Category Archives: Allen Hedrick

Dumbbells For Massive Legs

Dumbbells For Massive Legs
Exercise, including resistance training, acts as a stress on the body. We’re accustomed to thinking of stress as a negative, but when it comes to training, stress applied in the correct doses is a good thing – because stress is the trigger that causes physiological adaptation to occur.
For example, apply the correct amount of aerobic stress to the body and it will adapt by becoming more aerobically fit. Similarly, apply the correct level of stress using resistance training, and the body reacts by increasing muscle size and strength. Thus, when it comes to training, stress applied in the correct doses produces positive results.
However, one of the challenges for lifters is that the body adapts quickly. The trick, then, is to manipulate the stress of exercise often enough to keep the adaptation rate at an optimal level while avoiding becoming over trained.
While there are a number of variables (e.g., rest times, sets and reps, training speed, training intensity) you can manipulate to keep the stress of resistance training elevated, one of the most significant variables to manipulate is exercise selection.
By providing exercise variation each workout, and then adjusting the specific exercises performed every 4-6 weeks, the body will continually be faced with an elevated level of training stress.
For the lower body there are the typical barbell lower body exercises (squats, deadlifts, and straight leg deadlifts) that can be performed along with various exercise machines (leg press, hack squat, leg extensions, etc.).
However, one variation that isn’t often considered is performing lower body training with dumbbells. I’ve been using dumbbell lower body exercises to supplement the barbell lower body exercises we perform with my collegiate athletes with great success for a number of years now.
Some of you might be thinking that it will be impossible to overload the musculature of the lower body using dumbbells, but I guarantee that if you perform these exercises with strict technique and high intensity, you’ll be fully aware of your training the next day.

Training with dumbbells also provides some specific advantages:

Variety. 
Safety. 
Novelty. 
Even when performing an exercise that requires the barbell to be held in the hands, such as a straight leg deadlift (SLDL), the load placement still differs because the barbell is held in front of the legs, in contrast to performing SLDL’s with dumbbells where the dumbbells are held to the sides of the legs.
When the load placement differs the muscle recruitment pattern, by necessity, also changes. This variation in muscle recruitment helps keep both the stress of exercise and thus the rate of adaption elevated.
The following are some of my favorite dumbbell variations of the classic lower body barbell exercises. In terms of programming, use the same training protocol on dumbbell days as barbell days.
For example, if in a hypertrophy training cycle, do these dumbbell lower body exercises for 4 sets of 8-12 repetitions with 60 seconds of rest between sets. If in a strength cycle, perform 5 sets of 3-6 repetitions with 2 minutes rest between sets.
To assist you, exercise technique instructions are provided as well as common mistakes to avoid. Video demonstrations are also included, so that you can see the exercises performed correctly.

Dumbbell Squats

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Hold the dumbbells along the sides of the body.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Arch the back, keep the head up.
  • Maintaining an arched-back position, initiate the movement by sitting back at the hips.
  • Continue to sit back until a parallel thigh position has been achieved. The center of the hip joint should be at the same height as the center of the knee joint.
  • The heels should be down. The knees can drift slightly forward of the toes, be kept in line directly above the toes, or be lined up slightly behind the toes, depending upon what’s most comfortable to the athlete.
  • Leading with the head (as opposed to lifting the hips first) return to the starting position. The back should remain arched and the head should be up.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not achieving a parallel thigh position at the bottom of the movement.
  • Initiating the movement with the knee joint moving forward rather than initiating the movement with the hip sitting back. Often this can result in the heel lifting off the ground because of incorrect position.
  • Lowering the weight too quickly rather than controlling the movement during the descent.

