30 January, 2002

The Best Exercises for Power

"The eyes see only what the mind is prepared to comprehend." -Robertson Davies

StrongerAthletes.com would like coaches to understand the difference between developing power and expressing power. We believe that athletes should train to develop power in the off-season as well as in-season.

An article written in Strength and Health Magazine, "In-Season Power Training," by Mike Clark from Texas A&M stated

"Olympic-style weightlifting movements (power and full) and their variations are the most effective lifts for power. Here are some of the exercises we use in our in-season training. Hang clean, hang snatch, back clean, block snatch, squat/push press, one arm DB snatch."

StrongerAthletes.com will refute this argument time and time again. That the aforementioned lifts merely express power and do little to develop it. If momentum is involved in the lift, then the load is too light to efficiently train type IIb muscle fiber. See Muscle Fiber Recruitment.

Ken Mannie, strength Coach at Michigan State University, in his article "Power Points" explains,
"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, slower muscle contractions generate force. Remember that the "intent" to move the weight rapidly may still be evident but the appropriate weight selection will inhibit the external speed."

StrongerAthletes.com believes in order to develop power it is necessary to recruit as much muscle fiber possible during exercise. Increasing strength through exercises like bench press, squat, deadlift, and leg presses, which do not involve momentum when sufficient weight is used, is the most efficient way to develop power.

26 January, 2002

More on Contradictions

"The best way out is always through." -Robert Frost

Dear StrongerAthletes.com: More on Contradictions

We received a wonderful e-mail concerning our January 20th article about a contradiction among some coaches who feel Olympic lifts will benefit their athletes without directly transferring to their sport. We cannot say enough how important
it is to recognize various philosophies and training methods but encourage all coaches who work with athletes in the weight room to find a safe, productive, and efficient program. StongerAhtlete.com's reply is following the quoted dialog.
Dear Coach Rody,

I just found your web site. On January 20, you posed a question [See Make-up Your Mind]. I have an answer.

The question was: “In other words Lentz’s comments can be interpreted as: “Olympic lifts will not benefit the athlete in any sport but weightlifting, however, the athlete will benefit from explosive lifting.” This statement seems contradictory and confusing. If anybody has another interpretation of this statement, please let us know and we will post it up.” –S.A.
Another interpretation? Easy. Here are a few. Keep in mind that I'm not arguing for these positions, just pointing out possible interpretations that are not contradictory.

1. "Unnecessary" does not mean, "will not benefit". You can train effectively for soccer, football, basketball, baseball, softball, etc. without using Olympic lifts. They're not NECESSARY. But they're helpful, and can make a decent training program better.

This is the same argument that Lentz was trying to make. However phrases such as “But they’re helpful,” serves no scientific purpose beyond theory. StrongerAthletes.com does not believe that Olympic lifts can possibly be helpful or benefit the athlete in any sport other than Olympic weight lifting and support that belief with science [See Principle of Specificity and Developing Power]. You say it, “Can make a decent program better.” How? -S.A
2. "The ability to perform the actual snatch or clean and jerk lifts” is not synonymous with "explosive lifting". The snatch and clean and jerk are explosive lifts designed to allow the maximum amount of weight to be lifted overhead within the limits of the rules of Olympic weightlifting.

First, the term explosive is misleading. Power can more accurately express what you are trying to say as it uses time or speed in its measurement. "Explosive" should be used with the intent to move a maximum or, heavy load, quickly-WITHOUT momentum. –S.A.
Even those who argue in favor of explosive lifting often point out that the action of dipping under the bar in the "classic" lifts is not beneficial to athletic performance, and use the "power" versions of the lifts, which require a longer pull (more complete range of motion). Or other lifts entirely - high pulls, for example, instead of cleans, or Push presses instead of jerks.

Again we point out that if the lifts, classic or otherwise, are not beneficial to sports other than Olympic lifting why do coaches have their athletes do them? The two lifts Lentz incorporated in his adolescent training program are dumbbell jumps and the dumbbell power shrug. These are not the “Power” versions of the “explosive” lifts. Regardless of what type of Olympic lift used, the athlete is merely expressing power and doing very little to develop it. Even in a high pull, the weight is too light to efficiently develop power as stated in our previous article “Express vs. Developing Power”. Although we do believe the high pull would a better choice other than the clean for coaches still wanting to incorporate these types of lifts into their program. –S.A.
3. "With heavy resistance is unnecessary for the training of many sports" may mean that explosive lifts with lighter weights is being advocated. Some people might use multiple sets of 3-5 reps with a moderate weight in the power clean, never going heavy or approaching their maximum possible weights, instead of the more common singles, doubles or triples with near-maximum poundage, which are more likely to lead to missed lifts, poor form, slower movements, etc.

