Barry Ross on Ben and Maurice!

Saw some discussions on another site with Barry Ross. He makes a bold claim regarding Ben Johnson and Maurice Green. Here it is:

"I did not say that runners would beat weightlifters in a short race nor did I say bigger is faster. I said that runners could beat olymplic lifters in all but shorter races. I did not say that anyone believes that bigger is faster. I said that coaches believe you need to get bigger to get stronger. Please make sure that you understand and address the points that I actually make.

My runners have competed at every level.

Bloated competitors are those that gain mass through unnecessary sarcoplasmic hypertrophy in order to increase strength. A significant number of olympic sprinters do exactly that, from Ben Johnson to Maurice Green. That is because they did not zero in on the effects of gravity, but put more focus on relatively unimportant parts of running mechanics. Please don’t respond with how fast either one of them ran because increasing strength with less hypertrophy would have allowed them to run faster times.

I am not issuing the breakthrough, Peter Weyand, et. al. did. I’m merely addressing a manner of dealing with the issue of gravity and its affect on msf through strength training that minimises mass without sacrificing strength.

Unless one does not believe that gravity affects sprinting, every race is an example of msf(mass specific force). Weyands study addressed all of the information you are asking for, so your response sounds like you did not read the study. If that is the case, you might enjoy reading it, if you did read it, exactly what do you think his results showed?

I’ve addressed all of these issues, with the science behind them in the book including why MSF is a priority, how mass can be minimalized, why training for increased stride rate and length are relatively unimportant, and many other areas. While you certainly don’t have to read the book, I also don’t need to post every detail here either.

To my knowledge, I haven’t seen an ideal model of size, strength, predisposed physiology and psychological maturation factor. From Hayes to Hines, Borzov to Lewis, Johnson to Greene, Montgomery to Powell…height, shapes, support functions, et cetera have been unique for many of them.

You can do for yourself and those that follow. For Mr. Ross and Felix it probably worked. Is she the ideal model?

By the way, I do understand the argument. I don’t agree with the one model fits all proposition.

Yup, Barry Ross is right and bloated competitors, Ben and Maurice (by extention, me and John) are wrong. They would have been faster if only they’d had the fortune to be coached by him!
While we were wasting time on trivial matters such as stimulus and distribution of high intensity work over the whole body, he would have restricted training to MSF work and the importance of minimizing mass. (The second point will be proved just as soon as the Olsen twins take over women’s sprinting.)
It’s the general vs specific arguement and this site has tons of discussion on this topic. The Forum review and Vanc DVDs present the graph with exercises and the percentages of motor units involved in them.
Male vs female strengthening opportunities must be considered as well, where upper body strength potentials vary more widely than lower body potentials. Women have up to 95% of male potential in the lower body vs only 65% to 70% potential in the upper body.

Yea where’s the rest of the Allyson Felix’s? Bobby Kersee is coaching her now. I’m sure Bobby isn’t salivating for Ross’s help. Just another example of one gifted HS athlete “making” a coach.

One model does fit all when all there is is only one model!!

I guess the definition of ”bloath” varies among people; I used to think Linford was huge… until I saw him in real life and came to an another conclusion. Put Ben and Mo (at their prime) on a scale and be surprised how little they weight compared to any regular “skinny” guy from the street.

This thread once again highlights the conflicting theories that exist in sprint training. There seems to be no general agreement amongst top level coaches in track apart from the fact that you have do some sprinting to run faster. What does this tell us about track? Its bloody tough and seems to be a lottery for athletes, because if you get a coach who believes in unsound theories then you are F****!

Sarcomere vs. sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is indeed rather controversial territory and it appears as if almost all articles written on the topic is pointing towards the same references: Nikituk & Samoilov 1990 and Zalessky & Burkhanov.

Mel Siff wrote about the phenomenon in his book “Supertraining as well as Zatsiorsky in his book “Science and Practice of Strength Training”. I believe that both are referring to these Russian articles that to much knowledge hasn’t been translated into English. Since then many authors (mainly North Americans) has jumped on the bandwagon claming that bodybuilding type of resistance training would to a much greater extend create saroplasmic than high intensity type of resistance training.

When Mel Siff visited us here in Sweden some years ago I brought up the question. His response was that the whole topic is far from clear and there is much to be done in terms of research before we can draw some definite conclusions on the topic. I think that late dr Siffs even though his is one of the greatest “thinkers” in the strength business that I’ve met, was more of a biomechanist than a muscle expert. Some fact are talking against the whole theory namely that muscle protein contains a rather small portion of sarcoplasma (10-20%). Even a rather large Saroplasmic hypertrophy could not explain the differences in strength between weightlifter and bodybuilders.

I’m certainly not an muscle expert either but I would guess that just because an muscle protein doesn’t actively contribute to the muscle contraction doesn’t mean it’s not involved and contributing to motion. Just as an example Titin that spans sarcomere from M line to Z line provides elasticity via serial spring elements very important in many sports activities.

I guess that the core question is why subjects with the same muscle mass might have different strength capacity (weightlifter vs. bodybuilder). We know that strength is limited by CNS/PNS capacity and function, fiber type, mechanical differences etc, etc. Most likely will those parameter give a far better explanations than saroplasmic vs. sarcomere hypertrophy.

