2. This position at the shoulder must be used if the style of rocking pictured is employed. In rocking bars that have a one inch diameter, the hand will often slip from the center: This will necessitate adjusting the center grip at the shoulder. When using the other style of rocking, the non-pressing hand is used as a gauge while rocking the bell to the shoulder.
3. This starting position is improper because the bar is not turned far enough around before starting away from the shoulder. The bar should make another quarter of a circle turn before starting.
4. The arm is too far back on the rib box and has slipped away from the solid support it should have. Do not get the arm too far back.
5. Here the arm is being locked while the body is going into the squat. This is faulty. The lifting leg is to be kept straight at the knee until the arm is locked.
6. This squat is incorrect because the shoulder is not between the knees before assuming the squat position. The body cannot be lowered as far this way.
A bent press can be performed in this manner shown, but record weights will never be elevated until the faults pictured here are corrected to the positions shown following.
1. This style of rocking is best for record attempts. The non-lifting hand is used as a gauge to keep the center of the bar for the lifting hand. The non-lifting hand and forearm are used as a fulcrum to rock the bar over.
2. A heavy weight can easily be supported at the shoulder in the manner shown. As the bell reaches the shoulder, the lifting hand is placed in the center of the bar at once, while the heft of the bell is supported upon the non-lifting arm, the elbow of which is rested upon the corresponding hip bone.
2. Here, the bar is resting upon the shoulder and does not rob the arm of strength until the pressing is to be started.
4. Here, the bar is in the proper position for starting a heavy press: It is running parallel to the shoulders, and is turned as far as it will go throughout the course of the entire press.
5. The arm is being locked while the leg on the lifting side is locked at the knee. This insures complete support to the humerus bone throughout the entire pressing movement. Never bend the leg on the lifting side while the arm is bent to any degree.
6. Here the shoulder is properly between the knees, which is the only way the body can dicker with a very heavy press. In real heavy weights the arm is not strong enough to press the bell to straight arm without lowering the body under the weight.
Performing the Bent Press Properly
by Harold Ansorge (1943)
Of all the lifts, the bent press is probably the most interesting: It is without doubt the most intricate: Arthur Saxon, the "King of the Bent Press" claimed this lift to be the best test of all around bodily power. If you really get into the heavy weights, you will see the truth of this statement.
There is a right way and a wrong way to bent press. The more bent pressing I see, the more I am convinced of this fact. There are two distinct styles of pressing which I will describe later.
When I started bent pressing some years ago, I followed what I had read and seen concerning the lift. Later, I discovered that most of this information was not the "best way to bent press." All lifters must, of course, find their individual style: However all humans have the same bones and muscles in the same relative position and these must be used along the same general style if heavy weights are to be handled.
The first thing to remember is that the bent press is a LIFT OF SUPPORTS and not of momentum or speed! Lifts requiring speed and momentum, such as the clean & jerk and snatch are dependent upon violent, spasmodic muscular contraction. The weight is moved to a certain height and the body is moved to a better position to accommodate the weight. In the bent press, the weight is lifted from one support to the next and so on until the largest muscles of the body are called upon to straighten the body out and raise the weight to the final position above the head. Thus, the main thing for a bent presser to develop is "good ligaments and tendons for supports." This explains why so many slim fellows who seem to have very little muscle can elevate very heavy weights in the bent press. They have good strong ligaments to hold their bones in place and are trained to use their largest muscles of the hips and back to raise the weight, once the arm is straight under it. If you are desirous of raising heavy weights in the bent press you must first adopt a system of all around training.
All of the muscles of the body should be developed to some degree before any bent pressing of a near record nature is attempted. If this precaution is not followed, joints in the wrist, elbow, or shoulder are liable to be seriously disabled. Thus, foundation work is necessary as in any other type of lifting.
Let us suppose that you are through this first stage of hardening the muscles and would like to start upon the "King of Lifts". What should you do first? I would advise you to sit down and study leverage and various positions employed in the lift. When I first started this lift, I made the error of performing the lift "without thinking," you might say. Most bent pressers I have known do bent press "without thinking." There must be a reason and I believe it is this: The bent press lift is very complicated and most lifters are not willing to spend the time and practice necessary to master the fine points. Anything that you can do to perfection you can do without the aid of conscious thought. Thus, you must be content to spend hours in practice to master and train the body into the proper position as you would in learning to type, play the piano or ice skate.