Dumbbell One-Legged Squats

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Hold the dumbbells along the sides of the body.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Arch the back, keep the head up.
  • Reach back with the left leg and place the left foot on a bench or plyometric box that’s approximately knee height.
  • The right foot should be placed far enough forward of the bench that you are now in a lunge position.
  • Maintaining an arched-back position, initiate the movement by sitting back at the hips.
  • Continue to sit back until a parallel thigh position has been achieved. The center of the hip joint should be at the same height as the center of the knee joint.
  • The heels should be down. The knees can drift slightly forward of the toes, be kept in line directly above the toes, or be lined up slightly behind the toes, depending upon what is most comfortable to the athlete.
  • Leading with the head (as opposed to lifting the hips first) return to the starting position. The back should remain arched and the head should be up.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not achieving a parallel thigh position at the bottom of the movement. This is especially common when performing a one-leg squat so emphasize correct depth.
  • Initiating the movement with the knee joint moving forward rather than initiating the movement with the hip sitting back. Often this results in the heel lifting off the ground because of incorrect position.
  • Lowering the weight too quickly rather than controlling the movement during the descent.

Dumbbell Front Squats

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Place the dumbbells front to back on the shoulders, with the back end of the dumbbells resting on the shoulders. The hands should continue to grasp the dumbbells, with the elbows held high so that the dumbbells are level rather than the front end being lower than the back end.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Arch the back, keep the head up.
  • Maintaining an arched back position, initiate the movement by sitting back at the hips.
  • Continue to sit back until a parallel thigh position has been achieved. The center of the hip joint should be at the same height as the center of the knee joint.
  • The heels should be down. The knees can drift slightly forward of the toes, be kept in line directly above the toes, or be lined up slightly behind the toes, depending upon what is most comfortable to the athlete.
  • Leading with the head (as opposed to lifting the hips first), return to the starting position. The back should remain arched and the head should be up.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise. Focusing on keeping the elbows high will help eliminate this problem.
  • Not achieving a parallel thigh position at the bottom of the movement.
  • Initiating the movement with the knee joint moving forward rather than initiating the movement with the hip sitting back. Often this results in the heel lifting off the ground because of incorrect position.
  • Lowering the weight too quickly rather than controlling the movement during the descent.

Dumbbell One-Legged Front Squats

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Place the dumbbells front to back on the shoulders, with the back end of the dumbbells resting on the shoulders. The hands should continue to grasp the dumbbells, with the elbows held high so that the dumbbells are level rather than the front end being lower than the back end.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Arch the back, keep the head up.
  • Reach back with the left leg and place the left foot on a bench or plyometric box that’s approximately knee height.
  • The right foot should be placed far enough forward of the bench that you’re now in a lunge position.
  • Maintaining an arched-back position, initiate the movement by sitting back at the hips.
  • Continue to sit back until a parallel thigh position has been achieved. The center of the hip joint should be at the same height as the center of the knee joint.
  • The heels should be down. The knees can drift slightly forward of the toes, be kept in line directly above the toes, or be lined up slightly behind the toes, depending upon what is most comfortable to the athlete.
  • Leading with the head (as opposed to lifting the hips first) return to the starting position. The back should remain arched and the head should be up.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not achieving a parallel thigh position at the bottom of the movement. This is especially common when performing a one-leg squat so emphasize correct depth.
  • Initiating the movement with the knee joint moving forward rather than initiating the movement with the hip sitting back. Often times this can result in the heel lifting off the ground because of incorrect position.
  • Lowering the weight too quickly rather than controlling the movement during the descent.

Dumbbell Lateral Squats

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a stance that’s substantially wider than shoulder-width.
  • Hold the dumbbells at arm’s length in a line directly under the shoulders.
  • Keeping the left leg straight squat back and to the right.
  • Lower the hips through a full comfortable range of motion.
  • The right knee can drift slightly forward of the right foot, be kept in line directly above the right foot, or be lined up slightly behind the right foot, depending upon what’s most comfortable to the athlete.
  • The back should remain arched and the head should stay up through performance of the exercise.
  • Return to the starting position and then repeat in the opposite direction until the desired number of repetitions has been completed.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not lowering the hips through the full comfortable range of motion.
  • Allowing the knee of the leg that’s supposed to remain straight to bend.Ê For example, when lowering to the right the right knee should bend but the left knee should remain fully extended.

