Jul 29, 2002

Summer Conditioning Recap

Like high school football coaches all over America, we are winding down our summer conditioning program and getting ready for the task at hand... playing football. We have, however, had great feedback from our athletes, who as a whole have not had an organized strength training program presented to them like it was this summer.

In all fairness to our school's coaches there has always been an interest to develop strength in our athletes. However, this has always been limited to small groups of kids such as the wrestlers or the shot putters, not the overall school body.

This summer we saw our numbers remains consistent from week 1 to week 9 reaching most sport programs except for those in which a coach forbid his athletes to participate. Even in those cases we had some representatives present for training.

We attribute much of our success this summer to the following:
  • Enthusiastic Coaches: In a reflection of strength training America we, as coaches, disagreed about various elements of a training regimen. However, our desire to "coach 'em-up" was strong and philosophies took a back seat to training, supervision, and motivation. We created an atmosphere that was non-threatening to the novice lifters and at the same time challenging to our more experienced athletes. The kids never knew what elements of the training were liked or disliked by various coaches... That wasn't important to us... hard work, commitment, and improvement was.

  • Full Body Routines: By employing a full body routine we found that we could limit our workouts to three days a week. In reality, three days was almost too much for our really intense kids. We had to use three days a week as the Strength and Conditioning class was being offered for credit and the kids had to have X amount of hours. However, we were able to work the kids heavy and hard on Monday and Friday while Wednesday was used to practice form and technique. Also, when dealing with large numbers of kids you find that attendance is more important to some than to others. We felt that a split body routine three-times a week would leave behind the kid who seemed to sleep in at least once a week.

  • Educational Lectures: We would spend time early on talking to the kids in a class room setting. Topics would include basics such as how to fill out the workout card and proper lifting form. We felt that it was extremely important to educate the kids on muscle-fiber recruitment and the importance of working to momentary muscular fatigue. Realistically, not all the kids understood or wanted to understand these issues, but many did and we could see the carry-over in the weight room intensity.

  • Individual Attention: We feel that each athlete deserves individual attention. Athletes are not created with cookie cutters and thus cannot be given cookie cutter exercise advice. Boys appreciated knowing how to use strength training to gain weight while the girls were excited to learn how to lose weight. Some kids were injured... They performed alternative movements. Some kids would plateau in strength... They were treated according to their intensity levels. Some were given time off while others were given intensifying techniques. In any case, the athletes came to regard us as trusted advisers. They came to us with questions as opposed to seeking advice from the latest gimmic being tauted in the latest issue of MuscleMag. One athlete, who works for the local MLB team, came to us with a duffle bag full of nutritional supplements that he was given at the stadium. Instead of mixing up a worthless batch of Power-in-a-Bottle to show off in front of his GNC worshipping friends he came to us. He wanted to know what they were and what they were supposed to do before he used them. How many 16 year old kids trust coaches enough to do that?
It should be noted that our school's strength and conditioning program is young and has a long way to go before we reach our full potential. We are amazed at the great job other schools are doing in our area and hope to mimic their success in the years to come.

In conclusion, the summer of 2002 was productive for our athletes. We grew as coaches, learning how to compromise and support each others values. Most importantly we grew stronger, literally. We wish all you football coaches the best of luck as your seasons get underway. Coach 'em-up!"

Jul 22, 2002

25th Annual NSCA Convention

 "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown." -William Shakespeare
Although StrongerAthletes.com was not able to attend the 25th Annual NSCA Convention, Coach Gary Gant from Apple Valley, California was, and sent us this report. We sincerely hope that this forum can help to educate coaches that safe, productive, and efficient training methods are not unheard of or un-sound philosophies. Coach Gant serves as yet another voice, frustrated at the one-sidedness of much of America's strength training discourse.

I had the privilege this weekend of attending the 25th anniversary and conference for the National Strength and Conditioning Association(NSCA). This was my first NSCA conference, my primary job is that of an athletic trainer and I usually attend NATA conventions. I learned a lot of valuable information, and most importantly information that I can use right away.

One thing that troubled me was the anti-HIT (High Intensity Training) rhetoric. I could not count how many times that I heard to "Train ballistically because sports are ballistic in nature".

