Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Today's Young Athletes

Following is a letter form the editor taken from a BFS web update I recieved last week. It was written by Kim Goss, editor of BFS Magazine and also director of a Poliquin Center in Rhode Island. While I wouldn't call myself a "disciple" of either BFS or Poliquin,(or any other "system" for that matter) I have to admit that both have influenced me a great deal over the years in a positive way. I like what they do. Kim Goss has been one of the more prolific strength training writers over the past several decades. His work has been published in a wide variety of settings about a diverse range of topics. His backround includes competitive weightlifting as well as being a strength and conditioning coach. I first met him in that capacity at the Airforce Academy in the mid 80's. Airforce arguably has one of the best S&C programs in the country and it shows as their teams are always very competitive with undersized, but disciplined athletes.Anyway, here is Kin Goss's take on the state of today's youth. As usual, I will insert some comments....
"I’ve had the opportunity to interview many coaches and physical education instructors with two and even three decades invested in their careers. I have been coaching and teaching for 29 years now.During these interviews I like to ask, “How are the kids today different from the kids you worked with when you started?” Some of these educators, especially those at smaller schools who often see their kids through 12 years of education, say, “Not at all.”I have definitely seen changes. Although they are not all bad, I am very concerned about our youth today Others say, “There are more distractions today, and many students don’t seem as motivated as their predecessors were to excel to the highest levels in sports or academics.” I agree. There are certainly more distractions. I see a polarizing effect. The top students are better than ever, while the low end students are worse than ever. Unfortunately, I think the median has shifted downward in both academics and athletics. Good answers, but there is one disturbing personality trait I’ve seen that characterizes many young people today – narcissism.
Hillbilly that I am, I had to look that word up. After all, I am a PE major who never got to go to college, I went to BYU instead. (I'm allowed to make BYU jokes, but I don't tolerate it from anyone else!!!)
Narcissism is a complex mental health condition, but a simple definition is that it is a personality disorder in which an individual overestimates their talents and is obsessed with the need for admiration. It’s not about being self-confident but more about having an ego that is so overinflated that a person has a sense of entitlement. There is definitely an increased sense of entitlement that is prevalent. It makes those who are devoid of it really stand out all the more. Think of the “Sharpay Evans” character Ashley Tisdale played in the High School Musical movies – that’s narcissism. ??? I don't have TV in my home. Smartest move we made. Our kids learned how to do things instead of just watching others do things.
While Sharpay is a relatively harmless character who believes her destiny is to be famous, narcissism is not a condition to be taken lightly. To back up this statement, I would refer you to a fascinating book on this subject called The Narcissism Epidemic, by Jean M. Twenge, PhD, and W. Keith Campbell, PhD (Free Press, 2009).

The authors point out that narcissism is harmful to the person displaying this behavior, because when they fail to achieve the goals they feel entitled to, they can experience serious depression. Narcissism can also harm others, as the narcissist’s obsession with their own self-worth can seem to justify treating others poorly. It also affects society in general, as these individuals can engage in behaviors that become a burden on society.
Are we talking about the NBA here?
How prevalent is narcissism? The authors found that in tests that measure narcissism, scores are higher today than they have been in previous decades. In one major study of college students, one out of four students tested as having narcissistic traits. With high school students, the authors report that one out of every three seniors are “completely satisfied with themselves,” compared to one out of four in 1975. And there is also evidence that middlschool students are also displaying higher levels of inflated egos compared to their predecessors in the

The authors suggest that one possible cause of narcissism is the self-centeredness caused by Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites. But one point the authors make that really caught my attention is that “young people didn’t raise themselves. They got these narcissistic values from somewhere, often from their parents or media messages created by older people.”
We're on to something there. Kids are born the same way today they always were, naked. If teenagers act different today, there must be a reason. Personally, I think the influence of professional athletes is the biggest influence on our younger athletes. The selfish antics that are glorified by the media trickle down to even the lowest levels. That is one reason that I enjoy coaching track and weightlfiting. The lack of media exposure for both sports is often lamented, but maybe there is an upside. Maybe the lack of really big money for most of these athletes prevents the spawning of the entitlement attitude and the low level of exposure insulates against this narcissism complex. It is my observation that less youngsters are willing to put forth the effort to participate in lifting or track, but those who do are generally the hardest working and most coachable kids. I am afraid that as the years go by, less and less kids will be willing to put forth the effort required for success in these physically demanding, but low recognition sports.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June 2010 NSCA Journal Commentary

