Episode 4 – Weightlifting Derivatives – Exercise Selection, Loading and Programming – Part 1 of 2
This episode is part 1 of 2 of our discussion with Dr. Tim Suchomel. In this episode we discuss Olympic derivatives, exercise selection, loading and programming strategies. All three of us attended East Tennessee State University, so it was nice to catch up and talk a little sport science!
Check out part 2 here!
Episode 5 – Weightlifting Derivatives – Common questions and problems – Part 2 of 2
Our guest for this episode is Dr. Tim Suchomel. Twitter is the best place to keep up with Dr. Tim Suchomel. You can also follow his research over at ResearchGate.
Dr. Tim Suchomel earned his PhD in Sport Physiology and Performance from East Tennessee State University and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Movement Sciences at Carroll University. Tim has also written and contributed to a number of book chapters and published an every growing list of peer reviewed articles.
The best place to view and download all or most of Tim’s work is ResearchGate.
However, if you are interested in learning more about Olympic Derivatives the following articles are a few of our favorites and a great place to start. Oh, and if you can’t download these articles directly from the links below, go sign-up at ResearchGate because authors often post their papers/articles there and you can download them for free 😉
Force-Time-Curve Comparison Between Weight-Lifting Derivatives
Power-Time Curve Comparison between Weightlifting Derivatives
Load Absorption Force-Time Characteristics Following the Second Pull of Weightlifting Derivatives
Enhancing the Force-Velocity Profile of Athletes Using Weightlifting Derivatives
The header image for this episode can be found at the following link.
skvoestlinzgewichtheben [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
The high pull causes the bar to be displaced horizontally, increasing the stress on the spine. Also, the altered bar trajectory of pulls does not transfer well to the full lifts. Unless, you want to increase the risk of injury to your athletes and adversely affect their lifting technique, scrap these inferior partial movements and perform the Olympic lifts the way they were intended.
A few things.
1. Even Olympic weightlifters perform derivatives on a regular basis as it’s not appropriate to complete the full lifts ALL the time. Suggesting to scrap derivatives/partial movements makes no empirical or practical sense.
2. Not all derivatives use a high pull, so I am not sure why you are focusing on the high pull itself. I am also unaware of any evidence that would suggest that high pulls lead to inappropriate levels of horizontal displacement. Please point me to a paper that has compared horizontal displacement in high pulls vs no high pull. Then point me to some evidence that the horizontal displacement seen in high pulls screws up mechanics.
3. Suggesting that high pulls increase the “stress” on the spine, means about as much as saying that walking up stairs carrying a gallon of milk increases stress on the spine. Or, that loading a back squat with 150kg stresses the spine more that 100kg. Higher levels of “stress” are NOT synonymous with dangerous levels of stress. I would ask again that you point me to a paper showing that high pulls place an inappropriate level of stress on the spine. Saying high pulls increase stress means nothing.
4. At this point you simply have to ignore a substantial and growing body of literature that points to many benefits associated with derivatives. I have provided evidence in the resources section, now it is your turn.
“Even Olympic weightlifters perform derivatives on a regular basis as it’s not appropriate to complete the full lifts ALL the time. Suggesting to scrap derivatives/partial movements makes no empirical or practical sense.”
Response: Lifting is not about pulling the bar to a specific point and then simply dropping under it. Focusing on exercises that just apply force rather than those that also teach the body to absorb and redirect force makes no sense. Focusing on such inferior movements could explain why so many ACL and ankle injuries are non-contact.
“Not all derivatives use a high pull, so I am not sure why you are focusing on the high pull itself.”
Response: Because controversial statements about pulls were mentioned in the podcast.
“I am also unaware of any evidence that would suggest that high pulls lead to inappropriate levels of horizontal displacement.”