Coach Mannie, who was referenced to by one of the speakers on this topic said it best, "Training ballistically because your sport is ballistic is like banging your head against a wall to prepare for a concussion". This is probably not an exact quote but you get the idea.

I heard how machine training is not functional to sport, because machine training does not mimic sport. My question is, "When did STRENGTH no matter how it is built not become functional?" There were many references throughout the conference about this and I could go with many examples.

One session that I would like to tell you about was called "Hit or Miss: a review of research relevant to High Intensity Training."

The first topic the speakers covered was the definition of HIT and the Anti-Specificity characteristics of it.

  • 1. The Use of Anti-Specific Training (However, HIT coaches encourage specificity, in practicing specifically for his or her sport, how sport specific can you get?)

  • 2. The Use of Machines (Despite the fact that HIT is pro barbell, dumbbell, sand bags, anvils, cars, etc. anything that will build strength).

  • 3.The Use of Pro body building techniques such as eccentric, partial reps, manuals, and slow motion training. (Regardless of who these techniques are associated with they make a strength session harder, thus you have made it more productive).

  • 4. They argue concepts of velocity specificity, and the transfer of learning. (How can lifting a weighted object be velocity specific? If it has weight then it must be moving slower. Transfer of learning to what? How can O-lifting transfer to almost every sport? I do not think that it can).

  • 5. They are Anti-weight lifting, plyometrics and dynamics, and ballistic training. (We are pro-Safety and pro-Muscle tension and force production of the working muscle.)

  • 6.Risk of injury is the rationale for most of the above. (Lifting weights quickly is either (A) safer than slower speeds, (B) same as slower speeds, or (C) more dangerous than lifting at slower speeds,what would common sense tell you A,B,or C? I believe the answer is obvious).

The two speakers presented themselves well, and I could tell that they are very knowledgeable men. They presented research that was relevant to their cause, but I am sure that a HIT speaker would have plenty of research to support his or her cause. One bit of data was on how common HIT is in athletics. From their data 15 colleges use HIT, one NBA and NHL team use HIT. 2 MLB teams use HIT, and 5 NFL teams use HIT. What was not mentioned that of these teams what is the injury rate, and also success.

More references were made about HIT with a lot of the information coming from Cyberpump.com

  • 1. Always add weight to the bar going all out not almost all out. (Progressive overload, even periodization believes in this fact.)

  • 2. Pick a weight that you normally do for 10 reps and do 20. (This is in reference to 20 rep squats, I can't describe it, but check out Dr. Ken squatting 407 for 23 reps on cyberpump.com).

  • 3. Minimal recovery between sets of 1-3 minutes. (If an athlete can perform the same amount or more work in less time, I would consider that an efficient workout).

Research on single sets vs. multiple sets - This always has to be explained to the public, the single set group usually uses 8-12 reps, and the multi set group uses very low to moderate rep ranges.

To check strength improvement the 1rm is used, if the 1rm is the test, then the subjects should be allowed to practice the 1rm. A 1rm is a skill unto itself, and may change daily based on rest, recovery, stress etc.

Also it was said that high volume allows more ability to workout longer. How does the old saying go? "An athlete can workout HARD for a short period of time or workout easier for a longer period of time".

In conclusion, I am proud to be a member of the NSCA, I am also proud of my CSCS credential. I believe the profession needs this organization and the credential to set a standard of professionalism. But this organization is obviously divided. There is a majority that is basically anti-HIT, and then a small group of HIT advocates. The USA came together liberal, conservative, black, white on 9/11/2001 and the country became stronger. For the NSCA to know it's true strength we need to be more accepting of each others ideas, myself included.

I learned a great deal about Functional Training and I can apply many of these ideas right away in re-hab protocols. We can all learn from each other, there is no one right way to train athletes, I just believe HIT to be a Safer and more Efficient training method. I will attend more NSCA meetings and try to become more involved myself and I hope others will do the same.

In Health,
Gary D. Gant ATC,CSCS

If you have questions or comments about this web site or strength development or training please drop us a note.

