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How The Fitness Industry Has Changed Over My 30 Years

The Walkman

In the 80’s, when I began my career as a collegiate strength and conditioning coach, the field was new to college and on the private side powerlifting, bodybuilding, jogging and aerobics ruled the world. Strength training technique in the weight room was everything. Outfits, shoes and beats per minute were the keys to jogging and aerobics. The legends were in their prime in power lifting and bodybuilding. Amazing as it sounds, people worked out without personal music and ran without any music at all back in the “olden” days. The Walkman was just beginning to be the thing for personalized music on the move. As the 80’s evolved, the National Strength Coaches Association was growing from its inception (1979), created a certification and began to court the non-strength coach, thus evolving into the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Several other organizations began to pop up to serve the private side of the industry that was based on memberships and fitness rather than performance and winning. However, everyone still seemed to be focused on the technical aspects of what to do and how to actually do it properly. In performance, the big argument was powerlifting, bodybuilding and Olympic lifting versus Nautilus H.I.T. (High Intensity Training) or one set to failure that was the training style at various universities, most notably Michigan and Penn State. The inference was since Michigan and Penn State were good, H.I.T. had to be good, regardless of the fact that H.I.T. was a style of training unique to the United States. The NSCA decided to wage a scientific battle against the “HIT” philosophy and ran the coaches at the “HIT” programs out of the organization.

Steroids were a part of the sports culture of the 80’s. Some football athletes dabbled in them or used them at one time or another. Were they isolated to football athletes or running rampant in colleges? In my opinion and experience, no. However, they were being used by some and a very few collegiate coaches were even jailed or sent to prison for possession or allowing their distribution.

1sourcenutrition.com

Toward the end of the 80’s and early 90’s, the importance of nutrition and speed began to become apparent in performance. The winning teams in football (most notably the University of Washington at the turn of the decade and Miami University throughout the 90’s) were extremely focused on recruiting speed and Nebraska had retained a nutritionist on staff to assist the dining hall in refueling the players at meals as well as creating a refueling station in the weight room for immediate pre- and post-workout protein and carbohydrate ingestion. The better the nutritional support, the faster the athletes recovered. The faster the athlete recovered, the more quality work they could do which in turn led to better quality performances and fewer injuries. Many performance-enhancing drugs lead to better quality recovery and are not for the performance itself. The private side of the industry was beginning to realize that gyms that were franchised (Gold’s, Bally’s, etc.) were opportunities to sell memberships and make lots of money. A few privately owned gyms were beginning to realize the opportunity that existed with the death of Physical Education in the school systems, but the concept of performance training for hire had yet to make it into the mainstream of our culture or the private side of the industry. Certifications for strength coaches and fitness professionals began with the introduction of a certification by the NSCA. A written test without a practical test (the NATA had both written and practical), it was designed by P.hD.’s and some coaches that had some weight room knowledge, but was rapidly changed by P.hD.’s that had less and less actual coaching and fitness training knowledge. However, as it was first and the NSCA had the money to get it accredited, it became the gold standard.

Periodization become huge with the introduction to the industry of computer programming that can control exercise selection, sets, reps, rest time and even rep execution time. Periodization became the buzzword as it came out of the former USSR, which had great success in the training and competition of their athletes. The USSR also had complete control of their athletes 24/7 and a cutting edge drug program. They selected for talent, trained the selected athletes and those that survived were national, world and Olympic champions. With the fall of the wall and the collapse of their system, several of their coaches and sports scientists came to our country and Canada and began to teach and write. This information enlightened performance coaches that with great quality of repetition execution and additional volume over time, the athletes could indeed get bigger, faster, quicker and stronger. However, the problem with true periodization as espoused was that in our system, we do not have control, only influence over the athlete and drugs are outlawed and tested for by the NCAA, USOC, etc. In the private industry, there is even less influence so the ability to sequence and order the exercises on any given day in order to create a training effect become paramount to the training process.

The 90’s saw the advance of the association focused on servicing the needs of the members of the fitness, private performance and rehab/reconditioning industry. The medical trainers had the National Athletic Trainers Association, which with the backing of the team physicians had tremendous influence with the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The collegiate strength coaches were now beginning to feel the pressure that could be exerted when they had no voice and no one to support them. By now, virtually every pro team and university had at least one strength coach. 70-80 hour weeks were the norm and the coaches were not only in the weight room but out on the track, field and court teaching speed development, plyometrics, agility and conditioning for a variety of sports in addition to football.

The National Academy of Sports Medicine became an organization focused on the health and well being of the individual for

Certification for $

movement as well as performance. The NASM created education based on injury prevention for coaches and trainers that came from the world of physical therapists rather than from the world of sports and its coaches. The collegiate strength coaches were fed up with being used by the NSCA and broke off to found the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association – the CSCCA, which was later changed to the CSCCa due to pressure from the NSCA of the threat of a lawsuit for name infringement. Since the CSCCa had little in terms of resources, they changed the big A to a little a. This action by the NSCA was followed in the early 2000’s by a lawsuit to force the separate NSCA certification agency to come under the wing of the NSCA, effectively ending the NSCA’s presence in Lincoln, NE after almost 30 years. IHRSA, IDEA, ACE and other organizations began to support the private side business owner and trainer, thus diluting the field and creating a myriad of certifications, many of which became accredited by the 2000’s when the accrediting agencies began to realize that volume creates revenue.

BANNED!

The 90’s were also the era of the supplement. Supplements were running wild. From supplements that were laced with steroids to steroid pre-cursers, speed mixes for weight loss and various proteins for weight gain to the latest supplement that had that secret ingredient (always from another country, usually in a difficult to reach area that no one had visited and backed by a guy from that country with a sweet accent). Today that secret ingredient is termed a proprietary formula if you read labels. Some ingredients were outlawed (such as ma huang) and several were banned by organizations due to knee jerk reaction (androstenedionne – (doesn’t really do much if anything) and creatine (has many positive effects and no known negative side effects)) due to public or organizational pressures. Drug testing and suspension became a common headline as noted by the even the most casual sports fan.

During the late 90’s, franchising of performance venues began to be introduced. By the early 2000’s they were beginning to gain traction as they gained support by investment capital or by word or mouth. Velocity, a big box concept was sold to many franchisees but died a death of natural causes, as the box was too big to generate the volume/revenue needed for sustainability. Parisi Speed School, an additional revenue stream of curriculum and some equipment that could added to or built into many an existing club has become very strong in the private industry. Athlete’s Performance has become a leader in the performance industry. This company was founded on the business model goal of training the top 5% of athletes in any given sport. It has grown over the past several years to a handful of franchises scattered across the Sun Belt from LA to Florida. Perform-Better, an equipment company that added an educational component with great speakers, great service and top notch content began to make huge inroads in the educational market of performance, fitness and business in the industry as Perform-Better let the market set the speaker line-up.

