Saturday, May 30, 2009

John McKean - Part Two

Ronnie Ray, Gene Devers

Click Pics to ENLARGE

Marvin Eder

Record Day
by John McKean

“He’s strong enough to uproot full-grown trees with his bare hands,” claimed members of the Soviet weightlifting team, “and he’s the most powerfully built athlete we’ve ever seen!” So went the Russians’ awe-inspired appraisal of Bill March the famous U.S. lifter during the sixties, as related to me by renowned American official, Morris Weissbrot. March, many will recall, was one of the original isometric and power rack devotees – a big time success story for truly brief routines. Yeah, I know March was no typical drug-free hard gainer but, believe me, his training had a ton of relevance for us.

In addition to, and perhaps because of his world record ability on the clean and press, March developed a phenomenally rugged physique capped with basketball-sized deltoids, ski-sloped traps, and immensely thick, power-packed arms. His extremely concentrated, heavy weightlifting routine – devoid of any standard bodybuilding exercises – did it all for Bill, enabling him even to win the FIHC Mr. Universe. He despised light weights and was often heard to proclaim that any lift which could be done for more than three reps was a waste of time.

There’s little doubt that the zeal with which Bill March attacked his Monday-through-Thursday 20-minute power rack workouts was a big factor in his success. Isometric holds really produced for him because he was one of the very few who pushed to the max every time. And many of the brutally intense, short-range movements he pioneered also proved exceptional for those of us who followed his lead.

However, I’d like to focus on an at-the-time unheralded aspect of Bill March’s training – in my opinion, the real key to his stellar results in strength and physique. It seems every Saturday, without fail, Bill would bound into the gym, prepared to smash all previous records on the three Olympic lifts. He worked like a madman on the press, snatch, and clean & jerk, singling up on each until a big weight forced him to miss. Although the poundages on the “record day” couldn’t compare to the big numbers of his short-range power rack maneuvers, it’s a safe bet that the weekend workout was the one that “did him in”. In effect, March trained “for real” just once per week, using a select few exercises, and absolute limit singles.

“Record day” is also a familiar experience for many of today’s all-round (IAWA) competitors. Every so often, one of our member clubs will announce a semi-formal gathering for the express purpose of encouraging lifters to break bodyweight/age group national or world records in any of the association’s various 150+ listed lifts. Each lifter comes prepared to tackle from one to three favorite moves (sometimes more for the particularly hardy – or foolhardy souls!), as opposed to direct competition within a particular bodyweight division. Everyone is completely free to concentrate totally on his own specialties under the inspirational stimulus of a contest setting. Having participated in many of these meets, it’s always interesting to note how much more “horsepower” is applied by all the guys – when contrasted to normal training – as they attempt to break our listed records.

Many of us began to notice after each record day that despite performing just a very few attempts and little if any warmup, afterwards we always felt like a truck had run us over. Muscles ached for days thereafter from the extra effort we expended on a mere handful of lifts. The quantity of work proves unimportant, we’ve discovered, just so long as a sincere max single is moved.

A few of us all-rounders began to experiment with, and eventually refined, normal workout procedures based on the extreme mental and physical intensity of record day. We reasoned that very brief routines aimed directly toward personal bests, or even beyond, on particularly favored lifts would create a special sense of excitement for increased power output. In essence, we discovered that with proper training conditions every single training session could capture the same enthusiastic climate of a contest.

Getting Started

As a specialty routine, if you opt to brave this intense approach, psyche yourself to give your all to just a very few key lifts. Many will feel other exercises are being neglected, but actually strength gains will distribute across the board, positively effecting even those lifts which seem to be temporarily ignored. Plan on working just one main lift per training session, but changing from workout to workout so that three different exercises are stressed in this cycle. Of course, the movements utilized should be major ones, working big muscle groups. But, the key factor to success is to select three lifts which you absolutely love to do. You simply can’t “go to the wall” each workout if you don’t have this passion and devotion to lifts in which you are completely confident of success. To insure total commitment, stick with your big guns.

Schedule your attempts – all singles – for the lift of the day based on 95% of your current top poundage. As all focus should dwell on this peak set, anyway, simply establish its number first, then merely back track approximately 10% for each of three lead-up sets. To keep this simple, I use increments of 40 pounds between sets if my top lift is anywhere near 400 pounds, 30 pounds if the key set is around 300 pounds, and 20 pounds if 200 pounds is the goal, etc.

Suppose, for example, that the scheduled lift is the deadlift and your current best is 420 pounds. Quick calculation shows that 400 pounds is 95%, and 10% of that is 40 pounds. So, after a thorough total-body aerobic warmup, singles should progress from 280 pounds to 320, 360 and 400 pounds. And, for good measure, take a whack at 440.

Iso Holds

Couldn’t sneak that last set by you, huh? Let me address your immediate panic with this little riddle: “What do you call an attempt which proves beyond your present capability?” Answer – an isometric contraction, or, at most, a short-range hold. Nothing really to fear, considering its time-tested strength producing ability. And when you think about it, this poundage is not that much beyond your current ability – you should be able to move it a little. The “groove” has already been established from previous singles, so approach the bar with confidence and maintain perfect form while merely hefting it for a moment or two. Some days it’ll travel further than on others. Just give it your best each time and go with the flow. Really careful spotters may be required for some lifts, but you’ll soon discover this beyond 100-percenter to be a great confidence builder, eventually eliminating any fear of approaching higher and higher weights.

I really believe that 5% over one’s best, especially for real heavy lifts, is important. This actually has proven to inspire big gains because it ups one’s immediate expectations. Plus, it should stay “unliftable” for quite a while to force proper form. (If one knows it’s “unliftable” he won’t contort and strain to get it all the way up – just use proper form and be content to hold on at the sticking point.) But after a while, the trainee gains strength, finds better positioning and leverage, and mostly just gets so fed up that he rams it up all the way. This is a real high and teaches that anything is possible.

I realize that some will get antsy at first with the seeming futility of eventually doing a full-length movement with the iso-hold. But watch for the surge. This is the almost-magical mental gain you obtain when you finally lift a much-sought-after goal. Something inside then tells you that poundages way beyond that are also in quite easy reach and you’ll soon discover you achieve them amazingly quickly. It’s like kicking at a locked door. It’s tough to open at first, but with continued effort it finally caves in – then you can keep going through that space unobstructed. Years ago as a middleweight powerlifter I found my deadlift stuck at 460. But in contests I always tried 480 for a third attempt. When I finally did the 480, in ensuing meets I surged to 500, 515 and 530.

Exercises most conducive to the isometric hold portion of the program seem to be those which start off the floor, or, at least, begin from a dead stop. If lifts such as the squat or bench press are employed, be sure to start them from their bottom positions off power rack pins. Incidentally, startling power gains can be achieved with this procedure on moves which normally rely on a rebound or recoil. Aside from these lifts, wonderful full-body exercises are the deadlift, straddle lift, hack lift (with a barbell, not a hack machine), clean and press, bentover row, snatches, high pulls, and similar heavy dumbell lifts.

