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USA Weightlifting, Episode IV: A New Hope
April 23, 2010 4:13 PM   Subscribe

19-year-old weightlifter Pat Mendes of Nevada snatches 200kg. Mendes is the only American to ever snatch 200kg, and is within 16kg of the world record.

The USA hasn't won a gold medal in men's weightlifting since 1960.

Mendes' coach, John Broz, discusses his training methods here. Broz, who says "there is no such thing as overtraining," has his top lifters train twice a day and once on Sunday.
posted by ludwig_van (83 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm impressed. He's strong!

Can he play chess?
posted by Fraxas at 4:22 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The interview is the best part. Good post.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:36 PM on April 23, 2010


These things make my knees hurt just watching.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:39 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was always best at clean and jerk.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 4:46 PM on April 23, 2010


Gaaaaaaawwwd damn!
posted by Xoebe at 4:50 PM on April 23, 2010


I could do that. I just don't want to.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:55 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey thinks dynamic tension...must be hard work
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:57 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fraxas, as a guy who both lifts heavy weights and plays chess pretty well, I'd opine being strong has a hell of a lot more real world utility.
posted by vito90 at 4:58 PM on April 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


There's no such thing is overtraining? How did everybody get that so wrong?
posted by clockzero at 5:12 PM on April 23, 2010


It's interesting how guys like this don't look much like the "body builders" with huge muscles you see. He looks pretty normal.
posted by delmoi at 5:12 PM on April 23, 2010


I've just started learning about this stuff, a couple of pullquotes I find fascinating as it is so much against convention on overtraining:
Q: What do you do when progression halts?

A: IT WILL! Training lifts will eventually start to go backwards as you enter into the "dark times". When you are so sore and fatigued that you cant even imagine lifting weights. This time is CRUCIAL to training. You MUST persevere and continue to train! Eventually your lifts will begin to improve and you will make progress and PR's while in a totally fatigued state. When you can make progress when feeling like this, this is when you are going somewhere.

To quote Antonio:"the day will never come when you can't lift the bar"

To quote my first coach:" If you wait til you feel good with no aches or pains to train, you will never be here"

Q: Basically, could you give us some more insight into your training protocols?

A: Train til you can't walk, eat, sleep, repeat.

Q: Has overtraining ever occured? And if so what did you do (let them do)? If not, what would you do if it happened?

A: This is a tough one to swallow for most... THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OVERTRAINING!!! if you can't do something you are not in good enough shape. Here is a story:

IF you got a job as a garbage man (or run a jackhammer, or some other physically demanding job) and had to pick up heavy cans all day long, I'm sure the first day would be very difficult - possibly almost impossible for some to complete so what do you do? take 3 days off and possibly lose your job? NO! you would take your sore, beaten self to work the next day. You would mope around and be fatigued - much less energetic than the previous day, but you would make yourself get through it. Get home, soak in the tub, take aspirin, etc. The next day would be worse..etc. etc. Eventually you will be running down the street tossing cans around and joking with your coworkers. How did this happen? You forced your body to adapt to the job at hand! IF you cant' squat everyday, lift heavy everyday then you are not OVERTRAINED, you are UNDERTRAINED!

Q: Doesnt that kind of do or die training attitude destroy body faster same like heavy physical work. I mean if you dont compete but you want to still lift when you ar 60 just because you like it and you are addicted to training.

A: It does break the body down faster but that is the whole concept. When you smash yourself your body responds by getting stronger and adapting to the work/volume/intensity. I have been around others who lived this training philosophy and are older now. They are fully functional and in good shape (or in as good as shape as they choose to be - not limited by any body limitations, only desire)
(of course, read the thread for all the details)
posted by MetaMonkey at 5:21 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm impressed. He's strong!

Can he play chess?


Well he's not Armenian...

Seriously though, that's some fine work.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:42 PM on April 23, 2010


Needs to change his name to Mendes Mendeson to really make his mark.
posted by HTuttle at 5:46 PM on April 23, 2010


Fraxas, as a guy who both lifts heavy weights and plays chess pretty well, I'd opine being strong has a hell of a lot more real world utility.

I would opine the opposite. A smart person can use a lever to move something heavy.
posted by DU at 5:50 PM on April 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


The most I ever snatched was 76% of my body weight which is respectable. Very few can reach 100%. He did 150%. That's defiantly in the freak territory.
posted by stbalbach at 5:52 PM on April 23, 2010


That's so awesome
posted by ghharr at 5:59 PM on April 23, 2010


That dude could put me in the overhead compartment. That is my benchmark for being impressed.
posted by dirty lies at 6:05 PM on April 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I would opine the opposite.

But you don't because... ?

A smart person can use a lever to move something heavy.

Great. Grab your lever and come load these 80lb sacks of Quikrete into the back of my truck. While you're at it, my seven year-old nephew became tired while we were out on a walk. Can you bring your lever and roll him the .75 miles back to the house for me?
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 6:14 PM on April 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


I would opine the opposite. A smart person can use a lever to move something heavy.

