Boyd Epley-"The Path To Athletic Power"

Boyd Epley of Nebraska has some excellent insights into improving power and speed in his book -(“The Path To Athletic Power”) . In particular Epley states that an increase in bodyweight will lead to improvements in verticle jumps, 10 yard, 40 yard times and other power tests. He gives an example of two athletes who increased their lean muscle by (A)12 and (B)44lbs respectively and overall body weights by (A)10 and (B) 78 lbs each. Whats interesting is that athlete (B) shaved 0.34 secs off his 40 yard time whilst athlete (A) shaved 0.03 secs running the 40 yard dash. Epley states that the aim is not to decrease body fat or to even condition yourself to do so but to increase muscle mass instead.

Does anyone have similar experiences?

What would be the best way to increase muscle mass and which parts of the body should a sprinter concentrate on adding this mass?

Where is the evidence to back this up? Why not keep bodyweight stable and increase relative strength? There is a point of diminishing returns, for most people if you put on 78 lb (lean mass or not) you might as well forget about sprinting!

OMG!!! THAT IS SOOOO TRUE!!! i really did decrease my 40yd time by .4 from 5.2 to 4.8. my body fat increased by 2-3% while my muscle mass increased by 25lbs. i guess all i have to do now is lose the fat and gain some more mass…

It is blanket statements like these which have a tendency to mislead the masses.

The excerpt you quoted is undoubtedly only a fraction of the subject matter contained in the text.

Yes, we have all seen athletes improve abilities while concurrently gaining body mass (e.g., David Boston). HOWEVER, what must be taken into consideration is 1. what were the athletes abilities at their former bodymass, 2. how were the athletes training intitially, 3. how were the training parameters modified during the period of weight gain.

Anyone can develop an atrophied, detrained, unskilled athlete by engaging them in a hypertrophy/strength/speed/power program. However, don’t think that Ben Johnson,Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, etc, would have been better served by gaining body weight.

It is true that the larger the cross-sectional area of the muscle fiber the more potential for forceful contraction. This does not imply, however, that every athlete must engage themselves on a mission to become more massive.

Every concept must taken into perspective, athlete by athlete, case by case.

In this field of strength and conditioning there are only so many generalities that may be made.


Micheal Jordan never jumped the same at 216 as he did at 198 even though he had more overall game. I just lost 20 lbs over the last 6 months; I am slightly weaker but much faster. Power-to-weight ratio still has to be the answer.

You are absolutely correct, I did think that by typing just an excerpt it may mislead. I suggest and would like others to read Epley’s book and comment further. Yet Epley’s Nebraska power ahtletes are certainly NOT unskilled or possess atrophied muscle. The statement does seem generalist and I do apologise for not giving a more descriptive explanation of what Epley wrote in the chapter he has a lot of evidence and experience to back this up.

This is hilarious! What kind of person gains 78 pounds?? Did they just wake up out of a 10-year coma and decide to start seriously bodybuilding or what??

This person must have had zero muscle mass before so obviously when he put on muscle he’d be able to run faster.

Try to find a study with more realistic numbers and I’ll consider it.

Well said. Reference some more excerpts (in their totality. LOL) when you get the chance.


Studies will show that people usually get faster after gaining 78 lbs, providing the studies start at age 10.

I was under the impression that maximal strength was very important in running good short distance races or great starts. I seem to recall hearing that shotputters will beat 100m sprinters in very short races. If this is the case, perhaps the drop in 40 time is due to greater strength.

not beat them, but minus rxn time and if they are technically efficient, possibly put up competitive numbers

“Epley states that the aim is not to decrease body fat or to even condition yourself to do so but to increase muscle mass instead.”

Bodyfat just a small issue? Inseadof just add water it’s not just add muscle? Screw that!

I will scan the chapter and post it on the site.

It happens sometimes with football players. I’ve seen a team convert a LB into a DE into a DT. I’ve also seen them convert a WR into a lineman.

Hear is an excerpt from the book along with the link. I think it would be unwise to scan and post the whole chapter. I would not like to cause trouble for CF and the community. Any way here is the second best thing.

I think I did the author a disservice taking one aspect of what he wrote and posted without clear explanation of who the athletes are and which sport.

Increasing Lean Body Mass*
From The Path to Athletic Power by Boyd Epley

Our body composition research led us to discover that the key to enhanced athletic performance is not reduced body fat but increased lean body mass. This discovery made for a profound point of departure for our program and significantly influenced how we go about conditioning. Knowing that small gains in body fat won’t adversely affect performance, we focus the core of our program on conditioning activities that increase the lean body mass of our athletes. We begin with teaching good lifting technique because this leads to strength development. Strength development improves lean body mass and also enhances the four performance indicators, which makes for improved performance on the field (see figure 3.1).

After discovering the benefits of lean body mass, Nebraska’s Performance Team set out to find the most effective way to improve athletes in this area and thereby improve their performance indicators. This led us to employ the 10 core principles of conditioning outlined in chapter 4.

