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From the Desk of Clarence Bass

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Guru of Quantum Strength

"If you're an athlete, train as an athlete." Pat O'Shea 

If ever there was a sound mind in a sound body, it is Patrick J. O'Shea, Ed.D., Professor Emeritus of exercise and sports science at Oregon State University. Pat first came to my attention many years ago when I read about him in Strength & Health magazine, but I didn't full appreciate the true breadth of his achievements until I read his latest book, Quantum Strength & Power Training (Patrick's Books, 1996).

Pat has been a student of sports physiology for four decades. During this time he has not only been an outstanding Olympic-style lifter (best lifts at 181 bodyweight: 270 standing press, 276 snatch and 342 clean & jerk) and power lifter (357 bench press, 607 squat and 629 deadlift), but also a cyclist, mountain climber, skier, coach and a distinguished professor.

Dr. O'Shea's textbook Scientific Principles and Methods of Strength Fitness, published in 1976, sold over 75,000 copies and was considered the bible of strength training. He has authored over 125 articles which have been published in both professional journals and mass media publications. He is widely sought as a lecturer and for clinics by coaches in cycling, track & field, skiing, triathlons and mountaineering. Together, Pat and his wife Suzie, over a five year period, backpacked the rugged Pacific Crest Trail from the Oregon/California border up to Canada, a distance of 800 miles.

Pat has done - and still does - it all. But Quantum Strength, his new book, may be his crowning achievement.

It took a long time, but it is now universally accepted that weight training will improve the performance of male and female athletes - in all sports. It's settled, a stronger athlete is a better athlete. O'Shea, however, goes further. He maintains that only through the application of athletic-type lifts (such as the snatch, clean and squat) can peak athletic performance be attained. (more about this below.) That's what Quantum Strength is about, but it's much more.

I've never see a clearer, or more understandable - and interesting - explanation of the physiology and principles of strength and power training than that found in Pat's book. (The tables, graphics and photos are superb.) What's more, Quantum is for everyone from 16 to 80. The focus of Quantum Strength is on athletes in their peak years, but teenagers, senior masters and recreational athletes are also well covered.

Pat says, "Athletes don't plan to fail, they fail to plan," so he maps out training programs (cycle by cycle) for a wide cross-section of both strength and endurance sports, everything from the throwing events (shot, discus & hammer) and football to cycling and alpine skiing. In addition, O'Shea says "Life is too short to be weak," so he gives a five-phase, yearlong program designed to get a senior master athlete back into peak condition. Finally - and perhaps best of all - O'Shea outlines his personal four-season, cross-training program of swimming, cycling, running and weight training.

We recently caught up with Pat - he'd just returned from a weekend of cycling, his favorite endurance sport - and asked him about some things not covered in his book (and a few things that are). Here's what the Guru of Quantum Strength told us:

CB: How did you first get interested in strength and fitness?

PJO: Don't recall a time in my life when I was not involved in physical activity. My mother was a world class long distance swimmer back in the early 1930's, and so I was brought up in a family where fitness and being fit was a way of life. We hiked, swam, and rode bikes, but never thought of doing these activities as exercise. Weightlifting didn't enter the picture until after graduating from high school where I had been on the swim team. Following high school I continued to swim at the local YMCA, where in order to enter the pool you had to pass through the weightlifting area which was quite fascinating to me. I had never been exposed to weightlifting of any kind before. Eventually I began spending more time with the weights than swimming.

CB: Was there any particular person that motivated you to begin Olympic lifting?

PJO: Fortunately, one of the lifters at the Y, by the name of Al Kornke, gave me my early guidance and coaching in Olympic lifting. Al was a former heavyweight junior national champion and proved to be an excellent coach and friend.

CB: Most people stop training for one reason or another. You never did. Why not?

PJO: Raised in a sports oriented family being physically fit was the norm. And to this day for me and my family it is the accepted life-style. In fact, I can't imagine what it would be like not to be fit. Most of all I value the freedom of life-style that being fit permits. For example, living in Oregon and being involved in a wide variety of physically challenging outdoor activities such as backpacking, mountaineering, and wilderness skiing, you have to be in a constant state of "ready" fitness. Due to the risks and dangers involved you can't afford not to be.

