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Being Too Strong

Being Too Strong

A good friend of mine, Peter Ingleton, recently engaged me in a post on social media referencing great throwers and whether or not they can be too strong.  Despite Peter being from Canada and being as tall as a Yeti, not only do I respect his opinion but he has produced some of the best conversations on social media about strength/throwers.

About a week ago, Peter shared this quote from the great Ulf Timmerman's coach, Didier Poppe:

“The results of the East German athletes were systematically credited to their doping programme, but not many people have been considering their preparation methods and training philosophy of developing power, not maximal strength or, a fortiori, hypertrophy. Therefore the max strength virus is still active among the throwing circles and infecting many athletes (among them big names!) with people bench pressing or squatting enormous loads in multiple reps and posting their ''exploits'' videos in the public medias, spreading the virus further! ... We are not done with this pandemic!”

In short, the general feeling among high-level throwers is that power is the ultimate goal, not max strength. And thus, one can be too focused on max strength and not developing power.  Specifically, the power needed to throw an implement with a constant weight (shot put/discus/hammer). 

I've seen this come up many times in articles and discussions and can't refute it.  Ulf Timmerman was a tremendous shot putter and compared to many of his competitors, not as strong.  There are many examples of this in the throwing world.

My argument to Peter and anyone is that young coaches/throwers read this and 100% believe it/buy in.  The only problem is that Ulf Timmerman and others were still very, very strong.  And these young coaches and athletes fail to see that and ditch any kind of maximal strength work.  Even if they are not familiar with these particular discussions about throwers, they have heard/read other similar arguments.  And instead of building a general base of strength using basic methods, they adopt ineffective and often times dangerous training methods that their weak athletes are wholly unprepared for.

Does a power athlete need to bench press 500 pounds? Probably not. But they should be able to do a push-up with their bodyweight.  Do they need to squat 800 pounds? Certainly not. But be able to do perform a squat with their bodyweight on the bar isn't asking too much.

And before the hands go up and the screeching begins, I've seen many examples of young, out-of-shape kids doing highly advanced jumping drills while not being able to do basic bodyweight movements.  And for those that are getting defensive about your Super Soviet Ballistic Jumping Depth Squats - if you 100% believed in what you are doing then you wouldn't be screaming like a immature adult.

I'm certainly not a "Strength is Everything" kind of coach.  We train in a balanced and systematic manner and I never rush putting weight on the bar.  But I do understand that having a solid base of strength can do wonders for all areas of athletic development.  So before you attach a parachute to your athlete and make him run on an overspeed treadmill while making him recite the Illiad, perhaps he should be able do cross the monkey bars.

Like I told Peter, "I'm not saying I have all the answers or am perfect. What I'm saying is that I have better solutions to the thumb-suckers out there."

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