Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What is "Sport Specificity?"

Volleyball athletes often have to hit a "full squat" position.
By Oliver Whaley

What prompted this article was a recent statement from a college professor about training volleyball players that I had heard while in a weight training prescription class at BYU. It got me thinking about the whole sport specificity topic in weight room training. These are my opinions and I am open for feedback and criticism so feel free to post any comments.

Sport specificity has become a huge topic of conversation in sport training. Finding ways to best mimic the specific movement of our sport particularly in the weight room in hopes of achieving some high rate of transfer has become the “Holy Grail”. I like variation, variation is good. It makes things fun, keeps things interesting and prevents us from becoming stale. I like to add exercises into my training that work the large and small muscle groups of my body in ways that mimic the positions of my specific event (such as the hammer drill variations I posted). Instead of doing standard dumbbell rows or bent over rows I may do them standing using a cable machine. Why? Because when I throw the hammer I am on my feet countering the weight of the ball and its fun to add variation to basic strength movements.

But really, how much is too far? And how much really is transferable to the event itself? I firmly believe that the only real sport specific movement is the movement of the sport itself. Although you can mimic the movement, anytime you change position of the movement to adjust to a heavier or lighter weight or when adapting a specific exercise to the movement. The positions of the movement change and the mechanics change also, even if it is just slight. The only real way to train a specific movement is to do the movement itself. So for hammer throwing it would be throwing the hammer. I am not saying there is no benefit to doing other movements that mimic the event and overload specific positions of the event in the weight room. But I think we place far too much emphasis on this whole "sport specific" concept. The foremost purpose of weight room work is to get strong, develop power, and then learn to apply that to our event through practice of the actual event itself.

Efficient transfer of the power into a given movement can only happen through precise technique and in the case of throwing, precision technique at maximal speed. There is a point where strength and power levels become sufficient that they don't really impact the distance of the throws anymore. Then concern should be on maintaining the strength and power levels that have been gained in the weight room over the years and continuing to focus on developing precision technique.

I think it then becomes more of a necessity to add some variation or more sport specific movements in the weight room to keep the body feeling fresh, for fun, and to avoid injury of heavy lifting. And yes they do have their benefits. It is impossible to train at heavy loads without experiencing some bodily breakdown. Generally you can't overload the muscles on more sport specific movements than say heavy squats or cleans. These movements should focus on using lighter weights and moving them quick. I had a professor once talk about training a volley player by having her do squats at 2% under the angle at which she jumped up for a block and never going past parallel. Why? Because of the principle of specificity he said. But why would you do that? Why wouldn't you just develop dynamic strength through the full range of motion?

There are several problems with this professor’s statement. First, it is a gross oversimplification to take one aspect of sport performance, such as a volleyball player blocking at the net, and focus on that one movement. What happens when the opposing player tips the ball back? Then this volleyball player (or one of her teammates) will have to quickly drop into full squat-like position to get under the ball and dig it to keep it in play. I once had a football coach tell me that since football players never get into a full squat position, he only has his players do quarter squats. That is fine until an outside force, like another player (or two or three) makes contact and drives him into a position below a quarter squat.

There are several factors that need to be considered in program design and exercise selection. One of them is injury prevention. ACL injuries among female athletes are a huge concern. There is plenty of research showing that muscle imbalances are a common factor when these injuries happen. Partial movements, such as quarter squats are an excellent way to develop imbalances. The body was made to move through its full range of motion. While it is detrimental to push beyond the normal range of motion (think lumbar spine injuries in female gymnasts), it is also detrimental to chronically work in a restricted range of motion. Connective tissues shorten, improper firing sequences become ingrained, and strength imbalances develop.

To develop optimal leg strength and mobility, full range training through the natural range of motion is best. Of course, at times injury or other factors may call for adaptations, but whenever possible full range movements are preferred. Saying that this sport stance or position only requires this range of motion is like saying my rent, car payment, and grocery bill equals X amount each month. That’s all I need. Does anyone have too much money? Why limit strengthening to a partial range of motion?

Back to the volleyball example, if I were trying to help a player improve his or her blocking strength, I would include push presses in the program. That develops the short quick myotatic reflexive explosion (quickly reversing direction and stimulating the stretch reflex) while simultaneously extending the arms overhead forcefully. I would also include full range squatting and pulling movements, both for injury prevention and for dropping down to get under spikes and tips at the net.

So maybe this would be a good time for all of us to evaluate our own weight room use. Maybe we all could benefit from simplifying things a little more in the weight room, spending a little less time there, and working movements through their full range of motion. Because the most important thing a thrower can do is throw. The weightroom is merely a piece in the equation. Work hard, but more importantly, work smart.
It is a very shortsighted oversimplification to say that football players never have to bend their legs beyond a quarter squat position.
Being able to hit these positions prepares your body for a wide range of activities.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Using the Full Olympic Lifts in Training: Part Two

The late Serge Reding pulling some heavy weight!

