Monday, June 28, 2010

Olympic Lifts vs. Explosive Jumps for Speed

Here is a post I put on recently.  Same old argument of O-lifts vs. other for explosiveness.  I usually skip these debates online and would rather have the conversation in person, but ended up posting for some reason.

I remember sitting having a couple of beers with Steve Plisk (a very knowledgeable coach and big O-lift advocate) and saying "the Olympic lifts are NOT about power in the triple extension." My assistant director used to work for him and I think he was ducking under the table at that point. Steve sat up a little straighter and gave me a look that said the next things out of my mouth had better be good.

"It's the fact that you can develop multiple strength & power qualities at the same time, and maybe most importantly it's the ECCENTRIC Rate of Force Development that's the most beneficial." As the discussion went on we agreed on these benefits and Steve didn't try to put me under the table.

I think Rob's post was really important and I think many will miss some points. Too much of the discussion on O-lifts revolves around "power". However, many strength coaches are not thinking through the entire force velocity curve as Rob elaborates. What part are you trying to train? What part does your athlete need in their sport/position?

Too much of the conversation also revolves around clean variations. There are also snatch and jerk variations to add to your toolbox.

As a training tool you can drastically change the FORCE part of the curve. From much heavier than bodyweight (or most added implements) to less than bodyweight. Yes less. In the teaching phases a bodyweight jump may require more force in that basic motion than doing a light bar. And for the more load side of the equation, there are very few ways that you can add load at the level of O-lifts without a barbell. Dumbells, kettlebells, weight vests wont do it.

As a training tool you can also change the strength characteristics. As Rob mentioned different starting positions and conditions will have a major impact in how you are training the neuromuscular system. I remember talking to Al Vermeil on the phone about 15 years ago and he opened my eyes to using different starting positions to affect different strength & power qualities.

As a training tool you can train concentric and eccentric qualities in a controlled manner and affect them in mutli-joint movements that develop the legs hips, core, thoracic spine and shoulder girdle.

As a training tool you have some objective measure of rfd and success. You either make the lift or not. Use a Tendo or Gym Aware unit and you have greater feedback.

As a training tool you can work on some unilateral stability and strength qualities (think split lifts).

Is there anything magic about them? No.

Are they the only tool you should have? No.

Are your performance coaching skills complete without them? NO.

Do I use O-lifts? Yes, extensively.

Do I use jumps, plyos, weighted jumps, vertimax, medicine balls,weighted sleds, dynamic effort band squats, etc...? Yes, extensively.

Do I recommend consistent use of O-lifts in a young developing athlete? Yes,as the primary method for explosive qualities.

Do I believe they are "safe"? Yes, as much as any training technique.

Do I believe many programs are doing them poorly and should stop? Yes. Or better have the coaches learn how to coach.

Does using the crappy techniques we often see cause a problem? Yes, but not just in injury risk, but also in poor transfer of training.

Do I believe that examples of poor transfer abound? Yes. If you are lifting the weight but, you end with no hip extension, legs wide, back arched, or holding bar on wrists, you are not helping performance.

To go back to the question, here is why I may choose one versus the other.

Efficiency - I know in Joe DeFranco's rationale he seems to advocate other methods to give athletes"more bang for their buck". I am always looking for that as well. The fewer things I can do and the less energy expended to gets results is better for an athlete. That's exactly why I often will use an O-lift. I get to train more strength qualities in more of the body with that movement. Put a gun to my head and tell me I have to get the best results developing and preventing injury in athletes with just one movement. I say O-lift variations.

If I have the luxury of abundant time and energy, than doing various other methods of strength and power development can work very well.

Training Phase Time - I think Mike Boyle mentioned somewhere about how long you have to work with the athletes to achieve a goal being important. If we only have 5-10 weeks to affect performance (say NFL Combine training) and the athlete does know how to do the lift well, I'm not using it. Why would I limit my athlete by spending time teaching them. Use other lifts to train the qualities you want. If they walk in the door and have time restrictions, and haven't done the O-lifts, I'm using other methods plain and simple.

Athlete Preference - Don't forget this. I have many times had athletes that have been convinced by other strength/performance coaches that the O-lifts are bad. I've had the athletes who were always told to lift more in the clean and felt the pains who don't want to do them. So the question is then, Do I send them away because they don't fit me,or do I find what fits them? I will try and fit a program that fits them and their goals. If an O-lift would be the best way, I will tell them that. It's never the ONLY way,although it may be a BETTER way.

Eccentric Needs- It's an entirely different thread, but the importance of training eccentric qualities is still under-rated in our profession. It's one of the most critical factors in performance enhancement, injury prevention, and injury rehabilitation. Various jumps (especially if externally loaded with weight vests, bungee cords, or other means) are very useful. However for any athlete in a contact sport with player impacts, O-lift variation are maybe the best method for progressive, safe and effective eccentric rate of force development. You don't get this benefit in pulls alone or many jumps alone.

Facilities - Do I have the platforms, bumpers and bars? If not, such as training on the field or while travelling on the road, I will have to utilize other methods. If I don't have any other tools, I'm not serving my athletes.

Safety - Not an issue of one versus the other. Any method has risk. If I get an athlete who has extensive wrist injury Hx (like some NHL guys I've had) the clean may not be the way to go. At the same time, if I have a guy with extensive knee injury Hx, I may be better off not using the jumps so much and using the control and stability of the Olifts more. If you believe that jumps and bodyweight are inherently safer, spend time watching many of the YouTube videos of plyos being done horrendously. When do most ACL injuries occur? Non-contact landings, stops and cuts.

Training Phase - In season versus off season relates a lot back to the efficiency point. While I love lots of jumps and plyos, I can get good stimulus on explosive strength qualities with the O-lifts with less impact and injury risk at times. Do I need specific explosive qualities or general? I may do O-lifts in greater volume earlier, and then reduce their volume and add more specific movements as we move toward a competition phase.

Guys it's a tool. I believe a relatively safe,effective and efficient one. I still believe there are some every good coaches who don't use them. I believe there are some poor coaches who do. I think there are lots of coaches who don't know how to do them or coach them and make excuses why.