The business of combine’s and combine prep became very strong in the 90’s. Training the young stars of college to perform well at the NFL Combine first burst upon the scene with the performance of Mike Mamula at the NFL Combine when he sprinted, jumped, and drilled at a level of performance that scored so well he created a huge buzz. Today, the combine training concept has infiltrated the NBA, MLB and the NHL and trickled down to the high school level as athletes prepare for the opportunity to pursue their dream of scholarship at the school of their dreams.

By the 2000’s, certification became the key to additional revenue. Kettle bell certification, NASM Certification, CSCCa certification, Titleist Performance Institute, NSCA – Personal Trainer Certified, Idea, ACE, etc. had all created certifications as well as several high profile trainers. While the NSCA still felt they were the gold standard, many professionals began to question the validity of a test that had no practical aspect and an organization that was centered on the squat and power clean as the answer to many if not most (all?) training protocols.

In the 2000’s, it became apparent that salary caps, luxury taxes, scholarship reductions, and Title IX had made quality athletes a premium in any sport and keeping them healthy became a priority. Injury prevention, screening (both the NASM Body Map and the FMS – Functional Movement Screen) became a tool in which the patterns of the body could be quantified and qualified in a subjective – objective scoring system. Thus, a baseline could be found and the concept of “corrective exercise” could be introduced to the warm-up, cool-down or exercise session in order to keep the athlete healthy. The corrective exercise toolbox is still developing for all health, fitness and performance professionals. The key, knowing when to refer the client, patient or athlete to the proper professional in order to stay centered on correcting the problem rather than treating the symptom.

MTSU Game Day

In the 2000’s, a new organization came to the forefront in which high intensity circuits are the foundation of the training. As it evolved, certifications were rolled out in several areas and Crossfit became the hottest new franchise opportunity. Crossfit attracts highly motivated individuals and is executed as a group exercise concept, which makes it attractive for gyms and trainers. The tactical community is attracted as it is an intense “smoke session” that takes relatively little time. The only drawback at this point (in my opinion) is when it is done with poor technique or when technique breaks down due to a lack of fitness or endurance, either of which can lead to problems.

Finally, the era of allowing the athlete to have it all whether it was in terms of guaranteed money, no cut contracts or work hours and jobs and time off in college have created a situation in which the coaches are under pressure for performance of the team and athlete. The athlete in college and the pros (in many cases) wants to do as little as possible in terms of physical preparation. Collegiate strength and conditioning coaches are only allowed 8 hour, 8 weeks in the spring and 8 optional weeks (for the athlete) in the summer and are not allowed to punish the athlete outside that 8 hours of work. Therefore, some athletes are not prepared for the volume or intensity of the workload in a given workout. Athletic dorms were outlawed decades ago so many student athletes live off-campus and eat poorly, under sleep, under recover and try to force their body to improve in off-season. Sadly, in some cases, the athlete is caught in a situation in which the workload overloads the body to such an extent that the athlete cannot handle it and gets into a life threatening state in which some young men have even died. Was the workout too much? It was not for the other young men and was not over the course of the career of the coaches involved. Why this young person on this particular day? In my opinion, too much regulation by people in charge that do not understand, no voice by the professionals in dealing day to day with this in many/most cases (collegiate strength coaches) and mainstreaming of the intercollegiate athlete. In pro sports it just ruins the sport. Guaranteed money makes athletes lazy, selfish and bad team members.

In 2010, the United States Special Operations Command began to hire strength and condition professionals for each and every Special Forces team in order to keep the warrior athletes healthy. Looking at the professional and elite (BCS) collegiate model, they understand that with better physical training methods, quality recovery and optimal nutrition, the warrior athlete will better be able to execute his/her job and fulfill the mission. With the amount of training the SF community receives over the course of his/her career, many of these warrior athletes are truly million dollar athletes, just like our sports “heroes”.

The tools the fitness professional learns over time that when put into play can influence, recondition, train for performance or prevent injury in the population that the trainer or coach comes into contact each and every day is the key. In my opinion, it has become a time in which you study, practice and train to learn the skills needed to become a proficient coach or physical trainer in order to serve your population. Your ability to understand and lead, train and groom a business is different than the ability to lead, train and groom a staff at a university or in the Special Forces community. The tools needed (periodization, reconditioning, speed, weight loss, client recruitment, marketing, speaking, teaching, technical expertise, etc.) may be similar in many cases, but while some are sharp and shiny from use other will rust due to lack of use, as some tools are not needed in a particular arena.

Much as a professional martial artist or MMA athlete may study with a variety of teachers and coaches over their career in order to learn various skills, it is time for the coach and trainer to study and learn from a variety of professionals in order to learn skills, concepts and techniques in order to better serve the community in which he or she practices.

What is the next concept, franchise or era of performance training? I think it is just that . . . performance training. Using all the

A. Karelin World's Greatest Wrestler

tools at our disposal to train, recondition, prehab, teach and inspire our scholastic, collegiate, professional and amateur athletes to greater heights and more enduring careers.

Relative Intensity Concept Part Two

How heavy is heavy?  How light is light?  If I do a set of 10 or a set of 5 or a set of 2 how do I know how heavy to go on each set?  Does it matter?  Is it important?  If we assume the volume is important (sets times reps) and if we assume the load is important (percentage of weight used) then relative intensity is the key that allows us to relate the loads of various sets and workouts to each other.  If we assume that strength training occurs at about 80 percent of max in strength type power lifts (bench, squat, and deadlift), then how do I determine what 80% is at various rep schemes?  Using the chart below makes it simple.  Eighty percent at 1 rep is 80% (actually on the chart it is 79%).  Eighty percent at 2 reps is 76%.  Eighty percent at 4 reps is 70%. Eighty percent at 6 reps is 64%. Eighty percent at 8 reps is 58%.  Eighty percent at 10 reps is 52%.  All you do is find 80% (actually 79%) on the left hand side of the chart under relative intensity and move across to the right on the same row.  As you come to 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 reps across the top the number on the row is the load percentage that is the same relative intensity as 1 at 80%. This becomes an invaluable training tool as you write workouts for the strength lifts.  The reps for the Olympic lifts are so low (1 – 3  reps) that relative intensity is almost a non-factor.   In using the chart we assume that each rep equals 3 percent and each 3 percent equals 1 rep.   If you use 2.5% per rep or even 5% per rep you can devise your own chart to use while writing workouts.  I prefer to use 3% as it seems to allow for good jumps in loads without getting too big a jump as in the 5% percent loads and it still works rather well at the 10 rep range (unlike the 2.5% loads).  Here is the relative intensity chart.  Remember, to start at one side and/or the top and move your lines down and across until they intersect. Where they intersect is the load that the athlete will actually put on the bar.


