‘With a good scientifically based training system, you will make progress and don’t waste any time.’ Remco Eenink – Olympic coaches interviewed Episode 44

Remco Eenink has 20-plus years of experience as an Olympic weightlifter himself, 50-plus years in coaching Olympic weightlifters. In this interview Remco shares the story of Olympic Weightlifting, how he became an Olympic Weightlifter, the long journey for the Dutch Weightlifting Federation to become an independent sport federation, and the Coaches Weightlifting Education he has developed.

Furthermore we discuss

Christian: In today’s interview, I’m joined by Remco Eenink. Remco has 20-plus years of experience as an Olympic weightlifter, and 50-plus years experience in coaching Olympic weightlifters.

Next to his experiences as an athlete and a coach, Remco is that he is a Member of the Board of the European Weightlifting Federation, a member of the Technical and Scientific Commission for the European Weightlifting Federation and International Weightlifting Federation and Chairman of the Dutch Weightlifting Federation.

Welcome Remco.

Remco Eenink: Thank you, good to be here.

His darkest moment 

Christian: Remco, in your life as an athlete or coach, what was your darkest moment?

Remco: I can’t remember a specific dark moment in my life as an athlete. However, as a coach I can say I’ve had some dark moments, because the experience in the Netherlands is that when you have a really talented weightlifter, they often quit after a couple of years. And the reason for this is, that there is no financial support in the Netherlands. And each time this happens, it’s a big disappointment.

As a coach, you spend a lot of time and energy, most often you provide the coaching for free, since athletes can’t afford it, and after a couple of years they quit training because of financial reasons.

But I’m always an optimist. I always see the new challenges and the new opportunities and that’s why I’m still enthusiastic about weightlifting, even after more than 50 years.

I’m always an optimist, I always see new challenges and new opportunities, and that’s why I’m still enthusiastic about weightlifting, even after more than 50 years.

Christian: So, if these dark moments occur, how do you deal with that? How do you recover from that?

Remco: I actually always say “That’s life.” That is what happens, and you know that it can happen. You also know that it is likely to happen in this sport as a weightlifter and so yes, you have no choice.

I always say “That’s life.” You know it can happen, you know it’s likely to happen, and so  you have no choice.

It’s not an option for me to say that I am not going to do it anymore or that I am not going to give my time or energy to this. So each time, when there is real talent, I tell them that if they  want to train and are willing to train twice a day, I will be there.

His best moment 

Christian: What was your best moment?

Remco: My best moment as a weightlifter was also a disappointment. That was 1972, when I lived in Germany. It was a rather small competition, but I lifted 10 kilograms less than the Olympic qualification for the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

I knew, that I actually had not enough time to make the qualification for the Olympic Games in 1972, but I trained all by myself. So, actually, I was very satisfied with this result.

That was actually as a weightlifter. The other best moment in my life in weightlifting, was 2018, when after 60 plus years, we became an independent Weightlifting Federation again. Now, we are a direct member now of the Dutch National Olympic Committee.

I fought for this for over 5 years to make this happen, and last year, I reached this goal and I’m very happy about that, because now we also get the basic funding that each member of the National Olympic Committee in the Netherlands gets each year.

Christian: And before that, what did you get?

Remco: Nothing. We received nothing.

Christian: But the Federation was associated with, or part of which bigger federation?

Remco: Oh yes, in 1960, there was still an Independent Olympic Weightlifting Federation, and I believe 1962, it was weightlifting and wrestling as one Federation, and after that, we were part of the Royal Strength and Fitness Federation.

Later the Royal Strength and Fitness Federation changed its Constitution. Then we were not a Federation within the Science and Fitness Federation, but we were only a section. At that time, we actually didn’t receive one Euro a year. We had nothing.

When the Royal Strength and Fitness Federation changed its constitution, we were only a section of the federation and we actually didn’t receive one Euro a year. We had nothing.

