Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cycle Training & Bodybuilding - Rick Weil

Cycle Training & Bodybuilding
by Rick Weil (1988)

By now you are all training for strength and size by using the 4-7 rep program that we talked about a while ago. Strength is acquired over a long period of time. Therefore, sensible training goals and philosophies must be learned and followed. The rep system was on the those philosophies. The next stage that we are going to cover is developing size and strength through cycle training.

Perhaps this sounds a bit confusing. Just read on and all will begin to fall into place.

Cycle training is probably the most successful training practice that we have at our disposal when it comes to building lasting size and strength. It is based on the theory that it is easier to get to the top in stages, or by a stair-step method. It correlates with my personal beliefs in goal setting. That is, set goals that you can reach in a reasonable amount of time. Then set higher goals. All the time you are reaching goals and accomplishing a lot in small stages. Not only are you progressing upwards but you are also getting the PSYCHOLOGICAL HIGH OF BEING SUCCESSFUL.

Let me try to illustrate for you sample workouts that are examples of a cycle training routine. The one I will next present is for your bench press, and is built around a personal best single repetition of 300 pounds. Adapt this to your own personal best. If your current best single is 150 pounds, use multiply the weights given by 150/300, or ½. If your best single is currently 200 pounds, multiply by 200/300, or 2/3.

This cycle can be applied to any of the big exercise movements you use in your bodybuilding schedules. Squats, deadlifts, incline presses, etc.

Week 1:

Week 2:

Week 3:

Week 4:

Week 5:

Week 6:

Week 7:

Week 8:

Week 9:

Week 10:

Week 11:

Week 12:

Week 13:

Week 14:

Week 15:

Week 16:

And so on, and so on . . .

Let me try to explain what has just happened in those 16 weeks.

First of all, the 300 pound max single has just been shattered by a 315 double. Remember in the last article we talked about strength and size coming from rep training and not doing max singles? As you can see, not a single 1-rep set was performed in the 16 weeks, yet the bench press poundage went up.

Secondly, a cycle has begun to take place. Did you catch it? Every 8 weeks the poundage was dropped back, This illustrates the stair-step approach to going upwards. A good foundation is being built and gains are being made. Many bodybuilders nearing the intermediate stage use maximum weights on their main lifts, and over time find themselves stuck in a rut of using the same poundages month after month. This is only one example of how to overcome that common problem and carry on progressing.

Cycle training can be set up in a number of different ways. The cycle could change every 6 weeks or every 12. The number of reps could be adjusted differently. 4 sets of 6 instead of 3 sets of 5 etc. . .

The basic idea that must be understood is that every so many weeks a new cycle must begin by backing up, and then jumping ahead a little farther. Always using your maximum weights for the same number of repetitions will eventually put a stop to progress.

Try to set up a complete program where you use cycle training on your main exercises . . . squats, presses, bench presses, cleans, etc. It is important to note that you do not cycle your isolation exercises. For example, you can do your chest workout by following the above program for bench presses and your incline presses, but stay with higher rep dumbbell flyes using the best weight you can for that session. Again, do not cycle your isolation exercises and do not use low reps with them.

You will learn to know your body and and what it responds to best. You are the only one who can determine what will work for you.

Cycle training works and it must be given a fair amount of time in trial. Trying it for 3-4 weeks is hardly a reasonable time span to see any effect. Give it 6 months, better yet, a year and watch how much you improve. I will continue to remind you over and over that strength and size does not come from doing single repetition maxes, nor does it come without patience and consistency.

The cycle system has helped many powerlifters and it can readily be adapted to bodybuilding. As an individual you may find that, after a sufficient length of experimentation, you need some other method to progress. This is fine. I only try to offer a philosophy of training that may prove to be beneficial to you. Give it a fair chance and see if it helps.

Strength, Size and Reps
by Rick Weil (1988)

The main objective of this article is to teach you to think through your training problems.

The question I am asked most often is, “How many reps should I do in my workouts to build power?” And, of course, the answer to that question is simple – I DON’T KNOW! The big problem with a question like that is that it can be answered differently depending on the individual who is asking it. Simply put, we are all different in our body structures and metabolisms and therefore respond differently to training stimulus. Also, we each train under different intensity.

Here are some simple, general guidelines to think about when setting up a training program for yourself.

Reps are more beneficial when trained intensely, regardless of the number, within reason. Intensity can be everything to your workout. Reps should be controlled by the weights used. In other words, if you are using heavy weight and going for 5 sets of 5, then make sure the weight is just the right amount for you to get those 5 reps, and keep in mind that I am speaking of 5 reps using perfect form.

There are really only three types of rep workouts I can think of. Low reps (1 or 2); high reps (10-15); and somewhere in between (4-7). I know you are already thinking of more variations, but to keep it simple those are the three rep workouts we will deal with for now.

Let’s start with the high rep workout of 10-15 reps. This can be a great way to strengthen muscle conditioning. The only real problem is that it is not possible to use much weight to shock the muscle into growing both larger and stronger. So, high reps are not the best way to build real muscle strength and power.

Let me remind you here . . . never cheat reps unless you are prepared to face injury at some point. Besides, when you cheat a rep you are also more than likely changing your position and working on movements and muscles entirely different than in previous reps.

Okay. So it must be low reps (1 to 2). I mean, it makes sense that if high reps mean light weights and heavy weight shocks the muscle to build greater strength and size, then I need to use low reps. NOT NECESSARILY. I used to believe the same thing, but the problem was that low reps didn’t seem to work for me. It was fine prior to peaking for a competition or personal record, but that was mainly because it prepared the muscles and tendons for heavy weight. This kind of training gets the body accustomed to what is expected of it when competing or lifting record amounts, but does not, for many people, build greater strength and size in itself. Strength and size come from training a muscle harder than before and giving it the time needed to recuperate and grow bigger and stronger.

So what is left? Somewhere in between! To build strength and size that will stay with you I have found that a program of 4-7 reps can develop the most in the least amount of time. Here again, the weight used is the max amount that you can handle with strict form for reps between no less than 4 and no more than 7.

The hardest thing for most inexperienced strength athletes is getting over the desire to always max out for a single. To put it simple, this is just really stupid. Try to set up a program right now doing no less than 4 reps and give it at least 2 months of intense training. Then go ahead and feed your ego and max out. I will wager you that the gains you see two months from now without maxing on singles and doubles are better than you have ever experienced.

There are many, many other aspects of training that will affect your overall progress, but for now start thinking about reps and how to use them to YOUR best advantage.

The Glute-Ham Developer
By Bob Bonham (1988)

Russian sports technology has kept the USSR ahead of the rest of the world in in many ways for many years. A major force in bringing some of these methods to the USA is Dr. Michael Yessis and his Soviet Sports Review. This magazine translates articles directly from the Russian sports literature.

One of Dr. Yessis’s Russian discoveries is the Glute-Hamstring Developer. This is a device that looks like a hyperextension bench with some modifications. The bench is rounded like a gymnastic horse and the foot holder is adjustable in length and height. The major difference is a metal foot plate behind the pads. This plate keep the feet from moving and it gives the body more stability in performing the movement.

As the name indicates, this bench helps you develop the glute and hamstring muscles, thus helping prevent hamstring pulls, so you can see its implications in sports are very valuable. Just ask the NFL’s L.A. Rams and the Olympic Gold Medal Men’s Volleyball team.

How is this bench valuable to the bodybuilder and lifter? Bigger Faster Stronger Inc., one of the companies that manufacture the GHD, tells us – From physiology it is well known that two-joint muscles such as the hamstrings will contract more forcefully when one end is in action (shortening). Simultaneous joint action at both ends of the muscle will produce a weaker contraction (when both ends of the muscle are being pulled to the belly at both ends) at the same time.

In the GHD raise exercise the hamstring plays a major role. The upper end of the hamstrings (which cross the hip joint), contract, rotating the pelvic girdle backwards and raising the trunk. When the raised trunk is in line with the legs (straight line from the feet to the head or slightly arched in the lower back), the upper hamstring goes into isometric contraction to hold this position. At the same time, the lower end of the hamstring begins to contract (shorten), creating knee joint flexion. The hamstrings are joined by the gastrocnemius and together they continue to raise the body. This contraction of the lower hamstrings occurs when the upper hams are under maximum tension, resulting in a super-maximal contraction. Both the lower and upper portions of the hamstrings end up in maximal contraction at the end position of the exercise.

It should be emphasized that the lower and upper hamstrings are contracted individually in sequence, not simultaneously, as the exercise is performed. This sequence of actions produces separate maximal contraction at each end (if the resistance is maximal), and culminates in a double maximal contraction at the end. This is the main reason why the GHD exercise is so effective for total hamstring development.

Straps For Higher Rep Front Squats - Doug Nassif

Straps For Higher Rep Front Squats
by Doug Nassif (1982)

Front Squatting – it’s a lot like New Year’s resolutions – everybody talks about adding this movement to their training, but by ‘February’ the Fronts drift into training limbo.

