Jack Welch, winner 148 lb. class
World Power Championships
Birmingham, England, 1975
496 lb. squat.
by John R. McKean (1976)
Jack Welch first won the lightweight division of the Senior National Power Championships in 1969, shortly after he had served notice of his prominence by taking the gold at that year’s Junior Nationals. Subsequently he won the Senior’s in 1970, 1973 and 1975. Adding yet another feather to his cap, the 30 year old lifter made the trek to England with the U.S.A. power team and easily won the World’s Championships via fine lifts of 495-352-562 for a magnificent 1410 total. Yearly polls and annual predictions to the contrary, Jack Welch can stand on his record to prove he is America’s most consistently successful 148 pound powerlifter.
What dark, deep training secrets does this lightweight powerhouse use to enhance his record setting pace? Well, none really! Welch just follows a simple basic, heavy training schedule without ever including anything fancy or time consuming. The basis of his success lies in his positive mental attitude and consistency of training. Regular as clockwork, Jack arrives at the Ambridge V.F.W. Barbell Club during late afternoon every Monday, Wednesday and Friday the year ‘round, absolutely never missing a workout. Plans for training sessions in respect to sets, reps and weights are followed exactly, without ever a moment’s consideration for a possible negative physical or mental state at the time. He simply will not permit aches, pains or worries and their subsequent self-pity and excuses to alter his training in any way. Jack is relentless in his pursuit of power and does not let up for any reason. The mastery of this “on” attitude enables him to maintain contest “shape” 100% of the time.
The training routine of Jack Welch may appear to some as too short, too simple to produce meaningful results. But, then again, this is not a “space age” type schedule dreamed up by some wild-eyed paper tiger, but rather, the actual program of a densely muscular, world champion powerlifter. Jack has always felt that QUALITY AND INTENSITY of a routine are far more important than quantity in terms of exercises and sets. It might also be pointed out that where Jack has trained steadily for over a decade, with no interrupting injuries, many overenthusiastic power men have been forced into long layoffs or premature retirement. Welch is never in too much of a hurry to make gains – he simply goes on enjoying his training, and lets the results take care of themselves.
In the performance of exercises, the Jack Welch trademark is ultimate form for every repetition, whether in training or in competition. He devotes total concentration to doing smooth, steady, picture-perfect movements. His current routine looks like this:
Monday – Repetition Day
Squat : 365x5; 380x5; 395x5; 410x5; 420x5.
Bench Press : 250x5; 270x5; 290x5; 310x5; 325x5.
Deadlift : 3 sets of 8 with 480.
Wednesday – Assistance Exercises
Half Squat : 4 sets of 5 with 540.
Incline Bench Press : 245x8; 270x6; 295x4; 320x2.
A few bodybuilding movements for fun : lat machine, curls, situps.
Friday – Heavy
Squat : 365x5; 395x3; 425x3; 455x2.
Bench Press : 250x5; 300x3; 330x3; 360x2.
Deadlift : 405x5; 485x3; 520x3; 550x2.
That’s it! No mystery and no marathon workout, just a basic power schedule which has produced one of the world’s most outstanding powermen. It has enabled Welch to perfectly execute a 380 pound bench press, 500 pound squat, and a 585 pound deadlift. By methodically plugging away on his simple routine, Jack will probably in the not too distant future become the first lightweight to bench 400 and total 1500.
Diet? Jack simply eats three basic balanced meals per day and avoids junk foods. He is especially fond of steaks, seafoods and large salads but will cheerfully put down any selections his super cook of a wife prepares for him. He takes no supplements other than a vitamin pill every now and then when the mood strikes him. Jack keeps a watchful eye on his bodyweight, preferring to maintain a training weight of 152 pounds, but, being naturally active this is never any real concern. He just enjoys good wholesome food and could care less about grams of protein, carbohydrates or calories.
I am a great believer that a good powerlifter can become a good Olympic lifter if he trains correctly. By this I mean that he would have to prepare himself to do at least a few thousand real light presses, for form, with a good training partner or coach to watch him periodically and insure him of his progress.
Now would be the time to learn speed for the clean for the press, and again speed for the press itself.
This would be the first great sacrifice the powerlifter would have to make, but I am sure that it would be well worth the effort that the lifter would choose to make.
The next O-lift, the two hand snatch, is a beautiful lift when done correctly. To train for this lift, again it means a few thousand repetitions and 90 percent of them should be hangs below the knees to get to understand what the SECOND PULL is. Once this is incorporated into the pull the lifter will find to his amazement that his snatching will improve to a great extent.
The powerlifter will also be pleased to find that the same second pull is applied to the clean for the last of the Olympic lifts, the clean and jerk. Again the correct method of training for this lift is to do very light weights even if it’s only the empty 45-pound bar to develop the second pull by pulling from below the knees and going into the squat, as this would be more of an advantage than trying for the split style of cleaning.
I try to impress upon the reader that the bar alone would be sufficient, but I certainly would not like to see a person use more than 115 pounds until he has developed smooth and solid form with the use of the second pull.
I would like to see a lifter start the first one from the floor, then four hangs. This, I believe would be the best to get coordination.
When the lifter feels that he is now getting the correct movement, and his coach or an experienced trainer agrees, then and only then would I permit the lifter to use more weight. Most of the top officials in this country will remember that Tommy Kono, when he missed a real heavy weight in the snatch or the clean for the jerk, would do the same weight from the hang. The same weight that he missed from the floor. This only proves one thing – that Tommy did a few hundred thousand hangs to get the correct movement for all of his three lifts.
There is one thing that that the powerlifter must remember if he decided to try the Olympic lifts – he should also do his squats, front and rear squats, correctly. He should maintain good form by keeping his upper torso erect, for now it will be very important for him to do front squats with heavy weights correctly.
It stands to reason that powerlifters in this country are making new records all the time. It’s amazing how much they’ve improved in the past six or seven years.
The only reason that I got started in writing some articles on weightlifting is because of the lack of knowledge that the public has on bodybuilding and weightlifting. I believe that we do possess the necessary knowledge that is so desperately needed, but no one has the time to put all this information in proper sequence and into a book like the weightlifting rule book, or a book that would be called the weightlifting manual.
