Real Strength for Real Power?


Relative strength- is it really that magical for vertical jump and acceleration. When tested for correlation, it doesnt always correlate that the strongest pound for pound jump the highest and accelerate 10-20 yards the fastest. But to get an individual better, it seems that in the real world, getting someone stronger for their bw is the best way to improve standing vert and accel ability. In other words, dont worry about structural differences that cause the lack of correlation in tests, look at what makes most individuals improve. – is relative strength that important, or relative power, of course its power. But a lot of people just arent that strong to worry about power yet beacause they arent strong. Ben johnson= 3xbw squat. Mo Greene 2.5 at least bw squat. Reggie Bush, 2.5 at least bw squat. Seems like most people just need to get much stronger before worrying about their dynamic squats and olympic lift numbers. Taking it a step further, med ball throws and sand bag tosses (or along the lines of your blog post, one arm push jerks) becoming an even bigger waste of time. Thoughts?

Maximizing relative strength will make impact in many ways but if you are developing athletes you will know that when the genetic ceiling is approaching max strength will transfer less. Here is a case example:

My buddy Greg Panora was in town back in December for the Christmas holiday, so we got a lift in together. For those who don’t know Greg, he’s the world record holder at 242 (broke Steve Goggins’ old record a few months ago – 1000+ squat, 700 bench, and 800+ deadlift). He lifts at Westside. Greg is box squatting 495 + greens and blues for speed, and he glances over and sees the Just Jump platform and asks what it is. I tell him we use it to check vertical jump, so he wants to try it. He gets on in beat-up old briefs, Chuck Taylors, and a belt – at a weight of 250 – and jumps 35″. Probably could have gone 38″ with a deload and proper attire. (1)

The above statement is a prime example of a subset of one person not being practical or even effective. If I have to get guys to squat 1000 lbs to vertical jump 35 inches with a bodyweight of 250 when others are not investing the same efforts and getting better scores why would I promote this?Optimal strength is a sufficient contractile ability to generate or dampen forces. The key word here is sufficient, and you can get athletes to perform with lighter loads and yield better expressions of relative abilities. Vernon Davis is the same weight and has a squat that is 300 pounds lighter. His vertical was tested over 40 inches and ironically had success in high school in track and field in the high jump. If you are looking at starting strength and acceleration from 0-10m, Ray Stewart had recorded an equal split time with Ben Johnson. Being from Jamaica and not having the same iron addictions as some countries and programs, he was not squatting anything near Ben’s numbers. History is the most important lesson to a strength coach as exotic charts from Eastern European scientists will become moot quickly when examples pop up refuting their theories.

I do agree with Eric that you should work on maximal strength he even wrote a book about the importance of that quality. Just getting stronger helps but you can do more than just get your numbers up during the development process. Eventually their comes a time when you are not reaping the benefits of maximal strength and observing programs over the years you can see what works best and formulate trends of what most likely will be a consistent program, meaning what program will most likely improve most at athletes the best. I like to work backwards on this and try to improve speed and power first while adding size and strength over time.

As for medball throws being worthless I don’t agree but I should be clear. Medball throws with other components will help a program. Just doing medball throws for power will not have the effect of a sound olympic lifting program that teaches athletes to challenge their ability to express RFD and peak power. I would and do both as the medicine ball throw may look like it falls into the same usual suspects as the db snatch and and kettlebell clean but it doesn’t. Even if the load is light, plyometrics with just one’s own weight is enough to transfer into speed and power but it falls into a different category all together. Each category has a specific zone of the force velocity curve and RFD demands to take care of. Let each modality take care of it’s own zone. The problem I see is that Gray Cook is trying to use the wrong tool for the wrong job. If he is doing shoulder stability or skill/warm-up work with the light load fine, but according to his own words it comes across as a replacement exercise.

The lesson learned is to have a broad spectrum of qualities developed and not put all your eggs in one basket. A complete program will likely yield higher birth rates of speed. Some may argue that I don’t like Powerlifting because I don’t push my squats as much as others but I will agree with coaches like Eric Cressey that if you can’t handle conventional squatting demands you are placing yourself in a bad position. In fact my ego was checked at the door of an Elite Fitness Seminar years ago so I can learn to do the conventional lifts better. Dave Tate wasn’t pulling punches and it bruised me a little to see what was wrong (my bench) but now I feel that that section of strength category is taken care of. Make sure each category is done well with great form and smart development.

(1) Entry Posted on Wednesday, 23rd May 2007 by Eric Cressey
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Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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