CB: You are a strong advocate of what you call "Athletic-Type Strength Training" (ATST). What is ATST and, in a nutshell, why do you believe it is superior to machine training or standard bodybuilding exercises?

PJO: Well, the basic theme of Quantum Strength & Power Training is the utilization of athletic-type lifts to optimize athletic performance. In other words, if you're an athlete, train as an athlete. Athletic-type training is basically using full-range, multiple-joint lifting exercises (power cleans and snatches, high pulls, and squats) as the "core" lifts of the training program. In execution they require acceleration, speed, strength, flexibility, technique, and mental concentration. Not only do such lifts have the greatest carry over value to other sports, they also afford an athlete of any age (male or female) the opportunity to attain their genetic potential. Bodybuilding and machine training have a role in an overall athletic-strength-training program, but one that is very limited.

Pat practices what he preaches: here he is shown doing a split-style snatch

CB: What about the risk of injury, especially for the older athlete or trainer?

PJO: There is only minimal risk involved as long as you execute the core lifts utilizing good technique and lift within your age-related physical limits. Older individuals generally have as their primary goal the maintenance of strength fitness. They are not interested in maximizing strength. In this respect large-muscle-group lifts work best. Thus a routine that calls for a couple of sets of 10 in the power clean or snatch provides better results than 3 or 4 bodybuilding exercises in maintaining full-range strength, flexibility, and body balance. As we age, athletic-type lifting contributes most to maintaining a high level of functional living through each decade of life.

CB: What do you mean by "quantum" strength and power?

PJO: Quantum denotes a discrete jump in strength and power due to athletic-type training. It is based upon an understanding of the physiological and psychological bonding process that works to produce peak athletic performance.

CB: What was your primary motive in writing Quantum Strength & Power Training: Gaining The Winning Edge?

PJO: Actually I had been preparing to write this book for 30 years. It represents a culmination of my experiences as a competitive Olympic-style lifter (13 years), strength coach (Oregon State University 1965-76), and professor of exercise and sports physiology (29 years), and multi-sports athlete - cycling, running, and Nordic skiing. In writing the book, I have integrated scientific principles and concepts of gender-free athletic-type strength training together with applied methods of multi-sport cross-training which will provide an athlete with the scientific knowledge necessary to achieve his or her genetic potential. Achieving ones athletic potential is a difficult task. However, my book can serve as a compass and point the young athlete in the right direction. The basic motivation then in my writing this book was to pass on to future generations of athletes my knowledge and experiences in athletic strength training and conditioning. Hopefully, it will shorten their road to success.

CB: Your daughters, Katie and Kerry, and your son, Sean, are active in sports and fitness. Did you and your wife do anything special to kindle their interest or was it mainly their idea?

PJO: Our three children had the good fortune of being raised in a family environment where fitness was just part of life. Very early in their young lives they were doing all the outdoor activities their parents were involved with - backpacking, snow camping, cross-country skiing, etc. They were not left home with a sitter. At the time, I don't think they really understood the significance of their outdoor life-style which taught them to be self-sufficient and rely on themselves while still looking out for others.

CB: You recently celebrated your 67th birthday by doing some outstanding lifts. What were they and what's your next athletic goal?

PJO: A week following my March 10 birthday, on St. Paddy's Day, weighing 188, I made the following lifts: squat 375, power clean 220, deadlift 450, and benched 225. The squat was a conservative effort as I had strained a knee skiing a few weeks before, and too, I don't bench due to an old shoulder injury. The next day, I made a 40 mile bike ride in just a little over 2 hours. As for future lifting goals, I really don't have any except to maintain as much of my current strength and fitness for as long as possible. I do plan to continue participating in master age-group competition in cycling. For the past 20 years or so my training has been on a seasonal basis. From November to March training focuses on powerlifting, stationary biking, and cross-country skiing. April to October, it is cycling, backpacking, and other mountaineering related activities. With the seasonal training approach I'm never bored or suffer from burnout (lack of motivation).

CB: Thanks Pat. You're a role model for the ages.

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Copyright©1997 Clarence and Carol Bass. All rights reserved.

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