I hope to see a day when a young or old person can pick up a book that can direct him by giving him the basic information right up to the day when this person would be able to develop a positive training system for himself, one suited to him alone, and not be misled by anyone who thinks that because you are strong you don’t have to be in some ways guided by a proper system, as success at lifting does not come easy.
Like I’ve stated in the early part of this article, after a few thousand movements you realize the coordination of all the movements, and with speed and power a person has the confidence of giving a good account of himself. This is mainly because he has eliminated his faults.
It would be wonderful if all who are interested in Olympic lifting could spend two weeks in the Olympic Development Camp that Morris Weissbrot has supervised for many years. But this is impossible, as only the top teenage champions are invited to the camp. A large-scale development camp such as this would be wonderful to have in this country. I would not be surprised to one day see colleges in this country start offering courses in weightlifting, powerlifting, and bodybuilding.
Today, for a powerlifter to successfully develop technique and reach his strength goals, he must train as hard and spend as much time and energy training as an Olympic lifter.
440 lbs. on a 3 1/2" diameter bar -
thumbless reverse grip.
Left - Pinch gripping a smooth 100 lb. plate in each hand.
Right - Pinch grip chins on a 2" rafter.
Top photo shows Bruce White finishing a 633 deadlift at 160 bodyweight.
Lower photo - 660 from knee height between regular deadlift sets.
Left - Pinch gripping a total of 115 lbs. on a smooth plate.
Right - Lifting a 115 lb. anvil by the horn.
The Bruce White Story
by Wayne Gallasch (1978)
(Editor’s note – we have had this article on hand for some time. At the time we received it Bruce White held the world dead lift record and even though he trained under what we would consider adverse conditions and without any competition to push him, he still did some remarkable lifting. We thought readers could benefit from reading of his training procedures, etc. - Peary Rader)
Those of you who follow or are interested in power lifting and strength feats are probably aware that Bruce White of Australia has unofficially held the world lightweight dead lift record for a number of years. As such, he is the only holder of a senior lifting world record in this country.
Although I have known Bruce for a number of years through his letters, I hadn’t met him due to his inaccessibility in a remote corner of southwestern Australia. It was a great pleasure to be able to recently visit and train with him and obtain his story and training principles for readers of IronMan.
Bruce is a quiet man with an average looking build but the outward appearance is deceptive. He is a very enthusiastic and dedicated lifter and has been working towards his ultimate goal for many years. Bruce aims to dead lift 700 lbs. as a middleweight which by formula would rate as the greatest dead lift of all time. This would rate higher by formula than John Terry’s 600 lb. dead lift as a feather, which most consider to be the best ever dead lift in proportion to bodyweight. Bruce expects to reach the magical 700 lbs. within the next two or three years, and to reach a personal peak in dead lifting about ten years from now.
Mr. White, senior, started young Bruce on weight training on their wheat farm when he was four years old. Training consisted of regular light work on a variety of exercises up to the age of 15. At this time Bruce took over the planning of his own training routines and decided to train hard on the dead lift, his favorite exercise. Over the last ten years Bruce has, of necessity, had to train alone as very few visitors, let alone lifters, call on him.
Most training is done in is large, well-equipped gym in the back yard. The gym also contains a fantastic strength library with many books and magazines on all aspects of weight training, nutrition, psychology, philosophy, astrology, yoga, and an almost complete set of IronMan.
Bruce likes to average 9 to 10 hours sleep a night, which is probably more than most of us get. However, as a retired farmer at age 35 (with 6 children) he is kept busy with his family, various interests and training.
A positive mental attitude is just as important as hard training and a good diet, and Bruce is a mental-power type lifter who can do best in contests and on special occasions. Another important point is the keeping of training note books listing every workout, and I saw about a dozen such books listing every lift made over the past 20 years. This also made it easy for me to obtain information of Bruce’s outstanding and varied strength feats over the years. Haphazard training has never been used, and a strict program is always adhered to.
The Olympic lifts have not been practiced nor does Bruce spend much time on bench presses or squats, as he is a true dead lift specialist. The squats are done occasionally when dead lift training is not too intensive, and his best official squat is 390 lbs. as a lightweight (Aust. record) and 420 as a middleweight.
Bruce has what I call a typical dead lifter’s build being 5’7” tall, with short legs and very long arms and back. Usual weight is about 158 lbs. His hands are and average 7¾” long, with 7 ¼” wrists and 12” forearms.
Training 4 to 5 days a week is usual with plenty jogging and fast walking on non-training days. (Bruce’s house overlooks the Indian Ocean, being only 50 yards from the beach.) The high dead lift work has been of great help in finishing heavy attempts, as the final pull is the hardest for Bruce. He has never trained with the bar lower than 9” from the floor or done stiff legged dead lifts. I noticed that the initial pull from the floor to knee height was very strong and easy at all poundages.
The way Bruce improves his initial pull for the first few inches is to occasionally move a very heavy bar just off the floor – this weight being well in excess of his best dead lift. This is the nearest to isometrics he uses.
Grip training is always of paramount importance and follows all dead lift workouts. Chalk is used together with an ordinary reverse grip without hooking the thumbs, for all poundages. Wrist straps, knee bandages or a lifting belt have never been used and Bruce mentioned that he was firmly against any type of drugs for lifters. His grip training has mostly consisted of lifting smooth sided barbell plates from the floor to waist level, and pinch grip chinning.
A number of different and highly complicated programs have been followed over the years, but here is Bruce’s current routine and it is a fairly simple one.
A limit single dead lift is attempted once every two weeks. Three days before a heavy single day, Bruce does a medium heavy session of singles to prepare his muscles for an all out effort.
No squats are being done now as they are omitted from any special dead lift program such as the current one. Good mornings are done every second training day between limit attempts. Three sets of five are performed bending over to parallel with as heavy a weight as possible. On the day after a limit attempt workout, 2 light sets of 10 reps are used as a sort of “warming” down session, as no further lifts are made of the day of the limit single after the last attempt.
Bruce has tried continuous heavy training, but he found that staleness came too quickly, while the present fort-nightly limits work very well. All training sessions are commenced and concluded by an easy jog in preference to light barbell repetitions. A track suit is always used for training, even in summer.
Before lifting a heavy weight, Bruce takes several deep breaths and then expels all the air from his lungs as he bends over to grip the bar. Approach to the bar must be as physically relaxed as possible but mentally steamed up. Lots of deep breathing helps Bruce achieve this, and also lifting on empty lungs increases leverage and lowers internal pressure.
Although I trained with Bruce on a limit day, no attempt was made to conserve energy for a TRUE limit attempt, as every set of full dead lifts was alternated with a set on the rack from knee level.
The program went like this: (the + sign means dead lift from knee level)
For working up to a true contest single the reps per set would be 10-5-1-1-1-LIMIT ATTEMPT.
The alternate +sets were done as quickly as possible with about a minutes deep breathing between each set.
Grip training was next and here I observed some incredible feats.
For a warmup, the 50 lb. smooth sided plate was lifted for 20 reps with each hand. Then the 90 lb. plate was raised for 8 reps with each hand. Bruce adds weight via a dumbell rod through the plate’s center (see photo) and works up to limit attempts around 105 lbs. Bruce has moved 121 lbs. off the floor.
Next is pinch grip chinning on 2” parallel rafters, and he has done 10 consecutive reps, and one rep with added weight for a total of 238 lbs. Bruce currently trains by gripping the one 2” thick rafter on its vertical face (see photo). He has done 2 reps, hanging by a pinch grip for 5 seconds, and also a single rep this way with weight, at a total weight of 175 lbs.
To finish off, we rolled the railway wheels out under the gum trees which circle the gym. They weigh 440 lbs. with a 3½” diameter axle. Bruce had just purchased them and lifted them and on this day lifted them for the first time, holding the bar for at least 15 seconds while I took several photos. An incredible impromptu strength feat. The axle is now lifted for reps with an added 20 lbs. on, and Bruce tells me that he expects to do 500 soon. You can see his ordinary thumbless grip used on this in the photo.
Supplements are very important to Bruce and a special cabinet full of health foods are kept in the gym. These are taken 3 times a day after meals. Bruce averages 2,500 calories a day mainly from eggs, yogurt, soya products, meat, fish, honey, fresh fruit and green vegetables. He drinks only fruit juice and rain water. Bruce has found he can train better when a good diet and supplements are strictly adhered to, and takes daily – soya flour, milk protein, germ oil concentrates, Vitamin C, multi-vitamin tablets, kelp tablets, molasses, cider vinegar and homemade energy bars.
Since the age of 11 when he first began dead lifting, Bruce has lifted 300 lbs. or more over 27,000 times; 400 over 6,3000; 500 over 1,000; 600 over 19. Best official lightweight DL – 611 ½ lbs. Best official middleweight DL – 632 lbs.
He has moved 666 off the floor on a number of occasions and also lifted 705 lbs. from the knees on the rack. Records for continuous reps in a set – 24 with 402 lbs. at 160 bwt.; 16 with 450 at 154 lbs. bwt.; 11 with 500 at 165 lbs. bwt., all done with normal reverse grip.
Heritage of Strength
by Harry B. Paschall (From Vigour, 1952)
The literature of every race in every era abounds with sages of heroic strength. In almost every religion you may find the story of a strong man . . . Hercules, Vulcan, Thor, Samson to name just a few among many. The immortal Homer spun his fascinating tales of high adventure around a strong man who was able to outfight, outswim, outrow, out-talk and outsmart all his nefarious adversaries. In those early days the strong man was also a man of keen and vigorous intellect, because all men were strong and athletic . . . even the sages attended gymnasia where they exercised their bodies as well as their minds.
The insidious and envious propaganda of the “strong back and weak mind” came much later when the vain man struggled with an inferiority complex, and each sought through intrigue and various “equalizing” weapons to gain the prestige and power which he lacked as a man. It is factual that in nearly every case where a truly great man has walked the earth, where he was a leader, a statesman, an artist, a musician, a writer, an outstanding craftsman, a mystic or a saint that the man was also an exceptional physical specimen. The little “great” man, who created a great deal of turmoil in the world, the Napoleons, Hitlers, Mussolinis, were relatively inferior physical types. Thus we have a strong and sound basis for our innate reverence for strength. Certainly Richard the Lionheart owes much of his appeal to his ability to unseat his enemies in a tilting match; and Abe Lincoln lost no popularity by lifting a hogshead of whiskey and drinking from the bung. (Lest the Puritans be offended, it is recorded that Honest Abe spat out liquor!) The famous men who were noted for their mental and spiritual stature, yet who were also men of exceptional physical prowess are legion.
The greatest of all artists, Michelangelo, was so strong he could bend a horseshoe; Byron swam the Hellespont; Balzac, his biographer said, “had the muscular torso and shoulders of a weightlifter”; Hoffman, the musician, was terrifically strong; Socrates and Plato spoke frequently or exercise; George Washington held the American broad jump record.
I am well aware that many piddling professors will take issue with me on this subject, and point to the so-called giants of science and philosophy such as Freud and Nietzsche. Give me, like Caesar, men about me who have meat on their bones. History has proven that it is well to steer shy of those who wear the “lean and hungry look.”
An odd circumstance, a marked similarity, exists in the behavior of all the would-be world conquerors which proves conclusively that they realized their own physical shortcomings . . . in almost every case they planned a race of Supermen, and even encouraged breeding for physical strength and stature without regard to customs or morals.
But it isn’t at all necessary to go into the world scene to demonstrate the universal liking for strength. In every village and town there are local legends of strong men. I can recall visiting a farming community during threshing time some score of years ago. Perhaps 30 or 40 men of the neighborhood were gathered together around the village forge where a wizened old man was mending a bit of broken machinery at his anvil. The idle men soon began to make trials of strength to while away the time taken out while repairs were being made, and one of their competitive feats was the hoisting to the shoulder of a two-bushel sack of wheat, while standing with both feet in a small measuring cask. This was very interesting to me, and very amusing, for many of the men got all tangled up with their feet while trying to shoulder the unwieldy bag, and wound up stretched flat on the ground with the sack on top of them (such a sack weighs 120 lb.).
Several of the stronger men were successful, and knowing that I was something of a weightlifter they invited me to try. I found it easy enough, after learning where to grip the sack to maintain control, and then gave them something of a surprise by balancing the sack at the shoulder on one hand and slowly pushing it to arms’ length overhead. The old blacksmith now entered the conversation by telling us that his father (of blessed memory) had been noted for thirty miles around as the strongest man in the county, and that his greatest feat was in lifting the very anvil upon which he was now working, from the ground to the block by grasping the horn (the pointed end) with one hand. He suggested that I TRY to duplicate this stunt, and I know that he felt my chances were negligible.
So I lifted the anvil from the block to the ground with two hands, testing its weight (it proved to be 126 lbs.) and then grabbed it with one hand and flipped it up to the block, so easily that I even surprised myself. The old man was considerably nonplussed, and seemed to feel that I had done his papa an injury. Finding this trick so easy, I took the anvil again, lifted it to the shoulder and pressed it with one hand to arm’s length. I have a feeling now, were I to go back to the village smithy after all these years, that these two feats would still be legendary, unless another and stronger man has been along since.
Sometimes these legends grow, and I shouldn’t be at all surprised were I to go back there now, that someone would tell me that the stranger who lifted the anvil some twenty years ago had balanced it on one finger whole pressing it overhead. Thus we hear of some lifter in the hinterlands who once pressed 250 lbs., his friends tell others that he did 275, the others whoop it up to 300, and a rumor reaches by stages all around the world that Joe Blow of Cactus Junction can press 400 lbs. any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Again, in the way of local legends, there was the tale of a disgraced patron of a pub in Wales who, when his drinks were cut off and he was turned out into the cold, cruel world, shambled down the road a piece until he came upon a huge stone which weighed some hundreds of pounds; this he pounded upon and carried back to the tavern where he deposited it before the door so that nobody could leave or enter.
John Grimek tells a story of Steve Stanko’s papa which indicates that Steve came by his muscles honestly. It seems the elder Stanko ran out of firewood and liquor at the same time and after visiting the tavern, found all the wood yards closed, so he yanked a huge telephone pole out of the ground and carried it home on his shoulders to keep the home fires burning. These poles are about thirty feet long and nearly a foot in diameter at the bottom, so it must have weighed several hundred pounds.
If we will glance backward to our youthful days, we will find many a memory of occasions when strength impressed us. One of my first, I remember, was an occasion in the schoolyard when two of my friends engaged in a fistic encounter over the smiles of a 14-year old femme fatale. One of these lads was about 16 and a big lumbering fellow, while the other was a year younger and much lighter, but very compactly built. The contest lasted only a minute or two, for the smaller boy punched so solidly that each time he connected the bigger lad rolled on the ground. The boys were wearing shorts, and I remember clearly to this day how strongly the calves of the victor stood out as he planted his feet to launch his devastating wallops. The same boy could strike a ball farther than any of us, and he ran like a deer. No wonder he became for most of us a year or two younger a boyhood idol. I have never lost the impression gained at that time through a vivid experience that a man is only as strong as his legs.
One of my favorite boyhood heroes was Victor Hugo’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame.” In this book the huge Quasimodo performed many feats of incredible strength, and carried the heroine to safety from the mob by climbing to the roof of the cathedral, where he held her white body at arms’ length overhead, and waved defiance at the bloodthirsty crowd below. He also swung across the bell tower by hanging blithely to the clapper of the big bell, and here again, such are the quirks of memory. I never hear the chimes of church bells without thinking of Quasimodo’s ungainly figure swooping across the bell tower while dangling from the clapper. I was fascinated by the occasion in Dumas’ “Three Musketeers,” when the huge Porthos chose to exert his superhuman strength, and by the tremendous Roman Arena scene in Slienkiewicz’s “Quo Vadis,” when the giant slave Ursus pitted his strength against a bull bearing his mistress’s nude body bound across the horns, and broke the neck of that ferocious beast.
Alan Calvert once wrote about an artist friend who was also a barbell man and whom he induced to draw some sparkling pen and ink illustrations of strong men for his articles . . . “if I could draw powerful muscles as well as this man, I would never do anything else but sit all day long and draw pictures of strong men for my own delight and amusement.” I, too, would like nothing better than to write and talk about strong men and feats of strength, and I could go on like this for chapter after chapter.
By far the most important of all strongman tales go to the seeker of strength and is the ancient Greek story of Milo of Crotona. This inspiring legend not only reported various feats of strength and athletic ability, but it did more; it told us how Milo became strong through the principle of progression in weightlifting.
Back in the early days of the Greek Olympic Games the big hero was the winner of the wrestling competition, and we must remark that wrestling in those days was a serious pastime, for the losers were carried out on a stretcher. No finicky official would call “Foul” nor pat a wrestler on the back gently to indicate the winner. The champion was announced quite simply by the crunch of breaking bones and snapping vertebrae. A shepherd boy (or maybe we should call him a cowboy) named Milo, became inspired, as boys will, to duplicate feats of the champion athletes of the day, and casting about for a method to develop his body to the proper size and strength, he happened to think about lifting a calf each day until it became grown. The idea seemed logical, and still is. So over a period of several years, Milo would take the calf on his back and walk several paces with his burden; as the beast grew so also did Milo, and when he entered the Olympics Arena he had grown so strong that that it was child’s play for him to pull arms and legs off his astounded opponents. For more than thirty years Milo was unbeatable, and theory of progressive exercise had been demonstrated throughout.
For many years this was regarded as mere legend, and physical training authorities gave little credence to a story they thought was on a par with the Labors of Hercules and the idea that a guy named Atlas was holding the world on his shoulders. But towards the close of the nineteenth century several trainers in Germany and France began to experiment with the Milo principles of lifting increasing weights in the shape of barbells and dumbells. In America in 1902 Alan Calvert formed his company, The Milo Bar Bell Company, after the ancient Greek athlete.
Some twenty years ago a country boy in Tennessee named (most appropriately) H. E. Mann, decided to find out for himself whether the feat of lifting a calf until it was fully grown was a human possibility. He licked a Jersey bull, and not only succeeded in the endeavor, but for some time exhibited through the Southern States, lifting the bull and walking with it over a small stile. It is related that the local yokels were so unimpressed by Mr. Mann’s deeds of derring-do that they refused to contribute anything except tobacco spit when he passed the hat. As a sad end to this venture in showmanship this modern Milo wound up by eating the bull, thus demonstrating once again that the first law of nature is self-preservation.
