Dave Caster - Resident Louie Simmons Disciple


  1. Simmon's Principles #1
  2. Simmon's Principles #2
  3. Simmon's Principles #3
  4. Do throwers need cleans and snatches?
  5. Some unique exercises
  6. Deciding on weights for Dynamic days
  7. Benching workouts
  8. Using Quick Deadlifts
  9. Speed of Lifts
  10. Thoughts on Exercise Variation
  11. A sample 2 days a week workout program
  12. How to improve your clean
  13. Some technique advice for the shot
  14. How many pressing workouts a week
  15. Thoughts on explosiveness
  16. Strength and Throwing
  17. Squats and Throwing


Simmon's Principles #1

Great questions! In Dr. Zatiorsky's book, "Science and Practice of Strength Training," he speaks about ESD (Explosive Strength Deficit). I'll get the specific page #s tomorrow for you. The Dr. claims that modest gains in absolute strength will result in large performance increases for young shotputters, who naturally lack absolute strength. He uses the benchpress as his test lift (curious choice), and he also claims that an experienced shot putter even when making huge jumps in absolute strength, may experience no increase in throwing performance. He then suggests that these experienced throwers should engage in training that increases explosiveness to overcome this "deficit" . One problem-he says very little about the nuances of dynamic training (page references to follow tomorrow). This made Louie very curious, so he asked the Dr. about it. Louie's impression of the discussion mirrored his impression of the book-brilliant, but created more questions than answers. Where Louie fits into this whole mess is that he essentially operates from a very rudimentary understanding of Force (with Force equaling mass times acceleration). He has noted that most strength coaches and athletes attack the equation by moving a very heavy mass slowly. He has found moving a moderate mass very quickly to work wonders; not only can you perform more pushes per session, you can actually exert more force than your max lift (with the acceleration factor being the determinant). This is not a cycling strategy per se, but a standard practice used on the main lifts. With powerlifters and other strength athletes that are used to attacking the problem from the maximum mass angle, his concepts have been very liberating in that they are now able to increase force by slipping through the acceleration "door". Here's how it all fits together. Louie feels that it is not necessary to periodize the main lifts; rather, periodize and cycle assistance movements. The assistance movements are chosen to specifically attack weakpoints. Yet, the "dynamic" work is always done. I will use myself as an example. In 1990, I benched 310 at a meet. It took 4.5 seconds to lock out the lift (we video the meets for analysis purposes). The training before the meet was traditional prog. overload (8's, 5's, 3's and eventually working to a heavy double with 290, producing the snail-like 310 at the meet). Fast-forward to 1994 . . . after a few years of Louie's methods, I was able to bench 396 at a meet, and the lift took 1.6 seconds to lock out. Same bodyweight. The difference was in using the percent training. 245 for 8 sets of 3 was used exclusively to bench with for the WHOLE CYCLE; specific weaknesses were dealt with through incline benches, rack work, weight release work, etc. We bench by percents on Monday, and do the special work on Thursday. The special work is worked as follows: 3-4 weeks hypertrophy work; 3-4 weeks heavy rack singles (or board press, or floor press) work, then 2 weeks of weight release singles to get that stretch reflex snapping. In a nutshell, the main lift is trained dynamically ALWAYS, and the special exercises are cycled as necessary. Louie calls it "conjugarte training". Now-as far as building a base-yes and no is the "scientific" answer. Louie has one lifter he has trained since he was 14; all he has done is % training. He benches 700+ at 22. 620 or so without any of the lifting paraphernalia that is sometimes used. Our take on this? We mix the dynamic training with the standard repeated effort method for the younger ones. This builds the necessary coordination and hypertrophy, while teaching them to be real fast, and it doesn't hurt them and beat them up like heavy training-yet it takes advantage of one thing that all lifters have in common-a functioning nervous system. Once the hormones are popping as they get older, they easily slide into a more intense routine-but the dynamic "base" is always there. So Andy, the short answer to my long-winded explanation is that the physiological reason we do it is because that acceleration is, indeed, a part of the force equation, it is one that is often overlooked, and it is a major window of opportunity to increase force without burning the strength trainee out. Once you are used to this kind of training, you can play around with volumes of the dynamic work performed and really tailor-make whatever outcome you're striving for. While any chimp could tell you that yes, there is a limit to what a person can do, we have found it possible to retard that law of diminishing returns experienced due to ESD. This is essentially Louie's answer to the question/problem Zatsiorsky so succinctly outlines in his ESD equation. The ramifications for the thrower (specifically shot-putter)? They are quite obvious. A thrower who benches 400, and takes about 4 seconds to do so, may become a bit more effective in the circle when he's benching 500 in about 2 seconds. Well, hopefully, at least. I hope I have not caused too much confusion. Take care!


Simmon's Principles #2

Louie’s got some feelings about training throwers that may or may not help you out. Remember how we talked about beefing the deadlift up by power cleaning? Louie claims that he helped Jud Logan progress past a personal sticking point in his power clean by suggesting the use of reverse hypers and sled pulling. Louie’s thoughts on the matter naturally go to fixing weak links. I have read postings suggesting using no belt while doing multi-joint movements in order to accomplish the strengthening of torso weaknesses. We don’t quite do it that way. Louie thinks good torso strength will contribute to helping out the multi joint lift-so rather than not wearing a belt, we attack the breakdown point. This is accomplished by taking exercises like reverse hypers, sled pulling, back raises with and without weights, and abdominal work with a static component very, VERY seriously. I don’t know about throwers, but I know a lot of P/L men blow these lifts off, and just concentrate on the "big" ones. Those who don’t blow them off usually benefit from their use. Think about this-if you use a power clean to strengthen your ability in the power clean, you will forever be thwarted by whatever your weak link is. Ever see how some guys get a giant butt from squatting, while some get giant thighs, and some get giant midsections? Multi-joint lifts often times serve to beef up strongpoints and identify weaknesses, not cure them. It’s like the bencher who is built to bench-the weaknesses aren’t there, so just benching works fine for him (favorite example: Bridges). Now, if you are not built to bench, then Bridges’ type of routine will lead you to gains right up to the point where the weakpoint lets you down. Louie’s recommendation: build your program around some form of squatting (with that form being relevant to your event), most preferably executed in a percentage-driven format. Do this once a week, and then take another day out of the week to beef up whatever weaknesses you have (Paul, this is essentially the answer to your max effort day question: it is on this day that we address major strength concerns and/or glaring weaknesses-for the bench, many of us do rack singles at specially selected heights-for the squat/deadlift, anything from Hatfield bar singles to power cleans to deadlift singles from various pin positions to 2 sets of 20 reps in the partial hi-rep deadlift to real low box squatting-depending on your need-can be done). We always follow squats with either back hypers or reverse hypers or both, AND ABS. SERIOUS ABS. Same on the max effort day. Now, there are a few weird things we do. Following squats, we sometimes do rubber band stomps. Taking a giant, fat rubber band that is anchored to the top of the power rack or chin bar, we attach one foot to the band and keep the other foot on the ground. We then stomp down for 3 sets of 15 reps. Be careful that you don’t allow the rubber band to thrust your knee into your face, as it will try to do so. Not good. We do a similar drill on a see-saw like device, putting weight on one end and stomping down on the other. We also do squats, without weights, affixing ourselves to a platform with these same giant rubber bands. We then simply execute 3 sets of 10-20 reps, depending on the size of the rubber band, and concentrate on coming onto our tiptoes at the finish of the movement. Getting ahold of these giant rubber bands can be done by calling 1-800-344-3539. These are really wild, as there is less of an eccentric component to this exercise than regular squatting (meaning less soreness and the ability to use them a number of times a week depending on the level of tension), and you can really put the mustard to the last half of the movement-and you will find that this helps your vert. leap and your general explosiveness quite a bit without the spinal trauma that may coincide with cleans & pulls. So does this mean we don’t do pulls? No way. It means that you may want to inject some other stuff to beef up the pulls. This centers on attention to torso strength. One parting thought. . . the program at UCLA is of interest to many people. Not much is known about the nuances. However, this is something that should be noted: I understand they have reverse hyper machines in their training facility. That may not mean jack, but I will allow you to draw whatever conclusion you may draw. Take it easy, and remember to keep any modifications to your training routines real simple, so you can see the benefits and go from there. I hope this has helped.