Jul 15, 2002

Pro Athletes/Elite vs High School Athletes/Safety- Part II

"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter- it is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." -Mark Twain

Before getting into the next edition of Dear StrongerAthletes we want to share two recent e-mails.

Coach Jim Bryan, after reading the latest posts, feels that many coaches are missing the point of what StrongerAthletes.com is all about. He writes...

"I know it gets frustrating. It seems you have to agree with them, [non-Olympic Lifting coaches], or you're not right. Does that seem a bit presumptuous? You're wrong but they're not.

Seems to be a bit one sided. Why won't they really read your site and then reflect? Are they so afraid they may actually learn something?

Another thing you can point out is that many of the coaches that don't use Olympic movements used to be Olympic Lifters and some used to be coaches and/or champions. They/we have just learned a different approach. Is it possible that some of the detractors should just shut-up and listen (for a change)? Why is it so hard for them to understand that you're not attacking them......that you're just trying to provide an alternative? Why are they so afraid of the term HIT? It's just a term for training hard. Your site is not a HIT site per se, it is a site that is trying (with much success) to examine training with common sense for High School Athletes. I want to ask "Why is that SO hard to understand?"

Thanks Coach.

We received the following e-mail from a High School Football coach. This is just another example of an issue we discuss often. Why will coaches, who are given the charge of their school's weight room refuse to think for themselves? Now, should a coach do his homework and is comfortable with his athlete's performing Olympic lifts... Great! As long as he knows why. However, we know logic like this exists... (The name is withheld out of respect for this coach.)

"If you can persuade a John Davies', Jeff Madden, Boyd Eply or Mel Siff that your way is better then I would surely change my tune and apologize to you personally."

Respectfully, we do not need to convince those coaches of anything. They do their homework and are great coaches. However, they are not responsible for the safety of our athletes.

Below is Coach Thibaudeau's reply to our July 7th post. Omitted are his arguments against Al Oerter, these include him using "cheat curls". For why we ended this element of the discussion please see July 7th.
Dear StrongerAthletes.com

You must understand that just because a strength coach uses some Olympic lift variations doesn't mean that he doesn't rely heavily on squats, deadlifts and bench presses. In most programs using the Olympic lifts, these lifts are only a part of a bigger program.

I do believe that slow-speed strength multi-joint exercises should be one of the cornerstone of a good strength training program ... few strength coaches would argue against that.

We understand.

However, I do believe that high-speed strength exercises are a beneficial addition to a strength training program. After all, the goal of a strength program is to increase the athlete's capacity to produce force. Force being equal to mass times acceleration (F = ma) that means that a high level of force can be developed by:

  • 1. Using heavy loads (high mass) and little acceleration

  • 2. Using light loads (low mass) and very high acceleration

  • 3. Using moderate loads and moderate-to-high acceleration

(the Olympic lifts fitting in category 3. , heavy lifting in category 1. and plyometric/throws in category 2.)

We would maintain that the goal of a strength program is to prevent injury and develop strength. The developed strength can than be applied to power, when it counts... on the field.

Now, that doesn't mean that a coach has to use all 3 types of training to be successful. If a coach uses at least one of these methods he will have some degree of success. However, it is my belief that by producing maximum force via several different means of training, one can ultimately create a greater training effect.

I should mention that the Olympic lifts are not the only exercises in category 3. Lifting moderate loads (50-60%) at a high speed in basic exercises (squat, deadlift, bench press) is also part of this method (powerlifting coach Louie Simmons uses this method).

Again, nothing against Coach Simmons, but we do not train powerlifters. For sure, what he recommends for powerlifting is sound. At this time powerlifting is not a sport we compete inter-scholasticly. Football, basketball, volleyball, track, etc...

I would like to say that you are wrong when you say that it takes a long time to master the Olympic lifts. I will concede that it takes a lot of time to develop perfect coordination to perform in the competitive Olympic lifts (full squat snatch and squat clean & split jerk). However the simpler versions of these lifts can be learned quite quickly (in as little as one session in some cases). The "truncated" versions of the Olympic lifts that I use in the training of my athletes do not include the technically hazardous motions of the full lifts (double knee bend and catch in the full squat position).

