Team China’s Secret Part 2

Andrew Charniga

“… accept the crucial fact that what is picked up in the classroom stays loosely in the classroom.” Nasim Taleb, Antifragile

“All sciences are vain and full of errors that are not born of Experience, the mother of all Knowledge.” Leonado Da Vinci

The last place one should look for knowledge, for expertise in dynamic sport is in the classroom. Accordingly, it is estimated most research claims emanating from academia are false. The most consistent, reliable yard stick of the unreliability of academic knowledge is “what is picked up in the classroom” is lacking a mother i.e, real world experience. A very convincing case has been made; of which the process is ongoing; the damage American academia inflicts on American athletes in football, basketball, soccer and so forth. 

For instance, the China video part 2 with opening screen emblazoned “Strength Power” begins by showing a western paper about strength. Referring to the paper’s contents, the video’s commentator makes reference to the equation force equals mass times acceleration as the basis of weightlifting training and techniques to develop power. However good this might sound on academic paper; it has been well said that Newton’s third law of motion where for every action there is an equal opposite reaction is the essence of weightlifting. The weightlifter lifts a barbell with pressure from the feet against the support which pushes back. That is the how of the physics.

The video content implies the Chinese methodology of strength converted to power is the basis of their training of the modern weightlifter. Somewhere lost  in this argument is where the ‘skill of strength’ fits in; how it is cultivated effectively, with the Chinese training at bodybuilding, heavy straining at squat and deadlift, and so forth.  

Figure 1. Perhaps the most disingenuous remark of video 2 is “Our athletes rarely train bodybuilding” as video shows Olympic champion working curls.

For example, the narrator says “our athletes rarely train bodybuilding”. This is more than disingenuous; because images of shirtless Chinese males sporting bodybuilding physiques like the one  in figure 1 attest to the opposite circumstances. The irony of this contrary contradiction is the Olympic champion in figure 1 is purported to have suffered a torn tricep muscle prior to the games.

Figure 2. A high pull with a re – bending is not an invention of Chinese; has nothing in common with any animal; nor is it a ‘secret’ special exercise; and, likewise, does not illicit much of a carry over to the classic exercises. 

Confusing Coordination with Power

The first thing we look for in a weightlifter is strength” We bring out their explosive power. Only then do we think about completing actual lifts” (China secrets part 2)

First, strength and power are different qualities. Strength as measured with machines, maximum lifts in squat or deadlift are close to isometric; a static quality. The heavier the weight in squat or pull for instance; the slower the movement; essentially makes the exercise indistinguishable from static or isometric. Consequently, learning the classic snatch and the classic clean and jerk which are highly coordinated power exercises; after one finds ‘strength’; confuses the body to ‘find’ the requisite skills. The coordination, inherent to the classic exercises is a complex dynamic quality; incompatible with a static one. 

“There is no direct correlation between strength and sport results. Competition results are affected by a number of factors: technique, training methods, weight loss, psychological preparation, etc.”  A. N. Vorobeyev, 1988

Were this not the case you could successfully train powerlifters and bodybuilders in weightlifting; even after they have ceased powerlifting/bodybuilding. Anyone with experience knows chances of success of a strength – first, then learn the coordination, the skills of weightlifting sequence; are highly improbable. Once someone has developed strength from powerlifting/bodybuilding motions it will be very difficult to teach him/her to ‘feel’ how to move the body efficiently through the classic exercises.

“It should be noted that there is no connection between ability to generate great force and the ability to realize it at maximum speed. This is obvious with respect to the training of powerlifters and bodybuilders. There are virtually no examples of the aforementioned athletes who have switched to weightlifting and achieved distinguished results in the new sport. Whereas, on the other hand, there are numerous examples of high class weightlifters who have switched to powerlifting and become champions.” S. Dvorkin, 2006

“The transfer of the work capacity from static exercises to the sportsman’s competition actions will not be very effective because of differences in neuro – muscular coordination. A.I. Falameyev,1986

Contradictions Notwithstanding Contradictions

“Look at Shi Zhiyong at the Olympics. He broke the WR total again.  But his strength level at this time, due to his injury; he did not reach the same level as, when he first lifted this weight as in how much he squatted and pulled ; no where near those numbers.” China secret video 2

Consider the statement above that SHI Zhiyong (CHN) set world records in Tokyo; despite his strength level as measured by squat and pull were no where near his previous numbers; due to injury. The obvious: the big squat and pull numbers were connected with injury; whereas the lower strength numbers sufficed him to lift world records.

The Skill of Strength

Now, consider the table of results in classic snatch and classic clean and jerk ratios to squat. The ratios were calculated from results of Kazakhstan lifters and represent a significant departure from the Soviet era figures. For instance, according to Soviet authors Chernyak,1978, and others, a snatch to squat of 60 – 62% was considered in the optimal range; a clean and jerk to squat of around 80-82% was optimal.

The Soviet figures are indicative a reasonable level of absolute strength; as measured by squat; are needed to be the base of strength to effectively perform the classic exercises. Considering the plethora of internet videos of Chinese straining at big squats (and big pulls); their results, in all probability exceed those Soviet norms. 

Now consider a more modern concept of absolute strength as it pertains specifically to the classic exercises. Kazakh research of ratios of squat to the classic exercises are presented in table 1. The figures presented are a significant departure from the old Soviet model; and, obviously, even further removed from the lumbar straining Chinese.

Figure 3. The amount absolute strength requisite to stand from the deep squat and still have enough power left to jerk the barbell can be significantly less than even fifty year old Soviet era calculations; when the weightlifter has developed the skill of strength to take advantage of the free forces of inertia, elastic recoil of barbell, tendons and ligaments are taken into account. Charniga photo. 

