Thursday, April 30, 2009

Definition, That Elusive Quality - Bruce Randall

Definition, That Elusive Quality

by Bruce Randall

“I just can’t seem to get the definition that I want! I guess I just have naturally thick skin.” This statement, made by many people who are interested in the art of physical development, is voiced frequently. Definition, or cuts, as this quality is referred to in gyms throughout the country, is indeed a most elusive quality. It seems unattainable to some men irrespective of how hard they may train to attain it.

Definition, as applied to physique development, is the quality the body takes on when the delineation of each muscle group becomes highly apparent. You might call it the “detail” of the body. For example, if you went to a museum of art and viewed statues of the human body, the statue which might impress you the most would be the one depicting the greatest detail. The one in which every muscle is highly apparent and each surface fiber is carefully emphasized.

A well-proportioned man in “smooth” condition will almost invariably be improved when he attains that final, finished look which becomes apparent with greater detail or definition. It is, of course, also true that this definition is greatly accentuated and emphasized when the muscle is seen under contraction and tension.

Often the word separation is used in lieu of the term definition when referring to the muscle delineation. Actually, the term separation is generally meant to imply the degree of delineation BETWEEN the various muscle groups. Each muscle group is clearly and discernibly separated from one another. For example, a physique with excellent separation might be one in which the lateral deltoid is developed to a degree that it is very discernible and thus well separated from the anterior and posterior areas. The bicep of this physique would stand out clearly apart from the tricep, the pectorals would look as though they could be plucked from the rib-box, the quadriceps would appear to stand out in sharp relief, etc.

It is possible for a man to have a good degree of separation and yet not necessarily be well defined. It is quite rare, however, when it does occasionally happen. The physique would appear as though, because of great definition, the muscles, “run into one another” without clear lines of demarcation. This occurrence is, as previously stated, a very rare thing and is usually seen among fellows of light bodyweight.

To get back to the original statement, “I guess I just have naturally thick skin.” Just what does the person mean by “thick skin”? How thick can skin be? Actually, the skin is composed of two main layers which are known as the epidermis, the outer skin, and the dermis, the inner skin. The dermis consists of connective tissue and contains blood vessels and nerves, oil glands, sweat glands, and the roots of hair. The epidermis contains no nerves of blood vessels. The lower cells of the epidermis grow, divide, and are pushed to the outer surface where they die. The point is that although someone might possibly have 1/100 of an inch thicker skin than someone else, this is almost infinitesimal and certainly no deterrent to acquiring the desired definition. No human has the hide of a rhinoceros or the thick skin of an elephant! What then determines the degree of definition that one may attain?

The amount of body fat BETWEEN the skin and the muscle and the amount of fatty tissue within the muscle group will primarily determine the degree of definition the physique attains. You will never see a well-defined fat person. Obviously, the greater the degree of body fat the less the degree of definition; and the less the degree of body fat the greater the degree of definition. The idea is to try to get the muscle as close to the skin as possible, thus enabling the surface fibers to show through.

Speaking from my own experience, I believe it is safe to say that at a bodyweight of around 400 pounds no one ever has LESS definition than I! On the other hand, when I was fortunate enough to win the Mr. Universe title I weighed 222 pounds, and had fairly good muscular definition. By reducing the bulk of the body, which I found to be an asset in heavy lifting, the body took on a “harder” look.

Fat is the way the body stores energy. If one is to take in more fuel (food) than one burns up, the excess will be stored in the form of fat. And, if a person wished to rid himself of this fat the best way is to reduce the food intake and increase the energy output. The body will then call upon this fat deposit in order to make up for the deficiency in energy requirements. Many people who train with weights feel that the best system to employ to bring out definition is one in which high repetitions are used during each set. Personally I feel that while this will work to a certain degree, there are more effective training methods to reduce this subcutaneous layer of fat.

I prefer to REDUCE the repetitions and INCREASE the number of sets.

To illustrate the above point let us take the following example. Instead of performing 3 sets of 20 repetitions per exercise, I would prefer to perform 10 sets of 6 repetitions per exercise when training for definition. Let us say that we were able to do 3 sets of 20 reps with 100 pounds in the curl. Now, if we were to increase the sets to 10 and reduce the reps to 6 we would be able to increase the weight substantially to, let us say, 150 pounds! The point is that at the end of the exercise we have performed exactly the same amount of repetitions. However, on the high set, low rep principal, we use 50% more weight thus accomplishing more work and therefore burning more energy which is necessary in order to reduce fat and attain definition. Remember, it is the amount of energy you have burned up which in turn is determined by the amount of work you have performed that will determine the amount of fat reduction. This approach to definition should also enable the trainee to retain a great degree of muscle density, at the same time encouraging greater definition. The writer is not suggesting that the reader follow the idea of 10 sets necessarily. It is true that the more sets you perform the longer will be the length of your workout. It is also true, however, that it is necessary to put in many long workouts in order to bring the body around to top contest condition. Ask any top physique winner and you will find that this is true.

Diet is always essential when training. For the person who is desirous of attaining great definition it is absolutely imperative that a strict diet be adhered to. I would suggest that those who find it difficult to refrain from the cake pie and candy routine remind themselves that each candy bar will cost them another 500 situps to work off! I found this to be a very persuasive means of combating temporary dietary temptations! It is also very well known that many, many people are often advised by competent authorities to have a diet which is high in protein when losing weight. This helps the body to burn up fat while at the same time retaining the muscular firmness. Fruits, salads and lean meat along with plenty of fish and chicken, particularly chicken breasts, are important. Liver is an excellent fitness food.

Since milk has a great degree of butterfat, I have found a good way to get the great value of milk while cutting out the butterfat element. Empty a quart of skim milk into a pitcher and add 1½ cups of dry, nonfat powdered milk and mix thoroughly. Place the pitcher into the refrigerator and wait until it is thoroughly chilled. Actually, what you have done is to double the protein, calcium and other valuable bodybuilding elements found in milk, and yet you have almost entirely eliminated the butterfat content which you don’t need. In this manner you do not have to take in two quarts of liquid and get that bloated feeling in order to get the value of two quarts of milk. The powdered mild seems to give the skim milk more “body” flavor. Try it if you are on a definition diet.

Remember that anyone can have the definition he desires if he is willing to train and will apply a little “exercise” of the will power. In conclusion I think it might be wise to add that there is a time to be extremely defined and a time not to be quite so defined. I feel that it is unwise to maintain an extreme degree of definition for great lengths of time because, by reducing the body fat to an absolute minimum, one also reduces his resistance and may subject his body to colds and many other possible illnesses. You will find that the extreme training necessary to bring about and maintain this definition also tends to sap your strength and you will not feel as “vital” as you would at a slightly heavier bodyweight. Often a person will become more irritable when trained down in an extremely defined condition. I personally prefer to stay about 10 to 12 pounds above what I consider to be my contest bodyweight as I can work out with heavier weights and have more energy for life in general. An extremely defined condition is not a healthy state to maintain for any great length of time.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Two Hands Curl - Jim Halliday

Doug Hepburn demonstrates a perfect
"near-finish" position.

Bruce Randall

Two Hands Curl
by Jim Halliday

See here to read Jim Halliday's book - Olympic Lifting -

We now discuss one of the pure basic lift (at least it was pure until some modern performers caricaturized it all out of proportion) and this is the Two Hands Curl, lift No. 33 in the Society’s list of definitions. The rules for correct performance read as follows:

The barbell grasped with both hands (palms to the front) shall hang at arms’ length across the lifter’s front, from which position it shall be lifted to the height of the shoulders by bending the forearms completely on the upper arms. The commencement of the curl shall be indicated by the referee’s signal.
Throughout the curl the trunk must not be inclined backwards, forwards, or sideways, and the shoulders must be kept quite level, the legs straight. The slightest deviation from this position shall be counted cause for disqualification.
The conclusion of the lift shall be indicated when the referee gives his signal after the expiration of two seconds.

