Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Back Building Program - Anthony Ditillo

Paul Anderson

Ron Collins

Bob Peoples

A Back Building Program
by Anthony Ditillo

My favorite body part and movements thereof has always been in the chest area, but second to this, back work always leaves me with a most enjoyable sense of accomplishment and allover feeling of well-being. I have always admired the massive development of Bill Pearl and Reg Park, particularly Park. I am speaking of both men when each was at his highest bodyweight and concentrating on power work exclusively. Leroy Colbert is another bodybuilder who, in his prime, had a remarkable back development and I imagine the power to go with it. George Eiferman, a simply huge, massive hulk, with the definition of a human anatomical chart, had in my opinion the most massive and impressive back development of all times. Anyone who has been in the ‘bodybuilding game’ for long will remember in the various magazines when George was in his prime, back shots of Eiferman that will stand immortal as a grand example of Back Development Supreme.

How does one secure such development? To be sure, it is certainly not easy. Bone structure is of most importance. Wide shoulders coupled with a very trim waist and hips will enable on to give the appearance of power, but actually such a bone structure is not conducive to great strength. Steve Marjanian had one of the widest backs I have ever seen, and his waist measurement was in the forties. At least it must have been when he was at his highest bodyweight. But, how unbelievably impressive and powerful he appeared. And what about Doug Hepburn? Surely he had a very, very wide, massive back with rear deltoids the size of grapefruits. He didn’t allow his waist and hips to get too out of hand, but let’s face it: he wasn’t exactly what you would call ‘trim and trig’ in this area either. Both these man had the all-around developments of Bull Gorillas, with backs as thick, almost, as they were wide. And both these men had prodigious body power and strength.

What shall the bodybuilder do? Shoud he train himself into a bulky power lifter who could never hope to win a physique contest without losing all that hip and belly fat? Of should he deliberately hold down his body power by avoiding such movements as the deadlift, the half-squat, etc., etc. Should he omit exercise movements that might, if properly handled, catapult him into the physical limelight he so ardently desires?

Well, my friends, here would be my humble solution to the problem: First and foremost we must realize that if we overeat the wrong foods we shall gain fat and muscle, even if we may be exercising quite hard and also quite regularly. It doesn’t matter whether high of low repetitions are performed, nor does it matter how many sets. On the other hand, if we abstain from all fattening foods and partake only of protein, we shall gain oh so very slowly, but brother, whatever we gain will be solid muscle. So by calculating our eating regimen with 90% protein and 10% fats and carbohydrates, we have a base for solid muscle gains and ample energy for everyday living and physical training. With this schedule of fuel for our body we can therefore utilize the size-building major muscle groups exercises to the utmost potential and reap vast gains is power and muscle size with no worry as to how we shall appear when such experiments are ended. No one will ever be criticized for having thick, muscular hops or waist if such development is coupled with solid tissue and adjoined with an upper body of equally immense density and development. It is only when fat is allowed to accumulate around the lower back and waist that one becomes bottom heavy and loses much eye appeal. And even though a ‘straight power man’ will gladly sacrifice eye-appeal for more strength, myself included here, this is one facet you bodybuilders must omit in order to obtain that ‘finished physique.’

For upper and lower back development similar to the men I have previously mentioned, it will be necessary to train along similar lines. For the rear deltoid and trapezius tie-in the press behind neck reigns supreme. Reg Park has used over 300 lbs. in this movement and his rear delts and traps show full testimony of its developmental value. Performance is relatively simple. I prefer the standing variety since more weight and a slight cheat is possible. This is very important when searching for more power. I would recommend an initial set of 8 easy repetitions followed by 4 sets of 5 reps using all the weight you can you can handle properly. Avoid using too wide a grip as this can cause shoulder strain. Forearms at right angles to the floor is best.

In trying to secure that great lat flair under the armpits I, and many others I imagine, would recommend the pull-up behind neck as best. Be sure to perform this movement slow and steady and get a dead hang at the bottom of each rep. In the beginning, 3 sets using your bodyweight will be sufficient, but as soon as 10 repetitions can be performed easily I would recommend he addition of weight around the waist, to hold the reps down to under 10. When you can use over 100 lbs. in addition to your bodyweight in this movement believe me, you will quite understand fully its value.

While concentrating on the latissimus area, we must not forget muscle thickness. It is from power men that the next three movements shall be taken. The bentover row, the high pull and the power clean would be best in this case. Take your pick, or better yet, alternate from workout to workout. In each movement (whichever one or ones you prefer) the repetition scheme should be about the same. 5 sets of 4-6 reps, working up in 25-pound jumps to a tentative limit should bring about fine results in back thickness, in time, of course.

