23 December, 2002

Improving Speed

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler." -Albert Einstein
Merry Christmas from StrongerAthletes.com

Athletes and coaches are always seeking ways to improve their 40 yard dash. Aside
from genetics, smart strength training and efficient practicing of sprinting the 40 will be two important factors in improving your time.

We suggest the following methods to follow in order to improve your athletes' 40 times:

  • Practice your starts.

  • Practice running using good form.

  • Shed body fat without losing strength in the process.

  • Maintaining flexibility also plays an important factor.

Sounds pretty simple, huh. Based on muscle-fiber recruitment and the development of the fast-twitch muscle fibers, it is false to indicate in any way that lifting in a ballistic fashion will help your sprinting speed. Other gadgets used for resistance running are also not suggested. Do not waste your money and your athletes' time with such training methods.

If you have questions or comments about this web site or strength development or training please drop us a note.

If you aren't sure why ballistic movements aren't going to help your sprinting, read the following related articles:

16 December, 2002

Partial Reps

"I can take it... The tougher it gets, the cooler I get... " - Nixon
Partial reps is another technique used to increase the intensity of a working set. However, we do not advocate using partials reps as an entire set. The box squat
, which is a core lift in the BFS system, is a partial squat. The problem with this exercise and all partial movements is that not as much muscle fiber is recruited during the set. Full range of motion is necessary first in the set and taken to failure will work the maximum amount of muscle fiber. The athlete should use this technique to increase intensity only.

After reaching failure in the full range exercise then perform slow partial reps to failure. Performing them slowly will require fewer reps and really increase the intensity of the set increasing its productivity. Athletes should not use this technique very often or it might lead to overtraining which could slow progress.

Please let us hear your thoughts on this topic.

12 December, 2002

Dear StrongerAthletes.com: Stance on BFS

 "No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office." -George Bernard Shaw

We received this e-mail from Coach Nolan Pettis this week. He wants to know how we feel about the Bigger Faster Stronger training program that is popular with many high school coaches. This also seems to be an area of interest for local coaches here in Missouri, as it has been a popular topic on the local message board.


Do you think that 'Bigger Faster Stronger' is a good strength training program? Also, is your one set to failure program good for increasing size as well as strength?

Nolan Pettis, Track Coach

Coach Pettis,

First, I would like to make it plain that we have nothing against BFS or what they are doing for coaches and athletes. I think they do a great job promoting character issues that are so important when it comes to working with young people.

I used BFS with my former football team. We brought them in to do a clinic and they did an outstanding job getting the kids excited about strength training.

Since that time I was introduced to a philosophy that: 1) I have found to be safer in terms of eliminating the quick lifts, power clean, that is a cornerstone of the BFS program. 2) I have found more efficient in terms of eliminating the multiple sets required by the BFS periodization philosophy. I remember the heavy week called for as many as 5 sets. I have come to learn that 1 set is just as efficient in recruiting muscle fibers and building strength as multiple sets.

Many people are put off by the way BFS markets their product but I personally think they do a wonderful job promoting high school athletics and training. In short, I simply have found a training philosophy that I am more comfortable using with my athletes.

Where I may disagree with BFS's "Bulgarian Secrets" I think they are right on with their leadership development and character development programs. The people that I worked with from BFS are wonderful people and great coaches.

As far as size vs strength... everything I have read indicates that size is more genetic than anything else. Assuming one is following the overload principle their muscles will get bigger. Much of what you hear about lifting for high reps to do this or high weight to do that.. tone this or get cut etc... fall more under the urban myth category than it does strength science. I will try and get some more information about this topic to you.

Hope that helps.


AFCA Clinic

afcaWe are going to be in New Orleans January 5-8 for the American Football Coaches Association National Convention, (as coaches, not sponsors). If any of our readers are planning on attending we would love to visit with you.

If you have questions or comments about this web site or strength development or training please drop us a note at http://strongerathletes101.blogspot.com/contact/

***No Liability is assumed for any information written on the StrongerAthletes.com website. No medical advice is given on exercise. This advice should be obtained from a licensed health-care practitioner. Before anyone begins any exercise program, always consult your doctor. The articles are written by coaches that are giving advice on a safe, productive, and efficient method of strength training.***

07 December, 2002

Year One In Review

 "Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.." -Robert Browning
This week marks the anniversary of our first posting. It has been an awesome experience getting to know many of our readers and learning as much as we have along the way. From the feedback we receive from many of you we feel that this website serves a unique role. We try to present coaches with a sound strength training philosophy and then convince them of why it is sound in a manner that is mature and professional. Many times this past year we have posted the opinions of those who may disagree with our stance on training always giving them their due while at the same time explaining our position. We think this has been productive and useful for many strength coaches who are seeking answers as the develop their own training philosophies.

We feel that our posts fall into one of three categories: Philosophy Fundamentals where we outline what exactly we believe to be elements of safe, productive, and efficient training methods; Olympic Lifting Debate where we continue to answer questions and restate our fundamentals of why we believe these movements are unnecessary for training traditional sport athletes; and Various Reports, Biographies, Announcements I guess this is a catch all. We had our Mystery Guest feature for a while, and we reported on clinics we attended as well as information passed on to us from other readers.

Here is our Top 10 List of our favorite posts from the past year. These represent what we believe to be examples of why we have had so much success over the past 12 months

  • #10: Expressing Power vs Developing Power Who knows how many times we have had to explain this. This is a fundamental cornerstone to how we train our athletes.

  • #9: Father Lange A wonderful snapshot at the history of training.

  • #8: Transfer or Not to Transfer We take a close look at the Prinicple of Specificity.

  • #7: Dr. James Peterson We heard him speak in March. This man has much to give those who will listen.

  • #6: What is Productive & Efficient Training This outlines what we believe many strength coaches overlook... too much time spent in the weight room.

  • #5: Swiss Ball: The Super Tool We really like this one. Stick-Man makes another appearance and we really like Stick-Man.

  • #4: Creatine We felt it was time for others to take a sincere look at what many of today's athletes are putting into their bodies.

  • #3: Risk is Real We think this letter from a reader says a lot about the power strength coaches have and the responsibility that goes with the job.

  • #2: Science & Strength Research A reader wanted a list of where he could find articles that support our philosophies.

  • #1: Potential Injuries Here is where Stick-Man makes his first apperance! Safety... safety...safety. We will maintain that this is the number one responsibility of the strength coach in the weight room.

Thanks to those who have been with us from the beginning as well as those who have discovered us recently. We hope to continue to grow as a website and grow as coaches. Both of which could not be done without your help.

30 November, 2002

Dear StrongerAthletes.com: Slow Training

 "If your not pissing a few people off, raising a few eyebrows, you're not living big enough." -Erin Brockovich
We received this e-mail from Mr. Karoly Haasz concerning the emphasis we put on training at slow speeds. Our comments follow in [Red]...

Just found your site and comments about common sense and speed. I don't know the full range of your views, [We get this a lot and have to restate what we believe again and again. That is OK but when this happens writers always accuse us of being ignorant of fundamentals such as Power=Work/Time but we'll get to that soon enough] but it seems that what you say is contradicted by [some] things... that training has to mirror the event trained for, so it is possible to get stronger with slow weights, in powerlifting, for example. But to train for speed one has to use speed, at least part of the time. [We agree on that however we feel that if an athlete needs to get faster running down a track he should run down a track at high speed... if the athlete needs to get faster at coming off the line of scrimmage he should practice starting off the line of scrimmage at full speed.] I admit that Olympic lifts may not transfer to other event training, but as far as I know no Olympic lifter trains slowly, and theirs is a strength sport... [But Olympic lifting is their sport. That is the movement they need to perfect at high speeds so that is what they practice. Their movement is sport specific.

To say, "It is obvious that if the weight can be moved quickly then the load is too light to develop significant power," is nonsense, since again Olympic lifters are lifting limit lifts at very high speeds in both competition and in training. I would not want to suggest that they are using "light" weights nor that they have not developed power. [We will concede just an inch on this point. Yes, Olympic lifters are developing power as they train with Olympic lifts. However, we feel that more efficient strength gains are made when these athletes squat and dead lift for example. Now, with additional strength they can produce more powerful results as they increase in their quick lifts.]

"Power" is not the same as "strength", and since "power" is strictly defined in terms of the ability to move weights fast then fast training is literally more powerful than slow training, provided the loads are similar. (Of course, I may be lifting half the weight you are lifting, but if I lift it 3x faster I am more "powerful", I have shown greater ability in terms of ft/lbs per second, although you may be stronger.) [OK. Understand that we have the same understanding of Power as you. Power=Work/Time. Where others misunderstand our point is when we maintain that Work/Time is showing, or expressing, how much Power one has at that moment. Keep in mind we are in the weight room to develop not express. Expression of power is for the field of competition, not training. To further illustrate this point we need to break the formula down even farther. So, if Work=Strength*Distance then Power=Strength*Distance/Time. If we can increase the Strength element we can thus increase the Power output. We simply feel that it is safer to develop Strength in the weight room.]