Cycling and Progression

Cycling and progression are a cinch with this system. Simply stick with the initial poundages until a full-range lift is achieved with the (now former) isometric hold. After that, add 5% to all sets. That is, when the above mentioned 440 deadlift is successful, the sets change to 300x1, 340x1, 380x1, 420x1, and 460 for a hold. If, in the distant future, mental and subsequent physical burnout is perceived on the lifts, it’s time to recycle – start out fresh with three different exercises.

Occasionally, you’ll hit a bad day and may stall out on the 95% single. Not to worry – that becomes the day’s isometric (but hopefully only for one workout). You’ll still acquire benefits from this submaximal hold. It’s like I tell my rapidly gaining son, Robbie, when I bomb on a lift he’s just done easily (hey, he’s younger and 50 pounds heavier!) – “I just wanted to hold it in the halfway position, I never meant to lock it out!” And, no, he never believes me either. Or, as famed Olympian Norb Schemansky once replied when I asked him if he ever used isometrics, “Sure, every time I miss a lift!” so don’t ever be discouraged when an honest effort doesn’t go – a partial attempt (don’t ever say “failure”) is a great strength and character builder.

On the other hand, on those rare days when mood and power seem unlimited and a new personal all-time record is practically a certainty – well, go for it, man! The nature of this routine is such that the psyche to hit a big one is constantly instilled and nurtured. Learn to be aggressive. I’m always dismayed to hear a trainee say, “Wow, my lifts are so easy today, wish it was in my book to go for something heavier . . .” What a crock! Never be a slave to some numbers written in a training log when your mind and body whisper “Attack!”

Years ago, I experienced an unexpected training session where a 600-pound squat beckoned me. If I had ignored that instinct for the sake of my pre-written routine, the opportunity where mind and body coordinated to get up with that lofty goal, I discovered, would never present itself again.

Speed Singles

Another strength building dimension of this routine is something I call “speed singles.” This is the back-down portion of the program, following the heavy isometric hold. Reduce the bar to around 75% of your iso and perform three rest-pause singles with the lift of the day. However, don’t just go through the motions. Instead, get fired up – start in good form to maintain the groove, then accelerate to lockout. After the heavy sets, these weights will feel pathetically light anyway, and coordination is already instilled so you have a wonderful opportunity to build speed into the movement. Remember, speed is a most important component of strength, yet its development is largely ignored in most powerlifting schemes. Rip those babies up allowing only 20 seconds between attempts. In short order, this added snap will magnify your input on top weights.

Sample Program

Always allow two full days of rest before every workout. (This means you don’t train on the same days every week.) On paper, one major exercise per day probably doesn’t seem like much. Remember though, this lift will be pushed its absolute maximum, work which can be especially brutal on both muscle and mind. The entire body will be stressed more than you may think, or even feel, but overall gains in size and strength will border on fantastic if care is given to ample recuperation. For added incentive, think back to how Paul Anderson focused solely on squats for long periods of time – one lift specialization created some the most powerful bulk of all time.

Following are sample exercises, weights and training poundages to summarize this routine. Please keep in mind to select exercises which you enjoy best, if you’re to derive utmost benefit. However, the three lifts I’m offering are from our all-round competition and just might give you something completely new for a totally fresh start and added excitement. I’ll describe each, but first here’s the weekly schedule:

Hack Lift – current best: 380 lbs.
95% peak set: 360 lbs.
10% = approx. 40 lbs.


Set 1: 360 - 120 = 240 x 1.
Set 2: 360 - 80 = 280 x 1.
Set 3: 360 - 40 = 320 x 1.
Set 4: peak set = 360 x 1.
Set 5: iso set = 400 hold.

Drop the weight to 75% of the iso for
Set 6: 300 x 1
Set 7: 300 x 1
Set 8: 300 x 1
these are speed singles, take 20 seconds rest between them.


Push Press Off Rack – current best: 170 lbs.
95% peak set: 160 lbs.
10% = approx. 20 lbs.

Set 1: 160 - 60 = 100 x 1.
Set 2: 160 - 40 = 120 x 1.
Set 3: 160 - 20 = 140 x 1.
Set 4: Peak set = 160 x 1.
Set 5: iso set = 180 hold.

Drop the weight to 75% of the iso for
Set 6: 135 x 1
Set 7: 135 x 1
Set 8: 135 x 1
take 20 seconds rest between these sets.


Zercher Lift – current best: 295 lbs.
95% peak set: 280 lbs.
10% = approx. 30 lbs.

Set 1: 280 - 90 = 190 x 1.
Set 2: 280 - 60 = 220 x 1.
Set 3: 280 - 30 = 250 x 1.
Set 4: peak set = 280 x 1.
Set 5: iso set – 310 hold

Drop the weight to 75% of the iso for
Set 6: 230 x 1
Set 7: 230 x 1
Set 8: 230 x 1
take 20 seconds rest between these sets.

Always remember to take two full days rest in between workouts. This means that after the Sunday workout your next few sessions will be on Wednesday, Saturday, Tuesday, Friday, Monday, etc.

Performance Pointers

The push press involves the entire body, especially when legs coordinate with the arms to move a weight overhead. Take the bar off a rack, give a quick leg dip, and ram the bar overhead. Even in lockout position, virtually every muscle from head to toe is tensed to support a big weight.

Our first exercise, though it is fairly standard to some weight training programs, is the hack squat/deadlift. Do a deadlift with the weight held behind your legs instead of in front. Unfortunately, most do this ass a high-rep pumper, yet done heavy it’s a superb power builder. Do not even consider using a hack-squat machine. Load a barbell with enough plates to break your own balls.

The Zercher lift is unique to our all-round competition. Invented by still active 84-year old Ed Zercher, it is sort of a combination deadlift and squat. Most of our lifters start with a sumo-style deadlift to the knees, catch the bar across the thighs in a half-squat stance, cradle the bar in the crook of the elbows (securing this grip one arm at a time), then squat the rest of the way up. As well as working the legs and lower back, this maneuver stresses the traps and even the biceps. Very little, in fact, of one’s body doesn’t get sore from the Zercher, notwithstanding the initial bruises on the thighs and forearms. Talk about total body work.

Monday, May 25, 2009

John McKean - Part One

John McKean

Joe Garcia

Jim Lennon

Strength Through Variety

Competition can certainly bring out the beast in you. An almost fanatical drive to excel, improve, and outdo the other guy always yields an unmatched training intensity. Yet even the most diehard lifter occasionally finds himself bored stiff with the same old squat, bench press, snatch or jerk, workout after workout. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find the incentive to add this competitive fire to shoot for maximum poundages on a lot of movements rather than just a few? How would you like the challenge offered by a huge variety of exercises which can instill tremendous total body power?

Well . . . welcome to the wonderful world of all-round weightlifting.

