Weightlifting and Method of Instruction

A.S. Medvedyev

Moscow, FiS, 60-61:1986

Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.


Weightlifting and Method of Instruction

A.S. Medvedyev

Moscow, FiS, 60-61:1986

Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.©


Chapter V

Fundamentals of Strength Training

A.I. Falameyev

General Concepts of Strength. A man’s strength is the ability to overcome an external resistance or that of his own body. The stronger the muscle coping with a significant resistance contracts stronger.

There are two forms of muscle contraction: static and dynamic.

Dynamic contractions occur in two types of work. The muscle shortens when the resistance overcome is less than the tension the muscles develop. This is overcoming work.

If the external resistance is greater than the muscle tension it lengthens

The Interaction of Physical Qualities

It has been established that a man’s abilities (physical and psychological) develop and are displayed specifically in response to specific irritants. In sports these irritants take the form of various exercises designed specifically for the training as well as unforeseen hindrances which can occur in training and competitions (or special creations of the coach).

An interconnection and interdependence exist between the developmental levels of strength, speed, flexibility, dexterity and endurance. An insufficient or excessive development of one of these qualities interferes, at the required instant, with the display of another quality or inhibits its further progress.

Good flexibility enables one to more fully realize rational sport technique. The sportsman’s speed of movement depends on his flexibility (it should be noted that strength exercises develop joint mobility).

The perfection of motor habits is associated with a specific interconnection in the development of all physical qualities. One is not able to perform effectively under the most difficult conditions when this connection is out of balance. A diminished or significant elevation in the developmental level of one of the qualities creates a disassociation between them in motor activities. The means of strength training and the methods of developing strength are peculiar to each type of sport.

The general and specialized development of strength

An optimum display of strength in competition activities is an indicator of high sport mastery. It is best to take into account the concrete structure of the motor actions which are necessary in the sportsman’s training because of the high specificity of the training effect for strength. Special strength is developed directly by practicing the competition exercises or exercises close in kinematic, dynamic and rhythmic characteristics.

Strength training for sports can be conditionally divided into two stages:

Stage One. Developing general strength is the focus of the training in the preparatory period. All of the fundamental muscle groups are worked: the legs, trunk, shoulder girdle and arms. Barbell exercises are the best means for this stage. The sportsman does not try to perfect technique of his sport specialization. Here in order to avoid injury, one concentrates on learning self – assurance and the skill to utilize the exercises for developing strength in certain muscle groups with desired type of strength: explosive strength, fast or slow, static. The length of this stage depends on the condition of the athlete, his physiological development and the type of sport (an average of 20 – 30 sessions). Thrower, wrestlers, rowers, hockey players and soccer players spend longer developing general strength than other athletes.

The second stage (the competition period). Exercises are selected to develop special strength by taking into account the type of sport activity (those muscle groups are developed which are important to the individual elements of the competition exercise). Rowers, for example, employ exercises for the extensors of the legs and trunk and the flexors of the arms; gymnasts need to develop the arms and shoulder girdle. Fast movements are good for strengthening the legs (for developing explosive strength); smooth, slow movements with a specific portion of explosive action, for the arms and shoulder girdle.

To improve the leaping ability of the goalie in soccer you need to develop the explosive strength of the legs (with a barbell on the shoulders from various starting positions quickly straighten the legs or jump upward).

The stage of special strength training is longer for the highly – qualified sportsman and in those sports where strength is the crucial factor for the improvement of results. Three to five exercises with weights are used per training session to develop special strength, for strengthening the joints and ligaments or for developing flexibility in the preparatory period (the special – preparatory stage) and at the beginning of the competition period.

The Topography of Strength Development

The concept of the “topography of strength” concerns the maximum strength ratio of an athlete’s muscles and muscle groups. If one were to measure the strength of the individual muscle groups or the amalgamation of muscle groups of two athletes from two types of sports essential distinctions would be found which are noticeable with the rise in sport mastery. For example, gymnasts have stronger arms and shoulder girdle than track and field jumpers; rowers have a high standing strength (isometric deadlift) and jumpers have well developed leg muscles.