Last, but not least by any means, we come to the lower back and hip girdle section of the male physique. Take my word for it and perform the following two movements, and in a relatively short time the improvements of these two body parts shall be mute testimony to the time and effort spent. For the lower back use the stiff-legged deadlift and perform sets of 5 repetitions, adding 25 pounds per set until a limit is reached. Then reduce the weight on the bar by 75 pounds and perform 1 set of as many repetitions as possible. Be sure to keep the back as flat as possible and use a slight rebound off the floor between each rep to help the bar up and on its way past the sticking point. This should be more than enough work for the lower back if enough weight and effort are used.

This last movement will also affect the lower back, somewhat, but its value lies mainly as a great upper thigh and hip developer. This is the heavy full squat. Perform 5 repetitions per set and increase the weight each set as in the deadlift. When a limit for 5 reps is reached, perform 1 set with relatively light weight and really pump out the reps! Perform this movement correctly and you won’t have to worry about pulled knees and strained backs. Work diligently and you should develop that massive, yet boxed in effect in the hip and glute area. Eiferman, Pearl and Park are fine examples of this.

I feel I have outlined here a most complete back specialization routine and I am hopeful you fellows will get up and give it a try. Be sure to increase poundages whenever possible ad follow the diet outlined, as this is important if one is to gain mainly muscle and little fat. The movements are all tried and proven by the past’s successful lifters. What more proof could one want?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Power for the Press - Charles A. Smith

Illustration #1.

Illustration #2.

Illustration #3. The late Ronald Walker told me, "I get as much benefit from lowering a weight as I do from getting it overhead." Try these controlled lowering movements and teach yourself to handle heavier poundages with confidence.

Illustration #4. Lock -out presses are great for building up power in the area of the sticking point. They'll help you get limit poundages to arms' length.

Illustration #5. The trapezius is one of the more important pressing muscles. Dumbell shoulder shrugs will strengthen the muscles and another link in the pressing chain will be more powerful.

Illustration #6. The incline bench partial power press is designed to build tendon and ligament strength and get you used to using heavier poundages.

Power for the Press
by Charles A. Smith (1951)

It is not my intention to deal with the thousand and one intimate details that are part of the Two Hands Clean & Press. This article deals solely with the subject title . . . POWER FOR THE PRESS. If you have been following my writings, you will have observed that the press itself . . . that is, an EFFICIENT press . . . is made up of so many factors that a complete and careful study of each individual lifter is necessary before it can be certain that he is employing the best pressing method . . . the one particularly suited to his type of physique and temperament.

Not only does a man’s skeletal structure count, but also the length of the muscles, their insertions, size of hands, manner of breathing during the actual press, method of cleaning the bar, the way in which it is settled across the shoulders into pressing position, type of grip, hand spacing and every other detail covered in my articles. And if you are wise, can look ahead, correctly assess your chances of future lifting progress, you will take into account every point raised, every query . . . and place them in the weightlifting scheme of things and apply the lessons learned to yourself.

But . . . I am concerned solely in this article with the development of pressing power. The factors mentioned above are aids to the APPLICATION of that power . . . the TECHNIQUE of the USE of POWER. You might have all the style in the world, but if you haven’t the rugged strength, your technique isn’t of the slightest use to you. Just like the position Doug Hepburn now finds himself in. There is no doubt in the minds of the majority of weightlifting authorities that Hepburn, for sheer strength of body and arm and thigh and back, has no equal today. When it comes to squats and deadlifts and curls and presses, no one approaches him. But in Olympic weightlifting competition Doug is outshone by a man who is not only immensely powerful but a GREAT scientific lifter, and that makes John Davis the world’s strongest man . . . not just mere power . . . not just mere science. BUT a combination of the two. Fortunately, Doug Hepburn realizes that he lacks in the technique of moving fast with a heavy weight and is working with all he has to remedy his lifting deficiency. It is no use being strong unless you can APPLY that strength to the best advantage.

It is a sad trait in weight training that appearance is counted of greater value than strength. How you look is more important than what you can do. Size for the sake of size is the force hat motivates the training of scores of bodybuilders, with appearances the be-all and end-all of barbell-ism. To me this is wrong. I agree that a physical development, sloppy looking, is no advertisement for weight training, but I am firm in my opinion that a body that LOOKS strong should also BE strong.

This modern weight training trend, I feel, is the direct result of emphasis on sets and repetitions in the quest for sheer size. As a consequence the qualities of power and the methods of obtaining them have been sadly neglected. At the present stage of our lifting history, we haven’t too much to worry about. We have a great lifting team and some very fine prospects. But five or six years hence, it is going to be a different story and unless we get back to the good old days of Strength for the sake of Strength we are going to lose our preeminent position in the weightlifting world.