Dumbbell Lunges

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Keeping the left leg stationary, step out directly forward through an exaggerated range of motion with the right leg.
  • At the forward position the right knee should be over or slightly forward of the right foot, the left leg should be bent with the left knee just off the floor, and the back should be arched with the head up.
  • Return to the starting position with the right leg and repeat the movement with the left leg.
  • Make sure to return to the starting position in one aggressive step; don’t take more than one step to return to the starting position.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not taking a full stride length step as you move to the forward position.
  • Allowing the knee of the rear leg to touch the ground.
  • Taking more than one step to return to the starting position.

Dumbbell Side Lunges

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Keeping the left leg fully extended take a long direct lateral step to the right.
  • Once you plant your right foot, shift the hips back so you achieve a full comfortable depth and range of motion.
  • Keep the back arched and the head up during performance of the exercise.
  • Return to a shoulder-width stance with one aggressive step.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Allowing the knee of the “post” leg to bend rather than keeping it fully extended.
  • Taking an incomplete recovery step so that a shoulder-width stance isn’t achieved before initiating the next lateral step.

Dumbbell Arch Lunges

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Imagine an arch in front of you, each point of the arch is a stride’s length away from you.
  • Divide the arch up into sections based on the number of repetitions you have to perform.
  • The first repetition will be to the bottom right corner of the arch, the last repetition will be to the bottom left corner of the arch.
  • Each step is a gradual progression across the arch, starting at the right corner and ending at the left corner.
  • Keeping the left leg fully extended take a long, direct lateral step to the bottom right corner of the arch.
  • Once you plant your right foot, shift the hips back so you achieve a full comfortable depth and range of motion.
  • Keep the back arched and the head up during performance of the exercise.
  • Return to a shoulder-width stance with one aggressive step.
  • The next step will be a gradual progression towards the opposite side of the arch.
  • Continue until all the repetitions have been completed and you’ve progressed from one corner of the arch to the opposite corner.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not returning to a shoulder-width stance before initiating the next step.
  • Not progressing in sequence from one corner of the arch to the opposite corner with each step.
  • No steps should be directly forward to the center of the arch. Every step should involve an angled step.
  • Every lunge across the arch should involve a full range of motion.

Dumbbell Hockey Lunges

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Keeping the left leg stationary, step out at an angle that places the foot 18″-24″ wider than shoulder width (depending upon leg length) through an exaggerated range of motion with the right leg.
  • At the forward position the right knee should be over or slightly forward of the right foot, the left leg should be bent with the left knee just off the floor, and the back should be arched with the head up.
  • Return to the starting position with the right leg and repeat the movement with the left leg, taking that same 18″-24″ wider than shoulder-width step with the left leg.
  • Make sure to return to the starting position in one aggressive step; don’t take more than one step to return to the starting position.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not taking a full stride length step as you move to the forward position.
  • Making the lateral step too narrow rather than achieving the desired width.
  • Allowing the knee of the rear leg to touch the ground.
  • Taking more than one step to return to the starting position.

Dumbbell Reverse Lunges

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Keeping the left leg stationary, step out directly backwards through an exaggerated range of motion with the right leg.
  • At the back position the left knee should be over or slightly forward of the left foot, the right leg should be bent with the right knee just off the floor, and the back should be arched with the head up.
  • Return to the starting position with the right leg and repeat the movement with the left leg.
  • Make sure to return to the starting position in one aggressive step; don’t take more than one step to return to the starting position.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not taking a full stride length step as you move to the backward position.
  • Allowing the knee of the rear leg to touch the ground.
  • Taking more than one step to return to the starting position.

Dumbbell Pivot Lunges

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a shoulder-width stance.
  • Pivot on the right foot, twist the body to the right, and lunge in a direction toward the back and to the right of the starting position.
  • At the end position the left knee should be over or slightly forward of the left foot, the right leg should be bent with the right knee just off the floor, and the back should be arched with the head up.
  • Return to a shoulder-width stance with one aggressive step.
  • Repeat in the opposite direction.
  • Foot placement can vary during performance of the exercise – there isn’t one correct foot placement so the angle during the pivot can be varied each repetition.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Not taking a full stride length step as you move to the pivot position.
  • Allowing the knee of the rear leg to touch the ground.
  • Taking more than one step to return to the starting position.

