Thank You, Brother!
The Press, as performed in Russia. This is a reproduction from the official Russian textbook and emphasizes the importance of maintaining the bar on the same vertical line.
The French are in favor of eliminating the Press from the Olympic set and substituting one or both of the single arm snatches or jerks. They feel - though they haven't raised the matter officially during recent years and show no immediate signs of doing so - that as international agreement on interpreting the definition is apparently impossible it would be better to make away with it altogether and put in its place a simpler and more easily controlled movement.
There is certainly something and perhaps a great deal to be said for this point of view. International competition would certainly be sweeter for the removal of this most vexatious lift and there are other countries, apart from France, who consider it too troublesome to be tolerated and would welcome its ejection.
Personally, I think that the Press is here to stay. I think it should stay in spite of the difficulties and annoyances it presents. But if I were making out a case for its exclusion I would do more than present its nuisance aspect. I would make my strongest point the fact that the Press is not a fair basis of competition because supreme ability upon it is not dependent upon training but upon skeletal structure over which the athlete has no control.
I could demonstrate my point very easily. Yet I doubt very much whether it would carry its weight for I have found that this very simple matter of leverage on the Press is either ignored or simply not understood by even the most knowledgeable authorities. Certainly the average competitive lifter isn't even aware of the point; and so, as I consider that a full understanding of the matter of leverage in relation to the Press is essential before the styles most suitable to various types and the best methods of training can be considered, I shall enlarge on it.
The Press, basically, is a deltoid movement. Other muscle groups are, of course, heavily involved, but, substantially, the pressing of a bar from the sternum to arms' length depends upon the contraction and shortening of the deltoids and the resultant raising of the humerus or bone of the upper arm.
In the case of a man with an extremely short upper arm in relation to his forearm the extremity of mechanical advantage is reached. The man with a long humerus in relation to his forearm is, from a leverage point of view, in a much stronger position.
Let me give a simple illustration.
Suppose you have a long plank with a weight resting on one end and, under the middle of the plank, a stone (black triangle). By reason of the presence of the weight and the stone the free end of the plank is raised; and you may compare this with the position in which you hold a bar at the shoulders. Correctly the stone will constitute the fulcrum, the weight will constitute the resistance. That part of the plank between fulcrum and resistance (weight) is known as the resistance arm. The part between the fulcrum and the opposite end is known as the power (lever) arm.
if sufficient pressure is applied at the extreme of the power arm (as, for instance by standing on the plank) the weight will be raised. If the stone is central the two arms are balanced but if the stone is moved closer to the point of power the power arm is working at a mechanical disadvantage. If, however, the stone should be moved closer to the weight the power arm would become stronger.
The mechanics of the Press are really as simple as this and some experts in America have gone even further into the subject and actually tabulated the disparities between upper arm and forearm beyond one of which, they say, a man can never become a good presser and beyond which, at the opposite extreme, he is a "natural" presser. The "great naturals" they found had upper arms of anything from just over 3" to approximately 2" greater comparative upper arm length. The "impossibles" ranged from 2" down to level.
While I am not able to confirm these standards I am prepared, knowing the reliability of the American investigators concerned, to accept them. Certainly they form the basis for some interesting comparisons by the ordinary lifter. And very definitely the principle upon which they are based is sound.
So far as pressing is concerned all men are not created equal and though the discovery of his inescapable deficiencies may damp his enthusiasm and (let us be quite frank about it) fruitless one, it is better for the handicapped lifter to know where he stands. It is equally important for the favored man to be aware of his structural advantages.
The "natural presser" - the man with favorable comparative leverage - almost invariably finds a "deep" pressing position most suitable. Touni, [Robert] Fein, Terlazzo, Frank Kay, Stanczyk, Davis and Manger have all pressed in this style: Elbows low and close, the bar resting solidly on the body. Amongst the British champions George Espeut is the best example. George has a very "deep" start to his Press and the ease with which he carries everything but a record poundage cleanly from its resting place is confirmation that he has found his ideal pressing style. Such men as these do not employ - and would not benefit from employing - a marked "setting" of the shoulders at commencement though with a limit poundage it sometimes develops.
The intermediate types find a slightly wider hand-spacing and a greater separation of the elbows with the bar held right on the sternum bone to be the best pressing stance. Our own Ronald Walker (who, I should, in fairness, point out is additionally handicapped by his exceptional height of 5'11.5") is a good example. Another is out light-heavyweight champion, Ernie Roe, whose pressing is always an object lesson in its vigorous cleanness.
Many other leading British lifters can be classified in this category but not all of them, unfortunately, have mastered the most suitable style. The intermediate type is the "average" type and for him the cleanest possible style is not only advisable, it also offers the best possibilities.
The lifter who is definitely handicapped by poor leverage on the Press is not necessarily unfortunate or debarred forever from championship honors. Often he is a superb exponent of the Snatch and Clean & Jerk so that if he cannot he win he can possibly place and can certainly break records. Shams of Egypt - the greatest exponent of the fast lifts the game has ever known - is the classic example. But he isn't by any means the only one.
The important thing for such a man is to make the most of his limited resources. The "deep" Press of the "natural" is out of the question, for only by means of a perceptible and illegal drive can he start the bell on its way. Usually the "handicapped" lifter attempts to emulate the intermediate lifter with the body maintained in an uncomfortably erect position and the bell neither resting on nor held completely clear of the shoulders.
Something close to the Russian style of pressing is usually the most suitable. The hands, certainly, should be rather wider apart then normal and the shoulders should be comfortably "set" though not necessarily so markedly as our Soviet friends favor. The urgency which, in championships, positively oozes out of the poor presser to "get the wretched lift over" indicates that he has accepted defeat on it. It is wrong and, indeed, a defeatist attitude.
No man has a right to lift in championships if he knows that his Press is so poor that, right from the first lift, he is debarred from even from honorable placing. His Press need not be so poor as that. If his performances on the Snatch and Clean & Jerk compensate his weakness sufficiently to ensure his selection then, in spite of the gravest natural handicaps, he is generally powerful enough to attain a reasonable performance.
Provided that he doesn't run away from his weak spot he will find that nature is not completely ruthless.
Note: You may find these two articles (1937 and 1944) by Bob Hoffman of interest:
Enjoy Your Lifting!