I’ve been coaching our junior weightlifting program at The Hub in a variety of formats for almost two years. At the beginning of one of our programs, a junior weightlifter came in with limited body awareness, strength, and mobility. He was upfront about how he had spent the last two-ish years of his teenage life: playing video games, sitting around with friends, casually riding his bike around town… Basically, he had been sedentary. He knew it, that was why he joined weightlifting, and he could feel it when he got started.
He was getting especially down on himself a couple weeks in because he was having a lot of difficulty doing exercises he knew. We would occasionally do auxiliary exercises similar to those he had done in a previous youth fitness class and he could really feel where he had lost mobility and strength.
BUT, we kept focusing on the fact that he was in there, that he was taking steps to be active, and that he wanted to get back what he lost. It became a game of getting back to where he was and beyond.
Then one session we came upon an exercise that he couldn’t do safely: segment pause deadlifts. When he moved down into his start position he had to disengage and round his back in order to reach the barbell on the ground. Since we’re in the business of finding solutions and working from where people are at, I grabbed some short jerk boxes and we set the barbell on them instead of the ground. From there he could safely perform the exercise with an engaged and neutral back. It was perfect. We would work on improving his mobility in other exercises while still building posterior strength with this exercise.
But his eyes caught mine. He looked at the barbell sitting on top of the jerk boxes, then looked back at me. Appearing disenchanted, he said,
“Is it bad?”
This was the time to encourage him. Say the wrong thing, and it could have a seriously negative impact.
So I paused. I collected my thoughts and responded, “It is NOT bad. It’s just where you are. We all come into new sports with different abilities and with different limitations. Some limitations are physical, some are mental. Right now your limitation is getting into a start position. For others it’s shoulder mobility or catching overhead. For others it’s core strength. For others still it’s not believing they are strong enough. But I promise it’s not bad. It’s just where you are. And we will work together to get you where you need to be.” He looked up and determinedly carried on.
So this is for anyone else who needs to hear it:
It’s not bad. It’s just where you are. We just have to work together to get where you need to be.
(And wouldn’t you know it, within 5 weeks of training 2x per week and doing some mobility work at home, he was able to get into his start position with an engaged back – a safe and stable position. It’s amazing how far we can come when the drive and the effort are there.)