Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed
This issue we wish to carry on our discussion of training schedules for developing the many qualities needed for perfection in this lift, that is: power, speed, flexibility, timing, and mental qualities required of top lifters.
One of the leading trainers in the country insists that his men start out with very light weights and they are not allowed to go to heavy limit poundages until they have mastered perfect form and style with the lighter poundages. The Russian trainers insist that their lifters do thousands of repetitions with light poundages, concentrating on low positions, blinding speed and flexibility. No man is allowed to go to heavy poundages until he has perfect style. Even their champions spend much of their time doing repetitions with medium poundages and often spend a little time before a contest on heavy poundages.
In most instances it is difficult to divorce the three lifts from each other -- that is, you will probably be practicing the press and clean and jerk in the same program with the snatch. However, on some occasions you may want to spend considerable time on specialization on nothing but the snatch, especially if you have found it is your problem lift.
One thing we must insist on and that is perfection of form and style before you go to the heavy lifts. This does not mean that you should neglect power work, but this power work should take the form of bodybuilding movements rather than lifting movements -- that is, the squat, bench press, dead lift, and high pullup. Also, the press and jerk press.
Now, if you are a beginner at lifting you should first develop a good and powerful foundation with bodybuilding before going into any lifting motions. This bodybuilding system will bring your bodyweight up if you are skinny and will give you powerful muscles and tendons. It will toughen up your tendons and muscles so that you will not be so apt to suffer pulled muscles when you begin lifting. You will find that you will go much further if you lay a good foundation in this manner for your lifting training later on. For this bodybuilding we would recommend specialization on the power exercises. Here is a good schedule:
Several sets of 6 or 6 repetitions, finishing up with jerk presses. Use heavy poundages and about 4 to 6 sets. In fact, on most of these exercises you should do 4-6 sets of 5-6 reps.
Upright Row -
This should be in the nature of heavy pulls, as for record cleans and snatches. Use heavy weights for several sets of 5-6 reps. You could start out with a heavy weight that you can pull to about shoulder level for the first set. Then add weight for the next set and you will only be able to pull it to about chest height. Add more poundage and this set will only come up to about waist height. Do another set with this poundage, then add more weight and this will only come up a little higher than dead lift height. This will amount to a high, fast dead lift as you will always make your movements fast, for you must learn to move fast under heavy weights. Forget slow movements entirely, no matter what exercise you are doing. A man who wants to be a champion Olympic lifter must develop an explosive speed under heavy weights.
Now, let's go to some bench presses. You will need some helpers to hand you the weight for this one or else a so-called spot bench on which you can load the weights and take them off and replace them when through.
About 6 reps here again and about 4-6 sets. Do them fast and use a medium grip. Do not use a wide grip as some bodybuilders do. A wide grip will not be beneficial to your lifting. Get a lot of drive in them and keep bringing the poundages up all the time.
Now we should go to the key exercise for a lifter -- the squat. Above all, this exercise should be specialized in -- you must work as hard as possible on it, always pushing yourself to do more reps with more weight. Do not go below the parallel position in this exercise, so as to prevent injury to the lower back, especially with heavy weights. Do about 4 to 6 sets with all you can handle for 6 to 8 repetitions. Don't rest too long between sets. Fight them -- fight them. If you don't learn to fight the weights you will never be a great lifter.
Now, believe it or not, that is about the extent of your foundational bodybuilding program. Stay on it until you are getting pretty good -- until you have the needed bodyweight and muscular development. Decide in which weight class you wish to lift and then reach that bodyweight. After you reach this point you can add the lifts. However, all during your bodybuilding program you should work for flexibility of the shoulder and hip area.
For developing flexibility of the shoulders you can use some of the exercises described in previous articles. One is the shoulder dislocation movement where you hold an empty bar in the hands with a wide grip and then bring it overhead and back down behind the hips while keeping the arms locked straight. Do a lot of this, bringing the hands closer together each repetition and over time. This will loosen the shoulders so you can get weights well back overhead where they may be held. This same movement can be performed while lying on a bench. This may require quite a wide grip and a rather high bench, but it is very effective. Hanging from a bar and allowing the shoulders to stretch out, then leaning well forward, is a help too.
Some men like to put a lot of weight overhead with a wide grip and then well lean forward under it, getting it as far back as possible.
Let's not forget one very great necessity -- that is, to always lock the arms out tight when doing any pressing or jerking motions. Never finish an exercise or lift with partially bent elbows. Learn to lock them out, as you can't hold heavy jerks with bent elbows.
For developing flexibility in the hip region we have two good methods. One is the light squat and duck waddle. That is, you take a very light poundage (to you) and do a low squat. Now while remaining in this low position you walk around the floor trying to go lower all the time. You may find it better to hold the weight at the shoulders in front of the neck while doing this. The purpose of this exercise is to loosen you up for going into very low squat and split positions. Do not use heavy weights, for there is danger of injury to the lower back and we don't want that. Just a little weight that will help pull you into the lower positions and stretch the muscles is sufficient.
Another exercise especially valuable to the split lifter is the low split while holding a weight at the shoulders, on the back, or overhead, but preferably on the shoulders in front of the neck. Go into a low split and stretch our all you can, bounce up and down and roll forward and back trying to go lower and lower. Now try walking around the gym by going into a low split each step, swinging into as low a split as possible. Alternate with each leg. A trial will show you what we mean.
The above program should suffice for the beginner. He probably should remain on this program for about three months. Then he is ready to go into a power program and lifting motions.
Next issue we will describe this power program and the lifting motions. The power program will, of course, be aimed at developing great power in the lifting muscles and will differ but little from the bodybuilding program just given, except for repetitions and sets and some compound movements. The lifting motions will be aimed at speed, timing, flexibility and precision of movement. This program will be set up for the advanced beginner and also for the advanced lifter who needs improvement. We would therefore suggest that all the advanced lifters should plan to follow the program for a period of a month or two and they will find their poundages greatly improved. We will give you the whole program in the coming issue.