I joined the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) in 1984 and earned the CSCS certification in 1987. While I really appreciate the opportunities the NSCA afforded me early in my career, as time goes by, it seems the organization is becoming less and less relevant to me. There is less and less material of interest to coaches of serious athletes. The personal trainers greatly out number the coaches now. While there is certainly some overlap in the interests of the many types of practitioners who now make up the NSCA, many of the "oldtimers" have lost enthusiasm for NSCA events. The NSCA Conventions are now overwhelmed with women in spandex carrying Evian bottles and munching on Pria bars and men who do tricks on stability balls. They even had cup stackers on display in the exhibition hall of the last one I attended. The cover of the June 2010 Strength and Conditioning Journal only gives further evidence of this shift. Having said that, the June 2010 S&C Journal is one of the better ones they have put out lately. There were several articles I found of interest.One was about the idea of "training to failure". The article summarized research on this issue and concluded that training to failure may have some benefit for stimulating hypertrophy, but is counterproductive for power development. Of course this is not news, but the article is well done and referenced if you need to explain this concept to an athlete who reads the current "Muscle and Fiction" magazines. Of course scientific proof seldom overides the motivational effect of high definition pictures of massive drug induced bodybuilders on young men. Real athletes though, are motivated by results and not just appearance. There was also an article on set volume, or the number of sets per exercise which are most effective. Research seems to show that (News Flash!! )multiple sets are more effective than single sets. lol In my opinion the best article was on core training by Dr. Stuart McGill. While the idea of "core training" has become a trendy buzzword across the fitness landscape, Dr. McGill is a true expert in this area and a voice of common sense, backed up by years of practical research and hands on experience. Any coach would benefit by reading this summary article or his books on low back disorders and training. He makes the point that this article is only a brief and inadequate synopsis of his books. If you really want to understand core stability, I highly recommend that you read his two books on low back disorders and training. Some of the main points he makes are: There are no "recipes" for back performance or pain reduction. Each case has to be individually accessed and prescribed.Most problems are caused by improper movement patterns. These can be corrected. Repeatedly bending the spine will cause disc deterioration. Full range spinal motion is neither necessary or desirable. It is important to strengthen the muscles that support the spine without stressing the discs. This includes substituting pulling in exercises for the standard crunches and situps in many cases.Here is an excerpt from the S&C Journal article:
"Consider the usual and popular approach to train the abdominal wall muscles by performing sit-ups or curl-ups over a gym ball for example. But consider the rectus abdominis where the contractile components are interrupted with transverse tendons giving the “6 pack” look. The muscle is not designed for optimal length change but rather to function as a spring. Why have these transverse tendons in rectus abdominis? The reason is that when the abdominals contract, “hoop stresses” are formed by the oblique muscles that would split the rectus apart (26). In addition to the spring-like architecture of the muscle, consider how it is used. People rarely flex the rib cage to the pelvis shortening the rectus in sport or everyday activity. Rather they stiffen the wall and load the hips or shoulders-if this is performed rapidly such as in a throw or movement direction change, the rectus functions as an elastic storage and recovery device. When lifting weights, it stiffens to efficiently transmit the power generated at the hips through the torso. Those individuals who do actively flex the torso (think of cricket bowlers and gymnasts) are the ones who suffer with high rates of spine joint damage and pain. Now, revisit the common training approach of curling the torso over a gym ball that replicates the injury mechanics while not creating the athleticism that enhances performance. This is a rather poor choice of exercise for most situations. Yet many clients will expect that a gym ball be used. Disguise your intentions with these clients and retain the gym ball, but change the exercise from a spine compromising curl-up to a plank where the elbows are placed on the ball. Now, perform a “stir the pot” motion to enhance the torso/abdominal spring and spare the spine-this is often a much superior exercise for most people."

I have often employed a similar movement where the athlete stands in front of a lat machine and uses either a rope attachment or a towell or rope drapped around the handle (bar). The rope is then pulled down to the back of the neck and the athlete curls downward, moving the elbows towards the knees. This can be performed both facing towards and away from the machine.This is truly functional core work without compression or shearing forces. Another interesting concept is the idea of "superstiffness". Following is another excerpt:

"Eight essential components of superstiffness
1. Use rapid contraction, then relaxation of muscle. Speed results from relaxation for speed but also stiffness in some body regions (e.g., core) to buttress the limb joints to initiate motion or enhance impact (of a golf club, hockey stick, fist, and the like) (50).
2. Tune the muscles. Storage and recovery of elastic energy in the muscles require optimal stiffness, which is tuned by the activation level. In the core, this is about 25% of maximum voluntary contraction for many activities (4,8,5).
3. Enhance muscular binding and weaving. When several muscles contract together, they form a composite structure where the total stiffness is higher than the sum of the individual contributing muscles (6). This is particularly important in the abdominal wall formed by the internal and external obliques and transverse abdominis, highlighting the need to contract them together in a bracing pattern (15).
4. Direct neuronal overflow. Strength is enhanced at one joint by contractions at other joints-martial artists call this “eliminating the soft spots.” Professional strongmen use this to buttress weaker joints using core strength (53).
5. Eliminate energy leaks. Leaks are caused when weaker joints are forced into eccentric contraction by stronger joints. For example, when jumping or changing running direction, the spine bending when the hip musculature rapidly contracts forms a loss of propulsion. The analogy “you can push a stone but you cannot push a rope” exemplifies this principle.
6. Get through the sticking points. The technique of “spreading the bar” during the sticking point in the bench press is an example of stiffening weaker joints.
7. Optimize the passive tissue connective system. Stop inappropriate passive stretching. Turn your athletes into Kangaroos. For example, reconsider if a runner should be stretched outside of their running range of motion. Many of the great runners use elasticity to spare their muscles or to potentiate them to pulse with each stride. However, do consider stretching to correct left/right asymmetries shown to be predictive of future injury.
8. Create shock waves. Make the impossible lifts possible by initiating a shock wave with the hips that is transmitted through a stiff core to enhance lifts, throws, strikes, and the like."

