Here is the interview I did with Mohamed Ehab while I visited him in Cairo for the ATG on Tour Series.
It took place on on a Tuesday night after Mohamed had his massage done. We sat down for almost 4 hours (having dinner in between). Big thanks to Timour Belatbi who did the simultaneous translations. Without him it would not have been possible.
And of course also a huge thanks to Mohamed himself for being so open (no question was off limits) and having so much patience with us. I can’t think of many athletes that would have done the same!
This is most likely going to be a three part series.
- Part 1: Serves as a short 10 minute introduction (Early Life/ Upbringing/ Getting into Weightlifting)
- Part 2: is about his approach to training, past competitions (London/ Almaty /Houston), funding in Egypt
- Part 3: all about training, your questions
Press the CC button for subtitles.
Part 3, Training Details – Maxing Out, Visualization, Recovery
Okay I think now to the training questions from the audience. Maybe an outline of what his training looks like Monday through Sunday. What are the key points in a training week?
During a month there are 2 weeks in which they have to max out.
He wants to talk about the monthly training, then he’ll talk about the weekly.
During a month there are 2 weeks in which they have to max out.
Basically in order for these 2 weeks to work fine –
Are these consecutive weeks?
No, that’s the second week and the last week of the month.
If we talk about the month the first week is around 70%, the second we could go up to 85-90%. Third week you go back to 70% or even lower. Fourth week you go up to 95-100%.
Yeah the same goes with monthly training.
If it’s a 4 month span. It goes little to medium training for the first month. Then you go up the second, then you go down and then you go up again for the fourth month.
When we talk about the weekly training it’s the same, almost the same format. You got seven days 2 which are off.
So you want to max out twice a week. So basically you want to make sure that the first day is relatively light. Then second goes heavy. Then you go light and then you go up heavy again. So the same format for a monthly span or weekly span.
He also would like to add about playing around with the training format.
Again we give you general rules of thumb, and you just make music. So you got strength training, you got endurance and you have
technique. You could have technique training in the beginning of the week or at the end when you’re tired.
Like you would like to check out how good are you going to perform at the end of the week in terms of technique. Maybe he could add
strength at the end to see, you’re very tired, let’s push it, let’s push it to the limit.
He is saying the number one challenge in weightlifting is to break the routine, not to keep it routine, not to have the athlete get bored from training. You have to keep it challenging, you have to keep it interesting all the time.
You have to change it up. You have to have the athlete challenge himself during training.
There’s no such thing as a program that once I write it for you that’s that’s your program for life.
No! They change all the time.
Very popular question: What’s your favorite and least favorite exercise? As in the classical lifts – Snatch, Clean and Jerk?
I do not allow myself to like something more than the other you know because again the goal, the initial goal and the final goal is to have a grand total, a big total.
So if I like the snatch for example more than the clean I could keep focus on it and then lose my clean or the exact opposite, if I keep cleaning lose my snatch so what I have to do is balance them both and work on the goal which is a grand total.
And for the for the non classical lifts? Maybe he likes lifting from the blocks or something along those lines.
For the non-traditional or classical movements he loves to jerk off the blocks, without cleaning. He would like to take it off the blocks and jerk it overhead. He also likes to challenge himself in the training.
For example: If you can’t put up certain numbers he’ll keep going the two hours, complete two hours, until he gets it. Yeah he just likes to do that.
And least favorite exercise?
He likes it when someone says that he won’t be able to do it, because that’s when he actually does it. He likes to avoid maxing out when he is fatigued. Because that’s when you are the least concentrated. That’s when you’re prone to injuries and that’s a huge risk so he likes to avoid maxing out when he is fatigued.
But he has no least favorite exercise?
No, because anything hard he likes to do. He doesn’t like it when someone considers a certain exercise hard on him. When the coach sees that it’s hard on him and he’s like ‘ok you can stop’, he just keeps going, get the maximum out of everything.
