When Poliquin said that the athlete is perfectly balanced, meaning weak all over, it was a nice quip to make sure we understand the real standards of ratios being based on bodyweight. Dan John and Mike Boyle shared their beliefs about the relationships between various lifts, but without the context of bodyweight they are not very useful. If a football player is cleaning 250 pounds and benches 275, it’s a big problem if he is an NFL lineman. Mike did share a very elegant summary of olympic lift to bodyweight ratios in his classic manual, and I think it’s a better tool than looking at 5 rep maxes for hang cleans. Coaches have found successful trends with comparisons between muscle groups and movements in exercises. One obvious example is the LSU testing tables and those are great ways to see growth and development between testing options and performance.
I believe that practices on the track have the best relationships to meets more than the weight room, and if the athlete is healthy, so does many of the jump tests. I support Mike Boyle’s notion of what is good regarding the clean to bodyweight ratio, provided that one doesn’t rob the resources of the track demands. The key is what is sufficient to create adaptations in order to run, jump, and throw better. Going from 1.6 to 1.8 times body weight in the power clean may not increase a vertical jump, and while vertical jumps are not pure indicators of transfer, one can wager that perhaps speed is less affected than jumps. The more talented the athlete the less of a maximal stimulation is required in my observation of my own athletes and other programs.
The percentages in the olympic lifts comparing best performances in various movements is an excellent standard. Nobody snatches more than their back squat, and usually athletes need a better front squat than a full clean. The added burden of track coaches is to see the relationships between the other tests such as jumps and throws. One can back toss 14 meters but that doesn’t make it certain one is ready to go sub ten seconds.
Another factor is how the lift was done technically. Often we see hang cleans done with a combination of knee dominance and too much back recruitment to get the numbers up, but the transfer is poor because in sprinting the back is a stabilizer and transmission to the legs and upper body, not prime mover. When I see big numbers with poor technique I see poor transfer percentages. This is why Tendo scores are always poor summaries of what is happening with the athlete. One must use Dartfish or other software (nothing beats good coaches eyes) to confirm the wattage was directed properly. Another example is the lack of depth in squats we see with many programs trying to appear strong with record boards. When I see a list of the athlete name and number, one should have the video clip looped for us to see the true context of what was done.
Defining an exercise like taxonomy of animals or military approaches and weapons is not overkill or trying to sound smart. When I see a wide squat on a box, I see something great for powerlifting but keeping a vertical shin is ok working around knee pain but in the long term will not do much for athletes wanting to have a better use of the anterior chain. A squat is not a sitting back action unless you are power lifter. While the pelvis will drop, keeping the shin vertical is not natural. Olympic style squatting is a better option as it’s a balance between front and backside development, provided the foot pressure is even between the forefoot and rear. Excessive knee dominance is not necessary, and moderation is suggested as it tends to be safe bet.
Flexibility ratios are also important, not just between joints and muscles, but between the power and energy pathways of the body. Mike Nelson commented that flexibility is lost during overload, and range of motion in loaded situations is a better screen of health than bodyweight only options, as mobility under load or velocity simply has more merit. I do think isolation scores without load need to be involved though. Ironically enough many of the core and mobility experts don’t show too many deep squats unless it’s a guest doing a youtube infomercial. Shouldn’t a bodyweight back squat be safe enough to demonstrate range of motion? Like Coach Mort said earlier, finding good technique with great performers is looking for big foot.
Metabolic ratios and relationships are also important with coaching. The key is to find a very effective balance during the competitive season while allowing development during the offseason and preseason. Nobody may have the magic numbers, but improvement can be monitored with pragmatic solutions such as looking at body composition and simple speed decay charts and tables. In the future in team sports, the power to weight ratio will be considered crude, because others will be seeing the power to weight ratio compared to metabolic output and efficiency.
In summary I believe in ratios, but not ideal cutoff points or universal numbers. Much of what I see is insight and not perfect ratios since most elite athletes are hyper talented. Most of us are not going to get the super talents and must find ways to push the training to the genetic ceiling in order to find what is really working. What I thought worked over the last few years was just on the surface, and I believe the deeper relationships are going to be more of a big picture view than drilling down to specific exercises.