Long years ago, certain paper-covered books of a very lurid nature (akin to the comic books of today) containing wild tales of cowboys and Indians, murders and train robberies, were surreptitiously purveyed to boys. Some folk called them “penny dreadfuls.” They gave you a lot of gore and action for your money, and we used to sometimes read them in school by concealing them within the covers of our geography book. Our teachers and parents had strong opinions about these gems of literature.
Later on in high school, we became a strength addict, and substituted the then small STRENGTH MAGAZINE as an interesting insert in our Physics book, thus fooling the omnipresent educators, and incidentally learning more worthwhile things than are to be found in any school textbook.
Now, looking back upon those days with a supposedly mature mind, we are more and more certain that learning to care for and build your body is far more important than any subject we were supposed to study in school.
If you are interested in strength, in becoming stronger and more sturdily built, this is a normal and wholesale attitude and as such, highly commendable.
Many persons underestimate the importance of the Two Hands Deadlift in the training routine. You no doubt have heard the expression “Basic Power Exercise” as used by many weightlifting and bodybuilding authorities in their articles. I have used this term many times myself when referring to the Deep Knee Bend, Bench Press or, one of the top power exercises, the Two Hands Deadlift. Unfortunately this fine exercise is not as popular nowadays as it was in the time of Saxon, Cyr and Hermann Goerner, who was the greatest deadlifter of them all. This German strength athlete is credited with lifting close to 800 pounds in the Deadlift.
Whether you are training on the Three Olympic Lifts or your primary goal is the acquisition of outstanding body power and muscular size, the Deadlift is an absolute “must” and should be included in the training routine. No other exercise has such a direct influence on the lower back routine.
By performing the Deadlift you lay the foundation for a back that will withstand the rigors of heavy training whether it be Olympic lifting or concentrating on other strength lifts. Remember, “a chain is as strong as its weakest link,’ and no matter how strong you are, if your back is not proportionately strengthened it will detract from overall efficiency in the power lifts.
The lower back constitutes a vital portion of the human body, even more so in the case of the strength athlete as he subjects himself to the rigors of extra heavy power building movements. Because of this it is imperative that the back be conditioned and strengthened so as to eliminate any back injury, doctor bills, and undergoing forced layoffs from training for weeks and even months.
The old adage “a strong back and a weak mind” is a fallacy, especially when it is applied to present-day weight trainers. Sensible lifters and place the Deadlift high on the list of power exercises and devote a goodly portion of their training routine to this exercise.
The course contained herein is designed to give you extra-fast results with a minimum of time and effort. Adhere to the routine exactly as written, and don’t allow any training partners to sway you into altering it.
Yours in Strength.
Of primary importance is the correct type of training bar. If you have access to a regulation lifting bar are well away as it conforms to the accepted specifications. This bar is also knurled (minute diamond-shaped machined grooves on the bar). This will be a great aid to the handgrip when handling extra heavy poundages.
The large plates on the bar give it the correct height off the floor. If a lifting bar is not available a regular exercise bar will suffice as a revolving bar has no special advantage when deadlifting. However, it is imperative that the exercise bar be equipped with the extra-large plates. These plates should be approximately 18” in diameter – the weight is not important. Practically all of the major barbell distributors have such plates in stock so I am sure that the reader will have little difficulty in acquiring same. Two of these plates are all that are needed, providing, of course, that there is sufficient weight on hand to increase the poundage as proficiency increases. If the reader can manage to obtain more that two of these large plates it will be advantageous, especially when one is concentrated on the heavy power movements as a high poundage can be attained quickly and conveniently.
In the heavy exercises such as the Squat and Deadlift, gains are made very quickly at first and in a short time poundages in excess of 300 pounds will be used (I am referring to the beginner in this case).
All exercise bars are composed of solid steel as the hollow bar will bend or completely buckle with a heavy poundage. For this reason I do not recommend using any type of pipe or tubing in place of the solid bar. The majority of exercise bars have a diameter of slightly one inch so that practically all types of plates will fit. A bar of this thickness also assures a solid grip which is so essential when training with heavy poundages. If the reader has small or short-fingered hands it is imperative that a bar of this size is used.
The majority of persons will experience little difficulty in gripping at first. However, as the weight increases, unless you are gifted with large or unusually strong hands, some difficulty will be encountered in maintaining the handgrip.
As I mentioned, the regulation lifting bars are knurled. The exercise bars sold by top grade barbell distributors are also knurled for convenience. If at present the reader is training with an unknurled bar I advise either having it knurled at your local machine shop or purchasing a new one from any of the qualified barbell dealers. The latter will probably prove the most economical as a new bar will, in most cases, cost less than having a bar knurled. If you should decide to have your present bar knurled it is important that the knurling is spaced correctly so as to coincide with the width of handspacing when deadlifting. The two areas knurled should be six to eight inches in length and spaced sixteen to eighteen inches apart. Make certain that the knurling is not too coarse as this can injure the skin or tear the training apparel.
The correct overall length of the bar is also important as a bar that is too short lacks “life” or “spring” and will handicap your training progress. A recommend a bar seven feet in length for the best results.
If the reader intends to compete or set official records in the Deadlift – or for that matter any two hand lift, the bar must conform to certain definite specifications. It would be to your advantage to accustom yourself to such a bar.
The quality of steel that the bar is made of is also of importance. All bars used in official competition are composed of hardened steel as they undergo a great deal of punishment. Be sure that your training bar is of this quality so it too will stand up to the poundages that will eventually be used. I know from experience that an ordinary soft steel bar will bend when loaded to poundages in excess of 400 pounds. This might seem like a lot of weight to some but I can assure you the reader that such poundages, and more, will be used in training much sooner than one would imagine.
Always place outside collars on the bar when training, especially so when deadlifting as the plates tend to slide outwards. This is due to the bend in the bar when a high poundage is used. The jarring effect when the bar contacts the floor during repetitions will also cause a shifting of plates. Shifting plates can prove dangerous as it throws an unbalanced strain on the back and shoulders. All manufactured barbell sets are equipped with inside and outside collars. Don’t neglect making use of them when training with heavy poundages.