A knowledge of the topography of strength for each type of sport allows one to determine the key muscles groups to focus on training from the very first lessons and the corresponding means and methods to develop them.

The dynamic method of developing strength with the overcoming regime.

The repetition method. In order to eliminate mistakes and develop strength with simple exercises when beginning strength training use the repetition method with a constant weight. The sportsman does 2 – 4 repetitions with an established fundamental weight and repeats with the exercise without changing the weight.

Mastering the technique of the snatch and the clean and jerk is connected with the formation in the cerebral cortex a movement motor dynamic stereotype or functional systemness. In order to achieve this one uses the repetition method with increasing weights (also for the special warm – up). The weights increase 2.5 to 10 – 15 kg per set and the number of repetitions per set is 2 – 4.

The repetition method can be utilized to develop local strength endurance of specific muscle groups, speed and slow strength.

The repetition method is classified according to the weight of the barbell: large intensity (2 – 6 repetitions per set); moderate (6 – 10); small more than 10 repetions per set.

The method of large loading (85 – 95% of maximum) chiefly develops slow strength.

The moderate loading method (weights which are 75 – 85%) develop strength, strength endurance and is suitable for increasing muscle mass (one can develop speed and explosive strength employing low repetitions with these weights).

The small loading method (weights less than 75% develop speed – strength and local strength endurance when a large number of repetitions are employed).

We should point out that one should bend and straighten the joints at low speed to develop slow strength. It is best to perform all movements with maximum speed and with low repetitions in order to develop speed – strength, speed and explosive strength.  

The number of repetitions per set increases to improve local strength endurance.

The competition method with constant loading is employed in training to simulate competition conditions. The classic exercises are performed for one repetition with the same weight (like in competition). The competition method with varying weights allows one employ work conditions close to those found in competition. The exercises are performed for one repetition just like in competition. The weight increases depend upon the object of the lesson (to educate concentration, tactics, etc).

Factors affecting the development of strength

The amount of weight, the speed and amplitude of the movement, the number of repetitions, the rest interval of all have significant affect on the development of strength.

Strength increases relatively uniformly at the beginning of training, independent of the amount of weight of utilized in the exercises (if the amount of weight exceeds a specific minimum 35 – 40%). Therefore, it is unnecessary to employ a significant amount of weight right off the bat; subsequently, the weight of the barbell should increase.

One can rely on recommendations developed for weightlifters to determine the optimal training weight.  However, there is not very close correspondence in this regard, to athletes of different specialization. In majority of cases it is advisable to go by the sportsman’s best result in the snatch and in the clean and jerk.  However, athletes are unsure as to their best achievements in these exercises, particularly the more specialized their training.  Therefore, one can determine the optimum training weight for the majority of exercises by going by the best result in the squat.  It has been established that the fundamental training weights for squats (with the barbell on the shoulders) is within the range of 70 to 82% of the best result in this exercise.

For the other exercises one should employ the following fundamental training weights (as a percentage of the maximum result in the squat): power snatch with 40 to 50%; classic snatch with 45 to 55%; snatch pull with 55 to 65%; power clean, push jerk and the classic clean and jerk with 55 to 65%; clean pull with 70 to 80%.

Depending upon the speed of straightening, or bending, the joints, weightlifting exercises can develop strength differently; explosive strength, for instance, is developed when the movements are executed with great speed. A different type of reconstruction takes place within the central nervous system and within the muscles themselves, the when the barbell is moved at slow speed. The muscles accommodate to work which is connected with slow, smooth movements and with static tension.  It is essential to remember the high specificity of the training affect: the body adapts its functioning to those activities which it carries out.

Weightlifting exercises performed with multiple repetitions and with a small amplitude of movement in the joints (and the closer to static tension) causes changes to the muscles’ morphology. The belly of the muscle shortens a little and the tendon lengthens. When one performs this dynamic work with a large amplitude of movement, the opposite occurs:  the muscle lengthens and the tendon shortens. This is the reason weightlifting exercises without full range of movement, with small amplitude of movement in the joints causes a decreased range of motion; but, an increase in muscle diameter. Consequently, strength exercises performed with the greatest range of motion in the joints are better for developing strength because they alter the muscle morphology in a “useful” manner.