Simmon's Rationale for his programs

Hi John. Remember the hGH issue and the 10RM sets with minimal rest? I discussed this w/Louie. He was aware of it; he rather abruptly reminded me that if THAT (hGH production enhancement) was the overriding factor in the success of % training, then every bodybuilder in the world would be reaping the rewards of the concept and displaying the commensurate brute power, since that is the way they typically train. He asked me to cite you this example: Let's say a lifter can bench 300 for 10 reps. Would it be better to do 3 sets of 10 reps, or 10 sets of 3 reps with the 300? While it depends on your training goal, for strength/power/and THROWING considerations, he says the 10 sets of 3 wins every time. Why? All 30 reps can be moved fast as hell. With the 3 sets of 10, around rep 4 or 5, the speed slows down as the burn sets in. And the rate of force development potential is shot out the window. Now, for P/L, although we do a wide array of special things on one bench day, on the percent day we ALWAYS do the 8-10 sets of 3. With 65 or so percent. You know how most (virtually all) strength trainers go for 8's, then 5's, then 3's then singles in the basic lifts? We NEVER do that, we believe that this sort of cycling is counterproductive at best. I know I'm kicking a sacred cow here. Blame Louie, not me. Of course we DO cycle our special exercises (racks, inclines, etc). Now, I know that this is a P/L example, so I will talk in terms of an exercise ALL throwers love: the power clean. Louie asked me if I knew why throwers loved power cleans so much. I asked him to explain-so he did. He said that although he feels that there are better exercises than the power clean for throwers (sorry-kicked another sacred cow there), this one has worked best for them over the years simply because it is usually trained quickly, at an optimal percent. That is, lets say a man can deadlift 750, and he does his power cleans with 500. Regardless of how many reps he does with the 500, he's moving 67% of his top D/L, as fast as hell. The result? A super training response directed at the hams/low back/mid back and glutes, and an undying belief in the power clean as the be-all and end-all. We all know they work-but WHY? Is the power clean the magic exercise, or is it due to the fact of the area hit and the speed of the bar (and the use of an optimal percent)? I'll let you be the judge of that. He has had a number of interesting thoughts regarding throws training, and I'll toss them onto the Ring as I get the chance. You know, "Help" would really get his (or her) rocks off hearing me say this: I think that the power clean could be "dangerous" to a young lifter. Know what, though? We haver even nastier ways to hit the affected muscle groups, while mitigating the injury risk. I'll keep you posted. Hope I haven't made too many people mad-but it sure wouldn't be the first time. Take care.



Do throwers need cleans and snatches?

You know, I have to say that you guys have really piqued my interest with respect to the ballistic/"quick" lifts and your use thereof. Everytime I broach this subject with Louie, however, I get the same response. He keeps reminding me (in a rather "curt" manner) that there is no such thing as a "quick" lift, rather, any fairly long-range multi-joint movement can (and should) be done quickly. His view on snatches? If you are not an O/L, why do them? If benching is part of your core training, why would you want to put your bench at risk with an exercise that causes the type of shoulder rotation the snatch does? This is his response, not mine. But I have an inherent trust in his views (as you would guess). He feels that there are safer and more training-manageable alternatives (as we have discussed before). Now, one does not have to do a quick lift to get quick-rather, one can train the muscles responsible for the quick movement intelligently. John, you are finding out thru the box squats that they have some really interesting properties. As you play with them, using different box heights, different stance widths and maybe even attaching some chains and/or latex bands to really horse with the damping of compensatory acceleration, you will find out that they have even more possibility than you could ever dream of. Sure, cleans work, but heavy reverse hypers work better. So do partial hi-rep deadlifts, and most certainly, so do box squats. Remember when you asked why Louie's guys don't do cleans & snatches if they do work so well? The answer is because he feels that, while these exercises do allow you to use an ideal percent that flatters the development of low body power, other exercises work better. . . without the complication of "dead spots" in the pull and, more importantly, the possibility of shoulder rotation problems. Brad had referred to the deadlift as a static lift. In most cases, I agree. However, go to a power meet where Vogelpohl and Louie's other guys are lifting and watch how QUICKLY that bar moves when deadlifting. Don't blink, you'll miss something. And the dead is one lift that can't be "faked" thru equipment usage. If they (Westsiders) don't do the comp. style deadlift in training, and they don't do the "quick lifts", how the hell can this be done? Well, I won't beat a dead horse forever-you know how. Now, Ken made an interesting point about the quick lifting cutting into Chris' lower back recovery. That's a super observation, and one that I'm sure Ken's managing very carefully. Louie's response would be "why are you handling speed concerns with movements that smoke the back?" Ken, this is definitely not a shot at you or Chris' training. Just an observation. While Louie will be the first to tell you that a perfectly safe exercise is oftentimes a perfectly useless one, it's important to plan your training with max performance enhancement with minimum injury potential whenever possible. He has had the chance to interface with the strength coaches for Green Bay, the Patriots, the Chicago Bulls, and many, many others. There are a lot of folks who are entrusted with the management of the strength levels of gifted athletes who take time out of their busy schedules to embark on a "Westside field trip." And he deals with the power clean and snatch issue in much more abrupt terms with these folks than I do in this format. So, I'm in an interesting situation. I have you guys actively involved with quick lift variants as part of throws training-and you're experiencing good results. On the other hand, I have one of the finest (and admittedly eclectic) minds in strength sports saying "no way-you know the real score." The answer? Ken, please keep careful notes of Chris' progress with the quick lifting, because the things he's doing and John Smith's 3 day rotation are a seemingly great combo. And John, please let me know how you make out with the box squats-and if you have the time with one of your trainees, and you feel a little experimental, just for yuks, have them train an 8 week cycle without doing any power cleans or snatches . . . then test their strength in these same lifts (cleans & snatches) once the cycle is completed. And Mike-I found your comments regarding the "wave squat" very interesting. That's the excellent thing about this forum-there are many great ideas . . . and even if you don't agree with them, you can find within them the "gold" that will enhance your own strategies. See, we all get caught in paradigms (including me). And it's good to study & try out new stuff. It's a hard road to go, as is, when you're trying it out clean. Thank you for your input gentlemen, and please keep those quick lift posts coming!