Talking about warm up. I saw him warm warm up, I filmed some warm up and it’s usually a circle. Someone from the team is chosen to lead the group] warm up. Any other specific things he focuses on in his warm up? Is there an area he takes extra caution with?
He likes to take extra care of his shoulders, because even when you go way back to his wrestling days he had issues with his shoulders.
They weren’t flexible enough they weren’t, mobile enough and that affected his weightlifting. There was a time when he could clean a weight 10 times in a row, but he couldn’t jerk it.
So he took extra care of his shoulders and till today he likes to pay close attention to it during the warm-up.
How much time does stretching take in his routine? How important is it for him?
The most important thing weightlifting is being flexible and being mobile.And then someone asks ‘How does he mentally focus before a heavy snatch?’ – This should probably be an extra question.
The most important thing weightlifting is being flexible and being mobile. So in order to achieve big numbers you have to always be flexible and mobile.
In order to know how much time exactly you need for stretching, imagine that your body is like metal.
In order for a blacksmith to create something out of medal he has to warm it up very, very, very hot. Like he puts it in fire, then he makes whatever he wants out of it.
Exactly the same goes for your body. You warm up well and then you do whatever you want with your body.
Once it’s warm you can you can achieve whatever you want so if it’s ten minutes before training, it goes the double after training. If it’s ten minutes so it’s twenty minutes after training and there’s the average.
How does he mentally focus before a heavy snatch or a jerk?
Visualize and Execute
He likes to use the technique of visualization. He visualizes that he already snatched that heavy snatch or cleaned that heavy clean prior to competition a thousand times. He visualizes it during practice.
If it’s a light snatch that he’s going to do, he visualizes that it’s that heavy snatch during the match, during the game day, during Houston, during the Olympics, during whatever competition. So it’s a thing of visualization.
The more you visualize and the more you get into the atmosphere where you imagine yourself lifting that or that number basically you don’t have to think about it any longer during the lift itself.
It’s kind of like a car, a vehicle. The manufacturer already plans for it too to be as fast as 100 km/h or 200 or 300, but the driver does not know it. So the driver keeps driving slow or as fast as he thinks he could go, but you have to understand that you have the capability or the car that can actually go a lot faster.
So once you realize that you’ll be able to visualize and then you’ll be able to execute.
Then we have a question here: ‘What mental cues does he use for himself when performing the lifts?’
Basically about mental cues: he doesn’t doesn’t use any. And if anybody tells you that they use mental cues they’re probably not telling you the truth, because you use mental cues up to like sixty percent of your weight. Then comes in your special talent, your thing, like your trademark move, your trademark high pull, your trademark contact with the bar, hip extension, hip thrusts.
It’s all about you.
So there’s no mental cue. You just do the lift. You can’t answer questions in the test if you didn’t study. Even if you talk to the coaches they never talk about technique during competition. Their their job at the competition is to pump you up to motivate you, but they never talked about technique,because technique and tweaking technique and using all these kind of mental cues to better your technique belongs in practice / in training.
During game day it’s you.
What are his thoughts on flinging his head backwards vs. trying to stay on the horizon when doing his pull?
What he’s saying is, there’s no rule about throwing your head back or keeping it on the horizon.
And there is no secret formula to winning a medal whether you keep your head forward or throw it back. It’s just a question of God’s creation. God created you extra flexible or with less flexibility. So it all depends on on your built, how you’re built.
If you look at the Chinese for example, not all of them are the same. You have people that throw their head back people that keep it on the horizon. People that move their feet when they’re stretching. People that keep their feet dead on the ground when they’re snatching and cleaning.
So if you look at Lu Xiaojun he has one technique. If you look at Liao Hui he has another technique. So we’re all different.
It’s not a question of throwing your head backwards or sideways. It’s a question of doing your work.
How does his coach program squats for strength when he needs it? Then the follow up is: How many times a week does he back or front squat? How heavy? How many he sets / reps?
There is no secret way to program squats or strength training. It’s a question of having PR numbers and those numbers are strictly for the coach. Not even for the player, because the coach uses these numbers to determine the progress of what he already did. Like if next week we have a PR squat that’s because we want to determine how strong we got during our work this week.
