View Full Version : Dr Verkhoshansky on Olympic Weightlifting programming

Andrew Wilson
12-05-2010, 08:12 PM
(creator of the Conjugate Sequence system, the shock method (plyometrics), introduced special strength training methods to David Rigert in the 80s)

I've had this in the back of my mind for while, anyways thought I'd share it. If they ever release the new version of his book, it's definitely something to look into.


The interesting thing about this, is that earlier this year when Sean posted Kendrick's program on Goheavy, it is parallel to Verk's work. If anyone has any information on Verk's work related to this, I'm very very interested. By the way, the concentrated volume block would be in A, specific 1RMing is in C, which isn't depicted in the picture

Brian DeGennaro
12-09-2010, 06:53 AM
About how long does Verkhoshansky recommend these blocks to be? I'd assume between 4-6 weeks and the C block 2-3?

Andrew Wilson
12-09-2010, 09:55 AM
About how long does Verkhoshansky recommend these blocks to be? I'd assume between 4-6 weeks and the C block 2-3?

That's what I'm thinking, it's probably written down somewhere.

Arien Malec
12-09-2010, 04:42 PM
What would a typical microcyle look like with that model?

Andrew Wilson
12-09-2010, 05:43 PM
What would a typical microcyle look like with that model?

That's what I'd like to find out.

Andrew Wilson
06-28-2011, 02:59 PM
If they ever release the new version of his book, it's definitely something to look into.

Has anyone else grabbed a copy of this yet? My copy came in this week, he has a 6 week "SST program for increasing maximal strength" for weightlifting. Interesting stuff, supposed to be used in 2-3 cycles with 2 weeks of restoration in between.

brandon green
07-22-2012, 04:23 PM
(creator of the Conjugate Sequence system, the shock method (plyometrics), introduced special strength training methods to David Rigert in the 80s)

I've had this in the back of my mind for while, anyways thought I'd share it. If they ever release the new version of his book, it's definitely something to look into.


The interesting thing about this, is that earlier this year when Sean posted Kendrick's program on Goheavy, it is parallel to Verk's work. If anyone has any information on Verk's work related to this, I'm very very interested. By the way, the concentrated volume block would be in A, specific 1RMing is in C, which isn't depicted in the picture
******* On an off subject i am performing an experimental program for bodybuilding using block periodization and some methods that might seem controversial ? If any one is interested I can post.
Brandon Green

Blair Lowe
07-23-2012, 01:10 PM
Do it. Generally, I'm not too interested in hypertrophy but there are times it is programmed for at the OTC for gymnastics I know.

brandon green
07-23-2012, 02:38 PM
Do it. Generally, I'm not too interested in hypertrophy but there are times it is programmed for at the OTC for gymnastics I know.
******** OK. This comes from my experiences as a client of Dr. Michael Yessis in the 80's as well as in the 90's from Jay Schroeder in addition to Inno sport,Kelley Baggett and conversations with Alex Vasquez at Evolutionaryathletics.com. So i have 6 concentrated load blocks with one predominate method (so i can ride the wave of LDTE after each) executed in this order- Long duration Iso, Plyometric(jumps,depth jumps and altitude),CAT(compensatory acceleration-50-80% of 1rm),Max effort(85-100% of 1rm),Hypertrophy(75-90% of 1 rm), Definition(30-40% of 1rm). First is
Long duration Iso- BTW i include many gymnastic progressions in this stage