4. Most likely, all of the above.

Any use of lighter weight defeats the sole purpose of developing power and gaining maximum strength, which can only be done by increasing the loads, in other words, heavy weight. As far as issues of “missed lifts and poor form,” we feel that this is extra bad baggage that these movements bring to a workout program.

It is true that the article written by Lentz advocates low intensity for the adolescent. StrongerAthletes.com believes that the beginner will start with low intensity to learn the movements first but can definitely train type IIb muscle fiber by still reaching muscular failure but at a higher repetition [See Fiber Recruitment]. Adolescents that perform lifts that are requiring momentum could potential cause serious problems in the epiphyseal area of bone growth. Slow, controlled movements are recommended so the tension can remain on the muscle throughout the movement thus the risk of injury is much less. The point is in order to develop power, momentum must be taken out of the lift as much as possible. –S.A.
OK, so now you have several possible interpretations of that statement that are not contradictory. Again, I'm not saying that I support or oppose those interpretations. But they're there, even though you apparently were unable to come up with them.

We identify the same things however, we are approaching strength training with developing the high school and collegiate athlete for traditional scholastic sports, not Olympic lifting competitions. We appreciate your interpretations. However, StrongerAthletes.com refuses to try to interpret statements such as Lentz’s in an attempt to justify it. We could come up with many interpretations, such as yours, but they would be misleading, bogus, and based on “Junk” science, as some of the research is in this field. We have not found any scientifically sound research that explains how Olympic lifting benefits athletic performance in other sports. The strongest argument is the use of multiple joint exercises, which we acknowledge as sound research. However, combined with strength development and safety the trade off is not equal. We will only present ideas based on scientific principles. We wanted to see if anyone happened to have this. –S.A.
Personally, I think that anyone trying to promote a responsible approach to strength should be familiar enough with the full range of approaches to training in use to be able to understand what is a fairly simple, basic statement of training philosophy. Especially since there is probably more to that article than the two sentences you chose to quote.

StrongerAthletes.com has no intention of printing an entire article from other writers. If you are insinuating that we are not familiar with other training approaches you apparently have not read our previous articles which quote other training philosophies. You mention a “responsible” approach to strength. Do you really think that a program that involves dangerous movements is responsible? Our intention is to provide a responsible program that is safe, productive, and efficient. –S.A.
If you do not understand something, you cannot successfully oppose it. As a further example of that, in the same January 20 article you state: "Some coaches believe that a hang/power clean does not neuromuscularly transfer to better skill performances in the sport but will still incorporate these lifts in their program." True. But then, a set of heavy leg presses in a Nautilus or Hammer Strength machine does not neuromuscularly transfer to better skill performances either. But many [non-Olympic fift] trainers regularly ask their athletes to perform those movements. Why? Most would say that it's because a leg press serves other purposes besides training a sport-specific skill. Well, duh. That's obvious.

We have always maintained that no movement in the weight room can simulate and neuromuscularly transfer to better sport specific skills. We have never claimed that a leg press or any movement can transfer as you have indicated. Again, a leg press can develop power, which will make athletes faster and more explosive in their sport skills. We believe Olympic lifting is an inefficient way to develop power, these lifts simply express power. –S.A.
OK, sure, some "strength coaches" do claim the sport-specific theory. But some claim that [their program is the only legitimate training method.] Does this mean that these are the only options available to a strength coach? Can we judge Matt Brzycki, Dan Riley or Ken Leistner by these people? Clearly not, because these men use training techniques that differ, often significantly, from [other prominent strength programs], and get good results. These men would be the first to say, when attacked by the [Olympic lifting world], "Don't judge all [non-Olympic lifting] trainers alike. Judge us by our training philosophies, not by your preconceived notions of what [non-Olympic training is]." Conversely, don't judge all advocates of explosive lifts alike. Some are brain-dead. Some are not.

We could not agree more that there are many different program out there that are very effective. –S.A.
Assuming that a trainer is reasonably intelligent, has been exposed to a wide range of theories - and what passes for science - concerning proper training, understands the concept of sport-specific training and the fact that a power-clean isn't it, is it possible for such a person to have other reasons for advocating explosive lifts? Clearly so, since many seem to do it.