So it’s to determine how well you have worked and basically not all PRs are PRs.
For example if I did a 95% of my PR but I was super tired so that is a PR! Because if I wasn’t tired I would have doubled that number.
It’s strength with purpose
So basically about PRs: the coach has four very important concepts that he works on.
It’s strength and strength with purpose. For example you could be very strong. You could have very strong legs, but you can’t clean. So what’s the purpose there? You have to have strength with purpose.
The second point is that you have to be very very cautious about technique, because one little tweak can change the whole lift.
The third point is self motivation and also the athlete’s state of mind. The athlete has to have a clear state of mind and he always has to keep his confidence and that’s up to the coach. Because if you didn’t have a great day you might lose your
So it’s the coach’s job to get you back on top and the most important point is believing in yourself. That you can actually lift that lift, because the body gets its order from the brain. So if the brain doesn’t believe then the body won’t do it.
So you always have to believe. So of the three points that we talked about, the most important point is believing and that’s also up to the coach.
Is there a set number of sets or reps or how many times a week he has front vs. back squats?
Again it’s not about how many sets or how many reps do, because again the most important part of the squat development exercise is to develop greater technique and greater strength and to have better numbers.
So you can basically squat all you want. You can squat, back squats, front squats, max it out every day, but then you’ll find yourself with bad knees bad joints. So what’s good about that?
You have to make sure that the squats serve the athlete. An athlete like myself or any other athlete who is aiming for olympic gold or world world records, it’s not a question of one year training. It’s a question of a lot of years.
Like this year I could be great.
Next year if I’m not careful enough I could be staying at home. So like any programming for squats I have to make sure that it’s safe and that it’s serving my technique.
People saw the video where you did these dead front or back squats or quarter squats. Do these have a purpose in an amateur weightlifter’s training?
Basically this exercises is an isometric exercise and its purpose is to strengthen the muscle and to keep it in tone and to have endurance. For example when you do dead point squats or any any type of exercise with a pause in it, it transforms the muscle. It allows it to develop in ways that you can’t imagine and it actually serves the purpose that the muscle becomes so strong that it could work without the need of a lot of oxygen to pass through it.
So it serves a big purpose for amateurs and professionals. A lot of people, a lot of athletes lose medals because of that.
Like their muscles are not used to that kind of pause at that kind of position. So basically they’re cleaning in new number or a new record and they just cant do it because the muscle is not in tone enough. So of course it’s very important.
What’s the most underdeveloped aspect, be it mental or physical, of an elite weightlifter and how would he advice an amateur weightlifter or coaches to improve this underdeveloped aspect?
What he thinks is an underdeveloped aspect in weightlifters is the negative contraction of a muscle [he means the negative portion of a lift].
For example what you can do to develop that aspect is to always work with pauses or in the negative return like when you do a high pull you don’t just drop the weight you just go slowly downwards to develop the opposite muscle of the muscle that is working. So again negative contraction that’s the thing that is really underdeveloped in lifters.
That’s what he thinks.
Coaches never program that. It’s never on paper. They cannot calculate it, but if an athlete works on it he’ll find that if a muscle that is working on a certain lift if the opposite muscle is strong as well, the lift gains overall strength
Somebody asks … Or maybe we do the triceps question first…
How much direct triceps work does he do?
Basically he’s taken us back to his old story about not being able to jerk.
That attracted his attention to to his elbows. His elbows always used to bend on a lot of lifts. So in order to strengthen
that point he had to strengthen his triceps, because the triceps is the lock of the door. When you open a door it needs a lock to be unlocked. So the triceps is the lock.
Once you extend you look at what the triceps you see. So basically he pays a lot of attention to shoulders as well
as triceps and that’s also a thing that that is very good and weightlifting that coaches also pay attention and cooperate with athletes about a lot of exercises, because some exercises, if we strengthen a muscle here let’s say [gestures range of motion]. It might serve me, but it won’t serve you.
