28 May, 2002

Another Look At Creatine

"The combination of creatine supplementation, high heat, and high humidity could be deadly!" -Iowa High School Athletic Association

Welcome back...

Since we first published our April 12 article on creatine we have found some additional resources which coaches may find helpful. We feel that the coach has a responsibility beyond "legalities" to ensure the safety of their athletes. It is our stance at StrongerAthletes.com that a coach should strongly deter athletes from using creatine due to 1) dehydration which combined with sport practices can be fatal and 2) unknown long term effects.

Here is what others are saying on the subject and we encourage you to look further into Creatine safety for yourself.


"In order to minimize health and safety risks to student-athletes, maintain ethical standards and reduce liability risks, school personnel and coaches should never supply, recommend or permit the use of any drug, medication or food supplement solely for performance-enhancing purposes." -National Federation of State High School Associations


"Further, the committee reaffirmed its position not to include creatine on the NCAA list of banned drug classes. A substance is added to the list of banned drug classes if it provides a performance-enhancing effect AND is harmful to the health of the user. Current evidence indicates that performance enhancement after the use of creatine will occur in certain situations and in certain individuals. Evidence does exist that some individuals have experienced harmful health effects from creatine use. However, health-risk data are preliminary and the committee affirmed its position that until such time that sufficient medical evidence exists that creatine use is harmful, it will not recommend a ban." -Report of the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports

Despite it not being labeled a drug that should be banned the NCAA Committee feels, "that the provision of weight-gain and muscle/strength building supplement products to student-athletes by member institutions and their personnel be nonpermissible at all times."


"The Association of Professional Team Physicians is comprised of team physicians who provide service to professional sports teams. In a recent survey, 85% of professional team physicians indicated they believe professional athletes should not be using creatine until more research has been conducted regarding its safety." -Iowa High School Athletic Association


"As with anything that is not subject to a certification process such as conducted by the Food and Drug Administration, purity and safety are not assured. Terjung, [Ronald Terjung, professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri, Columbia], also said the report, in addition to providing a scientific analysis of the effects of creatine on athletics performance, expressed some ethical concerns related to the use of creatine in the athletics arena. He said the report challenged any attempt to enhance sports performance by external means when athletics skill, dedicated training and personal effort remain the stellar quality of the true athletics competition. "Any view that ergogenic agents are essential to achieve that competitive edge in sports events undermines the spirit of athletics competition," Terjung said. "Such a view may even foster a misguided drive that more is better and/or external dependence is essential." -NCAA's News & Features


"If creatine use is in any way related to dehydration, and it seems there is a connection, there are two areas of serious concern. Those areas are the use of creatine by athletes who are, or will be, competing in the "dog days of summer" and the use of creatine by wrestlers who are trying to lose weight. The combination of creatine supplementation, high heat, and high humidity could be deadly! Conditions creating high heat and humidity can be found naturally in the environment or created through the use of artificial weight loss methods such as rubber or plastic suits, saunas, or superheated wrestling rooms. Regardless of how the conditions are created, there is great concern for athletes who use creatine and work out in high heat and high humidity." -Iowa High School Athletic Association

24 May, 2002

Wrestling: America's Secret Weapon

"America needs wrestling." -Dan Gable
We have recently received comments and questions from wrestling coaches. We really, really like wrestling as a winter sport alternative for high school athletes. Here is a sport that rewards training, effort, courage, and skill... on a mat... by yourself... in front of your Mom. You either win or lose... it's not
the coach's or teammate's fault if you get pinned. Training is often grueling and self-motivated. Wrestlers have a concept of nutrition and fitness unequaled in other high school athletes. Thanks to the coaches and athletes who wrote us this week seeking additional training ideas.
Dear Coach Rody

Interesting web site. You guys seem to really dislike Olympic lifts

Actually we do not dislike Olympic Lifts. We think it is a great sport. We simply believe the quick movements do not transfer to sport specific skills outside of Olympic Lifting. Also, we do not feel that performing them is safe and it is not efficient in terms of time the athlete should spend in the weight room. It takes a long time for athletes to master these lifts and they would be better off practicing their wrestling skills in your case. -S.A
I have some comments and questions concerning strength training for wrestling. First off, i think the hang clean and the power clean are actually beneficial for wrestlers. You talk a lot about specificity, but I think nothing is "exactly" like doing a given movement in any sport short of doing said movement. but i would say that a hang clean is about 99% similar to finishing a double leg takedown. and a power clean is virtually identical to a greco or freestyle lift from par terre.

In regards to the power clean being 99% like a double-leg, we respectfully disagree. (We were in the hall talking about this concept going through the motions of both... as others walked by we caught a few funny looks!) The two movements may seem the same as they generate force from the ground up but the concept of, essentially, tackling your opponent is not the same as raising a straight bar along a vertical plain, let alone throwing it over your head. -S.A.
But that's not why I'm writing.......

Sorry... -S.A.
I'm trying to find the most effective weight training program for wrestling.

Our advice to strength training for the intermediate to advanced athlete would be to split your body into a push day and a pull day. For example: Squat, Bench, Shoulder Pr., Dips etc... on day 1 and Deadlift, Row, Pulldown, etc... on day 2. Your workout should not include more that 8 exercises in any one training session. Rotate these 2 days around Mon-Wed-Fri. Mon-push, Wed.-pull, Fri.-push, Mon.-pull etc... You should perform one working set per exercise after a warmup on the initial compound exercises. The repetition range that we recommend would be 6-10 for upper body exercises and 8-15 for lower body exercises. This can vary depending on your predominant muscle fiber type. Each set should be an absolute ALL-OUT-EFFORT reaching momentary muscular failure. We recommend 90 second rest time between sets. This rest time can be reduced gradually if you prefer to get the cardiovascular benefit as well. Your training session should last between 20-30 minutes. Train with a high amount of intensity and you should be physically exhausted.

If progress does not occur in this program or when progress slows, we recommend training in the split you had outlined. Mon.-Chest/Shoulders/Tris, Wed.-Legs, Fri.-Back/Bis. Then progress should continue.

The 3rd program we recommend after the 1st two is to split the body into push and pull days again training only twice per week. Ex. Mon.-Push exercises, Thurs.-Pull exercises.

Progression should be tracked recording the weight lifted and reps completed. Your goal should be to increase the reps or weight every single workout on each exercises.

We believe the problem with running and plyometrics will create overtraining. Plyometrics between sets will cause you to not trigger muscle growth to the maximum. Do not worry about 1 rep max, just worry about your progression in weight and/or reps. Recovery time is crucial in strength training.

During the off-season. If you choose one of the first two programs training 3 days per week then we do not recommend any other activity other than strength training. Work on the mat once in awhile will not hurt. If you choose to do a lot of other activities other than strength training, then you should do the 2 day per week program then once a week on the mat is fine. If you choose to do 2 days of mat work then we advise you to train a little less frequently, skipping a day of strength training once in-while will be very beneficial. Make progression the determiner of whether you need an additional day of rest. That goes for all strength training programs. Remember, if strength gains is the primary goal then you should have more complete rest days then training days whether it be in the weight room or on the mat.

The more mat work and other activities you do in the off-season while strength training, the more chances that you will get in an over trained state. Overtraining is the single most factor that slows the strength and growth process in athletes. Avoid it at all costs. The recovery days are very necessary and this means that running on Sundays or other non-training days will tap into your recovery time.

Most coaches will disagree with this, (but please stay with us for the sake of the argument), but the best thing you should do is practice your skills on the mat to get in shape in-season and reduce rest time between sets in the off-season and your stamina will improve. Now if you choose to do some sort of running, for endurance purposes, we recommend running 10-30 yard sprints reducing rest time between sprints. The time in between can start at 30 seconds and be reduced to 5 seconds through the workout. This will involve the Type II b fast twitch muscle fiber which is the type that involves explosiveness. This will help with stamina and general conditioning. This can be done infrequently in the off-season and done a little more frequently in-season. Distance running and plyometrics, we do not feel are a necessary part of a wrestling program.

We do recommend that your strength training frequency be reduced in-season as you do more work on the mat. Train once per week with a full body routine in-season. Athletes can still make gains doing this but it will not be a great as in the off-season.

This probably seems like a whole lot of inactivity to you. But the increased strength is of primary importance in the off-season. This added strength will increase your power as well as explosiveness in you sport specific wrestling skills.

However, it must be said that if one desires to become a better wrestler one must, above all else, practice wrestling.