Foundational Exercise for Plyometric Workouts
By Evosite on October 23, 2009 at 10:55 pm
Posted In: Articles
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We all know that there are significant benefits of performing plyometric exercises. Increases in speed strength, explosive strength, reactive ability, muslce stiffness, on the field performance to name a few. In the past it has been said that one must improve their squat numbers to 1.5x body weight before engaging in plyometric exercises.
More recently strength coach Jay Schroeder has flipped this equation upside down by insisting that you must be able to absorb force before you can create force. Coach Schroeder uses a variety of plyometric exercises to teach the body how to absorb force. Thusly it appears that he thinks that one should engage in plyometric exercise before moving into force production (DE and ME weifhtlifting)
Now to hop around. Don’t worry I will circle back by the end of the post so that this makes sense.
Recently I was reading an issue of Men’s Health (I know, everyones resource for cutting edge information). Well what struck me about this issue and prompted me to plop down my $5 for a copy was an article titled something like “Everything you know about your muscles is wrong”. Surely I am not wrong. Am I?
Well the premise of the article is simple. Your muscles are inclosed in sheaths of connective tissue (myofascia). It was previously thought that these sheaths just connected the muscles together. Research in the past few years has lead to a discovery that these sheaths contain neural organs and nerves. This has lead to the concept that maybe the stretching and releasing of elastic tension in the sheaths is a major controller in how we move. Perhaps these sheaths act not just as passive movers but primary movers. The authors also note that when the myofasica tightens up that knots can form and proper movement patterns are impaired. These movement impairments can be eliminates with finding the source of the impairment (it’s not always where the pain is) and then breaking it up through massage or various movement patterns. In the article they mantion a simple leg circle drill that increases range of motion in the hamstring. This kind of reminded me of Z-Health drills (not enough time to talk about this)
Anyone who knows about the works of Wannagetfast and inno-sport, and even Schroeder, knows that they place a heavy emphasis on movement efficiency. For example in running, movement efficiency is associated with running economy where the runners learn to rely more heavily on the elastic contributions of connective tissue. If trained properly this tissue can absorb and release a tone of energy which translated to a faster, more explosive athlete. So how do we develop this ability, or even improve on our own natural myofascia?
Perhaps the answer lies in LDISOS or Extreme Isometrics. Here is my thinking…
The holds are done in the stretch position. This stretch should break up any myfascial knots allowing for free, unrestricted active ranges of motion. Holding the stretch not onnly breaks up the knots BUT also serves as a teaching mechanism. Since the stretch position is held vor a pretty long time (5 minutes is far longer than most static stretches are held for) and the myofascia has neural receptors it can communicate to the CNS that this myofascial neural length is OK, thus preventing the buildup of knots and scar tissue. In addition since the holds are active, there is constant communication with the CNS.
In addition to alleviating compensation patterns there is another potential benefit. That being the build up of MORE myofascia. Research has shown that connective tissue synthesis occurs when lactic acid levels are the highest. Well in a LDISO blood flow is restricted for a very extended period of time. Without oxygen the muscles rely on anaerobic metabolism with which lactic acid build up is a by product. There is far more LA build up during LDISOS that what is attained normally thoguh weight training because blood flow is restricted. This sends a powerful signal to the body to build more connective tissue. And since the tissue is being stretched the odds are the new tissue will be void of knots, scar tissue, and any other imparments.
All of this extra myofascia is akin to placing a giant spring inside of your muscles. Unfortunately this tissue, when built, tends to be quite non-elastic. So how can we take this new development and make it more elastic? How can we teach it to efficiently absorb and release energy?
See, in Schroeders system athletes begin with LDISOS before they move into plyos. They must hold for 5 minutes for 40 consecutive sessions. This may be the ammount of tome Jay has deemed necessary to rid the body of compensation patterns and stimulate the development of enough myofascia to commence training. Of course inelastic tissue is more prone to inury so You would prime the tissue with reactive work to teach the tissue to become more elastic. Once this is done (fixed compensation, development of adequate connective tissue, trained the tissue to absorb and release energy) the athlete begins weight training to put some horsepower in their muscles so that they can use the new springs even more effectively.
Now that I have circled back, the article in the magazine went into this old kettlebell stuff and some of Pavel’s teachings which, while interesting, are far from cutting edge now days.
Hopefully I have stimulated some braincells in you. If yu are interested in football weight training, basketball weight training, or plyometric workouts, the addition of LDISOS may be benefit your program.
Until next time,
└ Tags: basketball weight training, extreme isometrics, football weight training, plyometric workouts
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brandon green
07-23-2012, 03:11 PM
Do it. Generally, I'm not too interested in hypertrophy but there are times it is programmed for at the OTC for gymnastics I know.
************* Here is more explanation-