Points of Interest

The above definition in, as naturally it is meant to be, self-explanatory, and needs no additions to guide the lifter in the manner he must perform the lift for competitive purposes. It is purely and simply an arms’ movement, but there are two points that may assist some performers in reaching higher figures.

You will note that the rules say the shoulders must be kept level, but this does not mean they must be kept stationary. If it is of assistance, you can raise the shoulders, providing the above rule is not broken during the process.

The second point I wish to make is that some lifters may find it advantageous to take the elbows back during the first part of the lift, bringing the bar into the body until the forearms are at the halfway position, then pushing them forward again as the forearms bend on to the upper arms to conclude the lift. These two factors may of may not improve performance, but they are worthwhile experiments in the early stages.

It is when we contemplate the movement as an EXERCISE that the causes for controversy become apparent. In these days of “cheating” movements, “peak contraction” movements, etc., some lifts became different exercises altogether from the ones originally devised. The Curl is no exception.

In an endeavor to increase the amount of weight the performer can handle, many bodybuilders now use the cheating method, which usually consists of bending forward at the commencement and then swinging the weight into position, using the whole body, (and even the legs) whilst so doing.

I do not intend to invite any arguments by writing too much on this subject, but I would like to point out one important factor.

Look at the photo illustrating the concluding position of this lift. I maintain that this is the position that MUST be attained (in fact, I feel the arms should be bent even more) if the biceps are to be correctly (i.e. adequately) exercised. I also maintain that at the commencement of the lift (and also when the weight is lowered at the end of the movement) the arms should be fully straightened. Ask yourself how often this is possible with the weights used in a cheating movement.

I believe that when one is doing an exercise to benefit one specific group of muscles, one must ensure that the BULK OF WORK is done by that group; otherwise, the purpose is defeated. When you use a poundage that the muscles in question cannot cope with, you are forced to use other muscle groups to successfully complete the lift. I see no point in adding weight to help develop a muscle, if you have to overly use other muscles to lift such a weight.

If you do like to cheat, do so by all means, but do not call it a “curl”. Give it the appropriate name and call it a “reverse clean”. I also give you some further advice – gratis! If you perform cheat curls, ensure that you also perform some form of the orthodox full curling movement to ensure the muscles are exercised through the full range.

Training Hints

I believe one can successfully employ a HEAVY AND LIGHT system in conjunction with this movement. It is an “easy” exercise and does not call very much upon the performer’s energies, neither does it unduly use up any nervous forces. Consequently, a lot of work can be done without interference with the rest of the training programme, and I feel the point to watch is that one does not become too enthusiastic about “big biceps” and spend too much time on this lift.

The programme can be founded on many variations of groups and reps, and you can try the following schedules based on a four-days-a-week system:

(1) 1st and 3rd days – 5 sets of 5 reps, light weights.
2nd and 4th days – 6 sets of 2 reps, heavy weights.

(2) 1st and 3rd days – At the beginning of the schedule 4 sets of 4 reps with light weights, and later in the schedule 4 sets of 2 reps with heavy weights.
2nd and 4th days – At the beginning 8 singles with a heavy poundage, followed later by 3 sets of 5 reps with a light weight.

Other curling movements can also be employed, but when this is done, the over-all work should be approximately confined to the limits set out above. These additional movements include single-arm dumbell curls alternately, and as a variation the reverse curl with barbell.

Whenever the performer wishes to attempt this lift competitively, I think he will best be served by confining himself to SINGLE ATTEMPTS – say 8 lifts with near-maximum poundage – for the final week leading to the personal record attempt or competition. During this time he should pay strict attention to style and all the aspects of a correct lift, ceasing all curling on the two days immediately preceding the attempt.

Biceps - Chuck Sipes

Biceps Development
by Chuck Sipes

Many, many fellows over the past few years have asked me about developing arms. As I perform my posing or strength routines, the question most often asked by an appreciative audience is, “How did you get those arms?” Even though many of my strength feats do not call for overwhelming arm development, this area of my anatomy gets the query every time.

I suppose this is an American symptom, for overseas bodybuilders accuse this country of being arm-happy. Of course, foreign arm development as a whole is well below ours, so this could have a bit to do with it too.

Actually, I think it goes a lot deeper than this, and the appreciation of big, powerful arms is an American folk custom. By this I mean that this country was developed by the labors of all the various pioneers and explorers over the past 300-400 years. As they pushed into the wilderness and afterwards, wresting a living from the land, these men had to work hard, work with their hands and arms and whole body, to get along. The settler, the village blacksmith, the lumberjack, the carpenter and builder . . . all needed powerful arms to ply their trade well, and in time those with the greatest, most powerful arms grew to be respected for their contributions.

Bodybuilding today, with the glorification of the entire, well-developed physique, is still influenced by this great American heritage to the extent that big arms and powerful arms are the most respected part of the body. Sometimes this fact is lost sight of in the race for pecs, lats, delts, etc. but it is there nonetheless.

Arm Strength and Size Go Together

The strength factor in arm training and training as a whole is lost sight of by some bodybuilders today. But without strength you cannot have maximum development. The more powerful you can become, the better developed you will also become.

This is especially true in the arm area, and one of the basic tenets of my arm training. Bodybuilders are so conscious of the bigness of things. Many of them concentrate just on pumping and forget the strength part. As I’ve trained and developed power for my strength feats, I’ve found that my development of size has kept pace with strength increases. Simple, but true. If you want more size, then go for strength.

But it is not as simple as “lift more weight, get bigger.” My feats involving great arm strength, such as breaking chains, bending spikes and the like, need the application of continuous arm strength over a period of time. It is this continuous application of power over a long period of time, the long holding of a contracted position, that differentiates my approach to arm training from that of other bodybuilders. And, I think my method certainly has been successful.

Too many bodybuilders are used to doing a rep, resting, then doing another rep . . . they don’t have that continuous application of power in training. I design my training to take advantage of this long period of holding tension, and do many exercises that involve constant tensing of the arm muscles, especially the biceps.

I’ve found that applying this strength principle to my workouts has resulted in greater power for my strength exhibitions, and greater size through working the muscle harder.

Anatomy and Importance

Many bodybuilders say the triceps is first in arm importance, saying it is the largest muscle in the arm. I rank the triceps last on my list. Why? An unimpressive, large but droopy and poorly shaped arm is not what I want. Besides, the triceps are not as important in my strength feats.

With the triceps last, next up the list with me is forearms. This muscular area of the arms is vital both to appearance - nothing is so unsightly as a big upper arm and a pair of sticks for forearms - and for gripping strength well developed forearms are essential. Every bodybuilder should work the forearms regularly as part of their workouts. I worked in sawmills and lumberjacking when I was younger, and this helped my development and strength quite a bit.

But, at the top of the list is the biceps area. The better developed and stronger your biceps are, the better off you will be physically. They should be #1 on your arm training list. Therefore, this arm development article will concentrate on developing this area, the biceps.

Note I said biceps area, for another important muscle vital for strength and development is located under the biceps. That is the brachialis. You should also include some work for this muscle in your biceps training, to make it as effective as possible. It will be worth your while.

