Tyera’s Road to Youth Worlds, part 2

10974727_792397307511732_1528594745812662444_oQ. What does it take to make the Youth World team? What was that journey like?

A. People constantly ask me how I made it onto the Youth World team. Honestly, the answer is complicated, but I will say that it took a lot of hard work and focus. It was a journey I was so grateful I embarked.

This journey began around one year ago, when I competed at my first National Juniors. Every time I set foot in the gym, it was to train for this competition. I understood that this was my time to shine and to be noticed in the sport of Weightlifting. However, when my time came to actually compete, things did not go as planned. I wound up bombing out* in the snatch.

At that moment, I was devastated. I trained vigorously for what seemed like nothing. This was my first National competition, and I wasn’t even going to walk away with a total*. However, after I wiped away my tears (yes, I did cry), I realized that I wasn’t going to let my zero-total* convert into a zero-day. I realized that one obstacle in my path was not going to end my career. So, I decided staying fully committed to these next lifts (the clean and jerk) was worth risking further embarrassment because the opportunity to learn and become stronger, both physically and mentally, outweighed my fear. After failing every individual lift of the first round, I made every lift of the final round and even set a new personal record.

It was this critical moment in my journey when I figured out I wanted to make the team. It was also this moment that I knew because I was willing to give it my all, even after having completely failed in the snatch, I would make the Youth World team.

10991688_792396470845149_8967418057464682088_oSo, fast forward one year, and I am at National Juniors again. This also happened to be the Youth Worlds qualifier. Knowing that I bombed out last year, the pressure was on. I was mentally prepared this time, knowing that whatever happened, I was still a winner for making it that far. Having this in mind, I embraced confidence, and was calmer. At this competition, I hit a PR snatch, PR clean and jerk, PR total, got 3rd place overall, and made the team.

Ironically, I am thankful to have experienced failure at my first competition. This failure gave me the tools I needed to succeed at my next competition. It taught me that simply wanting something is not rewarding. However, if I work as hard as I can, stay determined, and am assertive, I can make anything happen. I will overcome the mental barrier, and I will win.

I am currently coached by Dr. Richard Borden, former international Olympic committee member and coach. I am also coached by Mark House, and occassionally by Mike Burgener. I train five to six days a week, for two hours each session. Because I am also an aspiring student, it is frequently difficult to find time to train, but because it’s absolutely worth it to me, I make the time.

This is the program I am currently following in preparation for Youth Worlds:
Day 1: Snatch (in %) 50 x3 60 x3 70 x2 80 x1 90 x1 95 x1 100 x1 Snatch Pulls (in % of snatch) 90 x5 100 x4 110 x3x3x3 Front Squats (in %) 70 x5 80 x3 90 x2 95 x2x2 Core

Day 2: Clean and Jerk (in % – only jerk on the last rep) 50 x3 60×3 70 x2 80 x1 90 x1 95 x1 100 x1 Clean Pulls (in % of c&j) 90 x5 100 x4 110 x3x3x3 Military Press (in % of c&j) 20 x5 30 x3 40 x3 45 x2x2 Core

Day 3: Same as day 1 except instead of pulls, RDLs at the same percentages

Day 4:
Same as day 2 except instead of pulls, RDLs at the same percentages

Day 5:

Day 6:
Snatch (in %) 50 x3 60 x3 70 x2 80 x1 90 x1 95 x1 100 x1 Clean and Jerk (in % – only jerk on the last rep) 50 x3 60 x3 70 x2 80 x1 90 x1 95 x1 100 x1 Front Squats (in %) 70 x5 80 x3 90 x2x2

Day 7:

This is a great program for getting your body ready to max out, and isn’t overly exhausting. It’s specifically for right before a competition and does not incorporate any assist exercises because those are for building strength, and at this point, you are simply preparing your body for the competition.

Any questions? Let me know!!

With much love,
Tyera Zweygardt

When competing in weightlifting, a lifter gets three attempts at snatch and three attempts at clean and jerk. The best snatch and best C&J are then added together to get a score, commonly referred to as a “total”. When a lifter does not make a snatch, they have “bombed out” the snatch, getting a 0 score for snatch. The lifter then gets three attempts to C&J; their best C&J then becomes their total. If they do not make a C&J, they will receive a “zero-total” (sometimes referred to as “bombing out” for the meet).

