What Can Marinovich & Verkoshansky Teach Us About Weight Training's Transfer To Athleticism?
Does getting under the bar make you a better athlete?
In some instances-CrossFit, powerlifting, olympic lifting-yes. But how about other sports, like basketball, track & field, or MMA? The answer lies on the Force/Veloctiy curve. If we properly surf this curve, we can ensure training is personalized to the athlete.
If I'm working with a strongman or powerlifting (strength sports) athlete, then yes, we're gonna be lifting. When I'm helping an every day person remodel their physique, same thing.
But sports like basketball or MMA-two of my specialties-are more speed-strength sports. That is, they a series of explosive movements, often rapidly unloaded and reloaded, spread out over a period of time.
Other than maybe shoring up strength deficits (often the case in developing, youth athletes), how is squatting another 100lbs going to make a basketball player more explosive? Especially if the weight is heavy enough to make the movement slow? The answer is it's not.
Verkoshansky and Eastern Bloc sport scientists were (and still are) leagues ahead of most American trainers. In Supertraining, the best training textbook available, Yuri promoted the importance of personalization of training. In other words, he was one of the first to formally study and test applied science to prove what we now know-don't throw shit at a wall and hope it sticks.
Marv Marinovich was the godfather of what we now know as American team strength & conditioning coaches. Marv Marinovich, as Head Scout and Sports Performance coach for Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders, conducted an intensive, comprehensive field study regarding elite athletes and the factors that contribute to athleticism. After testing thousands of athletes at every major university in the country, Marv discovered the importance of the central nervous system as it related to sports performance.
Marv's study revealed that the athletes who held the records in the weight room played the least, were hurt the most and were never the best athlete in terms of speed, quickness, agility and lateral movement, dispelling the theory that the person who could lift the most weight was the superior athlete.
"Muscles simply contract and relax. That's it. The nervous system controls everything limb speed, power, agility, grace, body integration, timing, rhythm, balance and coordination. These elements define athleticism. The tragedy is that conventional weight training completely ignores the nervous system." This is Marinovich's stance on the matter. Our methods, field tested for over 20 years, help cause a reduction in the incidence, and decrease in the severity of sports injuries through the combination of creating muscular equilibrium with rapidly imposed loading to strengthen muscles and, as importantly, strengthen connective tissue, tendons and ligaments."
"Genetically gifted athletes excel in sports in spite of their conventional weight training regimens, not because of them. Conventional weight training depreciates athleticism because the rate of force production is too slow. The ability to lift or move a heavy weight slowly, is a different motor function than the ability to move at a high rate of speed---which sport demands. The two disciplines enlist completely different neurological components."
Marv's beliefs were driven by his evidenced-based practice-that athleticism could be reverse-engineered....that if he could name it, he could train it. This separated him from his peers who believed that athleticism was purely genetic and that nothing could be done to alter this mystery phenomenon.
Proof is in the pudding, too. Through the training of hundreds of elite athletes such as Tyson Chandler, Troy Polamalu, BJ Penn, Jason Giambi, Steve Finley, and many more-that the nervous system, which includes motor control, motor sensitivity, balance, kinesthetic awareness and proprioception, needs to be stimulated in order to be improved. This can only be achieved by a progressively challenging modality that includes instability and infinitely varied degrees of difficulty. By developing the nervous system, athletes who trained with Marv gained an increase in athleticism.
Verkoshansky also placed a high premium on these factors, including velocity-based training. "The development of velocity is practically limitless, because of the development of strength and of endurance, as well as the improvement of coordination, is unlimited." -Yuri Verkoshansky
Conventional weight training methods are counter productive to the speed of muscle contraction, because it puts muscle(s) under tension and then requires slow movement either pushing or pulling. It also can make your agonist and antagonist muscles co-contract, when in sports your ability to contract then relax is paramount.
What dominates athleticism, and sport, is the speed of muscle contraction and the ability to store and use elastic energy. The speed of muscular contraction depreciates as the weight increases. Conventional resistance systems ignore this fact. Strength coaches have their place, but they have invaded athletic training with minimal respect to whether their methods carry over to be sport-specific. In other words, their training styles often aren't personalized to the athletes' needs. Remember-you can't throw shit at a wall and hope it sticks.
Functional strength requires an integrative, multi-joint action which equals or exceeds the competitive requirements for speed, power, quickness and time taken to apply force. The conclusion one must come to is that to be an elite athlete; the time taken to apply force must be as short as possible. The discussion concerning the amount of weight an individual lifts is irrelevant since light loads can be accelerated much faster than heavier ones.
It's not the size of the muscles; it's the ability to apply force at a faster rate that determines the better athlete. In fact, as the speed at which direct force is applied increases---the importance of muscle mass and size decreases.
Conventional weight training beyond a certain point can actually promote injury, by creating muscle imbalance throughout the body. The use of heavy loads compromise and dangerously stretch ligaments, tendons and cartilage in all the joints. Every physical structure from a building to a human being has weight limitations which, when exceeded, lead to damage. Sports injuries to the ACL, MCL, PCL, meniscus, labrum and spine are currently occurring during training.
Conventional weight training conditions the brain that more tension produces better sports performance. This tension can then be stored in the body. It teaches a person to pump out that extra rep with all they can muster, which shows in the contortion and strain on their face. In fact, the opposite is true. The ability to relax and fire muscles at the highest rate of speed produces the greatest sports performance.
The distinguishing characteristic of Marv and Verkoshansky's (and my own) training is that in order to overcome the neurological system's tendency to stagnate in its responses, it is essential to optimally challenge the body. This is accomplished with the systematic and sequential progressive introduction of protocols with greater stimulus. The resulting superior nervous system function is the critical component which produces dramatic improvement in sports speed, power, quickness, grace, sports-specific skill and overall athleticism.
Parting Shot: There is a major problem when trying to use weights to improve speed and power. Typically, when you put more weight on the bar and try to lift it, it moves up more slowly. Hence, even if you get, "stronger," you also end up training yourself to be slower.
What if, instead, you had techniques to simultaneously increase both load and velocity? You would literally be changing the shape of the Force-Velocity Curve by expanding the curve to increase power. Such an approach could be the Holy Grail of athletic development. Thankfully, techniques exist that allow you to take this approach.
Using neuwave direct current electrostim to hack the nervous system to cause stronger, more rapid muscular contractions (and relaxations), without the fallacies of increased external weight load. Fast Twitch.