My Arm Size and Power Routine

As I mentioned earlier, I feel continuous contractions are both beneficial and essential for power and clean-cut musculature. Because of this I design many of the biceps exercises I use to be continuous tension movements.

Also, to make sure I get full muscular shape as well as power and cuts, I also do movements that are complete extensions and contractions, with a bit of rest in between the reps. For the best benefit I superset one of these full-movement exercises with a continuous tension/continuous motion movement.

Super Set I
1.) Cheat Curls – 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps. I make this a real power movement, starting the weight with a slight lean-back, and curling it to the top with biceps power. Once at the top, I immediately start to SLOWLY lower the weight, fighting it all the way down, making the descent last as long as possible. Once it hits the thighs I don’t relax, but swing the weight up again immediately. This way I handle the utmost in weight while keeping the motion continuous from the beginning of the set to the end, no rest for the biceps at any time.
2.) Concentration Curls – 5 sets of 10 to 12 reps. To counterbalance the cheat curls, I do concentration curls, going through a full and complete extension and contraction of the biceps. Whit my elbow braced on the thigh, I bring a moderate weight up, stopping for an instant at the peak; lower it, relax for a moment, then start the next rep, all the while concentrating on guiding the biceps through a perfect path.

Super Set II
3.) Alternate Dumbell Curls – 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps. I use the heaviest dumbells possible, and swing the weight a bit. Also, to add to the momentum, I swing one dumbell up, then as I’m lowering it I swing the mate up, so that both bells are going continuously from the beginning of the exercise to the end. Remember, maximum weight, swing the dumbells a bit, keep curling continuously until the end of the set.
4.) Incline Curl – 5 sets of 8 reps. To finish off my second superset, I go to incline curls, a great favorite of Steve Reeves. I do them slow and concentrated, with a moderate weight, bringing the elbow up slightly at the end of each rep. I bring one bell up as the other is going down, alternating, but go through a full correct exercise motion each rep, resting and refocusing for a moment at the bottom point of each rep. Maintain good form.

5.) Reverse Barbell Curl – 6 sets of 6 to 8 reps. This exercise, done properly and with the maximum weight you can handle, will really add power to the arm. Naturally, the overgrip limits the amount of weight you can properly handle, but you should still go for the maximum, in good clean style, and really work up the weights constantly.

My final comment is against what seems to be a common practice among eager lifters and bodybuilders who want fast gains. That is, to train like a demon and then live in a state of suspended animation, doing as little as humanly possible outside of the gym. This is such a poor practice psychologically, and equally foolish when it comes to recuperation and development. You need constant circulation for best results, so light work and/or games are good. Of course rest is important, but your strength and muscle will not shrink away if you engage them in a little useful enterprise, and as I previously mentioned, working in the sawmills when I was young helped my strength immensely. Don’t worry about working or playing outside of your lifting routines as long as your barbell training keeps flowing along properly. Train hard, but remain involved in all facets of life.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Goerner's Deadlift Variations - Brooks Kubik

Jack Shanks of Belfast, lifting the Dinnie Stones without straps. He is the first man to do this since Donald Dinnie and Louis Cyr. Total weight about 784 pounds.

Goerner’s Deadlift Variations
by Brooks Kubik

Hermann Goerner may have had the strongest hands in history. David Willoughby considered that to be the case, and ranked Goerner as the number one gripmaster of all time in his classic text, “The Super Athletes”. Of course, Willoughby’s treatise preceded the feats of such modern day marvels as Brookfield and Sorin. But there remains no doubt that the German strongman would have to be rated at or near the top of any list of the very best of all-time gripmasters.

Goerner did a one arm deadlift with 727½ pounds. He performed a rectangular fix with 154¼ pounds. He cleaned a 297½ pound barbell with one hand. He wrote his name on a blackboard while dangling a 110¼ pound kettlebell from his thumb. He lifted a beer barrel weighing 595¾ pounds from the floor to the top of a table. He snatched 229¼ pounds with his right hand. He did a pinch grip of 111 pounds, using two smooth-sided 15-kilo plates or the gripping surface; the plates measured 2-3/8” in combined width.

A strength enthusiast once asked Goerner how he could do at tearing a pack of cards. “I don’t know,” Goerner replied. The fan handed Goerner three full decks of unused German playing cards plus some additional cards – a total of 110 cards. Goerner grasped the cards in his mighty hands, paused for a brief moment, and then EXPLODED. In one second his mighty hands tore apart the entire set of 110 cards.

Goerner once took a 220-pound solid iron globe and while seated, casually lifted it from the floor to a table simply by squeezing his hands against the sides of the globe. To get a sense of the feat, imagine lifting nine 25-pound iron plates stacked one on top of the other – that’s roughly the amount of iron Goerner had to contend with when he lifted the 220-pound globe.

Or try the feat with a 15½ gallon beer keg, filled with water; the keg will weigh about 165 pounds, or roughly 2/3 of the weight of Goerner’s globe. Press your hands against the sides of the keg and try to lift it off the ground. You’ll get an immediate understanding of exactly how powerful the German giant really was. And remember – the shape of your beer keg makes it MUCH easier to lift than the shape of an iron globe.

How did Goerner build such tremendous hand and grip strength?

One answer lies in his regular practice of specialized deadlift movements. Goerner trained for one hand deadlifting by doing three of the following six movements for three single reps apiece in one workout, followed by the same number of lifts on the remaining three movements. Thus, he employed a total of six specialized movements to build power for the one arm deadlift:

1.) One hand deadlift with a thumbless grip, using all four fingers, and holding the bar in the first joint of the fingers. The hand was not closed or rolled into a fist. In this fashion, Goerner handled 330¾ pounds.

2.) One hand deadlift with thumbless overhand grip – in other words, the normal style of one handed grip, except the thumb was not used. Goerner lifted 463 pounds in this fashion.

3.) One hand deadlift with normal overhand grip, using the thumb. Goerner handled 558.48 pounds in this fashion on a non-revolving straight bar.

4.) One hand deadlift with overhand hook grip, with the lifting arm bent 90 degrees at the elbow. The arm remained in the halfway bent position for the duration of the lift. Goerner handled 330¾ pounds in the lift.

5.) One hand deadlift with hook grip, pulling the bar as rapidly as possible, working for maximum speed and explosiveness. Goerner handled 499.36 pounds in this exercise.

6.) One hand deadlift with hook grip, using heavy poundages and a slower rate of speed than in number 5; Goerner’s all-time best was 727½, and he regularly used 661¼ in his training.

When training for the two hands deadlift, Goerner would include four specialized deadlifts in each training session and would alternate three different workouts, so he did a total of 12 different deadlifts over the course of three training sessions. These twelve movements worked the fingers and grip in a tremendously effective fashion:

1.) Two finger deadlift with the index fingers only, using an overhand (not a reverse) grip. Goerner lifted 187½ pounds in this fashion, although it did not appear to be his maximum.

2.) Two finger deadlift with index fingers only, using a reverse grip. Goerner handled
286½ pounds in this exercise, but probably could have done more.

3.) Two finger deadlift, using only the middle fingers, with an overhand (not a reverse) grip. Goerner handled 220½ pounds, but probably could have gone higher.

4.) Two finger deadlift, using the middle fingers only, with a reverse grip. Goerner could lift 308¾ in this movement.

5.) Four finger deadlift, employing only the index and middle fingers of each hand, using an overhand grip (not a reverse) grip. Goerner once lifted 385¾ in this lift, which his biographer Edgar Mueller felt was far below his true maximum.

