Distinctions Between Static (Powerlifting/Bodybuilding) and Dynamic Weightlifting/Ballistic) Expressions of Strength in Resistance Exercises

Distinctions Between Static (Powerlifting/Bodybuilding) and Dynamic Weightlifting/Ballistic) Expressions of Strength in Resistance Exercises

Andrew Charniga

www.sportivnypress.com

“Coordination is to a great extent determined by the ability to actively relax the muscles”. Y.V. Verkhoshansky, 1988

Inter – muscular coordination is arguably the most important quality for athletes in dynamic sport. The development and  cultivation of this quality over the long term of an athlete’s career is closely connected with the athlete’s elasticity (compliance) and the ability to actively and reflexively relax muscles.

The effectiveness of muscular strength in dynamic sports should be defined as the the force of muscular contraction minus the internal resistance accorded the antagonist muscles; and, internal resistance from compliance of tendons, ligaments (Sokolov,1973; Moroz, R.,1980; Shuvalov, 1973). In theory, the less resistance from antagonists which should be relaxing as agonist muscles contract; and, less resistance to movement from compliant muscles tendons and ligaments;  the more effective, the more efficient the power of muscular contraction. 

Consequently, effective inter – muscular coordination in dynamic sports depends on the speed with which an athlete can relax his/her muscles. At the same time, negligible resistance to movement accorded exceptionally pliable muscles, tendons and ligaments minimizes internal resistance over a large range of motion in joints. The sum of these factors stipulates how the power of muscular contraction minus the least possible internal resistance is true measure of the effectiveness of strength in dynamic sports (Sokolov, 1973; Moroz, 1980; Shuvalov, 1973; Verhkhoshansky, 1988).  

Figure 1. University method of developing the ‘anti – strength’ for dynamic sports. Coach pushes against machine as athlete strains to move hands through controlled movement at the least possible speed, i.e, static conditions.

Various methods are employed to develop strength for dynamic sports. The sources of exercises and methods most frequently employed draw from weightlifting, powerlifting and bodybuilding. Consequently, a comparison of the characteristics  and of course the relative efficacy of these exercises and methods from these sources is of practical interest.    

Considering the overriding importance of coordination to dynamic sports as defined above, weightlifting exercises involve dynamic strength whereas powerlifting and bodybuilding  static strength.These are for the most part opposite qualities. Practical experience shows a predominance of static strength has negative consequences for dynamic sports. Static exercise carried to the extreme should be classified as the anti – strength for training for dynamic sports.

For instance, a diametric opposite of dynamic strength is anti – strength as shown in figure 2; with coach pushing opposite an athlete straining at a weight machine. Anti – strength exercises develop the opposite qualities of dynamic strength. There excessive tension in antagonists in such anti – strength endeavors with minimal to non – existent muscle relaxation; while at the same time all but destroying suppleness.

Anti – strength exercises applied chronically over time will carry – over to increased internal resistance to movement in dynamic sports. The overall effect will be to reduce speed of movement and endurance in dynamic sports.

“Success at lifting a barbell depends a great deal on the speed with which the athlete moves his body through the individual elements of the classic exercises.” N. I. Luchkin, 1962

A Logic of Fallacy

The list below contrasting characteristics between dynamic and static exercise reveals the clear – cut distinctions between the two. It would be hard if not impossible to make a rational case that strength developed through static exercise, i.e., powerlifting/bodybuilding is at all comparable; much less transferable to dynamic sports. Any attempt to do so is a logic of fallacy.   

Contrasting characteristics of weightlifting  and  powerlifting/bodybuilding {listed in italics}.