Only if by "use a lever" you don't mean "set it up and then push it down", that is. A lever multiplies force, but it doesn't provide any on its own... and, of course, getting a lever underneath something heavy may require a large amount of force in the first place.

I agree with DU; the everyday utility of strength far exceeds that of individual mental skills like chess. And I say that even though I make my living through similar mental skills. Like it or not, we are made of muscle, bone, and sinew; our brains are deeply affected by our bodies. Physical strength comes into play in everything we do, whether we term it a "mental" exercise or not... for instance, being able to sit and concentrate long enough to play chess at a high level involves a surprising amount of physical effort.

"We are still animals -- our physical existence is, in the final analysis, the only one that actually matters. A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong. This reality is offensive to some people who would like the intellectual or spiritual to take precedence. It is instructive to see what happens to these very people as their squat strength goes up."
-Mark Rippetoe
posted by vorfeed at 6:16 PM on April 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's interesting how guys like this don't look much like the "body builders" with huge muscles you see. He looks pretty normal.

If by normal you mean fat. Bodybuilders go for lean mass and usually look much larger than they actually are. Powerlifters just want to be strong as fuck. They eat like shit from a paranoiac fear of going into caloric deficit and losing strength/muscle. It shows. And they die young.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 6:22 PM on April 23, 2010


I was impressed by his snatch.
posted by Casimir at 6:27 PM on April 23, 2010


sorry
posted by Casimir at 6:29 PM on April 23, 2010


So John Belushi isn't dead!
posted by cmoj at 6:31 PM on April 23, 2010


Strength and intelligence is not a zero-sum game, my friends. A person can be very strong and very smart.

If by normal you mean fat. Bodybuilders go for lean mass and usually look much larger than they actually are. Powerlifters just want to be strong as fuck. They eat like shit from a paranoiac fear of going into caloric deficit and losing strength/muscle. It shows. And they die young.

All strength competitors want lean mass. Bodybuilders train and diet for muscular hypertrophy and very low bodyfat percentage, because bodybuilding is judged by appearance, not performance. Patrick Mendes is not a bodybuilder or a powerlifter, he is a weightlifter, and he's a heavyweight at 286#. He doesn't look to me like he has a lot of bodyfat, but it's hard to tell and it's mostly irrelevant to the performance of his sport. Heavyweight record-setters are not generally very lean.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:31 PM on April 23, 2010


Just to give you some perspective on his numbers:

I weigh 215 -- less than Mendes, but still a respectable weight. The most I've ever squatted was 325. I'd be pretty happy with a four hundred pound squat.

He did five hundred fucking pounds. Three times. In five seconds. And then he did seven hundred pounds. For reps.

This is freak-of-nature territory we're talking here.

The kid's barely old enough to vote and he's within shouting distance of the world records.

Keep an eye on that young man. He's destined for greatness.
posted by jason's_planet at 6:31 PM on April 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


He's from Nevada? How many chickens is that?
posted by birdherder at 6:35 PM on April 23, 2010


I don't know enough about serious weight-lifting, but there sure as shit is such a thing as over-training in running - ignore it at your peril, and watch your times, mental health, and physical condition swirl away like water down the plug hole. Over-training can be temporary, but if ignored its effects can be lifelong; a thing to be taken seriously indeed. That's a very controversial position he's taking.
posted by smoke at 6:38 PM on April 23, 2010


I've just started learning about this stuff, a couple of pullquotes I find fascinating as it is so much against convention on overtraining:

Sounds very Bulgarian. Which is to say: a simply brutal volume of training.

This article
provides a little bit of detail on the Bulgarian system.
posted by jason's_planet at 6:42 PM on April 23, 2010


There is a lot of debate in the Olympic weightlifting community over John Broz and his methods. Most coaches take a periodized approach to training: varying volume and intensity over weeks and months in order to work in rest periods and ensure an athlete peaks for competition.

There's another style of Olympic-weightlifting training popularized by the Bulgarians, where an athlete is constantly going heavy on the two main competition lifts (the clean-and-jerk and front squat) as well as their front squat. Assistance work (doing non-competition variations of the lifts and other lifts that help with one's strength and power development) is minimal.

Broz does kind of a mega-Bulgarian--max out your competition lifts and squat every day. This does not mean you'll make a PR (personal record) every day, but you'll go as heavy as you can for that day. He theorizes that rest days are days when you cannot go as heavy as other days, hence "there is no overtraining, there is only undertraining."

Obviously this training program is incredibly taxing on the body, and for people who do believe in overtraining it is ridiculous. It's mentally and physically tough and there is some debate in the US Olympic Weightlifting Association that his lifters can only recover from it because they are young males in their prime, flush with testosterone, and/or on steroids (strictly illegal in USAW). Note that Pat Mendes does not compete in USAW-sanctioned, steroid-tested competitions.

