Evolution of Strength Training – A Personal Perspective – 51 Years of Experiences (Part Four)

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Another key milestone in the evolution of my ideas on training in general and strength training in particular was the 1972 AAU Learn by Doing track & field clinic in Sacramento, California. Many of the top track & filed coaches in the country were in attendance. The opportunity to interact with them was invaluable. Two of the “Learn by Doing” stations were devoted to Plyometric training that was new and revolutionary at the time. Each evening there were presentations by Polish triple jump coach Tadeusz Starzynski who was the coach of Joseph Schmidt, three-time Olympic Gold medalist; he presented the whole spectrum of his training program for triple jumpers. It obviously involved a lot of jumping exercises, but it included medicine ball work and some very specific weight training and virtually no heavy lifting. There was nowhere near the extent of weight training we were having our athlete do and the weight training that was done was much more specific. This experience had profound influence on my thinking going forward and how I trained my athletes for explosive power from that time on. I immediately incorporated his concepts and ideas in my personal training, as well as with the athletes I was coaching. The results were a tremendous increase in explosiveness and speed.

In 1973-74 while attending graduate school at Stanford University I also had the opportunity to coach the jumpers and decathletes. This gave the opportunity to apply what I had learned with more mature male athletes. It was also the opportunity to work with Payton Jordan, the track coach at Stanford who was a pioneer in weight training. He had worked with a man named John Jesse who authored many books on strength training for sport. Jesse was way ahead of his time in the application of strength training to prevention and rehabilitation of injuries. Doctor Wesley Ruff, my adviser, encouraged me to do research in the area of strength and power training, which I found very helpful. This helped me to better understand the scientific reasons for the things that I was observing as a coach and experiencing as an athlete.

In 1975 –77 at Santa Barbara high school was my first experience working with female athletes. I did not make distinctions as to gender, they were all athletes, the girls strength trained with the boys. In fact we learned that the girl’s derived even more spectacular benefits than the boys and that they needed to continue their strength training throughout the season or the drop off would be dramatic. The strength training was an important part of the program regardless of the event.

Before the late 1970’s there did not seem to be the distinctions between all the styles of lifting. You just put together an eclectic program, you were not labeled a free weight guy, an Olympic lifting guy, a Crossfit or a HIT guy – you just trained athletes. Two things changed this:

1) Olympic lifting ascendancy in the late 1970s, which I believe, resulted from misinterpretation of the spectacular gains made by the Bulgarian weight lifters. The Bulgarian methods were thoroughly detailed by Carl Miller in his book Olympic Lifting Training Manual (A book I still find a good reference today). The Olympic lifting movements had always played a major role in weight training for improving sport performance, but things seemed to change in the late seventies. There was an attempt to blindly copy Olympic lifting training protocols without any apparent regard to it’s relationship to the whole training program. Just because an Olympic lifter, who does nothing but lift, is able to lift up to five times a day does not mean that a football player or a basketball player who has to run and jump and do other training should attempt multiple lifting sessions in a day. Olympic lifting for sport performance is a means to an end. If you are an Olympic weight lifter then it is as end in itself, because those lifts are the performance standard.

2) In the mid 1970’s a new machine oriented system was invented by Arthur Jones, the Nautilus system based on slow eccentric loading and one set to failure. It was not that these were the first machines, but they were the first machines that were marketed with a training system and philosophy to back them up. It appealed to the American mentality of instant gratification. It was hard work, but it was over rather quickly. In addition because of the eccentric emphasis it was possible to gain hypertrophy rather quickly that appealed to American football.

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