Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Olympic Squat - Tommy Kono

One of the most dramatic moments in weightlifting history took place at the Senior Nationals in 1963. Lou Riecke had taken a strong lead with his fantastic snatching, and an out of condition Tommy Kono had to take this 375 to win. Somehow he found the strength and courage to struggle his way out of this low position and fight the jerk, all the way to victory.

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The Olympic Squat
by Tommy Kono (1969)

Although this information is directed more toward the benefit of squat-style lifters, the material in this article can be useful for both bodybuilders and powerlifters. Generally speaking, a majority of the squat technicians in the Olympic lifts can pull more weight into the shoulders than they can rise with. Or, should they have the ability to stand up from the squat clean they lack extra power in their legs to jerk the weight overhead. This is often the case despite the fact that the lifter had performed many sets of heavy squats in training.

Improper squatting technique not only wastes the lifter’s time but also gives him a false sense or power in the legs which do not really serve him well for the squat style clean & jerk. What then, constitutes good technique in squatting which will aid in the Olympic lifts?

The drawings accompanying this article show three of the variations used by the lifters of which one is the better style. Note the differences in the three techniques and try to figure why one is better than the other two. Compare the following explanation with your own.

Detailed Explanation of the Correct and Incorrect Methods

Figure “A” shows the body in an upright position which places all the stress on the thighs when coming out of the deep squat. Figure “B” illustrates the squat with the back inclined forward which takes most of the stress off the thighs and places it on the back. “B” technique employs a larger number of muscle groups so a greater load can be handled in the squat but it does not improve the cleaning ability. This is the style usually employed by powerlifters to get record poundage. Many powerlifters not employ this style but also ride the bar NOT ON THE SHOULDERS but lower down the back; that is, below the rear deltoids. They often use an extremely wide stance which brings into play muscle groups of the inner thighs. The MORE MUSCLE GROUPS EMPLOYED AT ONE TIME THE GREATER THE WEIGHT THAT CAN BE HANDLED. But, it doesn’t mean that the cleaning ability will improve.

Why is the inclined style an inferior technique to use for the squat clean? In figures “A” and “B” imagine the bar resting on the chest instead of on the shoulders as in the squat clean and it will become more obvious. In the upright squat position it makes very little difference but in he incline technique the body is forced to become more upright to rest the bar on the chest. This means that the advantage of using the back muscle becomes less; consequently, more stress is thrown on the legs, a muscle group unaccustomed to the load since it had shared the load with the muscles of the back.

Quite some time ago two middleweights who at one time or another held the world record in the Clean & Jerk trained together. The first middleweight used to squat with 400 lbs. for 5 reps in almost every workout without much difficulty while the second middleweight in his best shape had a hard time performing 3 reps with the weigh once a week. Yet, when the squat exercise was performed with the bar resting on the chest, the first middleweight had a rough time completing one repetition with 375 while the second middleweight who had a rough time with 400 lbs. in back was able to successfully make 3 reps with 375 in front. The first middleweight had kept his body forward as he went into the squat while the second middleweight also had a heavier development of the muscles right in front of the knees (Vastus Internus) than the first middleweight because of the correct squatting position adopted.

Squatting correctly for lifting requires a certain amount of flexibility in ankles, knees and hips. This is achieved by stretching the calf muscles and the frontal thigh muscles and an ability to flex the lumbar muscles to tilt the pelvic girdle back.

The key points to remember in performing squats for lifting are: (1) try to maintain a flat back with your chest held high and filled with air. (2) keep the upper body as upright as possible as you descend into the squat, and (3) attempt to bring the hip joint as close as possible to the ankle joint when you reach the bottom of the squat. This means that the knees (viewing from the sides) will have to point forward and not upward.

Some lifters go into the full squat in the correct manner but instead of rising correctly they either fall into the lean forward technique or lose their flat back and collapse into a “bow” as in figure “C” to relieve the legs of the load and throw it on the back muscles. They can do this in the regular squat but the moment the bar is shifted from behind the neck to in front of the neck as in the squat clean then the effectiveness of the squat is lost. Use the lean forward or “bowed” position and eventually you develop a thick set of spinal erector muscles, especially where the bow is the greatest. Use the bow technique and you also find yourself developing a thicker waist because of the pressure created in the abdominal region and from the thickening of the lower back muscles.

When you fall into the bowed squat position your balance shifts toward the heel which in turn automatically forces the back muscles to take the bulk of the load.

In all of your squatting movements in training, whether back or front squats, always try to squat with your upper body as upright as possible. Incline or bow your back if you have to with the extremely heavy ones but execute the squat exercise correctly for the greatest benefit for your clean & jerks.

Irregular Training - Bob Hoffman

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Louis Abele at 16 years of age

Ibrahim Shams, the Egyptian master-lifter.
Cleaned 340 pounds at a bodyweight of 143.

Irregular Training
by Bob Hoffman

Irregular training is one of the first principles that has helped so many to success. Your muscles quickly become accustomed to the work they are asked to do. That’s why light methods which bring results in the beginning soon cease to make progress possible. This is because the muscles quickly become accustomed tot them, and there is no defining system of progression. If you start out with five-pound dumbells and never increase the poundages, your muscles will become just strong enough to handle that poundage; they will grow only enough to consummate the work demanded of them. You seldom see a pick and shovel laborer who is strong. He performs about the same work day after day, year after year. His muscles become tough enough to continue that particular form of work and never become very strong or well developed. Mail carriers, delivery men, tennis players, marathon runners, carpenters, or even bricklayers have only average strength; a certain form of endurance is built so that the muscles can continue to do the work asked of them – the workman to work his seven or eight hours, the tennis player to play his five sets, the distance runner to run his marathon. The muscles of these men become just strong enough to do the work asked of them and then the advancing years cut down their ability so that they can no longer do this amount of work. They have no surplus. If they had enough strength, such as the barbell man, they could lose a part of this strength and still be vastly stronger than average men, and able to continue to participate without great fatigue.

Something must be done to jolt the muscles out of their regular routine. Therefore, irregular training has its work to do. I popularized this principle of training because it’s a method that I used during a score of years of intensive and successful athletics. I also observed that the strongest men were foremen or bosses of some sort who seldom used their muscles, but occasionally would lend a hand at lifting, moving objects or unloading heavy material. After that they had plenty of time to rest, usually of days’ duration, during which their muscles would be built up and be ready for additional severe demands made upon them some time in the future.

So many of the old time strongmen were butchers. Swoboda, Turck and Steinbach of Vienna held in turn the world’s record in the two hands continental jerk. The strongest man was considered to be the one who put the most weight overhead. The world is a big place and these Viennese butchers led the world for generations. There must be some reason for it, I thought. Old time butchers would work very hard on their actual butchering days, using crude and simple old time methods in Europe. They would literally wrestle a large animal, kill it, string it up and later carry it in halves and quarters to the refrigerator. After this day of very hard work they would have some days of easy work in their stores doing the finer cutting or on their routes with a light wagon. From Turck who first jerked 365 pounds overhead to Swoboda who jerked 440 after it was lifted to his shoulders, these butchers led the strength parade.

There were old time sailing men such as John Y. Smith who had great power. These men would work desperately hard for days at a time in rough weather. This would be followed by days of almost nothing to do, certainly nothing very vigorous. Other strong men worked on beer delivery wagons; they would handle the heavy barrels and kegs on delivery day and have days of rest in between. Stevedores became powerful men. They worked long hours when a ship was in. Steve Gob, one of the most powerful men of his weight in the entire world, a man who pressed 270 and totaled 835 officially, has done considerable work as a stevedore. At times he worked intensively for thirty hours or more at a stretch, at one time earning $62.00 in continuous work. Then there are long waits between ships. This type of very hard work followed by long rest periods had built strong men, while those men who were continually at it built only a form of endurance.

A study of these results proved one thing: that great demands must be made upon the muscles at times. This we do on the heavy or limit day of training – a day, usually once a week, in which the ambitious lifter works up to or beyond his best of the past. We train very hard on this day. Strangely, there is an exhilaration to training in this intensive manner. More glycogen is released by this hard training than is required; there is a surplus which accounts for the great feeling of strength, energy and wellbeing that advanced barbell men feel on this hard day of training.