By Jeremy Layport on November 23, 2009 at 2:34 am
Posted In: Uncategorized
When was the last time you heard the term Isometric? When was the last time you heard of a coach or athlete who used Isometrics in their training? If you are like most people, your father and grandfather were the last guys that who utilized iso’s, doing countertop curl holds before bed time. Most view this training method as another passing fad that has died a slow and meaningless death. The remainder of this article will shed some very interesting and exciting light on this underutilized yet powerful training method.
Isometric, meaning constant (iso) meter (metric), or no change in muscle length during a muscular contraction is part of the “classical” repetition. If we look at the three phases of movement, there is the pliometric or eccentric loading phase followed by the isometric, coupling, or amortization phase and lastly the miometric or concentric phase. As you can see in the down and up repetition, you are performing a brief isometric contraction whether known or unknown, but typically not emphasized. The misconceptions that isometrics are not beneficial or challenging enough are profound. The underlying research has stated that the only strength gains made from isometrics are fifteen to thirty degrees from the joint angle trained (not entirely true), thus filing this method up there with bosu strength training in the beneficial category.
The first major benefit from isometric training methodic would be to teach proper position. It never fails, every year, a new crop of freshmen who of about eighty percent have no training background at all. Worst is, of the twenty percent that have training background, they have the worst technique and movement patterns known to man. Of the two, I’d always rather start with the clean slate then try to re-wire bad motor programs to adolescents who think their dad knows everything about training and couldn’t have been leading them down a dark path. But, none the less that is the job description. First thing in teaching newbie’s or the dysfunctional is to teach proper position. Proper position means correct technique and injury free training (To learn more on proper position read Dan Fichter’s article on the subject The Purpose Position ). Pavel Tsatsouline says, “Strengthen the top position and bottom position and everything in the middle will fall into place.” Isometrics, even if brief in duration, accomplish this goal and can easily be administered to a large group. Using the isometrics, trainees have less distraction and more time under tension in those particular positions to “feel” the proper muscles working and understand how to get there.
“Feeling” the proper muscles fire brings me to the second great benefit of this methodic, proper muscle recruitment patterns. When a trainee has less distraction and more time to put his “mental intent” on the correct musculature (as long as position is maintained), he/she develops a better body awareness or kinesthesia. In teaching dynamic movements right out of the gate, often times, too much is going on and the trainee typically will just go through the movement as best as possible without really getting a chance to make it internal. That internal process is always what leads to a greater understand and depth of mastery for any new skill. Jay Schroeder of Evo-Sport and Ultra-fit, might be the master at this with his “Extreme Isometrics.” Don’t let the name fool you too much, what truly seems to be going on here is an active yielding isometric hold in the deepest position possible for (what seems to me the longest time possible) five minutes. This in actuality becomes a quasi-isometric action; As you pull down into the deepest position possible you start to fatigue and slowly pull yourself deeper and deeper. Regardless, Jays trainee’s are learning how to actively pull themselves down instead of just giving in to gravity and fall into position. This is one of the biggest obstacle for most as we are accustomed to collapsing into the car seat or “plopping down” on the coach. We don’t move like the yester-years of our childhood anymore and we should be ashamed. We first off taught ourselves how to do it right as we started to crawl and walk, but shortly after that , we got lazy! We gave in to the status quo and now we can’t squat down without knee or back pain. In trying to accomplish Jay’s five minute “Extreme Isometrics” your body is forced to find the most optimal firing patterns as your body fights to maintain position for the insanely long duration.
Next benefit in line would have to be active flexibility. Note that this is only the case when the isometric contraction is at the deepest joint angle possible (while maintaining position). Going back to Schroeder’s Extreme Isometrics, as fatigue sets in, you’ll pull yourself lower and lower developing greater ROM using strength. Active flexibility is the only type of flexibility that has any carry over in to actual performance settings. Schroeder’s Extreme Isometrics it has been theorized increase fascial length, which in turn has been correlated to increased running speeds or ability. The increase in lactic acid and metabolites at the extreme end ranges of motion has also been theorized to increase fascia thickness in elongated states. Once again, possibly increasing your ability for ROM and speed!
Getting down to the fundamentals there are two basic types of isometrics, yielding and overcoming. Both have very separate and distinct training effects. Yielding is holding a given load at a particular angel (typically bottom of movement) for a designated time. As previously covered this becomes a super slow eccentric or quasi-isometric movement with enough fatigue and has a major training effect on your connective tissue or series elastic component of the muscle. This is great for strengthening tendons and fascia and is an excellent preparatory stage for speed strength or plyometric work. Typically longer durations work best, holding for 15-35 seconds in length is most beneficial.
Overcoming isometrics on the other hand is for sticking points and generating power. Overcoming isometrics have also been referred to as sticking point training, where the trainee will exert maximal force against an immovable object at a particular joint angle that is a weak point of the movement. Louie Simmons’s conjugate method of training which has produced some of the most prolific powerlifters ever is all about, “training your weakness” and overcoming isometrics is one of the most specific ways to accomplish that. This can be very stressful and demanding on the connective tissue so, durations are typically short. No more then 5-15 seconds in duration would be recommended due to the stress and strain. Doing a set or two of overcoming isometrics followed immediately by a set of the regular lift can also have a potentiating effect on the lift. Performance plateaus and sticking points can be a thing of the past.
Continuing on to the potentiating effect of isometrics, Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky has stated that an isometric contraction followed by a concentric dynamic movement will increase the force of the movement by up to twenty percent! This has help given rise to the static-dynamic method of training, which most intermediate and advanced trainee’s due to some degree automatically with most lifting movements. Prior to performing a big lift, you can witness advanced lifters pre-tense their bodies and develop full body tension to help rip the weight off the floor or explode the bar up. In “Inno-Speak” this is your Isometric Miometric (ISO-MIO) work, which develops that explosive rapid acceleration like jumping or throwing. Hang cleans are also utilize this effect (if done correctly) and that is why they can be beneficial. Jay Schroeder has his Explosive Dynamic Isometrics (EDI’s) which utilize this effect as well. This potentiating effect is extremely beneficial in developing “Starting Strength” and “Acceleration Strength.” These two factors make an athlete explosive off the line and lighting quick!
Potentiating complex’s for you to try on your own at the gym.
Movement: Bench Press
Try performing 3-5sec. maximal Overcoming Isometrics then rest for 2-5minutes before performing maximal bench press singles.
Movement: Pull Up
Try holding a 10 sec. Yielding Isometric then rest for 2-5 minutes before performing pull ups.
Movement: Glute Ham Raise
Have a partner manually resist you as you try to pull up for 5-15 seconds, them rest for 2-5 minutes, followed by reactive glute ham raises.
Using Iso’s and complexing Iso’s into your training will enhance performance during training primarily which will cultivate to a better performance on the playing field. In the group teaching settings where equipment and space are usually a limiting factor, isometrics side step the problem as equipment and space are typically minimal at worst. Skill retention and mastery are aided with the utilization of Iso’s first or mixed with other methods to enhance understanding and performance. Try giving the complex’s above a try during your next workout and see the benefits first hand.
Until next time
Jeremy Layport, MA, RKC TL, C.S.C.S., USA WL1
Most of my athletes don’t have the focus or desire (Jay’s PIPES) that LDISO’s require there for I’m not sure about the results piece of it. For teaching correct muscle firing, position, and flexibility I have seen great benefits form the Iso’s. I’m hoping Jay holds a seminar on the west coast in the near future so I can grasp LDISO’s even better.
As for your question regarding Iso’s and rate work for the bodybuilding community, yes they do have a benefit. Jay and Poliquin both have an arm workout that has Iso’s and rate work in it, that claims to increase the arms 1 inch for 24hr period. Christian Thib’s I Body Builder on T-Nation shows him doing some rate work and maximal explosive overcoming Iso curls. Nothing will set up hypertrophy better then power work.