For example the power clean from the hang consist of lowering the bar slowly to the knees and bring it to the shoulders by a powerful jump. The two coaching keys are:
  • a) JUMP! Do not muscle the bar up.

  • b) Keep the bar close to your body, do not loop it in front of you.
This lift is very easy to learn when taught by a qualified coach. Most of my athletes learn it in one session. The problem with these lifts lies in unsupervised practice because the athlete might use bad technique or too much weight.

It is a mistake to divide coaches according to a "non-Olympic lift" and an "Olympic lift" division. Several coaches substitute the Olympic lifts by other explosive movements such as jump squats, plyometrics, explosive basic lifting and throws. While they are not using the Olympic lifts per say, the goal is the same: increase the rate at wish you produce force.

We did not mean to divide coaches into divisions. However, there are undeniably two camps in this regards. Why coaches choose not to include the movements you list simply comes down to these three elements.

  • Safety- Coaches are just not sold on the fact that moving fast with strength training equipment is the safest way to train.

  • Productivity- Coaches do not correlate using light to moderate weight with strength development.

  • Efficiency- Coaches feel that the 45-60 minutes in the weight room can be better spent lifting heavy weights to muscular failure as opposed to exhausting cardiovascularly in said movements.

I understand your point of NOT including the Olympic lifts since you are training 150 athletes at the same time. I personally NEVER prescribe these lifts unless I know that I will personally supervise the athlete in his training.

Have a nice day and I wish you all the best.

Christian Thibaudeau

Thanks for the e-mail, we truly believe this is a great way to educate coaches who are willing to understand the issues.


Jul 7, 2002

Pro Athletes / Elite vs High School Athletes / Safety

"Fall seven times, stand up eight." -Japanese Proverb

Dear StrongerAthletes:Pro Athletes/Elite vs High School Athletes/Safety

Since last week's reply to misinterpretations of our website, we have received several e-mails from members of that particular list-serve. It almost seems that we have turned into a soap opera for their reading pleasure. What follows below is a letter we received... sort of like a spin-off of last week's post. StrongerAthletes.com's reply follows in BLUE.

Dear StrongerAthletes.com,

I must first tell you that I am an Olympic lift proponent and work with several elite levels from various sports and of various ages. I have also written several articles about the Olympic lift variations for the training of athletes. Nevertheless I hope that you will not perceive my letter as antagonistic.

I would only wish to make several objective comments in regard to your listing of supposed "Non Olympic lift teams".

Coach Thibaudeau expresses a concern that w have attempted to amend this past week. The following note was posted at the top of our Teams Page.

  • The ONLY purpose for listing these teams is to reassure other coaches that safe, productive, and efficient training programs, such as the one we promote at StrongerAthletes.com, is not unheard of. We are not attempting to imply that these teams are better or have better athletes than other teams. Our point is simply this: There are several strength programs in traditional sports that do not use Olympic lifts. Discrepancies may occur at schools in which one particular team uses Olympic lifting and others do not use them. Such is the case at University of Maryland, for example, where the basketball teams do not use Olympic lifts but the football team does. Please help to keep this list accurate. If you are aware of mistakes or changes at a particular school or team please let us know.

Coach Thibaudeau continues:
I do not doubt that the official strength coaches of the pro teams you cite do not use the Olympic lift in their programs. However I would like to say that several, if not all professional athletes follow the official team program only during the season. In the off-season most players hire the services of personal coaches. I know this because I'm currently doing this with over 20 pro hockey players (including some under contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins which are a non Olympic lift team) and they all use the Olympic lifts.

For example, Dermonti Dawson, former Steelers center was a shot puter in college who is reputed for having a huge power clean.

David Boston of the Arizona Cardinals also uses some Olympic lifts (mainly power snatch and some power clean) despite his team being a non Olympic lift team.

The same could be said of all the players coming from college programs relying heavily on the Olympic lifts (e.g. Miami, Nebraska, Texas, Tennessee, etc.). Most of these guys will go back to their roots in the off season.

So even if some professional teams do indeed hire a strength coach reputed for not using any Olympic and ballistic lifts, most of the players still engage in those lifts during the off-season (which is the most productive training portion of the year).