It is not possible to train to the limit always, in spite of the rest period which is sandwiched between the training days. More than a single day of rest is required, therefore we generally rest Friday and Sunday, training to the limit on Saturday. That’s also why we usually do not train as severely on Monday as on other days as it is the first training day following the heavy Saturday exertion. With my preferred training system this is a lighter day, one of the exercise days and not a day for the lifts. Variety is possible during these lighter training days. It can consist of selecting the amount of weight which can be handled for ten repetitions. One day of the week it is desirable to select a weight which can be used fifteen times; at other times it is wise to follow the heavy and light system ( I will go into deeper detail on this later), or the three times five, or the five times five system.

Irregular training has proven to be one of the main roads to your physical desires. Kindly remember that your muscles quickly become accustomed to a steady routine with about the same resistance always or even with gradual increases. You must jolt these muscles out of their familiar rut and this is done with irregular training. In the years of my own training and in coaching many ambitious barbell men, this system of irregular training has proven itself best to me.

Once a week the athlete should work up to or beyond his limit. That is the day when you break your own records, handle poundages you never lifted before, or exceed the maximum repetitions you have ever made with a certain poundage. The other training days you work out rather moderately. On the first of these, Monday, you could exercise about eighty percent of your limit and two days later about ninety percent of your limit.

Between these heavy days you can, if it suits your ambitions and the time available, have dumbell days, as a partial rest between more vigorous movements of as additional exercises after the harder barbell exercises. The moderate dumbell days will develop your muscles from many different angles, make them more shapely and stronger. They will tone the muscles and prepare them for the harder days to come. In the dumbell movements you will find that it is at times possible to handle heavy bells and in other exercises from ten to fifteen pound dumbells is sufficient. When I was using this system in my athletic endeavors, each Saturday I would have races or time trials in training. This of course was my limit day. Two other days I trained quite hard, and two days I took things easy striving for better form and better muscular coordination.

This system of training will work well for you if you are one of those ambitious fellows who wish to gain the limit in strength and development. If you are one of the “keep fit” enthusiasts, one fairly hard barbell day will be sufficient, with two other moderate training days per week. In fact if you are willing to work hard two days a week, you will not only manage to maintain your physique but improve it somewhat. We must remember though that a definite amount of work is necessary to make real gains. I often say that two training periods a week permit you to hold your own, to maintain your physique, three days permit you to gain slowly, but four days of training, at least, permit much more rapid gains.

Concerning repetitions – there are some men who have managed to gain with rather high repetitions in some exercises, deep knee bending for instance. I consider ten sufficient in this movement, with a heavy weight. Fifteen may not be too many with a more moderate weight and if a very heavy weight is employed I prefer the heavy and light system, or a series of bends consisting of five repetitions each. But there are some who try to reach thirty. A weight must be light to begin with or one will never get to thirty. While it is light, little results are obtained in strength and development. Some endurance is created, but usually so many repetitions leave a man shaken, tired, with “rubber legs,” so that he is reluctant to train another day. We have worked out a system of training which does not make great demands upon your nervous energy; rather it builds up these internal qualities so that you have them when they are needed.

Except in some easy movements such as rise on toes, shoulder shrug, the straddle hop, the breathing pullover and similar dumbell movements at which up to twenty counts can be utilized successfully, fifteen should be the maximum number of movements. If you want to specialize on a movement, practice it ten times, or five times if you are especially anxious to build that particular part. This way you can use sufficient weight to build muscular power and shapeliness of the muscles. Occasionally there is a superman like Weldon Bullock, the first seventeen-year old boy in the history of the world to successfully clean & jerk 300 pounds, or a Louis Abele, who has made the sensational lifting total of 940 and can perform more heavy knee bends. But these strong men are the exception, who merely prove that the average man should not attempt what they do. Abele has tremendous stores of vital energy; he will sleep ten and even twelve hours after a hard workout, soundly and well. But these men take several breaths between each squat when the going gets hard – so their apparently high repetitions in the deep knee bend are really a series of strength feats. Far better to be satisfied with the weight you can handle from ten to fifteen repetitions.

Even ten repetitions start out easily enough for the first five or six; they become really hard at eight or nine, so that the last one or two are very difficult to perform and are done with a great expenditure of nerve force. This is good for you at times, but not more than once a week. It will soon cause exhaustion for some, rather than rapid progression. Yet it is necessary that heavy weights be used to strengthen muscles, tendons and ligaments, to build the maximum of muscular strength development, and this is why the heavy and light system is so advantageous.

We must remember that at least ten repetitions are required to bring maximum blood to the working muscles. Tissue must be broken down, demands must be made oxygen and, later, more nutrient must be required by the working muscles before the blood comes to its rescue. To combine this psychological fact with the need at times to handle very heavy poundages we need the heavy and light system. With this method a weight is selected which permits seven or eight repetitions. Almost immediately some of the weight is removed, ten to twenty percent, and the same movement is performed with this lesser weight for seven to eight more repetitions. We try to reach fifteen in all with this system. You will find that the second series, even with lighter weight, is as hard or harder than the first series.

There is another way to practice this heavy and light system. Using a really heavy weight, one that will permit only three to five repetitions, continue removing weight until the aggregate number of repetitions reaches fifteen. This would be three times five of five times three. The heavy and light system is normally practiced but once per week, although a host of men have received good results by practicing it every training day. Added strength, development and weight are the usual result of handling these heavy poundages. It is a good way to exercise when you are tired and lack pep.

Many men have had good success by practicing only those movement for the upper body one day, and the lower body exercises on another day. Tony Terlazzo, in particular, as trained with this approach. The theory is that the major portion of the body’s blood will be kept in the part of the body in which the muscles are involved, that more energy can be applied to this part of the body, and that all around better results will thus be had.

In order to obtain all-around benefit in strength and development it is necessary to include in the training program exercises which come under the following five classifications:

1. Exercises for building muscles and strength. Exercises to develop the ligaments, cartilage, tendon and even add to the size and thickness of the bones.
2. Exercises to build vital force, strengthen the internal organs, improve the process of elimination, improve circulation, develop the endurance of the lungs which is commonly called wind.
3. Exercises to increase speed, prevent possible slowness, stiffness or sluggishness which could be the result of utilizing too many slow exercises in a training program.
4. Stretching exercises – those which make the body more supple, flexible, and keep it constantly youthful.
5. Exercises which develop timing or coordination, which develop control and command of the muscles, balance and exactness in all movements.

A good arrangement, possibly the best training method for the majority of physical aims is to perform exercises Monday and Thursday, lifting and lifting assistance movements Wednesday and Saturday with the limit day taking place on Saturday.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Improve Your Press - John Grimek

Arthur Saxon

Chester Teegarden

Wally Zagurski

Improve Your Press
by John Grimek (1946)

More controversy is attached to the press of the Olympic lifts than any other lifts on record, perhaps because this lift is used more frequently than many of the other lifts now “obsolete” which are occasionally resurrected. However, if you have ever attended a national championship you must have observed the differences of opinion in this particular lift. When a lifter is turned down for his press because of some disqualifying factor, sympathetic remarks can be heard from the audience. Moreover, when one of the lifters gets away with what might be termed a “bad press,” again comments can be heard. The judges at such meets are not entirely at fault as most of them are seated in such a position they are unable to observe the fast start, sometimes coming from the action of the legs, or they may not see the sharp bend of the back from their position. The audience, on the other hand, may be so suited as to see the “bad features” of the lift highly magnified which causes them to express their feelings after the judges nodded their approval. But try as we might, as long as there will be a press, opinions on this lift will continue to differ.