So while this article is intended primarily for the Olympic lifter, I am hoping that the bodybuilder will also make use of the exercises contained therein. Neither of you have a thing to lose and a whole heap of favorable qualities to gain. The bodybuilder can hope for stronger and more shapely triceps, trapezius and deltoids. He will find his bench presses and deep knee bends suddenly increase in poundage as if by magic. The lifter will practice the movements in this article for one purpose . . . to build up his pressing strength . . . he is definitely going to get that!

What are the components of Power? You could answer this by saying, “Strength, strength and strength again.” But you’d really only explain the existence of the wood without saying a thing about the trees within it. In my opinion, the evidences of power are found in the ability to stand firm and steady under a heavy weight . . . to be able to move QUICKLY with a heavy weight. And in each one of these, to have the weight at all times under complete control.

But how about the building of power? How is this accomplished? By the use of weights, of course, but again this is merely a generalization, a statement of the obvious. Power is built by ATTENTION TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF EVERY MUSCLE involved in the movement and by the constant handling of heavier weights. Heavy poundages with low repetitions . . . remember . . . it is the resistance that builds power, and resistance is POUNDAGE allied with REPETITION. In other words, the weight is NOT resistance until you have performed AT LEAST one repetition with it.

So, the principle behind the building of power is the forcing of heavier, progressively heavier, work on the muscles. If you take one poundage and never handle anything more, you will never get stronger because no demand is made on the muscles for harder or heavier outputs, and they will only do the work demanded of them. Still yet another factor enters into the picture . . . the so-called “unusual movements.” If you use solely customary exercises to be found in basic routines, the muscles get used to running along one track. After a considerable period with no change, there is no response to the stimulation of the various exercises. You start to get fed up with your workouts, bored, wishing as soon as you commenced them that they were over. But immediately a change is made and the exercises in your workout program are substituted for others, you start to progress again.

The muscles involved in the two hands press are the deltoids and sections of the pectoral muscles, the triceps, trapezius and serratus magnus. The deltoids and pectorals are involved until the upper arms are level with the ground, and form right angles to the body. From here on, the triceps and trapezius take over with the serratus magnus muscles helping at the end of the lift to hold and fix the weight at arms’ length overhead.

Here is your POWER PRESS schedule. You will notice it is composed of exercises that are “unusual” and exercises that are within the field of “Power Movements.” There is no doubt in my mind that the schedule, used diligently, will immeasurable improve your press and physical development.


Here is an exercise that gives the deltoids a lot of work in the pressing movement. Take a very wide grip on the bar and pull it to arms’ length overhead . . . snatch it to this position. Then lower the barbell down to the shoulders, and when you get to what would normally be pressing position, let it travel down the chest even further. The lower you can get it the better. Illustration #1 shows you the commencing position. From the bottom position, press it to arms length overhead, lower and repeat. Start off with a weight you can handle comfortably for 5 sets of THREE reps, working up to five sets of SIX reps before increasing the poundage.


The reverse of the previous exercise, the behind neck version, gives plenty of work to the posterior section of the deltoid and sections of the trapezius. Hold the bar with a wide grip . . . lift it off the back of the neck and allow the bar to sink down the back as far as you can go. Here is your starting position. From here press the weight to arms’ length, lower and repeat. As in the previous exercise, start off with a weigh you can comfortably handle for 5 sets of 3 reps, working up to 5 sets of 6 reps before adding weight.


If you haven’t made that Basic Power Bar yet, you’d better get on the job because the next two movements are performed with that piece of apparatus. The Basic Power Bar is made up of two lengths of stout chain, hung from your exercising bar by means of shackles and kept in place on the bar by collars. Two shackles on the ends of the chain keep the plates in position. Load up the chains of your Power Bar with a poundage equal to your LIMIT press. Shorten the chains so that the bar lies across the collar bones in the pre-press position . . . squat under the bar, or jerk it to arms’ length and take a firm stance . . . contraction of the buttocks and thighs will help . . . from this position SLOWLY lower the bar, fighting it every inch of the way, until it is back across the shoulders. Jerk it overhead again, or else squat beneath it and once at arms’ length, repeat the controlled lowering. 3 sets of 3 reps, working up steadily to 3 sets of 4 reps before adding weight.


