Amna Al Haddad
Sports Pioneer from the Middle East

Events Athletes listening to Pyrros Dimas and Natalia

Published on October 19th, 2012 | by Amna Al Haddad


Seminar: Weightlifting Legends Coach Athletes in Dubai

Olympic Weightlifting a tough sport. It is more than just throwing weights overhead. The weightlifter has to go through a lot of mental, technical, and emotional challenges to be able to reach the elite level. I already knew this, but it’s a great reminder for the journey I just started.

I had the honor to have attended one of the most educational Olympic weightlifting events held in Dubai on Friday, 19th of Oct. It was rather once in a lifetime experience – although I’d like to believe there is more to come. The three-hour seminar was organized by a Greek gold medalist weightlifter at the European championships in 2008, Natalia Tsoulia, with a collaboration from the Burn Room.

And they had a big surprise for us!

During the first portion of the event, they announced that we will have the chance to ask Pyrros Dimas  – a Greek weightlifter legend – over Skype regarding anything weightlifting related. Pyrros is considered one of the greatest weightlifters of all times.  He is a three times Olympic champion and three times world champion and has broken numerous world records. See him in action:

Pyrros Dimas practicing the power clean

Q & A:

Given yours truly who wants to become a weightlifting icon in four years time, there was just a tad bit pressure on me to ask the first question! Seeing how personally my lifting has been in the past few months, one of the things I find most challenging is dropping under the bar in the Snatch. When asked Pyrros what needs to be done – he said a much improved back squat. As the relation between your best Squat and Snatch is very relevant (something I explained in my training log post briefly.)

Then all the questions started pouring. Athletes and trainees asked on nutrition, what mentally goes in a weightlifter’s mind before a lift, questions on technique, and Pyrros’s experience. Some of the highlights were:

  • Nutrition: Eat a lot of meat.
  • Never think a negative thought before a lift.
  • The difference between your hang clean and power clean should be 15-20kgs, the power clean being the bigger lift.
  • Pyrros did a lot of training to support his weightlifting, such as sprints and additional exercises before he only did weightlifting. He also spent TWO years lifting without weight – like many professional weightlifters start out – to learn the technique and right bar path.
  • You lift with your LEGS, not arms. You’re arms should be as loose as rope.

Pyrros, to say the least, is a very simple and humble person. I wish that one day we get to have him come to the UAE and coach us personally.

Some pictures!

Technical Session:

Then the technical work started, headed by weightlifter Natalia Tsoulia who brought our attention to a lot of small details to focus on to make our lifts as efficient as possible.

The program was:

  • Warm-Up
  • Snatch
  • Clean and Jerk
  • Snatch practice from the blocks
  • Back Squats

Some of the Snatch tips were:

  • Hook grip! Without a hook grip, your lift is disqualified in official weightlifting meets.
  • Keep the bar close to your body.
  • Chest out.
  • Foot slightly pointed outwards, hip width apart (which is your BASE).
  • Don’t jump.
Personal things I need to work on:
  • Staying consistent in my bar path by keeping the bar close and “in”.
  • Keep my chest out when I drop under the bar, instead of dive forward.

Some of the Clean and Jerk tips were:

  • Hook Grip
  • Keep the bar close to your body when you clean. Do not pop the bar out.
  • Chest out.
  • Before you split jerk, take a breath in.
  • Keep elbows high and slightly out.
  • Do not jump in the jerk. Step out fast and strong, not soft.
  • As you jerk, you breathe out.
  • Keep your body in one line, your back is not leaning back or forward.
  • Recover with the front foot first with three steps back, then bring the back foot one step forward until you’re in one line.
 Personal things I need to work on:
  • I keep the bar close (sometimes), but need to be consistent with it.
  • Chest out when I come out of the squat
  • Keep my body straight in the jerk

Personally, I am lacking upper and mid back strength, which is one of the big reasons I am struggling with keeping my back upright (or chest out) and causes my diving under the bar. However from a technical perspective, I have improved a lot since I started Olympic weightlifting, I have picked up some bad habits in the past, however, with more volume and technical work, it can be fixed. I cannot wait! 

Last words:

I hope that this post was useful to you as it was exciting for me to write! I truly believe Olympic weightlifting has a lot of growing to do in the UAE, but it’s definitely a sport that has potential to becoming bigger and better. I was truly humbled and have truly enjoyed those three hours (wouldn’t mind doing that everyday, either :P).


Big thanks to Pyrros Dimas for giving us his time, Natalia for her time to coach us and organize the event with the Burn Room.


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About the Author

Amna Al Haddad , born in 21 Oct 1989, is an Emirati who always had a passion for health and fitness. She made history by being the first Emirati and GCC national to ever to participate in the Reebok Crossfit Games Asia Regionals. Since then she embarked on Olympic Weightlifting with being an IWF Arab and West-Asian Champ -63. A NIKE sponsored athlete, a motivational speaker and published author.

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