Make sure that the floor of your training quarters is absolutely level. An uneven floor surface can be another cause of back injury when Deadlifting or Squatting as an unbalanced body position is caused. Although the back constitutes one of the most powerful parts of the body it is highly susceptible to strain. Any sudden wrenching or lifting improperly can have serious after-effects.
Several top level weightlifters have been painfully reminded of this fact as they were forced to undergo an extended layoff from training through lack of caution. I ask the reader to make a careful note of the last two paragraphs so that any future discomfort may be prevented.
If possible, I recommend the reader to construct a small wood platform for deadlifting on. A 4’ x 8’ area is sufficient for this purpose. Training on a cement floor is extremely hard on the bar and the floor. Deadlifting on a good wood, cement, or tile floor will cause considerable damage as a heavily loaded bar contacts the floor with considerable force.
I would like to mention two points that will prove an aid in gripping the bar when deadlifting. A type of magnesium chalk can be purchased at any drug store. This chalk, when placed on the hands, assures a solid hand grip. This will be appreciated when the hands are sweating. Resin is even better for this purpose but unfortunately it is extremely difficult to remove from the hands. Placing adhesive tape on the tips of the fingers will also help as this helps prevent the bar from rolling off the hands. I have used such tape to advantage when attempting heavy cleans as my fingers are short and quite thick.
Wearing the right type of training shoe is highly important. Under no circumstances attempt to deadlift while wearing shoes with elevated heels. Such a heel tends to throw the hips forward and this in turn directs undue strain on the lower back. You are also handicapped in another way as the raised heel increases the height of the body thus increasing the distance the weight must be lifted. I would recommend the removal of shoes when attempting a personal record or otherwise.
The type of shoe that should be worn when deadlifting, pressing or squatting is a regulation weightlifting boot. This boot has a small rubber sole (no heels) supported at the arch and leather tops. This shoe is difficult to obtain as most weightlifting boots are made in Europe. However, I have found that a leather basketball shoe is suitable for lifting. I am referring to the leather type shoes used by so many professional basketball players. These shoes can be obtained at most of the larger sporting goods stores in your area. If they haven’t got them in stock they can soon order them for you. These shoes are also excellent for Olympic lifting. I have used them, along with John Davis.
If you are accustomed to wearing a lifting belt when training then by all means continue to do so. I am of the opinion that little assistance is given by such a belt when training on the deadlift.
If you are not in the habit of wearing a sweat suit when exercising I would advise you to start now. To eliminate muscular strain the body must be kept warm at all times. Many bodybuilders and lifters train while wearing a T shirt and shorts. This practice is all right in the warm summer months but if continued in the cooler temperatures an injury such as a torn muscle or pulled tendon can set you back months in your training progress.
Correct Performance in the Two Hands Deadlift
The correct technique in the Deadlift, as in all other lifts, is of prime importance as this will enable the trainee to lift many more pounds. Coupled with this is the fact that injury is often prevented due to the correct utilization of body leverage.
Load the bar to the required starting (warmup) poundage (how to arrive at this will be described in detail in the next chapter). Approach the center of the bar placing the feet under it so that the fronts of the ankles are almost touching. The feet should be spaced slightly wider than when cleaning (lifting the bar to shoulders) but not as wide as when squatting. This will allow the arms to pass on the outside of the thighs when positioning the body at the commencement of the Deadlift. A person of average height should place the feet approximately fifteen inches apart (measured between heels). If the reader is shorter than average then adjust the distance accordingly.
Taking the Grip
It is essential to have the advantage of a solid hand grip when deadlifting, moreso than any other lift. Almost all outstanding record holders utilize the “reverse handgrip” when deadlifting as it is superior to the regular gripping method used in the Press and Olympic quick lifts.
To attain the reverse grip turn the palm of either the left or right hand (whichever is most comfortable to you) so that it faces upwards and away from the body when first gripping the bar. Assuming this position of the hands helps prevent the bar from slipping in the grip and rolling out of the fingers. Coupled with the reverse grip is the utilization of the “Hook Grip” position of the fingers. Unfortunately, not everyone can realize the benefits of this gripping technique as those who possess small or thick, short-fingered hands will be unable to effect the correct position. However, a person with average hands size will find the hook grip quite easy to attain after a little practice.
To assume the hook grip place the first two fingers over the thumb (both hands) when first taking the grip. After practicing with this grip on either an ordinary broom handle or the actual bar and examining the position of the fingers and thumb the reader will readily see the advantages as the leverage is such that the heavier the weight on the bar becomes the more solid is the handgrip.
Those who find it impossible to manage the hook grip need not become discouraged. I personally know of many outstanding deadlifters, one of whom can lift 700 pounds, who are incapable of hook gripping. These men discovered, as you will, that Nature compensates for things such as this and the hands simply become stronger to meet the demands put on them.
The illustration above shows the reverse hand position and hook grip.
Space the hands at approximately shoulder width on the bar when gripping. When the correct handspacing is attained the arms should be almost vertical or at right angles with the floor level. A too wide or too close handspacing handicaps both the grip and the lifting leverage.
Correct Starting Position of the Body for the Deadlift
After properly spacing the feet and taking the grip and the right handspacing make sure that the knees are bent and on the INSIDE of the arms (the thighs should be almost parallel to the floor). It is a common error among lifters, both advanced and beginners, to attempt to lift a heavy bar off the floor with the legs insufficiently bent. This places undue strain on the lower back as the large and powerful muscles of the thighs are not being utilized to their fullest extent. This in turn results in faulty deadlifting leverage and a loss in lifting efficiency. There is also the danger of injuring the lower back region, often severely. It is imperative that the back and legs share the overall strain during the primary stage of the deadlifting movement.
