I have often heard the following comments relative to what I currently do in terms of strength training for the high school athletes I coach:
“Much research shows significant correlation between the power clean and VJ, lower leg power, short sprint performance.”
“You have failed to establish a correlation between deadlift load and sprinting.”
Here’s the reality: At no time have we ever said that the Deadlift is the key to increases in speed. We are careful to understand that correlation, especially the ones we find considering the unorthodox nature of our approach, does not equal causation.
What we have noted, and this was the thrust to Underground Secrets, is that the Deadlift protocol may be one way for the coach to implement gains in strength more tied to what research since 2000 has indicated about ground forces. And where is that research telling us? The only way we can travel at faster velocities is through the way in which we affect ground force production. Sprinters will always benefit from being able to express more force more quickly when they hit the ground. More muscle mass enables sprinters to run faster as a result of the application of higher ground forces. But as Barry has pointed out in Underground Secrets, this relationship must take into account that additional mass creates additional resistance which the athlete has to overcome.
One of the reasons I scrapped the different strength training programs I had involved my athletes in since 1975 was based on the following concern:
In every athlete who does any kind of program, HIT, Oly Lifts, etc., coaches observe that athletes run faster, and therefore assume that the protocol contributed to those increases in speed.
This leads to the following questions:
Question 1: Was it just the strength training protocol that resulted in the improvements?
Question 2: For the protocol to be “effective,” must it involve other protocols or ancillary lifts to achieve the desired effect?
Question 3: Must the protocol be periodized in some way. If so, is one periodization model more effective than any other?
Question 4: Is a particular strength protocol more effective than others?
Here’s my problem with this connection between strength and speed, at least as many believe:
Strength occurs in correlation with improvements in speed
Therefore, strength training causes improvements in speed
What many of us in the strength and speed world do, and I’m just as guilty in this regard as anyone else, it to draw a premature conclusion about causality after observing only a correlation between two or more factors. This specious reasoning, often referred to as a logical fallacy really needs to take into account several possibilities:
Strength training may cause speed improvement
Speed improvement may cause strength improvement
Some other factors may be causing improvements in strength and speed
There may be some combination of these factors that is leading to improvements in either speed or strength.
If the last possibility seems most plausible, then why not apply Occam’s Razor?
Why not reduce the assumptions by choosing among the host of strength program-- all of which seem “equivalent” relative to results claims--the simplest model? This makes training much easier, and avoids the problems of redundancy and uncertainty.