Bondarchuk on Maximum Strength and Intensities

When I discussed how transfer of training and the reverse transfer of training might make us reconsider he use of high intensity lifting, I presented my point as a simple cost benefit analysis that tends to lean in one direction. I am not one for bold statements since I am generally a non-confrontational person.

Bondarchuk, on the other hand, simply tells it like he sees it. On this point he has a clear opinion and at 73 years old he isn’t slowing down either. He just published the third volume of his periodization series (a review will be online this month) and is finishing up a book on strength. He will also speak at the Central Virginia Sports Performance Seminar in April. As he gets older he prefers spending time with his family over traveling for seminars, so if you have the chance is recommend attending this rare opportunity to hear him in person.

But back to the topic of high intensity lifting. To help promote the event, organizer Jason Demayo did a short interview with him to talk about the scope of his book and related topics. When asked what he thinks is the biggest mistake made by strength and conditioning coaches he did not pull any punches on this controversial topic:


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9 replies
  1. Coach G
    Coach G says:

    What are your thoughts on the training methods of John Smith? From what I gather his athletes generally lift 2 days per week with one day being high percentage and the other day being high speed and no throwing on those days. My understanding is that the other 4 days of the week they throw 24-40 throws with varied weight implements. I sort of feel like he might be getting the best of both worlds in that he is still getting one high intensity strength training session per week, but that the vast majority of his training time is spent on throwing. Any thoughts?

    • Martin
      Martin says:

      I’d like to see the complete plan before commenting more on his approach since I am sure there are more elements or complexities to it. But I can say that in general just two days of lifting per week is a minimum for elite throwers. One advantage of lower intensity lifting is that you can get in more sessions and more volume and still feel fresh for the ring. Working with two long sessions can have a hangover effect on other sessions.

      The range of throws sounds good, but I can see a few problems on both sides of it. At the top end you are bordering on fatigue zone. It depends on what weights are being used, but with heavier hammers it can be hard to focus on technique without fatigue setting in for that long. And combined with some hard lifting sessions it might make it more difficult to improve technique. On the short end of the range you can really focus on technique for the whole training, but since there are only 4 sessions a week the weekly volume is less than 100 throws which is a bit low. We try to combine the best of both and do more short throwing sessions to keep each session technically focused and still get in the weekly volume of throws.

  2. tb
    tb says:

    I wouldn’t mind seeing this expanded upon as I’m not following the quote very well. Is there an underlying assumption that you’re moving the weights faster at 60-70% and that’s how you’re working on maximal speed? Or does 60 to 70% allow you to go long enough to wear out the slow-twitch fibers and then recruit the fast twitch? Is maximal strength disregarded?

    • Martin
      Martin says:

      Justin Rodhe talked a bit about how it works in our training talk. He improved his bench from 130kg to 195kg while also working mostly in the 60 to 70% range. As he said: “Throwing power is developed more efficiently with dynamic attempts than slow, max effort attempts.”

      I am not an expert on slow versus fast twitch muscle. From what I understand higher intensities recruit more muscles of both types and “easy” work tends to recruit just slow twitch muscles. But I think it is a fallacy to confuse lighter weights with being easy. It might be further from the maximum weight, but it is a hard attempt in that it is closer to maximum speed and power. Most studies do not look at that aspect.

      To get back to the main point Bondarchuk is making … “maximum strength promotes the development of maximal speed.” This seems pretty obvious to me. The strongest are not the fastest in terms of linear speed in any sport. Would you take a powerlifter or sprinter in a foot race? The same is true with rotational speed. His point once again just comes back to his transfer of training concepts.

  3. Coach G
    Coach G says:

    Here are a few links that have some more details about his system.

    Smith is a collegiate coach, so I was wondering what your thoughts are regarding his system vs Dr. B’s system as it applies to that setting.

    1. Would competing in multiple events require slightly more emphasis on general strength as opposed to special strength?

    2. How would the time limitations (both weekly, and in terms of long term development) of the collegiate system effect the way Bondarchuk would train?

    3. Would training collegiate athletes in the fashion of coach Smith be more effecient at helping collegiate athletes achieve the “minimal strength levels” for performance that Bondarchuk has referenced in the past?

    4. How would you feel about a training system that utilized one high intensity strength training day (no throwing), with 5 days that included throwing mixed with moderate intensity strength work? If you had multiple athletes and limited time, could the athletes waiting to throw complete one or two sets of the strength work and still fall within the parameters of Bondarchuk’s principles?

    Sorry for all the questions, but I’ve read most of Dr. B’s English books after hearing him speak in Canada in 2007, and I’m a constant follower of your blog. I’m fascinated by his methodology, but I’m trying to adapt it to a collegiate setting where most throwers compete in multiple throws and have limited training time (~3 hrs/day total). I hope these questions stimulate some discussion from everyone on this site, and thanks again for all you do for our sport!

    • Martin
      Martin says:

      Bondarchuk’s training periodization is quite flexible and can work with a variety of settings, less lifting, more lifting, more events, etc. Primoz, for example, used a variant of the periodization model that had higher lifting intensities but just 3 days of Olympic lifts a week (plus 3 days of other lifting). This obviously worked…he became Olympic champion. But this is his approach to periodization and not his current approach to other aspects of training.

      I don’t think the collegiate restrictions should alter what can or can’t be used. A lot of work can be done in a short amount of time if it is structured well. This could mean nearly any approach can be fit into it. Also, nearly any system can be used to get the minimum strength levels. That is rarely the barrier to success.

  4. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    The issue with maximal strength training as it relates to maximal speed, as I understand it, is that it takes too long to achieve maximal strength. The contact times in sprinting and such do not allow for the athlete to impart maximal strength or force. It becomes an issue of the RATE of force development, not the limit of such. Again, this is just how I understand the disconnect between maximal speed and maximal strength. Interesting topic, for sure!

  5. diskus
    diskus says:

    I have not had chance to look at Bondarchuk’s work. However it does intrigue me. I am curious if he has ever examined the effect of previous maximum strength training on the maximum speed training as he outlines. Basically has the athlete reached near his or her potetntial in maximum strength prior to embarking on maximum speed training and is this relevant is some way


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] When I wrote about this topic a little back in January, it created a very interesting debate. The book is available for pre-order in the HMMR Media Store and I’ll be writing more about it once it is officially released. So let the debates begin. […]

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