6.) Four finger deadlift; same as number 5, but with a reverse grip. Goerner once lifted 595¾ pounds in this fashion on November 30, 1933, at Leipzig. A photograph of the feat shows an expression of sheer nonchalance: Goerner appears almost to be sleeping as he stands erect with just under 600 pounds hanging from his index and middle fingers.

7.) Two hands deadlift, normal overhand grip, no hooking. Goerner could pull 727½ in this fashion.

8.) Same as number 7, performed in stiff-legged fashion. He lifted 661¼ in this movement.

9.) Two hands deadlift to waist height (apparently, more of a high pull than a deadlift), using an overhand hook grip. Goerner managed 554.48 in this manner.

10.) Two hands deadlift, with both arms bent halfway, using an overhand hook grip. Goerner kept his arms bent halfway throughout the entire lift. He handled 441 pounds in this fashion.

11.) Two hands deadlift with heavy weights, using either a reverse grip or an overhand hook grip. Goerner handled 793¾ with an overhand hook grip and 830 pounds with a reverse grip.

12.) Two barbells deadlift: Goerner would stand between two barbells and lift one in each hand. He handled a combined weight of 617¼ in official competition, and in the gym once managed 663½ pounds (332¾ in the left hand and 330¾ in the right). When he lifted the 663¼ pounds, he not only deadlifted the barbells but WALKED with them for a total of 23 feet.

Goerner trained his deadlifts with a regulation Olympic bar. For even greater variety, one could practice Goerner’s deadlift variations on bars of different thickness. In my own training, for example, I often use a 2” bar for various types of one and two arm deadlifts. I often use a 2½” bar for four finger deadlifts with the reverse grip – an exercise which I commend to readers as one of the most effective (and painful) grip exercises in existence.

You also can add variety to the program by using a power rack or blocks to train Goerner’s deadlift variations at different heights. Deadlift lockouts with two and four finger grips are brutal movements – but they build tremendous finger strength.

Goerner’s deadlift variations offer a unique and highly effective training program for grip development and all-around body strength. It would be interesting to see how strong a man could become after several years of practice on the Goerner deadlift variations . . .

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sig Klein - Chapter Thirteen

Joe Weider performing a 95 pound one arm military press at Sig Klein's gym.

My First Quarter Century in the Iron Game
Part Thirteen
by Siegmund Klein

I believe that it was some time in the year 1932 that a powerful young man visited me, and after speaking with him a few moments I could not help but notice his thick wrists, though he had a rather small, well-shaped hand. I asked him to roll up his sleeve, and I must say that he has quite a job of rolling his sleeve up to the elbow. Here was about the best looking, largest forearm that I had ever seen. It was more impressive than Massimo’s or Dandurand’s – and that is saying something for forearms. Naturally I became more and more interested in this visitor, and asked him if he would be kind enough to strip down for me, as I would like to see the development that he possessed. I showed him into the dressing room. It was about six o’clock in the evening and the regular pupils were now coming in for their workout. The dressing room was getting a bit crowded. When this visitor started to undress, it looked as though the more clothing he took off the larger he looked.

The other men as well as myself could not help but stare at the visitor. I loaned him a pair of trunks and asked him to go on the gym floor and perform some stunts for us. He was bashful, very bashful, and immediately told me that there was not much that he could do, anda furthermore I must have plenty of boys around that could do so much more and had much better physiques. He finally did a few lifts for us. But what really surprised and pleased us all so much was when he took a 185 pound barbell, placed it on his shoulders, and did about a dozen deep knee bend jumps, with this weight on his shoulders. He leaped up about ten inches, straightened his legs as he jumped up, then came down into a deep knee bend, and from there jumped up again. This was something to see. His leg muscles stood out in bands as he did this.

This was my first meeting with John Grimek. I asked him his name again and why it was that we in the weightlifting game had not seen or heard more about him. It was, I assure you, genuine modesty that prevented him from making appearances at the various shows. I intended to do something about this, and after he left that evening I at once wrote Mark Berry about this remarkable athlete and muscular marvel, and informed Berry that he must write and get in touch with John Grimek. I could write and tell you much more about Grimek, but if I did so, I would be telling you the story that John himself will tell you so much better than I could ever do.

It was also about this time that I heard that Adolph Nordquest was in New York, and he visited the gymnasium too. We had some very interesting talks about the oldtimers, and I introduced Mr. Nordquest to Carl Easton Williams, then editor of “Physical Culture” magazine, who was training at my gym. Mr. Williams thought it would be a fine idea if Adolph Nordquest would write about his experiences as an athlete for the magazine.

The English “Superman” magazine, always trying to arouse interest in physical development, would from time to time conduct posing contests. In the Spring of 1933, it occurred to the editors that they would like to find out who was the most popular physical culturist. In the May 1933 issue the results were published, and as could be expected, two English athletes, Alan P. Mead and Lawrence A. Woodford, won first and second place. They only published the first five winners, and the next three were myself, winning with 1830 votes, Lionel Strongfort with 1450 votes and Tony Sansone with 1440 votes. I do not wish to belittle the first and second winners, for they both have remarkable physiques, and their poses were really exceptionally beautiful.

Bob Hoffman, who had now started his “Strength and Health” magazine, featured my picture on the cover of his fourth issue, the March 1933 issue. I was invited by Bernarr MacFadden to spend a few days at his Physical Culture Health Resort in Danville, New York. The occasion was a physical culture convention, and here gathered physical culturists from all parts of the country. It was the first such convention, and was held from July 1st until July 4th 1933. Of course I had to give an exhibition at the convention. Here I met quite a number of well known physical culturists whom I had heard about for a good many years but had not, until that time, had the pleasure of meeting in person. Me. MacFadden was kind enough to have a picture taken with me, and I have always cherished this picture taken with the man who has done so much to make people throughout the world more physical culture minded. See photo here -
Mr. MacFadden also asked me to pose for the illustrations on weight lifting exercises to be featured in his new and revised edition of the “Encyclopedia of Physical Culture.” I appeared at various shows from time to time, and it seemed that at most of the shows I was introduced as the lightweight and middleweight weightlifting champion of America, and open to challenge.

In the March 1933 issue of “Strength” magazine, I noticed that Mr. Mark Berry claimed that Mr. Linwood Lilly was unquestionably the strongest middleweight weightlifter in the country, barring the three Olympic lifts, and so on March 4, 1933, at a weightlifting show held in New York City, Mr. Linwood openly challenged me to a contest for the title of middleweight weightlifting champion. Of course I accepted this challenge, being very eager to meet all comers in contest, and considered Mr. Lilly a worthy opponent. Since I was the accepted champion and Mr. Lilly the challenger (Mr. Berry admitted that Lilly could not beat me on the Olympic lifts), I felt that I should be the one to select the lifts, particularly since Lilly wanted to prove that he was stronger than I was. I believe that it would be proper to reproduce here the letters that were published at the time in “Strength’ magazine.

My first letter regarding the challenge follows.