Every thrower and/or lifters would benefit from understanding and implementing these concepts. Again, I suggest reading the entire books if this piques your interest.
Finally the last excerpt on program design and exercise selection:
Finally, consider exercises such as the squat. Interestingly, when we measure world-class strongmen carrying weight or National Football League players running planting the foot and cutting-neither of these are exclusively trained by the squat (see Ref. (44)). This is because these exercises do not train the quadratus lumborum and abdominal obliques, which are so necessary for these tasks (53).
In contrast, spending less time under a bar squatting and redirecting some of this activity with asymmetric carries such as the farmers' walk (or bottoms-up kettlebell carry-see Figure 12) (53) builds the athleticism needed for higher performance in these activities in a much more “spine friendly” way. The core is never a power generator as measuring the great athletes always shows that the power is generated in the hips and transmitted through the stiffened core. They use the torso muscles as antimotion controllers, rarely motion generators (of course, there are exceptions for throwers and the like, but the ones who create force pulses with larger deviations in spine posture are the ones who injure first). Thus, the core musculature must be very strong and capable of control to optimize training of other body regions and to facilitate best performance. But power training should be reserved for the hips, not the core.
Once your client has excellent movement patterns and the appropriate blend of stiffening and mobility, they may progress from corrective to performance enhancing exercise. Here, you may consider organizing training to include a push, pull, lift, carry, and a torsional buttressing task. The exact exercises are tuned to the client. For example, a push may be a push-up (14,49,51) or a one-armed cable push with a controlled and stiffened core. A pull may be a pull-up or a sled drag (13). A carry may be a one-armed suitcase carry, which uniquely trains the quadratus lumborum and lateral musculature, or a one-handed bottoms-up kettlebell carry to enhance core stiffening and the skill of steerage of strength through the linkage. A lift may be a bar lift, kettlebell swing, or snatch. A torsional task is not a twist but a torsional challenge with no spine twisting, such as a lateral cable hold where the arms are moved to different positions anteriorly (see Figure 13) (44). Finally, composite exercises may be introduced for special situations that require core strength, endurance, and control but then assist the development of rapid force.
I am concerned that this short article shortchanges the reader as it simply cannot convey the components necessary to be an elite trainer but, at least, it may elevate awareness of some of the issues. I wish you a similarly enjoyable journey as I have enjoyed in conducting scientific studies and application of the principles to reduce pain and enhance performance."

Are these articles worth the price of NSCA membership? Personally, I don't think so. Either borrow the journal or check it out of the library and get ahold of Dr. Stuart McGill's books if you really want to learn about "Core Stability" It will open your eyes to see beyond the current popular trends and fads concerning strengthening your middle in a truly functional way without injury as a by-product.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dave Chiu, A True Sportsman

Last weekend we traveled to the beautiful campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah to participate in the Utah Summer Games which this year was open to lifters from throughout the western United States. It was a great time as Utah does a much better job with the organization than our Arizona State Games does. Deezbaa won her class in the womens' division with a 60 kg Snatch and 80 kg C&J. Not bad considering she weighed in at 71 kg. and has had irregular training while working and preparing to leave in July for 18 mos. to serve as a missionary. She broke all the previous USG records and finished as the 2nd best overall lifter on Sinclar formula. Orrin won his division in the junior men's category with 90 sn and 115 C&J narrowly missing 100 and 121 twice. His bodyweight was 81 kg. He broke the USG total record and also finished as the 2nd overall lifter on sinclar formula. He also has not trained specifically for weightlifting much as he focused on the hammer for the Great Southwest meet. He has 4 more years as a junior as he was born in '93.(Utah weightlifting has chosen to modify the age divisions between schoolage and juniors) Oliver is just coming off of the NCAA nationals and his wife is due to deliver any day, so he stayed home for this one. It is always a good time in Utah as the lifters are like a big extended family and I have known many of them for a long time. One lifter I always enjoy seeing is Dave Chiu.
I first met Dave when he was a BYU student over 20 years ago. He used to travel to meets around the western states in an old car and he sold hand printed t-shirts at the meets to get gas money home. He loves lifting and makes meets fun. As we were driving home after this meet, my kids were talking, and they both agreed that Dave's presence and personality really make a great atmosphere for lifting wherever he competes. He always takes time to talk with the other competitors and encourages and cheers for everyone. When it is his time to lift, he does so with obvious joy and what Coach Bob Takano would call "aplomb". His postive attitude is contagious. While he is now on the north side of 40, he still lifts some great poundages. In his prime he was an outstanding lifter who won a collegiate national championship and participated in the quadrenial Olympic Festivals that they used to hold.
One of my favorite stories is how Dave won the collegiate national title representing BYU while not being allowed to use the weight room there. The S&C coach at the time had widely cultivated the reputation of having an ego that needed a dump truck to haul it around.(Unfortunately some things never change) He didn't want anyone in the weight room doing something he didn't understand or lifting more than the football players. So, undaunted, Dave obtained a bar and the best assortment of plates he could scrounge and trained in his driveway until the weather became unbearable. Then he trained in his basement apartment where the ceiling was too low to hold a loaded bar overhead. He adjusted his training to include snatches without standing fully erect, cleans, squats, pulls, and seated overhead presses until he could get back outdoors or visit a gym where he could perform the full lifts. I love that attitude.
He drove to California and won a national championship for the university that wouldn't let him train there. He has gone on to a successful life in business with a beautiful family (his oldest son is also a fine lifter and is serving as a missionary in Thailand now) Dave is also very active in Utah politics. Hats off to Dave Chiu. He represents all that is positive in our American system of weightlifting. Like the brotherhood of many athletes all over the world, we work hard, train hard, take care of our families, and enjoy the opportunities we have to compete. There is strength in living a balanced life.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Balancing Throwing with Strength Training, Avoiding Overtraining.

