The strength and conditioning industry – all things considered – is booming. Now, more than ever, teams are hiring professional “performance enhancers.” You would think that we would be at an all-time-knowledge-high.
And we are. I guess. People are smarter now than they have ever been. But, really, this doesn’t mean much. Below is a paraphrase from one of the best coaches in the industry, Buddy Morris, from back in 2005 (around 7:25 in the video below). “Even with all of the latest and greatest training methods, the average time improvement in the 100m dash is .00512 second per year.”
But even though there are a few spotlights, some athletes – even of world class – are in the dark. Take Usain Bolt for example.
The fastest man in the world doing…explosive reverse curls? There isn’t enough hip bend to consider this a “power clean.” I feel bad for him, actually. But it shows you that great athletes will be great, regardless of how they train their general capacities.
What athletes should and shouldn’t do in the weight room is a book in itself, and its contents would vary depending on what coach would be writing.
Because of the term “strength” and “conditioning,” those two things are all the industry cares about. So when the head coach hires his buddy that has no real training knowledge, things can get ugly. Weight becomes more important than form. Exercises are chosen based on appearance and not effectiveness.
I used to think that an athlete could never have too much strength. Even now, I guess it’s true. But the problem is that an athlete with too much strength is probably spending too much time in the weight room.
Outside of Powerlifters and Olympic Weightlifters, the strongest athletes aren’t the best athletes. I can hear your panties twisting right now, but hear me out.
All – and I mean all – sports are a combination of general and specific skills. Strength, for most sports, is a general attribute. It’s nice to have, but it isn’t necessary. A strong squat may help you drive the ball further in baseball, but it’s not going to give you the coordination necessary to make contact. Barry Bonds was a hall of famer before he took a run at the homerun record.
And since strength is nice to have, getting it is fine as long as it doesn’t interfere with your ability to play or practice your sport. A Rippetoe inspired 5×5 squat volume workout is going to make the next few days miserable. You can’t practice when your legs are that fatigued. Save that kind of training for Powerlifters.
Now if you’re a 300lb lineman that doesn’t have the strength to fend off attackers, then maybe you need a bit more strength. In this instance, strength is a little more “specific” to the position, making it a little more important. But even still, you can’t forget about the more specific skills like footwork and blocking techniques.
If you can squat 500lbs, and you’re a bench warmer, get out of the weight room and start practicing your sport and your technique. If you play a physical sport and are getting manhandled, you might want to make sure you’ve got enough strength to throw around your opponent. It’s kind of that simple.
The base behind all of this is that you need to be a good athlete, regardless of strength levels. And being strong doesn’t make you a good athlete. If it did, more Powerlifters would be in the NFL as linemen.
Nevertheless, there are athletes like Desean Jackson that are naturally explosive, and other athletes that need a bit more strength to make up for their genetic inadequacies. But how you get “strong” is another topic.
Does it matter which type of squat an athlete does? No, probably not. Back, front, zercher, spider bar, box, whatever. They’re all doing the same thing, and that’s strengthening a squatting movement pattern.
For most athletes I think Kelly Baggett’s Vertical Jump Formula is a good target to shoot for. He says the day you’ll be satisfied with your vertical jump is the day you can:
A: Can squat double bodyweight
B: At 10% or less body-fat
C: With the movement efficiency to jump back and forth over a midshin level cone or string 20 times in 10 seconds.
How you get to those numbers is up in the air as long as it’s not interfering with your sport work. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that not everyone has to squat heavy so take what you want from it. But if you can hit A, B, and C, you’re not a chump. You’ll be fit for most tasks.
Now, I’m nearly killing myself for ending this here because this recommendation is a blanket, not to mention how loosely I’ve been using “athlete.” William the Refrigerator Perry certainly didn’t have less than 10% body fat and he turned in a fine NFL career. So take what you want from all of this, knowing that the rules change for every sport and every position within the sport.
It’s difficult for me to throw out numbers because the process isn’t that easy. Your athletic career isn’t locked if you meet A, B, and C above, but I’ll tell you that if you accomplish them you’ll have a competitive advantage – from a strength and conditioning perspective – against someone of the same skill level that doesn’t have them (as long as they apply). By the same restriction, not all athletes need to do the Powerlifts or Olympic Lifts.
Having said that, I’m going to do my best to throw numbers out there that make “sense,” using frequently used lifts. Meaning that if an athlete came to me complaining that they couldn’t make the team with these statistics, and blamed their (lack of a) career on not being strong, I’d punch them in the face.
Deadlift: 2.5x bw
Back Squat: 2x bw
Power Clean 1.75 x bw
Bench Press 1.5 x bw
Chin-Up 1.5 x bw or 25 reps @ bw
Overhead Press 1 x bw
Now, one of the reasons I created this post was because I got a question from a reader that asked me to discuss what the relationship between lifts should be. But, really, outside of the five above, I can’t say much.
I can’t say that if you back squat 315, that you should be able to front squat 275. I can’t say that being able to bench press 315 will allow you to do a planche, because the movements are different, the force angles are different, and the muscular contraction are different. Really, I can’t even say that benching 1.5 x bw allows you to overhead press anything more than 0.5 x bw because of how different they are. And part of this is because I don’t believe that an athlete needs to do both deadlifts and squats. Or both kinds of pressing. Or even power cleans.
Truthfully, you shouldn’t be looking for ideal ratios. The body is going to adapt to whatever you throw it’s way so if you bench frequently with no regard for rowing, you’ll be a better bencher than rower.
Look at what your sport consists of, and decide what lifts are most beneficial. Then do what you can do make those lifts as good as they can be to benefit you. Most of all, take a look at how strong you really need to be, and if strength is really your limiting factor. How much upper body strength does a soccer player need, really?
But, trust me. There’s certainly “strong enough.”