The principles of the lift are this, broadly speaking:
1.) getting the weight to the shoulder.
2.) starting it from the shoulder and,
3.) coming up from the squat position once the arm is straight under the weight.
These three points, on first thought, seem very simple and unnecessary to name: But on second thought they are just the points that most lifters to perform correctly. THESE ARE THE MAIN POSITIONS IN WHICH YOU MUST DEVELOP SUPPORT.
Now, we will analyze the complete lift. In the lighter weights, you will be able to clean the weight to the shoulder by grasping the bar in the middle and placing the non-lifting hand over the lifting hand to assist in getting the weight to the shoulder. The weight must be properly balanced. This is accomplished by grasping the weight slightly one side or the other of the center of the bar. If the bar is grasped with the hand directly in the center, the weight will be off center when it reaches the shoulder for pressing. Most one hand lifters do not think of this small point and so constantly PRESS WITH A BAD HANG ON THE BAR. The reason for this is that WHEN THE BAR IS GRASPED ON THE FLOOR, THE CENTER OF THE HAND IS OVER THE CENTER OF THE WRIST, BUT WHEN THE WEIGHT IS BROUGHT TO THE SHOULDERS IT WILL BE FOUND IMPOSSIBLE TO PRESS WITH THE CENTER OF THE HAND HELD DIRECTLY OVER THE CENTER OF THE WRIST. Most bent pressers perform the lift with the wrist extended, that is , bent way back. This is, of course, improper, as a heavy press will so tax the forearm muscles that the press will be difficult to balance when the weight is just about pressed to straight arm. In preparing for the press, I GRASP THE BAR SO THAT THERE IS MORE WEIGHT ON THE LITTLE FINGER END OF THE BAR. This makes the bar level when it is at the shoulder. This little finger hang helps pull the wrist toward the flexed position as the bar will then be directly over the wrist and properly balanced over the eight bones of the wrist.
A large bar is better for balance at the shoulder to get started. But after the press is started from the shoulder, a small bar goes equally as easy. The only reason a large bar starts easier from the shoulder is that more surface is presented to the hand and wrist, thus putting the pressure over a larger area. Just as a small stream of water will cause more damage than a large stream of water, as far as force is concerned, so will the smaller bar impose a greater strain upon the smaller surface. Bob Hoffman and Bob Harley both prefer a large bar and most of their best lifts were made on large handled bells. However, practice with smaller handled weights will make them almost as comfortable to the grip. In starting the bar from the hip, most bent pressers of my acquaintance let their wrist bend back, as this will assist in getting the bar in motion. This is improper. The forearm and wrist should be held perpendicular and the torso should do the bending to get away from the weight.
I was in the habit of pressing by getting the weight onto the hip and, by bending sideways and forward, would get down to the knee, where I found it difficult to lock the shoulder. This is the way I had seen the lift performed and naturally this is the way I began to perform it. This, I found, served me to a certain point and then was not good for any heavier weights, as I could not support the weight into the straight arm position by bending sideways at the start. I continued to analyze the lift. Later, I reached the conclusion that there was no sense in bending sideways at the start of the lift. I discovered that the only reason bent pressers bent to the side was because they couldn't fall directly forward. This I know to be true, as I couldn't fall forward myself without falling somewhat to the side at first. I decided that if I couldn't perform this at first, it was the same as playing the piano: "I couldn't play that instrument with the first lesson." Thus I started to "educate" my muscles to the position I figured was the best. This was to be accomplished by forcing my lifting hip way out and back by keeping the leg very rigidly perpendicular to the floor. When I started the body press, I would bent press with both arms. Later I discovered that this ws unsound reasoning (for record purposes) as it is folly to attempt to keep both arms equal on a lift:
And, that most things we do with one arm that requires practice to learn we can not equal with the other arm. Thus altering my routine, I practiced with ONE ARM ONLY, which I WOULD RECOMMEND TO ANYBODY WHO WISHES TO BREAK RECORDS IN THIS LIFT.