Below is a copy of an article that appeared in the May 2010 issue of Long and Strong. If you visit this site regularly, chances are you already subscribe to that publication. However;if you do not, YOU REALLY SHOULD!!!! It is an amazing resource at a very fair price. Just $20.00 per year (4 issues) or $35.00 for 2 years.(This is U.S.A. pricing, international rates are a little higher) The publisher is Glenn Thompson, an avid thrower. You can order from:
Thompson Publishing
414 W.Penn Street
Carlisle, PA 17013
or: www.longandstrong.com
phone: 717-512-6693
This issue also contains meet write ups from the indoors nationals and collegiates, alternate hammer implements, javelin technique, Ambe Campbell, Kevin Bookout, and Aaron Neighbour interviews among other things. I really like this publication because it always has a lot of relevant and interesting information from a variety of sources and you can't beat the price. No, I do not have any stake in it, but I recommend it to anyone interested in the Throws and training.

Balancing Throwing with Strength Training, Avoiding Overtraining
Ollie Whaley, MA, CSCS
Oliver Whaley, Thrower, Brigham Young University
Deezbaa Whaley, Thrower, Brigham Young University

Training for the throwing events is unique in several ways, one being that throwing heavy implements, in and of itself, is a form of resistance training. This factor necessitates a balance between weight room work and throwing practice for effective preparation. Taking the Hammer for example; it has been reported that the force needed to counter an 80 meter throw exceeds 700 lb. Propelling Shots and Discs, and even Javelins all stress the body greatly. Thus a high level throwing session is actually a high volume resistance workout. In an effective program the total volume and intensity of all related work must be considered. If there is not a coherent relationship between the all aspects of training, the result could be poor performance, burnout, or the worst scenario, injury. Dr. Larry Judge, in his fine book on Conditioning for the Throwing Events , points out that poor throwing performances are usually a result of poor training practices. The long range planning of training can become very complex. A Volume Load Formula used in the former Soviet Union sports system quantified throwing stress as follows: Volume load(kg)=Number of throws X Distance (m) X 4.5 (a constant). (Oliveto, 2004) In this system the throwing volume would match the lifting volume as computed by: Kg Lifted X Repetitions.
Many modern strength and conditioning coaches would have us believe that you need a calculator or a computer to design training programs. While it is not our intention to disparage modern technology, it is our contention that if you need a computer to design training programs, you are not a coach, but a technician. We just don’t think it has to be all that complicated. If you have a basic measure of common sense, (maybe better termed UNcommon sense) some experience,(the more the better) and a basic understanding of exercise physiology you can do just fine.
We believe in keeping things simple. Too often we tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. It reminds me of an experience my daughter had as freshman thrower at BYU. She was working on the discus one afternoon when throwing legend LJ Silvestor came by and watched for awhile. As the session finished he asked her, “What is the most important thing for a thrower to remember”? She thought for minute, wanting to say the “right thing.” Having read much of what he has written and published on the subject of throwing; she answered meekly “rhythm?” He laughed and said “Throw far.” It really doesn’t have to be much more complex than that. Throwing greats Al Oerter and Hal Connolly both mentioned that a simple towel was one of their most influential coaches. They put it out on the field as a marker and tried to surpass it. When they did, they moved the towel and until they could surpass it again. While they doubtless also benefited from feedback from others, the bottom line is they learned what worked for them and became very independent and self-reliant athletes. When the athlete is able to understand and participate in the program design process, this is the optimal situation.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to any training problem, there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind.
These include:
Throwing takes priority over lifting in both time and energy.
Whenever possible, throw first then lift afterwards. This insures that your full energy and focus are on throwing first. Use whatever time and energy resources you have left for your strength training. Throwing while you as fresh as possible. Throwing under fatigued conditions impairs CNS activity and can adversely affect motor patterns. Throwing is not an endurance activity and technical training in a fatigued state is counter-productive.
Always remember:

Strength training is secondary. It’s purpose is to support throwing.
If your weight room work is leaving you too sore or stiff to throw your best, then you need to reevaluate and adjust your volume and/or intensity. Strength training should be a stimulant to your throwing efforts. It is tempting to let numbers drive your strength training as it is so measurable. More reps and/or more weight = progress. The only progress that matters for a thrower is determined by a tape measure. Once a sufficient strength base is built, higher weight room numbers do not automatically lead to farther throws. In fact, maximal effort too often in the weight room is also counter-productive.
Of course the maturity and experience of the thrower must be taken into account. Younger scholastic age-level throwers need a lot of time throwing as they generally are still developing their technical skills. Their potential for improved performance by improving their technical skills is great. These beginning athletes are also in the midst of a growth spurt and are awash in growth hormones. Their strength levels are relatively low and for the most part they are not yet capable of real high intensity training. At this entry level, they can usually both throw and lift as hard as they are capable of without overtraining becoming a factor. (Of course there are notable exceptions, usually among those who will progress to the collegiate level.) Collegiate level throwers are comprised of the cream of the scholastic crop. These are athletes who have developed a more advanced technical mastery and higher strength levels. At this level greater care must be taken to coordinate both aspects of training. Generally at this level, throwing has become a year-around pursuit. Technical skills are being refined and strength increases are needed, especially for the men who are now progress to throwing heavier implements. There must be a connection and balance between the throwing and strength training workouts at this level. The ideal situation is to have the throws coach also designing the strength workouts. However, in the current collegiate environment many throwers are forced to work under the “Strength and Conditioning Staff.” In some instances there is open communication and it is a smooth and productive process. We have learned from sad experience that in other cases this can be an obstacle and a battle. Monitoring this can be as simple as coaches asking, “How do you feel today?” Simple observation can tell when an athlete is dragging and needs to back off on their lifting. Lower practice performance and competitive results are the final, indisputable indicator that an adjustment is needed. The Strength and Conditioning coach must communicate with and observe throwers while being constantly aware of their throwing results.
Post collegiate throwers are the most elite level. They are more technically mature and may not need as many throws, but the emphasis in on quality. Generally their strength levels are also highly developed. By this time they usually know their bodies well are able to organize and regulate their own training with feedback by invitation from trusted sources.
Bottom line:
You cannot ignore the physiological stress (neural and muscular) of throwing.
The total training stress can be numerically quantified and measured. However, quantifying the stresses does not insure that they will be managed correctly.The best results occur when the coach and athlete can communicate, observe, and adjust as needed. You don’t need a calculator to do that. In fact, overuse of the calculator or the computer to design programs only inhibits the process in our opinion. Effective coaching is an art that is practiced best when backed up by science. Relying on science alone is missing the true essence of coaching.
If an adjustment is needed, how does one effectively adjust their training? Again, there is no solution that is foolproof for all situations, but there are some general guidelines.
1. Do not practice full throws in a fatigued state. When the athlete is showing technical break down, it is time to stop throwing for the session. Continuing to throw under fatigued conditions usually results in ingraining bad habits and motor patterns.
2. Reduce lifting volume first. This can be accomplished by either reducing the number of sets, lowering the number reps, or dropping exercises. The right answer will depend on the situation. Generally during the competitive season the reps should be low. We like 3 or less. Only one set at the top weight is needed. Cut the exercises to the bare bones. Generally we like 2-3 exercises per workout with maybe a little stomach work.
3. Reduce lifting intensity next. If the athlete is still dragging reduce the intensity. Remember; 70-80% of 1RM is sufficient as a strength stimulus. Forcing your body to max in the weight room while maxing in your throwing will eventually lead to breakdown and the neuromuscular recovery process is slow. In the words of lifting legend Tommy Kono, “It is better to be under trained than even slightly over trained.”
Pretty simple really. Train hard, but train smart. Stay strong, healthy, and throw far.
Oliveto, Nils MS, CSCS (Oct. 2004) Establishing Volume Load Parameters: A Different Look in Designing a Strength Training Periodization for Throwing Events, Strength and Conditioning Journal pp. 52-55

