Sunday, February 28, 2010
Ronald Walker, 1909-1948
Author Unknown (1956)
The greatest lifter ever produced by England was the late Ronald Walker, known at the height of his powers as “Britain’s Strongest Man.” Before Walker, dating back to the early ‘nineties, when Eugen Sandow made England and the world physical culture conscious, there were many other outstanding strongmen in the tight little isle – Tom Pevier, Bill Caswell, Tommie Inch, Edward Aston, Monte Saldo and Bill Pullum. (NOTE: Mr. Pullum was the original trainer of Ron Walker, who was sent to him for special coaching at a crucial moment in his career.) But for all round ability Ronald Walker outclassed them all.
Perhaps the fact that Ron was not a professional performer of “sensational” feats, but rather an amateur lifter who concentrated on the 42 different strength tests recognized at that time by the British Weightlifting Association, kept him from being widely publicized. But the feats that he did perform with barbells and dumbells will keep his memory forever green among all who lift weights and strive to improve their bests.
Walker was born on December 22nd, 1909 and died on October 25th, 1948 of a malignant tumor. For some years prior to his death he had been out of competition, operating a physical culture correspondence course in London. Ron first came into prominence as an amateur during the late 1920’s but did not reach the peak of his powers until the latter part of 1937. From 1931 to 1937 he reigned as the British Heavyweight Champion and British Heavyweight Olympic Champion, and even at the peak of his powers never weighed more than 190-195 pounds at a height of 5 feet 11½ inches.
This relatively slender build made people wonder how he accomplished the feats he was capable of. At his heaviest bodyweight, 195, his neck taped 17.4 inches, both arms SIXTEEN INCHES (take a look at his lifts!), chest 45.9 inches, waist 32 inches, thighs 24.1 inches right and 23.6 inches left. These are measurements surpassed even by beginners, but it would take the greatest lifters of today to better his strength prowess as we shall see. His chest was good, his deltoids superb, but his back was amazing. He had great leg strength as well and it might be said that his remarkable lifting ability was the result of exceptional speed, faultless timing and coordination, plus all round power.
To appreciate that power one must examine a list of his official amateur weightlifting performances, all done according to the rules of the British Weightlifting Association and none of which were made later than December, 1937:
Right Hand Military Press – 128¾ lbs.
Right Hand Snatch – 200¾ lbs.
Left Hand Snatch – 202¾, unofficially – 215.
Right Hand Swing – 190¾.
Left Hand Swing – 171.
Right Hand Clean & Jerk – 235¾.
Left Hand Clean & Jerk – 196.
RIGHT HAND, CLEAN ONLY - 320!
Left Hand Deadlift – 441.
Crucifix – 140.
Lateral Raise Standing – 155½.
Hold Out In Front, lowered from above – 91.
Two Hands Swing With Dumbells – 225.
Two Hands Clean & Press With Dumbells – 230.
Two Hands Clean & Push With Dumbells – 274¼.
Two Hands Clean & Jerk With Dumbells – 258¼.
Two Hands Anyhow With Dumbells – 292.
Two Hands Slow Curl – 161½.
Two Hands Clean & Press From Behind Neck – 264.
Two Hands Press – 282½.
Two Hands Clean & Push – 314.
Two Hands Snatch – 297½.
Two Hands Clean & Jerk – 363¾.
Two Hands Clean & Jerk From Behind Neck – 358½.
Two Hands Continental Jerk – 380¼.
Two Hands Anyhow With Barbell and Ring Weight – 310½.
Now, go back and check his height, weight and measurements.
The Two Hands Snatch, Two Hands Swing and Two Hands Clean & Jerk From Behind Neck were, at the time Ron Walker performed them, amateur world records. Most of the others were British amateur records, some of them still standing today. Some of the other lifts represent only what Walker happened to do in them without any particular training and without even trying to create a new record. Beyond any doubt, some of these impromptu feats were made when Walker was on the way up, and were never tried thereafter.
It is clear that Ron’s greatest ability was in the quick lifts, the one and two hands cleans and snatches and swings. Yet the lifts he established as British and World records he easily exceeded outside competition in the process of taking a normal workout. He pressed 292, snatched 305 and clean & jerked 374. The total of these lifts, 969, is sufficient to have won him the present 198 lb. title. But their full impact is felt when we remember that he made these lifts almost 20 years ago.
Walker was a “temperamental” lifter, a man who never approached once in competition what he was capable of in training. On one occasion Ron had a match against the German, Manger. He lost. Next day in the garden of George Walsh’s house, he and Manger had a private get-together. On an old standard bar Ron snatched the amazing weight of 320 pounds . . . almost 50 pounds more than he had lifted the day before.
It has been said that Walker developed the habit of dropping into a backbend in his quick lifts because he had tight shoulders. Actually this is not strictly accurate. The reason Walker did use a backbend so much was that he had a condition known as lordosis, a curve in the lower spine, which made it possible for him to bend backwards from the hips to an amazing degree.
He experimented with the backbend for lifting purposes as time went on and became most adept in using it to push, jerk and snatch heavy poundages to arms’ length. Mainly he employed this layback in his presses, but the strict lifting numbers listed above do not include the weights he was capable of in this way.
When trying to grind out repetitions in training he would finish up with a slight layback when the bar hit the sticking point. With the next rep the layback would be even more pronounced, until finally, the bar hardly moved from the shoulders at all. Ron would just press himself under the bar until his arms had locked. From here he would propel himself upwards until he had regained upright position.
Anyone with an elementary knowledge of weightlifting and anatomy can easily see that such constant activity will build unusual power and development in the lumbar muscles. These qualities, Ronald Walker had to an unusual degree and the two following stories will back this up.
In one of his last lifting competitions, Ron Walker tried a 404 pound Continental & Jerk. He brought the bar off the floor, onto the belt and from there to his shoulders with ease. He jerked it to arms’ length, but the weight went a little forward. In order to catch it, Ron bent so far back that his body was almost level with the ground. While in this position the 404 pounds came crashing down across his shoulders. Walker didn’t even stagger. He simply recovered to upright position and placed the weight on the floor.
When he created his Two Hands Clean & Push of 320 pounds, the bar didn’t travel higher than the level of his mouth. From this point on he simply thrust his hips forward and dropped back until his trunk was in an almost level position, locked his arms, propelled himself to erect position and got the referee’s clap of approval. Any man who can do things like this must be possessed of the most extraordinary power.
It would be impossible to give you the complete details of his training routines. Like many other strength athletes, he learned by process of trial and error what was best for him. But at all times he believed in hard training and during one period of his career he was actually training three times a day. Every time he passed a barbell in his house, he would clean & press it as many reps as he could.
Ron Walker, for his height and weight, was on of the most remarkable lifters in the history of the strength game. Examine his lifting record and you find he is a much better all-round performer than such giants of strength as Herman Gassler, Henry Steinborn, Karl Moerke, Ernest Cadine, or even the celebrated Charles Rigoulot.
As an example of an all-round lifting efficiency there are, in the opinion of many experts, only two men who surpassed him . . . one was the immortal Arthur Saxon, and the other equally amazing and immortal Hermann Goerner, who recently died in Germany. No miraculous performances in the Olympic lifts will ever enable a strength athlete to attain the all-round greatness of Ronald Walker.
The tragedy is that he was born too early and died too soon.
Friday, February 26, 2010
The Front squat
“by” Joe Weider
Don’t for a moment think that in this article we’re selling short the regular or back squat. Far from it. There’s no finer exercise for the entire lower body . . . for some lifters. Unfortunately, not everyone who practices this version of the squat gets an equal benefit. Why?
1.) Because skeletal structure of certain individuals’ legs (extra long femur, or upper thigh bone) prevents them from doing the regular squat either correctly or with adequate weight to force strength and growth.
2.) Because the skeletal formation of the upper body (a long torso) forces the lifter to lean too far forward or round his back excessively. When this happens the regular squat ceases to be mainly a squat and becomes a kind of combination deadlift and good-morning exercise in which the hips, buttocks and back do half the work.
You must have seen many lifters who faithfully perform the regular squat in partially effective manner. They just have to do the exercise wrong . . . they can’t help it.
