Thursday, March 5, 2015

Technique or Basic Strength - David Webster (1953)

Technique versus basic strength? I wonder how many times I have been asked that question during the past couple of months. From every lifter in the club, bodybuilders who read the mags, fellow instructors, and even in letters from friends comes the question. Blimey, we will soon have a subdivision of the cold war in the weightlifting ranks, with brawn in one corner and brawn in the other!

Come off it, fellows, this is not a question for the masses -- a general question -- this is a matter purely for the individual. It would be wrong to say, "Forget about basic strength and train for technique or vice versa." Each lifter must be studied carefully before arriving at any decision. Every lifter has a natural leaning to one of the two divisions and it is the other factor which needs most attention. We are a contrary bunch!

Two Contrasting Champions

Up here in Scotland we have two grand examples of each type. Champion of basic strength is our genial heavyweight Willie Simpson of Dundee and as a copy-book stylist lightweight champ Jim McIntosh would be hard to beat. Willie squats with 550 lb and can support terrific weights while Jimmy snatches and jerks record poundages with never a falter.

Mind you, both these fellows have strength and style, but as I have said each lifter has more of one than the other. That ambiguous sentence is correct when whichever way you read it. Surely it would be a big blunder to tell Jimmy to stick in with style training or advise Willy to spend some more time on basic power training.

If you agree with what has been said here then you must admit that a general rule cannot be laid down. Coaches should be careful in prescribing either strength or technique training as there are several difficulties met when the lifter goes off to practice on his own. Lifters bashing away at technique training are sometimes dismayed when a bodybuilder of similar weight can pull to the chest or heave overhead weights which equal the scientific lifter's best poundages.

What about the lad who had basic strength training planned for him? How has he fared? Can you imagine how disheartening it is for this lifter when after grinding away at squats, standing cleans, dead lifts and so on, he finds a slender pal can whip up the bar apparently without effort on the Olympic lifts. Just what can a man do?

Aim for Speed

Luckily the situation is not quite as black and white as it may seem. The strong lifter should use very light poundages at the start of a workout and concentrate on perfecting his snatch or clean technique. This forms an ideal warming up routine and style benefits. He can then carry on with his schedule on the usual lines but with many repetitions on the movements requiring coordination. He should never be satisfied with merely getting the bar to the finishing position; it must get there in good style.

He should aim for SPEED in all his lifts. Even when pressing, squatting and curling he should try to make each rep faster than the last. This does not mean to say that the weight should be light to obtain speedy movements, I said AIM for speed. The poundage on the bar will govern the actual rate of acceleration. Bodybuilders with an eye on the competitive lifts should practice heavy cleaning in the squat or split style as a leg exercise and heavy pressing in a competitive manner as an arm and shoulder builder.

For the 'Natural'

The lifter who is a natural athlete, is quick to react, and has good coordination on the Olympics should, in addition to a routine of presses, snatches, and clean and jerks, practice such things as squatting with the bar in front (front squatting), cleaning without splitting or squatting, and dumbbell movements. The snag is to fit all these into a single evening's work. When working with near limit poundages and low reps the recuperation periods between sets is considerable and the time factor can not be neglected.

Two Schedules

Try splitting your work so that pressing and snatching, and perhaps three assistance exercises, are used in Schedule A and pressing and clean and jerks plus three other assistance exercises are included in Schedule B. Using the schedules on alternate nights the fast lifts are still not neglected.

This is a subject on which much has been written, but my honest opinion is that this is a matter for the individual instructor and lifter to decide [remember that if you train on your own, you must play both of these roles. In this case you must be both the coach directing and the lifter performing].

It's all very well saying that all things being equal the stronger man will win; it is equally true to say that all things being equal the man with the best technique will come out on top. You see, dear friends, it is very seldom that all things are equal and so we must keep on trying to build more basic power and also improve our technique. BOTH are necessary and in great quantities, too, if the higher classes or true personal bests are the aim, and it would be very wrong to spotlight one particular aspect for all and sundry to copy.

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