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Strength Performance Network

Sports Science-Skill and Critical Instants

I try to make use of filming training sessions and exercises, at least some aspect, on a regular basis.  During team training, I'm looking to dissect and analyze many variables. At other times, I'm looking at "correctness" of exercise skill.  Learning how to execute correctness has direct transfer outside of the training environment.  On the other hand, reinforce in-correctness of skill in the training environment and see how well bravado works in changing skill when your football center can't consistently snap the ball back to the quarterback or your basketball team won't consistently execute blocking out under the boards.

One exercise that I consistently video and analyze is the power-clean.  Here's what we know absolutely, one significant difference between a professional lifter in the sport of weightlifting and most athletes outside of the lifting profession is "skill-level" in executing technical types of lifts.  Professional athletes in the sport of weight-lifting spend hours perfecting skill in lifts such as the clean and jerk and snatch.  Non-weightlifting athletes generally do not, but expectations are high to do well on highly technical lifts such as the power-clean.  Strength professionals should be proficient in teaching these technical aspects and to include the attainment of skill in conjunction with the abilities of the athlete when determining load use and inclusion of technical exercises.  With less skilled lifters, one can expect lower performance on more skill-required lifts. Hence, load determinant really should be determinant of how skillfully one can apply force, not if one can apply force.

Now, when I view the power clean being performed, I could care less how much is being lifted, but for the health-sake of the novice weight-lifter (aka athlete), I'm looking at correctness of skill.  Why?  Incorrectness at the "critical instants" have direct carry-over to pathologies and injuries.  Yes, its true.  Sadly, what I see in slow motion, is that many, many novice lifters really miss the lifts at the critical instants, but are positively reinforced for just getting the bar from the ground to shoulders. Reinforcing "in-correctness" here has potentially bad outcomes for the novice weight-lifter in two paths.  One, pathologies to the lumbar spine, shoulders, wrists, and elbows (health problems). Two, it rewards doing a task incorrectly and that correctness is not what is important, but just doing something is.  That's not true on the playing field, though, is it?  Apply just doing something vs doing something correctly on the playing field or battlefield and the results won't be that good, you'll settle for mediocrity rather than excellence.  Are you doing the same in the training setting?  Compare that mindset with the teachings of Vince Lombardi or John Wooden and see if it sticks.

Here's a couple of images that I see played-out and replayed out over and over again at nearly all levels of athletic development that reinforces "in-correctness" of skill.  Say what you will, but its what you reward and reinforce (both behavior and skill) in the training environment that starts to carry-over outside of this setting.  

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