This weekend I had the chance to speak with Coach Loren Seagrave on his thoughts about absolute strength. Loren is a former LSU sprint coach, founder of Velocity Sport Performance and coach of some of the fastest individuals in the world. I’ve had the privilege of doing at least one speaking engagement with Loren each month for the past couple months and I’ve been able to pick his brain on topics as far ranging as business to sprint technical models. Since we have recently had a heated discussion on the role of absolute strength in training for speed, the best means of developing strength for speed-power athletes, and the strength protocols of Dwight Phillips (an athlete Loren currently coaches) and other elite athletes, I thought I would take advantage of the opportunity this past weekend to ask Loren about his thoughts on absolute strength development for speed-power athletes (specifically jumpers and sprinters).
He said that he felt that absolute strength development was important but there comes a point in an athlete’s development when they can become ‘strong enough’ and further focus on absolute strength development will not be as beneficial. When asked if he had benchmark numbers in any particular lifts that he used to indicate that an athlete was strong enough he said that he was more likely to look at bar speeds at sub-maximal loads rather than any set in stone absolute values. I didn’t directly ask him about particular exercises but he did mention looking at bar speeds for multi-rep sets in the power clean with 120 kg for men. He said that when he felt an athlete had reached the ‘strong enough’ threshold that the strength development emphasis would shift from a concentration on maximal or absolute strength to more sub-maximal loading (~75-80%) and greater emphasis on bar speed in the weight room as well as development of elastic strength through plyometric exercises. He did however also indicate that earlier in an athlete’s development, before they had reached the ‘strong enough’ threshold, that typical maximal strength set / rep routines were beneficial (he specifically mentioned doing singles and doubles at 90%).
As mentioned above, Loren is currently coaching Dwight Phillips and is largely credited for helping to resurrect Dwight’s career in 2009 following a disappointing 2008 season. Although he wasn’t coaching Dwight at the time of the article mentioned in the forum discussion above, I figured it would still be interesting to find out what he was doing with Dwight in the weight room at the present time. He mentioned that Dwight was definitely one of his athletes that he considered to be ‘strong enough’ to compete in his event and as a result Loren had him lifting twice a week as compared to three times a week for some of his other athletes that hadn’t reached the desired threshold. On other days he was doing general strength and elastic strength work. In response to the 325 lb power clean mentioned in the forum discussion, Loren said he had no doubt he could still do that but that most of his current weight room loading was in the 70-80% range with an emphasis on bar speed.
Clearly, Loren is a coach to be respected and this blog post could provide fuel for both sides of the argument on the importance of; and best means of developing absolute strength if you are a selective reader. I think the better take however is to see that Loren believes higher loading is an important component of developing maximal strength, and that maximal strength can be important in the athlete’s long-term development, but that coaches of speed-power athletes should never lose sight of the global objectives of training which at some point may be compromised with a continual emphasis on maximal strength development.