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A Day In The Life Of 17-Year-Old Weightlifting Phenom CJ Cummings

By Darci Miller | July 20, 2017, 3:44 p.m. (ET)


Each month, Team USA Awards presented by Dow celebrates outstanding achievements of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Weightlifter CJ Cummings won Male Athlete of the Month for June 2017, during which he won his fourth consecutive world title and extended a year-long winning streak. In Cummings' Diamond Club feature, presented by Dow, he gives a peek into the daily life of a world-class weightlifter.


CJ Cummings competes at the IWF Junior World Championships on June 18, 2017 in Tokyo.

CJ Cummings is an undisputed star of USA Weightlifting. He's currently riding a winning streak of more than a year, dating back to June of 2016, and just recently won his fourth consecutive youth or junior world title in the 69 kg. division. His streak started when he became the first U.S. weightlifter since 1994 to set a world record.

He's also just 17 years old.

He's nearly unbeatable at the youth world level and currently holds the world record in his weight class, but out of the gym, Cummings is just a regular teenager who spends his summer days at the pool with friends, eating French fries and working a part-time job.

Cummings spoke to TeamUSA.org about his daily schedule, and how one of the strongest men in America balances work and play.

Download the Team USA app today for breaking news, Olympic and Paralympic team bios, videos and more.


6:50 a.m.: Cummings’ alarm goes off. He keeps the same wake-up time Monday through Friday throughout the year – he gets weekends off to sleep in a little later.

“During the school year I get up to [the alarm] every day, but during the summertime, sometimes I’ll snooze,” he said.

After he wakes up, Cummings eats a breakfast consisting of eggs, toast, a banana, and juice or water.

8:15 a.m.: Cummings heads to the gym. He has training every weekday, and when he’s not in school, these sessions are in the morning. During the school year, when his school day starts at 8:45 a.m., his training is moved to the afternoon.

When he gets to the gym, Cummings suits up, putting on his knee sleeves, shoes and wrist straps, and does some stretches. His coach Ray Jones will have texted him his workout already – “he wakes up at 3in the morning, so I usually have my workout at 3 in the morning” – so as soon as he feels ready, he’ll simply look at his phone and jump right in. He follows along with his workout via text until his coach arrives shortly before the training session is scheduled to begin.

9:00-11:00 a.m.: Cummings trains for about two hours a day. His usual training group is himself, his coach and about seven other athletes – plus the CrossFit class across the gym.

“We don’t play music at our gym, but the CrossFit class next door plays music and we can hear it,” he said.

His workouts vary on a daily basis. One day he may be training snatch – his favorite lift – and doing snatch exercises, while the next day will be focused on the clean and jerk. The varying workouts will also determine the length of the training session, as shorter workouts mean getting to leave the gym as early as 10:30 a.m.

Training also varies based on the time of the year, whether it’s competition season or the offseason. Cummings is currently training for the American Open, but when he doesn’t have a competition coming up, he’ll typically do more squats and volume exercises to build muscle through his legs, upper body and core. When’s he’s in a cycle and gearing up for a competition, he backs off of the volume training and focuses more on the specific lifts.

11:00 a.m.: Done with training for the day, Cummings will pick up his girlfriend and head out for an afternoon of leisure time.

“We go swimming, roller skating or to a trampoline park – something to stay active,” he said.

Three days a week, Cummings works a part-time job at a local movie theater. Timing varies, but his preferred shift is 11-6.

“I like it, it’s fun. It’s pretty laid-back,” he said. “It’s a good job, but it does have its challenges.”

One of those challenges is working during the school year. After school, he trains from 4-5:30 p.m., and then heads to work for a 6-9 shift.

1:30 p.m.: Cummings will have lunch between 1 and 2 each afternoon. He usually eats at home and, though he says he’ll eat what he’s craving, sticks to mostly healthier options like grilled chicken and vegetables.

7:00 p.m.: Cummings usually comes home for dinner and eats with his family. During the summer – and when there’s some time before a competition – they will eat out more often, but Cummings enjoys home cooking just as much. His favorite meals include tacos and French fries, and the family will occasionally splurge on ice cream for dessert.

After dinner is when he begins his daily post-training recovery. He has a Marc Pro Plus machine, which is an EMS device used to help reduce muscle fatigue and soreness, and he also takes an ice bath and a cold shower each night before he gets ready for bed.

10:30 p.m.: Cummings begins getting ready for bed. After his shower and recovery, he’ll watch Netflix until he falls asleep.

“Right now I’m watching Family Guy,” he said. “That’s usually what I put on to fall asleep to.”

11:00 p.m.: Lights out! Cummings tries to be asleep before 11 each night so he’s rested and ready to do it all again the next day.

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Clarence (CJ) Cummings, Jr.