Athlete Q&A Training

Athlete Q&A: Oleksiy Torokhtiy

Strength.com’s first Athlete Q&A is with world-class weightlifter, Oleksiy Torokhtiy. We asked him questions across a wide range of topics – and we think you’ll really enjoy learning from this amazing athlete.

There are some athletes that have a great way of connecting with fans. Exciting a crowd with massive lifts, and raw energy – like this. Giving back to the community by providing fantastic content, tips, and helpful information for lifters aspiring to improve – like this. Oh, and a sense of humor is always good – like this. For these reasons, and more, we were extremely excited to do our first official Strength.com Athlete Q&A with world-class weightlifter, Oleksiy Torokhtiy. We asked him questions across a wide range of topics – and we think you’ll really enjoy learning from this amazing athlete.

About Oleksiy:

Oleksiy Torokhtiy is an Olympic Gold Medalist, taking first place at the London Oympics in 2012.  He is also the winner of World and European Championships, and was an athlete of the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.  Oleksiy is currently a Member of European Weightlifting Federation Executive Committee, Deputy Chairman of Ukrainian National Olympic Commіttee Athletes Commission, and the Vice-President of the Weightlifting Federation of Ukraine.

Torokhtiy is also the owner and operator of TORWOD LLC, which includes training programs, nutrition programs, weightlifting seminars, clinics, and the Warm Body Cold Mind product line.

If you aren’t following him on Instagram here, https://www.instagram.com/torokhtiy/, you are missing out.  He regularly posts incredible content and videos on training and other informational topics. You can also find him here on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCg2cg7VUte3kMKs1xypX-fQ.

Q: How did you get into Olympic Weightlifting?

We had a small barbell club in our school. Me and my friend went to see what is this. In a few days I quit, because I didn’t like it, but my friend was more interested. In a few months, I saw that his shape and strength became way better. So I came back and started to train permanently.

Q: For how many years have you been Olympic weight lifting?

For now it is more than 19 years.

Q: Do you have a favorite lift? 

It is C&J (clean and jerk) – to be perfectly honest, it is the jerk from the rack. A snatch was always a problem for me in technical way. On competition day, it was like Russian roulette – never knowing if I will catch the bar or not. I am still working on my weaknesses in the snatch.

(editor’s note: I asked Oleksiy to go into more detail – it is fascinating to hear an Olympic weightlifter, and one of the best in the world, tell me that he’s still working on his snatch, and that it was like Russian Roulette)

Every smart elite athlete will tell you that he still has a lot of things to improve. Every new stage of your sport development (age, level of competition, kilos, injuries) will bring you new tasks to study.

Q: Please tell us about your training regimen – do you only Olympic lift, or do you cross train?

This is a really tough question. Let’s tell the truth: I am not a professional athlete anymore.  I am businessman, and a coach/educator. So, I am trying to workout consistently, but this is not always possible due to traveling and office work. My goal is to workout 5 times per week, but sometimes it can be only twice. I have a lot of fun doing a WOD with people in a gym where I have a seminar – I do this quite often.  Of course, weightlifting is my main passion, but sometimes I am trying to get away from regular routine, and I will just ride a bicycle.

Q: With traveling a lot for clinics, events and work, and understanding the sometimes negative effect long flights can have on the body, do you have any tips on staying in lifting shape while on the road? 

Discipline – for me, it is my normal life. To avoid jetlag, I start to live with a time shift in a plane.  For example, if I board a plane in Europe in the midday, I understand that when I will land in NY it will be evening.  I do not sleep on planes, no matter how hard I try, and when I land I go to bed by the 10 PM of new time zone (and this is almost morning in my country), because I must be ready the next morning to work all day.

My rubber band is always with me, so I can do some exercises and stretching, even in the airport during connections.

Q: How would you say recovery plays a role in your training program? Do you have a favorite recovery exercise?

There is no sense in any perfect training program if you are not ready to find time for recovery.  If this is your approach, the perfect training program will become a perfect killing program.  Is this my goal?  No!  Of course, for someone to go to bed at 10 PM is a problem, or having a nap before a training session is inappropriate.  I am sorry, but I don’t know any other way to lift big weight except to have a strict recovery regimen. I can’t say that mobility and stretching routine is my favorite part of pre or post workout, but I pay a huge amount of time to this part. My favorite recovery exercise is massage!

Q: How important is nutrition in your performance? Please give us a brief overview of your nutrition plan.