Simply put, all-round weightlifting consists of almost anything but the powerlifts or two Olympic lifts. In our IAWA (International All-Round Weightlifting Association) meets we perform many recognizable events such as dumbell and barbell presses, strict and cheat curls, hack lifts, leg presses, pullovers, weighted situps, etc. Also contested are forerunners of modern weightlifting which include one-arm snatches, one-arm clean and jerks, push presses, continental cleans and snatches, and jerks behind the neck. Early powerlifting forms are represented by the straddle lift, lying pullover and push, front squat, stiff-legged deadlift, and Steinborn maneuver. And a few ultra-heavy harness events, favored by old-time professional strongmen, are employed via the hip lift, hand and thigh, and back lift.

Lest any potential all-round trainee be intimidated by this awesome variety, let me be quick to explain that never are our listed 150-plus lifts all included in one contest. Generally, for a major contest, 8-10 of the more popular lifts are done over two days. For instance, the 1992 US National meet held in Boston, Massachusetts, featured the neck lift, Jefferson, continental snatch, press behind neck, pullover and push, Zercher, Steinborn, hip lift, hand and thigh, and one-hand deadlift. Local meets usually offer 3-5 movements or are “record days” where a competitor can select his own choice of lifts for record purposes. A few times, however, zealous promoters have posted lists of 15-20 lifts for grueling two-day affairs – believe me, a total body-numbing experience.

A brief look at weightlifting’s history will quickly show that many of the above-mentioned lifts were the basis of meets during the 1900-1930 era. Rare was it when an early contest didn’t feature a one-arm snatch, dumbell swing, or the amazing bent-press (yes, it’s once again being given its due – number 48 on our all-round list). Extensive record lists on about 50 events were kept in the US and Great Britain prior to 1940, with other informal local listings recorded in both countries during the sixties and seventies.

When serious interest once again picked up, officials from the two lands met in 1987 to write a constitution and promote the new-to-many concept of all-round competition. When these modern day founding fathers established the up to date rules and regulations, they insisted on pure body dynamics to do the lifting – no super suits or supportive gear, no wraps, and absolutely no drugs.

About now, I’m certain many will question the feasibility of training limit poundages on 10-20 big lifts at a time. Doesn’t this go against the grain of current advice to avoid long routines? No. In fact, the real beauty of our all-round sessions is that we’re actually forced to restrict quality training time on each individual lift to an absolute minimum. The necessity of these ultra-abbreviated strength routines has taught us how to reach maximum intensity for handling true top weights more often than ever before.

Although there’s a wide range of effective schedules used by our present crop of all-rounders, and highly specialized methods for handling some of our more unique lifts, here’s a sample training procedure used by 12 of us at the Ambridge VFW Barbell Club, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Essentially, we’ve achieved phenomenal progress over the past five years by doing single repetitions on each of about 6 exercises per workout. We switch lifts every day of our three weekly sessions so that a total of 18 moves are given a short, high-intensity burst once a week. After a special non-weight warmup (more on this later) we do just 3 singles per exercise, best characterized as heavy, heavier, and heaviest. The last attempt is usually fairly close to a limit. And, because this quick, brutal style of training seems to fuel our mental competitive aggression, we always feel motivated to try to up that poundage each week.

Sure, this is heavy stuff. Yet in all our collective time with all-round training, none of us has ever felt even slightly burned out, suffered serious injury, or even felt overly tired from a workout (contests are something else, however). It seems when gains keep coming as rapidly as they have, lifts are always being rotated, and workouts are over before we have a chance of even getting mentally fatigued, our sport always stays fresh, exciting, and ever challenging. After all, how hard can it be to perform a workout of only 18 reps? (Better wait to answer till you actually experience this unique form of intensity and variety).

Most all-round movements are complex by nature and work the entire body at once. Each exercise serves as a supplement to the others, so there’s absolutely no need to waste extra time on assistance exercises. This is also a big reason why we get away with training any particular lift but once a week; all muscle groups are pushed totally each training day, no matter what combination of exercises is employed. After all, why should we bother with, say, the highly overrated and widely overused bench press – very one dimensional when compared to the whole-body functioning of all-round’s dynamic pullover and push.

How well does all-round training serve the average person? Let me offer two rather extreme examples. On a novice level would be my 13-year old son Robbie. Beginning when he was 10, Robbie found immediate pleasure over his rapid strength gains. Thanks to the wide variety of moves and abbreviated training (yes, I put him on heavy singles immediately, despite dire warnings I’ve read by “experts”), he never experienced much muscle soreness nor ever any boredom with his quick workouts. In three years he has gained fifty pounds of muscle (puberty helped), tripled his strength, and has established fifty world records in the pre-teen division.

Recently, while on the way to winning his third consecutive title at 1992’s national championship in Boston, this 165-pound “little boy” performed a show-stopping hand and thigh (short range deadlift). I’ve never seen another youngster of this age who could match Rob’s grip strength to do a 250-pound one-arm deadlift, or the neck power to equal his 300-pound head harness lift. But early in his training, Robbie perceptively put me straight on what this sport is all about. Telling him to follow me downstairs to begin “exercising” one day, he firmly replied, “Dad, I don’t exercise, I lift.

On the other end of the spectrum is longtime powerlifting and weightlifting competitor, 65-year old Art Montini. As is the case with all of us master lifters, Art discovered that no form of training or competition is as much fun as all-round lifting. Montini never misses one of these exciting workouts and seems to heft new personal bests each time he sets foot in a gym. Who says you stop gaining beyond 35? Art’s name is all over the current record book and he’s never failed to win the outstanding master award at any of our national meets. Seeing the agile oldster deftly upend a 300-pound barbell, twist and stoop to shoulder it then easily squat in the complicated Steinborn lift, or perform his mind-boggling 1,800-pound hip lift would convince anyone that Art drinks gallons daily from the fountain of youth.

Just Do One!

“All you need in life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure!” stated beloved storyteller Mark Twain. In his famous tongue-in-cheek manner, Twain may have unwittingly provided one of the biggest truths in strength training. For if, as lifters, we envision great success with a highly personalized, unique training pattern, and let our enthusiasm run rampant in its employment, we usually achieve stellar results. Yet, often such a self-styled program is never attempted if those ever-present “experts” are consulted.

Looking back, I suppose my own powerlifting career, which peaked about twenty years ago, could definitely be described as “ignorant yet confident”. Due to a particular fondness for squatting, I naively assumed that some serious specialization on this lift, sustained drive to excel, and very concentrated effort in the gym would allow me to outdo most competitors. Emphasizing mostly brutal, ever-heavier single attempts in training, I actually did manage to establish many local and state records, topping out at 530- and 550-pound bests in the lightweight and middleweight divisions. Heck, it was no real surprise to discover from magazine polls back then that my lifts were even listed among the top ten in the nation for several years. Only later did the shocking truth reveal itself – with my light bone structure (6” wrists), overly long thigh bones, use of neither drugs or supportive gear, and unsophisticated training methods, there was “no possibility” of becoming even mediocre in this event. Man, was I fortunate that nobody told me until it was too late.

