Roundtable with Zack Telander.

Juggernaut coach, Weightlifter, and You Tube weightlifting OG.

This is a meander through Zach’s story of becoming a lifter and coach, his youtube success, filming and other tech, along with talk of current projects as well as the bigger picture of weightlifting and its future. Sit back grab a coffee and see what you take away from his story. Many thanks to Allen John for setting this up and inviting Sarah Wright and myself to co-host on Clubhouse. Also many thanks to our audience for the additional input and questions.

Zach how did you get into Weightlifting? 

My whole world was sports growing up, my family’s athletic, dad played football in the pros, my sisters all swam collegiately. When I was little, I swam, did diving, basketball, football, baseball, & lacrosse. Even did a stint in wrestling. So that’s why I fell back into Jiu Jitsu. 

At high school, I was recruited for football and took a lacrosse scholarship to the University of Vermont. I started weightlifting alongside football at 13.

At College, I had regular weight training: I wasn’t strong but loved the weight room, seeing my muscles grow, and weights get heavier, was fascinating to me. After graduation, I was not finished with the weights, So I started CrossFit; after the first day in a CrossFit gym I loved it, and nerded out on YouTube to find out more. I followed the ‘Outlaw way’ program, geared towards weightlifting and strength to do well in Crossfit. So, I was weightlifting daily and improving, but I was always just a tall guy who managed to move weights well, and being a person who shouldn’t be snatching well with my stature. I kept pushing, and did my first weightlifting meet in 2014. It was all about weightlifting from that point forward. When I needed a break from weightlifting I would CrossFit because it’s great to stay in shape.

Someone then suggested I start making videos. Back then I pictured YouTube as a place to upload a video to send to other people. There were a few viral videos, but it did not feel like a social media outlet. At least I didn’t see that then. YouTube has the highest barrier to entry compared to other social media channels – when now there’s Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat etc, which are easier to use and take less production.

I had a 10-year editing background from my film and television studies, so I started making videos of my fitness journey. Someone suggested it was not that interesting because nobody understands your mission, who you are or what it all meant. But they also asked if I was an expert in something? This was delivered to me out of the blue and set me thinking: I’d been coaching three years in the CrossFit sphere, and I could be one of the better weightlifting coaches in the area that could help people lift better. I knew the methods I had formulated were different and interesting, so I did my first new video – for every new subscriber I received an email; that day I got 20 emails and 100 views. The next video was over 700 views, and it just kept escalating! I decided to make one video a week, and now three years later I still haven’t missed a week yet. 

How did you come up with ideas? 

I coached CrossFit full time in Chicago, running four classes a day plus on-ramp classes too, teaching tonnes of beginners to lift. My coaching style was different to the CrossFit method. Key points in the CrossFit curriculum address things that are not applicable in real world coaching, so I focused on different things in the learning phase, giving actionable things to do instead. I kept seeing the lifters’ numbers and abilities increase. I showed the main issues people have when learning the snatch in the CrossFit way and gave them three ways to solve it, likewise for the clean+jerk. I followed up with how to programme for strength in a way that had not been discussed before. It kept rolling, and people would give comments or ask questions, so the topics were always there.

So how did your journey to weightlifting mastery continue? When did you realise you really needed to seek out other mentors?

When I hit 10,000 subscribers on YouTube. I realised I was over marketing and putting the cart before the horse; the marketing was working too well and I didn’t feel I had a full product knowledge to back it up. I didn’t want that to be an issue later so I needed to be involved in the sport more than I was; go to more local meets, and coach at nationals. I approached Max Aitia at Juggernaut and offered to pay him for coaching. I would have paid Max to let me work for him! Just being able to chat with him on the phone was worth the money. I paid him even after he was coaching me because he would support me at national meets, and he was doing a lot for me in that sphere. I also started coaching the Texas A&M Weightlifting team. Doing 1-2-1 and remote coaching, while getting my education for two years, it was a time of great change.

As YouTube took off, I was becoming more of a weightlifter, I realised CrossFit was somewhat subjective: there is subjectivity as to who is the fittest, but the test was always evolving and so there was no objective way to see who is the fittest. I was always drawn to weightlifting even when doing team sports which also were not objective in nature. In weightlifting I found the objective.

