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The Bull or the Bullfighter

The Bull and the Bullfighter
At the 2015 Pan am games in Toronto I ran into an old friend, Gantcho Karouskov who is coaching team Peru now and I was the coach for team Panama. He had coached team Colombia for many years.
When we talk about Gantcho there are only very extreme opinions, some people venerate him to the point of idolizing him and other people plainly would love to murder him. Me I like the guy…
He’s been coaching for 61 years and has on with his lifters 20 Olympic medals ( 10 gold).
In one of the many days of competitions and while in the bus getting back to the Olympic Villa from the training hall Gantcho started complaining about how long the driver was taking and he was a little loud and I said to him in Spanish; Gantchito (little Gantcho) you know the driver doesn’t understand you, he said well since you are a gringo translate for me, I responded hell no…
He laughed and we started talking about everything, Russia, Bulgaria, Obamacare, etc, etc, etc.
Of course we had to talk about weightlifting and here I paid a lot of attention, he talked about his philosophy and one thing he told me really struck me and I’ve been passing it ever since.
Gantcho told me that in Bullfighting the Bull could weight 800 kg and its’ strong, furious and also could be fast on the other hand the Bullfighter weights 75 kg and isn’t as strong as the bull. Usually (99% of the time) the Bullfighter kills the bull, the bull gets pissed and just attacks with anger, the bullfighter is calm and relaxed and waits for the opportunity to kill with an elegant and smooth movement, almost like ballet.
Mostly and this is really when the bull gets screwed; the bull never looks up always down, attacks with anger to the bullfighter but always looking down, the Torero (bullfighter ) always looks up..
In weightlifting only the toreros will defeat the Bull (bar) looking up and with technique.
Elite lifters even if they have their heads down in the snatch or the jerk, they keep they eyes up..
So my fellow lifters do you want to be the Torero or the Bull….

How to measure the Improvement of beginning Weightlifters….

Well it’s been a year or two with your lifters and you want to know how well is he/she doing…The lifter has competed locally and you both are looking to go no Nationals. What would be the best way way to measure the improvement of the lifter? compare their results with national results of their corresponding age group and weight class? That would be a good way to see their potential ranking but has the lifter improved properly?

At Risto Sports we use this chart based on the Soviet System with adjustments for Cuban athletes. These charts are for lifters that only train Weightlifting as their Sport of choice, however it’s amazing to see that our beginners reach (and surpass) these yearly goals up to the second or third year. After that our lifters have more obligations than a full time lifter/resident of an Olympic training center (school, summer jobs, going to college, etc).

I have found helpful that I can use these charts a;so with lifters switching from the CrossFit world and a lot of them can or have improved in a similat way or ever have passed these yearly goals and that is due to the fact that  alot of CrossFitters come from other sports and they bring what’s called INVISIBLE LOAD and can adapt to the new sport easily…

AGE CLASS 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
(YEARS) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
14 56 124 67 193 216 234 248 257 264 269 272
14 62 138 187 216 241 261 277 287 295 301 304
14 69 149 200 232 258 280 297 308 316 322 326
14 77 159 215 249 277 301 319 330 340 346 350
14 85 169 235 264 294 319 338 350 360 367 371
14 94 179 242 279 311 338 358 371 381 389 393
14 105 182 246 284 317 344 364 378 388 396 400
14 105 194 261 302 337 365 387 401 412 420 425
AGE CLASS 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
(YEARS) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
14 48 84 113 131 146 158 168 174 179 182 184
14 53 93 125 145 162 175 186 193 198 202 204
14 58 100 135 156 174 189 200 208 213 218 220
14 63 108 145 168 187 203 215 223 229 233 236
14 69 111 149 173 193 209 221 229 236 240 243
14 75 116 157 181 202 219 232 244 247 252 255
14 75 125 168 195 217 235 250 259 266 271 274

Competition Warm Up

When to start warming up in a Weightlifting competition?? Every time I go to meet I see lifters doing their warm um too soon..way too soon..I even witnessed a lifter who competed in the afternoon starting warming up 2-3 hours before lifting time. When and how is the right time to start warming up? Let’s  first take a look  to the previous week ;

We use the Soviet system (high Volume) and train 6 times a week (twice a day if the lifter has the time). Our heaviest day is day 6 which is when our lifters are the most tired. We do this because we train under fatigue conditions.