In order to maintain some kind of balance they jut their shoulders forward and throw their buttocks far backward when they get into difficulty with the weight. And that’s invariably the most important point of each repetition . . . at the half-way-down mark when the muscles in combination are being worked near their sticking point.
Now to continue to insist upon the regular squat in these instances will reward the lifter with a peculiar type of “turnip” thighs, thighs thick at the top but which taper off so quickly they actually do look like overgrown turnips.
It seems obvious that lifters should adopt the squat variation that suits their needs as well as body structure. The wonderful thing about the Front squat is that it accomplishes a twofold objective:
1.) Because of the position in which the weight is racked at the shoulders, mainly supported on the shoulders and only lightly kept in place by the fingers, it is impossible to do a complete Front squat incorrectly. Once form is broken to any great degree with a heavy weight it becomes impossible for the bar to stay in place and the repetition is ended.
2.) Because of the correct squatting form the Front squat insures, it is of tremendous help in maintaining proper form in full, half, parallel or quarter Olympic squats. Once you become mentally aware that you are squatting with proper form, this form awareness can be carried over into the other squat variations. Your regular Olympic squat will improve greatly after three months of Front squatting.
The Front squat was one of the earlier evolutions of the Weider system (I’m a little teacup, hear me spout), and today not only the Reeves, the Rosses and the Delingers have used it to build their thighs. Olympic lifters such as Tommy Kono, Dave Sheppard and many of the Oriental champions have used it to build additional power and leg thrust.
If you have become bored or jaded with a regular diet of regular squats, try the Front squat for a time to add interest and enthusiasm to your workouts.
How can you arrange your schedule to include this wonderful exercise? How much weight should you use? How many sets and reps?
1.) Use your imagination and ingenuity when working the Front squat into your routine. Don’t just throw out all other leg exercises. Find ways to include the different versions of squatting in your workouts. By no means am I advocating completely eliminating the regular squat, for the vast majority of lifters. However, if you have extremely long thigh bones or a very long torso, and have found the regular squat to be unrewarding and the cause of injury after all attempts to learn the lift over a fair period of time, toss it out for a while. Attempt to master the Front squat before revisiting the regular squat again.
2.) As in all basic exercises, your main objective is to do the Front squat in proper form with heavier and heavier weights.
3.) If you have decided to include both the Front squat and the regular squat in your routine, try dividing the two exercises into equal periods of time each workout. Or, you can try alternating a front squat workout with a regular squat workout.
4.) Front squats, due to the bar position, are usually practicable only in the low rep category . . . perhaps five at most. However, you can certainly make up for this by doing higher numbers of sets.
Partial Front squats can increase both your power and your confidence in handling greater poundages. Three-quarter, half, and quarter Front squats can all be used effectively. A method of using these partial movements could be similar to this:
1.) Following a few warmup sets, load the bar with your usual Front squatting weight and perform 3 sets of 3-5 full repetitions with a suitable rest period between each set.
2.) Following the 5th set, load the bar inside the rack with more weight than you had just been using. Set the safety pins at the three-quarter Front squat level and, beginning at the regular start position, squat to the bottom pins and rise to the top. Perform 3 sets of 3 reps of these three-quarter Front squats. Use the bottom pins in this instance as a measure of depth as well as a safety device. This is not a rebound exercise. Touch the bottom pins as if they were your sister. Descend with all the passion of interconnection, stretching the synchronistic web of body, mind and bar taut till reaching them, do not simply slam mindlessly into the pins. Bro.
3.) Now load still more weight on the bar, raise the bottom pins to the half-Front squat depth, and perform 2 sets of 2 reps of these half Front squats.
4.) Finally, load more weight on the bar, raise the bottom pins to the quarter-Front squat depth, and perform 2 sets of single reps in this quarter-Front squat.
Make sure to gradually work into this quantity of work and always add weight slowly in your partial movements.
Also, occasionally perform your Front squats beginning from a dead stop in the bottom position of the power rack. These can be done, starting from a dead stop in the bottom position, with full, three-quarter, half, or quarter Front squats. Always be certain you are in the proper position when starting lifts from a dead stop at the bottom.
Try different types of footwear over time, and note how either a lower or higher heeled shoe affects your performance in the Front squat. Find the foot spacing that works most efficiently for your body, and shows itself in the weight you can handle safely.
At first you may experience problems keeping the bar in position with the Front squat. Your wrists may not be flexible enough at first, your confidence will likely be undeveloped, along with several other break-in factors. Try Front squatting with “no hands” to develop the ability to keep the bar secure at the shoulders. Simply take the bar from the racks with your arms straight and outstretched in front and attempt to perform Front squats. This may take some effort getting accustomed to, but once you can confidently execute “no hands” Front squats your regular Front squats will come along nicely.
Keep the elbows high when Front squatting. Concentrate on “elbows high” when recovering from the low position and always try to remember Rome wasn’t built with a plastic prefab mode in mind. It took more like two days, maybe even the better part of a week. When learning the technique of the Front squat you can practice with lighter weights as often as you desire, and on certain weeks find ways to add an eighth day if so desired. This has been considered by many to be the secret to a long life, this covert adding of extra hours to each week.
Remember to keep the back flat even when in the low position. Do not overarch as you will find yourself to be weaker in this position. Notice the importance of abdominal and low back strength required to handle heavy weights in the Front squat. Relative weakness in this area can be at the core of an inability to increase limit poundages in the Front squat and dream up silly puns.
As in many cases in life, trial and error will be your best and most lasting teacher. The scheduling, the alternation, the number of sets, reps and their frequency as well as the amount and progressions of weight to use over time will have to be experimented with over time.
Work into this exercise gradually and be patient with yourself. Never be discouraged by the initial awkwardness, discomfort and difficulty of full performance you may likely experience at the outset. All this will pass as you give more thought, concentration and greater effort with each workout, and along with your increase in technique you should realize a slow but persistent climb in the number of plates on the bar.
Bad Squat, Good Squat - J.V. Askem
Squat Rx #15 - The Front Squat
The Greatest Feat of Strength I Ever Saw
by Various Iron Game Individuals (1956)
Clancy Ross: The greatest feat of strength I ever saw was performed by Doug Hepburn. I met Doug for the first time up in Vancouver and we had lunch together . . . and you know how Doug eats! Right after an enormous meal, Doug took me to his gym where he bench pressed 400 pounds . . . COLD! . . . . starting at his chest. He got up and taking 370 off squat racks, pressed this weight overhead. At the time he performed these feats no man living could come within 50 pounds of them . . . and that’s why I was so impressed.
Joe Assirati: I will never forget the time I saw Hermann Goerner show his amazing strength at Bill Pullum’s gym in London. Goerner was training under Bill, and Paul Getty, son of an American millionaire, promised Goerner $100.00 if he could one hand deadlift 600 pounds. At that time the British record was around 440. Goerner did a right hand deadlift on a STRAIGHT bar with 602¼. The lift took the skin off the palm of his hand, but he made it! That in my opinion is the greatest feat of strength I ever had the pleasure of witnessing.
Allan Paivio: I suppose the greatest strength feat that impressed me most was Doug Hepburn’s push-press to arms’ length of 460 pounds at the 1954 Mr. Canada show. I know he has done even more than that, but this was enough for me when I compared his feat with how that amount of weight feels, just held at the shoulders for most fellows, including, of course, myself.
Charles A. Smith: There’s no doubt in my mind about the greatest feat of strength I ever witnessed. It was performed by Paul Anderson at the annual John Terlazzo show on April 22, 1955. Paul had already completed one clean & jerk, but wasn’t too sure he could a heavier poundage. I was one of the judges, and with the permission of his coach, Karo Whitfield, I gave him a few words of encouragement, expressing my faith in his ability to make a new world record. Anderson took 430 for a clean & jerk, smashed it overhead with consummate ease and created a new record of 434 pounds.
Jack Delinger: Let me say that the greatest strength feat I ever witnessed was performed by Doug Hepburn at Yarick’s gym. The lift was a push-press with 450 pounds. I have seen other incredible feats including some performed by Paul Anderson, but that fabulous lift of Doug’s stands out head and shoulders. I’ve handled 400 and 500 pounds myself in exercises such as squats and bench presses so I know exactly how GREAT Hepburn’s lift is.