Several years ago some of the European countries were in favor of eliminating the press from competition, but after some debate the press was voted to remain and probably will continue to be in competition as long as lifting contests continue. One of the best ways to eliminate this controversy over the press is to perform the lift in flawless style, and when one feels a strong inclination to bend, cease the lift at once. I admit, once you get into the habit of bending, especially if you favor the continental press, it’s more difficult to maintain an erect position thereafter regardless. It seems only natural to succumb to the tendency of leaning back when the weight appears to “stick” and, by allowing the body to arch with continued pressure against the bar, the weight continues its uninterrupted travel to arm’s length. That, however, is not conducive to military pressing and many officials take delight in shaking their heads negatively long before the lifter completes the lift. Oh, yes, lifts such as these have been passed, either by error or by favoritism, but while this may mean a victory in this country for a national title, it will spell utter defeat when our lifters take part in competition on foreign soil. After all, the idea is to lead the world in this sport and not simply build up our own ego! Therefore we must train our lifters, especially the new and younger ones, in the correct form of military pressing if we want to lead the world in this field. American lifters, taking them as a whole, are far better pressers than any of the other countries. The reason for this is because many of our lifters spend a year or more developing their bodies and, since the press is one of the basic movements of all bodybuilding courses, many of these lifters already have a grand start when they do begin training exclusively on the three lifts.

The lifter who has a poor press to his credit, regardless of how unique his ability remains on the other two lifts, experiences much difficulty in winning championships. There is too much of a handicap to overcome by a poor press. It’s imperative, therefore, that lifters should develop great pressing ability in accordance with their other lifts. Psychologically, a good presser has the advantage over his competitor and is oftentimes the winner because of it. A good press may unnerve his competitor as to force him to change his plans and thus lose a victory which otherwise might be his.

Any lifter knows when he attempts near-limit poundage in the press he is apt to bend to complete the lift and this is often started with a sharp heave off the chest to give momentum, a drive which sends the weight approximately to the crown of the head. There it seems to “hang” momentarily and a back bend is necessary to complete the lift – thus finishing what some consider a military press! Lifts like this have been passed on several occasions, in important events, too! In practice such lifting provides wonderful exercise, but at the same time promotes poor form which is difficult to overcome when rules demand our position to be as closely allied to military fashion as possible. The habit of bending becomes so natural we cannot even feel ourselves “leaning” while performing this lift. Many of us swear we stand in the utmost strict military position, but others aggressively deny this.

Some claim the military press is only proper when the heels of the feet are kept together with toes pointing slightly out. On this detail I disagree, since keeping the heels together in performance of this lift will in no way restrict back bending and maintain the body in an upright position, which is chiefly the bone of contention regarding this lift anyway, not the position of the feet. Furthermore, those unfamiliar with this stance (heels together) were hindered in no way when forced to do the lift in this manner, and after a few days practice were able to equal their best press while keeping the heels of the feet together. One can bend just as readily in this position we when the feet are placed apart, but more contraction to the hips and legs could be imparted so that the body was easier to keep rigid and straight. So this factor is not a big deciding point since it does not eliminate the disqualifying feature of body leaning.

The question then is: how can we improve our press? A logical and concise answer is – by strengthening the arms and shoulders. But how, many will ask. The idea is to eliminate as many of the supporting muscles as possible. In the standing press the arms, shoulders and other muscles in the upper body do the work of getting the weight overhead, but all the muscles in the body aid in keeping the body erect; the abdomen, lower back, hips and legs are the great supporting factors. The idea then is to eliminate or make inactive these supporting groups. How, you are apt to inquire again. Either by doing your presses in a sitting position or by getting into a full squat on toes is the answer. In this manner the exercise is directed to the arms, shoulders and other muscles which aid directly in pressing. This movement is a true test of arm and shoulder strength, providing it is executed in precisely the manner explained. In this form of pressing there will be less controversy and remarks such as “too much back bend, too much heave, etc.” will be eliminated. All that is needed is a sturdy bench or box about 13 to 15 inches in height without any back support. Get the weight to your shoulders in any manner you like, either by cleaning the weight in the regular style and then sitting down, taking it from supports or cleaning it while seated. Of course, this latter style is more difficult. The legs may be placed beside the box or bench or may be extended in front, a much more trying position. BUT UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES MUST THE FEET BE HOOKED, PROPPED OR STAGGERED IN ALIGNMENT TO GIVE THE BODY ANY SUPPORT. They must remain free. Once you get the weight to the shoulders you are ready to press. You may feel wobbly at first, you may even lose your balance by falling backwards, so have a couple of spotters nearby at first, just in case. Once you become adapted to this style you will find the challenge a lot of fun. Some find it easier to handle dumbells than a barbell in this exercise, but use the apparatus you like best. The benefits are equally good.

In this style the strict military presser will be on equal basis with the back-bending or continental presser. Here one will be forced to employ the pressing muscles only, without getting aid from the supporting ones. The flexibility of the continental presser will in no way prove an asset and he will be forced to press “right from the shoulders.”

Again, some may find it more suitable to press while seated in the squatting position on toes, but here again balance is required to maintain this position while pressing. It’s all great fun, however, and as an arm and shoulder builder it’s rated tops! 6 to 10 repetitions are best for arm and shoulder development and may be repeated in two or three sets. For practice and competition, 1 to 3 repetitions can be included until your limit is reached.

Naturally some of you may be confused as to why other pressing movements are not equally as efficient in developing better military pressing. The simple reason is this – in such presses as the incline press, press on back, one-arm presses, etc. the muscles are involved in a somewhat different manner and while it affords wonderful triceps exercise, they do not react the same as in military pressing. The serratus magnus, trapezius, outer head of the triceps and the entire shoulder assembly are more vigorously pushed into action in overhead presses than any other form. By eliminating the body supporting muscles, more direct action is placed on this important group, thus resulting in better and greater poundages in military pressing.

Try it and see for yourself.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mac Batchelor - John Grimek

Ian “Mac” Batchelor
by John Grimek

Mighty Mac Batchelor who was recognized as the first official wrist-wrestling champion nearly fifty years ago passed away on August 10, 1986. This genial personality was one of the most colorful men known in the game. Although known for his great powers in turning wrists, Mac practiced many other odd lifts such as the Hand and Thigh, and Back Lifts. He was also powerful as a deadlifter, but his finger strength stunts were unique, as was his wrist and forearm strength. Many would-be wrist champions would seek him out just to test him, and strange as it may seem, he never refused and always gave them a chance to pit their strength against his. And since his vocation was bartender such opportunities frequently presented themselves during a day’s work. I know I was there on several occasions when burly, beefy individuals after having a few drinks were eager to take Mac on. He always obliged and was always the victor . . . not just once or twice a day, but as many as six to 10 matches were not uncommon. Mac got plenty or workouts on the job in those days.

Whenever I was visiting the West Coast I always visited Mac, if only for an hour. Vic Tanny always drove me to the tavern where Mac bartended, with Mac pouring drinks even before we were seated. One of these visits remained indelibly imprinted in my mind when Mac involved me in a beer cap bending contest . . .

That particular day he appeared jollier than usual and kept downing shots of whiskey as he talked, while urging Vic and I to do the same. Neither of us had the capacity to keep up with Mac, so we only sipped our drinks much to Mac’s disappointment. Whatever excuses we pleaded fell on deaf ears. Mac seemed ready for a party, but we weren’t.

He continued to belt down straight shots and seemed somewhat alert and spry, with a steady hand and is ever urging us to drink up. After another straight shot and giving us that “go ahead and drink look” he reached under he counter and brought out a large bad of beer and whiskey caps, spilled several handfuls on the bar and, without saying a word, began bending them with each had as rapidly as one could watch. After bending a dozen or more, he flipped a handful toward us. “Try a few,” he called out to us and continued squeezing and bending them as fast as he could fix the caps between thumb and forefinger.

I joined him and had no trouble squeezing a cap in either hand with some rapidity but Vic would not touch them. He knows once you offered Mac any kind of challenge you’d have to see it through to the end. Vic just sat by on the stool watching and grinning.

Mac continued bending the caps, and glanced at me a few times without uttering any comment. Other than taking time out to inquire if some of the customers needed service, the cap bending went on and on.

