Aug 12, 2002

StrongerAthletes.com Classic: What are our Athletes Training For?

August 12 "College students have a number of daily and weekly obligations and commitments: class attendance, study time, part-time employment, meals, sleep and personal matter. This can be a job in itself." -Tom Kelso

For the summer, we have decided to reduce our frequency and post once or maybe twice a week. We will be very busy training our athletes and taking vacations. We will pick up the frequency again in the fall. We will continue responding to your e-mails regularly so please do not hesitate to send us your thoughts or comments about training.

Please excuse this "re-run" article. We are gearing up for both the start of football practice and the launching of StrongerAthletes.com's 2nd school year. We hope you will enjoy this commentary reminding coaches that sports/training is rarely as important to the athlete as it is to the coach. Thus, do the most you can with the time you have.

StrongerAthletes.com believes athletes should spend 1.5 hours to 3 hours in the weightroom per week. In order to do this
the athlete must be on a productive and efficient program. Strength training is an activity to help athletes perform their sport specific skills to the best of their ability.

Then why do coaches implement Olympic lifts in their program at the college level and especially at the high school level? Athletes at these levels are very busy with classes, practice, study time, social life, and rest. It takes quite a bit of time to learn and master the proper execution of the quick lifts. Athletes must have a proper balance in life; Weight room time being just a fraction of that time. [We understand that many coaches, that use these lifts, feel that the time is not spent unwisely or that it takes any longer to perform these lifts within a exercise program. That point can be debated (and has been debated over and over again). For further understanding of our stance on Olympic lifts being inefficient for the training of traditional sport athletes, please read some of our other articles that deal specifically with that topic. -S.A. August 12, 2002]

Tom Kelso, Strength Coach at the University of Illinois Chicago, in his article “Strength Training the Collegiate Athlete” explains,
“Valid research studies and empirical results obtained from hands-on experience have all proven that a minimal amount of very demanding training is all that is necessary to stimulate strength gains. Common sense then dictates that if a low volume is effective, then it should be used because of its many virtues, most significant being the time efficiency factor.”

Kelso continues,
“College STUDENTS have a number of daily and weekly obligations and commitments: class attendance, study time, part-time employment, meals, sleep and personal matter. This can be a job in itself. College STUDENT-ATHLETES have the same, including all obligations relating to their sport: practice, meetings, contests, team functions, travel, strength training, conditioning, etc. It is a “no-brainer” then that the most logical approach to all sport-related commitments be quality oriented and done as efficiently as possible. If the existing time allotted for strength training can be reduced-and yet produce the same or better results-one should take advantage of it.”

In order to implement Olympic lifts in a program, athletes must spend a considerable amount of time in the weight room. Certainly more than the 1.5-3 hours we recommend. StrongerAthletes.com realizes that many of these programs still only spend only 2-3 hours per week in the weight room but these coaches may not really be concerned if the athletes are executing the Olympic lifts with perfect form. We have heard many coaches say, “Well I have not had any major injuries yet.” These athletes do get those minor injuries and what about how these kids' backs will be when they get older? We talked to many former athletes and they do attribute Olympic lifting to some of their back pain in life today. Do they know for sure, probably not, but we believe there are more former players with back pain that used to do the quick lifts than the athletes that did not. We would like some feedback on this.

JP O’Shea reported, in “ Principles and Methods of Strength Fitness”, the major causes of low back pain among athletes using weight training or Olympic lifting are due to: 1) lifting weights improperly from the floor, 2) overhead lifting, 3) loss of balance when lifting, 4) trying to catch oneself after a slip, and 5) insufficient warm-up.

StrongerAthletes.com will not be a possible contributer to an athlete's back pain now or in the future. [Several readers have pointed out our hypocracy in this regard. Meaning, some see that, while pontificating the safety issue, we turn around and promote the bench press and the squat. These are great points and ones we have tried to address since this article was first published. First, we maintain that bench press injuries occur under elements of competition such as power lifting or 1RM testing, both of which we are against in the training of athletes. Power lifting and 1RM testing are great for the sports themselves (just as we maintain for Olympic lifting, but not as a means to train traditional sport athletes). We have asked those questioning our use of the Bench Press to lead us to research that points to Bench Press dangers because we sincerely would like to know the "truth", however, none has been presented. The squat is another issue altogether. We are aware of several programs, similar to our own who have eliminated the squat from their routine. Quality Leg Press machines are hard to come by and out of reach for many high school programs. We feel that certain body types, shorter/stockier athletes can perform the Squat, with proper spotting and rack, safely. With injured or awkward athletes we do not hesitate to prescribe the leg press. -S.A. August 12, 2002]

Good form performing Olympic lifts will help reduce the amount of injuries in athletes but much more time spent in the weight room teaching these lifts is a must. Not only that, proper supervision is also a necessity. We have not seen the proper supervision and coaching especially at the high school level.

One coach training 30-40 athletes is an impossible scenario for proper supervision using Olympic lifts. Even with necessary time, the Olympic lifts have been known to cause many injuries when athletes have very good form. If a coach did demand this kind of time from their athletes, we ask: “What are you training your athletes for? An Olympic lifting competition?” We maintain that these lifts do very little to help athletes in their prospective sports as our research indicates in previous articles. [We do not literally mean that we have scientifically performed research studies, but rather researched what others have done. We were recently labeled as a website that brings nothing new to the table. That maybe true but what we are trying to do is educate those people already sitting at the table, eating whatever the Old Guard sets in front of them. -S.A. August 12, 2002]

Get your athletes in the weight room and then get them out. Spend proper time on specific skills for your sport and spend more time studying, your athletes will be much better off.

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

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