Contrasting Dynamics and Kinematics of weightlifting and powerlifting&bodybuilding exercises: weightlifting/powerlifting & bodybuilding

  • Large amplitude of joint movements/Small amplitude of movements;
  • Body moves very fast/Body moves very slow;
  • Large dynamic mobility in joints/Very small dynamic mobility in joints;
  • Slow to moderate (0.9 – 2.5 m/sec) barbell speed/Slow to extremely slow barbell speed;
  • Extremely fast muscle relaxation/Muscle relaxation extremely slow or non – existent;
  • Movement in multi – planes/Uni – planar movement;
  • Technical proficiency enhanced by coordination of strain energy with elastic recoil of bar/Use of strain energy minimized;
  • Large amplitude of barbell movement/Small amplitude of barbell movement;
  • Extremely fast switching of direction/Extremely slow switching of direction;
  • Rapid bursts muscle contraction/Prolonged slow speed of contraction;
  • Efficiency raised by increasing range of movement in joints/ Restricting range of movement in joints raises efficiency;
  • Maximum power generated by rapid switching directions and body positions /Power generated by muscle contraction;
  • Very fast switching of muscle agonists-antagonists/extremely slow to non – existent switching;
  • Feet switch from flat to on the toes/feet remain flat on surface;
  • Muscular development tends to favor lower center of mass/muscular development tends to favor higher center of mass.

Figure 2. Salient features of weightlifting are the speed of switching direction; the speed of muscle relaxation. Any attempt to quantify strength or power for dynamic sports in terms of muscle fiber types is academic fantasy. The greatest power outputs in sports are created from the energy released by spring mechanisms coupled with exceptionally fast muscle relaxation. Charniga photo.  

Of the contrasting qualities between static and dynamic exercises listed; virtually all the characteristics of the dynamic exercises are readily identifiable in dynamic sports which necessitate quick change of direction, speed of muscular contraction, coordination, speed of muscle relaxation, and so forth.

However, qualities developed with dynamic strength exercises (Olympic weightlifting exercises) are most often overlooked or simply misunderstood: the speed of muscle relaxation and the rapid switching from a flat footed posture to one of raised heels. Hence, the quote below form Soviet era weightlifting biomechanist that the weightlifter’s body will find the optimal movements to perform the task of raising a barbell:

…”the weightlifter as a self – tuning system is confronted with the always present task to find such a movement structure which conforms to the required laws of physiology and will produce the maximum motor – effect.” Zhekov, I., 1972

Figure 3. Elite female straightens trunk and legs with heels raised; believed to be a mistake of proper weightlifting biomechanics. This action introduces a fourth lever to perform the lifting: foot, shin, thigh and trunk. Just like the techniques of jumping, the subsequent extension of the combined levers produces a greater effect than a mere flat footed knee extension followed by a rise onto the toes (Schenau, 1989). Charniga photo. 

Power Expressed With Complex Equilibrium

The posture of the elite female lifter in figure used to be considered a premature raising of the heels according to the classic Russian model. However, compelling arguments  (“Can there be such a thing as an Asian pull?”, Charniga, 2015) indicate this premature activation of the calf muscles is not an error in technique; but, in fact a mechanical optimization of body’s muscle – lever system.

The quote below refers to raising the heels with knees still flexed in performance of the vertical jump. Weightlifting exercises share similar biomechanics with vertical jump technique: joint angles of trunk, knee and shin are close. This posture produces power more effectively than a flatfooted to heel raise follow through could, i.e., creating a leg spring mechanism.

By gastrocnemius muscle activation, a rapid extension of the foot is produced. This extension has a greater effect on the vertical velocity than the extension of the almost straightened knee. The energy is more effectively translated into vertical velocity and a greater height of the jump is achieved.” (Schenau, 1989).

Furthermore, more power is generated in sprinting than running. World class sprinters such as Usain Bolt can generate up 1,000 pounds of force with each instantaneous foot strike on the forefoot, i.e., with heels raised over a smaller support than flat footed. 

For instance, from the above list of contrasting characteristics and the example of the anti – strength exercise in figure 1 it is obvious the term powerlifting is oxymoronic. Power refers to force generated quickly; not slow prolonged tension. The extremely slow, small movement exercise depicted in figure 1 develops the anti – strength for dynamic sports because among other things the superfluous muscle tension of the antagonists create internal resistance. Relaxation of antagonist muscles is minimal to non – existent.

