Thursday, May 27, 2010

How They Train, Part Two

Paul Anderson

How They Train, Part Two

I would like to condense the general training principles which seem to stand out from our observations and discussions, then give an example of a basic strength-building routine I have been using, geared towards the Olympic lifts.

Agility and Athletic Ability

Do not neglect this important part of training. Don’t forget that most champion lifters were pretty athletic when they first started out, and this athletic ability revealed their promise. Unfortunately, some lifters neglect their other athletic pastimes and become little less than “muscle machines” resulting in slower improvement in any quick lifts and development of power. Don’t be afraid of running, jumping, tennis, swimming, etc. on off days. Even if these activities are a little tiring they won’t make your muscles weaker but will make them more supple and coordinated and more responsive to heavier training.

A seasoned lifter should think of himself as an athlete, not as a crane. It takes a real athlete to snatch 280 pounds at a 148 bodyweight. The same should be true of heavier lifters and in most cases is. Before training spend at least 15 minutes limbering up – toe touching, trunk twisting, leaping into the air, running short distances, loosening shoulders, hips, etc. Then do deep splits, squats and stretches. This warm up will help prevent muscle injuries and make the muscles soft and supple.

Power Movements

One of the most important factors in training is the development of maximum pulling power. How can a lifter hope to snatch 250 if he can’t do a high pull in good style with snatch grip with at least 280, or clean 320 if he can’t do a decent high pull with 360? There may be exceptions to this rule due to fantastic coordination or style, but I am not dealing with exceptions.

Don’t forget Vlasov can pull 550 lbs. to his chest and he cleans 464. Baszanowski can power snatch 242½ three times. No wonder he can snatch 293, and so it goes. The more you can pull the more you can lift. Of course if you are a squatter you must develop sufficient leg power to recover from the heavy squat, and if you are a splitter, a heavy lunge.

Planning a Training Schedule

We discussed with the Russians the problems of how often to train and they told us that they recommend four times a week in most cases: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Workouts last between two and three hours. I must point out, however, that according to our observations, the whole of the three hours is not spent lifting, but at least one hour is used for changing, warming up thoroughly, and loosening up after training. Actually 1½ to 2 hours is spent lifting. They do not rush between attempts, but take their time. THEY DO NOT SIT DOWN, but keep walking around and limbering up for the next attempt.

Mekhanik advised only three or four movements per training session. The four training sessions are different. Athletes must not be too rigid in their training but allow their moods to dictate their workouts. If a lifter is rather tired it is better for him to have a light workout such as light presses, light power snatches, and fast light squats than to through a heavy workout with top poundages. By having a light workout he allows muscles to recuperate but at the same time keeps them active. A heavy workout would only tire his muscles further and retard his recuperation, leaving him more tired for his next training session. A lifter should feel eager to train, otherwise his workouts are not well planned for his constitution, and he gets more and more sluggish, thereby restricting his possible progress.

Since my return from Vienna I have been working on the following schedule. This program is set up for a splitter in both lifts, but can easily be reworked for a squatter mainly be switching from lunge-style movements to squat-style. (I have put these changes in brackets.)

This schedule does not include much performance of the three lifts as I am now trying to increase my basic strength, making the routine a fine one for a trainee wishing to do the same while using mainly Olympic assistance movements. Every morning I spend about 20 minutes doing agility exercises and shadow lifting with a broomstick to improve my style, coordination, timing, etc.

The press has been place at the middle of the workouts to give me more emphasis on the fast lifts, which I have experienced slow progress on over the last ten years. Remember that a routine such as this can easily be tailored to an individual’s needs after determining what they are and doing a bit of head-work.

Pressing first every workout has the following results. During the first year of training the lifter uses rather low poundages which do not tire his back muscles or shoulders unduly so that his press keeps improving for a while and the fast lifts are not adversely affected. However, as the press improves heavier poundages are handled and the back and pressing muscles are taxed unduly at every training session. Then the press begins to stick and improvement on the fast lifts becomes almost impossible. The press sticks because the pressing muscles never get a chance to recuperate. The fast lifts suffer because the lifter is never fresh for snatching and cleaning. Overhead pressing involves the back muscles to a great degree, something to consider when designing programs.

In South Africa the majority of our lifters press between 20 and 60 lbs. more than they can snatch. I contend this is because of the reasons stated above. I can think of at least a dozen lifters who snatched better than they pressed early in their careers, then the press phobia took over and five years later their snatch had become hopeless in comparison with their press. Don’t forget there is more to developing complete body strength than just pressing followed by a few halfhearted pulls and squats. By pressing in the middle of the workout the press will not suffer but, as proved by the Russians, will most probably improve.

I am sticking my neck out here, but I feel that many lifters fall in the trap of being too conventional in their training methods. It is important to experiment and try out new ideas. Tommy Kono is known to experiment a lot with his training.


Power Snatch : 7 sets of 3’s, 2’s, 1’s.
High Clean : 5 sets of 2’s, 1’s.
Seated Press : 7 sets of 3’s, 2’s.
Lunges (Squats or Front Squats) : 5 sets of 3’s.


Power Clean : 7 sets of 3’s, 2’s, 1’s.
Jerk from Racks : 5 sets of 2’s, 1’s.
Seated Press : 5 sets of 3’s, 2’s.
Lunges (Squats of Front Squats) : 4 sets of 3’s.


Cleans : 7 sets of 2’s, 1’s.
Push Press (from racks) : 5 sets of 2’s, 1’s.
High Snatch : 5 sets of 2’s.
Light Presses (from racks) : 5 sets of 3’s.


Press from Racks : 5 sets of 2’s.
Power Clean (snatch grip) : 5 sets of 2’s, 1’s.
Squats : 5 sets of 3’s.
Bench Press or Incline Press : 5 sets of 2’s.


Perfection of lifting technique in any of the weight disciplines is essential in order to use basic strength to the maximum. Proper style can make a great difference in your personal bests, a fact that should become more and more obvious over time.

Style in the Olympic lifts is a combination of speed, timing and ability to go into a low position. For the development of speed and timing, shadow lifting with a broomstick is ideal. Shadow lifting, if carried out every day will develop reflex action. By this I mean that a perfect snatch with low position will become second nature, and will become so ingrained in the mind that the applying of maximum effort will not disturb the pattern of the movement. I think we have all seen lifters with good style (apparently so on low poundages) suddenly lose all coordination on a heavy lift. This is due to the mind not being sufficiently impressed with the pattern of the lift.

When snatching with a weight, only 20 to 30 repetitions are done and some of them are far from perfect. With a broomstick hundreds of reps can be performed and perfection attained. FEAR OF THE WEIGHT CAN ALSO AFFECT COORDINATION AND THIS IS USUALLY DUE TO FAULTY TRAINING I.E. REGISTERING TOO MANY FAILURES IN TRAINING.

Young lifters particularly should never be allowed in training to attempt lifts which they have only a slight hope of making. A special day each month should be set aside for trying out maximum lifts. This can either be a small competition or a training session selected in advance.

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