Dumbbell Straight Leg Deadlifts

Instructions

  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with the arms fully extended.
  • Assume a shoulder width stance.
  • Lock and then slightly unlock the knees; maintain this slightly unlocked position during performance of the exercise.
  • Arch the back, lift the head, and maintain this position during performance of the exercise.
  • Keeping the knees slightly unlocked and the back arched, pivot at the hips and slide the dumbbells down the lateral portion of the legs through a full comfortable range of motion.
  • Return to the starting position maintaining the position at the knees and back.

Common Errors

  • Allowing the back to round rather than maintaining an arched-back position during performance of the exercise.
  • Allowing the knees to flex beyond the slightly unlocked position during performance of the exercise.
  • Allowing the dumbbells to drift forward during the lowering portion of the exercise rather than keeping them on the lateral portion of the legs.
  • Performing the movement through an incomplete range of motion.

Wrap Up

Dumbbells For Massive Legs
Squats are still the “king of exercises” and you can’t beat deadlifts for building brute strength, but even the most stripped down lifter needs a little variety from time to time.
For some lower body variations that are both challenging and build serious size and strength, take a look beyond the barbell. Take some (or all) of these dumbbell variations out for a test drive and stay ahead of your body’s adaptation curve

The Clean High Pull


The Clean High Pull

When people think of the weightlifting movements, they typically think of cleans, jerks, or snatches. While all three lifts (better known as the Olympic lifts) are great exercises, there are a number of variations that also can be used to help develop muscle size, strength, and power.
One such variation is the clean high pull. This article will discuss the benefits of performing the clean high pull, along with suggestions for program design. Following that, we’ll take a step-by-step approach on how to perform the clean high pull correctly.

Benefits of the Clean High Pull

For most athletes, power is more important than maximal strength. Power, or speed strength, can be defined as the amount of work performed per unit of time. Research has shown that the weightlifting movements result in a superior average power output compared to powerlifting movements.
Further, the movement pattern used when performing the clean high pull is very similar to those commonly seen in many sports. The majority of the power developed in either the clean or the snatch occurs during the second pull phase (the movement from just above the knee until the bar reaches approximately sternum height).
In both the clean and snatch, once the bar reaches sternum height the lifter normally drops under the bar. However, this catch phase doesn’t contribute to the power developed in these movements.
As discussed, one advantage of the clean high pull over the full clean is that the athlete doesn’t have to catch the bar. As a result, you can typically use heavier loads. This is especially true for athletes with technique issues in the catch phase where a lighter than optimal load must be used because of their inability to catch the bar correctly.
This heavy load, combined with the fast bar velocity seen in this movement, is responsible for the high power outputs that occur when performing this exercise (an average of 52 watts per kilogram for male athletes).
Another advantage of the weightlifting movements, including clean high pulls, is the extremely low injury rate. As long as the weightlifting movements are performed with correct technique, they’re as safe as any other training techniques.
Further, performing the weightlifting movements – including clean high pulls – may reduce injury rate by increasing kinesthetic awareness, strengthening the muscles, tendons, and ligaments while enhancing coordination.

Programming

The Clean High Pull

When training for power, the program will typically combine a low number of repetitions (1-6) and extended rest periods (2-6 minutes). This combination of low repetitions and longer rest times allows for heavier resistance and reduced fatigue, allowing for the maintenance of bar speed and technique.
If greater bar speed is desired, then training loads of 30% to 70% of 1RM can be used. This approach can be used in sports where speed is more important than force development (high jump, volleyball).
Conversely, in sports that require greater force development (football, wrestling), loads between 70% to 100% of 1RM are appropriate.
By adjusting the number of repetitions performed, the rest periods between sets, or both, the clean high pull can also be used to enhance power endurance. Athletes such as longer distance sprinters (400+ meters) and rowing athletes require the ability to move powerfully over an extended period. Because of the higher repetitions (12 or more) being performed, the shorter rest times (45-60 seconds between sets), or both, the load on the bar must be reduced.
Regardless of the training goal (power or endurance) the clean high pull should be placed early in the sequence of exercises to be performed in the workout, for two reasons.
First, the exercise should be performed explosively. As a result, the movement should be performed before the body becomes fatigued from performing other exercises.
Second, the exercise must be performed with good technique, and this will best occur when the body is in a non-fatigued state.