George Jowett: I will never forget the time Sam Crawford, a British seaman, saved my life and the lives of his shipmates. Sam was a townsman of mine, a gigantic, fine looking man of ponderous strength. I was with him aboard a trawler in the North Sea. Caught in a storm, we drifted towards a sandbank when the other donkey engine failed. Sam saved the ship and the crew by picking up an anchor weighing 650 pounds and tossing it overboard from a heaving deck. That was the most impressive feat of power and will forever remain green in my memory.
Leo Stern: The greatest feat of strength I ever witnessed was performed by John Davis in my gym, way back in 1949. John had worked up to a 350 press, then loaded up the entire bar, a complete Olympic set, and pressed it in very good style. I say without reservation his press was as good as anything passed these days. We got the scales out and weighed the bar. It hit an even 365. For me, it was a life’s ambition realized . . . to see a complete Olympic set pressed in Olympic style by a great champion who had power. Davis weighed 228, pressed 365. That’s the greatest feat of strength I’ve ever seen.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
by Carl Miller
What is so different from swimmers training four hours a day and going to school or work and a lifter doing the same? Not everyone would want to do this or could, but some can and will. I want to say that although we in the West are on the right track in our training methods, there are some things that should be stressed even more, and there are some things which should be thought of in a different manner. What this amounts to is organizing and putting to work some of the great ideas born out by practical results in the weightlifting field.
What I am going to relate should be viewed in a certain perspective. One, it cannot be fully explained in something as short as this paper. That is why I am urging more clinics, for both coaches and athletes. There are intangibles which are difficult to put into writing unless time is allotted to write a book (this should be done but until it is done we have to get out the information as soon as possible and in as meaningful a way as possible). Two, this is not a pure Bulgarian system or any other system because we are Americans and live in different conditions. It is a system I believe can be the most meaningful to Americans. I find the Bulgarian system the most applicable because of its sound technical base, success and its similarity to what we could do in this country, even though the Bulgarians lifters are state supported.
The Meaning of Training Phases
It should be evident to even the most novice athlete that to get in top shape he conditions himself for a contest and then he competes in a contest. After a while he may become stale and performance drops off. Now this has a very real physiological basis depending in part on what is happening in the adrenal glands. Hans Selye, famed Canadian research doctor, has on many occasions explained his theory of stress by three stages:
1.) An alarm stage which is the phase of adaptation during which training is initiated and progress is made toward peak performance. This can be from 4 to 12 weeks.
2.) A resistance stage which is the complete adaptation or achievement of peak condition which lasts 3 to 6 weeks.
3.) An exhaustion stage which is re-adaptation to the loss of peak condition.
This means that a preliminary phase, a contest phase and a post-contest or re-adaptation phase for lifting are real, not imaginary; there are certain boundaries of time for getting ready for competition, reaching and maintaining the peak for the competition and re-adapting again for the next competition. It becomes even more meaningful the higher a lifter travels up the scale in competition because the stresses are more.
Let us use as an example the elite lifter. For him this whole preliminary/contest/re-adaptation cycle takes 16 weeks. This can be divided into an 8 week preparation phase, a 6 week contest phase and a 2 week re-adaptation phase. This works out to three peaks (three 16 week periods) per year with a 4 week period of vacation.
The class four lifter cannot fit exactly into the stress theory because he is new. He will make good progress because he is new and not wholly because of the correct program he is on. However, it is applicable to him because if he is to progress he needs a meaningful structure to train by so that he will make the most progress possible. He must learn a correct training system so when he does progress and changes categories, he will have trained under a system which will bring out continued progress in him. There is no reason for many of our lifters to get bogged down in their categories. If they trained under a sound system their bodies could be coaxed into far more progress.
Below are listed the cycles of competitions and the length of training phases for our different classes (categories).
Eight competitions, every 5 to 6 weeks. Two phases of four competitions with a vacation between each phase.
1-2 week preparation phase
3 week competition phase
1 week re-adaptation phase
- around 24 weeks total depending on selection.
Six competitions every 7 to 8 weeks. Two phases of three competitions with a vacation between each phase.
2-3 week preparation phase
4 week contest phase
1 week re-adaptation phase
- around 23 weeks depending on selection.
Five competitions every 9 to 10 weeks. On phase of five competitions with a vacation at the end.
5 week preparation phase
4 week contest phase
1 week re-adaptation phase
Four competitions every 12 weeks in one phase with a vacation at the end.
6 week preparation phase
5 week contest phase
1 week re-adaptation phase
MASTER AND ELITE
Three competitions every 16 weeks in one phase with a vacation at the end.
8 week preparation phase
It is recognized and understood that our contest in the Unites States will not allow this to be followed exactly, but they come fairly close. And if something is off a few weeks, adaptation will have to be made. However, this guideline is also set up to try to guide our meet directors in the placement of their meets. This means having contests scheduled by classes (categories) where possible. Some places are already doing this. This also means having more local support financially as out lifters can travel when need be to closely follow such a training cycle.
It is also recognized that other contests will come up during this time in which a lifter may want to lift for a variety of reasons. This is fine, but he should treat these contests as workouts and not peak for them. He may train on the same da after this type of contest is over with; this is very prevalent in other countries. Sometimes entering such a contest will catch a lifter unexpectedly at his best; in this case he should not hold back. The important thing is to have treated the contest as a workout by not peaking for it. If the weights feel extra light in such a contest, the lifter may go for records.
The number of competitions for lower category lifters is more than the number for lifters in higher categories. This is extremely important for development. It must be stressed that what happens in the gym is only part of the development. The lifter must get used to and even thrive on competition. There is so much to learn from competition that the many peaks for a lower category lifter are important if he is to develop fully and eventually lift the most he possibly could at the end of his lifting career. The higher category lifter has had many competitions in the past and no longer needs as many. He is now a veteran and he needs to spend more time on making his body respond to higher training intensities.
The Preparation Phase
The preparation phase brings the body to the point where it is able to go into peak phase and maintain it. It is important to know that in this phase much of the time the lifter is lifting while tired. He trains to a tired point and then trains more. He is actually doing more work at higher intensity than during the phase that follows, which is the contest phase. This idea of training while tired during the preparation period is a concept developed by the Bulgarians to good success, but it is not limited to weightlifting. Such sports as track and field and swimming have used it for years.
When I say the lifter is doing more work during the preparation phase, I mean actual TIME training. This time concept was also developed by the Bulgarians. They recognized that work as measured by existing tonnage measurements was grossly in error, so why add it up. This is something I have pointed out in past clinics, based on my experience in Japan, and I was glad to see it confirmed by the Bulgarians; they have not used the tonnage system for years. What they measure is time spent per type of exercise per lifting rating (class). It is taken for granted that a lifter will rest two to three minutes between lifts. This is also a way of scheduling workouts which other sports such as football and basketball have used with success. It means scheduling time for drills in accordance with each drill’s importance to the final result so that each workout is as productive as possible.
The contest phase starts when the lifter wants to go into peak condition and hold it for the competition. The time allotted to training is reduced; the lifter trains till he is tired and then no more. Workouts are more short and sweet. On paper they may not seem that much shorter, but it is that little bit of a slack-off in work which allows a freshness on the part of the lifter. If there is too much slack-off, the lifter loses the edge he is building for.
The Readaptation Phase
The readaptation phase is one of coming down off of a peak, maintaining good weightlifting physical condition, and easing into another cycle of preparation. This is a very important phase. I have already stated that the body needs this to recuperate. The adrenals have been at a hyperactive state for weeks, and they cannot take any further output. The mental, physical and emotional stress of preparation an then competition leads to a state of exhaustion. If a lifter goes from a contest immediately back into a preparation phase, he is not allowing the adrenals to recuperate. After 7 to 18 weeks the adrenals require a period of recuperation. If they do not get it, their output not returned, and there is also a drop in the eosinophil count (one of the white blood cells) because of too much constant physical, mental and emotional stress.
A vacation should really be called active rest. A complete change of living habits (without going against health) should take place in order for the lifter to feel fresh for the upcoming training sessions. The theory is to have fun actively. It is taken for granted that athletes like movement; therefore, when they go on vacation they should have fun with movement. This way they enjoy themselves, a change of pace is attained, and their general physical condition does not deteriorate. Sports suggested for a vacation are: basketball, soccer, track and field, paddle-ball, handball, volleyball, gymnastics, swimming, bicycling, skiing and ice-skating. The lifter can engage in these sports in his own town or wherever he goes. He should have fun with them and just enjoy the movement of activity, letting his mind and emotions rest.
