Sunday, November 9, 2008

Stability, Pull, Lockout Power – Charles A. Smith

Exercise 1






Improve Your Lockout Power, Pulling Power and Stability
by Charles A. Smith

If the sport of weightlifting had a motto, I am sure it would be the same as that of England’s Royal Air Force . . . “Per Ardua Ad Astra” . . . “By effort to the stars” . . . for no weight trainer, be he interested in maximum development or the elevation of greater poundages, can hope to succeed unless he is prepared to make a great deal of sacrifice. He must work hard . . . harder than any other type of athlete. He must forego those little pleasure trips in order to get that extra bit of condition for a competition. He must, if he is an Olympic lifter, watch his diet so he can deep within the necessary bodyweight class limit, and if he is a bodybuilder, to reach the peak of muscular efficiency not only with exercise but with through the type of food he eats as well. all activity, outside of the very necessary social obligations connected with his family and earning a living must be subordinated to the task of building up a peak of power and muscularity . . . if he wants to reach his heights. There is no other way, only . . . “By effort to the stars.”

As the weight trainer advances further into his sport and the more he himself progresses, so do his routines tend to become more and more specialized. At first there is a “general” programme of exercises, wide in its scope and taking care of his basic requirements. But

after a year of so, the weight trainer finds that to maintain the rate of progress hitherto enjoyed, the type of exercise must be (a) increasingly severe, and (b) unusual. Harder workouts, increased numbers of sets and heavier poundages have to be used; the old familiar movements discarded and those never before attempted included as the basis of a new schedule. The Olympic lifter will see the need for more power along certain lines. His lockouts might be lacking determination. His second pull poor. His stability under a weight uncertain and a host of lesser faults screaming aloud for correction.

Very often, the correction of a single weakness is the key to the entire situation. How many times have I seen a lifter take a heavy snatch to arm’s length and then fail to recover . . . sink slowly to the platform with the barbell, securely overhead, unable to complete the lift because of no supporting power! Or that man attempting a limit press, purple in the face, straining to keep the weight moving through the sticking point, every muscle in his thighs trembling with violent effort, the barbell stubbornly refusing to move past the head! Or the lifter with a heavy clean in at the shoulders staggering and stumbling all over the platform, a danger to himself and the front row spectators, not to mention the poor old referee!

Now while we very often see men with poor pressing strength, there is no excuse for men who are weak in back and thigh. Pressing power depends a great deal on bone lengths and muscle attachments, on width of shoulder and, in more instances than you realize, temperament. But no strength athlete who has practiced deep knee bends and heavy dead lifts lacks when it comes to holding that barbell overhead or getting up from a heavy clean or snatch. These men who have previously practiced heavy leg and back movements need not fear they will fail in Olympic lifting . . . they have what I call . . . BASIC POWER!

This month I propose to deal with three of the most common faults of the young Olympic lifter . . . Pull . . . Lockout Power. If you have been sold on the idea of Basic Power through the medium of my previous articles, then you have can your hands now the “Open Sesame” to the treasure house of Strength. A cheap, quick assembly of the Harvey Maxime Bar, or, as I call it, The Basic Power Bar - its use should be required in every gymnasium throughout the country.

The main advantage of the Basic Power Bar lies in its safety. Hitherto, the lifter who sought to increase his supporting or recovery power had to rely on the aid of training partners who stood by to catch the weight in case it was dropped. A lot of toes and platforms were saved when Mr. Harvey invented this bar! Now any lifter, training on his own, can use the Basic Power Bar (my version of the Harvey Maxime Bar) and therein is its second advantageous feature – you don’t need catchers! If you progress to such a point, you can safely support 700 lbs. overhead, secure in the knowledge that a fraction of an inch separates the floor from the weight . . . and it has only that distance to fall. All fears, all inhibitions about handling heavy poundages are expelled from the mind . . . and here is the third advantageous feature . . . the development of a “contempt” for limit poundages . . . you just ain’t afraid of the barbell anymore. And, when lifting from blocks, supports or rack, the lifter is often forced into an unnatural position, unlike his normal position in the movement at that stage of its performance.

With no further waste of words, let us get on to the business of building lockout power. When you take a weight overhead, you have to possess two things . . . the ability to straighten the arm and the ability to KEEP it locked out at the elbows. The first is a press-out power, the second a sustaining power.

