Explosive Weight Training
From: arden...@aol.comfreedom (The Bandit)
Subject: Re: To Power Clean or not
Date: 2000/08/17
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>For some one who is concerned with actualy having to do something athletic
>you will not find a better exercise with the exception of  squat cleans,
>clean and jerk, or possibly snatches for giving you a good workout, and
>improving your core strength, speed, and agility.  While it is not as
>usefull for a body builder who does not need functional strength or athletic
>performance it is still one of the best exercises around for your upper
>As far as safety is concerned when done, and taught correctly it is one of
>the safest exercises you can do (even done incorrectly one can argue that it
>is still safer than bench pressing, as the possibility of death, or
>paralysis does not exist).  The important thing is that you take your time
>and learn the lift properly   If any one is interested in learning to power
>clean their is a really good site
>http://www.ironmag.com/ct_olympic_lifts_power_clean_1.html that has some
>good information and diagrams on learning to power clean (be sure to read
>all 10 pages, keep the repetitions low and don't worry about trying to learn
>the double knee bend as it is not important for a beginner)
>Their are a lot of exercise "gurus" that are running around violently
>opposed to Olympic lifts, claiming that they are dangerous.  The truth be
>known their opposition comes because of a lack of proper education.  In most
>cases it is far easier for them to label an exercise as "dangerous" than to
>take the time to learn the proper way to perform and teach the exercise.
>Also teaching the Olympic lifts takes time how many of these people would
>loose big bucks if they had to spend  a full hour with each client to teach
>them just 1 lift, when you can show them how to use every machine in the gym
>in less than 1/2 hour, or devote several chapters in a book for a single
>lift when you can incorporate over 10 wiz bang exercises in the same amount
>of space.  What they don't understand is that any thing of worth takes time
>and energy to learn or develop.

I guess I have to post this article again.

The following article is by Ken Mannie, strength coach of Michigan State (at
last recollection):
The subject of explosive weight training is one that has been in the center of
a maelstrom among strength and conditioning practitioners for quite some time.
Many individuals and some associations advocate the use of so-called explosive
weight training movements, which purportedly offer trainees a distinct
advantage in speed and power development over those who choose to incorporate
more controlled movements. 

It is also suggested by some that explosive weight training movements prepare
the body for the exorbitant, potentially traumatic forces of competition more
so than other strength training techniques. 

For the purpose of this article, only the explosive lifts will be discussed.
These include-but are not solely restricted to-the Olympic lifts (i.e., the
snatch and clean and jerk), power clean, speed-squats, push jerks and any
variations of these movements. Basically any movement performed in a rapid,
jerky manner where momentum plays a key role in the execution and or completion
of the movement would be included. 

The intent of this article is three-fold: 

1) to elucidate the fact that ballistic weight training movements carry with
them the highest injury potential of any resistance exercises performed in the
weight room setting; 

2) to dispute the erroneous notion that there exists a definitive physiological
or biomechanical mechanism by which ballistic weight training movements result
in a distinct and irrefutable advantage over controlled, high tension
resistance exercises in producing and/or enhancing speed, power or athletic
skill development; and 

3) to offer safer more efficient and more productive training alternatives. 

The Risk Factor
It is a an accepted premise that all types of resistance modes and/or
ideologies will have a certain degree of risk attached to them. This is why
instruction and supervision are paramount in resistance training programs,
regardless of the lifting movements being performed. There will also be
contradictions regarding exercise prescription in isolated cases due to past
injuries, structural abnormalities and other physical impediments. As with any
physical activity, there exists an assumption of risk with strength training
and this is why the participants must be well-schooled regarding
lifting/spotting techniques and the myriad of safety guidelines which are of
utmost importance in the weight room setting. With judicious care, the majority
of the environmental risks associated with the weight room can be effectively

However, the aforementioned ballistic lifts are immersed in inherent dangers
even when supervision and correct techniques are evident. There exists a
prepoderance of evidence (4,5,8,9,10,14,17,21,22,23,29,33,34,38) indicating
that so-called explosive weight training movements carry a high risk of injury,
both acutely and cumulatively, to muscle tissue, fascia, connective tissue and
bony structures. Westcott (38) states that the acceleration and deceleration
forces placed on involved tendons, ligaments, muscle fascia and bone create
both initial and terminal stresses on these structures which are likely to
produce training injuries. 

