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Safe, Effective Strength Training for Athletes

August 21 "Those who aim at great deeds must also suffer greatly." -Plutarch

Attention: Risk is Real!

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

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

Hi, Coach Rody

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

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

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

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

Sincerely, Steve

Steve,

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

Coach Rody
StrongerAthletes.com

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