Q: If a person is a speed strength athlete, can they reach their full potential just by simply practicing their sports skill in conjunction with using progressive heavy strength and hypertrophy loading methods in the weight room, or is it necessary to also use more sports specific explosive weight room lifting with loads in the 30-60% max range. I've read that this is called max power training, but I was wondering if and why it would be necessary, and why just simply practicing the specific skill along with getting stronger wouldn't be enough.
Yes they can but to get technical the effectivess of that approach depends on the explosive strength deficit. The explosive strength deficit is the percentage of a persons force potential that is not used in a given explosive movement. Some good measures of max force potential are limit lifts like squats, bench presses etc. Someone with a big squat and small vertical jump has a big deficit. Someone with a small squat and big vertical jump has a small deficit. Someone with a big bench press but poor shotput or weak punch has a big deficit. Someone with a small bench press but long shotput or hard punch has a small deficit.
If you have a small deficit that generally means that you're able to use a high percentage of your maximum force potential in your sporting movements - so you're able to take advantage of what you have. If you have a large deficit you're not. If a person can use their strength base efficiently training should be focused on acquiring a larger base (ie more strength or more size), and there's really much of a need for specific power work in the weight room. That's why most all professional football players simply train like a bodybuilder in the weight room to develop bigger and stronger muscles. They're efficient enough that they can easily transfer those bigger and stronger muscles into explosiveness on the field. For the person who can't already utilize a high percentage of their strength potential, any additional strength they do gain won't do them much good. They need to learn to work with what they already have. As I've said before, explosive training including submaximal weight lifting so called "power" work and plyometrics etc. helps you utilize what you have more efficiently. Max Strength training gives you more raw horsepower to work with.
The large majority of novice and intermediate athletes will advance everything by doing exactly what you suggested - spending more time building up their foundational strength qualities and letting the sport work itself take care of the explosiveness. I see too many guys who can't even squat 135 thinking they need to be doing all sorts of explosive moves in the weight room.
Q: When you speak about a speed strength athlete becoming too strong, do you think there is really such a thing as having too much muscle strength(size), or is it more an issue of not maintaining the adequate neural efficiency to utilize the strength?
Strength is never the problem it's the size that comes along with and the volume of training that can take away from the primary focus. The key factor is that to continue increasing strength you have to continually increase muscle size, - and not all added size is always functional for the sports task. For example, if you want to keep pushing your squat up and up and up, eventually you will reach a point where the size of your quads becomes negative for speed work so you're basically hauling around useless weight when you sprint. Additionally, you can reach a point where the volume of training that it takes for you to gain more strength takes away from your primary activities. If you're a sprinter you couldn't handle the routine of a powerlifter and expect to improve your sprint times. I wrote an article recently on my site about that very topic called "What's Up With Squats", and honestly most people worry about it far too much. Like you said, if it's just a matter of strength, no I dont think a person can ever become too strong.
Q: In the 10-8-05 q&a about hardgainer's gene, you stated towards the end that frequently changing exercises for a given muscle group can alter recruitment patterns and cause more microtrauma. My question is, does this mean that you believe in the possibility of regional hypertrophy of a given muscle group or that you can target growth in one area of the muscle moreso than the other with a particular exercise, such as the upper/lower chest targeting debate of inclines vs. flat bench, or is it true that all motor units of a muscle can be stimulated maximally with only one exercise for that muscle so long as the overload is sufficient?
A: You can't alter the shape of a given muscle but since most of what we refer to as "muscles" are really muscle "groups", you can target various muscles within a muscle group. For example, with quadriceps you have 4 different muscles, the vastus medialis, lateralis, intermedius, and rectus femoris.
By changing your type of squat, - full, half or whatever, you can target certain muscles more which gives your quads a different development and different look. For example, I can pretty much tell by looking at someone whether they squat deep or not as those that do will almost always have good vastus medialis development. Those that don't have no lower quad or hamstring development.
It's the same thing with upper and lower pecs. You can target more of the "upper" pecs because they involve both the pec major and the pec minor. You cant target the inner and outer pecs because they're the same muscle, the pec major. You can do it with arms - more overhead and work in the stretch for triceps develops the long head of the triceps to a greater extent. Utilizing exercises with the arms by the side tends to target the lateral head of the triceps. For biceps, reverse curls target the brachialis and incline curls target the long head etc. So yeah, you can change the focus within muscle groups but you can't target varying aspects of indivudal muscles.
Q: Hi Kelly. I have already read the first 20 or so pages of VJB and I skipped around a bit too. I read the "secrets that NBA players use" and it said that they didn't do much, if any training during the season as far as jump exercises, but they did do strength training at least once per week to maintain strength. I have a routine that I plan on following and I was wondering if you could tell me if it is optimal.
I have made it into 3 phases of 4 weeks each for once a week during my season. Would like to have your thoughts.
Phase 1 (4 weeks)
Paused jump squat-4 sets of 5 reps (30%)
Full squat-4 sets of 5 reps (85%)
Glute ham raises-4 sets of 5 reps
Phase 2 (4 weeks)
Hang clean-4 sets of 2 reps (80%)
Deadlift-4 sets of 5 reps (85%)
Lunge-4 sets of 5 reps (per leg)(85%)
Phase 3 (4 weeks)
1/4 Rhythmic jump squat-4 sets of 8 reps (20%)
Good morning-4 sets of 5 reps(85%)
Split squat-4 sets of 5 reps (per leg)(85%)
A: That routine looks good. I might suggest you start with 2 x per week and see how that goes and if it's too much for you then cut down to 1 x per week.