So Crossfit was the vehicle to allow you to try out your trade and develop as a weightlifting coach before you really launched yourself into weightlifting?  

Yeah, it was a natural flow, as I’m sure and, similar to many people, Crossfit being the first exposure to weightlifting. So I felt it was the best place to start, you have someone teach you how to do it, It may not be the best but it gets barbells in people’s hands. Then they find their love for it. I love CrossFit for that reason – it’s where I came from, but I wanted to be a master not a jack of all trades, and to be intricately involved in something bigger. 

Was there anything you took technically from other masters/professionals of weightlifting that transformed your understanding of technique, or improved you as a coach? 

The big technical breakthroughs for my lifting were in the application of where my shoulders were in relation to the barbell during the pull, plus learning to have full body strength and control over the barbell when it’s maximal. That came from the Alexei Torokhtiy seminar. He showed it in a way that made sense: watching techniques of other lifters to see how their body compositions differ and how to manipulate their movements. Alexei, helped my technique a lot; with Max it was all about loading. Loading is everything – you can manipulate certain weights exactly the way that I want you to; but if you can’t do it with a heavier load it’s because the load is wrong. It’s 100% a numbers game to get the best out of an athlete. Technical mastery comes over time, living with a barbell in your hands. You eat, sleep, and dream about the barbell, but loading is a skill and an art in every sense – how you load your warmups, squats, or auxiliary lifts to get what you want out of them. It’s incredibly nuanced you are not just loading in the sense of numbers on the paper. It’s also the ability to move the load efficiently and never falter in the moment. If you do, it’s a mistake. 

I discovered this when I was burnt out of weightlifting and CrossFit. I went to the gym one day and couldn’t decide what to do – my training partner was feeling the same and suggested we just snatch to look as good as we can, for an hour. It was not about making or missing. If you made the lift and it didn’t look good, or did not look exactly the same every time, treat it like you missed. We held each other accountable, doing thousands of reps. I ended up making like 90%. It felt easy, and beautiful. I realised these moments are real weightlifting, that’s how to do this. Max understood these concepts better than me, and talking with him helped me shape the thoughts I wanted to bring out: conversing about these things allowed me to vocalise them and make them actionable. 

How much of your time then was spent with a coach, or training partner? Which was most valuable? 

I would say the most valuable is a good training partner. At College with Texas A&M, there were guys training under Max remotely too, all we every talked about was technique or weightlifting. It wasn’t direct coaching, but countless hours, with a training partner. When I’m lifting with Max, he’s a non-lifting, training partner, a suggester and that’s what a coach is: a ‘professional suggester’. When you’re learning, you need a coach who’s a drill sergeant/control freak because you need someone to help you figure it out. But that mindset is dangerous when you try to go into mastery. 

I talk about this on my podcast. If you are in the mindset of always wanting a coach to tell you what to do, then you will always need a programme and a need to know exactly what to do.

When you become passive and no longer have a conversation about your own training, you stop thinking for yourself, you lose autonomy or you never get it. Being an autonomous lifter is the most valuable thing as far as athletes go. You should learn to train or look after your own body by being active and having a conversation in your mind. 

The passive approach never works in the real world or training either. A coach should build with you, not completely control you. Many people get into weightlifting, thinking it’s a social endeavour, but it’s lonely if you really want to master it. That’s what it really takes to become a virtuoso in the sport and my content is really directed towards that. 

Can you speak on the development of your YouTube content as you became a lifter? 

I’ve become more cynical, or less a believer of magic. I look to simplify things. There’s no special sauce. I thought that I would never stop improving in all facets, or plateau so long as I worked hard to find the answers. The Epiphany approach is, you just need to lift until you have that one epiphany and then PR as a result, that happens for years. You can have lots of little breakthroughs, but it’s not sustainable. My content kind of mirrored that understanding. 

