Having recently spent a full day being coached by former World Champion and Olympic Silver medalist weightlifter, Dmitry Klokov; I’d like to write about what I learned from the experience.

 

Things I learnt from the seminar (in a nutshell):

 

– Klokov comes across as a bit of a maverick, with no one coaching him for the past ten years and with a somewhat unorthodox, but very effective, style of lifting.
– Drinks five litres of Yak’s milk per day, takes Branched-Chain Amino Acids and fasts one day per month.
– Sauna and sports massage are very important for recovery from training.
– Believes stretching to be detrimental to the muscles and spends minimal time stretching.
– Attributes his, and Russia’s, weightlifting success to “taking the sport seriously” and performing certain special exercises that most other countries don’t use.
– Trains strength (5×5 on heavy squats, pulls and presses) three sessions per week, snatch three sessions per week; and clean and jerk three times per week.
– All training exercises he does are specific to olympic weightlifting. Avoids bench pressing.

 

Who is Dmitry Klokov?

Name: Dmitry Klokov
Born: 1983 in Balashikha, Moscow Oblast
Occupation: Weightlifter
Notable achievements at -105kg:
– World champion (Doha, 2005)
– Olympic silver medalist (Beijing, 2008)
– World silver medalist (Antalya, 2010 and Paris, 2011)
– European silver medalist (Minsk, 2010)

 

Personal best lifts:

Deadlift: 335kg

Snatch-grip deadlift: 305kg

Back squat: 325kg

Front squat: 280kg

Snatch: 202.5kg

Clean and Jerk: 242kg

 

First Impressions:

I was part of a group of about 30 participants, which included lifters of different levels, crossfitters, strength coaches etc who took part in Klokov’s Birmingham seminar. Before being introduced to the group, I observed his warm-up routine which included rowing, a few light mobility exercises using a broom handle and barbell. One thing he did which I hadn’t seen before were barbell good mornings with his head finishing almost between his knees, which highlighted just how ridiculously mobile the man is! Later on, he would drop into the splits, which looks very, very impressive for a 17-stone fella!

Klokov noticed the scars on my shins from playing football and brushing the bar up my legs when lifting, so he asked me to come up to the front and told the group: “This is what your legs should look like. This is very good”. He was referring to the importance of keeping the bar close to the body when lifting. He high-fived me and his hand felt like I was being hit with a sledgehammer, such is the man’s physical presence!

 

Coaching style:

To start the seminar with a bang, Klokov demonstrated a part of his training routine to the group: Snatches and snatch-grip deadlifts, starting light and working up to some very heavy numbers. A 170kg snatch and 270kg snatch-grip deadlift (with no straps) were his best lifts of the day. He takes a long time to set up for a lift, convincing himself and visualising success before pulling on the bar. Even with the lighter weights, he maintained a great level of focus and intensity.

So, immediately he captures everyone’s attention and respect with his impressive strength, technique and ability to deliver in front of a watching audience. From this point onwards, everyone in the room were fixed on what he had to say, albeit mainly through a translator.

Klokov proceeded to coach the snatch exercise, in a style different to what I’d come across before. I’m not going to bore those of you who aren’t into Olympic weightlifting by going into specific details of how he coached the lifts, but I’ll give some general observations on his style of coaching:

– Broke the exercise down into parts and coached each part individually, stage by stage in the order that the movements occur. British Weight Lifting advise coaching this exercise using the “reverse-chain method” to beginners, but as we were mainly intermediate lifters, his method worked well with the group.
– Always led by example by providing clear and technically excellent demonstrations to the group.
– Made sure to coach everyone individually on every part of the exercise, spending more time on those who needed most help.
– Uses a very hands-on, assertive approach to improving technique, often physically forcing lifter’s knees, hips and shoulders into the right position.
– Likes to jokingly make fun of common mistakes that people make. But he uses this in a positive way to encourage people to lift with the right technique.
– Very good use of English when coaching individuals but used a translator when presenting more complex information to the whole group.
– Rarely praised good technique, but when he said “good” or “ok”, it felt like you were doing brilliantly!

 

Attitude to training and lifestyle:

Klokov mentioned that often he trains nine times per week. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays he will train Snatch in the morning and then Clean and Jerk in the afternoon/evening. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, he will focus on getting stronger at squatting, pulling and pressing, preferring 5×5 (reps x sets). He will “sleep all day” on Sundays. He focuses on front squats 70% of the time and back squats the remaining 30% of the time, as front squats are more specific to weightlifting.

All of Klokov’s assistance exercises are specific and beneficial to weightlifting. Plenty of snatch-grip deadlifting and behind-the-neck snatch-grip pressing, as well as a lot of front squats in particular. He believes in jerking and snatch-balancing from the rack with heavier loads than he will ever snatch or clean and jerk, as this will give him confidence when in competition, attempting lighter weights. For example, he has unracked 220kg and successfully snatch-balanced this weight in training. So in competition when he’s attempting a 200kg snatch from the floor, he’s already psychologically prepared by having a heavier load overhead previously in training.

Klokov is about 6-feet tall, weighs 105kg in competition and has a very impressive physique, as any google images search might prove. However, he mentioned that he doesn’t bench-press at all and that it’s the worst exercise that a weightlifter can do as it will tighten up the shoulders and affect your overhead position. Although boasting a very muscular and lean physique; he is very flexible which dispels a common misconception that building muscle always results in a reduction in mobility. Klokov demonstrated his impressive mobility by dropping into the splits, performing SOTS presses, and good mornings with his head almost dropping between his knees. He attributes his mobility to passive stretching he had done by professionals when he participated in martial arts as a youngster. Now, he just does five minutes of stretching per training session just to maintain his flexibility levels.

When questioned on his nutrition, Klokov gave very little away, mentioning that he takes BCAAs and drinks “Five litres of Yak’s milk per day”. Not sure if that part was lost in translation! He fasts one day per month to cleanse the system and is a big believer in doing this. He mentioned that he eats porridge oats. When questioned on whether Steroids have played a part in Russia’s weightlifting success, he ignored the subject and attributed their achievements to treating the sport seriously and performing assistance exercises that most countries don’t use.

 

Overall thoughts:

I had some questions to ask Klokov, but we ran out of time. The main question I wanted to ask was regarding the performance of the snatch-grip deficit Romanian deadlifts, he holds in such high regard in relation to building back strength. It’s virtually impossible to perform this exercise without flexion of the lumbar spine (or rounding the lower back) and wanted to ask how safe it is to perform these. I’m not sure that I’d perform these or programme them to even the most mobile of my clients. However, for Klokov, it seems like the man is made of steel and can get away with anything! It sounded like it when he was smashing the bar against his hips when demonstrating the snatch, anyway!

It was fantastic to get a different perspective on lifting and coaching from one of the best lifters in the world. Although some of his approaches came across as unorthodox to us, I will certainly be adopting some elements of his lifting style to my own technique and coaching methods. He’s coached and prepared himself to Olympic, World and European medals by doing it his own way. You can have the genetics, knowledge, training background and technique; but without being the hardworking, fiercely self-motivated maverick that Klokov is, most likely he wouldn’t have enjoyed the same level of success that he’s had. Today he strict pressed 150kg wearing a kilt in Glasgow.¬†Hats off to the man as he continues to entertain us with his impressive feats of strength!