Take your chains up to a length so that when you hold the bar overhead it clears the top of your head by three inches. Load it up with a poundage equal to your best press. Grip the bar with our normal grip for the press. Press the bar out to arms’ length, then lower and repeat. Start off with 5 sets of 3 reps and work up to 5 sets of 6 reps. When you reach this combination of sets and reps, don’t add weight to the bar but instead, lower the bar by ONE LINK of the chain. Start off again with 5 sets of 3 reps and work up to 5 sets of 6 reps. Again shorten the chain by one link. You will commence this exercise with the bar three inches above the head and when it is level with the chin, add 25 pounds to the bar and lengthen the chain again to three inches above the head.


“But why use dumbells for shrugs?” I hear you asking. The reason is that shrugs can be performed more efficiently and will produce better results with the use of dumbells. The motion is more complete and the trapezius muscles get a much more thorough workout. Hold a pair of heavy dumbells in the hands and hunch the shoulders forward. From this position raise the shoulders UP and OVER. The motion is a CIRCULAR one. When they have completed one circle BACK, make one circle FORWARD. Start off with a poundage you can handle easily for 5 sets of 5 reps and work up to 5 sets of 10 reps before increasing the weight of the bells. DON’T FORGET, the motion of the shoulders is a CIRCULAR one . . . FORWARD . . . then BACK!


Once more you have to make use of your Basic Power Bar. Adjust the chains of the bar so that when you lie on the incline bench . . . which should be at its steepest angle . . . the upper arms are LEVEL with the ground when the chain is tight (see illustration #6). Use a hand spacing the same as your pressing grip and from commencing position press the weight to arms’ length overhead, resisting the weight when you lower it, controlling it back to commencing position. Start off with a poundage you can handle for 5 sets of 3 reps and work up steadily to 5 sets of 5 reps before increasing the exercising poundage.

You can use this routine in conjunction with your normal training, and if the capacity for hard work is great within you, you will thrive on it. But the majority of weight trainers will find it advisable to either use the routine in its entirety with NO OTHER movements included, except for squats or deadlifts, or else, if they are not willing to give up the schedule they are following . . . and this might well be because of the good results they are obtaining from it . . . they will find it best to select two or three exercises that appeal to them, that they feel will develop he qualities lacking, and perform these at the END of their workout program. After you have completed your usual workout, take a rest of 10 or 15 minutes and then go through the exercises you have selected from the Pressing Power routines.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Magic Circle - Carl Miller

#1. The bar would be around floor level with the shoulders directly above or a little in front of the bar.

#2. The bar would be around the knees witht the shoulders well in front of the bar.

#3. The lifter has scooped under like he would when doing a pull.

#4. The lifter has extended straight up as he would when doing a pull.

#5. The lifter puts his hands on his thighs to help himself up from a heavy squat.

The Magic Circle
by Carl Miller

The Magic Circle’s greatest value is that it can be used for “pulling squats” (squats the stimulate the double knee bend style of pull. If you look at the pictures accompanying this article, you will see the lifter is squatting as he does for the double knee bend. In Picture #1, the bar would be around the floor level with the shoulders directly above or a little ahead of the bar. As the bar would come to the knees (Picture #2), the shoulders would go well in front of the bar. Then the lifter scoops under as when doing the double knee bend (Picture #3) and then uses his hips and his legs to extend straight up as he would do when pulling (Picture #4).

This action is easy with the Magic Circle because as the shoulders go in front of the bar, the Circle is pulled back toward the body (see the difference in distance the front part of the Circle is from the lifter’s body in pictures #1 and #2, and note that the front edge has been pulled toward the body), and the lifter remains in good balance. With a bar on the shoulders, this cannot be done without extreme pressure on the lower back and discomfort of the shoulders. When a lifter does this type of pulling squat, he gets a lot of transference of power that is gained from squatting; the power is transferred to pulling. It is a psychological fact that the greatest transference of power from progressive resistance exercises to the specific action done in any given sport takes place when both actions are as similar to each other as possible.

Another value of the Magic Circle is having a lot of weight feel comfortable on the shoulders. This is very important for beginners. Leg and hip power is so important, but beginners shy away from gaining it in the form of one of the best exercises, squats, because of the bar digging into the shoulders. Even with pads, it can still be uncomfortable and cumbersome.

A final value is the safety of handling large weights when alone. The hands can be put on the thighs, and with a hard push by the hands, the lifter will come right up (see Picture #5).

So with its comfort, safety when handling heavy weights, and its ability to be used effectively when doing “pulling squats”, the Magic Circle is something which can certainly help an Olympic lifter.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Look of Power - Ken Leistner

Roy Rogers

Melvin Wells

Serge Reding

The Look of Power
by Ken Leistner

When you see an individual who has built his or her muscle tissue mass to an advanced degree, and has done it with basic, heavy exercises, they have a certain look about them. It’s hard to describe in words, yet everyone knows it when they see it. Extremely developed bodybuilders often lack this “look.” They have a high level of muscle tissue, and perhaps very large measurements. Still, they look, as my younger brother once noted, “like bodybuilders, like a bunch of bodyparts.” One who uses “the basics” and is capable of using relatively heavy weights for moderately high repetitions looks powerful and strong. It is an almost indefinable, yet undeniable, truth.