Early on, I did vids on ‘Try this drill, it will make you better’ The problem is, you’ll come to a standstill when you realise that weightlifting is a lonely endeavour. So I broadened things out as I realised that knowledge of something is more important, just because there’s more info out there doesn’t mean it will help people in general become more educated. 

People, still to this day, subscribe to my channel to request videos on things I covered years ago. I can’t keep repeating myself so I work to develop understanding of concepts instead. My videos are now longer and more general in trying to produce the vibes of what Weightlifting is while being more casual and aesthetically pleasing. I hired an editor too, so I have more time to have fun with it. 

So, as you developed as a coach and your principles & ways of thinking about weightlifting collided, the content grew too. 

Yes, I just did a ‘why I power snatch more than I snatch’ video – a subject where I could have picked lots of drills and I did offer some, but I tried to explain the concept and deeper nuance around it. Perhaps it’s geared more towards a beginner, but what I really like to do with content now is pick something that me and my training partner (who are both high level lifters) do and show the simple things that happen, and reflect the same mistakes that others have, to draw lines between them and suggest things that work for us for them to think about next time they lift instead. For example, many people learn to have loose arms – which is good. That’s what you want when you pull the bar. But it can lead to issues when you’re trying to turn the bar over because you don’t have leverage on the bar. If you have loose wrists and lack musculature in the forearm, you can pull your wrists out of position. So we use no-hook grip lifting to feel the bar in your hands. Some people lock themselves into the bar with hook grip, and forget the bar exists. They get it off their hips to get under it and let their training take care of it. But if you think about pinching your hands together a little more, it helps me and will help many others too, not just beginners or the advanced, but                   everyone. 

Yes, it’s finding the principles that carry through to everyone at all stages, something many people miss shows in your videos. When you are creating video content, how do you balance between content that you feel is important versus content for subscribers?

That’s the art, man. The reality is a lot of weight lifters on YouTube offer just weightlifting content of their training – these viewers will watch everything. I’m not interested in doing that, yet it’s there and I do think about it. I try to bring value, or at least a storyline, stemming from being in film production at school: all I was always asked was ‘What the hell is the narrative?’ People don’t want to just watch images – it gets boring. When I was younger, I would spend hours cutting together film, to be 15 minutes long. My teacher would then come and tell me it needs to be only 5 minutes!  I would be so mad, but he was right, what am I showing in a minute that I can’t in 10 seconds? The answer is not much, so I shorten everything. Also what’s the message? Make it to the point, people absorb that, give them what they came for and they will respect you. If it’s hard for people to find the thing they want, they lose interest if they have to wait for it. So that’s the rule that I follow for creating content. 

I just was going over the most popular videos you have e.g ‘You’re not Klokov’. It seems general fitness folks are aware of these athletes and you make bold statements; these videos have a couple million views on them. Your message really resonated, what was your response from those videos. 

Honestly, I didn’t expect 3 million views! 99% of those views are people that are not interested in weightlifting sport, if they are then they may not be interested in my channel. I’m grateful for the success of those videos, but I never try to replicate them as it’s just a crowd grab.

Those videos were just concepts, people are fans of these people and will copy them. There are deeper reasons behind why athletes do certain things, you want to stand on the shoulders of giants, and do what the best do, but the best are doing things that you are not capable of, and likely will not be the best for you. The best lifters are up there because of their creativity. It doesn’t matter what field you’re in, if you are the best doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc it’s because you are unique in your creativity. I stuck with the idea because I always had to be creative. I have a huge wingspan, I’m tall and skinny, never the heavy guy, I played line in football and wide receiver or quarterback in basketball. Having to navigate the proportions of a heavyweight weightlifter, but not being one, I couldn’t look to famous lifters to replicate what they did. That was the concept in those videos with some good titling, music and famous lifters in them, along with some good editing.

Can we talk more about your experience with Juggernaut. How that relationship formed and evolved in return? 

I approached Max strictly for an education. I was a USAW level two coach and had a bunch of athletes. I wanted to get involved with Juggernaut and Max said I could help out, so I kept working with him, going to meets to compete, helping out with loading etc. I just stay attached to people’s hips. I do this without thinking about it. I knew at Worlds that Alexei Torokity was going to be training anywhere from 9-11am, at the Eleiko booth. So I arrived 8:30am and waited for three hours, then in walked Alexei. I shake hands with him, and talked, I trained there just to be around him, we weren’t close, but I kept finding opportunities to seek him out and we became friends.