It’s too bad. Properly and faithfully performed, the Front Squat absolutely works the quadriceps like next to nothing else you can do for yourself in the gym. Powerlifters and weightlifters, for the most part, ignore all species of leg machines, relying on the back and front squat for all leg work. (Weightlifters and other ‘functional’ trainers often use the Overhead Squat as well).

More than almost any other lift, the Front Squat can be painful in higher reps, and, when going heavy without benefit of a rack, can be dangerous for those who haven’t yet learned how to dump a bar. Or when a rack IS present, dangerous to anyone who happens to spend time sitting around nearby. Item: I witnessed a spectacular accident involving a lifter who was attempting to triple with a 364-lb. Front Squat. Totally losing control coming up on the second rep he dumped the right side on a fortunately large powerlifter who was at the moment busily engaged in an exaggerated reminiscence of the last night’s date. The plates were bumpers, so what turned out to be a fractured shoulder could otherwise have been a jagged amputation.

For ‘comfort’ when doing higher rep Front Squats I use straps (see photos), for a good, lasting grip, giving me more control. Without straps, many lifters find maintaining a solid rack on sets of more than 5 reps to be the main reason for cutting their efforts short.

George Frenn on occasion would attempt a truly massive lift – 500 lb. Front or 700-lb. Back Squat – WITH NO WARMUP. He would simply walk into the gym, load the bar and go. Frenn termed this technique ‘shocking the body’ and the concept delights the psyche of the champion, while sending shudders of fear up the less ‘adventurous’ lifter’s backbone. Not really recommended, but worth noting.

If you've decided to use higher repetitions in the Front Squat for a time and have also found your rack is causing you problems, give the straps a try.

Don Cundy - Pete Vuono

Don Cundy
by Pete Vuono (1983)

If you were asked to name the only man to win four Senior National titles in the superheavyweight class or the only man to win four straight Senior National Superheavy titles in a row, what would some of the answers be?

If you were to say Don Rheinhoudt, you’d be close, but big Don only won three Senior Nationals. If you guessed Doyle Kenady or Paul Wrenn, guess again, as Kenady won two Seniors and Wrenn also won two.

Amazingly, the name of the man who won four straight Senior National titles in the Superheavy class is practically unknown today. This man is Donald Thomas Cundy.

Don Cundy won the Senior National Powerlifting championships from 1967-1970 and never weighed more than 283 in doing so. In fact, his bodyweight fluctuated from 263½ to to 283 and thus, with the exception of Jon Cole, Don Cundy was the lightest person ever to win a Senior National Superheavyweight title.

Cundy’s career began in 1965. That same year at the Minnesota State Power championships, the 6’3”, 263½-pound Cundy made his presence known with a 735 American record deadlift. The record would soon be taken back with a 745½ deadlift by Gene Roberson, however. Undaunted by his short-lived record, Don quietly continued to perform his unconventional stiff-legged deadlifts on the bench. In 1967 at the South Minnesota Powerlift championships Cundy deadlifted 761 for another new American record. It was then that the red-headed Cundy, who was nicknamed ‘The Pink Elephant’ decided to enter his first Senor Nationals in Pennsylvania. Don weighed 280, but was pitted against George ‘Ernie’ Pickett and Bob Weaver, both of whom weighed over 300 lbs. Don benched 490, squatted 600 an deadlifted another American record of 784 to win his first Senior National title.

With one Senior National victory scored, Don tried again in ’68 and again emerged victorious with lifts of 480, 700, and a 755 deadlift. Although weighing only 280, Cundy once again defeated the 307-lb. George Pickett.

The year 1969 proved to be one which would serve as Don’s greatest test, and greatest victory. Cundy was to do battle against the likes of some of powerlifting’s immortals. 275½-lb. Cundy faced 301-lb. Russ Fletcher, 339-lb. Jim Williams, who was to break a National record with a 600 bench in this meet, and Bob Weaver, the then current record holder in the total and 1966 champion.

Weaver broke an American record in the squat with 807, and Williams a National bench press record with 601½. This put a great deal of pressure on Cundy with his 490 bench and 735 squat. However, after failing once, Don pulled an American record 801½ deadlift to win his 3rd Senior National title, become the first man in history to deadlift 800 lbs. and finally became the one to better Hermann Goerner’s 793 record made in 1920.

After having the best meet of his life, Don put his reputation on the line in 1970 in Louisiana by once again entering the Senior Nationals. This was not to be an easy task. Once again, the 283-lb. Cundy faced 300-plus Jim Williams and 300-lb. Russ Fletcher, who was to squat a rock-bottom 810½ American record at this meet.

Although up against tremendous competition, Cundy benched 500, squatted 755 and deadlifted 785 for an unprecedented 4th straight Senior National superheavyweight title; an accomplishment unequalled to this day and a record which is not likely to be broken soon.

Don was not only a fine lifter but a prolific writer as well, who wrote articles for Iron Man and Muscle Builder which will always be helpful to both the novice and advanced lifter.

Don Cundy was living proof that prudent training and perseverance could conquer the odds against becoming the winningest Superheavy in Senior National history.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Doug Hepburn - Pete Vuono

Doug Hepburn
by Pete Vuono (1982)

It is well known among power enthusiasts that Pat Casey was the first man to officially bench press 500 and 600 pounds. These same fans of the sport are probably anxiously awaiting the first 700 pound bench press.

However, this author wonders if today’s fans know who was the first man to bench press 400 and 450 pounds. The man who achieved this feat had the same physical attributes as the great Louis Cyr and since he bench pressed 450 (and later 535) without the use of steroids, it makes him a man who had, even to this day, unparalled strength. This man was Douglas Ivan Hepburn.

Doug was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on September 16, 1927. At birth he had two handicaps: one was a slight club foot condition in his right leg and the other an eye ailment known as an alternating squint. These handicaps did not hinder Hepburn from attaining his goals. They simply made him strive harder to realize them.

While Doug attended school, he participated in baseball, swimming, soccer, bike riding, high bar, balancing, springboard and various forms of gymnastics. Doug became extremely proficient in all of these sports even when he attained a bodyweight of 290.

At the age of 15 he cycles 105 miles in one day, resting only 15 minutes the entire trip. When Doug was 16 and in tenth grade he met a bodybuilder by the name of Mike Poppell, who enticed him into training at the local YMCA where he taught Doug various exercises with weights. After a brief period, Doug was convinced that out of all the sports in which he competed, weightlifting was the best medium to deliver to him his goal of strength.

At first he performed various calisthenics for hours on end which consisted of chinups, handstand presses and dip on the parallel bars. This training was brought to a temporary halt when Doug was 17 and he underwent surgery to remedy his alternating squint. Although the malady was corrected, Doug’s weight dropped from 160 to 145. Undaunted, he resumed training and started once again to make gains.

In 1946 Doug’s friend Mike Poppell won the Mr. British Columbia contest. At the same event John Grimek displayed a fabulous muscle control act which further inspired the young Hepburn. Two years later Doug weighed 200 pounds.

During this time Doug became a lifeguard at Vancouver’s beautiful Kitsilano Beach. He was allowed to take a set of weights on the beach with him to train with. While working as a lifeguard in the summers of 1948 and 1949 Doug’s weight went from 205 to 225 and he performed some amazing feats of strength. Among them were a 170 pound reverse curl, 370 bench press, and a 310 Olympic press. By 1950 his weight increased to 240 and his strength feats also increased markedly. He could hold out his arms straight in front and allow a 118 pound person to do a handstand on his wrists. He also performed a right arm military press with 155 and a bent press with a 193 pound man. He did 15 strict curls with 145 and a perfect curl with 187½. He had also strict pressed 340.

One of the most memorable events in Doug’s lifting career was his execution of the world’s first 400 pound bench press. This was performed on Sunday, November 19, 1950 and was done in a manner that has never been equaled. One would think that if a performer was going to attempt a milestone lift that he or she would come to the meet, concentrate on nothing but this record, warm up and go all out for that one lift alone. Although this is true for today’s record breakers, it wasn’t true for Doug. During this contest and exhibition, he took a barbell weighing 341 pounds for a strict press. Doug pulled the weight too far forward and it came crashing down. Hepburn, however, refused to let the bar drop to the floor. Maintaining his balance and composure, he power cleaned the bar from the hang and succeeded with a perfect press. As if this were not enough, he took a 10-inch spike and bent it double until the two ends touched. He then proceeded to straighten it out again. Doug finally performed with the utmost strictness the feat everyone came for: the world’s first 400 pound bench press.

On Tuesday, December 19, Doug visited York, Pennsylvania for the first time. Here, he shocked some of weightlifting’s biggest names by strict curling 200, side pressing 200, pressing 365 from the rack and push pressing 385 from the rack. Less than a week later, for the benefit of several famous lifters, Doug push pressed 405, benched 410 and squatted 550 after a workout.