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Discussion and Comparison of Pulling Techniques

Below is an intersting article posted by Sean Waxman on his website. He obviously has some strong feelings in opposition to coach Don McCauley. While I tend to agree with Sean on most of it, Coach McCauley has produced some pretty good lifters also. I have included some of my own comments in yellow. Interesting discussion if you take the time to read it. It is lengthy. The references at the finish are nice to have. Here it is...
"Coaching is a noble profession and one that comes with great responsibility. The athletes place their careers and well-being in our hands and trust that we will provide them with the best opportunities to succeed. I couldn't agree more!! Providing such opportunities is largely based upon the coaches’ abilities and desires to study and apply the scientific research behind Olympic Weightlifting. Such material is readily available in this age of information. Yet, some coaches have chosen to snub their noses at what has been proven through the scientific method and long-term results. Rather, they have opted for unproven, wrong, or simply made up methods. This is shameful behavior, and in my opinion, some of the most irresponsible acts any coach could perpetrate on his or her athlete. Well said. Too often coaches rely entirely upon their own experiences or lack thereof and don't continue to learn. However even science does not answer all questions in my opinion. Great coaching is an art that allows for individual differences and outside of the box variations that occur in many elite athletes.
Many others and I have dedicated our lives to coaching the Snatch and Clean and Jerk. It is not just what we do, it is who and what we are as people. SO LET IT BE KNOWN, we will defend the sanctity of these movements with great zeal against all those who try and dishonor their existence. Don McCauley is one of those people! No need to get so personal. Difference of opinion is healthy and promotes progress.
These are quotes from a seminar given by USA Weightlifting coach Don McCauley at Athletes Arena in July 2009. He is giving his rendition of a flat-footed pull style he termed “the catapult.” Mr. McCauley states this information as fact:
“Today, we don’t triple extend with force”
Who is this we? Many top lifters do!
“(The feet) are not pushing through the bar. A lot of people still do, but they are wrong”
Is it still wrong if they are breaking world records?
“Triple extension just wastes time because you have to get going back down”
Even if this is true, this does not apply to athletes outside of weightlifting.
“If you triple extend or do any fast lifting with heavy weight, that does not add speed to your athlete as far as calf quickness. You would be much better off having them push a sled or a heavy bag. That’s going to give them quickness”
These are also great exercises, but I don't see his point here.
“(Lifters from the past) had huge thighs because they did a lot of front squats and things like that. If you look at lifters today, there is less thigh development and there is more (glute) development because they are doing this thing (the “catapult” technique) all the time and they have come around to the thought that we don’t need so much quadricep because (in the second pull) we are not truly knee extending hard like a jumper might…we are only going to about 95% of knee extension and then we are (getting under the bar)…so we need the (glutes/hips) so we built back here (the glutes/hips) a lot more”