Static exercises and exercises which performed with only partial movement amplitude are particularly harmful for children and juveniles; because their motor – support apparatus is still developing as well as the development of their muscular system.

It is inappropriate to increase significantly the number of lifts with the barbell in order to increase strength effectively, because this only develops special or local endurance.

The body adapts to the prolonged work and to the depletion of energy resources, i.e., by increasing the volume of the non – contractile structures of the muscle fibers. In order to increase absolute strength (when there is an increase in both muscle mass and strength) 5 – 6 repetitions per set are recommended.

Of decisive significance is the rest interval between sets, which is usually 2 – 3 minutes. The rest interval increases when a large number of repetitions are performed.

The Dynamic Method of Developing Strength with the Yielding Regime

With a maximum Loading. The resistance for the low class sportsman in yielding exercises is 80 -100% (of the maximum in the given exercise) with a lowering time of 4 – 6 seconds. The procedure for the high class weightlifter is 120 – 140% weights with 4 – 8 second lowering time. One to three yielding exercises should be included at the end of workouts (repeating each 5 – 6 times). Exercises for speed, flexibility and relaxation should follow these exercises. Well then, the development of strength with this method involves lowering very heavy barbells (or other loading) to the platform. This method of developing the strength of the legs and trunk involves taking the barbell from stands and slowly squatting without recovery with the aid of safety apparatus for lowering it to the platform or raising it to stands.

With medium weights. This is the same method as just described distinguished only by the amount of resistance employed. The barbell of a normal training weight is lowered slowly (after a snatch, clean, squats or pulls, etc). The athlete needs to use medium weights with this method and gradually increase it to maximum.

The Shock Method of Developing Strength

Basically this method of developing strength involves a very intense Stretching (yielding regime) of the muscles at impact from landing after dropping onto almost straight legs from a specific height followed by a rapid contraction of these same muscles during the rebound upward.

So, the affect on the muscles in this instance comes not from a weight but from overcoming the inertial forces resulting form a free – falling body.

With this method the mechanical, unconscious muscle stretch precedes the active contraction. The muscles’ reaction to this stretching is impossible to obtain with other methods.

The rapid, forced stretching of the muscles has a profound influence on their physiological mechanisms to respond to extreme mobilization of motor resources and therefore have high training effect for developing explosive strength. One develops the ability to rapidly switch from yielding to overcoming work. Special equipment is not required to strengthen the legs with the shock method.

It is easy to dose and learn the training loading; and switching to another form of muscular activity relieves the monotony of the workout.

One drops such that the free fall is strictly vertical. When one drops from a gymnastic horse or another such stand, one steps forward with the left foot, for example, the trunk leans forward slightly; as the drop begins the right foot is brought in line with the left. Rubber mats are placed at the point of landing to absorb the shock; the depth of the jump can be regulated by increasing or decreasing the elasticity of the matting.

The knees need to be bent slightly upon landing. One lands beginning contiguously with the front of both feet then the heels follow. A large bending of the knees upon landing is not permitted. A deep half – squat hinders the subsequent take – off and the speed of the leap. On the other hand, a small amplitude of squatting is undesirable. This increases the shock of the landing but makes a take – off at full power more difficult. The amplitude of bend (at the instant of landing) and the subsequent extension (for the take – off) at the knee and hip will be too small and result in a lower training effect.

One has to immediately execute a very powerful leap upward to a specific point, upon landing. The sportsman should perceive the amortization at the instant of landing and the subsequent vertical flight as a single movement with the accentuation on the take – off.

One can jump up to grasp gymnastic rings then drop and perform another leap. You use this method of leaping and “sub – leaping” for the special warm – up.

It is very important to have the correct dosage of jumping: the height of the drop (increases the intensity), the number of jumps in a series and the number of series.