We hope this helps in some way and hope we addressed your questions as requested. If you have any further concerns or questions please feel free to e-mail us back and we can continue our conversation.

Good Luck


Coach Rody
StrongerAthletes.com

Mystery Guest: John Thomas


We had the privilege of hearing Coach Thomas speak in Minnesota this Spring. Funny... funny guy. We watched him take a high school athlete through an intense workout using sets to failure and manual resistance exercises; it was good stuff. However, we thought his most powerful topic was his stance against creatine use, please see our April 12 article. [Correctly identifying Coach Thomas was Coach Bryzcki, and Coach Cantor]

"In his tenth year at Penn State, the efforts of, Coach John Thomas have made a large impact in the squad's overall strength and conditioning habits."

"His strenuous regimen throughout the year is most evident during "winning time," as the Lions' conditioning has helped them secure or win many games in the fourth quarter during his tenure. His efforts were recognized with his selection as the 1997 National Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach-of-the-Year."

"He spent two seasons at the U.S. Military Academy, the second as the head of the strength and conditioning program in 1990-91. A Muskingum College graduate, he started at defensive tackle for two years and at offensive guard for two seasons and was an All-Ohio Valley Athletic Conference first-team pick and a second-team Division II All-American. Our mystery guest spent two years as a graduate assistant football and strength coach at Toledo. At the University of the South (1986-89), he coached football and served as a strength coach in football and baseball."

**Note** Much of this bio was taken from Penn State Football.

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

20 May, 2002

Sport Specificity

“Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." -Satchel Paige

We will address sport specific training again because we are receiving many e-mails for people who do not understand this concept. It is based on a scientific principle known as the Principle of Specificity. It describes how the neuromuscular system works in relation to athletic training.

Many coaches believe that Olympic lifting will help athletes in their sport specific skills. This is true... IF their sport is Olympic lifting. But many coaches assume that these lifts will help their football, basketball etc... players. That is just like saying that tackling will help you get stronger in the power clean. This is not the way the neuromuscular system works.

Olympic lifting for competition is a sport itself. Playing football requires specific skills to be learned such as blocking, tackling etc... Other sports require their skills also. Every sport has their own risks as far as injury is concerned. The better an athlete gets at their sport specific skills the less chance that they will be injured. For example: football players practice tackling and learn proper technique and know that putting their head down will increase the likelihood that they will be injured. Olympic lifting done improperly has its dangers as well. The more practice these athletes have, the better they will get at the skills of that lift. Obviously, the risk of injury is still present in sports even if their skills are performed to perfection.

Now, strength training as we advocate, is not a sport in itself. We are merely strengthening our muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, etc... to help prevent injuries and provide strength and power to become more explosive in our sport specific skills.

We received an e-mail from a coach that claims he can teach his athletes a power clean in less than a week. He believes that this lift can be mastered by his athletes in this time frame. We do not believe that this is adequate time to teach a lift such as the power clean. That would be like a coach teaching the discus or rotational shot put in less than a week. These athletes are not going to have very good form after a week of training. These skills require years to master because they are very technical. Why do Olympic lifting competitors spend years trying to perfect their lifts they use in competition? They are constantly trying to perfect these lifts because that is their sport. These skills need to be ingrained in their neuromuscular system so that they can become as efficient as possible. Just like a discus athlete, it takes years to master this event. It is very technical.

Strength training in our opinion is best performed in a slow controlled manner to recruit the maximum number of slow, intermediate, and fast twitch muscle fibers.

These exercises enable the athlete to train with a full range of motion as well. StrongerAthletes.com believes that this type of training is better because of the safety and efficiency aspects of our system. We are not saying that the Olympic lifts and their variations are not productive, of course they are. Athletes are capable of developing power performing the Olympic lifts. But is this style of training best in terms of safety and efficiency? We will address those issues next.

StrongerAthetes.com believes that common sense tells us that if you lift an object quickly rather than slowly, you are going to increase your chances of injury. We do understand that the slow lifts or any lift does have its risks but it is less frequent. We have received an e-mail telling us that the bench press is the most dangerous lift that exists. If you perform the bench press in a powerlifting manner then yes the frequency of injury will be greater. If you perform this exercise with a weight that requires you to reach failure at a 6-12 repetition range then the frequency of injury will be less. The only injuries that I have witnessed is when athletes are using maximum weights performing singles and doubles. We are not saying that an injury can not occur with a little light weight but with proper spotting, it is rare. Olympic lifts performed even with perfect execution have a greater risk that the exercises performed in slow, controlled manner. Again, this is common sense and simple physics.

If you are a coach who uses Olympic movements and have not witnessed injury, we applaud you. Keep up the good work, but understand that a greater risk is present. Steve Wetzel, the Vikings Strength Coach, spoke recently at the 2002 National Strength & Science Seminar in Blaine, Minnesota. He made the observation that 1/2 of the NFL teams use a non-Olympic philosophy and 1/2 use the quick lifts. The same percentage can be seen in the Super Bowl Champions. His point being that the main difference between the two styles is the inherent risk of injury. Not lack of explosive power, just risk of injury. Period.

The other issue is efficiency. By this we mean the time spent in the weight room. We believe 30-60 minutes of intense training should be performed. Many Olympic lifting advocates believe in the same. But we feel that if you are performing the Olympic lifts and their variations in this time frame then you are doing a disservice to your athletes. These lifts take a long time to master and once they are mastered then the injury frequency is reduced. So why do football, basketball, wrestling, volleyball etc... athletes do these technical exercises? They would be better off practicing their sport specific skills to get them ingrained just like Olympic lifters perfect the skills of their sport which are the Olympic lifts. That is what they do, it’s their sport.

We have mentioned these issues before in previous articles but many readers have not had a chance to read them. We hope that we have cleared this up so that readers can understand our point of view. If you would like to debate the information presented in this article we would be glad to do so. Give us a response in a professional manner and we will be glad to discuss it further.

Mystery Guest

If you think you know the answer or simply want to chime in with a guess.. drop us an e-mail at our Mystery Guest Trivia Department. All correct answers will be recognized on Friday. "In his tenth year at Penn State, the efforts of, our mystery guest have made a large impact in the squad's overall strength and conditioning habits."

"His strenuous regimen throughout the year is most evident during "winning time," as the Lions' conditioning has helped them secure or win many games in the fourth quarter during his tenure. His efforts were recognized with his selection as the 1997 National Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach-of-the-Year."

"He spent two seasons at the U.S. Military Academy, the second as the head of the strength and conditioning program in 1990-91. A Muskingum College graduate, he started at defensive tackle for two years and at offensive guard for two seasons and was an All-Ohio Valley Athletic Conference first-team pick and a second-team Division II All-American. Our mystery guest spent two years as a graduate assistant football and strength coach at Toledo. At the University of the South (1986-89), he coached football and served as a strength coach in football and baseball."

Again, if you think you know the answer or simply want to chime in with a guess.. drop us an e-mail at our Mystery Guest Trivia Department. All correct answers will be recognized on Friday.

**Note** Much of this bio was taken from Penn State Football.

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

17 May, 2002

Classic: Specificity II

“The principle of specificity states that training/practice must BE SPECIFIC to an intended skill in order for skill improvement—or “carryover” to occur. -Mark Asanovich

StrongerAthletes.com Classic: Specificity II

This article first appeared on February 20, 2002. We feel due to the recent increase of new readers to our site that it is important to rehash some of, what we believe to be, the basic principles of a safe, productive, and efficient training program.

Specificity, to StongerAthlete.com, refers to the following: In order for the athlete to improve a skill such as tackling, he must practice tackling. In order to improve at the skill in volleyball, he/she must practice those skills. This definition of "specificity" is clearly stated in Physiology texts. Yet many coaches still interpret sport specificity different.

One interpretation, by John Garhammer in his article "Sport-Specific Program Development," states the following:
"Free weight resistive exercises in standing postures similar to positions used in one's sport not only involve sport specificity, but can stimulate increases in bone density and strength".
He goes on comparing weight room exercises with sport skills, for example, volleyball players would benefit from stiff-leg deadlift or Romanian deadlifts, and barbell bent-over rows because this is similar to a volleyball players defensive receiving position.