I don’t think a very talented sprinter that might possess 80%+ of fast twitch fiber has to worry much developing strength. On the contrary, hypertrophy of his muscles will produce larger muscle cells of predominately fast fibers. If he is combining his strength training with high intensity sprinting in a proper way, he will develop power and specific neuromuscular pathways that will improve his sprinting times. Some concerns though: high intensity strength training and possible all other activities with high CNS activity seems open androgen receptors in fast fibers and thereby promoting growth of fast fibers. Seems fine but remember that heavy resistance training seems to alter MHC IIX to IIA as seen in elite weightlifters. In my view a disadvantage in sprinting and other high velocity sports? This is probably less of a problem with a properly periodized system though.

What about combining resistance training with extensive endurance training? It seems like that is a lot more difficult if you are targeting FT fibers. Endurance training seems to do the opposite to high intensity training; it seems to suppress receptors in FT fibers and open the once in ST fibers; promoting growth of slow fibers and less development of fast fibers. This can bee seen in endurance runners and there are some indications that women will respond in the same way. Why? Hard to know but it probably has to do with the endocrine profile (less testosterone). That is one of the reasons I definitely favors the short to long approach promoted by Charlie Francis and others, especially for advanced athletes.

Sometimes I think that we are putting to much emphasize on resistance training for sprinters especially here in Europe, but that is a different story…

All the best
Håkan Andersson
Sundsvall, Sweden

Yes, exactly. People speak who don’t know. Ben was 173 lbs in Seoul and his strength/weight ratio speaks for itself. I might add that there must be a balance between acceleration and top speed work which may vary from a top speed only model.

An excellent summary of the issues.

Science has been an important factor in the development of all parts of life, but only one factor. Every day life however forces us at times to use our instincts, intuition, and experience to make decisions with out knowing all the facts. Coaches have been training athletes successfully for many years without the information we poses today, because of their ability to use these skills.

I think most of us would agree that there is not ‘one’ training element in the development of speed and power that would ‘make or break’ an athlete. It is the combination of many elements, administered at the appropriate time, at the correct intensity, for each individual athlete. This is what makes a coach, and allows an athlete to reach their potential.

When some one makes an ‘accusation’ that in the development of an elite athlete (which includes years of day to day training individual to each athlete) that they have the one answer (that would have made the fastest man in the world faster), they really do not know training at all.

It is my understanding that the use of heavy load strength training is to improve the recruitment of FT fiber; these loads however, can never be handled safely without phases of anatomical adaptation (some accumulation/hypertrophy training). The purpose of the speed work, plyo’s, explosive MB is to improve discharge rate. This is a neuromuscular strategy to increase power based on the assumption that ‘Power is a function of Maximum Strength’.
I am not sure if any one knows of an athlete who has followed a well periodized strength training program from the age of 14 and not ‘grown’ its called chronic hypertrophy. It is a natural by product of weight training. To gain the power you need, you must grow.

As to the comment, “that is because they did not zero in on the effects of gravity, but put more focus on relatively unimportant parts of running mechanics msf (mass specific force)”, I thought the purpose of speed training was to counter the effects of gravity?

As to the comment, “Please don’t respond with how fast either one of them ran because increasing strength with less hypertrophy would have allowed them to run faster times.” I must admit I agree with him in that I too believe Ben could have ran a better time in Korea, but it was not due to his strength training program or his mass, it was raising his arm before the finish line (gravity can be tough on a guy when he, “does not zero in on the effects of gravity”, and stops using his arms)

As to, “Focus on relatively unimportant parts of running mechanics…training for increased stride rate and length are relatively unimportant” (and here I thought that was what got Ben a world record in the first place!!!)

Actually, according to Weyand et al.'s latest work (Running performance has a structural basis.) not only does a single structure-function relationship exist, it spans the entire continuum of specializations from 100 to 10,000 m. Their “ideal mass coefficient” was found to be 10 kg of body mass per meter of height squared per unit body weight applied to the ground at the specialists racing speed. In other words, the greater body masses of faster specialists are directly related to the greater ground support forces required to attain faster running speeds.

They concluded that…

“the positive relationship between mass, ground support force and speed implies that additional mass would allow sprinters to apply greater support forces and reach faster sprinting speeds”

and that…

“being relatively more massive is not only beneficial for shorter distance specialists, but also appears to be biologically necessary for attaining faster speeds.”

Ross better go back and read that bit again.

The interesting thing here is that this is research following up on results. In other words, the apparently ideal masses were arrived at from pre-existing training plans that were successful, not from any attempt to establish a particular mass first.
Were Ross to have his way with Ben and Mo, their mass would vary from the model, as would their results. Two guesses which way.

although i feel a bit out of place in compareison to the other members in terms of knowldge i would like to say that under barry ross- allison had a strength to lb of bodyweight of less than 2.5lbs lifted over lbs of weight in the deadlift(ross’ primary indicator of strength) while Ben Johnson was well over three and a third lbs lifted per lb of bodyweight in the squat. While Ben Johnson was an olympic champion and Felix a high school sprinter, Johnson still destories felix in ross’ primary non stopwatch indicator of speed “inspite of his training methods”.