(the steroid debate is a whole other one I won't get into here--but suffice it to say in general USAW has basically the strictest testing program in the world and one of the reasons we get our butts whomped in the sport in international competition is on that basis)

I dunno where I stand on the whole training program debate . . . I handle volume pretty well myself so the Broz style is definitely intriguing. However, I've also experienced legitimate overtraining for myself so I'm skeptical of the claim it doesn't exist.

Steroids or no though, Pat Mendes is a legit beast and hugely talented in the sport. Steroids do not create athletes like that on their own.
posted by schroedinger at 6:45 PM on April 23, 2010 [13 favorites]


Sounds very Bulgarian. Which is to say: a simply brutal volume of training.

Yeah, Broz was coached by Antonio Krastev.

Thanks for chiming in, schroedinger.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:49 PM on April 23, 2010


It seems there's enough people with weightlifting experience in here that I can ask a (possibly silly) question : is the flexing of the metal rod (holding the weights) desirable? Or it's not, but there's nothing they can do about it? It just seems like it would add difficulty - your body having to make small adjustments because of it, etc...

I tried to do a little Googling, but I don't know any of the terms to search on.
posted by HopperFan at 6:59 PM on April 23, 2010


It seems there's enough people with weightlifting experience in here that I can ask a (possibly silly) question : is the flexing of the metal rod (holding the weights) desirable?

It's called a barbell. Different types of barbell have different characteristics to them, one of them being what's known as "whip," or the
bendiness that the bar has. The lifter has to take the whip of the bar into account, as John Broz discusses in the linked forum thread. The speed with which the Olympic lifts must be performed, and the fact that they both end with the weight overhead, where balance is critical, are a few of the reasons they are considered very technical lifts, and are a different beast from the lifts contested in powerlifting, i.e. the squat, bench press, and deadlift, sometimes called the "slow lifts," as opposed to the snatch and the clean and jerk, which are the "fast lifts."
posted by ludwig_van at 7:10 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Actually, the flexing is desirable! For reasons other than you just look really, really awesome having enough weight on the bar to bend it. The "whippiness" of the bar means if you're timing is good when you come out of the bottom of a squat position--during a normal squat or clean--you can time coming out of there with the whip of the bar and use the momentum to your advantage. This is also the case for the "dip" portion of jerks (when you dip down and then spring up). We're not talking a huge difference here, but if you're in a competition every kilo matters.

Thanks for posting this, ludwig_van! I've been seeing it everywhere and it's great inspiration for my meet this weekend.
posted by schroedinger at 7:11 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Re: The Olympic lifts, when I first began training in them myself over a year ago I was told this adage: "An Olympic lifter has a lifespan of ten years: Five years to learn the lifts, and five years to learn how much (s)he can lift."

As L_V says, the technique involved in the Olys cannot be underestimated. You don't get 200kg overhead in a stable position by just throwing that barbell every which-way.
posted by schroedinger at 7:16 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just rewatched the video. He has his knees wrapped, but he's not wearing a lifting belt. If they could somehow extrude from his body, the dude's core muscles would probably be able to crush bones.
posted by Decimask at 7:33 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just rewatched the video. He has his knees wrapped, but he's not wearing a lifting belt. If they could somehow extrude from his body, the dude's core muscles would probably be able to crush bones.

Actually, he's wearing knee sleeves, not even wraps--wraps provide significant support and bounce out of the bottom, knee sleeves mostly just keep your knees and joints warm. Oly lifters do not generally squat with wraps (I've never met one who did but who can rule it out).

(Sorry for spamming this thread, it's an interesting topic)
posted by schroedinger at 7:55 PM on April 23, 2010


Meh, for all that training he only benches like double my max.

HAMBURGER.
posted by oddman at 7:57 PM on April 23, 2010


...Olympic lifters typically perform fewer than six reps a set. This means that they are training their nervous system more than fatiguing their muscles, which allows them to train more frequently. Unlike most strength sports, an Olympic lifter relies more on their nervous system and less on the size of their muscles (it is a weight-class sport remember!).

What does this mean, training your nervous system? (from jason's_planet's link above)
posted by desjardins at 8:20 PM on April 23, 2010


The dangers of overtraining are illustrated quite dramatically here.
posted by Ratio at 8:23 PM on April 23, 2010


Thanks, ludwig_van and schroedinger - I assumed that barbells were the little one-arm ones, I don't know why. Gah.

Having to factor in the whip of the bar - wow. This is interesting stuff, thanks for posting on it.

Good luck at your meet, schroedinger!
posted by HopperFan at 8:40 PM on April 23, 2010


the everyday utility of strength far exceeds that of individual mental skills like chess. And I say that even though I make my living through similar mental skills.