StongerAthlete.com would like to point out that he did say that the lifts are similar to the defensive position. Specificity means the activity must be exact not similar. That is why weight room exercises should not be used to simulate sport specific movements. [See Specificity Part I]

Mark Asanovich, Strength Coach for the Tampa Bay Bucs, in his article, "Power/Explosive Training Considerations" relates,
“The principle of specificity states that training/practice must BE SPECIFIC to an intended skill in order for skill improvement—or “carryover” to occur. “Specific” means exact or identical, not “similar” or “just like.” Therefore, accelerating a bar from the floor or knee-height-position by a forceful rolling of the hips may somewhat assimilate driving off the line of scrimmage-but the truth of the matter is, Olympic lifting will only improve one’s skills at Olympic lifting – and nothing else.”

However, Garhammer also says,
"All these athletes (basketball, football, or soccer players) benefit from the squat to improve straight running and jumping motions. These players in the team sports mentioned should also practice running and agility drills that mimic their multi-directional movement in competition."

StrongerAthletes.com could not agree more with him on this one, provided that the squats are done with a heavy load to failure. An increase in leg strength and power will help the athlete become a more explosive in running, agility, and actual movements on their sport.

Garhammer also feels that jump squats could be used to increase the speed of joint motion. "Recent experiments have examined strength and power athletes using specialized equipment that mimics a "throwing action” with a barbell. Such studies have indicated that maximal power output in bench press and squat related movements occur at about 55% of the 1 rep max loads in the corresponding lifts performed with a straight barbell.”

StrongerAthletes.com believes using these loads, (55%), will not work the muscle to complete muscular failure. It contradicts the principle of muscle Fiber Recruitment for training for power and explosiveness. Also we believe that using 55% of your 1 rep max will only express power not develop it. [See Expressing vs. Developing Power] Garhammer concluded that sub-maximal loads would be best to use for power development but did state that loads closer to the 1 rep max will increase strength. We feel that is a contradictory statement.

StrongerAthletes.com believes loads that allow the athlete to perform 6-15 reps to failure will develop strength and thus, power. Strength must first be developed before the athlete can better express power with greater force. [Again, we point you to See Express vs. developing Power] StrongerAthletes.com also maintains heavier loads should be used with controlled movements if the athlete wants to develop power and then they can go to the field and practice their sport skills.

Send us your thoughts on this issue and we'll post 'em up!

16 May, 2002

Specificity. How Specific do We Need to Be?

“The principle of specificity states that training/practice must BE SPECIFIC to an intended skill in order for skill improvement—or “carryover” to occur. -Mark Asanovich

StrongerAthletes.com Classic: Specificity II

This article first appeared on February 20, 2002. We feel due to the recent increase of new readers to our site that it is important to rehash some of, what we believe to be, the basic principles of a safe, productive, and efficient training program.

Specificity, to StongerAthletes.com, refers to the following: In order for the athlete to improve a skill such as tackling, he must practice tackling. In order to improve at the skill in volleyball, he/she must practice those skills. This definition of "specificity" is clearly stated in Physiology texts. Yet many coaches still interpret sport specificity different.

One interpretation, by John Garhammer in his article "Sport-Specific Program Development," states the following: "Free weight resistive exercises in standing postures similar to positions used in one's sport not only involve sport specificity, but can stimulate increases in bone density and strength". He goes on comparing weight room exercises with sport skills, for example, volleyball players would benefit from stiff-leg deadlift or Romanian deadlifts, and barbell bent-over rows because this is similar to a volleyball players defensive receiving position.

StongerAthletes.com would like to point out that he did say that the lifts are similar to the defensive position. Specificity means the activity must be exact not similar. That is why weight room exercises should not be used to simulate sport specific movements. [See Specificity Part I]

Mark Asanovich, Strength Coach for the Tampa Bay Bucs, in his article, "Power/Explosive Training Considerations" relates, “The principle of specificity states that training/practice must BE SPECIFIC to an intended skill in order for skill improvement—or “carryover” to occur. “Specific” means exact or identical, not “similar” or “just like.” Therefore, accelerating a bar from the floor or knee-height-position by a forceful rolling of the hips may somewhat assimilate driving off the line of scrimmage-but the truth of the matter is, Olympic lifting will only improve one’s skills at Olympic lifting – and nothing else.”

However, Garhammer also says, "All these athletes (basketball, football, or soccer players) benefit from the squat to improve straight running and jumping motions. These players in the team sports mentioned should also practice running and agility drills that mimic their multi-directional movement in competition."

StrongerAthletes.com could not agree more with him on this one, provided that the squats are done with a heavy load to failure. An increase in leg strength and power will help the athlete become a more explosive in running, agility, and actual movements on their sport.

Garhammer also feels that jump squats could be used to increase the speed of joint motion. "Recent experiments have examined strength and power athletes using specialized equipment that mimics a "throwing action” with a barbell. Such studies have indicated that maximal power output in bench press and squat related movements occur at about 55% of the 1 rep max loads in the corresponding lifts performed with a straight barbell.”

StrongerAthletes.com believes using these loads, (55%), will not work the muscle to complete muscular failure. It contradicts the principle of muscle Fiber Recruitment for training for power and explosiveness. Also we believe that using 55% of your 1 rep max will only express power not develop it. [See Expressing vs. Developing Power] Garhammer concluded that sub-maximal loads would be best to use for power development but did state that loads closer to the 1 rep max will increase strength. We feel that is a contradictory statement.

StrongerAthletes.com believes loads that allow the athlete to perform 6-15 reps to failure will develop strength and thus, power. Strength must first be developed before the athlete can better express power with greater force. [Again, we point you to See Express vs. developing Power] StrongerAthletes.com also maintains heavier loads should be used with controlled movements if the athlete wants to develop power and then they can go to the field and practice their sport skills.

Send us your thoughts on this issue and we'll post 'em up!

New Coaching Resources

At the 2002 Strength & Science Seminar StrongerAthletes.com introduced our new resources for strength coaches and athletes. We now offer a video supplement to our Coach's Manual that explaines in detail some of the finer points of the StrongerAthletes.com Training Program.

I just got through reading my copy of Stronger Athlete's Coach's Manual. I recommend this manual to any Coach needing help in setting up a Strength Training Format for their team. It's easy to read and the advice works for a Free Weight Program as well as Better known Strength Training Machines such as Pendulum Fitness, Nautilus, MedX, and Hammer. Good solid information without boring you with unnecessary pseudo science. They have a video companion and although I haven't seen it, I would bet it's the same good quality. -Jim Bryan, Strength & Conditioning Coach

Also just released is the Opposing Viewpoints: Traditional vs Non-Olympic Training video. For more information on these products please See Our New Products.

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

***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 practioner. 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.***


15 May, 2002

Single Working Set to Failure

"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." -Abraham Lincoln

Enough already with the defense of our position. Lets talk about what we can do to develop better athletes with a safe, productive, and efficient program. [By the way, we received an e-mail concerning our use of "efficiency": "efficiency- (I'm assuming you mean the best way to train.)" Actually, by efficiency we mean time spent in the weight room. We would not claim a "best way to train."]

To meet all three of our criteria of safe, productive, and efficient we prescribe a set/rep routine dependent on the athlete's training level. Assuming an athlete has moderate proficiency with the exercise movements we would prescribe a warm-up set on the first lift of an exercise routine before performing 1 set to failure within a pre-determined rep range.

We will use the bench press as an example. [We have recently received several concerns that we are being hypocritical in our use of the bench press and our pontifications on safety. We are open to this topic and plan on addressing it further in the future. As of now, many schools use the bench press, so for the sake of this example we will use it too.]

After a proper warm-up, which could be a variety of activities that initiate a sweat on the athlete, the athlete should load the bar with enough weight to properly work the muscles for a warm-up set. This does not have to be a lot of weight, nor done to a certain number of reps. We feel that 50-60% of their working set is appropriate to no more than 5 reps. Remember, we do not want to exhaust the muscles in the warm-up.

The working set of the exercise should be done with enough weight in which the typical athlete will fail between 6-10 reps. This rep range may be different for various athletes. We feel it is the coach's job to help the athlete find the optimal range. This takes time, weeks possibly, and can only be done if the coach is monitoring the athlete's work-out cards.

Spotting should be emphasized by the coaching staff. Many times kids do not understand the importance of this element, especially when pushing the exercise to failure. A spotter should allow the athlete to physically become unable to push the bar another inch. Obviously, there are some safety techniques the spotter can use without compromising the integrity of the lift.

The athlete will then record how much weight was lifted on the working set and how many reps they did. Until they reach the top of the rep range they will keep the same amount of weight on their working set. Once the athlete reaches the top of the rep range they put more weight on the bar and start the process over again. This model allows the athlete and the coach to see strength gains without the aid of projected or assumed strength levels. What you see is what you get... The proof is in the pudding... Add your cliche here...