My opinion that day regimen, nutrition program and after is training program. If you will skip the first two steps, you will have problems sooner or later. Since I am not a professional athlete anymore, my nutrition program is not as strict as it was during my preparations for international competitions. Those days gave me a lot of knowledge and experience.  When I was in a junior age, the biggest problem for me was to gain weight.  It took me a lot of effort, and consultations with dietitians to reach my goal. So now I have a good nutrition program for weightlifters on my web site, and it helps people to gain muscle or lose fat.

I am not on a strict diet now. I eat 4-5 times per day, about 4,500 calories.  I am trying to eat smart, and consciously. But if I want cheesecake – I eat it!

(When I was training) We had 3 regular meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), and snacks (protein shakes, nuts, seeds). Depending on the period of preparation and body mass composition,  it was a different amount and distribution of carbs, proteins, and fats. To tell the truth, I started to have a really good nutrition program 3 years before Olympic Games.  In junior age, when I had to gain weight, I had a challenge to grow my muscles with a small amount of money, so our dietitian asked me to mix oatmeal with protein, and I had to eat a BIG bowl twice a day. It was so hard for me….but I had a job to do.

Q: Do you take any workout supplements – if so, which ones & why?

Nothing special: a protein shake if I am hungry, or if it is a snack time, Omega-3, and vitamin D.  When traveling – melatonin.

Q: What keeps you progressing/committed/moving forward?

Now my motivation is understanding that no one did things that I have done in weightlifting, and some of my upcoming projects will be the first to be done in the sport.

Q: What was the largest hurdle you’ve had to overcome? How did you overcome it? 

Maybe it will sound too funny or stupid, but during the last 7 years the largest hurdle for me was studying of the English language. Now I am happy that I can speak three languages.

(editor’s note:  this is amazing – your English is 100% better than my Ukranian)

(Relating to lifting specifically) It can be a separate book about this. As I said, I always had a problem with snatch (second pull and power position phase). When I had my C&J up to 235 KG (517 LB), my snatch was 180 KG (396 LB), and very unstable. It was not because a lack of power – I just couldn’t manage myself after bar passed the knees: no understanding, no confidence – yes it is true. So my coach Mikhailo Matsekha said: “to solve this problem, we need to stop lifting big weight and focus on details and conscious lifting – I don’t know how long will it take, or if it will give any results.”  So, I decided to try, and it took me 6 months: 2 months – million of sets of snatch drills on 20-40 kg (44 to 88 LB), 2 months – million of sets of snatch drills on 20-120 kg (44 to 264 LB), 2 months – attempts to lift heavier. We had some shitty days – like, not any lifts the when coach said to me – “good”.  Imagine this: me in the camp of our national team – I had at least 2-3 teammates and rivals, they are lifting heavy, and I lift 40 kg (88LB), and my coach said – it is not a good movement!  It is difficult to realize how hard it was. But in 6 months, I had a progress in my snatch, and +18 kg on the competition. Trust me, I didn’t become stronger, but it was a huge development in my technical preparation.

(editor’s note:  this is incredible – I can’t fathom how difficult this would be mentally.  You are preparing to compete on the world’s stage, and your coach is telling you to start from square one.  The amount of mental strength Oleksiy exhibited is astounding.  This is the definition of no-ego – and putting trust in your coach.  Would other athletes be willing to do the same?)

Q: If you could give only 3 pieces of advice to every athlete, what would they be?

  1. Dream BIG
  2. Be patient
  3. Work hard

Q: Do you have any tips for athletes who are just staring Olympic lifts? As you know, there is a steep learning curve and some athletes don’t have access to 1-1 coaching. 

I often say this to beginners: Your best friend is a PVC pipe – it takes at least one year to learn your body, and how to move. There is no need to become stronger if your movement skill is low. Try to find a coach – a view from the side is always more objective, and helpful. One of my main projects now is creating an interactive snatch manual, with video and text explanations, tasks and tests. I believe it will help a lot of athletes of all levels who have no possibility to work 1-1 with a coach.

Q: What is one thing you know about Olympic lifting that others do not?

Believe it or not, but others do not know my personal experience, and this is the thing that I share on my seminars and in social media. I hope it will help other athletes to go further than me and my generation.

(ok Oleksiy….keep your secrets! 🙂 )

Q: Do you have a favorite saying?

Of course: Warm Body Cold Mind

Source: Oleksiy Torokhity

Edited by Strength.com Editorial team