Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Beginnings - Paul Anderson

Number 27

My Beginnings
by Paul Anderson

When I was in college, all of the football players lived together in one large athletic dorm called McGee Hall, on the old Furman University campus. As strange as it may seem there were no coaches or any other adults living in the dormitory with the athletes, so we had a free run of the old dilapidated building and often there would be folks afoot into the wee hours. Mischief abounded. You might, for instance, wake up in the morning to find your door had been nailed shut as you slept, or find a horse had been led into your room, or you’d come into your room tired and fall into bed before you noticed there was a ten-pound catfish under the covers. Even so, or perhaps because of, many close friendships developed in old McGee Hall.

I had several real close friends on the freshman football team and one in particular, an outstanding linebacker from West Virginia, was very close to me. His name was Bob Snead.

Bob explained to me that weightlifting was his hobby, and that he did this exercising in the off-season to prepare himself for football. This seemed quite strange to me because through the years I had been warned that weightlifting would make you muscle-bound and ruin your athletic ability. Bob explained to me that this wasn’t true and that he had done it for years and attributed a lot of his football success to lifting weights.

His argument made sense to me, so I helped him set up his weights in a corner of the athletic building. He not only had assorted barbell plates but racks and benches. The next day Bob asked me if I would like to work out with him. Remembering with pleasure the times during my high school years when I had lifted various objects to test my strength, I was happy to take part in a workout, although I still had fears of becoming muscle-bound. I feared that there might be some truth in the stories I had been told by my coaches and other interested individuals. I joined Bob in the gym and proceeded to follow him through a workout. The first lift that he was going to do was the deep knee bend, or squat.

This was Bob’s favorite ex, so I helped him set up his weights in a corner of the athletic building. He not only had assorted barbell plates but racks and benches. The next day Bob asked me if I would like to work out with him. Remembering with pleasure the times during my high school years when I had lifted various objects to test my strength, I was happy to take part in a workout, although I still had fears of becoming muscle-bound. I feared that there might be some truth in the stories I had been told by my coaches and other interested individuals. I joined Bob in the gym and proceeded to follow him through a workout. The first lift that he was going to do was the deep knee bend, or squat.

This was Bob’s favorite exercise and he was quite good at it. He put a poundage on the bar (about 300 pounds) and did a couple of squats, then placed the bar back on the rack. He asked me with a smile if I would like to try, and to his amazement I did ten reps very easily. It was very evident that I could handle much more. Bob was very encouraging, saying that I had more leg and back strength than anyone he had ever seen.

I was fired up by his words and by the workout itself and made plans to join him lifting from that moment forward. Not only was I thrilled over the fact that I had natural strength, but it seemed that the weights satisfied a deep need in my nature. I got enormous satisfaction out of working out with the barbells. Until that point in my life nothing had given me such peace of mind and satisfaction.

Bob and I hadn’t been working out for more than three or four days when the head football coach surprised us one day with a visit. He came there not to observe, but really to condemn. Naturally with all the clanging of the barbells our workouts were no secret. The coach explained that weightlifting was not for good for us and would keep us from running fast or making any quick movements.

He said we were to stop or he would have to take our scholarships away. In his defense I should add that the position he was taking was not unique, but was a position most all athletic coaches took just those few years ago. He was sincere in his concern and really had our best interests at heart, wrongheaded though he was.

Naturally I was discouraged by our coach’s words and really felt that he knew more about athletics than my friend Bob. But Bob proceeded to convince me once again that the coach was wrong and explained that lifting simply got more done in less time. To be honest, Bob convinced me of something that I wanted to believe in, so his task was none to hard.

I gained strength so rapidly that it seemed unbelievable to me. From one workout to the next my strength would noticeably increase. We were quite handicapped in training now and had been forced to gather up some old wrestling mats, and even some old mattresses to cushion and quiet our weights so as not to alert the coaching staff downstairs.

During that time my schoolwork was really suffering, mainly because of lack of interest. I wasn’t really happy at Furman and I couldn’t seem to put my academic work into the right perspective. The feeling was not dissatisfaction with my particular college, but rather a desire to be doing something else. I felt this in a very real sense almost every day. I felt that my calling was elsewhere. Even my desire to play college football and eventually professional football was overcome by this overpowering desire to follow my interest in lifting. However, when I would think of a career in weightlifting, I realized that to become really successful I would have to give up college and football because of my coach’s attitude. The problem was that when this thought took charge of my mind I would feel rather foolish. How could I ever explain to anyone, especially my parents, that I wanted to quit school to lift weights? That I wanted to give up a full athletic scholarship and become a strongman? For about eight weeks a daily battle raged between my common sense and my heart’s desire. In my room at night my better judgment and common sense would overrule my desire, but every other day when Bob and I would take our workouts the desire would return and the battle would begin once more. No matter what my better judgment or common sense had to say, it still seemed right for me to become a competing weightlifter. I knew this could never be at Furman for I needed much equipment and more space to perform the overhead competitive lifts. Also, Bob and I were barely getting away with out workouts and we felt that out weights might be confiscated at any moment, along with out scholarships.

I remember so well the day that I made the final decision to leave school and devote my life to competition lifting. Not one minute had elapsed after I had made this decision before I felt extremely guilt-ridden. I would be letting so many people down – my high school coach, who had great confidence in me; my parents, who had sacrificed to allow me to pursue a higher education; and of course the coaching staff and my teammates. I realized that if I went to talk with my coaches about this decision they would either talk me out of it or cancel my scholarship on the grounds that I was mentally deranged.

So, late one night I packed all of my bags and left school before daylight the next morning. Perhaps this was not the most manly way to handle the situation, but I felt at the time that it was the best thing for me to do.

I hitchhiked from Greenville, South Carolina, to Toccoa, Georgia, and as I look back, I remember hoping that I wouldn’t get a quick ride home. I’m sure this feeling resulted from the fact that I was still feeling guilty about leaving school and I really hated to face my parents with the news that I was giving up my scholarship. My hopes went for naught, however, because one of the first cars that came by gave me a ride all the way to Toccoa.

I remember so well walking in the house and being greeted with real alarm by my mother, who feared that only sickness could have brought me home. When I told my parents that I had decided to give up college temporarily, they naturally wanted to know what I had in mind. The real shocker came when I told them that I wanted to be a weightlifter. Naturally they knew of no one who made a good living lifting weights, since there was no one in America who did, and they reacted just as most all parents would have. They felt that I was giving up a tremendous opportunity, choosing instead to pursue something which had no future whatsoever even if I did become successful in it.

Finally, however, they allowed me to follow through on my plans, with my solemn promise that I would enter college again next fall. Their understanding and assistance during this stage of my life meant more to me then and means more to me now than I am able to put into words.

My first problem up in Elizabethtown, Tennessee (where my father was then employed) was solved when I decided to use the garage for a gym. It was not being used for car storage but contained everything that one could imagine. After relocating lawnmowers, various washing machines and other appliances I found that I had enough room to place the equipment that I felt I needed. The real problem came up now: where would I get the weights? I investigated all the places where standard weights would possibly be available, and not only did they not have the heavy equipment that I would need but the price for such equipment was too staggering for me to even consider. Naturally I could not approach my parents on the venture, as I was determined to do it on my own. They kept me fed, clothed and housed and this in itself seemed more than generous to me then. It still does, in fact.

I began to visit all the junk and salvage yards in the area and the prospects for my gymnasium started looking a little better. I found that weights could be made out of old auto parts and other pieces of discarded machinery. I found that flywheels from automobile engines usually weighed around 35 pounds and could be used for lifts that did not take extreme precision and accuracy. Automobile drive shafts and truck axles made good bars. To supplement the weights that I could pick up from these salvage yards I poured many out of concrete. I would secure a bucket, barrel, box or anything that would serve as a mold, and then by putting a pipe through it and pouring it full of concrete I would have a large weight that I could slip on one of the drive shafts or axles. This surprisingly enough served my purpose, and after several weeks of raking and scraping through the scrap yards I had a well-equipped, though somewhat crude, gym.

I started training as soon as I got everything set that I actually needed to work out with. On launching this training program I put all my heart into the exercises. I trained every day from nine o’clock until four. I worked my upper body one day and my lower body the next. After a few weeks I not only felt more strength coming into my body, but I found that I was getting a great deal larger. I weighed about 250 pounds when I began my home training and immediately my bodyweight shot up to about 265 pounds. I felt a few inadequacies in my training program, for at this time I was only doing the basic lifts that I had learned from Bob Snead in college. So I started thinking up new ways to lift, new ways to develop my strength by lifting at different angles. I did this by rigging up a series of pulleys, thus enabling me to do exercises that I could not do with a free barbell or dumbell movement. This began to pay off because I found that in the powerlifts I quickly became able to handle far more weight.

To learn something about the weightlifting world, and to keep up with what was going on, I started to buy the standard muscle magazines found on the newsstand. Since most of these dealt mainly with bodybuilding, I could find out very little about strength records. One thing that I did find out was that in the deep knee bend I was approaching the world record. Much to my surprise it was about 600 pounds at that time, and I had done almost that much in training. At that time the squat was not a lift that was performed in competition, as it is today, even though throughout the years records had been kept.