My history has provided firsthand education of the absolute value of using a limited program of extremely heavy singles in order to approach one’s maximum power potential. When constantly knocking heads with tiptop poundages, many physical disadvantages can be placed on the back burner. Yet in modern strength literature, noted “authorities” constantly belittle the value of “ones”. Where, I’ve often wondered, did these hardheads come up with the ridiculous “testing strength vs. training for strength” theory which is used so frequently to knock the use of near-limit singles? In actual application, I’ve never seen just such a short, intelligent program fail anybody.

Perhaps many of us master competitors lucked out by starting our training in an age when strength was king – all major bodybuilding and weightlifting moves were keyed toward low-rep, heavy poundages. In the “good old days” we maxed out on everything all the time – and loved it. Our Iron Game heroes, now legends in the sport, regularly utilized short, basic programs which always culminated in several heavy singles. Interestingly, when the renowned Bulgarian national weightlifting team was asked how they developed their “revolutionary” training concept of singling out on all lifts every session, they replied, “from studying the old system of the Americans which we read about in the magazines of the fifties and sixties.”

So, with the advent of modern all-round competition, many of us enthusiastic older trainees already had a tried and true system which easily enabled as many as twenty lifts per week to be worked. Yep, those blessed singles allowed us to spread our energy around while still training with super intensity. Only now, with all-round’s vast array of maneuvers (over 150 lifts which can be contested), we find ourselves using fewer singles per move but making better gains in total body power than ever before, despite our ages being in the forties, fifties and sixties.

A real mental key to deploying a “singles” training schedule is simply to eliminate that word in favor of “a lift”. A near-max lift is certainly about as intense as effort as can be done, yet that low, low number still bothers some. Too many strength trainees today have been constantly brainwashed to the “more is better” concept, even within the context of a set. But, after all, what is a set of, say, eight reps? Simply seven warmups finalized by one tough rep (though with a sub-par poundage compared to a truly heavy single). Why not conserve time and energy by doing a lift with perhaps 40% more weight in the first place?

A Training Program

Can I entice you to try a short, intense, very stimulating all-round training schedule which capitalizes on these dynamic singular efforts? My training partner, Art Montini, has devised a unique circuit-like routine that is as exciting as it is challenging. Art schedules four or five exercises per session, each done for but 4 singles. Ordering the various lifts from lightest to heaviest, he does a first round of one exercise after the other with all of them at approximately 77% (based on their heaviest poundage for that day, not all-time bests – we still cycle the intensity to an upcoming contest). Art then does a second round with 85% for each lift, then a round with 92½ %, and a final rotation with 100% efforts. Montini claims a special mental “freshness” while powerfully bouncing from lift to lift and says the recuperation between rounds yields superior readiness for maximum attempts.

Following is a sample strength rotation schedule based on my current training for upcoming all-round competitions. I begin with a highly specialized, “heavy hands” total-body aerobic warmup (15-20 minutes) which thoroughly prepares my body to hit big poundages immediately. Note that the movements are ordered from lightest to heaviest.


Push Press


Neck Lift

Straddle Lift

Round 1: one lift/rep with 77½ % of that day’s maximum.

Round 2: “ 85%

Round 3: 92½ %

Round 4: 100%


One-Arm Swing

Pullover & Push

Dumbell Squat


Hand & Thigh


Power Snatch

Dumbell Press

Pullover & Press

One-Arm Deadlift

Hip Lift

Each day’s session works every inch of the body, but any particular lift is only done once per week. One can freely substitute any power, Olympic or major bodybuilding movement, as long as attention is devoted toward involving the total musculature. Of course, workouts can be reduced if desired to two per week and with fewer exercises.

Train In Cycles

Be careful not to start a singles program too heavy, leading to an early burnout. But, hey, singles are meant to be fairly intense so don’t pamper yourself too much either. Don’t fret over any break-in period before beginning a singles program, nor waste any time on such needless preparation. Though eventually reaching unmatched intensity, a series of singles starts light and easy, just like any other good barbell routine, and develops quite naturally through continuous progression. Although obviously beginning with poundages heavier than possible with higher-rep schemes, if a trainee starts with a relatively low 80% of his best for the peak set (100% for that day) he will feel neither strain nor a sense of tiredness. In fact, by the time poundages reach any sort of “critical level” concentration on doing just one lift at a time will have taught pinpoint focus toward absolutely perfect exercise form, along with an innate body sense of exactly how to push during every inch of a really heavy movement. Reps, on the other hand, can never provide this unique form of self-awareness; a trainee simply gets too obsessed with counting.

Usually when preparing for a contest I set up a twelve-week cycle, basing my initial top single (week one) on 80-85% of my all-time best. Then I just add five pounds per week to all sets, ending up with 95-105% of my previous mark. Generally, if I can achieve anything over 955 in the twelfth week, it’s relatively easy, with the adrenalin flowing during a competition.

Too Little Work?

Now, I know even some diehard exponents of brief routines won’t feel quite comfortable limiting themselves to just four singles per lift per week. Remember, though, despite the one rep count, you are still doing four sets – just more intense sets than would be otherwise possible (in my opinion even many “rest-pause programs utilize far too many “sets”). But if you simply can’t go without reps or a slight pump, merely perform a fifth round with less weight and whatever rep count you prefer. You will delight to discover that exercise form, amount or weight, and even reps in this “back-off set” will be substantially more than ever done previously – the singles rev up the musculature to such a degree that any subsequent work is a cake walk.


Don’t expect a big pump with this routine, just an amazing exhilaration coursing throughout your body, along with a real sense of power. Neither should you fear for injuries – teaching the body to go progressively heavier in any max lift by necessity dictates strict vigilance to almost perfect form. It’s been my observation that most training mishaps usually aren’t caused by big weights but come to those who tire and break form while trying to force out too many reps. Conversely, those who claim to tear muscle when attempting limit lifts simply have not trained for this concentrated discipline – their non-specific higher-rep work never really prepares them for a sincere maximum exertion.

Power And Bodyweight

An interesting outcome of this high-level training intensity is the huge power gain one can achieve without necessarily increasing bodyweight. Many competitors simply want to get as strong as possible while dwelling in a favored weight division. Others eventually reach a particular size they feel is ideally comfortable for them and desire to make that muscular mass as efficient as they can through more precise strength training. Progressively heavy singles will force even the most well-trained muscle groups into untapped, peak strength levels.

Actually, as I entered middle age, I purposefully decreased my bodyweight for health and better overall conditioning by means of daily aerobic training, yet easily managed to increase my max poundages on competitive lifts, thanks to the limited, no-energy-wasting singles system. As my aerobic “guru”, Dr. Leonard Schwartz (author of the aerobic training masterpiece “Heavyhands” always maintains, there’s a lot to be said for the efficiency of the leanest physique which simultaneously combines the highest conceivable levels of both strength and conditioning.