My Dear Mr. Berry:

On March 4, 1933, a weight lifting show was held in New York City, as you know. For the past ten years I have been acclaimed by writers and weightlifting authorities in this country and abroad as the Middle Weight Lifting Champion of America. In the March 1933 issue of “Strength” magazine I noticed that you have claimed Mr. Linwood Lilly to be unquestionably the strongest middleweight in the country, barring the three Olympic lifts. On March 4, 1933, Mr. Linwood Lilly openly challenged me for the title. I am happy to accept this challenge. Since you grant that Mr. Lilly cannot excel me in the Olympic lifts, and since I am the one challenged, I feel that I am entitled to name the lifts which shall determine the issue. In accepting the challenge I do so with the understanding that the contest shall take place within ninety days, preferably in New York City. These are the lift that should decide the issue:
1.) Two Arm Curl – Body in Military position throughout the lift.
2.) Crucifix – two dumbells lowered from above, body in Military position.
3.) Two Arm Pullover – weight to be raised from the thighs only to upright position.
4.) Two Hands Clean – using 100 pound dumbell, in each hand. pressing as many times as possible, weight not to be less than 100 pounds (See-Saw style).
5.) One Arm Clean and Side Press, stiff-legged press.
6.) One Arm Get-Up, with kettlebell, right handed, left hand not to touch the weight throughout the lift.
7.) Two Arm Military Press, from behind neck.
8.) Two Hands Dead Lift.
9.) Deep Knee Bend, weight to be put on back unassisted.
10.) Two Arm Press lying on back – Body to be flat on back throughout the press, weight can be brought to starting position from thighs with slight bridge.

These lifts are a test of general strength, which means, as you know, strength throughout the body, and are lifts which have been used by recognized “Strong-men” of the past whose feats have earned them ratings as champions. They are the standards by which others have been estimated.

I would like to be arbitrator for the contest between Mr. Lilly and myself and set the date for the contest and select the judges, you being the referee, since I believe that you are recognized as being fully qualified to act in such a capacity and attend to all other details that such a contest calls for. I am sure that you shall be accepted by Mr. Lilly for this task. I shall be grateful to you for your cooperation. You would be doing me a great favor, Mr. Berry, if you would publish this letter in your magazine, as I am sure that your readers would like to know about such a contest.

Trusting to hear from you in the very near future,
Siegmund Klein.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Two Hands Snatch Performance - George Walsh

Two Hands Snatch Performance

by George Walsh (1946)

The new definition of the Two Hands Snatch reads as follows: “The barbell shall be taken from the ground to outstretched arms’ length overhead in one continuous movement. In fixing the bell the legs may be bent to any extent, but to lock the arms by an obvious push shall be counted cause for disqualification. The distance between the hands shall be a matter for the lifter’s discretion. But they may not move or slide along the bar once a grip has been taken. In the recovery to the erect position in readiness for the signal of approval, care must be taken in resuming the erect position speedily in a continuous movement. Any delay in the recovery will be counted cause for disqualification. At the conclusion of the lift the trunk shall be erect with the legs firmly braced and feet, if separated, must not be placed wider apart than 15 ¾ inches and held firmly until the referee has given the sharp clap with both hands.”

It sounds quite simple, doesn’t it? It is quite simple! As with the press, the differences between the old and the new definition are not nearly so important nor so confusing as may be imagined. But they are vitally important differences nevertheless.

If you are unable to understand the new Press and decide to play it safe by continuing to lift in the old “British” style, you will not lose much ground; the next man, by taking full advantage of the laxity permitted, will not gain more than 10 to 15 pounds.

If, however, you decide to do the same with the snatch, you are likely to experience a shock, for the man who does understand the definition of the lift and who takes advantage may possibly confront you with a style of lifting that may not seem to bear any resemblance to the snatch movement, and, what is more important, he may lift an extra thirty pounds by means of it!

The first difference, recovery, is not of great importance. If you are at all a stylist you will have no difficulty in adjusting your performance to a definition which requires the finishing position to be assumed without delay and you should certainly not drop in your poundage because of it.

The really important difference is that which applies to the spacing of the hands on the bar. Formerly the hands could not be placed wider apart than “dumbell supporting” distance; now their placing is a matter of the “lifter’s discretion.” And it is the latitude permitted in this respect which opens up such astonishing possibilities – which permits a lifter, if he is clever enough, to handle heavy poundages in a style which is really not a snatch movement at all!

Under a new definition you may still, of course, employ the old “British” style of snatching in which the arms are kept at approximately shoulder-width apart and in which the feet are split directly fore and aft. Whether the ultimate possibilities of this style of snatching are quite so great as others which are now permissible is, perhaps, a debatable point/ but some of the greatest exponents of the lift in the world still use it and it is beyond question, the most easily learned and least risky of all.

The other possible styles may be briefly tabulated as follows:

1.) The wide grip, fore and aft split, style. In this style of snatching the bar is grasped about mid-way between shoulder-width and maximum distance; wide enough, in other words, to allow the broad-shouldered lifter plenty of “space” but not so wide as to limit the power of pull. The feet, in this case, are split in the usual manner. (The ordinary snatch-split)

2.) The wide grip, half squat, style. Here the bar is grasped in the same fashion but instead of a fore and aft split a half squat is employed. (Half-squat wide grip)

3.) The maximum grip, full squat, style. This is the style of snatching which, to most American lifters, seems altogether grotesque when first seen. But it is now a permissible style and as some of the world-record holders employ it, there is no reason why those Americans who can master it should not also use it.

The bar, in this case, is grasped in such a way that the hands are as wide apart as possible. The feet do not move but as soon as the first effort has been made a full squat is employed and the head is thrown well forward so that the bell is delicately balanced upon arms which are almost at dislocation point. (Full squat and wide grip – head forward)

4.) The wide grip, fore and aft split, bent back style. This style of snatching will be new to American lifters. So far as I know there are very few lifters of front rank class who can successfully employ it, but Ronald Walker now uses it and if he can smash the world’s heavyweight record upon it, it is obviously a style with possibilities.

The grip, in this particular style, is wide but not maximum. The pull is the same as in the old “American” style and the feet are also split fore and aft. But instead of keeping the body erect throughout the movement, the lifter bends backward from the waist to facilitate fixing, and very often a weight which would normally fall forward can be taken, in this manner, to arms’ length.

Sometimes the fixing of the bell in this style is very slow, slow enough for nine British referees out of ten to declare that a push had taken place. The continentals, however, do not take the same view; their interpretation of a “push” is a little different from ours and they admit this style of snatching without hesitation. (Split, wide grip, bent back style)

5.) The wide grip, fore and aft split, lunge forward style. This style of snatching involves stepping well forward, lunging forward from the waist up as much as possible, and bringing the arms well back. (Split, wide grip, lunge forward style)

Here then are the five different methods of snatching, only one of which was permissible a few weeks ago. Which, you may ask, should a lifter adopt to achieve the highest poundages? I can only advise you to experiment.

If one particular style was definitely superior to the rest for every type of lifter there would be no alternatives to choose from; every lifter would employ the same. But one style is not superior to another for every type, as a little investigation will prove.

Tony Terlazzo, the phenomenal American Lightweight who recently smashed several world records, still uses the “American” fore and aft style. His teammate Bob Mitchell, former holder of the world’s record in the lightweight class, employs a full squat. Ismayr, the German middleweight employs a half squat; Ronald Walker, the world’s greatest exponent of the snatch, splits fore and aft and bends back to fix the bell.

There are, you see, possibilities of world-record performances in every style. All that can be said is that the fore and aft split is the safest method of using the feet and that the maximum grip, full squat style is the ugliest form of snatching. But when that is said there is nothing more to say.

If you prefer to stick to the old “British” style you may do so secure in the knowledge that other lifters employ it and can break world’s records by means of it; but a far safer thing to do would be to experiment with all the different styles so that you can be quite sure that you are doing the best for yourself. If you decide to do this, experiment with all the styles, do so thoroughly, for none of them are easy to acquire and, even if one of them happens to suit you, you will not register sensational improvement in a night.