Consequently, high tension slow movements characteristic of powerlifting and bodybuilding improves one’s the ability to move big things slowly, against a backdrop of internal resistance from the athlete’s muscles.

Muscle relaxation, especially muscle relaxation faster than contraction, qualities permit fast movements with the minimal internal resistance from superfluous tension in muscle antagonists. High speed muscle relaxation permits a world class sprinter for instance to generate more power in a fraction of a second that a powerlifter could dream of. The rapid stretching of tendons and ligaments releases more energy, faster than is possible from mere muscular contraction:

“ elastic energy can be released, from a spring like element much more rapidly than a muscle can shorten while it generates significant force.” A. Biewener, 2015

The accumulation and rapid release of strain energy from tendons and ligaments is only possible in power events like weightlifting, sprinting, jumping and so forth if accompanied by fast muscle relaxation. 

Humans and animals are capable of generating far more power quickly utilizing natural spring like mechanisms than can be expressed in any powerlifting or bodybuilding exercise can with mere muscle contraction against heavy resistance. 

For instance, Usain Bolt was able to generate approximately 455 kgs (1,000 lbs) of force with each foot strike to achieve an speed of almost 11 meters per second. By contrast a Cheetah generates about 2,270 kg (5,000 lbs) of force per paw strike at a speed of 27 m/sec.

Consequently, rapid muscle contraction/relaxation exercises, incorporating strain energy from tendons and ligaments such as sprinting; with only forefoot strike; produce greater power, quicker, than mere muscle contraction with both feet flat on the ground as in power lifting.

The qualities developed from dynamic training are not only practical, the power greatly exceeds that produced form powerlifting/bodybuilding due to release of strain energy facilitated by rapid muscle relaxation.

Furthermore, the rapid relaxation of muscles characteristic of complex coordination exercises is a significant factor in injury avoidance allowing the fast redistribution and dissipation of mechanical energy in the even of unanticipated falls.

Figure 4. Rapid involuntary muscle relaxation along with extraordinary suppleness are invaluable qualities in injury avoidance. Charniga photo.  

Conclusions

Any attempt to compare the strength/power developed from dynamic sports such as weightlifting with that developed from powerlifting and bodybuilding is a logic of fallacy. The power expressed in weightlifting exercises has almost nothing in common with powerlifting/bodybuilding. Inter muscular coordination is the requisite to generate power in weightlifting exercises. The underlying ability of coordination skills is the ability to relax muscles rapidly; ultimately faster than muscles contract. Neither coordination nor muscle relaxation skills are requisite skills nor developed through powerlifting and bodybuilding.

Refernces

/ Falameyev, A.I., Salnikov, V.A., Kimeishei, B.V., “Some observations about weightlifting technique”, The P.F. Institute of Physical Culture, Lenningrad, 1980. Translated by Andrew Charniga.

/ Sokolov, L.N., “The Significance of Speed in Weightlifting and Methods to Develop it”, www.sportivnypress.com. Translated by Andrew Charniga.

/ Moroz, R.P., “Improving Flexibility (Mobility) with the Aid of Resistance”, Lenin State Institute of Physical Culture, publisher, Moscow, 1980. English translation: Andrew Charniga, Sportivny press, Livonia, Michigan 
/ Shuvalov, G.A., “Affect of the Ability to Volitionally Relax the Muscles of the Display of Speed – Strength Qualities”, Teoriia I Praktika Fizicheskoi Kultury, ?:1973
/ Verkhoshansky, Y.V., Fundamentals of the Special Physical Preparation of Athletes, FIS, Moscow, 1988. Translated by Andrew Charniga
/ Luchkin, N.I., Weightlifting, FIC, Moscow, 1962
/Biewener, A. A., Animal Locomotion, Oxford University Press, 2007
/ Charniga, A., “Reverse engineering Injury mechanism”, www.sportivnypress.com
/ Vorobeyev, A.N., Tiazhelii Atletika, FIC, Moscow 1972. Zhekov quotation, translated by Andrew Charniga

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