Several of the lifts being examined here - primarily the Olympic lifts, power
cleans and their analogs - cause repetitive forced hyperextensions of the
lumbar spine. This forced hyperextension can lead to any number of physical
anomalies and injury defects including lumbar sprain, strain, disc injury or a
condition known as spondyloysis which consists of a fracture of the pars
interarticularis (an area between the superior and inferior articulating facet
on a single vertebra). Dangles et al. (3) noted a 44% incidence of spondolysis
in a group of 47 Olympic lifters, while Kotani et al. (22) identified the
condition in 30.7% of 26 male lifters. It is important to note that these were
*experienced lifters*. 

Dr. Lyle Micheli, past president of The American College of Sports Medicine
(ACSM) has also indicated that ballistic weight training contributes to
spondolysis (14). 

While the low back region is a major concern with regard to the injury
potential of these lifts, their nature embodies concern for other areas of the
body as well. Dr. Fred Allman, another past president of the ACSM, has
commented on numerous occasions on the danger in performing Olympic lifts, as
well as the hazards of introducing speed to weight lifting movements. Dr.
Allman has also stated that the performance of the Olympic lifts provides
little benefit to athletes in their training programs for any sport other than
Olympic lifting (9). 

Kulund (23) has mentioned injuries to the wrist, elbow and shoulder while
performing Olympic lifts - injuries which were obviously related to the
acceleration and/or deceleration forces imposed on these areas. 

Hall (17) concluded from her study on the clean and jerk that fast lifting
speeds generate dramatic increases in compressive force, shear force, torque
and myoelectric activity in the lumbar region. 

Matt Brzycki, {who used to post to this newsgroup for anyone who didn't know
that} the Strength and Conditioning Coach at Princeton University, offers this

"Using momentum to lift a weight increases the internal forces encountered by a
given joint: the faster a weight is lifted, the greater these forces are
amplified - especially at the points of acceleration and deceleration. When
these forces exceed the structural limits of a joint, an injury occurs in the
muscles, bones or connective tissue. No one knows what the exact tensile
strength of ligaments and tendons are at any given moment. The only way to
ascertain tensile strength is when the structural limits are surpassed" (11). 

Dr. Ken Leistner who has long excoriated ballistic lifting in training
programs, points out that the inclusion of these movements in strength programs
may, in fact be the genesis of injuries incurred later in practise in games. As
Dr. Leistner states, "...the continuous exposure to acceleration/deceleration
forces present when doing cleans, snatches and jerks can produce tissue damage
which literally is an *accident waiting to happen*" (26). In younger athletes,
the risks of damage to the epiphyseal are on the bones is also a cause for
concern, as complete ossification may not take place until the late teens or

Some individuals take to task the injury potential of this type of weight
training by citing the Zemper et al. study (40), which looks at time-loss
injuries incurred in the weight room. These same individuals have interjected,
"Many of the exercises used by those players would be considered speed-strength
exercises...the average team can expect one time-loss injury from the weight
room every three years." The unanswered questions, however, include: 

1) How many of the injuries incurred were a result of *ballistic* training?; 2)
This survey measured acute injuries; what about cumulative trauma which was
*aggravated* on the field and not attributed to the weight room?; and 3) Is
*any* injury in the weight room acceptable? 

Many proponents of explosive training ignore the *single most* vulnerable area
subected to the compressive and shear forces propagated by the majority of the
ballistic lifts - the lower back region. 

