More fallacies about Weightlifting
Fallacy #3: Bodybuilders, football players, wrestlers, powerlifters, etc. are stronger than weightlifters.
Accomplished bodybuilders have large, well defined and symmetrically proportioned muscles. They represent the ultimate in the development of maximum muscle size with minimum bodyfat. They are strong people, far stronger than athletes engaged in most other activities. Men like Reg Park, Bill Pearl, John Grimek and Dorian Yates (some of the strongest bodybuilders in history) are all extremely strong. Yet, with all of their strength and despite the amazing appearance of their muscles, they are simply no match for the best weightlifters in the world in terms of pure strength or power.
This is not meant to be a criticism of bodybuilders; their objective is to develop the appearance of their muscles as fully as possible, Their primary objective is not strength. Muscular development is the basis on which they are judged. If one bodybuilder's appearance is only slightly better than another's, and the one who looks slightly better is only half as strong as the other. the weaker bodybuilder will win. Strength delivers no advantage whatsoever in bodybuilding competitions.
Some incredibly strong athletes are to be found in the ranks of football, wrestling, field events and other sports in which strength plays a major role. But the strength performances of those athletes do not compare to the performances of elite weightlifters, whose special focus is on the development of pure strength and power as compared with athletes who must focus more on the skills and all around conditioning needs of their respective sports than on strength and power development).
Powerlifters are generally not quite as impressive in terms of muscular appearance as bodybuilders Powerlifters may be very well developed in certain areas of the body, but they will seldom have the kind of balanced develoment of each muscle group that bodybuilders have. Bodybuilders have an incentive to achieve all around muscular development since symmetry (well balanced muscular development throughout the body) is one of the bases on which they are judged. In some instances, the muscles of a powerlifter may be as large as those of a bodybuilder, but a powerlifter's muscles are almost never as well defined as those of bodybuilders; since their bodyfat is not as low, their muscles cannot be seen as readily. Consequently, the powerlifter's appearance is not as striking. What they give up in appearance, powerlifters more than make up for in terms of pure strength. Powerlifters are incredibly strong. They are undoubtedly among the strongest men walking the earth. But today, weightlifters, as a group, have the strength edge.
Many powerlifters will reject this notion out of hand. They will argue that weightlifting involves technique and powerlifting does not. They will argue that this distinction has three important consequences. First, since powerlifting only requires pure strength, the training of powerlifters is concentrated in that area. It makes sense, they reason, that training concentrated in a given area will lead to superior results. Second, the powerlifts themselves are designed to measure only pure strength, whereas the events that comprise the sport of weightlifting involve technique as well. Therefore, the champion weightlifter may not even be the strongest man in his sport, let alone the world. Finally, powerlifters will argue, powerlifting competitions consist of three events as compared with weightlifting's two, therefore powerlifters must have greater all around strength than weightlifters.
While these arguments have merit, none is as telling as it first appears, and all are refutable, Moreover, there are a number of arguments that can be made for the superiority of weightlifters that are not so easily dismissed.
For example, while the training for powerlifting is oriented more toward strength development than is the training for weightlifting, the argument about concentrated training fails on three grounds. First, while powerlifters concentrate on the development of strength, many powerlifters devote considerable training time to bodybuilding exercises to improve the support that some muscle groups give others during the performance of the
powerlifta. For instance, many powerlifters argue that increasing the size of the biceps muscle will have a positive affect on one's bench press, beca when the arms are folded up in preparation for beginning the bench press, a muscular cushion will be provided by the biceps. Many powerliftersale bodybuild for the sake of appearance and because they believe that increased muscular size will contribute toward the ultimate development of muscular strength. Regardless of the rationale large percentage of powerlifters like weightlifters devote at least some of their training to cons othe than the development of pure strength. Second, even if it were true that weightlifters devoted larger percentage of their training time to exercise other than those used for pure strength development, it would not prove that powerlifters spend more time on the development of strength This is because top weightlifters train much longer and harder that top powerlifters probably at least two to three times longer and in many cases four to five times longer. For example, Eastern European weightlifters generally train six days a week and most train at least twice a day. The average lifter squats at least once a day, while many top powerlifters squat once a week! Clearly, frequency of training is not proof of its effectiveness, but the argument that powerlifters devote more energy to strength development is patently false.
