Focusing On Middle Lifters

Matt Adamcheck is always looking for the perfect rep. He doesn’t care how much weight is on the bar or how many reps an athlete can do in one minute. He just wants to see that one rep executed with perfection.

“There are many major points that get ignored in a gyms or sports teams such as the movements of the body in relation to the bar or the timing components,” he says. “My programming develops the lift as a perfectly executed movement.”

Adamcheck, an Army veteran and certified CrossFit coach, grounds his philosophy in research, experience and interactions with “old school” Olympic weightlifting coaches and athletes.

“A major difference between my Olympic weightlifting programming and others here that are ‘American-’ or CrossFit-based is that I have taken my experiences training with international coaches and athletes to meld a system that I believe is a hybrid built for many beginner to middle-level lifters,” he says.

That dedication to the mid-level lifter, he believes, will accelerate the sport.

To test his theory, Adamcheck recently opened his own weightlifting facility, 4 Star Strength and Conditioning, in Livonia, Mich., which he hopes will become an epicenter for the weightlifting world.

“I’m hoping it will be satellite in the region,” he says. “I want this to become regional training center and be nationally recognized as one of the best gyms in the country.”

Reality check

Growing up, Adamcheck spent his days eating Cheetos, drinking Mountain Dew and playing video games.

“I had zero athletic background,” he says.

In 2006, Adamcheck says he knew he wanted to join the military, but his weight was a concern.

“I am fourth generation military and I wanted to experience firsthand this extreme world event,” he says. “But I was 245 pounds at 17 years old. I was skin, bone and fat.”

In order to pass the weigh-in before basic training, he sat in a sauna to drop eight pounds.
“Basic was an eye-opener,” he says. “My calves cramped on every run and for the first three weeks I couldn’t extend my arms because of all the pushups, it was so extremely painful.”

Adamcheck says he dropped to 185 pounds, but still wasn’t in good shape. He joined an infantry unit after completing airborne school and deployed to Iraq where he participated in direct target acquisition missions.

“I remember going out, wearing all the gear and carrying this barbed wire, it took everything out of me. We came under fire and I remember thinking, you should probably get in shape so you don’t die.”

Adamcheck said he began taking his Army workouts more seriously, but after injuring his shoulder on a cross-training machine and electing not to do surgery, he was left with few options.

“My commander took me and a few other guys and started doing CrossFit exercises with us for rehab and within a couple of months I was able to do pullups and lift weights,” he says.

In 2010, he pursued his CrossFit certification and led trainings with his company and battalion. After leaving the Army, he returned to his home state of Michigan and began coaching at CrossFit Plymouth where he learned to coach civilians and developed a love and appreciation for the weightlifting workouts.

After a 2011 bid to the regional competition of the CrossFit Games, Adamcheck re-injured his shoulder, which forced him to focus on the weights.

“I have this big, dumb gorilla strength,” he says. “I found that in Olympic lifting, everything is a natural movement and I was able to lift without pain.”

A new start

For the next three years, Adamcheck continued to research, reaching out to lifting coaches across the globe for training and coaching advice. Almost immediately, he recognized a need in the industry to develop what he calls the “middleground” lifter.

According to USA Weightlifting, membership has more than doubled in the past four years from 8,000 members in 2010 to 18,500 members in 2014.

“Children and moms are lifting,” Adamcheck says. “The sports’ future lies with the middleground lifters who are lifting now. We have to create a structure where they feel supported.”

Adamcheck says the fact that there are few mid-level competitions for lifters to work toward is illustrative of this problem.

“There are beginner meets and national-level competitions,” he says. “I want to increase the number of local, state and regional meets so those middleground lifters have an event to work toward and look forward to.”

To make this a reality, Adamcheck left his coaching position with CrossFit Plymouth to open his own gym focused on weightlifting.

In December, he opened 4 Star Strength and Conditioning, offering simple membership and a facility completely devoted to lifting.

“The four stars represent each branch of the military,” he says, adding that he hopes veterans transitioning from the military will take advantage of the facility as well as civilians.

Members are already flocking to the facility.

“I used to be super fat. I went to boot camps at various gyms and lost weight, but never got strong,” says Steve Wiseman, an athlete who’s trained with Adamcheck for more than a year. “Matt was one of the first coaches who addressed my strength. When I started, I could barely snatch the bar to parallel. Now I’m snatching 135-pounds below parallel. His program works and he knows what he’s talking about.”

Derek Tedders, another athlete who has trained with Adamcheck for two years, says he was very excited when he heard about the new gym.

“My flexibility was so poor. I followed Matt’s remote oly classes and got nothing but improvement,” Tedders says. “I couldn’t snatch 65 pounds before, now snatching 225 pounds. I’m very excited about a dedicated gym.”

For Adamcheck, helping each athlete that comes through his door is the ultimate dream.

“I want to be able to go into work, sip a cup of coffee and coach athletes all day,” he says. “I just want people to walk out 1 percent better than when they came in.”

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