10 Takeaways: Strength Training and Coordination: An Integrative Approach (Part 1/2)

Part 1 (From the first three chapters):

My key points from “Strength Training and Coordination: An Integrative Approach” by Frans Bosch:

1.  Coordination must be taken into account during strength training

  • “Most literature about strength training is highly mechanical in its approach, and Isaac Newton seems to have contributed more to strength training theory than all the neurophysiologists in history.”

2.  The human body is a ‘complex biological system’ unsupported by our current ‘reductionist approach’

  • Diet, hormonal changes, sleep, mood, social environment, motivation, ambient temperature, and familiarity with training… “may have a crucial impact on the adaptations that occur.”
  • Precise movement corrections serve little purpose.  If corrections are not universally applicable, the learning system will not use them.

3.  Movements are not just motor patterns but sensorimotor patterns.

  • Aquajogging will not transfer well to actual jogging.  Although the exercise resembles the actual movement, the sensory information differs greatly (leading to little or no transfer).
  • Low impact control as applied in jumping, running, and throwing has limited transfer to actual high-intensity jumping, running, and throwing.  “There is no guarantee of transfer from low-intensity to high-intensity mechanisms.”

4.  We can measure strength gain but how can we measure sports performance gain?

  • How can you measure strength in a sporting movement?  “If an attempt is made to measure strength in a situation that is very like the sporting movement, so many coordinative and other factors play a part that the measurement becomes too complex and the result cannot be properly analysed.”
  • “There are scarcely any good measurements that can predict level of performance in the sporting movement.”

5.  Gaining muscle or strength may not make you faster – it could do the opposite

  • Strength training may cause an increase in the number of sarcomeres arranged in parallel (this is good for force, bad for speed).
  • “The benefit of large muscle mass (great strength) is counterbalanced by the fact that it impedes rapid movement and has a high energy cost – disadvantages that threaten the survival of the species.”

6.  Muscles specialize, some for force, some for speed

  • Thick muscles (sarcomeres arranged in parallel) like the glutes, specialize in force production (but not speed). Long muscles (sarcomeres arranged in series) like the rectus femoris, specialize in speed (but not force).  The gastrocnemius specializes in both (speed and force).
  • Zoo analogy: “A zoo with just one species of animal will not be very successful.  Diversity of species is the key to success; and in a motor skill, too, diversity of muscle structure and muscle function is the key to successful movement.”  Load muscles in a way that is in line with their structure and function.

7.  Is sport elastic or is it eccentric-concentric?

  • In consecutive hurdle hops: “the height of maximal jumps is not achieved by concentric (motor or positive) muscle action, but by elastic muscle action.  Elastic muscle use and concentric explosive muscle use are completely different.”
  • Speed skaters and swimmers who want to push off faster will not gain much benefit from consecutive hurdle hops.  In contrast, throwing (javelin, pitching, and so on) at maximal effort is very much based on elastic muscle action, and so there is no eccentric-concentric action in the muscle fibers when loading and unloading elastic energy during throwing.  “There is therefore little point in explosive sport athletes practicing muscle use in order to increase the speed of their explosive movements.”

8.  Overcoming muscle slack may be more important than the force a muscle can ultimately produce

  • “Muscle slack and its relationship to cocontractions (simultaneous action of agonists and antagonists) are among the most performance-determining factors in sport.”  We should have exercises solely designed for learning effective cocontraction (body tensioning).
  • We are interested in small countermovements, not large ones.  Large countermovements lead to longer muscle slack and poorer performance in sports requiring action under time pressure.

9.  We should allow for self-organization in training, instead of searching for an ‘ideal’ movement pattern

  • We can’t teach self-organization.  “All a coach, physical therapist or movement expert can do is create conditions that optimize the self-organizing ability’s chances of finding generally valid principles and satisfactory solutions.”
  • “The higher the running speed, the higher the knee, and sprinters have substantially higher top speeds than players of ball sports.  This means that knee height is largely irrelevant to technique.”

10.  There are principles of agility

  1. Foot plant from above: You want the foot plant from above, if you have ‘slipping in’, you must wait until the hips are above the feet before producing force and changing direction.
  2. Keep the head still: this will allow better absorption of information from the environment.
  3. Upper body first: COD should be initiated from the shoulder girdle and upper trunk.
  4. Extend the trunk while rotating: Flexion while rotating changes the ‘launch platform’ (at an angle) – not good
  5. Distribute pressure when decelerating: Move the upper body forwards when decelerating (not trunk), this will distribute forces over a large part of the body (not just the knee joint).

To learn more about Bosch’s take on strength training for sport, the book can be purchased here.


After 3 months of Cluster Hypertrophy, Bench Press increased 40kg, Squat increased 70kg, and Deadlift increased 60kg.
I finally benched 225.  Cluster Hypertrophy is the shit.  I think I hit PRs everywhere and especially with good form.

Vid M. - Collegiate Basketball Player