This is practical from the following standpoint: I believe that I am the first to point out the contraction of the back that is necessary on the lifting side to properly twist the body and torso to that side. This is accomplished only to the degree that the non-lifting side is elongated or stretched to permit this lifting side to carry on its increased contraction. To make this clearer: The side muscles, the external obliques, and the muscles of the lower back, spinae erector, meet in back and are the principle muscles that twist and turn the body to either side. By constant practice of turning only to one side, the muscles of one side will be contracted to the extent of having more contraction and those on the other side more extension. After constant practice in trying to attain this position, the back and side muscles referred to will form a very prominent ledge, and IT IS UPON THIS LEDGE THAT I WOULD HAVE EVERY PRESSER SET HIS ELBOW AT THE START OF THE PRESS.
LIGHT WEIGHTS CAN NOT BE PRESSED THE SAME WAY AS HEAVIER WEIGHTS. It was some time before I realized this. When I grasped this truth, I was was quite far ahead of my former ideas. When I learned this, I found that ON A HEAVY WEIGHT I had to have the torso twisted around and the elbow quite far back to support the weight. When THE WEIGHT WAS LIGHT, it wouldn't press me into this twisted position as well. Thus, I discovered THAT LIGHT WEIGHTS WERE DESTROYING MY BENT PRESS STYLE, SO, I started handling heavy weights and practicing half as often, which was correct, and accounts for the poundages I handle at present. HEAVY WEIGHTS CAN NOT BE LIFTED AS RAPIDLY AS LIGHT WEIGHTS. Therefore on presses that are near your limit, PRESS SLOWLY or you WILL DESTROY YOUR BALANCE! Many pressers err in attempting to complete the press too rapidly. As you start from the hip, take things very cautiously and dicker with the weight for balance. Mental confidence is very essential at this point,as the weight often feels beyond the lifter's ability: If you stick through this point, you will feel the weight is within your power, and you will complete the lift.
As the bar is set upon the lifting shoulder and the body is twisted to start, we have another vital point in the lift. When I first undertook bent pressing, I WOULD HAVE THE BAR RUNNING PARALLEL WITH THE SHOULDER AND THE BODY TURNED ABOUT ONE FOOT (THAT IS A ONE FOOT TWIST) TO THE LIFTING SIDE. As I twisted to the side and forward, the bar would complete a quarter circle turn before I had reached my knee. This I knew to be very faulty: However, all bent pressers I witnessed performed in this manner. MOST OF THE PRESENT DAY LIFTERS ON THE BODY PRESS ALSO PRACTICE THIS WAY. This fault can be overcome with proper practice; as on a record weight, the movement of the bar through the quarter circle turn will twist the arm at the shoulder and destroy the balance just as the arm is being locked straight under the weight. TO CORRECT THIS FAULTY SWING OF THE BAR, ONE MUST DEVELOP THE CONTRACTION IN THE BACK AND SIDE MUSCLES THAT WAS MENTIONED BEFORE IN THIS DESCRIPTION. The twist of the torso on the hips will make it possible to look backwards while the feet are held locked at the knee. Then you will be in a position with the bar running parallel with the shoulders, but the shoulders and bar will be be in a line which is at right angles with an imaginary line that could be drawn in front of each toe. This sounds somewhat complicated, but a thorough reading to grasp the idea will make it very readily understood.
TO GENERALLY EXPRESS THE IDEA OF PROPER BENT PRESSING, WE MIGHT SAY THAT ONE SHOULD GET THE ARM WELL BACK ON THE RIB BOX AND FALL FORWARD WITH THE TORSO.
