How strong is strong enough? article

The sprinter mentioned in the article provides a great example of the type of sprinter where strength training was obviously going to have a significant impact. The initial numbers of 6.98, 10.53 and 21.33 indicate that the sprinter had excellent speed and solid speed end qualities but poor acceleration numbers. Even allowing for wind benefits of the 100 compared to the 60m (presumably indoors) that last 40m of this athlete was obviously above average for a 6.98s 60m athlete. In fact they were probably closer to some of the best females ever Flo Jo, Carmelita and Jones (6.8-6.9 v 10.5-10.6). Interestingly, the sprinter gained significant benefit from the strength training over the first 60m 6.77 compared to the 10.41 and 21.29. Again this highlights further where the impact of strength work has its greatest impact. It possibly highlights that the sprinters that can get a way with limited strength work are obviously those with the better MV and SE qualities.

When people throw out names like Carl Lewis and Obadele Thompson as being not terribly fond of weightlifting, they always seem to assume that they could have improved their performances if they lifted more. I think this is assumes in the case of Carl and Tom Tellez that Tom was an idiot and that Carl didn’t know his own body. Those two things are pretty clearly not true.

From these numbers you could argue that it made his top speed worse.

  • .21 to the 60.
  • .09 from 60-100
  • .17 from 60-200

True, but the article doesn’t say whether or not he gained any weight. If in fact he had gained 5 or so lbs., that might also be the reason for a reduction in top end speed. But what would happen if he trained back down to his original 165 while keeping a large part of his strength gains, who knows?

Coincides with Pfaff and Boo feeling that static lifts can often dampen elasticity and it can take some time to bounce back.

Doesn’t seem to hurt short sprints, of course it helps those, I.e. Footballers and bobsledders.

I’m leaning toward Mortac’s assessment. Simply looking at one element and insinuating that it - alone - is providing value-added is problematic. Any changes to the lifting program must include adjustments to every other element - either upwards or downwards. The article is simplistic at best and the author does not have a full grasp of the implications of the true impacts of advancing the weight training program (and modifying the weight inputs) for greater speed development. It also equates strength training with weights alone, and does not consider other forms of strength training as having equal or greater benefit.

Do weights improve acceleration capabilities? Yes, particularly in developing athletes with a limited training history. Is there a point of diminishing returns with weights as it relates to speed? Absolutely. This is why the track coach should have knowledge of how weights should be integrated into the overall plan. Deferring the strength component to a strength coach is naive and could lead to significant problems down the road. Strength coaches do not have enough experience with speed development and maximal velocity sprinting to develop a program independently of the work being prescribed by the track coach.

Good observation. A .2s increase in 60m and but only a .1s increase in 100m. But an increase none the less.

As an overall organism output standpoint, if we examine the particular dynamics of lever length and their effects on external output, strength training is a peculiar beast. It is amongst the high side of overall output on the force time curve. But if you think about the muscle fiber output itself, long levered athlete’s output will drop off more severely towards the high end output spectrum. So the interaction between leverage and output should not be ignored. This observation may help to explain how the fastest athletes (greatest output on the low end of the f/t curve) will likely have merely average outputs on the high ends of the spectrum. But if we think about it in terms of muscle output manifested through the leverage system, then we might see a more equal relationship. And so the absolute picture is always blurred when talking about external strength rather than what is happening in the muscle itself.

Interesting discussion, I recall Charlie talked about Marion’s great ‘strength’ output being clear by watching her get out of the blocks. No. 2 confirmed this and said her medball throws were massive. On a related not it’s amazing to watch individuals who are very strong a somewhat heavily muscle put force into the ground. I need to bring up one guy who seems to do this as well as fast Willie but he’s bigger, Trent Richardson. Thoughts RB34?

Yes - Marion’s block clearance and med-ball throws were just as good as many male sprinters I have coached. However, her weight room numbers were not spectacular. I’ve had many female volleyball and basketball players who were much stronger in the weight room.