The optimum jump height depends on the athlete’s bodyweight. The normal size athlete should gradually increase the height from 0.3 m to 0.7 m. The height should be decreased to 0.5 – 0.6 me for athletes heavier than 100 kg.

The number of jumps in a series should not exceed 10; there should be 3 – 4 series in one workout (of 10 jumps per series). It is appropriate to include depth jumps 2 – 3 times per year; no more than 3 – 4 weeks in a row; a maximum of 10 sessions of up to 380 – 400 jumps over a 4 – week cycle.

Methodical Recommendations.

  1. One needs to gradually approach the optimum training load in depth jumps, with respect to the number of jumps, intensity etc.
  2. It is useful to perform the depth jumps after the basic workout.
  3. One should do a special warm – up before the depth jumps (various jumps, leaps to a low height (0.3 – 0.4 m).
  4. Exercise to relax the leg muscles should be done between series 3 – 5; the rest between series should not be too short.
  5. The rest time between series need not be regulated but in is not appropriate to lengthen it.
  6. You must reduce the training load on the legs when depth jumps are included.

   The Static Method of (Isometric) of Developing Strength

There is a difficult segment in every weightlifting exercise. The sportsman creates angles in the corresponding joints for strength development with the barbell in the hands (narrow or wide hand spacing, arms raised or lowered), on the shoulders or on the chest, by holding the weight at those difficult segments for 5 -6 seconds. A moderate tension is employed with this method. Various weights are employed. Research shows that the optimum tension is 40-50% of the maximum static strength; 5-10 isometric tensions are considered optimum for one training session.

The method of maximum tension is very similar to the method of moderate tension. A maximum tension occurs with no change in length. A special device is employed for this method or a very heavy barbell which does not permit the muscles to shorten or a change in joint angle (elbow, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles). The bar is placed in a stand which restricts its movement or various accommodating devices are employed. The length of the maximum tension is 4 – 6 sec; the optimum number of repetitions is 5 – 10.

It is important to understand that after 6-8 weeks of isometric training will cease to yield positive effects in strength development. However, isometric strength does not “transfer” over to dynamic strength. Some authors have indicated that there is an increase in muscle mass with static loads, a strengthening of the ligaments, shortening of the muscle fibers, and increase in the area of the muscle’s attachment to the bones; there is also a strengthening of the connective tissues of the muscles, a “knitting” of neighboring muscles and the formation of muscle – tendon “anastomosis”. All of this has a negative affect on muscle elasticity, on their ability to stretch and relax, and an unfavorable effect on those sport exercises which require speed strength and precise movement coordination.

Isometric exercises are associated with significant expenditure of nervous energy, breath holding and straining. This is why one has to be cautious using isometrics, especially with children and juveniles.

Isometric tension cannot play a major role in the strength training of athletes; because the dynamic regimes of muscular activity are predominant in sport. The transfer of the work capacity from static exercises to the sportsman’s competition actions will not be very effective because of differences in neuro – muscular coordination. The adaptation of the muscles to static and dynamic exercises is reflected in morphological and bio-chemical alterations. Furthermore, isometrics develop strength primarily in those positions where one trains the muscles. They can be utilized in those sports where static tension is displayed: elements of combat sports, hockey, gymnastics, skating. Static exercises should be preceded by dynamic exercises.

It is recommended that breathing and muscles relaxation exercises be performed after isometrics.

The Mixed Method of Developing Strength

It is useful for sportsmen of different specialization and preparedness to employ a specific ratio of dynamic and static methods. It goes without saying, the preference is for the dynamic regime of overcoming work. Nevertheless, sportsmen often employ mixed regimes of muscular work alternating overcoming with yielding and isometric exercises.

For instance, in the snatch, the clean, or pulls the sportsman executes the first part very slowly, with pauses; then accelerates the movement in the final acceleration and then lowers it very slowly. Similar methods are used for presses and other exercises. And, there are variants. For example, front or back squat (down) slowly (for 10 sec) the stand quickly; squat down slowly and stand slowly until the knees and hips are at an obtuse angle the straighten the legs very quickly; hold the position for 4 – 6 sec when the joint angle is 90° or another position typical for a specific sport.