Rel.

Int. reps       1             2              3              4             5               6               7             8               9             10


100 1         100           97            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73

97 2            97            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70

94 3            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70            67

91 4            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70            67            64

88 5            88            85            82            79            76            73            70            67            64            61

85 6            85            82            79            76            73            70            67            64            61            58

82 7            82            79            76            73            70            67            64            61            58            55

79 8            79            76            73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52

76 9            76            73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52            49

73 10          73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52            49            46

In order to use the chart all you do is decide what rep ranges you are going to use for the particular exercise and the relative load range in which you wish to train for the cycle.  For example if you are going to do 5 sets of 5 for 5 weeks and wish to slowly advance the load you can do the following:

Warm – up  – first set at 50% and then work up by 6 – 9% per set until you reach the work sets.

Work sets #

Order           week 1                   week 2               week 3                 week 4                     week 5

Reps            5×5                        5×5                        5×5                        5×5                        5×5


*Load            67%                      70%                        73%                      76%                      79%


Rel. int.         79%                      82%                        85%                      88%                      91%

#volume is constant at 25 work reps for each workout

*load is the weight you actually load onto the bar.


The chart below will show how staying at 5’s but moving up the relative intensity chart was the stimulus for the training effect.

Rel.

Int. reps      1              2              3              4              5                6              7                8             9             10


100 1        100            97            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73

97 2            97            94            91            88            85             82            79            76            73            70

94 3            94            91            88            85            82             79            76            73            70            67

91 4             91           88            85            82            79             76            73            70            67            64

88 5            88            85            82            79            76             73            70            67            64            61

85 6            85            82            79            76            73              70           67            64            61            58

82 7            82            79            76            73             70             67           64            61            58            55

79 8            79            76             73           70             67             64            61            58            55           52

76 9            76            73             70           67             64             61            58            55             52          49

73 10          73            70            67             64             61            58            55            52            49            46


Start at about 80 percent and work your way toward 90 – 95 percent of relative intensity over the course of the training cycle.  This is fairly easy to understand when the reps stay the same but what if the rep scheme is constantly changing?  Here is an example of the 10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2 scheme using the same relative intensity  for all the reps in each workout.  The relative intensity will go up from workout to workout in order to implement the overload effect.

Warm – up sets  – first set at 50% and then work up by 6 – 9% per set until you reach the work sets.

Work sets

Order       Week 1                                         week 2                                  week 3                              week 4

Reps        10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2                10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2                10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2                10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2


Load%      52-58–64–70-76                55-61-67-73-79                  58-64-70-76-82                  61-67-73-79-85


Rel. int%.           79                                        82%                                       85%                                   88%

#volume is constant at 30 reps for each work set.           

Rel.

Int. reps      1            2            3            4              5             6              7               8                9                 10


100 1        100            97            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73

97 2            97            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70

94 3            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70            67

91 4            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70            67            64

88 5            88             85           82            79            76             73           70           67             64             61

85 6            85             82           79             76           73             70           67           64            61              58

82 7            82             79           76            73            70             67            64            61            58             55

79 8            79            76             73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52

76 9            76             73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52            49

73 10            73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52            49            46


Next is an example of wave training (Training & Conditioning April 2000) in order to train the athlete at the same relative loads as the reps change within the workout and over the course of the training cycle.

Warm – up sets  – first set at 50% and then work up by 6 – 9% per set until you reach the work sets.

Work sets

Order                       Week 1                               Week 2                                Week 3                       Week 4

Reps            10 – 5 – 10 – 5 – 10 – 5         8 – 4 – 8 – 4 – 8 – 4         6 – 3 – 6 –3 – 6 – 3     5 – 2 – 5 – 2 – 5 – 2

Volume            45 total reps                        36 total reps                        27 total reps                        21 total reps

Load%            52-67-52-67-52-67            61-73-61-73-61-73            70-79-70-79-70-79          76-85-76-85-76-85

Rel.Int.%                  79%                                      82%                                       85%                                88%

Rel.

Int. reps      1             2             3              4               5              6              7              8              9              10


100 1       100            97            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73

97 2            97            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70

94 3            94            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70            67

91 4            91            88            85            82            79            76            73            70            67            64

88 5            88            85            82            79            76             73            70            67           64            61

85 6            85            82            79            76            73            70            67             64            61            58

82 7            82            79            76            73             70            67            64            61             58            55

79 8            79              76            73            70             67          64            61            58             55            52

76 9            76              73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52            49

73 10            73            70            67            64            61            58            55            52            49            46

This is relative intensity.  If you are implementing strength training using rep schemes above 4 – 5 reps or in wave like training schemes in your sets, then relative intensity can provide you with the key to open the door to relate set to set and workout to workout.  Training variables can be manipulated and programs can be implemented that are streamlined in order to get the best training effect in the shortest amount of time with a corresponding reduction in the possibility of injury due to too much, too quick, or too often.

I would like to thank Bill Allerheilegan, Russ Ball, Mike Clark, Vern Gambetta, Bill Gillespie, Rick Huegli, Al Miller, Johnny Parker and Fred Roll for the ideas expressed here today.









Relative Intensity Concept – Part One

As he warmed up Thor could still feel the effects of his last squat workout.  He knew from past experience that he couldn’t go heavy again this week.  He knew that if he did push through the pain all he would gain would be poorer and tougher workouts.  That is the exact opposite of all of his training goals with the championship competition coming up in a few short months.  As he began to load the bar Thor decided that he must back off, but he still needed to train hard.  Thus the dilemma, the paradox of training.  Thor knew the max repetition for a squat workout is about 50 reps and since he just did 5 sets of 5 at 85% he decided that he would back off 15% to only 70% for today’s load.   But, since he still wanted, no needed to train with intensity, he decided on 4 sets of 10 reps. What do you think? Did Thor accomplish his goal of backing off for this particular training session?