This is an interesting question and one in which we have attempted to find the answer. We have read the Nebraska Conditioning for Football by Arthur and Bailey and came away with multiple joint movements. We have contacted prominent strength coaches around the country who respond back to us with bibliography lists for further reading as opposed to dialog on the subject. Believe us when we tell you that we are in search of sound logical research in support of using Olympic lifts for the betterment of scholastic athletes.

Furthermore, What passes for science? Science is theory or principle (fact). The Principle of Specificity is fact, that’s why it is a principle. Remember, we our trying to promote a method of strength training that will help athletic performance in various sports excluding Olympic lifting competitions. We have researched extensively the science behind Olympic lifting for other sports and have not found any good, hard fact science supporting it. There is science out there that supports it but is is often misleading and goes against some basic principles of Biology. –S.A.
The question for the day is: "Why?" [See What is a Productive and Efficient Program?]

Can you come up with good, solid ideas/theories/whatever that would support the use of explosive lifts? I'm not saying these ideas have to be right. They could be flat-out wrong. They could be based on serious misunderstandings of exercise physiology.

StrongerAthletes.com does not find it beneficial nor desirable to come up with ideas supporting Olympic lifting especially if the ideas are physiologically unsound. This would not be fair to our athletes or readers. –S.A
But if intelligent people choose to do a thing for reasons other than blind faith, then those who try to convince them of their mistakes (or who try to prevent others from making the same mistakes) must first understand those reasons.

To understand reasons of blind faith will not be beneficial to our athletes. We don’t want to use Olympic lifts in our program just because our coaches used them. Why did our coaches use them? Because Nebraska uses them? Because the East Germans were using them at the time? Why? We want to educate our athletes to train for sports in a fashion that is backed by science. –S.A.
Fail to understand, and you will fail to convince. To take things one step further, fail to understand, and how will you yourself know that you are right?

Adam Guasch-Melendez

StrongerAthletes.com realizes that there are many training methods our there and many Olympic lifting advocates have had very successful programs, strengthening their athletes for their sport. Do you ever stop to think that the schools that incorporate these lifts still do the slow controlled lifts such as bench press, squat, and deadlift? These schools still do these lifts, therefore develop power. We just think they are wasting their time with the momentum lifts and putting athletes at risk of injury.

We challenge some of the top schools that do incorporate Olympic lifting in their program to take them out and see if they are not still a top team. We venture to guess that they will still be a top team. Also, there are many top teams who do not include Olympic lifts in their program as evident by our Teams page. Could that mean that the Olympic lifts are unnecessary for sports other than weightlifting? We believe the answer is yes. If these momentum lifts are so important why don’t schools exclusively use them?

We do appreciate your attempt at interpreting this contradiction and your comments and would like our readers to decide for themselves which type of program seems scientifically sound to them. If anyone else would like to comment on these issues please drop a note to continue this conversation. It is our intention to provide a safe, productive, and efficient program that is backed by scientific principles.

Coach Rody

24 January, 2002

What is a Productive and Efficient Program?

 "A person needs at intervals to separate from family and companions and go to new places. One must go without familiars in order to be open to influences, to change." - Katharine Butler Hathaway

StrongerAthletes.com would like for coaches to think about their program and ask the question, “Why”? Why do you do the program you do? Why does your program have certain exercises and not others? We would like all athletes to be on a program that is safe, efficient, and productive. This article will address how
productive and efficient your program is.

We provide a very productive and efficient program that takes each individual athlete into account. All coaches have a goal to help athletes get stronger, bigger, and more powerful and explosive. To make a program productive and efficient, the coach must require the athlete to train just enough to meet his or her goal to get stronger.

Compare 2 athletes on 2 different programs:

  • Program #1- The athlete trains 4 days per week for 60-90 minutes.

  • Program #2 –The athlete trains 2 times per week for 30-40 minutes.

Both athletes make the same gains. That makes program # 2 more efficient.

Coaches should not be leery about having their athletes train 2 times per week. Strength training is not a contest to see how long an athlete can train or how many days per week they train. The important outcome is that the athlete makes gains. It must be understood that an important job for the coach is to adjust the program to fit a particular athlete’s level. This may require an athlete to train 3 days per week, 2 days per week, or 3 days every two weeks.

For example, high school freshman should not be on the same program as a Senior that has been lifting for 2-3 years. One of them will suffer in gains.

There are 3 phases to an athletes’ strength development:

  • Phase # 1- This is the stimulation phase. It is necessary for the athlete to perform exercises to muscular failure in order to trigger the strength and growth mechanism. Once strength and growth are triggered through proper stimulation, it cannot be triggered anymore for that training session.