Practical and Realistic Training Time for Progress
The Bulgarians train longer than the amount of time presented here. I have adapted their training time to something realistic for us. Even so, to some lifters it will seem too long. If so, maybe such lifters are overachieving for their class; their bodies are just not adaptable to such training. Such a lifter might try training one category less than his actual rating. But remember, to lift more weight, the lifter must wisely increase his intensity and the amount of work. There might be a stage he will reach wherein his body goes downhill. But with systematic training and excellent health habits the lifter can probably adapt to more intensity and work. The theory of adaptability is the key to getting the most out of the body. We have only to look at the long intense training sessions (4-6 hours) or our top swimmers and wrestlers to know this can be done. They did not start out with such lengthy sessions, but they followed adaptive training methods of increasing work and intensity, and when their bodies adapted, they swam faster and wrestled better.
There will be casualties along the way. One lifter’s body will be able to produce less; another’s will produce more. That is one reason why there are so few world champions. It is nothing that can be helped and nothing personally against a lifter. It is also a reason why our selection process should be good so that we can get lifters with the physical constitution that can adapt to the high levels of stress needed to progress.
In any case, each lifter should give himself every chance of success. I have already mentioned the necessity of excellent health habits. If a lifter does not follow such health habits, his body cannot adapt as well to increasing stress. This means regular sleeping habits. It means eating well. It means no smoking. This also means being very careful of alcohol. A few beers once in an while is not going to hurt a lifter, but any more is going to have a pronounced effect on his recovery from workouts. Alcohol effects the enzymatic system which plays such an important role in assimilation of foods. There will be enough emotional stress just training and competing; to add to it other outside problems means the lifter cannot recover well enough between workouts.
I hope the idea of discipline has come across. This was stressed at the European Coaches’ Conference time and time again, not only by the Bulgarians but also by the other countries involved. Even the Russians said the key to the Bulgarian success is discipline. Such intense training cannot be done without it. This word takes in so much. Many training problems are solved just by having discipline.
*See Chart One
To help organize the countless number of exercises, we group related ones. Each one can be designated as technique oriented (T), power oriented (P) or both (B). Below are such listings.
Snatch Related Exercises
1.) Complete from floor. T
2.) From knees. T
3.) From mid-thigh. B
4.) Deadlift to knee. P
5.) Power snatch. P
6.) High pull, straight arms. B
7.) High pull, arms coming up. B
8.) Overhead squat. T
9.) Isokinetics. P
10.) Eccentric contraction. P
Jerk Related Exercises
1.) Push press. P
2.) Push up and out. P
3.) On toes, split and recover B
4.) Push drive. P
5.) Balance. T
6.) Jerk, eyes closed. T
7.) Front squat & jerk. T
8.) Jerk from rack. T
9.) Isokinetics. P
10.) Eccentric contraction. P
Clean Related Exercises
1.) Complete from floor. T
2.) From knees. T
3.) From mid-thigh. T
4.) Deadlift to knees. B
5.) Power clean. P
6.) High pull, straight arms. B
7.) High pull, arms coming up. B
8.) Position squat. T
9.) Isokinetics. P
10.) Eccentric contraction. P
Leg Related Exercises
1.) Front squat. P
2.) Super killer squat. P
3.) Speed squat. P
4.) Pre-exhaustion. P
5.) Back squat, Olympic. P
6.) Back squat, pull position. B
7.) Split squat. P
8.) Olympic clean deadlift. B
9.) Isokinetics. P
10.) Eccentric contraction. P
1.) Leg extension.
2.) Leg curl.
3.) Leg push.
4.) Hack machine.
1.) Good morning.
3.) Stiff-legged deadlift.
4.) ¾ hyperextension.
6.) Bent-knee situps.
1.) Seated press.
2.) Bench press.
3.) Behind neck press.
4.) Standing military press.
5.) Power snatch to forehead & pressout.
Exercises are grouped into categories according to specific goals of a workout and then these categories are practiced so many times per week depending on the rating (class) of the lifter. The chart above lists these categories and the number of times per week they are practiced.
*See Chart Two
Some of the thoughts behind the groupings are:
1.) As the lifter advances in rating and style is learned, strength must be emphasized more.
2.) The clean & jerk is separated for some specialized training since it is made up of two separate skills, but then it is practiced in its entirety.
3.) There is a progression in the number of times various facets are practiced per week.
4.) Remedial exercises play a part in the program.
Let me define remedial exercises. There are exercises which should give specialized strengthening around the back, leg and shoulder joints. They are not practiced for very long nor are they emphasized in intensity. To place more emphasis on them might open a lifter up to injury or overdevelopment; he does not want to get injured doing the exercises. Part of the purpose of such exercises is to balance possible overdevelopment incurred when doing the standard exercises. Leg curls would be such an exercise to balance the development of the quads. Bench presses would be another to balance pulls. We do not need big pecs and we do not need to be able to bench big weights, but we do want to strength in the chest area for the reason stated above and for general shoulder area conditioning. Seated presses do not help the first part of the jerk, but by strengthening that area they could prevent an injury there. Just a few sets into the time allotted at the end of a time period with 80-90% of the best for those reps engaged in (for example, 80% of best for 5 reps) would be sufficient for the remedial exercises.
Actual Practice Layout
Listed in the next chart above for each class is a layout of the number of times exercises grouped in categories are practiced each week, and the time allotted per workout for the exercises. The exercises can be inserted. Technique groups are placed during the practice at the time that the lifter would be most fresh. Remedial exercises are at the end of the practices. The explanation of warmups and games and recovery will be presented following this section.
*See Charts Three to Eight
There are two methods of doing the exercises which fit into the time allotted per exercise grouping in the Readaptability Period:
ONE METHOD is for the lifter to choose a weight that is within 50-60% of his best and do four to six repetitions, doing as many sets as the time allotted calls for, resting only one minute between sets.
A SECOND METHOD is for the lifter to choose a weight that is within 40-50% of his best and do 4-6 repetitions, going from exercise to exercise with no rest and repeating the exercises in a circuit. The exercises can be grouped so that the time allotted to exercise related grouping is covered and the exercises are placed so that they do not fatigue any one muscle group, something like the old PHA system of the mid and late 1960’s.
As was stated earlier, the readaptation phase is one of coming down off a peak, maintaining good weightlifting physical condition and easing into another cycle of preparation. The adrenal glands are given a chance to rest and recuperate. In either of the two methods described above, all this can be accomplished because coordinated movements are being performed without emotional stress. It is enough of a change of pace to be refreshing and enough fast work to be physically stimulating. At the end of this phase or period the lifter is in shape mentally, physically and emotionally to go into the preparation phase of the next cycle.
The warmup should bee well planned, organized and goal oriented. It is the warmup which not only prevents both micro and major injuries but also sets the mood for the workout. A lifter can feel varying degrees of enthusiasm going into a workout; if he goes through a well-designed warmup his enthusiasm will rise.
Improved circulation is one goal of warming up. There are circulatory adjustments the cardiovascular system makes in order to handle increased activity. Circulation should be increased throughout the whole muscular frame.
Specific flexibility is another goal. A warmup must increase the flexibility in areas most useful to the lifter. Specific coordination patterns used in lifting should be a third goal of warming up. Extemporaneous movement patterns during the warmup, while increasing circulation, do nothing for adding more practice of movement patterns along the lines a lifter can use.
To reach the goals of increased circulation, specific flexibility and specific coordination, the warmup is best designed in a circuit with exercises placed in the circuit. A circuit has these three advantages:
1.) It can be performed in a small place.
2.) It offers an organized pattern which is a goal itself and thus more meaningful than just warming up haphazardly.
3.) It offers a method of organization of warmup exercises which stimulates the desire to train and which does not tire out the lifter.
With the above in mind, see the example circuit illustrated above.
*See Chart Nine
The lifter should go through this circuit as many times as it takes to complete a 10-15 minute warmup. He does the exercise as correctly as possible but also as fast as possible. The lifter is only in competition against himself so it is a race with himself and nobody else.
These types of exercises were chosen and placed in order that:
1.) They will invigorate the lifter.
