Sep 20, 2002

Back to the Fundamentals... Again

September 20 "Whether I succeed or fail, shall be no man's doing but my own." -Elaine Maxwell

Dear StrongerAthletes.com: Back to the Fundamentals... Again

We are more than happy to respond to e-mails for the discussion of strength training issues. We find it extremely repetitive to hammer home the same points week in and week out. However, just like anything in athletics and life... fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals.

Dear Coach Rody,

Having read more and more of your site, I'm struck by the constant cry of "Safety, safety, safety!" You make equal efforts arguing against power lifting as you do Olympic lifting, in the interest of 'safety'. [Yes, you are correct. -S.A.]

You seem to say safety is the #1 goal of your program. You claim the safety problem is due to the ballistic nature of the Olympic lifts and the 1RM max attempts in power lifting. I quote you, "At this age particularly, they really need to make safety the first priority in training. The growth in the epiphyseal should not be interrupted by performing ballistic movements. These movements create injuries and make athletes more suseptable[sic] to injuries in their sport."

Yet you are primarily football people. [To clarify, we coach football, track, and in the past have coached wrestling and basketball. -S.A.] This I do not understand. Surely nothing is more ballistically violent than football. Surely few sports are as statistically dangerous as football. I have one study in front of me that claims football is 58 times more dangerous than Olympic lifting, 28 times more dangerous than power lifting, 77 times more dangerous than volleyball. How do you reconcile your stated interest in the safety of high school kids with your active contribution to one of the most dangerous and ballistic sports around? If a parent came to you wondering if their child should play football or perhaps another sport, would you tell them, "No, don't play football. It's too dangerous?" This is not a rhetorical question; I would like to hear your answer, with specific examples if you have any.

[To respond to your first question, which we find irrelevant to safety in the weight room, (which we advocate), the potential for injury is there for most sports. But our concern lies in the training methods NOT THE SPORT. We have stated in the past that we are fans of power lifting and Olympic lifting. If you choose to quote our own web-site against us please at least keep us in context. Therefore, SPORT is why we train. Injury is inherent in the sport and in training. However, we feel that we can reduce the risk of injury in training. Why train in a way that has a higher potential for injury? Why not train in the safest possible way? Do we want our kids injured before they hit the field? Obviously not.

In regards to parental concerns for injury... a parent should understand the risks of the game and expect me to reduce those risks the best that I can. For example, we do not teach tackling by lowering the head, or blocking below the waist... thus reducing the risk of injury. -S.A.]
Question 2: Are there any football teams that do not use non-sport-specific ballistic or power-oriented training? By that I mean do not exclude activities outside the weight room. Include such non-sport-specific activities as running stadium steps, hill sprints, blocking sleds, sled pulling, medicine ball tosses, car pushing, etc. Are there ANY teams whose training consists solely of slow strength training, running, and practicing plays? What is the purpose of a blocking sled, anyway? It has no arms like a defender, it weighs more than a defender, it does not REALLY behave like a defender, surely it has no better skill transfer than, say, squats? But is it not a ballistic exercise? Is there any team that does not use them?

[To respond to your second set of questions, our site primarily focuses on strength training in the weight room. For what coaches use on the field I recommend you try a Yahoo! Search for "football drills". Incidently, the blocking sled works as an excellent blocking dummy in the fact that a player can unload violently upon it without injury to a teammate.  However, you are obviously missing the point our our web-site, or you are attempting to twist things to your liking. Set aside your ridiculous analogies and focus on the goal which is to strengthen our athletes in a safe, efficient, and productive manner to reduce the frequency of injury on the field. -S.A.]
Question #3: Why do you quote [a professional in the field of strength development (who's name we removed out of respect)] objections to quick lifts so often, when in fact he has no real personal experience with them? He comes from a power lifting background, with no record of ever having competed in weight lifting nor ever demonstrated any ability to train Olympic lifters. Would you listen to the advice of a non-swimmer about the dangers of water polo?

Sincerely, Lincoln Brigham

By the way, I find it interesting that many individuals that are closed-minded like your self attack [strength training professionals, who have differing opinions than your own]. As far as 2 book publishers, a nationally recognized magazine publisher, and an ivy league university are concerned he is very knowledgeable in the field of strength development. If in fact simply participating in an activity made one an authority on the subject I would like to refer you to Coach Mike Jeffries of Helias High School in Jefferson City, Missouri. Coach Jeffries has never wrestled 1 match in his life yet claims no less than 11 state championships in the past 19 years. Coach Tom Wales of Moberly High School, in Moberly, Missouri is on the verge of winning his 3rd cross country state championship, and he has never ran a cross country race. These are just local guys I know. How about Coach Mike Leach of Texas Tech? He has no formal football playing experience yet he managed to land a Big XII head coaching gig while also helping to publish a widely read journal for college football coaches. I'm sure there are thousands of examples along this line of reasoning.

One of the individuals on our StrongerAthletes.com staff was an Olympic lifting advocate for years. GUESS WHAT? he realized that there is a more productive and safer way to train. He realized the high potential for injury doing the Olympic lifts not to mention the tension taken off the muscle etc... and he was not too proud to turn his back on what he had done as an athlete and a coach.

Interestingly, we have had many Olympic lifting advocates e-mail us in support of our efforts. They are open-minded individuals that realize that there is more than one way to train. What do you think of the Olympic lifters themselves e-mailing us telling us that they find that football players are not athletic enough to do Olympic lifts? This is not a rhetorical question. Or they tell us that football players should not do the Olympic lifts because they do not have the time to learn the O-lifts because it is not their sport? THESE ARE OLYMPIC LIFTING ADVOCATES STATING THIS.

More and more people are realizing that the Olympic type of lifts are not necessary for a successful strength training program.

Thanks for your comments and batting practice... we were getting a little rusty.

Coach Rody

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