If you want to be around someone or something you have to give them everything. Never ask for anything in return. I got away with that mentally because I was obsessed with weightlifting. I paid money to be in the same room as these guys. With Max, I was just there, and it slowly just happened. I had a weightlifter who qualified for nationals, I said he could represent Juggernaut so long as I could coach him, Max agreed so I was now coaching a Juggernaut lifter. I did that a few more times, then they hired me. Giving my lifters to Juggernaut was so we could have a better team. It was simple but a lot of work.

I’m not glorifying, to say I sacrificed everything, I truly enjoyed it. Had I gone into banking or sales, I would do the same thing. It’s how to be successful, find the right people, give them all you have, and care so much that success doesn’t matter. Surround yourself by the greats. When Coronavirus hit, I was prepared to do anything to keep training. My buddy had a farm 40 minutes away, it was far but I could train. So I drove there every day to train. I think my limit would be a 2.5 hour drive to train but much more if it was to meet great coaches. 

I love what you’re saying Zack about being obsessed. But what do you think drove your obsession with weightlifting and coaching? Was it a personal? Or more about wanting to help people or the sport.

For me sports were always fun. I was always good at them. But when the tough things started happening, I was able to blame my shortcomings on a group, the coaches, or my teammates who were not as good as I wanted them to be, things I felt were out of my control when, in reality, I definitely could have worked harder, or been a better person. But in weightlifting, you cannot blame anyone else but yourself. I was obsessed with that – being in a sport that defined if you didn’t have the nuts, or the ability to do it yourself, it wouldn’t get done. That’s what drives me as an athlete. 

As a coach this is a profession. I’m lucky to be able to make a living from it. Despite being successful in this field, I could be making much more money doing something else but I love what I do. It’s not the same obsession as training as I’ve always been like a training first type of guy, but I make time for coaching as it is an enjoyable job. I just want to give the best possible effort I can.

What was your biggest moment of satisfaction as a coach? 

My proudest moment was at my first ever national ‘The Arnold’ as a Juggernaut coach. My lifter won a gold medal. Chad was there and I felt so vindicated. He doesn’t really mind if they win or not, but he trusts me, and likes having me around, so it felt good. That was definitely my highest moment. I hope to return there. Primarily though I want to be a good influence on my lifters and have good relationships with them.

Which YouTube video are you most proud of?

The YouTube video I’m most proud of is ‘How to programme for max strength’. During my apprenticeship at Texas A&M, we had a Masterclass for people doing a Master’s in kinesiology. The class was led by the head of strength conditioning. We did four S&C sessions a week with one day of theory. That class changed my life, because they taught me about things like relative intensity, and how to organise training in a tangible way. I was able to condense that into a three-part video series. The amount of work it took was ridiculous but I was proud of my ability to recount what I learned in that class and use my notes to recreate it. 

Can you talk a little bit about the Juggernaut weightlifting AI? 

So, the concept of the AI is an ‘If /Then’ thing. I don’t know too much about it, it’s not absolutely AI, yet it uses previous inputs to generate new programs. It also takes body proportions and body weight into account, and uses general rules, like if you are X tall, and weigh X amount, your power output when you lift will be X. The equivalent weight for someone who is a female, or shorter, is going to be different. That’s, a mathematical fact. So it factors this in too. This is how the Powerlifting AI programme works. I believe that weightlifting AI is a similar concept, but the problem with weightlifting is the technique element is so variable, e.g. you could snatch 70% with great or bad technique. Technique can dictate how the session feels, whereas the instance of squatting with poor or variable technique is much less likely. This is the issue that Max is facing with the weightlifting AI at present. 

I loved your video using velocity-based training. Having done that video, do you use it or does it interest you, or do to see it as more of a panacea?

