There seems to be a bit of back and forth among strength athletes and coaches on whether or not the focus should be solely on technique or brute strength. On one side some people are saying that technique is absolutely paramount and athletes shouldn’t even worry about strength until they master technique. On the other hand, some people are saying that the numbers are all that matters. So, as someone who is training for a competition or working out for your own personal goals, what should the focus be? Do you need to be a masterful technician, or should you just focus on lifting as much weight as possible? The truth is this: it’s a combination of the two.
Proper technique is what will display the strength you already have, and strength is what makes technique more effective. The two do not counter each other, instead they complement each other. One cannot really exist without the other. You can have the best technique on the planet, but if you don’t train heavy and push your threshold for load, you’ll never put up numbers that impress anyone. On the other hand, you can be capable of pushing insane numbers, but without good technique you will not be able to fully display your strength and will likely shorten your longevity. To further explain this, let's take a look at the three big strength sports: powerlifting, Olympic lifting and strongman.
We’ve all seen the highlights on social media. There are guys and girls out there moving three or four times their body weight on a barbell. Just recently someone set a world record with a 1,000 plus pound deadlift. Powerlifters are crazy strong monsters, and to some people it can look like they’re just stacking plates on a barbell and lifting with reckless abandon. I mean, how much technique can really be involved in that kind of sport? The truth is a lot. High level powerlifters are notorious for meticulously critiquing their technique on all of their lifts. Did they pull the slack out of the bar on the deadlift? Were their lats engaged during the bench press? Was their walk out of the rack on point for their squat attempt? Powerlifters who care about winning and being competitive to the best of their ability take all the time they can to perfect their technique. Many of them program blocks of training specifically dedicated to training technique. The thing about powerlifters that makes them so strong is that they train their technique under heavy loads. They are meticulous with their technique because they want to be able to display all of their strength, and they train under tremendous loads to improve the effectiveness of their technique. With careful planning and programming, powerlifters are masters of physical execution.
If you’ve neve seen Olympic weightlifting, then you are missing out. Watching a weightlifter execute their lifts is something to behold. Whether it’s the clean and jerk or the snatch, these athletes are executing complex lifts with the best in the world. On the surface, it might appear that Olympic lifters care about technique and only technique. Otherwise, how could a person who barely weighs 175 pounds put 400 plus pounds over their heads using such complex movements? In reality, Olympic lifters are freakishly strong. The Olympic lifts require athletes to be crazy explosive in order to move heavy loads like they do. Lifting explosively also requires the athletes to be very strong. While Olympic lifters certainly must train their technique as the lifts are pretty complex, they need to be strong if they hope to execute that technique under loads and win a medal. During their training, Olympic athletes spend a lot of time training as a powerlifter using basic barbell exercises (squats, deadlifts, presses) to get as strong as they can. Their approach and programming will be different, but they understand that all the techniques in the world won’t win a gold medal if they can’t execute it under heavy loads.
From the outside strongman can appear very chaotic. No two competitions are the same, and the sport has practically an endless variety of events. From max effort deadlifts to loading medley races, strongman competitions are the complete opposite of powerlifting and olympic lifting in terms of specificity. To many, it may appear to be a competition purely about strength. I mean, how much technique can be involved when the events change constantly? Yes, strongman athletes are incredibly strong as the name suggests. However, if you think that there is a lack of technique, then you would be very much mistaken. Yes, strongman athletes do use the basic barbell exercises to get stronger, but when it comes to mastering skills for the sport, it’s more about mastering the technique in how the body moves. Instead of becoming proficient with specific exercises, it’s about mastering hinging, squatting and pressing patterns in general.
The back and forth between technique and strength can be seen in the weight rooms of football, basketball, volleyball and other sports teams, too. There are some coaches who harp entirely way too much on technique with little advancement in strength. Other coaches focus way too much on getting their players as strong as possible at whatever cost, to the point that it can become detrimental. When it comes to training athletes for team sports, the technique really only needs to be good enough. What I mean by that is that athletes only need good enough technique so that they can train without getting hurt while seeing gains in strength. No team sports athlete is being judged on how well they can squat or power clean. On the other hand, the gains in their strength really only matter to a certain degree. Would it be beneficial for a football player to be capable of squatting 600 pounds? Yes, but at what cost? Athletes do need to be strong, especially in contact sports such as football, wrestling, hockey, etc., but being capable of putting up big numbers in the weightroom doesn’t really matter if their performance within their respective sport doesn’t improve. If an individual is capable of reaching big numbers with their lifts, great. However, the program should always be about enhancing their performance on the field or court, not just with the barbell. A running back who squats 400 pounds can score just as many touchdowns as a running back who can squat 550 pounds. At the end of the day, winning the game is what matters.
Like I said before, technique and strength go hand in hand. Technique displays strength; strength makes technique more effective. So, when you are training yourself for whatever it is that you are training for, just remember that you are training for a purpose with goals or objectives set along the way. While you must certainly have the intent of training with perfect technique, not every lift is going to be perfect. Keep practicing your technique, train hard and move heavy weights while you do it and you will get better. Don’t get caught up in the mundane details, and just bust your ass.
If you are within driving distance of Baton Rouge and need a place to train for your next strongman competition, powerlifting meet or weightlifting meet, check out the Atlas Strength Shop for all of your training needs. Send an email to email@example.com for your next visit. You can also check out our apparel line and programming options on our website. Be sure to like our Facebook page, here, and follow us on Instagram, here. Do you need a high quality energy supplement that won’t leave you with that crashing feeling? Check out veteran owned strikeforceenergy.com and use promo code ATLASSTRENGTH at checkout to get 20% off of your order. If you’re like me, and you like to bite down while lifting, you need to protect your teeth. Check out Impact Mouthguards and their custom molded mouth guards. Use promo code ATLASSTRENGTH at checkout to get 10% off of your order.
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