Tyera’s Road to Youth Worlds

10978697_792322710852525_24748569817650261_n My name is Tyera Zweygardt. I am a sixteen-year-old, female, Olympic weightlifter. I am on the 2015 Youth World Team representing the 63 kg (138lb) weight class. No, I don’t have gigantic, masculine muscles, and no, I haven’t grown unordinary body hair, nor has my voice dropped eight octaves. Instead, I am a feminine, strong, teenager who keeps her body healthy and beautiful by lifting incredibly heavy stuff over her head. And, I love it!

Before I started weightlifting, I was a runner. I thought this was the only way for me to be fit, and to be attractive. However, I soon realized I strongly disliked running, and that my body rejected it with every ounce of potential muscle in it!

So, one magical day, I was at my boyfriend’s house doing homework, when he and his friend
told me they were going to lift. I had no idea what that even meant, but I figured it was only for males, and would transform my body into some type of ragey, hulk-type thing. Boy, was I wrong!
Because of my massive aversion to running, I decided to join them for one day just to see how it would go. As soon as I picked up the barbell, and did this weird motion called a squat, I was hooked. I loved knowing I was working hard without the sweating and wheezing that accompanied running. I also loved knowing I was capable of doing something a bunch of boys said was only for them! And now, I squat every day, and haven’t been on a run in nearly two years.

10974727_792397307511732_1528594745812662444_oOlympic weightlifting has completely changed my life, for the better. I am fit, healthy, attractive, confident, and above all else, strong. However, I am not only strong on the platform.

Weightlifting is a metaphor for life. In order to throw massive amounts of weight above your head, you also have to be mentally strong. You have to believe in yourself, and discipline yourself. This concept carries into all other aspects of my life. For example, in school, I am graduating from high school this year (a year early). Just as in weightlifting, in order to achieve this extremely difficult goal, I must be mentally strong. I must keep pushing forward even when all odds are against me.

Weightlifting has given me more than just another hobby or sport. It has given me the tools I need to work hard, be confident, and make my dreams come true. And, I know it will do the same for you!

With much love,
Tyera Zweygardt

Follow Tyera’s road to Youth Worlds here at! Got a question for Tyera? Post it to comments.

In the 1970’s there was a research study that examined the short stature of child labors in Japan. The children were put to work at an early age doing work that involved lifting heavy objects such as hod for construction, etc. These researchers concluded that the major reason for the limited growth in these children was because lifting heavy weights broke down the epiphyseal plates (growth plates) of the long bones of the children which resulted in shorter stature than their peers. Another reason given, which was secondary, was that heavy lifting at an early age forced premature testosterone production early and this resulted in the closure of the plates. This fostered the myth of lifting weights at an early age stunted the child’s growth.

Retrospective studies done in the 90’s of the above research formed a different conclusion that the main cause of the stunted growth of these children was nutrition. It was mainly an agrarian culture with the vast majority of the children’s calories coming from vegetables and rice and very little protein. When this same cohort was studied some years later when more protein was introduced into their diet the children were found be the same stature as their peers.

Unfortunately this myth, like the muscle bound myth and full squats is harmful to the knees, still persist with those that want to believe the worst about strength training. Somewhat improbably, from that scientific finding and other similar reports, as well as from anecdotes and accreting myth, many people came to believe “that children and adolescents should not” practice weight training, said Avery Faigenbaum, a professor of exercise science at the College of New Jersey.

There is no data to support that lifting heavy weights will harm children other than injuries from inappropriate training and coaches errors in judgment. So what does the data from the NEISS (National Electronic Injury Surveillance Survey) tell us about injures to adolescence and youth and resistance training. The injury rate of adolescence Olympic weightlifter is 1.39 ( per thousand participants), youthful power lifters is about the same 1.38 and weightlifting injuries to football player in the weight room is .45. The NEISS data Report did not distinguish between injuries associated with resistance training and those associated with competitive weightlifting sports. Data were based on injuries that patients said were related to weightlifting exercises and equipment. It would incorrect to conclude injuries were caused by such activities and equipment. As a comparison to other injuries in youthful sports, the injury rate per thousand participants for HS football is 81.1, HS wrestling is 75, and judo is 542 (multiple injuries and times) and girls HS volleyball is 4.9.

