You know him as the writer for FirstPull.net. You know him for his articles which involve evidence from scientific research. But did you know that Jean-Patrick Millete is actually more than a writer to promote his passion for the sport of weightlifting? Here's my interview with him where we talked about his involvement and his goals for the sport of weightlifting. LH: Thanks JP for taking the time off for the interview with me. Could you kindly introduce yourself briefly?
JP: I am a fellow Canadian from Montreal who has slowly but surely been attracted to weightlifting. Apart from writing and managing FirstPull.net, I’m a soon to be 25 years old who is currently doing a master in Neuroscience.
LH: So First Pull, your website. How did it come about and why did you start it?
JP: First Pull came to life because I thought it would fill a void in the weightlifting community. I thought that little information based on research was available and it is my opinion that sometimes weightlifting can be dogmatic. Also, a lot of videos are available now which is great, but weightlifting does not have its own magazine or centralized source of information. I wanted to change that.
There are good books around sure, but the concept of a blog attracted me because it allows for discussions to take place. I think I know many things but I don’t have the pretention of knowing everything. The moment you have discussion, you also have an exchange of ideas and everybody benefits from it. Since then, it has rapidly grown. Many of my articles have been shared around and I am just glad I could do my part.
First Pull has been good for me personally too for many reasons. The more I write, the more I revisit concepts and ideas and try to make sense of all the available knowledge as well as learning even more. It has given me contacts with many high level coaches and athletes too. Also, the more I write, the more weightlifting is being promoted which is also a goal of mine. Needless to say, it has helped me as a coach and I think it has helped many people around the world too.
LH: As we can tell, many of your articles you write have evidence from academic journals and you link it to your own knowledge and expertise. Can you kindly share with us what you base your ideas and concepts of your articles upon?
JP: Apart from currently completing my masters in Neuroscience, I also have a bachelor in kinesiology. My bachelor degree allowed me to learn a lot about human anatomy and physiology which is very important for our sport too. It has helped me shape my programming around preventing muscle imbalances and injuries. Neuroscience, on the other hand, is a quite interesting field and many concepts about motor control and motor programs are very relevant to weightlifting although very rarely explored or discussed nowadays. It also offers interesting notions about power, flexibility, coordination, and strength. I have applied some of those concepts in my coaching with good success and I think it set me apart from what’s being done. My thesis is non-weightlifting related, unfortunately.
LH: With your passion in weightlifting, could you give us an idea of how that began and how you actually got involved in the sport of weightlifting?
JP: While growing up, I saw my father do crazy feats of strength like picking up 300lbs barrels filled with liquid to move them around, slowly lifting the back of a car and move it around and other things like that. He told me that at 16 years old he was power cleaning 100lbs dumbbells to his chest only to press it 10 times above head, all of which within 3 weeks of training. By the way, my father is 5ft6 at 105kg bodyweight. He was naturally strong all his life.
On the other hand, I am 6ft tall and the biggest I have ever been was 85kg. I was naturally weak although I could move around fast. I was good at baseball (Pitcher) and sprinting, but in the back of my head, I just wanted to become stronger than my father (Boys will be boys).
I did not have that brute force so I figured I might try something where technique –rather than brute strength- was more important because I was always coordinated and understood how to move my body. Plus, frankly, weightlifting is just so cool to see. The power, the speed, the weights, the struggle, the technical difficulty of the lift and the mental toughness are all aspects that attracted me to the sport.
I actually bought my first weightlifting book about 8 years ago but only started to train Olympic-style weightlifting a few years later. No venues were available for me to train weightlifting, before that. I remember watching the Olympics games and wanting to try it, but I just couldn’t find a place to do so. I wish there could have been a venue for me or somebody to show me right road and that frustration influenced greatly me greatly in the way that I coach now.
I messed around with the squat, deadlifts, military press and some power cleans for a while. I tried getting into kettlebells and I even trained gymnastic rings for a while. None of this was as appealing to me as weightlifting. I finally moved to Montréal where I found a club. I owe a lot to my coach who has been patient with me. I acquired good technique from him and learned many things from him. Till this day, I still train with him.
LH: Nice. You mentioned earlier that you are also a weightlifting coach. So apart from JP, the writer for First Pull, you are also JP the weightlifting coach. Could you give us more details on that?
JP: Right. I got into coaching because I needed to work as a student. I did not have the pretention of knowing everything about weightlifting (still don’t) but I had a good formation in biomechanics, anatomy, physiology and neuroscience. I also trained as an athlete for a while before starting to coach. I am still paying my due by training even more. The reason I picked coaching over any other student jobs was that I wanted to give back to my sport and I thought I had the skills to do so. Something just lit up and I enjoyed it so much from the start. I think my athletes can see my passion and can see how serious I am about this sport. We just built a relationship from there and it has been great.
LH: So how long have you then been coaching and where are you doing it out of?
