• John Psyllas

Dynamic Correspondence between weightlifting and block start sprinting performance.

This essay will evaluate to what extent the use of weightlifting movements, namely the snatch and clean & jerk, benefits block start sprinting performance. All sports possess different physical demands and as such the training for these particular stresses needs to be specific so that adaptations from the training stimulus transfers to the competitive event (Zatsiorsky & Kramer, 2006). It is considered that strength training plays a key role within sprint performance (Delecluse, 1997). In the initial stages of athlete development all exercises will illicit some form of training transfer (Gamble, 2013), but as the athlete approaches sport mastery the stimulus required becomes more specific in order to illicit a training transfer effect (Bondarchuk, 2007). The principles of dynamic correspondence by Verkhoshansky and Siff (2007) will be used to see if there is any link between the two activities by way of the following points:

1. Start position, amplitude and direction of movement.

2. Accentuated region of force production

3. Dynamic of the effort

4. The rate and time of maximal force production

5. The regime of muscular work

After addressing each point in turn a decision will be made if a dynamic correspondence exists between the two activities and if the use of Olympic weightlifting movements should be included within the framework of a sprinters training program. For the purposes of this investigation the block start will be defined as the initial set up, two leg drive, one leg drive and entry in to the first and second step.

The first criteria of Verkhoshansky’s and Siff’s (2007) work looks to address if there is a dynamic correspondence in the start position, amplitude and direction of the movement between sprinting and weightlifting. The aim is to see which muscles are used during the movement and if they are employed in the same pattern during the action. As the sprinter sets up in the starting blocks they are flexed at the hip, knee and ankle in preparation to extend through all 3 joints during the drive out of the blocks. In the initial drive from the blocks the quadriceps, gastrocnemius medialis, rectus femoris, biceps femoris and gluteus maximus produce a concentric contraction in order to extend at the knee and the hip joint simultaneously (Wiemann & Tidow, 1995; Aerenhouts et al., 2007). In the weightlifting movements of the snatch and the clean, the action of the gluteus maximus and quadriceps rapidly contracting promotes extension at the hip and knee (DeWeese, Serrano, Scruggs & Sams, 2012; Garhammer, 1993). The upper body sits at a 45˚ angle during set up in the starting blocks with the back flat and the head and neck in a neutral position. In this position the transverse abdominals should be held in an isometric contraction for effective force transfer (Smith, 2005). Recommendations from Newton (2006) suggest that during the set up for the first pull of the clean and the snatch the back should be at a 45˚ angle to the ground with the abdominal musculature contracted. After the initial drive from the blocks the sprinter enters in to the first and second step. The sprinter will have a pronounced forward lean of the body and the knee extensors and hip flexors/plantar flexors will play a significant part during acceleration (Delecluse, 1997). During both weightlifting movements the knee extensors play a major role during the initial first pull and second pull but the hip flexors only contract concentrically during the catch phase of both lifts. The two phases of the leg drive are: the swing phase and the support phase. During the swing phase maximum extension will see extension of roughly 185˚ at the hips and 145˚ at the knee (Chandler & Brown, 2008). This is similar to findings by DeWeese, Serrano, Scruggs & Sams (2012) who found the knee angle to be roughly 141˚ and 185˚ at the hips during the second pull. During the support phase the hip flexors and knee extensors increase in muscle activity due to the eccentric loading and will work to decelerate rotation of the leg and aid in leg recovery, as is similar during the catch of the clean and the snatch in order to decelerate the bar (Wiemann & Tidow, 1995; Aerenhouts et al., 2007). During the set up in the blocks the runner is in a unilateral stance, in comparison during weightlifting the lifter will be in a bilateral stance. Harland & Steele (1997) describe the optimal knee angle when setting up in the starting blocks to be between 89-112˚ for the front knee and between 118-138˚ for the rear knee. This is similar to findings by Okonnen & Hӓkkinen (2013) who found the hip to be flexed at 53-158˚, 95-165˚ at the knee and 73-126˚ at the ankle for the front and rear leg respectively. These angles would depend on the individual athlete’s anthropometrics along with differences of inter-block distances such as bunched (<30cm), medium (30-50cm) and elongated (>50cm). During weightlifting movements set up, the hips will be set between 25-50˚ and the knee at 45-90˚ (Everett, 2011) depending on individual anthropometrics of the lifter. It can be concluded that the first and second pull recruit the appropriate musculature as well as the type of contraction when compared to the initial drive from the starting blocks thus satisfying the requirements of Verkhoshansky and Siffs (2007) first criterion.