The concept of “Relative Intensity” is an easy concept to use and one that experienced lifters come to know and appreciate with their advanced training age.  Almost everyone becomes familiar with the basic terms of lifting early on in training.  Repetitions are each movement of the bar or dumbbell.  Sets are groups of repetitions that are clustered together such as 5 sets of 5 reps. Loads or percentages are the amount of weight that is placed on the bar or used via the dumbbell.  5 sets of 5 reps at 85% of the one rep max is the same for everyone.  If my max is 100 pounds then the load on the bar is 85% of 100 or 85 pounds.  If your max is 300 then the load will be .85 multiplied by 300 or 255 pounds.  Intensity is either load or volume.  It can also be speed, but that is another topic for another day.  Volume is expressed as the number of sets multiplied by the number of reps. Therefore 5 x 5 is a volume of 25 and 4 sets of 10 reps is a volume of 40.  Relative Intensity is different.  Relative Intensity takes into consideration the relationship of the load to the volume and the volume to the load.  More is better, right?  But the whole question is more what?  Is it more sets, more reps, more load, more volume, more speed, more rest, or more what?

What relationship does volume have with load?  Is there a relationship?  Is it an important consideration in order to reach my training goals?  YES!  Olympic lifters and power lifters spend the majority of their training reps in the 1 – 3 rep range. Why?  Because their goal is max weight lifted.  Most body builders spend the majority of their training in the 5 – 10 rep range. Why?  Because their goal is to pack on the most mass possible.  How does relative intensity relate to these two diverse groups?  Relative Intensity can smooth the transition from high to low volume and can create a common language between workouts that can be easily quantified and understood.  If Thor does 5 sets of 5 at 85%, that is a relative intensity of 97%.  Just follow the highlighted lines from 5 down to 85% and over to the left to 97% on the chart.  When he “unloaded” with 4 sets of 10 at 70% what was his relative intensity?  Go down from 10 to 70% and over to the left hand side to find . . . 97% !  So, Thor “unloaded” to 70%, but when you take the volume of each set into consideration, he was actually training at the same “relative intensity” !  Is this a critical component of training?  For a competitive lifter and body builder it is absolutely critical.  It can mean the difference between health and injury, the fine line between champion and also – ran.  According to A. S. Prilepin , the optimal number of lifts at various loads for Olympic lifting athletes are:

70% loads (3 – 6 repetitions)              18 total lifts

80% loads (2 – 4 repetitions)            15 total lifts

90% loads (1 – 2 repetitions)             7 – 10 total lifts

Prilepin further feels that if the total “number of lifts in one exercise is significantly above or below the optimal, then the training effect decreases.”*  Through his research he recommends the following volume totals (sets times reps) in relation to loads:

70% loads             no less than 12 reps – no more than 24

80% loads             no less than 10 reps – no more than 20

90% loads            no less than 4 reps – no more than 10

In building workouts it is important to recognize the role of relative intensity as the sets, reps and loads are added onto the exercises.  If the rep range is great from workout to workout or week to week then relative intensity is critical to understanding the relationship of load to volume, workout to workout and week to week.  According to Alexsei Medvedyev in  “A System of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting”,  as well as the USA Weightlifting manual Volume III “Training Program Design” regarding big lifts using the legs, the total number of reps divided by the all the percentage loads should equal 75%.  In other words, your average load in a squat, dead or clean for a month of training should be 75%.  This rule can be violated, but over the long haul for optimum performance and injury free workouts, this rule is inviolate.  This is due to the fact that we use our legs for standing, walking, running, jumping and changing direction.  On bench pressing, the average load can be skewed slightly higher (+2-4%).  In other words, the load should be a bell curve off of 75%.  From 70% – 80% about 35% of the reps should fall in this range.  With loads of 60% – 70% and 80% – 90% the volume of loads should be approximately 25% of the total volume for the month.  Below 60% load is 10% of the volume and above 90% is 5% of the volume.  What would change each month and with each year of training is an increase in the total volume of repetitions that can be executed with squats, deads, and/or cleans.

Now that we have a feel for the loads for the lifts, let’s examine the role of relative intensity.  If Thor did the 5 x 5 @ 85% workout, then his relative intensity was 97%.  That is extremely high.  Here is a good time to invoke the 10% rule.  Any time you feel the need to back down, 10% is the MINIMUM that is needed to create a recovery/compensation/super-compensation effect so that the strength that is being developed can be expressed.  In ranges above 85% relative intensity, the recovery workout should be more in the range of 15% off of the peak load.  In light of this, what load should Thor have selected for his load at 4 x 10?  Somewhere in the neighborhood of 55% – 60% of his 1 rep max needed to be loaded onto the bar.  This may seem too light, but remember, we must take into account the volume that Thor wants for today’s workout . . . 4 x 10 or 40 reps.  This is almost exactly 80% of what Thor knows from experience he can handle in a volume squat workout (remember, 50 reps total is the max number of reps in a volume squat workout, unless you want that workout to carry over into next week or even next month).

In devising your training programs, it is critical that your record your workouts.  As you begin to progress in your training age, you will begin to know and understand your limits.  If I decide to squat 5 x 8 @ 76%, what is that in relation to my 8 x 3 @ 85% workout from last week?  (It is 40 reps at a relative intensity of 97% versus 24 total reps at a relative intensity of 91%).  In light of this, maybe I would be better served to do 8 x 3 @ 82% with a R.I. of 88% followed the next week by 5 x 8 @ 58% with a R.I. of 79%.  According to Tudor O. Bompa in “Periodization of Strength”, all strength training occurs above a load of 80%.  Power training effects occur at loads of 50 – 80%.  The concept of relative intensity creates a common language that unlocks the relationship of volume to reps and reps to volume.  Incorporating this tool in building your workouts enables you to train harder, train smarter and train longer with fewer plateaus and less staleness and injury.  After all, isn’t that what it is all about? More is better.

Sources:

Baker, Gene  USA Weightlifting Coaching Manual Volume III “Training Program Design”  USA       Weightlifting  Colorado Springs, CO 1980

Bompa, Tudor O.   ‘Periodization of Strength’,  Veritas Publishing Inc.  Toronto, Ontario Canada 1993

Fleck, Steven and Kraemer, William “Designing Resistance Training Programs”  Human Kinetics Books

Champaign IL 1987

*Laputin, Nikolai and Oleshko, Valentin “ Managing the Training of Weightlifters” Sportivny Press

Livonia MI 1982

Medvedyev, Alexsei  “A System of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting”  Sportivny Press  Livonia MI

1989

Fleck, Steven and Kraemer, William “Designing Resistance Training Programs”  Human Kinetics Books

Champaign IL 1987

Question and Answer for Strength Coaches

IN – SEASON TRAINING IDEAS

The goals of our in – season football training program depend on who is doing the training.  For the upper classmen that have been in the program and are playing, the focus is injury prevention and strength maintenance.  For our underclassmen that are not competing as much, it is strength/power improvement as well as injury prevention.  The athletes that are not competing but are red shirted or on the scout team will spend time on fitness as well as strength/power development.