So if it serves one athlete it doesn’t automatically mean it will serve another athlete. What we do is we cooperate with the coach and we know each other’s strengths points and weak points and we may translate it into programming.
That turned out to be a good question. I didn’t expect that from a triceps question.
Somebody asks: “Where does he get his energy from?” (except from basbousa …)
[thinks for a moment]
From Allah [smiles]
What he does is, he imagines his father being around him and his family being around him, because he’s always traveling. The people that inspire him, he imagines that they’re with him in the room or in the arena where he’s about to lift and they’re motivating him and it helps them a lot.
So he uses imagination and also sometimes when he loses inspiration he goes back to old videos. Like if he has a video of a
record lift, he just goes back re-analyzes it, gets inspired off of it and what he says about finding energy, it’s very important and it’s like a battery that needs recharging all the time.
And it as well is very important to recharge it. You need to understand that it gets it gets emptied a lot. It empties daily and you have to recharge it. So it’s very important, just as training, to stay motivated and to stay focused and to be on top.
What’s up with the crazy multiple empty barbell combos? Does he have a name for it?
The whole story with the empty bars thing, it’s actually the scientific.
It’s not just to show off. Its very scientific. It’s a method that I was educated on in the academy and it’s actually it’s very serious.
It’s to develop a stabilisation system for the body, because there’s all sorts of stabilization methods. There’s horizontal, there’s vertical, there’s all sorts of stabilisation. So he likes to work on using these bars and using these positions, because as we spoke before when you do something and you pause the muscle gains strength that it cannot gain from a
When you pause even for one minute you can gain strength that you can never gain from a heavy lift.
So this is work that I like to pay attention to and it’s very important.
He doesn’t have any names for them, but what he can tell you is that when you use that amount of muscles you can track [activate] them all in one go and pause and you keep holding and you keep fighting, it takes out a lot of energy and he could get cramps the next day! You know, that’s how hard it is.
… and it looks good.
I remember him saying, when he did one, he said “In my mind 100 more of these!”.
Even the coaches they’re very positive about it once they see an athlete doing something that is developing him they don’t mind.
That plays into the next question about creativity, because he is always creative when it comes to exercise variations.
How does he come up with that? Does he think about what he could do differently or does he just play around sometimes after training?
That takes us back to what he said at first: General rules of thumb.
You get these rules and you just play with them so you make music. He is talking about the jerk for example. You have basic rules of jerking, but in training you do variations.
You could push press, you could push jerk, you could just keep the bar on your shoulders and just move your feet. Like just the split jerk. You could split jerk, you could squat jerk. There is all sorts of tools and rules that you can work with.
You could work two rules at the same time. You could work 3 different rules or you could work with five or you could work with one.
So that’s the main objective: to break the routine and to use all the instruments that are given to you by weightlifting,
to translate them into good lifts, heavy lifts.
We haven’t touched on the nutrition part. It’s not training, but I think to wrap it up …
Recovery: Nutrition & Sleep
Basically there’s no secret to nutrition.
You do a study. You study what kind of training you have. If its endurance training, like it’s gonna be a long training session then you obviously need a lot of carbohydrates, sugars.
If you’re doing speed training you just take a little of everything.
A little carbs, a little sugar and the most important part is the protein.
Protein is basically the foundation of our game and it rebuilds muscle. It helps to regenerate lost tissue. And basically vitamins are very important as well.
Also about recovery: Sleep. How many hours per day does he sleep? Does he use sleeping aids of some kind?
There is always the stable amount of hours that you need, which is 8. You need to sleep 8 hours.
But there are also hours that you need in order to relax. Total rest. Even if you are not going to sleep.
In the national team we have training twice daily. So obviously between both training sessions there is
an hour or two just for rest, total the rest.
When it comes to days off, it doesn’t have to be total rest as in sleeping, but it has to be total rest outside the
world of weightlifting, to get your mind off weightlifting. Don’t even watch videos of weightlifting in order for the brain to reboot.
