STRENGTH SENSEI BOOKSHELF
A one-stop shop for learning the essentials of weightlifting technique
Let’s start with a warning about this book: The author makes it clear that the single best training method for athletes is weightlifting. That comes down to the snatch, clean and jerk, and full squats. If an athlete is not doing these lifts, he believes they will not reach their physical potential.
The author’s name is Don McCauley, a lifelong weightlifting coach who passed away at age 72 on November 9, 2019. McCauley competed in weightlifting, powerlifting, and probably his most impressive accomplishment is running 10 miles in 59:32. But McCauley is not remembered so much as an athlete as he is an elite weightlifting coach, having coached weightlifters who went to the Olympics. Let’s hear what others have to say about him.
Travis Mash is a powerlifter who broke the total record of Ed Coan, one of the Strength Sensei’s favorite powerlifters. McCauley worked with many athletes on Mash’s Weightlifting team and said McCauley inspired him to help other coaches. “This man lived his life to master this one thing and one thing only,” says Mash. “He understood the sport of weightlifting from both a physics and a philosophical standpoint. He got it! He simply got it!”
To give you a perspective of McCauley’s approach to weightlifting, Mash shared these “gold nuggets” McCauley taught him:
“Rhythm is the most important skill a weightlifter can have.”
“Never sacrifice technique for more weight during the process of developing a weightlifter.”
“You only get one chance to do it right the first time, so don’t mess (most of you know that he didn’t say “mess”) it up.”
Overall, Power Trip focuses on how to perform the lifts, from start to finish, along with specific drills to correct technique problems. If you’re looking for workouts, particularly how to incorporate the Olympic lifts into the training program of another sport, McCauley says you’ll need to find another resource.
McCauley’s 197-page book is heavily illustrated with hundreds of black-and-white photos showing each position of the Olympics lifts and their assistance exercises. The illustrations are poorly reproduced as if they were photocopied, but they get the job done. There is no Kindle version of this book, only paperback, so this is as good as it gets.
You can only learn so much about weightlifting from photos and words. McCauley knew this, so produced a DVD that accompanies the book, but it’s not available on Amazon. Fortunately, there are many YouTube videos of Don McCauley teaching several of the unique drills he developed. The DVD was available through a website called GlennPendlay.com, but that does not appear to be working. Weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay passed away on September 5, 2019, about two months before McCauley.
Power Trip is an appropriate name for the book as it is organized as a “road trip” involving several steps on the road to weightlifting success. Along the way, he discusses “potholes,” “dead ends,” and “detours” that can happen on the “Power highway” to mastering the lifts.
The most valuable chapter for those new to weightlifting is “Chapter 3, The Ten-Step Method.” Here McCauley shares his progressive system for learning the snatch and the clean and jerk. Also, “Chapter 1, Q and A” provides a good introduction about why McCauley believes the Olympic lifts are so valuable for athletes. McCauley provides references in the book, but they are general references, such as the names of books. Some books don’t seem to relate to McCauley’s content, such as a book about training distance runners called Peak When it Counts by William H. Freeman.
Two issues should be pointed out about McCauley’s teachings. First, he recommends a style of pulling where the entire foot stays in contact with the platform as long as possible. In contrast, many of today’s elite lifters come up on the balls of their feet early (note: this book was published in 2010). Also, some of the terminologies McCauley uses are his own, such as the “launch point” and a “catapult” style of lifting. You won’t see these terms in other resources, such as those produced by the NSCA or USA Weightlifting.
If you’re serious about learning how to perform and teach the Olympic lifts, Don McCauley’s step-by-step method presented in Power Trip makes this publication a good investment. It shouldn’t be your only book about weightlifting, but certainly, it will “pull” you in the right direction. (TSS)
[Power Trip by Don McCauley is available only in paperback format through Amazon.com.]
Lead photo by Joseph McCray, LiftingLife.com