Some authors have suggested that explosive weight training movements are
necessary in increasing the tensile strength of viscoelastic tissue as well as
increasing bone density and strength. While it has been shown that progressive
resistance training, in general, can accomplish these goals, there exists *no*
definitive scientific finding indicating that explosive lifting induces a
better adaption than high tension, velocity-controlled repetitions - relative
to the parameters of the repetition scheme, safe range of motion, and
controlled movement speed will strengthen the aforementioned tissues without
the introduction of unnecessary momentum (6,7,11,15,21,25,26,31,32,38). You
need not perform ballistic weight training movements for injury prevention

Contrary to the suggestions of some individuals, injuries do occur in the
weight room and have been documented in the literature (5,9,10,29,33,34). Many
of these injuries can be directly contributed to ballistic lifting, not merely
the failure of the participants to comply to safety guidelines. Also, it is
categorically unacceptable to compare weight room injuries with sports-related
injuries and to subsequently state that there are fewer injuries in the weight
room. Strength training for athletes is NOT a sport, nor is it an activity
where injuries should be commonplace. The comparison is ludicrious. 

It should also be noted that certain sports, especially football, place
inherent technique stresses on the lumbar spine (16,18,19,26,36). In light of
this, performing ballistic lifts which have proven to be traumatic to the same
region is hardly the prudent thing to do. For example, the Zemper study noted a
total of 18 injuries involving either the lower or upper back. The majority of
the total injuries were incurred by defensive linemen and offensive
linemen/tight ends (19 total). It would be interesting to note the type of
lifting which was being performed when these injuries were sustained, but the
study fails to examine those important specifics. Zemper states that the most
likely explanation for the higher incidence of injury positions is that
"...they spend more time in the weight room and generally are lifting more
total weight" (40). Could the actuality that these positions are also the ones
most persistently directed by their coaches to perform cleans, snatches, etc.,
be a factor as well? 

The underlying tone of explosive lifting proponents, when discussing injuries,
is that they are a part of athletics, therefore the fact that certain lifts may
carry inherent risks must be accepted. This thinking represents a negligent
haphazard approach in the training of athletes who are not competitive

It is important to note that the American Orthopedic Society for Sports
Medicine, an organization which happens to distinguish between *strength
training* and *weightlifting* in it's position paper, contraindicates the
Olympic lifts in training regimens. Also, the ACSM, the world's foremost
authority on training protocol since being founded in 1954, recommends safer
movements in their position paper and makes no mention of the inclusion of the
Olympic lifts in training (6). 

There is no question that the medical community needs to become more actively
involved in this controversy. It is my personal belief that, with their
continuous input, we will be able to slam the door on this dangerous and
unnecessary type of lifting for the general athletic population. 

Ballistic Weight Training is Unnecessary
It is the contention of explosive lifting proponents that ballistic lifting
movements are necessary in enhancing athletic performance in addition to
"simulation movement patterns and velocity and acceleration of many sports
movements." These claims are *not* supported with definitive, conclusive
research data. Some individuals make numerous "suggestions" taken from its and
pieces of the scientific literature which fit into their ideology, but the
smoking gun is nonexistent. At best, the conflicting data and/or lack of
irrefutable findings on these matters render the entire controversy

Some explosive lifting proponents have conceded that, "Slow movement speed does
not necessarily mean that an exercise is not explosive. A slow movement may be
considered explosive if the athlete applies maximal force as rapidly as
possible, although the weight moves slowly due to its great inertia." If one
performs a maximum or near maximum set of an exercise within a given repetition
range, this "controlled explosion" will be in effect for the majority of the
reps performed. 

This type of training can be done with exercise machines, free weights and the
various velocity-controlled modes (i.e., isokinetic devices). It is definitely
a safer way to train and is a more efficient manner in which to train. 

ANY type of progressive strength training will elicit gains in muscle
hypertrophy and strength with concurrent enhancement in the contractile
properties of muscle tissue (6,8,11,27,39). However, high force/ low velocity
movements produce longer periods of continuous muscle tensition during both the
concentric and eccentric phases, thereby placing heavier demands on the target
muscles (7,11,12,15,27,31,32,39). 