One day during a heavy training session a fellow came up to my garage and introduced himself. His name was Bob Taylor and he lived in the adjoining Tennessee town of Johnson City. Bob was a dyed-down-in-the-wool weightlifting enthusiast. He was extremely interested in all phases of the strength world and had done a great deal of lifting himself. He watched while I trained and seemed especially interested in my lifting in the squat. He could not really believe that the weights I had on my makeshift barbell were quite as heavy as I told him. After testing some of them to authenticate the poundages he was quite impressed, since some of them were heavier than I gave them credit for being. He told me about another gentleman, Bob Peoples, also from Johnson City, who held the world record in the deadlift with 725 pounds. Bob Taylor told me that he was sure that Mr. Peoples would like to meet me, and naturally I was enthusiastic about meeting him. I was generally enthusiastic about making contact with people who were interested in weightlifting and with whom I could exchange ideas.

A few days later Bob Taylor called to ask if I would be interested in going to Bob Peoples’ home on the coming Saturday to do some lifting. I told him that I would be delighted, and on the Saturday morning he came to pick me up. We drove about 10 miles to Mr. Peoples’ farm. I soon met the owner of both the farm and the world record. He was a very powerful looking man with long arms and rounded shoulders. He looked as if he weighed about 200, extremely wiry and muscular, and seemed to be in his early or mid 40’s. Even though he was balding somewhat he gave as overall impression of vibrant, youthful strength. He was also very amiable, and quiet by nature. He took me down to his gym, which I later began referring to as “the dungeon.” It was a hand-excavated basement, holding a huge conglomeration of barbells and dumbells. He had also made some weights similar to those I had built.

After a guided tour, Mr. Peoples asked if I would care to do some of the deep knee bends that he had heard so much about. I replied that I would. When he asked what I’d like to warm up with I told him that I did very little warming up and asked to put about 600 on the bar. He seemed amazed but he politely proceeded to help Bob Taylor load up the big bar. I then put the bar across my shoulders, stepped back, went into a full deep knee bend and came back up. Being young and sort of frisky, I did a second repetition and then replaced the barbell back on the rack. Mr. Peoples was mighty surprised.

Military Pressing (1937 and 1944) - Bob Hoffman

The Best Way To Military Press (1937) by Bob Hoffman

The average untrained man has little pressing ability, for there are few movements in any vocation which simulate movements of the two-hands press. But when a man first attempts to life a barbell he will try to press the weight overhead after cleaning or continentaling it to the shoulders. As he continues with his barbell training he will do more pressing than any other movement. Most fellows will consider the man who presses the most to be the strongest of the group. It was always thus. Pressing was thought to be a question of sheer strength and the man who elevated the most in that style was considered to be the strongest man.

Little thought was given to the outstanding records the man may have created in other styles. There is no relation between the two hands pressing ability and the one hand pressing such as in the bent press. Some men, as Strassberger of Germany or Harry Freeman of Baltimore, the great featherweight of a few years ago, could press within five pounds of what they could clean and jerk. Strassberger pressed 292 ½ in the same contest in which he two hands clean and jerked 297. He later went on to establish a world’s record of 298 in the press, which was short-lived however, owing to the rapid rise of the twenty-two year old German, Joseph Manger, who is at present Olympic Champion.

Although Rigoulet one hand snatched 264, two hands snatched 314, cleaned and jerked 402, his best in the press was 230. Anwar Ahmed, who finished in a tie with Robert Fein of Austria, in the last Olympics made a new world’s record of 319 in the clean and jerk yet made the comparatively poor press of 203 ½. Others of the Egyptians, with the exception of Touni, were poor pressers; the chief reason being that they train principally with barbells, lifting weights in the same groove always and do not have the all around development that men who train with dumbells attain. Touni is a hand balancer and tumbler, a record holder in performing tiger bends, thus he makes a dumbell of his own body and receives similar results to those who train with dumbells regularly.

Hipfinger of Austria held the world’s record in the one hand snatch and the two hands clean and jerk, yet he could press only 198 as a middleweight. This left him hopelessly outclassed in competition with great champions such as Ismayer of Germany who could press 236 and was a star at the other lifts too. He would be so far behind after Touni’s world record press of 259 in the middleweight class that astounding skill in the other lifts would not help much.

Pressing ability is of course a question of training, but more than anything else, is determined by just how one is put together. The short man is more often a good presser, a poor snatcher and cleaner. The tall man is usually better at the snatch and clean. There are exceptions to the rule of course for pressing ability is not just a question of tallness or shortness. There are tall men, that is tall in proportion to their weight, who are exceptional pressers. Bob Knodle, 112 pound champion year after year, who established an American record at pressing, 155 pounds, was very tall for his weight. Roy Hall, of the York Club in Toronto, Canada, is a good presser for a tall man. We have working with us here in the Strength and Health Building a young man by the name of George Gosnell. He’s one of the boys that grew up in our neighborhood. Five feet nine inches tall, he weighs 123 pounds and presses 180 pounds. That’s a fine press; and later I’ll tell you why he can do it while others can’t. Johnny Terpak is tall for his bodyweight, yet he pushes up heavy weights with such ridiculous ease that the spectators gasp. It’s leverage that makes a really good presser. Of course most men are neither exceptionally bad in leverage or exceptionally good, so the majority will become good pressers in time.

I have laid claim to the title, for some time, of the world’s worst presser. I know another instructor who is just as bad but he doesn’t brag about it as I do. All through my lifting career my poor pressing ability has been the bane of my existence. When I first received my barbell back in 1923, I made a bad press with 80 pounds and a clean and jerk with 150. A year later I could only two hands press 115, yet could clean and jerk 225 and bent press 150. Moat any fairly strong fellow around the Y could press 115 so it was thought that my ability on other lifts was just knack. When I lifted shortly after my auto accident in 1932 against the German American A.C. in the first contest which we won from them, I pressed only 121 and cleaned and jerked 236. In our contests of 1931 and 1932 when the York Oil Burner A.C. was rising to the top of the weightlifting world, I repeatedly pressed only 135 and clean and jerked 260. In one contest I pressed 135 and clean and jerked 265.

This was no fun. Ladies present would say to Rosetta, “I thought you said your husband was strong. There he is out there pressing with the little fellows.” That’s why I had to become a good cleaner and jerker, to make the highest lift in contest after contest. I often made my first press at 125. One year when I was present at the New England championships the lowest lift made was 140 pounds in the press. And there were 112 and 118 pounders present. How would I feel, with my 230 pounds bodyweight at that time, to start first. But what lifters were there! Little men like Lucien La Plante, 112 pound champion of America and record holder; Ralph Viera, later 118 pound senior champion; a little colored fellow; Charlie Arbrush’s brother, who pressed 150 pounds, and men like Vincent Fee, present junior national 118 pound champion.

I finally gave up on the press. Every man that ever became a member of our team went past me on the press. Some of them progressed from 115 to 185 in a single year, while I stood still. Gord Venables gained from 115 to 205 in less than one year. The crowning ignominy of my pressing career took place one day early in October of 1934. I had stopped training on the press, and that day could make only 145 in military, or even continental style. Yet I jerked 295 very easily, bent pressed 200 for the first time, and snatched 205 for the first time. A distinction I suppose, but not a very honorable one.

Just what is the trouble when a man can’t press, you’re wondering. I have lots of young men ask me to watch them pressing when they come to York, to tell them if their poor pressing ability is a question of bad leverage. Usually it is just lack of practice and shortage of strength. The width of shoulders in proportion to the length of the arms has something to do with it. The development of the shoulders has an important bearing on the pressing question, but the real reason for one’s pressing strength is the proportion of the length of the upper to the lower arm. Good pressers have long upper arms, poor pressers have short upper arms. If a man is so built that the Humerus bone of the upper arm is long in proportion to the length of the ulna and radius of the lower arm, that man can not hope to be a good presser.

George Gosnell, although long in the arms throughout, has such a favorable relative length of the upper arm that he does what we call a two hands bent press of 180 pounds. He can start his lift with both elbows on the hip bones. Joe Germ of Raymond A.C., Cleveland, runner up in the 132 pound national championship, can start a press extremely low in this manner. His 185 press at the nationals and 190 on the other occasions is very good in comparison with his other lifts.

Press in front of a mirror and note the relationship between upper and lower arms.

Laying the barbell on the chest preliminary to pressing, a poor presser will have the bones of his upper arm exactly perpendicular with the floor. The longer upper arms of the good presser will cause them to extend well forward. Thus his press is already started before it leaves the chest, while the poor presser must start from dead center.

A few years ago when I was newer at this business, a theory was advanced by a leading instructor who agrees with me on the unfavorable leverage of the short upper arm, that men so handicapped should press with the hands very close together. As little as six or eight inches apart. This was intended to bring the elbows forward and make possible a more favorable effort.

Many lifters of a few years ago tried this style. But none of them got anywhere. There was Arnie Sundberg, of Multnomah A.C., Portland, Oregon, national champion for several years, phenomenal on most lifts; a man who one hand snatched the heavy solid 139 pound barbell that a few hundred fellows at our recent Strength and Health show August 8th tried to lift here at the club grounds. He made six snatches with it one day. He was one of the first to clean and jerk the 217 ½ pound stage bell that I bent pressed. On August 8th, he made 203 ½ in the two hands snatch when the best in America was Bill Good’s 209. He made an American record of 269 ½ in the two hands clean and jerk which stood until replaced with Bob Mitchell’s 275. Yet he pressed only 159 with this close grip.

In the early stages of his lifting career Stan Kratkowski, middle-weight champion year after year and member of two Olympic teams, made only 175 in the press as compared to 231 in the snatch and 286 in the clean and jerk. He used this close grip and it was only after he adopted the training methods and lifting technique in the two hands press that he learned upon a visit to York that his press has gone up steadily to 230.

