Interview With Mona Pretorius de Lacey: International Weightlifter

August 22, 2021

Lift Big Eat Big has had some great interviews with strength sport greats in the past. So, we are going to carry on this tradition to bring you an insight into how high-level strength athletes got into their sport, how they train, and what makes them so great.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mona Pretorius de Lacey. She is an absolute sporting animal competing at the highest level in THREE different sports. I don’t know ANY athlete that has ever done that.

To put it into context, Mona is a 6x Karate World Champion, CrossFit Games competitor, and a Commonwealth Games medalist in Weightlifting.

So let’s get into it!

How Did You Get Into Olympic Weightlifting?

My dad actually got me involved in Weightlifting when I was 12 years old. He has always wanted me to be the best athlete I can possibly be and so he did a ton of research and came across an Olympic Taekwondo team that was doing Olympic weightlifting as part of their preparation.

The next step for him was to try and find me a coach because in the early 2000s no-one wanted to teach youth athletes Weightlifting in South Africa and what made it even worse was there was this stigma around girls lifting weights and how it will make you look like a man.

It took him a while but he ended up getting a coach who made a deal with my father that he will only train me if my math's marks were good enough. He said he didn’t want to work with a dumb athlete.

Needless to say, I made sure my school marks were always good which also helped me get into a good University and studying a degree which helped both myself as an athlete and now I can help other athletes on the mental side of things with Sport Psychology.

Ultimately, I became a 6-time Karate World Champion. I also worked myself up to a 3rd Dan Black belt. This was a huge honor for me and something I did not take lightly. Everything I do I make sure to give my very best.

I had to make a decision between my Karate and Weightlifting at the time and decided to do Weightlifting as my primary sport because it was an Olympic sport and I have always dreamt of representing my country at the Olympics.

My Weightlifting Coach at the time said I was pretty good and should compete in a competition. I ended up missing the junior national championships due to timing and he pulled some strings to get me into the senior national championships to compete as the youngest ever in a senior championship.

I ended up winning gold. The national federation of the South African weightlifting federation selected me to compete in an international competition overseas. When I started traveling overseas and seeing some of my favorite weightlifters compete, made me fall in love with the sport. 21 years later and I am still hooked.

What Is Your Best Weightlifting Total?

211kg (91kg Snatch and 120kg Clean & Jerk) although my best snatch is 93kg. (I did these in separate competitions). I compete in the 64 kg weight class. Previously the 63 kg class before the weight class changes.

What Are Your Best Competition Achievements?

I am the 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist. Prior to this, I’ve been African Champion, Commonwealth Champs gold medalist, University World Championships medalist, and a Youth Olympics medalist.

I’ve also competed in 4 Commonwealth Games and 4 World Championships as well as being the youngest South African Weightlifter to ever compete in a senior international competition.

Turns Out You’re Not Just A Weightlifting Phenom, But You Are Also A CrossFit Games Competitor. How Did You Fall Into CrossFit?

I started CrossFit by accident actually. I never even knew what it was about and one day a CrossFit athlete came to our Weightlifting gym where I was in camp preparing for one of our international competitions, to better his technique.

He was doing some of his gymnastics movements at the end of training and I just joined in. I loved it and started doing it for a fun. I’m way too competitive to do something just for fun and ended up qualifying for the Regionals that same year.

I learned to do a muscle up the same week as the CrossFit Regionals and ended up winning the Regionals which qualified me to go to the CrossFit Games.

It was such an amazing experience and really pushed me out of my comfort zone.

Would You Ever Go Back To Compete In CrossFit?

I have thought about it. It’s definitely something I am considering in the future. I am always looking for some sort of challenge. I guess we will see what the future holds.

Let’s Get Into What Everyone Wants To Know, What Does A Typical Training Week Look Like For You For Weightlifting?

Power Clean

At the moment I would train 6 days a week. I used to do 2 sessions a day but as I got older, I had to cut back on some sessions for better recovery. Normally a session would last around 2 hours excluding some pre-training mobility.

I make sure to rest at least 1 full day where I will just do some walking or mobility so I’m not completely doing nothing. Recovery is also extremely important for me. I make sure to get in enough food and sleep to add to my training recovery.

This is what a typical training week would like for me:


I always start my day of with mobility training. It would be specific to that day of training.

Barbell warm-up.

Snatch specific day.

Sometimes I would do the classical lift or I would do powers to change things up a bit.

A strength exercise is always included like squats and/or pulls.

Post training accessories like dumbbell presses, bent over rows, abs etc.



Barbell Warm-Up to what ever exercise I am starting off first.

Either a power snatch or a power clean & jerk day.