Increasing Muscular Bulk

For trainees who specifically desire to increase muscular bulk along with peak strength, I recommend four little extras:

a.) Eat more.

b.) Cut down slightly on the weekly number of exercises to perhaps 6-8.

c.) Allow at least two days rest between workouts.

d.) Always include the back-off set for extra muscle stimulation.

Honestly, just extra nutrition alone in conjunction with an intense singles program can yield pronounced bodyweight increases.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Goodbye To The Press - George Kirkley

Goodbye to the Press
by George Kirkley (1972)

The most controversial aspect of Olympic weightlifting came to an end when at the Munich Congress last August the IWF decided to delete the Press from its competition programme. And as there was no suggestion to replace the lift with another one, we now have a schedule of two lifts for the first time in the history of international competition.

The International Weightlifting Federation was formed in 1920 with its headquarters in France, and the lifts at that time were the One Hand Snatch, One Hand Clean & Jerk and Two Hands Clean & Jerk. The Two Hands Press and Two Hands Snatch were added in 1924 to make a five lift set, but by 1928 the single handed lifts were dropped to leave the familiar Press, Snatch, and Clean & Jerk, which have stood until 1972.

So the Press has been with us for 48 years, but obviously something had to be done about it as the situation had become completely out of hand.

When I first came into weightlifting in 1928, the lift was named the Military Press and had to be performed in “Military” style – that is, standing strictly upright, heels together with shoulder-width grip and no body movement at all being allowed. In fact, the barbell had to be first pressed forwards from the top of the sternum in order to get around the face before being pressed overhead. The shoulders were not allowed to be taken back so that the barbell could be pressed vertically.

Gradually, however, the rules began to be relaxed. The feet were allowed to be placed apart, the grip could be widened, and while the rules still insisted on a military movement, the referees also began to relax and allow a slight layback. Later a layback was allowed provided it was not “exaggerated” (whatever that meant!) which immediately left open this issue to the various interpretations of what was exaggerated. We then had a situation where some referees were allowing huge backbends according to their own ideas.

Then another maneuver was tried by the lifters and coaches – a slight unlocking of the knees followed by a vigorous re-straightening to give a little impetus to the pressing movement and a few more pounds on a top lift. Again there was a further relaxation of refereeing standards to encourage this practice.

Afterward came the bow-style Press together with a plea from its supporters that the lifters were performing an “athletic” movement which was a good thing for the sport.

Finally, the last straw was a lift performed with an accumulation of several faults – a dropping of the barbell at the chest together with a distinctive knee snap and, with some lifters, a huge backbend to get the weight overhead.

With more and more referees allowing this travesty of a lift, it became almost universally accepted, but was still accompanied by controversial decisions. By now, of course, the Press had lost all resemblance to the original military movement and in many cases was almost a power-Jerk.

Reg Park - Ash Kallos

Reg Park

by Ash Kallos

I will never forget the standing ovation Reg Park received when he won the Mr. Universe title held in London in 1965 for the third time. We both flew from Africa to compete that year.

Reg has won the Mr. Universe title no fewer than three times. In 1951, 1958, and 1965, an outstanding achievement particularly if you consider the period of time that has elapsed since he first won the title. I doubt if anyone has bettered this record.

I have been fortunate in being able to train with Reg personally on various occasions over the years and have taken careful note of his training methods and philosophy. I have trained with many top bodybuilders and weight-lifters throughout the world, and I will go so far as to say that Reg Park is the most dedicated, hardest worker of them all. Endowed with good structure, he has made full use of his potential and he never lets up. In 1970 he was not able to train as usual because he opened three new gyms and was too busy to lift properly. In 1971 he decided to experiment with his physique, and erroneously reduced his bodyweight to 216 pounds. This proved his downfall. His two main competitors, Bill Pearl and Sergio Oliva, were both over 230 pounds. In solid condition Reg normally weighs between 225 to 235 pounds.

In February of this year (1972) I photographed Reg, but found him to be still too light. Last week, (some four months later) I once again photographed him at a new bodyweight of 220 pounds. His improvement was visible, his arms, deltoids and thighs in particular had increased in muscular size. When Reg Park once again enters the Mr. Universe contest it will be a different story.

With regard to his training methods, he normally trains two bodyparts daily. His programme involves six training periods weekly, each workout lasting approximately two hours. Reg’s routine consists mainly of basic exercises using heavy weights and intense concentration. He employs the straight set system, and very seldom incorporates super sets or any other methods.

More recently, designing his own equipment, certain pulleys and leverage exercises are made use of. The main reason for this deviation is to give his body variety, and to alleviate boredom. He makes full use of any exercise he employs, and only changes when he feels he is no longer benefiting. In other words, once he has found the appropriate exercise, he will keep to it as long as it works. Many fellows chop and change their routines, without ever getting the results they desire.

Here is Reg’s present routine. You will note there are no direct chest exercises. Over the last few years Reg has decided to leave this phase of training out, because his pectorals were getting too big. He only wants to develop a proportionate, shapely body. The pectorals are one of the easiest muscles of the body to develop, one which far too many bodybuilders overdevelop.



Seated High Incline Barbell Press : 120 to 140 lb. 5 sets, 5 reps.

Seated High Incline Press Behind Neck : 5 x 5 reps.

Seated High Incline Dumbell Press : 100’s, 5 x 5.

Lying Face Down On Bench Laterals : 20 to 40 lb. 5 x 8 reps.


Pulley Pushdown : 5 x 8.

Lying Barbell Extension With Z-Bar : 120 to 170 lb. 5 x 8.

Decline Barbell Extension With Z-Bar : 5 x 8.

Lying Face Down On Bench Pulley Push Out : 5 x 8.

Standing Extension With Floor Pulley : 5 x 8.



Chins : 5 x 8.

Seated Pulldown Behind Neck : 5 x 8-10.

Seated High Pulley To Waist : 5 x 10.

Seated Middle Pulley To Waist : 5 x 10.

Seated Floor Pulley To Waist : 5 x 10.


Seated One Arm Dumbell Curl : 70 lb. 5 x 8.

Barbell Preacher Curl : 140 lb. 5 x 8.

Dumbell Preacher Curl : 5 x 8.

Incline Dumbell Curl : 60 lb. 5 x 8.



Leg Press Machine : 5 x 5 reps.

Hack Squat On Machine : 5 x 8.

Hack Squat With Weight On Belt Behind Back : 5 x 8.


Standing Calf Raise : 5 x 20 reps.

Seated Calf Raise : 5 x 20.


Hanging Leg Raise

Lying Leg Raise

Leg Raise Off High Bench

Twist On Self-Designed Swivel Machine

All the above, 3 to 5 sets, 30 to 40 reps.

I can tell you from experience that it is tough to keep up with this human dynamo. He trains from 6 to 8 a.m. each morning because he finds himself too busy during the day attending to his pupils. Reg has trained many Universe height class winners – Eddie Silva, Fanie Du Toit, Jannie Graaf and others have all been guided by him. He takes a great interest in his pupils, and that is why he has many gym members.

