In this blog I will cover the new slogan “strong enough” in depth and why I would never use this terminology with my athletes.
The force-velocity curve is usually referenced in rudimentary context. Often coaches assume that because max-strength is on one end and explosive strength is on the other, just simply train max-strength first then once the athlete is “strong enough,” hit the other end of the curve and boom you have a world class athlete. Science solved.
In actuality it’s much more complex than that. The FV-Curve implies that “velocity of a muscle contraction is inversely proportional to the load, that a large force cannot be exerted in very rapid movements (as in powerlifting), that the greatest velocities are attained under conditions of low loading, and that the intermediate values of force and velocity depend on the maximal isometric force. It is misleading to take this to mean UNIVERSALLY that large force CANNOT be produced at LARGE VELOCITIES, because ballistic action involving stretch-shortening and powerful neural facilitation exist to manage such situations.” – Dr. Mel Siff
Training optimally for any explosive sport requires an enhancement of all motor abilities. Often we see coaches take a well-rounded athlete, add size and overall strength to the athlete with little effort placed on enhancing all other motor abilities. Then when the athlete ends up not performing better at their sport, coach is confused. The carryover is minimal thus resulting in coaches saying the athlete has now reached a sufficient level of strength for their sport and it is now time to enhance explosiveness or RFD. On the other end of the spectrum (which is happening more often with social media coaches all banning together) we have coaches whom prioritize the development of power. As if to say it is more meaningful to develop power over max-strength or vice versa.
“Strong enough” is probably one of the worst slogans created by social media coaches. Assuming an athlete is “strong” because of a 1RM squat, deadlift, or bench is simply low level coaching. Unfortunately, squatting heavy all the time won’t increase your vertical for long. No stimulus will work forever; you can thank the law of accommodation for that one. At first just about anything works. Building a base isn’t easy but usually results with increase in speed capabilities. But, over time the athlete will need optimal training methods to get the most out of themselves.
Heavy barbell back squats require the muscles to work very slow, increasing isometric strength because of the constant tension produced by the load. The development of explosive strength requires more then heavy lifting. It requires a system. A long term plan for development. Explosive strength is a motor quality that must be trained specifically with the intentions to enhance that quality. This doesn’t mean the athlete is strong enough or that prioritizing explosive strength is always the answer either. If the coach decreases resistance training then this will diminish the dynamic effort required to produce explosive strength.
MAX strength is the maximal force that a person can develop voluntarily, ex: the heaviest weight they can lift. There are two primary ways max-strength (and absolute) can be enhanced.
A) Repetitive Effort Method – consists of repetitively lifting a weight that increases as muscular strength grows.
B) Brief Maximal Tension Method – develops the ability to concentrate neuromuscular effort and yields a larger training effect than the progressive resistance method for developing maximum strength and the ability to display it QUICKLY.
HOW you perform your exercise is far more important than WHAT exercise is being performed.
In our program we utilize the conjugate model. I wont dive deep into the conjugate model, but if you would like to know more about it I highly recommend reading “Super Training” by Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky and DR. Mel Siff, “The book of Methods” by Louie Simmons, and “Special Strength Development For All Sports” by Louie Simmons.
Now whenever the conjugate model is discussed you must mention Louie Simmons. This man has influenced any program utilizing the conjugate method. If your coach says its all his thinking, he’s lying. The conjugate system was adapted from Russian methods used to train multiple sports. Unfortunately because this model was popularized by Westside Barbell, everyone associates it with powerlifting. So most coaches (prior to self-applying or doing their own research) rule it out because powerlifters aren’t the fastest sprinters or highest jumpers.
Instead of looking at strength as WHAT exercises are being performed or even worse “heavy weight and light weight,” lets look at it from HOW they’re performed.
Powerlifters train to enhance weak points during their lift to become masters of each lift. They hit specific joint angles to enhance their lifts and simultaneously train special strengths to bring up weak points in their lifts. Athletes’ train in a similar fashion. Athletes train specific joint angles to enhance their performance on the field and aid in mastering their craft. Yes, I am well aware that athletes train to mitigate their chances of injury, but real competitors train to get better. Not maintain or stay safe. So I feel no need to list that as a reason for training.
Telling an athlete that they are “strong enough,” so now it’s time to prioritize other aspects of strength training including velocity-based training is absurd. I had a hard time even typing that sentence. Strength is measured in speed. Without strength there is no speed. With out speed, strength capabilities are limited. Aside from the obvious hypocritical error saying that there is a point where athletes reach sufficient strength, limiting the mental health of the athlete is not enhancing performance by any means. I am not saying that athletes should solely focus on the amount of weight they are lifting. I am saying that athletes need a system. The moment you stop training one aspect of the FV-Curve, the others diminish.
Elite level athletes thrive in competition. That is why we constantly hit PR’s in the weight room. Regardless if the competition is with themselves or with somebody next to them, they need to win and they need to lose. This helps athletes grow. They chase victory constantly. It’s the best part about athletics. The scoreboard is all that matters. You can “win” with more then just a 1RM (that’s slow strength for the people who love VBT). You can compete in vertical jumps, box jumps, loaded jumps, broad jumps, ground contact time (who comes off the ground faster, measured with GCT device), sprint times, reps (repetition method), velocity on the bar (measuring with VBT device), the list goes on and on. You name it, you can compete with it. Problem is, if a coach limits his idea of what strength actually is, this same coach will limit the athlete’s view of what strength is. This is dangerous. Athletes look to us to help shape their view points and thoughts on how to train and why to train that way. They trust us.
As of now my athletes utilize the max-effort method, repeated effort method, and dynamic effort method. Without going into extreme detail I will lay out a simple reasoning for each method and how we use this for our system year around. Keep in mind; there are specifics that change per sport, time of year, and individual. This is a general overview.
Max effort – A true maximal effort is a 1RM but that doesn’t mean we only hit 1RMs. Athletes need to train above 90% frequently to increase strength. We go through phases to get the athlete ready for the maximal effort method, but in short we teach the athlete to strain here, whether it be on a 1RM or even a 3RM. We keep our max effort rep ranges between 1-5 with our high level athletes. The velocity in this range is low but the intent to move this weight as fast as possible is high.
Repeated effort – simple really, bring up weak areas of the body and build tissues. I personally like using a lot of bands to enhance elastic properties and blood flow, but you can get extremely creative here. Rep ranges can be altered from high volume reps to timed repetitions. Enhancement of muscular endurance and prioritizing timed rest makes is fairly easy to maintain an aerobic base as well.
Dynamic effort – force output in this range is low, but we strive to make it high by placing a high amount of effort on the acceleration phase. This is where our speed work takes place.
We have had success utilizing these methods with all of our athletes. But I wouldn’t recommend taking my word for it. Coaches, go self-apply and read. Spend less time worrying about what your followers think, making content, and arguing with other coaches online. Spend more time furthering your education. It’s really quite simple. Gathering information is one of the easiest tasks on this earth. It’s right at your fingertips.
Thanks for reading this blog, if you’re a coach and you disagree with me or any of the information I put forth in this blog, instead of negatively sub tweeting about me, email me here: Info@optimalpowerperformance.com or at least @ me.