Also while in York, in front of Hoffman, Van Cleef, Grimek, Stanko and Bacon, Doug strict pressed 350, push pressed 400, did a right arm strict press of 155 and lifted the Cyr dumbbell off the floor with his right hand. During this same exhibition, he cleaned a 90 pound dumbbell with only his right index finger. He also hooked the little finger of his right hand under the rim of a 45 pound plate with a 5 pound plate attached and held this total of 50 pounds straight to the side with just that little finger. He later did this feat with 61 pounds.

During the months of March and April of 1951 Doug’s strength kept on increasing with feats of a 410 push press, six reps on the bench press with 380, a 430 bench press and a 410 bench with a 3-second pause after an hour workout, and a strict press with a 157½ barbell with one arm while sitting in a chair. He could also press with two arms 211 pounds while kneeling, bent press 175½ for 10 reps, press a pair of 100 pound dumbbells 21 times, Olympic press 250 for 10 reps cold, curl 71 pound dumbbells for 10 reps with each arm while seated, cold, in street clothes!

Other fears were a crucifix of 85 pounds for 3 seconds, full squats (no wraps or belt) with 460 for 16 reps and 8 reps with 500, clean a thick handled barbell weighing 152 with only the 2nd and 3rd fingers of his right hand.

He could also clean & press with his right hand only an anvil weighing 136 pounds with no help from the left hand. Doug was still very proficient in gymnastics as well. He could press a 205 pound barbell with a full grown man doing a handstand on it.

Doug was quite efficient in handstands himself. In the back of the Hepburn home is a ten foot high basketball rim. The backboard is two inches thick and extends above the rim approximately five feet. While weighing 250 pounds, Doug did a perfect handstand on the edge of the backboard, a very difficult and dangerous feat.

During the fall of 1950 Doug achieved a bodyweight of 251 at a height of 5 feet 8½ inches. His measurements were taken by Canadian bodybuilder Maurice Jones and were as follows: neck – 18 inches; shoulder girth – 57½; bi-deltoid diameter – 23, right biceps – 20; left biceps – 19.2; right forearm – 14.5; left forearm – 14.1; right wrist – 8.2; left wrist – 8.3; normal chest – 52.5; expanded chest – 53.2; relaxed waist – 41.2; drawn in waist – 38.4; hips – 44.5; right relaxed thigh – 28; right flexed thigh – 28.4; left relaxed thigh – 28.7; left flexed thigh – 29; right knee – 15.7; left knee – 16; right ankle – 9; left ankle – 9.7. Although these measurements are amazing, one can imagine how markedly they increased when Doug finally reached his maximum weight of 290-300 pounds.

In 1951 Hepburn went on to break another weightlifting milestone. He was to be the first man to bench press 450 pounds. In his hometown of Vancouver, Doug entered a contest sponsored by Joe Weider. The date was November 30, 1951. Attending this show were strength stars such as Reg Park, Clancy Ross, Leo Robert, Marvin Eder and Abe Goldberg.

Prior to attempting his historic bench record Doug performed a feat which no man had ever attempted, let alone succeeded with. Without the aid of a belt or wraps, Doug became the first man to squat 600 pounds. Then on to the bench press.

Bench press champion Marvin Eder tried to push Doug by benching 365. However, Hepburn’s abilities were just too far from any of his contemporaries as he bench pressed 434 for a first attempt and finally the second attempt, the historic 456 which made Doug the first man to achieve a 450 pound bench press.

As if this achievement were not enough, Doug went on to win the World Olympic Weightlifting Championships in 1953 with a 1053 pound total. He defeated the great John Davis and became the first and only Canadian to win the heavyweight Olympic weightlifting championships.

Before his career ended Doug broke the world record in the press no less than eight times and prior to retiring and then decreasing his bodyweight, he posted the following best lifts which are outstanding by the standards of any time period:

Right hand military press – 175 pounds.
Two hands strict press – 335 x 10, 400 x 4, 440 x 1.
Two hands press with dumbbells – 350.
Behind neck press – 350.
Strict curl – 260.
Bench press – 535 (with collar to collar grip – 580).
Jerk press – 500.
Crucifix – 200.
Two hands snatch – 297½ (320 unofficial).
Clean & press – 381 (390 unofficial).
Squat – 760.
Deadlift – 705.

The reader will note that Doug’s 260 curl was done in the strictest fashion and is even now the best performance ever made in the strict curl. Another feat made during his prime was the he could bend double a Canadian dime by pressing it against an iron railing with his forefinger and thumb.

Although Doug purposely lost a considerable amount of weight after retirement, he is still training, looks fantastic and has maintained his health and strength throughout the years. On behalf of the entire powerlifting world, this author salutes Douglas Ivan Hepburn, who is without question the modern-day successor to the great Louis Cyr.

Chuck Ahrens - Pete Vuono

Chuck Ahrens
by Pete Vuono

In the early days of powerlifting, back in the 1950’s, there was established in California an outdoor gymnasium called the Muscle Beach Weightlifting Club. This gym was enclosed by a wooden fence and was equipped with a wide variety of weights and machines. It was here at the Mecca of Muscle that many of powerlifting’s pioneers congregated. One of the largest and strongest of these behemoths was Chuck Ahrens. Chuck was known as weightlifting’s ‘Mystery Man’ because he was of a quiet, reserved nature and refused to take off his shirt and pose for cameras. Only in one rare photo taken for Muscular Development did Chuck roll up his sleeve.

As was stated before, Chuck Ahrens was of Brobdingnagian proportions. When walking along the shores of Muscle Beach he resembled one of the huge saurians which may have roamed there millions of years ago in the Jurassic period.

Chuck stood 6 foot in his prime and weighed 330 pounds, most of which was distributed in his upper body. He had a normal, non-expanded chest measurement of 58 inches. This huge torso was capped by shoulders 28 inches wide. Attached to these prodigious deltoids were arms which measured 22 and three eighths inches in circumference.

Not only was Chuck Ahrens ponderous in appearance, his lifts were equally gargantuan. Ahrens specialized in odd lifts. His favorites were the one arm dumbbell strict press, the two arm dumbbell press and the triceps extension. The dumbbell presses of England’s Strongbow contests are quite impressive, but compare those 160-pound presses to Chuck Ahrens pressing strict, with one arm, 310 for 3 repetitions! He also performed 235 for 5 consecutive repetitions standing with a dumbbell in each hand. While seated on an incline board set at 90 degrees, Chuck pressed two 225-pound dumbbells for 5 reps!

In the lying triceps extension, Chuck’s style was to hold the bar overhead, lower it behind and below the head and then extend it up overhead. In 1956 Chuck performed a single in this movement with 400 pounds.

Such work on the dumbbell presses and triceps extensions gave Chuck tremendous power in the behind the neck press and the bench press. In the behind the neck press standing, Chuck performed 390 pounds without specialization. In the bench press, he performed an incredible 28 reps with 400 pounds.

Unfortunately, Chuck’s quiet personality kept him away from actual competition, however, his tremendous strength and the reputation that followed served as an inspiration to myriads of young strength athletes. Even to this day, Chuck Ahrens strength awes us and earns him the well-deserved title of strongest upper body specialist of all time.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mini-Cycles - Walter Sword

Hideaki Inaba

by Walter Sword (1983)

Last year I reached a goal I set for myself when I began powerlifting four years ago: to get my Master's total. Like all competitive powerlifters, I experimented and searched for the 'perfect' cycle that would guarantee results. Disappointed with the 'conventional' cycles, my training partner Steve Grill and I developed this idea of mini-cycles.

A mini-cycle is simple a short cycle inside a long cycle. There can be various length combinations. For example:

Two 6-week mini-cycles in a 12-week cycle.
Three 4-week mini-cycles in a 12-week cycle.
Four 3-week mini-cycles in a 12-week cycle.

I have used 3-week mini-cycles with repetitions of 5's on the first week, 3's on the second week, and 1's on the third week. For me the percent of weight decrease on repetitions is 10% from 1's to 3's, and 5% from 3's to 5's. The percent decrease between mini-cycles is is 7.5%. Below is a comparison of a 'conventional' cycle and mini-cycles.

Conventional 9-week cycle:
Week 1: 60% max x 5 sets x 7-10 reps.
Week 2: 70% x 4 sets x 5-7 reps.
Week 3: 75% x 3 sets x 6.
Week 4: 80% x 3 sets x 5.
Week 5: 85% x 3 sets x 3-5.
Week 6: 85% x 3 sets x 3-5.
Week 7: 90% x 2 sets x 2-4.
Week 8: 100% x 1 set x 1.

Three 3-week mini-cycles:
Week 1: 70% x 2-3 sets x 5 reps.
Week 2: 75% x 2-3 sets x 3 reps.
Week 3: 85% x 2-3 sets x 1 rep.
Week 4: 77.5% x 2 sets x 5 reps.
Week 5: 82.5% x 2 sets x 3 reps.
Week 6: 92.5% x 2 sets x 1 rep.
Week 7: 85% x 1 set x 5 reps.
Week 8: 90% x 1 set x 3 reps.
Week 9: 100% x 1 set x 1 rep.