I was getting sore around the tip of my forefinger and said, “That’s enough for me.” Mac looked up quizzically and laughed, “We’ve only just started!” Then he began to go into his final stunt – bending a cap between each finger simultaneously. As he started placing the caps between his fingers most of the barflies came in for a closer look. Apparently they had seen this before and were waiting to be in on the kill.

Looking very nonchalantly, which surprised both Vic and I, he held up his hand showing the caps to those who were standing around, and with a slight grunt bent every one of the caps. Mac then looked around and with a sheepish smile began to put beer caps into his left hand. As soon as each was in place he squashed them as easily as he had with his right hand. He repeated the stunt again, just as easily and without saying a word – then tossed more caps over the bar to me and urged me to try it. I admitted that I had never tried the stunt before but Mac ignored my excuses and insisted I give it a try. Vic sat by laughing. He had expected this and was enjoying it more than anyone.

I knew there was no way out except to try it, and nearly everyone in the place was crowded around to see how I would fare. Mac belted down another fast two drinks and continued his gentle urging. I carefully started placing the caps and testing my fingers to see where I could exert the most pressure on the metal to bend them. My confidence, however, was almost nil since I knew I had never tried the stunt before. Those around who had been drinking since they came in got into the act by yelling for me to go ahead and show Mac how it’s done. That made ol’ Mac grin from ear to ear. But I yelled back for the crowd to show me if they knew how. One wag answered that he had enough trouble holding his glass at this stage, let alone the caps.

Having the caps in place, I said, “Here goes,” and put everything I had into the effort. Surprisingly, three of the caps bent but the one between the pinky and the ring finger was only partially bent. No one uttered a word. Mac gulped another couple of shots and adjusted four more caps between his fingers and with hardly a grunt, crushed them flat, which surprised everyone who witnessed the ease with which he bent the caps. Mac smiled very broadly.

“Drink up boys,” he called out to those around the bar, “it’s on me.” You never saw glasses that were nearly empty so fast, and I don’t think I ever saw Mac refill them so quickly. The whole place was wishing Mac good luck and a few, somewhat inebriated ones, began singing, “for he’s a jolly good fellow.”

Meanwhile a few of the barflies began bending some of the leftover beer caps. Only one succeeded, the others using both hands to bend them. One slender lad appeared more sincere but he was having trouble – a lot of trouble. He eased over to me and showed me the cap – only the outer rim was bent. “Try this one and see if you can bend it for me,” he said. I didn’t stop to examine it and began giving it some pressure. Nothing happened, which surprised me. I adjusted it in my fingers and gave it all I had. Still nothing. It refused to budge. Then I hollered to Mac, “Here’s a tough one, champ, it won’t budge for me.”

Mac grabbed the cap confidently and without even looking at it began squeezing. Nothing. The smile on his face left as he tried again. Still nothing. He scowled now and with a vengeance put everything he had into the effort. Still the cap remained fairly straight. He examined it, then took a small knife from the bar and tore the cork. To his surprise a 10-cent coin fell out. He picked the coin up and passed it around to show it was beginning to bend. It’s true. The ten-cent piece showed a definite curve in it which caused Mac to smile. But just as suddenly he bellowed, “Where’s the wiseguy who pulled this stunt! I want to bend his hand so he won’t try that again around here.” But the slender chap was nowhere to be found. He knew what might happen and had left the scene.

At this point Vic Mac and I decided to leave and began waving goodbye to Mac. “Wait,” he yelled, “let’s have another drink before you go.” We had had enough and had to leave, but Mac had already poured the drinks and was waiting for us to salute each other. We had no choice. We bumped glasses and drank some, replaced the rest on the bar and took off before Mac stopped us again. “We’ll see you tomorrow, perhaps,” and out the door we left, somewhat unsteady on our feet.

That’s one thing you could say for Mac. He could out-drink anybody, anytime, anywhere, and we have seen him do just that on several occasions, but still Mac would be visibly sober. That particular day he drank more I think than everyone else in the place combined, and still was alert and relatively sober.

Mac was always a rather burly but powerful individual until his wife, a charming and understanding woman, was killed in a car accident. This changed Mac’s entire life and subsequently he suffered a stroke, which brought on great anxiety and for a time it was feared he would not survive. Somehow he pulled through and though he gave up most of his training he was, once again, his usual lovable self. Eventually it was felt he’d be better in a nursing home. An old-time friend, Dr. Moss, to whom I introduced Mac, frequently visited and them wrote me about his well-being, although I kept in touch with Mac by mail as well. As his vision began growing dimmer the aides in the nursing home read the letters to him.

One of the last times I saw Mac he had shaved off his mustache and was smiling as usual, and certainly looked wonderful. So when the news of his death reached me, I was deeply saddened as I knew I would never see the likes of such a man again. He was unique and a great friend. He was always such a sparkling personality and a pleasure to be around. However, more recent reports that I had, indicated he was losing weight and wasn’t the same smiling individual that always had been.

However, ol’ Mac had a very interesting life and I am sure he enjoyed every minute of it, especially when he was called upon to prove the prowess of his arms. He never feared defeat, but knew he had the power and was always ready to prove it – and did that quite often while he was on the job.

Now I hope he rests in peace and our condolences to his family and loved ones. He was one of a kind and we may never see the likes of him again.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Warren Lincloln Travis - Ray Van Cleef

Travis at work with his special backlifting scale machine.
This is the machine that he employs to set his endurance and speed records.

Warren Lincoln Travis lifting a cannon plus a barbell on a shoulder strap.
The total weight is about 1500 pounds.

Travis posed with the world's largest dumbell, weight 1650 pounds empty.
Loaded with sand it would weigh 3750.

Warren Lincoln Travis – Dean of American Strongmen
by Ray Van Cleef (1940)

In delving into the history of strongmen, I do not believe that it would be possible to find a more outstanding American representative than Warren Lincoln Travis. If it were necessary to provide substantial evidence to prove his being deserving of this exalted rating, this would be but a simple manner, for Travis has established his admirable reputation as a champion strongman athlete by genuine accomplishments. A man of his calibre who has achieved success by applying the adage “Actions speak louder than words” in his athletic endeavors has quite naturally, during the course o his long career, performed an almost countless number of exceptional feats of strength. To relate them completely would require so many pages that the number would be comparable with that of a lengthy book. Space limitations not permitting this, I shall restrict this article to a concise amount of significant information I possess pertaining to his athletic career.

While I am fully aware that the vast majority, if not all of you, are familiar with this renowned strongman, still there are many facts concerning his accomplishments which are not widely known. Thus, my main objective is to reveal as many of these lesser known facts as possible so as to provide a fuller appreciation of Travis’ ability as a champion of strength.

Though I have acquired an extensive amount of knowledge regarding Travis’ strongman career through my years of personal association with him, I wish to acknowledge that a considerable portion of the data to be stated in the following paragraphs was supplied to me through the generous cooperation of my friend, George Russell Weaver. Weaver, who is an ardent physical culturist and an expert authority on this subject, had a number of visits with Travis, during the course of which he had him relate in detail the majority of his noteworthy achievements as a strongmen athlete. It was through this direct source that Weaver obtained most of the information he furnished me with.

When one thinks of Warren Lincoln Travis, he automatically associates him with back and harness lifting, in the same way as Arthur Saxon’s name is linked with the bent press. This is to be expected, for he has been establishing records and winning championships in tests of strength of this nature for more than forty years. However, despite his international fame as a champion back and harness lifter, comparatively few persons are acquainted with highest official records. Though these records were established many years ago, before the majority of the present generation of physical culturists were born, their obscurity is not due to the long elapse of time, for if Travis had retired after he created these great records they unquestionably would still retain the prominence which they are so deserving of.

The fact that this champion, not being content to rest on his laurels, continued on with his strongman activities was chiefly responsible for these records becoming so unfamiliar to weight lifting fans of the present period. The reason for this is because during the years that have passed since he performed his highest records, he has accomplished a number of remarkable lifts in official competition which were so outstanding that most persons, who were not acquainted with these earlier records, have assumed that these are Travis’ world’s record lifts.

