Friday, June 10, 2011

Special Strength Training – Manual for Coaches

Special Strength Training – Manual for Coaches
Yuri Verkhoshansky
Natalia Verkhoshansky

Who is Yuri Verkhoshansky?

Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky is predominantly known to most westerner readers as the Russian researcher who invented plyometric training (Shock Method).

Many coaches and sport scientists around the world, however, recognize Y.Verkhoshansky as a prominent figure in the field of explosive strength training, one of the greatest experts in the theory of sports training whose ideas was implemented and expanded as: Methodology of Special Strength Training and Special Physical Preparation, Long Delay Training Effect, Conjugate–Sequence System Training and Block Training System (known in the West as Block Periodization).

To a few sport training experts, he is known as the first scientist applied the Physiology of Adaptation in the theoretic analysis of the sport training process.

Some training experts also know that more than 20 years ago he introduced the new approach of planned training, “Programming of training”, based upon the innovative, at that time, methodology that is presently known as System Analysis & Design and the structured process modelling.

[Taken from official website by professor Yuri Verkhoshanky. For more info click here]

What does this product claim?

From one of the leading sports scientists in history comes this milestone and final monument to his brilliant and ground breaking career. The Coaches Manual is the most cutting edge and exhaustive work of it’s kind. In it contains all guidelines for the understanding and use of Special Strength Training, detailed  description of two main groups of SST means, resistance and jump exercises, and the combined methods of their use: Complex Method, Stimulation Method, Contrast Method, Circuit Method, and Strength Aerobic Method. Elucidation of rationale of organizing Special Strength Training and it’s application within the Block Training System is handled in a very clear and concise approach.

Further, the practical use of SST in acyclic, cyclic sports, as well as team and combat sports. Also included are the author’s own Ultra Mass program for bodybuilders and the most intelligent approach to the warm up. A complete history of the author’s career and many contributions to the field are recounted. This book will prove to be the single most important tool in the arsenal of the best coaches around the world.

[Taken from Ultimate Athlete Concepts website]

Where can I get it and how much does it costs?

The site of Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky
US $65 + Shipping
EUR €45 + Shipping

Ultimate Athlete Concepts
US $65 + Shipping

US $64.95 + Shipping

US $65 + Shipping

Book design

            The design of the book is really good. It comes in softcover and has 292 pages. The paper quality and binding are really good. Visibility of the text, tables and picture is great. There are some minor spelling errors, but nothing serious.  The book will survive frequent referencing without paper coming out. I am referring to the edition published by Verkhoshansky SSTM, 2011, Rome, Italy. You can check the table of contents here.

My thoughts

            This book was awaited for many years (decades?) and finally it cleared a lot of confusion out there regarding Yuri Verkhoshansky’s work, cause mainly by poor translation and editing.

            I suggest you start up with the Preface that explains the evolution of Yuri’s work and coaching and how he came to certain discoveries in training (and yes, it has to do with the Russian winter and lack of facilities). After the preface I suggest reading Appendix 4 before proceeding with the book itself. Appendix 4 was written by Natalia and explains the contribution of Yuri to the development of sport science. Appendix 4 also covers Yuri’s influences by N. Bernstain and P. Anokhin and Yuri’s distinction to traditional training theory by Matveyev (not a distinction but rather a paradigm shift). This part of the book was the real eye opener for me, especially because I finally came to understanding that Yuri was really influenced by [complex] system approach, self-organization and  physiology of adaptation. This is very similar if not the same to my own philosophy of training. For example, Matveyev was more mechanistic oriented, basing his approach on the theory of sport form development and education of physical qualities (theory of motor abilities). Contrary to him, Yuri based his philosophy on systemic or organic/holistic approach, where the goal is to improve power output of competition exercise, mainly by improving two complementary components: (1) increasing the athletes ‘motor potential’ (Specialized Morpho-Functional Structure – Anokhin’s theory of Functional Systems) and (2) improving the capacity to use motor potential (technical/tactical skill – Bernstain’s Motor Control). Based on these two important complementarity concepts (which are pretty similar to substance~form), along with the ‘laws’ of human adaptation, everything else is build: biodynamic structure, key and secondary elements, local and global SST means, LDTE, CAR, training potential, conjugate-sequence system, heterochonicity, conjugate method, etc, etc.
Although I am fascinated by the theory presented in this book (and behind Yuri’s work and philosophy), I am still not a fan of practical applications to acyclic, cyclic and team/combat sports.  I am by all means on the same page with Yuri when it comes to theory behind training (complex systems approach, physiology of adaptation), but somehow I don’t feel his practical solutions congruent with all this very sound theory. I think we need to take into consideration the context when he developed his system. In the recent years motor control field was empowered with constraints-led approach and we also know more regarding different parameters of Specialized Morpho-Functional Structures (SMFS, motor potential) due better physiological research, along with physiology of adaptation and stress. What I would do, and what Natalia suggested in Appendix 4, is to utilize this theory along with (newer) analysis of physiological parameters (SMFS) and competition constraints in my own sport. Anyway, that was the point of the book – to learn principles behind training system building and the book fulfilled that purpose. Examples are just that, examples. Principles are what is important, and I must admit that my application of the principles presented is probably different.
What I regret , after years of feeling that there is something wrong with traditional training theory (theory of motor abilities) and my seek to utilize complex system approach to training, is to finally find out that Yuri was on the same page as me, but unfortunately now he is passed away and I cannot visit him and talk to him about all this. Last year World has lost two prominent experts: Charlie Francis and Yuri Verkhoshansky. They were both big contributors to sport science and coaching.

            Another interesting thing that can be found in Appendix 2 is a bodybuilding program, that is pretty good and aimed for those bodybuilders that are experiencing muscle growth stagnation. This program is based on the concept of ‘micro-block’ or two training sessions done back-to-back with the same training aim. First time I have heard about this idea was from Lyle McDonald, where he mentioned the similar solution in his specialization routines for advanced body builders.

            In Appendix 3 there is a discussion on Warm-up. I remember while I was doing internship at MBSC in summer 2010, everybody was looking at me strangely when I did my warm up routine (people also made funny comments on mine boxing practice warm-up). I did ‘traditional’ joint circles (in Serbia we call them vežbe oblikovanja) which are called “Russian/European Warm-up Style” in the US.  Well, this Appendix covers this ‘type’ of warm-up, along with a lot of other principles of warming up. Very interesting read indeed. Here and here are my 2 cents on the warm-up. 

            So to conclude – THIS IS A MUST HAVE BOOK! If you are serious about coaching and training theory, you must have this book on your book shelf. Maybe you are not going to agree with and/or utilize the training examples, but what you will gain is knowledge behind it and you will be free to implement your own solution based on this knowledge of training theory. This book will also provide you with the starting point for reading every other work done/translated by Yuri Verkhoshansky.

            I want to express my gratitude to Natalia Verkhoshansky for sending me the free copy of a book and to all contributors that have helped this huge project comes to light. Thank you.

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