Feb 11, 2002

A Return to Safety

"Yet, regardless of which training protocols may be right or wrong, as health/fitness professionals our first responsibility is to the safety of those who have entrusted their health to us." -Mark Asanovich, Strength Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

StrongerAthletes.com often asks coaches who implement Olympic lifts in their program, "Is it really worth it?" We say no as far as safety is concerned.

We have asked many high school and college level athletes how they like the power clean exercise. Most all of them respond by saying something like, "My back hurts when I do them, but other than that they're o.k." Time and time again we get this type of response.

It is important to note when observing these athletes, some have good form but most have poor technique. Coaches in many sports realize the potential for injury but still incorporate them into work-outs. Why add to this injury potential by implementing an unsafe exercise?

In addition to safety, we find that much of the research in this field does not support the use of Olympic lifting for athletes in their sport other than the weightlifting sport itself.

In an article, "Olympic Lifting Movements Endanger Adolescents," written by John P. Jesse, a recognized expert in the field of strength training and a member of the American College of Sports of Medicine, Jesse discusses a study by Kotani and associates. 

To sum it up: They performed an intensive investigation of 26 weightlifters between the age of 18-24. The study found that all but 2 lifters had had recurrent episodes of lower back pain. 
"The stresses imposed by weight lifting (Olympic Lifts) occur mainly in the lower spine." 
This study was referring to the Olympic lifts that involve pressing and holding weight overhead.

Some coaches may say, "Well we don't do Olympic movements that involve lifting weights overhead, we just do hang/power cleans." However, further research indicated lower back problems from weight cleaned to the shoulders or snatched overhead. 
Jesse continues, 
"I am convinced that one other position in Olympic lifting places shearing stresses on the lumbar spine. When a heavy weight is cleaned to the shoulders or snatched overhead to a full-arm position. Thrusting the hips forward throws the lower back into a hyperextended lordotic position and creates tremendous shearing stresses on the lumbar vertebrae."

Some coaches may look at this and say, "Well those athletes in this study were competitive weightlifters not athletes of other sports." This is true but it should also be pointed out that these athletes have very good technique in their lifts as well and still have many injuries. Just think of the potential injuries that can occur when high school and college football, wrestling, basketball, volleyball players do them. They obviously do not have the technique that the competitive lifter has which will increase the chance for injury.

would like some feedback from coaches who support our beliefs as well as coaches that implement the quick lifts in their program. For the latter, "Do you think your program is safe? Obviously, risk of injury is inherent (and accepted) in sports competition. However, to suggest that there be an inherent risk of injury in training for sports competition is certainly unacceptable, unprofessional, and unethical. After all, the primary objective of any training program is to enhance one's physical potential, not endanger it! Consequently, one should be encouraged to perform strength-training exercises in a controlled manner. To do otherwise, is to invite musculoskeletal injury." Mark Asanovich Strength Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

To sum up, Mark Asanovich, Strength Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers believes,
"Certainly many controversies exist relative to training methodologies, ballistic training and Olympic lifting being a major concern. Yet, regardless of which training protocols may be right or wrong, as health/fitness professionals our first responsibility is to the safety of those who have entrusted their health to us. By denying, ignoring, or overlooking the risks involved in training protocols/devices, we do a great disservice to the individuals we train. For these reasons, I would encourage coaches to be very discriminating in selecting training protocols. After all, as with anything in life that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Ballistic resistance training and Olympic lifting are no exception to the rule."

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***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.***