Finally, let us look at the percentage of training time spent on strength development. Top weightlifters spend almost no training time on bodybuilding exercises. There is virtually no one in the sport of weightlifting who argues that the leverage needed for weightlifting is improved by the development of certain muscles, that muscle size developed through bodybuilding will improve strength or that appearance should be achieved at the expense of developing non-functional muscles. More importantly, it is a myth that top weightlifters spend any significant degree of time on pure technique development. Most top weightlifters develop their technique at an early stage in their training. Once they have advanced from the novice ranks, they devote very little time to pure technique. It is true that top lifters spend a great deal of time practicing the lifts they perform in competition. In fact, the lifters from some countries, most notably Bulgaria, spend more of their time doing the competitive exercises (ie, the snatch and clean and jerk) than anything else. However, they are not performing these exercises solely for the purpose of developing technique (although they always perform the lifts with the best technique possible and make every effort to improve upon their execution of the lifts at every opportunity). Rather, they choose to do the snatch and clean and jerk (C&J) because they believe that these are the best exercises available for developing functional strength in the competitive lifts. Like many powerlifters who perform the bench press, squat and deadlift with the best form possible when they practice the lifta, weightlifters primary objective in performing these exercises to develop strength.
What about the arguments that the match and clean and jerk involve more technique than the powerlifts and that the strongest weightlifter does not always win? It is true that weightlifting involves considerably more technical skill than the powerlifts. In fact, as was noted earlier, one of the great sources of satisfaction in weightlifting beyond the development of incredible strength, is that of the mastery of a difficult skill. However, this skill tends to be developed at an early stage in a lifter's career, and by the time a lifter has reached the advanced level, it is nearly second nature. Consequently, at a high level of competition, most competitors are relatively equally matched in terms of technique. Therefore, victory goes to the stronger and more determined athlete. Similarly, at advanced levels of powerlifting, the technique differences tend to be small, and the stronger and more determined athlete will tend to be the victor. Naturally, at the very highest levels of competition, even small differences in technique can mean the difference between success and failure. This is true in powerlifting as well as weightlifting. In powerlifting there is the added technical consideration of who has the better bench shirt or knee wraps, items that support lifters while they perform. No comparable supportive items are permitted or are even of any use in weightlifting Therefore, in powerlifting, the strongest lifter may not always win either. However, overall, in both sports, the strongest athletes tend to win.
The argument that powerlifting is a better measure of strength than weightlifting because it consists of three events is also unconvincing for a number of reasons. First, weightlifting really consists of three (arguably four) separate tests of strength: the pull (which can be further subdivided into the snatch pull and the clean pull); the recovery from the deep squat position (more of a challenge from the low position in the clean than from the low position in the snatch:) and the jerk Each event requires different kinds of strength in differing degrees.
The test of leg strength in powerlifting is the squat; in weightlifting, it is recovering from the deep position in the clean. In squatting, heavier weights are handled than in cleaning. However, the squat performed in powerlifting is not nearly as low as the squat position in the clean, so recovery from the lowest position in the squat in powerlifting is much easier than recovery from the low position in powerlifting. In addition, the bar is not in as favorable position on the body in the clean as it is in the squat (i.e., while squatting with the weight behind the neck, on the shoulders or below, considerable weight can be shifted toward the back so that the strain on the legs is far lessl. Finally, it is not possible for weightlifters to wear the kinds of supportive devices that powerlifters de les power suits and belta) because they would be unable to move as quickly and as freely as is necessary in the sport of weightlifting. All things considered, the recovery from the deep squat position in the clean is at least as great, if not a better, test of pure leg strength as the squat performed in powerlifting competition. Both the squat in powerlifting and the recovery from the low clean position in weightlifting are ultimate tests of leg strength.
The second event in powerlifting competition is the bench press. The bench press is the best all around test of a lifter's strength in the muscles in the chest (pectorala), in the back of the arms (triceps) and in the front of the shoulder the anterior deltoidsl. A heavy bench is an awesome display of upper body power. However, in weightlifting, upper body power is tested in a different direction Coverhead) by the jerk. In the jerk, the legs and arms combine to drive the bar upwards from the shoulders, then the triceps and deltoids not just the anterior part, is in bench pressing, but the medial and even the posterior parts as well) take over to help secure the bar overhead. The same muscles are used in holding a snatch overhead as well.) Overhead lifting does not tax the cheat muscles in the way that the bench press does, so the bench press has the clear advantage in that respect, but it does tax muscles in addition to the side and rear deltoids) that are not tested at all in the bench press In holding a weight overhead, all of the supportive muscles of the trunk (eg, the abdominals and obliques) are tested to the extreme. Getting a weight overhead and bringing it under control are also displays of awesome strength in the upper body. However, just as there is no guarantee that the strength garnered from overhead lifting will translate into the bench press, so there is no assurance that an accomplished bench presser will have significant overhead strength. Therefore, both the bench press and the jerk test the muscles of the upper body to the extreme. Who has a more powerful upper body overall the powerlifter or the weightlifter? In way, it is really like comparing apples to oranges; both sports are wonders of nature and both are sweet to those who partake in them. Similarly, both sports are to be admired and respected.