Some unique exercises

Thanks for your very candid reply. I share your distaste for the bench shirts, and yes, they truly do cloud the picture. Powerlifting has become a joke because of such garbage. And-regarding drugs-you are totally right there, too. However, Louie has helped me out with throwing-related training ideas that you may or may not find value in. See, I have a 12 year old daughter who throws. Sonja Fitts helps us with technique considerations; Louie has given us strength training help. The bulk of Louie's focus with his advice to young throwers has to do with torso strengthening as well as translatable leg-hip-glute training. This means a lot of weighted sit-ups (some with a static emphasis to make holding the torso properly in the glide more effective), seated static twisting abdominal work using a rope attachment on a lat pull-down machine, a LOT of back hypers and reverse hypers for high reps (15-20), sled pulling, FRONT squats, and some novel upper body training like dumbbell and barbell presses lying on your back on a Swiss stability ball! 3-5 sets of 15 reps are used on this. These have to be tried to be believed. Dumbbell cleans with a push press and high pulls are also mixed in, as well as % benches. Now, the bulk of what my daughter does in training is throwing (shot, discus & hammer). We increase her capacity shortfalls using these assistance concepts SPARINGLY. Essentially, we do as LITTLE as necessary to keep gains going up in her throws. Now, I use myself as a guinea pig with both Sonja's and Louie's ideas, which is a real laugh, as I have never thrown till this past year and I'm 40. We've found that if they work on an old fool like me, they work great for her. You may also find percent benches to be relevant-and two neat assistance exercises that may work well are weight release benches (lowering 85% of your max and pushing up 55% for 4 to 6 sets of 1 rep) and benches with chains, whereby heavy chains are attached to the bar and positioned under boxes so that the bar, when fully locked out, carries the full weight of the plate load and chains, and reduces in weight upon lowering the bar as the chains come to rest on the boxes. This way, you can, say, push 200 off your chest and have the weight increase to 260 by lockout. A nice alternative to the bounce press (which, interestingly, was used by the old Culver City Westsiders like Pat Casey, along with something they called bounce prones, which had the weight bounced off of wooden boxes rather than off the chests). Although there are machines that can accomplish the same purpose as the chain benches, the barbell is a bit of a bonus because of the good effect on the stabilizers. This may have some value to you. I know throwing and P/L are two vastly different worlds, but if there is an advantage to be had in one from the tactics used in the other, wonderful. Usage of special exercises cannot ever be discounted. Note the heavy use of squats and back hypers by Soviet O/L's in 1980 and 1988 as documented in Zatsiorsky's book, "Science and Practice of Strength Training." Throwers bust their ass on the O/L's, while the O/L guys are pouring the coals to the squat and back hyper (specifically Alexeev)! I hope your training goes well, and I hope you don't let the sorry state of P/L today sour you on Louie's ideas. Take it easy.

Deciding on weights for Dynamic days

Thanks for your kind comments. Louie would be a lot better interview than me! Just call him at (614) 276-0923, and see if he's game. It will be a chat you won't forget. Regarding the rotation of percents-it depends (Dave's Scientific Answer). I use less now than I did 2 years ago in the bench, because I found out less works better for me. As a rule, take a max every 8-12 weeks or so, and re-calculate the percents if you feel the need. I don't think this is too necessary, but if you make rapid gains, you may have to. We had one young fellow who went from 240 to 450 in the bench in 29 months, and we had to change him monthly because the barspeed was too high-he just got strong and explosive at such a quick rate we had to keep putting weight on. Also-the range of ideal percents is only a guideline. Chuck Vogelpohl stays at or below 500 almost all the time in the squat, and his squat is in the mid to high 800's. Likewise, as his bench has escalated from 480 to 551, he has kept the same 315 for work sets. When I could bench 360-400, I was using 245 for worksets. Once I got over 400, I found 185-220 to be much, much better for my speed needs (with a rubber band "twist"). You have to screw around with it to see what the "hot spot" is for you. Use the percents to get fast as hell, and the special exercises to get strong. It's really similar to what Hatfield has been harping on for years, just with less cycling of the main lifts (and constant & creative cycling of the special exercises that really contribute to max strength). You are very welcome, and I am glad that these concepts are helping you out. Take it easy but train hard

Benching workouts

Thanks for asking. Percent benching works well for powerlifters, and I'm finding out it works for throwers, as well (esp. shotputters). Essentially, your bench press training is divided up into two days-we use Sunday and Wednesday. On Sunday, using a weight that you can do 10-12 reps with using your strongest grip (no bench shirts, please), do 8 to 10 sets of 3 reps, lowering the weight at medium speed, touching the chest, and pushing it up as FAST as you possibly can. Now, be sure to vary your grips from set to set. I am strongest using a 32" grip, so the 5 grips I use are 16", 18", 20", 22" and 24". Rest 1-1.5 minutes between sets. You will find the variation of grip width will make things interesting. Now, you will not get "pumped up" from this type of work, but the whole key here is CNS activation (something that is valuable for a thrower). After the 8-10 sets of 3, we do 5 sets of tricep work, 3-5 sets of shoulder work, and finish off with lats. We prioritize what type of work we do after the benches based on our needs. On the second day (Wednesday), we hit something up that will plug whatever gaps we presently have. As Sunday is CNS day, this is usually absolute strength day. Sometimes we work up to a heavy single in the decline bench, sometimes we do floor presses for a heavy single, sometimes we do pin presses in the rack for a heavy single (varying grip width and pin height depending on our needs), and sometimes we do board presses (placing three 2x6 boards on our chest, pausing the weight on the boards, and working up to a heavy single). We never go over 4 weeks with any one "special"exercise. We pound it, then switch. Now, we also may do other things on this day rather than absolute strength work. Elevated foot push-ups with weights on the back, stability ball barbell or dumbbell presses for 3 sets of 15, or bench singles using the Weight Release device, which allows us to lower a certain weight and raise up with less. 80-85% going down and 50-60% pushing up, for 4 to 6 singles, really triggers the ole stretch reflex. Now, we know this works for P/Lers-and believe it or not, even for 12 year old female shotputters! In the last 9 months, my daughter's best 4k training put went from 5.97m to 8.83m using this style of training as an adjunct. Her bench went from 80 to 120 max. Her best competition put went from 8.35m to 10.34m in the same time frame (6# shot is used in comp. due to her age classification). I know the % benches were only a small part of the picture-but the training methodology used in the % benches should carry over into the throws training, as well-simply put, we carefully analyze technique, determine capacity shortfalls based on the analysis, then address the capacity problems by training them away. We are real big on good form-but we also learned from Louie that in order to have good form, you have to erase the weak links. That, in essence what this style of training is all about-identifying weak links and kicking their ass. Funny how easy holding your position in the glide becomes when you have a strong torso. Take care.

Using Quick Deadlifts

Did anyone else catch that posting about that DiGiorgio youngster, and his use of a stiff-legged deadlift, performed in a fast manner? While the posting indicated that he does no O/L, take note of this deadlift. While he may be doing it simply because he CAN, I think perhaps there are some potential benefits there. Many of the Westside Barbell lifters perform a very similar movement as an adjunct to squat training. They call it a high-rep partial deadlift. It is done anywhere from once to four times a week, it utilizes relatively light weights (usually 25-40% of your typical max deadlift-I suggest staying closer to the 25% number), and is executed for 2 to 3 sets of 15-25 reps. However, the knees are bent. Exact execution is as follows: using an overhand grip (not an alternating one) and a shoulder-width stance, stand erect with the weight as you normally do when deadlifting. Now, from this position, lower the weight to a point about 2" below the bottom of the kneecap-and pull it back up to a lockout position as fast as you humanly can. When lowering the weight, let it essentially free-fall-and when it gets to that below-the- kneecap position, drive it back up IMMEDIATELY. Be sure to keep the back flat, head facing forward, and the butt pushed to the rear on the descent. If you use a belt, consciously push your abdominals against the belt. This is a very good habit to get into whenever doing any training of a squat or deadlift-oriented nature. After a very serious training injury, Westside's Matt Dimel used this movement four times a week to help re-strengthen his body. Matt used 225 lbs in this exercise, and he was capable of an 821 deadlift. Much like a reverse hyper, this movement can be used more than once a week because of the weight involved and the high reps. A side effect of this training that we did not realize until later on down the line was-it increases your short sprint speed. Try it out, once a week initially, and go 3 sets of 20 reps. You will get a good training effect from the top of your traps to your calves, especially if you have a decent strength base. If you squat on Monday, try this exercise on Thursday, possibly following any pulling work you may do (high pulls, power cleans, etc.). You will find it to be a nice "finisher."