Exercise 1. Load up the Basic Power Bar to a poundage equal to your best press. Increase the length of the chains so that when you raise the bar itself as high as you are able, you only have to press it out two inches to completely straighten the arms. Your width of grip should be the normal width used for your actual press. Stand under the bar and press out the weight. LOWER IT AS SLOWLY AS POSSIBLE. As soon as you feel the weight touch the floor, RELAX . . . COUNT THREE . . . then press out again, lower slowly and repeat. Start off with as many reps as you are able to make . . . up to 15 reps, 3 sets. After that, add ten pounds, start off again with 3 sets of 10 reps, working up to 3 sets of TWENTY reps before increasing the poundage. DON’T FORGET . . . Lower the weight as slowly as possible . . . PAUSE for a count of THREE between each rep.

Exercise 2. To build sustaining power, you need a heavier poundage. All you have to do is get used to supporting increasingly heavier weights overhead . . . AND MOVING WITH THEM. Start off with a poundage 20 to 30 pounds BELOW your best jerk. Increase the length of the chains so that if you were pressing the barbell out, you would have only an inch to do so. Raise the bar overhead and LOCK the arms out. This must leave you with your KNEES UNLOCKED. Take a firm grip on the bar . . . the same handspacing you use for your clean and jerk, and lock out or straighten your legs. You will be performing a movement akin to a very slight squat while holding the bar at arm’s length . . . Just sufficient play so that you have to lock and unlock the knees, lowering and raising the weight an inch. Once more lower the weight as slowly as you can, feeling it down every fraction of that inch. Relax completely between each rep, then repeat. Start off with 3 sets of 10 reps until you get used to the movement, then at once increase the bar to TEN pounds ABOVE your best jerk. Start off with 3 sets of 10 reps working up to 3 sets of 20 reps before increasing your exercising poundage.

The sole difference between a deadlift . . . lifting a weight off the floor . . . to cleaning it is the ability to keep the weight moving. People speak glibly of first and second pull . . . actually there are no such animals but there ARE distinct “areas” or “zones” through which the weight moves when being cleaned, and it is during the passage from one zone to another that that little extra power has to be turned on and the weight given that additional boost, bringing it safely into the shoulders for the jerk. It is my personal opinion that there are “THREE” areas when the lifter has to turn on his strength during a clean. The first, form floor to knee . . .second, from knee to waist . . . third, from waist to shoulder.

Exercise 3. Rest the Basic Power Bar across a stout, heavy box. Shorten the lengths of chain so that all the slack is taken up and the plates on the ends of the chain touch the floor. Stand on the box and squat down, taking hold of the bar, gripping it one hand each side of the box. From here recover to upright position, lower the body slowly and repeat. Start off with a reasonably light poundage until you are used to the movement, then load the bar with a weight you can handle for 3 sets of 7 reps, and work up to 3 sets of 15 reps before adding more weight.

Exercise 4. Increase the length of the chains until the bar is level with your KNEES. Load up the bar with a weight equal to your best dead lift, grip the bar with your clean hand spacing, raise the weight until the body is upright, LOWER SLOWLY and repeat. 3 sets of 4 reps is sufficient to commence, working up to 3 sets of 10 reps before increasing the exercising poundage. This movement is identical to the high box or power dead lifts previously explained in my earlier articles.

Exercise 5. Increase the lengths of chain until the bar is waist high. Take your usual clean grip. Stand completely upright . . . the weights on each length of chain should be resting on the floor. Raise the bar chin high in the upright rowing motion . . . DON’T influence the movement by body motion . . . make it a simple “half” upright rowing motion. Use a poundage with which you can make 3 sets of 8 reps. Increase to 3 sets of 15 reps before adding poundage.

The final exercise in the Basic Power routine is for stability . . . just standing rock firm under a heavy weight. There is no reason why you should be subject to attacks of the “staggers” recovering from heavy snatches and cleans. If you make certain that your foot base, spacing of feet, is wide and NOT close, then your stability should be good. If you have the correct foot spacing yet are still liable to wobble during recovery, then you have poor stability due to lack of ability to control the weight . . . your “recovery muscle power” is poor. The remedy is simple. Just practice recovering, using the same method as in all basic bodybuilding and weight training routines. Take a poundage you can handle easily and gradually build up . . . first on the number of reps and secondly on poundage.

Exercise 6. Go down in a deep split or squat, hold your arms above your head full length . . . same width you use to snatch . . . and get a training partner to shorten the lengths of chain to the height of your unstretched arms. Load up the chain lengths with a poundage about 20 lbs. below your best snatch. Sink down into a deep split or squat . . . grasp the bar . . . recover the upright position. Then sink slowly down into a deep split or squat again and once more recover; repeat the movement. Commence with 3 sets of 5 reps working up to 3 sets of 10 reps before increasing the poundage.

