Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bodybuilding With the Three Olympic Lifts - Hal Stephens (1949)


Hal Stephens


Once Again, Thanks to Liam Tweed!



Article From The Iron Man Nov/Dec 1949

Editor's Note (Peary Rader): Too many bodybuilders look upon the lifts as of no value or interest except for competitive lifters. Such is far from the truth a we have tried to point out. The lifts can be made into one of the finest of body building programs. Such a program as here outlined by Mr. Stephens will give the physique a rugged, finished appearance not obtainable in any other manner. If you are seeking a perfect physique and one capable of demonstrating strength and agility, don't neglect the lifts.


Practice of the Olympic lifts in repetition form can build a super physique and at the same time maintain the strength and technique necessary in competitive lifting.

Very few bodybuilders are extreme specialists, either in the body culture field or in competitive  lifting; most of us enjoy mixing a little lifting with our body development program, or vice versa, we like to combine bodybuilding training with our lifting program, if we are lifting enthusiasts. 

The writer, for example, adapts his training routine to fit the conditions under which he is living. If I am living near a metropolis where competitive lifting is the chief interest, I devote considerable time to the practice of the three Olympic lifts. Where my work takes me to the more remote mountainous regions of the country, I change over to a bodybuilding program, usually some phase of specialization, when competitive lifting seems to be out of the question. 

Undoubtedly, many other lifting fans find themselves in much the same sort of situation. Moving about the country is certainly not conducive to best results in training, but if we have no choice as to where to live, the best plan would be to arrange the training program to suit the new conditions as nearly as possible. When a competitive lifting enthusiast moves to some 'out of the way' location, he may regretfully turn from his lifting training to a bodybuilding program and perhaps even give up hopes of lifting in the near future. 

This discussion is intended, therefore, to point out how the competitive lifts may be practiced as exercises, bringing about excellent improvement in the development the physique and at the same time help keep the lifter in topnotch form with regard to style and technique.

In this way he could return to competitive lifting at any time in the future without having lost much of his original power and form.

Although an entire workout, beneficial to all major muscles of the body, can be made up from the practice of the three lifts, we will supplement the suggested program at the conclusion of the article with a few additional bodybuilding exercises.

The writer feels strongly in favor of exercises that involve the large muscle groups of the body. The heavy exercises such as the two hands press, the deep knee bend, and the two hands clean are highly recommended for developing muscular bulk and great overall body strength. The more complex movements of the competitive lifts develop a fine degree of coordination and balance, to say nothing of the speed and nervous energy that is built up.

For our workout program, we will include the three Olympic practiced in repetition with one or two variations of parts of each lift to aid in furthering muscular development. Different exercise working on body parts such as the neck, abdominals, pectorals, not seriously affected by the lifting practice are offered for rounding out the program.

Remember, the ultimate purpose of this system is body development; secondary reasons are the maintenance of lifting form and body strength in these lifts.  

Recent issues of Iron Man have very adequately discussed and illustrated the manner of performing the Olympic lifts; details of their correct performance is therefore omitted. Intermediate and advanced bodybuilders and lifters to whom this article is directed will have already mastered the technique of the lifts to some degree. Beginning bodybuilders are encouraged to follow a generalized bodybuilding course of training for a period of several months before considering this type of program.

This training can be as intensive as you would care to make it. Practice of the three lifts for serious competition can be very strenuous as many of you know. Practice of these same lifts for development purposes will involve more reps at less poundage, but will still demand great output of muscular and nervous energy.

You may compromise with regard to poundage versus number of reps for each workout, depending upon the maximum poundage you wish to lift. Single attempt lifting may even be attempted once every other week in order to keep your lifts at near maximum poundage.


The first of the competitive lifts, the Two Hands Press, is practiced in some form by nearly every bodybuilder or lifter. It is a marvelous developer of of the upper back and one of the best exercises for the shoulders and triceps. It should be performed in accordance with lifting rules [Note: 1949].

Make each press fast, but smooth, and avoid the shrug and heave habit that many lifters have fallen into - it is sure disqualification in a meet and defeats your purpose in using it as an exercise. Perform this exercise for 8 to 12 reps and work up to 5 sets. For your first set, choose a poundage that is reasonably difficult, but one that might allow two more reps with extra effort. This set will serve to warm up the muscles thoroughly and prepare them for the more difficult sets to come. Add 10 pounds to the bar for the second set and possibly the third set if you are nearing your limit. Put out on this third set. If you make at least 8 reps on this third set, put 5-10 pounds more on the bar for your fourth set. Decrease the weight on your fifth set, using about the same as the first set.

Some fellows prefer to use the same poundage on all sets, a plan that the writer has found to be quite satisfactory in the past; however, many experienced bodybuilders have found that because one's strength and endurance are not consistent throughout a number of sets, best results should be expected if the poundage is varied in keeping with the capacity of the individual from one set to the next. With the first set as a warm up, the strongest sets should be the second and third.