Experimentation with the wide grip, fore and aft split style should not be difficult. You will find it easier if you widen your grip by small stages so that the process takes at least a week and you will also save yourself a lot of trouble if you use chalk or tape to mark the bar. You should discover whether this style suits you in less than a month.

The wide grip, half-squat style is more difficult to master but it has this advantage; it is a necessary preliminary to the full squat style. Start by practicing the lift with light weights from the hang. Endeavor to lower the body by bending the knees, but keep the trunk more or less upright and don’t move the feet at all.

In order to hold even a light poundage you will have to cultivate an immediate recovery so that the legs are no sooner bent and the weight fixed than you commence to come up. Keep at this for a month or two before you make up your mind as to its suitability.

The maximum grip, full squat style is merely an exaggeration of this movement. Grip the bell with the hands as wide apart as possible and concentrate upon a short, fierce upward and backward pull. As soon as the bell has commenced to travel the legs must be bent and the upper body thrust forward from the waist.

The bell will reach arms’ length in a remarkably, a first even disconcertingly, short space of time, and the locking point will find the bell carried well to the rear and the head thrust as far forward as possible. Don’t forget this forward inclination of the head when you try the lift, or the balance will be upset and the bell will pass backwards out of control. And don’t forget that the pull must be directly towards the rear or the bell will reach arms’ length and then drop forward.

The bent back style of snatching is the most difficult to learn and I warn you that it needs a back of super strength and mobility to stand up to it. The bell is pulled in the ordinary way, the feet split fore and aft. As the bell passes the eyes, the head is bent back to allow the eyes to follow its progress; and the fixing of the bell on locked arms is achieved by bending the back while watching the bar.

Before you can decide whether this style is suited to you, you will have to spend several months practicing it. You must practice it with light and heavy weights and its final test –and for that matter the final test of all the styles – must be whether it enables you to lift more weight.

During the past four months I have seen lifters achieve amazing results on every one of the styles mentioned. I have seen fresh records established by means of the old “American” style and good performances put up by exponents of the half squat theory. I say again, therefore, you must experiment and continue to experiment before you or anyone else can tell which style offers you the most.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Completing the Development of the Trapezius - Charles A. Smith

Part One, Developing The Trapezius, is here:

Completing the Development of the Trapezius
by Charles A. Smith

I wonder how many of you notice the pictures and model illustrations that often accompany these articles. Notice the type . . . the distinct muscular shape of each lifter. For example, Henry Steinborn, with the hollow formed in the upper back by the trapezius. The high “trap” formation of Reg Park. The full bulk of Ed Theriault. Steinborn exhibits the heavy uniformity of development while Park shows a more modern combination of bulk and definition. Theriault exemplifies what a light-boned man can build with modern exercise.

Steinborn’s trapezius development came from heavy cleaning, snatching with one hand, plus supporting immensely heavy weights across his shoulders. when squatting, Reg Park practices Hack lifts with weights up to 500 pounds, and High Pull-ups . . . a movement that is an “extension” of the upright rowing motion, in that does not stop when the bar is chin height but continues on until it is at arms’ length overhead. Ed Theriault uses very heavy stiff-legged dead lifts and bent-forward rowing motions. In all these exercises the muscle is influenced in different ways and the fact that each man has obtained a widely differing trapezius development . . . apart from what significance his physical type has on the musculature . . . points plainly to one thing . . . that for COMPLETE development of any given muscle group a COMPREHENSIVE schedule of exercises is needed. One or two exercises with a standard piece of equipment, are not nearly sufficient to gain the maximum in strength, size and musculature. You MUST use a wide range of movements with apparatus that provides a wide range of muscle action. It would do well for you to remember here that there are some muscle actions that cannot be obtained with the use of barbells, or dumbells, and particularly is this true where the squeezing and crushing muscles are concerned.

And it should also be plain that a “constricted” system of exercise will give you a “restricted” development. You will never build a symmetrical or fully developed physique unless you do two things – Specialize, and use as many movements as possible within your energy limits. Nest to these principles comes the selection of the most effective movements, grading the exercises so that the one that affects you the most comes first in the program, with the others in order of their effectiveness. The type of exercise a man follows shows plainly in his development, as the above examples prove. Yet, if these men had stuck to a single movement to provide trapezius development, their shoulder musculature would not be nearly so marked nor half as powerful as it is.

In an earlier article we studied the action of the traps, and we saw that the muscle is in reality divided into four parts, and NOT TRIANGULAR shaped as some authorities have previously taught. We also learned that it has a profound effect on posture, lifting weights to the shoulders and above the head, and weight gaining. You were also shown the movements that worked the muscle in its four ways. Now in this article we well consider the other exercises that can be part of a trapezius specialization schedule.

It is customary with novelists, when they write about men from the “Frozen North” or any other place where pioneering is at a premium to talk about the build of the story’s hero. They usually wind up something like this: “He had those thick, sloping shoulders, the true hallmark of the naturally strong man.” It’s a shot in the dark but one that hits the mark, for, if you have been at any lifting show and watched the champions go through their paces, you will notice the long powerful fall of the traps from the neck to the deltoids. It has been said that too heavy a trapezius development detracts from a square-shouldered appearance, and this detracts from the breadth of chest and shoulders. With this I do not agree. Shoulders that are square because of lack of trap development make the neck look too long, thus adding height and actually minimizing the appearance of broadness.

Study a picture of any bodybuilding star. What do you see? There is, in addition to the downward sweep of the trapezius, a marked superiority of deltoid musculature. And in addition to this the collar bones are very long and the chest high and arched. Broad shoulders are composed of many factors, the most important of which is framework; then comes the muscle development. But it is a fact that en who have well developed traps find it easy to build huge and powerful deltoids. The famous anatomist, Mackenzie, in one of his books pointed out that the deltoids are merely continuations of the trapezius muscle. How profoundly trapezius work affects the deltoids can be seen by conducting the following experiment. Hold an extremely heavy weight in the finish position of the deadlift for as long as possible without putting it down. Repeat this for a number of times. Next day observe what muscle groups are stiff. You will find that not only are the trapezius muscles sore, but also the lateral head of the deltoid from its crest right down to its insertion on the upper arm bone.

As I have been constantly hammering at in all of my articles – it is NOT POSSIBLE for any bodybuilder to get the utmost from his physique potentials unless he can and DOES work HARD, work OFTEN and work SENSIBLY. At the risk of being accused of constant repetition I will again tell you that if you want to get an outstanding development of any given section of the physique you have GOT to drop work on a general routine and first consider your specialization needs.

Now to get to the practical side of the article – the exercises for trapezius development and how to make use of them. First, the need for a course of specialization in trapezius development. Have you been using one or two standard exercises for a considerable period? Have you the feeling you’ve obtained all you can from your present course? If the answer is yes to these questions then the need for the exercise in this article is apparent. It is doubtful if you have used more that two or three of them, so I can promise without fear of my promise failing that you are going to make good progress with these movements which you may not have used up to now. Any profound change in an established order of things is bound to have an equally profound effect, and that is what you are seeking.

First we have an exercise that to my knowledge has never before appeared in any publication and is little known out of certain bodybuilding circles. This exercise can be used to warm up with, and wind up, your trapezius routine. It increases circulation in the exercised area, thus helping to clear it of fatigue products. Lie on an incline bench, face down. Hold a towel in each hand. Have your training partner face the backboard of the incline bench and grasp an end of each towel. Your arms should be straight out and LOCKED at the elbows. From this position rotate and shrug the shoulders, squeezing the shoulder blades together as your training partner resists. He must learn to adjust his resistance so you are just able to move the shoulders. Perform as many reps as possible with the arms held straight out before you. Then, after a rest, lower the arms somewhat and again perform the movement from the new angle. After another short rest, repeat the process altering the angle of the arms as shown in the illustration. Don’t attempt to bend the arms. Keep them straight. All you should do is shrug the shoulders, rotate the shoulders and squeeze the shoulder blades together. Trainees who work out alone will find a way to implement this idea with a bit of thought and the use of heavily weighted pulley cables and proper incline bench placement.