My observations do not confirm this statement. I see no lack of thigh development today.
“Keep your heels on the floor, there is no need to leave the floor at all so we don’t need triple extension because we have to go back down. Because if we triple extend, that’s three more inches we have to go to beat the bar back down…there is no point and we have wasted energy pushing the bar and frankly, you haven’t relatively changed anything, the bar is higher and you are higher so you have gained nothing. What you want is the bar higher and you lower”
I agree that most of the power comes during the flatfooted stage and the raise on the toes is more of a followthrough, but it occurs nonetheless.
“Some countries don’t shrug at all anymore, they just get up and pull they don’t bother with (the traps) at all”
Not sure you can "not use your traps at all."
“If you teach kids that are not getting individual attention to triple extend…you’ve got them landing forward, that’s not good. (Because the pressure is on the front part of the foot and the knee) but if you (“catapult”) you will catch the weight on the full foot or even through the heel not much (bad) can happen”
A forward jump is not inevitable.
“In Olympic lifting you don’t have to leave the floor with your heels at all to do it, so there is no reason to jump”
“Do most sports (other than Weightlifting) have more of a reason to triple extend? Yes. But I would say, to do these lifts correctly, if you have them in your program, get away from the thought of triple extension and get the explosive triple extension from something else.”
“The hip is the strongest muscle in the body…but it is behind you and your brain doesn’t know how to use it”
“The hips in this pull (catapult) (and most sports) do everything and all the other muscles follow. The only little difference is in pure sprinting because the quads have to leave it because you have such rip up, kind of uh flexion and then extension and stuff like that. And that’s all good and that’s why sprinters should do a lot of sprinting and practice that. Don’t think that (triple extension) is going to give sprinters more speed in their sprint. The power clean (using the Catapult) will help them but not that push (triple extension)”. That’s not going to help their calves get faster, it cant, its too heavy”

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Maybe it works this way for some athletes, but I would guess this is mnore the exception than the rule.
These are some highlights of a post Mr. McCauley made to me on GoHeavy.com “March 24th, 2010″ further explaining his “catapult” technique. (Here is the entire post)
Triple extension is caused in much of Olympic weightlifting by the hip extension literally lifting the feet into a plantar flexed position, without much or any help from the calves and triple extension is often done simply for the lifter to move his feet to a different catch position rather than add to the force driving the bar”
“Catapulting has always been simply a word I used to describe the greater role of hip extension in the lift and the lesser role of forceful knee extension and plantar flexion in the lifts (what American coaches call jumping or driving through the balls of the feet)”
“We, as a group, did not interpret the information coming out of Europe in the ’70’s, ’80’s correctly. Those few coaches that were around were buried by a lot of guys who had it set (incredibly stubbornly) in their minds that this was simply a forceful triple extending, jumping motion”
All the above statements are full of blather and scientific inaccuracies. The fact is, flat-footed pulling or the “catapult” has no empirical or scientific support, whereas finishing with triple extension does. However, Mr. McCauley is trying to sell the “catapult” as the technique that the great lifters of today are performing and it is triple extension that is the cause of poor lifting in this country. Roman, Garhammer, Siff, Enoka, Zatsiorsky, Verkhoshansky and many other scientists both past and present have analyzed and continue to analyze lifting technique only to come to the same conclusion:
“The explosion is executed by the simultaneous action of the muscles of the legs and torso… From this position, the athlete extends his legs and torso and rises up onto his toes and…the shoulders are elevated…Such a position is the most advantageous condition for maximal utilization of the participating muscle groups and the subsequent transfer to the barbell upward…This description of good pulling technique appears to be optimal.” (Roman and Shakirzyanov 4-7)
This description coincides with ALL of the other valid scientific research that has been done on Olympic Weightlifting.
Instead of following the work of the world’s greatest Weightlifting minds, Mr. McCauley expects us to throw out 50 years of proven research and exceptional Weightlifting results and listen to him. A man by his own admission, who has no formal science background and bases this catapult/flat-footed technique entirely upon opinion and limited observation, not on actual biomechanical studies. In fact the technique Mr. McCauley describes is biomechanically impossible to perform as explained. One cannot de-emphasize leg extension and overemphasize hip extension and create a vertical bar path because this action
“forms ineffective habits in the explosion.” (Livanov and Falameyev 26)
This is a simple vector addition problem. If two forces from different directions and of different magnitudes converge, the resultant vector will be influenced to a larger extent by the force with the greatest magnitude, which in this case would be the force created by the hips in the horizontal plane. Excessive horizontal bar displacement is exactly the opposite of what is desired.
Interestingly, when you read research done by the former Soviet Union on the pull in Weightlifting there is no mention of the hip as a specific force producer. The description used to describe the “explosion” of the second pull is that it
“is executed by the simultaneous action of the muscles of the legs and torso.” (Roman and Shakirzyanov 4)
The reason for this is effective summation of force production is not about any one particular part of the kinetic chain; it is the coordinated effort of the ENTIRE kinetic chain, which produces optimal technique and force production. Force applied to the bar during the lift is proportionately related to the sum of ALL joint torques, not just the torque at the hip.
Mr. McCauley states that rising onto the toes at all during the second pull is a display of poor technique and negatively affects the outcome of the lift. This opinion cannot be substantiated by ANY of the biomechanical research done in Weightlifting past or present. It is true that rising onto the toes may negatively affect the outcome of a lift but only when done subsequent to full hip and knee extension! When a lifter produces a well-timed powerful pull, he/she does not have to make any deliberate effort to plantar-flex or remain flat-footed. The lifter will involuntarily produce an action, which instinctually suits his/her needs. In some cases this will result in marked plantar-flexion, in other cases far less. However, whether or not we observe heel rising, the mechanical action of the lifter/barbell complex remains unchanged. This is why relying solely on observation will not always tell the whole story.
There are scientists who have laboriously dedicated their lives to understanding the intricacies of the Snatch and Clean and Jerk. The research started with the men who built the Soviet Weightlifting program such as Roman, Lelikov, Medvedev, Povetkin, Treskov, Shakirzyanov, Zhekov, Martyanov, Popov, Verkhoshansky, and Lukashev. It has continued with the likes of Garhammer, Enoka, Gourgoulis, Isaka, Chiu, and many others. All of these scientists have had similar findings in their biomechanical research in Olympic Weightlifting technique, and specifically with “triple extension.” DON MCCAULEY’S “CATAPULT” TECHNIQUE IS IN DIRECT OPPOSITION OF THE FINDINGS OF ALL OF THE ABOVE MENTIONED SCIENTISTS! He even boasts on his website that he is “an opponent of the thought that the triple extension is all-powerful.” The supremacy of the triple extension IS NOT a thought; it is FACT! The mere existence of this quote is further proof of his choice to ignore years of research and scientific application.
It is NOT true that we “misinterpreted” the information that came out of Europe. Fifty years of science and meet results tell us that the triple extension is definitely NOT a “waste of time.” The “catapult style” is NOT being performed by “many of the top lifters. Mr. McCauley has created these stories out of his own imagination and continues to pass them off as fact. Moreover, I have included photos of the lifters who Mr. McCauley and his followers claim are performing this flat-footed “catapult” technique. You will notice the each athlete is indeed displaying triple extension, and not the mythical “catapult.”

