Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Weightlifting Challenge: Pumpin'

The Weightlifting Challenge for the The Everyman Olympics fell onto my lap thanks to a response to a tweeted cry for help from an Amercian I'd never met and the enthusiasm of a young woman whom during the month of May I would come to warmly regard as Coach Josie.

Note how knackered I look compared with Coach Josie!

Stepping into the gym I was nervous, not because I was about to meet a complete stranger who I'd only come to know through the internet or because I was about to be judged on how strong I was by a girl, but because I'd had a dicky belly that morning and was fearful that lifting heavy objects might have a diverse affect on my stomach muscles...infront of a complete stranger...who just happened to be a girl...who I'd never met before.

There are 2 main lifts in Olympic Weightlifting competition: the Clean & Jerk and the Snatch. To a sniggering teenager one might seem named for boys and the other clearly designed for girls.

The Snatch is a two part motion to raise a barbell from the floor to arms length above the head, with the first and in my opinion most dangerous part of the move involving snatching the bar from the floor to over the head whilst in a squat position.

As Coach Josie demonstrated both moves I could see straight away that the Snatch wasn't for me. For starters I reckon that if I was lucky enough to even lift a respectable weight I'd probably swing the bastard thing right over my head and end up breaking my back.
Thus the Clean & Jerk became my method of I just had to see how much I could lift whilst learning coaching tips, and trying not to shit myself.

The Weightlifting Challenge:
  • Task: Learn how to do the Clean & Jerk official lift of the Olympics and record a starting weight, then train to beat it.
  • Time: 1 Month

In the basement of ZT Fitness in Hove (which doubled as the loose weights room) I Clean & Jerked enough times to make my head go light and the room go grey and hazy, I was gonna pass out on my first ever Weightlifting class. Bugger.

I stopped and took a seat claiming the need for water and a breather. I think Coach Josie took pity on me because before the next lift I was allowed to use some of her chalk for grip.

By the end of our time together I'd clocked up a legal lift of just 40kg and felt like an elated yet beaten man; today I'd met my first true athlete on my Everyman Olympics travels, and all I could do to show my appreciation for her time was lift the equivalent of a few tins of beans above my head and not poo myself.

For the next few weeks I would become fixated with lifting heavy stuff in a manner not previously seen in the gyms I visited.

The Clean & Jerk method climaxes with a thrusting jump whereby the barbell travels from effectively...ahh just check out the pics below and you'll get the gist...

Stage 1, try not to shit yourself.

Stages 2 & 3 MUST be done over a man hole cover

Stage 4: The Leap Of Faith

At Stage 5 you scream like a banshee (and your moobs burst out)

Coach Josie was ace, she'd drip feed me with training programmes and this meant I could attack each trip to a gym with vigour. In addition to the C&J's I'd also have to do more standard lifting techniques which my fellow gymies didn't get so perplexed about; dead lifts and a variety of squats.

That first week I'd tried to get to a place of body worship as often as I could and had some success - by the end of Week 1 I'd already increased my Personal Best (PB) by more than 10%.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link mind...

The Clean & Jerk uses many different muscle groups which are consecutively tapped into for their strength at different phases of the motion. However, there are two closely positioned body parts which are constantly under pressure: the hands and the wrists.

This began to take its toll pretty early on, in fact by the end of Day 7 as I left the gym car park my hands felt as if they'd been driven over slowly by a convoy of obese old people on motorised carts, it hurt just to turn my steering wheel.

The 'down' side of The Weightlifting Challenge was that it would increase my muscle mass and subsequently I was getting heavier when I was supposed to be competing against Carl to lose weight!

This brought about debate between Coach Josie & Pete Puma, the every American dude who'd put me in touch with my trainer in the first place; while both of them felt I'd made an oversight by agreeing to compete against Carl to lose a stone rather than competing to lose body fat, as weightlifters I think they appreciated my efforts to do this properly.

On a couple of occasions I also found out that I wasn't in possession of a glass jaw; at least twice I managed to fail to lift my dumb head as I pushed the bar up from my collar bone to the ceiling, instead opting to drive the loaded barbell through my think jaw...if my wisdom teeth weren't compacted before I can vouch for them being so now.

Judgement day loomed. When it reared its ugly head I can't say I felt entirely ready for it, I'd had to rest my hands as often as possible towards the end for fear of simply failing to have the strength in them to perform on the day.

In the basement at Coach Josie's Training HQ the bar gradually got loaded and I knew the boss was happy with my improvement because before I'd realised I was training with the Master!

At 60kg I felt I still had more in the tank. At 62.5kg Coach Josie even said that she'd leave me to carry on, with her as an observer only...

Heading back to the car I couldn't have cut a different shape to the self same dude who'd made this very journey 4-ish weeks before. Grinning like a mad man holding a a leaf he swore was a winning lottery ticket I just kept staring at the phone on which I'd recorded all of my PBs.

I'd managed 67.5kg.

With special thanks to:

Coach Josie - What can I say? You're a Legend!!! Thanks so much for your enthusiasm, training, tweets of encouragement, chalk...everything!

Pete Puma - Couldn't have happened without you dude, nice one for the intro to Coach Josie and Keep Pumpin'!

As mentioned before, YOU can get involved in The Everyman Olympics.

Here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Suggestions or tips you have on which sports I should base an event on
  • How I can make the challenges realistic to the real thing and where I might find facilities to use
  • Stores where I can get good deals on sports equipment and kit
  • OR even if you’re available to play against me or in some of the team events!

Anyone who helps will be mentioned on the blog (Who knows, it may even make a book)

You can contact me at

Or follow me on Twitter:


  1. Excellent work, my man. Josie is a super-nice person...way too nice to be associated with the likes of me.

  2. lol! keep up the good work :-D

  3. Brilliant! I wonder if any other gymsters tried this after seeing you give it a go. Can we vote for your next event? I vote you try Greco-Roman Wrestling. I might start a campaign on Facebook. Wrestle Boris!

  4. been weighting for this challenge...what happened to the mention in this blog?

  5. Geoff Capes eat your heart out! Good on you and well done for not shitting yourself, that is always a bonus in any situation.x

  6. Well done Sir I'm very proud of you! My first experience as a coach was a good one and it was good fun writing someone else's training program, since I'm usually the one being made to do horrible ache-inducing work.
    You made a great improvement but there's still a lot in ya if you fancy giving it another go :D
    Coach Josie x

  7. Good work Borris and great work Jossie for having the patience to train what only can be described as an hairy ape.
    look forward to the saffron lane extravaganza and chin up big guy, you'll lose that stone soon