Not only do the body, the brain needs to reboot too, because everything has a battery and the battery needs to get recharged.
And does he use sleeping aids?
No he doesn’t use sleeping aids, but what he recommends is to avoid caffeine, because caffeine is like … – or at least to limit it – because caffein could get to a level at which you’re just addicted and you can’t train without a certain amount of caffeine in your body.
So we do not want to get addicted, because that could translate into bad numbers. So what you want to do is – even if you drink a little bit of caffeine – every now and then you need to cut it off.
Ok, then we have the question about his favorite lifter. Does he have any?
He answered the question in two answers.
The first one was that he likes a bit of everyone. He likes to look at Tian Tao, 85kg. He likes to look at Lu, 77kg, but each athlete has positive sides and negative sides.
For example both work a lot on their legs when they don’t even need any more power in their legs. So that’s an example, but if we talk about my personal favorite… it has to be Hossein Rezazadeh!
Absolute world champion, absolute athlete, that has achieved everything for his country and as a person and he’s he’s just superb.
I actually look up to him.
And he has met him I think, right?
Then one of the last questions was …. uhmmmmm my battery is at 2%
Timour: I think we covered a lot
Mohamed: Are you tired???
Some people asked about Nike vs. Adidas, switching from one brand to the other.
The transition happened when he transitioned from 69kg to 77kg when he became heavier he could go up to 79kg during training so he became a lot heavier.
So most of his weight goes forward. So it became a lot harder to control himself with the Romaleos, because of the heel. So he had to then find a shoe that would make him comfortable, with heels not very low and not very high.
At the same time the Nikes were very heavy, so the Adidas are a bit lighter. A lot lighter actually.
There’s an 800 gram difference. The Adidas are 1kg. The Romaleos are 1600-1800g [Romaleos 1 I think].
And then I guess the last question is: What does he do for recovery after weighing in at competitions?
Timour: This is a question that you didn’t asked, but I asked. What I asked him was “Do you lose weight for competition?”
He is like “No, I don’t”. He doesn’t lose weight. So I asked him you are 79kg, or 80kg. He’s like that’s when you know
where the weights fro, because if I know where the weight is from I don’t need to lose it, I just need to cut whatever I’m doing and I’ll lose the weight.
Other athletes they don’t know where the weight is from. So they need to lose weight. They stop eating. So they need to recover.
But he never needs to recover, because he’s fine.
Like he gains the weight by drinking water, adding extra protein, adding extra vitamins. So once he just cuts that he is back to normal. But others, they don’t know where the weight is from, because they don’t change, they’re not new in the category.
You see that’s their normal body weight so when they get a bit fatter, they need to lose the weight. He doesn’t.
The thing was with him transitioning to the 77kg was that he did tests. He was examined by doctors and their investigation concluded that if he stays at 69kg he won’t progress that much, because he’s going to lose a lot of red blood cells, a lot of oxygen, a lot of glycogen so he wouldn’t perform as well.
So if he transitions to the 77kg he will progress a lot faster and a lot better. Now when he when he passes tests and they investigate again once he just loses this extra weight he’s down to 76kg and he’s fine.
What he does to recover from after weighing in at a competition is that he he actually prepares himself properly.
He eats properly the day before. He eats properly for breakfast during the day when he’s going to weigh in. So there’s not much to recover from. Basically what he has is a hydration pack and just a couple of simple sugars to get his energy back and not to lose energy and that’s it. He doesn’t need to recover much from from weighing in.
Last last competition in Houston the Koreans had their own cook, their own food and the Chinese had their own
food as well.
Him, he only had his juice and a couple of a couple of meals nothing more. Because he believes that the more food you have in your stomach the more the more blood flow will flow to the stomach.
But during game day we need blood flow to the brain in order to focus. So basically if you have more blood in your stomach and you’re not focusing then you’re just going to bomb out.
Well I guess that’s it …
Mohamed: That’s it?? Finished?