Max in these instances is weight projected for end of cycle, not current maximum. Only the heavy sets are listed, not any warmup percentages.

Advantages of Mini-Cycles.

Overtraining: overtraining can be reduced because the weights and repetitions increase and decrease throughout the cycle which places less stress on the body at crucial intervals.

Injuries: injuries can be reduced because the week of 5's after the week of 1's is a lower percent, placing less stress on the body, providing a 'rest' week from heavy 1's.

Peak Control: the peak can be controlled by evaluating performance at the end of each mini-cycle and making adjustments, depending on difficulty or ease of previous mini-cycle, by lowering or raising the weights of the next mini-cycle.

Neuromuscular: efficiency with 1's is developed early in the program by desensitizing mind and body to 1's.

Boredom: mini-cycles are different, providing variety for the lifter.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Development of the Clean & Jerk, Part Three - David Webster

Right Click, "Open in New Window"

Column 1 - Starting angle of the back, measured in degrees from the horizontal.
Column 2 - Angle of the back as the bar passes the knees.
Column 3 - Line of thrust from hips to center of back.
Column 4 - Extension line. Neck to center of base.

The Development of the Clean & Jerk, Part Three
by David Webster

Let me explain next why the upright start is so poor.

If the back is kept very upright the lift depends almost solely on leg strength and very good poundages are not possible if the hips and back do not do their full share of the work. Therefore the “upright stylists” having started in this way, tend to bend forward during the lift in order that the back and hip muscles may be brought into play later. Not only does this result in a negative unnecessary forward and downward action, it reduces angular momentum. Although the legs are straightening, the back is bending so the bar rises LESS than it would and SLOWER than it would if the back angle were maintained.

Even with a more orthodox starting position this back angle is hard to maintain (as you will see by Table 1) and this is why it is so necessary to pull steadily from the floor instead of putting everything into the initial pull.

IF you pulled as hard as possible from the floor you would find that, because of the difficulty in overcoming inertia, your hips will have risen high and your shoulders have risen hardly at all.

“STEADY FROM THE FLOOR” MUST BE THE RULE, AND TRY TO MAINTAIN OR EVEN SLIGHTLY INCREASE THE ANGLE OF THE BACK. By this I mean you should keep the back set at the same angle or make it a little steeper.

In the starting position I recommend that in the average man, the vast majority of lifters not being of freakish proportions, the back should be at an angle of between 25 and 35 degrees. I am definitely against the back being at an angle of over 38 to 40 degrees for the reasons given.

The second illustration of Jimmy Moir and the photograph of Kurentsov (see Part Two) show angles of which we approve.

When The Bar is Passing the Knees

Having pointed out the fact that the angle of the back must be maintained during the first part of the lift, it should be pointed out that just as it is a fault for the back to become less steep it is also wrong for it to become too steep. If the back has become much nearer to the vertical than it was in the starting position, a number of faults are likely to occur. If this happens with squat lifters they will likely jump backward, and with splitters they are almost certain to transfer their weight onto the forward foot, and splitters, too, will tend to jump backward. As has been pointed out in another section, the cure for these faults is to keep the shoulder further forward than the bar until the bar is well past the knees, and make sure that the hip thrust is used to extend the body rather than heaving the shoulders backward. If you look at a still photo or a cine frame, when the bar is passing the knees the back should be at an angle which is just a LITTLE steeper than it was in the starting position, and personally I would not worry at all if the lifter was still at the same angle as he was at the start, as I know there is almost bound to be some decrease in the angle and then it corrects itself , in the good lifter, as the bar reaches approximately knee height. It is from knee height upward that you must try to build up maximum speed of back movement and try to move the back through a wide arc, but you must move the hips forward and upward at the same time.

Often when the plates are on the floor the bar is not over the center of the instep, but nearer to the toes. I, personally, can get it nearer to the instep than the toes without having my shin bones too vertical, and prefer it that way. If, however, it is nearer to the front of your feet as the plates clear the platform, you must pull the bar closer to the shins so that it is over the center of your base (i.e., the feet). The nearer the weight is over the center of the base, the more stable the position. The fact that the knees move backward slightly will permit the bar to pass without touching. Cine tracings of the bar path of movement show that the bar comes back slightly as it passes the knees. Please do not consider this an S pull. I define an S pull as one where the natural slight curves in the path of movement have been exaggerated. This will be dealt with in more detail in another part of this book.

If we could get someone with the power and technique to get the hip line of thrust to around 90 degrees and the extension line to 103-104 degrees we would get some sensational lifting. The AIM (which would not be possible with top weights) should be a position similar to Figure 12 (Pearman). By aiming at this, a good hip and extension line may be achieved. The hip thrust must be forward and UPWARD.

Measurements of angles were taken from as near as possible to the 5th cervical vertebrae to the flat part of the sacrum just above the curve of the lifter’s buttocks. Back contours were ignored; if a lifter lifted with a round back the line passed through the curve. See Figure 13.

A complete and true picture CANNOT be built up from statistics alone. The measurements given are aids to analyzing and to allow a comparison between the top lifters and lesser lights.

These statistics have a useful part to play bur measurements alone could be very deceptive. For example the head is comparatively light and the neck muscles would appear to play a very minor role in a Clean & Jerk. Yet the action of the head can play a major role in dictating the lift. Because of its position at the enc of the spine it acts as a “rudder” to the body. The results of poking head technique at the end of an overhead lift are now quite well know and there are other obvious reactions. DYNAMICS AND ACTUAL MOVEMENTS MUST BE CONSIDERED, NOT MERELY STATIC ACTIONS.

A further point which cannot be left out is MENTAL REACTION and in the Clean there is a classic example. We have outlined the positions which will give a good, balanced Clean and it is a well known fact that one of the most common faults in the pull is allowing the shoulders to come back too early, thus bringing the combined center of gravity backward over the heels. The MECHANICAL reaction to this action has been explained, but if the man is a splitter there is another almost automatic reaction without physical mechanics. The lifter, knowing that his weight is traveling backwards, without even thinking about it, will wish to re-establish his balance. He will then prematurely move his rear foot. This results in a loss of power, and instead of re-establishing balance will only delay loss of balance as he will then tend to lose balance SIDEWAYS. The correct thing to do is to improve the pull not to adjust the split. The point to be emphasized, however, is that the premature split is not a mechanical one but a mental one. Statistics and measurements can’t reveal things like this, but they do have their part to play.

Balance in the Clean & Jerk

The above theories lead us on naturally to discuss balance in the Clean & Jerk. Weight transference comes under this heading, but as it was covered separately we will deal only with balance in the split and squat.

The fantastic adjustments a lifter has to make in timing and balance are appreciated by very few. Balance is dependent amongst other things on center of gravity of the lifter and also the bar. Have you ever stopped to think of the different speeds and paths of movement of these two centers? In the Clean, the personal center of gravity goes higher than the bar in the pull, but must drop lower at the completion of the movement to get under the bar center of gravity. A complicated move to say the least. Very fine adjustments are made as teh weight increases, for if you start going down too soon you’ll lose power and if you leave it too late you won’t have time to lower the personal center of gravity and the bar will probably drop down in front of you. You must also avoid being pulled into a folded up position. Balance and timing are of major importance.

The main factors involved in balance are

(a) The height of the combined center of gravity of the lifter and the bar.

(b) The size of your base.

(c) The horizontal distance from the center of gravity to the pivoting edge of the base also affects balance, as does,

(d) The total weight of the combined objects.

The first factor, height of the center of gravity, is easy to understand. The lower the combined center of gravity the more stable the position, so it’s easy to see that once again low positions under the weight are advantageous. It is also clear that the squat is better in this respect. What about the size of the base? The larger your base the more stable the position and, contrary to popular belief, the base for the squat is generally larger than the base for the split. This comment may be challenged but a glance at the illustration will prove my point. These are for an average lifter of 5’8” in height. The only factor which favors split lifters is the third one and even here there are vital differences.

The drawings show how the squatter has more lateral stability while the splitter has better balance fore and aft. The latter gives most trouble to lifters and furthermore sideways adjustments to save lifts are possible for a splitter, but once a squatter goes down, foot movements can seldom be used to save a lift.

The other advantage of the split is that a lifter can adjust himself OVER his base quite easily. You will perhaps see that the lifter moves slightly SIDEWAYS as well as forward and downward toward his front feet. This is always evident in a good low split. Be warned however, it happens to an undesirable extent where the lifter splits too diagonally. Always try to get your feet splitting directly forward and backward rather than diagonally. This means in a straight line forward and back from their starting position. IT DOES NOT MEAN FINISHING WITH FEET ON A STRAIGHT LINE – THIS IS A BAD FAULT.