Typically we train strength and power on Monday with snatches, squats and bench being our big lifts.  We follow that up with power and speed on Thursday with cleans, single leg lifts and incline presses.  We always include lots of back pulling in order to prevent imbalances in the shoulder girdle. The modality will change from bars to dumbbells, the loads and volumes will fluctuate and the exercises will also change.  For instance, in an in-season cycle that changes every 3 – 4 weeks, we could do the following:


Exercise                        Week 1 – 3                 Week 5 – 7                     Week 9 – 11

Monday – big lifts

Snatch                        Bar – hang                     1 Arm DB – hang                 Bar floor

Squat                           Safety bar                        Back squat                         Front squat

Bench                           Bar                                    Db’s                                     Floor

Thursday – big lifts

Cleans                        Bar – floor                        Bar – hang                        Db’s – hang

Single leg                  Bar squats                        Db hi box step – ups        Db 3 way lunges

Incline                        Db’s                                   Bar                                       Db alternate


We keep the sets and reps low as we are attempting to keep our strength and power levels high while not wearing out the athletes with the volume. Typically, our in-season volume is about 35 – 45% of an off – season workout.  A Monday workout will be about 45 – 60 minutes depending on the work capacity of the athlete.  A Thursday session will typically take 30 – 45 minutes.  The fitter and fresher the athlete, the quicker the athlete will finish.  The prescribed loads will be in the mid to upper ranges (80 – 90%) on occasion.

Weeks 4 and 8 are transition weeks.  They typically coincide with exam weeks in school.  The coaches cannot pull off on practice and the game is the game.  Therefore, we give our athletes off Thursday from lifting.  This allows for mental, physical and emotional recovery as well as some extra time for studying.

The athletes in football not involved in competition will workout Friday either at 6:00 am if the game is away or at 2:30 in the afternoon if we are at home.  This workout is purely for fitness.  We emphasize strength with dumbbell and bodyweight circuits and conclude with a big interval sprint session. For most of this group, this is the hardest day of the week.

The practical goals of our program depend on which athlete we are focused upon.  For our upper classmen it is constantly adjusting the training modalities from bars to dumbbells, machines or tubing in order to accommodate the various injuries, bumps and bruises the game of football imposes on the human body.  For our new players it is adjusting to the demands of scheduling their time and getting accustomed to actually lifting weights in a scientifically designed, demanding program with structure.  For our non – competing athletes we are training toward a max in the strength/power lifts while attempting to build upon their foundation of fitness.

Each athlete gets an individualized workout based upon his or her maxes sport and position.  This workout prescription is further adjusted on the floor in consultation with the strength coach as the athlete begins their training session.  We have set times for each team or group to train.  Most of our athletes train before practice.  Occasionally we have teams that train post – practice.  At the end of each training session the athletes are required to get their workout sheet initialed upon completion.  This insures one on one interaction between the coach and the athlete each and every workout.  At the end of every workout the athletes will get a recovery drink and stretch for 5:00 to aid in restoring their body to pre – workout levels in time for practice


SUMMER TRAINING IDEAS

During the summer months we usually have 65 – 75 football athletes here, depending on the summer school schedule.  By July both basketball teams are here in full force and we generally have 30 – 40 athletes from other teams that are here for various reasons.   We open at noon since the morning is devoted to classes and have our first group of women athletes at 1:15.  Our first group of football players is at 2:30.  At 4:00 we have our second group of women, at 5:00 our men’s basketball team and at 5:30 our second group of football athletes.  This allows for plenty of room, good safety and lots of coaching, instruction and supervision. We usually wrap up the day between 7:00 and 7:30.

We are a “mid – major” school and our athletes are in summer school or, in the case of some of our athletes, working.  Therefore, our athlete’s mornings are taken up with class or work.  That is the reason for the late schedule.  Other schools I have coached at had all of their athletes in summer school, which caused our football schedule to be a 1:30 lifting/running group followed by throwing at 3:30 and a 4:30 lifting/running group.  On that schedule our day wrapped up about 6:00.   In that model the morning was again slotted for classes, tutors and studying.  I know some of my colleagues have early groups or are exclusively early workout teams with football finished by 10:00 a.m. each day.  We do that in the winter, on Fridays, but in the summer we generally become an afternoon and evening team.

The athletes that go home are given a separate workout plan that is more generic in nature.  This is due to the fact that they will not have access to the same type of modalities (sleds, chains, rubber bands, hills, sand pits, etc.) that we have access to here.  However, when they return they are accountable for their level of fitness by the point system we use as they begin their workouts for the fall.  Larry Smith, my head coach at the University of Southern California taught me the point system.  I thought it was an ingenious way to help make competitive what could be a negative at the beginning of the year.   It is evenly weighted with 15 points for the weight room and 16 points for the running.   Each athlete must attain a score of 23 of 33 points or 70% in order to pass.  We accomplished all of our testing as a part of the voluntary training program so no practice time was used.

During the summer we use a lot of variety to foster compliance and excitement.  We expect our leaders to lead and our followers to follow.  We have always built in breaks and use every toy that we can think of to make it different and fun.  We have watermelon on occasion and Popsicles after big running days.  I have had guys go to nearby schools and throw with their guys and it is generally a fun time of preparation.

Question and Answer for Strength Coaches

What is the importance of plyometric training and where does it fit in your program?


Plyometric training is one way to bridge the gap between the strength training program and the field of competition.  It is essentially speed – strength training, with the load fairly constant (bodyweight) and the training stimulus being speed of movement and volume (sets times reps).  Several years ago I was talking to some of the coaches at Nebraska, Mike Arthur and Brian Bailey and they had instituted an outstanding concept with their linemen.  Instead of a lot of traditional plyometrics, they implemented more agility training due to the size of the athlete they were dealing with at the offensive and defensive line positions.  They quantified the plyo’s by sets, reps and foot contacts and the agilities by sets and reps in order to keep track of training loads and volumes.

Since plyometrics are from track and field, which is a predominantly linear sport, they tend to develop speed and acceleration linearly.  Agilities are traditionally rooted in court/field sports that involve change of direction and acceleration.  Garret Giemont, the long time NFL strength coach organizes his agilities into speed angles and shuttles.  Angles being the W drill, the L drill, etc. which tend to conserve speed through the angles of the cuts.  These drills tend to be less demanding than the shuttle type drills (the 5 – 10 – 5 20 yard short shuttle) that require the athlete to change direction and come back down a line that is 180 degrees opposite of the one he or she was originally on.