A hard task master who knows how to produce results. A man who sets an example, and knows what it means to win or lose. A great sportsman and a wonderful asset to the iron game.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Weightlifting Can Improve Your Physique - Ivan Dunbar

Click Pics to ENLARGE

Weightlifting Can Improve Your Physique
by Ivan Dunbar

Believe it of not quite recently I chap training in the gym approached me in a rather confidential manner, pulled me to one side, and said quietly, “What’s these Olympic lifts I hear some of the members here talking about?”

Unable to resist the opportunity, I glanced furtively over my shoulder, then back to our friend, and said seriously, “It’s something we used to do in the old days – long before your time.”

“Oh,” he replied. “Were they any good?”

“Well, as a matter of fact, and keep this under your hat, they were. Very good – especially for shoulder and back development.”

“Great,” he replied enthusiastically, “can I do some?”

Unfortunately, at this point, I had to dampen his enthusiasm by telling that the gay abandon that goes with such training (not to mention the noise) was alas, due to landlord restrictions, no longer available. However, it did germinate the idea for this article, and for that at least, we must be grateful.

When Sergio Oliva visited the London Universe a few years ago he spoke of the importance Olympic lifting had played in building his physique. In fact, I’m not sure if it’s generally known, but Sergio started off (before and after he left Cuba for America) as an Olympic lifter, and totaled almost 1000 lbs. as a light-heavyweight.

At that time – around 1965 – his training partner was Bob Gajda, who became Mr. America the following year. Both were still relatively unknown outside their area, but both were possessed with ambition in abundance. Bob Gajda had already sought out Bob Hoffman’s advice on physique improvement, and Hoffman had recommended some Olympic lifting. It was the perfect match.

Oliva was, on the one hand, already his training partner and a fine lifter, and, would you believe, gradually becoming interested in bodybuilding. Gajda, on the other, a fine bodybuilder, keen to do Olympic lifting. Each decided to help the other, and accordingly, respective schedules were drafted out. It required a six nights per week training routine – a tough prospect, by any standards. Those of you who have trained six times weekly know it can be an extremely tough proposition. If three of those days are spent Olympic lifting, believe me, it can be murder.

At the same time, Sergio said, “Man, it was murder. We both put a lot into our training in those days. You know how it is when you start – there ain’t nothing going to stop you. Bob was a hard man when it came to training – and I was no slouch either. Add a personal competitive spirit to such exchanges and you’ve got real action – real action!

Bob Gajda was equally enthusiastic. Shortly after their encounter he wrote, “To tell the truth both of us didn’t realize what we were getting ourselves into. We both loved competition, and this we had – in plenty. I would eagerly plan the toughest bodybuilding I could think of, and I would try to best Sergio, and he in turn would stay awake at night thinking of some torture that would make me submit. The results were great for both of us. I was overwhelmed at finishing second in both the most muscular and Mr. America contests. The following year I finally won. I’m sure Olympic lifting improved my physique enough to take the title. In fact after competing in the world championships in East Berlin I really got the bug for lifting and have not done any serious bodybuilding since. I don’t think my physique has suffered as a result at all.”

Such accolades from two of the world’s finest physiques must warrant some serious consideration, though I personally have never been in any doubt whatsoever that selected lifting movements, practiced sensibly IN CONJUNCTION WITH A BODYBUILDING ROUTINE can only improve the physique. Though frankly I don’t think the average bodybuilder would benefit from the six night routine advocated by these two. I consider such training too strenuous for the average lifter, unless you happen to be one of the privileged few who can train and rest as much as you please. Even then it would require at least a couple of years experience behind you – as well as a considerable amount of enthusiasm if you expect to stay the course for any length of time. Olympic lifting, practiced in conjunction with a bodybuilding routine is not for the fair in heart; but if you have facilities and are looking for improvement in trapezius, shoulder, leg and lower back areas, then I certainly recommend you give it a try.

Begin by practicing the lifting movements with a light poundage. This will develop style and flexibility – something that is often lacking in bodybuilders. Decide whether your structure lends itself to split- or squat-style lifting – and then stick to that. Give yourself a month to get the “feel” of lifting, and study (if you can) top lifters, live, on tape and in photographs. Continue with your bodybuilding routine during this time and either start or finish your routine with 30 minutes of lifting. Either way it will enable you to prepare yourself for bigger things to follow.

When you feel you have progressed enough to embark on a more serious programme, try this for six weeks or two months :

1.) Warm up with flexibility work for at least ten minutes.
2.) Olympic Press – 3 sets of 5 reps.
3.) Standing Press Behind Neck – 3 x 8 reps.
4.) Snatch – 4 x 5.
5.) Power Clean – 4 x 5.
6.) Jerks (from front and back) – 2 sets of 5 each.
7.) Front Squat – 1 x 8; 2 x 5; 2 x 3.
8.) Barbell Curl (loose style) – 4 x 6-8.
9.) Lying Triceps Extension (rebounding on bench) – 4 x 8-10.
10.) Deadlift – 1 x 8; 3 x 5.

Don’t worry about those pectoral muscles, or for that matter any other bodyparts – they won’t fade away. In fact you will find considerable improvement all round, and may even find the area’s not “directly” worked will improve. When you return to normal bodybuilding (if you do) you will find your new strength and confidence with the weights will enable you to use heavier poundages – something which will almost guarantee improvement

Good Luck!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Roamin' Rings - Charles Coster

Click Pics to ENLARGE

The Roman Rings
by Charles Coster

The Pectoralis Major is known as the greater breast muscle. It has its origin at the inner two-thirds of the collar-bone, covers the full length of the breast-bone and the cartilages of the first six ribs, to be inserted in the upper front surface of the humerus.

The purpose, or action of the muscle enables the arm to be drawn inward, forward, and downward. The pectorals also help the rotation of the arm inward, and assist in the expansion of the chest.

This exercise is essentially a “tension” problem, as can be seen from the accompanying picture posed by Bill Pearl . . . and in this Roman Ring Dip movement, with the feet extended onto a ledge at the rear, “continuous tension” is present at all stages of the movement . . . which also works the Anterior Deltoids considerably.

Assume a similar position to the one shown in the top photograph. Don’t try to do too much to start with – otherwise you will find your muscles exceptionally sore the following day. Bear in mind that your hands will “vibrate” when the dips are made and the handles will tend to wander in all directions at first. Find out your own capacity gradually, then try to work up the sets, using six to twelve reps as progress is made.

You will notice that Bill’s arms are bent at right angles in the picture, but this is not the only way that this exercise can be performed. Even greater tension can be placed on the muscles if the hands are moved outward a little, and if this is experimented with it will become noticeably more difficult.

A third variation, the most challenging of all, can be made WITH THE ARMS HELD STRAIGHT throughout. The great Alan P. Mead used to perform the exercise with the arms held straight, which of course means that the body is raised and lowered by controlling the INWARD and OUTWARD movement of the hands WITH THE ELBOWS KEPT LOCKED.