Wally Zagurski, always one of the strongest members of the York team – it’s doubtful if any man but Dave Mayor is stronger than he – made press records with a fairly close grip. His bad leverage was a handicap, but his great strength made possible worthy attempts and even the creation of records. He’s now doing better with the pressing method I am about to describe.

There were many others, including myself with my famous 135 presses, who used this style. But gradually we learned better. All of our men’s lifts have gone up and up; national and world’s records were created and remade by York Team men. It’s quite evident that this new method is far superior to the old close grip style, even for those men with unfavorable leverage. I’m not a great presser, but my press has gone up to the point where I recently made 190 in good form and 200 with considerable hunching. I feel sure that in time I’ll surpass 200 pounds in correct style, for the 190 correct and the 200 not so correct were done with very limited training, usually once a week, and at times with moderate dumbell training in between.

Instead of using a very close grip to bring the elbows forward, I prefer, for that purpose, to hold them at the side. At the same time a considerably wider grip is taken. At one time I would hold the thumb and one finger inside the hand grip of the standard bar. Now I hold each hand about four inches wider. The elbows are held close to the side, so the upper arms are held quite a lot wider apart than the breadth of the shoulders. From this position the press is made with the elbows held in toward the body. Much more favorable leverage can be put forth in this manner. A good start is possible and it is easier to finish the press with this wider grip. I use the thumb-less grip. That is with the thumbs extended in the same plane as the fingers rather than encircling the bar. And I hold the bar well back on the fingers. This method makes possible about ten pounds more in the press, for the fingers impart additional leverage as they do in shot putting.

I appreciate the fact that there are differences in the construction of various men, but the style I advocate and have found to be the best, the methods of lifting that I teach will suit ninety some odd per cent of all men. Here in York we have a sort of proving ground for different methods of exercising and lifting. I have always made of myself a human guinea pig in trying various experiments, but I can learn faster and definitely prove new ideas or theories by having a number of men to work on.

For a man who is constantly active, who is in the midst of enthusiastic lifters at all times, a man who is present at a score of contests a year, can keep right on his toes with barbell physical training and lifting. It is so easy for him to forget many of the small things in lifting that determine the difference between real success, a record poundage and just an ordinary performance. Many things combine to make the champion in any sport, and there is even more to learn about all the small details in performing the three lifts than in any one event such as running, jumping, shot putting or vaulting. Constant, intelligent practice, following the right methods is the way to get best results.

I have been asked hundreds of times just how one can improve their pressing ability. I have written considerable about it, but I hope that this article will answer the question once and for all so that it can be referred to in the future.

At one time the accepted practice was to make single attempts as few as seven times in the course of a training period. We press a great deal more than that. All of us perform a great many repetitions. Five being the usual limit, three with very heavy poundages. In my own practice I would usually press seven series of five with 135 pounds which system led up to my first success with 185 pounds. In practice I would make it hard by encircling the bar with my thumbs and starting with a grip, with each hand about six inches from the center hand grips. This is difficult at first but it improves leverage, making possible the application of more power on later competitive single attempts. With each successive series of five each I would move the hands just a bit closer. Until the last lifts were made with the hands in the normal position.

It’s a good idea to press with the hands in these very wide and close positions as it develops the muscles from different angles. By teaching them to exert force in more difficult positions, they can handle more in the usual method of pressing during competition.

Anthony Terlazzo does only a great deal of repetition pressing. Johnny Terpak does the same. At least three presses with weights starting from a moderate 145, then 165, 185, 195, 205 and occasionally two with heavier weights. Aside from this constant pressing with repetitions they will make single attempts several times in succession with heavy weights. For instance, Terlazzo has on a number of days recently made three single presses with 225.

Apart from actual pressing, Tony seldom fails to include pressing in the hand stand position with his feet against the wall, the hands on two boxes. The pressing is made progressive by tying dumbells to the belt. Many of the York lifters perform this exercise.

Most of them practice some one arm pressing in the military position. At times alternate presses with two dumbells, running in weight up to a hundred pounds each.
A great deal of dumbell work is done. Alternate pressing, side pressing, lateral and forward raises, lateral raises while leaning, alternate press on box. In short, any dumbell movements which involve the shoulders. Although the press on box develops the pectorals more than the deltoids, it is still a good exercise to improve pressing. Developing the muscles from every angle, you know, builds power and better pressing ability.

To some it may seem odd that exercises which involve the trapizii are most important in developing pressing ability. The trapezii play a major part in pressing with the style I have advocated in this article as the best way to two hands press. In the majority of cases the good presser is also a good snatcher. There are exceptions, of course, usually those with bad leverage. If you could see the trapezii in operation when Terlazzo is performing a really heavy press, you would see why it is necessary to develop this part of the body.

Similarly if you could see others of the world’s greatest pressers, you would note the same action of the trapezii. Terlazzo, as you know, holds the world’s record in the military press 132 pound class; he has repeatedly broken it in the 148 pound class. Robert Fein of Australia has held the world’s record in the press and the snatch, being the man who took this record away from Bob Mitchell. He presses exactly in the style I have described, and holding both records in pressing and snatching is proof again that pulling and pressing go hand in hand. Note the slope of his shoulders in the picture which appeared a few issues ago.

Therefore you must practice considerable rowing to bring up your military press and two hands snatching. I believe that the best results are obtained when rowing is done with the body in the upright position. The common shoulder shrug will help. One of my favorite exercises is rowing with two dumbells while standing erect. These can be pulled higher than a barbell. Pull them up so that the hands are about as wide apart as the shoulders, the elbows extended straight out from the shoulder. In practicing compound dumbell exercises I may not use more than a pair of twenty-five pounders, in a series of five exercises each performed ten times, fifty movements in all, without setting the bells down. I frequently perform the exercise just mentioned as the first exercise and the fifth of such a series. I believe it had much to do with my own improvement in the press.

As mentioned, any exercise which involves the shoulders will add to your pressing ability. And if you want to become a good presser, press and press and press. While the two hands snatch can be practiced three times a week, the two hands jerk not more than twice a week, five times a week and several times each training day is not too much for the press. The best pressers practice some pressing every time they pass a barbell or a pair of dumbells. If you’re real ambitious, perform as many as fifty presses each exercise period. Your press may be slow in responding, but some day you’ll find that you have jumped fifteen to twenty pounds or even more.

A favorite exercise of the French weightlifting team for all-round shoulder development and for improving the press is the dumbell military press with the palm in and the weight against the front of the shoulder.

It is best to stand in front of a mirror so you can observe how exact the movement is as most value is derived when no body movement is apparent and the hand must be turned in during the entire drill. About 25 lbs. is enough to start with and do 10 repetitions each hand.

Instead of performing this exercise in the usual press style, from shoulder to arm’s length overhead, the hand is brought down almost to the hip. At first it may seem like a combination curl and press, but it is really a press from the very extreme low position to the highest

Better Military Pressing (1944)

by Bob Hoffman

In October, 1937, an article appeared in this magazine called “The Best Way to Military Press.” In this article I cited the fact that in many contests there were almost as many styles of two hands pressing as there were lifters in action. Some lifters were still using the very close hand grip with hands not more than six of eight inches apart. This style of lifting for those with real or apparent unfavorable leverage had been advocated by one instructor and his disciples had put this method into use. There were others who used the widest sort of a grip on the bar, some who pressed with the thumbs around the bar, some without the thumbs, some with the wrists turned well back as in shot putting, some started the weight very low on the chest to obtain a longer drive, others held the bar high on the chest, across the shoulders so that there would be a shorter distance from the start to the completion of the press.

The rules of two hands pressing which appeared in this magazine in the October issue explain just how a two hands press must be performed. Feet on a line, not more than 16 inches apart, the body in the military position, hips level, back straight, although the rules do not concern themselves with the position of the hands, holding the elbows against the body or well out, pressing from the shoulders or form low on the chest, they do supply all the discrepancies which are cause for disqualification. One would think that two hands pressing, in our sport which is popular the world over (52 nations are members of the International Weight Lifting Federation, all follow the same rules, practice the same lifts) that styles would be very similar. But as stated before, there were almost as many pressing styles as there were lifters.

Here is a description of the way we coach our York lifters to two arm press. Some lifters prefer to press with the thumbs encircling the bar, some with what is known as the “thumbless grip,” with the thumbs held back in line with the fingers. Most of the York stars have tried both methods, and there did not seem to be a great difference in their records with either style. You can find what serves best in your case. When the thumbless grip is used the bar lies well back in the hand and there is an endeavor to press a few pounds more with the movement of the hands as is done in shot putting. But the York champs who have set the records, Terlazzo, Terpak. Davis, Stanko, all use the thumbs around style. There was a theory at one time that pressing with the thumbs around would tighten the holding muscles and cause them to oppose the pressing muscles, but this theory has been exploded with the successes so many thumbs around lifters have made. Grimek goes so far as to use the hook-grip throughout the entire lift. By encircling the bar with the thumbs, a much surer, stronger grip results, and when very heavy presses are made this is a help.

All the men enumerated in the last paragraph use a comparatively close grip. Slightly inside the knurling for the smaller men, at the edge of the knurling of the bar with the side of the fingers of the hands. Usually when pressing with the thumbless grip, the thumbs are laid at the edge of the knurling and this means that the hand grip is about two inches wider than with the thumbs around style.

