Mel Cunningham Siff
Dr Mel C Siff
School of Mechanical Engineering
University of the Witwatersrand
Mel Siff is currently a Senior Lecturer in the School of
Mechanical Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand (popularly known as 'Wits'
university), Johannesburg, South Africa, where he has been on its staff for about 30
He has a PhD in physiology specialising in biomechanics, MSc (Applied Mathematics) awarded
summa cum laude in brain research, BSc Honours in Applied Mathematics and a BSc (Physics,
Applied Math). His serious involvement with the Internet began when he devised the unique
concept of electronic education in sports science based on methods of propositional
analysis pioneered by the ancient Grecian philosophers. This enterprise created
the well-known weekly P&P's (Puzzles & Paradoxes) and F&F's (Facts &
Fallacies) which he wrote for various user groups, including Sportscience, Physio, PTHER,
FIT-L, Sport Psycho and Weights.
His main teaching duties at his university are in applied mechanics, biomechanics and
professional communication. Previous appointments have included Acting
Headships of the Sports Administration and the Communication Studies Division at his
university, the latter post having involved him in researching communication models, the
visual image, human symbol systems and language processing. Besides lecturing
to engineering students, he regularly lectures to physiotherapy and physical education
students at several universities in his country.
He has presented numerous papers at over 100 conferences in sports science, sports
medicine, physiology, physical education, ergonomics, engineering, psychology,
chiropractice, communication and linguistics. He has written more than 150
papers and books in these disciplines and was author/co- producer of the rock opera
'Genesis Won'. He has addressed numerous conferences of the NSCA in the USA and
Australia, as well as IDEA in the USA and the Exercise Association in England.
After several working visits to Russia, he and renowned Russian scientist, Dr Yuri
Verkhoshansky, wrote the major textbook 'Supertraining - Special Strength Training for
Sporting Excellence'. This extensive volume offers one of the few definitive
treatises available on integrated Western-Eastern methods of sports
training. His other book 'Facts and Fallacies of Fitness' has become very
popular among fitness professionals and the general public.
He was the longest-serving Chairman of his university's Sports Council (1971-78) and was
largely responsible for establishing its professional Sports Administration. He
was Vice-Chairman of the S African Weightlifting Union, Chairman of the Weightlifting,
Karate and Trampoline Clubs at his university, as well as the national Chairman of the
combined S African Universities Weightlifting Association. He is also a
qualified weightlifting referee.
He was manager-coach for the South African Weightlifting team (1983-84) and received many
awards in Olympic weightlifting at university, inter- university, state and national
level. A former Sportsman of the Year at his university, he also represented
the university in karate, track-and-field, trampolining and cricket. He
introduced and taught the first aerobics classes at his university, later becoming an
international judge in competitive aerobics. His services to the university
were recognized in the form of two Meritorious Service Awards 'for exceptional
contribution to sport', as well as a Sports Council Resolution (1978) that 'This Council
thank Mel Siff, ex- Chairman and more recently, Sports Officer, for doing more for Wits
Sport than any other individual in the history of the university'.
He has devised and co-ordinated for many years the highly successful Continuing Education
Fitness Instruction courses at his university (in Personal Training, Sports Massage &
Restoration, Aerobics Instruction, Exercise Science and Seated Fitness). As a
highly experienced sports massage specialist who has trained with Bulgarian, Rumanian and
other Eastern European experts, he introduced the first certificated Sports Massage
courses to be offered at any university in his country. He and Dr Michael
Yessis co-edited the textbook 'Sports Restoration and Massage' to provide a solid
scientific foundation for this and other massage courses.
He has consulted for numerous sports organizations, teams, athletes or coaches in several
countries in sports including track-and-field, weightlifting, rowing, tennis, swimming,
karate, American football, rugby, boxing, fencing, basketball, volleyball, baseball,
hockey, squash, gymnastics, competitive aerobics, cricket, underwater sports, golf,
bodybuilding, dance and cycling.
His presentation of physiotherapeutic PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) as
an entire system of sports conditioning at the NSCA conference in Denver in 1989 marked
the first steps of any scientist to take PNF out of the rehabilitation and stretching
setting so as to provide a comprehensive system of sports training. A
particular interest of his is the design of low-cost biomechanical research, training and
rehabilitation devices to enable less affluent countries and institutions to undertake
sophisticated work which would normally be beyond their reach. His
collaboration with fellow engineering staff and senior students in this enterprise led to
his establishing the first biomechanics facility at his university, as well as a
comprehensively equipped weights gym and research facility at his home to enable him to
extend his working day with minimal interruption. This facility also allows him
to continue weightlifting training three times a week with other lifters, bodybuilders and
Currently a member of the Technical Committee of the Australian Strength &
Conditioning Association, he is or has been a member of the NSCA, the Coaching Association
of Canada, the US Weightlifting Federation and the Australian Coaching Council.
He is married to Lisa Ericson, an American former ice-skating professional and vivacious
disabled expert in seated fitness training for able-bodied and disabled
individuals. She created the well-known SMART (Seated Movement Aerobic and
Resistive Training) fitness system which has been presented at many international
conferences. Former Fitness Director at Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Denver
and recipient of many fitness industry awards, she introduced the first ever Junior
Wheelchair Sports Camp to South Africa which was attended by President
Mandela. This led to considerable collaborative work with President Mandela's
Children's Fund, culminating in his requesting her to organize thousands of disabled
children for his 1996 birthday function. Mel and Lisa own another home in
Denver and travel to the USA every year for conferences and vacationing.