Hope this helps,

brandon green
07-23-2012, 05:57 PM
Do it. Generally, I'm not too interested in hypertrophy but there are times it is programmed for at the OTC for gymnastics I know.
******* Here are some contradictory opinions about isometric tension from Andrew Charniga. However these are mostly related to "static" sports other than bodybuilding. There is a way however to profit from isometric tension in dynamic sport not to mention bodybulding. Alex Vasquez wrote an article that says that connective tissue becomes "stiff" via iso tension but plyos in turn make this tissue elastic analogous to a spring

Misinformation Engineering©
Andrew Charniga, Jr.

There Is No System

Part I

The fundamental problem with the USA system of strength training is that there is no system. In America anything can be commercialized; this of course includes information. The commercializing of strength training research, methodologies, modalities and the like, even if some are valid, has ultimately led to confusion and an indiscriminate leaping from one “new and improved” strength training methodology or modality to another.

A scholarly examination of elite sport development in the USA by E. Sparvero, L. Chalip, and B. Green (Comparative Elite Sport Development. New York. Elsevier, 2008) made the following observations: “Although school, university, and professional sports systems are effective users of sport science knowledge, they are not producers of sport science knowledge…. There is no coordinated research scheme for sports medicine. The mass of American sport science research capacity resides in its universities, but outside the athlete development system…. given the absence of a coordinated sport development strategy and the lack of any significant sport science funding body, the long term outlook for American sport science is bleak.”

These observations were in reference to elite sport development for the Olympic Games. However, the observation concerning the lack of coordinated research does not take into consideration the confusion created by the commercialization of the research that is done in the USA and its effect on the development of elite sport.

General Guidelines for an Objective Evaluation of Strength Training Methodologies and Related Research in the USA

The concepts/conclusions listed here are by some noted Soviet era sport scientists regarding the concurrent development of strength and muscle mass form the basis of our assessment of the various topics to be covered in this series of articles of the history of weightlifting training in the USA. The commercialization of functional isometrics/power rack training is highly questionable in regards to value along with its long lasting influence on American methodology of strength training for athletics.

1. “An increase in muscle mass is accompanied by an increase in muscular strength only in certain cases where the required movement is connected with overcoming a large resistance or moving it with a low velocity…. An increase in muscle mass is not an obligatory result of strength training.” Y.V. Verkhoshansky. Fundamentals of Special Strength Training in Sport 1977. Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr. Sportivny Press©.)

2. “The athlete who employs heavy weights such that the movement becomes close to an isometric (although a very good strength development) risks ‘coordination enslavement’ which emanates from tension in the antagonists muscles.” (L.N. Sokolov, 1970, “Special Physical Training of Weightlifters.” Tyazheloatlet: V Pomosch Treneru. Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr. Sportivny Press©.)

3. “These types of training (isometrics) can and do typically exert a negative influence on joint mobility, muscle and tendon elasticity.” (A. I. Falameyev. 1986. Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr. Sportivny Press©.)

4. “No matter how constant the increase in strength, weightlifters cannot fully realize it because of the limited time determined by the amplitude of the task the working links in the kinematic chain have to execute the competition exercises.” (Y.V. Verkhoshansky. 1972. Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr. Sportivny Press©.)

5. “There is no essential difference between the strength displayed in slow movements and isometric conditions.” (V.A. Zaprazhanov. 1988. Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr. Sportivny Press©.)

6. “It should be noted that there is no connection between ability to generate great force and the ability to realize it at maximum speed. This is obvious with respect to the training of powerlifters and bodybuilders. There are virtually no examples of these athletes who have switched to weightlifting and achieved distinguished results in the new sport. Whereas, on the other hand, there are numerous examples of high class weightlifters having switched to powerlifting and becoming champions.” (L.S. Dvorkin. Tiiazhelaya Atletika. Uchebnik, Moskow. Sovyetsky Sport, Publishers. 2005. Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr. Sportivny Press©.)

The first five concepts/conclusions form the basis for the 6th observation of Dvorkin, which in simple terms means that it is extraordinarily difficult to switch from training at a static sport like bodybuilding or powerlifting and succeed in a dynamic sport like weightlifting. This is despite how strong one is or how much muscle one has developed. Consequently, the value of strength training under predominantly static conditions and over restricted amplitudes of movement for dynamic sports is highly questionable.