Next to be considered is whether dynamic correspondence exists between weightlifting and the block start acceleration for track sprinting as regards to the accentuated region of force production. This relates to how much force is produced specifically at the required joint angles of the movement. The set up in the starting blocks will see the lower extremities flexed at the following angles: 53-158˚ hip, 95-165˚ knee, 73-126˚ ankle during the block start (Okkonen & Hӓkkinen, 2013). During weightlifting movements set up, the hips sit at 25-50˚ and the knee at 45-90˚ (Everett, 2011) again depending on individual anthropometrics of the lifter. During this start phase the total force potential is around 1530N of which 905N is horizontal and 1235N is vertical (Mann, 2011). In comparison the power clean has been found to have a peak force of 2306N and up to 2809N during the second pull (Comfort, Allen and Graham-Smith, 2011) and 2633N and 3342N at loads of 95% 1RM during the 2nd pull of the snatch (Garhammer, 2001). This force production is far greater than that of the start phase during sprinting and as such will have a strong transfer between the power clean and the start phase of a sprint.

The dynamic of the effort is another point from Verkhoshansky’s and Siff’s (2007) work which assesses whether weightlifting movements benefit track sprinting performance. It defines how the speed and intensity of the training stimulus compares to the sporting skill. The training stimulus should not be less than what is encountered during the sporting skill and should even exceed it (Verkhoshansky and Siff, 2007). In work by Sato, Fleschler and Sands (2013) the mean peak acceleration of the barbell during the 2nd pull phase was found to be 19.63; 16.78 and 13.65 m/s² when using 80%/85% and 90% of 1RM respectively. This is a far greater rate of acceleration when compared to current world best acceleration speeds of 9.5m/s² (Hernandez-Gomez, Marquina & Gomez, 2013). However, the peak velocity of the barbell during the snatch first pull has been found to be between 1.68 and 1.98 m/s (Bartonietz, 1996; Gourgoulis et al., 2002; Stone et al., 1998 & Gourgoulis et al., 2004) This is far less than the 4-8 m/s produced when leaving the blocks and transitioning in to the initial two steps of sprint acceleration (Mann, 2011), thus showing once again that during weightlifting the first pull is too slow a movement to have any dynamic correspondence to sprint performance. However, the acceleration during the second pull is far greater than the initial acceleration during sprinting and thus should have a dynamic correspondence between the two.

The dynamic correspondence of weightlifting for block start acceleration in track sprinting can also be evaluated by looking at the rate and time of maximal force production, which is designed to ensure that the required level of force is generated in the optimal time as this will lead to a more successful performance (Cronin & Hansen, 2005). It has been shown that during the initial drive phase out of the starting blocks and in to the first and second steps the ground contact time in milliseconds (ms) is 125ms, 172ms and 142ms respectively (Coh, Tomazin & Stuhec, 2006) similar work by Mero (1988) found the contact time in the blocks to be longer in duration at 342ms. Work performed by Garhammer (2001) and Roman (1988) looking at the snatch lift and clean first pull in turn found that the snatch took 770ms and the first pull of the clean took on average 500ms to complete. Both of these times are far in excess of the required ground contact time. In comparison, Kawamori et al., (2006) found that it took between 99.8ms, 131.8ms, 156.8ms and 144.8ms to reach peak rate of force development (PRFD) during the second pull with loads of 30%, 60%, 90% and 120% of power clean 1RM. An interesting point to note is that it only took 121.1ms to reach PRFD during isometric pulls. A result of these findings is that PRFD is achieved during all four loads and the isometric pull is quicker than the ground contact time for the initial start and first step. However, the ground contact time is less than the PRFD times for the second pull at 90% and 120% which would imply that if a transfer of training effect is to take place the optimal choice would be to train at loads of 30-60% 1RM power clean using the 2nd pull along with the use of isometric pulls. The use of the second pull surpasses the acceleration and time to peak rate of force development of block start acceleration so fulfils the criteria of dynamics of the effort and rate and time of maximum force production.

The final point to be addressed is whether the regime of muscular work highlights a dynamic link between the two activities. This regime refers to the type of muscular action specific to that sporting skill. During sprinting the muscular work goes from low to high velocity concentric action during the drive out of the starting blocks, after which this transitions in to an eccentric-concentric cyclic motion during running actions. The ability for a sprinter to generate high levels of force in order to accelerate from a static start position is a key aspect to performance (Cronin & Hansen, 2005). In the snatch and clean & jerk both involve concentric muscular action to accelerate a stationary barbell to high velocity. The full lift matches the criteria of Verkhoshansky and Siffs (2007) regime of muscular work as but as previously stated the second pull of both weightlifting movements produce the most power and match similar joint angles to sprinting (Okonnen & Hӓkkinen, 2013; Garhammer, 2001).

In conclusion, the use of weightlifting movements does have a dynamic correspondence to block start performance in sprinting. However, although the start position/first pull does have the same muscle activation patterns as the block start it fails to address the other criteria of Verkhoshansky and Siffs (2007) work on dynamic correspondence such as the dynamics of the effort and rate and time of force production. The use of the second pull from hip and knee will have greater correspondence as it matches more of Verkhoshansky and Siffs (2007) criteria for rate and time of force production at specific angles and dynamics of the effort as well as muscle activation patterns. It would be beneficial in conjunction with the use of Olympic weightlifting to consider other exercise choices such as sprinting with weighted sleds in order to cover more mechanical phases of block start acceleration.


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