Now the situation has improved a lot. That makes me very happy, because now we can do much more for weightlifters and for talents in weightlifting. That’s our job as Executive Board of the Dutch Weightlifting Association.

His advice to a younger Remco Eenink

Christian: If you could go back in time, 10 or 15 years or even longer, what advice would you give your younger you, with all the experiences you have now?

Remco: If I could start all over again, I would immediately seek guidance from very good Olympic weightlifting coach. That was actually my problem here where I live in Assen. There was no weightlifting club.

If I could start all over again, I would immediately seek guidance from very good Olympic weightlifting coach.

I started with weightlifting by saving money, I bought a barbell and rented a place where I could begin weightlifting. I taught myself the techniques and after, let’s say 2 to two and a half years, I didn’t make any progress.

So then I sought knowledge and that knowledge was not to be found in the Netherlands. Back then, I already could speak German very well. There was no problem with a language barrier, so I tried to find good coach in Germany.

I don’t know if you know the name, Tommy Kono?

Christian: Yes, I know Tommy Kono.

Remco: Tommy Kono was very famous in the United States. He lived in Hawaii. He was a six-time World Champion. Later he was the national coach for the West German weightlifting team and he lived in Mannheim.

Once I saw in the Strength and Health magazine a letter from him. It also said where he lived in the Meerwiesenstrasse, Mannheim. So I thought that I would try to find him.

I looked up his telephone number and I called him one evening and he was very nice on the phone. He told me that he could not help me, because I was from the Netherlands and therefore a possible competition. However, he said he could help me to find a good coach in Germany.

Then he suggested Josef Schnell. At that time, Josef Schnell was a very famous weightlifting coach in Germany. He developed and trained very good weightlifters, almost each of them had a world record.

Tommy Kono gave me his telephone number and he said I should tell him that he gave me the number. I called Josef Schnell, and at first, he said he was busy and did not have much time. Later he said that I could come.

When I asked when, he said I could come at any time. It was at a Friday and I asked if Sunday would be okay and he said yes. I also asked what time and he it did not matter. So, I had to arrange my traveling, because I didn’t have a car then.

I bought a ticket for the train and then I went by train to Germany. It was almost eight hours. I spent a night there, then I took a taxi and the taxi driver said he knew Josef Schnell. So, he drove me over there.

He never asked for money and he completely outlined his training system for me. After that, I went back to the Netherlands and I started training on the training system. The first time, of course, I made many mistakes by going heavier than he suggested, because it felt so good.

Then the second time that I did his training program I made tremendous progress. It was unbelievable. It proved to me, that if you train on a good scientifically based training system, you can make very good progress. You don’t waste a lot of time because you cannot become World Champion in weightlifting when you are 45 years.

If you train on a good scientifically based training system, you can make very good progress and you don’t waste a lot of time.

You should not waste a lot of time and you have look for a good coach and follow his guidance. And that was a problem, because I was in the army at that time, therefore it was not possible to train under his guidance every day. It was not allowed.

His coaching philosophy

Christian: As a coach, what’s your coaching philosophy?

Remco: The most important thing for me as an Olympic weightlifting coach is to pay attention that the lifter does not do more than he or she should do. One of the biggest problems in training with weights, and that is weightlifting, of course, is that the athletes wants to do too much and they want to do too much too often.

One of the biggest problems is, that the athletes wants to do too much, too often.

They don’t understand that certain periods in the training cycle you must not go heavy. In strength & conditioning it’s very important, that in certain periods of the training and you must not go heavy. Many weightlifters have the feeling, that they can only become strong and a good weightlifter by going heavy every time.

Another very important point in training is that you need to unload the training. So you have weeks with high-volume, high intensity and you also need to plan a weeks with low volume and low intensity, because recuperation is the most important thing in training.

You can train as much as you want, but if recuperation is not optimal and incomplete, then either the progress is not as good, or you don’t make progress at all. Many weight lifters have the feeling that when the progress is not as good as expected, that they want to do more, instead of evaluating the training and perhaps come to the conclusion that they do already a little too much.