It always seemed almost too close when bigger, more muscled men held the bar in this position but it proved to be the method with which they could press the most weight. There was a theory at one time that a close grip was advantageous because it brought the elbows forward and thus shortened the pressing distance. But the York champs hold their elbows at the side of the body and not forward. This method permits a greater drive to the press, a longer range of movement, it is going fast and strongly when the normal sticking point would be reached.

In trying this style you will find that your hands are wider apart than your elbows, hands are usually wider than shoulder width, throughout the press the elbows are held in toward the body. Practice this movement with a moderate weight so that you can master this form of pressing the elbows in and forward as the weight rises, with a little practice you will learn the groove through which you should press.

There are differences in the construction of lifters, but this style will be suitable for the vast majority.

We are constantly asked just what can be done to improve one’s pressing ability. There is always the fear on the part of the incipient lifter that he may be the possessor of bad leverage, upper arms too short in proportion to the lower arms. But more pressers make their low records because they have not developed strength than are handicapped by unfavorable leverage. The secret of success in two hands pressing is persistent practice.

Press, press, and press. Pressing is one exercise you can do a lot of. Five times a week and several times each training day is not too much for the press. The best pressers, the really ambitious fellows, practice some pressing every time they get near a barbell.

In competitive lifting you must get your press in the groove, but in developing strength and muscle it is wise to train the muscles from every possible angle, that’s why we advocate the 1,000 exercises. There are so many muscles involved in two hands pressing, so many allied muscles which when strengthened to their limit can help a little, be the difference between a record success and just an ordinary press, that it is necessary to practice a great many exercises.

Most of the York lifters practice some one arm pressing in the military position. They frequently press with a pair of dumbbells while sitting. practice the alternate press with two dumbbells, practice the side press, forward and lateral raise, two hands pull over, lateral raises while leaning, press on box, in short any exercise that will help the pressing ability. Dipping on parallel bars, and pressing while in the hand stand position are good developers of the pressing muscles. Heavy dumbbell pressing in particular develops a great many muscles as the single bells are harder to control than the barbell. Other exercises which involve and strengthen the shoulders such as the dumbbell rowing motion, the two hands snatch and the forward raise with barbell bring good results. John Davis practiced this latter exercise regularly with a 150 pound barbell and it certainly played an important part in his pressing ability.

Aside from these many exercises which are made a part of the program a great deal of two hands pressing must be practiced. Most of this in the proper position, the same style you will use to make your personal records. But much practice should also take place with a much wider hand hold. This strengthens the shoulders, makes it easier for them to consummate a heavy press when you are back in the correct groove again.

Repetition pressing brings the best results. These repetitions can be practiced a number of ways. Many times some of our champions as well as myself have made fifty presses, ten series of five repetitions, with 30 or 35% less than one’s record poundage. These fifty presses may seem like a lot of presses, but it is not too many, and the ambitious presser should make at least this many presses during his training program.

But you must also employ a heavy weight weekly. Select a weight which you can press five times on the first attempt, increase the weight and press it three, increase again and three if possible, if not twice, and then see how much weight you can press. Then make a number of heavy single attempts as near your record as possible. Ten single heavy presses is not uncommon. Perhaps work up to the heaviest press and then drop back down to many sets with a weight which will permit three to five repetitions.

To improve in pressing you must practice frequently as well as practice considerable heavy pressing at or near your limit.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Train For Shape & Strength - Sigmund Klein

Train For Shape & Strength
by Sigmund Klein

Increasing interest in old-timers has gained momentum in recent years. Now and then photographs of old-timers are used to illustrate various articles in muscle magazines, but while the photos carry a few of the old-timers measurements nothing is ever said about the training method these gallant muscle and strength pioneers used. This is because our present day writers are not familiar with the way these men trained but continue to stress the importance of modern day training methods and how superior they are in contrast to those used by old-timers. I’d like to refer to an old French saying that contains much basic logic. It implies that the more things change, the more they become like original. Ponder that statement a moment and see if you don’t agree that there is MORE truth in that statement than you would like to admit.

For example, the Set System of training is not new at all. It was used by lifters many, many years ago, and Alan Calvert, founder of the Milo Barbell Company back in 1902 first introduced this system of training then. I don’t remember exactly what he called the system then, but I know I used it about 50 years ago . . . that’s how new it is in this country. And it was used by old-timers in Europe long before it was used in this country.

Of course low and high repetitions have always been used in training. Endurance lifting and training was another fad that was used some years ago, as well as light and heavy training. Beginners (in those days) followed the routines that were outlined by instructors, either in the gym or in training courses sold by mail. Alan Calvert started selling weights and training equipment through the mail in 1902. He patterned his training course after Theodor Seibert, a noted German trainer. And Seibert’s system of training was based on a course formulated by Professor Attila back in 1870. He, in turn, was trained by Prof. Ernst in Berlin and later by the great Italian strongman, Felice Napoli, an old-timer of note who was born in 1820.

We can go back into the pages of muscle-building history even farther. Frederick Ludwig Jahn, the founder of German Gymnastic Society and the Turnvereins shortly after the Napoleonic era, started the system of training his pupils with weights to strengthen them so they could perform difficult gymnastic feats on gym apparatus more easily. So, weight training goes way back, farther than any can remember.

I’ve mentioned this to give you some insight into how far weight training with barbells and dumbells goes. All these leaders gave considerable thought to progressive bodybuilding before they taught it to others. The various exercises were tested to learn which gave the best results in the way of strength and muscular development. Those who came later usually deviated from the original system that was taught to them, and would specialize on bodyparts that failed to respond properly.

In brief, the system of training most often taught in those days was: Curls with a barbell and using a weight that could be curled perfectly. The student was told to do five repetitions, but every week one repetition was added; six, seven, eight, etc. until 15 reps was reached. When this number was reached the pupil was advised to stick with the 15 repetitions for two weeks or so before increasing the weight and starting again five reps.

The curling movement was followed by calf work, stiff-arm pullover, wrestler’s bridge, one-arm press, deep knee bend, deadlift, sit-up, wrist roller exercise or reverse curl, leg raise, shrug, and leg press. These in turn would be followed by a series of dumbell exercises such as lateral raise in various ways and crossing the arms over the chest, all done while standing. In lying position (on floor or box) the alternate pullover and cross-over was also included, using the same method of repetitions mentioned above. These were the basic, standard exercises. Later, the step-up, similar to stair climbing, was included, as well as the press behind neck, see-saw or alternate press with dumbells or kettlebells, the alternate curl and the supine press with barbell. This was the average workout at home. And if certain parts of the body were not progressing as was expected, the exercise would be repeated . . . the same as one does “sets” today.

Now for those who were more ambitious or trained in gyms, lifting was included. The bent press was then the most popular lift, and to know how to do it required expert teaching. Very few men ever learned to do this fascinating lift without coaching from an expert.

The one-arm snatch was another popular lift in those days for it demonstrated great skill, speed and strength. The one-arm jerk also was popular, as was the two-hand jerk.

The two-arm military press and two-arm continental press (allowing the back to be bent backwards) was practiced a great deal, along with the one-hand military press – a strength tester. One-arm side presses were included in this routine, and later lifters started lifting other lifters, a feat more difficult than holding “iron.” Others would hold a kettlebell and then have a partner sit on the weight he pressed them overhead with one arm.

These lifts were often practiced in combination with bodybuilding. Or some would include the lifts on days when they did not practice bodybuilding, while others practiced only a few of the lifts and the remainder on other days.

Old-timers practiced the wrestlers bridge in various ways. Some would bridge then pull the barbell to chest and press and press it several times while in this position. Others would first pull over the barbell and then bridge, pressing it while in the bridge. Stiff-arm and bent-arm pullovers were practiced while in the bridge position – a very effective way of performing these exercises.

Those practicing lifts would warmup and then in five or ten pound jumps work up to their limit, which is done even to this day. Some lifters didn’t need much warmup but after a couple of light attempts would handle a weight near their limit, doing as many repetitions or sets as they were capable of that day. Hand balancing and chinning were also popular. Those who wanted to become professional strongmen had to learn to do spectacular stunts and other feats of strength that would impress an audience, and many of these stunts were very impressive, more so when you saw them than in person than when you only saw a photograph.

Yet in those days, as it is today, muscle building was foremost, and everyone strived for shape and power. Those who succeeded in developing shapely muscles were usually popular and in demand. Sandow was such. He was never the strongest man but in most of his exhibitions he was billed as such . . . and he looked the part. He had great muscularity with well-molded muscles that made him look like a real strong man.

The general public and bodybuilders will remember a man’s shape and muscularity longer than any of his lifting records. An audience would much rather see John Grimek pose than lift, even if it meant witnessing a world record being broken. At least this is how it was a decade or two ago and I think it holds true even today. Establishing a world record is a commendable feat, I know, I did my share of it years ago. But very few people ever came up to me and praised me for my ability, although every potential client that came up to my gym did so because he was impressed by my pictures and not my record breaking ability.

So it’s important that one train for a combination of shape and strength, and while not all the old-timers acquired big measurements, many had commendable shape and size and, what’s more, power to go with it. Not in just one specialized lift as some do today, but in any lift plus some outstanding feat of strength.

There cannot be any doubt that the old-timers had something; a combination of power and muscular shape that is not often found today. And those who have shape lack other qualifications, and those who have power seem to lack shape, so the slogan of training for shape and strength is even more important today than it was years ago.