There exists an inverse relationship between movement speed and muscle force
production, which dictates that maximal tension is developed at slow velocities
(though the "intent" to move rapidly is evident) and decreases as the speed of
contraction increases (7,8,12,15,27,31,32,38,39). Low force/high velocity
movements, are therefore less productive with respect to maximal force
production and concomitant strength development. 

While there exists considerable controversy in the scientific literature on the
mechanisms of motor unit recruitment, the most widely accepted precept is the
"size principle" of activation (7,12,15,27,32,39,40). Henneman (39) states that
the size of the newly recurited motor unit increases with the tension level at
which it is recruited. Basically, smaller motor units are recruited first, with
successfully larger units firing at increasing tension levels. Slow twitch
units (Type I) ten to be smaller and produce less overall force than the
intermediate and fast twitch units (Type II A, Type II AB, or Type II B). A
major difference in the speed of contraction between the Type I units and the
Type II units (including the intermediate Type II fibers) is the fact that they
have different degrees of myosin ATPase activity. 

Myosin ATPase is intimately involved in the muscle contraction process and the
fibers that have more of this activity can contract more rapidly. Also related
to contractile speed is the fact that slow twitch fibers have a very poorly
developed sarcoplasmic reticulum when compared to fast twitch fibers. This may
help explain the response of slow twitch fibers to stimulation, as the
sarcoplasmic reticulum is important for the quick release of calcium to trigger
contraction. Couple this with the fact that that the troponin of Type I fibers
has a low affinity for calcium when compared to the continuum of Type II
fibers, and a clearer picture of the differences in contraction capabilities

There are also numerous metabolic differences between slow twitch and fast
twitch units, due to oxidative properties which dictate energy production and
endurance capacities (e.g., mitochondria supply, glycogen stores, etc.). 

The element most germane to this discussion, however is that of neural
innervation. Slow units are innervated by motor neurons that tend to be much
smaller - both in the diameter of their axons and in the size of their cell
bodies in the spinal cord - than that of fast motor units. In addition, the net
conduction velocity is much slower in the nerves of slow motor units. These
differences in innervation elicit a lower threshold of activation in the slow
motor units as compared to the fast motor units. The net effect of this neural
mechanism is that slow units are recruited first for nearly all activities,
regardless of movement speed (7,8,11,15,27,32,39,40). It is only when the
INTENSITY of activation is very great or when the slow twitch units are
fatigued that the larger, more powerful fast motor units are brought into play.

Herein lies much of the controversy regarding fiber recruitment: Is there a
preferential recruitment of the fast motor units when fast movement speeds are
employed? Again, literature exists where "implications" and/or "suggestions"
are made in favor of such an occurence, but the preponderance of currently
available data do not support this viewpoint. Lesmes et al. (27) states that
both muscle fiber types are actively recruited during maximal muscular
contractions, regardless of the movement speed. The entire "size principle" of
fiber recruitment is predicated on *muscle force production* NOT the actual
*speed of movement*. Slow motor units are quite capable of inititating fast
speeds of limb movement if the force requirements are low. Therefore, if the
training goal is the recruitment and development of the fast twitch muscle
fibers, fast weight training speeds at low intensity (i.e., high velocity/low
resistance movements) represent the *least* efficient approach. As stated by
Pipes, "Speed of limb movement has little to do with intensity. If anything
there is an inverse relationship... you can have speed or you can have
intensity; you cannot have both" (31). 

Studies by Palmieri (30) and Wenzel et al. (37) measured training speed and
power development with no significant differences being found at slow, fast or
a combination of slow and fast speeds. The relevance of these studies is in the
conclusion of each that fast training speeds are not needed for power
improvements. If controlled speed is at least as effective (if not more so) and
safer than faster speed, wouldn't the controlled movement speed be the more
judicious option? More importantly, if the safety and welfare of the athletes
entrusted to you truly superseded any personal preference or commercial bias in
training techniques, then the choice should be quite obvious. 

