Get to Know the ZUM Team: Colin McClelland



Welcome to the ZUM Team, Colin! It’s awesome to have a dedicated Weightlifting Personal Fitness Coach to help members navigate this dynamic, often misunderstood practice. I find it really interesting how people find their way to becoming a lifter. What’s your story?


I grew up in Austin and played a lot of basketball and soccer, as well as practiced martial arts. It was through martial arts during college at UCLA that I discovered Weightlifting. My instructor was also a personal trainer and started training Olympic lifts with a prestigious European coach as a way to become more explosive. So I followed suit and started training with him at the UCLA Athletic Center and/or my friend’s garage 3 or 4 days a week. That was back in 2005 or 2006, so I’ve been training over 10 years now.


So what does your training look like now?


When I moved back to Austin after completing my Philosophy degree at UCLA (yeah, I wasn’t really thinking practically about that one – but hey, I really enjoyed it and it was super interesting to me), I found an amazing coach with an impressive pedigree, Amalia Litras at GrassIron Fitness, and I continued my training her. I still train with her actually.


Oh wow! How does that work? 


There’s an art to coaching more seasoned lifters, and I really like her, so she gives me remote coaching. I videotape myself once a week doing the competition lifts, and I get feedback. I try to compete twice a year. Together, Amalia and I structure my programming between competition and strength mesocycles.



I’m guessing that means your decision to join ZUM as a member was all about the lifting platform then, huh? 


Yeah, pretty much. I came to Seattle for work in December 2013. I was looking for a gym that had bumper plates, but I didn’t want to lift at a crossfit box. ZUM was close to home and convenient. The rest is history.

However, whenever I’m eyeing up a gym, I’m looking at the trainer certifications. At ZUM, there’s a highly-certified, incredibly knowledgeable training team, so that was something that attracted me to ZUM as well.


And now you’re part of that team! What made you want to get certified to coach Olympic Weightlifting?


I had a taken an Art of Weightlifting course with Ursula Papandrea. She’s the only female Level 5 USA Weightlifting Coach among other impressive credentials. That sort of lite a fire in me to pursue a certification. I wanted to understand the mechanics of the lifts better. And I’m of the philosophy “no one book; no one teacher,” so I think it’s good to get exposure to different points of view and opinions on whatever the subject matter is. I knew a lot about Olympic lifting, but it’s so technical and there are a lot of body types and a lot of considerations, things that work better for some and others and there are also differences in programming styles culturally – Bulgarian, Soviet, Chinese. I wanted to learn as much as I could!


Why coach and teach others?


It’s something I really enjoy doing and something I think I’m good at. I taught martial arts as well. Olympic lifts are so technical it’s very mentally engaging there’s always something to think about and refine with clients. We’re constantly navigating the pursuit of perfection that’s always just out of reach except for those very few times when you might hit a PR (personal record).


Let’s go back to basics for a second. What are we talking about when we say “Olympic Lifts”?


Weightlifting is technically the proper term, but most people know it as Olympic Weightlifting. There are 3 lifts judged on the competition platform: the Clean, the Jerk, and the Snatch. The Clean and Jerk is combined into one movement to get the bar to the Jerk position, but technically they’re separate lifts.

Then there are dozens of accessory and assistance lifts designed to make the clean and jerk and snatch better. So when we train, we often we look to exercises that fix problems with technique and translate the most to the Olympic Lifts. Things like deadlifts don’t really transfer because they are slower and use different muscle fiber. But power cleans, partial cleans, back squats, front squats, shoulder presses are great.


In a session with you could people expect to work on those movements in addition to the full lifts?


The first thing I do with clients is go through mobility assessment. Most people are tight somewhere. They’ve been sitting at desks all day and have thoracic tightness, shoulder tightness, hips, ankles, etc. We’ll work exercises to increase mobility and flexibility in these area first with the goal being able to move in to the lift progressions. Of course, we break those down into components first too. So no one is going to jump straight into a full Clean or full Snatch.


Are you saying there’s more to Weightlifting than just strength?


Absolutely! There’s 3 main components of lifting – strength, technique and the mental component. All three have to be dialed in for success. You have to have the strength to lift the weight, the technique to move the bar efficiently and accelerate and receive it into position, and the mental focus and confidence that you’re picking up a weight and you’ll be able to receive it and make the lift. When you’re pulling the bar off the floor in the first part of the lift, it feels like it takes forever, but you’ve got to trust it.

Olympic Lifting is unique because unlike power lifting or body building, you’re not necessarily building size and bulking up, so you don’t have to worry about that as much. There’s a lot of coordination and flexibility required too. You’re creating a firing sequence. How explosively can the nervous system fire and make the muscles contract in a very specific ordered sequence? If anything along that chain misfires or fires at the wrong time – then the lift is over.



What do you love most about Olympic Lifting?


The technical aspect is absolutely what I love about it. That, and it’s a very efficient way to workout. It’s compound movements using fast-twitch muscle fibers and can benefit anything you need to be explosive in – any sport from the hips in a golf swing to sprinting to martial arts.


So any athlete can benefit from Olympic Lifting?


Any athlete, yes, or just any body because of the flexibility requirements. Most people I know, myself included, couldn’t put a broomstick overhead with a wide grip and squat all the way down with it, so it’s a great way to work on flexibility in addition to strength.


I couldn’t agree more! I love it! But now let’s learn a little more about you! What’s something interesting about you that people may not know?


I was an actor – television and movies, but mostly television.


Cool! Anything we would have seen you in?


Scrubs, Navy NCIS, American Dreams, Seventh Heaven, Cold Case, The Rules of Attraction.


Favorite tv show?


Black Mirror
Arrested Development
It’s Always Sunny…


Favorite movies?


Could Atlas – there’s so much going on, so much you have to figure out on your own. There’s like 6 story lines. Kind of like Magnolia. That’s another good one, but it’s kind of dated.

Let’s see, I need a comedy too. I’m such a dork, but I’ve gotta go with Hot Tub Time Machine.


But it’s delightful! I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed that movie.


Ok! Me too! Really surprised.


Favorite music?


90’s hip hop and rap – old-school stuff


Favorite post-workout fuel?


Protein shake.


Favorite movement/exercise?


The snatch, of course. It’s the most elegant and athletic thing you can do with a barbell.

Thinking about that, Olympic lifting is very ying and yang. The snatch is very elegant, the clean and jerk is more powerful/brutish.


Any final thoughts or words of advice?


I like Dan John’s approach to lifting, he’s a well known strength and fitness coach who has 4 main principles:

  1. Pick heavy stuff up off the ground and put it over your head.
  2. Pick heavy stuff up off the ground and carry for distance.
  3. Do compound movements.
  4. The body is one piece.