Building Body Power - Joe Mills

Building Body Power
by Joe Mills

Before a champion is able to press 400 or bench 500 pounds there is one simple ingredient he must possess – Power!

Bob Bednarski has been a good Olympic lifter for a long time. When I first began coaching him about seven years ago he seemed to have all the ingredients necessary to become an Olympic champion except one. He had the desire, determination and form but he was lacking in basic power.

I worked out a routine for him designed to increase strength and raw power in a relatively short time and I told him to incorporate it periodically into his regular training.

Bob trained on the system for four weeks and then went back to his regular training methods and found that he was able to break all of his personal records. What caused the sudden increase in strength? The answer was simply that by changing his training and using strength movements and lifts that he had never used, he developed lifting muscles which he very seldom used.

George Pickett is another example. For years he was a good lifter but not great, then as a result of training on power lifts his strength increased at an incredible rate and suddenly he became one of the world’s strongest men!

Recently Bob Bednarski has had to lift against giant men of 300-plus pounds such as Dube, Pickett and Zhabotinsky.

Bob once again began to train on the power lifts and the results became evident. On May 4, 1968, at the Region Two championships in Washington, he made the highest press in the world – a world’s record of 451 pounds and became the first man to press 200 pounds over bodyweight.

What power exercises does Bob do to build his tremendous strength? I often drove down to York to watch him work out. One week I saw him do a terrific amount of power lifting and I believe this is the secret of his fantastic power – the power that gives him world record performances.

Here is the workout I saw him do recently one week:


Shrug: 325 x 3 sets of 5 reps, 375 x 3 x 5, 425 x 3 x 5
Regular Squat: 315 x 1 x 5, 375 x 1 x 5, 450 x 1 x 5,
500 x 1 x 5, 550 x 1 x 5, 600 x 1 x 3
Bob then goes into his regular weightlifting session.


Front Squat: 315 x 1 x 5, 375 x 1 x 5, 325 x 1 x 5, 475 x 1 x 5
Bench Press: 205 x 1 x 5, 300 x 1 x 5, 350 x 1 x 5, 375 x 1 x 5,
400 x 1, 425 x 1


Incline Press: 205 x 1 x 5, 255 x 1 x 5, 285 x 1 x 3, 305 x1 x 3
Seated Press: 205 x 1 x 3, 255 x 1 x 3, 285 x 1 x 3, 305 x 3 x 2


Military Press: 205 x 1 x 3, 245 x 1 x 3, 275 x 1 x 3, 300 x 1 x 3, 325 x 1
Deadlift: 315 x 1 x 3, 405 x 1 x 3, 500 x 1 x 3, 575 x 1 x 3, 675 x 1, 700 x 1

That week taught me that if you want power you’ve got to go out and get it. In all my years of coaching I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as Bob.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Pat Casey - Part Two - Bruce Wilhelm

Click for Larger Images
May 1968

September 20, 1969
Police Olympics

Philosophy of Training

As I stated previously, Pat’s routine would vary. This was important in order to always challenge the body and mind. If he was extremely tired, he would completely skip the workout (this would mean virtually exhausted, because in those days, there was never a missed workout). As we have stated earlier, Pat now knows that he was in a constant state of being overtrained or semi-fatigued and that he was able to lift the weights he did is a great testimony to his genetic and mental makeup. His mind was constantly trying to increase the weight. He would visualize it and then do it. When he felt like going for a personal record in the bench press, he would cut back on Monday and use lets sets and reps, allowing his body to somewhat recover. He would cut back on all the rest of the week’s workouts in addition, but the cutback would mainly come on the lift that he was attempting to PR in.

One lift that always seemed to lag behind the others was the deadlift. But there are obviously several reasons for this. First, he did not put in the time nor the effort that he did on the bench and squat. Second, when training he would sometimes pinch his sciatic nerve. This feeling or condition he would have from time to time. It went away when he reduced his bodyweight from 340-plus pounds to 240-265. In retrospect, he now thinks it was probably a problem of leverage, because as he lost weight, his deadlifts went up. He also feels that he should have trained the deadlift every 10 days and the same for the squat. It is truly amazing that as we get older we get so much smarter. We finally learn to train, but by then we are either laden with injuries or too old to be handling the monstrous poundages.

Looking Back . . .

1.) Train twice a week, cut the reps and sets back

2.) Get more rest.

3.) On diet, he probably wouldn’t have consumed so much. He did, and still strongly believes in supplementation. When he was training heavy he would drink 6 quarts of mild daily plus ½ dozen eggs with protein. He would also take numerous vitamins.

4.) On wraps and supportive gear: Feels that the equipment today must be extremely helpful. If the bench shirt is only for joint protection, then why don’t the athletes build up their strength through hard work and lockouts and innovative training? It looks like it takes 2 very strong men to just put the bench shirt on the lifter. That seems like a lot of work for a piece of equipment that is only used for protection! The same goes for the squat suit and knee wraps.

Pat may be somewhat envious here as he was never afforded the opportunity to wear such gear. It is beyond my mind to think what poundages he could have handled had he been afforded such opportunities. Also keep in mind that he never used a power belt, only a 4” Olympic lifting belt. I am sure that we could let our minds wander a little, and could really visualize some fantastic lifts. But then again, that is pure speculation and we want to keep away from that.

Bruce Wilhelm: Did you have any innovative or creative ideas?

Pat Casey: Not really, but I have always wondered why if they have a rule on 32” grip on the bench, why they don’t set a limit on foot stance for both the squat and deadlift. Hell, some of the squats, the lifter barely goes down. That is not really a squat. The same goes for the deadlift. I don’t really like the sumo style deadlift either. I don’t see it as much of a lift with that style.

BW: What is your opinion on performance enhancing drugs?

PC: I feel that it is a personal opinion and should be up to the individual. One has to weigh the potential side effects as well as the moral issue. Then there is also the issue of trying to be a role model for young kids. Kids should look up to you for the way you live your life. You want them to know that good things happen to those who work hard. Just remember – easy come, easy go.

BW: What do you think about the lifters of today versus the lifters of 20-30 years ago?

PC: That is a difficult question to answer. The one great thing that holds all lifters together is the pursuit of strength. The means and methods you use to get there vary as well as how you go about it. But most important, it is the quest for strength. It is really a great fraternity, but I feel that some of the lifters today are more self-centered. They have no respect for the past and the history of the sport. They are too self-centered.

Tips for Lifting

Bench Press: As far as performance on the bench, try and get everything into the start. Explode! Bring the weight down in a controlled manner, pause, then blast off the chest. This exploding, Pat felt, would carry you to the sticking point or a little past, and then the triceps would kick in. Position on the bench is also important. Feet tucked back, but not so far as to cause pain or cramping.

Squatting: Set up with the weight as quick as possible. Don’t waste time backing out and moving around. Inhale, descend under control, blast out of the bottom. Think explode. Head back as you fight through the sticking point.

Deadlift: Grab bar, drop hips and explode off the ground pushing with legs, keep arms straight like cables.

BW: I asked Pat about his heavy power rack lockouts. Why and how? What was the purpose?

PC: I needed something to jolt my body once I got past 500 in the bench press. I thought about doing the lockouts from two positions: 4” off the chest and 7” off the chest. The thought being that I would strengthen my tendons and ligaments. Then I could do more volume work in the other exercises without breaking down or getting injured. I was also after the psychological effect of lifting tremendous weights as well as thinking there might be some motor pathway carryover. (i.e. a muscle learning theory whereby the body takes a movement and incorporates it into a similar movement. For example: a partial movement in the bench press would correspond with a full movement. To reinforce such motor pathway transference, a last set would be done with a lighter weight doing the full movement.) When doing this type of rack training I would warm up very thoroughly, then go to doing 5 or so singles in these two positions. I felt that singles were best for building strength, but they also called on your fast twitch muscles to fire. So that was my theory and it worked well for me.

The 2nd exercise I used was the heavy incline dumbell press. I’d do a warmup set and then go straight to a heavy weight for 3 sets of 5 repetitions. The reasoning for this exercise was to attack the chest muscles from a different angle as well as working the deltoid and general shoulder girdle.

The 3rd exercise was dips. This developed tremendous overall body strength, especially when attaching a dumbell and doing reps. It really affected the strength of my triceps, but also worked deltoids and pectorals.

The 4th important exercise was the lying triceps extension. As I said before, I would lean forward and take an Olympic bar with a narrow grip and hook my feet around the bench, then lean back on the bench. I would then do a pullover/triceps extension. I would do 5-6 sets of 3-5 reps. My best was 365 x 3 in this pullover and extension movement. This exercise really strengthened my entire upper body.

The 5th and last exercise for improving my bench was the seated press. I would use a fairly wide grip and would press the weight, having to turn my face to keep from hitting it with the bar. This movement aided me in the bench press enormously.

These exercises plus the lockouts in some form were the key for me improving my bench. Almost all top bench press artists use some of them in improving their lift. These just happened to work for me and so did the sets and reps that I did with them. The great thing about training is that you can use ideas from other and “cut and paste” to get the “right” routine. So good luck in your endeavors to bench more.

BW: So Pat, what about today? What are you doing in the way of training?

PC: Well, obviously I have dropped a considerable amount of weight. It is much healthier at this stage of my life to be lighter. My weight is right around 225. It has been as high as 233 and as low as 213. My joints feel better lighter, so I keep the weight down. At 213 I am just starving myself. I control my weight by what I eat and the amount of aerobic activity I do. I feel it is very important to get in many different types of quality aerobics. Now I get in 40-45 minutes daily on my bike. Not a stationary bike. Where I live, up in the high desert, it gets very windy which makes it even more of a challenge. I no longer jog due to back injuries, and jogging aggravates them. I do, however, try to get in power walking for 45-60 minutes. This is in the sand, Try it some time. Then I do my little training routine that I’m using now.