The commercialization of the “Power Rack” (Functional Isometrics) and its profound effect on the American athletic community

The October 1961 issue of Strength and Health magazine is the beginning; it is “a ground zero” of a prolonged, commercialized information campaign extolling the benefits of isometric, high muscular tension exercises of small movement amplitude to develop strength with the simultaneous development of muscle mass. The hardware to which this training methodology was inextricably connected eventually came to be known as the “power rack.”

The term “power rack” is of course an oxymoron because the use of the system and the racks are for strength development not power. The generation of power is connected with a simultaneous high speed muscular contraction and relaxation which one cannot effectively perfect performing isometrics or heavy weightlifting movements of small amplitude in a power rack.

In his report of the 1961 USA National Weightlifting Championships published in Strength and Health magazine (Strength and Health 10:53:1961), Bob Hoffman wrote, “Lou Riecke was the sensation of the meet, for he lifted 105 pounds more than he did one year ago. Broad shouldered, heavily muscled in the trapezius, his back and shoulders are developed to a point that make them pretty close to the best I have ever seen. This, with his slender waist and a fine pair of legs, indeed make him everything a weightlifter ought to be.”

Further on in Hoffman’s description of the competition of the 90 kg class, he noted the following about the surprise winner Bill March, “a year ago he could not even qualify for the nationals because his best total of 800 lbs. in the 181 lb class was 25 lbs below the qualifying standard. …this year he has done 975 in the 198 lb class.”

An enduring legacy of the commericalization of Funcional isometrics is the survival of many of the ideas from that era. This is a power rack exercise without the rack. It was an exercise for strength pressers introduced when the era of strength in weightlifting was coming to an end.
(Charniga photo)

These two men, had for that era, made phenomenal improvement in one year. They had one thing in common. Over the preceding year both had been under the tutorage of Doctor John Ziegler, MD. Under Ziegler’s guidance both had been performing isometric exercises mimicking some of the positions of the body and barbell in the three Olympic weightlifting exercises. They were doing mental training for concentration. And, they also were receiving dosages of a new pharmaceutical from the Ciba - Geigy Company, a derivative of the male hormone testosterone known by its trade name Dianabol.

It must be first emphasized that the relatively new research of Hettinger and Mueller which purportedly proved scientifically the effectiveness of isometrics for training strength led Ziegler, Hoffman, and others to credit the isometric exercises for these two athletes’ improvement.

Furthermore, lifters and coaches of the late 1950s and early 1960s, which can justifiably be called the beginning of the end of the era of absolute strength in Olympic Weightlifting, believed success in weightlifting was determined by the development of absolute strength with its accompanying large muscle mass and, of course, will power. No one really imagined something as insignificant as a small tablet could have a profound effect on an athlete’s strength development. So, mental training aside, it was logical to assume the phenomenal progress Riecke and March made was considered to be the result of isometric training.

The following is the first line of an article (Strength and Health 11:30:1961) written by Bob Hoffman entitled, “Revealing the New Power System.” He referenced it as the most important article I have ever written. “I am about to tell you about the greatest system of physical training, the greatest system of strength and muscle building the world has ever seen.”

Hoffman went on to trace the history of isometric research conducted by the likes of Hettinger and Mueller, Phillip Rasch, C.H. McCloy, Steinhaus, Karpovich; he wrote, “Isometric contraction will develop functional strength quickly and completely.”

This use of the word “functional” to describe a physical quality like strength or a method of training has become, at the present time, so overused and so ubiquitous that it is meaningless.

Hoffman stated in this article, emphatically, that the isometric training of March and Riecke was the secret to their phenomenal progress in such a short time. He even wrote that, “We had to keep this training secret, for it was a new principle and we did not want others, particularly the Russians, to learn about it until we knew more about it ourselves, knew its full value.”

Statements like this were in all probability not intended to be a marketing ploy. They reflected an honest, but nonetheless overzealous reaction to what seemed to be the answer to the declining fortunes of American Weightlifting at the international level, a “new and improved” system of training for strength. Bob Hoffman, the many times Olympic coach and the “Father of American Weightlifting,” without a doubt, was sincerely excited by the possibilities of this training methodology.

On the other hand, the gist of the claims made in this article also reflected another side of Hoffman, the businessman. And, he was an excellent businessman. Hoffman had for many years personally bank rolled American Weightlifting. He spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours supporting lifters through his business the York Barbell Company and his magazine Strength and Health. He also paid the bills out of his own pocket to send American teams to numerous international competitions. All of this time, money, and efforts were made out of a genuine love for the sport.

Consequently, there was a duality in Hoffman’s overzealous reception of isometrics. This form of training could be a real boost to the declining fortunes of American weightlifting, to the delight of Hoffman the coach. And, the anticipated boom in sales of isometric equipment and training courses could be a boon to Hoffman the businessman; the scope of which is exemplified by this statement from that article, ”a system which will produce not only better weightlifters, better athletes, better men in the Armed Forces, but can help every man, woman and child in the nation.” That then leads to many prospective customers.

Here it should be noted that the two athletes for whom the isometric training was purported to be the source of their astounding progress performed two distinct types of isometric contraction exercises. One simply pulled or pushed on an immovable bar fixed at various positions in a metal power rack stand; whereas the other held a barbell of various weights against the pins of a power rack. At first this would seem to be problematic for an astute businessman like Hoffman who was in the barbell business. But, this “problem” would in fact prove to be an opportunity in disguise.

