At what point is max. strength improvement not neccesary?

NumberTwo answered it very well and I was just curious how you came to the conclusion that plenty of sub 10 sprinters couldn’t squat 2x their bodyweight if they really wanted to?

I just feel a lot of elite sprinters have naturally strong legs, very lean, if they had motor efficiency in the squat I’m pretty sure 2x BW squat wouldn’t be that difficult for them.

Like I said, define wanted to. If you think either Bolt or Powell could squat >400lbs (double bodyweight) to parallel or below in a backsquat without significant work you are kidding yourself. Powell could barely do a lunge with handweights. If we look more generally at all sprinters, Muna Lee’s coach has said she could not even adequately handle bodyweight work when they initially began working together and she is still incredibly weak even after some years of training.

Everyone talks about fiber composition as-if it is the end all be all and there are plenty of sprinters that have lifted seriously that aren’t putting up great numbers by any means (even when they try). This is one of the worst misconceptions on the internet about sprint training, I think. If it was the case then there would be thousands of sub 10 guys on the internet and these forums because numerous people can squat 2x bodyweight to parallel with minimal to no training and have no hopes of even breaking 12, let alone 10.

**Minimal to no specific training in the squat. Just general strength training, not necessarily focused on improving 1rm.

I thought it was already answered, but if squats were of high priority I really don’t think 2x bodyweight squat would be impossible for many of them to achieve. I never even mentioned fiber composition or that a 2x BW squat would achieve a low time. I wish! Not so much form drilling, core strength, plyos, tempo runs, flexibility work, etc. 2x BW squat isn’t even that great…

I do think squats and other lower body strengthening has its place. It has helped me, specifically with an explosive start. I do believe it becomes a higher priority if you’re a shorter sprinter. With that said my sprints have almost always helped bring up my squat to a certain degree.

I didn’t say it was impossible. I said many do not have the strength right now and it would not be done easily by simply “learning” the movement. Plenty of sprinters know the movement and if neuromuscular efficiency was the only issue, then all of these guys should be able to squat 2x BW, but many can’t (or at least, not to a reasonable depth).

And I also didn’t say that resistance training does not have a place, it is just one role within a complete program and resistance training in general is not and should not be limited to lifting weights. Plenty of sprinters got strong enough to run sub 10 by doing hills, stadium stairs, plyos, throws, etc. It depends on the situation and it is a misconception to think that increased strength in lifts means faster times or that guys fast on the track will have big weightroom lifts, even with “learning” the movement.

The point I am trying to get through to you is that many people exaggerate what sprinters are capable of doing in the weightroom–or at least the context of those lifts (ie doing 1/4 squats not parallel squats)–and this leads to the belief that doing lots of heavy lifting (to the point of extreme excess) is going to help you run a faster 100m and it sadly won’t.

The US has long had somewhat of a max strength bias among coaches and I think a lot of this in recent years has to do with groups like WSBB and the powerlifters pretending that max strength is the be-all, end-all of training.

Nevermind that current PL’ing numbers are inflated with a combination of absurd gear and feds that pass bs lifts. They tend to talk the loudest and people who don’t know better listen.

As well, coaching in the weight room is relatively cleaner: you do X and the numbers either go up or they don’t. Makes it easier to see what’s working and/or claim that ‘My program works’ because you raised max strength to some arbitrary level.

At least compared to a bunch of interacting variables that go into sporting performance.

But outside of two sports, to whit PL’ing and OL’ing where what you do in the weight room IS the competitive movement, strength per se is, at best, a means to an end, not an end to itself.

People forget that last bit all too often.


Also, as Charlie has mentioned many, many times before, as performance levels in sprinting improve, strength levels expressed in the weight room tend to reflect power output on the track, rather than vice versa. Once your basic strength levels are established well enough to permit proper execution of the sprinting technique, speed development tends to lead strength development, or perhaps more accurately, strength expression (given the right circumstances of recovery).

In other words, Ben didn’t run sub 10 in the 100m because he could squat 600 pounds. Rather, he could squat 600 pounds because he could run sub 10.

I don’t believe people are exaggerating. We are simply stating that if their training program was directed to lifting heavier, we believe that they could lift heavier. This doesn’t mean that we are advocating it.

I don’t believe anyone in their right mind - if they happened to acquire Bolt and Powell as their athletes - would advocate that they squat heavy. Mo Greene easily full squatted over 400lbs, as did many others in his group who also ran under 10 seconds. Does this mean everyone should do it? No. It may reflect a preference by the coach, and it is not a question of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

For younger athletes, working on your squat could very well improve their start and acceleration - particularly if their strength levels are not great. Does this mean everyone should do it? Certainly not. It is a case-by-case assessment.