BW: That sounds interesting, Pat. Do you mind giving us some explanation of it?

PC: What I am trying to accomplish with this workout is to give myself a good pump and maintain tone, as well as somewhat of an aerobic effect. Don’t be fooled by the weights. It’s nonstop and takes about 45 minutes on a good day.

BW: Sort of looks like some of Bill Pearl’s nonsense! I remember my brother Steve and I went to visit with Bill and went through one of his famous 4:30 a.m. workouts. That was up in Phoenix several years ago. We started working out with Bill and he had the old gleam of competition in his eye. We walked right into his trap. Inside of 25 minutes I thought I was going to throw up my breakfast. The only problem was that we had not eaten. It was a brutal learning experience. One that I would not want to go through again.

PC: Yeah! Pearl did the same to me. He does it with everyone. He enjoys the contentment that comes from pain for others. I used to visit him once a year to get motivated by his workouts. He is almost 70 years old and is still going strong. What an inspiration. He is a man who has done it all.

BW: What about diet?

PC: I eat mainly chicken, turkey, rice, very little red meat. I drink nonfat milk and yogurt. Nonfat pretzels and gummy bears. The day of a workout I whip up some egg whites for protein. Lots of water. A little wine at night and Chinese food once a week.

So there you have it.

I suppose that I have forgotten some things along the way, but I have truly believe put together the most important points on training. This is the most comprehensive booklet on Pat Casey ever written. Follow his words of wisdom, follow his lead. Be a pioneer. Believe in yourself.

Selected Workouts

What follows are selected workouts from Pat Casey’s Training Diary. These are copied directly from his workout book.

Tuesday, August 27, 1957

Bench Press: 135 x 6, 205 x 4, 275 x 2, 305 x 2, 335 x 2 x 2 sets
Press Behind Neck: 130 x 6, 150 x 5, 10 x 5, 180 x 5, 190 x 3
Lying Triceps Press: 175 x 5 x 5 sets

Saturday, August 31, 1957

Dumbell Incline Press: 130’s by 5 x 5
Chins with Bodyweight + 20 lbs.: 10 x 5
Concentration Curl: 65 x 10 reps x 5 sets

Sunday, September 1, 1957

Military Press: 155 x 5, 230 x 4
Snatch: 135 x 5, 155 x 3
Full Squat: 185 x 6, 275 x 5
¾ Squat: 275 x 26, 315 x 21

Tuesday, September 3, 1957

Bench Press: 275 x 5, 315 x 2, 345 x 2, 315 x 4
Press Behind Neck: 130 x 5, 150 x 5, 190 x 5 x 2
Triceps Press: 130 x 5, 150 x 5, 175 x 5

November 7, 1957

Bench Press: 200 x 6, 300 x 1, 355 x 1, 395 x 1,
420 x 1, 2 second pause record, 375 x 2, 375 x 2, 355 x 3
Triceps Press: 130 x 5, 200 x 2 x 3 sets, 185 x 5 x 2
Went from 345 BP Aug. 27 to 420 Nov. 7, gain of 75 lbs. in about 3 months.

Thursday, January 2, 1958 (weight 215)

Bench Press: 200 x 6, 305 x 1, 355 x 1, 405 x 1 x 3 sets,
365 x 2 x 2 sets, 320 x 5
Triceps Press: 130 x 6, 185 x 5 x 5
Chins: 10 lbs. x 8 sets of 10 reps

Tuesday, February 25, 1958

Bench Press: 200 x 10, 300 x 5, 355 x 2, 410 x 1
450 x 1 (record), Lockouts 525 x 1 x 2,
375 x 1.5 second pause x 1 x 3 sets
325 x 8 – 2 sec. pause
Triceps Press: 130 x 6, 200 x 4 x 2, 190 x 4, 180 x 5 x 2
Chins: 50 lbs. x 5 reps x 8 sets

Tuesday, March 11, 1958

Squat: 235 x 10 x 5 sets
Leg Curl: 70 x 5 x 5
Deadlift: 275 x 10 x 3
Calf Raise: 300 x 10 x 3
Pullover: 100 x 15 x 5

Saturday, March 15, 1958

Dumbell Incline Press: 160’s x 5 x 5, 120’s x 5
Squat: 135 x 10, 295 x 5 x 5
Sissy Squat: Bodyweight x 12 x 5
Leg Curl: 70 x 5 x 3, 20 x 50

Pec Injury 8/26/58
Had to train light for a couple of months due to injury.

Tuesday, November 11, 1958

Bench Press: 220 x 6, 290 x 1, 360 x 1, 410 x 1 (pause)
Dumbell Incline Press: 160’s x 5 x 7
Triceps Press: 185 x 5 x 8
Dumbell Curl: 67’s x 5 x 7

Tuesday February 10, 1959

Bench Press: 200 x 10, 290 x 1, 360 x 1, 410 x 1,
450 x 1, 450 x 1 x 3, 410 x 2, 360 x 2
Lockouts (4”) 205 x 8, 325 x 3, 455 x 3 x 2, 455 x 2, 455 x 1 x 2
Dumbell Curl: 70’s x 10 x 3

Friday, August 7, 1959

Seated Press: 130 x 8, 200 x 5, 250 x 1, 270 x 1,
300 x 1, 320 x 0, 320 x 0
Dumbell Incline Press: 160’s x 5 x 4

Tuesday, November 17, 1959

Bench Press: 130 x 8, 290 x 1, 360 x 1, 410 x 1, 450 x 1 x 5 sets
Dumbell Incline Press: 160’s x 5 x 3
Chins: Bodyweight x 8 x 8

Tuesday, January 5, 1960

Bench Press: 220 x 8, 290 x 1, 360 x 1, 410 x 1, 430 x 1, 450 x 1 x 2,
430 x 1 x 2, 410 x 1 x 2, 360 x 3, 360 x 3 (2 count pause)
Dumbell Incline Press: 160’s x 5 x 3
Dips: 160 x 3, 160 x 5, 200 x 5, 200 x 4, 210 x 5

Saturday, January 16, 1960

Lockouts: 225 x 8, 315 x 2, 385 x 1, 455 x 1, 513 x 1,
523 x 0,495 x 1, 455 x 3, 385 x 6, 315 x 10
Dips: Bodyweight x 8, 160 x 5, 225 x 5, 160 x 5
Dumbell Curl: 70’s x 5, 90 x 5, 80 x 5, 75 x 5

Tuesday, February 9, 1960

Bodyweight: 237
Broke 500 lb. Bench Press Barrier
Bench Press: 220 x 8, 308 x 1, 378 x 1, 428 x 1, 448 x 1, 478 x 1
504 x 1, 448 x 1 378 x 3
Dumbell Incline Press: 160’s x 5 x 3 sets
Dips: Bodyweight x 10, 160 x 5
Triceps Press: 130 x 8, 180 x 5, 210 x 3

Saturday, March 12, 1960

Press Behind Neck: 205 x 5 x 18 sets, 205 x 4 x 20 sets

Thursday, March 17, 1960

½ Squats: 270 x 6, 350 x 5, 450 x 5, 520 x 4, 605 x 4
Leg Curl: 40 x 10 x 10

Tuesday, June 28, 1960

Military Press (off rack): 135 x 6, 223 x 2, 273 x 1, 293 x 1,
308 x 1, 328 x 0, 233 x 1, 293 x 1, 313 x 0,
223 x 1, 293 x 1, 313 x 1, 328 x 0, 293 x 0, 233 x 5,
223 x 5, 223 x 3, 135 x 3, 223 x 1, 293 x 1, 313 x 0, 293 x 1

Friday, December 23, 1960

½ Squats: 225 x 8, 315 x 6, 365 x 6, 365 x 3, 435 x 5,
470 x 5, 495 x 5, 525 x 4, 485 x 4, 485 x 5,
485 x 5, 455 x 5, 455 x 5, 435 x 5, 435 x 5

Saturday, January 21, 1961

Bodyweight: 255
Dips: 185 x 5 reps x 33 sets
185 x 4 reps x 9 sets
Total lifted: 90,450 lbs.
Was going sort of crazy on heavy dumbell dips.
Trying to fatigue muscles.

Friday, March 31, 1961

Dips: Bodyweight x 8, 200 x 5 x 36 sets
200 x 4 x 5 sets
Start Time 2:45 p.m.
Finish 6:15 p.m.
Total lifted: 95, 325 lbs.

Saturday, July 1, 1961

Chins: Bodyweight x 5 x 42 sets

Pec Injury from 7/5/61 to 9/12/61

Press Assistance - Charles Smith

Bill Starr

Steve Merjanian and Lee Phillips

Pressing To Improve the Press? by Charles Smith

Dear Sir:

In your recent articles on the Two Hands Press, you said in one section that the only way to improve the press was to press. Yet a few paragraphs later, you mention several exercises that will, so you said, also improve the press. How do reconcile these two statements?


I cannot for the life of me understand why you fellows try to read different meanings into the words I write. I mean exactly what I said. The only way to improve the press is to press. This rule applies in any specialization program. The only way to improve the clean is to clean; and the squat, then squat; and so on. This is so obvious that it is no wonder why some people cannot see the woods for the trees. The actual practice of the lift in itself is sufficient to effect an improvement.

