Monday, April 23, 2012

Life Lessons Learned Lifting

[Post by Cliff Harvey]

I've learned a lot about life from the various pursuits I've engaged in. And while I haven't always been the best at those things, I've been blessed to train and compete with some of the best around.

Strength training has been a passion of mine for many years. For me it began as a way to put on weight for rugby.
I was told while in my second to last year of high school that if I put on certain amount of weight I would captain my school's First XV rugby team...but if I didn't put the weight on I wouldn't even make the team...
As anyone who knows a Kiwi's passion for rugby will attest, that was a pretty powerful motivator to hit the gym!
Cliff Harvey - 160Kg One Hand Deadlift
at 74kg bodyweight
Suffice to say I learned a lot over the coming year about training and nutrition and made and captained the team. More importantly I developed a passion for the fitness, strength and health and wellness industries that carried me into life as a strength coach, nutritionist and naturopath.

After many concussions playing rugby my dreams of being a competitive boxer were cut short and after reading about the exploits of the great strength athletes of the past; Hermann Goerner, Arthur Saxon, Joseph Greenstein and others, and finding inspiration in the feats of the modern legends of All-Round Weightlifting (guys like Steve Gardner and Steve Angell) I started a life long relationship with lifting heavy things from the floor.

Following on from Life Lessons Learned Surfing and Life Lessons Learned Fighting I asked a few of my friends in the iron sports to give some of their thoughts. What follows is a testament to a few of the strongest, yet most humble people I've had the honour and privilege to call my friends.

Do 'The Work' Even if Situations aren't 'Perfect'

People need to learn how to become lifters, and not just lift weights. A lifter will train no matter what - no chalk = still train, no shoes = train bare feet, injured knee = shoulder press. A lifter fights through self doubt, can train by them selves and still hit big numbers, doesn't rely on people to stroke his ego. A lifter finds a way to lift where no other way seems possible. 
~ Danny Nemani (Commonwealth and World Championship level Olympic Weightlifter, National Champion Powerlifter)

Be a Complete Animal on the Platform, and a Complete Gentleman off It
Steve Angell lifting the famed Dinnie Stones

I can remember another lifter telling me once that when Steve Gardner saw me lift for the first time he thought it looked like I had a big ego, but as you know once we chatted afterwards, we became great friends (He never told me this story). 
I suppose you could say, don't judge a book by it's cover...
~ Steve Angell (7 x IAWA World Weightlifting Champion, Holder of World Records for Heaviest Zercher Lift and One Hand Deadlift, only man to life the 'Dinnie Stones'20x in one day)

[Check out my interview with Steve here:]

There is More to Being a Coach than 'Coaching'

A lot of coaches don't know how to motivate their lifters - coaches need to get to know their lifters and really find out what makes them tick, what's important to them, what happens in their everyday life. 
In my experience there has always been a missing connection between my coaches and me. 
My family are a massive motivation to me and get me emotional/hyped before I lift...but all I am told is to 'stay over' and 'finish the pull'... 
~ Danny Nemani (Commonwealth and World Championship level Olympic Weightlifter, National Champion Powerlifter)

The More You Sweat in Training, The Less You Bleed in Battle (AKA: Life is not as Tough as Fran...)
Darren Ellis - Farmers Walk

Something I have learned in both my own training and in training others is derived somewhat from the well known saying, "the more you sweat in training the less you bleed in battle". 
Pretty straightforward; work harder during practice, so that the real thing seems easier. 
I think it can go a step further however. Hard, intense, physically challenging exercise can do more than make sport, the boxing ring and war seem easier; it can make life itself easier. 
Modern life can be tough. We are faced with constant pressures to succeed in a world that demands more and more consumption and progress and keeping up with the Jones's.
A brutal workout will not only build fitness, it will build mental resolve to deal with life outside of the gym. When you have battled through heavy high rep back squats, a kettlebell snatch test, or a CrossFit workout; stress at work, that argument you had with your spouse, or your university assignment suddenly doesn't really seem that bad. Life itself is not as tough as Fran........ so train hard, then walk out of the gym with a smile on your face, ready to kick life's arse. It'll be easy. 
~ Darren Ellis (Founder CrossFit NZ, Regional Championship Competitor)

Push Yourself

Danny Nemani - Clean and Jerk
So many times I've dragged my ass to the gym feeling broken and unmotivated and have walk out smashing a PB. 
I'm not trying to be stupid about this and say to everyone to put massive amounts of weights on and try to lift it - far from it. What I'm talking about is when someone hits an easy PB snatch of 82kg (when their previous PB was 80) and then they don't want to try 85kg 'cause they don't want to fail at it. I feel that this is the perfect time to push through and really test your metal - find out how you react under pressure, how you control your heart rate, how you control your breathing, how you control your technique, how strong you really are. I feel that people don't push themselves into this 'state' enough - I feel that people should be going into that state every week... at-least... 
~ Danny Nemani (Commonwealth and World Championship level Olympic Weightlifter, National Champion Powerlifter)

Brute Strength with Ignorance Falls by its Own Weight
~ Steve Gardner  (IAWA International President, multiple x IAWA World Champion and World Record Holder)

Everyone Has Their Own Unique Technique

Every person has their own technique Every weight has it's own technique.
No matter how good your technique is at 50%, it will be different at 55% even at 80%. Also, every person has their own technique - coaches need to let lifters express themselves through their natural technique and not try to overly correct their technique. 
~ Danny Nemani (Commonwealth and World Championship level Olympic Weightlifter, National Champion Powerlifter)

Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths 

Craig McMillan
A true champion is not the person who sits back and relies on his natural ability it is the person who looks critically at his weaknesses and sets about methodically to turn them into strengths. At the end of the day you are only as strong as your weakest link!
~ Craig McMillan (6 x National Champion Powerlifter)

Strength United is Stronger
Steve Gardner - lorry pulling
Steve Gardner  (IAWA International President, multiple x IAWA World Champion and World Record Holder)

Your Body is a Lie

I'm absolutely broken now (after wed training) but know I'll be fine when I train. 
My body is a lie.
People always under train... I have never met anyone who has over trained (like clinically over trained). People need to trust themselves more and not be afraid to push themselves - more times than not - people surprise themselves that they did so well when they pushed themselves.
~ Danny Nemani (Commonwealth and World Championship level Olympic Weightlifter, National Champion Powerlifter)

Thanks to Danny, Steve - Gardner and Angell, Darren and Craig for their insights.


  1. i am glad i found this blog. i am built much like you but not nearly as strong. i am working on progressing to being a strong/skinny guy.

    1. Chuck. Thanks for your comment. I thought I had replied but obviously not. I'm glad you enjoyed the blog post. Stay in the loop and make sure to check out some of the guys featured in this post. All great examples of people who have transcended supposed limitations to become truly strong (in body, mind and soul.)