Speed of Lifts

Glenn, your post from a few days back got me curious as to how fast that bar is moving when we percent bench & squat, so I did two things: I analyzed 3 different tape footages of Louie, Kenny Patterson and Chuck Vogelpohl doing percent benches (the dates of the tapes range over the last 6 yrs, so we could see if anything was different now)-and analyzed a tape of Dave Schleich doing heavy box squats, and I taped last night's % bench workout so I could compare my results and see if there were any trends. While all athletes analyzed are very different, with wide disparities in height, weight, and usage or non-usage of ergogenic aids, there were some striking similarities. First off-my workout. With a current non-shirt max of 360 at 32", and 355 at 24", taken 2 weeks ago, I currently use 185, 207, 230, 250, and 270 as training weights. 4 sets of 3 are done with 185 (using a 16,18,20,and 22" grip), 4 sets of 3 are done with 207, same grips, then one set of three reps are done at each of the respective weights-230, 250 and 270. A 16" grip is used on each one of these heavier sets. Now, we hook elastic bands to the bar so that the resistance at the top of the movement is 45 extra lbs. The bands engage at the mid-point. This is done with ALL the sets previously mentioned. After the 270 for 3 was done, I disengaged the bands and did one "finishing" set with 290 for 3, using a contest (32") grip. To do these 12 sets took 15 minutes. These 12 sets were preceeded with 6 minutes of warm ups, 9 sets of 3, using 45, 95 and 135. Regarding the bar speed-I looked at 2 aspects-time to complete the set (from initial descent at the first rep to lockout of the third), and time to lock out 1 rep (from chest to finish). Here are the averages at the respective weights: 185-3.2 seconds to complete the set, .4 second per lockout; 207-same result; 230-3.6 seconds for the set, .4 seconds to lock out; 250-4.1 seconds to complete the set, .6 to lock out; 270-5.5 seconds and .8 seconds (things started to slow down here); 290-4.1 seconds and .8 seconds. The workout was concluded with 3 sets of very close grip (12") tri presses with the bands hooked on and 9 sets of 5 reps in the chin-up, using an overhand 20" grip. Total elapsed time for the entire workout, including warm-ups, was 42 minutes. Now-regarding Louie, Patterson & Vogelpohl: their time to complete a set was 3.2 to 3.6 seconds, and their lockout time ranged from .4 to .5 seconds. Interestingly, those sets of mine that did not fit within this norm exceeded my ideal percents . . . the 230 was 63.8%, and the weights thereafter were over this mark. I think we see a trend here. Now, although we use bench shirts in meets (and get anywheres from 70 to 120 lbs out of the shirts-with me on the low end and Patterson representing the high end), our non-shirt benches do fairly well nonetheless. My non-shirt bench, when training "normally", was 285. Now-about the squat-Dave Schleich was using 625 for 5 sets of 2 reps, descending to 1.5" above parallel (he was on the upper edge of the percent range at 84% as we had to get his absolute strength up a little so he would be more comfortable at a meet walking out of the racks with heavy weight). Rest between sets was 1 minute. From his stopped position on the box to lockout, it took .6 to .7 seconds consistently. He did this at 215 bodyweight. Yes, the bar moves real fast. And there is a pattern. This kind of benching is a nice plyo drill, as you might guess. The sets in training are touch-and go, with a very abrupt reversal of the bar path at the chest-but not thru bouncing-thru putting on the brakes with the muscles and thrusting real hard. In a sport like shot-putting, where elite putters deliver the shot at the strike in .15 to .18 seconds, you can probably guess the relevance. I just thought you would find these fun facts of interest. So don't move that bar slow! Take care, and thanks for encouraging me to test this out-it showed me what happens when the ideal percents are exceeded! Take care.


Thoughts on Exercise Variation

Front box squats? Absolutely! Do not limit the use of the box to any particular style squat. Front, back, Magic Bar, Manta Ray, Zercher, hi-bar, lo-bar, close-stance, wide stance, heels up, heels flat, pack squats, belt squats, medicine ball squat and throws, there is absolutely no limit whatsoever. And by all means, make sure some NON box squats are done from time to time, and make sure you get the hell OFF squats when it's time to get off! Box height can also range WIDELY (I have seen it range from 6" to 17", mixing a myriad of applications). The trick? Finding out how to use them to suit what you're trying to build/develop/cultivate.

Interesting sidenote-the old Soviet hammer training regime would use a bevy of 120 special exercises designed to hit specific hammer throwing concerns/needs. They would split this 120 exercise group up into 12 sub-groups, 10 exercises in each group. They would train a specific 10 exercise group for 2-4 months, then switch. Naturally, they would throw the hammer throughout all these cycles. They would not repeat the use of any specific exercise group more than twice during any training year-and they would save their most result-producing exercise groupings for use during the Olympic year. They would naturally see a deterioration in hammer throwing performance during certain specific strength cycles-but they would integrate the strength built into longer throws by using bridging exercises and fluctuating training volumes in order to peak. Of course, they would have the exercise complexes tailored to suit the unique peculiarities of the individual throwers being trained.

The point? Do likewise with your use of box squats, or any other weight training special exercise. You can squat year-round if you want to be a P/L. But you guys are NOT powerlifters. I question the wisdom of that approach with throwing. Any throwers out there want to speak towards the use of strength retention cycles? Building on what you have and maintaining what's already there are two entirely different strategies that may enable you to see the issue more clearly. Same with the bench press. Is it necessary to bench (I'm talking to SHOTPUTTERS here), or is it more necessary to train the appropriate muscle groups in the upper body to maximize release speed? Incline benches, with varying grips, stability ball benches, rubber band drills, and a number of other special exercises may be much more beneficial than just flat benching (but, then again, this is entirely dependent on the base strength level-or lack thereof-of the athlete in question: I think a lot of coaches try to get unconditioned athletes to do demanding exercises before considering the sturdiness of the foundation).

I see a lot of paradigms and stereotypes in weight training programs. This could be due to poor coaching and a complete ignorance of correct training. What happened to that McCann fellow is a rotten shame. My heart goes out to him. I hope that those throwers who try stuff like box squats have the sense to mix them in and out of their programs regularly with other stuff that works, and with other forms of box squatting, other squatting, and all the good pulling exercises that are out there. Remember-it only takes 6 weeks to adapt to a certain training regimen-then it's time to switch. P/L'ers are trapped into having to do benches regularly, as well as squats. Throwers are NOT. Take advantage of this liberty and don't wreck yourself on a few movements.

A sample 2 days a week workout program

Hi Greg. Here's my response to your call about the lifting program. This will take 8 weeks, and should give you decent performance by late February. It's a 2 workout per week routine that should work well for your recovery needs & time constraints (you old fart):

Monday (Weeks 1-4):

1.) 8 sets of 3 in the bench, use 16-24-28-32" grips. Use 195 in week 1, increase the weight 10 lbs. per week. You know the drill.

2.) After your 8 sets of 3, do 1 burn-out set with the same weight you worked out with, using a 16" grip, MAXIMUM reps.

3.) Do 3 sets of 10 with the bent-over row. Use strict form and hold the bar at the top for a one count.

4.)Do 2 sets 20 reps, partial hi-rep deadlifts. Use 135 in week 1, increase 15 lbs. per week. Move it fast.

5.) Finish with hanging leg raises or some other useful ab exercise. Preferably something with a twist and static hold component (like pulling the legs up to one side, holding for a 5 count, then lowering).

Thursday (Weeks 1-4):

1.) Rack benches for a max single. You know how. Go for a new max each week, of course. Use your favorite grip.

2.) 3 sets of 8-10 reps in your favorite tricep assistance exercise.

3.) Box squats. 1" above parallel. Remember to sit BACK, not down, stop GENTLY, and explode off the box. Do 6 sets of 2 in week 1, 7 sets/2 week 2, 8 sets/2 week 3, 9 sets/2 week 4. Start with a light weight in week 1 (perhaps 225), and add 10 lbs. per week.

4.) Finish off with abs.

Monday (weeks 5-8):

1.) Incline benches(40-45 degrees), 6 sets of 3 reps, using 16-18-20" grips. Do them like percent benches. Move them fast. Start with 170-180, increase 10 lbs. per week.

