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Old 07-10-2007, 12:23 PM   #1
John Alston
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Default Thoughts on Heavy Lifts

This was sent to me in an email by my teammate Lenny Bacino (2007 National Masters Champion) and I thought it had some good ideas regarding heavy squats and heavy quick lifts.
I don't have the thread this is in reply to, but I still thought it was a worthy read.
Message Below.

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Thoughts about strength and power
Jim O'Malley -- 2004.05.04
Seen on the GoHeavy Olympic forum, an interesting tidbit ...

Matt,

I disagree with what you have said in your post. I hope you understand that what I will say is only my opinion and is certainly NOT meant as a personal attack on you or anyone else.

This will probably be somewhat lengthy so I apologize in advance but hopefully those who take an opposite stance will be open minded enough to read another point of view.

I would not say that PL is better or worse than OL, it is just different. It requires a different type of strength than OL (absolute vs. explosive). When someone deadlifts a heavy weight the goal is to overcome the inertia of the weight and then to just keep it moving while in OL you have to accelerate the weight in order to effectively move under the bar.

There is no correlation between the ability to display great strength and the ability to display it quickly.

Kirk Karwoski (many times world powerlifting champ) trained at the same gym as I did (Maryland Athletic Club in Beltsville Md) from 1990 to 2000. Karwoski was incredibly strong. Over the years I saw him perform such feats as squat 1,000 lbs for a double (he weighed only 275lbs), deadlift 750lbs for a triple, incline press 425lbs for five reps, and bench 600lbs. And by his own admission, he was atrociously bad at OL. If he was lucky he could snatch 90kg and C&J 120kg but he himself realized that the type of strength needed to excel in OL was in complete contrast to the type of strength he had developed over the course of his powerlifting career.

In the mid 70's I was an 82.5kg OL and I trained with two other guys in the same weight class for two years. They were Al Starck (originally from Central Falls and a student of Joe Mills) and Fred Hatfield (now perhaps better known as Dr Squat).Fred was tremendously strong. He did pulls and squats with very heavy weights but they were weights that bore no relation to what he could actually snatch or C&J. Al, on the other hand, did none of this. Fred was certainly much stronger than Al was, but in terms of speed and explosiveness there was no comparison. Fred never even came close to beating Al in any OL contest. His method of training was detrimental to the type of strength he needed to succeed at OL, but not for PL. I do not think it was a coincidence that Fred later went on to become a top level powerlifter and to squat 1000 lbs at age 45.

In my own case I only lifted seriously for 4 years (1973-77)and I employed what I term the brute force methods that have been advocated by some on this board recently. By brute force I mean trying to lift as heavy as I could as often as I could. And (for a while) it seemed to work. After three years I did 13 2.5+ 172.5 = 305kg as a 82.5kg lifter. My best squat (for a single) was 222.5kg I was then advised that my legs were too weak. So in my final year of training I repeatedly performed Maslaev's nine week Russian squat routine and raised my squat to 235kg for five reps. The impact on my lifts was negligible. I added 5kg to each doing 137.5 and 177.5 in April 1977. I was only 23 but I felt like I was about 63 as a result of this approach.

But the best example I can tell you about that refutes the notion that high levels of absolute strength are needed to become a world class lifter is Mark Cameron. Mark (also from Central Falls and a Joe Mills pupil) never pulled or squatted or pressed with weights that were out of line with what he could actually do in the classical lifts. He never overpowered weights, yet he the lifted the heaviest of weights with an almost effortless ease. Mark himself once put it this way : "I can do a limit lift and it would look as though I could do 100lbs more but if I put on an extra 2.5lbs it would look as though I could NOT do 100lbs less." That is how fine tuned he felt you needed to be to excel at OL at a high level.

There was another guy who trained at our old Dynamo Gym in College Park, Md in the 70's named Ed Schock. Ed trained at both OL and PL and was pretty good at both. Ed could move under the bar with fantastic speed in the OL but he had to because all his powerlifting had almost destroyed his ability to accelerate the barbell at the top of the pull. One day Ed and Mark had a deadlifting contest. Ed deadlifted 600lbs for eight reps while Mark FAILED to make even one rep with the weight. About ten days later they got into a clean contest. Ed made 385lbs but he turned about six shaded of red while doing it. Mark, on the other hand) cleaned 450 so fast and easy that if you blinked you would have missed it. In fact on the way up he did 250lbs and 350lbs and I could see no difference between them and the 450. I really learned something that day from watching that.

One last guy who trained in a vein similar to Al and Mark was the late, great Bob Bednarski. I guess that is enough said. Bob was also from Central Falls and Joe Mills. Think maybe Joe Mills knew something that most others didn't ??

I have used these examples both because I think they are relevant to the point in question and because I just like to tell a few stories every now and then.

