Kovacs' Big Lift: When is there Too Much Strength?

Recently a video of fan favorite and world champion shot putter Joe Kovacs squatting 770 pounds has been zipping around the internet. Philosopher Vern Gambetta asked a question and that has sparked an interesting discussion drawing in other great minds. Below is the text posted as we publish, have a read and join in.

Vern Gambetta
11 March at 1:19pm
I always ask- How much strength is enough? Saw where Joe Kovacs squatted 770 lbs.Have a lot of respect for Art Venegas, his coach, but I have to ask why? Strength you can use?

David Kerin
11 March at 1:31pm
Vern, how do you feel about the suggestion that power is expressed at / is a percentage of Max and therefore raising a max correspondingly raises the following percentages?

Bogdan Poprawski
11 March at 2:00pm
Not really, David. The important ingredient of power is TIME. Just raising "max" can kill the "time" element and this question was studied and answered some time ago.
Richard Thomson
12 March at 12 AM
If you one at the exclusion of the other. I guess it depends on the thrower.
Bogdan Poprawski
12 March at 8:00 AM
The day has 24 hours and recovery needs time. If one works on everything at ones, one won't get too far. Emphasis on particular areas in particular days of cycles is a must. Strength training takes it toll in time of recovery. Speed suffers be...See More
Richard Thomson
12 March at 8:04am
My philosophy with weights is always heavy followed by speed. 770 squats should be followed by 330 jump squats. You never exclude power work. Then complexed with dynamic plyos.
Bogdan Poprawski
12 March at 2:24pm
Power, as a function of time, is the rate at which work is done, so can be expressed by this equation:
P(t)=\frac{W}{t} - I cannot explain this any simpler than that ...

Jeff Gorski
11 March at 2:40pm
Even simpler.... if you can lift the same weight today faster than you could yesterday, your power has increased. Strength is ancillary, and usually it's what people refer to when they mean power, which in mandatory for improved sprinting, jumping and throwing results....

Jonny Tipton
11 March at 3:06pm
The ability to produce force in double support is paramount for throwers. He is 6 months out for the meet he is training for so why not focus on max strength? This is just one snippit of his cumulative training...just because he hit a massive squat doesn't mean we should question his training.

David Kerin
11 March at 3:52pm
Not addressing the program of the athlete mentioned, and not in major disagreement with the following statements. Perhaps I was too simplistic in my comment. My apologies.

Bogdan Poprawski
11 March at 4:58pm
Nobody is criticizing anybody. Art Venegas is my good friend and he knows what he is doing. The problem of doing "too much of this and not enough of that" will be always actual, because every athletes is a different animal.

Les Spellman
11 March at 4:58pm
His 770 is nowhere near his max capacity
Richard Thomson
12 march at 12:10am
Exactly. It depends on the speed and form of the 770.

Vern Gambetta
11 March at 4:58pm
I am not criticizing Art or anybody, I have been asking this question for 46 years. In fact had a two hour conversation with Art about this four years ago. I am thinking more and more that the answer is there is no answer. Highly individual.

Shaun Pickering
11 March at 7:31pm
Vern, I think you are correct when you say it is highly individual. The biggest issue here is what does it take for Joe to improve and this may have as much to do with mentality or what he personally responds to in order to throw far. Joe is without question an extremely strong individual, but the question you ask is if 350kg is required or is 300kg enough? In this case I believe Joe is happiest when moving big weights, it fits his psyche and is what he ”feels” will help him to throw far.
Art is smart enough and experienced enough to understand that this is what works for Joe whatever the science or books say.
At this point Joe has trained this way for some time and this is comfortable for him, but perhaps not for everyone or someone starting off his career, but it works for him at this point of his career.
I personally saw Joe throw way beyond the world record distance in warmup just a few days after benching 600lbs and squatting nearly 700lbs. Science suggests this should not be ideal preparation for such a big throw, but it works for Joe and he believes that it works for him!

Mark Hesse
11 March at 9:40pm
Not criticizing any particular coach or athlete because everything is so incredibly individualized. However, We coaches love to celebrate workout performance and all too often erroneously extrapolate those results to mean commensurate gains in sport competition performance - not always the case
I think the question is how does an increase in strength, power, speed, VO2max or any measure translate into a victory or pr

Carmen Bott
11 March at 9:52pm
Vern Gambetta I work with top wrestlers and some of the most powerful ones on the mats are weaker in the gym by conventional measures. So, your question is one I ponder everyday...

Norm Zÿlstra 
11 March at 11:40pm
If Joe was throwing 16,50m then yes, too much strength.
He seems ready for 22,50m so no, it works for him.

I seem to remember Adam Nelson commenting on his strength increase having a negative effect on his throwing one season but my brain is a bit mushy most of the time.

Sharon A. Allen
12 March at 12:40am
Excellent question!! New year with high school athletes. They are concerned that we haven't touched the weight room much. I said are you running faster than last year? They say yes. PR yet? Yes even better than my out door time... end of discussion...As we go to Nationals with more than 9 T&F guys!!
Like · Reply · 1 · 18 hrs · Edited

Dave Wollman
12 March at 11:15am
Shortens careers.

Adam Nelson
12 March at 11:33am
At some point you realize that the pursuit of maximum strength will no longer influence force - or put a different way, you don't throw any farther. This also tends to correlate with your ability to recover from heavy lifts too. Anecdotally, I can tell you that I was never as "strong" as I was in the late 90's. Strength in the weight room has correlates minimum to efficiency in the ring. And efficiency in the ring is critical to sustained performances.
Joe is still very young. He will likely still get some positive correlation between his strength gains and his throwing. It might be physiological or it might be psychological. It doesn't matter. And honestly, I don't see anyone in the world capable of beating him as long as he continues to remain healthy and MENTALLY sharp. He also happens to have surrounded himself with a great team in a great environment.
And for the record, Joe, that's I like the video of the lifts. And I like the social media buzz that follows. Get people talking about what you're about to do!

Replies 1

  • A couple of comments. I don't know if thier is such a thing as being to strong. If that was the case thier would be no drug testing. I would rather have an athlete moving 60 to 70% of a 770 squat then a man 60 to 70% of 600lb squat for speed. Same for any lift. The art of strenght in this country has been devalue in the colleges in most sports. Its only 25% of the equation but at the world level you cant give up anything. Staying healthy is not to hard if you setup big base periods , slow upward progression so the body can adapt and plenty of recovery time. Lifting needs to be revamp in the usa but the university strenght coaches have control and even put limits on athletes for certain lifts such as 225 for a female bench. Not good.

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