Hm. I don't know, I've known some brawny people and some smart guys, and I haven't observed the pattern you seem to be claiming (that the muscle dudes tend to out-succeed the brainy folks in general). In fact, the opposite pattern may even be somewhat true for people I've known.
posted by Xezlec at 8:58 PM on April 23, 2010


I'm pretty sure that the amount of mental effort required to learn all the various exercises (and then to learn how to do them well), to adjust eating habits and lifetyle in order to maximize certain skill sets, is sufficiently large to eliminate the simple "smart and weak/dumb and strong" dichotomy some people in this thread seem to be stuck on.

This was fascinating to see (as someone who has never and probably will never lift weights heavier than a couch or emptied bookshelf).
posted by AdamCSnider at 9:11 PM on April 23, 2010


the everyday utility of strength far exceeds that of individual mental skills like chess. And I say that even though I make my living through similar mental skills.

Hm. I don't know, I've known some brawny people and some smart guys, and I haven't observed the pattern you seem to be claiming (that the muscle dudes tend to out-succeed the brainy folks in general). In fact, the opposite pattern may even be somewhat true for people I've known.


I wasn't talking about "success", but everyday utility. In fact, that sentence does not make a comparison between different people at all. Like others have said, it's quite possible to be both a "muscle dude" and "brainy"... it's just that existence in general (including "brainy-ness") is way more physical than we like to admit.
posted by vorfeed at 9:13 PM on April 23, 2010


Strong people lift like this `-i-`, smart people lift like this i=\
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 9:21 PM on April 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


What does this mean, training your nervous system

If you want to pick up something really damned heavy, there are three components to strength:
1. Having a lot of muscle with the right kind of fibres.
2. Your nervous system telling every fibre of that muscle to contract as much as possible
3. Your brain co-ordinating different muscles so that perfect technique assists you.

Items 2 and 3 can both be improved by training and so could be described as "training your nervous system." I suspect in the context of Olympic lifting, item 3 ie practising the technique, is what is mean.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:42 PM on April 23, 2010


I wasn't talking about "success", but everyday utility.

I can't say that needing to lift heavy things is a regular part of my life. The last time I can think of that I needed to was years ago, and I simply had a friend help.

In fact, that sentence does not make a comparison between different people at all. Like others have said, it's quite possible to be both a "muscle dude" and "brainy"...

I wasn't saying it wasn't. I was trying to be a little less blunt in my phrasing and hoping people would connect the dots.

it's just that existence in general (including "brainy-ness") is way more physical than we like to admit.

I'm not sure what that even means. All I'm saying is that I am not necessarily less useful or capable than you in everyday life just because I can't bench however many pounds.
posted by Xezlec at 9:45 PM on April 23, 2010


Apropos the utility of lifting: it's an interesting philosophical question about whether the specialist in brain is a happier or more fulfilled person than the specialist in brawn. Personally, as a programmer and musician and lover of the humanities and general "brain" person, I have found that some modest effort in weight training has been hugely rewarding.

Anyone who does what this kid is doing has enormous determination and mental toughness. Exactly the same faculty that keeps the scholar glued to a desk poring over books into the night, or the musician rehearsing till their fingers bleed, keeps this guy pumping iron.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:49 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't say that needing to lift heavy things is a regular part of my life. The last time I can think of that I needed to was years ago, and I simply had a friend help.

I suspect that you lift heavy things on a daily basis, like shopping, books, a backpack, luggage, a bike, children and/or pets, tools, smaller items of furniture, and maybe even the occasional spare tire, not to mention yourself and all the things you carry on your person. You may have defined "heavy" here as "things I can't lift on my own", but you still rely on physical strength constantly.

I'm not sure what that even means. All I'm saying is that I am not necessarily less useful or capable than you in everyday life just because I can't bench however many pounds.

Again, this has nothing to do with me and you. It is not a comparison between different people.

However, if you could bench more pounds than you can bench today, you would most certainly be more useful and capable than you are today. By definition: you'd be able to do something you couldn't do before. Besides, like I said earlier, the brain is very much a part of the body. You might be surprised by the effects weight training has on mood and mental ability... that's part of what I was getting at when I said that our existence is more physical than we like to admit.
posted by vorfeed at 10:28 PM on April 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can he play chess?


C-3PO: He made a fair move. Screaming about it can't help you.
Han Solo: Let him have it. It's not wise to upset a Wookiee.
C-3PO: But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.
Han Solo: That's 'cause droids don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that.
Chewbacca: Grrf.
C-3PO: I see your point, sir. I suggest a new strategy, R2: let the Wookiee win.
posted by codswallop at 10:39 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Again, this has nothing to do with me and you. It is not a comparison between different people.