Vary the position of the hands, the grip width, until you find the most natural one for performing the press. The writer used a slightly wider than shoulder width grip for several years, and then changed to a wide grip, several inches wider. After using the narrower grip for this long period of time, one which frequently resulted in painful back-bending on the heavier presses, I found that the wide grip permitted a strong press in correct and natural style. It was quite a revelation! Pressing with the wider grip was begun after a two month complete layoff. My top press with this new style was 180 pounds at the beginning of this phase of training, while my best with the narrow grip was only 200 at this time. The wide grip was practiced exclusively without once resorting to the old grip. In about two or three months my limit press reached 235, exceeding my previous personal record by 35 pounds. Noticeable development in the posterior portions of the deltoids resulted from this type of pressing. With the exception of a warm up set of 8-10 reps, no set exceeded 5 reps. This training, however, was for competitive lifting.

The Press Behind Neck is an excellent exercise to alternate on different workouts with the regular press. Use the same set and rep plan.

The Two Hands Snatch practiced in repetition in the dead hang style (without letting the plates touch the platform) has long been recognized as a wonderful exercise. The muscles of the entire body are vigorously called into play during performance of this movement.

The first part of the lift involves the thighs, entire back with emphasis on the spinal erectors, the deltoids, and trapezius in that order of importance. The second phase of the lift which consists of fixing the weight overhead places a great deal of effort upon the deltoids, trapezius, and other back upper muscles in about that order.

The lift progresses smoothly from the first phase through the second phase without any perceptible break. Gripping strength of he hands and forearms is forcibly developed throughout the entire lift.

If your technique in the Two Hands Snatch is rusty, practice the lift with a very light weight until it goes smoothly and to your satisfaction. Repeat the lift until the action is automatic. Check yourself on the fundamentals of correct form; see that the back is flat at the start of the lift, that the legs provide the beginning thrust. Pull the bar straight upward as high as possible before going in under the bar.

When practicing the lift in repetition, use the dead hang style by not letting the plates touch the floor between reps. Lower the bar to a point just below the knees and come up immediately for the next lift. Perform at least 8 reps and work up to 4 or 5 sets. Perfect your style before using maximum poundage, and use the same set/rep plan as in the Press.

As a supplementary exercise to the Snatch, include the Upright Rowing Motion or High Pullups. It is best performed with a narrow grip and with elbows pulled high at the completion of the movement. This exercise works directly on the deltoid and trapezius muscles.

Use at least 12-15 reps for not less than 3 sets, preferably 4. Instead of the upright rowing motion you may substitute Dead Hang Snatches - without lowering the bar below knee level. This manner of lifting requires a strong finishing pull to bring the bar overhead; a very fast split or squat is also necessary to complete the lift. A reduction in poundage from that used in the regular Snatch is needed to make the lift in good style. Determine this poundage by trial and error; use a weight that permits 7-8 reps.

The final Olympic lift, the Clean and Jerk, actually consists of two distinct lifts; the clean to the shoulders and the jerking of the barbell overhead. For purposes of muscular development, we will consider them one at a time, and we will practice the two together as a competitive lift once every week or two.

The Clean, in which the bar is lifted from the floor to the shoulders in one continuous movement, is very similar to the first part of the snatching movement. Because the weight is carried just to the shoulders, a great deal more poundage may be employed than in snatching the weight. The heavier weight used in the Clean vigorously works the large powerful muscles of the legs and back. When practiced in sets of 8-10 reps, this lift becomes one of the very best back developers. It does not matter a great deal whether the feet remain in one place during the movement or whether the split or squat style is used as far as muscular benefits are concerned.

Whichever style is employed, maximum poundage should be attempted for the 8 reps and at least 4 sets should be included. Work up to this maximum poundage and number of sets over a period of 2 or 3 weeks, if you have not been practicing the Clean recently. Begin with a moderate poundage in any case and strive for perfection of form. Perfect form is not absolutely necessary for muscular development, but it is essential if you anticipate entering any competitive lifting.

Going down low in the split or squat while cleaning will result in magnificent thigh development. Let me illustrate by a recent experience. A few months ago, I worked from a bodybuilding program into some lifting training. At this time my thighs measured 24.5 inches, the largest they have ever been. After one month of lifting training which included specialization in the Clean, my thigh increased in size to 26 inches! Incidentally, my bodyweight increased as well.

This led me to make use of a very excellent leg exercise, one which I have not seen practiced by many bodybuilders. The movement is similar to that part of the Clean in which the lifter comes up from a low split. The weight is placed on the shoulders as for a deep knee bend. Then, take a long step forward with the right foot. While the weight is evenly distributed between the two feet, bend the right knee until a position equivalent to the low split is reached. Next, shift the weight over the bent leg by bringing the body forward. Now straighten the leg, using the back leg (in this case the left one) only to maintain balance. [the things we take for granted, eh]. Go through this movement about 15 times (reps) before replacing the bar on the rack. Load the bar to a poundage about 20 to 50 pounds less than your best Clean for this exercise. Avoid the mistake of overloading the bar, as this will prevent you from dipping low enough for maximum benefit. 3 or 4 sets should give the legs a pretty thorough workout.