Finished! Thanks for doing, thanks for taking the time!
Part 2, Training, Past Competitions, Funding
Transcript for Part 2
So people are obviously very interested in training. They have tons of training questions.
I know you told me you did your own programming for a while, without a personal coach. How was your success with that?
So basically he used to face the challenge of programming for himself, because during juniors period he used to have a lot of exams a lot of studies that he had to attend. So he had to skip a lot of training sessions and a lot of competitions with the national team.
So this would lead to him just programming for himself. He would use any knowledge that he could gain from his coaches and from the studies in the academy and he would translate it into his programs.
Compared to when he was younger how did his training change as he grew older?
Basically it’s not as easy as everyone thinks. He is saying that sometimes when you’re heavy, like the heavier you get, it’s hard to even approach the numbers that you used to do when you were lighter.
So it’s not like you got heavier so you’re automatically going to snatch heavier. No, your muscles need to adapt. Your whole life changes, your mentality changes, because now you’re totally different. So it takes a lot of adaptation and you get fatigued easier. The heavier you are the easier to get fatigued.
Quick question will you ever compete at 85 kg?
No, he’s planning to stay at 77kg and you won’t stop until he breaks records.
So basically this year and then move up 🙂
What he’s saying is that if we talk in all seriousness he’s not in a hurry and it’s a very complicated subjects (breaking records). It Depends on the conditions, sponsors.
Right now he has only one sponsor company, which is helping and he saying, that this could be enough to achieve something huge but it might not be enough to achieve something historic.
This might be a good time to bring up another topic: the whole sponsorship situation and how the funding in Egypt works.
He is saying that his deal with his sponsor, the company, is that whenever he’s not with the national team they help with nutrition, vitamins and some finances. When he’s with the national team he gets financed exactly 3000 Egyptian pounds, which is the equivalent of a little less than $1000 US [correction it’s actually around $340 US at the moment].
And whenever he needs vitamins or a special kind of nutrition they provide that, but that’s it.
Should I go ahead with the government, should ask about the government?
It depends on what we are competing for.
If we are competing for an arab competition, like the Mediterranean on the Arab competitions, basically the support from the government is very minimal. If we are competing for world championships it’s obviously bigger.
If we are competing for the Olympics you see the support that we have right now.
We are talking about the arenas hotels, nutrition. Because the more they believe their athletes are capable of winning a medal the more they support them.
And right now we have the best support in Egypt’s history.
Back to training… or maybe we should touch the on medal tax situation right now. – Sure why not.
He basically got three medals out of Houston. [Mohamed interrupts and corrects that he’s talking about Kazakhstan Almaty world championships]
His medal in the total, which was silver, was the only one that didn’t get taxed.
The other, the silver and bronze, were taxed by 25%.
This was very discouraging to Mohamed because you can’t negotiate something that was won for the country. You should encourage the athletes to continue and not have them drop down in motivation.
Especially considering that Mohammed Ehssan had one medal and didn’t get taxed on it.
Back to training, how far in advance is your training program planned?
For Olympics They know the program seven months ahead.Basically it’s planned seven months ahead.
They know the program seven months ahead. But here we are talking about the Olympics.
So the coach meets up with the team takes them through the whole program for the next seven months. They get a copy of the program.
But that’s not where they stop. They plan each session, each day, each week and they have to do a lot of preparation, because sometimes they get days off.
When they get days off they need to know what’s going to happen next week.
Because if next week is going to be heavy training with the national team they’re not supposed to go through heavy training this week just because they had days off [before that].
So it’s all planned very carefully. They have the exact percentages, the exact amount of training, the weights, everything.
What happens in case he has a bad day and weights are feeling heavy? What wiggle room is there when it comes to modifying his program?
If it’s a bad day that’s not an issue at all for him or the coaches.
They are very flexible when it comes to that, because we are talking about huge stakes. They can’t take a risk. They have to stay healthy, they have to stay safe.
And you can always make it up in another session.