I disagree. The original sentence I replied to stated plainly that strength was more useful than intelligence. Seeing as how different people have different natural abilities, different amounts of interest, and different amounts of training in each of those, it is very much a comparison between different people. If that statement were literally true, it would not make sense to devote time toward improving one's mind, since using that time to improve one's body would pay greater dividends.
posted by Xezlec at 11:12 PM on April 23, 2010


It's not his snatch, Michael! It's his illuuuusion.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:31 PM on April 23, 2010


seriously though this is awesome. I lost count of how many plates he was squatting.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:33 PM on April 23, 2010


He makes it look... possible. The fact that it is enormous amounts of weight, though, is always front and center. Totally freaky. Awesome.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:02 AM on April 24, 2010


Someone test him. I think he might be part ant.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:05 AM on April 24, 2010


I can lift the same weight as an ant. Not percentage-wise, I mean in absolute terms. I can lift several milligrams.

He's in Nevada, so he could probably use this to barter for healthcare. Like, "You give me healthcare, and I won't smoosh you with this super-heavy weight I'm lifting." I would give him healthcare.
posted by dirigibleman at 1:29 AM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fraxas, as a guy who both lifts heavy weights and plays chess pretty well, I'd opine being strong has a hell of a lot more real world utility.

This mind versus body discussion difficult to work through.

Apparently the subject of the post is nearing a world record level of proficiency in strength contests. To compare it with a mind based example, we would need to find a comparable intelligence contest. Chess has been suggested.

As far as chess is concerned we would have to compare him with a near "world record level" preforming chess player. Perhaps a strong contender in the world junior chamionships, to level out the ages.

Although the "real world" utility of either extreme ablity seems questionable. Still to be certain, I need to define what "real world" utility is. Also, we would probably benifit from defining the differences between mind and body...

... and my ability to argue breaks down. Can either position in this arguement be sucessfully defended considering how many vague terms and unknowns are involved?
posted by Hicksu at 1:41 AM on April 24, 2010


Such an effort...if he only knew of my plan ; )

Really, this is so great to watch. Imagine how different it would be if everything you basically had to lift in everyday life was absolutely no problem no strain ever. I really admire him for the discipline of the training he's done. When I watch this I can hear the "Rocky" theme song in my head and it makes me smile.
Also: sincere RHPC geek apologies.
posted by quietalittlewild at 3:35 AM on April 24, 2010


I'm not even sure why you guys are arguing a strength/smarts dichotomy. The very best coaches are incredibly intelligent people in book-smarts and people-smarts, you have to not know a whole lot about the nuts-and-bolts of strength-and-conditioning but also know individual athletes and what they need physically and psychologically at any one time. Strength-and-conditioning is a field that gets a lot of shit for just being full of dumb jocks that requires a hell of a lot more knowledge, smarts, and skill than anyone outside it anticipates.

And the athletes themselves are no slouches, either. Gwen Sisto is a fantastic high-level weightlifting who is also attending grad school at MIT. There are weightlifters I know who have graduated from Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Swarthmore . . . The ability to pump iron and the ability to use your brain are not inversely-proportional. Intelligence is an asset in sport.

I can speak personally for the character-building benefits of weightlifting as well (though this can apply to any dedicated pursuit, I guess). I've been training for a year-and-a-half now and have become incredibly passionate about Olympic weightlifting and strength-and-conditioning in general, to the point where I moved to a different state to pursue it. I am pretty much a completely different person than who I was when I started, tougher, more motivated, more determined, more mature, more confident, the list goes on.

Xezlec, you may never need to pick up a heavy box--but down the line you will want the extra muscular development, bone density, balance, and stability that comes with weightlifting when you're old and all of those start to rapidly deteriorate. There are few activities that have such long-term aging benefits as a solid free weight-training program that involves complex barbell or dumbbell lifts (i.e. something beyond bicep curls). People at the very top of weightlifting sports may suffer from long-term injuries (top strongmen, powerlifters, etc) but the amateur weightlifter who is not killing himself for his sport is going to be far, far better off when it comes to mobility when he's older than someone who's not.

Not that age is a barrier to weightlifting--there are lifters on my team who are female and in their 50s, and I had the happy experience of hearing from my dad that he did not injure his back this year shoveling snow during the Snowpocalypse because of some of the form and fitness tips I'd given him.
posted by schroedinger at 6:07 AM on April 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


As someone still pretty new to barbell training (picked up Rippetoe's book a month or two ago) watching this guy knock off a couple of reps like it's nothing at nearly 3x what I can squat just blows my mind.

As an engineer, watching this dude whip around a solid steel barbell like it's a length of PVC pipe is just damn scary.
posted by indubitable at 6:45 AM on April 24, 2010


What does this mean, training your nervous system?

Rippetoe and Kilgore do a better job of explaining it than I ever could:
While the muscle fiber is the basic unit of contraction, without its intricate link to the nervous system, coordinated movement could not occur. The central nervous system is linked to muscle fibers by way of motor neurons. These neurons vary in size and innervate varying numbers of muscle fibers depending on fiber-type and muscle function. Slow-twitch fibers are innervated by smaller motor neurons. Fast-twitch fibers are innervated by larger motor neurons. In terms of speed and magnitude of conduction, think of the motor neurons for type I fibers as drinking straws and those of type II fibers as fire hoses.