Should the athlete stall on their progress, meaning stop continuing to go up in reps over a period of time there are various things a coach can prescribe from intensifying techniques to more rest.

We believe that the 1 working set to failure is safe in the fact that we do not overload the muscle with a weight that would require low rep range (1-3 reps). We believe that the 1 working set to failure is productive in the fact that motor units, or muscle fiber, that is recruited is comparable and can even exceed that of multiple set protocols (Starkey). Finally, we believe that the 1 working set to failure is efficient in the fact that the time spent in the weight room is obviously considerably less than that of a multiple set routine.

Again, we stress that there is not one best way to train athletes. We simply desire other coaches who may seek out various training strategies to understand that the traditional training methods of multiple sets, 1 rep maxes, and olympic training is not the only or most efficient way to train an athlete for athletic competition, outside of Olympic Lifting events.
Starkey, D. B., Welsch, M. A., Pollock, M. L., Graves, J. E., Brechue, W. F., & Ishida, Y. (1994). Equivalent improvement in strength following high intensity, low and high volume training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 26(5), Supplement abstract 651.

13 May, 2002

Plyometrics: Yes or No?

 "Bright is the ring of words when the right man rings them." -Robert Louis Stevenson

Plyometrics is a topic that we are finally going to address. Many of our readers have asked about the use of plyometric jumps as part of their strength and conditioning program. The use of plyometrics ranges from activities such as running, box jumps, jump rope and all its varieties.

We have been around coaches who have their athletes do high impact plyometrics in hopes that it will increase their explosiveness. As with Olympic lifting we have found that the majority of the coaches that implement plyometrics often in the form of depth jumps or running stairs often find their athletes complain of joint pain in the ankles, feet, and knees.

Over the weekend we were e-mailed by a very angry reader who declined to sign his name. He pointed us in the direction of a June 19, 2001 Football Weekly Article and asked if we would comment on it.

The article gives an example of how a recent NFL player transformed himself into a great athlete through plyometric strength training.
"Rather than perform a standard bench press, [this coach] teaches athletes to explode through the movement, release the bar from their hands at the top of the lift, drop their hands to their chests, catch and explode back into the bar as fast as possible. [The coach] keeps his hands ready at all times, watching athletes to make sure they catch the bar."

We are glad that the coach is there to supervise the safety of his athlete as we believe that is number 1. However, we identify something wrong with this technique (If you do not agree with us... thats O.K.... leave it be.... but you asked....) While the arms are coming down rapidly and when the bar is thrown up in the air the tension is taken off the muscle which is something we try to avoid in our program.

Can an athlete succeed without these types of activities in their program? Definitely so. Why do coaches feel they need to implement high impact plyos in some form?

Most Olympic lifting athletes do plyometrics such as box jumps, hurdle hops because they believe in quick, ballistic movements in training as in their plyometric lifting. There are even many non-Olympic lifting athletes that do plyometrics that are usually low impact.

We have witnessed stress fractures, breaks, sprains in these athletes even if the frequency is twice per week. All types of athletes get injured doing plyometrics but usually the heavier athletes have more problems with ankle and knee injuries for obvious reasons.

We have trained one such athlete the past three years. He is a shot and discus athlete. He trained using slow controlled movements, never performing an Olympic lift in his life. He started out strength training in the winter of his freshman year in high school. His gains in strength developed explosiveness and became one of the best shot putters in the state. He received a scholarship and went to a non-Olympic lifting school which we were thankful. He has been training there for nearly a year now and has continued making strength gains.

His coach also made him do high impact plyometrics unfortunately. He complains of pain in his ankles and feet now after doing these jumps the past year. It has affected his throwing and is not making the progress he expected or should be making. What is to blame for this?

We believe plyometrics is to blame. Coaches, Open your eyes to the injuries you are creating by having your athletes perform high impact plyometrics. Don’t tell us you do them less frequently to avoid injuries. Don’t do them at all. We owe it to our athletes to provide a SAFE program.


  • Strength coach, Jim Kleibaso, writes in, “Plyometrics: My Story,” “Not only is [plyometrics] not necessary, it can actually be dangerous.”

  • Dave Walmsley in his article, “Plyometrics? No way!” states, “It is THE most dangerous form of exercise that you can undertake and my advice is don’t do them.”

  • Ken Hutchins in “Plyometrics: The Bane of the Exercise Community” writes, “There will be countless numbers of injuries from the ballistic practices of isokinetics, plyometrics, explosive maneuvers, and so-called power training. Many-practically all- of these injuries will go unreported, unacknowledged, and/or shrugged off.”

  • In an article “The Controversy Continues,” from Sports Medicine , Dr. Fred Hahn writes, “Recommending plyometrics for any reason is nothing less than insanity! Plyometrics are extremely dangerous and violate motor learning principles. If plyometrics belong anywhere it is inside a circus big top. It has no place in anyone’s exercise program.”

StrongerAthletes.com agrees with Ken Hutchins that many coaches just shrug off the injuries that are occurring and that is just not right. Isn’t it one of the goals of training to prevent injuries and not to create them? Athletes get hurt enough in competition alone. What good is an injured athlete to any program?

Our athletes trust that we will train them in the safest, most productive way. Do not let them down! We would like to hear some of your comments on the topic of plyometrics or maybe some stories that you know of about the injuries that they cause.

10 May, 2002

More on : An Experiment in Muscle Fiber Recruitment and Mystery Guest Chet Fuhrman Pittsburgh Steelers

"I don't want to sit on the fence, but it could go either way." -Maurice Banford

A Quick Note About "An Experiment in Muscle Fiber Recruitment"

In regards to Wednesday's article about Coach Kelso's experiment to determine the difference between muscle fiber recruitment in quick versus slow lifting protocols, we had several good questions which we would like to briefly address.
Coach Rody, I had some questions about the recent "study" that Coach Kelso performed. How do you measure a .66 or .86 rep on a bench press?

I do not want to speak for Coach Kelso but I assume the .66 and .86 were numbers that came from averaging several athletes.
I have never come across anyone that has encouraged lowering a weight as fast as possible. What do you mean when you say "quick lift", are you including all exercises that are performed in a fast manner (seems like they would then be called "quick reps")or specific lifts that are normally done quickly?

In regards to performing "quick" lifts, the test had nothing do with performing the bench press quickly. The study was for the recruitment of type IIb muscle fibers. This was sparked by an example given by Coach Whitt earlier that week on May 6; it may explain why he chose to use the bench press exercise to test muscle fiber recruitment rather than say doing the bench press fast is wrong. I seriously doubt anyone has their athletes doing fast bench press. Again this was to test fiber recruitment.
In much of your information you talk about muscular strength, what other components do you feel will help improve an athletes performance?

We would suggest, in addition to making the athlete stronger, a proper diet and sport specific drill work would be "components that will help improve an athletes performance."

Mystery Guest: Chet Fuhrman, Pittsburgh Steelers

[Correctly identifying Coach Fuhrman were Fred Cantor, University of Maryland-Baltimore; Aaron Vitt, Moberly, MO; Matt Bryzcki, Princeton University] In the future, if you think you know the answer or simply want to chime in with a guess.. drop us an e-mail at our Mystery Guest Trivia Department. All correct answers will be recognized on Friday. "This week's mystery guest was named conditioning coach, [for the Steelers], in February 1992 following 10 years as strength and conditioning coach at Penn State.

A native of Harrisburg, Pa.,he is in his 10th season with the team and his 23rd year of strength training. He served as the assistant strength and conditioning coach at Penn State from 1979-80. He was named the first strength and conditioning coach ever at Weber State in Ogden, Utah, in 1981, before returning to Penn State to take charge of the strength and conditioning program in 1982.

Our mystery guest, 48, graduated from Central State (Okla.) University in 1973 with a degree in physical education. He spent the next five years as strength coach and assistant coach in football and track at Harrisburg and Steelton-Highspire high schools. He also is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association."

**Note** Much of this bio was taken from www.nfl.com.

08 May, 2002

An Experiment in Muscle Fiber Recruitment

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. Its been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But, baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and could be again." -James Earl Jones, "Field of Dreams"

Recently, Tom Kelso, University of Illinois-Chicago, conducted an experiment with his athletes, to help determine the relationship between muscle fiber recruitment and lifting speed. This was in response to the overwhelming myth that lifting quickly is superior to slow controlled lifting.