  • Phase # 2- This is the Recovery phase. Recovery is necessary after stimulation has occurred. Recovery should be as short as possible. In order to keep the recovery short, the athlete must train with the least amount of sets possible preferably one set per exercise after the athlete learns to train intensely and is at the appropriate level. This will make the program more efficient.

  • Phase # 3- This is the growth phase. This phase will begin after the recovery phase is complete. Growth and strength will occur at the same time. On a proper set/rep scheme, a larger muscle is a stronger muscle. It is important to keep the growth phase as long as possible. In order to do this an athlete should train each body part less often. Strength and growth will follow recovery if during the training session you progressed in strength, either by performing more reps in an exercise than the previous workout or by lifting more weight in an exercise than the previous time you performed a set of that particular exercise. See Progression.

StrongerAthletes.com maintains that an athlete should have more days off than training days. This will ensure a longer growth phase. If an athlete trains again before the recovery phase ends, it will put them back into recovery again and if this repeats many times, the strength and growth phase will never occur and the athlete will be in an overtrained state that could take time to get out of.

Productive training means doing enough to get all 3 phases working properly. Efficient training will occur by spending less time training. Coaches need to take all these phases into account for each athlete. Each athlete will eventually be on his or her own individual program. This takes work but is well worth it.
Richardson, Burton “Heavy Duty Changes”.

20 January, 2002

Make-up Your Mind

 "Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself." -Walt Whitman

StrongerAthletes.com maintains that performing Olympic lifts does not benefit an athlete in any sport other than the actual sport of Olympic lifting. In our research we have come across many confusing viewpoints. Some coaches believe that a hang/power clean does
not neuromuscularly transfer to better skill performances in the sport but will still incorporate these lifts in their program. See To Transfer or Not To Transfer.

It is true according to the Principle of Specificity that this transfer cannot occur. Some say that they still perform the exercise for coordination development. Coordination development for what, the power clean? Why don’t they just practice the actual sport skill besides waste time with these potentially dangerous exercises?

Doug Lentz in his article “Strength Training For the Adolescent Athlete” in Strength and Health Magazine states, “ The ability to perform the actual snatch or clean and jerk lifts with heavy resistance is unnecessary for the training of many sports besides weight lifting. That said, I do strongly believe that the aforementioned sports (soccer, football, basketball, baseball, softball, etc.) do benefit greatly from the learning an incorporation of explosive movements.”

In other words Lentz’s comments can be interpreted as: “Olympic lifts will not benefit the athlete in any sport but weightlifting, however, the athlete will benefit from explosive lifting.” This statement seems contradictory and confusing. If anybody has another interpretation of this statement, please let us know and we will post it up.

18 January, 2002

Dear StrongerAthletes.com - Safety First

"Where all think alike, no one thinks very much." -Walter Lippmann

As our strength training philosophy spreads via the world wide web we are recieving some great comments from various coaches and athletes. Every so often we'll post many of these for the benefit of our readers. Please feel free to respond to any of our comments with opinion or questions of your own.
Dear Coach Rody, I just ran across your website. Thank you for having this forum for discussion. I agree that
we all share the same goal of strengthening our athletes. I also agree that supervision is seriously lacking in our high school weight rooms.

I appreciate your comments.  StrongerAthletes.com does have a philosophy that is in the minority right now but it is growing in popularity. Yes, we as coaches, all have the same common goal to strengthen athletes but our approach, we believe is the safest, most productive, and most efficient program possible. There are other very good programs out there but we feel that many are at the athletes expense when it comes to safety. -S.A.
I do, however think that "explosive" training is beneficial to sports activities. You mention "articles" written by strength coaches in various magazines but where is the research? We all have our opinions.

The coaches that I have quoted in the website have done research to back their beliefs, they are not just merely opinions. Some of the safety research includes: “ Avulsion Fractures of the Lower Cervical Vertebra in Strength Training” by Hunter, G.R. and R.L. Hunter; “Weightlifting Injuries and Their Prevention” by Vorobyev, A.N.; “Motor Learning: Concepts and Applications” by Magill, R.A. Another very good book regarding specificity is “Motor Learning and Performance: From Principles to Practice” by Richard Schmidt, and published by Human Kinetics. (I believe this is being used as a text at the college level in some Exercise Science classes.) -S.A.
My view of explosive training is not limited to Olympic style lifts. It includes plyometrics and assistance lifts that are similar to core lifts as well as cleans. Look into studies by A.S. Prilepin, Dr. Tamas Ajan, and Prof. Lazar Barago. They emphasize intensity and bar speed in training. This type of training affects all four components of strength development that an athlete needs: absolute, explosive, endurance, and speed. It does this by combining many principles and methods of training. Usually an explosive workout is followed 72 hours later by a max effort workout. Weaknesses are addressed by using assistance exercises.

