Athletic Development

Athletic Development
Gambetta, V. 2007
Human Kinetics, P.O. Box 5076 Champaign, IL 61825 – 5076
Andrew Charniga, Jr.
Sportivny Press©

Since some of the ideas of this book are essentially the same as those in the book Functional Training for Sports, it is unnecessary to revisit them. It is essential to focus on the deplorable misinformation printed in the section about Olympic lifting.

Considering that some of the exercises presented in the tables 10.4 – 10.8 can be designated (with considerable justification) to be made up exercises “for sale” at seminars, the misrepresentation of the barbell exercises in general and the Olympic lifting exercises, in particular, begs repudiation.

Generalized misinformation

“Olympic lifting is a sport… a closed skill that occurs in a very narrow range of motion.”

What is an open skill? First and foremost Olympic lifting is a dynamic sport. The skill and power developed in dynamic sports have a high carry over value from one dynamic sport to another. For instance, it is rather easy to teach gymnasts weightlifting. The same cannot be said for static sports like bodybuilding and powerlifting. This is common knowledge.

Figure 1. High Speed switching of directions involves very rapid switching from contracting muscles to relaxing. Charniga photos.

Lifting a barbell from the floor to arms length over head in approximately one second for the snatch, or from the floor to arms length overhead in the clean and jerk are the largest amplitude (overall) power movements in sport, from maximum flexion of the knee, hip, and ankle joints to full extension of the arms.

The reader is asked to contrast these photos with those in the text on page 186. Olympic lifting movements are the only dynamic exercises where the athlete has to switch directions from up to down, in the same instant, and instantaneously begin to exert maximum force in the opposite direction.

There is more than sufficient justification to assert that the Track & Field throwing events, for instance, are only half as complex as weightlifting. In these events, all of the effort and skill is directed at releasing the implement at the highest speed (and the appropriate angle to the horizontal). It is at this analogous instant in the weightlifting exercises that the most complex part of weightlifting begins; the athlete switches directions at maximum speed and establishes a new base of support to “catch” (receive) the barbell. If the aim of any of the throwing events were changed to a throw and catch the implement for distance, the technique would change radically, i.e., become significantly more complex like weightlifting.

“There is no running, jumping or other demands on the system.”

Figure 2. Weightlifters jump down not up.  Charniga photos

This is categorically false. In weightlifting exercises, the speed of the barbell, the speed of the body’s movements, and the body’s individual links are all different. It has long been established that basic indicators for explosive sports such as vertical jump, standing long jump, five standing long jumps, sprints, and static pull improve along with a weightlifter’s results in weightlifting over time.

According to A.V. Chernyak (1971), the weightlifter’s results in jumping and other explosive strength exercises improve along with the improvement of results in weightlifting. It has long since been established that regardless if one is training to develop explosive strength in weightlifting or another dynamic sport like track and field where explosive strength predominates, the processes produce the same results, i.e. increased explosive strength. See data in table 2.

Table 2.
Qualification Ver. Jump (cm) High Jump (cm) Stand. Long Jump (m) Long Jump (m) Stand. Triple Ju. (m) Five Jumps
(m) 30 m Run 60 m Run
Novice 57±8 118±10 2.34±0.15 4.4±0.4 6.6±0.4 12±0,5
Class III 60±10 124±8 2.43±0.17 4.5±0.2 6.9±0.5 12.5±0.8
Class II 64±10 128±8 2.52±0.12 4.6±0.1 7.2±0.6 13±0.06 5±1 8±1
Class I 68±10 132±8 2.6±0.15 4.7±0.1 7.4±0.7 13.5±0.8
Master of Sport 72±6 136±10 2.7±0.2 4.8±0.3 7.7±0.6 14±0.8

“Doping” the reader

“…on the international scene, Olympic weightlifting is the dirtiest sport in terms of positive drug tests.” Not only is this statement false, it is irrelevant even if it were true. If the author is actually concerned about accuracy, the bare minimum of research would be appropriate. According to the figures compiled by The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) {}, the independent international body which is able to conduct unannounced, out of competition doping tests anywhere in the world, the sports with the highest proportion of positive doping results were:
2003: 1. Cycling; 2. Baseball
2004: 1. Baseball; 2. Cycling
2005: 1. Baseball; 2. Cycling
2006: 1. Baseball; 2. Cycling

These rankings listed, no doubt, were the reason why, “Baseball and Softball were voted out (of the Olympic program) in 2005 by the IOC.” According to the IOC, “Baseball has to strengthen its anti doping program if it wants to regain Olympic status” (USA Today 8/20/2007, page 11C). Furthermore, this does not even begin to reflect the hypocrisy of professional baseball which for many years had no policy against performance enhancing drugs; when they did ban the use of such drugs, they simply did not test the players; this, of course, assures a “clean sport.”

