Slacking on Upper Body Work

I recently stopped doing all upper body gym work except for snatches and cleans. Instead of benching and doing rows, I box with a heavy bag. Would this have any effect on my running speed?

I continue to do squats, glute-ham raises, deadlifts and olympic lifts.

Blinky why stop doing UB exercises? thumping a bag is good for boxers or headers just trying to take out their aggression on something but for a sprinter /track athlete i think its a waste of energy.focus on your UB movments with weights and drop the thumping remember the UB has to work in co-ordination with the LB

Blinky, backside mechanics, both upper and lower body, play a tremendous role in sprinting. The ability to forcefully drive your arms backward, and recover, has a tremendous carryover to stride frequency/turnover rate. Bag work and OL’s do very little for shoulder extension.

Additionally, a common thread amongst all great sprinters is great relative strength. Snatches, cleans, and bag work alone, will not do much for improving your ability to manipulate your own body weight (i.e., chins, dips).

Know what you are training for.


Correct my way of thinking if I am wrong, but aren’t jerks sufficient for a pressing movement and aren’t cleans and snatches sufficient for a rowing movement.

Those exercises along with boxing should adequately sustain my upperbody power… should they not?

if you think they will…

SAID principle, specific adaptations to imposed demands. specificity is the key. Boxing, does nothing for strength speed, relative strength, maximal strength, starting strength, etc. Boxing, first and foremost, will render you a better boxer.

Upper body power is a relative term. When applied to the context of sprinting, you should most definitely not limit your strength training to only the OL’s.

As far as jerks being sufficient for pressing strength, you must understand that when performing the jerk, the legs play an enormous role in driving the barbell to full overhead extension. Thus to imply that jerking, alone, is sufficient for pressing strength is incorrect. This is the equivalent of stating that bouncing the bar off your chest, in the bench press, is a sufficient method for developing bottom end strength, or pressing power in general.

As far a snatches and cleans being sufficient for rowing movements, again you must understand that when performing cleans/snatches, scapular retraction/protraction (rowing) is secondary/minimal in comparison to scapular elevation/depression. The primary function of scapular retraction in the OL’s is predominantly as an isometric contraction when racking the bar on the shoulders in a clean or holding the bar overhead when jerking or snatching. Again, the scapula is protracted during the first pull-start of the second, and must rectract to transition the clean or snatch position, however, these articulations are not the equivalents of the rowing lifts. Rows must be performed in order to fully develop the muscles involved with scapular retraction-rowing strength.


Thanks for the indepth reply. I should probably keep up the rowing and benching then.

James - :slight_smile: I have deja vu

Even Olympic lifters who do not perform pressing movements in their training will still possess impressive numbers in those exercises. In fact (hip) snatches are a surprisingly effective method of developing speed strength for bench press (with technically proficient athletes). Whilst I would shy away from outright claiming that OLs preclude the need for pressing movements, I do quietly believe this may be the case…

Certainly, in terms of training time efficiency, for the tecnically able lifter, the OLs are unrivaled.

David, excellent points. However, with respect to the OL’s being unrivaled for the technically able lifter, in terms of training time efficiency, we must agree to disagree.

For example, I am currently working with a JC defensive back who possesses tremendous explosive strength (over a 40in vert). Until working with me most of his efforts were spent on squats, cleans and presses, with very little direct work on rows or chins. Guess what-his rowing/chinning strength is grossly underdeveloped. At a bodyweight of 185-190lbs he is barely able to perform 10 pullups. In contrast to me, at 240lbs, who never performs OL’s and can perform over 20 pullups.

Again specificity is the premise and this is all relative to the training goal. So with respect to Blinky’s inquiry about the OL’s being enough to develop pressing/ rowing strength. Pressing-overhead OK (horizontal I would argue no, however we must define what is decent pressing strength), rowing-no way. This is based up my practical observations.


James - I appreciate your approach to our discussions. Perhaps we can illustrate to certain other members of this board that it is possible, and there is much to be gained, from an intelligent exchange of views (even if they are opposing).

RE: Pulling
Again, in my experience OLs perform impressively in pull ups and rows without training them. Could they improve their pulling strength further with specific exercises? Certainly. Is pulling strength developed through OLs sufficient for sprinting? I guess that’s the vital question! Would performing additional pulling exercises utilise adaptation capacity energy that could be best spent elsewhere? Again, we could debate this.



I think it is all about using the training time/work capacity available effectivly. In my experience oly’s may not yield big gains in pulling strength but they certainly maintain strength levels and often will produce some level of improvement so in my opinion are sufficient for a sprinter as their sole pulling movement with minimal time/energy constraints.

Obviously specific movements will create better strength development. You need to look at the athlete for areas that under-developed from the optimum. I use every third mesocylce as a kind of cross training cycle during which the weighting of different training elements are altered to push the emphasis into the weakness. (so in this case you could choose to add in specific push/pull excercises, at the expense of reducing volume in other areas). Sprint performance will drop during this period but the increase in strength/fitness in the non-specifc areas will cause a delayed transmutation which will bring the sprint perfomance right back up, and then some, in the following cycle. I think the “cross training” cycle is also a nice mental break from the on-going sprint training, which is a further help in the whole thing.


Once could include both…

  1. The question of is the inclusion of an Oly sufficient for upper body stimulus for a sprinter is a good one. Load used is a factor here I think, as well as the fact that the upper body plays more of an isometric role in the lockout of the oly…

  2. The greater the load the more neural stimulation and I believe that is what Charlie was looking for. So with the upper body cant one obtain a greater load(for even a technically proficient lifter) with the bench press w/ less teaching time and still a great amount of neural stimulus without tiring specifically the leg musculature

  3. Why cant both be included? Upper and Lower split, ie Bench and Pull/Chin-Up variation, and Oly and Some sort of Squat or Snatch Grip D/L or Trap Bar D/L…