This misconception pertaining to Travis’ records originates largely from his participation in the weight lifting tournament that was sponsored by the National Police Gazette in New York City on March 20, 1918. In winning that competition, which all strong men were eligible to participate in, he made a Back Lift of 3,657 lbs., a Harness Lift of 3,582 lbs., a Hand and Thigh Lift of 1,498 lbs., and One Finger Lift of 557 ½ lbs., and a Teeth Lift of 311 lbs. Many are under the impression that these lifts are Travis’ best records. This belief is erroneous, for these feats of strength were but five of a group of ten which were all accomplished within a period of thirty minutes in this contest. While all of the lifts performed in this prodigious demonstration of strength and endurance are exceptional, none of them represent the highest poundage that Travis lifted in these tests of strength.

The majority of Travis’ best records in back and harness lifting were achieved ten or more years prior to the contest, mentioned in the above paragraph. On November 1, 1907, he accomplished the following lifts, at a bodyweight of 185 lbs., at the Brooklyn Athletic Club in the presence of numerous athletes and authorities on weight lifting. Back Lift, 4,140 lbs., Harness Lift, 3.985 lbs., Hand and Thigh Lift, 1,778 lbs., Two Finger Lift, 1,105 lbs. Iron weights were used in all of these lifts. This Back Lift is the highest official record in which “live” weight was not employed. The Two Finger Lift is also a genuine heavyweight record. Following the creating of the world’s records, the Police Gazette magazine published a report pertaining to this unparalled lifting performance.

While this 4,149 lb. Back Lift is Travis’ highest official record, he has on several occasions exceeded this poundage. However, in these instances he lifted “live” weight on his backlifting platform. On one occasion he lifted 25 men, all of whom were wearing overcoats, on his ponderous backlifting platform which weighed 365 lbs. The total of this lift would come to 4,240 lbs. if one were to assume that the men, thus dressed, only average 155 lbs. each. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that Travis surpassed his official record when he accomplished this gigantic lift.

Besides the tremendous lifts, such as these that he has accomplished, Travis has performed a number of extraordinary feats in which he supported enormous poundages. The heaviest amount of weight that he supported was 5,095 lbs. This record was accomplished while lying on his back, by having a considerable number of men seat themselves on a long plank which rested on his knees, and on a bar which he held in his hands while the arms were fully extended upward. Another of Travis’ most outstanding supporting feats was that of turning around three times in one spot while supporting a weight of 1,155 lbs. across his shoulders. This poundage was comprised of a thick-handled stage bar bell, 7 feet, 8 inches long, weighing 495 lbs., plus the weight of four men who hung onto the ends of this huge bar bell while Travis supported it across his shoulders. Travis exceeded this poundage by a considerable amount by using steel braces on his upper body. In this way he was able to stand erect while supporting 1.800 lbs. across his shoulders.

Travis’ acts have been featured in vaudeville and with circuses, not only on the basis of his records as a champion strongman, but also because he displays his Herculean power in feats of strength which are so spectacular that they actually astound the audiences who witness them. One of his most sensational stunts was to resist the pull of six horses while lying face-down on a ladder. Another was to hold, by his hands, a horse while hanging by his knees and sliding down a wire. A daring feat of Travis’, which also provided sensational appeal to the spectators, was that of having two automobiles run over his body at the same time. Another impressive stunt was the one in which Travis, while standing on top of an elevated platform, supported a revolving carousel upon which 14 persons sat, by means of a harness belt attached from about his hips to the carousel directly below the platform. The combined weight of the apparatus and the persons on it that he supported in this spectacular feat of strength totaled at least 3,000 lbs. or more, generally.

Though Travis has specialized in harness and back lifting and devoted a considerable portion of his efforts as a strongman to originating and perfecting spectacular feats of strength to employ in his stage exhibitions, he has also indulged in performing numerous bar bell and dumbell lifts. His ability in these latter types of lifts is quite unknown because of his remarkable records as a champion back and harness lifter more or less completely overshadowing them. Still his records in standard barbell and dumbell lifts are very creditable as the disclosure of some of them will readily prove.

In the Pull-over and Press on Back without Bridge, Travis performed this lift with a barbell of 290 lbs. which had 13 inch spheres and a 1 ¼ inch handle. His best record in the Bent Press was 270 lbs. This lift was accomplished with an exceptionally long barbell, nearly 7 feet in length, with a 3 inch handle. Most all of his barbell lifts were performed with cumbersome barbell that were especially difficult to lift because of the large diameter of the bar.

Travis’ most outstanding dumbell lifts are as follows: Two Dumbell Clean and Jerk, 229 lbs. (117 right, 112 left); Two Dumbell Continental Jerk, 260 lbs. (130 right and left with 3 inch handles); Two Hands Curl with Dumbells, 170 lbs.

As noteworthy of all of these lifts are, they are more remarkable when one takes into consideration that not only were the barbells and dumbells that Travis used awkward to handle, but he did not specialize on these lifts sufficiently to be able to utilize his strength to the maximum degree of efficiency. Had this champion strongman concentrated on practicing such lifts, instead of performing them spasmodically, he unquestionably would have surpassed all of his best records on them.

Despite the fact that Travis’ hand is only of average length, measuring 7 ½ inches, and has especially short fingers – for the length of his middle finger is only 3.1 inches – he has succeeded in performing a great number of varied feats of hand and finger strength. All of them are extraordinary and many are truly phenomenal. Through intensive training on feats of this nature, Travis has developed his hand and finger strength to such an exceptional degree that if made him superior, in many tests and stunts, to those who have the advantage of possessing a hand larger than average. Travis’ hands are very thick and muscular, with many muscles that are seldom used in ordinary movements developed to a high degree through the varied exercises he has practiced.

Among the many tests of finger and gripping strength that Travis has succeeded in performing, which have not been duplicated, the feat which the greatest number of persons have attempted in vain to equal is one which does not seem very difficult to accomplish. The weight employed in this test consists of a bar of flat iron, with a hole two-fifths of an inch deep near one end of the bar and a place near the other end to which iron washers are attached. Travis has lifted this object when it was weighing 10 lbs. by inserting his middle finger into the hole with the palm of the hand facing downward. In performing this lift in the manner in which Travis does it, the middle finger must be kept straight and be free from contact with the index and third fingers. So far approximately a thousand persons, including Arthur Saxon, Hector De Carie and John Davis, have failed in their attempts to duplicate Travis’ success in this novel finger lifting feat.

In his stage exhibitions, Travis has demonstrated his finger strength by performing impressive stunts that would be appreciated by the general public. One of them was to tear a stout tobacco tin in two with his hands. Another was to rip two 1,200 page telephone directories together into halves. He also would tear two 2 ½ decks of playing cards combined together.

One of Travis’ most outstanding feats of finger strength was a test of pinch-gripping power in which he lifted, with two hands, a rectangular block of iron 4 inches wide, weighing 210 lbs. up off the ground. He performed this remarkable feat around the year 1907 when he was in his prime. Among the numerous other extraordinary stunts that can be classed as tests of pinch-gripping strength that he has performed is his Clean and Jerk lift of two 67 lb., 3 inch thick barbell plates. He performed a similar feat in which he Clean and Jerked one of these 67 lb. plates and a 60 lb. dumbell with a 3 inch handle together. Another wonderful feat of this same type that Travis performed was that of snatching a maple plank which weighed 140 lbs., from off the ground to arm’s length overhead. This plank was 12 inches wide by 3 inches thick by 12 feet in length. Travis had a larger plank which was also 3 inches thick, weighing 210 lbs. that he could pinch-lift off the ground with two hands.

Since the beginning of his career as a strongman athlete, Travis has been actively interested in performing endurance lifts to test his strength in relation to stamina and speed. One of his first public demonstrations of endurance lifting was an impromptu one, resulting from someone asking him how many times he could lift a pair of 10 lb. dumbells overhead. Without any preparation he immediately proceeded to test out his stamina and strength on this lift. In performing each repetition, he lowered the dumbells down to the floor after he elevated them to arm’s length overhead. He succeeded in performing 1,600 repetitions of this lift in one hour and 27 minutes. This remarkable demonstration took place at the Brooklyn Athletic Club on April 14, 1897, when Travis was twenty-one years of age.