2.) Gradual loosening will take place before complicated movements are performed.
3.) Maximum use can be made of a small room.
While there are other exercises which can be substituted for the ones presented, the jerk, clean and snatch shadow movements should be included in any type of circuit warmup. The following is a brief explanation of the exercises used.
1.) Ankle Walk – Bend over, grasp back of heels and walk. This stretches the hamstrings.
2.) Ankle Stretch – Lean on a solid surface (arms outstretched, palms against the surface) and put one foot as far back as you can, keeping the whole foot flat on the floor. When you get to the point where the heel starts to come up, then stretch it down by pushing down and back on that foot. Push down for 3-5 seconds, relax and follow with 2-4 more bouts of 3-5 seconds. Do the same with the other foot.
3.) Yogi Crotch Stretch – Sit down, bend the knees and put the soles of the feet together, bringing the feet as close to the crotch as possible. Grab ankles with hands, arms between thighs, and put elbows on thighs, using them and the forearms as levers to push down and out on the thighs. This will stretch the adductors (inside of thighs). Hold the maximum stretch for 3-5 seconds and do the stretch 2-4 times.
4.) Arm Circle – Hold arms out to the side. Make 10 small firm circles forward and then 10 small firm circles backward.
5.) Dislocates – Take a broom stick and using the snatch grip move the stick from overhead to behind the head and down to the lower back. Return the stick to the overhead position. Repeat 10 times.
6.) Scapula Raise – Stand with hands on two chairs shoulder distance apart or with hands on parallel bars. Completely relax the scapula and lean down on the hands letting the shoulders come upward towards the ears. Hold for 3-5 seconds and then drop the shoulders. Repeat 2-4 times.
7.) Wrist Stretch – Stand arm distance away from a wall. Extend one arm putting the palm on the wall, fingers pointing down. Move the palm up the wall until it will not stay flat on the wall. Then lean into the wall so the palm does touch it again. Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 2-4 times. Do all three wrists.
8.) Split Squat – Put one foot in front and the other in back like a split clean of snatch. Put hands overhead and drop down into a low split keeping the trunk erect. Stay in this low position 3-5 seconds and repeat 2-4 times. Let your bodyweight push you down far. Work both legs.
Shadow Jerk, Shadow Clean and Shadow Snatch – As in “shadow” boxing. For each of these go through the exercise like you normally would with a bar. Concentrate on hitting all positions as you go through the movement. Try to make the movement feel fluid as you do it for 5 reps. Because no weight is present you will feel clumsy to begin with, but this will subside if you go through the exercise purposefully and slowly, striving for a fluid motion. With each repetitions pick up the tempo.
1.) Crab Walk – Sit on the floor and put palms on floor a little behind the shoulders with the fingers pointing back. The feet are out front with the knees bent. Raise the rear end off the floor and on all fours walk backward, one arm and the other opposite leg going back together.
2.) Jump Rope – Jump using any of a variety of steps you might know. Take 30 jumps to reach your destination. This way height of jump is emphasized and not ground covered.
3.) Hops – The distance is short for 20 hops, which is good because you want to concentrate more on height than distance. Extend the knees, hips, back and feet fully as you hop.
Games are used in the workout schedule for some very good reasons. The most obvious is to gain some cardiovascular strength. Anybody who says weightlifting is not an endurance sport does not understand that to keep your adrenaline up for the many hours of training, to say nothing of a lengthy competiton, takes real endurance. If the cardiovascular system is developed, then stamina can be called on late in the routine or contest because a lot of blood is not only being pumped through the system but it is also being tapped by the cells. This means more oxygen and nutrients go to the cells and more toxins are gotten rid of.
A second reason for games is to reinforce movement patterns that are similar to those used in weightlifting and that are power oriented. This is why, for example, volleyball and basketball should be played a lot. If you have ever played a good game of either you know how much your legs and hips get worked. Of course, broad jumping, high jumping and shot putting are good to “play” because of power movement patterns similar to lifting.
A third reason for games is to develop competitiveness. Although competitiveness is natural to man it is not always brought out or reinforced, so it never gets developed to its full potential. Not even a class four lifter competes in many competitions a year. This is one reason why many lifters are gym lifters. They never had much training in competitiveness as they were developing. By playing games in the training routine and placing emphasis on beating the next man’s mark or beating the other team, competitiveness is developed. This can be a lot of fun; by mixing up what type of competitions you will have, and even by inventing a few.
Change of pace is a fourth reason for including games in your workout schedule. The lifter needs good hard physical fun. This will help his morale when the gym seems very confining.
As much as possible the waste products built up during training should be removed. In this way the muscles will recover faster and will stand less chance of injury. For this reason hot and cold showers are important. The lifter should get under a hot shower for 2-3 minutes. The intercellular fluid will then be drawn from the capillaries into the cells because of the high degree of toxicity in the cells. This increase of fluid in the cells will dilute the toxins. Then the lifter should turn the shower to cool or cold (the cooler the better) for 15 seconds. The cells will constrict and squeeze the excess fluid and toxins out into the intercellular space where it will enter the circulatory system and be carried off. The lifter should repeat this alternation of hot and cold showers three or four times for best results, ending up with the cool or cold shower.
Another method of removing the waste products is alternating a steam or sauna bath with a swim in a pool or a dip in the snow. If you have never tried this form of recovery you are in for a pleasant feeling after a workout. There will be much reduced or even no soreness and a real fresh feeling. Taking a hot shower or steam or sauna bath without following it with cool or cold water means excess fluid will get into the cells but will take a long time getting out. It will impinge on nerve fibers because of the stretch of the cells by excess fluid, and there will be increased chance of a muscle cell rupturing. At the same time, the cell is still wallowing in its own filth and not recovering as fast.
Number of Lifts PER MONTH Above Certain Key Percentages
The counting of lifts (Olympic lifts and pulls) 90% and above per month has been standard practice. This has been the mainstay for judging proper intensity for many years. We now have the development of counting lifts not only for this percentage but also for the lifts 100% and over. These are not fixed at this time but some fairly accurate figures are available. The body responds to different stimuli for gaining strength. And this new development of counting lifts 100% and over should be viewed with great interest since the Bulgarians pioneered it, and the are the ones who have taken lifters farther toward potential than any other country.
With a good training background, most lifters will be able to fit into their proper category. It must be understood that there are such individual differences as age, years of lifting, high rating despite poor training habits, and so on. that would make some lifters uncomfortable lifting in the category the qualify for. If such a case occurs, the lifter should be flexible and use the category that seems best for him. He should strive to eventually use the category he properly belongs in. If the individual difference is extreme, then he must operate in the category that seems best. While these are guides which have proven successful, they are flexible.
80-100 at 90%+
20-30 at 100%
15-19 at 100%+
60-79 at 90%+
15-24 at 100%
12-16 at 100%+
40-59 at 90%+
12-18 at 100%
10-13 at 100%+
30-39 at 90%+
9-13 at 100%
6-11 at 100%+
20-29 at 90%+
7-10 at 100%
5-7 at 100%+
10-19 at 90%+
5-8 at 100%
4-6 at 100%+
70-85 at 90%+
17-25 at 100%
13-16 at 100%+
50-69 at 90%+
13-20 at 100%
10-13 at 100%+
30-49 at 90%+
10-15 at 100%
8-12 at 100%+
20-29 at 90%+
7-11 at 100%
6-10 at 100%+
15-19 at 90%+
5-8 at 100%
4-7 at 100%+
10-14 at 90%+
4-6 at 100%
3-5 at 100%+
The 100% and 100%+ lifts are included in the 90%+ counts. The part of the 100% and 100%+ lifts that is the 2 Olympic lifts and the part that is the pulls vary, but the part that is the 2 Olympic lifts does not exceed one-third of the counts during the preparation phase and one-fourth of the counts during the contest period. The pulls therefore comprise at least two-thirds of the counts during the preparation period and at least three-quarters of the counts during the contest period.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
by Charles Coster (1957)
For a considerable number of years now a few patient scribes have perseveringly plugged away at a certain subject that for a long time was frowned upon in many quarters. I refer to the experimentation with, and development of fundamental power, or basic power ideas.