The number of fibers innervated by a single neuron depends on the muscle and its function . . . The term motor unit is used to describe a motor neuron and all the fibers it innervates, and the neuromuscular system is the functional integrated whole of the body's nerves and muscles. The motor unit is the basic functional unit of the neuromuscular system, since muscle fibers fire only within motor units and never individually. Heavy, high-velocity training over time improves recruitment, defined as the quantity of motor units in the muscle actually generating force during contraction. A higher percentage of recruited motor units means more force and more power. Average novice trainees can recruit around 70% of their available motor units on the day they start training. Intermediates have increased their neuromuscular ability to recruit motor units and generate force, and by the time they become advanced trainees they may be able to recruit in excess of 95% of the available motor units. Neuromuscular improvement is one of the main reasons strength and power can be gained in the absence of muscle-mass increases.

--Mark Rippetoe, Lon Kilgore, Practical Programming
posted by jason's_planet at 7:17 AM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does material fatigue in the barbell become a concern when you're pushing weight like this?
posted by Decimask at 7:34 AM on April 24, 2010


Still my favorite comment about weightlifting:

The worst I ever saw was a guy who blew out blood vessels in his eyes and cried blood after spiking his adrenaline with sniffing ammonia caps.

Anyway, isn't fitness generally measured in fecundity? How many babies has this Mendes kid had?
posted by Greg Nog at 12:09 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's pretty amazing that someone this young could do this. Usually power lifters take years to develop.
posted by caddis at 12:32 PM on April 24, 2010


Does material fatigue in the barbell become a concern when you're pushing weight like this?

There's an interview here with former American heavyweight weightlifting star Shane Hamman where he mentions getting kicked out of gyms for bending bars because of the extreme weights he was using. But it depends on the make and quality of the bar, and probably doesn't happen very often.

Also, re the video in the FPP, I thought it was interesting that there were clips of his bench press, which is damn strong (not compared to his squat, but still) and it's not even a lift he trains for his sport.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:54 PM on April 24, 2010


Andy Bolton deadlifts 457.5 Kg (YT)
posted by theCroft at 9:56 PM on April 24, 2010


Strength and intelligence is not a zero-sum game, my friends.

Indeed. Classical Athenian scholars would be horrified by the idea that training the mind is in some way divorced form, much less diametrically opposed to, training the body.

Keep an eye on that young man. He's destined for greatness.

Or horrible problems with PEDs.

I can't say that needing to lift heavy things is a regular part of my life.

Not a mother, then. The number of women I know who've spent months with sprained wrists until their bodies caught up with the demands of slinging an infant around is non-trivial.

In general, I have to say that being a reasonably strong bloke has had plenty of day-to-day utility for me. I can do all manner of things more easily and with less general exhaustion than people who struggle to, say, move a carload of groceries in one trip, or carry a tired child to a car easily, or rearrange furniture, or a bunch of other tasks that I don't even notice are difficult until somebody else complains about it.

There are weightlifters I know who have graduated from Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Swarthmore . . .

One of my colleagues is a powerlifter who played with the national orchestra, and reads about theoretical mathematics for fun. He geeks for a living.
posted by rodgerd at 1:30 AM on April 25, 2010


OK, since people are going to keep talking about this...

Strength and intelligence is not a zero-sum game, my friends.

Who said it was? I don't see anywhere that that has been implied. I already quoted the statement I was responding to. Does the fact that there exist people who eat both burgers and pizza make it impossible to discuss whether one is more unhealthy than the other?

In general, I have to say that being a reasonably strong bloke has had plenty of day-to-day utility for me.

Fine. But the question was whether its everyday usefulness "far exceeds" that of intelligence. I'd venture that, whether you realize it or not, being a reasonably bright bloke has had just as much day-to-day utility. I don't know what you do for a living, or how you typically solve everyday problems in your life, but I'd bet you don't lean on the brute force approach.
posted by Xezlec at 7:28 AM on April 25, 2010


I think the coach (Brozny) confuses mental toughness and physical durability. Joints blow out. Backs degrade. This kid can easily blow out something and then will the coach say "See? He's just not mentally tough."

One year coaching? That's like one year giving financial advice -- AFTER the market crashed.
posted by surplus at 9:42 AM on April 25, 2010


Fine. But the question was whether its everyday usefulness "far exceeds" that of intelligence.

No, it wasn't. There is a big difference between "the everyday utility of strength far exceeds that of individual mental skills like chess" and "the everyday utility of strength far exceeds that of intelligence". You keep trying to re-phrase this into a much simpler and more general argument, but it's not; it's about individual members of a specific category of mental skills.

Strength does not come into play only when we "lift heavy things". It's a constant factor in everything we do, including individual mental skills like chess. We develop and express skills like these only through our physical existence, and that's influenced by strength on every level. Hormones have a major effect on the brain, and thus on the mind, as do bodily comfort and fatigue... which means, for instance, that strength is useful even in chess. If you can't sit for a long period of time in extreme concentration, you can't win at chess; if you can't stand up to the rigors of travel, stress, and long hours of exhausting work, you're not going to cut it as a high level player.