Performing the Clean High Pull Correctly

The Clean High Pull

It’s easy to say a clean high pull is like doing the first three quarters of a power clean, up to and including the second pull. However, because the clean high pull, like all weightlifting movements, is technically difficult to do, and because great technique is important to get the most out of all weightlifting movements, we’ll take a step-by-step approach to performing this movement correctly.
There are variations of the teaching sequence thought to be best when teaching the weightlifting movements. I prefer to start from the bottom up, starting with the correct foot position.
  • Biomechanically, the clean is very similar to performing a vertical jump. As a result, when teaching the high pull, it makes sense to position your feet identically to how you’d place them if you were going to perform a maximal vertical jump. Typically this involves a shoulder-width stance with the feet pointed straight ahead.
  • Once the foot position has been established, you can now move to the correct hand position. Pick the bar up with a wide overhand grip and the thumbs resting on the bar but pointed in towards the center of the body. Slowly slide the hands in until the tips of the thumbs just barely touch the outside of the legs. This will identify the correct hand position on the bar.
  • The next step is to learn the correct grip. Once technique is perfected, a large amount of weight can be used when performing the clean high pull, placing a big demand on grip strength. Using a hook grip (thumb around the bar, fingers around the thumb and bar) provides the most secure grip. Initially this may be uncomfortable, however, this is the way to go if you’re serious about performing the movement correctly.
To make the learning process easier it’s best to begin learning the movement from a hang above position, where the bar is resting on the thighs directly above the patella.
  • With the feet and hands in the correct position, and using a hook grip, pick the bar up to a standing position and then slide the bar down to the above-the-knee position just described. The arms should be long and rotated so that the elbows are pointed towards the end of the bar. The head should be neutral and the back should be arched.
  • In this position the shoulders should be just slightly forward of the bar. If they’re not, the correction required is to reduce the amount of flexion at the knee joint slightly, which will have the effect of bringing the shoulders into the desired position.
Once the correct start position has been learned you can begin learning the movements that make up the high pull. It’s important to check your start position before you begin each repetition until the correct start position can be achieved automatically without thought.
  • The first movement in the teaching sequence is a jump shrug. Keeping a tight core, perform a jumping action, fully extending at the knees and hips as if trying to jump up and touch the ceiling with your head. At the top of the jump the ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders should all be in a straight line.
  • Using the momentum from the jump, aggressively shrug the shoulders straight up as high as possible without bending at the elbows. Do not allow the bar to swing away from the body; the bar should slide up the thighs to approximately hip height.
  • When the correct start position and movement pattern for the jump shrug has been mastered you can move on to the next step – the low pull. This is just a continuation of the jump shrug, but adding a pull until the bar reaches the height of the belly button. At the top of the jump shrug allow the elbows to bend slightly until the bar reaches the desired height. It’s important to keep the bar against the body and the elbows above the wrists when transitioning to this low pull position.
  • The final movement to learn is the high pull. Again, this is a continuation of the movement pattern already learned. At the top of the low pull, continue to pull the bar until it reaches sternum height. Focus on keeping the elbows above the wrists and the bar against the body as you move into a fully extended position at the ankles, knees, and hips.

Summary

The clean high pull is an excellent choice when the goal is enhanced power production capabilities. A high power-production is possible with this movement because it permits heavy loads and high bar-velocities.
The clean high pull, like the other weightlifting movements, is a very safe exercise once correct technique has been learned. Considering program design, the clean high pull can be used to enhance either muscular power or muscular power/endurance.
A step-by-step approach to learning correct clean high pull technique like the one above will allow most lifters to learn the lift quickly and safely. After that, all that’s required is the necessary sweat!

Weightlifting Versus Powerlifting: Which is Right for You?