I don't wish to over prolong this correspondence, but I was simply making the point that you have to train for what you wish to achieve, I did not claim that Olympic lifting does transfer, I don't have the experience of coaching to make that claim, but still argue that speed has to be developed specifically - as with any other attribute. [We totally agree with your statement, possibly more than you yourself. "I was simply making the point that you have to train for what you wish to achieve." While to you that may mean train fast in the weight room to be fast on the field, to us that means train fast on the field to be fast on the field.]

Zatsiorsky (in The Science and Practice of Strength Training) points out that there is a difference between developing maximum force regardless of time, and the fastest RATE of force production, a shot putter is stronger than a javelin thrower and develops a higher amount of force, but the javelin thrower develops his force much more quickly. Indeed, it is impossible to develop maximum strength in extremely brief time frames, thus really heavy training with maximum weights will not benefit the javelin thrower, whereas it clearly does benefit the shot putter, who would be wasting his time with very fast training. [We disagree. Please se our comments above concerning Power=Strength*Distance/Time.]

The best sports scientists do not simply make the claim that all athletes should develop strength with Olympic lifts - it is inaccurate and unhelpful. Zatsiorsky specifically addresses a number of different ways to develop strength, and unusually for a sports science text, addresses the needs of bodybuilders! It is equally unhelpful to claim that fast lifting should never be used. I agree that Olympic lifting is a specific sport, not a training protocol, but the best coaches in that discipline have based the undoubted success of their lifters on massive amounts of research! If it were true that slow training were the best way to train for fast expression in any athletic endeavor, then the Russian and Bulgarian coaches (for example) would have applied this to Olympic lifting. [Again, we do not have an issue with Russian, Bulgarian, or American Olympic lifters training with Olympic movements. Quite honestly, I do not have enough first hand knowledge of Olympian training regimens to comment on this point, but I would be surprised if they did not include some form of heavy squat and deadlifting.]

If Olympic lifting is an exception - a speed strength sport that does require speed strength training - then logically the exception "proves" the rule i.e.; it puts the rule to the test and implies that there may be other exceptions, other sports where speed strength is expressed and where speed strength training is required. [We see you point here but do not agree. The reason Olympic lifting is an "exception", like you say, is because that is the sport itself. Let me give you a parallel example to illustrate what I mean. If using the main element of another sport, such as Olympic lifting movements, to create a better soccer goalie then I could create a better Olympic lifter by drilling soccer balls at him as he attempts to move quickly in all directions to stop them from going into the net. No! That would be a waste of the Olympic lifter's time. So why ask other sport athletes to waste their time?]

I am not arguing with the rightness or wrongness of your approach, only that the argument on your website clearly argues against ANY benefits of fast training. But there appear to be exceptions to the rule in the real world of sports, and you are now admitting an exception but asking for it to be left out of account. This is not consistent or logical. Either speed is not useful in ANY case or it is useful in some or all cases. [OK, one more time. Olympic movements good for Olympic lifters=Yes. Why: Because they are practicing their sport specific movements. Olympic movements good for athletes in football, basketball, track, etc...=No. Why: 1) Risk outweighs the benefits 2) The movements are not developing power as efficiently as other movements, and 3) To assume the movement will transfer to sport-specific skills defies the Principle of Specificity.]

You CAN argue that Olympic style training IS useful BUT only for Olympic lifters. You could then reasonably state that the risk of injury is too high for e.g.; recreational athletes, or junior athletes etc. and I would have to agree with you in those cases. However, once you admit the exception in the case of high level Olympic lifters you would have to argue on a case by case basis why fast lifting should not be allowed to other high level athletes in "fast" sports. [We feel that we have done that.]

And to risk impertinence, I offer a correction of your correction. An individual who improves his performance by becoming more efficient may be more "powerful" than he was before, but I was speaking of comparing two different athletes and I must state that the dictionary definition of power and the one used in sports science literature is that power refers to the ability to accomplish work over time, a faster athlete with the SAME load IS more powerful than a slower athlete, although the slower athlete may actually be able to move a much heavier load. The slower athlete may be stronger, but power in its scientific sense has to do with speed and work done, not simply work done. [True.]

Best wishes, I have not written to cause offense, but to point out that there is another side to the equation. [We thank you for your comments and hope our readers can benefit from this dialogue.


In addition to the comments made above, our general response follows...

I think where we disagree is that you believe that because a sport involves speed one must train with speed. We do not believe this is true. In fact, even though most shot put coaches train their athletes with fast Olympic movements, I have been training shot putters for years with success and we do nothing but slow, controlled movements.

Where the speed comes into practice is when the athlete is perfecting their sport specific skills. For example, I will train shot putters with their skill work first. They will do 1/4 turns, 1/2 turns, 3/4 turns as fast as possible to develop efficient neuromuscular pathways. They do the same drills every day followed by strength training on certain days.

Our weight room is for building strength with slow controlled movements. The field is where we develop skills in an explosive manner.

To say that making an exception to Olympic lifting does not make sense. IT IS THEIR SPORT. They are developing their neuromuscular pathways as they are strength training. Plus better form lessens the injury potential.

Anyway, for any other sport to use the Olympic lifts is not productive. Many coaches are asking football players etc... to do the Olympic lifts and these athletes are not performing them with very good form which really increases their chance of injury. We feel that it is unprofessional and unethical to ask a football player (or any athlete of any non-Olympic lifting sport) to do these lifts because it is not their sport. They have many other skills to perfect and should spend the majority of their training time doing it. But coaches still have them do these quick lifts knowing that their form is not that good (because they do not have the time to spend perfecting it) in hopes that this will make them a better "on-the-field" player.

Anyway, how can these high school athletes get better form? They usually have one weight room supervisor, if he is doing his job, for 40-60 athletes.

It is true that not many athletes get injured in any strength training program but when they do, it is unfortunate and many injuries have been caused by the Olympic lifts and their variations not to mention that these lifts predispose you to injuries that could occur on the field or can occur years from now. I know many athletes that have injured lower backs that attribute it to their high school and college lifting days of the Olympic lifts and it is time that coaches sit back and analyze their program and do some research to see what other types of programs are out there that are more productive, more efficient and safer.

I feel that the brainwashing years of the Eastern Bloc training "secrets" will come to an end. I just hope it does so quickly for our young athletes. Quality of life diminishes greatly with lower back pain. I know this for a fact and want to do everything possible to keep our athletes as healthy as possible.

I do understand that slow, controlled lifting can create injuries as well. These lifts are much easier to learn and master and good supervision is the key.

I appreciate your thoughts and time in this useful discussion about strength training and wish you all the best.

Coach Rody

If you are really interested in slow movement speed in strength training.  Ken Hutchins literally wrote the book.

24 November, 2002

Periodization for the Athlete and Announcements

"The time we live in requires a new way of thinking." -Albert Einstein
We would like to discuss three issues in this post... A question, and two announcements. First a recent question from a reader asks,
"Should training intensity change or be cycled to assure peak performance at the most important track meets? Do you strength train first then practice your sport right after? For example......when doing speed work, I thought you would do sprint workout first followed by strength training. I`m confused!!!!"

We are not big advocates of periodization. That being said though we do believe that around 2-3 weeks before the meet you are preparing for, such as districts, sectionals or state, you need to back off to one training session per week. Keep in mind we still believe that workout should be an all-out intense training session, not a raising or lowing of the set/rep scheme as you normally would in a periodization program.

One session per week through the conference meet and districts would be sufficient. It is a myth that athletes will lose strength after 4 days of a layoff, (assuming you are working with high levels of intensity). If someone tells you this, ignore them. Then 2 weeks before state, which is one week before sectionals, (here in Missouri anyway), stop training all together to ensure that your athletes are recovered.

In regards to the order of your workout. We feel you should always do your skill training first and weight training after. During the season, I suggest that you train 2 times per week depending on the athlete's level.

Next, We would like to fill you in on our plans for the 2003 StrongerAthletes.com Strength & Conditioning Clinic. We have tentatively set a spring date on May 5th. However, we are also looking in to hosting a 2003 football rules interpretations meeting that will coincide with our clinic in order to encourage the attendance of more area football coaches. Should we secure the rules interpretations meeting along with our clinic, the date would be moved back to late July. We should know more concerning the actual date of the clinic within a few weeks.

