Everything we know about strength training might be wrong (Part 3/4)
In the last email we looked at a study showing that NCAA Div 1 athletes were actually outperformed by 'active collage aged men' in a test of upper body strength, balance and control.
Yes you read that correctly.
The untrained weekend warrior beat the NCAA athlete-student...badly. So the question that we needed to ask was....what is wrong with traditional training programs? Some of you may be thinking that i'm jumping the gun. After all its only one study. Besides traditional strength training has been shown to increase strength, power and muscle mass...for decades. In fact it's is not even debatable. I don't think there would be any chance for those weekend warriors to out lift the football players. If you got them all in the weight room or on the track the football players would beat them easily at events like sprints, agility, and maximum weight lifted. It wouldn’t be close.
If we could look inside the football players body and watch just how they were distributing the loads on their joints and tissues while lifting all that weight vs the weekend warriors i believe we would see quite a different story. Traditional methods of strength training make people more powerful...period. However If we look a little deeper and examine optimal muscle function the story of traditional strength training becomes more cloudy.
When i go to high level strength and conditioning conferences there is one subject that dominates all the others. Injury prevention. About 10 years ago this subject really started to come to the forefront of training. It had seemed that we had solved the puzzle of how to make athletes stronger and faster, but we had trouble keeping them healthy. With the advent of new technology we began to better understand how those heavy squats and Powercleans affected the body. A new phrase entered the performance coaches vocabulary....load distribution.
Load distribution tells us just how the athletes body deals with the forces they encounter while playing sports and lifting weights. Simply put if an athlete distributes those forces optimally then the muscles take most of the load. If the athlete distributes the loads poorly then the joints and ligaments take the brunt of the loads.
This is where exercise technique becomes important. When performing a heavy lift joint angles become incredibly important in terms of Osteokinematics. Osteokinematics is a term that describes the bone movement when a bone swings through a range of motion around the axis in a joint, such as with flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, or rotation. The tempo of lifting is another critical factor when lifting weights in terms of correct or ideal muscle function.
This is why the football players in our study underperformed compared to the weekend warriors. Yes the football players can lift more weights then the weekend warriors. Yes the football player can run faster.
Yes they are better athletes. But many of them have built all that speed, strength and power on a foundation of dysfunction. And that dysfunction was revealed in the upper body balance/strength test. And judging from injury rates and locomotor disfunction of older speed power athletes after their career is finished we can see that balance and proprioceptor decrements only grow more pronounced as the years and decades pile up.
So the question becomes how do we get all the speed, power and strength benefits from strength training without the dysfunction that often goes along with it?
In the next and last email in this sequence we will look under the hood of proper strength training methods to gain all of the advantages and none of the drawbacks.