As far as speed of the bar is concerned, I think our article “Expressing Power vs. Developing Power” explains the significance of bar speed. Speed is an expression of power. In order to develop power, the weight must be higher therefore the movement is slow and controlled.

We believe that slower controlled movements such as squats, deadlift, and bench press are explosive movements. But they are not considered explosive by most. The reason we call them explosive is because at the end of a set to failure an athlete is trying to move the weight as fast as possible but it is moving slowly because of the heavier amount of weight. If an athlete has the intention to move the weight quickly, then the movement is considered explosive. This heavy weight is necessary in order to train the Type II b fibers. -S.A.
One other thing I'd like to address. It might have just been me but I got the feeling that proponents of your methods believe that proponents of explosive training don't have their athletes practice their sport specific skills. The comment about the Bulgarian Lifting team playing basketball lead me to this. It is clear that while we can strengthen our athletes in the weightroom we can't make them successful on the feild. They must practice their Sport!

Thanks again,
Coach Troy Baxendell, Jaguar Iron Works

I get the feeling that you agree with us in that Olympic lifting does not simulate or transfer to sport specific skills. Please correct me if I made an incorrect assumption. We have met many coaches that do believe that these movements do simulate and transfer to better blocking, tackling, shooting, spiking, throwing, better performance in hockey etc. This transfer simply cannot occur and goes against the Principle of Specificity that has been scientifically proven. The Principle of Specificity is addressed even by the Nebraska strength coaches, who serve as the “voice” of Olympic lifting for athletics, in their publications.

That’s where the Bulgarian comments came from. It was directed to those coaches who never talk about sport specific training and practice, just Olympic lifts.

Well, I think we agree on some things and disagree. I do appreciate your comments. We would like to post Olympic lifting advocate comments as well as the Non-Olympic lifting advocate comments so people can see both sides.

Thanks again for your response. Hope to hear from you soon. -S.A.

14 January, 2002

Frequency of Training

quote_jan_15Continuing the topics related to helping coaches run a safe, sound and efficient strength program we address the issue of how often an athlete should lift weights. Our experience in strength training indicates 1-3 times per week is best. This actually depends on whether or not the athlete is in season, offseason, how advanced they are, and the experience they have.

"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish." -John Quincy Adams

Ted Lambrinides, the head of the exercise science department at Thomas Moore College and a long-time consultant with the Cincinnati Bengals, believes,
“There are a number of factors (nutrition, lifestyle, emotional stress, sports/practice, injury, number of exercises performed in a workout, level of trainee, volume of work performed per workout) which can influence training frequency recommendations.”

Many athletes seem to respond best training 2 days per week. Three days per week usually is best for beginners because they are just learning the movements. An athlete’s progress seems to be slowed when training more than three days per week. Many coaches are caught up in training athletes 4-5 days per week. However, even though you may be training different muscle groups Monday and Tuesday, an athlete needs that full day of recuperation in-between. If training on a proper controlled movement program, all muscles of the body are affected on many lifts (which is a major positive to those of you who follow Olympic lifting programs).

For example, one program I witnessed had the athletes squat one day and do deadlift the very next day. You are training similar muscle groups in those two exercises. As stated earlier, 2 days a week seems to be ideal for most athletes especially it they are going to do full body sessions. Do not think that the athlete is not doing enough work just because he or she is training just 2 days per week. If they are progressing in strength at a good rate, that is all that matters. This is the point at which many weight room coaches, especially at the high school level, where these coaches are also the football, wrestling, and basketball coaches, are not comfortable. Their priorities are with the nuances of their sport not necessarily the nuances of the weight room and how their athletes can improve the best.

Three days per week is also an excellent frequency for many athletes. The rotation should be Monday: upper body, Wednesday: lower body, Friday: upper body. That way the athlete gets plenty of recovery time between training sessions.

StrongerAthletes.com suggests athletes train with a high intensity. That’s why 2-3 days is best. Athletes that do Olympic lifts can train more frequently because these lifts are less intense because of the fact that momentum is involved which takes the stress off the working muscles which indicates that the weight being used is lighter.

Lambrinides explains,
“Olympic lifters may train more frequently because much of their work is skill work using light training loads. They may train more frequently to fine-tune their execution. Training 2 or 3 days/week are as effective training frequencies as any as long as intensity is high. There does not exist any scientific literature to my knowledge that would suggest that he more advance trainee needs to train more frequently, although some do.”

