Holley Mangold: The Truth About Weightlifting

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Holley Mangold is perhaps the best-known U.S. weightlifter after an appearance on "The Biggest Loser" in 2013 and a spot on the U.S. roster at the 2012 London Olympics.

The weightlifting world championships begin in Houston today, and one of the hottest tickets will be for Friday when Holley Mangold competes. Some reasons are obvious. She's in the 75+-kilogram division, and superheavyweights hoist the most kilos. Many might remember the 2012 Olympian from her seven-week run on "The Biggest Loser" a year later. And football fans might know that the 25-year-old Ohioan competed for a state high school football championship and that her older brother, Nick, plays center for the New York Jets.

But the other reason that Mangold is a fan favorite is because she radiates personality, is quick to laugh, and is as fun to watch as she is determined to break her personal bests of 118 kilograms (259.6 pounds) in the explosive single-motion snatch, and 147 kilograms (323.4 pounds) in the clean and jerk -- which entails pausing with the barbell near shoulder height before thrusting it overhead.

Earlier this week, Mangold was eager to help casual fans better appreciate her sport by debunking a few myths like these:

If you're not naturally strong, forget it.

I personally believe it's better if you're not that strong. You can always get stronger. And the strongest people aren't always the best because weightlifting is all technical: If they can't technically do the lift, it doesn't matter how strong they are. You don't have to be the strongest person in the field to be the most efficient.

The biggest mistake people make when they start weightlifting is they try to muscle everything up with their arms. Really, your arms are just place holders to get into certain positions. When you're down in the start position and you bring the bar through, you want to keep it close to your body and hold that position until it gets into your hip. Then you explode and pull yourself under. Instead of the mentality of: this bar has to get over my head, you have to think: I've got to get under this bar. That's why weightlifters are so quick: because they're actually pulling against the bar to get underneath it.

Weightlifting just invites injuries.

It's certainly not worse than gymnastics or wrestling -- or even cheerleading for that sake. People think that because we're throwing around a bunch of weight that we're very prone to injury. But technically, we try to be the most efficient for our bodies so if we do everything correctly, we won't get hurt.

I've only had two surgeries. Knee surgery was really just from a combination of playing football and powerlifting. (I played football for 11 years, from grade school till senior year at Archbishop Alter High School in Ohio. I was an offensive guard.) My left knee finally went. It was just a meniscus tear, in 2011. The wrist, honestly, was just a huge mistake of not listening to my body. I knew I was tired and I should have stopped for the day. But I didn't stop and I got hurt. I had surgery in 2012 after the Olympics.

To be the best, you must always increase the weights.

You definitely have rest weeks. You'll go into lighter weights. But programming is very complicated. That's why coaches are so valuable. They'll increase your weights on certain workouts and lower your weights on another workout. You're pushing things and resting things all within one workout.

When scaling back, we do percentage of our best. You'll have a 95 percent week, or an 85 percent week. If you really want to back off, you'll go 70 percent. I don't know too many people that go less than 70.

Weightlifting isn't a good sport for girls.

Oh, it's the perfect sport for girls! Girls are so much easier to teach. They don't usually have the ego that men have. And it's an awesome way to get a very nice butt. It's true! Instead of those "butt blaster" videos, all they would have to do is weightlift. See proof here:

Also, it's quite funny when I'm lifting at a regular gym and people get surprised at what's happening. I can out-lift most normal guys. But with me, they kind of rationalize it: Oh, she's a big girl. But I get super-excited when I have a small girl with me. Small females lifting more than men just kills 'em. They're teeny-tiny. No one ever thinks they're weightlifters. I just laugh. It's definitely breaking stereotypes and it's a lot of fun.

Women will get bulky.

That's another one of the biggest misconceptions when a female starts weightlifting. If you look at American weightlifters, very few look bulky. If any do, then it's because they purposely do upper-body work outside of weightlifting. It's funny. We have a weightlifter here at the Olympic Training Center named Anthony Pomponio and we make fun of him because he has such big biceps. Honestly, we don't use our arms as much as people might think.

Powerlifting is just like weightlifting.

Powerlifting is the bench, squat, and deadlift. Those are very static movements. It's quite hard to come from powerlifting and go into weightlifting because - this is going to sound funny - you're so used to using all your muscles. In weightlifting, you have to learn how to relax everything. Weightlifting is a very controlled explosion. People like to call it a 300-pound golf swing. It's super-technical.

The sport is dull.

If anyone says weightlifting is boring, they should go try it. Once you realize how hard it is, then you watch the elite athletes and you'll fall in love with it -- because you'll be like, "Oh my god, how do they lift as much as they do and make it look so easy?"

Weightlifting is so popular right now because of CrossFit; it's the pure fact that people are able to try these lifts. It's like how football got popular. Pretty much everyone's thrown a football; it goes like 20 yards, and you're super-happy with yourself. Then you watch a quarterback throw it 60 yards down the field, someone catches it, and you're super-impressed, right? It's the same concept with weightlifting.

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