The muscles taking the weight overhead in the press are not confined to one or two groups. The trapezius, the serratus magnus, the triceps and deltoids all play their part in this strength test. To me it is plain that the stronger these muscle groups are individually, the stronger they will be collectively. While the practice of the press improves the press, there will come a time when the weakest of the muscles involved will hold back improvement simply because they will be unable to handle the weight that the other, stronger muscles can handle. Let me make myself clearer.

Let us suppose that an athlete is working on the press. He makes pretty good progress, but there comes a time when he finds that progress is becoming more and more difficult, and finally comes to a standstill. Now the athlete using his common sense doesn’t, like his less knowledgeable brother, start exercising more furiously, or using a million and one exercises. He analyzes the reason for his failure to progress. He might observe that he has difficulty in starting the weight away from the shoulders and in this instance will rightly conclude that his deltoids need a little extra work and specialization. He might find that he can get the weight away from the shoulders easily, but experiences a sticking point in the region of the forehead. Here is a need for more tricep strength, more side presses, and more specialization to improve elbow lock. The practice of the lifts which demand plenty of action from the triceps will help him greatly. The press on back, the press on box, the inclined press, the various dumbell presses, and the triceps press and its variants, will improve his triceps strength and development an elbow locking power. The various leverage movements such as the lateral raise standing, the holdout in front raised from elbow, the crucifix and the various dorsal bar exercises are splendid for strengthening the deltoids and serratus magnus.

Let me repeat again and emphasize that the only way to improve your press is to press. All other movements are merely assistance movements and aids to improvement.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Big Chest Book - Chapter Twelve

Vern Weaver & Karl Norberg

Georg Hackenschmidt

Reg Park

Sigmund Klein & George Jowett

Developing The Muscles Of The Chest

Throughout all of recorded history broad shoulders and a deep, well-muscled chest have been considered to be the mark of physical supremacy. With good shoulders and a well-developed chest, only the addition of a powerful back is needed to possess the appearance of a strong man and to be able to perform the deeds of a strong man.

The world’s oldest exercises are dipping movements in various forms, designed primarily to build the muscles of the chest. Many native tribes, particularly the Polynesians, considered to be a type somewhat similar to the Hindus, have splendid development of the pectorals. For so many thousands of years the men of the race from which these men have sprung have had exceptional pectoral development so that it has become an inherited physical characteristic.

What is considered to be the world’s oldest exercise is the cat stretch or dipping in its various forms. This exercise has been practiced for thousands of years in India. Even today it is one of the chief exercises of the huge and powerful Indian wrestlers. Indian wrestlers, or Hindu wrestlers we term them, have many generations of wrestlers behind them. Only the best grapplers can continue in the profession and they are duly bound to marry the daughter of another wrestler. With this system of marriage, which corresponds rather closely to specialized breeding of animals, a truly super-race of men has been produced.

In this country we have a long list of men who have been titled world’s champion. Jim Londos has held the title for the longest period; Stanislaus Zbyscho has held and lost it the greatest number of times. Strangler Lewis, Dr. Roller, Jenkins, Farmer Burns, Joe Stecher, Earl Caddock, and the more modern wrestlers, Joe Savoldi and Gus Sunnenberg, have held the so-called world’s wrestling title. George Hackenschmidt, now rather an old timer, was champion in 1908 when they still wrestled. Only one of these men journeyed to India to wrestle the champions there – Zybscho – and he was defeated almost faster than one could take a breath.

The Hindu wrestlers proved that they excel the world in real wrestling where butting, biting, kicking, airplane spins and the like are not considered a part of wrestling. These men practice wrestling for hours, ad specialize in deep knee bending which, as we will relate anent the rib box expanding exercises, is a real chest developer. Some time ago two Indian physical culturists established world’s records in floor dipping. One of these set a record of 5,130 dips and another exceeded this record by a single dip to make 5,131. The latter man was continually in action for four hours and forty-nine minutes. Only many hours, months and years of practice could build such unusual ability in this special exercise.

The constant practice of dipping by the world’s oldest races is proof that chest development has long been admired and the possession of big chests has been considered to be the mark of a strong man the world over. While the chest muscles are not the most important muscles of the body from the strength standpoint, they are very important in performing strength feats. They make it possible to hug or crush the body of another, not unlike it is done by Bruin when he becomes real angry. But from the viewpoint of the public, the appearance of these muscles is what counts most. That is why so many physical culturists spend an inordinate amount time on pectoral exercises. They know that a well-developed pair of these muscles will be so unusual that it will excite favorable attention everywhere. Not only when in bathing or athletic costume but in any form of clothing, the high, round, full chest will be particularly impressive.

Some of the greats of the past attained their chief fame through the well-rounded, highly developed chest muscles they displayed in all their photos. Antone Matysek, Tony Sansone, Tony Massimo, A. Passanent, and Earl Liederman displayed unusual pectoral development. Many of the more famous Liederman pupils followed their leader and built for themselves chest muscles which added to their fame and gave them universal recognition as strong and perfectly built men. Before going on with the means to develop the pectoral muscles it will be well to consider them anatomically first.

First is the pectoralis major, which arises from the anterior surface of the sternal half of the clavicle, the anterior surface of the sternum, the cartilages of the true ribs and the aponeurosis of the external oblique. The broad flat fibres which cover the entire upper chest area converge and form a thick mass which is inserted by a flat tendon into the crest of the greater tubercle of the humerus.

When the arm has been raised, the pectorals, acting with the latissimus dorsi muscles and the teres major, draw the arms down to the side of the chest. Acting alone they adduct and draw the arm across the chest and rotate it inward. From this brief description you can see why the two hands pullover while lying, and the lateral raise lying, ending by folding the arms over the chest, are prime exercises for developing these muscles

The pectoralis minor lies underneath and is entirely covered by the pectoralis major. It arises from the outer margins and the outer surfaces of the third, fourth and fifth fibs near their cartilages, and is inserted into the caracoid process of the scapula. Its work is to depress the point of the shoulder and rotate the scapula downward. In forced inspiration the pectoralis muscles aid in drawing the ribs upward and expanding the chest.

The serratus magnus arises from the outer surface and superior borders of the upper eight or nine ribs and the intercostals between them. The fibres pass upward and backward and are inserted in various portions of the ventral surface of the scapula. It carries the scapula forward and raises the vertical border of the bone as in pushing. It assists the trapezius in raising the acromium process and supporting weights on the shoulder. It also assists the deltoid in raising the arm.

The intercostals are found filling the spaces between the ribs. Each muscle consists of two layers, one external and one internal, and as there are eleven intercostal spaces on each side, and two muscles in each space, therefore there are forty-five intercostal muscles. The fibres of these muscles run in opposite directions.

The external intercostals extend from the tubercles of the ribs behind to the cartilages of the ribs in front, where they end in membranes which connect with the sternum. Each arises from the lower border of a rib and is inserted into the upper border of the fifth rib. The direction of the fibres is obliquely downward. The internal intercostals extend from the sternum to the angle of the ribs and are connected to the vertebral column. Each arises from the inner surface of a rib and is inserted into the upper portion of the rib below. The direction of the fibres is obliquely downward and opposite to the direction of the external intercostals.

There is some disagreement among experts as to the operation of the intercostal muscles. One expert states that the internal and external intercostals contract simultaneously and prevent the intercostal spaces from being pushed outward or drawn inward during respiration. Another classes them as inspratory.

There are twelve little-known muscles known as the levatores costarum which arise from the transverse processes of the vertebrae. They pass obliquely downward and lateralward like the external intercostals. Each one is inserted into the outer surface of the rib, just below the vertebra from which it takes its origin. It is believed that these muscles act as rotators and lateral flexors of the vertebral column.

Of the muscles we have briefly described the pectoral muscles are of chief interest to most body builders. In fact many of them don’t know that they even have the other muscles, don’t know the serratus magnus or the intercostals from the Aurora Borealis. But those familiar with body building and the well-developed masculine physique know and admire these little-known muscles. Any advanced muscle control artist can exhibit these muscles. In themselves they are not so important from the strength angle and they don’t add much to the appearance of the physique. The thin fellow has only ribs to show and can’t find them. The man who is even slightly upholstered won’t see them, but when you can detect these muscles plainly in a well-developed state, you will know that you are looking at a real man, a man who is strong inside and out, who possesses great virility and internal power, splendid digestion, good elimination, endurance and all desirable physical qualities. Not that these muscles control the functions I have just mentioned, but the man who has well-developed serratus magnus and intercostals is carrying the proof that he has performed the sort of exercises which build internal strength. While he has been developing these little-known external muscles, he has brought to a high stage of perfection the better-known external muscles and has been building the power of the internal organs.

Any man who has transformed his body from the too thin, too weak, too fat class, through weight training, knows what the acquisition of these muscles has meant to him. He knows that he feels better, that he has more pep, greater endurance, that he is starved before meals and can eat like a bear, he knows that he is never constipated, that he doesn’t have headaches or even colds, that he is never ill, that he is light on his feet, cheerful and happy. You can be sure that any man who has well-developed serratus magnus, intercostals and external obliques, which are far enough down the sides to be included in the discussion of the midsection, has done a great deal of vigorous bending, twisting, and endurance work. He has built his internal powers and improved the action of all the organs and glands. A good all-around body-building program, including heavy work and weight lifting with specializing upon the muscles this volume deals with, will bring these little-known muscles of the chest to a point where they are plainly noticeable.