2.)3 sets 15 reps of bent-over side laterals. Call for details. They help to keep your anterior delts from frying when doing this kind of incline work.

3.) Good Mornings, 3 sets of 10 reps. Go fairly heavy.

4.) Abs

Thursday (weeks 5-8):

1.) Box Squat, 2-2.5" above parallel. Do 10 sets of 2 in week 1, then 8 sets/2, 6 sets/2 and 5 sets of 1 during the following weeks. Start at the same weight (or 10 lbs more) where you left off at during week 4, and increase the poundage 20 lbs. per week thereafter. The box height and volume decrease will make this doable. Same form. Come off fast.

2.) Dumbbell clean & push presses, work up to 2 sets of 3 reps, where the 3rd rep is hard but not crazy.

3.) Abs.

Questions? Let me know. During weeks 1-4, the best time to do heavy shot work (17 or 18 lb.) is right after the rack presses on Thursday. This makes them spring out like a 16. Do racks, take about a half hour rest, throw your heavy implements, then come back later in the day to do the remainder (tris, squats & abs).


How to improve your clean

I read your comment regarding Logan's power clean, and the fact that you had him only perform the movement 3 weeks out of 22. Does this mean that he did not have to power clean in order to increase his power clean? I take it that the answer is "yes", obviously. The real question here seems to be whether the power clean is an indicator of athletic prowess (or a "test lift"), or a means to an end in itself.

I think it's pretty obvious that if someone can power clean a lot, they're exhibiting a large number of hi-level skills & capacities. I agree with you there. But you have provided your own proof that one does not have to power clean to develop power cleaning strength, or enhancement of the muscle groups responsible for the good power clean.

It's like Louie Simmons has pointed out to me each time I bring up the subject with him: "Dave, are you trying to train the movement, or are you trying to train the muscle groups responsible for the movement?" Of course, the best way to get strong initially at one movement is to do that particular movement . . . until, of course, the body adapts and then plateaus for one reason or another. Ever see how some guys get real big bodyparts from doing certain movements? And have you ever noticed that not everybody shows the same gain in the same bodypart (example-benches make some peoples' arms real big, while it makes others' chests real big . . . squats have been known to make big quads, or bug butts, or big hamstrings, or thick erectors-and power cleans have the same outcome)?

While this is only a visual indicator, it could tip off the coach as to what bodypart has to come up to speed in order to provide the heavier power clean.

But then again, if your aim is to throw far, does it directly correlate to the power clean, or to the strengthening of the power clean muscles (or more importantly, the throwing muscles)? John Smith and I have discussed this very issue before, specifically in relation to Kevin Akins and his "flat" throws. John cites Kevin's weak powerclean in relation to his squat and benchpress as the culprit (825x1 squat, 405x3 power clean, 550x1 bench). Too bad Kevin didn't stick around Westside a little longer . . . a lot of the applicable lifts Louie developed that fit smack-dab into the middle of this discussion came about after the second time he snapped his L-5 (I believe 1984-this gave him a lot of downtime to do his homework-it was during this time that he got ahold of every strength training text he could from the former Soviet Union, from which he refined his strategies regarding training this area of the body, as well as his beliefs in percent training-which, by the way, he is constantly finding out new things about).
The exercises that Louie recommends to hit these muscle groups have been outlined here many times. They include the vast variety of box squats at all different box heights, bar positions, stance widths, percentages of max and added means by which weight is added/reduced throughout the range of motion (i.e. chains & rubber bands), high pulls from a variety of pin positions, calf-ham-glute machine raises, back raises, reverse hypers, bent-over pull-throughs, belt squats, deadlifts by percents moved rapidly, partial hi-rep deadlifts (this is a biggie), and a variety of sled pulls to name a few.

Anyone who thinks power cleans work to increase capacities is correct. Anyone who thinks cleaning 'round the training year clock works is limiting the great benefits that the exercise has to offer.

Everything works, but nothing works forever. Don't become dependent on training a particular movement-become aware of how to train your important muscle groups intelligently, and develop a wide number of strategies by which to do so.

I have cited Bondarchuk's rotation of 12 different groups of 10-exercise complexes in and out of the training regimen in the past. You can't argue with his results. Do likewise with the power clean muscle groups. No one movement holds any magic. It's the mix of smart strategies that provides results.

Some technique advice for the shot

I have a daughter who puts the shot-and one of the first things she learned from Sonja Fitts when she was 11 was a really silly-seeming drill that gave her a basic understanding of "rotate the feet-hips first" that has held her in good stead right from day 1, and has given us a base to easily build off of.
If you can get ahold of a book called "The Throws" (4th Edition, edited by Jess Jarver and available through either Track & Field News or M-F Athletic), and go to the article dealing with analysis of the glide written by Gunter Tidow, there are a block of illustrations that draw out exactly what I'm about to describe. Go to the illustrations that have to do with the "turn & push" that the putter does right after he lands in his/her power position. Notice the changing of position of the putter's knees, legs & feet. The drill is real simple-have the athlete assume a power position. Now, while keeping the shoulders back, have him rotate on the balls of his feet so his toes go from pointing rearward to pointing forward. As the feet rotate, so do the knees, and so does the hip. The feet lead the progression, essentially. Upon completion of the foot rotation, the right knee, which WAS pointed rearward, is now pointed forward, creating the appearance of an "inverted C" if a line were to be drawn along the outline of the putter's body from the implement, down the torso and right leg, and to the right foot. Now, varying degrees of this turn and push are achieved by different throwers. NOT getting up on the ball of the right foot and rotating it, after landing in the power position, leads to somewhat of a 'one-legged put" driven only by the right leg (an early flaw we had to address consistently to correct-and a flaw that leads to too much vertical dissipation of force, never making it to the shot).

So-have the thrower get into the power position-and it isn't necessary to hold a shot while doing this drill-and rotate the feet. Have him rotate the feet back and forth, keeping the shoulders back-it looks like a dance step, sounds stupid, but it works. Have him do this many times a day on his own so he develops the pattern. Have him mimic those illustrations in Tidow's article. Again. And again. And again.

Then take the drill out to the circle, and incorporate this turn-push into his standing throws, first slowly, then faster. We have found, upon both John Smith's and Sonja's recommendation, that doing standing throws with all the weight on the right foot (with the left foot barely grazing the circle or even suspended a wee bit in the air-this is assuming a right-handed thrower), then thrusting forward off the right and onto the left, allows the turn-push to be done a lot more effectively from the stand than if both feet are firmly grounded.

Before my daughter could get this concept down, even when a lot of right leg action was used while throwing, she couldn't direct the force through the ball-she would essentially end up way too airborne. Her good vertical leaping capabilities were not taken advantage of. NOW she's able to maintain contact with the circle longer during the delivery, she's able to direct more force directly thru the ball rather than dissipating the force vertically (an example of the fact that vertical jump ability doesn't mean jack if you can't exploit it and direct it into the direction the shot has to go), and does not need to reverse.

Once the foot rotation becomes second nature, and the task can be drilled at the front of the circle thru standing puts,
you'll find that it'll be second nature once the full glide is used. Now, no disrespect intended to anyone using the long-short Feuerbach glide with the simultaneous landing of the feet and the 90 degree rotation of the right foot, but we have found that it's easier to teach a youngster the turn-push when using a glide that lands the right foot first, then the left immediately thereafter. This pattern had been reinforced in the type of standing throw done (teetering on the back, or right, foot), and it's just plain easier to throw ANY sort of object when stepping from the back foot to the front one-John Smith's analogy of a centerfielder taking a long throw, and striding into it, applies here. You'll find that once the athlete gets to this point, a real hard block with the left leg and side will really jam that hip thru even more and will make the whole process that much easier-the IAAF has some great training posters of Lisovskaya, viewed from the side while throwing, that show how a good hard block brings the right hip thru strongly (even without the 90 degree right foot turn-notice the angle of her right foot upon landing-and also notice how much she stays up on the ball of her foot). Also notice the timing of the grounding of her feet.

