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Strength, Power and Speed in Training

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Topic: Strength, Power and Speed in Training
Posted By: Pingleton
Subject: Strength, Power and Speed in Training
Date Posted: 1/10/08 at 7:48am

Another article written by my old coach many years ago.  An interesting fact is that this research was cited by Louie Simmons as supporting the theory behind his use of Dynamic Effort workouts.  The article could also be used to illustrate the importance of using a device like the Tendo Unit (available form Sorinex - cue Bert), at least periodically.

Unfortunately, I was unable to copy the various tables included in the article.  When you read the article, keep in mind that when Edward Sarul was putting 19.80m (almost 65 feet) at age 21, he had very limited strength (relatively speaking), with maximum lifts of: bench press 319 pounds, squat 440 pounds, power clean 308 pounds, and power snatch 242 pounds.  By the time he won the 1983 World Championships with a throw of 21.39m (70'2") at age 25, his maximum lifts were still far below most of his competitors', with a bench press of 400 pounds and a squat of 605 pounds.  However, he was exceptionally fast, even for a world class thrower.



By Bogdan Poprawski, Ph.D.

Dr. Poprawski, Director of the Sport High Performance Institute in Toronto, Canada, presents his views on strength and power development for the shot put, created, tested and modeled in the laboratories of the Pozan Sport Institute in Poland and practically applied in coaching at the Canadian High Performance Centre for Track and Field. Re-printed with permission from Modern Athlete and Coach.

Much like the man who walks to work each day by the same route, yet is so intent on making his destination on time that he is unaware of the great works of art he passes during the course of his route, coaches are often guilty of the same myopic vision and ignore what is right before their eyes. In our effort to help our athletes achieve greater and greater results we sometimes ignore the commonsense approaches to training, which with hindsight seem embarrassingly obvious.

Take the use of weight training in the development of shot putters. Everyone involved in the sport would agree that weight training is necessary and you would find almost universal acceptance that the main exercises used by shot putter are:  bench press-snatch-power clean-squat.

It is equally true that the same coaches and athletes would agree that the most successful shot putter is the person who can extend the putting motion to the maximum length and, more importantly, perform this motion as fast as possible, without altering or shortening the motion.

Where we have missed the boat, so to speak, is in our failure to combine these two theories so that we are making the maximum use of our training sessions. Just like our poor fellow on his way to work, we have missed what was right before our eyes.

The mass of a shot is constant, so instead of striving for heavier and heavier lifts in the weight room, why don't we "play" with using a constant weight and concentrate on increasing our speed during the exercises.

When our athletes lift we use their results as a practical way of monitoring changes in basic strength and so we do periodic testing of performance in the four main areas of lifting. However, many coaches have learned that improvement in the amount of weight lifted by an athlete does not always mean there has been a corresponding increase in the strength of the athletes. The increase could be the result of improved lifting technique. This is the trouble with using standard measurements such as amount of weight on the bar. We do not know the intensity with which the exercise was performed. Simply speaking, we do not know the power created by the athlete when they perform these exercises.

Biomechanics tells us that power is:

work/ time or, weight of the bar x distance/time required to perform the task

this gives us a measure in Watts. 

The real question in this instance is whether or not we need to know the power generated during training sessions in order to improve the distance an athlete achieves in competition? The answer would appear to be yes, since a shot putter must develop power during the throw

16lb x distance of putting motion/time required to perform the task

We theorized that the same should be true in our training sessions in order to achieve maximum distance during competition. In our testing program we did careful testing and monitoring of the strength training process with the intent of measuring speed and power (see research material).

For our experiments we chose a group of 10 well-trained shot putters, selected on the theory that, as top level throwers, any increase in performance would be more likely related to their training programs rather than any major improvement in their throwing technique.

Among the athletes:

-  Edward Sarul, later a world champion

-  Helmut Krueger, later 21 m +

-  Janusz Gassowski, later 21m+

All tests were conducted in a drug free environment. During the course of the experiment we isolated the test results of the best thrower (Sarul, 19.80m) and compared his results with the average of the remaining athletes in the test group.

We did not do direct testing of the traditional strength exercises i.e. bench press, snatch, clean and squat. This was because of limited time and it was felt that the actual testing would fatigue the athletes and could affect the end results of the study. Instead we conduct interviews with both the athletes and their coaches and established personal best figures for the various lifts.

We did, however, test the following under laboratory conditions:

1. Maximum strength in isometric conditions

2. Speed of the bar during snatch exercise (S = 1.35m).

3. Power of legs, Kaleman test using PSM-2 device.

4. Velocity of bar in squat (S = 0.5m)

5. Power of legs in three consecutive squats using PSM-1 device.

As you can see from the data, Sarul had a minimal edge in his bench press and maximum strength results. Yet, he registered a 14.6% difference in his personal best throw. Since his results in the standard exercises were very similar to his peers and their technical abilities were also similar, the difference in their results must have some from some other source.