Response: This is Weightlifting Technique 101. In a standing posture, a gravity line should pass through the apex of the arch of the foot, slightly anterior to the outer malleolus. During the top of a high pull, the bar shifts away from this point as the athlete lifts their heels. Do a pull and film yourself from the side and you will see that the bar travels forward.
The result of this difference in bar trajectory is that when lifter returns to the full lifts, he or she often develops a habit of jumping forward. I am working on an article about this and will provide references.
“Suggesting that high pulls increase the “stress” on the spine, means about as much as saying that walking up stairs carrying a gallon of milk increases stress on the spine.”
Response: Look at the downfall of Russian weightlifters as drug testing became more stringent. They did lots of pulls and used a pulling technique that intensified and prolonged and stress on the spine, but the steroids enabled them to get away with it. In the Beijing and London Olympics, at last count I saw that 18 of the 20 positive drug tests were formerly part of Russian or countries that were at one point part of Russia.
Kim Goss, MS, CSCS
National Coach, USA Weightlifting
Before I address each point, I want to point out that you did not provide links to a single resource. You did however, make statements that need additional support.
1. Ok, you keep commenting on things which there is no evidence or rationale for (such as ACL and ankle injuries). If you would simply scroll up the page there is a good paper on load absorption. This paper (and others) actually measured load absorption instead of using it merely as a talking point. The discussion regarding load absorption is nothing new, but we actually have answers, so go take a look. You might just find that load absorption is greater using derivatives than when the catch is completed 😉 But back to your point regarding injuries. First, there is ZERO evidence to support your statement and if you consider the evidence that currently exists, one would likely conclude the opposite. Given that load absorption is higher during derivatives, this has the potential to reduce injury rates. If this is a line of thinking you would like to take, derivatives may have more injury reducing potential than including the catch. Peak force, power output and a number of other variables are also higher during derivatives, which may also have a more pronounced influence on injury rates. Again, post some evidence and we can discuss it.
2. Controversial statements about pulls? We discussed a number of different pulling derivatives, so again, this does not make much sense. High pulls are not the only derivatives and we in no way focused on these; actually, we discussed other derivatives a great deal more.
3. Yes, I get weightlifting technique 101. I said inappropriate level of horizontal displacement. The high pull has and will continue to be used a number of different ways as a teaching tool and method to “express” triple extension. With that said, when a high pull is done correctly, I still see no evidence that horizontal displacement is in any way inappropriate. Might I suggest you post some evidence and not simply conjecture? Perhaps a study or two that assessed the horizontal displacement during a high pull.
4. Wait, wait, wait. The Russians did a lot of drugs but then drug testing become more stringent. They also did a lot of pulling using a technique that put a lot of stress on the spine but the steroids let them get away with it. To be exact, the Russians used, “A technique that intensified and prolonged and stress on the spine, but the steroid enabled them to get away with it”.
Was this technique linked to a particular derivative? Too many high pulls? Did these same Russians experience more back injuries than other teams? Were studies done to investigate the compressive and shear forces on the spines of the Russian weightlifters? Did these Russians experience fewer back injuries than other teams? Did you train the Russian Olympic team or do you have intimate details of their training and drug habits? Point is, your statement about Russians has nothing to do with high pulls and any stress it places on the spine. Evidence please!
Since we have gotten all formal and we are posting credentials now.
Jeremy Gentles, PhD, CSCS
East Tennessee State University
Olympic Training Center
blah blah blah blah
Again, I will provide the references in my article.
Triple extension? Can’t believe strength coaches are still promoting that nonsense. Take a look at sequence photos of the best weightlifters and you’ll see that they are rising on their heels before their knees straighten to shift the stress to the quadriceps rather than the trunk. I’m looking at one of the articles that you are endorsing and it shows the athlete performing the lift with their feet flat on the floor during this phase of the pull. (I should add that his knee and elbow joints are not in optimal alignment at the start of the pull and the bar is in contact with the shins. Most likely, the initial pull will be forward.) I can only assume that an accomplished weightlifter was not available for this photo shoot?