We have set the structure of the clinic to be jam-packed with solid, strength training fundamentals while at the same time being brief. We think this fits in well with being Productive and Efficient!

Tentatively, Coach Mike Lawrence, Head Strength Coach at Missouri Southern University, and Jonathan Gray, Assistant Strength Coach at Missouri Southern, have agreed to speak at the event. We are excited to have them and are sure those in attendance will learn a great deal. If you are near the Kansas City area we encourage you to plan on attending.

Lastly, I wanted to comment on the Store Front. Please do not think that we are just trying to "make-a-buck" on our readers. We are not in this thing to make money, that should go without saying. The time and effort we put into producing this web site is worth it just for the people we have had the opportunity to get to know and the ideas and dialogue that it has generated. We thought that it might be fun to have a unique t-shirt or coffee mug for ourselves and while we were at it we offer them to you as well.

We hope you have a great holiday and have much to be thankful for. -StrongerAthletes.com

19 November, 2002

Use Common Sense

"Life is a garden.. so dig it." -Joe Dirt
Coaches have long instructed athletes to perform exercises quickly thinking that this will be best to increase the athletes' power. The fact is that the faster the repetition the less productive in terms of developing power and explosiveness. It is obvious that if the weight can be moved quickly then the load is too light to develop significant power.

StrongerAthletes.com also finds it very interesting that none of these Olympic lifting advocates believe that constant muscle tension is an important factor in developing power. This ensures that the muscles are doing the work. Why is it that these coaches stay away from this issue?

Another issue that we have addressed before and will address again is the issue of safety in a strength training program. Studies do indicate the reps that are performed slow produce more force output and therefore more power.

That being the case, wouldn't the slower method be the choice for our athletes? This is another issue that StrongerAthletes.com finds incredibly surprising. We receive e-mails from coaches saying that the Olympic movements and their variations are actually more safe than the slow movements.


Brainwashing has been very powerful the past 40 years. Coaches, think for yourself. Don't let others convince you that this is true. Common sense tells you otherwise.

Another comment that we receive from coaches, which relates to the topic of rep speed, "Take a look at [University Football Powerhouse], they haven't won but 4 games in the past 2 years. It's because they did away with power cleans 2 years ago". Huh?

There are many variables that play into a successful program and the lifting program is a part of it. However, if not doing power cleans was the sole reason than what happened to the thousands of high school and college programs that have similar losing records. They do power cleans as part of their program. So, that argument is mute.

The last example of ignorant comments we will address is that many coaches are convinced that teams such as Penn State, Michigan, Notre Dame recruit the best athletes in the nation and that is why they can get away with not doing power cleans and other Olympic lifts and variations. Huh?

These coaches must be kidding but unfortunately they are not. They also go on by saying that teams such as Nebraska always gets average athletes and the Olympic movements develop these athletes into great athletes. If that were the case what happened this year? Our point being... Doing power cleans and other quick lifts does not ensure victory any more than not doing them ensures failure.

Coaches, you have to come up with something better than that to convince yourself, and others, that training at a fast speed is best for athletes. If anybody has any comments about this article, let us know. If you have any ignorant comments made by people, send them our way and we will post-em up.

If you have questions or comments about this web site or strength development or training please drop us a note

11 November, 2002

In-Season/Off-Season Strength Training

Veterans Day "There was a lot of excitement when we heard about the Armistice . . . some of them old fellas was walkin' on the streets with open Bibles in their hands. All the shops were shut down. I never seen the people so crazy . . . confetti was a-flying in all directions . . . I'll never forget it." -James Hughes
We have had some concerns about high school athletes that participate in multiple sports. For example, many athletes, play football in the fall, wrestle or basketball in the winter, and run track or play baseball in the spring. When does the athlete strength train?

No coach of any sport wants their athletes to strength train in the winter or spring for football and have it effect their in-season performance. We all need to realize that strength training is a year round activity and it would be mistake to not train during a particular season.

For multi-sport athletes, training twice per week is recommended. Mike Vorkapich, who is the strength trainer at Michigan State University for the basketball team, recommends that high school athletes that participate in football in the fall and basketball in the winter should train twice per week during basketball season. The workout should be reduced in the number of exercises as is traditional in-season training workout. The session should be the day after the game and after practice which will ensure maximum recovery before the next game.

StrongerAthletes.com believes that this approach makes sense and is very sound. Coach Vorkapich also believes that it is a myth that strength training during the season will affect the athletes shot. He has not found this to be the case and neither have we.

StrongerAthletes.com feels that all coaches should be on the same page in a school and organize a plan for all athletes to train year round regardless of the sport they are in at that time. It is for the benefit of the athlete to do so. Do not be the lone coach that does not want his athletes lifting during the season in fear that it will affect their performance. This is incorrect, selfish and does not benefit your team, the individual athlete, or the school itself. Work as team and you will get better results than you ever would have imagined.

27 October, 2002

New Coach Seeks Information

"This is a business of breaking hearts." -John Gagliardi, Head Football Coach at St. John's University on putting together the travel list each week
I am the head football coach at Andover HS in Andover, MN. We opened our HS this fall and were just able to get our weightroom running about three weeks ago. The coach that was originally hired used the HIT program before and ordered all Hammer Strength and Nautilus equipment. Since my background was not in this type of program, I am looking for as much assistance as possible.

I am hoping to get information on lifting cycles and protocols. Please point me in the right direction with any information you might have.

Rich Wilkie
Andover High School Football

First, congratulations on the new job. Secondly, it shows an amazing amount of maturity on your part in being willing to learn.

We would love to be of any assistance we could in this situation. Being in Minnesota is your first advantage. You should contact any of the following people and get a first hand look at what they are doing in their weight rooms. I believe Coach Carlson is the strength coach at Chaska High School and his brother Luke is at Blaine High School. Either way I know both of those school train with HIT. Shakopee, Coon Rapids, Buffalo and Richfield also use HIT. Coach Kyle Inforzato is at Richfield, I believe, and would be very helpful. Coach Wetzal with the Vikings would also be a great guy to visit with as he runs a HIT style program at the pro-level.

I am aware of 2 videos that I have seen on sale through Championship Video that were produced by Ken Mannie and another by University of Detroit Mercy Strength Coach Jim Kielbaso. They would be excellent resources to use. Matt Bryzcki's book "A Practical Approach to Strength Training" is a great resource especially as an introduction to the philosophy.

We offer a training manual and video that would at the very least give you something tangible to use with your kids. In a nutshell we encourage coaches to teach their athletes to train to muscular failure in 1 set of each exercise. We emphasize lowering the weight slowly and under control with continued movement throughout the lift. We discourage the use of any momentum as we feel it 1) takes the stress off of the working muscle and 2) could be dangerous.

Depending on who you talk to various movements will be recommended. There of course is no "right" number or certain movements that should be used. We recommend a protocol that hits all of the muscle groups while also being time efficient.

I am of course not doing justice to the philosophy or the what's and why's but this should give you an idea. Look around for strength clinics this winter and spring. We came up to the Strength and Science Seminar last February at Blaine High School. Scott Savor, who is now the strength coach at Mercy-Detroit (I think) hosted that clinic.

We are thinking about hosting a clinic an Kansas City this Spring. My point being that you could find great information at something of that sort. A word of caution. Now that you are open to learning about this philosophy of training, do not let others discourage you from learning as much as you can about it. I coach football too. I used BFS for years with my teams. I just feel that I've found a safer, better way that I am comfortable with. Other football coaches think I'm crazy but it's their loss as far as I'm concerned.

Coach, please feel free to write back with any other questions. There is a lot of information out there on HIT training for football and athletics. You can start with our past articles or the resources I mentioned earlier. Contact those schools in your area and go check out what they are doing.

Good Luck,

Sam Knopik

08 October, 2002

Stronger Athletes: Future Strength Coach

"Football players should not do the Olympic lifts. The safety issue is not with the lifts however; the problem is with the generation of coaches who grew up in the Arthur Jones/Nautilus era. These coaches have neither the time nor the coaching ability to teach 85 players the Olympic lifts. These coaches have never learned how to stand on their own two feet, pick a weight off the ground and put it over their head." -Lincoln Brigham, a Olympic Lifting advocate, making a wonderful observation about the relationship between effective coaching and picking up a weight with both feet on the ground then putting it over their head.
A young man from Kansas recently wrote to us asking for help in a class project. Looking at coaching through his eyes has reawakened our own desires to be great coaches.

Dear Coach Rody,
I am a student at Chase High School in Chase, Kansas. I read about you on your web page, and it sounds like you know what you are talking about. We are doing a English assignment and I picked football. So I was supposed to interview a coach and I picked you.

I have a few questions that I would like to ask you.

*What would you have to say to young kids coming into High School football that aren't quite as strong as they could be?