Where we can see a major difference is in the results of the tests which were oriented towards speed and power, rather than sheer brute strength. Here we see that Sarul registered far superior results. In each test he was far ahead of his peers. In the snatch his velocity ranged from 4.13% faster than the average to a 22.43% difference as the weight on the bar increased. In the squat his velocity ranged from 8.48% better to 25.71%, while in the leg power tests he was 12.28% to 27.3% better than his peers.

The results of this experiment obviously contradicted the school of thought that more weight is automatically better. Rather, what we recommend to the coaches and athletes is that instead of striving for increased weights during their training they should be spending time extending the distance of the bar (translocation of bar) in lifting. In this case we suggested they use weights that are smaller than their usual maximum and sub-maximum and concentrate on speed. The athletes still used the same exercises coaches recommend for the shot i.e. pulls, pulljerks [clean & jerks] and squats, except now they changed the focus of these exercises. One athlete who, we heard later, used this advice was Sarul and his coach A. Daszkiewicz, as they made great use of speed-power work.

I should point out that our research was supplemented by biomechanical and physiological testing, as well as analysis of multi-year training programs.

So, where does that leave the coach who is interested in improving the performance of his athletes? Our first recommendation would be to ignore the traditional theory that more weight is automatically better. The bench press, while still an important exercise, does not seem to be a major indicator of throwing potential. The most important lifts then are the snatches, cleans, continuous clean and jerk and squats.  This is a point of view also advocated by Mac Wilkins, Al Feuerbach and W. Komar (2,4).

The weight on the bar when you are striving for maximum power should reach 50-75% of maximum strength (personal best) of each athlete. The emphasis in these exercises should be on translocation of a bar and speed. There are many variations of these premises depending on the athlete. For example, my coaching experience has taught me that stronger and slower athletes should use weights in the upper end of the scale mentioned above in order to achieve the same power as their "weaker" or faster peers.



We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.

    - George Bernard Shaw

Posted By: Pingleton
Date Posted: 12/02/08 at 3:13pm

Terry's recent posts made me think of this article, which in fact is almost exactly on point.



We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.

    - George Bernard Shaw

Posted By: BKetch
Date Posted: 12/03/08 at 2:34pm

I just read this article yesterday.  Great stuff.   I was wondering...

...what would be an appropriate weight to use to test power output of a certain lift?   Would it be around 70% to 80%  of a max?

And then to train speed-strength, what % of your max output would be most appropriate? 

what are your thoughts?


Posted By: Pingleton
Date Posted: 12/04/08 at 6:41am


I hope people like Terry and Bert and others with extensive experience with the Tendo unit add their thoughts here.

With respect to your first question, if you have access to a Tendo unit, you might try several attempts at different percentages, eg. 50%, 60%, 70%, to determine the level where you generate the most horsepower on a given lift.  As noted in the article, this will vary from individual to individual, and occur at anywhere from 50% to 75% of your 1RM.  Typically, stronger and/or slower athletes will perform best in the top half of this range, while weaker and/or faster athletes will perform best in the lower half of that range.

For speed-strength training, I believe that loads of 50-60% of 1RM are generally used.  This can be done via timed sets of 5-10 reps done with maximum speed, or using the Westside method (which was at least partially inspired by this study) of 8-10 sets of 2-3 fast reps. 

Another thing to consider is that maximum power may actually be generated at even lower percentages (as low as 30%) but that training with such light loads usually requires moving to lifts that do not have a deceleration component, e.g. jump squats, bench press releases, push push releases, etc. 

Without intending to open up a "controversial" subject, this logic may underlie the the benefits of the Olympic lift variations to some extent.  After all, what do you call 50% of your max deadlift lifted as explosively as possible?  A power clean.  What do you call 30% of your max deadlift lifted as exposively as possible?  A clean-grip snatch.  Just something to think about.



We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.

    - George Bernard Shaw

Posted By: Trainerterry
Date Posted: 12/04/08 at 9:18am
Originally posted by BKetch BKetch wrote:

I just read this article yesterday.  Great stuff.   I was wondering...

...what would be an appropriate weight to use to test power output of a certain lift?   Would it be around 70% to 80%  of a max?

And then to train speed-strength, what % of your max output would be most appropriate? 

what are your thoughts?


As for percentages to get the max power output.

-I think it varies not only from exercise to exercise but from person to person.  I have found that for me I need a heavier percentage for most exercises then others.  The powerlifting movements are good to me... some of the oly movements not so kind.  I would say around 55-60% for many as you acquire effeciency with a movement I think that can go down.  For squats I find it is closer to 70% for me... but I do not have a big drop-off as I go up.  On the other side I have a hard time keeping power high as the weight drops in percentage.  Louie Simmons uses loads at 55-60% with his dynamic work days.  He would state that the most horsepower produced was at about50% max resistance at 1/3 top speed.

-I believe it is hard to produce the power needed with lower percentages because of the nature of the lift.  In the bench with a lower weight you will begin to deccelerate the bar before you reach full extension.   This means you never are able to produce your max power in this exercise unless you do one of the following; use bands or chain, use a smith machine and release the bar, try Berts Method of using a release device to build up tension before released. 