Implementing these two concepts into the training program has elevated our return on training.  This coupled with the influence of Mike Boyle’s concept of a predominantly lateral day alternated with a linear day have produced even better results.

Our training progression is landing first emphasizing bend at the hip – knee – ankle and land soft. This is followed by the simple drills such as box jump – ups (and step down), which are done year round.  In the off – season we implement hurdle jumps and for the lighter athletes we also include hurdle hops.  The heavier athletes (football linemen) do more agilities.  In our total program, time – wise or rep wise, plyo’s only comprise a minute share of emphasis.  We implement a lot more agility training into our program because we feel we get more bang for our buck with agilities than plyometrics.  The ability to maintain speed through a cut or change of direction while maintaining a low athletic position is much more important than the ability to generate speed linearly.  We use the plyo’s to develop elastic strength in our athletes more than to enhance their ability to accelerate or develop speed.


What is your philosophy of training to develop power in your athletes?


Power development is of primary importance for athletes of virtually every sport.  The ability to generate force in a short amount of time in order to accelerate the body and/or an implement is central to most sporting endeavors.  In designing a program, there are many variables, but only a relative few will create a training effect of power.  Power development involves some load/resistance and a lot of speed of movement.  The load can be as light as body weight or as heavy as up to 60 even possibly 70 percent of a one rep max in certain speed – strength exercises.

In Olympic style weight lifting (which is speed – strength in nature) as the load increases, the nature of training will move from speed – strength to strength – speed as the movement slows with the corresponding increase in resistance.  In order to maximize the power output (or the speed variable in speed – strength) then two things are paramount in selecting the exercises, drills, protocols and modalities.  These are the load, which must be kept relatively light (depending on the exercise/drill selection) and whether the skill involves release of an implement or leaving the ground.   If at any point in the drill the movement slows more than 10% from optimum then the power output drops dramatically.  In the case of release skills such as throwing a medicine ball or squat jumps, the power output can be dramatic and measurable.

Any type of plyometric training is by its very nature power development.  Boiled down to its simplest form, almost every sport is based on some type of jumping, hopping, bounding and throwing.   Sprinting is bounding from foot to foot.  Cleans, snatches, jerks are jumping with weight.  Squatting is a very similar movement, but you don’t leave the ground.  In order to create power, you would need to do squat jumps, the same movement as squats, but with “release” off of the ground and a much greater power output.  Medicine ball training can be plyometric in nature such as mediball bench press, twist toss and crunch sit – ups with a toss.  Mediballs can also mimic cleans with forward and reverse scoop tosses.  The load is much lighter than cleans and snatches and the implement is released so the power output is greater with a very similar movement.

As with any quality training parameter, the rest/recovery bout should be long enough to allow for maximal restoration in order to keep the quality of the efforts very high in regards to speed and/or distance.  The volume is relatively low in total and especially within each set.  Remember, less is more in regards to volume in relation to power development.  In Olympic lifting the optimal rest is 2:00 for snatches and up to 3:00 minutes for heavy cleans.  Sets in Olympic style training usually have reps that are generally 2 + or – 1.  I have taken the same approach with mediball training, if it is total body exercises.  Remember, power training is for quality, not quantity of effort.  How many times do you come out of your stance as a football lineman every 40 seconds?  How many times do you come out of the blocks as a sprinter in 2:00?  How many times in a row do you jump for a rebound if you were a basketball player? 3? 5?  If it’s 10, maybe you are training the wrong basketball team.

The order of training is critical in a day as well as within the week.  In a workout, the order is warm – up, loosen – up and build – up to sport speed.  This warm – up is followed by technique work, speed training, and power development. Strength training and work capacity, fitness or conditioning is always last.   In any particular week, the order is speed first, followed by power second.  After this (or the second day) then there is some leeway in the composition of the final days of the workouts based on time of the year, training age of the athletes and number of days left in the program for the week.  If it is based on the European week, then Wednesday is fitness, Thursday is recovery, Friday is strength and Saturday is fitness, again.  In America, it usually is Wednesday is recovery, Thursday is strength and Friday is fitness.

The Web: Testing, Training and the Tactical Athlete

Tactical athletes in the military, law enforcement and fire/rescue communities can range from part time SWAT officers and volunteer fire rescue personnel up to elite operators in Hazmat teams, full – time SWAT Officers and our military’s finest operators in Special Forces.  Testing is a part of this culture.  The higher the level of the individual in terms of his/her expertise or the team they are a part of, the greater importance testing takes in the optimal readiness and efficiency of the individual.  The lower the level of the team, the more often testing is viewed as a necessary evil of the job, something to be tolerated and passed rather than an opportunity to compete and excel.

Testing

Testing for the tactical athlete is challenging to say the least.  In the military world, testing is expected and accepted.  In law enforcement and fire/rescue testing ranges from accepted, tolerated to even resisted.  Regardless, once testing has occurred, what has been measured and how does this relate to the ability of the individual to do the job?  In the Olympic sport of weightlifting, the web has been used for many years to compare contrasting physical abilities in order to determine physical abilities and progress between competitions.  The web is a spider web configuration with the tests percentiles arrayed along each vector of the web from the center (zero) out to the edge (99th Percentile).  The vectors of the web are configured so similar measured parameters are aligned together.  When this web is configured for each individual, the optimal web should be circular in shape and above the cutoff percentile for each individual.  If the web is not circular, then the “dent” should reflect a lack of ability in a certain area of fitness.  It could be strength endurance, aerobic fitness, anaerobic power, even body composition and assessment scores.  The individual can then create a training plan in which the emphasis becomes pushing the dent out and raising the score in the deficient area in order to create a more circular web in terms of fitness scores.

Here is an example of a web using the Cooper Age and Gender Base Standards for Law Enforcement as our basis for the percentile rankings.  Lets assume our individuals being tested both mid 30’s males and the test battery scores were:

Officer Blue                                             Officer Red

Test                                      Score                         Percentile             Score                         Percentile

1.5 Mile Run                         10:14                                 85th                                 11:49                               60

300 Meter Run                        51                                    80                            54                           65

Vertical Jump                          19.5                                 50                           26                            95

1:00 Push-ups                          34                                   70th                                 71                                   95

1:00 Sit-ups                               62                                  100                          55                         100

Generally, tactical athletes fall into three categories – lifters, runners and those that do just enough to pass the test as fitness is not a part of their lifestyle.  As can be inferred from the example, Officer Blue is a runner and Officer Red is a lifter. Both are in good to excellent shape in terms of fitness.  However, if body composition is introduced, Officer Blue is 15% body fat at 170 pounds while Officer Red is 22% fat at 200 pounds.  Neither is unfit, however, at 22% body fat and in his mid-thirties, Officer Red could be on track to be over fat and under fit by his mid-forties.  The mitigating factor is genetics.  If Officer Red is a thick, heavy-set football lineman type of build, then maybe he is optimizing his fitness potential.