If he is an incoming freshman, I would tell him that he should get on a productive strength training program so that he would have an opportunity to be competitive as a Varsity player. The program must be approved by his doctor. Also, I would tell him to develop the skills of the position he would like to play to become as efficient as possible and this will help him to be competitive as an underclassman until the necessary strength can be developed. Good technique at his position is crucial to be an effective player.
* What is the importance of weight lifting while playing football?

Strength training will prevent injuries. This is the number one reason why an athlete should lift weights. Next, increases in strength will enable the player to become more powerful and explosive in the skills at his position.
* What age should Kids start to lift?

The coach, parents, and the athletes doctor/trainer need to be comfortable with the age to begin lifting. Certainly when starting any weight training program, one needs to lift lighter for a higher amount of repetitions in order to develop efficient neuromuscular pathways in performing the exercises. Perfect form is crucial so the athlete will not get injured.
* Should High School kids use any type of weight gainer or muscle mass supplements?

I do not think it is necessary to take any supplementation other than vitamins and minerals if they do not have a balance diet. Getting with their trainer/doctor for the type of vitamin and minerals would be suggested. Most supplements that you find in the health food stores are not necessary and are a waste of money. There is no miracle pill that can replace smart training. What I mean by smart is knowing how to lift, how frequent you should train, etc...
* What would you tell a High School Grad that wants to be a coach?

Coaching is a great and very rewarding profession. A good coach will teach his athletes about hard work, how to work with others effectively, and about other aspects of life in general.

Best wishes and good luck on your paper! -Coach Rody
Well I would personally like to think you for you time and I hope you write back with some answers. And keep up the good work on you web page.

Nick W.

If you have questions or comments about this web site or strength development or training please drop us a note

30 September, 2002

Dear StrongerAthletes.com: Mature Discourse

 "He's too big and strong. I don't know if I could ever beat this guy." -Mike Tyson concerning Lennox Lewis. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Dear Coach Rody,

It's been a long time since we had a discussion. As I found myself wandering on the Internet I decided to take a deeper look at your web site and send you a few things to chew on. Our discussions have been very cordial in the past, hopefully we will keep in the same line with this new discussion. First I'd like to address a point that was made on your web site (front page actually). Be assured that the quote is integral and not modified:

From StrongerAthletes.com "Momentum generated by these lifts takes tension off the muscle which in turn makes recruiting type IIb, (or "fast twitch"), muscle fibers inefficient."
While I do agree that momentum can decrease muscle tension (because the muscle doesn't need to exert as much force on the bar since momentum contribute to the movement) I do not think that lifting with momentum renders IIb (or any other fiber) recruitment less efficient.

Allow me to make a simple point. Momentum has to be created by an external force, we all agree here. The external force can come from multiple sources, but in the case of lifting exercises it can only come from the external forces applied to the barbell from the human body (unless one is "bouncing" a deadlift on the floor or a bench press off his chest ... which can create momentum). Specifically momentum is created by the action of the muscles. In fact, the force output necessary to produce sufficient momentum to help lift a barbell of relatively heavy weight can far exceed that of any "slow-speed strength" exercises.Let me explain my point. To create momentum you must exert a force high enough to increase the kinetic energy of the barbell a level sufficient to allow the object to continue it's course with the interaction of little additional external force, agree? In other words, if you do not exert enough force the barbell will not continue it's course because not enough momentum will be created.

Now, not only is force necessary to create momentum, the acceleration factor must be very high. Why? Because for momentum to occur, the barbell must have a high rate of acceleration (otherwise it will quickly loose velocity and fall on the ground). So you must be able to create a powerful action (high acceleration).

Since F = ma, we can conclude that creating barbell momentum requires a lot of force because the accelerative need is very very high. The greater the required force output, the greater the muscle tension. The intramuscular tension refers to the effort of the muscle necessary to produce a certain force output.So even if the time under tension is lower in exercises with momentum, the actual maximum tension achieved is a lot higher. This is a powerful stimulus for the CNS and can lead to great improvements in neural efficiency (increased intra and inter-muscular coordination, and rate encoding).

As a result it is unjust to state that lifts with momentum leads to less efficient motor recruitment. Remember that YOU must create the momentum.

Coach Thibaudeau,
You stated, “The force output necessary to produce sufficient momentum to help lift a barbell of relatively heavy weight can far exceed that of any ‘slow-speed strength” exercises. We disagree with this statement . The reason is that to create momentum on the bar, as you have indicated requires relatively heavy weights. That is the point we are making. In order for the force out put to be maximum, the weight should be heavy.

Now we are not saying that one should train with singles, doubles, and triples, we advocate reps ranging from 8-15. Athletes should train to momentary muscular failure.

When performing Olympic lifts, many types of athletes give out because of technique breakdown because of fatigue or for cardiovascular reasons. What muscles are being trained to momentary muscular failure during a clean?

Think about it, we are talking about training high school and college athletes. These athletes cannot efficiently train with these exercises to the point of the desired fatigue level because they do not spend the time to become efficient in these exercises.

Their sport is football, wrestling etc... Ask an athlete, after performing a power clean, how he/she feels. What muscles do you feel like you’ve exhausted? They usually respond be saying, “Well I don’t feel it in any one area but I’m pretty tired after doing them”. Our goal is not just to get an athlete to feel tired. It is to train specific muscle groups to fatigue.

We see the point you are trying to make about maximum force output but must do not believe that research backs it. Muscle fiber is recruited in an orderly fashion from Type I to intermediate to Type II as the body requires them. -S.A.
[Coach Thibaudeau continues...] From StrongerAthletes.com: “The Principle of Specificity rejects the idea that lifts such as the power clean transfer to sport specific skills such as tackling or throwing a shot put”.

I agree that a power clean (or any other lift) cannot improve technical efficiency in a sport movement. However, lifting can improve specific skill performance by increasing the physical capacities of the athlete (no news there!). If a lifting exercise increase the athlete's force output and the rate of force development (which can only be improved by accelerative a load) in the muscles involved in a specific sport skill the athlete will become effective (notice that I did not say efficient) at that skill.

If you have the general capacity to produce more force and produce force faster you will be more effective because you are structurally more solid and have a faster muscle recruitment. I know that you will argue this point, but research has indeed shown that high acceleration exercises can indeed improve motor unit recruitment speed by improving rate encoding, pattern encoding and number encoding.

I have never been one to preach what I call "excessive specificity". There are various levels of specificity. A movement is not 100% or 0% specific to another. A training movement can be specific in structure, pattern, power output level, force output level, etc. I feel that trying to duplicate sport actions in the gym is hogwash, but I believe that trying to train for what you have to do makes a lot more sense than just lifting weights! That means developing the capacity to generate a high level of force as fast as possible.

We will again make the point that even though we train to maintain constant speed through an entire set, it must be understood that as the athlete fatigues as the set progresses, it is necessary to attempt to move the weight faster to maintain the desired rep speed. At the end of the set, the athlete is attempting to move the barbell as fast as possible to maintain speed. This is maximum force and power output.

This is higher than if the athlete used relatively heavy weights creating momentum. If the weight is not heavy enough then the athlete will be expressing power. In other words, if the momentum is created on the bar, the weight is too light. Ken Mannie states this well in his article “Power Points," “Basic neuromuscular physiology indicates that maximum fast twitch fiber recruitment is achieved with maximal intensity, regardless of the movement speed. “Intensity” in strength-training is defined as the percent of your momentary ability to execute a given exercise- that is, the amount of effort you are able to put forth”.

The “Size Principle” of motor unit recruitment-which is one of the most supported principles in neurophysiology-states that muscle fibers are activated from smaller to larger (Type I to Type II) relative to the force requirements, not the speed requirements”.

“The force velocity curve indicates that there is an inverse relationship between movement speed and muscle force production. In other words, slow muscle contractions generate more force. StrongerAthletes.com believes that slow movements can produce more force and recruit more muscle fiber and in turn create more power and therefore is a more efficient way to train. -S.A.
[Coach Thibaudeau continues...] From StrongerAthletes.com "Quick, momentum generating lifts can be unsafe in the short term if not coached and supervised and in the long term in regards to the low back and wrist regions."

I agree. That's why I feel that un-supervised use of the Olympic lifting variations is unwise. However, if properly taught these lifts can be as safer (and even safer as illustrated by the smaller injury rate in Olympic lifting compared to powerlifting)

[FYI- We do not endorse power lifting as a training method for traditional athletes. -S.A.]
than most slow-speed lifts. Furthermore, when properly used they can improve performance more than slow-speed lifting (albeit both are complimentary). However I concede that if a qualified coach is not available, the Olympic lift variations should not be used.