You will see that factor (c) alone favors the splitter. This style definitely permits the saving of lifts which are far from technically perfect. Apart from that, the squat is definitely superior.

One final point on stability. In terms of mechanics, there is greater stability where levers are at right angles to the fulcrums. When the lever rests obliquely there is less stability. My favorite example is the rear foot in the split position. Mekanik, the old Russian coach, discussed this with us at one of the world championships, and I recalled his words at the 1965 residential weightlifting course in Scotland when one of the lifters was suffering from ankle injuries. Providing this lifter got his rear foot position right his lifts were good. As soon as he went even slightly off the right angle with his rear foot he lost stability and lost the lift. Even without injuries “looseness” in this region will have unfortunate results in the form of lost lifts. Push the heel backward to give a firm position. The “thrust reflex” theory is an associated factor of general interest. If the foot is placed as suggested the toes of the rear foot will be spread slightly and there will be a correct triggering off of a series of reflexes. First the calf muscles will automatically be contracted and will push the body forward. The thigh extensors, with muscles of the trunk and hips all contracting, will help produce the desired effect (see Fig. 16). If, however, the foot is splayed inward as shown in Fig. 17, there will not be such a good thrust reflex.

Balance is vital to all lifters. It is so important that some special work should be done to improve these skills. I always have a roller board lying around on which I practice. I heartily recommend this sort of thing to all lifters, especially those who have any bother with their balance.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Look of Power, Part Two - Anthony Ditillo

Sergio Oliva

Joe Dallaghelfa using middle fingers only to chin with a 150-lb. dumbbell.

The Look of Power, Part Two
by Anthony Ditillo (1983)

Part One is here -

As we mentioned in part one or this article, the look of power is by no means easy to obtain, yet it is available for anyone who has the common sense to embrace the advice contained herein and make practical application of the basic rules of such training. by concentrating on developing key muscle groups to the limit of the individual’s capabilities, the resultant development will give mute testimony to the man’s ability to lift heavy weights in certain movements should he care to really exert himself and should he care to properly prepare himself physically, by ‘peaking out’ for a few weeks, as the powerlifters the world over do. By using weights within the framework of his capabilities, our lifter can properly execute each and every repetition of each and every set and thereby guarantee himself the fullest development of the muscles he is working with each exercise. In this way, our man will not be wasting any of his training time or training energy.

We have a very powerful young man who is part owner of the gym I train at. His name is Michael Gula and I will be doing an article or two on his training methods sometime in the near future. But for now let me mention something quite interesting and quite pertinent to the topic at hand. Michael is very massive and powerful looking, appearing more like a ‘bulked up’ bodybuilder than a dyed-in-the-wool powerlifter. Every muscle in his body is massively developed. If he cared to ‘train down’ I am sure he would place, if not win, just about any physique contest he cared to enter. Right now he is training for future powerlifting competition and is mainly ‘peaking out’ week by week on the three powerlifts.

Most of the fellows in the gym did not meet Mike until they joined here a brief time ago, so they did not see him training during his formative years when he was concerned with adding additional muscle size to his body and training more for gaining muscular bodyweight than solely for pure power. They did not see set after set of heavy (very heavy!) parallel bar dips, not did they see the presses behind the neck with almost 300 lbs. for repetitions, or the lying triceps extensions with weights most guys are satisfied to do bench presses with. All these new members are seeing is Mike doing bench presses and squats twice per week and one deadlift workout sandwiched somewhere in between. NOW his workouts take less than two hours to get through, but do you think this amount of work would have made him the physical specimen he is today? BEFORE he began to peak out on the powerlifts he was already VERY MASSIVELY DEVELOPED and QUITE STRONG from all the formative years of HEAVY POWER BODYBUILDING training that he did. Now the rest is easier, now that the size is already there, all he has to do is show what this size can do. So he adds a few pounds to the bar each week, never really extending himself, since he wants to save the real exertion for the competitions, not for the gym. Before this period, I saw him doing close grip bench presses with almost 450! Why did he choose this movement to work so heavy on? Simply because it was more productive for adding muscular development than the conventional style and it took some strain off the shoulder joints since the weight somewhat be reduced, while still working the muscles hard.

So now the new guys are watching Michael flirting with 500 or 510 every heavy workout and it boggles their minds how he can become so strong with such an abbreviated routine!!?? “He must be on some new secret growth hormone.” “Nobody can bench press 525 at a bodyweight of only 225 with only two short bench workouts per week!” “Why, the guy doesn’t even do any assistance movements!”

Do you get the picture? They’re putting the cart before the horse. They don’t know what they’re actually witnessing. They think the did didn’t have to work for whatever he got. They thing all it takes is to be a ‘natural’ . . .

So what we’re trying to do for you guys in this series of articles for the underweight man is to outline for you a course of action which will place you in the same setting, within a few years, that Michael now is in. What I want to do is to first help you gain as much MUSCULAR bodyweight as you want. Then you will be able to utilize that muscular weight in any competitive endeavor you care to do. And while only common sense tell us that not all of us have the genetic potential to equal a Michael, we can all improve tremendously, with proper training and proper mental attitude.

For developing as much muscular bodyweight as possible, you’d better acquaint yourself with proper exercise style, or all is lost. I’ve been harping on the style you perform these movements in for some time now, because for the most part, most of you DO NOT know how to exercise your muscles correctly for increasing size. What you wind up doing is eating like two starved men and swinging and jerking your barbells around and most of you wind up bigger, but FATTER, for all your misguided exertions. Or else, you rely so MUCH on technique to elevate heavier and heavier poundages that you don’t grow at all. This would be okay when you’re at the end of the road of your muscle building and weight gaining phase, then you could utilize all the legal techniques of competitive lifting to your advantage and elevate heavier and heavier poundages to your heart’s content. But to try this stuff now while you’re trying to add muscular bodyweight is just plain nonsense! Remember that we are NOT speaking about the Olympic lifter here, for these guys want to become as strong as possible without gaining much in the way of additional bodyweight, whether this weight be useful muscle or not. But the powerlifter and the bodybuilder came originally from the same camp and it seems that both of these guys are impressed with massive muscle size, wherever this size is applicable, for show or for power. And you are not going to have much in the way of muscle size if you do your lifts the easiest way possible using techniques which actually alleviate the stress on the very muscles you supposedly are trying to develop!

If you weigh 175 and your best bench press, done slowly and strictly, with control and ‘finesse’ is around 250 or 270, then you’ll probably be capable of quite a few repetitions with around 205. For increasing the development of the chest and shoulders, try to get sets of 8 or so reps, once again done slowly and strictly with complete control of the weight. When 5 or so sets of 8-10 reps are easily and REGULARLY performed, simply go to 225 and repeat the process.

On another training day your could use somewhat heavier weights, let us say for 5 repetitions and, once again, keep this same weight until 5 or so sets are easily and regularly done and then jump the poundage, but I really feel, all things considered, that sets of 8 or 10 reps will do more for improved appearance, and within a shorter period of training time, than sets of 5 or 4 repetitions. We are not speaking of a repetition below 5, since this DOES NOT build much in the way of muscle size and is more joint and tendon strengthening than anything else. What these higher repetitions do for us is teach us first and foremost how to CONTROL the raising and the lowering of the bar, so as to get the best results for our efforts. The higher repetitions also allow us to work the deeper fibers which the shorter sets of 3 or so reps do not. The burn while on these higher repetitions is quite severe and this alone should assure you of their physical effectiveness. Also, there is less chance of joint or tendon injury while on these higher repetition sets. You can work the muscles without further trauma to the joints should they be injured or overtrained to begin with.

Another advantage is the CONFIDENCE gained while on this type of training scheme. You never feel that the weight is too heavy because you know beforehand that at least a few repetitions are possible and you are limited with the immediate source of training energy and endurance at your disposal while performing the set. Notice that I am referring to SETS of 8 or 10 repetitions and not to ONE set of MAXIMUM reps which happen to fall between 8 and 10. In my opinion, such training may be all right for the truly advanced trainee, but it is MUCH too severe for you intermediates as the nervous energy broken down in this case would even more severe than the heavy doubles and triples we’re trying to avoid to begin with! What I am trying to get you to do is to TRAIN not STRAIN.

Isolation movements during this building up period are quite applicable, for the most part, enjoyable and very result producing. What I mean by isolation movements is not what is generally accepted as the term indicates. I am not speaking about he light dumbbell and cable movements which the bodybuilding contestant uses during his pre-competitive periods of muscle defining. The kind of assistance movements I am talking about are very closely related to the actual strength movements the powerlifters compete in and the rest of us compare each with when judging our strength. Fred Hatfield has mentioned a few of these movements in his training articles and I mentioned them even earlier, but to not as great an extent, in my older articles when I was a superheavyweight, training for size and power. We are talking about various types of squats and pulls which will work one set of muscles quite hard and these muscles are usually the “weak link” when the actual competitive lift is performed. So, strengthen these key muscles and the competitive lift is inadvertently increases without the additional stress placed on the joints and ligament attachments when the heavier, more loosely performance is attempted. It’s like doing close grip bench presses and working up to fairly heavy poundages for repetitions, and when you once again begin the regular grip bench presses, you find that the bar is much lighter than before because the smaller muscle groups have been improved and strengthened through the use of the assistant movement.

