Is there such a thing as Being Too Strong?

  • Discussion of article Is there such a thing as Being Too Strong?:

    Over the last few weeks a video of Joe Kovacs back squatting 770 pounds has gone viral. My first thoughts were, “How mad is (Kovacs’ coach] Art [Venegas] going to be that this was posted on the internet?” and “That’s normal for a world class shot putter at that size.”

    See discussion of Vern Gambetta's post here [URL:…-there-too-much-strength/].

    Then a firestorm of opinions about the squat were posted, many in a slightly negative…
  • i am doing some personal research in the goblet squat.If when doing the squat one goes as far down as the Indian squat. the goblet squat seriously strengthens the inner thigh muscles and stretches and strengthens the hip flexors. if one does a forward lunge cupping the weight like the goblet squat it seriously stretches and strengthen the groin area and hip flexor in the other direction. These two moves will result in an increase in the throwers rotational speed therefore distance.

  • Sprint coaches have known for a long time that lifting heavy develops the fast-twitch muscle fibers. Allyson Felix's high school coach had her lifting heavy, and it certainly didn't stall her career.

  • There's some elements of this article that are contradicting and while I respect John Smith, I feel like he's way off about some things. First, let me say that I do whole heartedly agree that strength is absolutely a means to success in ANY throwing event. Obviously refining technique is equally important as well as development of specific strength relative to the event i.e. Heavy hammers, light shot puts, puds, discus tools, etc. When developing strength, 90% of a 1RM is mandatory and many times you must reach 100% or exceed it to create new levels of performance. To say that athletes don't do it out of fear of getting hurt means that they are either executing the lift incorrectly or their supervision (coaches) are teaching it incorrectly. This is especially apparent watching various NCAA athletes lift above 90%, including Johns athletes from SIU and Ole Miss. Watching them drop weight on themselves and struggle to push it back up with their legs flailing and elbows untucking, with no rear scapular stabilization is a pecoral tear or rotator tear waiting to happen. I believe Joe's video surfacing is great, because it finally shows him, a world champion and owner of a 74ft toss, that to throw (a shot put) far you must be capable of squatting weights like that. Joe had one of the cleanest raw 770lb squats out of any athlete or world class power lifter I have ever seen.

    Next, different events are going to require a different athlete, therefore strength levels will vary. In other words, while absolute strength is pivitol, one can't expect a javelin thrower to bench 500lbs to throw 80-90m. But for shot putting, you better damn well be the most powerful MF'er on the track. What John does address is the comparisons to drugs and he does so often when I read his writing. Yes, guys were pad pressing 800 lbs and girls pressed 465, and Brian Oldfield threw 94 feet once at Mt. Sac. Whenever drugs are brought up, it's irrelevant and stagnant to getting today's athletes better. These numbers are insane and if guys were actually as strong as you say they are, then throws would've / should've been farther. There are two things that are being done incorrectly today: 1., throwers are not as strong as they possibly can be. 2. They have coaches that are afraid to break them down and build them up regarding their technique because they need them to score conference and NCAA points, so if they can get a good result now, rather than develop them and get a brilliant result later, they take the easy road to protect their team and job. Most of them have horrible habits and it's incredibly difficult to watch them, knowing their ability, knowing their poor weight room habits, and knowing how little they perfect the fundamentals of any throw.
    Last, John has a list of mysterious disappearances in the throwing world. While most have to do with drugs, a few bother me because of how aloof we are. Hammer throwers have taken a sudden drop because their technique is awful and they aren't as physically strong (USA). The big standing throws you desperately desire...strength. USA discus throwing? Well here is your contradiction. Jared Rome and Ian Waltz had arguably the most horsepower out of ANY American discus thrower in decades and they never saw 70m, or close to without a hurricane. Romes bench was close to 550 and squatted in the 7's while Waltz was not too far away and yet, a stadium prelim would rear its ugly head, and suddenly we could not muscle a 2k into the tornado, and our discus would fall at 58-62m. Gerd Kanter would routinely show his lifting videos - he was a mid 400 bencher and squatted maybe 575-600. Do you think Alekna had hulking strength or was it because he was a technician and utilized his 6-7'ness? Our discus throwers are in the NFL and NBA, our Javelin throwers are playing baseball, and we get away in the shot put, because we can develop serious strength in little time, to mask the fact that years of technical work is missed. So in conclusion, learn your event and perfect your technique and get seriously, brutally, dangerously STRONG.

  • I'm going to put my ignorance on display here, as it appears to be tolerated practice (from some of the replies I've read). I'm not a throws coach. I was formerly the head strength & conditioning coach at Southern Illinois and had the distinct pleasure of working with Coach Smith for around 4 years. If anyone was going to criticize the man's strategies, it would certainly be me. For those who are not familiar with me, I will start by saying I believe in excellent execution of the clean, snatch and jerk and all associated/complimentary barbell lifts in order to maximize transfer of the weight room to the competitive environment. Some people would argue I drill perfection of these lifts to a fault with my athletes. I would argue "technique, technique, technique", John would argue "physics, physics, physics". I'm not here to beleaguer that point. He put it to rest a long time ago.
    What I am here to argue is the absolute, easily recognizable validity of the statements John made in his article above. While working with him, he completely redefined what my idea of "strong" was, and how appropriately and safely challenging the physical limits of your athletes, one can redefine your paradigm of training, durability, and ultimately accomplishment.
    John has some of the heartiest, most robust, and healthy athletes I have ever been around. I never once saw an injury occur in the weight room, even after watching what I (previously) would have considered "cringe-worthy" execution of olympic-influenced lifts. The important point here is that he had a SYSTEM of training that used "olympic-influenced lifts" at appropriate times to maximize the mammoth amounts of weight his athletes could safely and effectively move, in order to compliment the physics (forces) that his athletes where trying to manipulate out in the ring. His training sessions where better thought out than most strength & conditioning professionals I have been exposed to, implemented in a masterfully productive training environment, FUN, CHALLENGING, and executed in a manner that complimented his throwers strengths and shortcomings.
    The man is a master throws coach (doing more with less than any coach I have ever met), and one hell of a performance coach. He taught this old dog (who thought he had seen it all) some new, career altering tricks, and his athletes (as well as mine) will owe him a debt of gratitude for his influences. "Strong" is such a relative term, and it really depends on what you have been exposed to. I have a completely different definition than most coaches based on my time with John and Connie at SIU, as redefined by their athletes.

  • I should have mentioned in closing..that if you don't think you or your athletes should be lifting it, well then, you probably shouldn't. But if John taught me anything, "don't put your limitations on me or my athletes".

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