For example, a snatch to squat of 66 – 70% was considered a good ratio of strength realization compared to the old Soviet model of 60 – 62% and a clean and jerk to squat ratio of 81 – 85% was considered good compared to 80 – 82% (table 1). 

According to the author of the study Nicholi LI, an athlete following a modern (called innovative system) training could expect to snatch 134 – 150 kg with a best squat of 200 kgs. Whereas, with a traditional training system a lifter could expect to snatch only 116 – 124 kgs with a 200 kg squat.

Likewise a weightlifter following a traditional training system could expect to clean and jerk 160 -164 kg with a best squat of 200 kg; whereas, with the same 200 kg squat a lifter following an innovative system could expect to clean and jerk 174 -180 kgs; or, a ratio of 87 – 90% jerk to squat.

Table 1. Assessment tables for determining a weightlifter’s technical efficiency relative to strength realization. (LI, 2016; translation of Andrew Charniga

Rating   Poor Satis. Good Excell.
Squat/ Sn. 55-59% 60-65% 66-70% 71%
Squat/ C &J to 76% 77-80% 81-85% 86%

Sn. – snatch; Satis.- satisfactory; Excell – excellent

Transferring the skill of strength into weightlifting

The innovative, higher realization of strength figures put forth by the Kazakhs can be explained by the weightlifters spending less time and effort at lower coordination  squat and more time at practicing technically more complex and specific methods of strengthening the legs for the classic exercises; especially the clean and jerk.   

The strength of the legs is crucial for the clean and jerk; an exercise composed of two parts. The weightlifter has to raise the barbell to the chest and recover to the starting position for the jerk so as to have enough energy in reserve to lift the barbell from the chest.

The principle the Soviets and the Kazakh research endeavored to establish was how much does the strength in back squat contribute to the capabilities in this exercise. The obvious lesson learned; not as much absolute strength as one would think. A weightlifter is better off spending more time and effort practicing the coordination specific to the classic clean and jerk.

Indeed, Medvedyev (“We will ever catch up to the Chinese”, and Charniga, 2012) came to a similar conclusion when he deduced the Chinese females were better than the Russian female lifters in the clean an jerk; even though the Russians had higher results in squat and their (the Russian) system of training the squat was superior to the Chinese.

This concept is all the more significant considering the jerk from the chest on the 3rd attempt in competition is the most complex, difficult skill in weightlifting sport. It seems logical the stronger one’s legs from a big squat the less energy needed to recover from the deep squat; the more energy left to jerk the barbell. However, most misses in the clean and jerk in competitions are from the chest; due to the barbell lifted forward, outside of the weightlifter’s area of balance; a question of skill.

That is why coaches and athletes can count on upwards of 70% of 3rd attempts in the clean and jerk in competitions will be misses; a circumstance a big squat or deadlift will not remedy (Charniga, 2020)

So, lumbar straining squats with big weights, likewise heavy (deadlifts) pulls are unnecessary for success in the clean and jerk; besides, making the weightlifter susceptible to the potentially devastating effects of a back injury. 

 A poignant example affirming points made about excess muscle mass and ice bag inducing heavy lifts is the result of the 77 kg class of 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. After taking a huge lead in the snatch of 12 kg, LUI Xiaojun (CHN) struggled to succeed with 202 kg in the C & J to move into first place. He used the squat technique to jerk the weight; a style, Soviet era sport scientist Vladen Kanyevsky called a method invented to make the exercise harder.

He subsequently lost the gold medal when another lifter, with relatively slight upper body mass; made up the 12 kg deficit, jerking 214 kg with standard techniques of shoulder width hand spacing and split style method of fixing the barbell. 

“But generally , people with more strength should be able to lift more. For any individual, as long as his strength goes up, so should the total.” China 2 video.

The lesson of the Rio Olympics, lost on the Chinese, was the strongest man of the competition LUI Xiaojun (CHN) did not win the gold medal. The excess muscle mass and mechanically inferior squat jerk style of the Chinese required far more strength than the technically more efficient split style employed the the gold medalist; who, by the way, had just enough muscle to get the job done.  

The ‘secret’ to the success of the Chinese national weightlifting team has much more to do with government support ($$), the size of the base of athletes; and, a lot less to do with their technical expertise and modern training methods. The relatively huge amount of money spent on technical toys and the incorporation of the twin snake oil training methods of ‘core’ training and ‘functional’ training to alleviate the injuries, are tangible proof.





/ “Team China Secret” 2,

/ Charniga, A., “The Secret to the Weightlifter’s Strength: Speed of Muscle Relaxation”,

/ Charniga, A., A De-masculinization of strength, Sportivnypress, 2012, Livonia, Michigan

/ Charniga, A., “Power, Equilibrium & the Struggle with Horizontal Gravity”. 2020

/ Medvedyev, A.I., “We will ever catch up to the Chinese”, translated by Andrew Charniga

/ LI, N., “Assessing the technical preparedness of weightlifters”, Olymp:2-3(47-48): 2016. Translated by Andrerw Charniga

/ Kozlovski, Y.I. Speed – Strength Training of Middle Distance Runners, Kiev, Zdorovaya, 1980

/ Chernyak, A.V., Method of Planning the Training of the Weightlifter, Moscow, FiS, 15 – 26:1978. Translated by Andrew Charniga

/ Medvedyev, A.I., various authors, Falameyev, A.I.,  Weightlifting and Method of Instruction, FIS, Moscow, 1986. Translated by Andrerw Charniga