I don’t have a club myself, but if I did I would definitely use VBT units. No question because it’s another tool for athletes to have that conversation where they’re engaging with their training and can be more autonomous. It’s not about the weight that you’re lifting, it’s how you’re lifting it. With VBT we have power readings from your lifts. Once you have created the power/speed profile, you will know that, at 75% you need to be lifting at this power level. 

With that information the options grow so much, the thought process and movement qualities improve too. The aspect of quality is your control of the barbell, control has to be delivered from enough power expelled into the bar. You can’t grind out snatch, clean+jerks, you have to have ownership over it and move it well. Moving something well can absolutely be determined by a Power reading. It’s a great tool, I don’t use it, mainly because I am more casual. It is just another tool, so if you already have a coach watching who can offer the same judgement it may not be necessary. But if I had a club, I absolutely would use it. 

I love it for the idea of keeping training auto-regulated and it gamifies elements of lifting too.

I love that, gamifying, absolutely. It’s a game, you create the game, and create different rules. It’s not just about the weight lifted. Absolutely.

I’m wondering what your thoughts on the Issues surrounding the IWF right now, Do you think USAW and weightlifters could be doing more as a community, to campaign for change.

The way I see it is like, you can’t really change the IWF, when there are things that as a country, we’re not doing ourselves. In 2011 we had the CrossFit boom, a ridiculous opportunity that we didn’t fully capitalise on. Crossfit brought more barbells into people’s hands, but now the interest in people going from CrossFit to weightlifting is falling off a bit. I don’t care about the IWF, as much as I care about the way that our USA nationals look from a coaching standpoint. 

The USA needs to be better at the national level, by getting more capable competitive athletes like CJ Cummins. I obviously love ripping on the IWF because they’re a bunch of crotchety folk – I guess not much different from other Olympic sport bodies. But the Olympics are an anomaly as they are not based on marketing or money making. 

Yet how do we get good at the Olympics? We need marketing, and money. So, the IWF lives in a not-for-profit world, where nothing really matters about how they operate as an organisation. I don’t see the purpose in complaining about something that just won’t affect anyone. I don’t think that what the IWF is up to will make weightlifting any more or less prevalent in America. Why worry about what the IWF is doing when we don’t do enough for the sport.

So, you think we should raise the profile of weightlifting? More community-based work to increase engagement with weightlifting? It is challenging to get USAW onboard with that.

In reality our sport is tiny. I always get reminded of this when I engage with people outside of it. I have to remind people, weightlifting is different to strongman, powerlifting or bodybuilding. They still don’t recognise it. This fact alone tells me that we’re not doing enough? Everyone says ‘CrossFit is growing weightlifting’ but I don’t see that change. So what do we do? I don’t know if it’s similar to other small sports like fencing and archery too? It appears endemic of Olympic sports in general. We live outside of the market because the end game for weightlifters is the Olympics. It’s not a profitable show. We need people to be able to identify Olympic weightlifting or sport of weightlifting, as easily as football. It will help if Mattie or CJ win gold at the Olympics, (but not if we are against a host of banned nations), yet it’s impossible if there are not more youths entering the sport. If we don’t encourage youth development, the other nations have no competition and will get too comfortable.

So it’s a ‘catch 22’ – if weightlifting is withdrawn from the Olympics as a result of a lack of IWF reform that level of exposure to the sport will also disappear….  

100% I don’t want that – I believe that if weightlifting gets pulled from the Olympics, it will be a bad thing. But it’s an endemic issue of Olympic sports, where you’re outside of the market it’s hard to see what you can do to make it more prevalent. 

To clarify what you’re saying: why waste time trying to get the organisations to act, when as individuals, creators and influencers in weightlifting we can promote weightlifting? It’s the difference between weightlifting as sport and enjoying watching people snatch or clean+jerk. 

Promoting weightlifting as sport is always going to be tough.

The only way to make weightlifting as sport more prevalent is to have better weight lifters. 

By blindly recruiting, making your entire life about finding more athletes to win medals.  