Many of the other partial movements are just as bad as the pulls. For one thing, you can often power clean or hang power clean more with poor technique than good technique. For example, catching the bar with a hyper-wide foot stance, or catching it lower on the shoulders with a rounded back. With the full lifts, the better your technique, the more you can lift.
Just as you don’t open the door to a gymnastics center and tell kids, “play gymnastics,” a coach shouldn’t be teaching the Olympic lifts if they don’t know how to teach them. I’ve met coaches who have a “weightlifting certification” and who told me they learned how to clean and jerk with a medicine ball! Their lifting technique reflected their coaching method.
If a strength coach wants to learn the lifts, rather than listening to a triple-extension strength coach, he or she should find an accomplished weightlifting coach and pay him or her to teach them how to teach. However, I’ve been in this sport since 1972, and I’ve found that most coaches will help you for free. In fact, my coach was the head coach for the US Olympic Team in weightlifting and he never charged me or (as far as I know) any of his athletes for coaching.
The Russians have done considerable research about the detrimental effects of lifts on technique. Much of this research is focused on the speed at which the hips shift forward when the bar passes the knees, along with the forward displacement of the bar. Yes, I looked at the load absorption paper and noticed the focus on research from North American sports scientists. How about considering the opinions of those who have coached world record holders and Olympic champions?
Back to your post, you can see the high volume of assistant exercises for the lower back by studying Russian weightlifting yearbooks. Compare their training with the Bulgarians (and yes, I have discussed Bulgarian training methods in person with both Ivan Abajiev and Angel Spassov). I also have colleagues who have been to both Russia and Bulgaria and spoken to their coaches and watched them train athletes. I also now consult with a former Russian lifter currently living in Russia who has lifted more in snatch than any American.
Since you work with Dr. Michael Stone, Ph.D., ask him who I am since I’ve known him for 40 years. First met him at a lifting meet where he was competing, and later when he was at the National Strength Research Center at Auburn University. Did many articles for major print magazines promoting his research to the general public. Saw him at the World Championships a few years ago. Photos of my athletes appear in the book he co-authored with Dr. Harold O’Bryant, “Weight Training: A Scientific Approach.”
P.S. Your credentials are posted in the “About” section of your website, so there was not need to add them. Unfortunately, in this profession, a lot of coaches won’t take you seriously unless you have a CSCS and a master’s degree, so I decided to include them in my last post.
Sadly, it is difficult to have a discussion with folks like yourself. You have not read the scientific literature and you simply ignore evidence that is presented. You tell stories about this coach and that athlete, while presenting examples that do not pertain to the current conversation.There is always a promise of evidence some day down the road and conjecture seems to rule the day. Someone that is familiar with the evidence doesn’t have to wait to write an article on some website somewhere to present it.
Let me know when you have actually read and understand some of the papers above. Until then, good luck guessing!
“Captain Kirk, I’m a weightlifting coach, not a librarian!”
Sure, I completed a master’s degree program and a dozen strength coaching/personal training certifications without ever reading a research paper — and none of the articles I’ve written for over 50 nationally-circulated print publications on physical and athletic fitness ever cited research. What’s with the personal attack? As for the references, I’ve made a public statement that I will provide references in my article. If I don’t include them, you can announce to the world that I’m a liar and suggest that any time I am considering writing another article about weightlifting, I should take a laxative and go to bed!
I have the same NSCA certification you have. It’s supposed to be the gold standard of certifications, and many colleges won’t hire a strength coach unless they have it. At the time I took it, I was told I needed an undergraduate degree, but they didn’t say in what field. My only degree at the time was in the field of journalism. How does a degree in journalism qualify as a prerequisite to take a strength coaching certification? Also, there was no hands-on portion of the exam where we had to demonstrate that we could teach anything. Would you go to a dentist who passed his exams by taking multiple-choice tests and never actually worked on someone’s teeth? What’s also interesting is that my former boss took the NSCA, he convinced them to change several questions, including those pertaining to anatomy.