Coach Kelso's findings follow below in RED.

We actually conducted an informal experiment with some of our athletes to determine the effects on motor unit recruitment and speed of exercise movement.

We obtained a 1-rm on the bench press, then used 60% the 1-rm and performed a "fast" test and "slow" test on separate days to determine the extent of motor unit recruitment during each.

The first day the athletes were instructed to move the 60% resistance as fast as possible -- both concentrically and eccentrically-- and for as many reps possible. Naturally, we do not recommend this speed of lifting, however for the sake of this test we did deviate from our norm. We did make sure the athletes minimized 1) any bouncing of the weight off the chest, and 2) any resting in the locked-out position.

The number of reps obtained and the total time it took to reach muscular fatigue were recorded.

Following a 3:00 rest, 90% of their 1-rm was then used for another maximum rep test. In most cases, a person can perform anywhere from 3 to 5 reps with 90% of a 1-rm -- depending on the exercise -- when "fresh." The point of the 90% test was to determine the extent of fatigue from the 60%/fast test to muscular fatigue. We hypothesized that using 60% -- still a significant amount of resistance -- and working to muscular fatigue even though moving relatively "fast" would still a lot of muscle -- even type ii motor units -- and then would have an adverse effect on the number of reps possible with 90% of the 1-rm.

Results of the 60% "fast" day with the 90% test:

  • Average number of reps performed with 60% of the 1-rm = 23.25.

  • Average total time of the 60% test to muscular fatigue = 33.24 Seconds.

  • Average rep time = 1.43 Seconds.

  • Average number of reps performed with 90% of the 1-rm following the 3:00 recovery = 1.86.

On the second test day the athletes were instructed to lower the 60% resistance slowly (on a 4-count, counted aloud by a staff member), then raise it forcefully, but under control, without resting in the locked-out position --again, for as many reps as possible. The hypothesis here was the 60% resistance would again recruit and overload a lot of muscle -- eventually "getting to" the type ii motor units, thus adversely effecting the results of the forthcoming 90% test-- even though it was consciously moved slower and under control.

The number of reps obtained and the total time it took to reach muscular fatigue were again recorded.

Following a 3:00 rest, the 90% of the 1-rm was again used for another maximum rep test.

Results of the 60% "slow" day with the 90% test:

  • Average number of reps performed with 60% of the 1-rm = 11.6.

  • Average total time of the 60% test to muscular fatigue = 52.5 Seconds.

  • Average rep time = 4.66 Seconds.

  • Average number of reps performed with 90% of the 1-rm following the 3:00 recovery = 1.66.

An interesting comparison of the results in both test days. In all tests, motor units were activated in accordance to the initial tension/work demand sensed by the brain, henneman's principle governed further recruitment of motor units, fatigue took its toll, and overload eventually occurred as a result of working to muscular fatigue. The athletes could gain from these bouts of exercise provided recovery factors were addressed prior to the next workout. However, the fast speed of exercise movement was unnecessary for two reasons: 1) it created excess stress on the muscles and joints and 2) it did not create overload any better than the safer, slower movement speed as evident by the number of reps performed in the 90% type ii motor unit-dependent test (i.E. "Fast" effect test = 1.86 Reps w/90% and "slow" effect test = 1.66 Reps w/90%).

Observations:

1. Momentum (or lack of it) played a large role in both the fast and slow tests. Increased momentum made more reps possible in the fast test due to less tension throughout both the concentric and eccentric ranges of motion. Decreased momentum in the slow test lowered the number of potential reps but muscular tension was heightened improving the quality of the exercise.

2. The number of reps is really not the issue here...It is the time of exercise, or time under load/tension, that is significant: 33.24 Seconds for the fast (more joint/muscle stress) test and 52.5 Seconds for the slow (safer) test.

3. The rationale for the fast test reaching fatigue sooner is simply because of their conscious effort to push really hard, they recruited the type ii, faster-to-fatigue motor units sooner in the set, thus they "ran out of gas" earlier (but at a greater risk of joint/muscle trauma).

4. The slow test did not rely on a high percentage of the higher threshold type ii motor units initially, however, they were recruited later in the set as fatigue took its toll and the demand for continued force occurred (henneman's principle).

5. Obviously, the higher threshold type ii motor units were recruited and overloaded in the slow test as evident by the results of the 90% test (only 1.66 Reps obtained following the slow test, and 1.86 Reps obtained following the fast test...Not statistically significant, but nothing gained from moving fast).
Bottom line: moving the resistance faster did not recruit and overload the muscles any better than the controlled, safer lifting cadence.


It is hoped that coaches can understand that "quick lifts" are not the only way to go.
Coach kelso reminds us, "understand that many do not want to give up what they have been taught/have been doing their entire careers. No one wants to admit they may be wrong or there might be a better way. Much of it is ego and the inability to humble themselves. They'll hang on to even the smallest shred of evidence and milk it to the end, even though it can be disputed with legitimate, scientific proof. Pure conjecture, blind-faith, and/or anecdotal evidence alone is a weak leg to stand on."

06 May, 2002

Dear StrongerAthletes: Fiber Recruitment and Bias

"Truth is what stands the test of experience" -Albert Einstein

Mystery Guest

If you think you know the answer or simply want to chime in with a guess.. drop us an e-mail at our Mystery Guest Trivia Department. All correct answers will be recognized on Friday. "This week's mystery guest was named conditioning coach, [for the Steelers], in February 1992 following 10 years as strength and conditioning coach at Penn State.


A native of Harrisburg, Pa.,he is in his 10th season with the team and his 23rd year of strength training. He served as the assistant strength and conditioning coach at Penn State from 1979-80. He was named the first strength and conditioning coach ever at Weber State in Ogden, Utah, in 1981, before returning to Penn State to take charge of the strength and conditioning program in 1982.

Our mystery guest, 48, graduated from Central State (Okla.) University in 1973 with a degree in physical education. He spent the next five years as strength coach and assistant coach in football and track at Harrisburg and Steelton-Highspire high schools. He also is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association."

**Note** Much of this bio was taken from www.nfl.com.

Dear StrongerAthletes: Fiber Recruitment and Bias


Coach Rusty Whitt, Sam Houston State University, writes StrongerAthletes.com expressing his concerns over various topics ranging from fiber recruitment to perceived bias. We use this forum to respond. It should be noted, even though we agree to disagree on many issues, that Coach Whitt is a wonderful representative of the Strength Coaching profession as he attempts to find the safest, most productive, and efficient training strategies for his athletes.

Coach Whitt's comments are in italics, our comments follow Coach Whitt's comments in bold. In addition we have Coach Tom Kelso from the University of Illinois-Chicago who also brings some facts to the table. Coach Kelso's words are in RED.

Dear Coach Rody,

You fellas have been standing behind Henneman's size principle of activation--and you state that this means that IIb fibers are recruited through slow, controlled motions--and that only the higher reps can reach these precious IIbs--

First of all, we never indicated that high reps must be used. We recommend 6 reps or maybe 5 reps would be the low end of the range because of safety concerns. Reps exceeding 15 depending on the person does tend to tap into their cardiovascular capabilities.

I discussed this with a leader in exercise physiology-- A professor of Exercise Fizz at a certain enormous college in the Southwest, a fella who has authored the number one selling exercise physiology textbook in the U.S., who has researched every topic of human fizz out there for 30 + years. Dr. Wilmore states this about the Henneman principle--That the motor unit with the smallest motor neuron is recruited first, the motor unit with the next largest goes second, etc-all the way to maximal force production-but that this happens during EACH REP--not after a series of reps.

First, dr. Ralph carpinelli -- professor in the dept. Of exercise science, adelphi university -- would be a good "go-to" guy for all the technical aspects of this topic. That said, here's my "2-cents.".... Hang with me now, in the end this will all make good sense.

It does happen at the beginning of each rep and consequently over the entire set of reps. The brain senses what needs to be done based on the task (i.E., Heavy demand or light demand) and recruits muscle fibers with respect to the henneman principle. In example, let's say your max on a dead lift is 450 lbs. And you use 75% of this -- or 337.5 Lbs. -- And perform a set for maximum reps. Because it is a sub-maximal resistance, a smaller percentage of muscle fibers are recruited during the first rep as compared to a greater percentage required to lift the maximum of 450 lbs. This is a natural phenomenon, as one recruits only enough fibers necessary to perform the required task. Understand that 337.5 Lbs. Is still a significant "weight" which requires effort and concentration, thus a significant number of fibers are activated even during the first rep, more than a relatively lesser-demanding activity that humans are accustomed to doing during normal, daily activities. An example of this would be lifting a 60 lb. Box of books or a 60 lb. Chair, both equivalent to 13% of the 450 lb. 1-Rm....Typical non-strength training activities. This is why why non-strength training people do not experience hypertrophy and/or strength increases going about "normal" (low-intensity) daily activities.

