Stronger Athletes

Misinterpreted by Message Board

July 1 "Everyone must row with the oars he has." -English Proverb

It was brought to our attention recently by one of our readers that was receiving some unflattering posts on a strength training message board.

It should be noted that message boards are to be avoided by general rule due to the anonymity of their nature. However, the moderator of this message board clearly stands behind his statements and that is to be commended. That is why we feel the necessity to "clear our name" in light of these recent misconceptions that other readers may have as well.

Please keep in mind we are NOT picking a fight. We sincerely wish to end that kind of discourse when dealing with strength training topics. Not until coaches of differing philosophies can maturely discuss these issues will any coach actually be able to learn something from the other side. In fact, we applaud Dr. Siff's work in the field of strength and conditioning we simply wish to clarify some misinterpretations of our past articles.

Below follows the post of Dr. Mel Siff from his June 26 post. Our comments follow.

"If one reads through their articles, it soon becomes clear that they are disciples of the old "HIT" philosophy of training and they add absolutely nothing new to the science or practice of strength training." -Dr. Mel Siff did not set out to "discover" anything. Our main purpose is to bring the everyday weight room coach into contact with what is already out there. You do not have to be a Ph.D., NSCA, CSCS, etc... to read. Many high school coaches do not have the knowledge to be productive coaches in the weight room yet are given that responsibility. If a coach wished to simply get on the internet for information we provide that. Should they not agree with us then they can go find something else. However, we feel that we support our arguments with the work of others who have done the research. We cite those authors when appropriate. Also, our door is always open and we encourage coaches to e-mail us with questions or comments and many have.

"Despite constant requests to produce the evidence, nobody has yet been able to furnish an oft-requested list of world champions and world records holders in quantitative international sports who have predominantly relied on "HIT" methods for their training?" -Dr. Mel Siff

Although there have been international athletes at the elite level who train safely such as Al Oerter that is not the focus of our mission. We focus toward the American coaches who deal with traditional interscholastic sports competitions such as football, basketball, wrestling, etc... When working with kids in a school setting a coach's job is to prepare that kid to be better in his sport without getting him hurt in the process. We believe that a stronger athlete is a better athlete. Can we create a stronger athlete safely? Yes, so why do otherwise?

"Nor have they produced epidemiological studies which show categorically that exercises drawn from Olympic lifting are more dangerous than any other forms of supplementary training." -Dr. Mel Siff

How categorical is "categorically"? The research is out there and goes way beyond anecdotal records. On June 24 we posted an article which listed some of the published research on various topics including the safety of ballistic movements. We reprint part of that list for your convenience:

Adeyanju, K., T.R. Crews and W.J. Meaders. 1983. Effect of two speeds of isokinetic training on muscle strength, power and endurance. Journal of Sports Medicine 23: 352-356.

Allman, F.L. 1976. Prevention of sports injuries. Athletic Journal 56 (March):74.

Diange, J. 1984. Football and power cleans: A dangerous mixture. Scholastic Coach 53 (January): 22, 74.

Jesse, J.P. 1979. Misuse of strength development programs in athletic training. The Physician and Sports Medicine 7 (10): 46-50, 52.

Jones, A. 1977. Flexibility as a result of exercise. Athletic Journal 57 (March):32, 37-38, 92.

Leistner, K.E. 1989. Strength training injuries: On the field but from the weight room. High Intensity Newsletter 1 (4):1-2.

Pipes, T.V. 1979. High intensity, not high speed. Athletic Journal 59 (December): 60, 62.

Riley, D.P. 1982. Strength training for football: The Penn State way. 2d ed. West Point, NY: Leisure Press.

Welday, J. 1986. Coming clean with the power clean. Scholastic Coach 56 (September): 22-23.

Wescott, W.L. 1986. Integration of strength, endurance and skill training. Scholastic Coach 55 (May/June): 74

Wood, K. 1991. Cincinnati Bengals' strength training program. American Fitness Quarterly 10 (July): 38, 40.

"If they really understood the science of strength training, then they would appreciate that no supplementary exercises are intended to imitate or simulate the actual skilled movements in any sport." -Dr. Mel Siff

We may not have Ph.D's but we understand "the science of strength training" enough to agree with you on this point.

"They are misquoting the science behind strength training, partly because they are basing their comments on the methods of some strength coaches who also think that the OL lifts are used because they imitate sporting actions." -Dr. Mel Siff

Coaches please listen-up! Even Dr. Mel Siff, one of our nation's leading Olympic Lifting proponents agrees: ballistic movements do not imitate sporting actions. This is one of the sole reasons high school coaches have their athletes perform these lifts. We receive e-mail after e-mail from high school coaches expressing their belief in power cleans simulating a tackle or double leg takedowns. If we were unclear before let us clear it up, no weight room movements transfer to athletic movements. But don't take it from us or previous "Non-Olympic" researchers... even prominent Olympic lifters agree... This is simply a myth of strength training. [I'm glad we got that cleared up!]

"Not too long ago I provided a thorough biomechanical analysis of the Olympic style lifts to show that these beliefs about momentum are seriously incorrect." -Dr. Mel Siff

We have not had the opportunity to read Dr. Siff's research on the absence of momentum in the Olympic lifts. They are no doubt well done and thorough. However, if a coach was to come across various articles of some Olympic lifting coaches such as the one by Fred Hatfield, titled ATHLETES AND THE OLYMPIC LIFTS, you would find momentum being taught.