Sure one could argue that these players are paid by the team and thus obey the team rules and use their strength training program ... but it just doesn't happen! I would say that at least 60-70% of the players train on their own or hire a personal strength coach during the off-season.

It is also important to talk about athlete movement. In sports, especially pro sports an athlete might change teams. In which case the training philosophy will change altogether. As a result most elite athlete will practice the Olympic or explosive lifts at one time in his career for a significant length of time. This holds true for a "non Olympic lift" HS player who moves on to an "Olympic lift" college, a "non Olympic lift" college player who moves to a "Olympic lift" pro team or from a "non Olympic lift" pro tram to an "Olympic lift" one.

So what you get is an erroneous portrait of the quantity of athletes who are non using the Olympic lifts.

We understand that athletes in the off season do what ever they want. Although, we do not believe that all athletes from non-Olympic Teams do cleans and other quick movements. Now, we also understand that teams such as Nebraska, Miami etc... have Olympic style movements in their programs but do not forget the number of athletes from Penn St., Michigan, Michigan St. etc... that produce NFL players as well year after year.

These athletes do train in a slow controlled manner in season as well as off season because they are sold on it. They believe in that type of lifting. For example, Lavar Arrington played at Penn St. and went to the Redskins who use strictly slow movements even now after the coaching change. It is all that he has known therefore he is likely to do the same in the off season.

Since your question we have asked several persons who may have better knowledge than us concerning this issue. We have found that many Pro athletes feel that the risk of injury is already high on the playing field, and they do not need to expose themselves to further possible injury by doing ballistic movements in the weight room. One such reply indicated about 10-15% as opposed to 60-70%. "Most pro football players are under the supervision of their strength coaches from the middle of March to the end of June and then from the end of July until the end of the season. At this point, many players take a few weeks or a month off from training in order to heal up. Along the same lines, I believe that a lot of players from Olympic lifting teams do not perform Olympic movements when they are left to train on their own."

We also think that it goes both ways. Some athletes that play for a team that does the Olympic type of lifts do not like them and will not do them in the off season and some that play for a team that does not do them will go back to them because they enjoyed them in college.

There is a lot of movement from team to team and we are fully aware that slow controlled movements are in the minority but we do not believe just because a player may move to an Olympic movement team that the benefits of these movements will last for years even if they do not do them even in the off season after they move. There are people that believe the benefits of doing cleans for a couple of years will last their entire career. That is not true and most know it but we receive e-mails of this nature.

We have witnessed some NFL players train in the off season and many do not train with much intensity. Many of course do because of their drive to excel but some get a little lazy in the off season and will wait until it is absolutely necessary to start getting in shape for the season. I guess they figure that their genetic talent will carry them. (This is true for many players)

I would like to also bring up another point about Olympic lifting advocates like the University of Nebraska. They do 2-3 Olympic type of movements but lets not forget that Coach Eply and his assistants also have them do squats, deadlift, bench press etc... (in a slow controlled manner). Could it be that these movements are creating power and explosiveness as well? There obviously are many other variables that contribute to their success like genetics and recruiting. If they were to take the Olympic type of movements out of their program I would be will to bet that they would still be a top team. It would not affect their performance at all.

I would also like to address a point in your reply to Dr. Mel Siff's post. In his post Dr. Siff asked you to provide examples of world class athletes from quantitative sports that used your training principles. You only cited discus thrower Al Oerter. Oerter was indeed a fantastic athlete however I would not cite him as a proponent of your methodology since:

a) His elite competitive career spanned from 1956 to 1968. Certainly a long and productive career, but a bit early to be associated with you or your methodology.

b) During the 50s and 60s strength training was just in it's beginnings with elite athletes from our side of the ocean. Certainly field athletes were among the first to include lifting in their training regimen, but any methodology they used at this point was hardly scientific and thus should not be used to promote a certain type of training.

c) The first lifting methods used in training by field athletes were based on the training of Olympic lifters (at this time many athletes were both Olympic lifters and field athletes) because it was still the most widely known form of strength training and the only form remotely accepted by athletes (bodybuilding methods were still believed to make one muscle bound and slow). In fact the Olympic lifting methods remained the preferred way of training up until 1960-1962 or so. When the performance of US weight lifters began to drop in the mid 1960s this form of training took a step back to resurface later.