StrongerAthletes.com maintains that the more advanced an athlete is in strength training the less they need to train.

More High Schools

The following schools were brought to our attention this week as those who follow safe, productive, and efficient methods of strength training like those we promoye at StrongerAthletes.com. They have been added to our Teams Page.

Troy High School: Troy, OH
Mt. Blaine High School: Minneapolis, MN
Noka High School: Minneapolis, MN
Oak Hills High School: Cinncinati, OH
Sykamore High School: Cinncinati, OH

12 January, 2002

Strength Training Supervison

"If you have laid a solid foundation for the program, trained your athletes to a high level of conditioning, and developed advanced skills, you should win consistently." -Dan Gable, Legendary Wrestling Coach

A strength-training program that is well supervised is critical for the success of athletes. We have witnessed many coaches sitting or reading the newspaper while athletes train. This does not benefit our athlete. Many things are involved in supervision. One very important job of the supervisor is to make sure all athletes are training correctly on the proper program and are performing the execution of each exercise correctly. This will ensure the safety of the athletes. It will be beneficial for many coaches on staff to get involved in supervision.

Ken Mannie explains,
“Your entire coaching staff should be well versed on the practical application of your program. They should also be capable of providing hands-on assistance during the training sessions.”

Another important job is to make sure that each athlete is spotting the lifter correctly. We also feel another very important job is to monitor each athlete’s progress and make necessary changes to each individual program. We categorize athletes into three levels: Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced. Athletes may make their transition from one to the other at different times. Each athlete’s progress will occur at different rates. The coach may have to reduce the number of sets for an athlete or adjust the frequency (rest days) of another.

Some may feel that this would be a big job or impossible to do if you have many athletes in the weight room at once. However, it really is quite manageable provided the program is well organized. Using controlled movements also may reduce the time spent coaching technique, as these types of exercises are much easier to master. Olympic movements on the other hand are extremely technical and take constant coaching. It does not take very long to learn controlled movements and develop efficient neural pathways compared to Olympic lifts. There are many more errors that can occur with Olympic movements as well. Imagine one supervisor with 45 athletes in the weight room and half of them are trying to do power cleans and the other half performing the snatch. This situation is dangerous and impossible to monitor. The coach would not have the time to give that appropriate attention to all athletes
Mannie, Ken. "Perspectives on Strength Training For Athletes."

08 January, 2002

Skill Transfer in Sports Training

"Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead

To Transfer Or Not To Transfer

StrongerAthletes.com maintains that performing a weight room exercise in the attempt to simulate specific skills in a sport cannot happen. Yet many coaches seem to think that this does happen because others just do what other teams do or misinterpret the
meaning of the Principle of Specificity. The athlete must train the muscle in a controlled manner with full contractions while fully exhausting the muscle then go out and do the actual skills of the sport they are training for (blocking, tackling, spiking, jumping, throwing etc.)

Lorne Goldenberg in his article “The Application of Weightlifting For Ice Hockey Training,” published in Strength and Health, states, “I tested the players for a maximum hang clean in training camp. They did not do much lifting during the season due to a poor training facility and my part-time status as their strength coach. However, when I re-tested them at the end of the season, they were able to demonstrate over 90% of their earlier training camp hang clean scores simply by playing hockey.”

We stress that coaches who think that the hang clean will help their athletes become better hockey players should believe that playing hockey will help them become better at the hang clean. And the Goldenburg study proves that this cannot happen. If hang cleans develop the same neuromuscular pathways as skills in hockey the athlete should perform at a higher level at the end of the season then at the beginning. But this is not the case.

Does performing hockey skills feel anything like a hang clean? A football tackle? A wrestling takedown? Hitting a home run in baseball? Some coaches may think so but that defies the Principle of Specificity. We maintain that it does not. The following statements are relating power cleans to sport skills and we believe that it could pertain to hang cleans or any other olympic lifting movement as well.

Matt Brzycki, strength coach at Princeton, gives a great analogy of this concept. “If there were a correlation between power cleans and other sports skills then highly successful weightlifters would excel at literally every sports-related movement that they attempted. So, if five members of the Bulgarian National Weightlifting Team were placed on a basketball court they should easily win every game! Naturally, this wouldn’t happen. That’s because there is absolutely no “carryover” between power cleans and other athletic skills.”