Undaunted by the magnitude of the task when it was first undertaken, undismayed at the prospect of harsh criticism caused by lack of IMAGINATION, undeterred by the millions of words that would have to be written before the subject was taken seriously . . . the faithful few have kept straight on – and followed their ‘star.’
Sometime, some place, somehow – we knew that the ‘crust of hostility’ must crack; that some chain of startling events would happen which might cause the crowd to pause, and investigate, for the first time – SERIOUSLY.
Well – it looks very much as though this point has been mastered. The ‘multitude’ have stopped, and looked, and listened . . . and judging by some of the fruitful results we are getting, they like and appreciate the prospect that lies ahead.
Fundamental power ideas are not new by any means. In cruder forms they were practiced hundreds of years ago. There is absolutely nothing that is ‘entirely new’ in the archives of the weight-lifting world – that is an admission that is common knowledge, and we make it freely.
The ‘written record’ is the main difference that divides the present with the past. Many bright ideas were made in days gone by – but they were just as soon forgotten – unfortunately. The big circulation bodybuilding and weightlifting journals have brought an end to all that.
By dint of much research, plus great enthusiasm, old ideas have been sought out and rejuvenated. Off-branches of thought which stemmed from other and older ideas have been sifted and entirely new techniques and channels have been developed as a consequence.
Naturally this didn’t happen in five minutes. There were a certain percentage of failures. Every experiment in the streamlining of a fundamental power technique was not a success by any means. But then no one with an ounce of gumption expected that they would be.
In the past things were discovered and then forgotten. There is much less chance of that happening nowadays. Our approach is more logical, more scientific, and more permanent.
In order to give our pet ideas a chance to breed – literally hundreds of illustrations had to be devised to hammer home the points we have been striving to make.
Today, bodybuilders and competitive Olympic lifters in increasing numbers are benefiting from the copious flow of literature which specializes on these matters.
Douglas Hepburn and Paul Anderson are two of the most outstanding examples in the heavyweight lifting world that can be cited as having benefitted to a colossal extent from the use of fundamental power principles; both having been nurtured on pure power routines to an unheard of degree.
Weak spots can be overcome by the use of basic power methods in many instances. Bench squats, half and quarter squats, deadlifts. half deadlifts, deadlifts off boxes. shoulder belt dips and squats, power chain-work, power presses off boxes, the bench press, incline board work . . . in fact – all the stuff that has so regularly and conscientiously been published has caused the doubters of yesterday to have second thoughts.
Basic power training and competitive weight training are now indivisible. In spite of the disagreement in various schools of thought concerning weight training methods in the past, these controversies have been invaluable to the progress and development of our sport.
Criticism and analysis can be turned into motive power, and this is a good thing in my view. The Russian weightlifters are experimenting extensively with basic power ideas nowadays, so it is only by concentrating upon these difficulties that we can hope to solve the problems that lie ahead in international competition – seeing that all previous conceptions are in the melting pot.
There was once a time when bodybuilding was frowned upon by many Olympic lifters. And there was also a time when the bench press and squat (or deep knee bend) were contemptuously regarded as freakish exercises that were quite useless to anyone but the bodybuilder.
Just how wrong these views were can now be seen. Let us face facts – some of the world’s foremost Olympic lifters are regularly using the D.K.B. and the bench press as well as certain other movements to boost their competitive Olympic lifts.
Yes, we live and learn, or at least we should do so. I likewise remember certain widespread opinions held many years ago concerning the continental squat style of lifting (as contrasted to the fore-and-aft leg split technique). Not many squatters got to the top flight in those days, and it was erroneously assumed that the squat method was somewhat inferior.
Yes – we were wrong about the squat technique likewise . . . as an examination of some of the present American and Russian star performances will amply illustrate.
Although high quality squatters are still scarce, the phenomenal performances of people like Peter George, Dave Sheppard, Tommy Kono, Chuck Vinci, Nikolai Saksonov, Yuri Duganov etc. have literally astounded the weightlifting world . . . and almost overnight the prophets started to cash in by asserting that the squat style was the big thing of the future. In the same breath they opined that the traditional fore-and-aft leg technique would soon be consigned to the limbo of forgotten things.
Whether the wiseacres will prove to be right in this respect remains to be seen. Personally I have my doubts – but I shall try to keep an open mind in the meantime.
Some curious things have happened in certain countries that were once famed for the quality and quantity of lifting talent they produced. France, Germany and Egypt were all countries noted for the number of their champions a few years ago. Today, with the exception of a few solitary lifters here and there they have deteriorated into third rate weightlifting nations.
These three countries have not participated in modern basic power experiments to anything like the same extent as America or the Soviet Union, and Egypt in particular has continued along the traditional lines of weight training that proved sufficient for her needs in the past.
These traditional methods were good enough . . . until the heavy pressure exerted by the USA and USSR athletes made itself felt.
Great Britain has always been alive to the possibilities of new discoveries, and fresh avenues of approach. In fact, although even now it may not be fully recognized, Britain’s weight training journals have been the cradle for much literature dealing with fundamental power THEORIES for a great length of time.
Today, after many trials and tribulations, British weight trainers have become convinced of the benefits of basic power methods, and they are being used on an ever-increasing scale. Perhaps the most outstanding example of wholesale acceptance of power principles can be seen in the Russian reaction to these things.
This country does things thoroughly in the athletic world. Her conception of just how certain ideas should be applied and developed differ from the American and British approach, but they are very sound in their methods, and they are enabled to arrive at quick conclusions because of the large-scale experiments they are able to carry out. There are about a hundred-thousand weightlifting clubs in existence in the Soviet Union, and it has been estimated that they have over a million Olympic lifters in various stages of development. It is only natural therefore that with organized trainers in control at the clubs – all capable lifters themselves – that many novel experiments should be carried out.
When the Soviet lifters made their initial appearances in world Olympic lifting championships way back in 1946 and 1950 at Paris, very little power-training was visible during their workouts. But today the situation is entirely different, and as they usually welcome the presence of visitors at these sessions it is possible to study the difference in present-day methods of procedure.
Great truths are sometimes strongly related to simple things, which seem almost too obvious to mention without running the risk of a caustic remark from the reader. One of the traditional power-building principles used by the Russians for a long time concerns the power snatch and the power clean – which they regard as of fundamental importance for the development of greater pulling power, greater general control, greater confidence and greater competitive lifts.
If I were to say to some lifter . . . “the more you can snatch WITHOUT splitting, and the more you can clean WITHOUT splitting, the more you will be able to handle in competition,” he might feel tempted to say, “tell me something I don’t know, everybody knows that much.”
Well – the truth that lies behind this remark on power snatching and power cleaning is so important but so simple that many lifters are apt to lose sight of its great significance . . . but Russian lifters pay great attention to its implications all the time. To them it is one of the commandments of progressive training.
One of the most impressive power snatch workouts I have ever seen was made by Nikolai Kostylev, the lightweight, at Munich in 1955. Nikolai uses the traditional split style and he has upset a good many squat converts by establishing a world record snatch of 275½ pounds, which far outstrips in bodily efficiency anything done by a squat style lifter. Using a very wide grip on this occasion, he made three pure power snatches without moving his feet at all – using 187 pounds. The whole movement was smooth, and seemed to be achieved without any press-out. He then made three reps with 203 the same effortless way . . . letting the bar down each time until it was within a few inches of the floor, and then ripping it to arms’ length. After a pause he then made two reps with 220 – returned the bar to the platform – took a short walk around the gym – and then made a final PERFECT power snatch with 231 pounds – as a lightweight. He looked as though he could have very well lifted even more. Some heavy snatch pullups followed after this and he finally made some single reps with 286.
Much more could be said about the difference between American and Russian basic power training methods if only space permitted . . . and I hope to tackle this subject in the future.
In the meantime here are some exercises you can perform that will greatly enhance the lifting power and muscular development you are striving for.
Exercise 1. The Half Deadlift – will add depth and strength to your lumbar region, and also aid the second pull for Olympic lifting purposes. Also a great trap developer.
Exercise 2. The Harness Half Squat – will add muscle and power to your thighs; put more strength into your hips and entire back.
Exercise 3. Stationary Snatch Pullups – performed with graded poundages, this exercise will improve your snatching ability without doubt; put muscle into the anterior deltoids; deepen and strengthen the trapezius and upper back area.