Recommendations

Regardless, in terms of overall fitness for the job, the recommendations for Officer Blue would be to increase his lower body elastic strength training minutes (plyometrics, jump rope, ladder drills, dot drills, etc.) and his anaerobic power training minutes (intense circuits such as Tabata style (20 seconds work bouts – 20 second recovery bouts for multiple sets), crossfit type training focusing on the 45 – 60 second work bouts, as well as speed endurance training such as 200’s up to 400’s with quality being the guide to volume).

Officer Red is a big, strong lifter that uses weights as his main source of fitness.  He does some running, but most of it is moderately, short interval sprints such as repeat 50’s up to repeat 200’s on occasion.  His overall ability to utilize oxygen is compromised either by his body composition, choice of fitness training or a combination of both.   The idea for Officer Red is to incorporate some longer sessions of fitness either jogging, biking, swimming, elliptical workouts or moderate circuits that go for several stations with multiple rounds keeping the heart rate up in the 140’s for the entire training session.  Using heart rate training, the 5 zones of training for both officers are 220 minus their age + or – up to 10 beats per minute either way.  The range is due to genetics, body composition and fitness level.  A fit officer that spends a great deal of time on a well rounded fitness program who is a lean person with low body fat will be in the lower ranges while the heavier, less fit officer would be in the higher ranges for the same workload or workout.  So, the zones for each officer would look like this:

HR Zone Percentage             +10        Average        -10

Max 95-100%                           195              185             175

Competition – Testing – Arrest Gone Bad

Intense 85-95%                      177                167            157

Quality Intervals – Tabata / Crossfit Circuits

Moderate 75-85%                   159               149             139

Long Slow Distance – Giant Set Weight Training – Some Circuits

Light 65 – 75%                         141               131             121

Warm-up, social weight training

Recovered 55-65%                 123               113              103

Daily Activity 50% – Under                        Under 93 beats per minute

Resting Heart Rate upon waking without moving

Resting heart rate could be as low as in the low to mid 40’s with elite level fitness athletes.  With sedentary, unfit people, resting heart rate can be in the 60’s and even 70’s.  Anything above 84 is generally regarded as dangerous and should be immediately referred to a physician for examination.  The lowest heart rates recorded are in the Tour de France athletes with Indurain at 28 and Armstrong at 32 at peak condition.  If we assume max is 30 and illness begins at 85, then average would be 57.5 for fit individuals with a range of 55 – 60 for high fit.

Conclusion

Testing ranges from a necessary evil that is tolerated to an opportunity to compete and excel.  Regardless, the key is what is being tested and what is to be taken from the test battery. What can be done to relate testing back to the everyday choices the tactical athlete makes in terms of fitness training.  The web is a tool that can be used to track and compare disparate tests and relate them back to the individual tactical athlete in order to coach them to optimal status for the team, themselves, their health and operational status.

Olympic Lifting for Athletic Development

Olympic lifting is a sport consisting of the Clean and Jerk as well as the Snatch.  The clean is two movements, pulling the bar from the floor and catching it in a front squat position and recovering to a standing position followed by the Jerk.  At this point a consolidation of the grip is allowed as part of the recovery.  The Jerk is a short dip and drive accomplished by flexing the knees and driving the bar overhead to a locked out press position.  The catch in the Jerk is usually a split squat stance in which the athlete pushes back from the front leg before moving the rear leg in the recovery.  The Snatch is a wider grip lift (so the bar does not have to be pulled as high) with essentially the same mechanics as the clean, the difference is that the bar is racked or caught overhead in a wide grip, fully locked out press position in a deep squat.  Recovery is accomplished by standing up out of the squat and moving the feet into a comfortable standing position.  Some of the key technique cues are to pull the bar by pushing the feet through the floor, not pulling or jerking the bar as this generally disrupts the flat back, pillar core needed to execute the lift safely.  Always maintain pressure on the bar by either pulling or pushing.  In heavy loads the breath must be large and locked and held in order to support the spine as the loads are on the shoulders and transferred through the spine to the legs, feet and floor.  The arms do little other than hold the weight.  For novices, it is easy to cue them that they are jumping with weight and speed and technique are the keys, not strength.

Weight lifters in the lighter weight classes generate some of the greatest power outputs measured in sport.



Why Include Olympic Lifting as a Part of the Training Process

In Olympic lifting, the athlete is jumping with weight.  In other words, Olympic lifting can be viewed as loaded, in-place plyometrics.  In athletics, rate of force development (RFD) is the key to power.  Jumping is the key for lower body RFD.  What is sprinting other than jumping from foot to foot?  The greater the variety of drills imposed on the athlete that optimizes the RFD at varying loads, speeds, angles and directions, with consistent dosage, will increase the athletes ability to be explosive, quick, fast and powerful.  Olympic lifting is one tool that can be used to increase vertical plane RFD in the extensors of the lower body and in creating “triple extension” at the hip, knee and ankle in a parallel stance.  Single leg power is generally developed by agilities and plyometric drills.  In order to measure actual power output abilities and adjust the prescription for an athlete for any given workout the use of the Tendo unit is currently the only practical device that can be utilized to quickly determine an athletes’ ability to generate force at that moment.

Techniques of the Clean, Jerk and Snatch

The clean is a pull from the floor, a re-bending of the knees (or scoop) for the explosive second pull to lift the bar above the hips as the body is pulled under for the catch or rack. During the second pull, great hip extension will result in the bar brushing the mid to upper thigh.  Pressure is kept on the bar at all times by either pulling or pushing.  The depth of the squat during the rack is determined by the load.  The lighter the load, the higher the squat during the catch phase as the bar is pulled higher. Cleans can be classified in a number of different ways.  Olympic clean is usually executed by going deep in the hole (deep squat) to catch the rack, a power clean is usually caught higher as the athlete lacks the squat skills to go low, a hang clean is executed above the scoop from just above the knees/mid-thigh and a muscle clean is executed by using more back and upper body than legs.  The snatch is essentially the same with the exception that the grip is wider, there is more flexion at the hip, the weight is lighter, the amplitude of movement is greater and the speed of the bar is faster.  For athletic development, the snatch is rarely if ever loaded above 70 – 75% of max as speed is essential in the snatch. Remember, it is being prescribed to enhance RFD.