I find it interesting to observe the speed-strength continuum in athletes of varying talents. It is very telling. I remember Dan Pfaff talking about Donovan Bailey having an 18m+ overhead back throw, and mentioned him power cleaning over 120kg. Fairly decent outputs that seem to grow in impressiveness the lower on the F/T curve. Comparing this to certain athletes I have coached with very very short levers. Given their twitch charactersitics (not particularly gifted), their acceleration and speed are quite low in achievement but as you extend into the longer time periods of force development their relative accomplishments grow, having decent Olympic lifts and much greater squats and deadlifts.

What I’ve been interested in is how to train an athlete based on twitch and lever types. Especially when the goal is the same.

Another area that I’ve been putting some thoughts into is how the various leverages of athletes affect how we train them for speed.

Al Vermeil has some good information on these types of questions, as he was modifying programs for taller athletes with fast twitch characteristics in the NBA.

Yes, he does -Taller athletes and TUT etc.

Fantastically well stated.

Hahahaha… I thought I was just stating what should be obvious to all of us. Nothing really fantastic about it. I guess that is the problem these days. The answers should be simple and straightforward, but come from people who have significant experience and wisdom. As Al Vermeil always tells me, “Most problems have complex mechanisms involved, but should be resolved with a simple answer and a simple solution.”

In the rush to be relevant, published and make a name for themselves, many people are writing these types of articles. Are these articles useful? For the most part - no. They are incomplete and only scratch the surface of the totality of the problems that athletes are faced with. One of my interns was telling me about how he wants to write an article. Of course, my reply was, “About what? You have very little experience. All you have is what I have told you, and you’ve forgotten most of the important points.” But, young people feel entitled to voice their opinions on-line, speaking from only information, not wisdom. The brutal irony is that it was always tough to get Charlie to write an article, and it is very hard to get Al Vermeil to publish his material (written and video). But these are the people we should be listening to.

As was stated earlier in the thread, the article in question discusses how other top sprinters have not used weights extensively and insinuates that they would have run faster if they had. And the author is basing this insinuation on what experience and wisdom? My fear is that when someone writes an article like this, (uneducated) people take it at face value and assume that heavier weights is the answer to running fast. My reply (as would be the reply of other members posting on this thread) would be to look at the entire training program and evaluate from where the best overall improvements could be derived.


Similar to what Vermeil has told you, I’ve often said “unlike what is required to solve the problem- the solutions are practical and intuitive.”

The problem, however, as I’ve stated for years now is that the corporate level of awareness in the industry has been misdirected by the uninformed educational venues that constitute western sport training academia (or whatever the closest version of it is)

To cheer you up:
A recent article of my own

I am curious how someone can see those fast twitch muscles, how can I get an eye for it.

number2 my grandson is 9 and he used to tell me how to do things, i haven’t had to tell him recently that he will learn little with his mouth open.

Fiber constitution is most accurately assessed via biopsy.

Practically, yet economically challenging, the Bosco jump test is an accurate assessment; however, it requires a force plate

Having worked with athletes covering a wide age range (6 years old on up) I’ve gotten all I’ve needed from assessing speed/power via short sprints, single and multiple response jumps, and throws.

Have seen autopsy slides, they are white and close to the bone. I stumbled on another chat group a while back and it was suggested domestic pigs and chickens have white meat so must be fast twitch.

I have also coached several 6 year olds who won nationals as 10/14 year olds, their training was based on motor skills and balance. I suggest that fast twitch is a buzz word often used to sound sophisticated.

It follows that zooming in further (microscope) on cross-sectional diameters would reveal this geometric aspect that also distinguishes the fiber types. The white/red is stated to be a reflection of hemodynamics in which their greater myoglobin and hemoglobin content provides the red appearance.

Motor skills and balance, certainly the key at that biological age; hence the efficacy of youth gymnastics.

As for the ‘buzz’ words, the sport system in the US is built upon them; however, I don’t think sounding sophisticated is the motivation; but rather, lack of knowledge.