Q: Can strength training without weights have the same effect than with them?

A: Yep, it's not so important how you build the strength what's important is that the strength gets built. That's why you can take gymnasts and put them in the weight room and they're strong as hell. If you can to a set of 8 single legged free standing squats (aka a pistols) all the way down with a 3 second hold on each one, as well as lower yourself under control on a natural glute ham raise over 6 seconds, then you're usually gonna be pretty strong. I actually prefer to start very young athletes out with bodyweight progressions. You can read about them in a previous q&a here:

Q&A 43

Q: I know 10-12% bodyfat is supposed to be good shape for athletes, but how come all the super high and fast sprinters and jumpers are like 5% or less, michael jordon, ben johnson, you (in your picture you seem 5% bodyfat) justin gatlin. If I, who am around 10% body fat got down to 5-7%, would that help me run faster and jump better cause I would have lost like 8 pounds of fat baggage and gained muscle?

A: What you will find in those athletes you mention is the lean body is just a side effect of their hyperactive internal nervous systems and it's the things internally that mainly enable them to move around so well. Guys like that rarely do anything special to achieve and maintain that leaness.

In other words, you can't really compare someone who's naturally at 5% bodyfat to someone who has to practically starve and exercise himself to death to get there. The physiology between the 2 would be entirely different. With hard core dieting, or the achievement of a very lean physique even in the absence of restriction, comes reductions in metabolic rate, thyroid, testosterone level, and sympathetic nervous system output. None of those are good for power and speed expression. The tricky thing to do is find the proper balance between leanness and metabolic functionality. Yes, it's true if you strip off fat you have less to carry around but that does no good if you lose half your horsepower doing it so you gota find that optimal range. Most people struggle at under 8% bodyfat unless they're naturally that way so I would consider that a lower limit for most.

So yes, you can improve your performance by getting leaner but the moment your energy suffers due to restriction, or by you getting leaner then your body wants, is the moment you've shot yourself in the foot.

Q: Which weight excercise do you think can help the most with lateral velocity and agility? Haven't seen a lot of machines that work the abductors/adductors. This is an often forgotten part of basketball training, since nobody seem to care about defense these days, but I really want to defend better, and right now, even if I concentrate on defense, people seem to go by me effortlessly.

A: For lateral movement there isn't a singular exercise that is superior, yet in the weight room I'd focus on compound single leg movements such as lunges and bulgarian split squats along with wide stance movements like sumo deadlifts and box squats. For plyometric exercises you want to build the ability to move lateral and absorb force. A single legged on /off box jump outside and inside works well. Instead of going forward and back on the box you just go left and right. And finally the actual movement skill itself and other assorted agility drills. The 5-10-5 football drill is a good one for that as are shuffle drills and kariokas. Hope that helps.

Q: Are you working on anything else, now that your vertical jump development bible is released?

A: Yes, Im working on a series of training courses and manuals that make up what I am tentatively calling the "No Bullcrap Series". They include, No bullcrap bodybuilding - How to consistently gain up to 8 lbs of muscle per month without turning into a fat piece of lard in the process. No bullcrap sports training - What is the higher-faster-sports "system" anyway? No bullcrap speed and agility training etc. The name of the series might change, but for now I like it. :)

Q: I was wondering if you could explain the differences in nervous system adaptation that occur between improving one's ability to move heavy max strength zone loads with more power vs. improving one's ability to move lighter loads such as one's bodyweight with more power. (strength-speed vs speed-strength) I know about the difference in time frames, (.2 seconds for sports vs. .4 to.6 seconds for max strength) but I wanted to know what exactly happens in the nervous system that results in greater external power output between the two strength types. Also, is it just a coincidence that Fred Hatfield could squat his max load real fast and had a great vertical as well, or is there some degree of correlation between the two.

A: The main difference is not internal but external. Performance in the strength movement will rely more on muscle and performance in the the bodyweight movement will rely more on the ability to utilize elastic energy in the tendons. Additionally, when a load is above 30% of max, the size and strength of all the available muscle fibers, both fast and slow twitch, is of prime imporance. However, when a resistance is less then 30% of maximum, performance is highly dependent on the proportion of FT fibers as the slow twitch aren't able to contribute much due to the faster contraction times.

So to sum it up you could say:

speed strength = ability to get muscles turned on and efficiency of movement (neural factors) + elastic energy storage in tendons (plyometric ability) + amount of horsepower generated by fast twitch muscle fibers.

strength speed = ability to get muscles turned on and efficiency of movement (neural factors) + total amount of muscular horsepower generated in all muscle fibers.

One interesting thing you can do to help grasp the difference here is take a group of athletes and have them perform weighted throws with some sort've weighted implements of different weights. Medicine balls or even some type of handball works pretty good for this as does a simple bench press throw on a smith machine. With the balls, you can choose any style of throw that you want including overhand, backwards toss, single arm etc. as long as you keep the throw the same. Now start with the heaviest implement and see how far the athletes can throw it. Then go to the next lightest and work your way down until you're down to the lightest implement.

What you will find is athletes who are naturally faster and more explosive may not have the furthest throws, yet they will tend to have superior performance on the lighter throws, and more importantly, they will have a disproportionate increase in the distance of their throws as the weight gets lighter in comparison to the average athletes. For example, you might have one thick 400 lb bench presser and another speedy 150 lb bench presser. The 400 lb presser might look impressive throwing 150 lbs up in the air, but then when only 20 lbs is on the bar the 150 lb bench presser is neck and neck with him or might even blow him away.

Regarding Fred Hatfield, yes I believe there is a correlation between his squatting performance and leaping ability as he was also a gifted athlete in many other endeavors such as gymnastics.