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The "USAW doesn't care about strength" thing held water in 2010 maybe, but probably not anymore, given that everyone has seen a bajillion videos of Klokov & Friends chasing 700lb squats, and 400lb+ for the bigger girls. And our guys are (finally) regularly posting squat PRs themselves, even if they're still about 50lbs or so off the international standard for their weight. Incidentally, that might be why our guys are finally breaking into A-sessions at some international events. So it turns out strength does matter a lot but everyone has been onboard with that for a while now. The horse is already at the glue factory and really all that's left of that dispute at this point is an apology from certain USAW officials. But they've already switched gears towards a new petty squabble in the form of team-selection protocols, because sometimes you really can't fix stupid.
Strength matters, but it;s not the primary concern. Yes, most of our Olympic lifters are trying to get stronger, but to what extent? I think that is the argument to look at.
Yes, if a guy is squatting 200kg, he's trying to get to 225kg. But if a guy is squatting 260kg, is he trying to get to 285kg? I'm not sure if this is the case. And if it is the case, then at what cost are they willing to push to get there? Are American lifters okay with taking 1 year out of a quad to get their squat up 25kg at the expense of some resources to be used for technical work? I guess you'd have to ask our top American weightlifters, but based on what I see, I don't think many coaches put strength as the #1 priority.
So the disagreement is over programming then? That's certainly a fair point of contention, and much more reasonable than the old "These people have their heads in the sand and don't care about strength why can't they see the obvious problem here" thing, which was the more common layman sentiment at some point.
While we're on the topic though, at the international level, you don't think programming for what are at the end of the day assistance exercises is a difficult problem? How varied is the cost-benefit ratio of going from 260 to 285 for a squat or 280 to 300 for a DL when you're a 165/205-ish man, as our top 94s are? My guess is it's an extremely individualized puzzle and I certainly wouldn't know how to do it; I do know better than to assume that adding x kg to squat/DL will translate to, say, 0.6x to snatch and 0.7x to CJ though. The thing is, I don't think many, if anyone, can answer this question clearly either, including celebrity coaches like Ni or Rigert. Heck, now that the Soviet programming system is laid bare, it seems like there's nothing particularly magical in there; just 3 days a week of sn/cj + assistance and 3 days a week of squat/push/pull with emphasis on triples and not on 1RM testing, so maybe the answer is simply that you need a Klokov or an Ilin to walk in the front door when they're 12 years old and then pay him well enough so that he doesn't have a life outside of this decidedly unexciting program for 20 years?
You ask a few interesting questions, but I think at the heart of this is the issue of how athletic the athlete in question is. If he/she is a genetic freak with amazing ability to recruit motor units (i.e. a great SVJ) then this has implications on training. If the athlete is not as gifted, this also has implications on training and leads to other implications on training. It is my stance that those who are lesser athletes need more work on strength. They also need more work on technique. They need more work on everything. As in any other sport, in order to hang with those who are naturally gifted, those who are not as gifted have to work harder. Since we in the USA don't have the same selection system for Weightlifting as say China or Russia, we are not always handed the best athletes (this is changing though I think). As such, we need more focus on strength even when our athletes are already getting stronger. Better athletes are going to work well with what they have in terms of strength. Lesser athletes have to work harder to get stronger and have better technique in order to have a shot to hang with the big dogs.
The tough part is that better athletes tend to also be naturally stronger.
I know you advocate mastering the basic squat, press, and deadlift before advancing to more complex lifts such as the snatch and the clean. If a beginner to intermediate-level trainee wants to perform the Olympic lifts, at what point would it be prudent to begin loading those lifts? Technique proficiency aside, do you believe that there are certain numbers one must reach in the squat/front squat, press, deadlift before training the Olympic lifts?
I think that if a guy wants to compete in the lifts, he should start practicing them 2x/week towards the end of his novice progression, and then switch to a more weightlifting emphasis as he begins his intermediate-level programming. Any numbers I give for the strength lifts would be bodyweight-based, and would therefore resemble the Sinclair curve. The most important thing to keep in mind -- and the biggest bone of contention between us and American Olympic weightlifting coaches -- is that power is derived from strength. The 2 lifts are PRACTICED and the strength lifts are TRAINED. If your training ever changes so much in the direction of the 2 lifts that PRs on the squat, presses, and heavy pulls cease to be a feature of your programming, well then, you've just joined the Status Quo.
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