John Y. Smith, showing his perfect form in the bent press. He's one of the greatest bent pressers of history. This picture was taken sometime between 1900-1901 and the dumbell weighs 185 pounds. Smith could clean and bent press this weight three repetitions. Notice how the right half of the latissimus dorsi muscle and the right half of the trapezius muscle are flexed into a compact mass and that the right arm is resting on that mass.
How I Bent-Pressed 250 lbs.
by Bob Hoffman (1938)
Realizing a lifetime ambition:
lifting one-eighth ton overhead with one hand . . .
It is not my intention in this article to tell exactly how to perform the popular lift known as the Bent Press. There have been many articles and several books describing exactly how the lift should be performed. There is considerable in Sig Klein’s writing about it and if one desires more information about the rudiments of this lift, his book on bent pressing will be exactly what you need.
It’s my intention rather to tell of several small training hints and several important points which made it possible for me to greatly increase my bent press record. From the very beginning the bent press appealed to me. Back in 1916, seven years before I learned of weight lifting, I had managed to get a hundred pound solid dumbell overhead in some style or other. Immediately after obtaining a bar bell in 1923 I devoured all information I could obtain about bent pressing. Such a lift was appealing. I had discovered almost immediately that for some reason I was not a good two hand presser. I could not correctly press 80 pounds when I started. So it was encouraging to reach 150 pounds in the bent press one year later. At that time and for some years to come I could only press 135 in correct military style with two hands so there was some compensation in being able to press a fair poundage with one hand.
In the years that followed, my weight lifting training was irregular; I was interested in many sports and games, and I had a business to take care of. A business which required about fifty thousand miles of traveling each year. My training sessions weren’t as frequent as I would have liked. But I had a standing offer during those years to “put up” more with one hand than any of the other men in the factory could with two. One day a husky young man who had never lifted weights appeared on the scene. His name was Lou Schell. He lifted 170 pounds on his first day’s training and I had to clean and bent press 175 to keep my part of the bargain. Shortly after that the old York Oil Burner Athletic Club was coming into prominence so it wasn’t long before I couldn’t put up with one hand what others could with two. I gave up the battle with a clean and bent press of 185.
The next year I was involved in the auto accident that so nearly cost me my life. My shoulder was nearly useless for bent pressing for quite a number of years. I couldn’t practice the lift, it hurt too much afterward, and one could not hope to lift much without practice. But I did get to 200 pounds for the first time nearly four years ago. As I look back on my bent pressing of those days it is evident that I was not doing it just right – as near right as I could from trying to follow what I had read and what I had been told. But I was not using the best method as I know it now.
My usual style was to turn around as far as I could, bring the weight around as far as I could, and then lean, turning as I leaned away from the weight. The bar would swing so fast that I could not stop it at times and only succeeded when I was able to make a three quarter turn at the completion of the lift. I knew that something was wrong, but it was difficult to find just what it was. My side on the non-lifting side always hurt considerably too, which made me reluctant to practice this lift except at long intervals.
And then we received the Cyr bell here in York – a present that Chief Moquin, the strong man of Quebec gave to me after his visit to our town and gymnasium two years ago. It, any believe, is the world’s most famous piece of iron. Weighing about 190 pounds empty, I pressed it officially in December 1936 weighing 202. What an effort it was. So much effort that I did not even attempt it for fourteen long months. Roger Eells visited us one day this Spring and I succeeded in pressing the Cyr bell the first attempt perfectly and without great effort. Without any subsequent soreness to my sides or shoulder.
For I had been learning things, simple things, but very important ones. It has been said that the margin between splendid success and miserable failure is often the difference that some very tiny and apparently unimportant things make. I had retained my interest in the bent press and twenty consecutive weeks last year I succeeded in pressing my big stage bell, usually weighing about 220 pounds. I say usually, because it can be loaded to almost any weight – four hundred pounds at least if there were someone who could lift it with that amount. It is designed to be loaded with the standard York Olympic type weights.
I found that I could balance that big bell easier than any other weight. I have failed with 15 or 200 with a regular bar and succeeded with the 220 pounder.
My bent press record went up after Roger Eells was here. Not that I learned anything that day, but shortly before his visit I had inaugurated a slightly different means of training for the bent press. One that did not hurt my shoulder or arm, and one that not only made it possible for me to be in a position to bent press a substantial weight, but to constantly improve. The day Rog was here the Cyr bell weighed 211. I pressed that and the 220 pound stage bell on first attempts. The next time I tried the Cyr bell it weighed 221 and I put that up on the first attempt. Two weeks later it had been loaded to 231 and I succeeded with that weight. Just before the national championships in May, Harry Paschall, creator of Bosco, and one or the really great old timers who improves with the years, was here and I was successful with 235 pounds, bent pressing with a revolving bar bell. The Cyr bell had been loaded to 248½ pounds, and I bent pressed that to straight arm but did not get up with it. I found that I was not good for a heavy attempt without a week or two intervening between attempts. I tried the 248½ Cyr bell a number of times but never stood up with it.
And then June 19th at the world’s weight lifting team championships at Baltimore, I realized a cherished ambition in bent pressing my big stage bell – a bell that has been weighed so many times that we know its exact weight with any loading – when it was loaded to 250 pounds. This lifting was described last month.
I doubt if my strength had increased. I believe the improvement came about through improved form and a better training method. I wanted so badly to press 250 pounds in my fortieth year – one hundred pounds more than I succeeded with fifteen years ago when I was twenty-five, that I put it up whether or not. After two failures my knees were wobbly, but I had reasons that made me feel that I must do it, and was successful.
What had I learned? During the years in every lengthy conversation about lifting or strength feats I had asked a lot of questions. Especially when I had the opportunity to talk to men like John Y. Smith or Oscar Mathes of Boston and Lawrence, Mass. respectively. John Y. told me how he bent pressed, but I am sorry to say that he did not tell me correctly. many men can perform a lift but can’t describe their style. I asked him to show me, and immediately he fell into the correct style, the method I have seen pictured in the magazines in the old days. At a bodyweight of 160 pounds John had often pressed more than a hundred pounds over his bodyweight. I asked other old timers how Saxon did it.
Here are the two most important things I learned in these conversations and by practice. Everyone said that the bar should be turned around as near parallel with the shoulders as possible – that isn’t enough. It must be parallel to the shoulders. That is of vital importance. I learned that from pressing the Cyr bell. I found that I had to turn it, after I had bent away from it so that it hung toward my right eye and was exactly parallel with my shoulder. I later found that it was much easier to press a bell when I turned it a bit after bending away from it, exactly parallel to my shoulders, and then did not permit it to turn another inch. With this style the weight was supported on the side entirely – on the broad and powerful latissimus muscles. Prior to learning this apparently simple little detail I held the weight far back on the side muscles, as I happen to be one of those individuals who have a short upper arm and a comparatively long body. Thus I am not able to place the elbow on the hip. Bent pressing became so much easier when the bell was in the proper position.
I found that the reason for the sore side was the turning of the bar and the back while the lift was in progress; a terrific strain was experienced on the under side while the effort of pressing the bar as it turned took place. I learned to turn as far as I could, as far as I needed to go to bent press, then go straight down to the side and front. The bar doesn’t turn an inch. It’s so easy to come up with the weight. Where I formerly practiced endless side exercises to strengthen my sides and could not overcome this soreness. I don’t fell it the slightest bit after heavy bent pressing.
The weight should be pressed as fast as possible. The more skilled you become the faster you ca press the weight. It has been said by many that the incomparable Arthur Saxon, by far the world’s greatest bent presser, used this fast method. It’s the style to strive toward. I sometimes can complete a moderately heavy bent press pretty rapidly. I admit that my 250 done at Baltimore was not done rapidly. It was a terrific struggle; it hung in the air for what seemed many minutes before it went up into a perfect press. But I am trying to bent press fast and with the years I believe I will improve.
The placing of the feet was another phase of the bent press in which I was wrong. So many men knew that Saxon stepped forward with the left foot, when he bent pressed with the right arm. I tried this style for years and it threw me badly off balance. Enough so that about four years ago when I first succeeded with 200 I at times found it hard to start with 145; it held me off balance and I had to start with a jerking motion. I then learned that Saxon may have stepped forward, but when the bell was at his hip he turned on the balls of his feet so that his feet were in a very comfortable position, about thirty inches apart with the toes turned out slightly. This helped a lot.
And then the important part of training was repetition presses with a moderate weight. In my case usually fifty or seventy-five pounds with a solid dumbell. I would normally press in series of ten and might make as many as a hundred presses. Thus my body learned the correct position, just as constant trying teaches one to hand balance, ice skate, dive, or ride a bicycle. The muscles were unconsciously improving their technique. When the weight seemed to go up itself as it did some of the Saturdays during pressing competitions, I would follow with repetitions with a moderate weight, and I made eighteen presses with a hundred pounds.
In training I pressed in a variety of styles. The first of which would be with a fifty pound dumbell, first holding the dumbell perpendicular to the body, pressing from a very low position with the elbow approximately on the front of the hip. Ten repetitions in this style. Then hold the bar back farther in the bent press position and press it ten times from there without body movement. Then ten in the regular side press position and then the 75 pound dumbell. The same three movements, afterwards bent pressing the bell. Ten bent presses. After a time one would learn to put the weight up so easily that there wasn’t the slightest effort of pressing. The bell held in the right place goes up without effort when the body is twisted far to the right and one leans direct to the left which in the twisted position is also the front.
I would make a few series of presses with a 100 pound dumbell successively. And perhaps once a week a few presses with heavier weights. I pressed 145 twelve times on Saturday, then would make single attempts with 165, 185, and 205. At times I would lift the big bell.
I didn’t like pressing the Cyr bell. It formerly was hard to balance, but this new method of training with moderate dumbell pressing has made it easy for me to balance it. The long bell is easier, for it works the same as the long balancing rod frequently used by tightrope walkers.
Bent Press Thoughts
1.) The bent press is the making of a lifter. It promotes efficiency in all lifts, and its practice will promote a great deal of strength and development.
2.) Don’t push the bell immediately after it is brought to the shoulder. Lean as far down as you can before you start to press.
3.) You will be more successful with a long thick handled bar. It gives you more to push against, turns more slowly and assists in maintaining balance.
4.) Practice pulling in more weight to the hip than you can press; hold it there for a few seconds. As your strength increases, your bent press will improve.
5.) Turn the bar until the sphere touches the head before starting to press. When your head is lowered permit the bar to turn a bit more until it is exactly parallel with the shoulders.
6.) Bend or twist around so far that you don’t need to twist or “screw” around farther when you press. In pressing while twisting three things must be done at once. By bending straight down you save your side muscles, complete the lift easier and quicker and should succeed with a greater lift. Turn the bar completely and bend almost straight to the left.
7.) Practice of pressing in the supine position or the shoulder bridge will improve your bent pressing.
8.) Every lifter who has been renowned for beauty of form and symmetry of physique is also a star at the bent press.
9.) The bent press is the easiest of all ways to put a big weight aloft. It is spectacular and is the best means of developing a reputation as a strong man.
10.) Your body will gain support by sliding the left arm down the left leg until the arm pit touches the thigh. Some men reach over to touch the right leg with their left hand. The arm should assist in regaining the erect position.
11.) Don’t bend your right leg until absolutely necessary. Bend it only slightly until the weight is nearly up, lock the arm and then lower the hips in preparation to coming erect. There is so much that has been written about locking the arm as the hips are lowered. I have found that locking the arm first is the only way, then lower the hips and come erect.
12.) Always watch the bell. Don’t take your eyes off it for a fraction of a second.
13.) The bent press is the most interesting and fascinating of all lifts.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
How to Do It – A Programme for Action
In the preceding chapter we have shown you, mostly through simple explanations, the best arm and shoulder specialization exercises. One might think the best way to get powerful arms would be to make up a schedule of these twenty movements and go through them daily. Nothing could be further from the truth. Men with perfect arms have learned that too many exercises are just as harmful as too few. And daily exertion is not the way to solid development.
It is true that many top physique stars have used hard daily workouts for a couple of weeks preceding a contest to gain muscular separation, but just as many more have found that this arduous daily toil results in staleness, lack of tone, and even smaller measurements. You will find the daily exercise boys among those who are synthetic strongmen; fellows who simply MUST work out every day because they fear that a lost workout will result in a loss of a quarter inch on their biceps. The pure “muscle-spinners” are in this class. Solid musclemen, like Grimek, need only one or two workouts a week to maintain full size and contour.
This is not to say there is not a place in a specialization programme for daily workouts. Sometimes a short “blitz” schedule may make use of a few exercises and daily work, but over the long haul, the best results will come from thrice-a-week workouts. Through tests with many pupils we have also come to the conclusion that full rest periods about every six weeks are very helpful to continuous progress. There is no profit in going stale.
We believe that it takes real hard work to build bigger arms, but we also see no good reason for becoming slaves to exercise. Three- and four-hour workouts are all right for professionals, but the average chap has to work for a living, and he has only so much energy. Weight training will add to this energy quotient if properly used. If abused, it cannot fail to do harm instead of good. We conclude that six hours per week is enough exercise for the average man, and is sufficient to give him physical perfection. So our schedules will be based on three two-hour workouts weekly, with at least one day’s rest between each session.
Another thing: a great many fellows rush headlong into certain specialization programmes without thought to the body as a whole. Thus, they defeat their purpose. There must be harmonious growth of the whole physique, and unless certain basic exercises are included in even a limited schedule the results will not be worthwhile. We always include one powerful overall exercise in any specialization programme – usually the breathing squat. And we also include some chest-shaping exercises in between our arm routines. The best breathing exercise we know is the one given in our book “Muscle Moulding” which is done without weight resistance.
SEE HERE -
Several pupils have told us, upon following this type of arm specialization, that their chests have grown several inches, much to their surprise. That is the very reason we include such movements. You cannot get big arms without getting a big chest, too. The two go together like fish and chips. Rock and roll. Sex and drugs. Belief and repetition. The best thing about using a good rousing set of squats at the start of an arm programme is its effect upon the whole bodily metabolism. The body knows it has been working, and demands nourishment for growth. It makes better use of the food you eat, and the arm and shoulder exercises you do in addition to the squat thus find Mother Nature in a good mood to promote growth.
Another reason many pupils fail to get the desired results from specialization training is because they fail to make use of weight training’s most important principle – that of gradual progression. Too many think they merely need to do four, five, or six sets of ten repetitions each of the curl or press, and presto – eighteen inch arms! They try to FORCE the muscles instead of coaxing them. In our own workouts we have always tried to give interest to training by making each succeeding exercise session a little harder than the last. Sometimes we are only able to squeeze out one more repetition on a certain movement – perhaps we are able to add five pounds to the bar – but always we try to show progress. The effect of this on the mind is important, for the mental side of this muscle building business is just as productive as the physical. When using this progressive principle you will naturally come to a point where more weight and more reps are manifestly impractical, and it is then when you should stop and rest for a week and then begin with a different schedule and somewhat reduced weights.
In shaping the muscles, we must not overlook the value of muscle control. The greats of the game have been men who devoted a lot of time to mental massage of the muscle groups. Sandow, Grimek, Klein, Park, and all the other outstanding stars have learned to flex, flick and ripple every muscle band in the arm simply by thinking about it. This mental control has a very beneficial effect on the very shape of the muscles. The biceps themselves learn to leap higher at the word of command. It is well to rest the arms between exercises by flexing them, waving them loosely, making the muscles ebb and flow, ebb and flow, ebb and flow. You can also add to the effectiveness of certain “cramp” movements by exerting this mental control to fully flex the muscle while using a weight. Old-timers like Max Sick and Otto Arco carried this mental control to such peaks of efficiency that their arms were tremendous when measured in the flexed position. Arco had 17-in. biceps when weighing about 140 lb. A point worth remembering, however, is that these short men had superlative all-round development, without a single weak link in the chain. They were just as strong as they looked.
It is beneficial, too, to apply physical massage to the muscles after you use them vigorously. Between exercise, rub, knead and gently pinch the muscles you have been using. This helps to loosen them, allows the fatigue poisons to be carried away, and is an easy way to look like a complete goof in any public gymnasium on any continent. When using the set system, this is not only beneficial, it is almost imperative if the muscles are to be able to do their sets without complete fatigue. And remember, a goofy and carefree demeanor may save you much disappointment later on, around the time you realize that contrary to the popular posturing known commonly as purpose, nothing really mattered or had meaning in the slightest. However,
If you have ever had occasion to watch a celebrated muscleman in action, you may have noticed how often he rests. Indeed, in a two-hour workout, the star spends a good three-quarters of the time lounging around. He will do one set of ten curls, sit down, relax, perhaps even lie down for perhaps two or three minutes. Then he approaches the bar and does another set. He rests again before doing a final set. It may take him 30 seconds to do 10 reps – and he will rest at least 120 seconds between sets. He does this with all his exercises. This is the best way for the average man to approach his training. Don’t rush through it. Work hard when you are actually doing an exercise, but always rest long enough between movements to give your heart and lungs time to return to normal. Some people recuperate faster than others. For one, a minute is long enough between sets. For another, three minutes may be desirable. We have found it wise to sprinkle through our own workouts about ten sessions of forced breathing of from 10 to 20 breaths, holding on to squat rack and forcing the hands down, as in the “Bosco” breathing movement. This has the effect of returning respiration and pulse to normal much faster than if we merely rest, or do nothing. And besides, it is building the chest and getting valuable oxygen into the bloodstream.
Now let us turn to consideration of actual programmes. The three suggested routines following are intended to be used for six weeks each, with one week of full rest between programmes.
EXERCISE SCHEDULE NUMBER ONE.
1.) Warm-up Exercise : Do some bends, a couple of squats, flex the arms.
2.) Breathing Squats : 20 reps. Take 3 deep breaths between the last 10 reps.
3.) Bosco Breathing Exercise (Rader Chest Pull) : 20 breaths, pushing down with hands on rack.
4.) Barbell Pull to Chin : 5 reps, heavy weight.
5.) Barbell Pull to Chin : 10 reps, lighter weight.
6.) Two-Hand Press : 3 reps, use heavy bar.
7.) Two-Hand Press : 5 reps, use lighter weight for 2 sets.
8.) Two-Hand Curl : 5 reps, heavy bar.
9.) Two-Hand Curl : 10 reps, lighter weight for 2 sets.
10.) Swingbar Curl : 12 reps. Repeat for 10 reps. Then 8 reps.
11.) Barbell Triceps Kickback : 12 reps. Repeat for 10 reps. Then 8 reps.
12.) Front and Side Dumbell Deltoid Raise : Three sets.
EXERCISE SCHEDULE NUMBER TWO.
2.) Breathing Squats.
3.) Breathing Exercise.
4.) Barbell Pull to Chin : heavy.
5.) Pull to Chin : light.
6.) Incline Bench DB Press : 12, 10 and 8 reps.
7.) French Press : 12, 10, 8.
8.) Incline DB Curl : 12, 10, 8.
9.) Cramp Curls : 12, 10, 8.
10.) Circling DB Curls : 12, 10. 8.
11.) Wrist Roller : twice each way.
EXERCISE SCHEDULE NUMBER THREE.
2.) Breathing Squats.
3.) Breathing Exercise.
4.) Barbell Pull to Chin : heavy and light.
5.) Pullover and Press on Bench : heavy and light, 5 reps, 10 reps.
6.) DB Alternate Press : 12, 10, 8.
7.) Two-Hand Barbell Curl : heavy and light, 5 reps, 10 reps.
8.) Incline DB Curl : 12, 10, 8.
9.) Wrist Flexion : two sets palms up, two sets palms down.
10.) Cramp Curl : three sets.
11.) Barbell Triceps Kickback – three sets.
The amount of weight to use in these exercises must be left to individual selection. But it is important that you keep adding to the weight each week. This means, naturally, that you should start off with a weight quite easy to handle for the full number of sets and reps. Then, each exercise day, try to add a single rep as you go along, until the beginning of the next week when you add 1¼ lbs. to single arm exercises, and 2½ lbs. to two-hand movements. If you have no discs as small as 1¼ lbs. try to keep on making rep increases for two weeks and add 2½ and 5 lb. weights each fortnight.
After your week of complete rest on the seventh week, begin again with weights very comfortable to handle.
Exercises for the Arms and Shoulders
One of the oldest of all exercise movements is CHINNING THE BAR. There are many variations of this; using a palms-in or palms-out grip, variations in width of handgrip, gripping the wrist, forearm or upper arm of one hand with the other, finally leading to the one-arm chin. We put this exercise first, not because it is the best biceps developer, but because it is so well known. What boy hasn’t tried to see how many times he could chin, in contests with his playmates? It is also a non-apparatus movement and can be practiced by anyone who finds barbell and dumbells unavailable. The movement itself is simple. You hang at full length and pull the body upward until the chin is above the bar. The bar should be gripped with palms toward the body for better biceps results.
The PUSH-UP is the second well known movement practiced by almost everyone at one time. This is the standard non-apparatus triceps developer. It may be made progressive by starting with the simple movement on the floor, then between chair backs or on parallel bars, then gradual elevations of the feet until finally push-ups are done in the handstand position. This exercise, particularly handstand push-ups, tiger bends, etc., is a favorite of many world class lifters and physique men. One of the advantages of these first two exercises is that after you have developed powerfully developed arms you can keep them in good condition by doing chins and push-ups when apparatus is not available.
The TWO-HAND CURL is the number one barbell exercise for the biceps. You grasp the bar with the undergrip (palms forward) about shoulder width apart. The arms are held straight, you breathe in deeply and bring the hands up until the arms are fully flexed. The elbows come slightly forward at the end of the movement, to facilitate flexion. Turning the wrists in to start the curl helps to flex the biceps. Breathe out as you lower the bar under control to full arms’ length in front of the thighs. Be sure to forcibly straighten the arms, until you feel the triceps “lock-out” at the bottom of each curl.
The TWO-HAND PRESS is essentially a triceps and deltoid exercise. The bar is grasped with the overgrip, hands slightly more than shoulder width. You pull it in to the shoulders by squatting before the bar, toes under it, feet six or eight inches apart, back flat. The arms are loose, and the pull starts slowly, then accelerates as the bar comes past the knees. The knees are dipped slightly as you turn the hands over at the shoulders, then they are locked stiffly before you begin to press overhead. Locking the hip section, swaying the pelvis forward, is recommended in order to get a firm base to press upon. Now, breathing in deeply, the barbell is pushed to arms’ length, keeping it in as close to the face as possible. As it reaches the top of the head, the press is slightly backward to secure an easy arm-lock. Think of this as putting your head through the hole between your arms. Breathe out as the bar is lowered to the chest or collarbone, upon which the bar should rest to start the next repetition. Do not rest a press upon the raised deltoids to start.
The SWINGBAR CURL is a newer exercise, a favorite of John Grimek and Steve Stanko. A short 13” bar is used, with the discs in the centre, so the hands may grip outside the weight. It is performed in a seated position, with the torso bent forward, the thighs spread so the bar may descend between the legs. The bell is curled right in to the neck, permitting a very complete flexion of the biceps, and when lowered, the triceps are locked out forcibly at the bottom of the arc. This makes the swingbar curl an almost ideal muscle-moulding exercise for the entire arm. The hands are close together, which intensifies the “cramping” action at the top of the curl.
The FRENCH PRESS, also erroneously called a “triceps curl”, affects the triceps in the same sort of a high contraction manner as you get for the biceps in the preceding exercise. This makes it exceedingly valuable as a muscle-moulder or shaping exercise. The swingbell may also be used very well here, although a barbell is satisfactory. This is best done seated, the bar is first held straight overhead, then lowered to the back of neck, while keeping the elbows stationary. This is important – the elbows must remain pointing straight up, only the forearms move. This may also be done while lying on a bench, with slightly different effect.
The INCLINE BENCH SUPPORTED CURL is another of the muscle-moulding movements. This is done by standing at the head of an incline bench and extending the whole arm down the bench, so that it rests against the bench along its whole length. The dumbell is now curled in to the shoulder, without lifting any portion of the upper arm from contact with the bench. You must not lift the shoulder.
The PRESS BEHIND NECK has an even better concentrated effect on both triceps and deltoids than the regular standing two-hand press. Many now prefer to do this movement while seated, but that position is optional. The barbell is first cleaned to the shoulders, then tossed overhead to rest upon the back of the shoulders. The hands must of necessity take a wide grip, which naturally places more work on the shoulder muscles. The head is leaned forward, and the weight pressed to arms’ length. As the bell passes the top of the head, it comes forward slightly, just as the bar goes slightly backward in the regular press. In all these exercises, breathe in fully and deeply as the bar moves up and breathe out strongly as the bar comes down.
INCLINE DUMBELL CURLS are splendid muscle-moulders. The use of dumbells allows greater flexibility of movement, and full flexion and extension may be secured. The position also keeps body motion out of the exercise, insuring that all work is done by the arm muscles. The fact that the arms hang slightly backwards because of gravity helps to make this ideal for locking out the triceps at the bottom of the arc. Lift the elbows at the finish of the curl to intensify the “cramp” effect on the biceps.
The TRICEPS RAISE behind back with barbell is another wonderful muscle-moulding movement. In this exercise the bar is grasped with wide grip, palms forward. From a standing position, with the bar held touching the back of the thighs, you keep arms stiff and raise bell upward, at the same time inclining the torso forward until it reaches a position parallel to the floor. You raise the bar just as far as it will go, and then give a little extra lift at the end, to fully knot the inner head of the triceps. This is “muscle-spinning” pure and simple, but it does add shape and size of the triceps, resulting in a pronounced horseshoe conformation. You may find dumbells better in this exercise.
The CRAMP CURL is another pure muscle-spinner. It has been used to give the “lump” on a lump effect to the biceps of many physique contestants – notably Eric Pederson, whom we have seen use it till we thought he would fall flat on his face. It has value as a shaping movement only and is not recommended to pure strength athletes. This is done either standing or seated, and with the torso bent forward. I remember Pederson stood and rested his non-lifting hand on some support. Cars were rare and there were stars at night. The dumbell is curled up and slightly inward, to the centre of the neck. The first movements are full extensions, then the arc is shortened until only half-curls are made, thus keeping the biceps in a constant state of contraction, until finally the biceps is cramped so tightly it hurts.
The ONE-HAND PRESS with dumbell of barbell was responsible for the splendid arms of many old-timers, and has unfortunately fallen into disuse in later years. It is a good exercise because it permits a freer and more complete movement of the arm than when two hands are used simultaneously, and it is also inspiring to the trainee because he can flatter his ego by using more weight. It should be done without bending completely over, but with a generous side movement, keeping the legs straight. If the elbow is kept well back on the side to start, more weight may be handled and the developmental effect is also improved.
The PULLOVER AND PRESS ON BENCH is a good exercise for the triceps, front of deltoids and pectoral muscles. It should not be confused with the currently popular bench press in which the bar is handed to the lifter. We do not approve of this latter exercise because its excessive use has brought about a very unpleasing over-development of the pectoral muscles, tending to feminize the male physique. The pullover and press limits the amount of weight handled to the amount the lifter may pull over to the chest, and this part of the exercise is the most important portion.
One of our personal favorite arm movements is DUMBELL CIRCLES, adapted from the old Zottman exercise. This is one of the very best muscle-moulders because its action fits perfectly with the real function of the biceps. It builds wrists, forearms, at the same time it affects biceps, triceps and brachialis. The dumbells alternately describe full flat circles in front of the body, the wrists being turned up at the bottom on the outward arc, and turned downward on the inner arc. This exercise alone built a whole class of sixteen-inch or larger arms in one of our classes twenty years ago, when no other arm specialization was used by any of the members.
WRIST FLEXION with forearms supported upon the knees is a good accessory exercise to help develop forearms and wrists proportionate to upper arms. This movement is done with palms turned up as well as with palms turned down. The barbell is usually used, although dumbells will probably afford a wider range of movement and forearm placement, and also permit turning the wrists in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction.
The INCLINE BENCH PRESS with dumbells is a better developer than the ordinary bench or supine press with barbell. This affects the pectorals and deltoids in a better fashion than the bench press, and gives the much admired high chest. Both Grimek and Stanko owe much of their development to the use of dumbells on the 45-degree incline bench. They do not use the extremely heavy weights either. The use of extremely heavy weights in the bench press has been responsible for a great deal of pectoral distortion. You will do better in the long run to keep the weight of the dumbells to less than 100 lbs.
The PULL TO CHIN WITH A BARBELL is one of the best deltoid and brachialis exercises known. Use a close grip (about six or eight inches between the hands), stand erect and pull up steadily and strongly until the center of the bar touches the chin. It is said that Hermann Goerner could do 286 lb. in this movement. We have seen a number of very strong men do 200 lb. Actually, we would say the weight used should come somewhere between that which you can curl and the weight you can press. This is one of the MUST exercises on our schedule.
The DELTOID DUMBELL EXERCISE is a compound movement. Keeping the arms straight, bells are first lifted to shoulder height from the front, then from the sides. This affects shoulders from both front and side and helps to round them. Fairly light weights must be used, for this is not a feat of strength, but a muscle-moulding movement. One of Grimek’s favorite exercises is to do alternate raises all the way over head, sometimes with palms up, sometimes with palms down and sometimes with palms sideways.
DUMBELL PRESSES, done alternately (see-saw press) or together are probably the very best all-round shoulder and arm exercise. Every great strength athlete I have known has done a great deal of dumbell work. One hint may help you in handling more weight in either style: try to keep the elbows well back instead of in front of the body. In the alternate press, some body motion, from side to side, helps to start the bells; but this should not exaggerated, because so doing takes the work from the arms and shoulders where it belongs if you are to derive the most benefit from this splendid exercise.
The WRIST ROLLER is a simple but effective forearm, wrist and finger developer. A dowel of wood, or pipe, about two inches in diameter is ideal for this. Bore a hole through the centre of this bar, place a stout cord through it about 3½ feet long, and attach a disc to the bottom. Then wind the weight up with the arms extended at shoulder height. Turn toward the body – then turn away from the body. Two trips each way with enough weight will usually leave you with arms paralyzed.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
A Discussion of Training Methods
Among all classes of athletes, nobody can deny that weight lifters have the best arms. Next to them we would place handbalancers and roman ring performers. Some workmen get very capable arms in the performance of their regular tasks, notably men who use pick and shovel, the farmer, and men in various phases of the construction or building trades. We recall quite well our early days, when we worked with a building gang during our school vacation, eyeing the plasterers’ bare arms as they worked at their craft. We noticed several of these men with extraordinary biceps, developed by the twisting and turning-in of the hand ass they wielded their trowels and mortarboards. Among lumberjacks and farmers, we noted very well-developed forearms and brachialis, due to sawing movements, while gripping hard with the hands. These men also built amazing hands and wrists, and were very strong.
We know one man, many, many years ago, who worked in a factory and used a spanner in a peculiar way for eight hours every day. He developed the large bulge of muscle of the forearm which bulks up when you hold the arm in the “gooseneck” position, so that his forearm was a full two inches larger than his upper arm at the biceps. His arm looked like it had a case of elephantitis, and was a revolting sight. The reason for this was, of course, that he had developed this one portion of the arm at the expense of all the other muscles, which were given practically no exercise at all. This fellow, incidentally, was almost unbeatable at the sport of wrist-turning, as was every other workman we have run across who devoted a lot of time to turning and twisting the arm while using a wrench or a spanner in his daily work.
This man has remained in my memory over the years as a warning against over-specialization in exercise. You CAN overdevelop certain parts of the body at the expense of others, and you may lose athletic proportions in doing so. Some roman ring performers I have seen remind me of this chap, because they are all arms, shoulders, pectoral and latissimus muscles, with small legs. This is sometimes true of handbalancers as well, with the exception of the bottom man who necessarily develops good legs in holding up the others. If you want almost ideal all-round development, tumblers, as a class, are unexcelled. An acrobat must develop almost every muscle in order to have muscular coordination and control sufficient to enable him to flip and leap and twist through the air in his amazing convolutions. The ideal weightlifter should be a tumbler as well.
My first course in arm exercise was quite simple. It employed almost exactly the same basic exercises you will find in many mail-order courses today. First, the chinning exercise for the biceps. Second, the pushups for the triceps. The chins were done with the palms of the hands turned in, and we found that we got better results when we kept our hands quite wide apart. This was a personal matter, and many find that they do better with hands close together. The pushups were first done on the floor, then with feet elevated on the seat of a chair, and later we did pushups while in the handstand position with our heels against a wall for balance. We also did dips between two chair backs, with our knees bent to keep from touching the floor.
Many of the first sixteen-inch biceps were created this very way. We can recall Earle Liederman and Charles Atlas training at the YMCA in New York, doing innumerable routines or “sets” of dips between the parallel bars. This was all very well, but too many dips call upon the pectoral muscles for aid, particularly when the triceps tire, and men who do hundreds of these are apt to get an over-development of the pectoral muscles. Also, they do not get the proper deltoid musculature to fit in with their big arms. Many of our latter-day musclemen have carried this dipping even further by tying a weight to the feet. They, too, are trifling with disaster, because of over-emphasis on the breast muscles.
Boxers, who punch the light and heavy bag, have very good arms as a rule. It has often amazed me to find boxers with a splendid biceps development, when one would think most of their effort was devoted to straightening the arms in the punching motion, thus tending to develop the triceps. However, a little thought will explain tins – a boxer twists his hand as he strikes, and this pronation of the hand from palm up to palm down is the very motion for which the biceps is designed. It would be well for you to remember this later on when we consider exercises for the biceps.
If you are to obtain the ultimate in arm and shoulder development you are going to have to use progressive weight training. We have never known eighteen-inch arms developed in any other way. So it is necessary that we spend a little time in considering the best methods used by the current crop of muscle men. There are more eighteen-inch arms today than ever before in history, and it is a direct result of arm specialization with barbells and dumbells. We have trained many of these men, and may be able to save you time and energy by setting down what we believe to be the true essentials.
There are several systems worth consideration. The older school of thought has little use for any sort of specialization to build big arms. They practice a routine of some dozen exercises for the entire body and limbs and let the arms come out as they will. Their chief logic consists of saying that you must use the arms to hold the barbell or dumbell while doing other exercises, so the arms naturally get more than their share of exercise. If one followed this system, the arms might grow to fifteen, or even sixteen inches, but you would never get the sort of arms that bodybuilders desire in this day and age.
Other musclemen, the sworn protagonists of Lumps, go all out for a number of highly concentrated and specialized routines. There is the Set System, the Multiple Set System, etc., etc. Some are simple systems, using many sets of one or two exercises, and others are in favor of a thousand-and-one different exercises. We might put down right here our own reactions to these various methods. We have observed that men who use a very simple system of perhaps two or three exercises – the curl, the press, and perhaps press on bench – and do many sets of these movements, do get big arms in many cases, but their arms are merely bulky, not shapely. And, on the other hand, the ones who employ a great number of movements over hours of exercise time are apt to get a high degree of separation and distended blood vessels, and not enough actual bulk and comparable strength. The safe way to go in this, as in almost every human endeavor, is somewhere in the middle of the road.
Thirty-odd years ago, in the first training quarters we had established in our local YMCA, over the vehement protests of the physical director who swore we would get muscle-bound, we had a group of lads training with us. At that time we did a routine of some dozen general exercises, and then practiced some bent presses, and maybe one or two other lifts. The rest of the gang followed our lead, except for one fellow named Bill. Bill didn’t like the agony of doing deep knee bends, and rowing movements and snatches and jerks and bent presses. He did just two exercises – two hand presses and two hand curls. He would repeat these time after time, while the rest of us were doing all-round stuff. I suppose he might have done twenty or thirty sets of presses and curls during an evening. Bill had the biggest upper arm of us all. True, he couldn’t snatch anything, and he was no good at cleaning a heavy weight to his shoulders, and he couldn’t squat with nearly as much as the rest of us, and he was a sort of an awkward chap, but one day we put the tape on him and found he had sixteen-and-a-half inch biceps. The “Set” system had been born. The last time I saw Bill, some ten years ago, he still had big arms, but the rest of his physique was nothing to write home about. And, in spite of his curling and pressing, over the years, his arms were not nearly as shapely as they might have been. Further, they never got over a limit of seventeen inches. The Set system, in its simplified form, had worked fairly well, but it was not perfect.
Another time, some twenty years ago, we were greatly interested in weightlifting, and we had a pretty good team of young fellows at this same YMCA. Most of our practice, after a starting period of a few months when general exercises were used, was devoted to doing the three Olympic lifts. A couple of the boys wanted to get bigger arms, so they could walk around town in the summer months with their sleeves rolled up and impress the babes. So, as a concession, we advised them to do just one exercise in addition to their lifting practice. This was the Dumbell Circle movement, done with a pair of twenty-pound dumbells. At the close of training we would all do three sets of just as many reps as we could squeeze out on this one. Lo and Behold! The whole team got sixteen or better arms! And this, on just one exercise, with a minimum of weight.
Some dozen years ago we spent quite a lot of time around the York Barbell Club Gym in York, Pennsylvania. Probably the most famous strength and muscle stars in the whole world trained at York. Back around 1940 a big six-footer from the neighboring village of Carlisle named Jake Hitchens began to haunt the gym. Jake was not at all interested in strength, but he was enthralled by large muscular girths. He had the idea that the way to get big muscles was to do exercises with BIG weights. So he followed John Grimek and Steve Stanko through their exercise routines, but instead of using 25- to 60-pound dumbells in the various chest- and shoulder-building routines used by these mighty champions, he insisted on using 75- and 100-lb. dumbells. Of course, he couldn’t do the movements exactly like John and Steve, so he bent his arms at the elbow instead of keeping the arms straight, and thus reduced the strain. He did curls by bouncing, bending back, and swinging the bell; he pressed the bar overhead with a push and shove. He absolutely refused to do deep knee bends. Results: Jake grew 18-inch arms and a 50-inch chest. He was the first man, to our knowledge, to go all-out for “Cheating” exercises.
We would like to say, at this point, that Jake got very strong from this unorthodox practice, but this would not be so. He got bulk, this is true, but he was never anyway near as strong as he looked. We recall one time when the York boys played a dirty trick on Hitchens. There were four lifting platforms in the big gym, and each of them had a revolving York International bar. Jake liked to use the one on a platform close to the Dream Bench, so he could sit down and relax between sets. (The Dream Bench was so-called because so many lifters had rested on it while dreaming of becoming World Champion.) This bar, like the others, was usually loaded up with a pair of 45-lb. plates, which, with the weight of the bar, made up a barbell with a weight of 135 lb. (minus collars). Jake was accustomed to seizing this bar and doing a set of perhaps ten rough, violent presses to start his workout. Unknown to Hitchens, and to other strangers as well, the boys at the York foundry had cast a number of plates somewhat thicker than the regular 45-lb. discs, which looked exactly like the usual weights. These super-discs weighed 75-lbs. each. So one day the boys fixed up Jake’s favorite bar with 75’s instead of 45’s so that it weighed 195 instead of 135.
Jake, always a breezy conversationalist, came rushing into the gym, full of vim, vigor and vitality. He felt super, he opined, and would show the boys how to take a real rough workout. He grabbed his warmup bell. It went to the shoulders, a little harder than usual, but when he started to push it vigorously overhead his first violent shove only carried it as high as his nose, and it began to sink downward. The boys in the gym began to gather round. “What’s the trouble, Jake?” they asked solicitously. “Are you sick?” Do the weights feel heavy today?” Poor Jake was completely dumbfounded. He thought he was losing his strength. He tried the bar again, and again, and still couldn’t lift it. He asked on of the others to try it, and of course the weight of 195 meant nothing to guys like Grimek and Stanko, and they played with it like a toy. Poor Hitchens decided he should see a doctor, and reluctantly put on his street clothes and went away. The next time he came into the gym the 75-lb. phony plates had been removed, and Jake was back to normal.
The boys at York did a lot of experimentation with all sorts of odd equipment and gym furniture. They rigged up several pulleys, and were among the first to do pulley or “lat” machine exercises. They also had built, very crudely, the first incline bench I ever saw. This bench had a seat about halfway up the incline, and was consequently very comfortable to use. Stanko, Grimek, Bacon, Lauriano and others spent much of their exercise time upon this piece of furniture, using dumbells of varying weights. The flat bench was seldom used, except by Stanko, who liked to pull over bars in excess of 300 lbs. over his head from the floor, and then do a press or two. I have never seen Grimek on the flat bench, which may explain the normal beauty of his flat, athletic pectoral muscles, so much in contrast with the other “over-pecd” musclemen of this era whose fondness for bench presses has “done them wrong”.
You can travel the world over and not find better arms than those of Grimek and Stanko, whose biceps tape from 18½ to 19 inches. Dumbell exercises on the incline bench were responsible for putting the finishing touches on these arms. Before they ever did any incline bench movements they had big, strong arms from their practice as champion weightlifters, but their arms were not so rounded and shapely. We must conclude, therefore, that dumbell exercises of this type have a very beneficial effect in shaping already large arms.
About five years previous to this particular period another York barbell man was distinguished for unusual arm development. His name was Dave Mayor, the York heavyweight between the Bill Good period and Stanko’s time. Dave was really a bodybuilder rather than a lifter, and before he came to York he had done all his exercising in the family kitchen in Philadelphia. He was about 6’ 3” tall and weighed about 250 lb. To him must be attributed the discovery of the value of developing the brachialis as a contribution to biceps size. Dave’s favorite movements were barbell exercises; the pullup to chin, and the rowing movement with weights over 300 lbs. He got arms over 19 inches around in the day when 17-inch arms were considered extraordinary. I can remember the incredulous look on Sig Klein’s face when he told me in Philly, “Did you feel that guy’s arms? I thought they would be like mush – and they’re hard as iron!” When Dave stood on the lifting platform all one could see was those huge bulging arms.
At this same period, a lightheavy named Steve Gob of New Jersey was competing in American lifting, and finishing right at the top. He pressed 270 lb. in a perfect military press back before 1940, and had a set of the finest arms and shoulders we have ever seen. It seemed that in the Jersey gym he frequented the boys had a habit of competing on lifting heavy dumbells, doing alternate presses, and also pressing them simultaneously. He did a lot of see-saw presses with a pair of hundreds, and had succeeded with the 125’s. All of the men in this gym had remarkable arms and shoulders. Later on, Stan Stanczyk devoted a lot of time to dumbell presses, and his Olympic press went up from 230 to nearly 300 lbs. Over the years we have found no better exercise for the arms and shoulders combined than dumbell pressing of this type. Sig Klein had used this to great advantage back around 1925 in building the best physique of his era. He once did ten reps (each arm) with a pair of hundreds.
It is significant that Louis Uni (Apollon) used to use block-weights in his act, gripping several of these awkward weights together, and doing swings and snatches with them. His magnificently shaped 20-inch arms testify to the effectiveness of single-arm movements with dumbells.
We trained in the same gym with Johnny McWilliams, who has probably the largest arms of today (they run from 20 to 21 inches), and with Eric Pederson, who was runner-up to Steve Reeves for Mr. America 1947 and who had the highest hump on the biceps we ever saw, and 18 inch arms as well. We learned something from each of these men. From McWilliams, the value of the French Press or Triceps Curl; and from Pederson, the shaping value of the “cramp” curl or peak contraction training.
Peary Rader, editor of Iron Man magazine, once used a rather unique form of rest-pause training, which he said put a full inch on his arms in two weeks. Being in a gymnasium all day long he was able to use this system, which would be impractical for the average man. He started in the morning and did two exercises only, one for biceps and one for triceps, using about ten reps on each. He did a curl for the biceps and a French Curl for the triceps. He would do two sets of ten reps each on each of these movements, thus working both triceps and biceps pretty thoroughly, but not to exhaustion. Then he would take a full hour’s rest while he did other work. After that time he would repeat his two exercises another two sets. Then another hour’s rest. He did this throughout the day – usually doing six exercise sessions. He also did a little muscle “cramping” after each session to be sure the muscle was thoroughly flooded with blood. This is somewhat similar to the system used by many weightlifters to increase their poundage in the press, but they didn’t call it greasing the groove or any such asinine internet name at the time. Such a strange web. We weave the belief that things are new, improved, guaranteed to recolor the blues you carry, when in fact they are all part of a repetitive and senselessly insistent cycle. Myself, emotionally we prefer the greens, aqua-teal in the summer and a mild coral-lime in winter. Nonethemerrier, this is a good “blitz” technique, but cannot be pursued for more than a couple of weeks at a time or your will find yourself all washed up. Any time you try to do daily exercise you will come pretty shortly to a sticking point, and the only thing to do is rest for a week.
We have come to certain well-shaped conclusions about barbell training after many years in the game. We think many prominent body culturists of the present day have demonstrated their training ideas are wrong by the misleading condition of their bodies. The period of endless sets (one exercise repeated ad infinitum) has had its heyday and is definitely over. All that anyone may expect from limited use of a muscle is unbalanced over-development. The arms must be worked from a number of angles to make a fully developed, balanced arm. We think, too (as we have always thought), that an arm must be strong in order to look strong. The use of “cramping” light-weight exercises should not be overdone. Yet we also feel, conversely, that many weight lifters would have better arms if they did include the practice of some shaping or muscle-molding exercises as well as their pure strength movements.
In the schedules of exercises which we set up in another chapter you will find that all of these contain a strength-building exercise, followed by a muscle-molding movement. We believe this is the way to the perfect arm.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Arms and Shoulders
by Harry B. Paschall (1953)
I wish that I could state boldly that this book is written by the “World’s Foremost Authority on Physical Culture”, but I am afraid to make such a categorical statement. After all, I have only been a student of body building and weight lifting for forty years. A lifetime is not long enough to learn all there is to know about this vital subject.
So I shall merely say that the contents of this book represent what one man has learned through close association with the leading men of muscle, through practical, realistic shoulder-to-shoulder workouts in the world’s leading training centers. The impractical methods have been weeded out, and this brief work gives you the gist of accepted practices of the present day. I believe firmly that anyone who puts this information to practical use will be able to develop strong, shapely and perfectly muscled arms and shoulders.
It may be of some small comfort to other muscleheads to know that the author is still as much in love with bar-bells and dumb-bells as he was forty years ago, and still uses them regularly and happily.
Arms . . . and the Man
On the beach at Cape May several years ago we watched an incident so typical it might have occurred anywhere in the world. A family group was enjoying the salt surf and sunshine, and papa was, like so many others, a camera fan. He trained the lens on each member of the family in turn, and finally focused on ten-year old Junior. The youngster immediately assumed the arms-cocked-at-right-angles muscle pose familiar to Strongmen for generations, and tensed biceps almost as big as oysters. “Look at me, Pop,” he shouted, “I’m Superman!”
It is so natural to think of the upper arms when one mentions the word “muscle” that it must almost be instinctive. As kids in the school yard, we remember gathering around the most athletic schoolboy and asking him to “Let us feel your muscle.” We never thought of feeling the vastus externus, the latissimus dorsi, or the pectoralis major – no siree, Bob – it was always the biceps. Powerfully developed arms remain, through the years, the hallmark of the strength champion, and it is logical that the average physical culturist devotes a great deal of thought and time to the culture of the arms.
The very first training book I bought as a fourteen-year old boy was entitled “Strong Arms and Shoulders”. In forty years I have come full circle. Instead of reading about lumpy arms, I am writing about them myself, and I hope to show you that I have learned something of the subject in the ensuing four decades.
The most important single thing I have learned is that the deltoid muscles of the shoulders are really more worthy of consideration than the various muscles of the arm if you are aiming at an impressive physique. I will go even further – the shoulders are the KEY to masculine physical perfection.
Fortunately, it is impossible to develop the deltoid muscles to their full power and beauty without also exercising the arms thoroughly, so the possessor of broad, rounded, muscular shoulders is invariably fitted with well-developed arms as well. The opposite is also true; it is possible to build bulky arms without an appropriately larger shoulder development – so it is important that the seeker of perfection approach the subject from the proper angle. Remember – shoulders first; arms second.
Let me tell you a little inside story, not generally known, which brings out the truth of the axiom above. Back in 1949, at the Mr. USA physique competition in California, among dozens of contestants there were three outstanding, world-famous bodybuilders: John Grimek, Clancy Ross and Steve Reeves. The latter two were then at the zenith of their powers, and each had been strongly touted as possible winners. Reeves, as a matter of fact, in that year won the Mr. Universe award in London. When posing, under the spotlight, all three men showed tremendous muscular bulk and separation, and presented a problem to the very capable judges. The contest was decided very simply. Backstage the officials observed the men walking about in a relaxed condition – so strutting, no flexion. In repose the full roundness of the incomparable Grimek shoulders was so convincing that all doubt was instantly removed. The only serious question then rose: who would be rated second and who third? This is what caused the long discussion among the judges at that contest, which was commented at great length upon in some of the muscle magazines. Shoulders had won over biceps.
Nature can be trusted as the most efficient of all muscle “carpenters”; she always builds up the proper muscle structure when the body makes the right and natural demand. Well-rounded deltoids are not an accident; they emphasize arm development because of the shortening effect they give the upper arm. The sweep of the Grimek deltoid adds much to the muscular bulk of his biceps. You simply cannot have a perfect arm unless the deltoid is developed, too, because the shoulder is necessary to give power to the arm. The best lifters are noted for shoulder development. You may say, at the point, “who cares about deltoids – what I want is an eighteen-inch biceps.” The point I would like to make is that an eighteen-inch arm (providing you can get it) without comparable deltoid development will not look as big as a sixteen-inch arm biceps which has proper shoulder muscles to go with it.
In carefully considering the impressive points of the male physique, the average judge’s eyes will start at the top. the breadth of the shoulders receives careful consideration before any other part of the body receives attention. In my own experience as a contest judge, I have eliminated many men from the competition at this very first glance because their deltoid development did not measure up to championship calibre. And, again, many other men who did not possess comparable development below the shoulders have been given a chance in the contest because of outstanding shoulders.
What do we look for in the perfect male physique? Certainly our first consideration must be given to that part of their muscular equipment which accentuates maleness. We do not look for the soft curves of the female; we regard with horror the current tendency to over-development of the male pectoral muscles. We do not want broad hips. We look instinctively for wide shoulders; the V-taper from armpits to waist; the swelling outward curve of the thighs and an adequate muscular calf development. And of all these things, powerful shoulders count first.
These little book is intended as a specialized treatise on the arms and shoulders, but we believe all specialization must be considered in the light of the whole physique; each part must be a harmonious portion of the whole. We might interject at this point a bit of advice to the serious bodybuilder. Your chances as a competitor will be greatly enhanced if you constantly check your standard against that of the officials who will judge you. If you have good development in three key places, you improve your position. These three parts are: the shoulders – the V taper formed by the latissimus dorsi of the back – and outstanding calf development. Three equally important drawbacks to the perfect physique should also be eliminated: Under-development of the deltoids in comparison with the arms – an unsightly over-development of both latissimus and pectorals (particularly the pectorals) – and ungainly thigh and hip development (particularly the sagging inner thigh muscles just above the knee).
Having now issued my official warning, after the manner of an arresting officer (“anything you say may be used against you”), let us return to the real meat of this volume – the development of the arms and shoulders. Can everybody secure an eighteen-inch arm? This depends largely upon the individual, for throughout the world there are no two men alike in their potentials. The small man has a smaller potential than the six-footer, naturally. Anyone under 5’ 6” who develops sixteen-and-a-half-inch arms will look just as good as the fix-footer who has 18”. Yet many men around 5’ 6” have developed 18” arms. We offer Roy Hilligenn (Mr. America 1951) as an example. John Grimek stands 5’ 8½” and has full 18” arms. The largest shapely muscular arms of which we have record were those of Louis Uni (Apollon), who possessed over 20” biceps with matching deltoids. Our old training partner, John McWilliams, got his arms up to well over 20”. McWilliams is a strong six feet, and Apollon stood about 6’ 4”. We would conclude that anybody with fair bone structure and leverage who stands 5’ 7” or taller has a potential of 18” arms.
Structure has quite a bit to do with arm development. We have always thought that John Grimek had the ideal muscular leverage, and that this accident of birth gave him a great advantage in attaining his position as the best-developed man of his era. The length of the upper-arm bones in relation to those of the forearm makes the difference between a good “natural” presser and a poor one. Further, the point of insertion of the biceps and brachialis in the bones of the forearm determine whether or not a man will be a “natural” curler. Actually, the poorer your leverage, the greater your potentialities for muscular development to compensate for it.
We have watched many new men come into the gymnasium and start on a standard course of barbell exercise. Some of these men grew like weeds in a garden; their biceps immediately took on shape and size, completely filling the upper arm with a ball-like lump of muscle. Others, using exactly the same exercise, failed to get such development. Why? The reason was the difference in arm leverage. We have also noticed that every individual arm has a slightly different shape. Some have full, thick biceps which crowd the joint, and others have a hump close to the shoulder and a long low space several inches in length at the insertion in the elbow. All anyone can do is to fully develop the type of arm which he possesses.
We are constitutionally allergic to long, dry-as-dust anatomical discussions about bones, muscles and sinews, so now, let us turn to a consideration of ways and means to develop these muscles.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The One Arm Military Press
by Sig Klein (1937)
Before the Olympic lifts became the standard of amateur weight lifters, as far as champion caliber is concerned, the One Arm Military Press was one of the main tests of one’s strength.
If an athlete could properly perform a one arm military with 90 lbs. he was considered strong regardless of what he could do on other lifts. All athletes of strength would try their ability at this almost forgotten lift, for it was a lift that could be practiced by all.
In performing the Two Arm Military Press today (which I have always called the Olympic Press) the athlete is allowed to spread his feet apart, but in the One Arm Military Press strict rules are still followed, and the lift is just what it is called – a press while at military attention.
There are two ways that the lift has been performed. The athlete could use his discretion regarding what to do with his free arm. He could keep it at the side of his left thigh (assuming that he is pressing with the right arm), or he could hold it out at right angles to the shoulder. The strictest way would be holding the arm at the thigh, for that would be more in keeping with “Military Attention.”
For record attempts a dumbell would always be used and the athlete would spread his feet just far enough to allow the weight to be straddled. He would then lean over, and in a rather quick clean pull the weigh to the shoulder, and almost at the same time snap his heels together and start getting his body braced for the lift. Here is where a little so-called “science” can be used.
The elbow is carried back a bit, the handle of the weight must be in line with the chin, and now the athlete can get his back rigid. He contracts his thighs, and at the same time his buttocks. This gives him stability and a firmness which the beginning does not realize is important in all overhead pressing. Here is where the lifter can use discretion as to how he wants to hold his free arm. If he holds it at the side he can, by pressing against his thigh and tensing his arm, give himself rigidness. He can also get almost the same effect by keeping his arm at right angles to the shoulder, and tense his upper back, by pressing it in a downward motion. All this is done by the experienced One Arm Military presser, but it is not apparent. It is just about all the “science” there is to the lift. Eyes are kept looking straight ahead. Some lifters will keep the palm of the hand facing them throughout the lift, while others may turn it just the least bit toward the front, which is also permissible, and may be of some help. Now the weight is slowly but steadily pressed over the head, without the body swaying front, back, left or right.
There are three more very important factors in improving this lift. They are:
One should start by using a weight that can be done five times. The fifth press should feel as though it is your limit, if you were doing just one lift. The weight should be increased to a point where only four presses can be done, and so on, until you have reached your limit to the point of performing one press.
This routine is only for the One Arm Military Press proper. Other exercises should be done in your regular routine to assist in strengthening your arm, shoulder, and sides:
1.) The regular One Arm Press exercise is invaluable, and should be performed up to fifteen repetitions, to get the most out of development. All deltoid exercises should be practiced as the deltoids play a most important part in this lift.
2.) Using weights that allow for fifteen repetitions (you can work this up to fifteen from a start of ten), hold the weights at the side of the body, with straight arms, raise them out sideways to the height of the head, then lower slowly to starting position.
3.) Now holding the weights at the front of your thighs, with the knuckles up and straight arms, alternate raising them forward overhead and then back to the thighs.
4.) Holding the weights out in front of you, knuckles up and keeping them in line with the shoulders, cross the weights, first allowing the left arm to go over the right, then ‘open’ so that the weights are straight out at right angles as in ‘muscling out’. Then carry them forward again, this time allowing the right arm to go over the left. Do not sway the body in these exercises.
This is a most valuable exercise for the development of the deltoids. Naturally your one arm pressing will require and develop strong triceps, and they should be given plenty of work. If you can do handbalancing, that should be a regular part of your training, particularly hand stand push-ups. Many lifters who excel at pressing have used this exercise.
Sandow has performed 121 pounds in the One Arm Military Press. Saxon has done 127, but I believe he could do much more. I understand that the weight he used was a barbell, and it was one that the Saxon Trio used in their act. Saxon would sometimes ‘warm up’ backstage by one arm military pressing this weight. It was done very impromptu. Since Saxon never cared much about any other record save the Bent Press, he gave his record out as 127 lbs. This he did many, many times, and I have been informed on several occasions that he could quite easily One Arm Military Press this weight three times in succession.
John Grimek has done a One Arm Military Press here at my gymnasium with a 120 lb. barbell three times in succession. He just took his coat off and said, “Watch this, Klein,” and he pressed the first two reps as perfect as possible and then leaned the slightest bit sideways on his third press. It was the best pressing I have ever seen as far as sheer strength of this type is concerned.
Walter Podolak has often military pressed a solid 100 lb. dumbell five times in succession, here at the gym. Jack Kent has done 108 lbs. John Garon has done 100 lbs. These lifters all range in weight from 165 to 210 lbs. I have performed this lift officially with 98 lbs. while at a bodyweight of 146 lbs.
If an athlete can do one-half of his body weight he has a fairly good One Arm Military Press. If he can do two-thirds of his body weight he can be considered exceptionally strong, and very few athletes have succeeded in doing this.
There was a lifter by the name of Meyer who press 145 lbs. in this style: While performing at the circus he would be tied to a post, from ankle to chest, leaving only his right arm free. He would then be handed the 145 lb. dumbell and would then proceed to press it in so-called military style. Naturally he could not do this much free from the post, but the general public thought that he could do much more if he was ‘free’. This was, of course, exactly the impression he wanted to create.
I think that the One Arm Military Press is still one of the best tests of strength, and should be practiced by all lifters. Remember to do it with the left arm as well as the right, even though you may not be able to handle as much weight this way.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Joe Zimmerman, holding the Cyr dumbell in his teeth and at that same time rolling Bob Hoffman's 217 lb. bell up his back. 1936.
Some Problems of Intensification of Weight Training
by Fima Feigin M.S. (1984)
Mr. Feigin is a native of the Soviet Union and immigrated to the United States in 1978. He received his training at the Institute of Physical Culture in Leningrad and received an Honors diploma. He holds a Masters Degree in Physical Therapy and title of Master of Sports in Foil Fencing in which he has had experience in coaching for 15 years, during which time he prepared fencers for Olympic competition. He is one of the organizers and trainers of the Soviet Bodybuilding Federation. He started his career in the United States as Director of European Sports at Bob Gajda’s Physical Institute in Glenn Ellyn, Illinois and is now a full time therapist at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and sports medicine division of Mount Sinai Medical Center. He has contributed to many publications over the years and aside from all this he’s a good ole boy and one helluva human being to boot.
The rapid development of the modern sport of weightlifting has brought about new methodological and pedagogical problems. Mostly it is a problem of intensifying the training process.
How can one achieve maximal results from a minimal period training?
How does one abbreviate the period of preparation of the international level athlete from five to seven, to three to four years?
How can this problem be solved, and what are its components?
It is possible to answer that question without deep analysis of all components of weightlifting training – physical, technical, psychological, tactical, and theoretical. The theoretical preparation today becomes more and more important.
What are the values of the above components in terms of significance? We can confirm that the decisive factor in weightlifting preparation is the total physical condition of the athlete and the degree of his motor quality development. There is also no doubt that it is the technical preparation, because technique in sport depends on the maximum realization of the physical possibilities of the athlete in competition. It is also a psychological preparation, because in the case of physical and technical equality of athletes, those athletes who are psychologically superior are the winners. The last factor is tactical preparation. The athlete may be a great tactician, but if he yields to his opponents in physical, technical, and psychological preparation, he does not have much of a chance of winning.
It is necessary to give an all-around analysis to each of those components and to find more rational methods of developing the insufficient qualities of the athlete.
Let’s take physical preparation, for example. It is very well known that it is composed of general and special aspects. There are no straight proportions between general physical condition and athletic results, but at the same time there is a clear and direct connection between special physical preparation and attained athletic level in competition. Because of that indisputable fact, the dominant role in the proper training of the qualified athlete belongs to special physical preparation. What qualities should be developed during the special physical preparation? They must be placed in the following sequence; Power, speed, flexibility, and endurance. At the present time, an analytical approach is necessary for a better understanding of the meaning of each and every quality. For instance, power is both static and dynamic. Dynamic power, in turn, is divided into eccentric, or overcoming power, concentric power, and ballistic power. Speed or velocity has its own characteristics: Speed or reaction, speed of single movement, ability to start the movement with maximum speed, etc.
In weightlifting we need dynamic power in its full display and manifestation, plus speed of single movement and power endurance. Power should be the product of special motor quality development of different muscle groups and body links, and primarily of leg and trunk extensors. This is especially important for the ability to perform the first and second pull. In the structure of any athletic movement there are so-called accentuated components, or parts and phases. Each one is very important for general performance of the whole classical exercise. In weightlifting exercises the leading role belongs to lifting the bar in a second pull, then to push off from the chest in the clean & jerk.
Selecting the best method and means of training from the large amount available is most important for intensifying the entire preparation of the athlete from his first step to an international level. It consists of the possibility to select all rational, real and necessary means and to avoid any extra or harmful efforts. Every exercise should be analyzed from the point of view that it corresponds to some individual peculiarity of the athlete.
Structural analysis sometimes brings absolutely unexpected clues to weaknesses, and promotes the manifestation of the still undiscovered possibilities for improving the training process. Not so long ago there was an opinion that in weightlifting training it was necessary to apply mostly heavy weights. This training guarantees power development, but at the same time constantly reduces the speed of movement, which can negatively inhibit coordination and technical improvement.
With tempo exercise, this point of view has now been revised and we have the big “growth” results in the snatch and clean & jerk.
One more example: During a long period of time there was the opinion that the perfect techniques in weightlifting had been developed and that all possibilities of improvement had already been explored. Now this opinion is revised, and the results have shown in the record books. The evolution of weightlifting consists of a large number of such examples.
However, there are many aspects of training still waiting their turn to be revised. One interesting problem is the connection between physical preparation and technical improvement of the athlete. In individual phases of classical exercise the muscles of the athlete are working in different developmental areas: dynamically, statically, ballistically, etc. To that phase and character of muscle work should be added similar assistance exercises and a training regime of different components of the movements, and a good understanding of the biodynamic structure of the whole motion. In everyday training practice these methods are very often neglected.
For example, jumping out of a half squat in the snatch position, many athletes perform from a position that is radically different than the position that precedes the second pull. Based on a physiological principal of transferring pattern, that exposes a glaring mistake – declination of the trunk in the final phase of the second pull. We have to notice that it is a very common mistake, that considerably decreases the athlete’s results. It is very important in weightlifting to develop different muscle groups according to their degree of effort in a whole classical competitive lift. Much research was done in search of proportions between legs, trunk, arms, and shoulder girdle extensors. The strength of the arms and shoulders relative to the total leg power should be in the proportion of 40%. It is obvious that after deleting the press from Olympic weightlifting, the amount and regularity of pressing exercises has to be reduced, but that index of proportionate strength should stay the same – somewhere between 40-41%. The optimal proportion between different muscle groups in terms of strength must be the special target of the lifter’s training process.
If the power growth in a leg extensor gradually starts to outdistance the power development of the trunk extensors, it immediately starts to show in the lifter’s technique. The athlete starts to lift with an accent on the more powerful muscles of the legs. The trunk extensors, in that case, prematurely stop working because of back declination. In the final phase of the second pull they are not working to full capacity. This mistake considerably decreases the scope of movement. To correct that defect as soon as possible, it is necessary to develop not only powerful leg extensors, but trunk extensors also, using a wide deadlift with straight legs and back hyperextensions with the weights behind the neck.
Some research shows that the increase of amplitude during the basic phases of the movement could increase the total result some 7-10 kg. Some combinations of old and new methods could bring a positive effect. In the first stage of training when proper pattern formation is so important, it could be very useful to use an isokinetic regime of basic phase performance. The slow speed of the bar during the whole range of motion allows the athlete to concentrate on his voluntary efforts through the distance and amplitude of the movement. It promotes simultaneous involvement of a large amount of motor units, reinforcement of the muscle tension to maximum and better quality motor skill development. It allows one to extend the pulling motion and prolong its time, which is very important for the snatch, where the barbell has to be lifted a considerable height. In close connection to other methods and exercises, the isokinetic regime could be used for power development of athletes of different qualifications, and most importantly, could be focused on increasing power potency in those phases of classical movements where the inertia of the barbell sharply decreases. Isokinetic efforts have to be performed after classical exercises and exercises for speed. Research has shown that novices are successful in developing POWER by working with different weights, both light and heavy. Moreover, during the first stages of training, PROPER TECHIQUES are mastered sooner when a specific, pre-selected weight is used. This also applies to highly qualified athletes.
In the first stage of training there is nothing wrong with using slightly static loads, because they promote faster adaptation and perfection of technique. Novices are usually unable to lift heavy weights, not due to lack of power, but due to the fact that the proper motor patterns have not been ingrained. These motor patterns can be better developed in the first stages of training by working with relatively light weights (60% of maximum). Production of the maximum effort needed while performing a heavy lift demands a lot of coordination. This is a very difficult task for a novice, since he often uses muscle groups in addition to those which participate directly in a lift. So the application of an adequate, relatively static load in the early training stage is proper because the athlete is not ready to channel his power in the specific directions required.
In each stage of weightlifting, preparation is very important to reach the highest result in the shortest period of time with the help of different methods, spending less time and less energy in each workout. This might be obtained by proper selection of rational forms of training.
Some exercises which structurally and biodynamically are close to the clean & jerk or snatch, like a pull (differing from narrow to wide grip) from starting position with straight legs, slow elevation of the bar along the body, and a very fast drop to a low squat, should be practiced diligently.
For strengthening the wrist and finger grip, we recommend performing all heavy lifts without straps, belts, etc. – with alterations of different types and widths of grip. As I have noticed, American athletes like to use assistive devices in workout out, constantly decreasing their efficiency in competition.
Special attention should be paid to strengthening knee and ankle joints by implementing plyometric methods and including such activities as jumping exercises – such as jumping down from a box or Swedish wall (from from 135-200 cm. height). First onto a soft, and then onto a hard surface, with more resistance in landing.
Some optional proportions also have to be developed: first of all, the power and speed of muscle contraction. Many athletes include speed exercises in the last part of a program and perform them when their body is already fatigued, although it is well known that such exercises should be performed at the very beginning of a workout, after a good warmup.
Competition shows that many athletes do not have stability. As a rule, their attempts to lift maximum weight at the start often bring them to the zero mark in competitions. The main reason here is their failure to build up muscle efforts with adequate weights. It depends on very specific qualities of the athlete – proprioceptive sense, muscle-joint proprioception. However, very few coaches pay enough attention to the development of that quality.
The technical-tactical preparation of the athlete consists of increasing his ability to distinguish the starting competitive weights and to perform all three attempts successfully and with the highest possible results in final attempts. This ability depends on the degree of development of the basic biodynamic patterns or technique, on the degree of stability and reliability, and on some physiological qualities – such as muscular sensation. Under that term (stability) we include all mental and physical possibilities of athletes in any competitive condition under any psychological tension and pressure to concentrate on correct movement and to perform classical weightlifting exercises under full control with full power.
In this article I would like to underline some aspects of that training – such as increasing kinesio-proprioception, and muscle control, which are very important for understanding and determining the degree of physical effort focused on a bar loaded to a particular weight.
It is impossible to improve technique in such a sports as weightlifting without development of the ability to analyze and estimate one’s own movement. While performing classical exercise with weights, the athlete can not use his visual control. He does not see the barbell or his own bodyparts; the leading role belongs to a motor analyzer.
Technical improvement is possible only with the parallel development of delicate muscle-joint sensation and the ability to understand the information given about body movement from one’s own proprioception. If the athlete and his coach neglect this part of training, the athlete will probably never fully control his body, even after many years of training.
What methods of muscle-joint sensation development are simple and available to help the athlete in his everyday workout? First of all, the concept of trajectory of the bar. With a piece of chalk attached to the end of a barbell, a diagram is drawn on a chalk board as the athlete lifts the barbell. The trajectory will show mistakes in the lifting technique. For example, it can show if the bar was lifted high enough or not; how far the bar was from the lifter’s body; or how close to it, in the first pull phase/ if the quantity of approximation of the bar to the lifter’s body in the second pull was correct or not, etc.
Then the coach and athlete together analyze the movements and determine areas for improvement. Before starting the next lift, the coach should give the athlete a concrete order, a concrete motor task – for example, to approach the bar in a first pull at 4 inches, etc. The athlete performing an exercise on the basis of his sensation (without looking at the result and diagram on the slate board) has to estimate the movements and then express the trajectory of the bar in objective quantities (inches, centimeters or even millimeters). Repeatedly performed exercises will help to make the correction.
It is well known that the structure of the body is asymmetrical. Due to this fact, during a lift, the athlete has the tendency to turn the bar slightly to one side. This should be taken into consideration in a process of motor skill formation. It is also important to write the trajectory from one side of the barbell several times, then from the other; and on the basis of difference find out the real trajectory, the trajectory of the center. It might be considerably different in comparison to the previous diagrams. After correction, the right trajectory of the bar should then be drawn on the board several times.
A method that can give good results in that type of training is exercising with closed eyes, with the lifter’s attention focused on internal perception. After that, the lifter should describe his perceptions and appraise them.
Some research shows that exercises performed with a bandage over the eyes of an athlete were executed more accurately and sharply, with less faults. With eyes closed, it is easier for the athlete to concentrate on his body signals and to remember degrees of tension in working muscles and range of joint movements. The sensations in this kind of training become more refined. Very good results might be obtained by performing exercises in complete darkness, with the eyes open. As the lifter assumes the starting position, the lights should be turned out. Simply closing the eyes is not that desirable, since the tension on the eye muscles disturbs concentration on muscle-joint sensation. A blindfold made of soft black fabric should be used instead when possible. The solo lifter will have to assume the starting position of the chosen lift before lowering the blindfold.
Some visible muscle information, like biofeedback, could be a great deal of help. An athlete can compare his subjective muscular perception with the objective registration of his movements. The training process should also include some modern electronic techniques like video, dynamographics, and trajectory acceleration of the barbell.
And lastly, or possibly firstly, a requirement of the whole training process is the necessity to pay more attention to the cultural aspects of working out – the atmosphere of the gym; the absence of noise, and common discipline.
So, the proper plan of training could consist of careful analysis by all means, and careful selection of the type of exercises and their schedules, applied to each individual.
All the methods described above will give lifters new possibilities and methods for reaching higher levels, cutting down the length of time needed to learn the fundamentals, and learning how to avoid wrong and useless movements.
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