The best way to ease yourself into this most difficult variation is to perform the lowering movement in three stages – half-way, three-quarter-way, and then finally the full movement.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Power Training - Steve Stanko

Bill March

Freddy Ortiz at 20

Power Training
by Steve Stanko

Many bodybuilders have started off power training and when they have added sufficient bulk, they train down for musculature. Many physique champions and strong men have chosen this route.

Power training involves using heavier weights and less repetitions. In some exercises four and lower reps are used, in most six is the limit. When muscles are forced to function under great stress, their contractile ability is tremendously increased, thus resulting in greater musculature.

Building body bulk must start with the large muscles, which are the legs, hips and lower back area. The combination of heavy leg and back work and enforced deep breathing has been known to result in great physical changes in a matter of months.

Heavy leg work is the big factor in this. The remarkable thing about heavy leg work is the speed at which all the muscles of the body respond and increase in size and strength relative to the gains in leg and back strength. Heavy leg work means the squat. The quickest way to bigger arms and a bigger chest is to use squatting as a foundation builder.

After a few sets of hard-worked squats, wherein extensive deep breathing results, the lifter should do some very light pullovers on the flat bench, breathing deeply as the bar is lowered behind the head with straight arms. This, aside from adding to rib-box capacity, also ensures a generous supply of oxygen to the body in amounts it is not accustomed to.

The full squat routine should be followed by a few sets of half- and quarter-squats. In each case the poundage should be increased considerably over that used in the full squat. It is possible to do a quarter-squat with 2½ times as much weight as you used in the full squat. In all squats, breathe deeply and charge the lungs with oxygen. A well-ventilated room is essential.

Squatting is still the best bulk and power exercise of all. You handle heavy weights and use the largest and strongest muscles of the body. The squat induces very heavy breathing when worked hard, as can be experienced following a set of six, full out repetitions.

After sufficient warmup sets, start your work sets of squats with a poundage you can use for 6 repetitions and do 2 sets. Then add enough weight to the bar so that you can only do 4 reps. Do 2 sets of 4 reps. Between each set of all your squats, go to the flat bench and a set of light straight-arm pullovers. Do from 10 to 12 repetitions. After two months have elapsed with this routine, you can another pair of squat sets for 3 reps with an added poundage increase.

So far we’ve stressed the squat as the key to building body bulk and overall power, but there are two other exercises that must fit into this program – the bench press, and heavy overhead presses while standing.

In the bench press use as much weight as you can for 4 repetitions. After 2 sets, reduce the weight to a poundage that will permit 6 hard reps for 2 sets. Then do a set with considerably reduced poundage and a very wide hand spacing. When bench pressing with a wide grip, lower the bar slowly and steadily, never lower it quickly with this grip.

Breathing is just as important in the bench press as it is in the squat. When you have pressed the bar to arms’ length, take two deep breaths, hold the second, and lower the bar to your chest. Press the bar and exhale strongly when it hits the sticking point.

The overhead press develops the upper back, arms, and shoulders. All good pressers have good deltoid development. The shoulders increase in size as the weight you press increases. If you have a power rack or a set of squat stands use them, as your back and legs should be tired from the heavy squatting.

Follow the same schedule for your overhead presses as was listed for the prone press.

As you progress with this routine you may add the deadlift to your program, 2 sets of 6 repetitions.

Over the years Muscular Development magazine has published a number of power and bulk gaining articles. Here are a few of the important ones:
So You Want Muscles Fast? by Gord Venables
– January 1964.
How I Gained 50 Pounds of Solid Muscle by Bill Pearl
– February 1964.
My Overload Power System by Bill March
– March 1964.
Power Training For Beginners by John Grimek
– April 1965.
Three Reasons Why You Should Do Squats by Samuel Homola
– June 1965.
Leg Specialization For Greater Bulk by John McCallum
– March 1966.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sig Klein - Chapter Fifteen

Siegmund Klein giving a lifting exhibition for the stars of "Oklahoma"

Click Pics to ENLARGE

My Quarter Century in the Iron Game
Part Fifteen
by Siegmund Klein

- In the last chapter were recounted the difficulties in negotiations for the challenge contest between Bill Lilly and the author – for the professional middleweight title. The contest never did materialize as the challenger, Lilly, refused to meet Klein on the lifts as set forth to decide the champion.

Since the match fell through I did not do much lifting but still kept up my exercising three times per week regularly. However, I wanted to create another world record in the Two Arm Military Press. A show was being held at the French Sporting Club in January 1935. I did not do much training for the lift at this time, for I could do a Two Arm Military Press with 215 or 220 pounds almost any time that I was called upon to do so. However, I did practice for about two weeks before the show, and that evening I started off by first pressing for a warm-up 177 pounds, and followed with 192 pounds, then 211 pounds, 226 pounds, and finally 229¼ pounds, creating a new American record in the Two Hand Military Press. I weighed again at 154 pounds. Mr. Berry expected, as well as myself, that I would press even more than this that evening, but I also tried the Supine Press again, wanting to get an official record of 300 pounds in this lift. I had pressed this poundage many times in practice, but for some unknown reason I just failed with the 300 pounds again.

Bob Hoffman’s magazine was now forging ahead, “Strength” magazine was slipping more and more into the background, and finally in June 1935, “Strength” magazine went out of existence. I was now becoming a feature writer for “Strength & Health” magazine. Shortly after I started to write for this publication the idea occurred to me to try to popularize the Bent-Press. I wrote a column at that time called “Klein’s Kolumn” and used this to write about the lift I called the “King of Lifts”. My enthusiasm too was now growing for this lift. I always wanted to Bent-Press at least 200 pounds. I practiced faithfully on this lift three times per week, going through the lifts before starting my regular body-building program. It was about this time too that Bob Harley started to train at the gym, later becoming the champion Bent-Presser in the country.

I now passed the 200-pound mark in the Bent-Press, having done 203 pounds, and then started to toy around with the idea that I would like to Bent-Press the Rolandow Dumbell, which up to now was more of a showpiece in the gym than a real lifting apparatus. John Grimek was the first athlete, since the great Rolandow Bent-Pressed this ponderous weight, to lift this weight in the Bent-Press. It was the first time that I had seen it lifted over head. I started to train for the lift. I was never so disappointed in any lift as when I started to lift this weight. It never seemed to bother me much in getting the weight to the shoulder, in fact I could press the weight up quite well too, but only when I would start to come to the erect position would I lose it. Every Saturday afternoon a group of visitors would call at the gym. They heard about my attempting to lift this ponderous weight. There were usually several dozen witnesses. I tried about five or six times each Saturday and would almost always just about make it, only to fail. This went on for about six months. Then one rainy Friday afternoon, Jack Kent and Andy Jackson visited the gym. I informed them that thought this was not my usual Bent-Press day; I just felt that I should try to lift the Rolandow weight. They both promised to stand by as catchers. I warmed up with a plate dumbell, starting with 100 pounds, then jumped to 120 pounds, 140 pounds, 160 pounds and then 180 pounds. I was now ready for the Rolandow Dumbell. I raised it to the shoulder and started to press the weight. Having it almost completed, I lost it. But I was determined to do it that day. Once again, I brought it to the shoulder, slowly but steadily the weight started to go up, as I bent my body under it. I knew that I would have to struggle quite hard to hold it. Something told me that this was the time I would succeed. Sure enough I finally made it. I brought my feet together, held it for a while, in fact I spoke to Jack telling him that at last I succeeded. This was April 9th, 1937. I lowered the weight to the shoulder, then to the floor. I was elated! I knew that I would lift that weight some day. Only a few weeks before I went to York to lift the famous Cyr Dumbell, 202 pounds, which I did, and was presented by Bob Hoffman with a beautiful large trophy for being the lightest man ever to lift that weight in York.

