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THE SCIENTIFIC BASES OF MODERN

STRENGTH TRAINING
By Gilles Cometti, French Atletism Federation UEREPS, Dijon
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TheThr
ows–Official Report of the European
Athletic Coaches Association Congress, 1987”exami
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rength development
methods and reviews the strength development methods proposed by various experts
in the field. Re-printed with permission from the European Athletic Coaches Association.
This exposé aims at discussing methods of strength training and corresponding
scientific knowledge. It will be made up of four parts:
 In a first part, we will deal with strength mechanisms: among them we will mostly
develop the phenomena of synchronization of motor units and that of elasticity.
 We shall then see the methods of development of strength.
 In a third part, we will deal with the principle of alternation of types of contraction
which strikes us as being the focus point of modern strength training.
 We shall end with the principle of variation of strength in movement with an
appliance called “
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1) Mechanisms of strength
In figure 1, you see the different known mechanisms that exist in strength development.

The best known mechanism is that of hypertrophy and it has been known for many
years with Zatsiorski, that the best method to increase the muscular volume consists in
making repetitions of series of 10 with weights you can only lift ten times. The number of
series must be relatively high, about 10 series. But the most important factors for
strength development are nervous. They number three: the recruitment of motor units

They are the myotatic reflex and muscular elasticity. . After many rehearsals. the sound would thus be long and not very strong. Synchronization of motor units As is shown on figure 2. and explains the quick gains of strength at the beginning of a training period. How is this possible? Another French research worker — Pierrot Desseilligny — showed that the Renshaw cell was under the control of nervous centers which could send inhibitor impulses. we thus get a jamming of the different impulses originally synchronized. This inhibition made it possible to regain the initial synchronization. The recruitment of the motor units deals with the strength developed between 0 and 80 % of the maximum.neurons and ends at the different neighboring motor. the answer would be shorter but also stronger. whereas for beginners it is only 20%.ruled by the Henneman law. In fact. Moreover there exists a third group of phenomena which come into focus when the muscle is submitted to stretching. noticed Paillard. We thus note in this case that improvement in strength is considered as due to the removal of an inhibition. The de-synchronization is thus the result of an inhibition sent by the Renshaw circuit.neurons. they would then be synchronized. He said that for experienced weight lifters. which is paradoxical in comparison with what was claimed previously. However this fundamental phenomenon has not yet found a coherent explanation which explains the question mark on figure 2. the synchronization of motor units which we will develop later and the intermuscular co-ordination. This cell starts contact with a collateral of the motor. which is to say with good timing of the concerned muscle contractions. this mechanism was already noticed by Zatsiorski some 20 years ago. The same thing happens due to the training of motor units. With Paillard we thus learn that the motor-neurons (motoneurons) are at the beginning systematically in phase. Fortunately there is for everyday life a de-synchronization phenomenon which is the Renshaw circuit. Let us take a simple picture to explain the principle of synchronization: let us imagine a room full of spectators who would be asked to shout a sound all together. thus synchronized. For us it is not the determining mechanism in the case of high strength training. We shall develop this phenomenon of elasticity. the number of synchronized motor units could reach 80%. and as each Renshaw cell acts in the same way. The first time they would be surprised and would not react at the same moment. We are going to try and find an explanation thanks to the work of French research workers. The inter-muscular co-ordination is explained as the movement training. this phenomenon of synchronization is unfavorable for everyday life because it would engender violent and trembling movements.

as already stated by Zatsiorski.In order to solicit this mechanism. . In our opinion the mechanism of concentration fits this explanation. that is to say muscular elasticity. We can now deal with the second mechanism which interests us. you must have weights or muscular tensions superior to 80 % of the maximum.

then we introduce a spring at the tail level of myosin ( f i g.Muscular elasticity Thi si sgener al l yr epr esent edbyHi l l ’ si l l ust r at i onwhi chi sshowni nf i gur e3. B) . Figure 4 schematizes the different representations of the myosin molecule.af t er Huxley.4. The series-elastic was classically located in the tendons and in the muscular sheathes.A). more precisely in the actin-myosin pons.A differentiation is made between an elasticity in series and an elasticity in parallel.y ouc anf i ndt hes er epr es ent at i onsi nBosco’ swor ks. However. research-workers have also located it in the contractile part of the muscle. for some years. 4. Firstly we show a simple schema with a head and a tail (fig. .