The Initial “technical” advertisement campaign

It was no coincidence that the very first advertisement in the Strength and Health magazine appeared in the very same issue as the previously mentioned article, and it was no accident that the ad was inserted on the page opposite the end of this effusively glowing report of scientific research and practical experience with isometrics.

With the caption, “60 seconds daily quickly builds amazing strength and development!” (Strength and Health 11:65:1961) and a notation “patent applied for…,” the power rack marketing campaign was born. The rack pictured in the very first advertisement consisted of four metal tubes attached to a wooden base. The tubes were aligned/attached in pairs at the base and top and the whole device was secured on the wooden base and by steel rods to the wall directly behind it.

There were 550 holes drilled in the collective four tubes to provide a large number of possible positions to perform exercises. It was called an “Isometric-Isotonic Power Rack.” Pins approximately 12” in length were to be inserted into the holes in the tubes to provide a support for a barbell or just a bar for doing isometrics with weight or just static isometrics with an immovable bar.

The ad stated, “This is the rack and the training system used by leading lifters, who in a few short months made such sensational improvement.” The ad also touted the expansive versatility of the stand with which 14 different movements could be performed such as heavy squat stand, heavy leg press stand, bench press machine, leg press machine, incline press machine and other exercise positions.

Three models ranging in price from $29.95 (made of wood) to $99.95 were offered. A “super” 25,000 word training course penned by Bob Hoffman was offered free (a $5.00 value) with any of the four models pictured.

Claims were made that, “Many days you will train as little as 1 minute with a limit of five exercises for 12 seconds each.” Further on in the ad this profoundly hyperbolic statement appears, “Training with the Hoffman super power rack and the hitherto undisclosed secret training methods this Super Training Course includes will be the answer to your dreams, the answer to your physical desires.” (Are you sure about that last statement for an answer Bob?)

Of the illustrations present in the ad one in particular should be committed to memory. It is a picture of an Olympic lifter lifting in the power rack. His trunk and legs are fully extended, his heels are raised, shoulders are elevated and arms are partially flexed, head is tilted back and line of sight is upward. This was considered at the time to be the ideal “full extension” of the pull and every Olympic lifter should strive to achieve this position in order to lift the barbell high enough for the snatch or the clean. You could now practice this “ideal position” in the power rack with isometric tension.

One of the enduring exercises performed in a power rack or on an isometric stand involved mimicking this posutre except with fully extended knee and hip joints, heels and shoulders raised. The problem is a weightlifter passes through this disposition in a very small fraction of a second. Training for this as an isometric would be counterproductive. (Charniga photo)

This ideal of a weightlifter with a fully extended trunk, lower extremities and elevated shoulder girdle in this lifting position is of course a myth which has persisted to this very day in many quarters of the weightlifting community. It is counterproductive to an effective timely descent under and receiving of the barbell in the squat position, i.e., the descent is delayed and the joints are not prepared to receive and brake the descending the barbell with this “full extension.”

What has all of this have to do with the state of strength training in America? The commercialization of isometric training and its simultaneous equipment sales pitch may not be the beginning of this type of marketing, but it certainly raised it to a level never achieved before . Virtually every major university, college, or high school weight room in the USA has at least one, and at most, a multitude of power racks. It is arguably third behind a bench press bench and a barbell as the most ubiquitous piece of training equipment to be found in university and school weight rooms from coast to coast.

This commercialized training methodology with its attendant equipment and the all encompassing philosophy which went hand in hand with them, not only did not stave off the decline in American weightlifting at the international level, but, in our opinion, accelerated it to a nose dive. The isometrics/power rack craze could not have come at worse time. The era of absolute strength in Olympic weightlifting was coming to an end. Isometrics and power rack exercises were not the way to prepare for the speed strength era.

This attendant philosophy for developing absolute strength epitomized by power rack training, this psychology of strength training with concomitant increase in muscle mass, the misperception that strength development and increased muscle go hand in hand is very much alive today.

The reader should not assume in any way shape or form that this treatise is meant to bash Hoffman, the York Barbell Company, his or the company’s contributions to weightlifting. On the contrary, against this backdrop of the marketing of isometrics and the power rack there was a genuine belief that this training method would build the strength and of course the muscle mass needed to regain competitiveness with the Russians and other East block weightlifters.

It is highly unlikely that it ever occurred to Hoffman and the others touting this training that the type of exercises, the small range of joint motion worked, the development of what Soviet sport scientists called “static strength” and the extra muscle mass could prove to be not a benefit to Olympic weightlifters, but instead become a hindrance.

For instance, Hoffman was unable to fathom why the young upcoming American lifters of the early 60s and thereafter were unable to lift as much as the Soviets and East Europeans when they had all of this strength and muscle mass, so much in fact they were able to virtually walk from the weightlifting platform to the Mr. Universe competition and succeed at bodybuilding after failing at weightlifting.

The declining competitiveness of American weightlifting and its relationship to the marketing of the power rack for “Functional Isometrics”

It is pertinent to this discussion to examine the backdrop against which the commercialization of isometric training and the marketing of the power rack occurred.