In the year of 1903, an amateur strongman named Gilman Low acquired considerable fame by doing a back lift a sufficient number of repetitions in succession to exceed a total of more than a million pounds. Low performed this feat by lifting 1.000 lbs. 1,006 times in consecutively on a special machine for backlifting. To accomplish this required 34 minutes and 35 seconds.

This record of Low’s inspired Travis to endeavor to surpass it. After devoting considerable time during his training to practicing repetition backlifting for endurance and speed, he was prepared to establish a number of amazing records. On November 3, 1907, he greatly improved on Low’s million-pound lift by doing a 1,000 pound back lift 1,000 times in succession in 9 minutes time. Two days later, Travis created another remarkable record by lifting 1,000 pounds 500 times in 90 seconds. He also lifted 3,000 pounds 50 times in 20 seconds. In doing this speed lifting on the special scale machine for backlifting his legs would move with amazing rapidity in order to accomplish as many as 5 lifts per second. Of course his legs are placed so that they only have to move but a short distance in performing the lifting on this machine.

After nearly thirty years had elapsed since he established these endurance and speed backlifting records he decided in 1935, when he was 59 years of age, to demonstrate that, despite his chronological age, he still retained the greater extent of the strength and stamina that he possessed in his youth. To prove this he proposed in his youth. To prove this he proposed to endeavor to equal or approach the records in speed and endurance backlifting that he accomplished when in his prime as a strongman. After a period of training he made an official test of his ability on February 28th an on March 14th of that year. On the first date he succeeded in equaling his record of backlifting 1,000 pounds 500 times in 90 seconds. At the next test he again succeeded in equaling another of his records when he did 1,000 repetitions of a back lift of 1,000 pounds in 9 minutes time.

This past year (1939), Travis decided that he would test his strength and stamina by repeating the endurance and speed backlifting by utilizing his special scale machine for this purpose in the same manner as he had in the past. Allowing time for a brief period of training, he arranged that he would perform this demonstration in public, on or near the date of his sixty-third birthday, which was February 21, 1939. This official exhibition was accomplished on February 26th in the presence of eleven expert witnesses including Harry Shafran, George Russell Weaver and Prof. Anthony Barker. Before performing the back lift Travis lifted 300 pounds with his teeth, and tore two telephone books, whose total number of pages was 1,604, into halves together. Following these feats of strength he succeeded in lifting 1,000 pounds 1,009 times in 26 minutes and 30 seconds, employing the backlifting machine. This result was quite disappointing to Travis, for the rate of speed for the lifting was considerably slower than his usual pace. The decrease in speed can be attributed to a number of disturbing factors which tended to hinder him on this occasion. Had conditions been satisfactory he would have unquestionably performed this test in much less time. This can be readily demonstrated by mentioning that during one of his training periods only about two weeks prior to this official test he lifted 1,000 pounds 1,000 times in slightly more than 18 minutes.

As outstanding as the numerous records and many remarkable feats that Travis has accomplished during his long career as a champion strongman are, I think that his greatest contribution to weight lifting is that he serves to be a sterling example of the fact that lifters have a longer span of activity than any other type of athlete. In most forms of sports the participants are either “has beens” or “all washed up” in their early thirties, while a weight lifter such as Travis continues to remain an active strongman champion while in his sixties. Just as Travis’ accomplishments provide inspiration, so should his longevity as an athlete yield encouragement to all weight lifters to continue on with their endeavors.

Sets And Reps - Morris Weissbrot

Sets and Reps
by Morris Weissbrot

I was sitting at my desk the other night, going through some of my voluminous correspondence, when the thought suddenly struck me – what a strange turn my lift has taken! All of a sudden I’ve become an “expert” on weightlifting and training. People from all over the world are writing to me asking for advice on their lifting, their training, asking me to write out schedules for them to follow. I seem to have become a kind of lifting expert or advisor. I’m highly flattered and deeply touched, and if I can help any aspiring lifter in any way I am more than happy to try and do so.

I get dozens of letters each week, and numerous phone calls. From all of these a definite pattern has emerged. The one question asked most often is simply, “How many sets and reps should I do?” Naturally, each individual is different, each lifter has a different problem, each man will react differently to any given program. But experiments in training have shown me quite clearly that everyone will benefit from working with repeated sets of 5 repetitions in ALL of the lifting movements.

Let’s take the power clean, for example, i.e., whipping the bar into position at the chest with a slight dip of the knees and a quick thrust of the elbows. IN EVERY CASE, without exception, working in sets of 5’s has resulted in very substantial gains. You start with a light weight, using the straps, and work up in 10 or 20 pound jumps. Your first workout might go something like this: 135x5, 155x5, 175x5, 185x5, 195x5. The first rep from the floor, the next four from the hang. It’s a great way to develop second pull! Suppose your best power clean is now 205, and when you try 195 all you can squeeze out is 3 reps. Okay, stick with this routine for several workouts. Before you know it, you’ll be making that 195 for 5 and by this time you’ll be doing 205 for 3 or more reps! NOW what’s your best power clean for a single??? After a couple of weeks have gone by, you’ll find that you can now knock out 5’s with the weight that used to be your best for a single! Is this just a theory, or will it really work? Well, let me illustrate with a little case history. Arthur Drechsler is a 15-year-old lightweight who trains with us at Lost Battalion Hall. His best power clean for a single was 195 pounds. He seemed to be stuck t that particular weight. I had him start doing his power cleans in sets of 5’s, one from the floor and 4 from the hang. He followed this program for two weeks, doing his cleans two nights a week. After the second week, he was handling 195 for the full 5 reps. “How much should I be able to do now for a single?” he asked me. We put 205 on the bar and it was so easy he did a double with it! Then 215 on the bar and it fairly flew up! “Okay, Artie, don’t go any higher today,” I told him. “In another few weeks you’ll be handling 205 or more for your sets of 5.” And he will, too! Why didn’t I let him go higher? Well, I don’t feel that it’s necessary to go “all out” in the gym, especially on the assistance exercises. Develop a good basic foundation of power by working in reps, and save the big lifts for competition.

The same thing applies to the snatch. Working in sets of 5’s will not only result in better technique, but also in added power. PLUS, it’s great for building endurance and stamina! You can’t build stamina or promote cardiovascular and respiratory activity by doing heavy single attempts. I know, from watching the Poles train, that they never do heavy singles in any of their assistance exercises and they can’t understand our preoccupation with such things as heavy bench presses or squats or deadlifts as competitive lifts. And, when they train on things like power snatches and power cleans, they use the actual lifting movement, using very light weights as a warmup. This business of warming up with the Olympic lifts serves a double purpose. It not only warms up the lifting muscles thoroughly and properly, but it also reinforces the patterns of movement which the man must use to make a successful lift with a minimum of energy expenditure and wasted motion. There just is no better warmup than repetition snatches or clean & jerks. Believe me!

Just for fun, y’wanna try a real humdinger? Here’s a warmup that I’ve used many times. Take 95 pounds and do flip snatches, 3 squat snatches, 3 split snatches, shift your hand spacing and do 3 squat cleans, 3 split cleans, and then 3 drop jerks. That’s 18 continuous reps! You’ll puff and pant like you’ve just run the mile in four minutes! And that last jerk with 95 pounds will feel like a ton. I’ve been experimenting with this type of high repetition training. At my age, I feel this cardiovascular stimulation is a heckuva lot more important than trying to handle heavy poundages. For myself, I mean. But it’s also important to the younger generation of lifters too, because it serves to build up the foundations of endurance, stamina, style and EFFICIENCY upon which the subsequent big lifts in competition are based.

