What follows is what we consider mature dialog on the controversial topic of the use of quick lifts and athletic training. While we at strongerathletes.com maintain that the use of these lifts are unnecessary for the training of traditional sport athletes one could generate some uses for them if they are willing to accept the risk associated with them. We will use safety as our guiding light and acknowledge that there are safer, more efficient ways to train the fast-twitch fibers.
Dear StrongerAthlete: Quick Lifts & Muscle-Fiber Recruitment
I recently came across your site while reading Mel Siff's SUPERTRAINING list. I agree with much of your philosophy about olympic lifting and athletic conditioning in general; that is, I agree that olympic lifting is not necessary for athletic development, I agree that there are safer/more efficient ways to develop power (especially for young athletes and novice athletes), and I agree certain sport-specific abilities are best developed by the practice of the sport itself (i.e. sprinting to develop sprinting speed). In my own training as a sprinter, I choose not to employ such methods as ballistic lifting and plyometrics, because I believe that the sprinting itself is enough explosive work. Any more would be overkill.
With that said, although I agree with your general philosophy about strength training, I do not think you have a very good understanding of the olympic lifts. This statement in particular is very much incorrect:
"Momentum generated by these lifts takes tension off the muscle which in turn makes recruiting type IIb, (or "fast twitch"), muscle fibers inefficient."
You are referring to what happens AFTER the muscle contraction has already taken place. By the time momentum takes tension off the muscles, the IIb fibers have already been recruited! Although momentum may unload the muscles, the lifter has to use his muscles to create the momentum in the first place. This requires extremely intense muscular contraction, even if it only takes for a very short period of time.
If you think about it, heavy loading of the muscles is not a prerequisite for the recruitment of fast-twitch fibers anyway. There is no more loading of the muscles during sprinting or jumping than there is during an olympic lift, yet these activities recruit more high-threshold fibers than ANY type of lifting you can do. The only prerequisite for maximum fiber recruitment is that the athlete attempts to move as fast as possible. This could occur with heavy loading for a few reps (such as during an O-lift), with moderate loading for many reps (like you said, the athlete will have to attempt to move faster as fatigue sets in), or with NO loading whatsoever.
Olympic lifting may be relatively dangerous, it may be unnecessary, and it may even be inappropriate for many athletes. However, with all due respect, the notion that olympic lifting does not recruit the fast-twitch muscle fibers is... kind of silly. I hope that you will consider withdrawing this point from your argument, because the presence of such misinformation distracts people from the other GOOD points that you make.
Respectfully, Brian Gates
Towards the end of your comments you indicated that we believe that performing the Olympic lifts cannot recruit fast twitch muscle fibers.
We wrote: "Momentum generated by these lifts takes tension off the muscle which in turn makes recruiting type IIb, (or "fast twitch"), muscle fibers inefficient."
Inefficiency is not saying that it is impossible to recruit these fibers.
Next, you cannot compare activities such as sprinting and weight lifting. These are entirely separate entities. Yes, there is a contraction during the initial part of an Olympic lift. But it certainly is not a full contraction because of the partial range of motion used which makes it less efficient. We feel that full range of motion is necessary in weight training.
Furthermore, lifting fast recruits Type II fibers in the initial stage, but high-momentum lessens muscle tension, thus diminishes the recruitment. Through the same range of motion, fiber recruitment CAN vary....and by slowing it down with either 1) heavier weights or 2) controlling the movement will BETTER recruit type II fibers through a greater range of motion. Type II fibers are recruited at the start of a power clean but the momentum increase lessens tension and fewer fibers are overloaded under tension.
Lastly, your comment indicating that we do not understand Olympic lifting is an insult to our intelligence and incorrect. We have an individual on our staff that had an extensive background in coaching the Olympic lifts. The fact that we agree to disagree on the impact of those lifts is evident but even all those Ph.D's out there disagree on the same points we discuss here.
We do appreciate your comments,
Coach Rody StrongerAthletes.com