Hey coachd50, I appreciate the opposing view. I had a few thoughts when I read your post though.
1. Starr set those numbers 50 years ago. As far as I can tell every sport has progressed past the records of 50 years ago. To me this doesn't necessarily mean that what we're doing now is better or what they did in the past was worse.
2. Starr was competitive in the US and at that time the US was competitive on the world stage. Although Starr's numbers wouldn't hold up in the US today, the numbers of the US don't hold up on the world stage. So even though the US has gotten better since Starr's time, the rest of the world has done the same, but at a faster rate.
Just wanted to hear your thoughts. Thanks.
I am not quite certain how you got "America is already strong enough" from asking "How can Coach Starr comment on what the lifters are training. Is he visiting those gyms?"
I would ask you here, WHY did those sports progress? I would say that the reason performance has improved in "every" sport IS because what they are doing in those sports now, is better than what they did 50 years ago. I don't think performance has just "magically" improved over time.1. Starr set those numbers 50 years ago. As far as I can tell every sport has progressed past the records of 50 years ago. To me this doesn't necessarily mean that what we're doing now is better or what they did in the past was worse.
The interesting thing about this discussion is that there are absolute and relative components. Weightlifting, like sprinting, swimming, throwing events, jumping events etc... are static sports. So the performances can be compared against all time, and both absolutely and relatively. The bar hasn't changed, the plates haven't really changed. The competition HAS changed, and as I suggested, that may have some bearing on the differences. But my thoughts still remain...in an absolute sense, the lifters of those times are being outperformed. Based on that, how does one say "you guys should do it like WE did" when they are2. Starr was competitive in the US and at that time the US was competitive on the world stage. Although Starr's numbers wouldn't hold up in the US today, the numbers of the US don't hold up on the world stage. So even though the US has gotten better since Starr's time, the rest of the world has done the same, but at a faster rate.
I think one thing that is often overlooked is the competition was a 3-lift competition before 1972. "Being worn out from the press" wouldn't explain the lower C&J/snatch numbers back then. However, you have to realize that because the press is a brute strength movement compared to the faster lifts of the C&J and the snatch training was different back then. I don't doubt that lifters from "back in the day" could bring their snatch and C&J numbers up higher than what they lifted, but the press was an integral part of training, and that couldn't be allowed to lag behind.
I dug into some of the placements at the Olympics, Worlds, Pan-Am Games etc. with the intention gathering some data in response to coached50's assertion that US lifters are stronger now than they were 50 years ago. The data I gathered shows that indeed, the US has gotten stronger, but everyone else has gotten "more stronger".
I focused on the 50s and 60s, as that was the time period referenced in the article and that was the heyday of US achievement in weightlifting. I looked at two of the most successful lifters in US history (Norbert Schemanski and Tommy Kono) and compared them to two of the "most promising" lifters currently (Pat Mendes and Kendrick Farris). I stuck to the Olympics to keep the data set manageable.
In the '64 Olympics (heavyweight/105+), the gold went to Ukrainian Leonid Zhabotinski who had a 385 total. The US took the bronze thanks to Schemanski who posted a 357.5 total.
Fast forward to 2012, and at London the gold again went to a Ukrainian, Oleksiy Torokhtiy who had a 412 total. This represents a 7.0% increase from the Ukrainian performance in 1964.
At the 2011 US Nationals (the most relevant competition I could find), Pat Mendes totaled 389, representing an 8.8% increase over the US performance in 1964, and a mere 1% improvement over the gold-winning effort of Zhabotinski.
In 1956, Kono took the gold in the light heavyweight/82.5kg with a 307.5 total. The silver went to Latvian Vasily Stepanovs who had a 292.5 total.
In 2012 at London, there was no Latvian competitor in the 85kg weight class. The gold went to Adrian Zielinski of Poland with a 385 total (an improvement of 25.2% over Kono and 30.1% over Stapanovs).
Also in the 2012 Olympics, Kendrick Farris totaled 355, representing a 15.4% improvement over the 1956 US performance.
My conclusion from this very limited data set is that the US is not progressing at the same rate as other countries with respect to medal-winning performances of yesteryear. Starr & Rip have offered a plausible root cause for the US falling behind that we have the ability to correct immediately: a difference in training focus. I have not yet seen any other suggestions, only attempts to refute their potential root cause.
raw32: the training focus of the countries beating the USA since 1972 when the C&P was discontinued has been mostly on technique and maintaining technique as the weights increase. Look at the bulgarian method - it is mostly the Olympic lifts and its variants. Front squats, pulls, ect.
Drugs is probably one of the explanations. Lifters from the Western countries are tested more, and have less access to drugs, whereas I am told that Eastern lifters (not to mention Chinese) have a drug protocol run by their coaches, teams etc. Back when Starr lifted, everyone took them, so it might be more even? This also means that strength is probably the problem, with genes being a close second (all the potentially great lifters run around chasing balls).
As to "Weightlifters don't focus on strength" I always thought it was a strawman argument, sort of like Pendlay wrote once. At least at the rhetorical level, I mean - who would deny that lifting heavy things is easier when you are stronger? Yet I've been talking to some guys in Danish Weightlifting, and FWIW "Strength isn't really important, technique is" has been said more than once, and very, very rarely do I see them doing strength work, much less do some actual cycles of strength work to PR on the squat or deadlift. I'm just a fan of the sport not a competitor, maybe strength ISN'T that important. But the argument "Danish lifters aren't working (much) on strength" seems to hold true from my little sample. Maybe it's true for the US too?
In any case it seems to warrant discussion, and listening to some of the guys who were part of it when the US actually won stuff makes sense I'd think. And then Starr writes about this stuff in a way, that makes you want to read more, which is quite rare, I find.