By Oliver Whaley

This article is based on a more general audience than just the throwing community, but I still think anybody, including throwers can benefit in performance from doing the full lifts and also from just plain old having the ability required to do them. I know there is alot of opinion out there in this area and there have been many people in high levels of performance that have moved away from the lifts, such as Reese Hoffa. But I don't think there is a thrower out there that has reached some high performance level without including these lifts or at least building a good strength and power base with them.

This is the second article to, “A basis for using the Full Olympic Lifts in training.” In it I would like to discuss some of the common arguments in the world of sport training for not using the Olympic lifts in athletic training and why I think they should be a common base for any athletic training program.

I have it heard it been said that it takes too long to teach the full Olympic lifts correctly and an Olympic lift with poor technique isn’t safe or effective. Well I agree that poor technique in any lift isn’t very safe or effective for anyone. That is why we teach correct technique to our athletes from the beginning in anything we have them do (some may think this is a subjective statement, but their is a right way to do things and everything has a purpose and an end goal result). But let us remember that we are dealing with athletes here. Is it really that hard to teach an athlete a very simple, quick precision movement? We can’t seem to teach them how to do a proper clean or snatch but we can teach them how to do a proper deadlift? Or a proper front squat? In simplistic terms, my understanding is that a deadlift done correctly closely parallels a clean pull and the mechanical technique is largely the same. You want the athlete to have a rigid lumbar arch, a tight core, loose arms, and to initiate the movement with the legs, etc. The major difference here is one is done much more explosively than the other and with full hip and leg extension at the top of the lift. Also the deadlift is often done with an alternating grip where pulls and cleans are performed with an overhand grip.

So which is the more athletic movement here and which do you think might transfer more directly to an athletic event or game situation? I mean come on, if an athlete can learn how to rotational spin and throw a shotput, or learn the proper footwork and mechanics of a three step drop pass, then they can learn how to do a full clean or snatch in a shortened period of time. If we think otherwise wouldn’t we be underestimating the ability of our athletes? Or maybe we just underestimate our ability to teach the lifts correctly? I would argue that anyone who is seriously engaged in the strength and conditioning field would have some self mastery (were not all Olympic champions and not everyone comes from an Olympic Lifting background) of the Olympic lifts and would be able to correctly teach them and quickly see results in an athlete’s proficiency in performing them.

Each year in the small town of Kayenta, Az. Ollie Whaley, CSCS, gets around 200 new incoming students into his weight training classes at Monument Valley High School. Here they are taught the basic movements of the full Olympic lifts, which is the base of their training as most of these kids play sports. Here they get feedback on correct technique, especially being emphasized is the importance of starting each lift with a rigid low back arch and tight core. They receive help and guidance not only from himself as coach, but also positive feedback and influence from the upper classmen who have been in the program for a few years. Just watching the proficient upper classmen creates a great learning environment and atmosphere for the new students. By the end of the first semester most of these kids can perform the lifts pretty proficiently, getting better and better each year they are in the program. The weight room may be located in a small unknown town on the Navajo Indian reservation, but anyone who steps in it would be amazed at what is being done there. This type of system could be implemented on any level whether collegiate or professional.

I have also heard it been said that most athletes aren’t strong enough in the right places (posterior chain) or have the flexibility to execute the lifts properly. Well of course this would be true if they have never done the lifts before, that’s why we do them! To make them strong in the right places and to develop flexibility. If your athlete could not properly do an overhead squat that would be a good indicator that they have weaknesses that need to be worked on. Some of the biggest causes of injury are inflexibility, joint immobility, muscle and connective tissue weakness, and muscle imbalances. The inability of your athlete to perform the full Olympic lifts would be a good indicator they are lacking in these areas. Your athletes will be far better off for being able to perform the full Olympic lifts proficiently than avoiding them and trying to replace them with other lifts.

I have also heard it been said that the Olympic lifts put a lot of undue strain on the wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Again this would probably be true for an athlete who has never done the lifts before and a very good indicator that they are lacking in necessary flexibility and joint mobility. For a younger athlete the movement and positions of the Olympic lifts come naturally. For an older athlete, some discomfort is natural at first until the flexibility to do them is achieved. But any athlete would benefit from the flexibility and joint mobility it takes to do the lifts. Again if I had an athlete who could not perform an overhead squat correctly I would work with them until they could.