-With cleans My percentages are higher to produce max horsepower.  I think alot is technique issues.  The problem with a lower weight again can be that using a submax weight needs to be controlled often before a person reaches full triple extension because the weight is too light.  I would guess 75% with me. ( I am going to test with my Tendo next week to post my %'s needed.

- So the barbell can be the limit to horsepower at the high end of speed.  This shows the value of ballistic exercises, plyometrics etc for power.


As for training Speed-Strength (which reminds me to work on Website that I do nothing with) you need to address the 3 components of Speed-strength

Explosive-strength = greatest amount of force within a time frame

Starting strength = how fast and forceful the athletic motion is at the beginning

Absolute strength - maximum one can lift regardless of time

So to sum this idea with my earlier posts. To set up training you need to hit all three areas.  Based on your levels you need to spend more time on one the the other two.  I have a better level of absolute strength then starting, but my weakest is explosive.  So I have set up my training around these ideas.

For absolute strength I use very low volume.  Heavy singles doubles and triples.   For starting strength I rely on box squats onto a foam pad with bands and chain. Around 60-70% (total is guesstimating band resistance)

For explosive strength- plyos and agility (get my body control better and make my movement better before thinking I can apply force to something else.  Snatches, Jumpsquats, high pulls.  I also do sets with my tendo hoping to create the greatest horsepower by adjusting the weights till I am producing the most possible.


So if you are on the high end of speed (opposite of me) - do more max effort

I think a good test to see what you need to work on is a vertical jump test.  From a stand do avertical and compare it to a jump where you can step before jumping.  If the two heights are close you need to do more speed and plyos.  If with the step you get a way better number you should work max effort.

"A man has to know his limitations" - Detective Harold Callahan

Posted By: CHAD
Date Posted: 12/04/08 at 9:42am
That was excellent, Terry.

Posted By: Pingleton
Date Posted: 12/04/08 at 11:20am

Thanks again Terry.

Regarding your observation, "With cleans My percentages are higher to produce max horsepower" without referring to any studies etc. on the point, I would say this is because cleans are already a dynamic lift.  This is likely true to an even greater extent with snatches, and perhaps further still with a clean-grip snatch onto straight legs.  I suspect you will find that the more inherently dynamic the lift, higher percentage of your max single at which you develop max horsepower.  This is the point I was alluding to at the end of my post above.

Keep in mind that with reasonable technical competence, most people can power snatch 75%-80% of what they can power clean in an equivalent fashion. Using much less than this percentage on your cleans is not going to be efficient and is unlikely to maximize horsepower.  Your guess of 75% of max for cleans is reasonable, and I would guess this figure might be as high as 80% for power snatches.  Naturally, these percentages are going to vary from individual to individual, but I think this relationship between the various lifts makes sense.  Clearly, lifting 60% of your best clean with maximum effort does not make sense, because you could snatch this easily. 

I am curious to hear what others have to think about this.



We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.

    - George Bernard Shaw

Posted By: BKetch
Date Posted: 12/04/08 at 11:25am

Peter and Terry thanks for such great responses.   There is a ton of great info in the responses for both a newb and a veteran of training.

I have a good grasp on conjugated/complex training.  Not that any Westside guys would remember me, but about 5 years ago I was fortunate to go out there and lift for several days.  I got to hang out with Louie just about everyday and I learned A TON. and Louie is a great guy. 

 I have always used the percentages of my 1RM on dynamic days, but now I am trying to learn more about using power output/wattage #'s as a means to train dynamic days.  I don't have a tendo, but I did purchase a Power Factor and it is able to tell me some things (wattage, bar speed) that I need.  Maybe my wife will get me a tendo for Christmas. If so, I would tell her to purchase it at SORINEX.COM (shameless plug for you Bert).

I think a good place to start would be to test "horsepower" with 70%  of ones max in the lifts that are most relevant for the individual.

For example,

1)max squat is 100 lbs, test with 70 lbs and find max out put

2)Max High Pull where triple extension is achieved is 100 lbs, and find max output

and use the data as a means to set up dynamic days.  What do you think?

Thanks again...




Posted By: Pingleton
Date Posted: 7/16/11 at 5:14am
I thought this article deserved a bump given the recent interest in
training with the Tendo/Power Factor. It was originally posted over
2.5 years ago! The author was/is my coach. He was best friends
with W. Komar, 1972 Olympic Champion in the Shot, and worked
with E. Sarul, 1983 World Champion (although he was not Sarul's


We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.

    - George Bernard Shaw

Posted By: Tim P
Date Posted: 7/20/11 at 12:02am
Originally posted by Pingleton Pingleton wrote:

I thought this article deserved a bump
given the recent interest in
training with the Tendo/Power Factor. It was originally
posted over
2.5 years ago!

Thanks from a newbie for the bump. Im still learning.

"What's the matter boy? you got ants in your pants?
No Ma' steel balls!"
Jerry Clower

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