Back to the main point: on repetition #1 of the dead lift, the nervous system recruits the necessary fibers (referred to as motor units from this point on) to lift the 337.5 Lbs. Through the range of motion. According to henneman's principle, type i motor units are recruited, then type iia, and if necessary (and most likely in this example they are), the type iib units because it is a significant tension-producing resistance (75% of the 1-rm = 75% more than zero resistance and only 25% less than the 1-rm!). For the sake of simplicity, the first rep may recruit in the "all-or-none" manner 100 type i, 45 type iia, and 20 type iib motor units to complete the task. As the number of repetitions performed increase -- and considering the fact that previously recruited motor units eventually fatigue and are rendered useless - the options available to continue the exercise are as follows:

1. Increase the frequency of stimulation of the currently activated motor units,
2. Recruit more of the same type of motor units,
3. Recruit a larger, more powerful motor unit type (first, type iia, then type iib).
Therefore, as in the previous example:
1. The working 100 type i, 45 type iia, and 20 type iib units initially recruited could be stimulated more frequently to assist in the forthcoming reps.
2. As they start to fatigue, more type i, type iia, and type iib units could be recruited. For example, if 20 of the initially-recruited type iia motor units fatigue, 20 more could be recruited along with 15 more type iib and 15 more type i, bringing the total "working and/or exhausted" motor unit pool to 115 type i, 65 iia, and 35 iib.
3. As the set continues -- with each rep creating more and more fatigue -- a reliance on the larger, more powerful motor units becomes more critical. Therefore more type iia & iib units are recruited in those difficult and demanding reps at the end of the set until it becomes impossible to sustain work output due to their faster fatigue and the inability to contract and contribute to the task. Ironically, the reps that are performed slower by nature due to
1) the heavy resistance being used
2) the build-up of fatigue albeit the gut-wrenching effort to attempt to continue recruiting more motor units, actually place a huge demand on the larger, more powerful type iia & iib motor units, those important for quick and powerful athletic movements outside the weight room, unabated by resistance!! (A hard-to-grasp point for many because it does not "look the part"....Or doesn't look "sport-specific").


A key point of this whole endeavor is the third option -- the "recruit the larger, more powerful motor unit types." On that first repetition with 337.5 Lbs. -- 75% Of the 1-rm of 450 lbs. -- As stated, it is a significant amount of resistance as compared zero resistance. Even on rep #1, a large percentage of type iia and quite possibly iib motor units may be required to assist in lifting the 337.5 Lbs. The point is that even though only 75% of the 1-rm is used-- a resistance considered by many as "light" -- it has the potential to create significant tension in the muscles and thus enhance type iia & iib motor unit overload if taken to the point of momentary muscular fatigue.

Momentary muscular fatigue -- ridiculed by many -- is a pretty objective indication that a maximal number of fibers/motor units have been recruited. You have to laugh at those who down-play it because it begs the question: which rep before fatigue occurs should one stop at?!?!.

The bottom line is even a "light" resistance such as 75% of a 1-rm can recruit, fatigue, and consequently overload a significant number of type iia & iib motor units if worked to muscular fatigue -- somewhere in the range of 9 to 12+ repetitions depending on the exercise, person's fiber-type & nervous system, and lifting cadence (more on lifting cadence later).

A person using 85% of a 1-rm will naturally activate a larger percentage of motor units during the first repetition as compared to using 75%. It simply provides another option by which to create overload. It is the same with 72.5%, 80%, Or any relatively "heavy" resistance. There are a lot of ways to create overload -- varied resistances and repetitions, exercises, exercise sequence, etc. This is good for program variety and individualism.

Again, the irony here is the heavier the resistance, the slower the movement speed due to the application of simple physics. If a resistance moves "fast" it has to be a light resistance relative to the strength of the person who is lifting it. Furthermore, the lighter the resistance, the more potential it has to move even faster. This is the point of confusion for those gung-ho for the "quick lifts." If one wants a quick/fast movement and minimal muscle activation, unload the bar/machine and throw the resistance. Simply use an unloaded 45 lb. Olympic bar and accelerate it like a mad-man. If one wants greater motor unit recruitment (read: more type iia & iib motor unit overload) then,

1) increase the resistance to create a greater demand for force-output
2) use a controlled movement cadence that develops greater muscular tension
3) understand it will naturally move slower
4) exert great effort against the bar/machine. A high level of momentum actually decreases muscular tension, places the soft tissues in more compromising positions, and does not "mimic" any sport skill, so why waste time emphasizing it?
Another issue with lifting speed/cadence is the conscious effort exerted by the lifter to raise and lower the resistance. We actually conducted an informal experiment with some of our athletes to determine the effects on motor unit recruitment and speed of exercise movement.


Coach Kelso included the results of this test with the above information, however we want to give those results their own forum and will reserve those for another upcoming article.

Now, this is how I imply this: The amount of load dictates how many and what neurons are activated--not how many reps--so if an athlete makes an attempt at a triple of 315, and the second and third are extremely hard, then a great number of motor units are activated.

Yes, doing 3 reps at 315 lbs. -- Provided it is demanding -- will recruit a lot of muscle, but over a smaller amount of time. This is an acceptable means of overloading at certain times and/or if used sparingly, but over the long run, constant use of super-heavy resistance can possibly limit the full-spectrum of motor unit recruitment due to the short length of time of the exercise. If one reaches muscular fatigue at 3 reps it is due to a high percentage of motor units initially recruited to perform the task (it's a very heavy weight for this person!). A high percentage of the larger, more powerful but more fatiguable type iib motor units are recruited and fatigued, thus the exercise must cease. In such cases, there is usually a high percentage of the intermediate type iia motor units that never "get waxed" and consequently not overloaded....Another case for using higher reps to fully in-road the targeted muscle(s). In fact, Zatsiorsky (a noted olympic-lift advocate) -- in his book, science and practice of strength training -- alluded to this fact and did a great job of explaining/depicting this issue.

More so than a set of 15 reps at say, 225--which may cause the athlete to lose muscle glycogen before all motor neurons are activated.

225 Lbs. Done for 15 reps -- assuming the 15th rep results in momentary muscular fatigue -- surely works a high percentage of muscle fibers/motor units.

Now if an athlete does multiple sets at a weight, say 8x3 @ 70% of 1RM, the last few sets will touch on neuron recruitment-getting the desired training effect without handling a heavier load. This is a technique used with great success by the those of the Louie Simmons power lifting philosophy.

If this means 3 sets of 8 reps @ 70%, then two points:
1. On the average, most people can perform anywhere from 10 to 15+ repetitions with 70% of a 1-rm (all other factors being equal). Therefore, how much muscle is it truly overloading by stopping at only 8 reps?
2. If the last set finally did create overload, what purpose was served by sets 1 and 2?


Your 8x3 being an effective way to train the Type IIb muscle fibers is certainly debatable and definitely not efficient. You had also mentioned that a set of 15 reps may cause the athlete to lose muscle glycogen before all motor neurons are activated is also debatable. The 8x3 and the 15 rep comments is a direct contradiction. If the 15 rep set did cause the athlete to lose muscle glycogen wouldn’t 8x3. You are performing 24 reps in those sets. Our example in the article is a set of 8. It could be a set of 3 or 5 as well but the Type IIb muscle fibers will be recruited if the force is there. Why would Type IIb muscle fibers be recruited when the weight is not heavy yet. Obviously if the weight is heavier Type IIb fibers will be recruited earlier in the set. As a set progresses with each rep more and more fiber will be recruited to perform the work. The force requirement is not that great at the beginning of the set (in the first few reps). Type II muscle fibers will be recruited if necessary as the set gets more difficult.

Dr. Wilmore believes that "great liberties have been taken with Henneman's Principle." Olympic lifting with multiple sets RULES.

In regards to Olympic lifting being the most productive way to train, if momentum is created on the bar the weight is too light to be very intense. How does this style of training recruit much of the Type II fibers?

As Ken Mannie stated in his article “Explosive Weight Training,” “If the training goal is the recruitment and development of the fast twitch muscle fiber, fast weight training speeds at low intensity represent the *least* efficient approach.”

