Take one part bio-mechanics expert, one part coach, add in a dash of scientist, a pinch of humor, a dab of perfectionist and nearly twenty years of practical experience in the sport of weightlifting (both as a competitor on the national stage and as a coach to some of the country’s top athletes) and you have Sean Waxman, owner of Waxman’s gym
in Lawndale CA.
Located in a small industrial complex close to the 405, Waxman’s gym is an anomaly. They don’t do the typical things you see in most gyms. You can’t attend an aerobics or spinning class. There are no universal machines, nor do they have most of the usual equipment you’d see at a big box gym.
You’ll see no treadmills, or elliptical machines. There are no people chatting it up, half reading a magazine and watching the latest episode of Good Morning America on a ceiling mounted television. There is no latte bar, nor is there a Starbuck’s next door.
There are no posing mirrors, or countless rows of dumbbells, leg press machines, lat-pull down stations, cables, or any of the other stuff you’d associate with a gym that focuses on bodybuilding either. Waxman’s is an OLY gym, a place where you learn and train to do Olympic Lifts.
This is a serious gym for serious athletes. At Waxman’s they do one thing, they lift, and they do that one thing exceptionally well.
Neil and Sean
Sean, with the help of some awesome trainers like Neil, has carved a niche in the newly renewed popularity of Olympic Lifting.
At Waxman’s, Sean is able to impart his years of experience and knowledge onto both the beginner and advanced athletes alike.
If someone were serious about financial advice, they would look to someone who is rich and successful. If someone wanted marriage advice, they should seek the advice of a happily married couple. And if someone is really serious about learning OLY lifts, the proper way, they go Waxman’s.
Their motto isn’t “Fix Shitty Lifting Technique” for nothing.
Why I chose Waxman’s
I love to learn as much as I can about anything I set out to do. I’ve been told at times that I have an excessive compulsive streak. That streak gives me my drive to learn and overcome any task I set my mind to. For the last couple of years my goal has been to get in the best shape possible. That journey led me to CrossFit, which in turn introduced me to exercises that I had little or no experience with.
During my journey I realized that I knew far less than I thought I did. Fitness is more than just going into a local gym and slinging weights. It’s more than just getting the biggest arms or the thinnest waist. It’s about fine-tuning your body to be able to function effectively. It’s about your body being able to accomplish any task you set before it.
The last CrossFit Games Open was an eye opener (Read about it here). I went into it knowing that I was lacking in numerous areas, but decided to compete anyway. I figured I’d use the games as a gauge, which would help to pinpoint my deficiencies.
One of many areas that I had neglected was OLY lifts.
Why? Well for starters my flexibility was a huge issue. Until recently I wasn’t able to do some of the prescribed lifts. I couldn’t do an OH squat with anything more than a broomstick, and to do that I had to stretch my arms out as far as they would go on the stick. I couldn’t get the bar behind my head any other way.
The same goes for the Front Squat. For a multitude of reasons my arms just wouldn’t bend correctly, so the thought of trying a complex lift like the snatch was unrealistic.
Until the Open I think I had only tried a snatch once or twice with my broomstick and moved on, not thinking much more about it. Right before I attempted WOD 12.2, I watched the example video of Froning tossing the weights around like they were toys and thought, “I got this”.
Of course I didn’t.
The first 30 reps with 75lbs were simple. I wasn’t doing a snatch, but some other type of hybrid movement that I had invented on the spot to get the weight overhead. Since the weight was low it wasn’t all that difficult.
I learned pretty quickly that the “technique” I used for 75lbs wasn’t going to work as I failed miserable to move up to the next higher weight of 135lbs. With minutes to spare and the inability to even lift the weight higher than chest level, I was done. That moment I vowed to overcome the snatch.
So I began searching for a place that could give me a very strong foundation in OLY lifts.
I am a firm believer that you cannot teach anything with only a few ours of instruction under your belt. To teach effectively you first have to learn the subject from a qualified source, apply what you have learned, and then practice it until it becomes second nature. Then and only then are you able to effectively teach others.
Since I wanted the best instruction I could get in the OLY realm, I began a search for someone who had been there and done that. I found Waxman’s.
I was a bit nervous, as usual, about dropping money on something I didn’t know a lot about. I really wanted the best instruction available, and was afraid that if I spent all my money, and didn’t get what I paid for, it would be quite a long time until I saved up enough for another class elsewhere.