Thanks for listening. Keep up your good job and I wish you well for the season.
Christian Thibaudeau
Qu├ębec Canada

Keep in mind that we may focus on the lifts that power lifters use but we do not train our athletes like power lifters.

We understand the point you are making and will concede that the more efficient an athlete becomes at the Olympic lifts, the more muscle fiber he/she can recruit therefore the more power and force he can develop. But let’s face it, these athletes (high school and college) do not have the time to spend trying to perfect these lifts. They have their season and studies to think about. Even if an athlete performs the quick lifts with perfect form or whether he uses slow movements, power and force can still be developed with either method. Most athletes will not perform them in perfect form, therefore the power developed would be less. Performing the quick lifts is more of a demonstration of power. Remember, developing power is different than expressing it. Look back at our article on "Expressing vs. Developing Power" and you will see what I mean.

We have enjoyed reading your comments and appreciate your professionalism. The goal is to train our athletes in the safest most productive and efficient manner possible. Let our readers decide for themselves which method they prefer.

Coach Rody

24 September, 2002

In Season Training Routine # 1

"This is what college football should be: the most rewarding experience in a young man's life." -Bo Schembechler
Several readers have requested a little less "air-time" devoted to the Olympic Lifts and more towards applying a safe, productive and efficient workout.

The type of routine an athlete needs during the season depends on the nature of the sport in which they are participating. StrongerAthlete.com recommends less sets and lower frequency for football players for example.
Football is a very demanding sport and can leave the athlete exhausted at times during the week. We train football players once per week while in season using compound movements. Extremely demanding exercises such as the deadlift we have our athletes perform once every 2 weeks. Below is a suggested routine for the in-season football player:

* Squat
* Bench Press
* Dips
* Deadlifts
* Chin ups or Rev. Grip Pulldowns

Athletes should perform one set of each exercises to momentary muscular failure. Training day should be the day after or 2 days after their game to ensure that they are fully recovered by game time.

The coach needs to watch added additional exercises because this could lead to over training that could affect their performance on the field.

The above exercises will train every muscle group directly or indirectly. Athletes should continue to progress either in reps or weight during this time. We do not believe that they should just maintain. If athletes should get exhausted enough to where the coach feels they might be in an overtrained state then they should reduce the weekly frequency.

If anybody has any comments about this routine or would like to suggest a routine of their own, e-mail us and we will post you comments or workouts.

20 September, 2002

Back to the Fundamentals... Again

"Whether I succeed or fail, shall be no man's doing but my own." -Elaine Maxwell
We are more than happy to respond to e-mails for the discussion of strength training issues. We find it extremely repetitive to hammer home the same points week in and week out. However, just like anything in athletics and life... fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals.
Dear Coach Rody,
Having read more and more of your site, I'm struck by the constant cry of "Safety, safety, safety!" You make equal efforts arguing against power lifting as you do Olympic lifting, in the interest of 'safety'. [Yes, you are correct. -S.A.]
You seem to say safety is the #1 goal of your program. You claim the safety problem is due to the ballistic nature of the Olympic lifts and the 1RM max attempts in power lifting. I quote you, "At this age particularly, they really need to make safety the first priority in training. The growth in the epiphyseal should not be interrupted by performing ballistic movements. These movements create injuries and make athletes more suseptable[sic] to injuries in their sport."

Yet you are primarily football people. [To clarify, we coach football, track, and in the past have coached wrestling and basketball. -S.A.] This I do not understand. Surely nothing is more ballistically violent than football. Surely few sports are as statistically dangerous as football. I have one study in front of me that claims football is 58 times more dangerous than Olympic lifting, 28 times more dangerous than power lifting, 77 times more dangerous than volleyball. How do you reconcile your stated interest in the safety of high school kids with your active contribution to one of the most dangerous and ballistic sports around? If a parent came to you wondering if their child should play football or perhaps another sport, would you tell them, "No, don't play football. It's too dangerous?" This is not a rhetorical question; I would like to hear your answer, with specific examples if you have any.

[To respond to your first question, which we find irrelevant to safety in the weight room, (which we advocate), the potential for injury is there for most sports. But our concern lies in the training methods NOT THE SPORT. We have stated in the past that we are fans of power lifting and Olympic lifting. If you choose to quote our own web-site against us please at least keep us in context. Therefore, SPORT is why we train. Injury is inherent in the sport and in training. However, we feel that we can reduce the risk of injury in training. Why train in a way that has a higher potential for injury? Why not train in the safest possible way? Do we want our kids injured before they hit the field? Obviously not.

In regards to parental concerns for injury... a parent should understand the risks of the game and expect me to reduce those risks the best that I can. For example, we do not teach tackling by lowering the head, or blocking below the waist... thus reducing the risk of injury. -S.A.]
Question 2: Are there any football teams that do not use non-sport-specific ballistic or power-oriented training? By that I mean do not exclude activities outside the weight room. Include such non-sport-specific activities as running stadium steps, hill sprints, blocking sleds, sled pulling, medicine ball tosses, car pushing, etc. Are there ANY teams whose training consists solely of slow strength training, running, and practicing plays? What is the purpose of a blocking sled, anyway? It has no arms like a defender, it weighs more than a defender, it does not REALLY behave like a defender, surely it has no better skill transfer than, say, squats? But is it not a ballistic exercise? Is there any team that does not use them?

[To respond to your second set of questions, our site primarily focuses on strength training in the weight room. For what coaches use on the field I recommend you try a Yahoo! Search for "football drills". Incidentally, the blocking sled works as an excellent blocking dummy in the fact that a player can unload violently upon it without injury to a teammate. However, you are obviously missing the point our our web-site, or you are attempting to twist things to your liking. Set aside your ridiculous analogies and focus on the goal which is to strengthen our athletes in a safe, efficient, and productive manner to reduce the frequency of injury on the field. -S.A.]
Question #3: Why do you quote [a professional in the field of strength development (who's name we removed out of respect)] objections to quick lifts so often, when in fact he has no real personal experience with them? He comes from a power lifting background, with no record of ever having competed in weight lifting nor ever demonstrated any ability to train Olympic lifters. Would you listen to the advice of a non-swimmer about the dangers of water polo?

Sincerely, Lincoln Brigham

By the way, I find it interesting that many individuals that are closed-minded like your self attack [strength training professionals, who have differing opinions than your own]. As far as 2 book publishers, a nationally recognized magazine publisher, and a ivy league university are concerned he is very knowledgeable in the field of strength development. If in fact simply participating in an activity made one an authority on the subject I would like to refer you to Coach Mike Jeffries of Helias High School in Jefferson City, Missouri. Coach Jeffries has never wrestled 1 match in his life yet claims no less than 11 state championships in the past 19 years. Coach Tom Wales of Moberly High School, in Moberly, Missouri is on the verge of winning his 3rd cross country state championship, and he has never ran a cross country race. These are just local guys I know. How about Coach Mike Leach of Texas Tech? He has no formal football playing experience yet he managed to land a Big XII head coaching gig while also helping to publish a widely read journal for college football coaches. I'm sure there are thousands of examples along this line of reasoning.

One of the individuals on our StrongerAthletes.com staff was an Olympic lifting advocate for years. GUESS WHAT? he realized that there is a more productive and safer way to train. He realized the high potential for injury doing the Olympic lifts not to mention the tension taken off the muscle etc... and he was not too proud to turn his back on what he had done as an athlete and a coach.

Interestingly, we have had many Olympic lifting advocates e-mail us in support of our efforts. They are open-minded individuals that realize that there is more than one way to train. What do you think of the Olympic lifters themselves e-mailing us telling us that they find that football players are not athletic enough to do Olympic lifts? This is not a rhetorical question. Or they tell us that football players should not do the Olympic lifts because they do not have the time to learn the O-lifts because it is not their sport? THESE ARE OLYMPIC LIFTING ADVOCATES STATING THIS.

More and more people are realizing that the Olympic type of lifts are not necessary for a successful strength training program.

Thanks for your comments and batting practice... we were getting a little rusty.