I hope I have not rambled on too much. Just start at the feet first, and work on one element at a time, concentrating on getting each element right. And it'll work. Just remember to build your shot putter from the feet up, and it all works out real well. Strength, capacities and natural gifts don't help much if the basic mechanics aren't in place. But boy they sure do once those mechanics are together

How many pressing workouts a week

The number of pressing workouts taken in a week is dependent on what type of pressing is done, what kind of body the trainee has, and what the trainee's needs are.

We all know about the Bulgarians and their multitude of training sessions per week. It possibly has something to do with the primarily concentric type of pressing done. You can do a lot of concentric presses, and a lot of singles, in a week's time and not get very beat up-simply because of the lack of eccentric work. That's an example of how the type of pressing affects recovery.

Bodytype influences? 2 powerlifting examples that come immediately to mind are Jim Williams and Mike Bridges (Williams at 4-6 workouts a week with the bench and Bridges with singles in the bench on Monday, Wednesday & Friday). If you are built to do a given movement, you may just find that you can do a lot of that movement with few ill effects, due to the lack of weak links. Leverages have more influence here than ergogenic aids, contrary to what some folks would like to believe. You can juice up all you want, an anatomical weak link caused by a leverage disadvantage simply will not disappear. We've had lifters able to do very high volumes of certain exercises simply because they could-and they used this ability to cover over other weaknesses.

What about your needs? I remember being stuck at around 360 in the bench, and coming to the realization that absolute strength was the primary concern (and lack). So, for 4 months, I did one % bench workout per week, and 3 partial bench workouts per week. The partial workouts were done with no eccentric component whatsoever. While distances pushed and grip widths were alternated during the partial pressing sessions to prevent staleness, the program was pretty much the same for 4 long months-a lot of singles in the rack. It got the bench over 400-then other needs arose.

So-4 times a week is too much? Depends on what you need, what you're doing and what you're able to do. No training concepts are written in stone. The best thing a trainee can learn is how to teach themselves. That's where the "training talk" ends and real productive training that increases strength and performance begins. Those who throw have the added difficulty in coordinating their strength needs with their throwing needs-the whole picture is much easier for a powerlifting person.

Thoughts on explosiveness

Some things I thought you'd enjoy-taken from "The Training of the Weightlifter", 2nd edition, by R.A. Roman-Fizkultura i spvt Publishers, Moscow, 1986:

From pages 72 & 73-some interesting opinions and tidbits from a different Soviet coach, regarding specific explosive strength tests and developmental drills:

"It has already been pointed out that it is necessary to display force quickly when executing the clean (and especially in the snatch and the jerk). If one compares results in the clean and jerk with results in jumping (without weight), then one finds that there is no correlation whatsoever, between them. However, a comparison of results in the clean and jerk with the results in jumping with 50% of bodyweight reveals: that athletes who jump the highest, generally jerk more. In other words, there is a correlation (moderate) between jumping height and results in the clean and jerk. Furthermore, not all athletes who have stronger legs (higher results in the back squat), have higher results in jumping with 50% of bodyweight, i.e., the correlation between the jumping and the squat is weak.

So, with two athletes of the same leg strength, the one with the higher results in jumping with 50% of bodyweight almost always cleans and jerks more weight; because he has a greater ability to quickly display strength.

In order to successfully jerk the barbell, the minimal jumping height (with 50% of bodyweight)should be: in the 75-100 kg classes for Class III lifters--44 cm, Class II--45 cm, Class I--46 cm, CMS--47 cm, MS--48 cm, MSIC--50 cm, world record holders--51 cm; for athletes in the lighter and heavier classes--approximately 2 cm lower.

For example, David Rigert (90-100 kg class) jumped 59 cm with 50% of bodyweight; Pavel Kuznyetsov (100 kg) --62 cm; Yuri Vardanyan (82.5 kg)-- 65 cm."

Very interesting. Roman goes on to discuss depth jumping and vertical jumps with a barbell on the shoulders as two primary special means to develop explosive strength. As we have talked about the depth jumps before, I'll just throw in what he has to say about the jumps w/ barbell:

"Vertical jumps with a barbell on the shoulders is another method of developing explosive-strength. The amount of weight should be 20% of the limit clean and jerk. The athlete does approximately 12-18 jumps for a workout; 3-6 jumps per set. Jumps with a barbell can be done 2-3 times per week. If depth jumps are employed, barbell jumps are not included."

Sounds like Jud Logan.

Of course, when in their careers and where in their specific comp. cycles they do these things is quite another story altogether, and I do not want to bore you with details.

How throwers can use these concepts successfully has already been documented by Logan and Ken Sprague.

Thought you'd get a kick out of this.


Strength in Throwing


Thank you for your input. The question arises whether or not an improvement in any given lift or style of leap is relevant, or if the capacities that need to be trained to make your throws better are being addressed, making your throws farther.

The Russians had an interesting way of viewing explosive strength. They saw it as a chain (for simplicity's sake), with the chain beginning at absolute speed, then progressing to starting strength, then progressing to accelerating strength then ending up at absolute strength. Where you focus your capacities training depends on where along the chain the windows of improvement lie for your specific event. The lighter your external resistance, the more "left-sided", or towards absolute speed and starting strength your concentrations will be. Like a Jav thrower. His/her amount of weightroom concentration will be less than a shotputter (25% as compared to 40-50% of overall training time according to the soviets) simply because the implement is lighter and the problem has to be attacked differently.

Conversely, a powerlifter (well, a stupid one) will be slanted towards the right side of the chain, towards absolute strength. Olympic lifters will do most of their duty at accelerating strength and absolute strength (which is where the best powerlifters train, as well).

Verkhoshansky states; "In a practical sense, since sport movement is always associated with overcoming an external resistance, two componential abilities primarily determine the working-effect of explosive force -- starting and acceleration strength. It is obvious that when overcoming insignificant external resistance (20-40% of absolute strength), man is simply unable to display his strength potential (Dr. Zatsiorsky backs this up in other writings with a formula he calls the explosive strength deficit, which can be used to determine whether or not your capacity needs should be slanted towards developing more speed or brute strength-these can be found in "Science & Practice of Strength Training").

In this instance, the impulse force producing the movement is developed chiefly by STARTING STRENGTH. With a large resistance(more than 60% of absolute strength), the impulse force securing the working movement is developed primarily by acceleration and absolute strength. Starting strength plays an assistive role here.

Thus, for the working tension to reach a certain level as quickly as possible, starting strength is the underlying mechanism crucial for the display of acceleration strength.

Starting strength is displayed under isometric conditions of muscular tension (starting from a dead stop, and in a lightswitch-like fashion -i.e. rack benches, rack quarter squats, cleans/snatches off of boxes-with a SHORT amortization-with weight light enough to be moved quickly-REAL quickly; and, of course, BOX SQUATS-as they are started from a paused point with the hip flexors unlocked, then fired vigorously).

Accleration strength is displayed in a dynamic regime (percent benches, cleans and other pulls from the floor that are started slowly but finished quickly-and with a LONG amortization; Box Squats once again-they serve a multi-purpose here and can be zeroed in to fit your particular need based on the percent of max used and other forms of accomodating resistance such as chains or rubber bands added; other forms of squats and pulls executed with speed in mind).

If you are throwing a 2K implement, you need not train within the same scope of the explosive strength chain as the olympic lifter who is attempting to C&J a quarter ton. Hence my comment about the big, strong slow thrower. This does not mean that this portion of the chain needs no attention; rather it means that perhaps it is receiving too much attention at the expense of other capacities that absolutely must be addressed.

