I recently received a review copy of Special Strength Training for Coaches by Dr. Yuri Verkoshanski and his daughter, Dr. Natalia Verkhoshanski from Ultimate Athlete Development. I’ve worked with the company for a while as a reseller of SuperTraining, Transfer of Training Vol 1, and Transfer of Training Volume 2. Like many I have had a long time interest in the science and practice of sport development in the old Soviet regime and remember reading some of our very own elitetrack member Dr. Yessis’s translations when I was just 12 years old. And even now, as I’ve largely transitioned to a training philosophy molded by the teachings of Western coaches like Boo Schexnayder, Dan Pfaff, and Tom Tellez, I still find value in reading the works of coaches such as Verkhoshakski. As someone who both coaches and conducts peer-reviewed research I respect the work of fellow coach-scientsists like Bondarchuk, Verkoshanski, Siff and Vitori. I know that the coach-scientist is often able to bridge the gap between science and application in a way that few single-field professionals cannot. For this reason, I was excited to review the final work of the late Dr. Verkoshanski and his daughter. Due to my schedule, it’s taken me a while to get through the book but the read was well worth it. As with most works from Soviet origins, there is a heavy emphasis on Soviet research or scientific understanding of the time (a small amount of which has since been refuted) and there are sometimes translation issues such as grammatical and spelling errors that might lead people to believe the book is something less than it is. Much like some of the blog posts on ELITETRACK and the posts in our forum, the content is ultimately king and the rare misspelling or grammatical error should be overlooked because of the quality of the content. This book is the final work of Dr. Yuri before his passing in 2010. He was one of the pioneers of training theory for sport and remained on the forefront of training methodology until his passing. The book has all of the things that we’ve come to expect from works of this genre: hand drawn pictures of people doing special strength exercises using pulleys, kettlebells; bodyweight exercises using slat walls, incline boards, and elevated benches and tables; charts with correlational data between exercises and performance in various events or activities; and elaborate graphs detailing such things as adaptation time frames and quantifications of physiological stress.
While this stuff is great and always interesting to read, the thing that separates this book from others is that it thoroughly explains the methodology for incorporating special strength training methods in to a coaches repertoire. In fact, the authors clearly state that one of the short comings of previous works is that they provided the means but not the methods of incorporating special strength training methodology. As a result much of the prior work was deemed outdated or irrelevant in our current understanding of strength training. This need not be the case, however, as the authors concede that prior works were written for an audience that they either knew or assumed knew something about the methodology behind special strength development. And this is what sets this book apart from others of its kind. This book does a great job of detailing when, where and how to incorporate special strength training for maximum development.
Another nice thing about the book is that it actually caters to track and field. Much of the book is written with track and field in mind and many of the examples given are for track sportsmen. Additionally there is an interesting appendix which gives special strength exercises specifically for each field event in our sport.
The last thing that I wanted to add about the book is the historical perspectives that are provided. There are some great stories about Dr. Verkoshanski’s experiences and how he developed his methodology. Many of the stories involves some household names from our sport (albeit older ones).