Our primary objective is building a base of muscular size. Scientific studies indicate that high-volume workouts build muscle mass, which increases the potential to build strength and power later. High repetitions alone are not the answer for athletes. This base phase (3 sets of 10 reps) builds mass and reduces body fat.

Unfortunately, many coaches believe aerobic conditioning prepares power-sport athletes for game endurance. But according to Dr. Michael Stone and Harold O’Bryant, among many others, building an aerobic base doesn’t offer significant improvement in athletic performance for power sports (1987). Edward Fox and Donald Mathews proved power sports are anaerobic, not aerobic, activities (1971).

At one time, Nebraska collected an athlete’s body composition data from seven sites (chest, triceps, scapular, AX (axilla), supra iliac, abdominals, and thigh) to calculate his or her percentage of body fat, which was quite time consuming. Consequently, after measurements taken on some 15,000 Division I athletes were reviewed, a new lean body formula was developed using only three sites. The three sites for men are the chest, abs, and thigh (figure 3.2). The three sites for women are the triceps, supra iliac, and thigh (figure 3.3). Our measurement process is now much faster and carries only an inconsequential validity error. The new method has proven to be most effective.

The key element in lean body mass computations is consistency. Although the three-site body composition test carries a high validity coefficient, it is extremely important to test athletes in the same way each time to ascertain changes in lean body mass.

A couple of examples come to mind of athletes with increased lean body mass that led to improved performance. Over one year, Husker offensive tackle Adam Treu gained 44 pounds of lean body mass, and softball pitcher Jenny Voss gained 12 pounds of lean body mass. Both athletes significantly improved performance in their sports (see tables 3.1 and 3.2).

  • To reprint this excerpt with permission from Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc., please contact the publicity department at 1-800-747-4457 or

Principles of Conditioning: Principles 1 and 2*
From The Path to Athletic Power by Boyd Epley

Strength coaches, or whoever is in charge of the lifting program, might answer to a variety of bosses. Sometimes the sport coach or administrator might ask the strength coach to do something that doesn’t seem to make good sense. Maybe they read something in the newspaper or saw something on television that put a wacky idea in their head. Or maybe they just want to try a new fad that other programs are trying. It seems there’s always something new happening because everyone wants to discover a better way to do things.

A program based on scientific research eliminates the need to try all the new gimmicks that come along. A program based on proven facts and not on an overzealous marketing or advertising campaign will achieve much better long-term results, and the strength coach will be able to justify the program to parents, athletes, and administrators. No one should ask a strength coach to implement something the strength coach doesn’t believe in.

There are only so many exercises that can be included in a program. Each exercise that is added must be better than an existing one. The same is true for the equipment used. It’s fine for equipment in your facility to come from different companies, but if a piece of equipment doesn’t contribute to the improvement of performance, replace it with something that does. The list of lifting exercises and the drills that you have chosen should be the best ones you know of for improving performance.

The 10 principles presented in this chapter, when applied correctly, will maximize physical development for athletes in power sports. The principles are based on scientific research, which has proven to be the foundation of the most effective way to train athletes for power sports.

We pointed out earlier that good technique and increased strength will increase lean body mass. Lean body mass improves the performance indicators, which lead to improved sport performance. With these facts in mind, research experts Mike Arthur and Bryan Bailey and I set out to find the most effective way to improve lean body mass and the four performance indicators. What we learned led to some drastic changes in the Nebraska strength program. We had to drop some exercises and tests that we discovered had little to do with improving performance so that we could focus on those that do.

Some coaches might want to skip ahead to chapter 11 for a look at the recommended program, but at this point you’re better off staying here and studying the principles discussed in this chapter. You might not agree with everything you read, but that doesn’t change the facts. If a coach is doing drills or lifts that don’t meet the criteria of these 10 principles, they should make themselves justify what they’re doing. They might be putting their athletes at risk. Coaches who aren’t following these principles could find themselves working hard to climb the ladder of success only to find the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.

Principle 1: Ground-Based Actions

Sport skills are almost always initiated by applying force with the feet against the ground. Newton’s third law states, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” What this means is that when an athlete exerts a force against the ground, it causes an equal and opposite re-action in the direction of movement propelling the athlete along the ground. Athletes should have their feet on the ground during the execution of the major lifts. Coaches should select lifting exercises that apply force with the feet against the ground, such as the squat, hang clean, or push jerk. The more force athletes can apply against the ground, the faster they’ll run and the more effective they’ll be in sport skills.

In 1993, the Hammer Strength Company sent me a double-incline machine to try (figure 4.1a). A couple of weeks later, they called to see how I liked it. I told them it was broken. The dealer told me they would repair it immediately and asked what was wrong with it. I told them it had a seat on it. The dealer said, “Sir, all of our machines have seats on them.” I said, “That’s what’s wrong with your machines. They’re made for health clubs and are good for fitness, but athletes need to be on their feet when they train; otherwise, there’s little transfer to their sport.”