Furthermore, Brzycki continues, “ A movement like a power clean is also an extremely complex motor skill. Like any other motor skill, it takes a lot of time and patience to master its specific neuromuscular pattern. This valuable time and energy could be used more effectively elsewhere—such as perfecting your dribbling or shooting skills.”

An argument that we hear all the time is from coaches who want their kids to become “explosive” and thus have them practice the cleans. Brzycki address this concern as well, “If explosiveness demonstrated during a power clean, for example, did somehow transfer to a skill like a lineman driving off the line of scrimmage, why doesn’t it work the other way? Why doesn’t improvement in your ability to explode off the line of scrimmage improve your ability to do power cleans?” Similar to the Goldenburg example the answer lies in the Principle of Specificity.

Ken Mannie, strength coach at Michigan State, in his article “The Case Against Explosive Weight Training” explains, “Movement specificity is a term that has long been misinterpreted by the NSCA. To say that, "the snatch and clean are very similar to other athletic movements such as jumping," is to contradict many of the basic principles of motor learning.” This fact is supported by R.A. Magill, “Performing a certain type of lifting movement with the hope that it will transfer to a sport-specific or position-specific task is useless. The central nervous system acquires, stores and uses only meaningful information when movement is required.”

Jason Hadeed in his article “Sport-Specific Training: The Neuromuscular Connection” states “It is important to understand that most sport's skills are finely tuned, motor coordinated movements that take several years to master. It is possible to improve on those movements by increasing the strength of the surrounding muscles, which is done with a sensible strength training routine. We cannot improve these skills by adding additional weighted implements without risking the efficiency and specificity of the original skill.”

Today’s comments are to serve two purposes. First that Olympic lift movements such as the cleans, are not transferable to the sports specific, athletic arena. A stronger athlete who uses appropriate practice time on become “explosive” through sport specific techniques will, in the end, become more “explosive”. Secondly, we want to point out that the ideas presented here at StongerAthletes.com are not from left field. In fact these ideals of safety and efficiency are alive and well in many athletic circles across America. It is a simple fact that many of today’s coaches are simply uneducated about the benefits of Olympic lifting and we hope to serve as a resource for those who are seeking reason.
Brzyki, Matt, “The Complete Dirt on the Power Clean”.
Magill, R.A. Motor Learning: Concepts and Applications, 3rd Edition. Wm. C. Brown Publishers, Dubuque, Iowa, 1989.

Progression and Recuperation in Strength Training

"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish." -John Quincy Adams


One of the most important factors in a good strength training program is progression. To make sure that every athlete progresses it will take proper communication with your athletes. It is crucial to tell athletes to notify you (the coach) if progress slows or stops. Adjustments should be made at
that time on that individual's program. Every athlete responds differently to a program and you will need to fit the program to that athlete's needs. Also, each athlete's recovery time is different. Cheryl Zovich in her article “Progression” states, “Many lifters fail to progress due to the fact that they continue to use lifting techniques they’ve outgrown.”

However, individualizing an entire team's workouts can be daunting. We spoke to a local high school coach about this topic and he said that it is impossible to do. He said there isn’t enough time in a day when you have to train many athletes. This means the following areas must be addressed: 1) the athletes must be on a program that is well organized 2) the proper number of athletes are using the weight room 3) how long the athletes train in appropriate, and 4) the athletes have a proper chart to track their progress.

It is important that an athlete do more weight or perform more repetitions each time they perform a particular exercise. Tim Swanger, Mike Bradley, & Steve Murray stated in their article “The Importance of Progression” “Strength training, to be productive, must be difficult and progressive. But the progression need not be difficult to understand. Each workout, on each exercise, try to increase the weight or the repetitions. This is called the double progressive method of overload and it is the most effective way to improve.”

Even if the improvement is minor, it is significant. Swanger, Bradley, Murray also said “Make every inch of every repetition count. Don’t cheat yourself by using momentum for one inch. Make progression the driving force in your workouts. Try to add one rep each time you train. Or try to add a half of a rep. Or six inches. Demand improvement from yourself each time you train. Refuse to replicate previous results.”

We apply these principles in an efficient manner by not regulating sets and reps but demanding the athlete simply improve either in weight or repetition each workout. For example if an athlete dead lifted 375lbs 7 times on Monday his Thursday workout should have him failing at 375lbs 8 or 9 times. When that athlete can reach failure at 10-12 reps its time to add weight.

This can be done effectively and efficiently with a simple progression chart.


Another important factor in strength training that is often ignored is recuperation. Too many coaches tell their athletes to be in the weight room a certain amount of times no matter what. If we are concerned about the athlete's individual progress then we better pay attention to rest.