Mixed regime exercises are particularly useful for those sports involving a combination of overcoming, static and yielding types of activity: gymnastics, cycling and skating, trampoline, motor cycle, etc.

There are other methods of developing strength (electro – stimulation, muscle stretching, isokinetics) but they require special devices and for this reason are not covered here.

Peculiarities of Strength Training Methods for Juveniles, Girls and Women 

The body of the juvenile is distinguished from that of the adult not as much by the dimensions of the organs as their functional potential. This stipulates some peculiarities in the strength training methods.

Some research has established that resistance exercises produce noticeable increases in muscle mass beginning only from age 13. One should develop physical qualities with a wide variety of means combined with a large portion of speed exercises up to this age. One can use significant weights for developing general and special strength only after the age of 13.

However, the volume and intensity of the training load needs to be restricted the larger the volume of speed – strength exercises designed to develop speed and explosive strength. The selection of exercises is important. It is useful at this age to devote a larger portion of the strength loading to strengthening the legs and trunk and less for the arms and shoulder girdle. Using bigger weights to strengthen the arms and shoulder girdle involves breath holding and straining which are inappropriate for children and juveniles.

The training methods employed for female athletes depend upon the peculiarities of their organism. Women are weaker than men. Their skeletal structure is slighter and they have relatively less muscle mass. The muscle mass of a man is 40 – 45% of his bodyweight (50 – 56% for weightlifters); whereas, it is no more than 35% for females. Women have more body fat (up to 28% versus 19%) than men. Therefore it is inappropriate to take into account only bodyweight with respect to recommendations for the amount of weight to use for strength exercises. The weights for women need to be 5 – 10% less than those recommended for men.

It is common knowledge that sportsmen lift comparatively large weights in training but approach these weights gradually. Research shows that women develop strength at a slower rate than men and that their maximum indices are far removed from men. Therefore it is very important in the strength training of women to adhere strictly to a gradual increase in the volume and intensity of the training load especially for weight training beginner.

Women cannot employ all weight lifting exercises. For instance they should not do front squats. The volume of strength training exercises (especially with girls) should be limited.

Strength Training to Improve the Function of the Support – Motor Apparatus

The development of flexibility. Any sport action is connected with a certain flexibility which allows one to perform the movement with the required amplitude. It is known that complex motor actions performed with limit tension (and this happens frequently in competition) require a specific “reserve mobility”, because the muscle antagonists begin to contract prematurely when there is powerful excitation. In this instance it affects the performance of the exercise with the usual amplitude of movement; which diminishes competitor’s possibilities.

It also known that the development of flexibility with the exercises of one’s particular sport are specialized in accordance with the motor actions the athlete performs in training and competition. This is the reason “general” flexibility does not improve. The changes in flexibility create a reserve in those joints which are central to the movements of the specific sport.

The majority of strength exercises can be utilized to increase the flexibility of the various joints.

In order to improve mobility in a certain part of the body one should concentrate on those muscles which impede some movement of flexion or extension, to achieve a larger amplitude of movement by improving the mobility of the corresponding joints or joint. One needs to avoid even the smallest muscular tension to do this. It is desirable to try to relax these muscles; so that they will be forcefully stretched by the weight of an apparatus.

One should hold the position for 10 – 20 sec when the apparatus reaches the lowest position. It is also useful to lightly bounce up and down with a gradually increasing amplitude of forced muscular stretching. You need to do flexibility exercises regularly or flexibility will noticeably decline, quickly.

Joint mobility and flexibility need to be developed in those actions typical encountered in the specific sport. However, the athlete should also to employ a wide variety of exercises for increasing joint amplitude in other movements.

One should not do stretching exercises with weights when fatigued because of the potential for injury. Stretching exercises with resistance need to preceded by a good warm – up; you need to warm those muscles which are about to be stretched with weights, as well those joints which are to perform large amplitude movements.