The USA won its first real gold medal in weightlifting in 1936. Bob Hoffman was the Olympic coach. This was followed by four gold medals in 1948, four in 1952, and four in 1956. But by 1960 the USA won only one gold medal, the last by an American male which was some 49 years ago.

In the aftermath of the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Bob Hoffman wrote an editorial (Strength and Health 9:3:1960) in which he analyzed the performance of the US weightlifting team. He wrote, “ In reference to the communist block athletes, naturally, they are not stronger, but they work harder at their sport.”

Subsequently addressing this same issue in 1961 (Strength and Health 01:3:1961), after first reciting a litany of excuses for the some of the poor performances in Rome, Hoffman went on to say, “There were a lot of reasons, but the most important ones… in simple terms, the real reasons our men did not win more often were the condition and ability of the foreign athletes, their skill, their endurance, speed and strength … But in so many countries the athletes train harder than our fellows do.”

Hoffman recognized the obvious; the communist block athletes and lifters from some Asian countries were training harder at weightlifting than the Americans. Either we had to train as hard, even harder, or come up with a superior system. It is obvious why isometrics and the power rack were quickly seized upon as the latter of the solutions. This method appeared to produce rapid gains in a relatively short time and required less time in the gym. No need here for a radical change of life style.

However fortunate American weightlifters were to have such a benefactor as Bob Hoffman, the USA, then and to this day, lacks a state sponsored, coordinated research effort designed to not only produce elite athletes, but to find the means, the wherewithal, to stretch the limits of human performance. The Soviets, and to a lesser extent other East block countries, had funded for many years and continue to fund such an effort.

A distinction must be made between the information produced from research of elite sport performance in a communist country like the former Soviet Union and East Germany. This type of information, for the most part, was not readily commercialized as it can be in the USA. The training methodologies and training apparatuses were evaluated by coaches and sport scientists as either effective or not. This stands in stark contrast to how training information and training modalities can be hyped in the USA as they can leap from the laboratory to the market place.

As already mentioned, Hoffman wrote, “a system which will produce not only better weightlifters, better athletes, better men in the Armed Forces, but can help every man, woman and child in the nation.” So, right out of the “box,” there was the obvious attempt to sell the science of isometrics to ”every man, woman and child” in America.

A common weightlifting posture to train in the power rack or with an isometric stand is to place a baarbell at knee level. This is a difficult posure durning the pull phase of weightlifting. (Charniga photo)

Unfortunately, the marketing of the isometrics/power rack, an unfortunate part of the commercialization of knowledge in America, makes it difficult if not impossible to evaluate something like a “new” training methodology; this is a sad result which, in this case, accelerated the decline of American weightlifting.

Echoes of Hoffman’s observations from a different standpoint are to be found in an article “Our Rivals – The Foreign Athletes” written by Y. Kutsenko (Merited Master of Sport, Merited Trainer of the USSR. Tribuna Masterov,. 1963: 200. Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr. Sportivny Press©) This was his analysis based on first hand observations of the training of the teams at the Rome Olympics.

“The Americans did not adhere to a strict regimen. They went to bed later (24:00); got up later (9-10:00); dispensed with morning gymnastics, the warm up in the fresh air which was an obligatory routine for our athletes, the Japanese, and the Poles who considered it to be an essential means of improving health and improving sport form.

“It was obvious that many were clearly over – trained. Miyake, Berger, Kono and others, ‘prematurely’ sensing the ‘breath’ of their competitors, tried to amaze and show off…. You get the impression that the Americans, like the others, do not have a daily training plan….Right in the middle of their training animated contests break out with laughter and including betting whether one is doing a competition or some other exercise.

“Today, I. Berger won $25.00 for snatching 112.5 kg; tomorrow there is a bet of $50.00 for a clean and jerk of 152.5 kg. T. Kono and C. Vinci challenged throwers O’ Brien and Neider who had already finished training and showered. But suddenly they began a bench press contest with them for a maximum. What is this?

“The Americans devoted little time to warm up before training. Running, jumping and gymnastic exercises were excluded… In my opinion they did warm up enough for the next exercise which was evidenced by the poor technique of the beginning sets.

The young, unassuming, Japanese athletes, in contrast to most of the Americans, warmed up carefully; and, they imitated the forthcoming movement before each attempt. They were subdued, focused, sensible on each task. They were psyched, angry at the enemy. It was a mix of muscular speed and effective work; this is what set the Japanese athletes apart. They would relax their muscles well between attempts, stretch or sit, and relax.”

Kutsenko’s observations were an unflattering assessment of the Americans’ pre Olympic preparation, to say the least. However, apparently Hoffman would have agreed at least in principle. Later in the previously mentioned editorial (Strength and Health 01:6:1961) he wrote, “The Russians have this willingness, this dedication, and that is why they are so good in so many sports. The Russian official who said, ‘We train seriously, while you prefer the easy way,’ was right”

Chuck Vinci was USA team’s only gold medalist at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. He was the last American male to win an Olympic gold medal in weightlifting.