I’ve been getting a lot of comment from young lifters from all over the country on my articles, and many of them have criticized me for dealing only in generalities and never getting specific enough. Well, it’s not all that simple. As I’ve said before, there can be no hard and fast routine of program which will serve everyone equally well. Success in any field of endeavor is largely a matter of inspiration, regardless of who, what or where it comes from. Each man is different, and will respond differently to any given program. But you know how it is – everyone wants to see the magic formula set down on paper, in the hope that this is the routine that’ll work for him.

Okay, let me set up a more-or-less typical routine for these fellows to follow. Let’s say you’re 16 years old and weigh 160 pounds. You can work out only three times a week. Your best lifts to date are a 200 press, 190 snatch, and a 250-pound clean & jerk. Nothing too spectacular, right? Here’s one way you might set up your program:

1st week

Monday – Warmup (25 minutes of stretching, jumping, calisthenics)
Power Snatches – 95x5, 115x5, 135x5, 145x3, 155x2
Power Cleans – 135x5, 155x5, 175x5, 195x3, 205x2
Push-Jerks – 135x5, 185x5, 205x5, 225x2
Front Squats – 135x5, 185x5, 205x5, 225x5, 225x5, 250x5

Wednesday – Warmup

Power Snatches – 95x5, 115x5, 135x5, 145x3, 155x2
Squat Snatch – 95x5, 135x5, 145x5, 155x5, 165x5, 175x3
Snatch Pulls – 135x5, 185x5, 205x5, 225x5, 250x5
“Technique” Press – 135x5, 155x5, 175x2, 185x2
Back Squats – 135x5, 185x5, 225x5, 275x5, 300x2

Friday – Warmup

Power Cleans – 135x5, 155x5, 175x5, 195x3, 205x2
Squat Cleans – 135x5, 155x5, 175x3, 195x3, 215x2, 235x2
Clean Pulls – 225x5, 250x5, 275x5, 300x5
Jerks From Rack – 135x5, 185x5, 205x5, 225x3, 250x2
Rack Presses, 3 positions with hold – 185x3
Squats – 135x5, 205x5, 225x5, 250x5, 275x5, 305x3

Notice that at no time are you handling limit poundages – nothing higher than 85% of maximum in the lifts. But you’re building up the foundations which will result in higher maximum performance levels. Follow this for three weeks, and for the second and third week try to push the final poundage in each exercise for the full five reps, or add five pounds to the upper limit. After three weeks try yourself out. Just go for a single in each lift, like you were in a contest. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts you’ll make at least 210, 200, and 260. You can just about guarantee a 30-pound increase on your total. Not half bad, eh? And how hard have you really worked. Well, using the total poundage system your first week breaks down into about 13,000 pounds on Monday, 19,000 on Wednesday, and 23,000 on Friday. Considering that most of the poundage comes from pulls and squats, that’s not really too much to handle. Naturally, some of you will be using slightly different poundages, but you get the general idea.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Specialization Programs - Anthony Ditillo

Tommy Kono, Hugo Labra, Vern Weaver, Bill March

Specialization Programs

by Anthony Ditillo

With these routines we are going to get into the utmost effective specialization programs of which there have been many records kept. For the most part, these methods of acute specialization will work the muscles and the lifting movements to a peak of development and proficiency which beforehand would have been felt were completely impossible or out of the question of being attained by the average trainee. What we are going to be doing in this section of Chapter 5, is outline for you in the most intense situation of physical endeavors. This means that you will be narrowing in on your training goals and aspirations in order to “milk” from your body all the utmost potential as far as development and physical lifting abilities you are capable of. These techniques are by no means completely new or untried by other men before you; on the contrary, most men who are the champions of today and yesterday have tried these training methods at some prior time of their lifting life. These routines must cause an increase in size and strength, due to their severity and their specificity of nature.

When you work only one or two movements per workout and those workouts are both voluminous and intense, with the brunt of the work strictly and thoroughly performed, you must gain in one way or another, due to the very nature of such an undertaking and the way in which the average person’s body will adjust to an overload of stress. This is especially true for the man with a very low energy level, who has trouble in formulating a routine which he can recuperate from, throughout the many years of his lifting career. For the man who is constantly complaining of being overtrained, these types of routines will do wonders for both his physical development and his all-over lifting potential. This does not mean that these routines will not also benefit us more toughened-up trainees, for we all can reap great amounts of benefit from this type of workout if we have the self-belief and the self-control to give these short, intense routines a chance to show us exactly what they can do. Therefore, it would be to all or our benefit to look over these suggested routines, no matter haw short and simple they may seem to us at first, for in the long run they will work only if we will work.

This first specialized routine will be for the man who wishes to experiment with training for only one hour per day and using one exercise movement per training session. This will mean that each movement will have to be an all-around muscle group movement to stimulate the most available fibers of the largest muscle groups of the body. In this way, such short training will be most complete and result producing and in the long run, will develop the most muscle for the amount of work and time put into the training period of any type of training that I know of.

By training five days per week and using only one movement per day, we must make sure that such choices will not cause muscle overlap and therefore become physically redundant, thereby leaving out certain muscle groups which would produce a lopsided physique and d decrease in all-around lifting power.

Therefore, before undertaking this type of routine, be sure to know how to set up your schedule beforehand as to what to do and what not to include so that the entire body becomes stimulated to greater developmental heights during the course of a lifting week. This will allow not adequate recuperation although you will be training almost daily and also, it will develop for you an increase in all-around listing power. This will develop the capability of going just about as far as your particular potential will take you in the way of lifting proficiency. To stimulate additional muscle growth, it will be necessary to include in the future additional work for the aforementioned muscles in order to fully work them and reshape them, as it were, to greater development and shapeliness. But for the fellow who is primarily interested in all-around lifting proficiency and a well-developed rugged physique, this is the routine to follow.

Here then is your five day per week training routine:

Monday – Bench Presses
Tuesday – Squats
Wednesday – Deadlift or Bentover Rowing
Thursday – Power Clean and Push Press
Friday – Jerk From Rack

With the choice of these movements we have given the entire body quite a workout by the end of the week. For each of these movements I would suggest you choose one of the following set and repetition schedules. The reason I am giving you somewhat of a choice as to the number of sets and repetitions you will be using, is due to the complexity of the choices of exercise movements and the importance of your being able to choose the right schedule which will work best for your personal preferences as to how many sets and how many repetitions will work best for you. With such a short, daily exercise program to work with, it is important to choose the right balance of work.

I would advise either that you perform each exercise for around ten sets of five to seven repetitions, with the first three or so sets as progressive warm-ups and the brunt of the work taking place from set four to set nine, and the final set or two being flushing sets with somewhat lighter weights. Another suggestion would be the following tried and proved effective repetition and set scheme: one set of ten, one set of eight, one set of six, and five sets of three reps using all weight possible. Finish up with two or three sets of five or so reps with somewhat lighter weight for complete flush.

Finally, when feeling particularly energetic and strong, you could take a set or two for a warm-up and then progressively add to the weight of the bar until you are at close to 90% of your limit and try for three to five single attempts with this heavy weight, finishing up with a few sets of lighter poundages with higher reps.

All three of these suggestions will work for you on such an intense, short routine. In fact, one week you could use one schedule and the following week the other, and so on. It really is up to you in the final estimation as to how many sets and how many reps you choose to follow when working on such a course. They all have merit, if followed using intelligence and patience.

You fellows who are always complaining about how little time you have to spend on your training will find that these schedules take very little time as compared to other routines that the majority of us trainees follow in our attempts at getting bigger and stronger. With such short workouts you should be able to recuperate quite easily and the result will be an increase in your training enthusiasm, less missed workouts, and a general increase in both lifting proficiency and in muscular development.