It wasn’t long before I got a call from the owner, Gary Jones, who invited me to the national factory where they developed a prototype machine now known as the Hammer Jammer (figure 4.1b). The company then trademarked the term Ground Base and began making other machines with no seats. This was the beginning of a focus on ground-based training that has spread across the country and led to many companies developing equipment on which athletes stand while performing an exercise.

With all the talk of ground-based exercises being superior, athletes and coaches were curious but not convinced. A simple illustration helped get Nebraska coaches and athletes to focus on ground-based exercises and drills. The strength staff asked their starting quarterback Gerry Gdowski to put a harness on, which raised him off the ground. Gerry was then asked to throw a football as far as he could. His best effort was 20 yards. We then lowered him to the ground, with the harness still on, and he threw 51.5Êyards. This was definite proof that the use of his legs against the ground made a significant difference in his performance. We showed a videotape of this little test to the football coaches to get their help in convincing our athletes to focus on ground-based exercises.

The body’s ability to stabilize joint actions contributes to proper neuro-muscular coordination of the multiple-joint actions needed for most sport activities. The initial action of throwing the football originates from the muscular contractions of the hips and legs exerting a force from the ground in a backward direction. The earth, being more stable because of its large mass, doesn’t move, and the reaction to this force is exerted through the athlete in a forward direction. As athletes extend their legs against the ground, their ankle, knee, and hip joints stabilize as the re-action force transfers to the torso. The torso rotates and then stabilizes as the muscular force is relayed to the chest and shoulders, and then to the arms and wrist, which displays the greatest motion. The force applied to the football is possible because the muscles effectively stabilize the joints as they sequentially contract. When Gerry was lifted off the ground, he couldn’t throw as far because his leg and hip joints were not allowed to stabilize against the ground.

Coaches and athletes need to include the squat as a major exercise in their sports conditioning programs. Equipment companies continue to come out with new leg-press machines with features such as heavier weight stacks or independent weight stacks. But they are still machines you have to sit on. Consider these machines for fitness or, at best, for injured athletes. For healthy athletes who want to improve performance, there’s no leg machine that substitutes for the squat. Unfortunately, if athletes are left to their own devices, they’ll choose exercises that improve their appearance rather than those that improve performance.

Principle 2: Multiple-Joint Actions

Strength and conditioning programs should be based on exercises and drills involving multiple-joint actions to improve athletic performance. Two conditions must be met to be effective. First, each joint must be firmly stabilized, and second, the multiple-joint actions must be timed in the proper neuromuscular recruitment patterns. Training multiple joints will help develop coordination or the ability to generate explosive force. Training multiple joints will generate more force than training a single joint can. Isolating on single-joint actions might work for bodybuilders to improve their appearance, and it might work for rehabilitation from an injury, but athletes need activities involving multiple-joint actions so that a transfer of training in performance improvement occurs.

Single-joint exercises such as biceps curls, leg curls, or leg extensions contribute little to improve performance but are included in the program to build muscle mass and muscle balance. The recommended programs in this book are balanced to include at least one exercise for each major muscle group in the body.

Sport skills require multiple-joint actions timed in the proper neuro-muscular recruitment patterns. Otherwise you have no coordination or ability to generate explosive force. Some people have natural coordination and will learn multiple-joint exercises, drills, or sport skills easily, whereas others will require coaching and disciplined effort to learn the correct techniques. Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan are examples of athletes with exceptional natural coordination. A video camera used to record lifting technique on the squat and hang clean might be the best instructor. Ask a certified strength coach to watch your form, and try to develop the best technique you can on these two major exercises.

  • To reprint this excerpt with permission from Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc., please contact the publicity department at 1-800-747-4457 or

OK, So alot of people think I talk rubbish, but Boyd Epley doesn’t know his arse from his elbow. A bigger muscle = A faster muscle, NOPE or is that to brash, well not necessarily.

Come on fella, lets not compare an elite “out of shape, powerlifter look” shotputter to an elite sprinter. That is laughable.

No numba, a shotputter gets annihilated. The shotputter can put up world class powerlifting No#'s in every type of oly, strength lift. He gets annihilated by an elite sprinter, period, nuff said, no comparison, laughable… It ain’t close.

[QUOTE=Rock N Roll]
Come on fella, lets not compare an elite “out of shape, powerlifter look” shotputter to an elite sprinter. That is laughable.

— rnr - please refer to the “squat vs 40” thread for possible explanations.

Must have been one overweight receiver…


Your previous post was touching on discussion that the forum recently had about how

  1. the shorter the race, the more relative strength is neccesary
  2. how short, relatively weak athletes can also possibly post good times in these events.

by going and rereading that thread, starting with DBJohn’s post, I think you’ll better understand your own points.