Coach Rody

17 September, 2002

Role Of Olympic Lifts In High School

 "Too many coaches attempt to learn the tricks of the trade rather than simply learning the trade." -Coach Johnny Mallettt
Dear Coach Rody,

In one of your articles, you mention a lack of carry over between the power clean (or any Olympic lift) to running. Stating there is no forward lean. I am confused as you use the deadlift and squat. But all three lifts are in a vertical plain.................so how do
they (SQ/DL) differ from the power clean, in terms of effectiveness? Any insight you have would be appreciated. Good training to you,
Chad Touchberry

Coach Touchberry,

I think there was some misunderstanding concerning your power clean question. We know that those movements such as the squat and dead lift do not incorporate a forward lean. Our point was that the power clean does not simulate a sprint as the authors of that book contend. I hope we have not misled you to think a weight room movement should simulate a sprint. We believe that if your athletes want to get faster they should practice sprinting while getting stronger in the weight room. Thanks for you question. I hope this helps.
Coach Rody
Coach Rody,
I understand what your saying. I just disagree with it. I say if you can lift a heavier load......your talking about strength. Power is per unit of time. Big difference. To develop power one must overload the muscle and recruit as much muscle fiber as possible." Resistance lifted is a factor......but not without speed. Power per unit of time. greatest power outputs occur between 50% and 85%. Well below the need %'s for changes in strength. Two different and important attributes in training. Both have a separate protocol. My 2 cents.
Coach T

Thanks for your comments. Let me reassure you that we use the same definition of Power you do. However, where many people assume the answer to the equation = developing power we say if you can lift a heavier load than you are simply expressing power as one would express power in throwing a shot put or make a tackle. To develop power one must overload the muscle an recruit as much muscle fiber as possible. So, we use the same formula everyone else uses but we recognize a deference between expressing power and developing power. We would rather develop power in the weight room and express it on the field.

Thanks for the good dialog, hope this helps clear it up.
Coach Rody
Coach Rody,

We agree on something's. Its just our application of ideas is different.

I agree that most HS programs are not prepared to teach Olympic lifting, nor should they try. But I do believe that Olympic lifts, as well as their variations are appropriate when properly instructed. I don't believe that a lift is dangerous........just the mis-coaching, or poor supervision of the lift. I realize there is no momentum in the deadlift, and there is in the clean. But less we forget that it is muscular effort that imparts force on a barbell to create momentum.

"The tension is taken of the muscle of a brief second making the lift less efficient to develop power." True, but there is also a moment of eccentric or yielding strength following the completion of the lift. I also disagree with the idea that the muscle must remain under tension to develop power. Time under tension operates under the idea that increasing tension over time leads to greater development of force.......this does not apply to power. Long periods of time and power cannot work!!! It goes against the actually scientific definition of power................... Moreover, this is very similar in terms of how athletics are played. Lets stay with the sprint. A burst of muscular effort, but then a brief second of non-linear tension. We also disagree on the definition of power. You seemed to have created your own operational definition. One which I don't really understand.

Not trying to pick a fight. I myself am a strength coach and realize that there is more than one way to skin a cat. Just like some educated debate.

Good training,
Coach Chad


We agree that there is more than one way to train our athletes. There are many successful teams that have performed the Olympic lifts just as there is many successful teams who do not perform them. We strongly consider safety and efficiency which we think are aspects of our program that puts our style and many alike above the rest.

Appreciate your comments and wish you the best of luck. Coach Rody

02 September, 2002

Decide For Yourself

"When you are an anvil, hold still; When you are the hammer, strike your fill." -George Herbert
If tone of this article sounds repetitious...it is. We feel that to start our 2nd year off we should lay down one of our fundamental stances early and often. For those who follow our website regularly we hope you understand. For those who are just "browsing" we hope you stick around and help us spread the word about safe, productive and efficient strength training.

StrongerAthletes.com cannot emphasize enough that coaches should take
all Olympic type of exercise out of their program whether it is off or in-season. These types of lifts are dangerous and unnecessary. An important part of a proper training program is to prevent injuries.

In his article, “Improper Training”, Dr. Ken Leistner states, “The purpose of an off-season weight program is to reduce the incidence and severity of on-field injury, not produce injury itself or leave the player prone to injury during play.” A well said statement.

We get many e-mails from coaches stating that the bench press ands squat , and deadlift are the exercises in which injuries occur. If done slowly, not in powerlifting manner the lifts are much safer than performing a lift in a ballistic manner.

The ballistic nature of the Olympic lifts are what we feel make the lifts dangerous. However, many of these coaches say that the Olympic variation lifts do not even involve momentum. They are very persistent in their beliefs. Come On! Quit fooling yourself and be sensible. We believe many of these coaches were taught this way and think that it is the only way to train. This is unfortunate.

Now, we mean no disrespect to these coaches and particularly the Olympic lifting athletes. We enjoy watching the sport of Olympic lifting. We just do not believe that the quick lifts belong in strength training program in other sports other than Olympic lifting itself.

Many coaches, especially at the high school level, have these Olympic type of lifts in their program and do not know why. To say that it works for Nebraska or some other school is not a good enough response. Take a look at our Teams Page and you will see very successful teams that do not do them. The intent of this article is not to question the intelligence of coaches with respect to strength training but to inform them to research the negative effects of Olympic lifting for sports and ask yourself: Is this lift worth the risk? Most teams that perform these lifts perform the slow controlled movements such as squat, deadlift, and shoulder press etc... Could it be that these lifts are developing power and explosiveness in our athletes of is the power developed from the quick lifts exclusively. The point is that if all top teams that do these Olympic type of lifts were to take them out of their program, they would still be just as successful.

In conclusion, StrongerAthletes.com is attempting to educate as many coaches as possible to a style of training that is as successful as any Olympic lifting based program. We have been very successful thus far and appreciate all the support we have been getting from strength coaches, athletes, and other individuals in the field.

21 August, 2002

Attention: Risk is Real!

"Those who aim at great deeds must also suffer greatly." -Plutarch
We received an e-mail this week that we feel stamps an exclamation point on the issue of weight room safety. As we have said before, risk in strength training is inherent, however we feel that a coach can reduce the risk by installing a fundamentally safe program. In the past, coaches have discredited our stance on safety claiming that athletes have never been hurt while performing quick lifts under their supervision. We remind coaches that just because a loaded bar does not
fall on an athlete in the weight room he can still sustain an injury. Low back injury is real despite the fact that the coach can not see it. Any coach can identify the injury in the weight room such as a plate falling on a kid's foot. However, the coach does not see the athlete squirm in pain as he tries to put his socks on in the morning after a set of heavy power cleans. Coaches, the risk is increased and the injuries are real when working with quick lifts.

Due to the sensitivity of this letter the names have been withheld. Coaches we just ask that you place yourself in this athlete's shoes. Could this football player been an asset to his team without performing quick lifts? We'll never know.
Hi, Coach Rody

I returned to College at the age of 29 to play football for [a competitive N.A.I.A. Team]. Things were going great until I herniated a disk in my lower back doing clean and jerks in our 2000 spring strength training program. It ended my football career. I have been recommended for surgery.

The reason I write you is because our strength coach runs a complete Olympic lifting program. He feels that it is superior for building strength for athletes. Before I even knew what Olympic lifting was, I ran a 4.48 forty and vertical jumped 35+ (among the top three on the team). I also had very strong lower and upper body strength.

I think this coach is dangerous and I have heard several of our athletes complaining about injuries from his methods. In fact, many of the athletes lift at other gyms to gain strength and size because the strength coach (who is an avid Olympic fan) will not let them do exercises like the bench press [in the college's weight room].

One of many examples of how risky this man is: he has all returning football players do a one rep max of the clean and jerk at the very beginning of two-a-days football camp. It is amazing to me the administration has not acknowledged this unsafe behavior. I have heard he was let go at other institutions, possibly because of this.... Our national champ track coach (also a football coach for 30 years) rejects [this coach's] program but the football coaches seem to be naive about it. Is there any advice you can give me to help expose this risky program and present a stronger case to the administration.

Sincerely, Steve

First, we wish you the best of luck in your surgery and recovery. Secondly, there is a ton of research pointing to the problems that you have addressed. We have mentioned in previous articles, books by Matt Brzycki, that are great for their bibliographies alone. You should consult these sources before making a presentation. Avoid being confrontational, as this mind-set will hinder rather than help your cause. Simply present the facts, safety concerns, and strength gains that can be made without quick lifts. Keep in mind, Olympic lifting coaches are not the enemy. Olympic lifting is a wonderful sport and thus the lifts have their place. Like you, we simply feel they serve no useful purpose in the realm of training traditional athletes. The risk outweighs the benefits. Good luck.

Coach Rody


If you have questions or comments about this web site or strength development or training please drop us a note

12 August, 2002

StrongerAthletes.com Classic: What are our Athletes Training For?

"College students have a number of daily and weekly obligations and commitments: class attendance, study time, part-time employment, meals, sleep and personal matter. This can be a job in itself." -Tom Kelso
For the summer, we have decided to reduce our frequency and post once or maybe twice a week. We will be very busy training our athletes and taking vacations. We will pick up the frequency again in the fall. We will continue responding to your e-mails regularly so please do not hesitate to send us your thoughts or comments about training.