The next type of specialization routine will be somewhat more complicated than the first example I used to demonstrate such training and the effects of such types of work. With this following routine, we will be training four or five days per week, with the average routine consisting of two movements per day. This way, you will be able to perform a more diversified amount of work each workout and in the long run, the all-around effects will be more predominant in muscle building and strength level increases. This is because of the coupling of two such movements each day. By coupling two movements daily, or almost daily, it is not necessary to train each and every day; in fact, it will be possible to cut down the number of training days each week to four. Also, with the coupling of two movements daily, you will be training a bit longer each day, but the total amount of work done weekly will remain approximately the same. This may mean the difference between success or failure depending upon the rate of recovery your body can acclimate itself to. Some men will find that two movements per day is just about right for best results. Others will prefer less training days per week but will prefer maybe three movements done on each of these days. Others, in the extreme other end of training energy levels, may find that one movement per day is just right to insure continued gains. So you see, in this section of this chapter, we will be discussing each of these types of personalized specialization routines, so as to give all of you a chance to try whatever kind of routine you may feel will be right for you. There is only one way to find out: you must experiment and see what will work and what will not work.

This following routine is for the man who wishes to specialize on the pressing muscles of the upper body, but at the same time, wants to be sure that he is including enough work for the additional parts of the body so as to not lose anything previously developed in the past. In order to insure this not happening, you will have included on an almost daily basis, enough work for the additional muscle groups which will keep them in proper state of tone as the brunt of your workouts will be geared to developing additional size and strength in the pressing muscles of the body.

What I would advise you to do in this case, is to work one pressing movement each training session, with one squatting movement on one day and one pulling or arm movement on the following training day. This way, the rest of the body is adequately stimulated.

Here then is your two movement per day training routine:

Monday – Bench Press and Power Squat
Tuesday – Incline Press and Bentover Rowing
Wednesday – Press Behind Neck and Arm Work
Thursday – Take the day off
Friday – Close Grip Bench Press and Front Squat
Saturday – Standing Press and Bent Legged Deadlift
Sunday – Take the day off

With this routine I would advise you to perform the following set and repetition schedule: for the majority of movements except the Bent Legged Deadlift, warm up for two or so sets and then move up to weight which you can handle for between three and five sets of four to six repetitions. After this, cool down with two or so sets of eight or so repetitions, with a somewhat lighter weight. For the deadlift, I recommend sets of three repetitions, working up to a maximum triple. This should develop more than enough power for the limit deadlifting. For the rest of the body, there is more than enough work to stimulate increases in muscle size and power. With continued application of this kind of training, you will realize a great increase in your pressing power from all angles and the rest of the body will not suffer in development or power because of the inclusion of additional work for these areas. This type of training can become most meaningful and enjoyable for you and many men enjoy this kind of training so much that they stay on these kinds of programs for the entire training year.

For the man who has a greater ability to recuperate after strenuous training there are further methods of training which will stimulate even further rates of growth and development, due to the extent of their severity and complicated nature. With these types of workouts you would do all your pressing on one day, the whole amount of squatting on the following day, and finally, on the third training day you would follow a most complete routine to fully work the pulling muscles of the body. In this way, although you would be training six days per week, you will only be working each muscle group twice weekly, so that the entire workload would be evenly distributed throughout the entire body, with adequate rest between workouts.

The severity of this routine will make it necessary that you do not try to stay on this routine for more than a month or so, unless you are one of those rare individuals who can thrive, or seem to do so, on such a great quantity of hard work. If such is the case, then by all means stay on this type of routine as long as you wish to. But for the majority of the rest of us, a month and a half of so would be long enough to stimulate correct training responses. As soon as one begins to feel somewhat drug out and less proficient at one’s workouts, it is then time to switch to a less severe amount of work until full recuperation is realized.

Here then is your six day per week specialization routine:

Monday – Bench Press, Incline Press and Flat Bench Flying
Tuesday – Power Squat and Leg Presses
Wednesday – Deadlifts, Bentover Rowing and Lat Machine Pulldowns
Thursday – Take the day off
Friday – The same as Monday
Saturday – The same as Tuesday
Sunday – The same as Wednesday

If you cannot train on Sunday, then train from Monday through Saturday and take Sunday off.

With this type of routine, there is a tremendous amount of stress placed on the physical and emotional parts of the mind and body, so be sure to realize this and take steps to deter physiological staleness, which may step in and force an unwanted layoff. A good idea would be to take a few extra naps throughout the day so as to make this excessive work more acceptable to the body and more easily recuperated from. Just as we must learn to creep before we can walk, so must we find our way through this kind of workout, slowly and with great hesitancy to overwork, since this would work against us, not for us. Rest assured, if enough care is taken to see to it that the correct kind of diet is followed throughout this entire training affair, the result we are seeking will make itself felt. All that is necessary is to barter our energy and see to it that we are properly fed and adequately rested.

Another avenue of experimentation which has been proven most successful to the few men who have proved to be innovative enough to attempt such a unique incorporation of training schedules and exercise frequency would be where you will be working the entire body each and every workout. Then, after working extremely hard on the entire body, you rest until you feel that you have completed the amount of rest and then, and only then, do you take another workout. This means that some weeks you may be training three times per week and other weeks you will be training only two times per week. But in both cases, you will be sure to work more than enough to stimulate sufficient gains without the chance of under-recuperation or overtraining becoming a problem. This way, there are very little wasted training programs when on this type of routine. By limiting the amount of training periods each week, you can greatly magnify the amount of work done on each chosen exercise period. Also, you will be able to rest assured that sufficient rest takes between each workout bout. For the man with limited training time and limited training energy, this type of routine may be just what the doctor ordered.

In this situation, we would naturally place the most important movements first in our routine, in order that most of the energy can be spent on the movements which are the most important to us, with our particular training goals and endeavors. This does not mean that there will not be enough work for the rest of the body, for this is the beauty of such a scheduling of exercise periods. When you know that you will be training the entire body only two or three times per week, it is only natural that you wish to work very hard and completely an each and every exercise chosen for each and every exercise period.

When you know that the workout of the day will be the only chance you will have to get to work the body for a few days, you will really try to get psyched up for the workout and this will help you to get the most out of each and every training routine. Some men cannot seem to keep up this amount of psyche for any length of time. For these men it would be wiser to work out more frequently but less intensely. But for the man who can gear up this extra emotionalism two or so times per week, this is the way to go. On the days you are not training, be sure to rest adequately and as completely as possible for this how you will be able to gear up for the next workout. Try to get in an occasional nap every so often to enable you to save necessary training energy. For let no one tell you differently: with this program you will have to work!

This then, would be your whole body, twice per week specialization routine.


Bench Press, Press Behind Neck, Bentover Barbell Rowing, Scott Curls Lying Triceps Extension, and Power Squat. With this workout you should perform the following set and repetition schedule for the majority of movements, except perhaps with your arm work, in which higher repetitions should be included. For the rest of the body, try to warm-up sufficiently with two of three sets of medium repetitions and then jump to a poundage you can handle for between six and ten repetitions and work with this weight for three to five sets. Cool down with two or so sets of somewhat lighter weights and somewhat higher repetitions. For the upper arms, I would recommend that the set scheme be somewhat reduced while the repetition scheme be increased so that you are handling weights for each set for between eight and twelve repetitions.

After a two or three day rest, try to get in the following routine. This will be somewhat different from the first routine since you will be trying to work the muscles from a somewhat different angle. However, both routines will work the muscles most fully, completely, and adequately.


Standing Press, Parallel Bar Dips, Lat Machine Pulldowns, Shoulder Shrugs, Cheating Barbell Curls, and Olympic Back Squat.

For this workout, I would recommend a similar set and repetition schedule. Warm-up for the first two or so sets an then work into a weight you can handle for five to seven repetitions. Use this for four sets and then cool down with two sets of eight reps. The secret of properly working the body through these periods of super specialization lies within the mind and the integrity of the trainee. He must see to it that his diet is adequate and complete for the increase of workloads he will be undertaking. Also, in order for him to stimulate additional muscle growth, it will be necessary for him to face the fact that only through a great deal of self confidence and a strict adherence to the dietary principles discussed beforehand, will he succeed to the limit of his potential and physical capabilities.

What I have tried to do in this chapter is to give you a selection of the most potent tools or weapons you will ever have at your disposal in the hopes that through the proper utilization of these techniques, you too will move one step closer to the goals of which your dreams are made . . .

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