"Movement specifity" is a term that has long been misinterpreted by some
explosive training proponents. To say that "the snatch and clean are very
similar to other athletic movements such as "jumping", is to contradict many of
the basic principles of motor learning. 

First of all, a clear definition of "specificity" is in order. The *encoding
principle of specificity* states that the closer the influence of the practise
on the test context characteristics (i.e., the competition situation), the
better the practised movements will be recalled during the test (1,2,28).
Simply put, your practise drills, situations, etc., should mirror the
conditions under which you will be tested. Performing a certain type of lifting
movement with the hope that it will transfer to a sport-specific or
position-specific task is *useless*. The central nervous system acquires,
stores and uses only meaningful information when movement is required (28). 

As once stated by Dr. Lyle Micheli, "...strength training has the potential to
improve size and strength; skill development is something different" (25). That
brief, candid statement says it all. 

Perspective On Proper Strength Training
Strength training programs should be comprehensive in nature with the emphasis
placed on exercising the major muscle complexes throughout their fullest range
of functional motion. The selected movements should include a variety of
multi-joint and single-joint exercises, utilizing a good mix of machines and
free weights whenever possible, and be safe and relatively easy to perform in
terms of technique. 

Set and repetition schemes can be varied, but the program should strive for
intense efforts, accurate record keeping, a system for progressive overload and
time efficiency. Movements requiring excessive momentum for the execution
and/or completion of the lift should be avoided. 

This article was not written for individuals who are firmly entrenched in their
thinking one way or another, but rather for those who are seeking to compare
training information in order to make a rational, educated decision. It must be
repeated and emphasized that any type of progressive overload strength training
will elicit gains in muscular size and strength with concurrent enhancement in
the contractile properties of muscle tissue. However, I caution the reader not
to fall prey to the notion that there is a distinct advantage in producing
"explosive" athletes by training them with ballistic weight movements. This
erroneous proposition continues to be force-fed to the coaching community by
organizations and individuals who, because of prejudiced thinking based on
their backgrounds or vested interests, are married to this close-minded

It is my personal opinion that many of the articles written by explosive
training proponents are rife with ambiguous suggestions, one-sided half-truths,
and incomplete misinterpretations of the scientific literature. If accepted as
doctrine by those in the coaching ranks who are searching for training
information, it could contribute to a higher incidence of weight room injuries
- a situation that is totally unacceptable, both professionally and ethically. 

1. Adams, J.A., "Historical Review and Appraisal of Research on the Learning
Retention and Transfer of Human Motor Skills", Psychological Bulletin, 101,
41-74 (1985) 

2. Adler, J. "Stages of Skill Acquisition: A Guide for Teachers", Motor Skills:
Theory Into Practise, (1982) 

3. Aggrawal, N.D., et al., "A Study of Changes in Weight Lifters and Other
Athletes", British Journal of Sportsmedicine, 13, 58-61, (1985). 

4. Alexander, M.J.L., "Biomechanical Aspects of Lumbar Spine Injuries in
Athletes: A Review", Canadian Journal of Applied Sports Sciences, 10:(1), 1-20,

5. American Academy of Pediatrics, "Weight Training and Weight Lifting:
Information for the Pediatrician", The Physician and Sports Medicine, 11: (3),
157-161, (1983). 

6. American College of Sports Medicine, Guidelines for Exercise Testing and
Prescription, 4th Edition, Lea and Febiger, (1991) 

7. Bell, G.J., et al., "Physiological Adaptations to Velocity-Controlled
Resistance Training", Sports Medicine, 13:(4), 234-244 (1992). 

