“All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do.”
– NORMAN VINCENT PEALE
In our thirty years as weightlifting coaches, we have trained hundreds of people whose bodies have differed in capability and whose motivations have been diverse. Some were elite athletes who wanted to improve their performance; others had never trained before and wanted to regain lost functions, such as the ability to tie their shoes while standing, or to lift luggage without effort. Regardless of the words they used to explain why they wanted weightlifting coaching, we began to see a pattern in their motivations. Everyone wanted to regain or in some cases, to have for the first time the essential factors of youthfulness.
When we asked them to define youthfulness, most of them pointed to three principal qualities high energy, agility, and good posture and some added several others, including coordination, quickness, calmness, good looks, good health, and good sex.
But who has youthfulness, what are its components, and, most important, how can it be measured so that we can develop a plan to attain it?
WHO HAS YOUTHFULNESS?
Most people would answer that babies and children embody youthfulness. But babies and children only have some qualities of youthfulness, such as flexibility and high energy. They lack coordination and agility. The people who are truly youthful are athletes, especially those who must meet specific weight requirements, such as Olympic weightlifters, Olympic wrestlers, and judokas. They have all the good qualities that children have and more.
WHAT ARE THE COMPONENTS OF YOUTHFULNESS?
When we observed all athletes, we saw that some of them, such as sprinters, strive to increase speed; others, such as jumpers, strive to increase distance; and still others, such as weightlifters, strive to increase lifted weight. While only the sprinters work directly with speed, the other two work with it indirectly. Jumpers, for example, increase their jumping distance by increasing the speed of their impact with the ground, and weightlifters lift heavier weights by moving them faster. So one element common to all athletes is speed. However, speed cannot exist without flexibility and strength. If you are inflexible or weak, you will certainly be slow.
In terms of muscles, strength is the ability to contract, and flexibility, to expand. Fat, on the other hand, is excess baggage that doesn’t help one to do either. In weightlifting, we say that fat doesn’t lift. But we could also say that fat doesn’t run, jump, or throw either. In other words, a lean body is more efficient than a fat one, so to increase your body’s strength, flexibility, and speed, you must reduce your percentage of fat. However, efficiency does not only depend on that, but also on the relationship between height and weight. For example, sprinters cannot be too light or too heavy relative to their height, because either way they will lack the strength and speed to accelerate most efficiently. Thus, they must strive to achieve an ideal body weight. There is one more quality that all athletes possess, and that is physical elegance the beauty of their movement which is made possible by good posture. If we were to watch them in slow motion, they would all look like dancers.
Thus, there are six primary qualities of youthfulness: 1. flexibility, 2. strength, 3. speed, 4. leanness, 5. ideal body weight, and 6. good posture. The right combination of these qualities can only make an athlete better, but the ideal combination varies with each sport. For example, track-and-field athletes need to develop all six qualities to more or less the same degree. However, in football, a quarterback will principally train to increase his speed and agility, but a lineman will principally train to increase his strength and resistance to impact. There are also sports in which leanness is not required, such as sumo wrestling or shot put. Furthermore, some sports develop some parts of the body more than others. For example, sprinters develop muscles in their legs but not in their upper bodies.
There are also sports that develop all parts of the body equally and all six of the youthful qualities. These include baseball, basketball, figure skating, ice hockey, judo, Olympic weightlifting, Olympic wrestling, pole vaulting, rugby, swimming, volleyball, and water polo. Because these sports proportionately develop not only the body but also the six qualities of youthfulness, they are the most beneficial of all activities.
Whether athletes run, throw, jump, hit, or lift, their success depends on the combination of the six primary qualities of youthfulness. However, the driving force behind these qualities is striving for goals. These vary somewhat, creating somewhat different bodies from sport to sport, because we become what we do. Thus, athletes focus on what they do, not on how they look, although beauty comes along anyway. They train from the inside out. Anyone else who wants to be youthful must focus, like athletes, on performance and movement, not on being beautiful.
Jumpers think all the time about jumping higher. Swimmers think about swimming faster. Weightlifters think about lifting greater weights. All athletes deal with numbers, whether directly or indirectly. They train to break records or win competitions. We marvel at their movement, which we may call poetry in motion as we admire sprinters racing down the track like cheetahs, figure skaters spinning on ice like tops, or pole vaulters flipping through the air like dolphins. In the latter half of the twentieth century, coaches began to realize that they could not further improve their athletes’ skills by just having them practice their sports. Olympic weightlifting develops the strongest and fastest of all athletic bodies, and weightlifters also have extremely flexible bodies, second only to gymnasts. Furthermore, weightlifters’ movements pulling, squatting, jumping, and throwing are components of all other sports. For these reasons, coaches from other sports began to use weightlifting to improve their athletes’ performance. Thus, sprinters, ice hockey players, gymnasts, football players, and other athletes have begun to train at the side of Olympic weightlifters. Today, almost every university in the United States has its athletes training in Olympic weightlifting to increase their strength, flexibility, and speed. At the UCLA Acosta Training Center, for example, there are fifty Olympic weightlifting platforms on which the best Bruin teams train.
BEING YOUR OWN YOUTHFULNESS COACH
The same principles that work for athletes also work for ordinary people of all ages. Athletes, of course, have coaches, but everyone else must be his or her own coach. The Happy Body program teaches you all you need to know to be your own coach. The program was designed to make the benefits of Olympic weightlifting accessible to the general population. It eliminates the complex and dangerous elements of weightlifting while establishing concrete standards as attainable goals of youthfulness for everyone. The Happy Body program will help you to restore the flexibility, ideal body weight, and posture you had as a young child, and to be leaner, stronger, and faster than you have ever been. In essence, The Happy Body program will not only make you as youthful as you were at twenty, but twenty as you would have been if you had followed the program at that age.