Exercises for improving flexibility and joint mobility.

  1. Stand with legs straight and lean forward and perform a bouncing – springing motion with a barbell (on the shoulders, or in the hands) or with dumbbells, kettle – bells (in each hand). You can increase the difficulty of the exercise by standing on a box. The weight should be increased gradually.
  1. Sit on the floor, legs are straight and spread apart, bend forward with a bouncing – springing motion twisting to the left then the right leg (with a barbell, kettle – bell or dumbbells on the shoulders)
  1. Lie on a bench grasping dumbbells in the hands; arms straight raise and lower the arms with the arms straight. The weight should be increased gradually.
  1. Stand with one foot placed on a bench in front of the athlete; the knee is fully flexed, the left leg is straight and placed backwards; holding dumbbells or kettle – bells or a barbell on the shoulders; bounce up and down, then reverse the foot positions.
  1. Sit on a bench with one leg placed forward, the other backward (like in gymnastics splits), grasp dumbbells or kettle – bells (or place a barbell on the shoulders) bounce up and down. Begin with very light weights then gradually increase.
  1. Stand with feet at shoulder width, grasp a barbell or dumbbells and hold them on straight arms overhead; squat down, stop in the low position then stand up. This exercise is for developing mobility in the ankle and shoulder joints and the lumbar area of the back.

Strengthening the ligaments. Resistance exercises can be used to develop strength and joint mobility. They can be a prophylactic means to prevent stretched ligaments and for strengthening the joints. Strong muscles, firm, elastic ligaments are good safeguards against injuries. It is necessary to identify those muscle groups, joints, ligaments which are susceptible to injury; then, to select appropriate exercises and systematically strengthen these muscle groups, joints and ligaments. It is important to perform resistance exercises through the whole range of a joint’s movement.

Improving Posture and Athletic Physique with Resistance Exercises

The right and left side of a person’s body are not symmetrical. Typically the muscles on the right side of the body are better developed. The vertebrae are also asymmetrical; they have different arches. There is some asymmetry in the structure of the legs. If this asymmetry is very noticeable it is indicative of poor posture. In the majority of cases the aforementioned insufficiencies are the result of the “irrational” development of certain muscles groups: the stronger muscles exert a tonus which pulls the levers towards them; and the weaker muscles are unable to counteract the pull of the stronger, which in turn causes deviations from the norm and spinal curvature.

Exercises for the corset muscles have a positive affect on posture. Barbell exercises are very useful here to develop the muscles of the left and right sides of the trunk uniformly and effectively alleviates stoop shouldered posture. The muscle groups which are lagging in develop need to be singled out for development in order to achieve a harmonious development. Dumbbells and kettle – bells are very useful in this regard to concentrate the development on specific muscle groups and even individual muscles. Therefore, it is necessary to be knowledgeable of muscle anatomy in order to accurately target the origin and insertion of the muscle for posture improvement.

It is common knowledge that weightlifting exercises allow one to significantly increase muscle mass, i.e., to develop those muscles which are underdeveloped.

Muscle mass is increased faster if the exercises are performed with significant weights (70 – 82% of maximum in the exercise) from 3 – 4 up to 7 – 10 repetitions per set. The exercises need to be performed smoothly without sharp movements. You don’t want the apparatus to move under its own inertia. The muscles need to be under tension throughout the entire movement. The joints should fully flex and completely straighten.

You can increase the strength and size of the muscles two ways. The first way is to select exercises which affect both sides of the body simultaneously. Barbell curls for example. The second method involves selecting exercises which affect one muscle or muscle group on only the left or right side of the body. For example, curls with the right arm, then switching to the left. This method is the most effective for developing muscle mass but the workouts take significantly longer.

It is important to make a stipulation. The best way to increase muscle mass is to perform a volume with the same weight repeated several times with rest intervals. After the muscles have been loaded sufficiently (up to 30 – 40 repetitions) switch to another exercise. It is inappropriate to do the same exercise twice in the same workout.