Reading scientific papers is valuable, but consider that many US research papers are short-term studies using non-motivated students who need to participate to get a grade. There are countless high-level weightlifting and strength coaches who do not have the skills to write a journal article. Has Bill Belichick ever written a research paper? When I was a strength coach at the Air Force Academy, I used the nomogram found on page 168 of Stone/O’Bryant’s textbook to not only assess the physical preparedness of our football players but also as a tool to help with program design. I did this with hundreds of athletes and found that it was a better predictor of athletic performance for linemen than the clean. But I assume that if this data is not presented in a scientific journal, it has no value? Likewise, Ivan Abadjiev created a paradigm shift in the way elite weightlifters train without publishing a single journal article (at least, not that I know of).
American researchers also often ignore the writings of Russian sport scientists who have worked with elite athletes, or when they do cite them, they often take their work out of context.
For example, NSCA writers seem obsessed with citing Leonid Matveyev’s model of periodization published in 1964 that progresses from high volume/low intensity to low volume/high intensity. I had many discussions with Dr. Mel Siff, Ph.D., who worked with Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky. It’s a mistake to site Matveyev’s model in isolation as it is not a true reflection of this sport scientist’s body of work – in fact, Matveyev in his own writings has pointed out the drawbacks of this model! Likewise, much of work of Verkhoshansky has been perverted by US coaches writing about plyometrics. How many US athletes have been injured from improperly-designed plyometric programs?
Another issue about US research is that often it is designed poorly. For example, one NSCA journal editor who sells hip thrust benches conducted a research study comparing the front squat to the hip thrust for developing short sprint speed. The workout started with the athletes performing sets of 12 in the front squat. Who does front squats for sets of 12 — you can’t breath, much less use a significant amount of weight. Ask Dr. Mike Stone how many workouts he has designed, for any purpose, using sets of 12 in the front squat. FYI: That study was followed by two conducted by researchers who do not sell hip thrust benches who found no significant improvement in jumping ability or short sprint times. And, hey, maybe sometime you’d like to have a discussion about how undulating periodization studies have been conducted?
The NSCA has done a great service for the field of strength coaching, but often you have to take some of their material with a grain of salt. And they messed with the wrong people when they took on Crossfit. As I recall, last May CrossFit was awarded over $400,000 in attorney’s fees due to the NSCA’s misconduct. Oh, and the legal process is not over – in fact, I understand the NSCA’s insurance carrier sued the NSCA! You have to wonder what would have happened if the NSCA simply admitted that there were mistakes in that study, and if the NSCA will have to declare bankruptcy when it is all over?
Back to the pulling issue, it says in one of your bios that you worked with elite weightlifters. How about posting some videos of high-level weightlifters you coached (preferably from day one, not recruited from other coaches who taught them the basics) performing partial lifts and full lifts. I will break the lifts down and demonstrate what I am talking about in terms of pulling technique.
Yet again, you continue to discuss topics that have nothing to do with the original discussion or your original points. Instead of telling stories, name dropping and talking the NSCA/Crossfit lawsuit, show me some evidence. Show me some evidence that substantiates your claim(s). Show me evidence that load absorption is higher when the catch is included vs. not including the catch. Show me some evidence that force, power, velocity, etc. are higher/better/more appropriate when the catch is included vs. when it is not included. There is no way to have a meaningful and productive discussion if you just say, “…I’ve made a public statement that I will provide references in my article”. You have stated numerous points about why derivatives should be “scrapped”. But actual measurements have been made that contradict what you have stated. It is pretty easy to copy and paste a link into a textbox that would point me to a paper to support your claims. I mean, you have made a bunch of claims at this point so evidence shouldn’t be hard to come by right. !?! Are the references so sacred they must only be included in the article you plan to write? They can’t be shared here?