Exercise 4. Forward Rowing Motion – deltoids, forearm, biceps, lumbar and latissimus dorsi groups – all powerfully affected.
Exercise 5. Seated Press Lockouts – from graduated heights are good for both the weightlifter and the bodybuilder. Deltoid, triceps and certain lower sections of the trapezius are all involved.
Exercise 6. Standing Half Cleans – affects the trapezius and deltoid muscles; also a good forearm and grip developer if you grasp the bar as tightly as possible. The movement is best performed between two heavier basic power exercises as the poundage you will be able to handle this way will be moderate.
Exercise 7. Leg Press – a great power builder in the hips, thighs, etc. Make sure that your back feels ‘comfortable’ before using heaviest weights.
Exercise 8. Front Squat – an exercise that all weight trainers should be able to perform. It will build power for you, even if you are not a squat style lifter. It has given Tommy Kono the necessary power to outstrip the rest of the world at lifting, and at the same time helped him to win physique titles.
Exercise 9. Recovery From Different Rack Positions – Using varying heights, from bottom to near-top position, rise to erect and repeat. Can be performed with both split and squat styles.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Flexibility and Stability for Lifting
by Charles A. Smith (1951)
The mailbag brought some interesting letters this weekend. One writer wanted to sell me some shares in a “wild” mink ranch . . . smell a mink there . . . and another guaranteed to teach me playing the tuba in ten titillating lessons. “Be a success” said the third, earn BIG money selling home appliances in your spare time” (what spare time? Weider, can ya hear me?) while the third and fourth pieces of mail contained questions on Olympic Lifting problems. Casting aside all thoughts of mink ranching, tuba playing and selling home appliances – the best home appliance I know of is a husband – I settled down to the most enjoyable piece of work I know – writing about weight training!
“Charlie,” said Harry Fryer from Detroit. “I wonder if you can help me. I am having a lot of trouble with my snatches and clean & jerks. I have plenty of power but I just can’t seem to get under the weight. I pull the darn barbell high, but there seems to be no sip to my split or squat. I can’t seem to get low enough because my actions are stiff and slowed up somewhat, because of that stiffness in the hips and shoulders. I find it hard to get the weight back enough when it is overhead, and next day, my hips and lower back are very stiff and tired. What do you think is wrong with me? And please try and help!”
“I’ve read a lot of your articles,” Pete Brioz tells me . . . he’s from Chicago . . . “and sometimes they have been helpful. Now I wonder whether you can pull something out of your bag of tricks. My trouble is that I seem to have no stability when I have the barbell overhead in the clean & jerk. I wobble all over the place and have lost lifts plenty of times because of dropping the bar. It isn’t that the weight is too heavy; it’s just that inability to control the weight when it is overhead. Any help you can give me would be very much appreciated.”
OK fellows, Here goes! The two complaints received are not so rare as weight trainers might think at first glance. The lifting faults Harry and Pete complain about are the two most common in the field . . . Lack of Flexibility and Lack of Stability. They have specific causes that can be easily remedied with little trouble and a lot of hard work . . . some people think hard work is a lot of trouble, but when you get results, then I’m sure you think the trouble is worthwhile, and forget quickly all the blood, sweat and . . .
The first thing I do when someone complains about being unable to get under the weight, of fix it overhead, is to look at the width of grip. It was a great surprise when I saw some pictures of Vorobiev, the Russian world snatch record holder, to see how narrow was his hand spacing. The Russians use this narrower hand spacing, often giving up certain benefits of the wider grip to gain this dubious one: A little extra pulling power is possible with the narrow hand spacing on the bar: however, it raises the center of gravity of he lifter to a high “danger point” . . . an inch, or at the most an inch and a fraction, but enough to exert considerable influence on the lifter’s stability when he has a weight at arms’ length overhead and is in the deep split or squat position. That’s one cause of inability to control a weight and keep a good balance. Vorobiev, an experienced lifter, of course is used to his style, but the danger lies in the probability of a bunch of young and enthusiastic lifters attempting to copy the form of Vorobiev. The shoulders of the Russian lifter are not what one would call extra wide, and it is possible that this narrow hand spacing in the snatch is suited to his physical structure, AND ENTIRELY UNSUITED to any young hopeful who feels he can copy the Russian with advantage to himself.
The narrow, or shoulder-width, hand spacing is also responsible for a seeming lack of shoulder flexibility. To illustrate what I am driving at more clearly: If you take a broom handle and hold it with as wide a grip as possible, it is a matter of extreme ease to pass the handle from the front of the body over the head, at arms’ length, to the back of the trunk. But just take a narrower hand spacing . . . say a matter of sixteen inches or less . . . and try and “circle” the bar over the head to the back. You will find that all the flexibility of a contortionist will not get the bar where you want it. The muscles that rotate the shoulder blades are functioning under difficult conditions, and cannot perform the action required to take the broom handle over. Therefore, any lifter who has a tendency to take the barbell out to the front or away from the body finds it hard to compensate for those faults with a forward thrust of the head, or a swing forward of the hips, to bring the bar under control and where he wants it. He cannot “rock” under a weight or drop back into a back bend.
Now bear in mind that these actions are themselves faults in lifting style. The bar should, with reasonable allowances for the lifter’s physical structure, always be taken right up the front of the body and the body itself dropped right under the weight with NO HIP MOVEMENT. Certain top lifters, finding it hard in their EARLY weightlifting days to gain flexibility and stability, took to rocking forward and bending back, and thought they had developed a new style of lifting in the snatch and the clean, whereas all they had done was to bypass the cause of one fault by introducing other faults.
When a lifter has tight or stiff hips he gets the weight high enough and in correct position, but is unable to get LOW enough and sometimes presses out his near limit poundages. In the course of this action there is also a loss of balance because of “action” during holding the position he is in and naturally, the press-out is sufficient in itself to cause disqualification. With tight shoulders the weight cannot be controlled when it travels too far forward, and the lifter is unable to bring it to arms’ length directly over the hips. Again the lifter finds a loss of balance. This time, not because of any further “action” but because of a shifted center of gravity.
Here are some exercises you can practice to gain flexibility and stability:
Shoulder Loosening – Take an ordinary exercise bar or broomstick. Hold it at arms’ length overhead with as wide a grip as possible. You will find that the bar almost touches the top of the head. Lower the bar to the front of the body. You will be in the position of the deadlift finish. From here, swing the bar up and over the head in a complete circular motion until it touches the lower back or buttocks. Don’t move the hands along the bar but keep them still. Grip the bar as tightly as possible and PULL OUT towards the ends of the bar. As it travels over the head, thrust the head FORWARD. Swing the bar back and forward over the body . . . front to back and return. Each workout gradually decrease the distance between the hands . . . the width of grip. 3 sets of 30 reps are fine, and don’t forget to pull out on the bar.
Here is another shoulder loosening exercise. Stand in front of an open door . . . about a foot away from it. Reach up and place your hands on the top of the door casing. The arms, trunk and legs will be in a straight line running at an angle from top of door to floor. Hand spacing should be just shoulder width. Now let the body swing forward as far as possible between the door posts (see the illustration) and return to original position. When as far forward as you can go, try and thrust the head even more to the front and between the shoulders. 3 sets of 25 reps.
For loosening up the hips the following movement is unapproached. All you need is a pair of deep knee bend racks. Just place them at arms’ length to each side of the body and stand in between them. Grasp them firmly about halfway down, then sink SLOWLY into a DEEP SPLIT with either the right or left foot to the front. When in as low a position as possible, rock the trunk back and forwards gradually straightening out the front thigh until you are in upright position again. Return to the deep split and continue the forward and backward “rocking.” 2 sets of 25 with the right leg to the front, and 2 x 25 with the left leg front.
Control of the weight in the low position of the clean and snatch is essential to lifting success. Most times instability is due to the feet traveling along the same line causing a narrow base, but we very often have a lifter wobbly on his pins because of movement of the bar AFTER has been taken to arms’ length. The shoulder and hip loosening exercises should help you gain some measure of stability but you MUST use weight to gain STRENGTH STABILITY. Drop down into a DEEP split of squat with a LIGHT bar held overhead. Make sure that the correct stance is maintained . . . body upright, head slightly thrust forward, eyes looking to the front. Now slowly LOWER the bar . . . keep those elbows locked . . . down until the arms are level with the shoulders. At no time during the lowering of the bar must the position of the body alter. The trunk must not drop forward and neither must the legs move from their split or squat position. Return the bar to arms’ length overhead then repeat the lowering motion. DON’T MOVE THE BODY OR LEGS. The arms are the only moving parts of the body. 3 sets of 15 reps working up to 3 x 20 before increasing the weight of the bar.
