly before London it is likely he would have won the gold.
He has just finished a two month tour of the US and Australia, running weightlifting seminars.
My buddy Ben and I showed up at CrossFit South West Sydney nice and early to get warmed up before the seminar kicked off. The day ran from 9:00 AM through to 6:00 PM. We had a bar in our hands at least five of those hours, learning by doing.
The day kicked off with a demonstration by Dmitry, who was straight off the red-eye flight from Perth. Despite his lack of sleep he still knocked out a 180kg snatch. The guy is not just incredibly technical with his lifting, he is also insanely strong. I’ve seen video of him deadlifting over 300kg before, despite rarely doing conventional deadlifts. The demonstration was impressive, to say the least. This is a photo of him push-pressing 197.5kg.
After that, we went through the progressions for learning the snatch. Most of the people attending the seminar were at least competent at the Olympic lifts, and some were very good at them. Having said that, all of us had to learn a a new way of doing the snatch. Klokov taught the Russian version of the lift, which was different to the Western style.
Dmitry would demonstrate the lift, followed by the points he wanted to emphasise. His English is limited to a few phrases, mostly things like “shoulders back”, “on toes”, and “no good”, all delivered with a thick Russian accent. He had a Russian translator who was also an athlete, who followed him around and translated his rapid-fire coaching corrections. A lot of the time the translator wasn’t need too much, as there is a limited number of cues needed per lift, and when you didn’t understand his correction he would generally just manhandle you into a position he was happy with. Between the English he did know, demonstrating the position he was looking for, and physically moving you into the correct position, I barely noticed the language barrier.
We spent two and a half hours snatching, and then broke for a quick lunch. After lunch we went through the clean and jerk. This was run the same as the snatch, with each portion of the lift broken down into a drill, with a demonstration, explanation, a second demonstration, and then practice as Dmitry came around and corrected everybody individually. Metamorph Performance, who did a brilliant job of organising the tour, capped each day at 25 lifters, and I’m glad that they did, because literally every drill and lift that I did was personally critiqued by Klokov until he was happy with what I was doing. This wouldn’t have been possible with more people there.
After we had finished learning the Russian style, I went for a 110kg clean and jerk with Dmitry watching. The long day caught up to me, however, and I made the clean but lost the jerk in front of me. Talk about the worst time to miss a lift!
Having finished with the classic lifts, we then covered some of Dmitry’s favourite accessory lifts. He showed us a few variations on the snatch grip deadlift, and told us which one to implement depending on our weaknesses. He also covered three types of RDLs, which all look much different to the Western version of the lift.
All showed us several other accessory lifts, all of which he could move incredible weights with. After that, he talked through a standard Russian weightlifting weekly program. The Russians train nine times a week, and take Sunday off. Saturday night was pencilled in for “vodka and discotheque.”
The final half an hour was set aside for a Q&A. I asked him if the Russian athletes from other sports also did the Olympic lifts. He seemed almost surprised that I asked. He said of course they did. They all did the snatch, clean and jerk. The national weightlifting coaches ran the strength training for the other sport’s athletes. This is a far cry from Western countries, where a lot of sports spend limited time in Strength and Conditioning because the head coaches often don’t put much stock in it.
Dmitry was an extremely engaging teacher, and his sly sense of humour managed to shine through the language barrier. He usually only needed a glance to see what needed fixing, and I got yelled at to get my shoulders further forward while he was across the other side of the room and in the middle of coaching somebody else. Despite sounding a little like a Bond villain, he was a great coach, and an amazing athlete. His passion to improve was clear, even just meeting him for a day. As he always says about his success: “I was never talented and nobody will call me talented, I am just a workaholic.”