How can momentum train Type IIb muscle fiber? Maximum continuous force is required and I’m sure Dr. Wilmore will agree with that as you have indicated. During each rep of a power clean, the tension on the muscle is taken off. Sure you will recruit fast twitch muscle fiber to a certain extent but it is a very unproductive way of going about it. Maximum force and full range of motion is the best way to train. Because of momentum, an athlete is providing minimal force and that lift is certainly not working any muscle to a full range of motion.

James R. Karp MS, in his article “Recruitment of Muscle Fibers” states, “Muscular strength is primarily developed when an 8 repetition maximum or less is used in a set. The body follows a certain order of recruitment beginning with the Type I fibers no matter what the load. However, if the Type I fibers (which do not have the potential for a whole lost of force production) cannot generate enough force to move the weight, the Type II fibers are called into play with Type IIa fibers being recruited before Type IIb. So, unless the load being lifted is sufficient to bring the Type IIb fivers into play, they will not be recruited and will not grow. However, sets in the 4-8 rep max range tend to be heavy enough to call the Type II fibers into play.”

Keep in mind we are training athletes for their prospective sport. We are not training for Olympic lifting competition or Powerlifting competition. You keep bringing up Louie Simmons, we are not training powerlifters. If a coach trains for football players with singles, doubles, and triples, they are not thinking of the athletes' safety. Performing these low reps often is dangerous not to mention the Olympic lifts being extremely dangerous. These lifts are certainly not very efficient or very productive for our athletes.

Read some of Dr. Ralph Carpinelli’s publications. He is as highly a respected expert in neuromuscular physiology as there is in the world. He advocates slow repetitions as well as low volume training. He says that you can train with high intensity or train with volume, not both.

Coach Whitt responded to our first exchange.... "The 8 sets of 3 I mentioned is not contradictory, it is nothing like a single set of 15. With one minute rest between each set, muscle glycogen can be replenished--unlike the set of 15. As far as "efficiency" goes, this workout fits right in with the 1 hour slot that we have available for weight training our athletes."

Fair enough however, please see Coach Kelso's point above concerning multiple sets.

You keep calling Olympic lifts "momentum lifts"--and what generates the momentum? The legs, hips, and back. If an athlete is power- cleaning, say 286 lbs, they are performing an explosive deadlift, activating IIB fibers rather quickly--jumping with that kind of weight requires that type of recruitment. This "momentum" benefits the athletes--We had over 250 athletes power clean this semester, and we came out of it injury free--If these exercises are of such great danger, it would have gone another way. If their backs and hamstrings have been conditioned properly, the chances of back injury are minimal. I am 30, and have been power cleaning since I was 12-- (yes, and I used poor technique until I was taught correctly at 20) The back is fine.

We are as pleased as anyone that your athletes are safe. However, are you considering their long term health? If you dismiss that argument then we agree to disagree. You still haven't mentioned anything about the tension being taken off the muscle with each repetition. That minimizes recruitment of muscle. I recently presented a coach who was 100% power clean etc. He studied the research and realized that he was wasting his time with his training program. More coaches need to be open minded and see the scientific principles behind strength training.

Please stop referring me to articles from [Name withheld due to respect], or [Name withheld due to respect]--Please give me something better to chew on than this biased, repetitive jargon I've heard so many times before. I think it would add credibility to your [website] to expand your resources from [Name withheld due to respect] and [Name withheld due to respect] etc.

Those coaches to which you refer have certainly contributed to the field of strength training much more than most. Don't you think? We don't mind your insults aimed at us but please keep the tone professional. Those men you so quickly dismiss have done a lot for our profession. Keeping professional and not personal is something that we have taken pride in with our website. By the way, don't tell us how we should run our website. Believe us, it is one of the most credible websites out there in terms of professionalism and education. However, if you do not see as many Olympic lifting advocates represented on this website that may be because they choose not to contribute.

Here is a short list of coaches with a wide variety of lifting backgrounds that are smarter than most, and have achieved high levels of coaching--they wouldn't be there if they hurt their athletes--You might contact them to get a differing point of view, which would be refreshing--
Rock Gullickson--New Orleans Saints
Ed Nordenschild-Fresno State
Eric Lawson-Tampa Bay Lightning NHL
Angel Spasov-Univ. of Texas
John Sauer-College of William and Mary
Scott Plisk-Yale (he uses really big words, so watch out)


I assume you mean Steve Plisk. We contacted Coach Plisk about 4 months ago and he was very helpful. Coach Plisk also has a policy about giving his opinion about other training protocols. Coach Plisk is very concerned about the state of the strength training profession and believes that this sort of rhetoric hurts more than helps. We agree and remind our readers that we are not here to "bash" other training protocols but rather to get the word out that you do not have to use Olympic lifts to produce better athletes. Period.

We attempt to focus our articles towards those that work with high school athletes. These are the coaches who may not have excercise science backgrounds but are yet responsible for developing their school's athletes in the weight room. As the traditional Olympic lifting style prevails in most parts of the country we feel it is our duty to make them aware of alternative lifting protocols.

Labeling mine and so many other coaches philosophies as "dangerous" is silly, and insulting. I care too much about what I am doing to allow for a dangerous atmosphere--I stress safety every day-- Yes, I refer to Louie Simmons often--There are principles that can be implemented with moderation resulting in great success. I work out 3 day a week using some of these methods, some others--and I have never been stronger--We are trying to make our kids stronger right? Safely of course, but hitting singles and doubles with spotters and an alert, motivated lifter can do very nice things for your program. Sometimes you have to think outside your box--powerlifters are strong guys--I want my linemen to be strong guys.

We do not mean to come across as insulting. However we do not advocate using unsafe practices in which to train athlete's. We acknowledge that we are all trying to reach the same end and only wish to increase the awareness of a safe alternative to Olympic lifts.

LASTLY-- You advocated some training principle lately including 12 minute timed runs--I can think of nothing more idiotic for football players than this--How about this study--Let's take 30 kids that weigh over 225 pounds, and let them pound around the streets and tracks, and see how healthy their shins and low backs are. Take my 5 kids that weigh over 310 pounds, and see how severe their knee tendonitis becomes-- I have seen a 285 pound OL man develop career ending stress fractures doing TIMED RUNS-but not under my watch. You are better off keeping them on the grass, doing as little jogging as possible.

You make some good arguments, however, If you read more thoroughly the article on the 12 minute run you would understand that it was for the mental aspect of training. In regard to your 5 kids that weigh over 310 lbs..... maybe they should be doing some aerobic work... just a thought, as "idiotic" as it may seem.

Coach Whitt made several other points concerning sport specific drills such as, "Can jumping with weight in your hands improve your first step?" and the fact that Randy White "stated that the quick hand movements he practiced in martial arts made him a better pass rusher and run stuffer." We reserve these topics and much much more for another time.... Thanks to Coach Kelso and his staff for their input and test over this issue.

03 May, 2002

Dear StrongerAthletes: Various Questions

"Nature does nothing uselessly." - Aristotle

A reader from South Africa writes to us about our Swiss Ball article,
"I am busy going my course in the Swiss Ball please could you help me? I would like to know what a non-postural muscle is?

Your help would be appreciated. Kind regards."

South Africa,

What Chen was referring to was training postural muscles in a non-postural fashion. Some of the postural muscles are referred to as stabilizer muscles to most. They are some of the muscles that balance the body and enables you to stand upright. This can be done with a swiss ball but will do little to enhance athletic ability in an athlete's specific sport because they are not task specific.

Coach Rody
StrongerAthletes.com


A high school student writes,
"I am a junior right now in high school and I was wondering if you could give me some things to do to increase my speed (40 time) and stamina. Currently, I weigh about 246 and am 6 feet tall. I'm trying to get down to 235 to play linebacker next year. Also my current 40 time is 4.9. so if you could please give me some help and pointers I would really appriciate that. Thank you!

First, it is important that you visit with your coach and do what he wants you to do. Outside of that we suggest that you keep increasing your strength with slow controlled movements. Keep in mind Olympic lifting and plyometrics (this includes box jumping and those platform shoes or whatever they're called) are not a necessary part of training for speed or strength. One area that you can work on would be to reduce your reaction time. In a timed 40, practice your starts on a cadence that someone is giving and react to the "go" as quickly as possible. Run 40 yards if that is the distance you are trying to improve. We suggest practicing your 40 twice a week and strength train 2-3 times per week.