It was Saturday, April 10th, on my thirty-fifth birthday that I lifted the Rolandow Bell again. It went up on my first attempt. So pleased was I with this accomplishment that I have not up to this present writing lifted this weight since. I have never tried to lift more in the Bent-Press than 209 pounds. It seems that no matter how much weight I would ever lift again in the Bent-Press, I would never again have the pleasure or satisfaction that I derived when I first succeeded with this ponderous weight. This was in 1937. It was about this time that I published “How to Bent-Press”, feeling that such a booklet was needed for the thousands of weight-lifters whose interest I had now aroused in this lift.

I had a pupil then who was becoming well known for his fine figure and handsome face. “La Culture Physique” was conducting a contest to find the “Most Handsome Athlete in the World”. I encouraged this young man to enter the contest, particularly since he was going to visit France, and the honor went to him. His name, Emil Bonnet, and he certainly deserved the recognition and place he won.

George Hackenschmidt came to New York from England on the “American Farmer"
Tuesday, April 5th, 1938. I met him at the dock and also took the liberty of telegraphing to him the greetings of the American Weightlifters. That evening he visited the gymnasium, and naturally we had a most interesting talk about old timers and also present-day champions. We became very good friends, and although he seemed to have lost some of his former interest in weightlifting, while we were discussing the subject he became very reminiscent and told us stories of his past experiences as a weightlifter and wrestler.

In the year 1941, when our dear friend Warren Lincoln Travis died, the estate presented me with the Louis Cyr statue, which Travis had for many years. This statue is now in my gymnasium, and is, I believe, one of the only statues of this great old timer. I had a little name plate placed under the statue mentioning that it was presented to me by Warren Lincoln Travis.

The “Police Gazette” conducted a contest to find an athlete who would be “Mr. Police Gazette” and my pupil Wally Lasky won this title. This was November 13th, 1941. Newspapers and magazines were greatly interested in this contest, and many of them misinterpreted the contest and called Wally Lasky “The Most Perfect American Male”
and many other such titles. This started, as can well be imagined, quite a controversy amongst the muscle culturists, for John Grimek was still “Mr. America”, but was ineligible to compete. Though it was not Mr. Lasky’s doing, he was reprimanded from various sources about his newly won honors. To sum up this little matter, and looking at it from a broad point of view, there were thousands of young men throughout the country who had never seen of known about “perfect men” but who now were inspired to start on the road to physical improvement by the publicity. So no matter what the discussions ensued, I always felt that the good Wally Lasky’s handsome figure in print had done in arousing interest among those thousands more than compensated for the little uneasiness and misunderstanding the write-ups created amongst many people.

I always liked to do “hand-stand-dips” for a regular exercise. This exercise was performed on a bench, and from a straight hand-stand the body was lowered until the chest touched the edge of the bench. For several years fifteen was the most that I could do. In 1941 I started to get a little more interest in this fine exercise and wanted to see how long it would take me to do fifty hand-stand-dips on a bench in groups. In August 1941 I did the following hand-stand-dips: First I did five groups of ten, fifty in all, which took eight minutes. I rested one minute and thirty-five seconds between these groups of ten. Then I tried ten groups of five presses, which also took eight minutes, and rested fifty seconds between each group of five. And last I did seventeen groups of three each, which also took eight minutes, and rested twenty-four seconds between each group of three. The last group was the hardest to do, for hardly was I off the bench when I had to get started once again. I also did eighteen consecutive bench push-ups, having accomplished this several times now, and believe that this is some sort of record in performing these dips. True, I have heard of many athletes doing many more hand-stand-dips, but I have wondered if these athletes performed them under the same conditions, or whether they did hand-stand-dips on the floor.

In 1940, a few days before the “Mr. America” contest and National Championships were held in Madison Square Garden, New York City, arrangements were made with National Broadcasting Company to give a television exhibition. Frank Leight, Johnny Davis, Bob Harley and myself were selected for this honor. I believe that this was the first time that weightlifting was featured on any television program in America. Since the announcers did not know what we would do, I was asked to write the script and do the announcing. Frank Leight did some “See-Saw” Pressing and the Abdominal Raise. John Davis gave a demonstration of the three Olympic Lifts. Bob Harley did the famous Bent-Press. When I went on the announcer took the script and read what I was going to do. First I did some posing, then I tore a pack of cards in half, and then in quarters. This was followed by some barbell juggling and some hollow-back press ups. A few weeks after this I was again on a radio program called “Gold is Where You Find It”. I gave a strongman exhibition for the audience, and a special act was put on for the radio audience re-enacting the Attila-Sandow match with Sampson and Cyclops in London in 1889. This was done with great effect; the radio actors used foreign voices that sounded like one would imagine those famous Strongmen spoke.

In the summer of 1941 I received a phone call from an exited woman, who wanted to know if I, Siegmund Klein, could come over to the WOR Radio station at once to put on a strongman act. She hastened to tell me that she only had forty-five minutes to find a strongman for this program, and she had a chance of winning $20.00 if her man would win. The program was called “Go Get It”, and the selectees had one hour to go out and get whatever the program announcers had selected for the contestants. One, for instance, had to find a man that had just received a parking ticket from a policeman. Another had to find a couple that were that evening celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Well, I told the woman I did not know if I would be interested, but told her if she would come up to the gym and give me more details I might be. She rushed up, about closing time, and found me dressed ready to leave, together with Frank Leight, for dinner. She dashed in and asked to see Mr. Klein. I thought I would play a practical joke on her, and told her that Frank was Mr. Klein. She was naturally greatly impressed and told him to hurry if he was interested, for time was running short. Frank smiled good-naturedly, and told her he was no strongman, and pointed to me and said, “There is the man you are looking for.” She was now utterly confused and did not know what to say or do.

I told her that we would see what we could do. Frank, another friend and myself hastened in a cab. I had already had my costume all packed and ready, which she did not know. When we arrived at the station we had about ten minutes to go over the script and find out what had to be done. The little woman kept looking at Frank and wondered when he was going to get into costume. She did not miss me while I was changing. Frank kept telling her he had lots of time. Finally the show started. Well, you can imagine the surprise of the lady when I walked out in a strongman costume and started to perform.

Blog Archive