The Squat-jump consists of measuring the elevation of the centre of gravity from a low knee 90° bend. The isometric contraction where there is no movement of the muscular insertions. This in order to solicit synchronization of the motor units. For a long time these three methods and their combinations have been the major constituent of the variety of strength training. Basically you see a new idea appear. You then discover the method of repeated efforts. the athlete soliciting this time twice his elasticity. Then he does the countermovement jump which consists of beginning in a standing position then in bending. You can note that things develop at the elasticity level.C). These tensions may be obtained:  either in mann ways the weight is maximum and you then have the method of maximum efforts  or the weight is sub maximum and you must then compensate either with maximum fatigue or maximum speed. the athlete can thus only solicit the contractile aspect (of course in a schematic way). then immediately extending. . 2) Methods for developing strength Still thanks to Zatsiorski.Finally nowadays research-workers such as Goubel in France base themselves on Hux l eyandSi mon’ ssc hemawhi chaddt ot hespr i ngoft hemyosin tail the representation of different anchoring points for the head. particularly regarding tests. as shown on figure 5. and the anisometric contractions where the insertions move. we know that to develop strength you must create maximum tension in the muscle. They are the Squat-jump and the Countermovement jump. and the method of dynamic efforts. The difference of performance between the two tests is a significant measure of the elastic qualities of the athlete. You can distinguish 4 types of muscular contractions as shown in figure 6. these anchoring points having also a role to play during stretching (fig. The most current contraction in this group is the concentric contraction: the muscular insertion points approach one another. 4. You can thus find in Bosco two new tests for elasticity. This is a very efficient method of control for training. With Schmidtbleicher there has been a new distinction which deals with all kinds of muscular contractions.

More recently used. Finally since Zanon. we have talked of plyometric work when a muscle sollicited in an eccentric manner immediately produces concentric work. With Schmidtbleicher we can make an inventory of the possibilities offered if we attribute to the three methods of . In figure 6 you can notice the opening of possibilities brought by these kinds of contractions. applied with care it is a method with a surprising efficiency. This type of work is one of the discoveries of modern strength training. you may find the eccentric contraction where the insertions move away from one another.the muscle shortens.

I nf i gur e8wehav eschemat i z edt her esul t soft heset woaut hor s. a group in eccentric only (but still with 25% concentric f orsaf et y ’ ssake) and a mixed group with 50% concentric and 50% eccentric. but modern strength training has found something even better. The mixed group is far above .Zatsiorski the 4 types of contraction. But thanks in particular to Pletnev and Komi. Against habit you should then use the alternation of efforts. 3) Alternation of types of contraction The phenomenon against which the development of strength fights is habit. Komi made a group work in concentric only. or the Bulgarian method. It consists of alternating in the session heavy and light weights.Komi ’ swor kdeal twi t h 3 different groups. the alternation applies nowadays with the type of contraction of the muscle. You can see in the diagram the progress of work over 12 weeks. a combination at these types of contractions as we are going to see right now. this method is known in France under the name of method of contrasts. The variety of work is thus much improved. The first alternation which appeared in strength training — as shown in figure 7 — is the alternation of weights. One of the exercises taken as a support is bench press.

These experiments show the interest in this type of alternation. i. We think that nowadays one should investigate all the possibilities of combinations as suggested by figure 9. You can thus note the great variety introduced. The group with 50% eccentric work performed best. Moreover we can combine the types of contraction 2 by 2. The mixed group also had the best results. and a group 50% concentric. He thus had 4 groups: one working in concentric. Pletnev then wanted to know more about the best possible combination of these 3 types of contraction and he did a second experiment with 3 groups: one working 50% in eccentric. a group with 50% isometric. taking into account the fact that one can combine the types of contraction either in the same sequence or in the same series. or even 4 by 4. one in isometric. Since then other studies have been made in the same direction.e.as far as its progression is concerned. one group in eccentric and a mixed group with the three parameters. isometric work. 25% in isometric and 25% in concentric. 25% eccentric and 25% isometric. 3 by 3. Why not vary strength and the type of muscle solicitation in the same repetition! . But the subtleness of modern musculation does not stop there. 25% eccentric and 25% concentric. Pletnev had the same idea but this time with a new parameter.

its movement and the force applied. The movement is thus both isometric and concentric. It thus gives the speed of the bar. We can note immediately the possibilities.4) The modification of strength in the same repetition This idea is shown in figure 10. Moreover. as with the Sportonic. . The stato-dynamic method consists of making a halt with a bar (about 2 seconds). to go down at 120 % and up at 80% . thanks to force sensors fixed to the bar. In the entry — as shown on figure 11 — you can programme the developed strength according to the movement both for the in and return movement. In this case it is better to have an appliance enabling a change of load during the movement. then finishing the movement very quickly. It is with this kind of appliance and with the preceding methods that modern strength training will improve. This revolutionary appliance offers the following possibilities: it can be linked to a computer and thus has an entry and an exit. the Sportonic having a motor to take the place of weights. it is able to supply information in the manner the movement has been executed. Of course with classical equipments this supposes a way of loading the bar during the movement. They are the stato-dynamic method and the 120-80 % referred to by Tschiene. This is a rather risky operation. Already some methods exist which go this direction. The 120-80 % method is even more ingenious as it proposes in the same movement.