At the 1961 World Weightlifting championships (later that same year of the report of the fantastic progress made by the two lifters March and Riecke) the USA won only three medals. Issac Berger won a gold, Kono a bronze, and Zirk a silver in the superheavyweight class, but his total of 475 kg would have placed him second in the 90 kg class. The dearth of quality entries in the 90+ class made a medal possible as he was 50 kg behind the gold medal winner.

Despite the dubious showing of the USA, Hoffman noted on the bright side that Kono and March (unable to lift because of illness) entered and placed 1st and 2nd respectively in the Mr. Universe contest which was part of the world weightlifting championships program in those days. Unlike the Americans for whom bodybuilding and weightlifting were becoming evermore fused together as one event in the pages of Strength and Health, none of the European lifters (Plukfelder, Toth, Palinski, for instance) took part in the physique event.

A number of misperceptions prevalent during the 60s regarding the training for weightlifting and weightlifting technique, which were and for the most part still are unfortunately ingrained in the American psyche, can be traced to this time:

1. the need to develop absolute strength with assistance exercises to improve results in the weightlifting exercises;

2. the need to develop muscle mass especially in the trapezius, quadriceps, and gluteus muscles to maximize the gains in strength;

3. the conceptual misunderstanding of the basic principles of the biomechanics of weightlifting technique; most misconceptions about the biomechanics of the weightlifting exercises come from video and still picture analysis;

4. the notion that increased strength and muscle mass would improve weightlifting results, even if the strength was developed from slow and or partial movements.

So, in the aftermath of the Rome Olympics, it was becoming apparent to Bob Hoffman that the weightlifters of the Soviet Union, the other east Europeans, and Japan were training harder and more diligently. These countries were developing their own training systems. These countries emphasized dynamic strength, coordination, flexibility, and overall dynamic conditioning in their systems while our lifters, fast becoming weightlifter/bodybuilder hybrids, were behind the times as far as developing modern training methods and appropriate conceptualizations of modern technique.

There was no American system.

In contrast-

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Interesting Study: Elastic tendons can act as muscle power amplifiers or energy-conserving springs during locomotion
By Admin on June 24th, 2010 at 3:48 pm
Posted In: Uncategorized
I found the following study very interesting. It was sent to me by colleague Cal Dietz I think the first sentence of the abstract sums it up best. I have thought for a long time that one key to improving performance on the field is training the body to act like a spring.

Teaching the muscles and connective tissues to absorb and release force in a spring like manner. This study looks at the tendon spring and it’s effects at buffering forces that are eccentrically absorbed by the muscles.

The series-elastic shock absorber: tendons attenuate muscle power during eccentric actions Thomas J. Roberts1,* and Emanuel A. Azizi1
1Brown University
Submitted 10 November 2009 ; revised 24 May 2010 ; accepted in final form
25 May 2010
Elastic tendons can act as muscle power amplifiers or energy-conserving springs during locomotion. We used an in situ muscle-tendon preparation to examine the mechanical function of tendons during lengthening contractions, when muscles absorb energy. Force, length and power were measured in the lateral gastrocnemius muscle of wild turkeys. Sonomicrometry was used to measure muscle fascicle length independently from muscle-tendon unit (MTU) length as measured by a muscle ergometer. A series of ramp stretches of varying velocities was applied to the MTU in fully activated muscles.
Fascicle length changes were decoupled from length changes imposed on the MTU by the ergometor. Under most conditions, muscle fascicles shortened on average while the MTU lengthened. Energy input to the MTU during the fastest lengthenings was -54.4 J kg-1, while estimated work input to the muscle fascicles during this period was only -11.24 J kg-1. This discrepancy indicates that energy was first absorbed by elastic elements, then released to do work on muscle fascicles during the post-lengthening period of the contraction. The temporary storage of energy by elastic elements also resulted in a significant attenuation of power input to the muscle fascicles. At the fastest lengthening rates, peak instantaneous power input to the MTU reached -2,143.9 W kg-1, while peak power input to the fascicles was only -557.6 W kg-1. These results demonstrate that tendons may act as mechanical buffers by limiting peak muscle forces, lengthening rates, and power inputs during energy-absorbing contractions.
tendon; eccentric; muscle; muscle damage

Discussion (5) ¬
Comments RSS
June 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm | #
So this is what ldiso’s combined with drops/rebounds are supposed to do?
July 1, 2010 at 10:37 am | #
In a nutshell, yes. They help develop that ability.
July 6, 2010 at 8:33 pm | #
Anything to those 5 min. holds at once suggested by Jay?
Kelly Baggett seems to think that past 1 min.(per set)is max.
In other words 5 min worth of 1min. holds are better.
Brandon Green
July 7, 2010 at 1:17 pm | #
Are there any potentiators FOR Ldiso’s such as heavy lifts,rebounds etc. ?
Brandon Green
July 7, 2010 at 5:47 pm | #
Hi Brandon,
I agree with Kelly, and so does Jay!!! when he said that there is no difference in results from holding for 5 min straight or doing 30×10 second holds.
As far as potentiators. Not really. I like doing the WGF core and ab stuff first since the goal of each is correcting movement patterns.
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