Please excuse this "re-run" article. We are gearing up for both the start of football practice and the launching of StrongerAthletes.com's 2nd school year. We hope you will enjoy this commentary reminding coaches that sports/training is rarely as important to the athlete as it is to the coach. Thus, do the most you can with the time you have.

StrongerAthletes.com believes athletes should spend 1.5 hours to 3 hours in the weightroom per week. In order to do this the athlete must be on a productive and efficient program. Strength training is an activity to help athletes perform their sport specific skills to the best of their ability.

Then why do coaches implement Olympic lifts in their program at the college level and especially at the high school level? Athletes at these levels are very busy with classes, practice, study time, social life, and rest. It takes quite a bit of time to learn and master the proper execution of the quick lifts. Athletes must have a proper balance in life; Weight room time being just a fraction of that time. [We understand that many coaches, that use these lifts, feel that the time is not spent unwisely or that it takes any longer to perform these lifts within a exercise program. That point can be debated (and has been debated over and over again). For further understanding of our stance on Olympic lifts being inefficient for the training of traditional sport athletes, please read some of our other articles that deal specifically with that topic. -S.A. August 12, 2002]

Tom Kelso, Strength Coach at the University of Illinois Chicago, in his article “Strength Training the Collegiate Athlete” explains,
“Valid research studies and empirical results obtained from hands-on experience have all proven that a minimal amount of very demanding training is all that is necessary to stimulate strength gains. Common sense then dictates that if a low volume is effective, then it should be used because of its many virtues, most significant being the time efficiency factor.”
Kelso continues,
“College STUDENTS have a number of daily and weekly obligations and commitments: class attendance, study time, part-time employment, meals, sleep and personal matter. This can be a job in itself. College STUDENT-ATHLETES have the same, including all obligations relating to their sport: practice, meetings, contests, team functions, travel, strength training, conditioning, etc. It is a “no-brainer” then that the most logical approach to all sport-related commitments be quality oriented and done as efficiently as possible. If the existing time allotted for strength training can be reduced-and yet produce the same or better results-one should take advantage of it.”
In order to implement Olympic lifts in a program, athletes must spend a considerable amount of time in the weight room. Certainly more than the 1.5-3 hours we recommend. StrongerAthletes.com realizes that many of these programs still only spend only 2-3 hours per week in the weight room but these coaches may not really be concerned if the athletes are executing the Olympic lifts with perfect form. We have heard many coaches say, “Well I have not had any major injuries yet.” These athletes do get those minor injuries and what about how these kids' backs will be when they get older? We talked to many former athletes and they do attribute Olympic lifting to some of their back pain in life today. Do they know for sure, probably not, but we believe there are more former players with back pain that used to do the quick lifts than the athletes that did not. We would like some feedback on this.

JP O’Shea reported, in “ Principles and Methods of Strength Fitness”, the major causes of low back pain among athletes using weight training or Olympic lifting are due to: 1) lifting weights improperly from the floor, 2) overhead lifting, 3) loss of balance when lifting, 4) trying to catch oneself after a slip, and 5) insufficient warm-up.

StrongerAthletes.com will not be a possible contributor to an athlete's back pain now or in the future. [Several readers have pointed out our hypocrisy in this regard. Meaning, some see that, while pontificating the safety issue, we turn around and promote the bench press and the squat. These are great points and ones we have tried to address since this article was first published. 

First, we maintain that bench press injuries occur under elements of competition such as power lifting or 1RM testing, both of which we are against in the training of athletes. Power lifting and 1RM testing are great for the sports themselves (just as we maintain for Olympic lifting, but not as a means to train traditional sport athletes). We have asked those questioning our use of the Bench Press to lead us to research that points to Bench Press dangers because we sincerely would like to know the "truth", however, none has been presented. 

The squat is another issue altogether. We are aware of several programs, similar to our own who have eliminated the squat from their routine. Quality Leg Press machines are hard to come by and out of reach for many high school programs. We feel that certain body types, shorter/stockier athletes can perform the Squat, with proper spotting and rack, safely. With injured or awkward athletes we do not hesitate to prescribe the leg press. -S.A. August 12, 2002]

Good form performing Olympic lifts will help reduce the amount of injuries in athletes but much more time spent in the weight room teaching these lifts is a must. Not only that, proper supervision is also a necessity. We have not seen the proper supervision and coaching especially at the high school level.

One coach training 30-40 athletes is an impossible scenario for proper supervision using Olympic lifts. Even with necessary time, the Olympic lifts have been known to cause many injuries when athletes have very good form. If a coach did demand this kind of time from their athletes, we ask: “What are you training your athletes for? An Olympic lifting competition?” We maintain that these lifts do very little to help athletes in their prospective sports as our research indicates in previous articles. [We do not literally mean that we have scientifically performed research studies, but rather researched what others have done. We were recently labeled as a website that brings nothing new to the table. That maybe true but what we are trying to do is educate those people already sitting at the table, eating whatever the Old Guard sets in front of them. -S.A. August 12, 2002]

Get your athletes in the weight room and then get them out. Spend proper time on specific skills for your sport and spend more time studying, your athletes will be much better off.

If you have questions or comments about this web site or strength development or training please drop us a note.

05 August, 2002

Is Training to Failure Necessary? Mystery Guest: Father Lange of Notre Dame

"That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves." -Thomas Jefferson
There continues to be a misconception among coaches that using multiple sets rather than single set programs produce superior results in strength gains. In truth the research has shown no difference in the use of multiple sets over single sets in this regard. The "trick" to make single sets work
for your program is the level of intensity. Working to momentary muscular fatigue is vital in promoting strength gains.

We understand that progress in strength can be made not reaching that point of muscular fatigue. However, despite the strength gains, the recruitment of muscle fibers would not be complete. It is the concept of exhausting the muscle that triggers the recruitment of total motor units.

The Overload Principle, based on stressing the muscles with higher resistance or intensity on an ongoing basis, forces the muscles under stress to grow. Beginners will make good progress in strength while not reaching the point of muscular failure and that may be well advised to do so at a young age. This approach is prudent until they have at least learned the exercise movements and develop efficient neuromuscular pathways.

In the November 1999 edition of Coach and Athletic Director, Dan Riley and Jason Arapoff state that "high intensity exercise strictly adheres to the overload principle." Athletes who end an exercise movement when they are straining or tired, but do not continue the movement to the inability to move the weight, will leave some muscle fibers un-recruited. "Its that simple: work until you cannot work anymore!"

Also, training to failure will make tracking progression easier. If you stop short of failure, say at 90% of your potential intensity, it would become difficult to know when to move up in weight and reps. There will be no doubt as to when to move up when you train in an all out manner to momentary muscular failure. We believe that if the athlete is using the correct exercises and proper spotting that this is a very safe way to train and it is also the most productive and efficient way to train. Riley and Arapoff conclude, "Without overload, there is no reason for the muscle to get stronger. The muscles will simply adapt to he level of strength they are exposed to."

In conclusion, there are various ways to make strength gains. For simplicity let's use two groups Volume & Intensity. The volume group may perform a rigid prescription of sets and reps such as 5 x 5 or 3 x 8. The athlete in this program will simply perform the prescribed repetitions even if they could continue lifting the weight. Some programs such as BFS allow for this by encouraging the athletes to continue to failure on the last set. Although this wrinkle in the rules looks to align itself with our way of thinking we differ in the fact that the athlete has to perform 3-5 sets before working to failure. While we allow for a warm-up set, 5 seems excessive to say the least. (This is not to pick a fight with coaches who use BFS, we used it ourselves for several years). Compare the Volume group to the Intensity group, who completes 1 set of appropriate weight to failure... total and utterly complete failure. Done... muscle fibers recruited. Move to the next exercise. While the Intensity group is on movement number 3, the Volume group is on set number 3.

Do both work? Yes.

Why choose the Intensity method? 1) We feel we can work more in less time. 2) We feel we can accurately measure gains in strength without the use of percentenges or 1RM.

Mystery Guest: Father Lange

We return to our Mystery Guest feature in which we present figures who have impacted the role of strength training in the field of traditional athletics. This week had just one correct answer: Jim Bryan, New Haven FL.

Father Lange can be credited with helping to start the strength training movement on college campuses long before the strength boom of the 1970's. In fact it was in 1922 when Knute Rockne, legendary Notre Dame football coach, began pushing his athletes towards this barbell-happy priest. Lange trained over 6,000 athletes, from all collegiate venues trained under his supervision. This all happening without official University support.

It was not until 1960 when Notre Dame began a physical education program and gave it's strength training priest a brand new facility. So, in a way, linked closer to the traveling strongman than the educated ivory tower, (although it was his academic resume which brought his efforts credibility), and decades before any university would hire an official strength coach, coaches at Notre Dame were sending their athletes to his charge. "The strength coaching profession truly should regard him as a founding father."