Also, the WADA data does not begin to reflect the problems in other sports like Track & Field “…a sport tarnished by drug suspensions and scandals” (USA Today 08/23/07, page 3C) where more exotic, undetectable designer drugs, insulin, and EPO have been used and not resulted in positive doping tests. Furthermore, the figures are not indicative of the complexity of a doping code where an over the counter supplement can cause a positive result.

Weightlifting has the most extensive drug testing program. All weightlifters competing at the Olympics, for instance, must be tested before they are allowed to compete; no other sport does this. The positives from weightlifting which have at occurred at the Olympics have been blown way out of proportion by the media. They are indicative that real testing takes place.

“The reason for pointing all this out is not to be negative or to denigrate the sport; rather than to put the emphasis on Olympic lifting into perspective.” This is statement which is merely an extension of the author’s aforementioned falsities about drugs. The purpose is to alter the reader’s perceptions to prepare the reader to accept the misinformation presented later in the book.

“Olympic lifters, in effect, are pre selected by their body types. To be successful, tall athletes with long limbs are quickly weeded out. Smaller athletes with shorter limbs … succeed.” One really cannot call this statement a falsity because the words ignorant and stupid come to mind. There are weight classes in weightlifting. It is very hard for a man 188 cm in height for instance to fit into the 56 kg weight class.

Any sport with weight classes is populated by athletes with a range of heights and bodyweights. Weightlifters tend to be shorter in the lower weight classes, in particular, because the training over the long period increases muscle mass; tendons and ligaments thicken while bone density increases. All of this makes is difficult to be “tall” and fit into the smaller weight classes.

Where does his “weeding out” take place? Does this “weeding out” occur in wrestling, boxing, and other sports with weight categories? These sports have many short people filling their lower weight classes.

Long limbs are not necessarily a biomechanical disadvantage in weightlifting. The author of this review, for example, found his “long limbs” were no hindrance to achieving high results in the snatch.

“Note that the Olympic lifting movements do not have to be done with a bar.”

Olympic lifting movements do have to be done with a bar! Otherwise, one cannot begin to develop the power, the skill, or benefit from the complex inter muscular coordination involved.

“…the dumbbell will always fit the body.”

It was pointed out in the review of “Functional Training” that the principal problem with teaching the Olympic lifts to most high school and college athletes is complicated by a lack of mobility in the lower extremities. Using a dumbbell to modify the established exercises avoids the underlying problem of the athlete’s lack of mobility; it, then, creates another because it simply shifts the emphasis away from the lower extremities and places it on the upper extremities.

No one should use dumbbells to do Olympic lifting exercises, modified or not! If the athlete is unable to do them because of a lack of mobility to develop the skill to lift a bar, a dumbbell is not going to solve the problem.

Sand bagging the reader

Without question the ultimate “exercise in ignorance” presented by this line of argument (an athlete does not need a bar to do Olympic lifting) are the illustrations of a female doing the “sand bag snatch throw” (page 192). Beginning with the hips high, trunk all but parallel to the floor, this bio mechanical silliness overloads the back and teaches the wrong habits. The athlete is forced to raise an awkward object further than appropriate from the body’s center of mass and shifts the stress from the lower extremities (where it needs to be) to the back (where it does not belong).

Apparently, since the author of this silliness has never learned how to lift a barbell correctly, or has no conception of the skill involved and the benefit to be derived, lifting sand bags might appear to be a suitable alternative to established exercises which have long since proven their worth for sport training.

The line of reasoning behind these so called “modifications” cannot have a sound basis in kinesiology or biomechanics. It is similar to the X Games mentality. “Traditional sports, … are stuck having to sell age old games that can’t be rejiggered… But the whole point of made for TV X Games… is everything can be updated to become more gnarly. Or rad. Or phat” (USA Today 8/01/2007, page 2C). Re jiggering exercises, the technique and the intrinsic value of which are well established may be gnarly, rad or phat, just not kinesiological nor biomechanically sound.

The book lists a number of professional references, none of which are cited as supporting this line of reasoning. Enough said.