Weightlifting Versus Powerlifting

In the strength sports, there are two primary forms of competition – weightlifting and powerlifting.
Weightlifting includes the snatch and the clean and jerk (performed as one movement) while powerlifting involves the squat, deadlift, and bench press. While the competitive goal in both sports is to lift as much weight as possible, they’re also remarkably different in several key areas.
Whether you’re new to lifting or a seasoned strength trainer looking to take up competition, understanding these differences is critical.

Power What?

The name “powerlifting” is really a misnomer. Lifting with power implies an element of speed or explosiveness, but weightlifters generate more power and move at higher velocities than powerlifters at all percentages of 1RM.
Although the start of the powerlifts is explosive, the ensuing movement is performed at a slow velocity due to the heavy loads and the biomechanics of the lifts. Numbers-wise, the big 3 powerlifting movements typically produce approximately 12 watts per kilogram of body weight in male athletes.
However in weightlifting, the second pull in both the snatch and clean average 52 watts per kilogram for male athletes. That’s over four times as much power as the supposed “power” lifts!
This is more than merely a labcoat distinction. For most sporting athletes, the ability to generate high levels of power and move explosively is of far greater importance to improving performance than is the ability to generate high levels of force in a single effort.
Furthermore, while power levels decrease in both weightlifting and powerlifting as the weight on the bar approaches 100% of 1RM, the reduction in power is far more significant in powerlifting, again due to the biomechanics of the lifts.
In powerlifting, power output can be twice as high for a 90% of 1RM bench, squat, or deadlift as compared to a 100% of 1RM lift. This significant decrease occurs because of the dramatic increase in time it takes to complete the lifts as the resistance increases.
Finally, what other benefits are there to greater power requirements? Try bigger quads, hams, and pecs. Studies have shown weightlifters have slightly larger fiber areas for all major fiber types as compared to competitive powerlifters. The larger area of the IIA fibers in particular is thought to be a result of the greater power generation required for weightlifting.

Benefits of Slow Speed Strength Training

Weightlifting Versus Powerlifting

It’s not all doom and gloom for powerlifters. Powerlifting’s high force, low velocity movements are believed to be best for developing muscle strength.
Further, another benefit of slower speed training (e.g., 2 seconds up, 3 seconds down) is that it’s believed to be very good for developing hypertrophy. Time under tension is an important consideration when training for hypertrophy, and as rep speed slows, the time the muscle is under tension increases.
Weightlifting movements on the other hand, are executed explosively, and aren’t the best approach for hypertrophy. As a real-world example to balance out all the science, how many bodybuilders do you know perform cleans, jerks, or snatches as part of their training program?
It should be noted that most periodized strength training programs for athletes do include a hypertrophy phase, typically early in the off-season. This hypertrophy phase generally serves two purposes.
First, an increase in muscle size can lead to superior increases in strength, as bigger muscles are generally stronger. These strength increases can then assist in maximizing power, which, for most athletes, is the primary goal of training.
Second, increased muscle mass leads to increases in bodyweight, and depending on the athlete (e.g., offensive linemen), it can be another performance advantage.

Benefits of Weightlifting

Weightlifting Versus Powerlifting

Weightlifting involves movements that emphasize both high force (squats) and high velocity (cleans) exercises, which is believed to be the best approach for developing strength, power, and speed. This allows for performing heavy load and high velocity training simultaneously.
Weightlifting movements and related training exercises (hang pulls, hang cleans, power snatch, power clean, push press, power jerk, etc.) are also valuable for developing explosive power, as the goal is always to move the bar as quickly as possible, regardless of load. This focus on bar speed may result in greater motor unit synchronization and increased rate of force development.
Finally, weightlifting programs are advantageous for increasing speed. This occurs because of the combination of high levels of force development and improved contractile speed required when performing high force, high velocity training.