Finally, let's compare the deadlift in powerlifting with the pull in weightlifting. Both involve lifting the barbell from the same position on the floor. In powerlifting, the object is merely to straighten up with the load. In weightlifting, it is to impart enough force to the bar so that it will go high enough, with sufficient speed, to permit the lifter to catch it on the shoulders (in the clean) or overhead (in the snatch). The mechanical positions used in the deadlift as opposed to the snatch and clean are somewhat different because of the ultimate purpose of the lifts; for example, in the deadlift the back is generally permitted to ''round'' or hunch, at least somewhat, while in weightlifting it is generally kept arched or at least quite straight. In weightlifting the muscles of the upper back (and sometimes even the arms) are used more than they are in powerlifting, because the bar is being lifted much higher. Which lift is greater test of bck strength? it is hard to judge. Both test the muscles of the back and hips to the maximum, but in somewhat different ways. Clearly, no other sports test the back and hips nearly as much.
Overall, which sport is a better test of strength Obviously, there is no clear answer. Both weightlifting and powerlifting are wonderful tests of human strength. The athletes of both sports are admired and respected by everyone in the iron game. However, for the athlete seeking the ultimate challenge in terms of competition, overall athlete ability and physical courage, weightlifting has the clear advantage. Weightlifting today presents the superior challenge. How can such a sweeping statement be made? Let's look at a few telling points.
First, there are far more athletes training for weightlifting today than powerlifting (probably at
least 10 to 20 times as many and perhaps many more) and they are training in many more countries of the world. Not only are the number and distribution of athletes in weightlifting much greater than in powerlifting, but there are also far more full time weightlifters in the world than powerlifters, so the real differences in terms of the number who are training seriously i.e., under professional conditions) are even greater than the ratios of 10 or 20 to 1 suggest. In addition, weightlifting is a much older sport, so it is far more developed in terms of technique and training methods. Finally, no top flight powerlifter has ever become a truly top weightlifter (among the current group of powerlifters, Shane Hamman looks like someone with the potential break that barrier). In contrast, weightlifters, even some who were not at all exceptional in weightlifting, have become successful powerlifters (several have become world champions). Therefore, I think there is little question that when the title of the world's strongest man is awarded today, it clearly belongs to the world champion in weightlifting, not powerlifting.
None of the above is meant to demean the sport of powerlifting. Powerlifters are heroic athletes, men and women who are building a new sport devoted to testing strength in a different way from the sport of weightlifting. Someday the level of competition and performance in powerlifting may rival or even surpass that of weightlifting, but that day is still a long way off, and it may never come. I truly wish powerlifting well in its struggle for advancement and recognition. However, the fact remains that today, for the athlete who is looking for the ultimate challenge in the world of strength competition as well as all around athletic abilityweightlifting has no rival.
This is not to say that an individual power may not be as strong as his or her counterparti
wichtlifting at a particular moment in time example, Ed Coan is an incredibly strong man whe, in this strongest condition, might have been stronger than the best 100 kg weightlifter in the world at the time. But overall, comparing the weightlifters in the world with be best powerlife (the latter without wraps and other supportive devices and performing comparable movement the weightlifters-e., full squats) the weightlifters will win.
The superiority of weightlifters over powerlifters in terms of power is even more pronounced. It should be noted that while laymen often use the terms strength and power interchangeably, from the scientifiestandpoint power and strength are entirely different concepts Strength has been defined in many ways, but in the context of athletics it can be defined as the maximum force which muscles can develop. In the laboratory it is often measured directly as the amount of force an athlete can generate against resistance. In the gym, it is generally measured by the amount of weight an athlete can lift one time (and no more than one time) in a given exercise.
Power is formally defined as the rate at which work is performed. For example, if athlete A requires one second to deadlift 250 pounds, while athlete B requires two seconds to perform the lift, athlete A would be considered twice as powerful as athlete B. In short, power is a measure of speed and strength.
Because powerlifters move heavy weights slowly, they develop relatively low levels of power when they perform. In fact, powerlifting is a poor name for that sport, it would be more appropriate to refer to it as strength lifting. Weightlifters, in contrast, lift weights as rapidly as possible (for technical reasons that will described in later chapters of this book). In contrast to powerlifters, they develop incredible rates of power when they perform-among the highest rates ever measured by sports scientists. There is absolutely no comparison between powerlifters and weightlifters with respect to power outputs; the weightlifters are far superior in terms of developing power when they lift.
When athletes are measured on a combined basis of strength and power, weightlifters are without question the winners. Powerlifters may come close to weightlifters in the area of strength, sprinters and weight throwers (e.g., shot.putters and discus-throwers) may come close to weightlifters in terms of the power outputs that they are capable of, but no athletes in any other sport possess the combination of strength and power of competitive weightlifters. They are hands down the strongest and most powerful athletes on earth.
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