Safe Effective Strength Training
January 26 "The best way out is always through." -Robert Frost
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 followed in black.
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 lift] 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?
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.
***No Liability is assumed for any information written on the StrongerAthlete.com website. No medical advice is given on exercise. This advice should be obtained from a licensed health-care practitioner. Before anyone begins any exercise program, always consult your doctor. The articles are written by coaches that are giving advice on a safe, productive, and efficient method of strength training.***