More from the paper above…

“In the
absence of a functional option, human runners have simply
adjusted structurally: musculoskeletal tissue areas are closely matched to the support forces required. Thus, MASSIVENES does
not necessarily pose the performance disadvantages previously
noted for large terrestrial vertebrates.”

To further support the above, I will use nature as an example.

Though humans are bipeds and the fastest mammals on the planet are quadripeds, the example I am about to give is still relevant. The pronghorn is a type of antelope goat which can match the top speeds of a cheetah. Yet they achieve that magical 70 mph in different ways. The Cheetah needs greater acceleration, since it is trying to catch prey in the shortest time possible,and hence has more muscle mass in its hind legs and quarters simply for pure unadulterated power as a consequence it can only sprint for 500m at high intensity before flagging and needs 2 hours to recover after such an exertion.

The pronghorn on the other hand needs to outrun predators by prolonging the chase for hours at 30-50mph if need be, and has taken the evolutionary route of slender legs and less body mass with more tendonous limb structures. It relies on reaching and maintaining speed through more of an elastic gait.

In short when you are trying to get from A-B in the shortest time possible you better have some serious functional muscle mass. When you are trying to run over a long distance for a prolonged time you better be as economical in body mass as possible.

Allow me to quote CF’s famous phrase " If it looks right it flys right".

Which makes me think of elite male gymnasts. They have an impressive amount of muscle which adds weight in an even more gravity critical sport. Would they be better off being smaller? If you could get that strong without the mass, I guess, but maybe you just need that much muscle to be that strong.

Just thought of this – does greater cross section increase muscle trauma, as in there’s more to damage, or does it lessen it, as in the load is distributed across a greater area? Assuming that you could achieve the same power output with less mass, might it not still be desirable to have more muscle (up to a point) to allow the athlete to absorb the forces generated?

One example would be baseball pitchers, who seem to need to have some size to them to have a long career. The thinking is that they need some strength and mass to absorb all that force safely.

I think most people would agree that if you weigh less and can produce the same amount of force you would in theroy be able to run faster. This is not really the issue here.

The issue is that when everything (in the equation) is balanced out almost none of the factors related to an ideal situation will be optomised. As with any design problem “the solution” will be a compromise. While minimal mass may be ONE ideal in order to achieve optimal track times it may be necessary to increase mass slightly to counterbalance another important factor (for example spreading the stimulus across the entire organism in the run up to the final taper as Charlie has described). Ultimately this will lead to better results in terms of the final objective but sub optimal results in terms of minimising body mass.

A simple example from everyday life might be in the design of a sports car. You want to make the car as light as possible so you remove everything you can but then you find that it won’t stick to the road because it is too light. So you have to invest in a bigger aerofoil (sorry if this is the wrong terminology I’m not one bit intersted in cars!) to keep the car glued to the road and increase traction but this will lead to an increase in the weight of the car.

One of the problems with science is that things are generally thought about and tested 1 variable at a time to allow accurate results to be obtained - which is absolutely necessary and a standard building block of scientific philosophy. However, in the real world everything happens at the same time and variables are dependant on other variables. The activity of “designing” (what you as a coach are doing) involves making value based (as in what you percieve to be important - and there will be no one completely right answer) judgements and arriving at a compromise that you believe is optimal. Then it is down to market forces or in this case everything that goes into a race (from setting up the blocks to dealing with the pressure of competing and travelling to the race) to test your solution at that moment in time.

While I can see what you are talking about i think perhaps baseball is a little like shot put. More weight can be an advantage so long as you can transfer it at the right time into the object you wish to project. In some respects a little fat (or non fuctional hypertrophy) can be useful if it helps you to optomise the force you can put into the projectile.

Very good points. The science, described here, on its own is good. Conclusions drawn from what is shown can be another thing:
The single mass formula across the sport suggests that the most successful sprint programs, independantly arrived at (or, perhaps, upon closer examination of those for athletes below 9.80, a common thread???) end up producing a common mass index.
The other finding from these studies shows the importance of vertical forces in top speed and the fact that nothing positive can come of any conscious action DURING GROUND CONTACT.
Unfortunately, these facts can be skewered to suggest that there is no need for correction at any time in the sprint cycle (arm position, stepping over, foot prep, etc), which is clearly false.
Conversely, dismissive conclusions can be drawn in the other direction. While true that there need be no emphasis on stride length or stride frequency in the race itself, it is not true in training, where individual variables can be worked on separately (bounding, quick leg drills, etc). That said, it is vital NOT to dismiss the findings and fight for frequency or length in the sprint itself, as it will destroy rythem and likely cause injury.

This is like Ralph Mann standing up in front of some of the top US sprint coaches and saying that arm technique doesn’t matter - based on his scientific findings. John Smith certainly stood up and gave his counter-opinion - based on his experience as a coach and an athlete (and likely his discussions with Charlie).

is this the Underground Secret BS? For 40 USD you can get more. Perhaps we can see if he knows DB Hammer and if he has the keys to the weight room in Seoul.