By Pamela Johnston
Since being hired in August 2012, Ryerson Athletics’ Strength and Conditioning Co-ordinator Sam Walls has been helping varsity athletes increase their power, while avoiding additional stress to their joints, by teaching them proper weightlifting technique.
“[Weightlifting] removes that landing component which could end up accumulating a lot of fatigue in the athletes, which we don’t want to take place during the in-season,” says Walls.
Walls, who has a history of participating in strongman events – which has included third-place performances at the 2006 Neogenixx and 2007 New Liskeard Strongman competitions – is also a competitor in the sport of weightlifting itself, meeting the standards to qualify for the Ontario Senior Weightlifting Championships last year.
He got involved in Olympic-style weightlifting in high school while training for another sport.
“I used to throw discus in high school and my track coach at the time ended up showing me how to perform – primarily – the Olympic lift,” says Walls.
There are two types of Olympic lifts – the Clean and Jerk (C&J) and the Snatch, both of which are separate competitions at the Olympics.
The C&J consists of two lifts that are performed subsequently as one: the “clean,” where the bar is pulled to a point of rest at the shoulder level, immediately followed by the “jerk,” which is completed by bending the legs and extending both arms to raise the bar fully over the head.
The Snatch, on the other hand, uses just one explosive movement to lift the barbell from the floor to full arm’s length over the head.
And with the inception of the Ryerson University Weightlifting Club, now anyone can learn to lift from the NCCP-certified coach.
Having already hosted three sessions, Walls is emphasizing proper form throughout the demonstrations to prevent injury in his athletes.
“I would like to end up seeing that everyone who is involved has very, very good technique with the fundamentals of Olympic style weightlifting,” he says. “I want to make sure that a lot of the posture [and] positions that lead to the development of power are established as our primary aim.”
Victoria Santo, a third-year exercise science and health promotion student at Sheridan College, is a strength and conditioning intern under Walls.
“He’s very passionate,” Santo says of Walls. “And the best thing about how he teaches is that he makes sure everybody understands exactly why they’re doing what they’re doing.”
While the club has been registered through the Ontario Weightlifting Association – making them one of 36 eligible groups for competition – a decision as to whether they will participate at the OWA level will be made once club members’ technique is sound.
“The goals and gains of [those] involved in the lifting instructional are both competitive in nature and also just for the fun of lifting,” says Walls.
Billy Kim, a first-year chemical engineering student, says he joined the club to better motivate himself.
“Mainly I am here because it [is] a great environment for lifting,” Kim says. “Olympic weightlifting is done best when it’s with other people.”
While weightlifting helps him to stay focused and maintain good mobility and strength, Walls says the best part of weightlifting might be the sheer enjoyment he receives from it.
“If I could sum it up in one word it would be ‘fun,'” Walls says. “It is fun to do.” According to Walls, weightlifting sessions will be held two to three times a week during the summer at the MAC. Updates on training times will be released in April.