It’s not like in gymnastics, or swimming where these sports do not need to promote as people gravitate to them – they can just focus on finding the best athletes. Promoting weightlifting for general use has already happened. Sonny Webster, UK, has more pull in that area than anyone in the sport. Clarence Kennedy and Dimitri Klokov as well, these guys are promoting the snatch and clean + jerk – people are genuine fans of them without knowing a single thing about competitive weightlifting. 

It’s a very interesting topic of discussion and it’s the separation that I find fascinating.

To summarise I guess we need a joined-up approach, with athlete influencers and grassroots sport coaching offering kids the opportunity to meet or be involved with these athletes, while USAW/BWL and other governing bodies around the world come together to help clean up the reputation of the sport. I feel wherever the influence and the grassroots campaigns can help push that influence to hold the IWF accountable for the longevity of the sport. 

So, you’re fond of Clarence Kennedy right?

I don’t think people understand the level of engagement that this human draws. His following has to be the most organic, eclectic, and engaging audience around. There is no using the algorithm or sexy Instagram stuff with a bunch of sponsors etc. No marketing. Yet he is so much more marketable than the entire sport of weightlifting in the USA. He has more power in his pocket with a cell phone than our governing body. He could host an event in Texas to fill an arena if he wanted to, knowing that we can reach more people, but currently all we have is an audience of people watching Dimitri snatching a bunch in straps, and this appears to be more appealing for people than to watch than the Olympics or any of the true weightlifting events.

Q&A

Many people believe amateur weightlifting in America to be the most developed in the world. In Russia, Ukraine or China, weightlifting is a profession, yet they are five years behind the US in terms of availability of a gym in every town with amazing equipment. What sense is there in attracting more athletes if they need money to train full time and win gold? Weightlifting should be a full time job. In other countries the local/federal government pays a salary, but in the US where does the money come from?

Alexei told me the same thing. He thinks the USA has the best system. He comes here and sees so many amateur weightlifters. But amateur weightlifting is not the issue, they want to improve but are potentially too late to be competitive on the world stage. We do have a massive number of amateur weightlifters, but not kids of the right age or trainability.

USAW needs to push the dial further on payment; we have a stipend system for top athletes, but you have to accrue Roby points to be considered for a world team, to get it. That’s where athletes get paid to be full time, but as to where the money comes is the problem. 

Being an athlete these days is a lot cooler; because of social media people can promote themselves to be something different; but the same type of person who is attracted to football that does weightlifting may never get paid. The idea of having notoriety or fame is attractive and can be leveraged – see Mattie Rogers, Kate Nye, CJ Cummings etc; they have big followings and monetize it well. It’s attractive; we now live in a world where the commodity of followers is real and may or may not attract future weight lifters.

Before, people like Dave Spitz of California Strength paid his athletes to train full time. I’ve lived that culture for many years, watching Wes and others just train full time was respectable, but for Dave to be doing that he’s pretty well off. There are very few of these private hosted weightlifting clubs. Muscle Driver was one but they went bankrupt. I don’t really care for lifters aged over 16. I say this because I want this sport to be better – youth therefore is the most important age group. The USAW reflects this message too. People who coach youths in this field are the most valued people as they help get us more youth athletes. But we need to get the kids there in the first place to then take care of them with money. I don’t want CJ Cummings to be a one off for USAW, I want there to be many more.

The UK is in a similar position of trying to attract youth lifters and keep them in the system. The competing international athletes in our system get very little investment (mainly in the form of sponsorship and some expenses), so they are often working full time and training. Even with good facilities and the right coaches, there is no monetary reward to being an elite weightlifter. The drive for youth development is evolving here, I personally do a lot of youth coaching and outreach work, but the funding to do that work to reach those youths is hard to come by.

The problem of attracting youth is universal; in Russia Dimitri Klokov recently did a road trip filming all the local gyms and villages. Most lifters in Russia come from small villages. They do Weightlifting not because it’s cool or because they know and like the athletes, but because there’s nothing else to do in the area. So the problem of attracting youths away from competing sports is a worldwide problem. 

I love what you guys are saying about bringing up the profile of Weightlifting into the youth system etc, do you have ideas about trying to bring sports, like Weightlifting, to schools?

