Muscling through spring break

Radford University student Amanda Cherry receives instruction from Olympic weightlifting coach Leo Totten.

Amanda Cherry lives an intensely active lifestyle.

In addition to her studies at Radford University, the Poquoson native teaches CrossFit and is part of the university’s ROTC program. Upon graduating with a degree in strength, fitness and conditioning, Cherry wants to train soldiers once she's commissioned into the Army.

Participating in Leo Totten’s three-day Olympic lifting certification class at Radford University in the spring helped. Totten, a former weightlifter who has been coaching the sport for more than 20 years, brought his training course to Radford to provide hands-on training to students striving to be better lifters and teachers of the sport.

"I feel like this class will help me be a better trainer for other athletes, and it is helping me learn more about training myself," she said on the course’s last day. "I've learned a lot about myself as an athlete."

Cody Kelly participated in the class, too. He wants to be a powerlifter. He’s not yet ready for competitions on the big stage, but he’s working on it. He, too, found benefits from participating in Totten's class.

"It's been a great class," Kelly said. "He takes a good amount of time with each individual person. He started us off with a generalization of a form we all should know, and then he slowly tweaked our technique individually, which is nice. It’s a small class, and that works to our advantage."

Kelly and Cherry were among the seven Radford Exercise, Sport and Health Education majors to participate in some heavy lifting in Totten’s dual certification course during spring break. Those who completed the course were awarded with basic and advanced Olympic lifting certifications.

“Getting two certifications is valuable,” said Kelly, a junior from Fredericksburg.

Totten developed the 16-hour certification program based on his experiences as a lifter and Olympic weightlifting coach. It is about 90 percent hands-on training and 10 percent classroom discussion, he said. Totten also uses video technology to record and analyze sessions with his students.

The course offers technique training for snatch, clean and jerk lifting; explores basic biomechanics and flexibility issues; and provides safety recommendations.

“I teach the most effective and safest ways to lift,” Totten said. He also talks with his students about strategies for designing their own training courses.

Alex Robbins is working toward a career in which he can provide strength and conditioning training to collegiate, and maybe, professional athletes. “I’m taking this class because I think it will be to my advantage later on to have this knowledge in my tool belt,” said the sophomore from Richmond.

Giving students fresh ideas and perspectives about proper techniques is one of the many reasons Health and Human Performance Associate Professor David Sallee invited Totten to Radford University.

“Students are trying to work as professional strength and conditioning coaches, so the key piece here is that they have hands-on experience that will allow them to work with athletes,” Sallee said. “We wanted to bring Leo to campus and bring that hands-on experience into their lives.”

In designing the course, Totten aims to give his students “another avenue to get better when they get out there teaching,” he said. “This will maybe help them have more background than someone else would not have. Hopefully, this class will give them a leg up on the competition. This is just another step in their learning process.”


Totten talks Nick Dufresne through the proper lifting technique.

Mar 24, 2016