Here is another shrugging motion but with that little difference that produces better results. Sit on a flat exercise bench holding a heavy dumbell in each hand. Get your training partner to place his knee in the middle of your back and his hand against the back of your head. Shrug the shoulders as high as you can and at the same time press your head BACK. Your partner should resist the pressure of your head against his hand. Hook your legs around the legs of the bench for greater stability. Again, trainees who work out alone will find a way to improvise, for example, seated in front of a post with a ball behind the head, etc. Read the first installment of this article where the functions of the Trapezius muscle were explained . . . and you’ll see the need for that additional movement of pressing back the head.

Use as heavy a poundage as possible with 4 sets of 5 reps, working up to 4 sets of 10 reps . . . then increase the exercising poundage by 10 pounds each dumbell.

One of the main reasons Olympic lifters have such good trapezius development is the amount of snatching and heavy cleaning they practice. This development is made even more complete than if a single movement was used, because of the varying width of hand spacing in the two quick lifts. Now for an exercise that utilizes the favorable aspects of Olympic quick lifting. Stiff-legged cleans with a varying hand spacing can give you a good development of the second and third sections of the traps. Haul the weight up without the slightest bend of the knees and pull it as high as you can before settling it down across the collarbones. Lower and repeat. Start off with a poundage that you can handle for 3 sets of 8 reps, working up to 3 sets of 15 reps before increasing the weight. You will be obliged to handle a weight that seems light for the first few reps. This is in order that the main action is on the traps instead of the small of the back.

One of the finest pieces of equipment for developing the upper back is a set of cables, and when it comes to trapezius musculature, few men have the contour, definition and power of Floyd Page, who has used a lot of cable work in his training programs. As you can see from the illustration, the arms are pulled back from straight out in front of the chest to the crucifix position. You will also get a lot of posterior deltoid work, too. Start off with a single strand and pull the arms back for 3 sets of 20 reps. Add a strand as soon as you can perform these 3 sets comfortably. Start off again with 3 sets of 15 reps and work up to 3 sets of 25 reps before adding another strand. This type of work will give you considerable definition because it employs a peak contraction principle, in addition to the normal type of muscle contraction. As the muscles work over a shorter range in pulling back, so the resistance of cables increases, providing the right amount of work exactly when it is needed. Don’t bend the arms at the elbows. Keep them straight throughout the movement.

For building power in addition to size, the well-known cheating exercises are unexcelled, despite the “knocks” they get from various quarters. Here is one of them – Bouncing Power Shrugs. Start the movement as shown in the illustration. The weight should be resting on two boxes so you do not have to lift it too far. Take it up to the finish position of the two hands dead lift, then drop the weight down to the boxes and pull it up on the rebound, with a strong shrug of the shoulders. Pull the tips of the shoulders up as high as you can, making an effort to touch your ears. Of course you won’t do this, but make the effort. At the height of the shrug, squeeze the shoulder blades together. Use 3 sets of 8 reps. Work up to 3 sets of 12 weights before adding weight to the bar.

Dumbell rowing motions are immensely popular in weight training routines, and for one reason: They are the closest approach to a movement that works the trapezius muscles it their entirety. Bend forward until the trunk is level with the ground. One hand rests on a bench or a box while the other grips the dumbell. The dumbell is pulled up as high as possible until it is level with the shoulder. At this point the ELBOW is pointed up as high as the upper arm can be pulled back. You must take care not to twist the trunk to get the dumbell up. Keep the body as still as possible. Start off with 3 sets of 7 reps each hand, working up to 3 sets of 12 reps before increasing the exercise poundage.

In most of the above movements you have had to work other muscles in addition to the trapezius. In other words, it has been essential to employ other groups in order to get the desired effect in the group undergoing specialization. Here is an exercise that makes use of isolation – Prone Laterals. Lie face down on a flat exercise bench. Grasp a dumbell in each hand. The arms hang at full stretch from shoulder to the floor. From this position raise the arms upwards and sideways until you reach a crucifix position. When here, raise them still further so that there is a squeezing together of the shoulder blades. The posterior deltoid also comes in for a good deal of work. Start off with 3 sets of 8 reps and work up to 3 sets of 15 reps before increasing the poundage.

The final movement in this specialization schedule is one that has been used extensively by my good friend, Val Pasqua – the High Pull-up. Val uses a barbell but I advocate the use of dumbells because it is possible to obtain a better effect by pulling back the elbows when the weights are chest high, something you can’t do if the bar is used. Stand upright with a dumbell grasped in each hand. Pull the weights up in an upright rowing motion, but don’t stop at the chin. Continue on until they are at arms length overhead. As the dumbells get to chin level, squeeze the shoulder blades together as much as you are able. Start off with 3 sets of 8 reps, working up to 3 sets of 12 reps before increasing the dumbell weight.

It should not be necessary for me to tell you that in undergoing this routine, you must devote all your efforts to it. Unfortunately, it is necessary for me to point out that when specializing on any section of the physique, all our efforts should be concentrated on the section FIRST during workouts, with the rest of the general exercises coming after. Too many lifters have the idea that you can stick these routines any place in a workout of any length and the results will be the same as if you were fresh and full of energy. So, take care of your trapezius specialization movements first, and let a minimal number of exercises for the remaining sections of your body come after.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The One Arm Deadlift - Brooks Kubik

Hermann Goerner

Peter Cortese

The One Arm Deadlift

by Brooks Kubik

The one arm deadlift is one of my favorite exercises. Why? There are several reasons.

1.) All of the oldtimers practiced the exercise, so you can compare your own performance to that of the immortals of the pre-drug era.

2.) The one arm deadlift is one of the very best exercises you can do for your grip.

3.) The one arm deadlift is one of the very best exercises you can do for your entire body. Once you get up to a respectable poundage, you will find that this exercise is one of the most rugged movements a man can do.

4.) No armchair academician has ever used the one arm deadlift as the basis for a research study or grad school project.

5.) You can do the one arm deadlift with no equipment other than a barbell.

6.) The exercise is severely, brutally, demonically hard! Since the one arm deadlift hits the entire body rather than just the grip I will discuss it as an all around movement. But remember, the this exercise is a supremely effective grip builder.

How do you perform the one arm deadlift? Here’s what works best for me. I use a cambered bar – it’s much easier to balance than a straight bar. The Buffalo Bar sold by IronMind is perfect for one arm deadlifting, and also a great bar for squatting. Another type of bar that works well is the McDonald bench press bar.

If you have an old kettlebell handle, you can use that to make a special bar for one arm deadlifts (this isn’t a classic kettlebell, but a U-shaped handle that slips over a dumbell or barbell).

If you use a kettlebell handle and a five- or six-foot bar, you will find that the balance on the lift is a breeze. With that type of equipment, any experienced lifter ought to make it into the 400-pound club (or the double bodyweight club for lighter lifters).