On day 6 of the previous week we go up to 90% of best lift for a single(both snatch and C&J).

We try in the last weeks to schedule our lifting days so the day of the meet would be day 6 and also try to lift at the time we’ll compete always considering time zone changes.

That last week we call competition modelling and do everything we’ll do in the meet(use same singlet, shoes,etc)

Day 1 of Competition modelling lifts doubles and singes up to 85% (about 15 – 18 snatches and C&Js)

Day 2 of competition modelling week lifts up to 75% in snatch and c&J(15-18 reps)

Day 3 of competition modelling week lifts up to 70% in Both snatch and c&J (15-18 reps)

Day 4 of competition modelling week lifts up to 65% in Both snatch and c&J (15-18 reps)

Day 5 of competition modelling week lifts up to 55% in Both snatch and c&J (15 reps)

Every day of the week our lifters do 5 sets of 3 with empty bar both snatch  and C&J. We call it Technique Shadowing.


Never ever declare your actual opening attempts and never give out this info when asked..remember you are COMPETING…and will do your best to win…

The best time to start warming up is when we have 15 attempts left for the opener.

Counting attempts is key to have a successful day..don’t start warming up when you have 25-30 attempts to opener.

Exercises for warm up:

We use a Bulgarian style type of Warm up (ballistic);

10 back squats with bar 10 presses 10 good mornings 10 snatch grip dead lifts 10 jumps with bar. Power snatches, full stanches ,etc

If my lifters best in snatch is 100 Kg  then the weights would be 50×3 60×3 70×3 80×2 85×1 90×1

The first attempt (if the lifter trained properly) according the Soviet system should be 94% then 97% and look a new PR 102-103% for the Clean and jerk the same applies and less repetitions can be done in the warm up with lower weights(doubles no triples)If there’s wait due to missed lifts from other lifters, weight change etc some power liftsLG I with 65% or 70% would do fine.

Important to drink plenty of fluids……


Risto Lifter Jessica Weisman Silver Medal Masters Pan Ams 2015

This past weekend Jessica Weisman and myself attended the 2015 Pan Ams (masters) in Savannah, GA. Jessica has been training with me since last September and has improved greatly.

She came with 60 Kg in Snatch and 80 Kg in Kg. At the Pan Ams she lifted 75 Kg in Snatch and 86 Kg in Kg, missing the Jerk with 90 Kg. Her best lifts are 77 Kg in snatch and 88 Kg in C&J.

Jessica competed in the 69 Kg class Masters cat 35-39 years of age.

Her lifts are enough to qualify for Senior Nationals. It’s amazing how Jessica having competing only at local level went straight to the International platform (never nationals).

Congratulations Champ…

Jessica wears her Tiburon II shoes.Jessica Pan Ams

Coach Ivan head Coach of Team Panama for Toronto 2015

Coach Ivan is the Coach of team Panama for the 2015 Pan American games in Toronto. The lifters in the team are : Rocio Navarro Female 69Kg and Ariel Batista Male 69Kg. Both lifters have a lot of International experience.

Rocio has been training with us since February and Ariel arrived to Eliot, Maine last Saturday.

We expect great results from these lifters.rociothese amazing lifters.

National Youth Champion to Compete for Team USA today, webcast!

Gwendolyn Rojas, of Risto Sports, will compete today for Team USA. She competed at her first Youth Nationals, ever, in June, where she won both the 11&under and 13&under 44kg weight classes.

Her total at Youth Nationals ranked her NUMBER 1 , overall, in the entire USA for 13&under girls.

Her coach, Ivan Rojas, of Risto Sports, was appointed the Coach of the 13&Under Girls National Team.

You can watch her win gold for Team USA, today, October 17, 2014, at 4PM EST at this link:

This is an International competition and is sanctioned by the IWF. IT is being held at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.

Watch LG snatching over bodyweight and winning Nationals


Response to Gwen’s video from 2013 nationals by a member of the IWF technical committee

This is the response to the video I sent to Mr. Diego Martinez, member of the technical committee of the IWF.

Hi Ivan, as you know judging a lift at the time of execution depends on many   factors   , factors such as the lights, shadows, judge experience, fatigue among others, the video of a lift is not recommended to give a good opinion, since the reproduction frame by frame it’s a bit slower than the human eye and in most cases the lifts are seen as not valid lifts.