Someone who becomes stronger is going to be better at that aspect of the game than he used to be... whereas someone who becomes better at chess through practice is not going to be any better at taking groceries into the house or carrying their offspring around. One of these things is simply much more fundamental than the other.

Whether we like to admit it or not, in a literal sense, our bodies are everything we are. We ignore or deny that at our peril.
posted by vorfeed at 1:18 PM on April 25, 2010


i'm on metafilter and i could overthink lift heavy thing
posted by tehloki at 4:12 PM on April 25, 2010


vorfeed, you're using equivocation and reductive fallacy to argue for something nobody is disagreeing with. I don't think anybody is saying a healthy, or strong, body is not good but I also don't think anybody would use strength as an all encompassing term like you seem to be doing.
There is general usage of the term such as "I do/don't don't have the strength", but that's easily understood without conflating it with the specific.

If we look at the spectrum of abilities the human body has that strength would reside on, I would agree strength overlays a lot of them, but so does many of the other abilities. You seem to be saying it IS the spectrum or at least the basis for it, which is just not true.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:03 PM on April 25, 2010


If we look at the spectrum of abilities the human body has that strength would reside on, I would agree strength overlays a lot of them, but so does many of the other abilities. You seem to be saying it IS the spectrum or at least the basis for it, which is just not true.

No, I'm saying that strength overlays much more of that spectrum than individual mental skills like chess do. Chess and the like are very specific skills; they are never going to be as useful on a daily basis as a fundamental physical attribute like strength is. Period. Strength may not "be the spectrum"... but c'mon, it's a hell of a lot closer than chess is.

This all started with people's responses to this comment: "as a guy who both lifts heavy weights and plays chess pretty well, I'd opine being strong has a hell of a lot more real world utility". As far as I'm concerned, that's as close to an unassailable statement as you can get. Responses like "a smart person can use a lever to move something heavy" and "I can't say that needing to lift heavy things is a regular part of my life" suggest that there are, in fact, people who just don't see the use in having a strong body. That idea is what I'm trying to refute.

I don't really care whether someone thinks intelligence is better than strength -- I myself make my living on the former and not the latter. I'm simply trying to point out that strength matters on a fundamental, day-to-day basis, no matter how much some may wish to deny that.
posted by vorfeed at 6:26 PM on April 25, 2010


What does this mean, training your nervous system?

Synaptic facilitation, or "greasing the groove".
posted by Lexica at 6:57 PM on April 25, 2010


Well, it was the first comment Can he play chess? which set off the discussion. I can't read minds, but I think Fraxas meant it as a funny quip about mental aptitude and it went from there.

people who just don't see the use in having a strong body. That idea is what I'm trying to refute.

In this day and age, you don't need to be strong. As much as maybe you or I don't like to hear people say that, that's just how it is. A "strong" back has been outmoded in most working conditions and even in a lot of blue collar jobs it's not a "requirement".

I'm simply trying to point out that strength matters on a fundamental, day-to-day basis, no matter how much some may wish to deny that.

But again you're equivocating and oversimplifying things. Because at the point at which you've defined strength, we could not do without any specific ability or we would cease to be functional. I could make the same point by swapping out your definition of strength with; agility/coordination, Speed/quickness, or endurance/stamina. So you saying people need to be strong on the basis of a fundamental need is flawed.

I think any type of skill acquisition, whether it is a broad ability or very narrow discipline, will make anyone a "better" person. Most things can generalize over into abilities.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:02 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


In this day and age, you don't need to be strong. As much as maybe you or I don't like to hear people say that, that's just how it is. A "strong" back has been outmoded in most working conditions and even in a lot of blue collar jobs it's not a "requirement".

To need something means much more than just "it's a requirement for your job". A strong back will help keep someone who "doesn't need it" from a repetitive stress injury at their desk job; it'll also keep them from acute injury the one time their boss asks them to move a bunch of boxes. And it'll help prevent bone loss and/or loss of independence in retirement. Strength provides dividends in everything we do, including work conditions in which it's been "outmoded".

The human body evolved over millions of years in which the typical human was a strong one. A handful of generations working desk jobs is not enough to change that... and I think it's obvious that adopting this mindset has done ourselves and our culture no favors. We don't "need" to be strong the same way we don't "need" to eat good food and we don't "need" to have close relationships: good for us, supposedly, but I think we're fooling ourselves. We are still mammals; we may insist that we can live without all this monkey-stuff, but the fundamental impact these things have on the quality of our lives suggests otherwise.

Because at the point at which you've defined strength, we could not do without any specific ability or we would cease to be functional. I could make the same point by swapping out your definition of strength with; agility/coordination, Speed/quickness, or endurance/stamina. So you saying people need to be strong on the basis of a fundamental need is flawed.