Right now I am doing bentover rows and stiff-legged deadlifts with an Olympic bar and using 25-pound plates on it so that the bar is just grazing my toes at the beginning of the movement. I am doing this to fully strengthen my entire back musculature so that when I begin to deadlift in the conventional manner again (should I ever care to!) the lift will be secured because of all the conditioning done beforehand. This also allows me to work the belly of the muscles without all the nervous energy being drained on attempting limit weights or repetitions with the heavier competitive movements. When I can pull 500 or so in this manner I will then begin to pull with the conventionally loaded Olympic bar. By then I will be ready both mentally and physically and hopefully somewhere along the way I will have built up some additional muscle size.

The squats we are pushing on our training partners are not very easy to do and hence, most will not follow our advice. This is to be expected because most do not have an adequate ego buildup which will allow them to use lighter weights in the eyes of others. In other words, they know we are right, but their friends will think they are weak if they are doing repetitions with maybe 225 when in the conventional power style they could rep out with 315. What they don’t realize is that by doing an Olympic type of back squat (ala Hatfield or myself) and NOT wearing wraps or thick power belt (ala Leistner), you actually get MORE conditioning and musclebuilding effects than in the conventional way of doing things. What usually happens when one of these guys do try and take our advice is that they squat with their heels raised but they stick out their buttocks when they come out of the bottom position anyway, so the entire effect of this type of stricter squatting is, for the most part, lost. Another thing they do is to continue to wrap themselves up when they do these squats just the same way they would if they were doing their usual power squats, so one again, the entire attempt of tightening up the squatting style is put off. When I see them doing these things I usually lose all concern for their continued progress and I let them go their own way . . . there’s no point trying to help someone who can’t face reality.

When squatting for this purpose, take off the knee wraps and the lifting belt use shoes with a raised heel. Use a medium to close stance and place the bar high on the traps. When lowering into the bottom position, try to make your upper thigh fold over the calves, so to speak. When you are in the low position, your back should be somewhat erect, your buttocks should be compactly squeezed against your calves, with your knees jutting out in front of you. Don’t try to use your usual squatting poundages for these types of squats because they will be much too heavy. Don’t stick out your butt and don’t wear those heavy wraps. Heavy doubles and singles are out of the question right now . . . do 6’s and 8’s and 10’s instead! Within a few months of this type of leg training your thighs will be larger and more muscular and when you go back and adapt again to your old style, you will find you are MUCH STRONGER.

For the chest and shoulders I would recommend either the bench press with a medium grip of the MacDonald cambered bar. I favor the MacDonald bar because it places the most emphasis on the bottom position of the lift where many guys have a lot of trouble. It also allows a greater range of motion, similar to that of dumbbells but easier to control and get in position. You could, if so desired, use both movements, simply cutting down on the amount of work done with each one so as not to overdo it. Just keep the repetitions strictly controlled without all the bridging and bouncing which usually occurs when one is trying to impress others with one’s pressing ability. Add weight carefully when using the Macdonald bar. The shoulders will respond quite well with either the press or the steep seated incline. Just remember to keep the handspacing rather close and do the repetitions slowly for the results we desire here. The various dumbbell lateral are also quite effective when used in conjunction with the press, and it is entirely up to the trainee to decide just how he should divide up his choices of training movements. Most guys enjoy parallel bar dips and therefore train them with enthusiasm, but I have found that when they try to use too much weight in the movement they change the exercise to one in which only HALF REPS are performed. Don’t let this happen to you. Do them right or don’t do them.

We have outlined an example of how you can work the major muscles of the body with lighter weights but stricter exercise form thus enabling you to build the weak areas of certain lifts without putting too much strain on the tendons, ligaments and joints, so that later on you can incorporate this new found strength, development and overall freshness to further lifting or physique endeavors. By choosing the right exercise movements and by training on them the way we have advised, you will eventually take on more muscular bodyweight and an entirely different physical appearance. You will begin to look “strong” and more “athletic.” You will take on the LOOK OF POWER.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Development of the Clean & Jerk, Part Two - David Webster

Right click, 'open link in new window'

Table 3

Column 1 shows the time from the plates leaving the floor until the bar passes the knees. Column 2 shows the time until the lifter reaches full extension and starts to split or squat. Column 3 shows the time the bar continues to rise after the lifter has begun to move under. Column 4 shows whether of not there is a "plateau" when the bar is still as the lifter goes under it, and finally Column 5 shows the time the bar is actually dropping. All times are in sixteenths of a second.

The Development of the Clean & Jerk, Part Two
by David Webster

Some Famous Performances

Lest we forget the actual poundages of top performers at various times and get the matter out of perspective, itis my intention to note some of the accepted efforts of well-known weightlifters.

The very first world champion was Wilhelm Tuerk, an Austrian, who weighed around the 264-lb. mark. He made an amateur world record with 353¾ lbs. with a CONTINENTAL Jerk at Vienna on 30th November 1897. He could not do anything like this poundage with a Clean to the chest. He did 364 Continental style as a professional and received the freedom of the city. Even nowadays Vienna is a city where the man in the street can discuss weightlifting with authority as I found out in 1961 when I filmed the heavyweight class which was attended by some 7,000 people.

At the turn of the century, Louis Uni, better known as Apollon, was the greatest French strong man and his feat with the 367 lb. axle and wheels is well known. Pierre Bonnes was a close second in France and his best Clean & Jerk was 323. Maspoli, who won the world championship in 1902, had an official best in the Clean & Jerk of 299¾ lbs. Edmund Desbonnet, the father of French physical culture, did 226 in this lift.

Louis Cyr, who like others of his bulk favored the continental style of taking the weight to the shoulders, did 347 lbs. in this fashion, but his best Clean, we are told, was around the 300-lb. mark. Sandow’s best Clean & Jerk was but 272 lbs.

Another well known old timer was Hans Beck who won the 2nd and 3rd German championships in 1895 and 1897. On 28th May 1896 he did a world amateur record of 347¼ Continental style. He was European champion that year.

The first to Clean & Jerk 400 lbs. was Charles Rigoulot the Olympic champion of 1924.

After the second world war there was a great resuscitation of interest in weightlifting and coaches at the time of writing were in many cases the lifters of those days. They are therefore apt to tell their charges about the top lifters at that time so their performances in the Clean & Jerk are very relevant in this discussion.

The Egyptian lifters were very famous and names such as Touni and Shams are still bandied about. In 1936 Touni Clean & Jerked 330 lbs. In 1949 he did an all-time high of 347. By 1954 he had dropped back to 314 lbs. Touni was a great middleweight. As a featherweight in 1946 Shams did 257½ lbs. and ass a lightweight two years later he had improved to 325 lbs. But in 1951 he was down to 297½ lbs.

John Davis was always one of my favorite lifters but it seems that he never reached the 400-lb. mark in World Championships or Olympic Games. His nearest was a 391¼ in 1948. When he was beaten by Doug Hepburn for the 1953 World title he did 369 lbs. Hepburn did 363¾ pounds.

These two fine men were followed the mighty Paul Anderson who held the world record in 1957 with a poundage of 433 lbs.

At the same time as this, the middleweight record was 371½ lbs., held by Tommy Kono, the most popular ever middleweight and probably the world’s most admired weightlifter.

As a final comparison, I would like to consider the 1936 Olympics, a great Games – and the last before World War II, with the most recent Olympics at the time of writing – that is the Tokyo event of 1964.

In the featherweight class Terlazzo made lifts which were long remembered. His Clean & Jerk was 269, an excellent lift, but somewhat overshadowed by Miyake and Berger’s 336. In fact 19 featherweights and 17 Bantams at Tokyo beat this poundage.

At Berlin Mesbah Ahmed broke the world record with a lift of 320 lbs. People like Baszanowski and Kaplunov did 363¾ and Zielinski Cleaned 380 in Japan! Zdrazila, the surprise middleweight winner of 1964 did 391¼ against the fabulous Touni’s 330 lbs. Britain’s Mike Pearman came 14th in 1964 although he did as much as Touni did in 1936. A that time Touni was described as the most amazing lifter the world had ever seen. In the lightheavies Hostin of France Clean & Jerked 319. By 1964 the winner, Plukfelder was doing 401¼ and Snatching almost as much as Hostin Jerked! In fact every competitor in this class at Tokyo beat Hostin’s best.

In the heavyweight class the winner, Manger of Germany, did 341½. In Tokyo nearly 70 lifters equaled or exceeded this poundage! Even lightweights nowadays can beat the poundage of this German giant.