It is also important that the back be kept flat throughout the deadlift movement. A rounded back during any phase of the lift can have serious consequences for most trainees as usually the lift is failed or the back injured. The reader might feel that I am taking a rather dismal outlook in regard to the dangers encountered when deadlifting improperly. It is not my intention to discourage the reader but rather to instill in him a healthy respect for deadlifting technique. This in turn will assist in the development of a polished top lever deadlifter and not someone who will make the chiropractor rub his hands in anticipation. To assist in keeping the back flat concentrate on maintaining the head well up throughout the entire deadlift movement, under no circumstances look at the floor. When commencing the deadlift, position the head so that the eyes can be comfortably centered on a point directly ahead and at eye level.
The arms are to be completely extended at all times, especially at the starting phase of the lift. A common mistake is to attempt to bend the arms just before lifting the bar from the floor. This is simply a waste of energy. The arms serve one basic purpose when deadlifting and that is to form a connecting link from the hands to the shoulders. Try to visualize the assistance of the arms in this light as it will help you to more fully understand the mechanics of the deadlift.
The Deadlift Movement
Before we go into the actual deadlift movement I will summarize the various points of the correct starting position of the body.
(1) Correct spacing of the feet.
(2) Feet flat on the floor.
(3) Thighs almost parallel with the floor level.
(4) Arms on the outside of the knees.
(5) Back as flat as possible.
(6) Head up and looking directly ahead.
(7) Arms completely extended.
(8) Correct hand spacing.
(9) Utilization of the reverse grip, if possible combined with the hook grip.
We will assume now that the trainee has correctly positioned the body and is prepared to perform the actual movement.
Inhaling and exhaling at the right phase of the deadlift movement is highly important. The technique of breathing will vary with each exercise. This is due to the diverse positions of the body. In the deadlift a deep breath is taken immediately BEFORE commencing to lift. Never attempt to inhale AFTER the deadlift is started as the chest is compressed and breathing is restricted. Do not exhale until the back is almost in the erect or upright position. Always breath through the mouth as you simply can’t get enough air in a short period of time by the use of the nose only.
As soon as the breath is taken commence lifting the bar to the waist. The legs must straighten in coordination with the back as it assumes the upright position. It is during this phase of the deadlift that many lifters are at fault. The most common error is to extend the legs prematurely and throw the greater portion of the work on the back. The legs should not be completely extended until the completion of the lift and the back is in the vertical position.
A common procedure among advanced deadlifters is to lift the bar slightly above the knees allowing it to contact with the lower portion of the thighs and then commence working the bar to the waist. This is a normal occurrence and will happen in almost every case where a limit attempt is tried. the point to be remembered when deadlifting whether in training or in competition is to elevate the bar from the floor to the waist – there is no cause for disqualification by resting the bar on the thighs. However, I would not advise this practice until the weight becomes so heavy that you have no alternative but to do so. When training concentrate on lifting the bar to the waist in one smooth motion and then when you try our limit whether it be in training or actual competition you will find that you will do just that much more.
Do not attempt to jerk the bar off the floor at the initial phase of the deadlift as this is a waste of time and energy as you just don’t jerk four or five hundred pounds off the floor. It is hard to believe but I have seen man people try just this and the result is often a torn or wrenched back.
When the bar has reached the region of the waist exhale and at the same time commence to thrust the arms and shoulders well back. This shrugging movement will facilitate the last phase of the deadlift.
To help alleviate some of the strain from the arms and grip at the completion of the deadlift arch the back, this in turn causes the hips to move forward so that a proportion of the total weight of the bar is supported on the front of the hips.
When replacing the bar on the floor it is necessary to lower it in a controlled manner down the front of the thighs to the knees. From this point lower it to the floor level. You will note that I said “lower” the bar, under no circumstances drop the bar from the waist too quickly, especially while still maintaining the grip, if you do the result will probably be a strained back or a bent bar.
The reason I stress a controlled lowering of the bar is, as I above mentioned and another more important point. The bod must assume the SAME RELATIVE POSITION when lowering the bar as when the bar was lifted. This can only be accomplished in a controlled manner. If this is not done, besides damaging the bar, there is also a danger of seriously injuring the lower back.
Your Training Routine
This routine should be performed three times per week with one rest day between training sessions. If possible include he deadlift along with the lower body movements such as the Deep Knee Bend. If at present you are concerned with developing basic body power the Squat and Deadlift are all that is necessary to strengthen the lower body. These two fine exercises go hand in hand as squatting will assist the deadlift and vice versa.
You will note after reading the arrangement of the sets and repetitions in this course, or for that matter any of the others that I have written, that I favor a combination of single repetitions and sets of fairly low consecutive reps. I have found that this method of training builds unusual strength and exceptional muscular bulk.
Sets and Repetitions
Warm up with a poundage that can be handled comfortably for 5 consecutive repetitions. Make sure that you are not overstraining with this weight. Then increase the poundage so that ONE SINGLE REPETITION can be performed comfortably (rest approximately three to five minutes between sets and single reps). Increase the poundage again and perform another single rep. The trainee should be working harder now but not over exerting. Increase the weight once more and then perform FIVE SINGLE REPETITIONS (resting between each single rep). If the trainee is unable to perform the required 5 single reps, then the weight is too heavy so reduce the poundage until the 5 singles can be performed. It is necessary to go through this procedure at first to find the correct training poundages when first starting this routine. When the reader has found the poundage that can be handled for he 5 singles stay with this weight and strive to increase the amount of single reps each following training period until EIGHT SINGLE REPS CAN BE DONE. When this is accomplished increase the poundage so that a minimum of five single reps can be performed as before and again, using the training principle as explained above, work up to 8 singles. When the 8 singles can be performed with the increased poundage, up the weight and again work up to eight singles, etc, etc. . . .
When performing heavy singles it is important not to use a poundage too close to the absolute limit. Always hold something in reserve as this practice will assist in preventing muscular staleness. If the singles can be increased by one each workout period then good gains are being made, don’t expect to do more. However, if the trainee can perform more than one extra single rep then by all means do so.
This completes the single rep portion of the deadlift training routine. The second part of the routine consists of a series of sets of consecutive repetitions. The performance of heavy single reps will develop the highest degree of muscular strength. However, it is necessary to perform consecutive reps to stimulate muscular growth and increase the recuperative powers.