The fact that people need to have agility, speed, and endurance doesn't change the fact that they also need strength. Some things are fundamental, and some things aren't -- yes, you can swap out "strength" for another fundamental attribute, but that doesn't mean that "chess" would be reasonable in the same sentence. We do not cease to function in the absence of chess.

I think any type of skill acquisition, whether it is a broad ability or very narrow discipline, will make anyone a "better" person. Most things can generalize over into abilities.

I certainly agree; I just don't buy the idea that all skills and abilities are equal in everyday utility. If asked, I think most of us would readily admit that some of the things we can do have much more everyday impact than others.
posted by vorfeed at 8:55 PM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Again, I'm not arguing against lifting weights but I don't see how being strong comes into play there. I don't know how you define strong, but let's make it simple and say "strong" > "average strength". In that sense none of those things you listed make being strong a necessity. There are no extra dividends or instances of injury that average people accrue just because they are not strong in the context of non-manual labor jobs. Also, Repetitive stress injuries and lack of strength are not necessarily correlative but that's a broad topic.

I didn't say anything about chess and like I said I thought it was a jokey comment about the dude's mental aptitude. I don't care one way or another if someones smart or not and someone's ability to lift heavy things doesn't factor in either. But if you are trying to say it's more important to be strong(er than average) than it is to play chess, then I'm not sure I would agree. I think that's a personal decision in what people try to do with their personal time, but I wouldn't be so quick to negate the idea that chess can and does generalize over to being smarter.

If we're talking evolution then we're talking about a much larger conversation but if we are looking at the adaptations that most scientist think are responsible for our evolutionary success then you would be looking at ones that increased our ability to become smarter and work more efficiently, not stronger.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:52 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's kind of a shame that a post about such an amazing athletic prowess has to become an argument about the utility of strength, but so it goes I guess.

I deal with nursing home and hospital patients in my line of work. Every day I see people whose lack of strength inhibits their quality of life. They aren't strong enough to walk, so they're confined to wheelchairs. They aren't strong enough to push their wheelchairs, so they have to ask to be pushed. Some of them ended up in those wheelchairs because they took a fall and their bones weren't strong enough to bear it. Speed, agility, endurance, power -- none of these can even come into play with people like this because they're lacking something more fundamental. So they go to physical therapy and practice getting up out of chairs, or going up three stairs at a time, or moving 2.5-pound weights around. I'm often surprised when I look at their charts and see that these people aren't even that old.

Now, some of these folks have had to deal with a lot of misfortune in their lives, and I can't claim to know their full stories anyway. I'm not trying to blame them entirely for their conditions. And there's a large gulf between the strength required for these patients to have an adequate quality of life and that of someone like Pat Mendes, or any other elite strength or power ahtlete. But these folks are a constant and stark reminder about the necessity of physical strength for sustained adequate functioning of the human body, and the unfortunate fate that will befall all of us who cannot or will not put in the effort to develop and maintain that strength.

So, what vorfeed said.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:24 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a possibility that there's no such thing as overtraining for people who have the potential to break world lifting records, but that people within one or two standard deviations of the median can get better results from larger breaks.
posted by khafra at 7:54 AM on April 26, 2010


OK, I don't know how much of this argument stems from my poor ability with words (another mental thing) but it sounds like what people read into some words I used were an awful lot different from what I thought I was saying. Most importantly:

I don't really care whether someone thinks intelligence is better than strength

I never freaking said this! I was trying to defend the notion that intelligence had some significant amount of merit at all! "Far exceeds" is a strong phrase, and I didn't like what I perceived as the implication that all the skills I've built up in my life are as nothing compared to what even an average weightlifter has achieved (to say nothing of people like this guy).
posted by Xezlec at 7:39 PM on April 26, 2010


Meh. This conversation is going nowhere fast. Oversimplifying, generalizing, and equivocating doesn't make for solid arguments.

I could give all kinds of examples that would make all types of things fundamental.
I work with young kids who have trouble focusing. They often can't answer simple questions even when the answer is given to them moments previously. This causes all kinds of problems, and not the least of which is in social situations when they miss cues for interaction. So they also grow up having problems interacting in basic normal situations. Thus the ability to lift heavy things doesn't mean crap if they can't even learn basic instructions to carry out a job because they lack something far more fundamental: mental clarity.
That's a fun game. Everyone should play!

No ones arguing the utility of strength. Just the idea that it's some kind of special trump card.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:04 AM on April 27, 2010


yes. that whole thought that strength trumps smarts is pretty silly. only a fool would think that. strength is cool, but smarts put food on your table and give you something to think about.
posted by caddis at 4:47 AM on April 27, 2010


that whole thought that strength trumps smarts is pretty silly. only a fool would think that.

Good thing that nobody does, then.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:45 AM on April 27, 2010


"Someone" is not reading his own thread.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:25 PM on April 27, 2010


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