I’ve tried that here in the US, but unfortunately there are a lot of stipulations to getting sports into schools. People still do not recognise the sport, but when they recognise a good athlete they may. 

We may be better off starting programmes at recreation centres. When we wanted to play basketball, we didn’t do it at school, we went to our recreational centres and played and there was a league also. So perhaps introducing simple programmes at a recreational centre – for kids to do after school.

Yes, my club is a community club; I found linking with schools and colleges to be very challenging, but we achieved it, yet by the time they’ve reached the college level, they’re good lifters but potentially a little old to be great in the sport – so we are working with the schools as a preference. It takes time to explain to the schools and reassure them. It’s beneficial to their pupils’ health and also for improving performance in other sports that are promoted in school. It’s feasible, but takes time and dedication to get them on board.

Perhaps national level lifters going back to high schools could generate an interest in the sport, but it would have to be people that are national level that have that type of time commitment. I think if Mattie Rogers showed up to a gym and started lifting in front of the kids, in an auditorium, it would get them going!

Now you’re doing a weightlifting feature film – how did that evolve, and how did you become the lifter in the movie?

Becoming an actor was never the idea in the beginning; I wanted to produce the film, and I needed help to do it. Producing something like this would be historical, but I also needed an actor to play the role, a stunt double wouldn’t work because they have to lift really well. You can’t hide bad technique and it takes too long to learn weightlifting. If it doesn’t look natural the way Olympians do it, I would not be satisfied. 

We thought about training someone but, as all the coaches in here like Liz and Sarah know, making someone a weightlifter takes years. And I didn’t know any actors who are also freak athletes. So I auditioned for it so we wouldn’t have to worry about the weightlifting aesthetic aspect. I have enough control over the barbell to get visually what’s needed for the movie. But I have to learn to act. I was given a couple of the lines and I practised with one of my actor friends from my film and television studies. I then recorded the audition and sent it to the Director of Photography, his line producer, and then he looked at it himself. He said it’s rough around the edges but there are moments where you’re believable, and I know you’re the kind of person we could coach into becoming an actor. So it was decided I would be the lifter. Which was awesome!

We’re in talks with Eleiko and Rogue to see if we can leverage sponsorship or money. We have CJ Cummings signed on, and a very good actor to play the father role in the movie. We need to fill a couple of other main roles. But other than that, it’s production and getting all the funding together before rolling. 

How did you get into Jiu Jitsu? 

I watch UFC religiously and have always been a fan. I did jujitsu for a week, a while back, and wanted to start then but was due to lift at Nationals. I couldn’t do both, So I made the decision to step away from competing afterwards. I wanted to get fitter, learn a new skill, and be part of a new group to meet new people. I now train S&C for the grapplers at my club in exchange for being taught how to do jujitsu. It’s ace.

Is learning and mastering BJJ similar to mastering weightlifting? 

Yes, 100% learning anything is getting the fundamentals right and moulding your mind into being a beginner again, but it’s hard for experienced athletes to do. It’s good for my mind and body. Martial arts and weightlifting both work you hard physically, and put you through stress that’s incredibly beneficial to you and your ego. Having the barbell in my life is an absolute blessing. It changed my life, and my trajectory. I’ve never been more thankful towards anything than the sport of weightlifting. It feels the same with martial arts: you could get it from chess, or anything, as long as you put yourself through something. I truly believe in that. 

What projects make you jump out of bed in the morning right now? And what is in your future?

Working with these grapplers! One of them is third in the world and my goal is to make him the best. I need him to be injury free and safe. I want to be alongside him when he becomes the best Grappler in the world – that gets me out of bed and fires me up in the morning. Also, right after I train them, I do my weightlifting, and that still gets me out of bed. I get so fired up with a great training partner, great gym and a great community. Projects wise:  getting these grapplers better, then I’m thinking I want to do a more individual podcast. That’s more than just speculation…..

We very much appreciate your time Zac and have enjoyed hearing your stories – If anyone would like to find out more where is best to find you?

IG – @coach_zt

You Tube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC94_fvLx7abZgs9LIkM7jxw

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