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Safe, Effective Strength Training for Athletes

December 17 "Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true." -Demosthenes

Do Olympic Lifts Enhance Athletic Ability?

Proponents of Olympic movements claim that exercises in the weight room such as the power clean transfers to skills on the field. One example, given by M. Arthur and B. Bailey in "Complete Training For Football," is the similarities in body position between the acceleration phase of running a 40-yard dash and a power clean.

The claim says that a power clean execution involves triple extension of the joints involved, (the ankle, knee, and hip) which matches the triple extension of the joints in a sprint. It is exactly true if you power clean leaning forward! (FYI: Authur and Bailey maintain that this relationship happens).

power clean
sprint

But who is going to do that???

Even if you could powerclean leaning forward, we believe the lift still cannot transfer to a better sprint. Different neuromuscular pathways are used in the 2 activities. Ken Mannie, Strength and Conditioning Coach at Michigan State University, writes, "Performing a certain type of lifting movement with the hope that it will transfer to a sport-specific or position specific tasks is useless. The central nervous system acquires, stores, and uses only meaningful information when movement is required." Meaning the closer the drill is to the actual desired movement the better. If you want to run the 40 yard-dash faster: practice your starts; If you want to tackle better: practice tackling. If you want to make your body stronger in order to perform at a higher level in both the 40 yard-dash and tackling: you need to squat, dead lift and bench, etc..

In closing, if it did transfer, that means a sprint should feel similar to a power clean. In our opinion, this entire reasoning of the triple extension comparison is bunk and goes against the true meaning of the principle of specificity.

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