Well what about a college lineman or someone with a lot of upper body mass? Athletes like football lineman are already banging up their bodies on a daily basis and don’t need to place more stress on their joints in the weight room (Really the only time anybody puts undue stress on their joints and body in the weight room is when they lift too heavy, or lift too heavy too often. Any type of lift done heavy and too often will lead to some kind of bodily breakdown or injury eventually. But volume, intensity, and training load are not something I wish to address in this article as this time).

Well let’s take a look into the sport of weightlifting. Serge Reding, the Belgium weightlifter. At five foot eight he weighed close to 140 kilos with arms measuring 52 cm around. I don’t think there have been very many people to have walked this earth with as much mass packed on their frames as he had. And he had no problem hitting rock bottom to catch a snatch or clean.

The list of large mean who could proficiently do the full lifts from Russia’s Vasily Alexeev, to America’s Shane Hamman, to Iran’s Hossein Rezazadeh, goes on and on. (some may argue these guys have been doing it along time and have alot more experience than a college lineman who has never done them. That is true! But if that is your thought process right now you missing the point. The point is that even with as much upper body mass as say a college lineman may have, they can still achieve the flexibility to do the full Olympic lifts and they will be better off for having that flexibility.)

Our own American heavyweight lifter Shane Hamman has a standing vertical jump of 36 inches and at five foot nine can dunk a basketball with two hands. He can also easily touch his toes and even do a standing back flip. How many college or NFL linemen do you think can do that?

So you can’t tell me that a football lineman wouldn’t benefit from being able to do the full Olympic lifts! And for that matter any athlete would be better off for having the ability to do them.

Another great reason for having an athlete do the full Olympic lifts is they teach an athlete how to absorb impact. Which we know is a huge part of any sport, particularly football, and another good reason for a football lineman to be doing the full Olympic lifts.

In reference to power output, the amount of force your body can produce runs directly in correlation to how much force the body can absorb.

Muscle imbalances as stated earlier are another great cause of injury. One that should be avoided and never happen as a result of weight room training. With the correct performance of the full Olympic lifts, there is no chance for an athlete to develop muscle imbalances in the weight room. The Olympic lifts work an individual’s whole body through a full range of motion while both strengthening and stabilizing. Working partial movements, such as partial box squats, can set you up for muscle imbalances. The body was made to move through its full range of motion. While it is detrimental to push beyond the normal range of motion, it is also detrimental to chronically work in a restricted range of motion. Connective tissues shorten, improper firing sequences become ingrained, and strength imbalances develop. To develop optimal strength and mobility, full range training through the natural range of motion is best. The Olympic lifts provide this full affect.

In part one of this article, we already discussed the physiological affects these lifts generate far better than any attempt to duplicate them so we don’t need to touch on those topics again.

So in reality, any attempt to duplicate them another way is really just that. The Olympic lifts are not some intricate and complicated movement; they are simple, precise, and athletic. Any athlete would benefit from their proper performance and use in a training program.

Injuries and other circumstances can lead to reason for adaptation. We also lack greatly in qualified individuals to teach the lifts correctly in all levels of performance. Meg Ritchie Stone, throwing and coaching legend says, “There are no dangerous lifts, only dangerous coaches.” But in an ideal world, these should be the lifts of choice for any athlete in any power sport.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Some Superflous Nutritional Advice

Of course it is all relative. Pigs likely do not agree. I have to admit that I have never been attracted to fried pig fat myself, but I know a lot of people think it's great.
My attitude is that when it comes to food, "exercise covereth a multitude of sins" to misquote scripture. If we eat well 80% of the time and are physically working hard, we can get away with some "junk" 20% of the time. I feel as sorry for the people who carry around their tupperware containers of brown rice and peas as I do for those who make a steady diet of bacon cheeseburgers. Of course I have never written a diet best-seller. Work hard, eat good, enjoy the journey!

Personally, I prefer the Canadian version.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Using the "Full Olympic Lifts" in Training: Part One

My brother Orrin performing a snatch at the Utah State Championships a few years ago.

This is part one of a two part article based on my opinions advocating the use of the full olympic lifts, not only in training for the throwing events, but in any power sport. This is sort of a follow-up to the previous post on weight training for the throws. Comments, ideas, contradictions are welcomed from either post. Either post it in the comment section, to the shout chat box, or feel free to email me @ oliverwhaley@yahoo.com.....also stay tuned...we hope to post more training ideas, videos on training, throwing drills, etc in the future...keep checking back.....thanks

By Oliver Whaley

Lately, I have been reading many interesting articles and points of views pertaining to the Olympic lifts and their use in training athletes. A lot of people say that the lifts are nothing more than a means to reach triple extension and that there are other ways to achieve this such as jumping, bounding, squat jumps, box squats, kettle bell swings, tire flips, etc.

People have various opinions and stances on training, but I think the biggest factor is to find what works best for you in your given event and in your own personal goals. There are so many different ideas and principles in the world of strength for training athletes in power sports, from Louie Simmon’s Westside philosophy to the whole stability ball, “functional strength”, and sport specific movement… etc.

As for myself, I am a huge advocate of the Olympic Lifts. They’re athletic, they’re powerful, they’re precise and yet each lift is really one simple movement that activates everything between your fingernails and your toenails. They can be very addicting too. It just feels good to hit rock bottom and catch a snatch over head or stand up with a heavy clean and stick the jerk. And they just plain ol’ work! I’m not talking about power cleans or power snatches, but the lifts in their full form. I think they’re an excellent exercise not just for athletes, but for anyone, including your grandma. I remember watching 85 year old Mel Katz compete while a member of Peaks Weightlifting Club in Flagstaff, Arizona. Most 85 year olds are just trying to get out of bed. By the time you hit 25 years old, if you haven’t regularly used or overloaded your fast twitch muscle fibers they begin atrophy. They continue to atrophy if not overloaded, more and more each year until finally you can’t even get yourself up out of your favorite TV chair. Then before you know it, you’re 85 years old, stuck in a nursing home bed being spoon fed jello.

The physiological workings of the human body are truly quite amazing.

We know that strength is the ability to exert a force. Force is equal to mass times acceleration. The basis of all motion is force. All activities in life require the movement of an individual or the ability of an individual to set a given piece of equipment in motion. Like getting up out of our favorite TV chair or the ability to pick up a hammer and drive a nail into the wall, or better yet with your bare hands!

And then you have power, which is equal to force times velocity. Power is the rate of work we are able to accomplish in a given unit of time. By increasing a person’s power output you can increase the probability of athletic success in any given event. A 60’ foot shot putter is now able to throw 65’ feet. An 11 second hundred meter sprinter is now able to run 10.5 seconds. The greater we can manipulate power output the bigger results in improvement will be.

It would be nice if increasing power was as easy as it looks on paper. We would all be Christian Cantwells or Usain Bolts, winning medals and breaking records. But every athlete has his or her own genetic capabilities and limits. What makes a successful training program is being able to help each athlete reach their maximal potential, even going beyond it, while avoiding injury and enjoying the journey. So what we choose to do in any allotted training time, i.e. types of lifts, volume, intensity, etc., is of optimal concern. We want to choose the things that will help us to safely achieve the best results with the least amount of effort and/or time.

There are only two ways to increase an athlete’s ability to generate power. Increase the strength of the muscles that exert the force or increase the velocity of the movement being made.

While the exact physiological cause of increased strength is not known, we do know where the possible sites of adaptation can take place.

In the nervous tissue, changes in the nervous system can result from the effects of a proper stimulus. As a result of neural adaptation, an increased neural drive to the muscles, an increase in the synchronization of motor units or an inhibition of the protective mechanism of the Golgi tendon organs can occur. All of which would allow your body to react faster and produce more power over time.

In the muscle tissue, hypertrophy (the increase in cell size) or hyperplasia (the splitting of the cell) can occur. When we strength train, we stretch the muscle which then signals the body to release the hormones that lead to hypertrophy (muscle growth).

In the connective tissue (the transmitter of force), as a result of a heavy stimulus overload, adaptations can lead to an increase in collagenous fibrils, making your connective tissue stronger.

In the skeletal tissue, an increase in the density of the bone can result from strength training due to an increased deposition of mineral salts in the skeletal tissue. Bone modeling is a response to mechanical loading by application of a weight-bearing force which causes the bone to bend, thus creating a stimulus for new bone formation at the regions experiencing the greatest deformation.

The Sports Science Exchange gives these qualifying characteristics of a bone-building exercise:

It should involve faster, rather than slower, movement

It should exceed 70% of maximal capacity

It should involve some type of impact

It should involve a variety of muscle groups and movement direction.

It should be closed kinetic chain activity. (standing on your feet)

And then there are the factors that can affect speed. You can improve the power to weight ratio. You can develop better mechanically advantageous techniques in your given event (good technique is important in anything we do!). You can decrease resistances to movement by losing fat, improving joint mobility, increasing flexibility, etc. You can train the central processing mechanisms of the stimulus-response component (fast twitch muscle fibers) to react faster. Or you can maximize the awareness of signals (cues to attend to).

Now, after examining the physiological properties of the body and how adaptations take place, we can ask ourselves, what movement in sport best facilitates these factors in promoting the generation and production of power as well as the positive adaptations we seek in performance and body composition?

Yes, I would say the Olympic lifts are an amazing fit. There is a reason why Olympic weightlifters are some of the most powerful and amazing athletes on the planet.