So that having been said, it is likely that Oerter did in fact practice a form of Olympic lift since he started his career during the golden era of Olympic lifting. It is also likely that he engaged in plyometric exercises and ballistic exercises (e.g. med ball throws) as these were popular in track and field athletes which shared a common basis in training.

We would point out that most high school coaches are dealing with everyday, run of the mill adolescent athletes. We want to make them stronger to avoid on the field injuries as well as develop strength. However, since many have latched on to bask Oerter as if he were the StrongerAthletes.com poster-child, we should say that we have never met Al Oerter nor have we ever maintained that he has an association with us. We simply pointed out that as an "elite" athlete, he did not use Olympic, or Russian, training methods.

This issue seems really silly in regards to our training program. Again we train 150+ high school athletes in a safe, efficient and productive manner. We would like for other high school coaches to think about what they are accomplishing with their athletes when they employ Olympic lifts with their kids. Are these coaches using them because you train your elite athletes with them? DO they have the skills to teach them safely? Do they understand the issue of transfer?

But since you and your list wants to burn Oerter lets take a look at some things. From what we understand he is not an Olympic lifting advocate and in fact he spoke at an NSCA annual conference a few years ago against the training methods used by his opponents, the Soviets and East Germans. (That takes a brave man, much different than internet chat rooms!)

He mentioned that these athletes trained the muscles that were involved in throwing (like the Olympic style lifts) so much that it made the other muscles weak. Because of this type of training he indicated that all of his opponents had to undergo back operations. Al Oerter relied on the basics of moving weights with intensity. He worked up to very impressive lifts in the squat, bench , and deadlift. His coach believed that these movements would make him muscle bound but he did not believe it. He still does not believe in the supposedly sport specific movements as well as periodization etc... He continued to train after his last gold medal in 1968 and was still making record throws as late as 1982 at age 45 (not in competition). He believes in basic movements then get in the ring and perfect the discus technique. This is exactly what we are teaching.

As far as we are concerned the Oerter issue is over. He trained his own way, not ours, or HIT's, or Stalin's. It just so happens that some of his methods are like our own.

One point that has always bothered me a bit about "anti Olympic lift activist" (pardon the term) is that they are quick to give examples of team/athletes who are non using Olympic or ballistic lifts yet refuse to acknowledge the vast majority of the teams/players who use these lifts. They are allowed to brag that XYZ team doesn't use Olympic lifts but when we retort that there are more teams who use them we are told that the performance of the athletes has nothing to do with the Olympic and ballistic lifts.

The fact remains that the number of elite athletes using the Olympic lifts and other ballistic/explosive lifts outnumber the number of elite athletes not doing them so much that non explosive lifts athletes are a non-significant minority.

Now, I'll be the first one to admit that this doesn't prove the superiority of the Olympic and explosive lifts. But if you are going to cite which teams do not use Olympic lifts and use that list to convince peoples of the well-founded of your beliefs aren't we allowed the same? Would you care to compare both lists?

Again we are fully aware that our philosophy is in the great minority but I guess we just assumed that everyone knew this. In fact, we spoke at a couple clinics the past years and coaches just thought it was common knowledge that everyone did power cleans. They are shocked that we do not. What really irritates me is that when we ask the question to high school coaches: "Why do you have your athletes do power cleans and other Olympic type of movements?" They will respond in one two ways.
  • 1. Because Nebraska does them. To me this is a very poor answer indicating that they do not understand strength training.

  • 2. Because it simulates coming out of a stance or blocking and tackling. Many believe this. If we ask how does these lifts make you more explosive, they cannot answer intelligently. (Before anyone from the Anti-StongerAthlete message board responds to this remember that Dr. Siff agrees, See July 1...).

The Olympic lifts do not carry a greater risk of injuries than other lifts if they are performed properly. That's why with the athletes I train I use the simpler Olympic lift variations (power snatch from the hang, power clean from the hang, push jerk). These can be learned safely and rapidly.