I vigorously tried to find just ONE peer reviewed biomechanical study that would support Mr. McCauley’s statements. I was unsuccessful. I vigorously tried to find video evidence of a top athlete who performs this “catapult” style. Again, I was unsuccessful. I challenge Don McCauley, or anybody else, to provide biomechanical evidence that the catapult/flat-footed approach is the optimal technique for lifting a barbell. THAT IS WHAT I SEEK, NOT SIMPLY OPINIONS OR PREFERENCES!
I, on the other hand, DO provide documented evidence for my statements. I have included just a fraction of the peer-reviewed scientific literature available on the biomechanics of the Snatch and Clean and Jerk.
Blagoy Blagoev, 18 World Records and a 195.5 Snatch@ 90kg., said it best when asked about pulling technique:
“I do have only one problem with the flatfooted pull. As they say, “the flat-footed pull will give you flat-footed results”. We certainly don’t want to get that. We do know for a fact that the lifters are trying their best to get to fully extended position before get under the bar. I do not see it happening by staying on your heels. Another small detail – if you go to an extended position of your legs (on your toes), even before you start pulling with the arms to direct the bar towards the final fixed position, you will gain 6-9 cm in height. In my opinion, at a max lift, this will give you the winning edge. Try a vertical jump off your heels!”"While I don't disagree with Blagoev, try a vertical jump with locked knees, only using ankle extension. You will find that you don't get much out of that either. It must be a combined summation of force.
Works Cited:
Livanov, O.I. and A. I. Falameyev. “Technique and Method of Learning Classical Exercises.”
1983 Weightlifting Yearbook. Moscow: Fizkultura i Sport Trans. A. Charniga, 1983.
Roman, R.A. and M.S. Shakirzyanov. The Snatch, The Clean and Jerk. Moscow: Fizkultura i Sport Trans. A. Charniga, 1978.
Arabatzi, F. and E. Kellis. “Biomechanical Analysis of Snatch Movement and Vertical Jump: Similarities and Differences.” Hellenic J Phys Educ & Sport Sci. 29. 2 (2009): 185-199.
Bai, X. and H. Wang. “Three-dimension Kinematics Simulation and Biomechanics Analysis of Snatch Technique.” Proceedings of 1st Joint International Pre-Olympic Conference of Sports Science & Sports Engineering Volume I: Computer Science in Sports (2008): 291-296.
Bartonietz, K.E. “Biomechanics of the Snatch: Toward a Higher Training Efficiency.” J. Strength Cond. Res.18, (3) (1996): 24-31.
Baumann, W. and V. Gross. “The Snatch Technique of World Class Weightlifters at the 1985 World Championships.” Inter. J. Sport Biomechanics 4 (1988): 68-89.
Burdett, R.G. “Biomechanics of the Snatch Technique of Highly Skilled Weightlifters.” Res. Q. Exerc. Sport 53, (1982): 193-197.
Burkhardt, and J. Garhammer, “Biomechanical Comparison of Hang Cleans and Vertical Jumps.” J. Appl. Sport Sci. Res 2. (1988).
E. Burkhardt and B. Barton and J. Garhammer, “Maximal Impact and Propulsive Forces During Jumping and Explosive Lifting Exercises.” J. Appl. Sports Sci. Res. 4.3 (1990) 107.
Campos J. and P. Poletaev et. al. “Kinematical Analysis of the Snatch in Elite Male Junior Weightlifters of Different Weight Categories.” J. Strength Cond. Res. 20.4, (2006): 843-850.
Canaven,P.K. and G.E. Garret and L.E. Armstrong. “Kinematic and Kinetic Relationships Between and Olympic -Style Lift and the Vertical Jump.” J. Strength Cond. Res.10, (1996): 127-130.
Derwin. B. P. “The Snatch: Technical Description and Periodization Program.” NSCA Journal 12.2, (1990): 6-14.
Enoka, R.M. ” The Pull in Olympic Weightlifting.” Medicine and Science in Sports 11. (1079): 131-137.
Escamilla, R.F. and John Garhammer. “Biomechanics of Powerlifting and Weightlifting Exercises.” Exercise and Sports Science. Eds. Garrett and Kirkendale. Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2000. 585-615.
Garhammer, John. “Biomechanical Analysis of Selected Snatch Lifts at the U.S. Senior National Weightlifting Championships.” Biomechanics of Sport and Kinanthropometry. Eds. Landry and Orban. Miami: Symposia Specialists, 1978. 475-484.
Garhammer. “Performance Evaluation of Olympic Weightlifters.” Med. Sci.Sports 11, (1979): 284-287.
—. “Energy Flow During Olympic Weightlifting.” Med. Sci. Sports 14.5, (1982): 353-360.
—. ” A Review of Power Output Studies of Olympic and Powerlifting: Methodology, Performance, Prediction, and Evaluation Tests.” J. Appl. Sports Sci. Res. 7, (1993): 76-89.
—. “A Comparison of Maximal Power Outputs Between Elite Male and Female Weightlifters in Competition.” Int. J. Sport Biomechanics. 7.1, (1991): 3-11.
—. “Biomechanical Profiles of Olympic Weightlifters.” Int. J. Sport Biomechanics. 1.2 (1985): 122-130.
—. “Longitudinal Analysis of Highly Skilled Olympic Weightlifters.” Science in Weightlifting. Ed. J. Terauds. Del Mar: Academic Publ., 1979. 79-88.
Garhammer, John and Bob Takano. “Training For Weightlifting” The Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine. Ed. P.V.Komi. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific, 1992. 357-369.
Gourgoulis,V. and N. Aggelousis and A. Garas. “Three- Dimensional Kinematic Analysis of the Snatch of Elite Greek Weightlifters.” J. Sports Sci. 18, (2000): 643-652.
Hakkinen, K. and H. Kauhanen and P.V. Komi. “Biomechanical Changes in the Olympic Weightlifting Technique of the Snatch and Clean and Jerk From Submaximal to Maximal Loads.” Scan. J. Sports Sci. 6, (1984): 57-66.
Hoover, D.L. and K.M. Carlson and B.K. Christensen et.al. “Biomechanical Analysis of Women Weightlifters During the Snatch.” J. Strength Cond. Res. 20.3, (2006): 627-633.
Isaka, T. and J. Funato. “Kinematic Analysis of the Barbell During the Snatch Movement of Elite Asian Weightlifters.” J. Applied Biomechanics 12, (1996): 508-516.
Luhtatnen, P. and P.V. Komi. “Segmental Contributions to Forces in Vertical Jumps.” Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 38, (1978): 181-188.
Pandy, G.M. and E.F. Zajac and E. Sim et al. “An Optimal Control Model For Maximum-Height Human Jumping.” J. Biomechanics 23, (1990): 1185-1198.
Roman,R.A. and M.S. Shakirzyanov. The Snatch, The Clean and Jerk. Moscow: Fizkultura I Sport, English translation Andrew Charniga Jr. Livonia: Sportivny Press. 1978.
Schilling, B.K. and M.H. Stone and H.S. O’Bryant et. al. “Snatch Technique of Collegiate National Level Weightlifters.” J. Strength Cond. Res. 16.4, (2002): 551-555.
Takano, Bob. “Coaching Technique in the Snatch and Clean and Jerk.” NSCA Journal 9, (1987): 50-59.
Zhekov, I.P. “Biomechanics of the Weightlifting Exercises.” Weightlifting Training and Technique English trans. Andrew Charniga Jr. Livonia Sportivny Press. 1992
Fight until your very last breath!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