There are a couple of interesting technical notes in accounts of the Berlin Olympics. Luhaar, the Estonian heavyweight, did 363½ and was said to be the best at handling weights overhead. In his Jerk he took a single SIDEWAYS step. Terry’s Cleans came very high and appeared to describe a small circle in front of the deltoids before settling at the shoulders.

Obviously there have been great changes in style and comparable increases in records.

These poundages will, I hope, give you some indication of the progress over the years. In the last 70 years of weightlifting there have been two world wars, which not only prevented competition during hostilities, but also broke continuity of lifters and officials. It took many countries quite a while to get back into full swing after these dreadful years. Bearing this in mind it is clear that there has been great progress and this is, no doubt, mainly due to improved training and lifting techniques.

Providing lifters continue to improve their technique alongside their strength, progress will continue.

A study of present-day lifting shows that man of the strongest men could improve their technique considerably. We are, therefore, very sure that the records will continue to rise for a long time to come.

I have before me as I write, a collection of books and articles in which the Clean & Jerk is described. Reading through them it is very obvious that over the years this lift has been very badly coached indeed. Here is a composite description and IT IS NOTHING SHORT OF RUBBISH. You will all have read stuff like this, and perhaps, like myself in earlier years, have been misled into training in this manner.

These well intentioned but uninformed writers have slowed down progress, but read on and judge for yourself. I wonder how many of these points YOU have believed.

“Start with the legs well bent and the hips low, to use the leg muscle to the maximum extent. The chest should be raised and the back upright and the arms perfectly straight as the bar is lifted clear of the floor. The bar must be pulled backwards into the body and as it passes lower chest height split or squat under the weight. If you are a squatter, jump back slightly to catch the weight at the chest and avoid going too low as you will find it hard to rise from this position. If you stop before the lowest position it also gives you a margin for adjustment in case of error. You can then go a little bit lower if you have to. In jerking the weight, dip just a fraction and quickly hoist the bar as high as you can, splitting as the weight rises above head height. You should rise on the toes as you do the preliminary dip. By moving quickly under the bar you will get below the weight and your arms should be straight by the time the feet land on the floor. Like the split for the Clean you should recover by bringing your back leg up to the front one.”

There it is – A LOT OF ROT! Yet this is the sort of stuff which haws, over the years, been published by reputable publishers, and by men who have reputations either as champions, writers, or coaches.

Information on exactly how the top men do this lift, and more than this, to give the reasons WHY various techniques should be employed –

The findings are based on cine films which I have taken at World Championships, international competitions and Olympic Games. These permit study in ultra slow motion and in frame by frame projection. Hundreds of tracings have been taken as these are infinitely more satisfactory from an analytical point of view than photographs. As has been pointed out, photographs showing, for example, a lifter in a low position of a Clean may have been taken before the lifter had reached the lowest position, it may be right at the lowest point or even just as he starts to recover. Measurements taken from such a picture would not be as accurate as a carefully selected frame from a film.

Now let us consider the above composite descriptions of how NOT to Clean & Jerk. The authors of the articles referred to were convinced that they were detailing exactly how it should be done. In a later chapter we will deal with the pull in detail showing that what was comparatively recently considered a ‘classic’ starting position is, in actual fact, a very inefficient pulling position. We will show how lines of thrust will determine if the lifter has to jump back and if so how much he will have to move. We will give figures to show that the champions of recent years seldom if ever pull the bar to belt height let alone chest height before they start going under the weight. The text will show that the best lifters go very low under the weights.

In the dip for the Jerk, the person who rises on his toes is very much the exception to the rule. Indeed in two of my World Championship films featuring all the winners in every class, only one lifter rises on his toes, so I do not intend to devote any time to this matter. The amount of dip prior to jerking is almost invariably underestimated by unqualified instructors, and the amount of thrust before splitting is almost always OVER-estimated. In fact, I cannot at the moment think of a single book which correctly describes the actual height of the bar in relation to the body as the feet split for the jerk.

So it goes on right through the lift and even to describing the recovery glaring errors are made.

Perhaps a good deal of the information I will give will be of particular value to people such as coaches who find it necessary to analyze lifts, but I hope to make many ordinary lifters think a little about this most important lift and also to get a more realistic and accurate picture of what really happens when the champions break records.

To set you thinking and to let you judge your own knowledge of the lift, here are some questions which you may care to answer:

1) Is the angle of the back in the starting position of the Clean the same as in the Snatch?
2) In what way, if any, does the pull for the Split Clean differ from the pull for the Squat Clean?
3) Does a splitter start splitting earlier in the lift than a squatter starts squatting?
4) At what height is the bar compared with the body as the lifter begins to split?
5) Does the bar continue to travel higher once the lifter starts going under the bar, and, if so, how much higher does it go?
6) Does the bar drop farther in a Split Clean than it does in a Squat Clean?
7) Would the personal center of gravity of a split lifter be higher or lower than that of a squat lifter?
8) Many split stylists stagger to the side of their forward leg. Why?
9) In the Clean, if the bar dips toward the side of the forward leg what causes this?
10) What causes the bar to dip to the side of the rear leg?
11) Approximately how long does it take to bring the bar from the floor to the lowest position in the clean?
12) When the champion lifters begin to split for the jerk is the bar usually above head level, top of head level, mouth level, chin level of throat level?

When you can answer most of these correctly then you will have above average knowledge of weightlifting.

A Word of Warning

Before you proceed, I must warn you that from now on this book will be rather technical and not for casual reading.

This is not written as a book to be read once and thrown away or filed. It is intended that this next part be a guide for constant reference. It may seem a bit presumptuous to suggest how the book should be read, but we believe this will help you get the most out of it.

First of all, read it through at normal speed, resisting the temptation to stop and ponder or “argue” with the theories. Having read it completely, leave it for a while and think about the main points. Now go back and read it again, this time taking much longer, going stage by stage, thinking of the implications of each part and how you can apply or adapt the various points. The writer of such a technical book can only give a basis on which to build your own knowledge and your thoughts on the factors involved are a valuable part of your training.

Once you have read through it a couple of times you can put the theories into practice – but beware! There are sections which may only take ten minutes to read, but mastery of the techniques described will require many long hard training session.

Because this book is a technical book, a certain amount of training knowledge on the part of the reader must be assumed. It is not intended for complete beginners, so highly explicit descriptions of some points are not given as we believe these to be widely accepted.


Starting the Lift & Back Angles

When viewed from the front a typical world class lifter would probably have his feet 7-8” apart, with the toes turned out. During the past few years there appears to have been a tendency to move the feet nearer together than they were in years gone by. In the Snatch most lifters start with their backs at an angle of between 16-25 degrees, but in the Clean & Jerk the back is much “steeper.” This is mainly because the closer hand spacing raises the shoulders.

A study of angles of the back and legs at various parts of the lift allows knowledgeable coaches and lifters to judge the quality of the movement. The back is particularly important as it is one of the longest levers.

If a lifter is viewed from the side you will see that in moving from the starting position to the extended position, the back and legs move through fairly wide arcs, and even the shin bones move in a similar fashion but to a much lesser degree. This system of levers operates all the time to get the weight overhead and we can still profit by a little study of this.

Such people as the Orientals and Zielinski of Poland start almost squatting on their heels with their backs quite upright. Others start with their backs much nearer the horizontal. While physical variations between individuals and national structural characteristics result in SOME differences, we believe the pros and cons are clear cut in this case. Although I am going to use some technical terms, don’t let this put you off; they are very easy to understand.

The angle of the legs and the back affect ANGULAR VELOCITY. In its simplest form ANGULAR VELOCITY simply means that angle through which the part travels in one second. For example, if a lifter started to clean with his back in a horizontal position and extended it to the vertical position (90 degrees) in half a second, then the angular velocity would be 180 degrees. (90 in ½ second equals 180 in 1 second.) Because the body does not move at a uniform rate throughout the movement, it is better to consider a section of the movement at a time to get greater accuracy. For our purposes there are three gold key positions:

1) The starting position as the plates leave the floor.
2) The position as the bar passes the knees.
3) The fully extended position.

These, of course, are for the Clean only, and other lifts and other parts of the lift, i.e., the Jerk, must be considered separately.

Figure 10 shows diagrammatically the great differences in angular momentum which can be caused by different starting positions.

In the style used by many well known lifters from behind the Bamboo Curtain, the back does not move through such a wide arc as it does with most other lifters. On the other hand, the thighs move through a wider arc.

Our mathematical calculations prove conclusively that more angular momentum is gained by the more common back position and this is mainly because the back, being a much longer lever, is more important.

At first you may be tempted to think this is only of academic interest, but this is not the case. ANGULAR MOMENTUM OF THE BODY IS TRANSFERRED TO THE BAR. As the body reaches full extension this transference means that the bar continues traveling upwards although the body begins to lower.

Although the various levers travel in arcs, if the pull is well done the bar will travel RELATIVELY straight so that ANGULAR VELOCITY of the various parts has produced LINEAR MOMENTUM to the bar.