Moreover, in the video you send me it  is a bit difficult to see well both arms because it was taken from a diagonal and not straight, but I do see that she makes a motion with her shoulder and the elbow of that arm which I see it’s hyper extended. From what   I’ve seen in the video   I DON’T SEE, any fault in the movement. The anatomy of the shoulder and the elbow anatomy might have made seen the judges something to judge it as not valid.

Technical Committee


  • Sam COFFA



  • Reiko CHINEN


  • Alexander KURLOVICH


  • Abdullah AL JARMAL


  • Shakhrillo MAKHMUDOV


  • Stephen CANNON


  • Diego MARTINEZ


How we Trained Colombian lifter Vanessa Quinonez to compete at the Arnold 2014

Vanessa Quinonez of Colombia competed in the Junior Weightlifting World Championships in 2013 in Lima, Peru. Her results were 78 kg in Snatch and 98 kg in C & J in the 58 Kg weight class.

Vanessa arrived in the USA in January  and trained under coach Ivan’s directions for 7 weeks. The weather wasn’t the best as we saw below zero temperatures several times and alas lots of snow.

Getting Vanessa used to this drastic change of weather was our first task. A good dosage of vitamin C was given to her on a daily basis and we made sure she was constantly well bundle up.

In the first week we noticed the technical areas we had to focus on: Vanessa jumped backwards in the snatch, didn’t complete the pull and the very important phase of the bar passing the knee wasn’t as we wanted to be.

Her leg strength wasn’t enough to increase results so we needed to increase her 135 kg max back squat to 145 kg .

She was used to train with high intensity and also medium high intensity, but hasn’t worked much with strictly high volume and under fatigue condition.

To adjust her technical flaws we did a lot of work with an empty bar having her perform lots of snatches on the gym floor with her heels butted against the edges of the platform. Lots of pulls with empty bar from below her knees to her tights paying attention to having her curl her wrists inside.

Another drill we did was to do a lot of snatches ad cleans with empty bar standing on a 2 x 4 piece of wood.

The above exercises and drills were mostly for the Snatch. For the Jerk we did tons of reps with empty bar having the bar at chin level and finish the jerk.

To get any respectable results and have a shot to win the Arnold we needed to get the following lifts:

Back Squat 145 Kg

3 Front squats with 105 Kg to 110 Kg

Power Snatch 65 kg to 70 kg

Power Clean 80 g to 82 kg

Since we knew she would compete on a Sunday we decided to work on 2 daily sessions as follows;

Tuesday to Sunday. Day off Monday

10:00 AM Squats and Snatch pulls

12:30 Lunch

6:00   Snatch and C & J exercises

Technical drills

For supplementation she took pre and post workout protein shakes, Arginine, creatine, Vitamin B and Vitamin c, carnitine. Nutrition was based in lean meats, dairy, eggs, rice and fruits (must admit she loves chocolate).

Prior to the Arnold she competed at the Atlantic States Open where she took the best lifter award with these lifts:

Snatch 70 kg, 75 kg and 80 kg

C & J     90 kg, 95 kg and 100 kg

This meet was the only time we went really heavy as most of the time the lifts were within 70% to 85%

At the Arnold the only competition we face was Olympian Lydia Valentin who finished winning the first place and Vanessa won the 2nd place.

Her lifts were:

Snatch  77 kg  81 kg 81 kg

C & J     100 kg 105 kg 107 kg (missed the jerk)

Total     186 kg @ 54 kg of body weight.

The following is the chart of the numbers of repetitions in the different intensity zones:


WEEK 1 113 REPS 110 REPS 162 REPS 48 REPS 437 REPS 70% – 80% 85%
WEEK 2 96 REPS 96 REPS 140 REPS 37 REPS 370 REPS 75% – 85% 90%
WEEK 3 132 REPS 132 REPS 193 REPS 50 REPS 508 REPS 75% – 90% 90%
WEEK 4 112 REPS 112 REPS 193 REPS 43 REPS 431 REPS 75% – 92% 95%
WEEK 5 122 REPS 127 REPS 203 REPS 54 REPS 506 REPS 80% – 87% 95%
WEEK 6 107 REPS 112 REPS 169 REPS 48 REPS 436 REPS 83% – 85% 95%
WEEK 7 103 REPS 107 REPS 120 REPS 30 REPS 360 REPS 75% – 100%/105% 85%
TOTAL 785 REPS 796 REPS 1180 REPS 310 REPS 3048 REPS




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