However, in my opinion, the real flaw in the argument as put forth by yourself and Mr Burgener, and Mr Gough is that you focus on strength training to develop high levels of muscular strength without taking into consideration the effect this has on the nervous system. A first rate explanation of the whole process can be found in "Quantum Strength and Power Training" by Pat O'Shea (Professor Emeritus of Exercise Physiology and lifelong lifting enthusiast) see chapter 2 "Neuromuscular and neuro-psychological basis of strength".
< BR>I have been involved in T&F for some time as well as OL. The T&F experience really taught me alot about the importance of properly training the nervous system. The general rule in T&F is that one should never use assistive or resistive means that will either slow you down or speed you up more than 10% from your optimal performance level. For example, you will never see a shot putter throwing a 24lb shot (50% over the normal size). For one thing they are not even manufactured, but that is for a reason. There is NO demand for them at all as they simply destroy throwing technique by dramatically altering the motor pattern required for top notch shot putting. Basically it makes you very slow (at least in a relative sense and that is the key).

The same principle applies to OL. One single rep in the SN or clean pull will slow your ability to properly accelerate the bar (the way you need to to actually snatch or clean it) by about 13% (i.e. the 10% rule has already been violated). Many people perform pulls with weights of 120% and more for MULTIPLE reps so you can just imagine the degree to which this alters the motor pattern needed to effectively snatch or clean weights that are 95-100% of their best.

But was makes this so damaging is the fact that a motor skill engram is developed that PERMANENTLY hardwires the body to perform in this less than optimal framework. A motor skill engram is a learned movement pattern stored in the prefrontal cortex as memories. Once a complex movement pattern (good or bad) has been learned by the sensory cortex, the memory engram of the pattern will be used to activate the motor system to perform the SAME sequential pattern. These are messages that are sent AUTOMATICALLY and once ingrained they are notoriously difficult to reverse. Training with light (50-65%) weights to get faster also yields a training effect that is low but for a different reason (lack of muscular tension that is induced) yet Louis Simmons in his article "If I trained Olympic Lifters" advocates combining light lifts with extremely heavy pulls and squats. In my opinion, this is the worst of both worlds.

So to sum up I guess I would just say that it is sad to me to watch yet another generation of young lifters be taught training methods that have both proven themselves to be less than effective from past results and that are fundamentally unsound from a scientific perspective.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Jim O'Malley
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Last edited by John Alston; 07-10-2007 at 12:26 PM. Reason: yadda yadda
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Old 07-10-2007, 12:52 PM   #2
Rick Deckart
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Maybe of interest for you. I had some look into the training of german national caliber weightlifters: they will base the squat weights on the projected clean and jerk. To illustrate that with a very short example, if the goal of a 14 week cycle is a 100kg clean and jerk (for some juniors) the backsquat will be max 117kg for a triple in week 12 and the max front squat 105kg for a double in week 13. That is enough to meet and surpas the clean & jerk goal...
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Old 07-10-2007, 01:17 PM   #3
Steve Shafley
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That's an interesting bit.

It really points towards specificity for the Olympic lifter, doesn't it? I honestly can't say if he's right or not.

Pointing to the 10% thing from throwing and attempting to apply it to a barbell that is loaded with a weight above a lifter's bodyweight is apples to oranges, though.

He's also talking about good olympic lifters. Not some guy with a 100kg clean and jerk and a 85kg snatch...no offense to anyone. In the latter case, some significant strengthening needs to be done, and it is more efficient to get stronger using the slower lifts with heavy loads than pushing at your classical lifts over and over.

The needs for a low level OL vs a high level OL in training are very different. I think this is one thing Roman and the other Soviet OL coach-academics described in a useful fashion.
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Old 07-10-2007, 01:19 PM   #4
Steve Shafley
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Peter, in your case, it's very different...you are looking at national caliber or up and coming lifters.

Their basic strength has been developed already.

There are only two components of an athlete's training. GPP and SPP. Everything else is a variation of that.
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Old 07-10-2007, 01:24 PM   #5
Rick Deckart
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As far as I know in general these squats are still challenging for them, in other words, the hypothetical lifter described above could not backsquat say 130kg for a double or triple at the start of the cycle. Strength and skill are developed in parallel, at least that's how I understand it. There is some variation though which is based on coaching experience, for example if the lifter were able to do the 117kg triple, the squat weights would likely be increased so to not understimulate said lifter. However in this case the focus on the cycle would be better technique to display the already developed strength in the lifts.
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Old 07-10-2007, 01:56 PM   #6
Kevin Anderson
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Squat what you can reasonably recover from. If you go crazy and squat really heavy you will pay for it unless you are young or taking anabolics. Now, if you are strong but your technique sucks then you will probably squat quite a bit more than you can C&J until your technique catches up.
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Old 07-10-2007, 06:04 PM   #7
Robb Wolf
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Good stuff.
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