If progression slows, then the problem could mean not enough rest. It could mean that they need to perform less sets or one less exercise or an extra day off. One of the arts of strength coaching is to figure out these factors on your athletes.

Matt Brzycki in his article Recovery: A Requirement for Muscle Growth, states: “You should see a gradual improvement in the amount of weight and/or the number of repetitions that you’re able to do over the course of several weeks. If not, then you’re probably not getting enough of a recovery between workouts. Remember, if you want a muscle to get larger and stronger you must stress it, feed it and rest it!”

StrongerAthletes.com believes that proper progression plus well monitored recuperation leads to a stronger athlete.

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

03 January, 2002

Potential Injuries from Olympic Lifts

"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish." -John Quincy Adams

Many coaches still believe that Olympic lifts are safe to perform for athletes of various sports. We think that common sense tells us otherwise. Take for example lifting an object off the floor, lifting slowly is much safer than lifting it quickly. An article written in Strength and Health Magazine winter 2001 by Doug Lentz,
“Strength Training for the Adolescent Athlete,” indicates that by “Not performing the “catch” phase of the power snatch and clean, we avoid potential wrist complications.”

StrongerAthletes.com maintains that the “catch” phase is not the only area a coach needs to be concerned with.

Lentz continues,
“By incorporating a sound training base and safe introduction to explosive lifting movements, the athletes experience the benefits first-hand. Certainly there are those opposed to explosive movements who claim this type of lifting is unsafe. Maybe we’ve just been lucky. Or maybe it’s sound programming and proper coaching that have helped assist our young athletes stay ahead of the pack without experiencing weight raining-related injuries.”

However, StrongerAthletes.com believes that even if these explosive movements are performed with good technique, they still have great injury potential unlike a slow, controlled movement.

Matt Brzycki, Princeton strength coach in his article, “Coach, I Wanna Be Explosive", explains,
“Using momentum to lift a weight increases the internal forces encountered by a given joint, the faster a weight is lifted, the greater these forces are amplified. These high forces are created at the point of explosion. When the forces exceed the structural limits of a joint, an injury occurs in the muscles, bones, and connective tissue.”

“Kuland has mentioned injuries to the wrist, elbows, and shoulder while performing Olympic lifts-injuries which were obviously related to acceleration and/or deceleration forces imposed in these areas.”

“S. Hall concluded from her study on the clean and jerk that fast lifting speeds generate dramatic increases in compressive force, shear force, torque and myoelectric activity in the lumbar region.”

Brzycki also stated in “Complete Dirt on the Power Clean,”
“Orthopaedically -unsafe exercises. Indeed, the potential for injury from power cleans is positively enormous. When performing power cleans, the musculoskeletal system is exposed to repetitive trauma and extreme biomechanical loading. Young athletes are especially vulnerable.”

StrongerAthletes.com emphasizes that coaches owe it to their athletes to provide a safe, productive, and efficient strength-training program for their athletes.

If you have questions or comments about this web site or strength development or training please don't hesitate to contact us.

02 January, 2002

Dear Stronger Athletes: Cleans and Athleticism

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." -Anaïs Nin

As our strength training philosophy spreads via the world wide web we are recieving some great comments from various coaches and athletes. Every so often we'll post many of these for the benifit of our readers. Please feel free to respond to any of our comments with opinion or questions of your own.
Dear Coach Rody, I do not argue that any lift simulates actual sport movements. I do believe that the power clean is a lift that requires athleticism thus is a good lift to do in order to develp athleticism.
If a power clean improves your athleticism... to meet what end? We maintain it will only improve performance of the power clean. -S.A.
I am always looking for new ideas in strength training. Please let me know some of your ideas. I don't feel that any lift that builds strength is a bad lift. I don't argue that specific lifts carry over to movements used in sports though. Lifting to me builds strength to enhance performance. -A. Vitt, Head Wrestling Coach, Moberly, Missouri

Coach, thanks for your comments your imput is well received. -S.A.
Dear Coach Rody, I hope you had a terrific Christmas and that everything is going well for you. I showed people the stick figures. [See Principle of Specificity] Everyone's reaction was just like mine, laughing out loud. You don't even have to read what you wrote to laugh. It's hilarious, and "but who is going to do that" tops it off.

It's really not a laughing matter but you're right, even if this did simulate a sprint there simply is no transfer. -S.A.
It's definitely an interesting website too. I especially thought the muscle fiber recruitment article was interesting. -Brian, University of Missouri-Columbia

Thanks, we appreciate your tuning in and spreading the word! -S.A.