The art of coaching is making appropriate decisions given the circumstance placed before you (athlete type, personality, climate, facilities, group size, etc). I do get frustrated when people argue about black-and-white issues when there is so much gray area in training. Good coaching is about making good decisions, not following a plan or philosophy blindly.

As Flash cited, Ben did heavy squats and ran fast (not because of squatting heavy). It does go back to what Charlie outlines in his lecture DVD’s - you have different options and different means of eliciting training effects. Squatting is a tool and, in some cases, may even be an indicator. As we found out in another thread, deadlifting is a tool. Is one better than the other - who really knows from an absolute point of view? If you don’t have a squat rack, I’d say perhaps deadlifting is an option. Same if you are Quasimodo.

Others may throw a med-ball or rely on jumps. I remember when Charlie and I were back in North Carolina doing a seminar (that’s where we met Flash and Pioneer), we had dinner with what was then one of the top female sprinters in the world and her coach. We found out that she didn’t lift heavy, but did hundreds upon hundreds of reps of jumps and plyos. She looked pretty freakin’ strong and scary to me. She did kind of scare us.

If people are out there advocating deep heavy squats for mature athletes to get faster, well that’s unfortunate. But I do believe that people on this forum are much more intelligent than to purport that squatting leads to a fast 100m.:cool:

this belief is true in moderation only. increasing your squat from 275 for reps up to 365 for reps is going to benefit you, and even more benefit if you’re squatting 405, 455, so on.

I definitely agree with this, one major thing I’ve noticed is bar speed improvements. On the flip side I think some are very quick to jump the gun where you state that strength training does have some benefits. That doesn’t mean you are making it the primary priority of your training. Having better relative strength has helped my explosion out of the blocks and through the acceleration.

I think we have to be careful at how we word this. I believe that such an increase could reflect a benefit. But, more importantly, it may be an indicator of greater performance on the track - not necessarily a direct contributor. Again, it is individual specific and we would have to look at the entire annual training program to make an accurate assessment.

For other sports, such as football, such an increase would definitely be welcome and could be classified as both an indicator and contributor. At least I would argue there would be a stronger case for it than for sprinting.

Some good points in this thread. Strength is like a lot of qualities a threshold capacity. You need to develop it but beyond a certain point it does not necessarily contribute to better performances on the track. At this point the key question is will increasing strength crush my speed qualities? If the answer is no then keep going but when you notice it starts to change to a yes then it’s time to look at your programme again…

Agreed. However, what is likely the general point where strength is fairly developed to the point where its good?

When it’s at a point where further increases either

a. take time away from training that amtters
b. hurt performance

I daresay if you found out the actual strength levels of real athletes, they are not nearly as high as you’d think or think they should be in a lot of sports.

And clearly, as Bolt and others are showing, big max strenght levels are simply NOT REQUIRED for maximal performance. Now, maybe this is just specific to them, maybe they get the simulus elsewhere, maybe they are more elastic and less strenght dominant. I don’t know enough about sprinting to comment.

But if you’re going to argue that getting them to a 405 squat would make them better, you’re either stupid or arrogant as hell; possibly both.

And, certainly, it seems that the emphasis on max strength has gone down in recent years.

Consider ice speed skating, in the 80’s, claimed half squats of 2.5XBW for 5 reps were common.

More recently, I’ve watched some of the top US and Candian sprinters train in the weight room. Maybe bodyweight half squats or a touch more.

Changes to facilities (indoor vs. outdoor), equipment (the clap), technique have all caused this.

Simply, outside of the pure power events (Pl, OL, maybe some of the throws), max strength to high levels just isn’t critical.

There is even work by Schmidtbleicher that too much max strength can HURT power.

And while Ben comes up a lot, some things to consider:

  1. With absolutely NO disrespect to Charlie, unless someone can show me that Ben hit 600 to parallel, I’d take it with a grain of salt. I’ve been in weight rooms nearly 2 decades and this is how it works

[li]If someone says they squat full, they squat maybe to parallel
[/li][li]If they say they squat to parallel, they maybe hit a quarter squat
[/li][li]IF they say they quarter squat, you might see their knees bend a bit if you look closely.

Again, no disrespect, just a statement of fact. Maybe Ben really did it, maybe he didn’t. I’ve seen too many claimed big lifts that turned out to be in error (people always think they squat deeper than they really do) to believe anything without video proof anymore.