As the pectorals are really a three-part muscle which spreads out fanwise from the arm and shoulder, a diversity of exercises is required to develop them fully. Designed to draw the arm downward and forward, exercises which develop the latissimus are also important in their development.

Back to our discussion of dipping. This is one of the best exercises to develop the pectorals. Plain floor dipping, unless you progress to one-arm dipping, is not intensive enough to bring the pectorals to the peak of development. When carried on into the hundreds and thousands of repetitions as some Hindu specialists have done, it is not unlike the continued action of a marathon race. It will cause the muscles to be hard, thin and stringy, rather than full and rounded as desired.

The exercise of dipping can be greatly improved by dipping with the aid of three chairs or boxes, a hand on each chair, the feet on another. It is advisable to have the feet raised higher than the hands if this is convenient. Dipping between chairs gives you a great range of movement. With the feet raised, more resistance is supplied to the arms and of course the pectorals. This movement can be made progressive by tying weights to the waist. It was considered of sufficient value that quite recently it was offered as the “Exercise of the Month” in Strength and Health magazine. Some men make the movement even more vigorous by having a child of a light training mate sit upon the shoulders. It is a real exercise when performed against such resistance.

Men who are skilled hand balancers practice this movement balanced upon two boxes with the body in the hand balance position. Or if not so adept at balancing, dip from the hand stand position with the feet against the wall. Dipping upon parallel bars is another means to develop these muscles. Here we have three distinctly different positions of dipping: feet raised overhead, feet hanging and feet at the shoulder level. These three positions will develop the pectorals in an outstanding manner. Tony Sansone has done a lot of parallel bar dipping, and Elmer Farnham who is noted for his pectoral development has specialized in all forms of dipping. He does not specialize at the present time, but his exceptionally well developed pectorals bear the mark of ample dipping at the inception of his physical training career.

Elmer excels at another form of dipping. Lying flat upon his face, with arms extended to the front, arms straight, he raises his body approximately a foot from the floor. He has done this with ninety-two pounds, and certainly it has promoted the strength and development of his pectorals.

The overhead pulleys that you have rigged up for the development of the latissimus will serve well in pectoral development. There is this difference however: Your back should be to the wall in pectoral exercises, and face to the wall in latissimus movements. Be very careful to hold the arms straight and perform the movements correctly so that the muscles involved will receive the maximum of benefit. Pulley weights, so often called chest weights, are of advantage in developing the chest muscles. They are to be found in most gymnasiums. You can construct your own if you desire, or you can be satisfied with the results which are obtained through bar bell, dumbell and cable training., which I can assure you will be worthy, if you persist in your efforts.

The best known and the best chest-developing exercise of them all is the two arm pullover. This can be practiced while lying upon the floor or a bench or two boxes. Greater range of movement can be had in this latter movement, and greater range of movement has a better effect from the development. As a breathing exercise only a moderate weight should be employed as we will explain more fully in the chapter devoted to expanding the chest.

As a muscle builder, employ the weight you can properly handle. While in the muscle-building exercise, only a quarter circle is made with the arms and the bar. From far back of head to thighs is best in this breathing exercise. Use a heavier weight in this movement and develop your muscles to the fullest extent. Keeping the arms entirely straight, continue the movement steadily; try to keep your back flat against the floor or the bench or boxes. A man who can pull over one hundred pounds is really strong and will have pectoral development to prove it.

The next best movement is somewhat similar but this time with two dumbells. It is known as the lateral raise lying. Raise the dumbells to arm’s length above the chest, knuckles out. Lower the bells, keeping arms straight throughout until they are a bit lower than level with shoulders. This movement can be varied a bit by crossing the arms after they have reached a point above the body.

In this movement you are limited by the strength of the muscles on the inside of the elbows and shoulders. So an even better chest developing exercise is a form of flying movement. If you have partaken of a dinner of squab, pheasant, quail, duck of other wild bird, you must have been impressed with the tremendous size and depth of the chest or breast muscles in relation to the size of the bird. Flying as they do for long distances, frequently at great speed, they have developed breast muscles which make up a large part of the muscular bulk of their small bodies. It is evident that some form of flying exercise will advantageously benefit the human body builder.

Two or three times as much weight can be used in this flying exercise as in the lateral raise lying. The elbows are kept bent and a movement employed similar to flying, with the dumbells touching above the center of the body and ranging out as far as they can extend from the sides with bent arms. The range of movement can be varied by moving the dumbells from a position at the side of the shoulders along the entire range of the body until opposite the abdomen. Jake Hitchin, who was one of the originators of this movement, has used 100 pounds in each hand and has been rewarded by huge, shapely, powerful breast muscles.

Another of my favorites (you’ll soon think that all are my favorites) is the two hands press with bar bell or dumbells while lying upon boxes or bench. While I enjoy many exercises, the upright rowing motion with dumbells and the press on box or bench take rank well at the head of the list with me. By alternately pressing two dumbells or pressing them simultaneously a somewhat different action is given to the pectoral muscles than in dipping. It is a splendid breathing exercise too as you’ll read later. But with the bar bell you can really handle a substantial poundage and obtain favorable results commensurate with the effort expended. Recently I performed ten movements in this style with 200 pounds. Poor leverage in the military or continental style of pressing does not seem to hinder me when pressing in this position. Some years ago I could outpress all but three or four of our champions in this position, men who could actually outpress me a hundred pounds in the military position – my 190 as compared to 300 or more of men such as Davis, Grimek and Stanko.

While lying upon boxes there are many variations of the lateral raise and the two arm pull over which serve well with dumbells. Alternate forward and lateral raise, holding the weights at arm’s length above the head and then dropping both of them first to right, then back to center, then to left. Or a twisting and turning movement such as the following: Thrust the dumbells to straight arms back of head. Holding palms up and keeping arms straight bring them down past the waist and to the thighs, permitting the arms to turn so that the knuckles are now up; cross them, bringing them forward, close to the body and back of the head to the original position. Continue this movement until tired.

Two favorably known appliances lend themselves well to chest muscle building. The first of these is the Giant Crusher Grip. It brings into action the crushing muscles of the body and as this is one of the prime purposes of the pectoral muscles and as they can’t be reached in quite the same way with any other equipment, a giant crusher grip should be included in the training equipment of every ambitious physical culturist. At one time I took a mail order course of exercises offered by one of the champion wrestlers of the day. The training equipment which came with this course was a form of crusher grip. How I enjoyed this piece of equipment and I feel that I was permanently rewarded by chest increases both in size and development. There is a fair range of movement with the Giant Crusher Grip.

The Iron Shoe, while working in exactly the opposite manner, nevertheless exerts considerable action with resulting benefit to the chest muscles.

As cables were commonly called chest expanders, and as the best cable pullers all have good pectorals it is evident that they are highly beneficial in building this important part of the anatomy. Most of the exercises offered in the chapter on building the latissimus provide almost equal benefit to the pectorals. If you do not have weights, are so situated that it is objectionable to use them, usually in hotels, boarding houses or apartments where the least noise is objectionable, you can practice all forms of lateral raises and two arm pullovers with the Home Gym cable set and attachments.

As a general thing, although I say that any exercise is better than no exercise, I do not favor resistance exercises – where one arm works against another. Through untold generations of human beings, definite, coordinated muscle involvements have been followed. The human brain has learned to direct these movements in a normal manner. But work one set of muscles against another, such as in curling with one arm as the other resists in a pressing action, and the best results are not obtained. Countless men have reported headaches and dizziness from these movements without knowing why. The fact that it is contrary to the laws of normal movement which our own ancestors’ bodies had become accustomed to, long before the dawn of recorded history, accounts for this confusion when the mind is unable to properly work in conjunction with this new type of movement and the mental bewilderment causes dizziness and even headaches.

But I have several pectoral-developing exercises to offer which are not detrimental to one’s feelings. Extend the arms in front of the body, palms together. Maintaining a vigorous pressure with the palms, raise the arms to full length overhead, keeping the arms straight throughout. Momentarily relax, then continue down with the arms until a position at the thighs is reached. Continue this movement until tired. Another similar movement is to place the hands with the palms together, fingers extended right in front of the chest. The elbows are bent. Keeping close to the body, and pressing hard with the hands and arms, raise the hands to arm’s length over the head, relax momentarily and come down to a position below the chest. And a third: The starting position is the same as that in exercise No. 2. The right hand presses hard, the left hand resists but not quite as strongly as the right presses and the left hand is pushed far to the left. Then the left pushes hard to the right and the movement is continued. Maintain a heavy and steady pressure of the hands. This will tighten the pectorals and cause them to grow in size and strength.

The famous old time strong men and man men of the present control their chest muscles frequently, causing them to move together or alternately. To learn this movement the exercise I have just offered is best. But tighten and relax the chest muscles more frequently and soon you will attain such control over them that you can move them at will in any position.

Persistence in practicing these recommended exercises and others which may suggest themselves to you will add an inch or two to the depth of your chest muscles and, in line with the former reasoning offered once before that the circumference of a circle is three and one-seventh times the diameter, an increase in diameter of one or two inches will mean an increased chest girth of three to six inches.

It is evident from these several chapters concerning the development of the muscles of the chest that practice of the exercises offered will give you a chest that stretches the tape to many more inches, but the real way to a bigger chest is to build the rib box, deepen it form front to rear in particular, and that phase of physical improvement will be our discussion in the next chapter.

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