In using the basic power routine, go through your regular schedule of full range movements first and when that is over start in on the routine. After you have finished the basic power routine take a rest of 10 to 15 minutes, then take the heaviest weight you can dead lift, hold it in your hands for as long as you can and shrug the shoulders until you are compelled to put the bar down. Don’t forget, “By effort to the stars” and WORK HARD.

Dennis Weis -

One of the greatest advances in the iron game, as far as I am concerned, was the advent of the Harvey - Maxime Bar Apparatus by a man named Roosevelt Harvey back around 1948. The purpose of this apparatus was to enable one to perform limited range movements with maximum poundage. The original Harvey - Maxime Bar Apparatus consists of two vertical guide bars. At the base of the guide bars are attachments for adding poundage. An exercise bar (aka: cross bar) is affixed to the guide bars in such a manner that it can be adjusted and locked at various heights, up or down; it does not slide on the vertical guide bars during select exercise movements.

For example if you were going to do a quarter squat using the Harvey Maxime Bar Apparatus it would simple be a matter of adjusting and locking the cross bar into the vertical guide bars about six inches below (standing) shoulder level. Next position yourself under the bar and proceed to lift the entire apparatus up. You might repeat this process for perhaps 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps. The potential of the Harvey - Maxime Bar Apparatus is enormous for a few reasons.

Reason #1: The distance between the floor and the barbell plates of the Harvey - Maxime Bar Apparatus is much, much less (sometimes only inches) than that of a conventional barbell when doing the same movements.

Reason #2: You are now mentally armed with the knowledge that the closed distance ratio of the barbell plates to the floor has improved so there is less concern about rep failure and as a result all former fears and inhibitions are expelled from your mind. This in turn allows you to develop a respectful contempt for lifting of limit poundage and beyond.

Reason #3: The Harvey - Maxime Bar Apparatus eliminates the need for spotter assistance. While the original Harvey – Maxime Bar Apparatus concept was viewed as a treasure house to strength gains its main objection was its monetary COST! Therefore a more functional, cheap, quick assemble version of the original Harvey – Maxime Bar Apparatus evolved into what the late Charles A. Smith termed as the ‘Basic Power Bar’ when referring to it in his articles. I prefer to call it… The ‘Chain Modified’ Harvey - Maxime Bar Apparatus.

Here is how to fabricate this rather simple apparatus: You will need two lengths of 1/2 or 5/8 galvanized or stainless steel chain, each equal in length to your height when standing with arms stretched straight overhead. You will also need a 1-1/16” x 72” Stress Proof Steel Bar, 2 inside and 2 outside heavy duty barbell collars, two plate holder pins and four heavy duty chain shackles. 28 Two of the shackles will have to be small enough so that each can pass through the end link of the chain, but large enough to allow the bar to pass through them as well. The two shackles are then secured on the bar by the collars. The two remaining shackles are attached to appropriate chain link (to accommodate the starting position of a select exercise) and the pre-loaded plate holder pins.

Once you have fabricated the ‘Chain Modified’ Harvey - Maxime Bar apparatus, its use will be practically limitless. All types of exercises such as: Standing Barbell Presses (incline and supine) Barbell Deadlifts, Barbell Upright Rowing, Barbell Squats (half, quarter and front), heavy poundage Barbell Supports (squats, bench press, standing press, jerk lock-outs overhead), and can be performed fearlessly with this apparatus.

The first ground breaking article titled: The Harvey – Maxime Bar by James R. Warren appeared in the December 1948 issue of Iron Man magazine and then in the 1950’s the Weider publications; Mr. America, Muscle Power and Your Physique gave it acclaim via the medium of articles by the late (1912-1991) Charles A. Smith, “A Pioneer in Muscle Training Instructional Journalism”. For well over 40 silent years its popularity never caught on by the subtle compliment of imitation and I often wondered why because I felt that The Harvey – Maxime Bar apparatus had an enormous potential, as I mentioned earlier, especially for POWER BODYBUILDING.

I am pleased to report however that in recent years a cable modified training tool similar to the Harvey - Maxime Bar Apparatus was invented by the late John V. Askem. Mr. Askem wrote a manual in 1997 titled: The Cable/Bar System (CBS) and shortly thereafter produced an 85 minute video demonstrating its use.

Video of squatting with a version of the apparatus –

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