Load the bar to a poundage that THREE CONSECUTIVE REPS can be performed with. Stay with this weight until FIVE sets of FIVE consecutive reps can be done. Increase the poundage when the prescribed sets and reps can be performed. When this is accomplished increase the poundage so that a minimum of three consecutive reps can be done and again work up to the required 5 sets of 5 reps. Increase poundage, etc,. etc.
IMPORTANT – Be sure to increase the warmup poundage and preliminary poundage increases in the heavy singles proportionately when a poundage gain is made in the final training poundage.
This completes your deadlift routine. Don’t perform more sets or reps than what is called for. Don’t train on this routine more than three times per week. Don’t let others talk you into changing this routine. Remember – overtraining is just as bad as undertraining.
If any problems are encountered regarding this course mail them to me and I will be pleased to assist you.
In my last article I described the pull-in for the Press and the position to adopt at the commencement. I suggested that the position should automatically be the result of the way the body is set, and this should be accomplished whilst the Clean is in progress and not after the bar has reached the shoulders.
Another major point to discuss at this stage is breathing. There are many ways of combining the breathing with the action and it is doubtless of great importance to ensure this is done correctly.
Breathing Technique Important
Some experts maintain that the whole lift, from floor to overhead, should be done on one breath. They maintain that expelling the initial breath at the shoulders causes the muscles of the chest and back to relax. This is possible, because these muscles act in co-ordination with breathing, especially deep breathing.
Such action can, of course, result in a loss of power at a point when maximum effort (driving the bar from the shoulders) is an absolute necessity.
These people say that a deep breath should be taken either before or during the clean, and then the breath should be held (to preserve the high chest and tense muscles) until the lift is almost concluded. The breath is exhaled as the arms lock, or when it is actually enforced.
One point against this system is the time the breath must be held. This varies slightly according to the speed of performance and, of course, the referee’s signal at the shoulders, but no matter how quickly the lift is concluded, there is a fairly lengthy period, especially under the circumstances, when the breath must be held.
It must be remembered that if the breath is exhaled too soon the lift will be lost, and it, on the other hand, the breath is held too long, some discomfort, even blackouts, can be experienced.
Another method is to do the lift on two distinct breaths. Breathe in – clean the weight – breathe out – in again – Press – then out.
Oxygen Sufficiency Ensured
This ensures a sufficiency of oxygen and can easily be made into a habitual part of the action, but apart from the aforementioned relaxing of muscles it is not a method to recommend for modern performances.
As I said previously, it is important that the commencing position be adopted immediately and the lifter must be ready for the Press as soon as the ref gives his signal. The breathing, also, must be controlled to fit in with this.
There is a way (it can be adopted to any style, but it fits in perfectly with the one we are recommending here) and although it means taking two breaths, there is not quite the same detriment to the action.
A shallow breath is taken before the clean and this is exhaled as the weight comes into the shoulders and the curve is induced. This actually helps the lifter to get the right position.
No Conscious Pause
As soon as the body is set to commence, a deep breath is taken, and this occupies only the time the ref is forced to wait before giving the signal so that the lifter is ready immediately. As a matter of fact, constant practice can enable the lifter to become so proficient at timing the action that there is no conscious pause whatsoever.
You will recall that at this point the body should be “curved” from heels to shoulders and the knees slightly relaxed.
As soon as the signal is given the press should begin, not, as in an exercise Press, by shoulder action alone, but as a combined body movement, with a tensing of the knees, thighs and buttocks and a simultaneous drive from the shoulders by the whole power possible from the upper body.
The deltoids do, of course, play a major part, but if too much reliance is placed on the power available from this source, not many world records will be broken!
This drive must be sufficient to carry the bar well beyond normal sticking point, so that the triceps can conclude all the action. Failure to do this, for any reason, will result in the bar stopping, or, at least, slowing up.
The latter result will, no doubt, cause a tendency to back-bend and, with top poundages, even the strong position described here may not prevent this, or permit the lift to be concluded correctly.
It will be realized that, if high poundages are the lifter’s ambition, this initial drive is the important thing, and, combined with power, is the only way for really great performances.
Maintain Same Body Position
At the conclusion of the lift the body should be maintained in the same position and not brought erect. There is no physical reason for this, but it is possible that the referee, seeing that altered body-position, may rule the lift out on an assumption there has been back-bend contrary to the rules. If the head is set back (there is no real necessity for this) the position of that should be held also.
Breathe out as the arms begin to lock, but do not relax the power behind the movement whilst doing so.
One further point. Do not confuse the relaxing and tensing of the knees with bending or jerking. There can be no perceptible movement whatsoever, none is allowed by rule, and none is necessary in the action.
If it is possible, I hope to give some schedules and advice on progressive routines at the end of this series, so I will content myself by saying I sincerely believe that when a style has been developed and accepted, the lifter requires plenty of HEAVY SINGLE PRESSES for good improvement.
He also needs some kind of ASSISTANCE EXERCISES to specialize on developing the muscles used in pressing. These also provide a means of lending a change to the routine and can be done by themselves, or in conjunction with the Press proper.
First, there is the SEATED PRESS. This should be done on a form of stool or backless bench that is of a height to set the thighs parallel when the feet are flat on the floor. It should be done in strict style, because the object is development of the Deltoids and Triceps, which can be accomplished by severely limiting or completely removing the possibility of back- and knee-bend when in the proper seated position. An even stricter style can be enforced by doing it seated on the floor, but less weight can be handled and there is little to be gained, aside from occasional variety, by so doing.
Another good movement is the DUMBELL PRESS. Without doubt, pressing the dumbells simultaneously is best, but even alternate pressing has good effect if most of the reps are done in strict style. When proficient with the bells, a good movement is to do as many reps as possible both together, and then carry on with some alternate singles, thus really working to the limit.
For concentrated work on the Deltoids alone, such lifts as HOLD-OUTS, LATERAL RAISES and COMBINATION MOVEMENTS involving such actions cannot be beaten.
The advanced man, if he trains four times a week, can do two of these type movements on two training sessions and have the remaining sessions for the orthodox movements.
I myself have done months on the various power movements without ever doing a Press, reverting back to normal training a few weeks before a lifting contest. The value of such procedure can only be estimated for each individual by the experience gained over lengthy periods, but such experiments must be made if the lifter is to find the routine to suit he own individuality.