As an aside, just look back at your last post. The only thing I have asked you to do is support some of your claims. Instead of doing that you wrote about,
– all the articles you have written that don’t have references
– the NSCA certification
– the low quality of many US studies
– ignoring Russian sport scientists
– Matveyev, Siff and Verkhoshansky
– front squats for sets of 12
– NSCA and Crossfit
– then asking for lifting videos
One of the mottos of the NSCA is “bridging the gap.” Often researchers live in their ivory towers and ignore the work of coaches who are getting their hands dirty. So many strength coaches were upset about the direction of the NSCA they formed the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association. How many NSCA members are actually strength coaches? Not personal trainers. Not athletic trainers. Strength coaches.
You keep citing research that discusses power production, but many of the exercises only display force in one direction. Maybe that’s fine if you’re training shot putters, but what about other sports? If you are interested in injury prevention, you need to focus on exercises that help an athlete absorb force, redirect force, and train the body to relax when necessary to prevent injury. Watch some of the early MMA fights where boxers went against karate people who could strike but were not trained adequately to take a punch. You work alongside Dr. Mike Stone, I assume? Ask him how many ankle injuries he has seen in weightlifting? Weightlifters don’t wear high-top shoes, and many times place the feet in extreme positions under load. I understand that during the first week of the 2011 NFL season, 13 players suffered Achilles ruptures. These athletes have the best strength coaches and best sports medicine care (a colleague of mine told me that one NFL team he consults with has a sports medicine budget of $20 million!). Could it be this emphasis on partial-range exercises that you claim are so valuable is adversely influencing the elasticity of the connective tissues?
Dr. Stone has also done pioneering work on the squat, championing the cause of the value of full squats–I can’t tell you how many copies of the position paper on squats he worked on I gave to medical people. Ask him how the US weightlifters compare to the best in the world in terms of squatting strength? Ask him how we can have two weightlifters training at the OTC squat over 950 pounds and not be at the top of the world internationally? I saw the workout of one OTC athlete and during the week she did 47 different exercises! Could it be that focusing on these partial strength movements is adversely affecting their technique? Again, it would be nice to see video of the elite weightlifters you trained perform the full lifts so I can see the real-world results of your methods.
What is the practical application of what you’re doing? Let’s say you are training an athlete 2x a week for 45 minutes, and devote 15 minutes to Olympic lifting movements, 15 to strength, and 15 to rehab exercises. Are you going to achieve better results if one of those workouts you decided that instead of doing a full clean, one day you would do a clean and the other a clean pull? The body doesn’t know what to adapt to.
I don’t know why you are so anti-weightlifting. Overweight and obesity are major issues in the US, and weightlifting can be an effective method to deal with this issue. Just ask any Crossfit coach.
One of the first studies I read about this topic was given to me by Dr. Stone when I lived in South Carolina. It was eventually published in the Canadian Journal of Applied Sport Sciences in 1983, and the title was, “Cardiovascular Responses to Short-Term Olympic Style Weight-Training in Young Men.”In eight weeks, using conventional weightlifting training protocols, the subjects decreased their body fat by six percent and increased their lean mass by four percent. This type of research is golden!
The snatch and the clean and jerk are large amplitude activities, such that they move the body through a large range of motion and therefore use a lot of muscle. As such, they are great calorie burners. The physiological effects of weightlifting were examined in “Unique Aspects of Competitive Weightlifting,” a study published in 2012 in the journal Sports Medicine. The researchers concluded that caloric expenditure during moderate-to-high volume weightlifting training “…is comparable with the metabolic cost incurred by high-volume circuit-style resistance exercise.” Again, golden!
For these reasons, we need to focus more on the full lifts and not this partial lift/triple extension nonsense.
I have never seen anything like it. Still not addressing your points with evidence but as before you continue to go down rabbit holes that have nothing to do with the discussion at hand.
The discussion is the value of partial movements and the problem with research you keep citing.