Mohamed is saying the training is not a [fixed] rule book. It’s a program to make you better.
if I can’t snatch whatever number today, fine I’ll snatch it another day.So if today is not good I could give it an extra effort, but I need to stay on the safe side!
If tomorrow we have rest or a sauna session or massage session, yeah I could risk it today, because tomorrow I’ll be fine.
But if tomorrow is an even heavier day then I need to tone it down today.
And if I can’t snatch whatever number today, fine I’ll snatch it another day.
London 2012, Almaty, Houston, Rio
What happened in your preparation for the London Olympic Games?
What happened was that this was the time of the January revolution in Egypt, when the old president Mubarak was ousted.
All of the athletes we are relieved, everyone was training on their own. So he had to purchase vitamins supplements on his own. He purchased this specific vitamin that had banned substances in it.
Not contaminated, but it had something banned in it.
So he tested positive for the banned substance and he was disqualified for two years.
Was it an in competition or out of competition test?
It was one month after nationals. Not during competition. It was a surprise test, four months before the Olympics.
So Liao Hui stayed at home, you stayed at home …
The whole situation told him to be more careful. This disqualification taught him how to always check the contents of the supplements.
And with the help of his brother, who works in pharmaceuticals, they check all the contents, making sure they’re not banned.
He doesn’t purchase any more vitamins on his own. He always consults his brother before purchasing anything just to stay clean and avoid any problems. So he doesn’t face the same situation again.
Does he remember what it was? What substance he got banned for?
At the time, because of the shock, he didn’t pay much attention to what it was and just let his brother take care of the case and investigations.
But it was, without a doubt, a hormone or some testosterone of some type.
OK, then on to Kazakhstan.
Timour: so we can check the difference between Kazakhstan and Houston?
That’s a good idea.
That was the turning point for him, because that’s when he graduated. So he was basically totally free for training and preparations.
So he started a training program and supplementation program. But this time he was careful, his brother was taking care of the supplements and anything pharmaceutical.
And also he started releasing videos and you obviously are aware. That was the start for him. Actually he got his professional club deal, the team he joined in his hometown Faiyum, through the videos they actually saw.
So they made him join. And that’s when he started preparing for Kazakhstan.
And from the national team side their position was like: “How can someone put up all of these numbers without a professional coach and professional supervision?”.
Basically he was coaching himself and everyone knew that. So they were very surprised.
That resulted in four random tests in order for him to rejoin the national team.
Obviously he passed right?
Yeah, he passed all four.
So that was Kazakhstan. What changed in his preparation leading up to Houston?
What he’s saying is that Kazakhstan in comparison to Houston had the challenge of proving himself / his worth, proving his level to the world. Not only to the world, but first of all he had to prove himself to all of Egypt, with all the doubt involved and all the little support that he got.
Basically Kazakhstan for him was London, because he didn’t get a chance to go to London.
In training, his coach at the time, used to remind him that the 69kg category is very hard. So they put a poster of all the 69kg athletes behind him.
So when he was training he always had pictures behind him to remind him that these are the people that you’re going to face.
It was very hard, but it was a challenge that he couldn’t not face.
Like that was it! It was his turning point. That’s when he became Mohamed Ehab.
To sum it up, the difference between Houston and Kazakhstan was the financial backing and support from the government.
As much as it was minimal it was very different from Kazakhstan, because this time the government and the ministers and everyone responsible actually realized that Mohamed can achieve something, and something big, not, small.
So they decided that this is the right time to actually start paying more attention.
Backing him up financially and with whatever support is needed, because Houston would eventually lead to an Olympic medal.
If they backed him properly and he performed well in Houston, he would most likely perform well in Rio.
Continued in Part 3
Part 1, Early Life, Getting into Weightlifting
Transcript for Part 1
First we talk a bit about “Who is Mohamed Ehab?”, the second part is mostly training questions and questions from the readers, more detailed stuff.
What part of Egypt did you grow up in?
What kind of town is it is it small town or big town? How far away from Cairo is it?