In fact over the past 3 years I have taught these lifts to over 250-300 athletes and we did not have a single injury that necessitated missing a day of practice or training. On the other hand I have witnessed several athletes getting injured during practice or long distance running. I have taught the lifts to a wide variety of athletes, ranging from figure skaters to football players, hockey players, boxers, judokas etc. And of all ages. Not a single injury during 3 years! Although I do realize that it only take one bad injury to make a bad name with athletes, this example should illustrate that when a coach knows how to teach the Olympic lifts and how to guide the athlete there is no greater risk than doing a squat or a bench press.

I wish you all the best,

Christian Thibaudeau

Your are very fortunate not to have any injuries in the athletes you have trained. We agree that the better one's technique is in the Olympic lifts the less chance of injury. Not having injuries indicates that you do know how to teach these lifts and I commend you for that. (However, the long term safety of their lower backs may be in question as discussed in previous articles.)

Now I will disagree with you that these lifts can be taught rapidly. Olympic lifters spend years trying to master the lifts and perfect their technique. They should because it is their sport. All athletes want to perfect the skills in their sport. Spending a career perfecting ones technique is not rapid.

But again you have to understand that we primarily work with high school athletes. Right now, we are training 150+ athletes and we have 2 coaches supervising these athletes in their training. This is a common thing unfortunately in high schools. It’s even worse in the winter having only one supervisor. We do have a lot of equipment which enables us to train up 68 athletes at a time while the other group is doing conditioning with other coaches.

For us to implement any type of Olympic movements would be unsafe for our athletes. Because of our strong belief in our philosophy we would not implement these lifts even in a 1 on 1 situation. But if we did, these lifts are highly technical and do require good coaching. It is enough for us to teach these athletes the importance of reaching muscular fatigue in their exercise. I’m sure you would agree. It is much safer for us to use slow controlled movements because you can use spotters and set safety bars in the racks for the athletes who do not spot as well.

Lastly I have to say that I disagree with you stating that there is no greater risk than doing the squat and bench press. Many Olympic lifting advocates fall back on this statement in an attempt to convince people that the Olympic lifts are safer. I do understand that all lifts have a certain amount of risk whether it be the power clean or bench press.

What makes the bench and squat safer is the proper use of spotters which we coach constantly and the use of safety bars in the power rack. Also by not allowing momentum in any lift, we are minimizing injury. I still feel that the momentum created in the power clean puts unnecessary stress on the back, neck, wrists, and forearms and other areas. We had a potential shot putter a couple of years ago who did cleans behind our back in another gym and injured his wrists which prevented him from competing in the sectional and state competition.

The bar will NEVER crush an athlete's chest in the bench if you spot correctly and set the safety bars in place. Same with the squat. Our athletes do an excellent job staying close with the athlete and even if they cannot help them at the end (which is rare) they can help set it on the safety bars. I believe that the majority of the injuries in the bench press and squat come from poor spotting or the fact that the athlete is training in a power lifting manner using low reps. We are against athletes power lifting as much as Olympic lifting. We would much rather see the athlete perform 10-15 reps in the squat other than single, doubles, and triples.

We at StrongerAthletes.com have been training athletes with great success for several years. We have taken average high school athletes and helped make them very good athletes. As you have stated, all coaches must realize that there is more than one way to train an athlete. We believe in what we are doing and have a desire to teach our athletes about strength training.

I know we disagree on many aspects of strength training but we all have our philosophies and opinions. We professionally respect your opinions and have enjoyed reading your comments and hope that we can discuss further issues in the future. I believe that posting conversations like this is what helps coaches make up their own mind and learn about different philosophies. It is every coaches goal to help produce better athletes.

Hope you have continued success.

Coach Rody

Jul 1, 2002

Misinterpreted by Message Board

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

It was brought to our attention recently by one of our readers that StrongerAthletes.com 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 in BLUE.

"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 SiffStrongerAthletes.com 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 SiffAlthough 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 SiffHow 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 SiffWe 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 SiffCoaches 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 SiffWe 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, 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 StrongerAhtlete.com'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 PowerWork = 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!

If you have questions or comments about this web site or strength development or training please drop us a note.


***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.***