Repetition Jerks From the Shoulder involve the triceps and shoulder muscles principally, but the entire back and legs certainly receive their fair share of work. Approximately 8 reps and not less than 5 are recommended in this lift. The barbell may be taken to the shoulders either by cleaning the weight from the floor or by lifting it from a pair of supports. Cleaning the barbell preparatory to jerking it 5 to 8 times will require some effort, but not enough to hinder the jerking. It is easier, however, to take the weight from the racks and start a series of jerks while fresh. If you do take the weight from the racks, make the first few attempts with a rather light poundage in order to accustom the body to the movement. Cleaning the weight to the shoulders tends to "set" the muscles ready for the Jerk, but such is not quite the case when taking the bar from the rack. Lifting the weight directly from the rack causes it to feel unduly heavy and the first Jerk will not be done in best form. It is for this reason that a light starting poundage is recommended.

Jerks From Behind The Neck may be included for the sake of variety. The writer, however, prefers to stick to the regular Jerk as performed in competition.

A review of the exercises or lifts described above will reveal the fact that none of them develop the pectorals or abdominals directly. The muscles of the neck receive some benefit, but not very much from the lifting exercises. For this reason, we should include a couple of bodybuilding exercises which will complete our well rounded exercise program. The Supine Press On Bench With Wide Grip is an excellent barbell exercise for the pectoral region. Change the inclination of the bench by raising the head end of the bench for some of the sets. Use a poundage that will permit 8-12 reps and repeat for 3-5 sets.

Situps On An Inclined Board (head at lower end) and Incline Leg Raises (with head at upper end) will keep the abdominal region in fine shape. Work up to 30-50 reps on each of these exercises and include at least 2 sets for each. Gains should be forthcoming from such a routine.

Any lack of neck development may be remedied by the Wrestlers Bridge which works all of the neck muscles. Rock back and forth with the head resting on a mat or cushion and perform at least 25-50 movements (reps) eventually.

It should not be necessary to mention that the poundage in the lifts practiced as exercises should be increased whenever possible. The strength capacity of the body can only be increased by keeping the demands close to the maximum. Strive to handle more and  more weight, but do not make these increases unless you are able to complete the minimum number of repetitions for each set.

Now comes the problem of arranging all the above exercises into one weekly program. Obviously, we cannot perform all of the exercises described in one workout, since the time required and the capacity of the individual would not permit such a schedule. It will be necessary, therefore, that we select a group of exercises for the first workout day and an equivalent group for the second workout day, so that through the three-day workout week we are able to cover the important exercises.

Each of the Olympic lifts is nearly a workout in itself; because of this fact, we cannot carry too great a load for a given workout period. Our suggested program, in this case, will constitute an average routine with optional parts for the more rugged and ambitious lifter. Let us consider it a very flexible program which can be rearranged to suit each individual need.

The suggested program is based on a three day workout week with each workout lasting from 1.5 to 2.5 hours, depending on the energies of the lifter and what optional exercises he chooses to include.


First Workout Period

Warmup exercise such as Clean and Press with light barbell, 5-8 reps.
1) Olympic Press, 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps
2) Dead Hang Snatch, 3-5 sets x 8-12 reps.
3) Supine Press On Bench, 3-5 x 8-12 reps.
4) Two Hands Clean, 3-5 x 8
5) Upright Rowing Motion, 3 x 12-15
6) Situps or Leg Raises, 1-2 x 25-50.
Optional: Perform maximum number of recommended sets in above exercises.


Second Workout Period

Warmup exercise as above.
1) Press Behind Neck, 3-5 x 8-12
2) Repetition Jerks (taken from rack), 3-5 x 5-8
3) Supine Press on Incline Bench, 3-5 x 10-12
4) One Leg Knee Bend With Legs in Split Position, 15 reps each leg
5) Two Hand Clean, 3-5 x 8
6) Wrestlers Bridge
Optional: Perform maximum number of recommended sets.


Third Workout Period


Warmup as above.
1) Olympic Press, 3-5 x 8 maximum poundage
2) Two Hands Snatch (dead hang), 5 x 5 maximum poundage 
3) Two Hands Clean (dead hang), 5 x 5 maximum poundage
4) Clean Weight and Jerk, 3 x 5
Optional: Perform maximum number of recommended sets.


Remarks: The suggested weekly program using the three Olympic lifts as exercises with two or three extra exercises included has become a rather intensive overall body workout. Actually this program might also be considered a specialization routine for back and leg development, for it is on these parts that the most notable improvement should be obtained.

You will note that the third workout period calls for heavier poundages and fewer reps than the first and second periods. This alone should keep your lifts very near your best on single attempts. If you are interested in attempting some heavy single lifts, work up to your maximum on the third period instead of doing sets at 5 reps each, but not oftener than every other week.

When you are ready to make the transition to a full-fledged Olympic lifting training program, simply cut down on the number of reps and hike up the poundage on all workout periods. Working with very heavy weights requires a great deal of energy output and your capacity for the number of sets of exercises will also be decreased.

For heavy specialization on the lifts, you will probably practice just the Press and the Snatch on one day; the Press and the Clean on the next; and possibly all three lifts on the third day, but that is another type of program. 
                  

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