You can train as much as you want, but if recuperation is not optimal and incomplete, you don’t make progress at all.

This is very, very important. So in most cases, the coach or the trainer must put on the brakes in training instead of encouraging the lifter to do more. That is one of the biggest problems in training with weights and in weightlifting.

The person that has influenced him most

Christian: What person has influenced you the most and why?

Remco: That has been Josef Schnell. I was always welcome there, he outlined his complete training system, which was different from what was used everywhere else, not only in Germany, but also in Russia, and other countries. His training method was very good.

You could say he invented a training system, that was based on half of the time of the training cycle is spent on training for strength. If the strength was there, then the second part of the training cycle was only spent on technique. And many feel that you can lose your strength very easily, but that is actually not a case.

He had a training accommodation that was very small. It was about 70% of what I have here, where we are sitting. He had only two platforms. He had 5 Olympic weightlifters and each weightlifter had at least one world record.

He had 5 Olympic weightlifters and each weightlifter had at least one world record.

I remember something that is also worth mentioning. At that time a good friend of mine, Gunther Blacken lifted a world record with the juniors. He had a full-time job at the bank, so he couldn’t train twice a day, as most lifters do.

In the time that he trained for strength, he trained 6 days a week, 3 hours each day. After that, he trained only 3 times a week, about 2 to 2.5 hours each time. He had very good results, just like the rest.

What was so special for me is, that Josef Schnell was able to invent a totally new and different training system from what everyone else was doing. That is special. Most people can only reproduce what they are taught and that was totally different with him. That has made a lot of impression on me.

What was so special for me is, that Josef Schnell was able to invent a totally new and different training system. Most people can only reproduce what they are taught.

And as I already told you an hour ago, I had here a young weightlifter, Azure Arat, I did this training system with him, and in two-and-a-half years’ time he weighed 76 kilograms. He already snatched another 112, Clean and Jerk 142.5 kg and could do Front Squat in a set of five, with 180 kg. Unbelievably strong, he improved so rapidly.

Christian: Has that system influenced your own training system?

Remco: Yes, it very much has. When I did my final exam in Germany for my high performance coach license in 2010, I had a look at their standard training plan. And I felt that they started too high in the first week of the new training cycle. Of course, when I’m following the course there, I don’t tell them that in my opinion they are starting to heavy. That is not my style to do that.

Later, I discussed it several times with a very good Russian coach and a very good Romanian coach, who was also the national coach of Romania. They also said that it was starting very high. So yes, it has also influenced my way of creating training plans.

His passion for coaches’ education and the curriculum he has developed

Christian: I know, that you’re very passionate about coaches’ education and you’ve developed your own curriculum for training people. Did you also develop a curriculum to educate coaches?

Remco: Yes, correct.

Christian: Could you tell us a little bit more about that?

Remco: The Dutch Weightlifting Federation has been together with wrestling, but it actually exists over a hundred years. In these hundred years, there never has been a good education program to educate Olympic weightlifting coaches.

When I was 20 years old, and that is a long time ago, I already kept saying you shouldn’t always complain that in foreign countries or in former Eastern countries everything is better. Start with educating coaches. If you don’t have the coaches who can create the training plans for a top lifter and also for a medium lifter, then it is not possible for Dutch weightlifter to get to the top.

You shouldn’t complain, that in foreign countries everything is better. Start with educating your own coaches.

You can have a very much talented weightlifter, but you must also have the coaches, who have the knowledge and experience to guide that weightlifter to the top. And every stage in the development stage of a weightlifter needs a different kind of training. The impulses are not the same. Training volume is not the same. Training intensity is not the same.

So, when I finished my own education in Germany, one of the very first things that came to my mind was that I don’t want to keep this knowledge for me alone. That is not useful. So, I started to create coaching education programs.

