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Questioning Training Methodologies
There Is Not Always An Easy Answer
When I was an assistant at VCU, Tim Kontos (Assistant Athletic Director at Virginia Commonwealth University) accused me of “riding the f ence” and not taking a stand on many issues. While I don’t remember the specif ics of that conversation and I lef t VCU in 2007, that statement has managed to haunt me over the course of the past six years. I’ve always respected Tim’s opinion, even on issues in which I didn’t like what he had to say. In processing Tim’s statement over the last six years, I’ve discovered that he was right and that I also f eel many coaches and lif ters would be better served if they would “ride the f ence.” T he problem isn’t that I don’t think standing f or and knowing what I believe in isn’t important. T his is very important. But I also f eel that there are many sides to every issue we f ace and that we should objectively process and consider all options in order to solve the problem at hand. Many times when I’m not taking a stand, I’m at the same time trying to present a dif f erent viewpoint. Af ter all, how can we truly know what we believe in unless we thoroughly understand all sides of the issue? Below, I will discuss several issues that commonly arise and cause conf lict in the strength and conditioning community. For the purposes of this article, I will keep with true f orm and not take a stand but will show that the answer isn’t always as simple as picking the side you believe in. Every situation is dif f erent, and sometimes a similar issue may have a dif f erent resolution considering the specif ics of the given situation.

Full, Olympic-st yle Squat s vs. Wide-St ance, Powerlif t ing-st yle Squat s
Many coaches argue that Olympic squats are superior f or athletes because that is the stance they use when playing their sport. Other coaches advocate a powerlif ting style because of the superior strength it builds in the posterior chain. First, why would stance width matter if all squatting is a general exercise to all sports other than powerlif ting, weightlif ting, and Strongman? I knew an of f ensive line coach who taught his linemen to take a very wide stance at the line of scrimmage. Would it make more sense f or those athletes to squat with a wide stance? Sprinters and jumpers never get into a wide position with their f eet but need to devote special attention to developing their posterior chain. Powerlif ting style squats are better at developing the inner thigh and outer hips, which are crucial f or lateral movement and change of direction.

Full Range-of -Mot ion vs. Part ial Range-of -Mot ion
To many strength coaches, it is almost sacrilegious to even mention squatting high, but there are track and f ield coaches who never allow their athletes to squat below a quarter squat position. Why is it important f or an athlete to develop strength in a position he will never be in when perf orming his sport?

it is important to train through a f ull range of motion.When accentuating the range of motion of the sport technique. it may be benef icial f or an . or pins. Training through a partial range of motion during certain periods of the year may allow f or a better carryover to the actual sport movements. To properly develop the joints and f lexibility. In order to maintain strength. Highly advanced athletes may benef it immensely f rom training through a partial range of motion. predisposing him to injury. If only quarter squats are trained. A beginning powerlif ter may not benef it f rom board presses while an elite level powerlif ter may f ocus the majority of his bench training of f boards. it is important to develop special strength in the exact range of motion of the activity being trained. f oam. the athlete will be capable of lif ting loads that his spine and knees may not be prepared f or.

how do you ensure that they’re all using saf e technique? If you’re working with prof essional baseball players who live and die by their wrists and shoulders. Stuart McGill has become one of the f oremost authorities on training f or the low back.injured athlete to train through a partial range of motion while rehabbing an injury bef ore returning to a f ull range of motion. No Cleans Are Olympic lif ts the best way to develop power? Should athletes (other than weightlif ters) do Olympic lif ts? Are Olympic lif ts saf e? If you didn’t answer both yes and no to each of those questions. strength coaches who have eliminated the use of sit-ups or variations of sit-ups to strengthen the abs. I don’t know many. undulating periodization. and elbows consistently beat up on the f ootball f ield do cleans? Are there certain times of the year when cleans are more appropriate than others? If you have ten volleyball players who pay close attention to your coaching and work to utilize proper technique. reverse periodization—I’m sure that I’ve f ailed to mention ten or more dif f erent methods or variations of organizing training. he advocates the use of isometric means such as bridges or anti-f lexion exercises to strengthen the abs and help stabilize the low back. predispose the back to injury. especially when loaded. the conjugate method. He has strongly discouraged the use of sit-ups. and injury mechanisms of the low back. would cleans be ef f ective or would improving maximal strength through squatting be more benef icial f or developing power? Linear Periodizat ion vs. wrists. the tier system. low back disorders. if any. or other means of spinal f lexion. to strengthen the abs because these movements. Could the strengthening of the abs be weakening the low back? Javelin. and volleyball athletes all need to use a certain degree of spinal f lexion to perf orm their sport movements correctly. you probably have a narrow-minded viewpoint and need to rethink your position. sequential training. If you’re coaching by yourself (no assistants or interns to help) and have f if ty collegiate f ootball players in the weight room at the same time. concurrent training. over time. are cleans and snatches the best option? Should f ootball players who get their shoulders. Instead. So which one is best? What level athletes are you working with? What type of training have they done in the past? What sport are you working with and which abilities are most important in that sport? What is their competition schedule? What is their school schedule? Does the sport coach pref er a certain type of planning? What type of planning are you the most comf ortable implementing? What types of planning do you have the most knowledge of ? Sit -ups vs. could cleans be benef icial? If you have a f reshman girl who can’t even squat close to her body weight. Bridges (planks) Over the last ten years or so. block periodization. Everyt hing Else Linear periodization. Cleans vs. crunches. triphasic training. He has devoted his career to studying the low back. baseball. Should they utilize abdominal movements with spinal f lexion in their training? . the Westside method. However.

and MMA. in that specif ic situation. Related Articles: Periodization. how will we continue to develop strength or will that level of strength be at a suf f icient level f or her sport. will there come a point in the athlete’s career when her strength levels will plateau? At that point. Sometimes a coach may break f rom what is commonly accepted as being correct because. We must think through every situation f rom all viewpoints to understand what needs to be accomplished and how it should be accomplished. which. when applied correctly. criticism may be drawn because those looking in don’t stop to think about the reasoning behind the methods or take into consideration the entire situation the coach used to develop the methods being applied. will have a signif icant carryover to the actual sport being trained? If we choose not to use advanced loading. Does one group have more injuries than the other? Does one group make more progress than the other? Does one group plateau earlier than the other? Do we have any way of knowing the answer to any of the preceding questions other than speculation? Should we even take into consideration how advanced the lif ting is since these athletes aren’t and most likely never will be lif ters. my viewpoints aren’t present or are at least limited. Does this make them advanced lif ters? Some coaches claim that most collegiate athletes are beginner or intermediate lif ters and that they shouldn’t use advanced lif ting methods. Why All the Confusion? A Debate Between Powerlifting and Olympic Lifting as the Main Athletic Training Method . bef ore I get a ton of criticism f or what I’ve written in this article. It is imperative that we don’t become narrow-minded and biased when choosing how we train our athletes. From the outside. meaning that the majority of work we do in the weight room should be considered general preparation? Do they need to be advanced in the weight room to incorporate special exercises. Other coaches repeatedly use advanced exercises and loading methods.Advanced At hlet es vs. meaning she no longer needs to improve that particular ability? Riding t he Fence or Comprehensive Analysis? Again. Advanced Lif t ers Most athletes at the Division 1 level should be considered advanced athletes and the prof essional level elite athletes. the best option may be something f rom outside the box. Training. I’m merely trying to show that each specif ic situation may require a dif f erent perspective.

T here Is a Place for Everything .

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