Teaching Olympic Lifting

Olympic Lifting is taught backwards or from the top down.  The athlete is generally taught with a dowel rod before moving to a bar.  Many times the snatch is taught before the clean as it is the more technical of the lifts.  The general techniques are to teach, in order the following cues:

Technique            Cue                        Reason

Stance                      Feet                        7-15 degrees external                                                                               rotation

Legs                          Knees                    Knees bent to kneecaps                                                                          even with toes

Posture                    Chest                      Pull shoulder blades                                                                               back or lift chest up

Grip                          Wrist                      Turn wrists down/flex                                                                         forearms for wide                                                                                                                                                                                          elbow pull

Now the athlete has two techniques to execute one at a time, a slight to moderate RDL followed by a jump.  The arms at this point do not bend at the elbow as posture and jumping are the keys.  After this is mastered, the athlete will be allowed to repeat (with verbal feedback of each cue from the athlete to you) and add a shrug to the jump.  After this is mastered a standing, medium grip upright row is executed followed by a standing medium grip upright row with an elbow whip to a front squat position, holding the bar on the front shoulders for the clean.  In the snatch, the techniques are the same but the bar is pulled with a wider grip upright row, the whip occurs to move the elbows under the bar and it is pressed overhead as the body is pushed under the bar for an elbow extended, overhead catch.

Technical Errors and Corrections

Problem                                                                         Coaching Cue

Using too much upper body                                        Use more legs, jump

Hit belly or belt with 2nd pull                                     Too much back, too little leg, use                                                                                                          more legs

Elbows too low in rack                                                  Either lazy elbow/forearms too long

Hitting knees in pull                                                      Trying to clean from                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         floor, pull from floor, clean from the hang position

Jerking from floor                                                           Push feet through the floor – do not pull from the floor

Loss of posture/pillar core                                            Lock in breath, retract shoulder blades, big chest

Lack of power                                                                    Cover bar with shoulders until 2nd pull, then cover bar                                                                                                                  with hips by great triple extension.  (FASTER!)

Rubbery core during pull                                                Lock the core, tighten the abs, pull blades back

Soft rack/catch                                                                  Put force into the floor – stomp                                                                                                             your feet on the catch

Can’t get low                                                                       Move feet wider after pull for                                                                                                                 rack/catch


Assist lift for the Olympic Lifts

The assist lifts for Olympic lifting include pulls from the floor and boxes or plinths; various deadlifts, various squats, various presses and jerks as well as a bendover back side chain movements.

Pulls – Pulls are prescribed for loading more than the athlete can catch or to train triple extension without the catch in order to save the athlete from getting beat up by catching rep after rep.  However, the eccentric ability of the legs to absorb the force of the clean is paramount for translation to generating force at the tendon in plyometric, change of direction, sprinting type activities.  In pulls, the technique is the same as in a clean from the floor, box or plinth but the bar is guided back down with no attempt at a rack.


Deadlifts – Deadlifts are executed from the normal squat stance, wide sumo stance, off of boxes/plinths or from the top down in the RDL (Russian or Romanian deadlift).  The grip is either an overhand grip or an over/under alternate style grip.  Usually the former grip is assigned.  Deadlifts are utilized to stress the back, glutes and hamstrings of the back side chain.  Reverse hypers and glute ham raises are other examples of this type of bendover exercise.

Squats – Squats are used to increase the ability of the athlete to catch or rack the load in a low position.  Power squats are done with the bar low on the back and usually a wide stance.  Power squats involve the back to a great degree.  Olympic squats are executed with the bar high on the shoulders and the stance is usually somewhat narrow, thus putting less stress on the lower back.  Front squats are executed with the bar in front of the neck with the bar supported on the shoulders and high elbows and is least stressful on the lower back.  This squat may be difficult for long forearmed athletes.  Overhead squats are executed with the bar extended overhead in a locked out position.  Overhead squats put the greatest stress on the functional mobility of the shoulders, hips and ankles as well as the core to support this squat.  The Safety Bar squat is used to stress the thoracic spine more than the lower back.  It allows the athlete to use greater loads on the hips and legs than normal squats, put less stress on the lower back, spot themselves for a great degree of safety with the handles and are generally a great addition to Olympic lifting.  Single leg squats (Bulgarian squats) are executed with one foot elevated to the rear without rotation at the hips, so the load is supported on the front leg only.  This puts greater stress on the loaded leg and much less stress on the low back.  The Soviet Bloc coaches tended to prescribe many more single leg exercises to their lifters once they were able to back squat 500 pounds (225 kilos) in order to save their backs for the lifts and pulls.

Jerks – Jerks are overhead presses in which the bar is driven up by flexing (dip) at the knees and using the legs to drive the load overhead while assisting with the shoulders and arms.  The feet will rapidly split forward and backward in order to lower the center of mass for the catch in a lunge or split squat stance.  The push jerk is an overhead press in which the legs assist the press, the feet even leave the floor, but there is no split.  The push press is executed the same with out foot movement off of the floor.  The press is executed by just using the upper body, no legs.

Combination and Complex Lifts

Combination lifts are exercise in which two or more techniques or lifts are combined in order to create a series of exercises.  For example, 3 hang snatches + 3 overhead lunges + 3 good morning to a press could be prescribed.  This would include speed pulling, core stability, push back lunges for recovery and bendovers with speed to a wide grip overhead press.  A complex lift is similar with the exception that each technique is executed in a row 3 times.  For example, 1 hang snatch + 1 overhead lunge on each leg + 1 good morning to a press x 3 repetitions.  The complex lift is more demanding on the strength fitness of the athlete.  Combination and complex lifts are excellent for stressing technical aspects of the lifts, fitness of the athlete, build up sets, as well as increasing time under tension at light to moderate loads.  In order to increase time under tension (TUT), prescribe a hold for a certain time at each change of direction, from eccentric to concentric, in the lift.  Usually it is best to prescribe a three second hold as the athlete will count too fast.  Three seconds is usually about 1 – 1.5 good seconds.  Combination and complex lifts are excellent ways to prescribe corrective exercise for athletes that are time challenged and need/want results in measurables and are not as interested in screens, assessments and injury prevention.


Why assign or prescribe Olympic Weightlifting exercises as a part of the workout or training program?

In a word – POWER.

In addition, postural strength, work capacity and mobility/stability are all byproducts of good weightlifting exercises as a part of the training program.