To alleviate my pre-purchase fears I did the usual google searches for negative feedback and found none. Then I began searching for any comments anywhere about Sean and his gym. What I came up with were all positive results.
After speaking with my wife, she urged me to take the leap and book a few seminars. At the time, Waxman’s was offering a discount on a three-seminar package. Basically you got a discount if you booked more than one seminar at once. Since the savings were substantial I chose this route. (Please check their website for current deals)
The seminars I signed up for were the “Snatch Better”, “Clean & Jerk Better and the “Lift Barbells Better” seminars (In hindsight I should have gone to the Lift Barbells Better first, Clean and Jerk next and the Snatch last, live and learn).
Once the order was completed I patiently waited for a month or so to roll by to attend my first seminar.
Saturday, Sunday – The Snatch Better and Clean and Jerk Better Seminars.
I really didn’t know what I was doing when I came into either of these classes. These lifts are something you don’t see in normal Muscle and Fitness type Magazines, and you sure as heck don’t see people doing them in a big box gym.
Like I said earlier, due to some serious flexibility issues I hadn’t given them too much thought and was clueless about how to execute either lift properly.
I guess in hindsight my lack of knowledge and experience was great because I didn’t have any misconceived notions about how I should perform the lifts. I was a clean slate, a clueless one, but still clean.
The class size was small, (they only allow a max of five per class) which allowed each of us to get one on one attention.
Both seminars started off the same, introductions were made. Chairs were set up in front of an overhead projector and class began.
Before we got into any serious instruction we were asked if we’d like to lift for a “before” video. Basically the video would record our pre-seminar lift techniques, and at the end of the seminar another video would be taken which would show any improvement we had made.
I did my best and went through the motions of how I thought the lifts should be performed, slightly embarrassed by the experience, but determined to learn all I could.
Then class started.
We were instructed on all the particulars of the lifts, the science behind them and given little details that might be lost if the class were larger. After each bit of information we were allowed to practice what we had just learned.
The goal of the training was to break each lift down into individual segments that were easier to learn.
When attempting each segment, Sean or Neil would stand by correcting any deficiencies that they noticed. We would not progress as a group until each person was comfortable and performing the techniques as required.
Each seminar lasted around three and a half hours. A person might think, three and a half hours, that’s it, that’s way to short but I promise it’s not. There is so much information coming at you that any more time spent there, would have been a complete overload, and that would’ve been counterproductive.
Plus we were using real weight, not just PVC pipe. Although most of the time I used just the bar and training plates, the cumulative effect of holding that bar for hours on end was exhausting.
Near the end of each seminar we would bring all the separate components together, and perform the entire lift. Once again both Sean and Neil would watch and critique.
The final test was to have a final video taken to show our overall progress.
I must state this; you will not become an expert in these lifts in just one session. You will not be able to go and teach someone to do these lifts in just one day. These lifts are highly technical and require serious time and effort to perform correctly and master.
If you’re a beginner you will get is a very solid base from which to start. If you’re a seasoned athlete, you will get better at your lifts. The knowledge and insight from Sean and Neil is invaluable. The folks a Waxman’s know their stuff.
That being said I was very happy with what I learned. As you can tell by the videos I still suck, but I suck a lot less. This isn’t due to poor instruction, but my ability to learn and apply what I have learned.
Before and After Videos! As you can tell from my last attempt at the snatch I have a long, long way to go but at least I have a great foundation on which to build.
"Clean & Jerk" Before
"Clean & Jerk" After
I know it will take time and effort to be efficient in these lifts, but I’m very, very happy that I made the leap and learned from the pros.
With a solid foundation I can confidently move towards my goal of mastering the OLY lifts.
I feel totally comfortable recommending Waxman’s.
Like I stated previously, if you really want to learn how to do this stuff correctly get some real professional training. This isn’t like learning a push-up, with this stuff you can get hurt. Another added benefit is that if you learn to do the lifts correctly, your going to put up more weight than you could by using bad technique.
* On a side note.
I paid for these courses just as anyone else would. I didn’t receive a discount due to this blog and my impression is genuine. If you really want to learn how to do OLY lifts correctly, by real professionals, then Waxman’s is the place to get that training.
If you do go to one of their seminars, please tell them that you read about them here. It’s always nice to know if I’m getting the word out.
See you in the hills or at the Lift Barbells Better Seminar at Waxman’s in May 2012.
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