Commentary on Louie Simmons Debacle
By John Coffee and Edward Baker
A few weeks ago, powerlifter Louie Simmons released a book providing his interpretation of strength training for weightlifters. This literature is falsely written under the premise that a bunch of random exercises are going to be the answer to make American weightlifting great again. Louie confuses the trend of a routine consisting mostly of the lifts, squats, and pulls to a lack of knowledge, when there is a general consensus that the movements that most similarly mimic the snatch and clean & jerk correlate to improvement of the respective lifts. John Coffee and I felt the need to put out this article to make sure that nobody actually takes this book seriously.
In his book, Louie Simmons writes about how American lifters spend most of their training time on technique and fail to train for strength. Of course this is not true. American lifters spend hours each week doing pulls and squats, also hyper extensions, presses, glute ham raises, ab work etc. Louie fails to realize also that when a lifter does heavy doubles and triples and singles in the Snatch and Clean & jerk, they’re also working strength and power as well as technique. He also seems to fail to realize that when pulls and front squats with the same technique as the classics lifts are done, he or she also is working technique. I’m not sure Louie quite realizes exactly how Olympic lift training is done.
The latest training method seems to include working almost exclusively with low reps in the classic lifts, plus front and back squats. Many of the world’s top lifters seem to be training this way. Although I personally don’t wish to train my lifters this way, it is worth noting that some of the best lifters in the world do. The trend seems to do less variety of exercises rather than more.
“So how do you raise the Olympic style squatting? Simple: by not doing them. Yes, that means following the Conjugate Method” – Louie Simmons
Louie advises people having trouble with squats to not do squats, and to do box squats instead. How about reducing your squat weights so that you do your squats correctly and strengthen the legs this way? Many individuals have weak quads, this can be corrected by doing both front and back squats as upright as possible.
As John stated, when an individual is performing the full lifts, they’re working technique while also getting stronger, and when performing squats and pulls, they’re getting stronger while also working technique; you want to do all of the assistance movements as close to the exact of motion as you can possibly get.
“If you pull your knees inward while recovering from a heavy squat, why do you think more squats will fix the problem? It won’t, of course. If you can’t hold the lockout in your jerk or snatch do you really think it will correct itself? No, you must at the very least do elbow extensions.” – Louie Simmons
If a lifter is performing squats incorrectly as Louie describes, then they would simply focus on squatting without the knees caving in; getting strong in the right movement pattern is the premise of Weightlifting.
Take this comparison for example: Bob Peoples clean & jerked 308 lb and deadlifted 725 lb weighing 181 lb, whereas Isaac Berger clean & jerked 336 lb and never could deadlift 500 lb, weighing 132 lb. Though Peoples deadlifted well over 200 lb more than Berger, he still clean & jerked less than him. Berger was stronger in the right movement pattern. There’s being strong, then there’s being strong in the right movement.
Louie also writes of accommodation:
“When I watch Olympic lifting in its current state, I can only think of one thing: Accommodation. When doing the same training—using the same exercises over and over with the same volume or intensity—a lifter’s performance will slow or even go backwards.”
“In the US, the expectation is that the result of exercise is always an increase in performance, but if nothing in the program is changed, the athlete experiences the principle of diminishing returns. This is a general law of biology and simply means if one does a constant stimulus, that stimulus will decrease over time.”
The principle of accommodation that Louie writes of is absolutely correct; if you do the exact same routine each week with no progression of volume and intensity then your progress will slow and eventually stall. However I know of no coach that has done this. In Vladimir Zatsiorsky’s Science and Practice of Strength Training he writes of accommodation, presumably where Louie got his similar explanation from:
However Zatsiorsky follows up in the next paragraph with (and Simmons makes no mention of):
Everyone’s progress begins to slow as they go further into their Weightlifting career; In the first couple of months of training a Weightlifter can improve their snatch and clean & jerk weekly, sometimes daily, but as they get further and further into their career, personal records become less plentiful. That’s just the way it is. The stronger you get, the harder it is to get strong. Success in a weightlifter’s training isn’t determined by the number of PRs made in a bunch of random exercises, but by what a weightlifter can Snatch and Clean & jerk on the platform. Ultimately, you have X amount of time and want to do the exercises that are the most productive and that most resemble the Olympic lifts.
There is constant mention in his book of American weightlifters being unsuccessful because they’re not doing the exercises he describes in his book; well what about steroids and the talent pool? In other countries, the most genetically predisposed people are picked for weightlifting, in this country, not more than a few percent of people hear about weightlifting much less practice it. It is certainly becoming better known, and hopefully will continue to. However until the United States develops a beat the drug test or WADA manages to successfully eliminate drugs from this sport, then we will continue to be on the outside looking in. (I certainly would prefer the latter method) The writings of Tommy Kono, Bob Takano, Carl Miller, Artie Drechsler, Harvey Newton, and Jim Schmitz, to name a few, have gifted American weightlifting with the knowledge we need to become a dominant Weightlifting power, we just need to keep finding the talent and get drugs out of the sport to do it.