Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Best Stimulators of Growth
Tom McCullough, MEd.

Q: Beyond the physiological reasons for doing any weight training, these exercises seem to have taken on some mythical status which raises them above all other inferior exercises. I fail to completely understand this unless you are training to be a competitive power lifter.

First off, the squat, deadlift and powerclean stress the largest amount of muscle mass out of all of the exercises. These 3 exercises have been shown by several studies to also have the biggest effect on some of the anabolic growth hormones like GH and testosterone. It is common knowledge that the growth stimulated from doing these exercises will also have a spill over effect to the bench press. Now as far as the attributes these exercises give to an athlete. I think you would have not had to look to far beyond the recent Summer Olympics to see that each year the athletes look more muscular. Weight training has not only produced better athletes, but it has also cut down drastically on the amount of injuries during competition. These facts are well documented. I did my whole thesis around this subject. 

Q: So, I believe, there is no inherent magic to these exercises unless they work for a specific person under >specific conditions. 

These exercises have nothing to do at all with magic. It is simply the fact that they recruit the most amount of muscles per rep. You might like to do some reading of the many research studies in this area. There is lots of data out on the benefit if doing multi-jointed like the squat, deadlift (powerclean), and bench press. Exercises as compared to others. 

Q: You say these exercises (squat, bench, deadlift) "...have been shown over and over again to be the best stimulators of growth." 

It is the deadlift, powerclean, and squat. And yes, certainly I have references for this or I wouldn't have said it. Kramer et al.(1988 & 1990), Fahey et al. (1976), Guezennec et al. (1986), Hakkinen et al. (1988), and Weiss et al. (1983). Let me know if you would like complete references, I'll be more than happy to oblige. 

Q: Do you have a specific source for this, and what were these exercises compared to? 

Just given, but if you really want all of these specifics, I'll let you provide the diligence. This is all pretty common knowledge among strength and conditioning professionals. There is a real good book called "Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning" by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Many universities have adopted this 600 page text part of their graduate level sport science reading. This would be an excellent place for you to start learning about the science of strength and conditioning in athletics. 

Q: You say that "these exercise should be done regardless of your specific goals." That is quite a broad >generalization. Do you include all athletic goals in this?

Not a generalization at all. These recommendations are based on years of research in strength and conditioning of athletes. And yes, all athletic goals would fall under these recommendations unless you are competing as a couch potato. Weight training IS used to train all different kinds of athletes (men's and women's). If you live close to a University, check their strength and conditioning program and see what they do. I, in the past worked as a strength coach with a very successful Division I athletic department. We used the same basic core lifts as well as sport specific training to strengthen every athlete in the school. 

Q: The problem is that there are not enough professionals who have gone through the certification program from United States Weightlifting to learn how to properly teach Olympic lifting movements. 

Come on now, teaching someone how to do the powerclean is not rocket science. Don't let people kid you. I have taught 12, 13 and 14 year old football players how to do this lift. By any means the USOC is not the only one in the world that knows how to properly perform the powerclean. Most every strength and conditioning coach is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is very well versed in teaching the powerclean as well as any other Olympic lift. 

Q: One last point. Have you ever tried the new HAMMER Strength H-Squat machine? If you have, let me know what you think of it compared to a regular squat. 

Yes and it doesn't compare to the squat. It compares to the leg press or hack squat. If you have ever done a bio mechanical analysis of the muscles involved between the two, you would easily see that the balance factor has been taken out of the machine squat. Many synergist muscles are not used to do a machine squat or hack squat. The fact that your arms do not have to help support the weight that is balanced on your back and the fact that your low back and lats are not used makes a big difference in the amount of total muscle mass the is used during the exercise. The HAMMER Strength H-Squat machine is ONLY good if you can't do squats because of a low back injury. But what do you want ? Good, better or best? As for HAMMER strength, I have used all of their equipment. They do not compare to the basic core lifts they were designed to replace. Now are they bad machines? No, they are actually good machines and they have their place in training. Especially bodybuilding. 

Does it not make since that if one method or machine was superior to another in maximizing strength gains, strength coaches would not immediately jump on it. We always read the current literature and most of us are members of several research oriented professional organizations, we attend conventions, and hear the latest in everything on the market. Universities are generally willing to budget anything needed to produce a quality athletic program. So why would coaches depend on myths, magic or outdated methods? Strength coaches are always in search of a better way to strengthen and condition their athletes, so far the above mentioned lifts have never been improved on. 

Q: You are not the only fitness professional that firmly believes in the squat, bench press, and deadlift. It is very common in the Northwest also, especially among high school football coaches. 

If you check further you will find this common practice not only in the NW, but all over the world. However, there are lots of coaches that argue between the deadlift and the powerclean.