This week's mystery guest information was found in a book of collected essays by various strength coaches and experts from around the country. "Maximize Your Training: Insights from Leading Strength and Fitness Professionals," edited by Matt Brzycki is simply loaded with history, science, and tons of information on safe, productive, and efficient strength training. This 450 page book is well worth the $20 you'll spend to have it on your shelf. The story of Notre Dame's early strongman/priest was found in Chapter I, Might and Muscle: Antiquity to Arnold, by Jan Dellinger. The image of Father Lange comes from the Notre Dame Archives .

If you have questions or comments about this web site or strength development or training please drop us a note

29 July, 2002

Summer Conditioning Recap

Like high school football coaches all over America, we are winding down our summer conditioning program and getting ready for the task at hand... playing football. We have, however, had great feedback from our athletes, who as a whole have not had an organized strength training program presented to them like it was this summer.

In all fairness to our school's coaches there has always been an interest to develop strength in our athletes. However, this has always been limited to small groups of kids such as the wrestlers or the shot putters, not the overall school body.

This summer we saw our numbers remains consistent from week 1 to week 9 reaching most sport programs except for those in which a coach forbid his athletes to participate. Even in those cases we had some representatives present for training.

We attribute much of our success this summer to the following:
  • Enthusiastic Coaches: In a reflection of strength training America we, as coaches, disagreed about various elements of a training regimen. However, our desire to "coach 'em-up" was strong and philosophies took a back seat to training, supervision, and motivation. We created an atmosphere that was non-threatening to the novice lifters and at the same time challenging to our more experienced athletes. The kids never knew what elements of the training were liked or disliked by various coaches... That wasn't important to us... hard work, commitment, and improvement was.

  • Full Body Routines: By employing a full body routine we found that we could limit our workouts to three days a week. In reality, three days was almost too much for our really intense kids. We had to use three days a week as the Strength and Conditioning class was being offered for credit and the kids had to have X amount of hours. However, we were able to work the kids heavy and hard on Monday and Friday while Wednesday was used to practice form and technique. Also, when dealing with large numbers of kids you find that attendance is more important to some than to others. We felt that a split body routine three-times a week would leave behind the kid who seemed to sleep in at least once a week.

  • Educational Lectures: We would spend time early on talking to the kids in a class room setting. Topics would include basics such as how to fill out the workout card and proper lifting form. We felt that it was extremely important to educate the kids on muscle-fiber recruitment and the importance of working to momentary muscular fatigue. Realistically, not all the kids understood or wanted to understand these issues, but many did and we could see the carry-over in the weight room intensity.

  • Individual Attention: We feel that each athlete deserves individual attention. Athletes are not created with cookie cutters and thus cannot be given cookie cutter exercise advice. Boys appreciated knowing how to use strength training to gain weight while the girls were excited to learn how to lose weight. Some kids were injured... They performed alternative movements. Some kids would plateau in strength... They were treated according to their intensity levels. Some were given time off while others were given intensifying techniques. In any case, the athletes came to regard us as trusted advisers. They came to us with questions as opposed to seeking advice from the latest gimmic being tauted in the latest issue of MuscleMag. One athlete, who works for the local MLB team, came to us with a duffle bag full of nutritional supplements that he was given at the stadium. Instead of mixing up a worthless batch of Power-in-a-Bottle to show off in front of his GNC worshipping friends he came to us. He wanted to know what they were and what they were supposed to do before he used them. How many 16 year old kids trust coaches enough to do that?
It should be noted that our school's strength and conditioning program is young and has a long way to go before we reach our full potential. We are amazed at the great job other schools are doing in our area and hope to mimic their success in the years to come.

In conclusion, the summer of 2002 was productive for our athletes. We grew as coaches, learning how to compromise and support each others values. Most importantly we grew stronger, literally. We wish all you football coaches the best of luck as your seasons get underway. Coach 'em-up!"

22 July, 2002

25th Annual NSCA Convention

 "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown." -William Shakespeare
Although StrongerAthletes.com was not able to attend the 25th Annual NSCA Convention, Coach Gary Gant from Apple Valley, California was, and sent us this report. We sincerely hope that this forum can help to educate coaches that safe, productive, and efficient training methods are not unheard of or un-sound philosophies. Coach Gant serves as yet another voice, frustrated at the one-sidedness of much of America's strength training discourse.

I had the privilege this weekend of attending the 25th anniversary and conference for the National Strength and Conditioning Association(NSCA). This was my first NSCA conference, my primary job is that of an athletic trainer and I usually attend NATA conventions. I learned a lot of valuable information, and most importantly information that I can use right away.

One thing that troubled me was the anti-HIT (High Intensity Training) rhetoric. I could not count how many times that I heard to "Train ballistically because sports are ballistic in nature".

Coach Mannie, who was referenced to by one of the speakers on this topic said it best, "Training ballistically because your sport is ballistic is like banging your head against a wall to prepare for a concussion". This is probably not an exact quote but you get the idea.

I heard how machine training is not functional to sport, because machine training does not mimic sport. My question is, "When did STRENGTH no matter how it is built not become functional?" There were many references throughout the conference about this and I could go with many examples.

One session that I would like to tell you about was called "Hit or Miss: a review of research relevant to High Intensity Training."

The first topic the speakers covered was the definition of HIT and the Anti-Specificity characteristics of it.

  • 1. The Use of Anti-Specific Training (However, HIT coaches encourage specificity, in practicing specifically for his or her sport, how sport specific can you get?)

  • 2. The Use of Machines (Despite the fact that HIT is pro barbell, dumbbell, sand bags, anvils, cars, etc. anything that will build strength).

  • 3.The Use of Pro body building techniques such as eccentric, partial reps, manuals, and slow motion training. (Regardless of who these techniques are associated with they make a strength session harder, thus you have made it more productive).

  • 4. They argue concepts of velocity specificity, and the transfer of learning. (How can lifting a weighted object be velocity specific? If it has weight then it must be moving slower. Transfer of learning to what? How can O-lifting transfer to almost every sport? I do not think that it can).

  • 5. They are Anti-weight lifting, plyometrics and dynamics, and ballistic training. (We are pro-Safety and pro-Muscle tension and force production of the working muscle.)

  • 6.Risk of injury is the rationale for most of the above. (Lifting weights quickly is either (A) safer than slower speeds, (B) same as slower speeds, or (C) more dangerous than lifting at slower speeds,what would common sense tell you A,B,or C? I believe the answer is obvious).

The two speakers presented themselves well, and I could tell that they are very knowledgeable men. They presented research that was relevant to their cause, but I am sure that a HIT speaker would have plenty of research to support his or her cause. One bit of data was on how common HIT is in athletics. From their data 15 colleges use HIT, one NBA and NHL team use HIT. 2 MLB teams use HIT, and 5 NFL teams use HIT. What was not mentioned that of these teams what is the injury rate, and also success.

More references were made about HIT with a lot of the information coming from Cyberpump.com

  • 1. Always add weight to the bar going all out not almost all out. (Progressive overload, even periodization believes in this fact.)

  • 2. Pick a weight that you normally do for 10 reps and do 20. (This is in reference to 20 rep squats, I can't describe it, but check out Dr. Ken squatting 407 for 23 reps on cyberpump.com).

  • 3. Minimal recovery between sets of 1-3 minutes. (If an athlete can perform the same amount or more work in less time, I would consider that an efficient workout).

Research on single sets vs. multiple sets - This always has to be explained to the public, the single set group usually uses 8-12 reps, and the multi set group uses very low to moderate rep ranges.

To check strength improvement the 1rm is used, if the 1rm is the test, then the subjects should be allowed to practice the 1rm. A 1rm is a skill unto itself, and may change daily based on rest, recovery, stress etc.

Also it was said that high volume allows more ability to workout longer. How does the old saying go? "An athlete can workout HARD for a short period of time or workout easier for a longer period of time".

In conclusion, I am proud to be a member of the NSCA, I am also proud of my CSCS credential. I believe the profession needs this organization and the credential to set a standard of professionalism. But this organization is obviously divided. There is a majority that is basically anti-HIT, and then a small group of HIT advocates. The USA came together liberal, conservative, black, white on 9/11/2001 and the country became stronger. For the NSCA to know it's true strength we need to be more accepting of each others ideas, myself included.

I learned a great deal about Functional Training and I can apply many of these ideas right away in re-hab protocols. We can all learn from each other, there is no one right way to train athletes, I just believe HIT to be a Safer and more Efficient training method. I will attend more NSCA meetings and try to become more involved myself and I hope others will do the same.

In Health,
Gary D. Gant ATC,CSCS

If you have questions or comments about this web site or strength development or training please drop us a note.