We should mention that Coach Hatfield has done some great work in strength and conditioning field, we simply disagree an the use of Olympic lifts for all athletes.

"The best lifters time their thrust out of the rock-bottom squat position so perfectly that they're able to begin the push upward while the bar is still on an upward path from momentum generated during the final phase of the second pull."

"If the lifter must wait until the weight is stabilized overhead before standing erect, two things happen: 1) the bar's upward momentum stops, and 2) the bar begins traveling back downward (making it much heavier than the full weight of the bar must be lifted)." -Coach Hatfield on how to perform the snatch movement

"There's one difference of significance, however, and that's the fact that the lifter's hands are much closer together while executing the clean. That means the bar can bend more. The "harmonics" of a whippy bar aids in generating great upward momentum during the second pull, and the lifter coordinates the timing of his upward thrust with the bar's upward (return) unbending." --Coach Hatfield comparing the difference between the clean and snatch movements

In his article, Acceleration and Deceleration Phases in the Pull, Leo Isaac explains the proccess of getting the bar from point A to point B.

"How therefore does the bar increase in height from A to B? It is not the case that the lifter is able to pull the bar higher by the use of the arms because after the moment of full extension the lifter is rapidly descending under the bar. The answer in the word is MOMENTUM, [all caps is Isaac's not's], something that we all experience on a day to day basis. All of us must wear seat belts in motor vehicles to prevent our momentum from carrying us through the windscreen if a collision occurs. Momentum is a product of MASS and VELOCITY. Once in motion, heavier objects take longer to stop than light ones. Cars can break much more quickly and easily than trucks. Therefore the Mass (the object's weight) is of crucial importance in determining Momentum. But velocity is equally important. A car travelling at 100Kph takes much longer to bring to a halt than the same vehicle at 50Kph."
"Applying this knowledge to Weightlifting, what is required is that at the moment of full extension, that is the last moment where there is effective pulling force, the bar is travelling as fast as possible. The faster the bar is travelling up at the end of the pull, the more momentum it will acquire. The more momentum the bar acquires, the higher the bar will go." -Leo Isaac decribing how a lifter is able to get under the bar during a snatch movement.

So, it is easy to understand how many coaches can "assume" momentum is being used in some Olympic lift movements.

Seriously! This is not April 1st - this material really appears on their site.-Dr. Mel Siff in reference to our explanation of Power

Work = Strength*Distance
Speed = Distance/ Time
Power = Strength * Speed
Thus Power = Strength * Distance/ Time= Work/ Time

This formula that Dr. Siff seems to find so funny was taken directly from the Olympic Lifting Mecca, the University of Nebraska. The staff at Husker Power spend lots o'time and money researching power. We would like to think that a formula in "Complete Conditioning for Football," by Nebraska strength coaches Michael Arthur and Bryan Bailey can be trusted. If not take a look at your 9th grade science book.

Very often, the brain should not even be involved in the action, unless voluntary cognitive processing of information is necessary - a great deal of human movement is orchestrated at a subcortical level via much faster motor reflex arcs involving the spinal cord. Since the military situation often requires very rapid reflexive response in critical situations, it would be very wise for these coaches at the Academy to rapidly revise their knowledge about physical training. -Dr. Mel Siff, in response to this statement:

Without intensity a program is not very productive. As pointed out by Tim Swanger, Mike Bradley, and Steve Murray, Strength and Conditioning Coaches at the United States Military Academy, "You must place your muscles in a critical situation. The effort level must be maximum. Your brain will only recruit the minimum number of muscle fibers necessary to do the job."

O.K. we will conced the use of the word brain. However, the point still stands that only the minimum number of muscle fibers will be recruited to do the job. If "brain" was the wrong term to use let us amend it for future arguments now, though, we all see through this as a tongue-in-cheek way of avoiding the point while poking a jab. In the defense of our military academies, last time I checked they were doing just fine with their graduate's "rapid reflex response."

"Abandon all supplementary strength training, then, because none of it ever can be specific to any sporting action!" -Dr. Mel Siff, in sarcastic response to a point we made about the Principle of Specificity.

In regards to abandoning all strength training the answer is no. We desire to increase the strength of our athletes. In regards to "none of it ever can be specific to any sporting action," yes, we agree and covered this about 5 paragraphs ago.

"Nobody who knows anything about strength science uses OL movements because they specifically imitate the motor skills of other sports. Specificity of sporting action comes not from OL, from Nautilus machines, from Cybex dynamometers, from HIT or any supplementary strength methods, but from the sport itself." -Dr. Mel Siff

We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Now, please help us to get this point taught to the thousands of high school strength coaches who employ Olympic Lifts for this purpose.

In conclusion, we acknowledge that there is definitely more than one way to train athletes. Slow controlled lifting, we believe, is the safest, most productive and efficient method to do this.

Dr. Siff should take a look at our Teams Page, not for anecdotal reasoning, but to make the point that this type of lifting has developed some elite athletes. They may not perform in European track meets but the NFL is a world stage.

Thanks to the reader who brought this misunderstanding to our attention and thanks to Dr. Siff for his continuing work in the field of strength and conditioning. We would be happy to clarify any future misunderstandings if needed. Until then... what are you doing reading this? Go golf while you still have time!

***No Liability is assumed for any information written on the 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.***

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