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

July 15 "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

Dear StrongerAthletes: Pro Athletes/Elite vs High School Athletes/Safety- Part II

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 your not right. Does that seem a bit presumptuous? Your wrong but their 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 your 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 say, 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.



StrongerAthletes.com

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