Sunday, June 10, 2007

Beware of the Olympic Lifts....You might just improve your performance!

This is actually something that I have discussed on numerous occasions. It is from the a H.I.T. training website who's stated mission was to 'debunk the Olympic lifting establishment' doesn't seem to exist anymore BTW.

Attention: Risk is Real! We received an e-mail this week that we feel stamps an exclamation point on the issue of weight room safety. As we have said before, risk in strength training is inherent, however we feel that a coach can reduce the risk by installing a fundamentally safe program. In the past, coaches have discredited our stance on safety claiming that athletes have never been hurt while performing quick lifts under their supervision. We remind coaches that just because a loaded bar does not fall on an athlete in the weight room he can still sustain an injury. Low back injury is real despite the fact that the coach can not see it. Any coach can identify the injury in the weight room such as a plate falling on a kid's foot. However, the coach does not see the athlete squirm in pain as he tries to put his socks on in the morning after a set of heavy power cleans . Coaches, the risk is increased and the injuries are real when working with quick lifts. Due to the sensitivity of this letter the names have been withheld. Coaches we just ask that you place yourself in this athlete's shoes. Could this football player been an asset to his team without performing quick lifts? We'll never know.

Hi, Coach Rody I returned to College at the age of 29 to play football for [a competitive N.A.I.A. Team. Things were going great until I herniated a disk in my lower back doing clean and jerks in our 2000 spring strength training program. It ended my football career. I have been recommended for surgery. The reason I write you is because our strength coach runs a complete Olympic lifting program. He feels that it is superior for building strength for athletes. Before I even knew what Olympic lifting was, I ran a 4.48 forty and verticle jumped 35+ (among the top three on the team). I also had very strong lower and upper body strength.I think this coach is dangerous and I have heard several of our athletes complaining about injuries from his methods. In fact, many of the athletes lift at other gyms to gain strength and size because the strength coach (who is an avid Olympic fan) will not let them do exercises like the bench press [in the college's weight room] .One of many examples of how risky this man is: he has all returning football players do a one rep max of the clean and jerk at the very beginning of two-a-days football camp. It is amazing to me the administration has not acknowledged this unsafe behavior. I have heard he was let go at other institutions, possibly because of this.... Our national champ track coach (also a football coach for 30 years) rejects [this coach's] program but the football coaches seem to be naive about it. Is there any advice you can give me to help expose this risky program and present a stronger case to the administration. Sincerely, Steve

Steve, First, we wish you the best of luck in your surgery and recovery. Secondly, there is a ton of research pointing to the problems that you have addressed. We have mentioned in previous articles, books by Matt Brzycki, that are great for their bibliographies alone. You should consult these sources before making a presentation. Avoid being confrontational, as this mind-set will hinder rather than help your cause. Simply present the facts, safety concerns, and strength gains that can be made without quick lifts. Keep in mind, Olympic lifting coaches are not the enemy. Olympic lifting is a wonderful sport and thus the lifts have their place. Like you, we simply feel they serve no useful purpose in the realm of training traditional athletes. The risk outweighs the benefits. Good luck.

First of all, where is all this 'research' that shows that the Olympic lifts are more dangerous than H.I.T. - style lifting? I have NEVER.....I repeat, NEVER had one single athlete ever get hurt performing an Olympic lift variation of any kind. Now let's do the math, it's not like I just started using these lifts...we're talking 150-200+ athletes per day for many, many years folks (using Olympic lifts every single session). I am always amazed that the folks that know nothing about the Olympic lifts are the ones that bad-mouth the hell out of them. As far as the athlete in the letter goes, I would look at a few things first. #1 he had no previous experience in the Oly lifts and might have been lifting beyond his abilities. #2 I might also question this individual's core strength since this is an often neglected area (especially posterior chain) in many bodybuilder-type strength programs. #3 being a 29 year old is not exactly an advantage when coming back into the realm of the 18-22 year old man.

I thought I would break-down one of the site's "position stands" on "common sense"...

Use Common-Sense Coaches have long instructed athletes to perform exercises quickly thinking that this will be best to increase the athletes' power. The fact is that the faster the repetition the less productive in terms of developing power and explosiveness. It is obvious that if the weight can be moved quickly then the load is too light to develop significant power. (This website) also finds it very interesting that none of these Olympic lifting advocates believe that contant muscle tension is an important factor in developing power. This ensures that the muscles are doing the work. Why is it that these coaches stay away from this issue? Another issue that we have addressed before and will address again is the issue of safety in a strength training program. Studies do indicate the reps that are performed slow produce more force output and therefore more power. That being the case, wouldn't the slower method be the choice for our athletes? This is another issue that (this website) finds incredibly surprising. We receive e-mails from coaches saying that the Olympic movements and their variations are actually more safe than the slow movements.

Well, to be honest, I can remember an athlete getting hurt performing bench press and squats but like I said, never while performing an Olympic lift variation. I find it amazing that the H.I.T. folks insist on using the power formula yet only ever address the amount of load being moved...what about the time factor. Let's remember that virtually all sport activity is #1 momentum driven and #2 dependant on TIME. No such thing as slow speed folks. The line about a weight being too light if you can move it fast is also pretty funny....hmmm, let's watch Hossein Rezazadeh of Iran move 580lbs. about 5 feet in about a 1/2 of a second. Oh yeah, that weight is too light to develop any power right?

In fact, let's do a power comparison right now...let's compare the world record bench press and a single power clean rep from one of my volleyball girls (during a SET).

Power = strength / time....OR mass x distance divided by time

World record bench press:
1,010lbs....moved approx. 1 foot....takes approx. 4 seconds = 252.5 power units.

Volleyball athlete power clean (single rep of a set of 3):
152lbs....moved approx. 5 feet.....takes approx. .8 seconds = 950 power units.

**Note: try doing the math on the 580lb. Clean & Jerk!**

Folks, force production is great and the reality is that any sound strength and conditioning coach knows that there need to be MANY tools in his/her toolbox so there is a place for strength-based exercises. The problem is that TIME is a huge factor in sport performance. Sure, force production is great but if you can't produce it FAST ENOUGH, the play is over. Take a look at this graph. It compares three groups, a strength training group, an explosive training group, and a group that did NOTHING. At 200 milliseconds (the time in which most critical athletic movements occur), the power training group is blowing everyone away. The untrained group is right with the strength training group at this time period...remember that they did NO TRAINING AT ALL!

The site no longer seems to be in service which just might be as well since you might actually get dumber from reading some of this 'logic'. You won't, however, get dumber reading the articles and participating in the discussion board @ my website!