JP: I have been coaching weightlifting for a small while. I started slowly and mainly taught beginners and I taught a lot of crossfiters the basics of weightlifting so that they could train in crossfit when the lifts came on during the WODs. From there, I saw various beginners with tremendous potential and I just walked to them to state my case (I can be very passionate sometimes). It went somewhat like this: ‘’I think you have the potential to become a successful weightlifter and if you also have the will to do it, then I think we can achieve something big here’’.
I now have a small team and most of them are women (It just happened this way). It has been great fun to coach them and they are progressing fast. Some of them have doubled their lifts since starting with me. They just have everything to become good at this sport. They are very coachable, have good interest for sport, are willing to (take the time to) learn and have the motivation and we have created a very good training atmosphere which is equally important. Although I have helped many lifters, I can’t say I have created big names yet, but I would say to look for these lifters in a year or two.
I also started to coach online because it allows me to be around weightlifting even more. I am planning to do public talks in schools to try and popularize the sport further, but so far I have mainly been preparing the presentation and have yet to go through that process. I did get offers for seminars and talks too.
LH: Since you have been coaching regularly and have a team with you now, what is your coaching philosophy like (i.e. what you believe in as a coach)?
JP: I think that my athletes will say that I am very loyal to them (it has to be both ways) and that I am very dedicated to them and their progress. I think I am also somewhat protective of them, meaning that I will send them ‘’homeworks’’ (stretches to do at home, videos to watch, article to read) and will make sure their training does not get disrupted. I take time in my personal life to be in contact with them as well as writing individualized programs for them. I ask a lot of them and they make a lot of sacrifices (time, scheduling, work, etc.) to come and train with me, so it is very important for me to give them everything I can to make them better.
As a coach, I think that I am very open minded, honest and I value integrity above everything else. I tell everybody I coach that we might make mistakes along the way, but that it is my job to limit them any ways I can (and we have been successful at that). I will try everything out there that could make them better, even if I don’t personally like it (if it clicks, it clicks). I will regularly talk about the problems my lifters are experiencing with other high level coaches. I don’t want to be a guru, I want to be the best coach I can and it can’t happen if you close the door to new knowledge and ways of doing things, in my opinion.
LH: Nice. Your passion for the sport and as a coach is truly shown through the dedication you have to this team you talk about. In that case, what are the upcoming plans for team JP?
JP: Right now, the team is training three times a week for a total of two hours at a time. Soon enough, I would like to make it 4 times a week. We use the last 30 minutes for postural correction, injury prevention and to balance their musculature/limit imbalances. As an example, I have a lifter that has differential leg development and strength, so she has been doing unilateral work at the end.
As for the volume and intensity, it changes over time. When we are in a skill acquisition phase, I use more volume and we build from there. I do not like to push for a max every day (more power to those that have success with it). What I am looking for is efficiency, good technique and constancy. I do have a system that I use for programming. I value planning but I am willing to change the plan if something does not go according to plan.
Above everything, I want them to learn at least one thing every training session (be it consciously or not). I discussed the reasons for this in my article on skill acquisition. A lot of emphasis is put on recovery as well as on weaknesses (every training session has the lifts as well as a drill to correct their weakness). I also think that I am very analytical and that I see a lot of mistakes which, I was told, is great because the feedback is specific.
LH: I like how you use concepts from neuroscience, motor control and skill acquisition in your coaching. I myself appreciate the science behind the lifting and believe that this would be the way to go in making sure that the skill in weightlifting is properly imparted to not only improve performance but prevent injury. So with that, what are your goals as a weightlifter and as a coach?
JP: As a lifter, I would like to step on a Canadian podium one day. For now, I just want to keep training hard and become the best I can. It is a slow progress and it is how it is. I find the journey very enjoyable and plan to do this for as long as I can. I often say jokingly that I have to beat Marcel Perron’s world record in the 80-85years old category so I better keep training. I will say that I wish I started this sport much earlier.
As a coach I want my lifters to enjoy what I feel is the best sport out there. If the motivation is high and the work is done, I would like to see them step on a podium too. What matters to me the most is to see them reach their goals and go as far as they can. Of course, like pretty much every coach out there, I want to produce champions. I don’t want to do it for my ego as a coach but for the athlete who works so hard and so long for that reward.
I also like the idea that weightlifting is a good ‘’teacher’’ of very valuable skills for the daily life. It teaches self confidence, trust, determination, patience, and discipline.
LH: With your attitude you have in training and coaching, I am sure you will do great things one day in the sport of weightlifting and I look forward to seeing you achieve those great things. Is there anything else you would like to say?
JP: Thank you for the opportunity. I am honored to have been able to share my insights. I hope I can travel around the world one day so that me and you share some food for more discussions in the sport of weightlifting.
I would like to personally thank Jean-Patrick Millete for his time in agreeing to participate in this interview. He is one person who knows the proper science behind learning skills and uses these concepts in his coaching and programming. This is sport science application at its best. If you happen to be in Montreal, Canada, remember to look for JP and I am sure he will be happy to help you out with your lifting. If you would like him to share his expertise in the area of Neuroscience and skill acquisition in the form of workshops and seminars, feel free to contact him via Facebook. In the meantime, follow First Pull on Facebook if you haven't done so.