8. Birk, T., Assistant Professor Dept. of Med. and Rehab. Medicine, The Medical
College of Ohio, Conversation and Correspondence, (1992) 

9. Brady, T., et al., "Weight Training Related Injuries in the High School
Athlete", American Journal of Sportsmedicine, 10:(1), 1-5, (1982) 

10. Brown, T., "Lumbar Ring Apophyseal Fracture in an Adolescent Weightlifter",
The American Journal of Sportsmedicine, 18:(5), (1990) 

11. Brzycki, M., "A Practical Approach to Strength Training", Masters Press,
2nd Edition, (1991) 

12. Costill. D., et al., "Adaptions in Skeletal Muscle Following Strength
Training", Journal of Applied Physiology, 46: (1), 96-99, (1979) 

13. Drowatzky, J.N., Chairman & Professor, Health Promotion and Human
Performance, The University of Toledo, Conversation, (1992) 

14. Duda, M., "Elite Lifters at Risk of Spondylolysis", The Physician and
Sportsmedicine, 5:(9), 61-67 

15. Enoka, R.M., "Muscle Strength and Its Development", Sports Medicine, 6:
146-168, (1988) 

16. Hall, S., "Effect of Lifting Speed on Forces and Torque Exerted on the
Lumbar Spine", Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 

17: (4), (1985) 

18. Hoshina, H., "Spondylolysis in Athletes", The Physician and Sportsmedicine,
3: 75-78, (1980) 

19. Jackson, D.W., "Low Back Pain in Young Athletes: Evaluation of Stress
Reaction and Discogenic Problems", American Journal of Sportsmedicine, 7:(6),
364-366 (1979) 

20. Jackson, D.W., et al., "L Physician and Sportsmedicine, 2: 53-60 (1974) 

21. Jesse, J.P., "Olympic Lifting Movements Endanger Adolescents", The
Physician and Sportsmedicine, 5:(9), 61-67, (1977) 

22. Kotani, P.T., et al., "Studies of Spondylolysis Found Among Weightlifters",
British Journal of Sportsmedicine, 6: 4-8, (1971) 

23. Kuland, D.H., The Injured Athlete, J.B. Lippencott Col, Philadelphia, pp.

24. Kulund, D.N., et al., "Olympic Weightlifting Injuries", The Physician and
Sportsmedicine", 11-119 (1978) 

25. Lambrinides, T., "Strength Training and Athletic Performance", High
Intensity Training Newsletter, 3:(3), (1991) 

26. Leistner, K., "Strength Training Injuries" (Parts 1 & 2), High Intensity
Training Newsletter, Spring/Summer, (1989) 

28. Magill, R.A., "Motor Learning: Concepts and Applications", 3rd Edition, Wm.
C. Brown Publishers, Dubuque Iowa, (1989) 

30. Palmieri, G.A., "Weight Training and Repetition Speed", Journal of Applied
Sports Science Research, 1:(2), 36-38 (1987) 

31. Pipes, T.V., "High Intensity, Not High Speed", Athletic Journal, 59:(5),
60-62, (1979) 

32. Riley, D., "Strength Training by the Experts", Human Kinetics Publishing,
Champaign, Illinois, (1982) 

33. Risser, W., "Weight Training Injuries in Children and Adolescents",
American Family Physician, 44: (6), (1991) 

34. Risser, W., et al., "Weight Training Injuries in Adolescents", American
Journal of Diseases of Children, 144, (1990) 

35. Stone, M.H., "Literature Review: Explosive Exercises and Training",
(Position Statement), NSCA Journal, 15:(3), (1993) 

36. Watkins, R.G., et al., "Lumbar Spine Injury in the Athlete", Clinics in
Sports Medicine, 9:(2), (1990) 

37. Wenzel, R., "The Effect of Speed versus Non-Speed Training in Power
Development", Journal of Applied Sport Science Research, 6:(2), (1992) 

38. Westcott, W., "Strength Fitness: Physiological Principles and Training
Techniques", 2nd Edition, Allyn and Bacon, Newton, Mass., (1987) 

39. Winter, D.A., "The Biomechanics of Human Movement", Wiley and Sons
Publishers, Chapter 7, pp. 165-189, (1990) 

40. Zemper, E.D., "Four-Year Study of Weight-Room Injuries in a National Sample
of College Football Teams", NSCA Journal, 12:(3), (1990) 


Jobber to the Smell of Fear.
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