5 BYU Throwers Qualify For Nationals

5 BYU throwers qualified for nationals this past weekend at the NCAA preliminary meet. The javelin throwers (Chris Reno, Sean Richardson, Blaine Baker) all qualified and the other throwers who qualified were Oliver Whaley in the hammer and Leif Arrhenius in the shot put and discus. Oliver was the highlight of the meet breaking his pr and throwing over 64 meters.

Sports Genes: Makings of An Athlete

The May 17, issue of Sports Illustrated contained an article "Sports Genes: Makings of An Athlete". To be honest, I never buy Sports Illustrated and seldom read it. If I do read it, it is usually while waiting at the dentist's office or somewhere similar. In this case however, a student asked me about the article, then gave me a copy. While it is in the usual Sports Illustrated style of spectacular superficiality, it is interesting. The author makes the claim that scientists have identified the specific genes responsible for human traits such as speed, vertical jump, explosiveness,...etc. Personally, it is hard for me to believe there is a vertical jump gene, a sprint gene, a strength gene, or a gene responsible for any movement quality. It is not hard for me to imagine genes responsible for charactieristics such as muscle fiber types, tendon insertions, or body segment proportions all of which would influence movement.It seems to me that genes would dictate structural traits, not movement traits. Of course the structural characteristics have great impact on the movement characteristics, but do not fully determine the way that the individual develops these natural endowments.

The author goes on to point out that as elite athletes from various disciplines were examined, few were "genetic outliers". In other words, there are many less talented individuals who have the same genetic makeup as say, Usain Bolt. So obviously there is more to becoming a great athlete than just genetic potential. No surprise there. While "choosing the right parents" is definitely a desirable advantage, it is neither a guarantee of success, nor a sentence of failure.

Champions come in many shapes and sizes from all corners of the world. As we mentioned Usain Bolt above, it is ironic that his height and limb length, which now are viewed as reasons for his amazing performances, were originally viewed by his coaches to be a barrier to sprint success. In fact, his coaches orignally thought that he could never be successful in the shorter sprints like the 100 meters because of his height. Now he is held up as an example of the future of sprinting. I guess that is why I am wary of any so called "experts" who spout their perspective as fact. The only facts that exist concerning human performance is that we really don't know what an individual might be capable of.
The famed Kenyan distance runners for example, were not able to be identified by their genes. The main predicting factor was whether or not these athletes were from an area where they had to run to school and back each day.
Yes, choose your parents wisely, but if you feel like you wish you could choose again, take heart in the fact that you have more to do with your ultimate success than your ancestors do.