In Praise of Seanie

So yeah, this happened…

Seanie, quite simply, is my nigga. He’s the guy that makes me look like a great coach. We inspire and support each other and we’re better people because of the relationship.

I first met Sean in the summer of 2013 while he was doing an internship with Dominic. This was during “The Arms Race” days when everyone was hitting PRs pretty much every week.

In fact, the first piece of coaching advice I gave a young Mr. Brown was “don’t set your back, because energy put into setting your back is energy that could have gone into lifting the bar.” Sean, in his Asics, snatching 80Kg, didn’t know whether I was serious or not. He was a cocky little fuck back then too, it’s a large part of his success and part of his charm 🙂

Later on that year, while back from the UK for a week, I asked Sean who was programming for him and he said no one, he was just doing things. So I offered to take him under my wing and a bromance was born.

Interestingly, myself and Sean have trained together a total of 11 times. Everything else we’ve done mainly through remote coaching. Email for Coach’s Eye videos, whatsapp for mental check ins, and since he’s moved to Atlanta, FaceTime for shirtless video calls. (He assures me he’s wearing pants below screen)

He claims he wasn't even flexing in this photo!

He claims he wasn’t even flexing in this photo!

Sean’s training started to move from CrossFit towards Oly Lifting when he attended a Klokov seminar and put like a million kilos on his clean. Kevin D’Arcy told him he could make Europeans. That was in March 2014. We finished out The Open and I slowly began transitioning Seanie to a full Weightlifting programme from a competitive CrossFit one.

Sean was gunning for European Under 23s at the time, and if memory serves we needed 5 competitions and a certain total to make him eligible for selection. I really knew Sean was something when he was texting me during his first competition. The aim was to get 6 from 6 and hit conservative numbers. But, some other dude was there and close to Sean, so Sean ‘played the platform’ by jumping up his lifts to force his rival to go early and miss, claiming the W in his first competition.

From then on, it was really just a foregone conclusion in my mind that Sean would excel.


(Dude really needs to edit down his videos!)

Fast forward a year and Sean is setting his sights on hitting the minimum qualifying total for Worlds – 290Kg.

We took a big risk at Leinsters. We tried to go 120-125-130. Sean had a bad day at Leinsters, and missed 125Kg. For Sean, playing it safe isn’t an option. (There’s another example, you have to know your athlete. For some, a miss gets in their head. One miss and they’re done. For others, they get angry and can use it. Sean is the latter.) He was agonisingly close at 130Kg on the snatch! Not to be. What followed was an unremarkable clean and jerk session for our hero.

After Leinsters, we had a VERY aggressive schedule. Smolov Jr for three weeks then British Nationals. For British we wanted to open higher in the snatch, and have tighter bunching. In British he went 122-124x-126, then 152-156-159.

Then The Outlaw Barbell Taper for Nationals.

At Nationals, Sean missed 110Kg twice in the warm up. I told him not to hit it again but he’s occasionally still rebellious. Man I wish I had remote controlled athletes. He missed 115Kg, he missed 120Kg.

Ordinarily, this would be cause for panic. Not with Sean.

Sean also told me he felt sluggish and tired before hitting any real weight. My simple answer to that was it doesn’t matter how he felt, it mattered what he hit on the platform. He was sluggish the week previous when he hit a 180Kg Front Squat for a 10Kg PB.

(As a coach, that was the attempt to get him out of his head. You don’t have to feel a certain way. We’ve all had days we’ve felt great and performed shite, and days we felt like poo and surprised ourselves. How you feel is a lie. Granted, this line is by John Broz so there may be some worry about drug use in that but it’s still a good line.)

Sean went out and snatched 125Kg, then 128Kg, and had a near miss at 131Kg. Clean & Jerk warm ups went fine, nailing 150Kg like it was an empty bar. But he missed 156Kg as his opener. The bar crashed down on him and he rushed the jerk. No worries, I knew Sean had 160Kg in him.

We loaded 157Kg…

We then loaded 158Kg…

Then I got the platform cleaned… (Can you tell I like the stalling tactic?)

Then 160Kg… BOOM!

Sean asked me after were we going for 162, and I said ‘no, 163. We didn’t clean 163 off blocks for nothing!’

Piece. Of. Piss.

Two Hundred and Ninety One Kilo Total!

Sean has succeeded incredibly loyal, and trusting.

I like to keep Sean at 90% consistently, by this I mean we max out A LOT! Practically every day. I wrote a little about the whys of it here – http://www.cheesecakeandbarbells.com/2015/01/12/random-thoughts-on-programming-considerations/

Essentially we need to know what problems are arising, and the easiest way to both expose and fix weaknesses is to bring them almost to the point of failure. Sean could hit percentage work all day everyday and it could hide a problem. By maxing out, and dropping back. We can see the problem and address it.

I’m not a huge fan of accessory work that’s done exclusively with a barbell. I’m sure there’s science behind it but I find that there’s a diminishing return to doing your main lifts with a bar and then all the accessory work too. Now Sean will still do snatch balances (which he detests!) and some RDLs but we don’t exclusively stay with a barbell.

Pulls we rarely do. My beef with pulls is that I tend to see athletes do them at either the wrong tempo or the wrong bar path that they don’t have carryover to the lift itself. Now maybe there’s an argument for the psychological aspect of pulls but I’d prefer paused or tempo lifts, where the lifter is forced to finish the lift at the end.


(Note, these are actual Coach’s Eye videos from earlier in the year, and not done for the blog)

Sean does connectivity work every day. I’m a strong believer in this keep his shoulders healthy. He’s gonna do hollow and arch holds til he’s blue. He’s going to do muscle ups, handstand push ups, and all that other ‘dangerous’ CrossFit movements. I think weightlifters in general should spend more time on conditioning and bodyweight exercises. They build work capacity, get the blood flowing and done right, can speed up recovery.

At the start of the year, Sean did up to an hour of correctives (stolen from Darkside Strength) and connectivity (stolen from Kaitlin Hardy) before he even touched a barbell. To give you a sense of his trust and loyalty to this, he did this for about 3 months before telling me it was taking him an hour to do!

A lot of people asked me was I pissed off when Sean moved to Atlanta. Far from it! Firstly, as a remote coached athlete he could be coached anywhere. Granted flights home become a bit trickier but that’s a minor thing considering how infrequently we do face to face sessions.

Secondly, and more importantly, it’s the relationships in life that matter way more than what you do, and you’ll regret the things you don’t do way more than the things you do. He asked my opinion, sure, and I “gave him my blessing” and off he went. It’s worked out pretty well for our hero.

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What’s next for Sean? Well, firstly he’ll take pretty much a month off. The last 12 weeks have been an absolute grindfest. Coupled with his travel schedule he needs a break. He’ll play, hit connectivity and correctives, and do some conditioning (he only had 11 abs viewing instead of his regular 12 last time I saw him.)

Then, technically, he needs to get faster underneath the bar. It pains him that I beat him once from the power position. Once. And he’ll deny it. We also need to address his jumping back issue. They’ll be the two main areas of focus for him ahead of 2016 and the 300 total.

Sean doesn’t need me. He really doesn’t. At this stage his technical knowledge is equal to mine, and clearly his kinaesthetic awareness is off the charts too to be able to respond to cueing so well. What I do is keep a cool, objective eye on his training. He doesn’t have to think about what to program, he just does what he’s told. But it works. And as long as it works, we’ll keep smashing PRs.

Once again, my nigga

Once again, my nigga

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