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Excuses, Rationalization, or Sound Principles?

This is my first blog on here, and I should be doing other things. There is always something to do in preparation. I would like to see more activity here, though. We have some great people on here. Some I know, and some I know by reputation. Lets get this rolling... it could be an incredible resource!

How many have said, or heard, "We are not making powerlifters/weightlifters, we are developing (insert sport name here) players." My question, and maybe challenge, to you is this: excuse, rationalization, or a sound principle? It could be any one of these, depending on its use. (Caveat: I have said this even though it annoys me!)

Here is the problem as I see it. Too many use this as an excuse to not do things correctly or spend the time needed on technique. There is a video on this web-site with some pretty poor technique. Through comments, it came out that the coach involved used the above excuse and said if too much time is spent on technique work, that athlete never really gets stronger. I call BS! That is an excuse and/or a rationalization.

Example, in this video we see several athletes hang cleaning, but in their counter-movement they never put themselves in a power position. The hips never move back, the torso is upright and there is a slight knee bend. I would like to ask, are we training what we need to train by just moving a lot of weight by whatever means necessary? What principles are guiding your technique here?

And here we get to my argument. If you are going to use olympic lifts (OL), then there are some principles that should be followed regardless of the athlete on the platform. Now, you may change some things to get some variation. Not everything is going to look like a competitive lift. You will change start positions, grips, etc. And believe me, it will not always be done right. But, if you catch a video of one of my athletes doing something wrong, I will not rationalize. I'll say they should do it correct and acknowledge that we need to work on that.

So where can this dreaded statement be used not as an excuse, but as an example of sound principles? Lets say I have an athlete that just cannot do an OL for some reason (football player with a previous wrist injury that prevents him from catching a clean). I can easily give him an alternative that is a variation or not even an OL, because I am not training a weightlifter, but am developing a football player. Sure, that statement could be used in many other scenarios, but too often is just an excuse. How are you using it?

I used OL here as an example, but we can look at any lift. It boils down to safety and efficacy. Risk vs. reward. Take a step back and look at the actual demands of the sport. Are your athletes compensating and altering technique to move the weight? Is that changing the demands of the exercise? Are you putting athletes at risk?

One last point, not to open another can of worms... Looking at the original argument, "if too much time is spent on technique the athlete doesn't get stronger." I say, technique work will get the athlete stronger in the right way. I'll take a solid, parallel squat with good angles at 350 lbs over a poorly executed (forward lean, valgus at the knee, not deep enough) 500 lb squat anyday. Again, it might not always look that way. Will my athletes lean forward too far, especially when pushing themselves... sure! But my point of this paragraph is: how much weight do we need that athlete to move (at a maximum)? I bet nobody here can answer that with solid evidence. How strong is strong enough? I would say a good, technically sound, balanced athlete will outlast and outperform that 500lb squatter... afterall, we are training (insert sport name here) players, not powerlifters!

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Comment by Craig Cheek on January 12, 2010 at 8:44am
we all have athletes whose techniques stretch across the correct spectrum. my question is why do people video this stuff and then put it out for public view. i have athletes with great technique and some with not so great technique. if im ever to make a video, who do you think i am going to highlight?

i think you answered your own question though. it all depends on the context.

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