Benefits of Combining High Speed and Slow Speed Training

Increasing 1RM strength is only valuable in a few athletic activities, such as powerlifting. The majority of sports require strength at fast velocities (i.e., power).
It’s a popular belief that as slow velocity strength increases, power output and dynamic performance will also improve. This is true to an extent, because maximal strength, even at slow velocities, aids in the development of explosive power as all explosive activities start from a still position or slow velocities.
However, to maximally improve power, both the force and velocity components must be increased. Research has shown that combining heavy resistance and high-speed training may be more effective than focusing only on high force or high power.
Training programs that emphasize high force seem to primarily improve force at the high end of the force-velocity curve. In contrast, high power or high velocity training seems to focus greater improvements in force development at the high velocity end of the spectrum.
For example, squatting with heavy loads (70-120% of 1RM) improves maximum isometric strength but doesn’t enhance maximum rate of force development, and may actually reduce the muscle’s ability to develop force rapidly.
However, activities that demand the athlete develop force quickly, such as weightlifting, improve the athlete’s ability to develop force rapidly.
While high force resistance training improves maximum strength, it doesn’t significantly improve power output, particularly in athletes who’ve already developed a base level of strength. This is because movement time is typically less than 300 ms during explosive activities and most of the increases in force can’t be realized during such a brief time.
In the end, perhaps a combination of weightlifting and powerlifting training is best?

Need for Quality Instruction

Due to the high technical difficulty required in performing the weightlifting movements and their inherent explosiveness, proper technique is critical. Coaches teaching these movements should be experienced in correct technique and, at a minimum, complete a course involving hands-on practice of the weightlifting movements.
Also important is an understanding of the correct progression leading up to performing these movements, minimizing injury potential.

Injury Risk in Weightlifting

Weightlifting Versus Powerlifting
What about safety?
A small number of studies have evaluated injury rates of speed-strength training such as those used in weightlifting. One challenge with this type of study, from a practical standpoint, is that training is usually performed in conjunction with other types of exercise including sport-specific work and team practices; hardly an objective look at the injury potential of just weightlifting.
Regrettably, it’s been suggested that the weightlifting movements are more dangerous to perform than traditional exercises, and that single-joint movements are as effective as the weightlifting movements for enhancing performance. This is simply wrong.
As long as the weightlifting movements are performed with correct technique and proper equipment, they’re as safe or safer than other sports or training activities. Zero evidence exists showing that weightlifting causes excessive injury. The fact is, the rate of injury in weightlifting is lower than many sports, such as football, basketball, and gymnastics.
While injury does occur in both weightlifting and powerlifting, injuries are not common.

Point by Point Summary

Weightlifting Versus Powerlifting

Still confused whether weightlifting or powerlifting is the right course of action for you and your fitness goals? Here’s a summary:
  • Much greater levels of power are produced in weightlifting than powerlifting. Further, weightlifters generate higher power and move at higher velocities than powerlifters at all percentages of 1RM.
  • For most athletes, the ability to generate high levels of power and move explosively is far more important than the ability to generate high levels of force in a single effort.
  • Training for powerlifting involves movements that demand high force and low velocity movements. This type of training is believed to be best for developing muscle strength.
  • An additional benefit of slow speed training is that it increases the time the muscle is under tension during training, and time under tension is an important consideration when training for hypertrophy.
  • Training in weightlifting involves movements that emphasize both high force (squats) and high velocity (cleans) exercises, believed to be the best approach for developing strength, power, and speed.
  • Training that emphasizes high velocity training, (e.g., weightlifting) is thought to be advantageous for increasing power output and speed.
  • To maximally improve power, both the force and velocity components must be increased. Research has shown that combining heavy resistance and high-speed training may be more effective than focusing only on high force or high power.
  • Because of the high technical difficulty required in performing the weightlifting movements, it’s necessary that highly qualified and experienced instructors teach these exercises.
  • As long as the weightlifting movements are performed with correct technique and proper equipment, they’re as safe or safer than other sports or training activities.

Final Words

There is considerable confusion among non-lifters and gym rats alike concerning the differences between weightlifting and powerlifting. While both sports involve barbells, plates, weights and a big intangible – commitment – they differ in fundamental ways that deserve attention.
As for the best approach? Well, as always, that depends upon your goals.
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