Dr Mel Siff and Istvan Javorek on Weightlifting Pulling Technique

Author: Dr Mel Siff Blog  //  Category: Dr Siff on Olympic Weight Lifting, Dr Siff on Resistance Training, Dr Siff on Training Theory, Main Content, Soviet/Eastern Bloc Training

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Here is some discussion from the IWF list between Istvan Javorek and myself
on the weightlifting pull:

Mel Siff wrote:

<I have just completed several hours of normal and slow motion viewing of
video tapes of several recent weightlifting championships, including the
European and World Championships from 1999 onwards in an attempt to assess if
most of the world’s top lifters indeed use the allegedly more efficient
pulling with little or no plantarflexion (heel raise) method vs the style of
pulling with prominent plantarflexion, as has been claimed by some present
day coaches. What I saw was that most lifters still pull with a significant
degree of plantarflexion, so it would be interesting to know why this is so,
assuming that this method should be regarded as archaic and inefficient.

This suggests one of several things:

Alternative # 1 The majority of modern lifters are lifting in an inefficient
manner and would improve their totals if they changed to the more flatfooted
pulling style?>

Istvan Javorek:

It would not help changing a consecrated athlete’s technique, but would be
more detrimental to his/her performance, due to “confusion” in neuromuscular
coordination (pathways). After Ivan Bosko , former Soviet Union head coach,
arrived in Romania and we started implementing the flat footed technique we
did correct as much as possible any technical errors of the “old ” lifters,
but mostly, we were teaching the flatfooted technique with the new generation
of athletes from the beginning .

Mel Siff:

<Alternative # 2. Those lifters have found that the plantarflexed pulling
style produces better results for them. In other words, different pulling
styles suit different individuals, but that the plantarflexed style suits
most lifters.

Istvan Javorek:

How I mentioned, if an athlete learned with plantarflexion, would be pretty
hard and time-consuming changing into flatfooted technique. It is obvious
that all of them feel more comfortable with the already-formed pathways- and
so will lift more with their technique. But this statement does not mean that
his/her plantarflexion technique is more beneficial than the flatfooted and
does not exclude the he/she would not lift more (in case of learning from the
beginning) with the flatfooted technique.

[Mel Siff: Not does it mean that the flatfooted technique is universally
superior - I am still trying to find some published biomechanical studies
which have shown that the flatfooted style is more efficient than any other
style of pulling.]

So forget about those “already formed” athletes. Start with the young ones,
from the beginning with the right technique. I have been coaching
weightlifting since 1968 and I have not met any beginning athlete to consider
suiting more plantarflexion versus flatfooted technique. It is the coach’s
duty and knowledge to adopt the right methods of finding out how to modulate
an athlete’s individual physical characteristics into the right technique. In
case of taller athletes for example, it could be a higher start position,
etc. But with a young beginner the most important to develop the right
musculature with the perfect technique and form. Then every athlete will
feel obviously easier with flatfooted technique.

[Mel Siff: Why is this "obvious"? It is obvious that any athlete will feel
that any well-established technique is easier than any attempts at trying a
novel style. So far, if one compares lifts of plantarflexed vs flatfooted
pulling style lifters across the bodymass divisions and over the years, there
does not appear to be any trend showing that either style of pulling produces
superior totals or safer lifting. Once again, I am seeking scientific or
biomechanically models which show that one of the two styles is suprior or
inferior to the other, but nobody has yet supplied the requested evidence.
Does it exist or do we simply have to rely on opinion and subjective
experience until such evidence one day emerges?]

Mel Siff:

<Alternative # 3. Most lifters don’t really concern themselves with what
happens to their heels during the pull and that they simply focus on pulling
as powerfully as possible, no matter whether this involves plantarflexion or
not.>

Istvan Javorek:

A lot of athletes are taught with bad technique at their clubs. Coming up to
the national teams, a national team coach can do just one thing: try to
correct small technical mistakes, but in the long run let the athlete to
perform how he/she learned .

Conclusion: An athlete who learned with plantarflexion, or let’s say with
improper technique, probably never will be able of correcting his/her habit)
and especially with heavy weight will act with his/her) very well formed
conditioning reflex way(pathway).

[Mel Siff: Are you stating categorically that plantarflexed lifting is
universally inferior to flatfooted pulling? If so, once again I respectfully
request seeing research which shows this to be true in terms of biomechanics,
thermodynamics or superior results for a large population of lifters of
different bodymass and different anthropometrics. Do you consider
Alternative # 3 also to be incorrect? Is there no room for individual choice
of pulling style? ]

When we tried in Romania, (after Ivan Bosko’s arrival) to correct or change
the old lifters’ technique, we learned that it is almost impossible, because
of the very strong pathways. So we better started with the young athletes to
teach very successfully.

Lifting very heavy weight with plantarflexion does not mean that the
respective athlete has good technique!! I’m sure if he or she would learn
(as a young beginner) the right technique he/she would be able to lift more.
Several times great coaches also do not pay too much time changing an
athlete’s technique for two reason: a)they are already successful with the
plantarflexion technique b)would make more damage than good to their
improvement.

[Mel Siff: Lifting very heavy weights or winning a world event with a
flatfooted style also does not mean that the lifter has good technique. Both
styles of pulling produce exceptional results - can we prove scientifically
that one style is universally superior to the other? Even in the absence of
laboratory biomechanical analysis, we can certainly use basic free body
diagram (theoretical) methods to show that premature plantarflexion is less
efficient than late stage plantarflexion, but I have not yet seen similar
free body analysis which shows that flatfooted pulling produces a more
efficient overall lift than plantarflexed pulling. So, even if nobody can
produce the required laboratory analysis comparing the two styles of pulling,
can anyone please produce some basic free body or other theoretical analyses
to take this comparison beyond the subjective level of commentary that we
have seen so far? Any offers from anyone? ]

As an example: In Romania in the late 1930s there was a young man from a
mountain village who, without too much preparation jumped over 7.50 cm in the
long jump using the grouping style and became Balkan champion. So, all of
the coaches from the national team became over excited and they were trying
to teach him Jesse Owens’s hitch kicking technique. So, after torturing the
poor guy for more than a year, he jumped 7.20 or so!!!

CONCLUSION : ** Never try to change a high performance athlete’s Technique!!
But make corrections and adjustments!! **

5. My main point is how Newton stated in his famous third law of physics:
“every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. Now. If your action is
forward (up on toes, moving the common center of gravity of body forward, the
reaction will be the athlete’s body will move in other direction and the bar
gets away from the torso.

[Mel Siff: Neither video studies nor biomechanical analyses show that
plantarflexion necessarily results in an accentuated horizontal force
component away from the body. The brushing or hitting of the bar against the
body in either style of pulling will produce that sort of horizontal force
component very easily. If the bar swings away from the body during
plantarflexed pulling that is more a consequence of poor technqiue than any
inherent weakness in that pulling style.]

And what is the most important: ** Never mix up a biomechanically correct
technique with any individual athlete’s technique. It does not matter if an
athlete is a world champion, still could have several technical mistakes,
which if are corrected could improve his/her performance.**

[Mel Siff: I fully agree with all of what you have written in this paragraph,
but both the flatfooted and plantarflexed styles may be executed efficiently
or inefficiently. ]

Dr Mel Siff
Denver, USA
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Supertraining/

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