Some days it feels like the weight of the world is resting on your shoulders. Unless you’re Matt Sagar. Then, it feels like you’re lifting the weight of the world above your head.
Sagar is known for being the strength and conditioning coach at Saint Mary’s University, but what many students may not know is that he also competes in Olympic lifting. Olympic lifting, consisting of the snatch and the clean and jerk, is on the upswing in the United States. According to an article titled “Heavy Metal” in the Wall Street Journal, more and more people are joining in this resurgent sport every day.
The first lift, the snatch, involves hoisting a barbell overhead all in one fluid movement, and catching it in the full squat position with arms extended, before standing up to complete the lift. The second lift, the clean and jerk, begins by throwing the barbell up and catching it at the front of the shoulders in full squat position, before standing up and pushing the weight overhead while simultaneously jumping into a slight split. Finally, it ends by coming back to full standing position, weight overhead, to complete the lift.
Sagar started competing in weightlifting six years ago, with his first competition occurring during his first year of graduate school. He was drawn to weightlifting because, as he said, the Olympic lifts require not only strength, but also “a great deal of finesse.” He added, “It’s one thing to deadlift six, seven, 800 pounds, don’t get me wrong, that’s a feat in and of itself, but to be able to take 100 kilos from the ground to over your head in one fluid movement, that’s the definition of athleticism in my mind.”
Sagar’s goal has never been to get to the national stage. Instead, he competes against himself, for the pure enjoyment of the sport. The goal that he holds in his mind every time he steps on stage is to simply be the best version of himself. The only personal records he seeks to best are his own. It’s all about fine-tuning his craft. The first competition that he entered was a humbling and “eye-opening experience,” he said, and he has competed in a total of four competitions since that time.
Sagar also offered some advice for those seeking to enter the sport. “Make sure you’re ready for it, because it can be exceedingly brutal, especially those first probably six to 18 months where you’re perfecting your technique, you’re figuring out how to work yourself around a barbell,” he said, “It can be really taxing and tiresome on the body and that’s when injuries happen,” mentioning that athletes could injure or re-injure themselves if not properly cleared or taught the proper technique. “If your positions are wrong, you’re going to potentially blow out your back, blow out a shoulder, or your hip. If no one teaches you how to miss correctly you could knock yourself out, you could cause a lot of issues, you could hurt someone else, you could damage equipment. A lot of things could go wrong. Take your time and do your homework.” Once you’re given the green light, he suggests finding a good and qualified coach. He mentioned Dave Spitz, Greg Everett, and Max Aita, to name a few.
Sagar plans to continue in the sport of weightlifting, and could possibly compete one to two more times in the near future, as different meets open up.