And given that, when you scale back partial squat numbers to greater depth, the number drop like a stone.

Case in point, a training partner, a bodybuilder, I saw him full squat 405X5 at maybe 210 lbs. He could quarter squat 800. Let’s put a half squat in between that. So from just under double bodyweight to 4Xbodyweight for a quarter squat and maybe triple for a half squat. He was a pasty white guy.

A female trainee of mine who has full squatting 190 can half squat 275+. And we’d have gotten more than that on there if her upper back hadn’t been limiting and/or she hadn’t been such a chicken about the weight on her back.

Point being that the claimed 600 half squat is, at best suspect. Again, no disrespect meant, just a statement of fact.

  1. As others have pointed out, Ben’s squat was probably related to his sprint ability, not the other way around.

I guess the point being that you can chase numbers in the weight room or recognize that they are, at best, fairly meaningless. So instead of trying to find arguments for why the big squats are needed, maybe you should try listening to people who know better than you that they aren’t.


Just for the record, Charlie has never claimed that Ben squatted to parallel. He performed two sets of 6 reps at 600 lbs down to a bench. While not quite parallel, it was still lower than most sprinters would go.

I recall watching video footage during the 1980s of some squatting by Ben. The Canadian media covered Ben’s progress and would sometimes show him in the weight room doing a workout. Because he was moving a lot of weight, they would show him benching and squatting. The one notable thing that I noticed was that he did not even appear to be struggling during his sets.

So, I think we can agree that Ben was an anomaly, with his strength levels far exceeding that of anyone other world class sprinter. An anomaly, not a template…

I don’t think anybody is advocating “too much” max strength work for the sprinter. This seems to be getting recycled now. Obviously a 6"5" natural long tendon freakish sprinter like Bolt is going to be different than other sprinters. Bit of an assumption but it seems to be true that a lot of athletes (basketball players and sprinters from my experience) don’t really care or put that much effort in the weight room, it is just supplemental work.

Also, I would figure that improving strength levels could help drive power. Sprinters do a lot of plyos, rate of force development, increasing max voluntary force could be beneficial. Olympic lifts…those are really hard to learn, take some time. The training efficiency could be an issue. Squats aren’t that hard to learn. Also, I think there is a huge difference from doing slow multiple heavy singles vs. a few sets of 5-6 with good bar speed. If you look at most sprinters, they obviously have very well developed upper legs (quads, hams) and very powerful glutes. Their absolute strength is probably pretty high but it doesn’t mean it reflects it in the weight room nor do they really care to. Plus, factors like lifting, motivation, (lol) and movement efficiency come into play.

Not all sprinters have poor depth in the squat! btw :smiley:

why would it hurt performance regardless, if strength came magically, you’re claiming it would hurt performance, i dont think so…

please dont use the top world class sprinters as the only source, when you’re training a elite sprinter, compare their training to elite sprinters…if you’re thinking of a 10.5 - 11.5 guy, training varies largely and getting stronger does HELP. How much help is all dependent.

You are making FAR too many assumptions, most of which are completely incorrect or too general to be of any use to anybody. I know of two examples of athletes with drastically different profiles than Bolt who were quite amazing in their own right without ever achieving the strength levels you are talking about despite the fact that they did significant amounts of lifting. People who follow D3 probably know who I’m talking about, but a 5’3-4" 170lbs (not a typo) white guy with short tendons ran 10.30 and another white guy (5’7-8", mid 170s) ran 10.2high. Both achieved these performances with lifts that would fall below your assumptions and they certainly had better “lifting” builds than they had “sprinting” builds. The first guy did reach just over >2x BW in the squat, though did a good amount of lifting and trained for bobsled for a period (changing the circumstances) and the other did not come close to 2x bw in the squat, despite lifting hard for years.

Not necessarily. Again, plenty of people have had the improvements you mentioned here in this post and even greater with only minor improvements in their sprinting abilities.

How much help is even worth mentioning? Who cares if you take a couple hundredths off of a 30m time for a guy running over 11 seconds? That is about all of the improvement I’ve seen from people on forums get out of the all this focus on heavy lifting, often being left with crappy max velocities and wondering why they “have such great starts and can’t hold it.”

I don’t think I’m the only one making assumptions, but I really don’t have any “lifting” assumptions based on 100 times. There are things with body types that can be general indicators, but they are not always true.

Also, I just don’t think Bolt should be used as the standard for what every aspiring sprinter should be doing. Bolt or even Powell is fast without this or that = making it true for everybody. Even the D3 guys you picked out, that is impressive, but in the end not sure what that proves if anything.