I start with the straddle-style deadlift. Straddling the bar, use a shoulder-width stance or one that is slightly wider, lock your low back, torso muscles and lats, reach down, flex the triceps on the lifting arm to keep it straight, keep the back flat and grab the bar exactly in the center. If you miss the center by even half an inch you probably will miss the lift. It’s best to measure the center or the bar and mark it with white tape, chalk or a magic marker.

BRACE THE NON-LIFTING HAND ON THE KNEE. THIS IS CRITICAL. When you start the pull, drive the heels through the floor just like you would do in a normal deadlift, pull with the lifting hand and PUSH DOWN HARD with the hand that is braced on the knee. Nothing will happen at first – then, slowly and majestically, the bar will leave the floor.

Pull the bar to the point where it is just above the knees, pause, then lower it carefully. At the conclusion of the lift, lock the knees. However, the torso need not be fully erect. In fact, it is actually better to finish the movement with the torso bent, so you can continue to have support for the non-lifting hand that is braced on the thigh or knee. If you come fully erect with the bar, you lose the support provided by the non-lifting hand, and this can easily lead to an injury. Train hard and be aggressive, but always pay attention to biomechanics and leverage.

Some men prefer doing the one arm deadlift with the bar in front of the legs, just like a regular deadlift. Give it a try and see which method you prefer. The performance is similar- non-lifting hand braced against the thigh or knee, and a hard pull that carries the bar to knee height.

If you want to hammer your grip, try doing either version of the one arm deadlift with a 2” bar. a recent report on the British Grip Championships listed gripman David Horne as pulling just under 200 pounds in the one arm deadlift with a 2” bar, so you can see that it’s an awfully tough movement.

A powerful old-timer, Ernest Cadine, is credited with a one arm deadlift with the Apollon Bell – a set of railroad car wheels connected by an axle measuring just under 2” thick. The little monster weighed 366 pounds. If Cadine truly managed a one arm deadlift with this enormous mass of metal, it goes down as one of the all-time great feats of grip strength in the history of the Iron Game.

Always do singles in the one arm deadlift. You cannot maintain the proper balance and groove if you do multiple reps. This holds true on all of your sets, including your warmup sets.

After doing the straddle-style lift, I switch to the “suitcase-style” variation. Stand next to the bar, with the feet shoulder width apart or a little wider, lock the low back, torso muscles and lats, flex the triceps on the lifting arm to hold it in place, brace the non-lifting hand on the knee, grab the bar and PULL. With a heavy poundage, nothing will happen for a second – then the bar will slowly start to move, and you will be able to pull it to a fully erect position. Be aware, however, that the lift will NOT feel easy. There are no “sweet spots’ in this movement. It starts hard, stays hard and ends hard.

Due to the change in leverage compared to the straddle-style lift, I find that I can safely stand fully erect with the bar when I perform the suitcase version of the lift. Be warned, though, that this exercise will hammer your hips, low back and obliques – particularly the latter. Standing erect with 200 or more pounds hanging at arm’s length from one hand is sheer torture for the torso and trunk muscles.

If you are like me, you will find that your top poundage in the suitcase-style lift is much lower than in the straddle-style. Osmo Kiiha, the editor and publisher of “The Iron Master” and one of the most knowledgeable guys in the Iron Game today says that a 200-pound lift in the suitcase-style is good and a 250-pound effort is top notch. In the straddle-style, however, most competitive lifters should work up to 400 pounds or more, so you have a big difference between the two lifts (Osmo, by the way, is the guy who introduced me to this terrific exercise).

In my own case, I have handled 435 pounds in the straddle-style deadlift (using a 1” thick McDonald bar) and 300 pounds in the suitcase-style lift. So there’s roughly a 150-pound difference between the two movements in my own case. Believe me, though, the lighter weight in the suitcase-style lift is still a killer.

You can use a regular grip or a hook grip for the one arm deadlift. However, a non-hook grip has more training effect as far as your grip goes. If you wish, train the straddle-style lift with a hook grip, the suitcase-style with a regular grip, and then do some thick bar deadlifts for extra grip work.

If you want to give one arm deadlifts a try, start out light, learn the movement, build up slowly and train with your head rather than your emotions. Play it safe. Regardless of your politics, be conservative when it comes to one arm deadlifting – especially if you try the suitcase-style lift. The one arm deadlift is a terrific exercise but you need to work into it slowly and gradually. Remember, you are always somewhat at risk when doing a one arm version of any exercise, and you are working areas you don’t hit with other exercises.

Once you get the feel of he movement, you can start to add weight. Don’t underestimate yourself. Some of the old-timers handled tremendous weights in the one arm deadlift. Louis Cyr deadlifted a 525-pound dumbell with one hand; moreover, the bar supposedly was 1.5” thick. He made this lift in 1896, at a bodyweight of over 300 pounds.

Thomas Inch is credited with a one arm deadlift on a 1.5” bar with 402 pounds. This was at a bodyweight of only 210 pounds. I don’t know the year of this lift, but Inch was lifting long before the First World War. One report says Inch later managed 500 pounds in the one arm deadlift – presumably on a 1” cambered bar (the type favored by British lifters of that era for one arm deadlifts).

August Johnson pulled 475 pounds in a contest with Louis Cyr, using the same 1.5” thick dumbell with which the French Canadian pulled 525. Johnson weighed but 205 when he made this lift.

John Y. Smith, the famous New England strongman, did a suitcase-style deadlift with a 220-pound barbell in his right hand and a 200-pound dumbell in his left hand, then WALKED with the load. One account reports that he traveled 75 yards – another lists the distance as 200 yards. Whichever version is correct, the feat was incredible, particularly in view of Smith’s light bodyweight of only 168 pounds. Smith made this lift in 1903. Do you know any modern 165 pounder who could match this?

W.A. “Bill” Pullum, the “dean” of English weight training for many years, lifted 324 pounds in the one arm deadlift. He weighed only 122 pounds when he managed this tremendous lift in 1914.

George Hackenschmidt, the famed “Russian Lion” of professional wrestling and a world record holder in many lifts around the turn of the century, once lifted a 660-pound stone with one hand “merely for the joke of the thing.” The stone had an iron ring set in the top. This may have been more of a hand and thigh lift than an actual one arm deadlift, and it may have been a less than full range movement, but even so we are talking about pulling TRIPLE BODYWEIGHT with one arm! “Hack” weighed under 220 pounds when he made this remarkable lift.

In the 1950’s, Peter Cortese lifted 365 pounds in the one arm deadlift at a bodyweight of only 115 pounds. That’s MORE than triple bodyweight! Cortese could handle more in the one arm deadlift than in the two arm version.

Edward Aston, one of England’s strongest men around the turn of the century, once deadlifted two 250-pound barbells suitcase-style and walked around a pool table with them. This sounds a little bizarre, but think of the balance and dexterity required to navigate the sharp turns required for that little excursion while holding a 250-pound barbell in each hand. Aston weighed only 170 pounds or so when he performed this titanic feat.

The undisputed king of one arm deadlifters, however, is the German strongman, Hermann Goerner. At a bodyweight of about 220 pounds, Goerner performed a one arm deadlift with 727.5 pounds in Leipzig, Germany on October 8, 1920. Even today, no one has come close to matching this tremendous lift. Goerner used a regular Olympic barbell for this lift, and performed it with the bar in front of the body (a style he preferred to the straddle-style favored by most one arm deadlifters).

You may or may not reach the Goerner level in the one arm deadlift. In the final analysis, it doesn’t really matter. If you train the one arm deadlift HARD for a couple of years, you will end up with a tremendous increase in overall strength and power – especially grip strength. The one arm deadlift has worked well for many generations of lifters. It can work just as well for you. Give it a try.

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