What other lift or movement in sport overloads and stretches the whole bodies muscular system (not only forcing the large muscle groups to fire but sending a chain reaction throughout the body to every muscle) to the point of hypertrophy, while also promoting an increase in the collagenous fibrils of the connective tissue, while also meeting the criteria for a bone-building exercise, while also training the nervous system for optimal response along with training the body to move in precision at maximum speed (mechanically advantageous techniques), at the same time requiring enormous flexibility and joint mobility while being safe (if done correctly with good technique) and able to produce results in the least amount of time and with less effort than combining a bunch of exercises in hopes of manipulating the same results?

And in what sport do athletes have a greater power to weight ratio than Olympic lifters?

So why would we not incorporate these lifts into our training programs?

In the next article I am going to play the role of antagonist to many of these common arguments against the use of the "Full Olympic Lifts" for training athletes of all levels of performance.

Al Feurbach world record holder in the Shotput and National Weightlifting champion.
Smart athletes like my sister Deezbaa use the lifts as big part of their performance enhancing toolbox.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Are we marketing fitness all wrong?

What is new, is usually really old.

I agree 100% with the premise of this article. I don't think we do a very good job of getting the real truth about exercise and fitness out. Those with products to sell do a much better job and that leaves most Americans with a badly skewed view of what is "good for them." In reality, it's just not as complicated as those who are trying to make a fast buck want to make it seem. Effective training and a healthy lifestyle is really pretty simple. But simple does not translate into easy. Reality is simple, but hard. The marketing myth is; if you buy into some complex "secrets", you can get strong and fit easily. It  has never been so, and it never will be. That can be a hard sell. Telling people that their success is entirely dependent upon their own efforts doesn't sell nearly as well as telling them that a certain product will bring success in just minutes a day. I wonder if we publicized real RESULTS if that would be enough to persuade people to take the harder but productive road?

According to a recent poll by fitness equipment maker Nautilus Inc., most Americans don't understand the basics of health and fitness.
The poll found nearly 75 percent of people surveyed didn't know you have to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat. Only 35 percent of those surveyed knew eggs are a good source of protein. An astounding 87 percent thought women who weight train get manly muscle bulk.
The average score of the poll was 42 of 100. Big fail, America.
When so many people want to be healthy and fit, how is it that we know so little about fitness and nutrition? As it turns out, fitness marketing might be the culprit.
Take Coca-Cola's latest efforts, for example. The largest producer of America's favorite sugary beverages has a confusing health memo for us.
Coca-Cola spent a whopping $1.5 million to endorse Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), a nonprofit research organization with a questionable message: Don't worry about the calories, just make sure you work out. Steven Blair, a GEBN member, even said in a statement that the media has blamed fast food and sugary drinks for the obesity epidemic, but there isn't any notable evidence to back that.
Seems like Blair didn't do his research.
A study published earlier this year in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization stated, "An increased food energy supply and the globalization of the food supply, increasing the availability of obesogenic ultraprocessed foods, are arguments for a predominant food system driver of population weight gain."
That means the problem is energy-dense foods, which translates to high-calorie foods. And what better way to wash it all down than with a Coca-Cola?
How did we forget the fundamentals of fitness and health? The overabundance of information out there has scrambled our brains to believe every myth, sketchy endorsement and just about anything we see online — special supplements, quick-fix diets, etc.
Are we marketing fitness wrong in America? When you think fitness, what comes to mind? Top athletes? Top models? Michelle Obama's arms? Thor? Jon Snow? Coca-Cola products?
What is fitness anymore? Is it Crossfit and marathons? Is it a walk in the park? Maybe the future is Coca-Cola machines in the gym to supplement your work out and quench your thirst on the treadmill.
Fitness, in short, is being physically active and eating healthy. Physical activity is meant to improve your overall health and reduce risk for chronic diseases. Through common sense, we can come to the conclusion that if you eat and drink whatever you want, you're probably not healthy — even if you work out.
So let's cut through the marketing hype and get to what the health experts at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have to say. The key for the average American is getting your heart rate up, to the CDC recommended amount per week.
For adults, ages 18-64 years old, the recommended weekly amount of exercise is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity — think walking, running, swimming and bicycling. It also includes at least two days a week of muscle strengthening activities — physical activity that increases skeletal muscle strength, power, endurance and mass.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food choices influence the health and well-being of individuals. Many dietary concerns include overconsumption of calories, sugar and saturated fat, along with the underconsumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
The USDA states, "Information shapes most economic choices, including food choices. The federal government provides consumers access to nutrition information and education through initiatives such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the MyPlate plan, and through regulatory mechanisms such as mandatory nutrition labeling of packaged foods."
Ultimately, working out is crucial. Diet is crucial. Working out alone doesn't make you healthy. Working out and working on your diet does.
About the Author
Natalie Rodriguez

Natalie Rodriguez is a senior editor for MultiBriefs with nearly four years in digital media publishing and six years of journalism experience. She graduated from Tarleton State University with a bachelor's degree in PR/communications.