With that said, Verkhoshansky goes on to talk about an important quality to train for that is critical to realize explosive force-and that's reversible muscle action. I'm sure you have heard of ballistic benches and the sort. To include depth jumps and every other plyo strategy.
He says that reversible muscle action is the specific ability to display a powerful motive force immediately after an intense, mechanical, muscular stretch.

That's why squats are the king of exercises.

You can do Oly-style pulls until you are blue in the face, if you haven't done something to attend to the need to train heartily for reversible muscle action, you'll never get more explosive. Since reversible muscle action is not evidenced in the pulls, it obviously isn't being trained.

So you end up doing cleans, thinking that you will net some explosiveness, and if you do not have the reversible muscle action component to "bring out" the qualities that you are attempting to bring out with the cleans, you stay slow.

This is why the Russian olympic lifters squatted their asses off. Over 50% of their training was done with lifts other than the classical ones. And squats were the bread and butter.

Now-with all that theory behind us-if you have felt slow as of late, have you been squatting? And if so, where in your weekly routine do you place your squats? Hopefully, they are as early in your week as you can put them (Sunday or Monday at the latest, if you compete on Saturdays). I think John Smith can expound upon how he has had Connie squat at a specific time in the week, and how he organizes her pulls traing around that squat workout and her throwing sessions.

Next thing to check out-when you DO lift, how does your F=MA formula shake out in your major lifts? Some folks like doing heavy sets of 5 reps (approx 85% of 1RM in most cases), but in doing 1 set of 5 reps, what does the force figure equal in each rep's case? That is, Force=mass x acceleration. If you move a big mass slowly, a certain force will be generated. If you move a moderate force quickly, you can most oftentimes generate more force per rep. And if you are a thrower desiring speed, then rate of force development is crucial. Some time, rather than doing 1 set of 5 reps with a given weight (which will lead to reps 3-5 being moved at snailboy pace), do 5 sets of 1, and move that weight FAST. It'll do more for you than you expect. Reps are for hypertrophy; reps should be done; reps should be done with assistance exercises (like back hypers, reverse hypers, partial hi-rep deadlifts-which are a great reversible muscle action drill, and abs).

If you are familiar with Westside training, you know that squats are done for multiple sets of 2 reps with moderate percentages. Why 2 reps? It is powerlifting-specific; the duration of the exercise then approximates the timeframe it takes to complete a big single at a meet. Throwers can try multiple singles; Louie has recommended this due to the extremely short duration of the striking phase in throwing events; and it is working well for those who have taken the recommendation.

So back to throwing. All this started because a year and a half ago, my 11 year old daughter wanted to put the shot. So we figured we would do it right. And we mixed sensible lifting with sensible throws training, neglecting none of the highpoints of either. We found that the two were inextricably woven together. Some think she's only strong; those who have seen her technique think she must drill technique constantly, as her technique is good. Neither statement is true. We use capacities to build technique. The better her technique becomes, the higher volume of throws she can handle and leave a good imprint on her nervous system. And the circle goes round & round.

One last comment about throws and intensity levels: we have found lower intensity throws to be worthless in teaching the body what it needs to know. Can a sprinter ever hope to run 10.1 in the 100 if he constantly runs mid-11's in training? Of course not.
We believe all throws should be max effort throws. Of course, this is a spin-off of everything we believe about strength training. Because 60% of max is on the bar, you don't need to generate 60% of force-you can generate a whole lot byu pushing it at max speed. Same concept. This won't burn you out at all if shot weights are rotated to accomodate what your body is going through during the course of your week as you recover from your main heavy squat workout. John Smith can speak to this, as well.

How has this "grueling" training worked for that 7th grade daughter of mine? Well, she took a 20 throw session yesterday, all standing puts, with the 4K shot (this is her "heavy shot" as she competes with the 6lb-she uses mostly a 3K, 6 lb., 5.7 lb. and 5 lb. in training along with the 4K and occasionally the 10 lb about once a month): 14 were over 30 feet; with a best of 31-4. No fouls (as she does not reverse). And she's puny, weighing 139-140 right now.

My motto is that EVERYTHING COUNTS. Not just drills, not just weights, not just "technique work".

In discussing related matters with Louie Simmons and John Smith, the following interesting data surfaced in the reading of "The Fundamentals of Special Strength Training in Sport" by Yuri Verkhoshansky. He was the resident speed-strength specialist in the Soviet Union for their years of dominance in just about every sport.

There was a curious reference to a study done by Purvin & Verkhoshansky which found that the correlation between strength in certain bodyparts and progress in shotputting in particular slowly shifted over the course of the athlete's career. They found that increasing the strength of the arms and shoulder girdle correlated more closely with increase in shotput performance for the NOVICE than did improvement of leg strength. However, as the thrower became more and more proficient and moved towards mastery in his/her event, increases in leg strength took on the primary role leading to shotput success. I do not remember the EXACT correlation numbers, but they were in this neighborhood:

The correlation between Increases in bench strength : Increases in shot put performance were as follows: Novices- .76:1; Qualified Athletes- .73:1.

The correlation between Increases in leg (squat) strength : Increases in shot put performance were as follows: Novices- .37:1; Qualified athletes- .87:1.

For both groups, an increase in shoulder girdle and arm strength correlated fairly well to improved sport performance. For the novices, increases in leg strength did not have so high of a correlation to increased throwing performance-but there was a very high correlation to increase of leg strength and increased shotput performance for the qualified athletes. This had to do with the experienced athlete knowing how to use the whole body much more efficiently, and the fact that most youngsters (especially girls) have much stronger legs than arms-so the window of opportunity to increased performance for the youngster lies in pouring some effort into the upper body training to narrow the wide gap between the upper and lower extremities(or so the Soviets thought-they figured if they cured this capacities flaw early, they could get on with the business of getting them to throw right and learn how to use the whole body-another example of TECHNIQUE BORNE FROM PROPER MANIPULATION OF CAPACITIES-this is a reoccurring theme in the training of just about all their junior athletes, ALL disciplines-it's fascinating to read about the methods they used to train biathletes for strength endurance so they could hold a rifle real still in competition regardless of fatigue).

So what does this mean? Especially for youth shot putters (and I define youth as grammar or middle-school age), you had best pay attention to this capacities disparity if you desire to get on with the business of really teaching them a technique that will work.

You can play agility games until the cows come home and have flawless form when not under duress-but the proof of the pudding comes whren you give the little one a 4K shot and see if all that agility can be replicated under duress. We've found that increases in shot put performance for youths is dependent on proper respect and attention to that link between technique and strength.

Ever see a good shotputter who is weak? Anybody remember those lift numbers of Ramona Pagel's? I sure do.

I've heard all the technique freaks talk about how technique is king; and that is TRUE. Unfortunately, technique without strength means jack when the implement is of a heavier nature. Because the bus can't be driven well with a weak engine.

Which brings up another point-when strength training for success in shot, how many pay attention to the key elements of explosive strength?-those elements being:
1.) absolute speed
2.) starting strength
3.) accelerating strength
4.) absolute strength

These four critical capacities are developed independently of each other (there is a rather weak correlation between the improvement of one element because of the singular improvement of another); yet, when all four capacities are addressed in a manner suitable for attainment of maximum explosive strength for your PARTICULAR EVENT, you can dramatically increase explosiveness. Elements # 3 and 4 are easier to improve, while elements 1 & 2 take much time and diligent training, and are somewhat bound by genetics. As the numbers progress (from absolute speed to absolute strength) the qualities become increasingly easier to attain. The trick, if you make a chain out of these four elements, is to figure out where along the chain your emphasis should be, and which elements along this chain are not or have not been properly attended to.

The problem arises in the inability to recognize the weaknesses, and the lack of knowledge as to what specific training protocol is the best one to fix your problem.