Coach Rody
StrongerAthletes.com

Coach,

Keep up the great work. Your site has quickly become one of my favorites.
Matt [Bryzicki]

We have this e-mail taped to our office door! That means a lot coach, thanks. We hope others are as happy with the progress we're making as we are.

Mystery Guest: Junior Seau


[Correctly guessing Junior were Coach Bryzcki, Princeton; Aaron Vitt, Moberly, MO; Coach Bryan, Winter Haven FL. ]

"This week's mystery guest is not a strength coach. He "played linebacker and tight end as a senior for Oceanside High School. He earned CIF San Diego Section defensive player of the year, all-state and USA Today All-USA honorable mention as well as North County and Avocado League offensive player of the year. He was named to California's All-Academic team with a 3.6 GPA. "

"After nine NFL seasons, many experts consider our mystery guest to be the best linebacker in football today. He has started 140 of 141 regular season games during his career, and is averaging 119.8 tackles per season. He can bench press 500 lbs. (No that is not a typo, 500.) He has been named to nine consecutive Pro Bowls.As a pro player, he established a charitable organization designed to benefit local San Diego youth programs. In 1994 he was named the True Value Hardware NFL Man of the Year. "

"In 1997 his bar & grill was voted "Best Sports Bar" by the San Diego Restaurant Association. And he trains in a Non-Olympic training program."

**Note** Much of this bio was taken from www.nfl.com and Junior Seau Appreciation page.

01 May, 2002

Conducting A Test: Non Olympic Lifting vs Olympic Lifting

 "If you cannot power clean you cannot be a good shot putter. -Name Withheld

(We use this quote mockingly! We love to receive e-mails from our readers regardless of their stance on a safe, productive and efficient training program, however, please think about what you are saying before you say it!) [Please see our April 26 post for more information on this statement.]

Conducting A Test

One of our readers suggested that we write about controlled tests to gain an understanding of these issues in which are discussed here. We know that any test or such, controlled as it may be, would not be conclusive of anything other than speculation. However, we have discussed this idea with other coaches in our high school. We came up with a premise to test our athletes over an 8-week summer school strength training class.

Knowing some problems exist in its design, we have laid out our original idea of an experiment below. Following our proposal is an evaluation by Tom Kelso, Strength Coach at the University of Illinois Chicago. We would like to thank Coach Kelso for his input and gladly accept others to evaluate it as well. Please keep in mind that we understand this project's limitations and only proceed for the sake of putting our philosophy to the test, not to declare a "winner" or "loser".

  • Objective: To test in-coming high school freshmen on power development through the comparison of Olympic and non-Olympic training methods.

  • Testing Methods: The athletes will be tested in the vertical jump using an electronic jump pad. They will be tested on Day 1 and the last day of the 8-week summer program. Both groups, Olympic and non-Olympic, will be allowed to practice 5 jumps on the pad per week.

  • Group Selection: The groups will be selected randomly. Half will be assigned to an Olympic lifting program and the others to a non-Olympic lifting program.

  • Training Protocols: Both groups will use the following exercises (which were suggested by all coaches involved, not just StrongerAthletes.com staff): Squat, Deadlift, Bench, Straight Leg Deadlift, Dips, Pull-ups, Shoulder Press, Practice jumps, as well as work through a conditioning program. The Olympic Lifting group will also perform Hang Cleans and Power Press movements.

  • Hypothesis: It is projected by StrongerAthletes.com that there will be no significant difference between the Olympic and non-Olympic groups. This would defend our stance that using the Olympic lifts to develop power is misleading. Again, we understand that an experiment of this sort with the limited numbers and limited time frame would, in fact, prove nothing, yet we conduct it nonetheless. We are prepared to come to the conclusion that Olympic movements may contribute to developing power should that group show significant gains in the vertical jump when compared to the non-Olympic group.

Coach Kelso responds, "INTERESTING SITUATION.......HERE IS MY TAKE ON THIS (AND SUGGESTIONS):

  • 1. It sounds like [you want to determine if] doing a power and/or hang clean -- or other Olympic lift/variation of it -- is superior to simply leg pressing, squatting, or dead-lifting with slower-moving, yet more fiber-recruiting movements. Try to [explain to other coaches on your staff] on the fact that you can actually recruit more muscle -- especially the type II fibers -- by using heavier and naturally slower moving resistances and working to muscular fatigue (many coaches don't understand this, or refuse to believe it because it doesn't "look the part.") It's a proven fact -- and a governed by basic laws of physics -- that a relatively heavy weight cannot move relatively fast (if it does, it is still relatively "light' for the lifter!), but it creates more tension, thus potentially overloads more muscle fibers (read: more type II) when worked to muscular fatigue

  • 2. The ability to vertical jump well is skill-dependent. Furthermore, are you using the old-fashioned method of jumping up against a wall?...the Vertec device?.....the Just Jump pad? Whatever is used, naturally it would need to be done for a number of trials (i.e., 5+) to get a good idea of an athlete's ability

  • 3. If you were able to get legitimate, reliable pre-test results, I firmly believe you could prove that  there are safer, more efficient alternatives available by doing the following experiment

  • **** 2 groups: 1 x Olympic lifts only and 1 x squat, leg press, and/or dead lift only (I think trap-bar dead lifts would be great for this experiment).

**** Train for progressively for 8 to 10 weeks with each group doing only their respective lift(s). In other words, the Olympic lift group could not squat, leg press, or dead lift -- nor could the squat/leg press/dead lift group do any Olympic lifts.

**** Both groups would have to be exposed to the same conditioning program to account for any  "outside" influences. They could BOTH PRACTICE vertical jumping or BOTH NOT PRACTICE jumping.  Naturally, if one group practiced the skill of vertical jumping, it would influence the post-test  results.

**** Bottom line: Provided the non-Olympic lift group were to progressively increase strength via the squat, leg press, and/or dead lift -- whether or not they practiced the vertical jump -- they would improve their ability to generate force (strength) in an "explosive muscular display" just as well as (if not better than) the Olympic lift group.

**** The Olympic lift group would also likely improve provided they trained progressively (added weight and or reps). Lifting "faster" by nature lessens muscular tension, but can create some overload if done to muscular fatigue. Thus, the Olympic lift group could increase strength in as much as the faster movement speed creates muscular tension.  This, in turn, would also help to improve force-production potential.

**** HOWEVER, THE POTENTIAL PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED WITH RELATIVELY "FAST" SPEEDS OF EXERCISE MOVEMENT IN THE WEIGHT ROOM ARE THREE-FOLD:

  • 1) Unquestionably a greater risk of soft tissue injury due to greater accelerative forces that need to be dissipated/absorbed by the body.  Not necessarily immediate/measurable injuries, but injuries resulting from the long-term wear-and-tear of ballistic exercises

  • 2) An inefficient means of creating tension/recruiting muscle fibers.  Excessive momentum decreases muscular tension (laws of physics) and consequently optimal muscle fiber recruitment

  • 3) Perpetuates the myth that sport-skill specificity can be improved by either "moving fast with a weight" or attempting to mimic a skill or segment of that skill.

Coaches, at this time we are still undecided if we are going to put a experiment proposal into effect this summer. However, we wanted to share this idea with you and encourage you to play around with the idea. Let us know what you come up with, we would love to share them with our readers.

Mystery Guest

[We are posting a photo of this week's mystery guest to help you out. Coach Bryzcki already got the right answer so we feel that its O.K. to post the picture now. However, he wasn't so sure of himself this time as he followed his answer with, "I think."]

"This week's mystery guest is not a strength coach. He "played linebacker and tight end as a senior for Oceanside High School. He earned CIF San Diego Section defensive player of the year, all-state and USA Today All-USA honorable mention as well as North County and Avocado League offensive player of the year. He was named to California's All-Academic team with a 3.6 GPA. "

"After nine NFL seasons, many experts consider our mystery guest to be the best linebacker in football today. He has started 140 of 141 regular season games during his career, and is averaging 119.8 tackles per season. He can bench press 500 lbs. (No that is not a typo, 500.) He has been named to nine consecutive Pro Bowls.As a pro player, he established a charitable organization designed to benefit local San Diego youth programs. In 1994 he was named the True Value Hardware NFL Man of the Year. "

"n 1997 his bar & grill was voted "Best Sports Bar" by the San Diego Restaurant Association. And he trains in a Non-Olympic training program."

**Note** Much of this bio was taken from another web site. We will give credit on Friday.