It's not rocket science. Lift hard as often as you can!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Throwing and Lifting, Like Love and Marriage.....

Oliver Whaley, BYU thrower and Utah's Strongest Man winner.

Deezbaa Whaley Doane, BYU thrower and accomplished weightlifter.

By Ollie Whaley, CSCS

like a horse and carriage, like peanut butter and jelly....well, you get the idea. For the modern day thrower, resistance training, or lifting weights, is a major component of training. At the post high school level any competent thrower who doesn’t lift would surely be a rare exception. A statement that we hear often is, “We want to develop throwers, not weightlifters”. Fair enough, training throwers exactly like weightlifters wouldn’t be optimal. However, weightlifters and throwers do have a lot in common.
There are some important similarities in the two sports. Both require maximum explosiveness combined with some specific flexibility and ability to move quickly with precision. Weightlifting consists of two lifts, the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk which are done for 3 attempts each. So a weightlifting competition consists of 6 single attempts of maximum effort. Of course a throwing event follows that same pattern. It makes sense that throwers and weightlifters would share a great deal of training commonalities.
That being the case, there are a few select athletes who have excelled in both sports. Al Feuerbach may be the foremost example as a world record thrower who won a national championship in weightlifting also. But others who reached high levels competing in both sports include Ken Patera, Bruce Wilhelm, Gary Gubner, Kevin Coleman, and others of whom I may have forgotten or am unaware of. It is also not at all uncommon for competitive lifters and throwers to train together as the demands of their sports are so similar. I have a picture in my weight room of George Frenn (hammer thrower)spotting Phil Grippaldi (weightlifter) as he squats in Munich prior to the 1972 Olympics which they were both competing in.(as shown below) Harold Connolly also mentions training with the weightlifters at Olympic and Pan-Am championships. The two sports are closely knit.

On the other hand there are important differences as well. In weightlifting the objective is to lift the maximum amount possible, while in throwing the objective is to throw a relatively light weight for maximum distance. It is not who can throw the heaviest weight a fixed distance.

With these similarities and differences in mind, we would like to offer some guidelines for effective weight room training for throwing.

Here are some concise, basic guidelines I would recommend.

1. Once a basic strength foundation is built, power, not strength, is the highest priority. Since the competition is not to see who can throw the heaviest weight a set distance, but who can throw a set (and relatively light) weight the farthest; speed of release is the major component that can be affected by weight training. (Women’s implements are even lighter and therefore more speed driven) While it is true that an increase in force production (strength) is a big factor in increase rate of force production (power), there must consistently be a focus on moving the weights quickly.
2. Power is best achieved with olympic style lifts and their variations. Variations can include lifts from the hang above the knee, hang below the knee, pulls from the floor or blocks,…etc. Repetitions in the quick lifts should rarely exceed 3 and never exceed 5. Singles and doubles should be used often. The reason for the lower repetition range is that these explosive lifts tax the neuromuscular system and both speed and technique break down with higher reps. The result is counterproductive in terms of performance and dangerous in terms of safety. I cringe when I see high repetition (6 reps or more) sets of snatches or cleans. If the goal is to build endurance,(which is not really what throwing is about) then other movements are more appropriate.
3. Throwing is done in single attempt fashion with breaks in between. Sometimes the breaks can be long. Training with “clusters” or sets of single attempts should be a part of the training program. This develops that ability to exert maximum effort repetitively with breaks in between. Throwing is performed one throw at a time, not in sets of multiple throws one after the other in rapid fire fashion. Train to develop the qualities you need in competition.

4. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” program. The program needs to be tailored to the needs of each individual, taking into consideration the training backround, body proportions, recovery ability, past injuries, inherent strengths and weaknesses, work and school schedule…etc. Once a program is formulated, then continual adjustments need to be made according to the immediate circumstances.

5. Listen to every one, worship no one. There are so many “gurus” out there. I have learned a great deal from many other coaches, but I never buy completely into any “system”. The art of training and coaching is being able to understand basic principles and apply them to individual situations. You cannot copy success out of a single book or find it in a bottle. Become your own coach.