Throwers playing "olympic lifter" and riding high on the accelerating strength end of the chain while neglecting starting strength will make a big, strong, slow thrower.
There are better ways to use the olympic lift variants to address items like starting strength (thru proper weight selection, distance of pull, set rep schemes, etc.-this is something John Smith can talk more directly on, as Connie's use of certain variants address this directly-and well-it's no accident that she throws like she does).
This is really important for the ladies, as their body weight to implement weight ratio is much different than that of the men, necessitating a slight difference in the way the explosive strength chain is maintained.

Squats and Throwing

Your question regarding the front squats is a good one. You will find good results by switching the nature of the squat, and even the set/rep scheme, every 4 weeks.

A live example from the throwing world I can give you is from Sonja Fitts, who was interim throws coach at SU -she had her throwers squatting and doing lower body-oriented movements on Monday, then she would have them do upper-body related things on Wednesday . . . she rotated traditioinal box squats done in Westside fashion and with similar percents with front squats (no box), done for higher reps and less sets. The squat-du-jour was followed by either band squat-jumps or Bear machine squat jumps, back hypers, calves and abs. Partial hi-rep deadlifts were ocasionally worked in, as well. They really liked these, as well as the Bear jumps.

On Wednesday, either a percent-driven bench routine, or a max-effort style rack bench workout for heavy singles, or a hybrid using incline benches, would be picked, run for 4 weeks, then alternated. The primary upper-body work was followed with lat assistance work, calves, abs & back hypers once again. Choice of which bench-related routine to use was dependent upon where in the season they were.

One of her throwers, a 6-0 200 lb. freshman, really took to this training mode, and was able to move his best put from 47 to 52-4 in 3 months. Sonja had him mixing his implements up as well, and he eventually worked his 18 lb. throws to a consistent 47, establishing a nice differential between the 18 and the 16. She also had him sensibly mix his deliveries so that he would work from half-turns to full turns and end up getting 30+ full velocity throws per session. She carefully juggled the capacities concerns with appropriate drilling to improve his spin, while also mixing up the shots and constantly (but SLOWLY) working towards increased number of throws per week.

The big thing is to choose a squat variant that is in an appropriate percent range, work it hard but well in advance of the comp date (ideally, if you threw on Saturday it would be best to do this on Sunday), and switch it every 4 weeks. There are many variants you can use. You may find that hypertrophy-type schemes work better earlier in the season and quickly-moved percents in the latter season. John Smith has had good luck with the Hatfield squat bar and if you have access to one, you should definitely give it a whirl during the offseason.

Lifting super-heavy weights or lifting till the cows come home is not necessary, and is counterproductive if you are drug free.

If a thrower is a high-volume thrower who likes to use a wide array of implements and throws good volume year-round, I question whether or not a max effort day separate from the speed is ever needed for the lower body, or if the rotating in and out of max effort routines (or occasional heavy lifts) on that one particular leg day would be the appropriate strategy-I'm sure this will vary widely from individual to individual.

When mixing max effort with percents on the same day, always do the percent (speed) work first, then the max effort reps, then any hypertrophy work.

If you have any other specific questions, feel free to e-mail me at CASTERD@FNBROCH.COM.

Good luck and train hard.

Yes, the top of the squat is about 3/4 to lockout.

Actually, when using chains, we hang them such that the bulk of the chain, in the bottom position of the squat or bench, is resting upon a box or the floor. As the bar ascends and the chains are taken up, the load increases. With the chains, this is nice and linear.

We use a light chain to hang the heavier chains from when we desire to have a minimal load at the bottom.

You can play with how much is loaded and how much is unloaded and have that be a meaningful training variable. Some will hang 80lbs. of chain, and have 40 of the 80 lbs unload at the bottom, leaving 40 lbs of resistance via the chain still remaining. This helps train stability as well as allowing you to take advantage of the accomodation to your strength curve (as the nature of the exercise is somewhat changed by having something hanging from the bar.

The bands are a little wilder, they do not engage as linearly. But they are very fun to use and will give you a screaming burn that you can't get with regular weight training. And they will really promote a kinetic energy build-up with respect to what they can do to enhance the effects of reversible muscle action.

Thanks for the insight regarding the use of the hanging O/L variants at Nebraska.

You are correct regarding hang cleans and snatches. And regarding the plyo effect at the bottom of the squat-yes, this is key. Even when box squatting, a certain degree of the kinetic energy built during the descent in the squat movement is preserved-making the box squat an interesting alternative depending on how long you stop on the box (it takes 2 seconds for the kinetic energy built on descent to be dissipated as heat; so 1-2 seconds works well).

Verkhoshansky had an interesting squat bar, which was horseshoe-shaped and would essentially drape over the lifter's shoulders-bumper plates could be attached to splines near the bottom of the bar-in simplest terms, the horseshoe shape of the bar allowed the bumper plates to be carried real low-low enough to strike the ground once the lifter hit the appropriate depth. Much like a ballistic bench, the bar path then reversed itself very quickly by virtue of the bounce, and the lifter would have to accelerate to catch up with the bounce and drive the heavy weight home.

The Westside guys do the same thing with rubber bands and chains-the elemental difference is that rather than bouncing to make the reversal of bar path quick, the weight is light enough in the down position to do this on your own. Example-Louie uses 495 for his box squats, but oftentimes attaches rubber bands that add approx. 150 lbs. in the full standing position. Therefore, the % of max for Louie in the low position of the squat is 60%, but rises to 78-79% at the top-this allows him to be extremely fast off the box, and allows him to push like hell through the top part of the lift-making full use of the accomodation supplied by the bands. You would have to see this first-hand to realize how quickly he (and many others) can execute this.

I would think that a thrower could make excellent use of such concepts. I wonder if Lisovskaya did (in particular with Verkhoshansky's bar, or variants thereof).

I would also think that real quick reversible muscle action squats, perhaps done with bands alone, would be extremely useful for a thrower. As would partial hi-rep deadlifts.

As far as ideal squat percents, you may find that using some accomodating device may work well-like chains or bands. You may find that keeping the resistance between 60-80% (60 on the bottom, 80 at the top) may work best. For powerlifting, moving the weight on the bar from 50 to 60% over the course of 4 weeks works well, then, re-starting at 50%. Remember to hook on bands or chains to toss that extra 20% on the topmost part of the movement.

I question what use it is to go 90+% in a full squat for a thrower. I would bet most trainees could generate more force using a lesser percent than 90. If the mutants at Westside don't go above 60% for fully 90% of their workload, I see no reason why a thrower who needs to be much faster would waste his/her time. The soviets fount that there is a point at which the attainment of absolute strength has a negative, inhibitory effect on absolute speed. This can really effect lady throwers negatively in particular due to implement weight and protracted recovery times.

Your view on 40% is correct. This is where squat jumps, partial hi-rep deads, rubber band squats, Bear machine jumps and the like would fall into place to play with the reversible muscle action and influence starting strength more.

I bet you would find that heavier squats earlier in the week, and lighter jumps/pulls later in the week will work real well. Pay close attention to everything John Smith has said about the use of the squat, its cycling, and where it should be placed in the weekly / bi-weekly / monthly / peaking cycle. What he has to say about this is the most intelligent rendering for use by the thrower.

Thanks for your questions, and I thank you for your self-analysis of your current training. THAT's what it's all about.

I would venture to say you may want to just do a percent-based squat session early in the week and leave max-effort training for the offseason. Although, you can get a taste of what max effort training has to offer by going a bit heavier on your last two sets. Example-Louie will go 495 for multiple doubles in the squat with an additional load at the top afforded by bands which increase the resistance by 150 lbs. He will then sometimes take 1 or 2 sets with an additional 90 lbs (making it 585 on the bottom and 735 on the top, not exactly what one would consider a light load, especially moved as fast as he moves it, after a dead stop on a parallel box). Try something like that, and maybe some partial squat singles in the squat to finish off. The max effort stuff is definitely an offseason playtoy, if treated as a workout in itself.

Remember-you will be able to generate more force out of a real fast 400 squat than a snailman 600.