THE NEXT POINTER TO REMEMBER IS TO LET THE ARM SET UPON THE RIB BOX UNTIL THE ARM IS STRAIGHT. There are some bent pressers who, as their torso bends forward, will keep pressing up against the weight as if they were side pressing. This action will tend to throw the weight off balance, as the bell if it be heavy will not be influenced favorably by this pushing and will move sideways. The proper thing to do is to let the arm rest upon the side and concentrate your arm strength at the elbow. Keep the weight in balance and let the bend of the body, forward, straighten the arm out. The beginner tends to try to press the weight out to straight arm at this point for one of two reasons: First, he is getting tired at this point and wants to get the weight up more rapidly and, second, he feels that if he bends lower without bending the leg on the lifting side he will be rendered helpless in this position. Both of these positions are very faulty to the completion of a very heavy press. The following instructions concerning this section of the lift should be followed: Keep the leg on the lifting side straight until the arm is locked or three or four inches from it. All during this time the torso is being lowered to complete this straightening. Here again, the proper position is to lower the shoulder, that is not doing the lifting, down inside the corresponding knee. as the shoulder is lowered inside the knee, the non-lifting arm should be placed upon the knee on the lifting side. This will concentrate all your strength on locking the arm, lowering the hips, and also assist in coming erect, as we shall see later. At this point of locking the arm the gaze should not be taken from the weight for an instant.
The locking of the shoulder is the next vital point to be considered. If the proper movement of the body has been maintained to this point the locking of the shoulder as the is straightened will be quite easily accomplished. The pointers that assist in locking the shoulder are these:
1.) No swinging of the bar during the progress of the press. A swinging bar will twist the arm at the shoulder and, in addition to overcoming the weight, you will be forced to overcome the twisting motion or lose the lift.
2.) Getting the arm back far on the rib box, so that there is no strain on the deltoid or shoulder joint until the humerus bone is no longer resting upon the back. If the arm is too far to the front or too far back the shoulder will be called upon to support the weight too early in the lift, and this strain will destroy your strength to hold the weight in the squat position or overhead.
3.) The wrist must be held straight, or the forearm strength will be waning; this will unduly tax the shoulder joint as the balance will be much more difficult.
The shoulder joint is locked by tensing the deltoid and all surrounding muscles. The latissimus dorsi, pectoral, serratus magnus, biceps, etc.; upon a record weight all of these muscles are brought very strongly into play.
Another common fault is to lower the hips too soon. This comes from not understanding the science of the lift or from not knowing WHY THE HIPS ARE TO BE LOWERED. When we understand why the hips are lowered, we understand when is the best time to lower them for our own particular style or body build. In a light bent press, the legs do not necessarily have to be bent. THE LEGS ARE BENT SO THAT THE WEIGHT WILL BE BROUGHT OVER THE CENTER OF THE BODILY BALANCE. In this stage of a lighter press, the body could be brought erect by the strength of the spinor erector and latissimus dorsi muscles. However, when the weight becomes heavier these muscles would not be sufficiently strong to bring the body erect without the aid of the half squat position. Thus, when the arm has been straightened, the deltoid will be locked very strenuously to balance the weight in this position. The latissimus and serratus magnus are not yet brought into action vigorously. When the arm is straight, lower the hips until the shoulder is locked at the shoulder joint and at the shoulder blade. When the femur bones are parallel with the ground, your squat will be at its highest efficiency.
As a rule you should squat no lower than you feel is necessary to properly lock the shoulder. As a rule, this is where the legs have the most strength! That is, when the thigh is parallel with the ground. While in this position your non-lifting shoulder is resting upon the corresponding knee and an all bone support is effected. HERE YOU CAN PAUSE A SECOND TO GET SET FOR THE EFFORT OF COMING TO THE UPRIGHT POSITION. When you start up, be sure to have the non-lifting hand on the knee on the lifting side. With this arm, press very vigorously upon the knee, by exerting strength, not only in the triceps of the arm but mainly in the latissimus muscle on that side. This muscle has the action of pulling the arm back and inward, which action is just what is needed to press the torso from the leg.
Maintain in the mind the idea of coming erect as rapidly as possible: This idea of momentum in the mind will overcome any feeling that might be present of being pinned to the leg. If, in this low position you feel that your back and side muscles have relaxed, and your shoulder on the non-lifting side is resting heavily upon the knee and thigh, you will find it very difficult to get started to come erect: So, do not relax in this low position but maintain tension so that you will not be required to overcome the extra inertia.
The coming erect will be completed by holding the weight overhead in full control for the count of two. In holding the weight overhead, you will best accomplish this by getting the weight back slightly, rather than forward as then the balance at the shoulder will be maintained by the large muscles of the back and not those of the shoulder alone.
There you have all the stages of the bent press analyzed.