6. Coach technique, not just effort. Throwers (or any athlete) should be as fanatical about lifting technique as they are about the technical aspects of their event. Good lifting technique maximizes results and prevents injury. Learning to always keep a rigid lumbar arch and a tight core is vital to success in lifting and throwing. Sufficient flexibility in wrists, shoulders, and ankles is also a necessity in lifting and a plus in throwing. Being able to perform a full overhead squat with flat feet is a good flexibility screen. If I had an athlete who could not perform an overhead squat properly, I would work with them until they could.

7. Weight training needs to be balanced with the throwing workouts as power training and throwing are both stressful to the CNS and Endocrine systems. Don’t overdo heavy structural exercises like squats. Less can be more when combined with throwing. This takes both knowledge and experience to manage proficiently. This is why the ideal situation is to have a throwing coach designing the strength training programs. The amount of work that can be handled will vary greatly from individual to individual. Quality of work is more important than volume of work. Avoid overtraining and injury at all costs. It is better to be slightly undertrained than even slightly over-trained. If your weight room workouts leave you stiff and/or sore when it comes time to throw, you need to make some adjustments.

8. Training exercises and/or sets and reps need to be changed every 2-3 weeks. Everything works for awhile, nothing works forever. Variation keeps you mentally and physically fresh. Changes in exercises, sets and reps, and training times all add variation.

9. Recovery is a component of training. Make it part of your plan. Training is a three sided affair. The workout is a stressor that has the immediate effect of making your weaker. Our miraculous human bodies will rebuild and regenerate stronger than before IF it has sufficient building materials (nutrients) and time (rest, particularly sleep). All the hard work will be for nothing without adequate nutrition and rest.

10. Training should lead to improvement in distance. Never lose sight of that. If you are not throwing farther with less effort, then your training should be adjusted. If you are throwing farther, then resist the temptation to increase your training. It is too easy to get caught up in the weight room numbers. One advantage of adjustable barbells as resistance exercise is that they are so measurable, but one should never become a slave to the numbers. Having said that, it is a good practice to keep a training log of both lifting and throwing. That way you can evaluate and see patterns over time. You can more readily identify what is effective and what isn’t.

-Ollie Whaley, CSCS
Hammer thrower George Frenn spotting for weightlifter Phil Grippaldi in training hall at the 1972 Olympics.

Al Feurbach, world record holder in the Shot, won a national championship in weightlifting in about 1974.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Simplify Your LIfe

Stefan Botev kept it simple.

I enjoyed this article. While I have to admit that sometimes there is a thin line between innocent simplifying and being lazy, I still tend to lean towards simplifying whenever possible. In my world, the real challenge of life is not see how much I can accumulate, but rather, to see how little I can get by with. I view my training in the same way. I don't like the attitude of seeing how many more things I can fit in. I am more about, what do I absolutely need to get results? I love bare bones training that takes a few basic movements and gets it done in an hour or less. The human body is made to bend it's legs, bend at the waist, and push things to arms length both vertically and horizontally. A squat of some type, a pull from the floor, and some pressing pretty much covers all that is important. Do it heavy and hard. In my opinion you can either work out long or hard. I choose hard. Training and life are best when kept simple.

‘A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.’ – Henry David Thoreau
For almost 9 years now, I’ve been learning to live a simple life.

A life uncluttered by most of the things people fill their lives with, and left with space for what really matters.

A life that isn’t constant busy-ness and rushing, but contemplation and creation, connection with people I love and time for nature and activity.

That doesn’t mean I have zero clutter and zero complications: I’m a part of the world, not a secluded monk. I have possessions, electronics, distractions, and occasional busy-ness. I just have reduced it to make space.

Today I’ve been reflecting on this simple life, and thought I’d share some of those reflections.

Some things I’ve learned about living the simple life:

Decluttering your home and work space can lead to a less cluttered mind. These visual distractions pull on us in more ways than we realize.
A quiet unrushed morning is a thing to treasure. I wake early so that I have some quiet time to read, write, meditate.
You can’t have a simple life if you’re unwilling to let go of what you’re used to.
Letting go can be difficult, but is easier if you do a one-month challenge. Let go of something for a month and see whether you like it or not.
Letting go of cable TV was one of the best things we did early on — no more constant television in my home, no more ads for crappy things we don’t need.
Shopping isn’t therapy. It’s a waste of time and money.
If you’re filling your life with distractions, its probably because you’re afraid of what life would be like without constant Internet, social media, news, TV, games, snacks.
Simple, whole, healthy food is not only much healthier than junk food: it’s a pleasure.
You have to make time for what’s important: time with your kids, time with your spouse, time for creating, time for exercise. Push everything else aside to make time.
Over-committing is the biggest sin against simple living most people make. I painfully cut out a huge number of commitments to simplify my life, and I’m glad I did. I do this every year or so because I keep forgetting.
I keep my days mostly unstructured and unscheduled so that I have room for the little things that are so important: reading with my child, going for a walk, taking a nap.
I have certain activities I do almost every day, though not on a schedule: writing, reading, eating healthy meals, doing a workout or playing with the kids outdoors, processing my email inbox, reading with the kids.
It’s easy to fill up our lives because there are so many things that sound amazing. We hear about what others are doing and instantly want to add that to our lives. But it’s harder to remember that by adding so many things to our lives, we are subtracting space. And that space is important.
By saying no to things that sound really cool, I’m saying yes to what’s truly important to me.
Distractions are both more tempting and more destructive than we realize.
It’s tempting to fill in every little minute of the day with productivity or distractions. Don’t. Leave some emptiness.
We put too much emphasis on excitement. It’s temporary, and not important.
We overemphasize productivity. Focus, priorities and effectiveness are more important. So is a nice walk with a loved one.
If you can’t learn to sit in a quiet room alone with no distractions, you won’t be able to simplify.
Buying things doesn’t solve our problems. Neither does food.
It’s not how few things we own that matters. It’s whether we make those things count.
It’s better to have six books on your shelf that you’re really going to read than a hundred you never get around to.
When you travel lightly, you’re freer, less burdened, less tired. This applies to life, not just travel.
Your attention is your most valuable possession. Give it as a gift to the people you love most, not a bunch of clowns on the Internet. Give it to the work that matters most, not distractions.
Sometimes distractions are nice.
‘Let’s begin by taking a smallish nap or two.’ – Winnie the Pooh
So does Melanie Roach.
Who makes time for life and family.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Squatting for Athletes

Anatoly Pisarenko showing what an athletic squat looks like.

Is there a good reason why non Powerlifters should max out in squatting movements? Prior to the 1960’s squatting exercises were considered as assistance movements to build strength for cleans and snatches, as well as leg power for other sports. The idea of performing a 1 rep max was not a priority. In fact, the exercise was usually referred to as the deep knee bend. Generally the exercise was performed by either cleaning the weight first, then pushing it over the head on to the shoulders or by standing the bar up on end then squatting down and rocking the bar across the shoulders. While some amazingly strong men were able to use over 500lb. in this fashion, it wasn’t until the late 50’s and early 60’s when Paul Anderson pushed the limits much higher. This is when squat stands came into vogue.
It was during this time when the sport of Powerlifting began. Prior to that time the only sanctioned lifting sport was Weightlifting also known as Olympic style weightlifting. This consisted of three lifts, the Press, Snatch, and Clean and Jerk. In 1972 the Press was dropped due to inconsistent judging. Weightlifting is now the Snatch and Clean and Jerk. For these iron athletes squatting was a means to an end. Maxing out is rarely done. Ask a world class weightlifter what their best back or front squat is and they will usually reply with the heaviest lift they have done for a double or triple. A one rep max in a squatting movement is irrelevant.
However back in the 60’s in the United States there were a lot of men training who did not perform the standard weightlifting lifts either due to lack of access to coaching, lack of interest, or lack of ability. Competitions in other common training lifts began to immerge. As interest grew, these “oddlift” competitions, as they were known, became more standardized. Soon the Bench Press, Back Squat, and Deadlift became the accepted standard lifts and the sport was called Powerlifting, although strength lifting would be more correct. It is not the purpose of this article to cover all the history of the growth of this sport, but sufficeth to say, today Powerlifters greatly outnumber Weightlifters and there are a variety of organizations that sanction competitions with a variety of rules. The powerlifts are more popular than ever as they are relatively simple to perform in contrast to the more complex weightlifting movements. It was determined that the legal depth for a competitive back squat would be thighs breaking parallel. This is interpreted differently by the different organizations. Some consider a legal squat to be top of the thigh below parallel. Other consider the middle of the thigh and some the bottom hitting 90 degrees. You can watch a lot of squats on Youtube where football players get excited about heavy squats that do not even approach parallel. You can see Powerlifters bound up in tight elastic suits and all manner of strange things where max squats are involved. For weightlifters squats are performed by going as low as possible. No thought is given to parallel or minimum “legal” depth. When you remove the idea that a squat should be performed as a one rep maximum strength test, then there is no need to specify depth. It only makes sense to bend your legs as far as they can bend and strengthen the entire range of motion.
Compare the squatting techniques demonstrated by these examples from Youtube. One is a “World record” from one of many powerlifting organizations complete with all the "gear" and monolift...etc., one is a world champion weightlifter in "no, no, no" style (no wraps, no belt, no spotters), the other is a world class bodybuilder who began his training as a weightlifter. You can see the influence in his squat style. Which style would be most productive for your sport? Is a one rep max more important to throwing far than developing dynamic strength through a full range of motion?