Post training accessories.



Barbell Warm-Up

A power movement + a classical movement and we normally go a bit heavier on this day.

Strength exercise like pulls and squats.

Post training accessories.


Active rest day.


Muscle Snatches/muscle clean + push press.




Barbell Warm-Up.

A power movement + a classical movement and we normally go a bit heavier on this day.

Strength exercise like pulls and squats.

Post training accessories.


Depending on how close I am to a competition but would sometimes make this a heavy snatch and clean & jerk day to mimic the competition day.

Do You Have Any Go-To Exercises To Build A Massive Snatch And Clean & Jerk?

Pulls and Squats including overhead squats. I am a big fan of complexes to create some extra time under tension to increase strength. But, in order to build a massive snatch or clean & jerk you need to also work on the technical side of the classical lifts.

It won’t help you much if you are super strong but you cannot perform the technical lifts. If you are an intermediate or advanced lifter then your strength training needs to be really dialed in in order to make progress.

Any Common Mistakes You See That Are Universal Among Your Clients?

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 25: Mona Pretorius of South Africa competes in the women's 63kg weight class during the 2015 International Weightlifting Federation World Championships at the George R. Brown Convention Center on November 25, 2015 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Every athlete is different which means they will all have their own strengths and weaknesses. That’s what makes coaching so great for me. I love the challenge of working with each and every athlete to help them move better and achieve their goals.

Some will sometimes need work on the technical side of things and be very strong where others might not be so strong and need help to build strengths but have a really good technique.

If there is one trait amongst athletes I see very often, it is they don’t realize how much of patience game weightlifting is.

It takes a very long time to “master” the sport and so many athletes want to skip the baby steps which will cause problems later on in their sporting careers.

What Are Some Common Myths About Olympic Weightlifting You’d Like To Clear Up?

Weightlifting is NOT bad for kids. It’s actually been proven to be one of the safest sports you can do. However, make sure you work with a qualified coach when teaching youngsters Olympic lifts. You do not want to instill bad habits from a young age.

Further, Weightlifting does not hinder your growth! Genetics is the only factor that can play a role there.

Females who lift weights will not start looking like a man or become super bulky. 

Again, genetics plays a role here. Yes, you will build muscle but weightlifting does not turn you into a man. When I was younger, I was told I will turn into a man. People can be so naïve sometimes.

I Know You Have A Passion For Youth In Weightlifting. What Are The Benefits Of Placing Your Kids In This Sport From A Young Age?

I love working with youth athletes. By introducing kids to weightlifting at a young age helps them develop the skill a lot quicker than an adult who has developed stiffness or tightness from other sports.

Weightlifting is such an amazing assistance sport for all sports, it can help youngsters be more explosive and stronger in their other sports. Weightlifting is also a highly skilled sport which can definitely benefit and challenge kids to tap into learning and bettering their coordination.

Weightlifting is an amazing way for kids to meet other kids and build a team environment where athletes learn from each other and build leadership skills.

Depending on the age, I would always make sure the youth athletes have a strong base and can do most bodyweight movements similar to if they had to do gymnastics. It’s very important for young athletes to develop that body strength first before starting to add weights to their bar.

Creating a safe environment for the kids and helping them to learn and have fun at the same time is very important to make sure they want to stay in the sport. After our weightlifting sessions I will always do some sort of skilled game that build team cohesion but also helps them develop skills.

What Advice Do You Have For Those Thinking About Joining The Sport?

Just start. Go online and find a club near you or find an online coach/program. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to learn the skill. Take some time and do some research to make sure you find a coach that is a good fit for you.

What Are Your Future Plans With Weightlifting?

At the moment my main focus is my online Weightlifting business which is now apart of LBEB. You can find all of my coaching services and informational content on the LBEB Weightlifting page. Head over there if you want to learn more about my RAWR Weightlifting team.

I have mainly gone online with my coaching and hoping to do some seminars again in the near future (once COVID is less).

I have been working on my online business for the last couple of years to create programs for all level of athletes. My Weightlifting programs can also be done in conjunction with other sports if you wanted to do it as assistance for a sport like CrossFit.

I also cater for those who want to be competitive in the sport of weightlifting or those who just wants to just challenge themselves to be a better/stronger athlete.

Additionally, I have also created a 10-week beginner program for the complete newbie who wants to learn the lifts and start the sport of weightlifting.

This is my main focus at the moment while I decide what is next for own competitions. I want to be able to give back to athletes what I have learned and experienced in my 21 years of Weightlifting. I have had the opportunity to travel the world and train with some of the best athletes and coaches in the world.

You can follow Mona on her Instagram below. And her YouTube here.

About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

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