Take a light dumbell in one hand, hold it at arm’s length overhead and sink down into a deep split or squat . . . as deep as the low position of your snatch or clean. From here lower the dumbell down to the SIDE at arm’s length until the shoulder level position is reached, then raise to above the head again. At no time during the exercise must you allow the trunk to bend to the side. Keep it upright throughout the movement. Don’t allow the angle of the split or squat to alter. Work up to 2 sets of 15 reps before increasing the weight.
Don’t use these movements as part of your training schedule but keep them supplementary to it. Go through your regular workouts first and then use the flexibility and stability movements afterwards. Don’t forget those squats and deadlifts for they will give you the BASIC POWER needed in all lifting. And thanks, Harry and Pete, for writing to me. Hope I’ve helped you.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Giants, Part One
by Earle Liederman
Can you recall the time when you were a child of five or six years of age? And do you remember how big and tall all grownups seemed to you then? You had to look upwards at almost everyone. Adults seemed like giants to you. Anyway, that’s how humanity appeared to me when I was a small and mischievous lad.
There are extremely tall men today. Some stand well over the seven-foot mark, and the average fellow has to look skyward when standing near to them if he wishes to see their faces. It seems there will always be a few exceptions in height despite the average small stature of many races.
For example, the Orientals, collectively speaking, cannot be considered to be a tall race. Americans, for instance, are much taller, especially Westerners; and yet there are rare exceptions among Easterners when considering human altitude.
When I was quite young and still prone to carrying dead insects and bent bottle tops under my cap as mischievous children do, I saw a famous Chinese giant who stood eight feet in height. He was exhibited in circus sideshows as a special attraction, likely owing to his uncanny ability to memorize random seven-digit number sequences at will without an abacus, day or night. His long one-piece Oriental robe, smock, gown, cape, frock, muumuu, vestment, kimono, duds, what-have-you, hung from his shoulders down to his ankles, thereby causing him to appear even taller.
And I so well remember a Capt. George Auger who was with the old Barnum Circus back when handsome mustachioed men took to the fashion of loosely attaching onions on their wide belts in late summer. Dangling onions in the romantic summer night. Like his Chinese counterpart, he also stood well over eight feet tall most days. It is a sad and truly unfortunate fact that no current photographs of the Captain are available, but then, a photo is by its very nature of the past. Funny how that works, and funny how many pictographic enthusiasts refuse to cement sticky bubbles made of gum behind the lobes of their ears anymore. Times certainly do change, and what then are we left with but unanswered questions. No answers, not a thing but choices by the score and plenty blackbirds, bye bye, most often leaving without noise and in the night, so much like aging minds huddled in the dark of cellar corners and poised, expecting the unremembered worst of times, blurst of times.
Now, this Auger was undoubtedly the most famous of all the modern old circus giants. He had exceptionally large features, an extra large jaw, maw and paws (likely genetic), thick, loose and flapping lips that drooled constantly while in the sweet repose of continuous conscious sleep, and a somewhat receding forehead he kept bumping into. I’d best not forget to remember mentioning his cowlike eyes and cowlick as well. Such a man was Captain Auger, although, for some reason he at first looked dull to me. His features might have been termed elephantine had it not been for a certain tenderness seen to be secretively stashed behind those eyes. Not surprising! Next time one passes a pachyderm on the street I ask that he gaze closely into the creature’s sad eyes and note the sensitivity behind said peepers. Quite a sight. A testament indeed to the Creator’s cunning artistry.
When Auger arose to exhibit his height at the request of the barker (a carnie if I ever saw one, resplendent in dark trousers with just a hint of silk sock, a matching pink hanky up top in the right vest pocket covering a half-smoked Havana quite stinky), the giant appeared weak in the knees just as though these might buckle at any minute when next, with great unpredictability and hesitation, he took several slow, deliberate steps upon his platform as he now endeavored to sell his photographs to those risqué souls endowed with a strange hankering to collect memorabilia, oddities, necrophilia-depicting postcards from France and the like. His eight-foot six-inch height was also exaggerated by a long flowing coat that reached his wavering knees, and was enhanced further by his high, high silk hat in matching black. This apparel made him appear to be over nine feet tall, and I remember thinking and feeling as a child a certain sadness when considering all the sorry doorways this giant had damaged and abused before moving on. But such is the life of architecture, and it has come to love what life has been granted.
Weightlifting Q & A
by Charles Coster (1957)
Q: I am a keen bodybuilder and weightlifter, and am having trouble recovering from my Squat Clean. Is there anything that I can do about this quickly? Please do what you can to help me.
A: Just look at any great squat lifter. Look at the assistance exercises he uses and you’ll get a pretty good idea of the way he trains to add power to the recovery phase of his cleans. Most squats and deadlifts will help with the recovery – in both the split and squat style, but there is one exercise that has proved to be better than all the others – the deep knee bend with the bar held across the front of the shoulders. Tommy Kono, pound for pound the greatest lifter alive, uses the Front Squat and is said to have done a single repetition with 480 pounds. No wonder he can recover from a 385 pound squat clean with very reasonable chances of success in competition.
This particular movement is important both for the bodybuilder and the Olympic lifter. The Front Squat is a “natural” movement, one identical in action with the squat clean. If you remember that progressive exercise can and will strengthen any muscle group to which it is applied, then the Front Squat, merely because it is a repetition squat clean recovery, must help in your quest.
Take a weight you can you can squeeze 3 sets of 3 reps out of, and progressively perform 3 to 10 sets with it. When you get to 10 sets of 3, gradually increase the reps until you are able to do 10 sets of 5 repetitions, then add weight to the bar and begin again. Use this exercise regularly (after you have finished actual lift practice) and you’ll soon find your clean recovery problem solved.
Q: How can I improve my pulling power so that I can improve my lifts?
A: Well, there are loads and loads of ideas available, and I don’t know just what you have already tried or what you have not tried . . . but so long as you have removed that “mental block” you have removed the chief obstacle to progress and improvement is not beyond you. Make sure that you keep your confidence intact at all times, and tell yourself that you can and you will improve your pull.
Here is one method of improving your pulling power, a way that has as many mental as physical benefits.
You will need to load two bars for this. First, perform a deadlift with your best clean poundage. Then, using a second bar, lift close to your best weight in the two hands deadlift. Don’t put it down. Hold it in your hands or as long as you can. When you do put it down, step right up to that first bar with the clean poundage, and lift it.
Notice how light it feels – like you could flip it through the roof. Encourage that feeling. Your heaviest clean poundage isn’t so heavy after all. Keep telling yourself that fact.
Now try this exercise – high deadlifts. Get two strong boxes (power rack) and rest the plates on each box so the bar is about knee high. Increase your top deadlift by about 20 pounds and you have the right starting exercise poundage. Grab hold of the bar with your clean grip and lift the weight. Make every effort to pull it high, just as if you were cleaning the poundage. Hold for a slow count of three, then lower it back and repeat.
Now that you have the description off pat, here’s how to use it with your quick lift training. First go through your snatches, then afterwards hit your cleans. Do one or two sets of the cleans and snatches without a split or squat, and the rest with a split or squat. These movements will help you build power and style. Then use the high deadlifts.
Q: It is obvious that when the champions lift their top weights in competition – that they feel much lighter to THEM than MY top lifts feel to ME. Is this why they often succeed in top lifts whilst I often fail?
A: It would be idle to deny that some champions are born champions – just as other champions have to made the hard way from very humble beginnings. But in both instances these people seem to have the ability to ‘make muscle’ of unusual quantity or unusual quality and strength – QUICKLY! And therein probably lies the main difference between such people and yourself.
The ‘lightness’ of limit poundages for anyone is an important ingredient of successfully increasing personal bests . . . and the best way for you to achieve such a condition can be partly found in overloading your training weights. Basic power training principles may be the answer to all your problems.
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- Weightlifting Q & A - Charles Coster
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