Now let’s get back to our lifter in the starting position. It can be seen that a lifter with a very upright back will reduce the effect of that excellent long lever of the back, as he will only use it through a short range. On the other hand, if you make your back too horizontal you are going to decrease the effect of the legs and give extra muscle work. Our recommendations of angles keeps this in mind.

In moving from the starting position until the bar passes the knees, the bar has traveled a very short distance, yet this take a long time (¼ to ½ second). This is partly because inertia has to be overcome and this needs more effort than is required just to keep the bar moving. The body at this early stage is in a less favorable mechanical position than it is later in the lift.

Now, before going any further, I would like you to note from TABLE 3 that the Oriental lifters take more time to bring the bar to their knees than most other lifters. It is also true to say that the “lose the angle” of their backs to a greater degree than others. These two points are related and show clearly the weakness of the position they adopt. It is only fair to say that between the Rome Olympics and the Tokyo Olympics these lifters have modified their upright techniques somewhat and the improvement has been very marked. Let me explain next why the upright start is so poor.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Development of the Clean & Jerk, Part One - David Webster

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The Development of the Clean & Jerk, Part One
by David Webster

A look at the history of the Clean & Jerk is very heartening for coaches, for it shows without a doubt that their efforts to develop technique have had a good effect. The improvement within the lifespan of such people as George Hackenschmidt, whom I met comparatively recently, is nothing short of fantastic. The greats of the past were wonderful pioneers for our sport and I am a staunch admirer of these giants of the iron game. However, I must confess I have been apt to idolize these champions without truly assessing their performances in comparison with our present leaders in the field. Such a study is very revealing and shows that while many early strong men are still written and spoken about in glowing terms, there are comparatively unknown national and divisional champions of the present day who deserve just as much, if not more, credit.

It is clear that weight for weight our present day experts are much stronger. It is also true to say that modern techniques are infinitely superior; there are undoubtedly changes in technique all the time and little refinements made from year to year that eventually lead to greater lifts as more weight men and their coaches gain an understanding of the principles involved.

Having studied the poundages on various lifts of the giant heavyweights of the last century and the early 1900’s, I am in no doubt that they were exceedingly strong men. Yet, although they practiced continentalling, cleaning and jerking, the poundages recorded on the C & J are poor compared with today’s divisional lifters. Just to quote one example, little Jimmy Moir, a Scottish lightweight, has done over 300 lbs., a more than double bodyweight lift. Is Jimmy stronger than the European beer garden strong men? I doubt it. The big difference is that he is a superlative stylist and his technique would be the envy of many world class lifters. His club mate John McNiven is another double bodyweight lifter, but although at the time of writing he has only been in one international competition, he too has become a good technician and his lifts have progressed accordingly. You can’t lift twice bodyweight, of course, without being very strong, but the point I am making is that through improved technique great poundages are now within the reach of a great many lifters.

To those who many wonder how styles have changed, let’s take a look at the way it was done long ago. Even in the 19th century Britons were very much in favor of the Clean style of bringing the weight to the chest, but in his “Textbook of Weight-lifting” Arthur Saxon indicated that this was certainly not so on the continent. They would shoulder the weight in a series of movements, resting it first on the thighs, waist or belt. Saxon himself did not recommend a split or even a step back, as his brothers did, for the Clean. He pointed out that some lifters stepped forward but he did not think this was necessary either. However, in his other book “Development of Physical Power” in describing the Clean he suggested stepping quickly forward with one foot and back with the other at the same time. He also described the much discussed “second pull” and splitting for the Jerk so there was, even then, some appreciation of technicalities, although strength seemed to be the major factor at all times.

Stanley Pullum, in articles published in THE STRONG MAN magazine during 1923, made some interesting comments about the lift. He mentioned that the Clean was more popular than the continental style in Britain in the early 1900’s when the B.A.W.L.A. gained autonomy from the gymnastic association. In 1913 the continental style was included as many felt that the restrictions of the Clean tended to keep down the standard of double handed lifting in Britain. A technique instruction note in this series advocated that the bar must be pulled to nipple height before any attempt is made to get under it. This, of course, is not possible with present-day poundages.

The importance placed on the Clean & Jerk seems to very considerably. W.A. Pullum in his well known book ‘How to Use a Barbell’ in the chapter on technique of the registered lifts, describes the Clean & Jerk in two lines while his contemporary Thomas Inch says this is the key to all other lifts. Giving credit where credit is due, W.A. Pullum, in a good series of articles in 1940, advocated the Squat Clean.

Although Inch in his ‘Strength’ book gives some good advice on the lift, the photographs of himself demonstrating the lift shows he uses a big lay back in the Clean with less dip than most lifters use in receiving the bar for a Press. In the Jerk one picture shows a half squatting style such as Nemassanyi of Hungary uses, except that Inch’s feet appear almost a yard apart. His arms and head seem in a strong position yet the neighboring photo in his book, showing the split style Jerk, shows his head well back, looking at the bar, very little split, back leg straight, rear foot sideways and flat on the floor. He advised watching the bar throughout the Jerk.

The same flat back foot position as adopted by Inch was advised by Mark Berry (“Physical Training Simplified’. 1930) although Berry did advocate a much lower position. This was mainly achieved by a well bent back leg with the knee turned out – poor by today’s standards but the evolution, allowing greater poundages is clearly shown.

Around this time Scotsman Willie Beattie was British Champion and even today Willie is lifting, as a professional. This man had a reputation as a great stylist so I checked on his Clean & Jerk technique. I found photos and descriptions and an eye witness all too, all confirming each other that, in the Jerk, Willie lifted with hands much wider apart than is used at present. He looked at the bar not just by turning his eyes upwards, but with his head thrown right back. His back foot was placed flat on the floor with toes almost at right angles to the front and knee turned outwards. There was very little bend in the front leg and the front toe was well turned in. The outward rotated leg in particular seemed to give a slight rotation to his body. All this in 1932 combined to produce what was, at that time, described as ‘the ideal position.’ This half-squat, half-split position was advocated in an American book published in 1959 written by college graduates – the suggestion combines the worst aspects of both styles rather than the best.

I was interested to read about the Jerk in Calvert’s ‘Super Strength,’ one of the physical culture classics which can still sometimes be obtained from second-hand dealers. In this book it says that the initial heave will carry the bell to the level of the crown of the head and then it loses its momentum. At that exact instant you must again bend the knees and squat under the bar. Now I wonder if, in those days, they actually did manage to carry the bar to head height with the initial drive. Perhaps with the lighter weights they used then this was possible, but our research shows that this is NEVER DONE nowadays. Just how little the bar rises before the split begins will surprise many authorities who have not done detailed analysis. I believe they may actually have heaved to head height and the belief that this is still done lives on in many places.

Calvert also taught that splitting in the Jerk was ‘all lost motion.’ He said that the correct thing to do was to drop the body straight down by sitting one the heels – the style used by Milo Steinborn, who did 347¾ lbs. In an illustration this position is shown ON THE TOES – an extremely precarious practice.

In the late 1930’s Monte Saldo, the muscle control pioneer, published ‘How to Excel in Games and Athletics’ and advised the THUMBLESS grip for the Clean and also a slight backward lean in the Clean.

Because many people in Britain participated in all-round lifting and because the continental style is an easier way of getting weights to the chest, it took a long time for this mode of shouldering the weight to drop into obscurity and in ‘Health and Strength’ magazine in 1938 George Walsh felt it necessary to write an article stating that the intrusion of the Continental Jerk into the championship had a lot to do with Britons being so poor at the Clean & Jerk. The circle had thus been completed and we were back where we started.

One of Walsh’s theories was that you should not go low in the clean unless you had to. He maintained that you should clean in as high a position as possible with the legs nearly straight unless you were FORCED down into a low position. This was in 198.

The ‘dive’ style of Cleaning was much in vogue from then until around 1948 when the ‘get set’ style took over because of its greater accuracy of grip.

Since the end of World War II there have been two significant diversions of practice in Europe. Russian weightlifting coaches were sent to many countries in the Communist block to initiate training schemes. Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary are the prominent examples, although I heard a whisper that there was at one time some resistance in the latter. In other places such as Switzerland, Germany and Belgium, Al Murray, the British National Coach (initially a Government grant aided post) visited these countries, at their invitation, on many occasions to help train instructors and national teams. Mr. Murray still pays regular visits to certain countries and his influence in lifting technique is still greatly evident in others.

The squat came back to popularity largely in the late 40’s and early 50’s, I believe, because of the performances of America’s Pete George and later Dave Sheppard. These two had eliminated a great many of the faults evident in the earlier exponents of this style. These boys had great platform personalities and brought color to International competitions, and being greatly admired they were often copied. In passing, I would say that certain aspects of their squat snatch were, in my opinion, over-emphasized but this has been dealt with elsewhere.

This gives you some idea of the phases and fashions in the gradual development of the lift and it advisable to keep these points in mind when comparing poundages.

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