It was 250 pounds with a 209 clean. It is often the case that simple things get lost in complexity, especially if we let complexity for its own sake become the goal.
I've been lurking on your internets for years, but I finally had to come out of the woodwork to support this article based on my personal history.
In 2009 I put up a 212kg total (95+117) as a 77kg lifter at collegiate nationals. My PRs at the peak of training were 100 Snatch and 120 CJ earlier that spring. This was after 9-10 months of training; prior to joining the team in the summer of 2008 I had never done a full barbell snatch or CJ. I had also never done a serious strength training program, and therein lies my connection with this article.
A bit of my history first. In early high school I tested a 37 inch vertical leap in PE and basketball; I could dunk at 5' 8''/135lbs. And yes; I was, by any objective measure, scrawny. Junior year I maxed out my service academy entry test with a 9-foot+ standing broad jump. (I could also do 20+ strict bodyweight pull-ups and was very flexible; I've read of these being other good predictors for O-lifting success in Russian and Eastern European recruiting, but I'd have to do some digging for the reference.)
That being said, the rest of my pre-military athletic history consisted of cross country running, swimming, calisthenics, and trying my hand at a variety of JV sports. I hadn't set foot in a gym until my well-meaning parents got us a YMCA membership late in high school, after which time I gained 25 lbs of muscle over about 8 months, using mostly machines in standard monkey-see monkey-do protocol. Fast forward a couple years and I'd mostly gravitated toward bodyweight training in the military. Along the way I discovered Pavel and Kettlebells via Dragon Door, and dabbled in Crossfit. Party politics aside, Hardstyle kettlebell training actually did a lot for teaching me about bracing and explosive power from the hips, and overhead pressing.
Then one day at the end of my junior year of college, I heard about my school's Olympic lifting program from a friend and went down to meet the coaches - you may know Coach Blackwood from USAFA. He let me in and thus began a very fast year of progress, much to the credit of our coaches. Squats or deadlifts were not lacking from our program, I wouldn't even say they were an afterthought, since we did increase our heavy numbers based on monthly training schedules. But this was mostly in the form doubles and triples, and maybe maxing once a quarter. I think it was mostly done out of a desire to avoid overtraining, and for most of the guys this was fine. It was more than fine actually; we had 3 bronze medals that year. I do know the other guys had lifting in their backgrounds due to football exposure though, so they had nowhere near the initial squat/DL deficiencies that I did going into O-lifting. My actual training age was much younger than the rest of the lifters. I had still not gained the “muscle that I should have had all along” – or the corresponding strength. I believe you and Pavel have both written about this.
All told, I've often pondered the alternate reality in which I had trained presses, squats and DLs from early high school; discovered O-lifting sooner than my last year of college; and generally not wasted most of my training time prior to age 20. I can't complain though, I was really happy to make it to collegiates in a year’s work.
But anyway, enough of hearing myself type. My main support for your article comes from the area of connective tissue strength; you discuss on page 4 the inability of lighter lifts to build this, and I can personally attest to that fact. I actually developed a pretty significant case of patellar tendonitis leading up to collegiates, but I trained through it (perhaps stupidly, but I was young and needed the money... and wouldn't have another shot in college). I'm fairly certain this tendonitis came from handling much heavier explosive lifts than my raw strength and connective tissue strength could reasonably support. (I had a good bit of military PT going on too, which may have actually been the straw that broke the camel’s back... but I’ll never know). I was cleaning 120kg (1.6xBW) and performing within 85-95% of it routinely, when I could barely front squat 125 for a double. I back-squatted 136kg for a single but 4s or 5s were really never on my radar. I may likely have had the ability for 120x5x3 in me but it only existed in theory. I could DL 160kg+ clean-grip but I never remember training over 130-ish in routines. To put it plainly: I was naturally explosive and becoming a good Olympic lifter with good coaches, but I was still fundamentally weak and had never really trained to be truly strong. Doh.
Also, for what it’s worth – I went out and tested with the other sports teams after a lifting practice the month following collegiates. I hit a 35.5” vertical leap (at 170lbs versus 135 now) and a 9’ 9” standing broad-jump. It looks like even though my explosiveness remained since high school, my training didn’t increase it. As your article entails, a significant time spent training and improving in Olympic lifting did not correspond to an increase in explosive jumps. Olympic lifting rather just seemed to capitalize on my explosiveness.
Anyway thanks for reading, if anyone’s actually made it through all this. I thought my case might offer some interesting support for the article and I’d be happy to hear your thoughts.
Does this mean that Power Clean may not be the best thing to include in the Starting Strength prog?
I mean, if we were to replace it with something else that allows you the display of maximal strength instead of explosiveness (say chin/pull up) wouldn't that translate to better overall strength development?
The SS model incorporates both exercises that build raw strength through a complete range of motion (S, D, OHP, BP) and an exercise (PC or PS) that trains neuromuscular commitment and explosion, the idea being that both attributes, integrated into the development of strong, powerful, graceful human being, are desirable in athletics, health, love and Life. Strength drives explosive power (assuming you actually train for strength--the point at issue), because power is strength displayed quickly, and power drives the development of strength (again, assuming you train for both), because the maximal commitment of motor units increases the amount of weight you can pull/press/squat.
Also, cleans are badass.
It's not an either-or. It's a both-and. A ham-and-eggs. A Minneapolis-St.Paul. A Ying-Yang.
A mind-bender, isn't it? If only there were some sort of book that expounded upon these ideas and other underpinnings of the SS model in detail...
Last edited by Jonathon Sullivan; 06-20-2012 at 11:04 AM.
I did not find any suitable place to post this, so I thought that this thread would be the best place for it:
I would like to know the general attitude here about the following suggestions concering olympic lifting (I assume that a lot of people will be offended by these out of the box suggestions):
1) Dividing olympic/weight lifting into two different classes/styles(like olympic wrestling).
A-style: Snatch and Clean and jerk.
B-style: Clean and press, deadlift.
2) Just replacing the Clean and Jerk with the Clean and press, why well the snatch is a compound movement that shows/generates extreme power output, I really dont see any reason to do both snatch and C&J. C&J is a two phase lift(less power more strength) so, it would make sense(at least for me) to replace it with the clean and press. This would mean one power lift and one strength lift.
Let me know your thoughts about this crazy ideas!
An interesting interview with Cheryl Haworth here, also talking about the documentary she's in, STRONG.
One comment she made was this,
I’m a strong person, obviously, physically. Yet compared to a lot of female weightlifters, even in this country, there are plenty of ladies who are pound for pound, or overall, even, stronger than I am. The only way I was successful was to really, really, really cultivate a technique that works for my body, and one that I was very disciplined in maintaining.
I’m not strong enough to make any mistakes. If my snatch is moving backward, I’m not that person that can force it into the postiion it has to be in.
People would comment on my weightlifting and say it looks so effortless. They’d say “Put more weight on the bar.” But if I did put more weight on, my technique would go, and I wouldn’t be able to lift it. If I didn’t get it perfect, then I couldn’t do it at all. It just wouldn’t happen.
It’s a movement that captivated me. It’s so interesting. But I had to adhere to it very strictly.
What she's saying is that her strength, good as it is, limits her lifts. Since her technique is now so good, how will she ever lift more? Whatever the relative contributions of strength and technique, how do you lift more if you can't improve either of them?
I'm not a top OL coach and never will be, just a PT. But it seems to me these comments cut to the heart of what Rip's saying: technique will only take you so far, past that you have to just get stronger.
However, as I literally just wrote down in E&P where someone posted about this film, my initial interpretation was correct: