Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Specialization Programs - Don Pfeiffer







Specialization Programs
by Don Pfeiffer (1982)


In order to reach your maximum potential in any endeavor it is necessary that you specialize on it. That is, you must focus the majority of your energy towards achieving that objective, no matter what it may be. You can’t, for example, attend medical and law school simultaneously and expect to do well at both. Along these same lines, is powerlifting, or for that matter getting to a very high number on any chosen lift. If you ever want to reach your true potential in any one lift, you’ll have to specialize on that lift at various points in your progression.

Some of the most famous lifters of all time have specialized on one lift. Bob Peoples, the first amateur to deadlift 700 pounds, used to train exclusively on that lift at times, while Paul Anderson, through the use of specialization techniques, was able to set outstanding records in the squat. Mike MacDonald, by devoting his training time almost exclusively to the bench press, has at one time held world records in four different weight classes.

Because of the demands of competition, most powerlifters are unable to specialize on any one lift to any great degree. Too much time spent on one lift can often reduce efficiency in the other lifts. Since the winner in powerlifting competitions is the person with the highest total of the three lifts, it would not be very wise to concentrate on a single lift to the point that your other lifts suffer, unless your main intention was not to win, but rather to see how much weight you could handle for a particular lift.

Powerlifters will usually specialize on a lift for two different reasons. Either they have a preference for a particular lift, or one lift is lagging behind the others. A heavyweight who can squat and deadlift 800 but can only bench 350 is obviously in dire need of a specialization program for his bench press.

Basically there are two avenues one can take when going on any specialization program. The first, and most practical method for most lifters, is to give one lift priority and place the other lifts on a maintenance program. The second method is a total specialization program whereby your work only one lift and eliminate all work for the other lifts.

When applying the first method the following rules are recommended. Let’s use the bench press as an example.

1.) Always perform the bench press first in your workouts. This will insure that you’re fresh and able to exert maximum effort for your workout. Even better would be to spend your entire workout on the bench press, and work your other lifts on a separate day.

2.) Don’t hold anything back. You must go all-out on every bench press workout. Don’t save yourself for your next workout. Every workout you should attempt to improve yourself.

3.) Reduce the frequency of your bench press workouts. Because of he increased intensity, your body will require more time to properly recuperate. For most people two bench press workouts per week is sufficient. Some of you, however, may require even less frequent work. A general rule to follow is that the stronger you get, the less frequent your workouts need to be.

4.) Reduce the amount of work for your other lifts. 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 7 reps performed once or twice a week should be sufficient for you to maintain your existing base strength level and keep you familiar with the movements.

5.) When you find yourself going stale, terminate the specialization program and return to a normal program.

Here is a sample routine based on 4 workouts per week. Monday and Friday are bench press days. Tuesday is squat day, while Thursday is for deadlifting. for the squat and deadlift you will use 5-7 sets of 5-7 reps, and will work these lifts only once a week.

Your bench press workout will be performed in a stepladder (full pyramid) scheme. The rep layout would be 10-8-6-4-2-2-4-6-8-10. Choose a weight that allows you to perform the desired number of repetitions for the first five sets. For the backside (second five sets), use the same weights but go all-out attempting to do as many reps as possible. When you can perform more reps for EACH SET on the last five sets than on the first five sets, increase the weight for all sets.

On Mondays this workout will be supplemented by 6 sets of heavy dips done for 3 to 4 reps. On Friday you will perform overloads. Take a weight in excess of your best single effort and have two spotters take the weight off the supports for you. You then lower the bar very slowly. When it touches your chest attempt to drive it upwards. Your spotters will help you lift the weight. This method will accustom you to heavier weights. You should perform single reps. 3 to 5 such sets should be all that’s needed.

For those of you who want to devote themselves entirely to one lift, the best method that I can suggest is the rest pause method used by George Irving Nathinson back in the late forties and early fifties.

Working out 3 times every 2 weeks and then taking a week off, Nathinson would perform 100 sets of 1 rep taking a one minute rest between singles. This was his entire workout. No less, no more. He would use the same weight for each of the 100 single reps.

Before I go any further, many of you are probably wondering, “Just who IS this George Irving Nathinson?”

Although he never entered any formal competitions, he was certainly one of the strongest men of that time for his bodyweight. Listed below are but a few of his feats of strength, all verified by several witnesses:

Age 14, Bodyweight 140 pounds, lifted 300 pounds to his shoulders.
Age 16, 160 pounds, push-press of 300 pounds.
Age 18, 175, push-press of 300 pounds for 8 reps. 20 consecutive squats with 415.

Unfortunately he had to give up lifting because of the demands of work and school.

There was, however, one small problem. Nathinson found that when on the program he required an unusually high amount of sleep. Up to 18 hours the day following a workout and 12-13 hours on subsequent days.

Many of you may find this program too severe or impractical for your purposes. If this is the case with you I suggest that you reduce the workload somewhat. 35 to 50 singles with a minute rest between each should prove to be sufficient.

By following the guidelines set forth in this article, anyone who wants or needs to specialize on a specific lift should find success. Bear in mind that the second method, total specialization on one lift, is not recommended for any great length of time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Lifter and Chronic Shoulder Injuries - Jeff Everson















The Lifter and Chronic Shoulder Injuries
by Jeff Everson (1984)




While it seems that the knee has taken the medical community’s attention by storm, I feel the shoulder is guilty of causing an equal amount, if not more, consternation amongst power lifters. The shoulder is cursed with muscles and tendons that are often being torn, stretched, strained and pinched. Because of this design fault, any athlete who repetitively stresses this joint is cruising for a bruising. Since the shoulder is uniquely subject to overuse injury, it does not usually confine itself to sudden, single, traumatic grief but usually falls apart, so to speak.

The motion of the joint is really motion involving four joints. As the arm bone moves away from the body, the first 30 or so degrees is glenohumeral motion. Next, a small bit of motion occurs at the scapulothoracic and acromio-clavicular joints. All of this is only important to you when you understand the ligaments and muscles that work with these motions. I will not discuss recurrent subluxation or dislocations as the are usually acute types of injuries that a football player might suffer rather than a lifter. However, repeated applications of force through training at low levels can cause inflammation and calcification at ligament attachments to the bone, which can lead to capsular calcifications.

I won’t get into detailed anatomy and function, only enough to relate to the common problems lifters experience. The head of the large arm bone has attached to it, the supraspinatus, infraspinatus teres minor and subscapularis. These are the infamous rotator cuff muscles. Between two attachment points there is a groove in which the long head of the bicep sits. During the movement of abduction (lateral movement away from the midline of the body; moving the upper arm up to the side away from the body), the innocent rotator cuff muscle tendons and a bursa sac get absolutely nailed by a bony thing called the acromion. The acromion is an attachment point for the deltoids, and it restricts space for underlying structures so, during motion, we get what’s called impingement. Then there is the deltoid muscle group that you are all familiar with. It has multiple origins and a common insertion on the humerus. Therefore, it can handle flexion, abduction and extension. [Ain’t it strange how many lifters don’t know their own anatomy but can dismantle a car engine in their head while eating dinner.] Because in power lifters it is so thick, it often covers up other structures, making injury diagnosis difficult; however, the deltoid ITSELF is rarely injured. The rotator cuff muscles function to hold the head of the big arm bone to the arm socket and, it seems, to give lifters grief. They collectively rotate the shoulder, both internally and externally. The tendons of the cuff pass through the acromial space between the acromion process and the head of the arm bone. The bursa is supposed to lubricate the passage. At 90 degrees the space of passage is the smallest. If the cuff muscles are weak or painful the head of the arm bone can drift and pinch the bursa and tendons against that acromion. With repeated bouts of this impingement the tendons suffer damage, scarring and degeneration; as does the bursa. So powerlifters, please strengthen your cuff muscles separately, especially if you bench wide grip with elbows out.

The same motions that nail the cuff muscles also nail the long head biceps tendon. Many times you lifters will have both bicep tendonitis AND cuff impingement. This is about all the anatomy I care to bore you with, but it was basic to the discussion that follows.

The three symptoms to look at are pain, instability, and weakness. Let’s be honest, pain is the biggest headache for a powerlifter. Usually this pain is due to overuse, pure and simple. With weightlifting above shoulder level, such as takes place in the bench press, impingement of the cuff and bicep tendon will often occur. Occasionally this activity will lead to damage in the acromio-clavicular joint too. Many bench pressers develop arthritis and instability in the AC joint which can force a functional, low degree of separation; thus the Doc tells you that you have a separated shoulder. If you experience pain while doing lateral raises, inclines and overhead presses then you have rotator cuff problems. If you get pain doing curls or turning a doorknob of doing deadlifts, then you have bicep tendonitis.

WHERE the pain occurs is also a key factor to the diagnosis of your problem. A lot of inexperienced practitioners may relate pain at the deltoid attachment to torn deltoid fibers and inject steroids there, when the real problem is the cuff and the sensation is merely radiating pain from that point.

Let’s look at some of the symptoms and probable diagnoses. If there is an abnormal bump on the AC joint there may be a separation de to arthritis or calcification at that point, assuming that you have not suffered a traumatic incident such as a fall. In cases where there is suspicion of a cuff injury of long standing, you may have shrunken supraspinatus muscles on the back, right above the shoulder blade. You also may have weakness when externally rotated. If you stand erect and raise your arm in forward flexion and it is painful to do so, especially near the top, that’s probably some rotator cuff inflammation. When raising the arm to the side, if impingement is the thing, you will have maximum pain at the 90-degree position. Then pain may recede as you continue. If you can have someone else move your arm passively farther than you can actively, then that is also cuff impingement. In chronic cases of cuff problems, probably both the cuff and bursa are messed up. If there is pain when you place your forearm behind your back, this indicates cuff and bursa problems. If you have pressure applied to external rotation with the arm at the side, this will usually isolate out the cuff because the bursa is not compressed in this position as much. You can actually find bicep tendonitis by yourself by pressing hard along the groove in the upper arm bone and following it up. Uncommon tenderness on one side compared to the normal side, if there is one, indicates tendonitis. With actual tears of some magnitude, such as in the lats or the pecs, there will be swelling and firmness in the area and if more severe, there will be a noticeable gap and some softness to the tissue.

I can often isolate an injury by manual muscle testing. At 90 degrees of abduction and about 25 degrees of forward flexion and a bit of internal rotation with resistance, you are testing the strength of he supraspinatus which is weak and painful with the cuff injuries. You can also do an external rotation test at the side. The bicep, of course, can be tested by resisted flexion and supination for tendonitis and weakness. Severe aching of the whole shoulder at sleep-time indicates probable cuff inflammation.

If you hear popping and clicking, that’s crepitus due to friction and uneven surfaces. This is common in cuff degeneration too. AC arthritic causes this sound too. To really nail in a confirmation of cuff impingement, raise your arm over your head when it is totally internally rotated or turned in. That will really bust ya if you have cuff and bursa impingement. If the passive movement of taking the arm in standing across the chest produces pain, that’s in the AC joint.

If, when your shoulder is thoroughly examined, you find that range of motion and strength are normal then you do not have a serious injury, more than likely just the old lifting syndrome of severe overuse-itis.

There’s More to Squats Than Just Bending the Knees - Clarence Ross




https://www.createspace.com/3475315



There’s More to Squats Than Just Bending the Knees
by Clarence Ross (1954)


With the current popularity of the bench press as the favorite bodybuilding movement, the squat, formerly known as the King of Exercises, has been neglected to some extent in training programs.

This does not mean that lifters ignore the squat today, for the majority of them practice some version of it in their workouts. It does mean, unfortunately, that trainers of the present are in many cases less squat-conscious than those before, and merely perform them because they are considered a ‘standard’ exercise, oftentimes treating them as a necessary evil.

In my opinion this approach is wrong, for while certain exercises my temporarily replace squats from a popularity standpoint, through the years squats have maintained an unbroken record as the “best” exercise, one which will do the most, in more ways, than any other exercise.

The correct use of squats can promote rapid bodyweight gains. Certain varieties can build enormous strength and power. Others build up endurance and the size of the chest, while many a sticking point in training has been broken by a concentrated squatting program.

Squats can be adapted to meet any training need or condition . . . are used by weightlifters to give them the basic power necessary for competition. They can be used by the fitness-seeking business man as a splendid body toner to keep him in shape, or by athletes in any sport seeking to improve endurance and muscular coordination.

Naturally, different variations of the squat bring about different results. One type cannot serve all requirements. That is why it is important that you learn exactly how to make the squat work for you, so that the time and energy you spend on them will give you the exact results you desire. That is the main purpose of this small article and full analysis of several squat variations will be included in its contents.

First, I believe that the reader might enjoy learning something about the background and development of the squat, and will consider that now.

While credit for real interest in the squat as an outstanding exercise must be rewarded to Mark Berry, who waged an out-and-out crusade in its favor some 20 years ago, there can be no doubt squats in some form were used by both professional and amateur athletes many years prior. In George Hackenschmidt’s book, “The Way To Live”, published in 1908 (the edition that I refer to bears that date, though there may have been earlier printings), he gives mention to Max Danthage, who on June 4, 1899 performed 6,000 deep knee bends without added weight other than that supplied by his body, within a period of three hours, which averages out to one squat every 1.8 seconds for three hours.

H. Sell, Saxony, is credited with 7 repetitions with 400 pounds on January 21, 1899.

Reference is also made to H.P. Hansen, Copenhagen, who performed 65 repetitions with 277 pounds on March 19, 1899.

Undoubtedly, Sandow, Maxick, Pandour and other of the oldtime greats used squats to some extent in their training, though not in the orderly arrangement of sets and reps we know and take for granted today. The old Milo Barbell Course, printed early in the 20th Century, contained deep knee bends as one of the exercises, so squats or knee bends of some sort have been practiced for many years.

It was not until the 1920’s that a real interest was shown in the squat as a test of strength. At that time Hermann Goerner and Henry Steinborn each succeeded with 500 pounds. Carl Moerke eclipsed that record; 2 repetitions with 550 and one with 565.

In the 1930’s, despite Mark Berry’s work in inspiring more bodybuilders to regularly practice the squat, strength performances remained substantially unchanged. The giant Strassberger had a success with 550 pounds; huge Canadian Chief Moquin equaled that performance, while Bert Assirati gave some idea of what the future held in store by making 10 repetitions with 550 pounds, which was the greatest squat feat up to that time (1930’s).

Authorities generally conceded that 600 pounds represented a maximum human limit, and for some period of time their views appeared accurate.

During the late 1940’s the pattern remained true. Weldon Bullock proved to be capable of 560 pounds, while Louis Abele made 540 for 3 reps.

Early in 1950, the great John Davis tested his strength in the squat and officially performed 565 pounds. Unofficial reports stated that he had made close to 600. He was generally considered to be the best man in the world in this feat.

Then – reports came from Canada about a new giant, Doug Hepburn, who was regularly breaking 600 pounds in training. In 1952, Doug had his chance to prove this to the world when he succeeded with 665. The feeling that prevailed was that no one could beat him.

But – as it turned out, some one could. At about this time stories were circulating, being told of another giant, Paul Anderson of the USA, who was boasting that he could beat Doug’s record, and beat it with ease. There were not idle boasts, for up to this time Anderson has made lifts of 685, 714, 740 and 760, all in front of reliable witnesses. In training, it is said that he made 800 pounds!

This brings the reader up to current date on the advances made in strength performances on the squat. While records have soared, bodybuilding knowledge has also gone forward, and many variations of the squat are now commonplace, which previously were not.

During the time of Mark Berry, the accepted way of performing the squat, for the most part, was one set, 20 repetitions, with as much weight as could be used. The style was the regular flat-footed version, still commonly used today.

John Grimek, Barton Horvath, Maurice Jones, Chick Deutsch, Lud Schusterich and other lifters of that time used the regular flat-footed squat extensively and reported sensational gains in strength, bodyweight and muscularity as a result.

In time, other bodybuilders developed certain preferences . . . Kimon Voyages found the parallel squat more to his liking, weightlifters such as Louis Abele discovered that the front squat helped him in lifting performance, while others practiced the squat with elevated heels or heels raised, light breathing squats and so on.

A number of varieties were developed in this way and with each, new discoveries were made about the benefits of the exercise.

Finally, the old-fashioned method of performing one set of 20 repetitions was replaced by the present system of performing less repetitions and more sets. This once again brought about new gains from the exercise for thousands.

Today, we possess a wealth of knowledge on the subject. We know what each type of squat can and will do if performed consistently with effort. There is no possibility of failure if the lifter knows what he wants and then trains accordingly. We know what high repetitions will accomplish and what low ones will do. We know when one variation is best or when another should be used. In other words, we have learned how to make squats work for us. Here are a few of the many possibilities.

1.) Regular Flat Footed Squat.
This variation of the squat has been performed more than any other. It is the type that Mark Berry first popularized and it embodies all the good features of the squat in a single variation. The bar is placed across the lower rear part of the shoulders. The lifter then squats down into a low position and immediately rises to a standing one again, using the strength of the legs, hips and low back combined. A deep breath is taken just prior to descent and the air is expelled from the lungs when returning to an erect stance. Regular practice of this style will encourage bodyweight gains and all-around power.

2.) Deep Breathing Squat.
This version is performed similar to the previous one, except that a comparatively lighter weight is employed and several deep breaths are taken between each repetition. The idea behind this method of squatting is that it encourages the building of a larger rib box and chest. This, added to the stimulating influence of the leg work often produces fast bodyweight gains in underweight individuals when combined with an increase in food consumption. Roger Eels was the first to popularize this style and it worked well for him, as it did for his followers. The one disadvantage of this type of squatting is that it does not build much strength. However, in cases of weak and underweight beginners it is definitely worth trying, particularly if after each set of deep-breathing squats a set of pullovers is performed. Usually, 3 sets of 20 to 30 repetitions each is recommended. example of this method of breathing is as follows: Repetitions 1 to 10: 3 breaths between each rep; repetitions 11 to 20: 4 breaths; repetitions 21 to 25: 5 breaths. Usually, 3 sets are recommended. I feel that this version of the squat, when combined with other exercises, is good for the man who wants an easy way of staying fit without following a lengthy program. It is also fine for athletes who need greater endurance in their sport.

3.) Heels Raised or Olympic Squat.
This version of the squat is performed with the bar behind the shoulders in a slightly higher position on the back. The descent is made to well below parallel and the back is kept flat and upright. Some bodybuilders feel that by raising their heels on a board, or using shoes with a slightly elevated heel, more effort is placed on the frontal thighs. In addition, they can maintain a more perfect balance. If the regular flat-footed “power” squat is not giving you the results you desire, I suggest trying this version for a time. Preferences seem pretty evenly split among lifters . . . some prefer the regular flat-footed power squat, others use the heels raised Olympic version. Only experience and a clear idea of what you desire will tell you which is for you.

4.) Wide Stance Squat.
When the legs are spread much further apart and the toes are turned out, the effects of the squat are felt more on the thigh biceps and the inner area of the upper thigh. If you have weaknesses in those areas, of a strength or physique nature, then the practice of the wide-stance squat will help. Higher reps, strict performance, and concentration on the task at hand are what is called for here.

5.) Parallel Squat.
Kimon Voyages, whose thighs were among the greatest in the world, advocates the parallel-depth squat. In a sense it can be called a “cheating” exercise, since the lifter descends only as far as parallel position. More weight can be used in this version than in the full squat, and great strength and thigh, hip and back muscle mass is built. In particular, heavy muscle is formed along the outer curve of the front thighs, giving a real “riding breeches” appearance. One other important point should be mentioned. Some lifers who tend to round their back when squatting below parallel and leave it open to strains and injury. The parallel squat can sometimes be used to overcome this problem. Because of its specific advantages of permitting the use of heavier weights and bulking up the thighs, the parallel squat is rapidly gaining in popularity. However, the one objection against it is that it does not seem to promote as much of a bodyweight increase as the regular flat footed variety. I suggest the that the beginner in training who is eager to gain weight fast practice the flat footed, regular-depth version first. Then, after he advances and gains most of the weight he wants, the parallel squat will help him too.

6.) Box or Bench Squat.
This is a real power builder. More actual squatting power and drive can be used in this version than in any other. The developmental advantages are similar to the parallel squat, but because the bodybuilder is partially supported under the thighs and buttocks by the bench when he reaches a depth of his choosing, he can command greater force in his recovery to standing position. Since this exercise is essentially a power movement, higher sets of lower reps are generally performed. If sets of 3 reps are followed, it is practical for an advanced lifter to go as high as 10 sets. It is also possible, by varying the height of the box, to strengthen a weak point in the regular squat.

7.) Quarter Squat.
Actually, this is not a squat at all, for the dip at the knees is so slight that few of the developmental features of the squat materialize. The quarter squat builds little muscle, but it does build support strength and accustom the lifter to holding very heavy weights across the shoulders, while the slight dip and straightening of the legs encourages the formation of ligament strength. A heavy enough weight should be used to ensure that drive and force will be put into the effort of straightening the knees, with the entire idea being one of building ligament strength and the ability to support greater weights, not increased muscle mass.

8.) Front Squat.
The weightlifter will find this version of the squat to be indispensable in developing a stronger squat-style clean, as well as snatch, ascent. The rack position at the shoulders is strengthened as well. The bodybuilder will find that the front squat will put him in the proper position to develop the frontal thigh muscles, especially those directly above the knee.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Culver City Westside Barbell Club - Dave Yarnell


Forgotten Secrets of The Culver City Westside Barbell Club by Dave Yarnell


The secrets of the most influential group of strength trainers of the 20th century are unveiled. The book is jam-packed with pictures, actual training programs and awesome stories about the original, Culver City Westside Barbell club, the Wild Bunch of West Virginia and the men that trained with them. This is a must-read for every serious strength athlete and a real treat for fans of Old School, Hard-Core strength training!!

8.5 x 11, 408 pages.


https://www.createspace.com/3682081

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Eight Week Intermediate-Beginner Bench Routine - Mike MacDonald





Eight Week Intermediate-Beginner Bench Routine
by Mike MacDonald (1983)


Here is an eight week bench pressing cycle for intermediate-beginner lifters, based on a personal max single of 250 pounds starting the cycle. The goal would be to increase the bench press 40 to 60 pounds during this cycle. On all benches you should concentrate on strictness and technique. The Cambered Bar can be used if you have one for the pause reps, but if you don’t, use a regular straight bar. Be sure to take 3 minutes between sets and 4 to 5 minutes between pause-rep sets for maximum progress.


Week One

Monday –
warmup:
135 x 5 reps for 2 sets
175 x 5 x 1
200 x 3 x 1
225 x 3 x 1
2-second pause reps:
200 x 3 x 1
190 x 3 x 1
EZ Curl Bar bench press, narrow grip:
max weight possible for 4 sets of 5

Wednesday –
Same as above.

Saturday –
warmup:
135 x 5 x 2
175 x 5 x 1
205 x 3 x 1
230 x 3 x 1
2-second pause reps:
205 x 3 x 1
195 x 3 x 1
EZ Curl bench press, narrow grip:
max weight possible for 4 sets of 5.


Week Two

Monday –
warmup:
135 x 5 x 2
175 x 5 x 1
205 x 3 x 1
240 x 4 x 1
2-second pause reps:
205 x 3 x 1
195 x 3 x 1
EZ Curl Bar bench press, close grip:
max weight possible for 4 sets of 5
Hammer Curl (thumbs up)
4 sets of 5, light weight (first day)

Wednesday –
Same as above.

Saturday –
warmup:
135 x 5 x 2
175 x 5 x 1
210 x 3 x 1
235 x 3 x 1
2-second pause reps:
210 x 3 x 1
200 x 3 x 1
EZ Curl Bar bench press, close grip:
max weight, 4 sets of 5
Hammer Curl:
6 sets of 5, add weight if possible today


Week Three.
Bench twice per week now.

Monday –
warmup:
135 x 5 x 2
175 x 5 x 1
210 x 3 x 1
235 x 3 x 1
2-second pauses:
210 x 3 x 1
200 x 3 x 1
190 x 3 x 1
EZ curl bench, narrow grip:
max weight, 4 sets of 5
Hammer Curl:
6 sets of 8, add weight only if possible

Friday –
warmup:
175 x 5 x 2
215 x 3 x 1
240 x 3 x 1
2-second pauses:
215 x 3 x 1
205 x 3 x 1
195 x 3 x 1
same as above on EZ Curl bench and Hammer Curl


Week Four

Monday –
warmup:
135 x 5 x 2
175 x 5 x 1
215 x 3 x 1
240 x 3 x 1
2-second pauses:
205 x 3 x 1
195 x 3 x 1
EZ Curl bench and Hammer Curl:
same, add weight if possible


Week Five

Monday –
warmup:
135 x 5 x 2
180 x 5 x 1
220 x 3 x 1
245 x 3 x 1
pause reps:
220 x 3 x 1
210 x 3 x 1
200 x 3 x 1
200 x 3 x 1
Same as above on assistance work

Friday –
warmup:
135 x 5 x 2
180 x 5 x 1
225 x 3 x 1
250 x 3 x 1
pause reps:
225 x 3 x 1
215 x 3 x 1
205 x 3 x 1
205 x 3 x 1
Same assistance work


Week Six
Go max today

Monday –
warmup:
135 x 5 x 2
180 x 5 x 1
220 x 1 x 1
250 x 1 x 1
270 x 1 x 1 (or 275)
pause reps:
215 x 3 x 1
205 x 3 x 1
205 x 3 x 1
same assistance work, increase weight when possible

Friday –
warmup:
135 x 5 x 2
185 x 5 x 1
230 x3 x 1
255 x 3 x 1
pause reps:
230 x 3 x 1
220 x 3 x 1
210 x 3 x 1
210 x 3 x 1
same assistance work


Week Seven

Monday –
warmup:
135 x 5 x 2
185 x 5 x 1
230 x 3 x 1
225 x 3 x 1
pause reps:
230 x 3 x 1
220 x 3 x
210 x 3 x 1
210 x 3 x 1
assistance work, increase weight when possible

Friday –
warmup:
135 x 5 x 2
185 x 5 x 2
235 x 3 x 1
260 x 3 x 1
pause reps:
235 x 3 x 1
225 x 3 x 1
215 x 3 x 1
215 x 3 x 1
same assistance


Last Week
max on Saturday

Tuesday –
warmup:
135 x 5 x 2
185 x 5 x1
235 x 3 x 1
260 x 3 x 1
pause reps:
235 x 3 x 1
225 x 3 x 1
215 x 3 x 1
215 x 3 x 1
same assistance

Saturday
Max Day –

warmup:
135 x5 x 2
185 x 5 x1
225 x 3 x 1
first attempt:
265
second attempt:
285
third attempt:
290 or 295

GOOD LUCK!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Pullover and Press on Back - Charles A. Smith

Click Pics to ENLARGE





The Pullover and Press on Back
by Charles A. Smith (1951)


A writer has to very careful these days. There’s lots of people around with educations – Yes Sir! Ten to one, if I call the press on back, “the prone press”, I get letters in the mail telling me that prone means “face down” and what do I mean by it. Of course they are right. “Prone” DOES mean face down, but public usage places the accolade of universal acceptance on the prone press title and I see no reason why I should fly in the face of opinion. Come to think of it, there’s more than a few thousand laboring under the delusion that Columbus discovered America, conveniently forgetting such worthies as Leif Ericson, John and Sebastian Cabot, the latter chancing upon Labrador and subsequently surveying over 1800 miles of the US Coastline. Then we have Magellan and last but not least, the American Indians. Yes, you sure have to watch your step or you find yourself misquoted and misunderstood. Simple words and phrases are best, as the famous author H.G. Wells found out when he gave an interview to a reporter who possessed a sense of humor. Wells opined that the moon was composed of a form of silica and the scribe promptly reported to his paper that Wells said the moon was made up of broken bottles.

Purists insist that the correct title of the lift and exercise we are discussing should be the “supine press”. The average bodybuilder and weight lifter calls it the “prone press” but the actual title of the lift is “The pullover and press on back without bridge”. But no matter what name you know it by, the press on back is a good exercise, builds terrific power and wonderful development.

This lift is one of the “key” exercises associated with, and partly responsible for, the sensational rise in quality and quantity of the marvelous muscular specimens we everywhere these days. The popularity of the lift and its use has risen steadily with the sport of bodybuilding. The weight trainers use it as a basic part of their workouts. To me it has always seemed a pity that we don’t use it more as a competition lift. There are rules which govern the performance of the press on back and I hope that this article, quoting them, will be the means of further popularizing the exercise and increasing its use as a medium of rivalry between bodybuilders.

You can think of any famous oldtimer and be sure that he used the press on back – Joe and Adolph Nordquest, George Hackenschmidt, Arthur Saxon, Owen Carr, Bill Lilly, Sig Klein, George Lurich, Berthold Tandler, Eugene Sandow, Otto Arco and countless others. The strong men of yesteryear were proud of the impressive poundages they could lift by it, proud of the magnificent arm and shoulder development they built in the practice of the lift and naturally jealous of their reputations. They lifted according to a strict set of rules and placed themselves into bodyweight classes, and counted it as something worthwhile when they beat a personal, national or world record.

With the slow but steady growth of weight training a new type of bodybuilder or lifter emerged. He was interested in strength athletics, not merely for the sake of strength, but for physical perfection, for proportionate development and god health. He paid attention not only to the exercises in his schedule, but to his diet, personal hygiene, particular methods of using particular exercises and as many variations of single exercises as he could conjure up out of his mind. Mere limit poundages were not sufficient. Big arms not the final goal to which he strove. He wanted something more – and he got it by improvising with the apparatus and exercising the muscles over many different and wider ranges. In those dawn years of the modern bodybuilding era, he probably had George Hackenschmidt as his hero or Joe Nordquest. He knew that they had practiced the various presses and that both had widely used the press on back as a major part of their schedules. Looking at the mighty arms and shoulders of Joe and George, he rightly figured that the exercise would do as much for him.

His experiments, the setbacks he overcame he overcame and the progress he made are reflected in the truly wonderful strength athletes of today. Reg Park, Clancy Ross, Floyd Page, John Farbotnik, Al Stephan, Marvin Eder, Leo Robert – all these men use the press on back or one of the many muscle movements which have evolved from it. A whole new series of exercises has arisen, as the “prone press” or “supine press” or whatever you call it, gained in popularity. First the exercising bench and then the incline bench developed and we began to see bigger and better arms, shoulders, chests and a most impressive tie-in of deltoids, triceps and pectorals. Physiques which seemed all deltoids and arms suddenly developed chests. Pectorals filled out and rib boxes swelled and stretched the tape to bigger measurements. The Golden Age of weight training had at last arrived and it looks like it is here to stay.

There is hardly any other lift – with the possible exception of the Two Hands Olympic Press and the Two Hands Slow Curl – that is productive of so much argument and misconception. I have asked half-a-hundred men what their idea of a good press on back is, and have obtained half-a-hundred answers. The rules are practically unknown in the States. It is astonishing how many think the weight can be lifted over by assistants, that one can arch the back providing the shoulders and heels remain on the ground, that you can body-toss the weight to pressing position. First, let’s see what the rules are, then we can discuss cause for disqualification and the special problems raised or involved in the lift. In the Rule handbook of the British Amateur Weightlifting Association, the lift is #25 on the list of recognized lifts.

“Lying on the ground with the center of the bar IMMEDIATELY BEHIND THE HEAD, the bell shall be brought over the lifter’s face until the upper arms rest on the ground. From this position the bell shall be pressed to arms’ length over head. Once the bell cleans the line of the sternum where the collar bones meet, the discs shall again come into contact with the floor. Throughout the lift, the buttocks and shoulders shall remain on the ground and the legs shall be kept straight.”

Thus you will see that the lifter MUST bring the weight over head himself to pressing position and once there the entire body must be kept on the floor. The back is not allowed to arch and the HEELS MUST NOT SEPARATE. Note particularly that THROUGHOUT the lift the SHOULDERS AND BUTTOCKS MUST REMAIN ON THE GROUND and the LEGS MUST BE KEPT STRAIGHT. The bodybuilder will possibly experience a little difficulty in bringing the bar over to the pressing position. Previously, he has been accustomed to having his training mates lift the bar for him, of else he has used a body toss after having rolled the bar up his thighs. The amount of weight he can press will be considerably less in the orthodox style than in his previous “aided” record, but practice of the special enabling exercises plus application of the accepted bodybuilding principles will soon increase the amount of weight he can handle.

It is best to get used to a regular hand spacing – that is, to choose a width of grip you will ALWAYS use. You are not allowed to change the width of grip once you start the lift and it is important to choose a distance between the hands that will enable you to use the maximum power in pulling the weight over, and then pressing it to arms’ length. The lats and triceps are involved in pulling taking the weight to pressing position and every advantage should be taken of the speed with which the bar can be pulled from above the head. You will find that as the upper arms touch the floor – lie along it – as the barbell travels towards the chest, the momentum will carry the forearms up a little way to vertical. Here is where you must add the power of the triceps to the speed of the bar and get the weight into the commencing position. You will find there is a considerable temptation t help the bar up by pressing on it with your chin. Resist this, for it can only lead to your disqualification as you are almost certain to raise the shoulder.

In training for maximum performance, it is best to choose a weight which is heavy enough to make you “feel” every rep above 5. While it is impossible to set a definite standard for every lifter and bodybuilder, it has been found best to keep down the reps and raise the poundages when training for a record attempt. Experiment a little until you find the combination of poundage, sets and repetitions which produce the best results. Don’t be afraid to discard a schedule when you consider you have drawn everything out of it. Change your routine as often as honestly necessary. Use the various forms of the press on back such as the bench press and the incline press and exercise the various muscles concerned in the lift. Particularly it is essential to concentrate on the triceps and deltoids.

When you press the weight overhead, at the start of the press, incline the forearms SLIGHTLY backwards and allow the weight to travel backwards until it is above the face; at the same time and as the barbell has covered half the distance to arms’ length, find that there will be no difficulty in keeping the weight moving once you have started it and you can be reasonably certain of making a successful lift with poundages close to limit or record performance.


Training for the Press on Back

The problems encountered in this lift are not too much different from those in the two-hands Olympic press. However, one has a firm platform from which to make his press on back, while in the Olympic press the base is limited to the area covered by the feet. Thus the muscles involved are in a more advantageous position than they are in “upright” pressing and as a consequence, the poundages elevated greater, and the degree of development more general. In fact, not only are the deltoids and triceps affected, but the latissimus dorsi, parts of the serratus magnus, the pectorals, the forearms and wrists all come if for a great deal of hard work. Even the muscles of the neck get quite a workout as the back of the head presses the floor with the stress of ramming the bar to arms’ length over the body. Too wide a grip is not advised because of the danger of muscle strain in the upper back. I know several men who have suffered painful strains of the rhomboid muscles because they used a wide grip – out to the collars almost – in the press on back. The best grip is one in which the forearms are straight up and down. The wrists can be dropped slightly back and a “thumbs-around-the-bar” grasp will prove to be more comfortable on the wrists and hands. The wrists can be taped with a strong bandage with care being taken not to bind them too tightly. So much for the minor details. Now for the assistance exercises and the movements which build up power. Getting the muscles of the shoulder girdle used to handling of supporting heavy poundages is fine for developing a “contempt” for limit weights as well as good psychology. Some time ago I gave an exercise which is invaluable. For “coaxing” the triceps and deltoids along, enabling them to build up power, an for strengthening the tendons and ligaments it is one of the best.

Exercise 1
Take two boxes or exercise benches and load up a bar to your BEST press on back poundage. Place the ends of the bar on the benches so that it bridges across them – or if the boxes are low, place the plates on the box. Lie under the bar and position yourself so that the shoulders or deltoids are directly beneath the bar. From here, grasp the barbell and press it the couple of inches to arms’ length. Start off with 5 reps for 3 sets and increase to 3 sets of 10 reps. As soon as you can make 3 sets of 10 reps with this weight, increase it by 10 pounds and start off with 3 sets of 5 reps again.

Exercise 2
The second movement is for strengthening the “pulling over” power. In the actual lift the bar will have plates which will take it clear of the face as it travels over to press-commencing position. Your entire upper arm will be flat on the floor as the bar is in the region of the chin and it is here that the pressure of the hands on the bar, motivated by the power of the triceps, brings the weight to the ready. Here is a muscle movement which will increase the “push” and boost the speed and power with which the bar is puller over. Lie flat on your back and have training partners place a dumbbell in each hand. Your position on the floor should be that of commencing to press a weight overhead with the elbows out to the sides. From this position, with the upper arms from shoulder to elbow kept flat and immovable on the floor, lower the dumbbells until they touch the floor and then return them to starting position. Go light at first with this exercise, and take a weight which you can easily handle for 3 sets of 5 reps, working up to 3 sets of 12 reps before adding weight. As you lower the dumbbells to the floor, do so a slowly and steadily as you can manage. Don’t forget, the forearm is the only part of the body which moves. All exercises which are “isolated” triceps movements are excellent as assistance exercises for the press on back. Perhaps the best is the triceps press which follows, a favorite exercise of Reg Park

Exercise 3
Lie on a bench and have your training partner hand you a barbell, or dumbbells. Take a shoulder-width grip and, with the bar held at arms’ length over the body, lower it to the chin taking care NOT TO MOVE THE UPPER ARMS. The upper arms are kept as nearly upright as the exercise will allow. ONLY the forearms move, lowering the weight to the chin or forehead and raising it to arms’ length again. The resistance is nearly all on the inner head of the triceps. You can even get a training partner to stand astride you and hold the upper arms so that they do not slant from the vertical when the weight is being lowered or raised. I followed the procedure with Reg and he gained considerable strength and size in the entire triceps. Start off with a weight you can handle for 3 sets of 8 reps, working up to 3 sets of 15 reps before adding weight.

Exercise 4
An outstanding assistance movement is dumbbell pressing – and this goes for any overhead movement – snatches, jerks, swings or Olympic pressing. It is even more effective in the press on back. Teaching you control of the weight and evening up the strength and development of the arms until they reach parity, it has added pounds to a press and inches to the arms which perform the press. Take up the press on back position on a box and have your training mates hand you the two dumbbells. From here, simply press them to arms’ length and, lowering them, repeat. Start off with a weight which you can handle for 3 sets of 5 reps and work p to 3 sets o 12 reps. The elbows can be kept close to the sides – hard work for the triceps – or they can be held so that the upper arms are straight out from the shoulders – hard work for the anterior deltoids and pectorals. LOWER the dumbbells as SLOWLY as you can. CONTROL them back to commencing position.

Exercise 5
Dipping builds up considerable pressing strength and coordinates the action of the shoulder and chest muscles – muscles which play an all-important part in the press on back. The most effective form of dipping in this case is the “floor dip” because it closely approximates the subject lift. Place the feet on a box and rest the hands on the floor. Press up until the arms are straight and the entire body is in a STRAIGHT LINE. Resistance is provided by barbell plates rested on the upper back. Bend the arms, touching the chest on the floor and then press up again. DON’T allow the trunk or legs to sag, but try and keep the entire trunk and legs in a continuous straight line throughout the exercise. If the barbell plate is placed against the back of the head, the head can be pressed back holding the plate in one position. The angle of the elbows can be altered from a position right against the sides of the body to where they point out and away from the shoulders. In these extreme angles the hand spacing on the floor must, naturally, be a little wider than it is when the elbows are held against the sides. Start off with a weight you can handle for 3 sets of 10 reps, and work up to 3 sets of 15 reps before adding weight. Try and make the repetitions as rapid as possible with little or no pause between each one and don’t forget – DON’T ALLOW the trunk to bend. KEEP IT STRAIGHT.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mike MacDonald - Terry Todd

Click Pics to ENLARGE






Mike MacDonald
by Terry Todd


Throughout my many years of training for, competing in, and reporting on powerlifting, I’ve seen many feats of strength which were extraordinary, even unbelievable. I remember one hot afternoon down at the Texas Athletic Club in Austin when a friend of mine, Jack Fritsch, tightened the jaws of the hard-to-shock troops who were training there when he placed a pair of the old-time, thick York 45-pound plates up on their rims with the smooth sides out and then reached down with one hand and pinch-gripped them up to his knees. Unbelievable.

And how could I forget the first time I saw Paul Anderson in the more-than-adequate flesh? It was at an exhibition in Dallas following a contest, and since I’d been competing, I’d been able to watch him warm up backstage. Thus my first view of him was as he rounded the corner from backstage, stopped to chalk his hands, then walked purposefully to the 400-pound barbell. The world record in the press at that time was around 420, and though I knew Paul had done more, I still expected that he would have to hump a little to handle so awesome a weight. I was simply not prepared to see even the legendary Paul Anderson clean & press 400 pounds like it was made of papier-mâché instead of pig iron. It was unbelievable.

But of all the things I’ve ever seen which were hard to believe, perhaps none strains the limits of the mind quite like Mike MacDonald’s bench pressing. I have seen men who were stronger on the bench, such as Big Jim Williams, who came within about one RCH of locking out 700 one year the World Championships; and I have seen stricter benchers, such as Ronnie Ray, the former 181- and 198-pound record holder who used to train for the bench by holding the bar on his chest for 30 seconds (often with over 400 pounds) before pressing it. But never have I come even close to seeing a man who was so strong, so strict, and yet so small in the arms and shoulders as Mike MacDonald.

The one thing that really separates powerlifters from Olympic lifters in terms of how their bodies look is the huge arm-shoulder-chest development of the powerlifter. The top guns in the bench – with virtually no exceptions – are extremely heavy and muscular in the deltoids, triceps, biceps, pectorals and lats; and almost always their upper arms and forearms are very thick, giving the impression of a massive tree limb from wrist to shoulder.

Whether these men are able to bench press such colossal weights because of their enormous upper-body musculature or whether they develop the musculature as a result of pressing the weights is a question that Mike MacDonald doesn’t even try to answer. Mike doesn’t particularly worry about arms size; he just keeps on using those frail wrists and relatively slender arms to create world record after world record to the utter astonishment of lifting fans everywhere.

When Big Jim Williams got ready to bench you EXPECTED the weights to obey. After all, what choice did they have when faced by an upper body that looked like a brown nylon sack full of bowling balls? Likewise, when Doug Young walks out to bench, the judges take one look a him and begin to signal “good lift” before he even touches the bar. Not so with Mike MacDonald. Only death or coma could erase from the mind the memory of the first time I saw him lift. It was in late 1973 at the World Powerlifting Championships in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He had reduced his weight to the lightheavyweight (181.75 pound) class in an attempt to break the world record, and I was very anxious to see him lift as I had heard so much a bout him.

I remember thinking as he came out for his world record attempt at 470 pounds that there was simply NO WAY for someone with arms and shoulders like his to bench press almost 300 pounds over his own bodyweight. I remember watching as he walked quietly out, eased back down onto the bench, unracked the 470, lowered it slowly and deliberately to his chest and then, WONDER OF WONDERS, drove it to arms’ length with the power of a hydraulic carjack. You have to keep in mind that the photos accompanying this article were taken very recently; they show Mike weighing around 230 pounds, so simply deduct 50 pounds with your mind’s eye and you’ll see what I saw that night in Harrisburg when I got my first look at the man who was then, is now, and will perhaps always be the greatest pound-for-pound bench presser in the world today.

Mike got his start at the age of 17 when he began training with friends. Always naturally strong, he bench pressed 320 pounds at a bodyweight of 170 in the state meet after only four months on the weights. At that time Mike’s small-boned frame was 5-feet 9-inches tall and it included a pair of 14.5 inch arms, so you can imagine the amazement he caused at that first contest. Bitten hard by the iron bug, he continued to train and compete and within two years he made an official 405 pound bench press at a 178-pound weight.

Then, in 1968, facing the draft, he joined the Navy and many of his gains were drained away through what seemed to Mike like endless hours of group calisthenics. He recalls a mixture of distaste and pride one hot afternoon in basic training when his 6-feet 4-inch, 225-pound drill instructor decided to show the recruits how to do pushups. Mike says that the big DI seemed to always be looking for ways to make the young men feel weak and stupid, and that the pushup exhibition was obviously set up for the same reason.

And sure enough, after a long talk about what sissified wimps they were, the DI knocked out 60 or 70 pushups and then ordered his men, one by one, to see how close they could come to matching him. As first one and then another failed, a plan began to form in Mike’s mind and so when his turn came he had one of his buddies climb onto his back and then he proceeded to knock out 20 pushups, after which he turned to the DI and said, “Now try that.” Of course he caught, as he says, “a good deal of hell” for it, but he admits to feeling it was worth it.

Shortly after finishing his basic training, he was sent for a year to Vietnam, and he says he passed the long nights in the bush by dreaming that one day he would follow the lead of Ronnie Ray and create world records in the bench press when his life returned to normal. Happily, it wasn’t too long in coming, and he spent his final year in the service stationed in Minneapolis, where he had good training facilities and such workout partners as Ken Patera, the giant American Olympic lifter and all-around strongman.

Under these conditions his bench press and his bodyweight both shot up, and within a year he had brought his bench up from a post-Vietnam 230 to an official 480, weighing 215. The next year he entered the Junior National Powerlifting Championships (open to anyone who has won neither the Seniors or the Juniors) and not only made a new bench press record with 539, but also squatted 655, and deadlifted 640 to total 1,835 and win the Best Lifter trophy. These lifts demonstrate what Mike can do in the squat and deadlift if he trains on them, which he rarely does, preferring instead to specialize in the bench.

In 1973, he trained down to the light-heavyweight class again and set an American record (world records not yet being official) of 487.75. Following the 484.75, he made a 470 official world record (which I described earlier) at the 1973 World Championships, a record which still stands as this is being written. The following year Mike went up to the middle-heavyweight (198.75 pound) class, and at the state meet in Minnesota he shattered the world bench press record twice by lifting 535 and 540 back to back, yet these two great lifts were never official because there were no high-ranking cardholders present to “pass” the lifts.

Mike then moved up into the newly formed 220.5-pound class and broke his friendly archrival Larry Pacifico’s world record in the bench my making 555. 75. Later that year he and Larry met head to head in he 1974 World Championships in York, Pennsylvania, and when the chalk dust settled, Larry had driven Mike to another world record in the 220’s, this time with 573.25, which as of June 1977 was still the record. The 573.25 is not, however, Mike’s best official effort in this class because early in 1975 he hoisted 585 in a contest in North Dakota only to lose the lift as a world record because of the aforementioned problem of cardholders.

In 1975, Mike made a judgmental error by driving 1,300 miles almost straight through on the day of the National Championships. He was so fatigued that he did far less than his best and was outbenched by the powerful Pacifico. Stung by the defeat, Mike dropped again into the 198.75-pound class and added another bodyweight class to his list of world records with a bench of 523.5. Pacifico, however, had ideas of his own about records, and he upped the mark to 529.5 and then published a challenge to Mike saying in effect, “You won in 1974, I won in 1975, so let’s have it out for the title in 1976 in the 198-pound class at the National Championships.”

And at the Nationals they met, along with a powerfully built Californian, Bud Ravenscroft, and the three of them provided the greatest display of bench pressing ever seen in the middle-heavyweight class. Even though Larry “only” reached 505 for a second attempt, and Bud made “only” his opener with 500, it was still the only time that three men in so light a bodyweight class had all made 500 pounds. As for our boy Mike, he really smoked them, ending up with an easy, solid 540 for another world record (actual weight: 539.75). From that day in August of 1976 until now, Mike has held the world record in four different bodyweight classes: 181.75, (470 pounds); 198.25, (539.75 pounds); 220.5 (573.25 pounds); and 242.5 (577 pounds), surely one of the most amazing records in the history of sport.

Perhaps now would be as good a time as any to examine the techniques and the routines this phenomenon has used to reach and dominate the bench press records. I should start by making a point which ought to be obvious, which is that ONLY BY SPECIALIZING IN THE BENCH PRESS has Mike been able to be so successful in raising and lowering his bodyweight while maintaining world-class strength. Don’t misunderstand me. Mike would be a threat to the world record in several classes in the bench even if he were to train as hard on the squat and deadlift as he does on his beloved press, but he would not be quite as good as he is now in jumping from class to class and creating records in four or five bodyweight divisions. I say “four or five” because it is Mike’s intention to one day soon hold the world mark in the superheavyweight (unlimited) class, and as the official world record in that class stands at 610 as this is being written (Jim Williams’ 675 having been made prior to the time when world records became “official”, Mike should be able to do it, as he gave an exhibition a few weeks ago at which he benched an incredible 620 while weighing 232.

These days, when Mike is specializing in the bench, which is most of the time, he uses the following routine. He goes heavy each time he trains, using the same workout each training session. Recently, he made a training bench of 625 pounds, and the figures you see below are based on a top bench of 625.


Monday

Bench Press –
135 x 5 x 2 sets, to get the feel of the bar.
325 x 1
325 x 1
325 x 1
425 x 1
525 x 1
625 x 1, all sets concentrating on technique and form.

On all of the above competition-style bench presses, Mike uses a 32-inch grip, which is the widest the rules allow. Following the heavy work, he moves his grip in to shoulder width and does 2 sets of 3 reps in movements which could be called sticking point lockouts. He lowers the weight halfway down to approximately where the triceps take over from the chest and shoulders, and then drives it back overhead. It would be written as follows:

Sticking Point Lockout –
475 x 3
475 x 3

Next, Mike uses the specially bent bar. He tells me that he used to do pushups between boxes with extra weight on his shoulders until he became too strong for the movement to be practical, at which time he had the bent bar made to server the same purpose. His reason for doing this exercise is that he believes it is far easier to develop a truly heavy bench press if you can find a shortcut to what he calls “blast-off power.” He feels that the best way to encourage the chest muscles to build this sort of power is to stretch them more than they are stretched by a regular bench press. This bar allows his hands to drop well below the level of the chest, thus placing a tremendous stretch on the pectoral muscles. He says that a 300-pound bencher should be able to handle around 225 on the special bar. When Mike does this exercise, he pauses for 5 seconds on the chest before each press, and says that when he finishes his chest is really burning from the work and the stretching. He uses the following weights:

Bent-Bar Benches –
435 x 3
435 x 3, using a 5-second pause on each rep
435 x 3

That’s it. No high repetition “pump set,” no triceps presses, no arm work of any sort – only the tremendously heavy benches, the lockouts, and those chest stretchers, all done three times a week. Mike has of course experimented with all sorts of routines and exercises over the years, but he figures that the routine he’s on now is the suits him the best. There is one crucial point that I now need to make because Mike feels it is extremely important. The point is that although he USUALLY trains three times each week on the bench, sometimes he will vary this depending on how well he feels the muscles of the arms, shoulders, and chest have recovered. If he feels they are completely recovered, he trains; if he feels they need another day’s rest, they get another day’s rest.

He has a method of determining whether or not the muscles have recovered enough, and he recommends this method to everyone. He simply takes a broomstick on the morning of his scheduled workout, holds it out front of his chest, then brings it slowly toward the chest, until it is touching. If he feels any soreness in the pectoral or front deltoid muscles, he will do no benches that day because he believes that the soreness indicates his readiness to train again. Mike feels this simple idea has saved him from injury several times.

In the past, he has made good use of the standing triceps press. His method of performance is to lower the bar behind, and a few inches below the top of his head, and then triceps press it to arms’ length. When he uses this exercise he handles the following poundages:

Triceps Press –
135 x 10
205 x 6
255 x 6
305 x 6
255 x 6

Another exercise he claims has been very beneficial to him is done by lowering the bar to a position one or two inches below the sticking point (the point of poorest leverage), then holding it there for about 5 seconds before forcing it through the sticking point and on up to arms’ length.

Amazingly, HE NEVER WORKS HIS LATS OR BICEPS, two of the areas most big benchers really hit hard. Most top men train the lats and biceps on what seems to me to be the theory that thicker arms at the elbow, and more latissimus mass under the triceps provide better leverage, a sort of launching pad from which the bar is driven overhead. Even without this work, however, Mike’s launching pad seems to be in fairly good order.

Since most of you who are reading this will not want to concentrate only on the bench but will want to increase your other lifts as well, I’ve asked Mike to provide you with the schedule he uses when training all three lifts. The schedule goes as follows:


Monday

Bench Press Workout –
as already given.


Tuesday

Squat –
135 x 5
225 x 5
315 x 3
405 x 3
475 x 3
545 x 3
615 x 3
525 x 5


Wednesday

Bench Press Workout –
same as Monday, if the muscles have recovered.


Saturday

Bench Press Workout –
same as Monday and Wednesday, if the muscles have recovered.

Squat –
same as Tuesday

Deadlift –
135 x 5
315 x 1
405 x 1
475 x 1
545 x 1
615 x 1
655 x 1
525 x 5


When Mike is on this program (as he is as this is being written), you can see that he trains as hard as before on th bench press; he simply lowers his expectations a bit since he is sensible enough to realize that his supply of energy is not unlimited and that some of the work and energy he lavished on the upper body when he was bench-specializing will be soaked up by the large muscles of the thighs, hips and lower back as he trains his squat and deadlift. He hopes to hold his bench press above 600 at a bodyweight of 220.5 for the 1977 National Championships, which he feels he has a good chance to win.

Even though Mike has decided to work hard on all the lifts for a while, those of us who know him well expect him to return after the Nationals to a program of specialization in the bench press. He really loves the lift, and his goals are to continue training and breaking records for at least another ten years. He expects to bench 650 as a 242-pounder before too long, and then he feels he’d like to creep up to the mind-numbing figure of 700 pounds as a light superheavyweight, weighing 250 to 265. When I asked Mike about retirement, he said, “You will find that I am not a lifter who comes and goes quickly like most of them do. I’m only 28 years old, and I plan on setting new world records for many, many years.”

When we last talked, he stressed the point again that beginners and intermediates should always remember that a person doesn’t have to be naturally huge to hold records in powerlifting. As an example of this, he says that had he never trained with weights he’d weigh around 165 pounds at a height of 5-feet 5 inches, and with his tiny 6¾” wrists, he seems to be walking proof of his own argument. In Mike’s view, the most important thing for a beginner to do is to train the lifts with ABSOLUTE STRICTNESS and to be extremely careful not to sustain an injury. It’s that week after week, month after month steady training, uninterrupted by injuries, that makes for championship lifting. Mike has only been hurt once, a leg injury at last year’s National Championships.

As far as grip width is concerned, Mike favors a 32-inch grip, because he feels that the wider hand spacing allows the huge and powerful pectoral muscles of the chest to function most efficiently. He realizes, however, that this is an individual matter that each lifter will have to determine for himself. In general, he feels that beginners should use as wide a grip as is comfortable for them, for he believes it will pay off in the long run.

Mike keeps his feet close together when he benches, and when his bodyweight is in the 180- to 200-pound range he is able to arch his back for better leverage. In the 220- and 242-pound classes, however, his thicker body doesn’t seem to want to arch and so he lies almost flat on the bench. This doesn’t worry him. As he told me, “The power I gain from the extra bodyweight more than makes up for the loss of leverage.” He attempts to keep his upper arms at an angle of approximately 45 degrees to his upper body as he lowers the weight, allowing them to swing quickly out to almost 90 degrees when he bar gets halfway up. As he lowers the weight, he is very careful to touch the bar down on exactly the right spot for him, which is high on the chest, allowing the big pectoral muscles to provide maximum blast-off power.

Mike has other places to get this power besides his pectorals, as he is similar to most other top powerlifters in his belief that diet is a large part of successful lifting. And being the owner and operator of a natural foods store, he’s in an ideal position to get what he feels his body needs. Each day he takes a super-strength multiple vitamin tablet, 1,000 mg. of vitamin C, 30 desiccated liver tablets, and 400 international units of vitamin E. He also drinks a lot of fruit juice, nutriment, and liquid protein, and he eats meat, lots of tuna fish, nuts, fruits, and some raw vegetables. Being in the store all day, he snacks constantly, so much so that he told me with a laugh that he ate up most of his profits. When he wants to gain or lose weight, he either adds or cuts down on his carbohydrates.

How much Mike will eventually bench press is difficult to say, but set up the way he is now with a thriving though not physically demanding job, I see no reason why he won’t make good on his promise to continue breaking records for the next 10 or 15 years. I’ve seen him hoist those big, big weights on those slender arms enough times now that he’s made a believer out of me. Doug Young and Larry Pacifico, both of whom are among the top five benchers in the world, are awed by Mike’s progress, and those of us who have seen him lift have come to respect what he says an to respect his predictions.

He is, after all, the greatest pound-for-pound bench presser in the history of powerlifting.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Breath in the Press - Charles A. Smith

Click Pics to ENLARGE









Breath in the Press
by Charles A. Smith (1952)


I have attended two shows recently and was pleasantly surprised at the quality and quantity of talent for our future championship meets. Both these meets were what is known as “development” events, expressly for novices and those who have yet to win or place in a District championships. They had a lot of darn powerful kids lifting and despite the extremely rigid “according to the rules” judging in the press, they all did very well. I might add that in the New York Metropolitan area, we have the best Lifting Officials in the World. You can add twenty pounds to what you press before Met judges and be reasonably sure that your lift will pass everywhere else.

Okay, so there were a lot of strong young fellows and plentiful talent, but not one of them had any idea of Platform Presence and 99% of them showed an astonishing lack of the minutest amount of coaching. I have always maintained that if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well, yet until they cleaned the weight and pressed it, these youngsters, with a few exceptions, might have been taking their first look and grab at a barbell. Even in training, there is a right way and a wrong way to approach and perform any lifting.

They walked out onto the platform as if about to perform some unpleasant task. They chalked their hands in afterthought, strolling away from the bar to do this. They stood over the bar like they were going to collapse from extreme fatigue, keeping at least six inches away from it. They hardly ever took a look to see if the plates were flush against one another . . . and in many instances they weren’t. They didn’t adjust their hand grip to an even spacing too often, and were guilty of a host of other picayune faults that, while not too important at this stage of their lifting life, WILL be important later on if no steps are taken to correct then NOW.

In Olympic lifting, and I admit I’ve said this innumerable times, each detail is of the utmost importance. You will have noticed the trend these articles have taken. First, you were taught the rules, then platform procedure. You had a schedule of exercises to prepare you for Olympic lifting and then these articles on the press commenced. You have been brought up to a point where you should have some idea of what pressing style suits you best. You know what kind of grip to use . . . how wide a hand spacing your skeletal structure and leverage factors will permit you to take. You also know the foot spacing that suits you best. You know how to clean the weight for the press and what pressing posture you must assume to get the weight quickly and easily overhead. If you have any doubts about any of the above study the information given and diligently practice what is required.

Now comes the all-important problem of breathing for the clean and the press itself. There are two incidents that remain fresh in my memory and amply illustrate the importance of the part breathing plays in ALL lifting, Olympic and otherwise. One was when a certain well-known lifter got down to make a clean for his press. He hung over the bar puffing and panting, emitting all sorts of queer squeaks, whistles, groans and grunts. When he cleaned the bar after some considerable elapse, the weight came poorly into his shoulders and had to be struggled into a press position. Then again he stood whistling and groaning before he made his press. With the weight halfway overhead, he slowed up, dropped the weight and did a fine imitation of the late Leon Errol, the rubber-legged comedian. He had blacked out! NEVER stand too long over the bar when you stoop down to clean it for your press. Take your grip, take a deep breath and whip the bar into pressing position. What happens from there I will discuss in my next example . . . in the meantime, here IS what happens because of lingering over the clean for a press. You waste your energy, both physical and nervous, through hanging over the bar and trying to make up your mind to bring it in to the shoulder. The result is that not only do the leg muscles tire because of being kept in a condition known as “static” contraction, but an adverse psychological effect is created by DOUBT. The more you THINK about cleaning the weight, the more opportunities there are for also thinking about how heavy it is and if you will be successful in lifting it. Find proper form, then practice assuming the position until it becomes second nature and you are repeating your approach to the bar and get-set position identically each and every time. Treat your training the same way. Approach the bar and assume the start position you have found to be ideal for your type identically for every lift, be it a warmup or a maximum attempt. This will “lock you in” to the proper position, as well as build your confidence in achieving the lift, negating the possibility of any negative mental questioning. The time for “cues” is when you are finding and practicing the position, not when you are over the bar prior to actual lifting.

The second example of what happens to a linger lifter comes now. Suppose you are the type of guy who has some trouble with his cleans. If your recovery is hard and long, don’t under any circumstances hold the weight racked across the shoulders more than that two-second clap by the ref. I once saw a darn good lifter come with a hair’s breath of losing his life because of holding the bar too long across the clavicles to take a series of breaths. Bill Aronis had recovered with a 325 squat clean, but it had been a tough one. He stood with the weight racked across the collarbones for a jerk, took several deep breaths and suddenly blacked out, crashing backwards to the platform. By some minor miracle, he remained intact and was soon sitting up and asking what hit him. When you get the weight into the shoulders, take ONE deep breath and DON’T LINGER. As soon as you get the go ahead signal, ram that weight overhead. Holding the weight too long in a rack position cuts off the blood supply to the brain with pressure on sub-clavicle arteries.

One of the major controversies that rage periodically across the face of the physical culture world is the question of breathing . . . how to and when to. Now, you can’t help breathing any more than you can help paying taxes if you’re old enough, or dying when your time comes. Breathing is a reflex action, something we do automatically, and the important part of breathing is not only WHEN you breathe while lifting or indulging in ANY physical activity, but HOW you breathe. Have you ever seen a runner or a boxer breathe through his NOSE . . . the method most “authorities” will tell us to use? Of course you haven’t. ANY man, when under intense physical stress or muscular output, breathes through his MOUTH. Just open your potato trap and gulp in that air. You can breathe in more and you can breathe it in more quickly.

The question of actual breath control during the clean for the press and during the press itself is, as Al Murray, British National Coach remarks, often completely ignored and neglected. It is, as Al says, of vital importance and right from the beginning special attention should be paid to it so that it becomes automatic, an action you perform without any particular thought. Practically every prominent lifter and some lifting nations have their breathing style, during the press in particular, with the Russians breathing out forcibly as the weight arrives in at the shoulders and then, just prior to commencing the press, taking another deep breath and HOLDING IT throughout the lift, again breathing out violently as the barbell arrives at arms’ length.

The Egyptians have an “unconscious” method of breath control while pressing the weight to arms’ length. Their breath is gradually expelled by the simple process of saying a prayer to Allah, thus combining mental stimulation with a definite respirational action. Actually the prayer is nothing more than mental doodling, something to help them concentrate on the job at hand while assuring a condition in which any blackout is unlikely to occur. I don not say that the above is a deliberate action on the part of the Egyptians, but it does tend to regulate breathing and a favorable condition is the result. There IS a definite stress involved in holding the breath. Try it without pressing a weight. Then perform a near-limit press with the breath held and you’ll see what I’m driving at. The theory behind the Russian method of holding the breath during the press proper is that the full lungs provide a firm base from which the pressing muscles can go into action. I do not entirely agree. One can press with the lungs partially filled (I DON’T advise this practice) just as well, and in fact with less strain in the head, than one can with entirely filled-with-air lungs.

The drawback to this style of breathing is that there can be no delay from the “cleaning breath” and the “pressing breath.” It works quite well when the poundage is well within your power but not so good when a limit or above limit is attempted. The result is “oxygen starvation” and dizziness. There are some lifters who take but a single breath for the clean AND press and again the stress is too great for the body to stand when extremely heavy poundages are attempted. I am not trying to create the impression that every lifter blacks out when using the single breath to the press, but in can, and often DOES occur and NO LIFTER IS IMMUNE.

The safest method of breathing during the Clean & Press is obviously the best. But what is the safest method? The safest method is the one which will enable you to take the weight to the shoulders and overhead with the minimum of discomfort. Thus you will find it necessary to experiment a little and find out what variation of the natural method of breathing suits you best.

First, DO NOT take a series of short, sharp breaths at any time during the lift. You can get dizzy on air just as you can get dizzy for the want of it. Experiment by taking a considerable number of short breaths and see for yourselves. The best way to breathe is to make it quick and full. As you bend down to take your grip for the clean, start to take your breath and reach the peak of intake s you grasp the bar.

Pull the bar in, stepping back a little in a “token” split or squat if the weight is heavy, breathing out just as the weight starts to settle down across the shoulders. Time your breath and the START of the press just as the referee claps his hand. In other words you must breathe in slowly and listen for the signal to start the press. As soon as you hear the clap, take that deep breath and at the same time commence to press. You will find, after you get used to the method, and of course after that little experimenting, that the deep breath actually helps you get the weight away from the chest. As the weight clears the top of the head, start to breathe out, timing the exhalation to end with the clap of the referee, the signal to LOWER the weight.

You will find, using the above method, that you have all the favorable qualities of the
Russian and Egyptian methods with none of the disadvantages. You will have that fixed base in combination with an advantageous “start away” from the shoulders, as well as an impetus that will carry the bar to the area of the sticking point. The breathing out at this point allows a freer rotation of the scapulae and the weight is negotiated successfully through the area to completion.



Blog Archive