Lessons from Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club (Part 1 – Powerlifting)
Despite the fact that the club has been running since 1926, you could easily be forgiven for never having heard of it. Hidden away down a small, inauspicious side street the gym doesn’t boast a single sign. The club never flyers the local area, it never advertises and it have no interest in your average bodybuilder or Sunday runner. Pretty much the only way to find it is to already know that it exists. Well that’s not quite true, you could happen to walk down the street and hear the loud bangs of metal, but you’d have to be pretty brave to go and find out what was making the noise.
If you do happen to find your way into the building then don’t go expecting luxuries like a reception desk. There is no pool, no private showers and the changing facility is reminiscent of an old school locker room. Instead what you get are barbells, racks, heavy metal chains and a tonne of weights. It’s as if by doing away with all the luxury and the excess the club is truly able to focus on the things that matter.
What makes the club unique, though, is that there’s always an experienced coach on hand to offer a programme, advice and support. For me, this meant an introduction to Martin Bass. He got me started with an overview of my technique on the big three powerlifting movements before setting me off with a programme to follow. He’s a big believer in simplicity, 3x5 becomes 4x5 becomes 5x5. (I’ve actually put together a programme based on this – click here to check it out) Yet in the build up to competitions he definitely starts to bring his wealth of experience and craft more complex systems. And hey, who am I to argue with the methods of the man who runs a club with more than a dozen national and international level competitors to its name?
The atmosphere of the club is one of hard work and there’s a definite scent of sweat in the air (a good deal of it from me by the time I’m finished). Everyone there goes to work hard, and through that comes a certain bond that emanates through the club. It’s not a loud bond and it’s certainly not all hugs and cuddles, but if you get a new PB you can trust that someone will be there to give you a nod of appreciation. Perhaps most importantly, especially in the increasingly commercial capital, this is a club where you get to know your fellow lifters. You recognise faces, you want to impress them, and the only way to do that is to work hard and lift heavy!
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