When I finished my own education, one of the very first things that came to my mind was, that I don’t want to keep this knowledge for me alone. That is not useful. So, I started to create coaching education programs.

Then the problem here in the Netherlands is that it is different than in Germany, because in Germany coaching is their full-time job. They make a living from that. That is not possible in the Netherlands, because most coaches are part-time, and have another full-time job.

So here, if you want to create these programs, it is no use to have a basic education program, as in Germany, where you need 3 years for level 1 and 2, and then another few years for level 3, etc. If you do that here in the Netherlands, there is no one who is willing to spend the time and the money to do that.

So, the trick is that you develop a program that is very intense and short. Everything that is not absolutely necessary, you must omit from this program. You must go to the basics of what a coach really needs. That is important.

Then you must be complete. You must not withhold certain information and that has been the case in Germany from what I’ve noticed. So what I do is, I teach the students and the coaches everything they need to know for each level, up to a high-performance coach.

Christian: I think recently you also started to develop an e-learning course, so they don’t have to be physically with you. Can they follow online?

Remco: That’s correct. I was asked by coaches from England, Cyprus, Norway and Sweden. They said it was not convenient for them to come to the Netherlands and spend a week with me here, because it costs a lot, you have hotel costs, cost for the flight ticket, etc.

That is when I thought that it would be a good idea to develop an e-learning course, especially for level three. In level three, you learn programming for different age groups, for different experience groups, for men and women, because there is a difference. And then level four, is for high-performance athletes.

I was asked by coaches from England, Cyprus, Norway and Sweden. They said it was not convenient for them to come to the Netherlands and spend a week with me here. That is when I thought that it would be a good idea to develop an e-learning course.

So I made an e-learning that consists of 40 hours of video, 40 different videos, each video is  about one hour, between 50 to 70 minutes per video. In this, I explain every detail and I give examples. At the end, I create a training program together with the online student for a specific lifter and specific age group. As example in level 3, it could be for an 18 years old lifter, who has 5 years of lifting experience.

Then I show the online student each step in the process. I show them how you do that, how much he should do and what intensities for each exercise you should reach in every week of the training cycle. So, they can use this course for six months and have all the time they want to complete the course.

They can do an exam and then they get a certificate from the Dutch Weightlifting Federation and the certificate is in English. So, if you do not live in the Netherlands, like one of my students from Australia, you get the certificate in English, so he can use it over there.

It is no problem. Everyone can see it is from the Dutch Weightlifting Federation and the Dutch Weightlifting Federation, is actually the highest authority on weightlifting in The Netherlands. I have a contract with the Dutch Weightlifting Federation that these courses are the official courses for the coaches.

Where can you find Remco Eenink

Christian: And where can people find this information?

Remco: You can find it on two websites. You can find it on

Milo Opleidingen [dutch language] and also Dutch Weightlifting Academy [English language]

And because I’m not the youngest anymore, I also wanted to make sure that later the courses, the books and the 80 or 85 training plans that I have don’t get lost.

So, I made sure with the notary, that when I’m not here anymore, that these courses will belong to the Dutch Weightlifting Federation. They do not have to pay for it, they will get it as a gift from me and I hope they can do a lot of good with that in the future for the sport of Olympic weightlifting.

Christian: That’s nice, giving something back.

His interview nomination

Christian: Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?

Remco: Yes, a name that comes to mind is Szymon Kołecki, Szymon was a top weightlifter from Poland. He lifted in the 94-kilogram category. I don’t know if you know that now the bodyweight categories have changed. But until the change last year, his Junior World Record in the Clean & Jerk was still standing, and that is very special.

For years, he has also been President of the Polish Weightlifting Federation. I’m very grateful to him, because he was also in a committee together with me and he helped me to organize the training camp for the European Union Weightlifting Confederation of which I was president at that time and we held a training camp in Poland.

He can also speak English very well, and he’s a very kind person.

Christian: Awesome. Remco, thanks for your time.

Remco: Thank you. You’re welcome

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