It’s actually not very small but he’s living in the center of the town.
It’s around two hours from Cairo.
What was your childhood like what did your parents do?
His parents were very academic.
His father was a researcher and his mother was in the science Academy, in the chemistry department.
What kind of research did his father do?
He was the dean of the agricultural university.
What was your childhood like? Were you an active child or were you more shy?
What he’s saying basically is that his father was into weightlifting. So they had a very active childhood. Actually they were in a friendly family competition type of childhood because his brother was also weightlifting.
He saying that they didn’t call him dad they called him coach.
So they would always be in friendly competitions. Their mom would cook more for the one who had a new PR.
How many brothers does he have or does he have sisters too?
He saying they were five boys. And recently, last year, he lost one of them in an accident.
It was easy for him to become a weightlifter because he was in a sports school.
It’s like an academy where they just eat, sleep, train and study.
But the rest of his brothers they didn’t have it easy. Some of them where in school, some of them went to university. So basically his youngest brother also joined the sports academy. So Mohamed is trying to make it easier for his brother to become a weightlifter.
So Mohamed is not the youngest child, he’s in the middle?
He is saying no. His younger brother was born in 2001. They’re expecting him to do well in the youth Olympics.
He’s a weightlifter? What’s his name?
Yes! He’s saying expect a medal from him.
His name is Shawky Ehab. He is actually heavier than Mohamed. He was born in 2001 and is 80 kg.
He (Mohamed) is trying to ease the whole situation for his brother to become a weightlifter. He took care of him since his childhood.
Let’s transition into the beginnings of Mohamed’s weightlifting. When did he first see weightlifting?
He was eight years old and one of his brothers took him to the gym and his coach saw that Mohamed was well-built, powerful and it all started from there.
The coach told him to come three times a week and the rest is history.
And before that you (Timour) told me he was a wrestler?
Yes, he was a wrestler and was doing wrestling alongside weightlifting. It was three days weightlifting, three days wrestling per week.
During the time he was weightlifting with five people on one platform, one bar. The others were a lot older than him, but he was a lot better and lifted more than them.
But he couldn’t compete because his weight was too low and his age was too young. They were older so they would compete, but Mohamed wouldn’t. He would train wrestling alongside weightlifting.
He actually competed in nationals and he won.
What age was he around that time?
He was around eight and competed at nationals when he was around 10. And he kept competing until in wrestling until he was fourteen.
Then at what age did he join the national team in weightlifting?
At 15 he had a regional tournament. He entered the competition alongside the academy team. They were a team of eight and he prevailed at all the weights they set for him.
Like they set you a certain amount of weight that you had to pass. So he actually out snatched and out clean and jerked everyone.
And so he joined. He was only one joining the national team (at 15 and a half).
What where the struggles of training in the national team at the beginning?
He saying that the conditions where all on his side, because he was the only one in his weight category at this time in the team.
So everyone was helping him.
He was very lucky to join a team. His father was very proud of him.
As much as the conditions were good it wasn’t perfect either. Because at the same time he had to race against the clock.
Each year he had to prove himself / his position in the team.
Because in the team if you don’t prove that you’re worth it this year, you’ll easily be replaced. So as much as the conditions were good, they were very hard as well.
At what body weight did Mohamed enter the national team?
56kg at age 15.5 years old.
He had a 92 kg snatch and 117 kg clean at that time.
At what moment did he set himself the goal to become a serious / professional weightlifter?
Basically when his father passed. He was at a competition and when he came back he was shocked to find out that his father passed.
How old was he at that time?
He was 16.
So when he took time off to reflect and think, he was remembering that his father used to tell him that if you are doing something that you don’t like or love, in the middle you will have struggles. If you don’t love it you’ll quit.
This motivated him to take weightlifting very serious.
Also what motivated him was that his father would be very proud to see where he is right now.
to be continued in Part 2 …
Mohamed Ehab Interview *Part 3 of 3* Training Details! is a post by Gregor Winter from All Things Gym.