Many of the reported injuries were actually caused by: poor training, excessive loading, poorly designed equipment, unsupervised access to the equipment, fatal injury of a 9 year old, where a barbell rolled off a bench press support and fell on his chest, and lack of qualified supervision

In an updated NSCA position paper (reference included), is that adolescence strength training is effective and safe with proper qualified instructions, safe equipment, etc.

Traditional area of concern for children is the potential for training induced damage to the epiphysis or growth plate. The epiphysis is the weak link in the young skeleton. The strength of cartilage is less than that of bone and damage to this area could cause the epiphysis to fuse, resulting in deformity or loss of growth.

The distal femoral physis is largest & fastest growing physis in the contributes to approx:

– 70 % length of femur

– 37 % of length of entire limb

– 0.375 inch (1.0 cm) of growth / yr

– it fuses w/ metaphysis between ages of 14 & 16 yrs in girls and between ages of 16 & 18 yrs in boys.

The dark lines on the image below are the ephysis areas of the long bone of the thigh, the femur.


A few cases have been reported* on epiphysis plate fracture. Most of these injuries were due to: Improper lifting techniques, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, and maximal lifts when not prepared, and lack of qualified supervision. ( reference cited)

Bottom line is that weightlifting (RT) is safe and effective for children and adolescence with the provisos that the exercises are supervised by qualified persons, with safe equipment and environment. The myth of RT stunting growth in children has been proven to be wrong, even though it persists in many aspects of the exercised community, including pediatricians. Fractures of the ephysis is a reality but very rare in a supervised and safe environment. There is increasing evidence that increases in strength from RT in children and adolescence is mostly from the neuromuscular system rather from the muscular system, but that is another topic.,_Maturation,_and.5.aspx


*Rowe, PH, “Cartilage fracture due to weightlifting” Brit J Sports Med. 13:130-131. 1979

Artical written by: Dr. Borden



Mental Imaging

When you lift, what image do you see in your head? Hopefully, it’s something like this:

“Over the years those that have heard me lecture and coach on Olympic Lifting technique know that I am big on training imaging, as well as the physical training of technique. You have also heard me talk about a study that trained four groups of subjects on enhancing three throws. One group practiced free throws physically, another group imaged making free throws, another physically practiced free throws and well as imaged making free throws, and the forth group was the control that did neither physically practice or imaged making free throws.

The group that only imaged making free throws improved as well as the group that physically practiced free throws . But the group that made the most improvement was the group that did both, practice and image. And that is the key. I urge lifters to image the lifts and real time as well as practice the lifts physical. I know that when I was competing I thought about technique all the time, seeing my self making the lifts in ever step of the movement and in real time.”
— Dr. Richard Borden

Read more on the study of free throws here:
The effects of mental imagery, Digital Commons

Mental Practice

Post thoughts to comments.

Brush vs. Bang

Brush vs. Bang

Q: I see videos where athletes bang the bar off their hips, so I thought you were supposed to bang the bar off your hips. Is that wrong?

A: It’s not “right or wrong” – there are 1,000 ways to skin a cat. We teach a “brush” of the hips and vertical hip drive, because for a beginner, this helps keep the bar in the least line of resistance. Banging the bar off your hips is not wrong if you can keep the bar path going straight up. Watch the video below – notice he brings his hips to the bar (aka “bangs the bar”), but after his hips make contact with the bar, the bar is not displaced – it keeps going up in a straight path.

This technique is HARD to do….for most lifters, when they make contact with the barbell and bang their hips, the bar swings out (like a rainbow), and this pulls the lifter forward (either causing a missed lift or a jump forward). Because the margin for error is significantly greater with this method, we teach a “brush” of the hips and vertical hip drive to help keep the bar close in the least line of resistance.

Notice in the first video too, after he makes contact with the bar, the bar is momentarily “floating”; at this point, he AGGRESSIVELY presses his body down under the barbell to complete the lift. In the second video, she “brushes” her hips with the barbell, it “floats”, and she presses her body down. There’s a moment in every lift where the barbell is “floating” and regardless if your hips “brush” or “bang” the bar, PRESSING THE BODY DOWN under the bar is critical to making the lift.