You must stimulate the large muscular structures of the hips, thighs, lower and upper back to attain this “power look.” The ability to carry as much muscular mass as possible, at any bodyweight, is limited it these areas are not developed to the greatest possible degree. Needless to say, these can be the most neglected areas because they are the most difficult to train. There hasn’t been a market yet for shirts with cellophane windows so the spinae erector groups are highlighted for the public. Posing in front of a mirror yields a lot more information about the pecs, lats, delts and arms than it reveals about the scapulae retractors and the lower trapezius fibers. And when was the last time anyone asked you to flex our hamstrings or para-vertebral muscles in order to assess your worth as a true strongman?

You can get excellent results by concentrating periodically on these potentially strong groups for eight to 12 weeks. As always, a wide variety of equipment can and should be used, but keep in mind that free weights can be used where machines are listed. It’s the effort that’s important, but keep in mind that high intensity training on the large muscle groups will require sufficient recuperation time. Don’t worry that the “other” muscle groups of the upper body are being neglected, and don’t do additional sets for the biceps, deltoids, etc. Stick to the suggested program for a reasonable amount of time before passing judgment. Emphasize an effort to be PROGRESSIVE. Add weight to the bar or do additional repetitions each and every workout. I believe it’s important to continue a certain amount of cardiopulmonary work at all times, at least two sessions a week. Try to choose activities that will not fatigue the lower extremities or cause joint irritation. Swimming or rowing may be a wise alternative to jogging or cycling. Some may find it beneficial to complete the strength training work on Monday, for example, rest 15 minutes and go through a cardiovascular program. Rest on Tuesday so the next workout is attacked with enthusiasm ad more importantly, with as much recuperation as possible.

This program should be done three days per week. The emphasis will obviously be on the muscular structures of the lower extremities and the back. But if the work given to the other muscle groups is of sufficient intensity, surprising improvements will occur in all groups. Note carefully that I said the work must be of “sufficient intensity,” not quantity. This program is not designed to “hold the line” or “maintain” development in the upper body structures. Increases in strength and muscular size should occur, especially for those who usually overtrain those “showy” bodyparts.


Squat – 1 x 20 (rest 3 minutes)
Squat – 1 x 10-12
Stiff-legged Deadlift – 1 x 15
Pullover – 1x12
Pulldown – 1 x 8
Shrug – 1 x 15
Pullover – 1 x 9-10
Row – 1 x 10
Shrug – 1 x 10
Four-way Neck – 15 reps each
Leg Press – 1 x 30
Side Bend – 15 each side


Bench Press – 1 x 12
Upright Row – 1 x 8
Bench Press – 1 x 6-8
Barbell Curl – 1 x 12
Lateral Raise – 1 x 8
Front Raise – 1 x 6
Dip – 1 x 10
Barbell Curl – 1 x 8
Dip – 1 x 8
Standing Calf Raise – 1 x 20; 1 x 10
Seated Calf Raise – 1 x 15


Leg Extension – 1 x 15
Squat – 1 x 30 (rest three minutes)
Regular Deadlift – 1 x 15-20
Leg Curl – 1 x 12
Chin – 1 x 10
Shrug – 1 x 15
Row – 1 x 10
Scapular Retraction on Top Leverage Row – 1 x 8
Shrug – 1 x 10
One Arm Dumbell Row – 1 x 8 each
Leg Press – 1 x 20
Crunch – 1 or 2 x 15

This program is short and simple. The demands on “the system” however, are severe and one has to be especially careful to get as much rest as possible between workouts. Every effort should be made to use as much weight as possible, in proper form of course, in each set. As difficult as it may be, do not hold back or “save anything” for later sets. (And believe me, it is very tempting to hold something in reserve on an all-out set of 20 or 30 squats.)


The program on Day One begins with squats. These have to be pushed. While I have had competitive powerlifters tell me that “20-rep sets are too light” to bring progress, few of them could do more than 10 with the weight I recommend. This is the key: You must be willing to work very, very hard and do 20 reps with a weight that would normally find you racking the bar after 10 or 12. Yes, it often requires a force of will to complete those last eight reps, when you feel as if your chest has been hit repeatedly with a ball peen hammer. But this is the name of the game. After a short rest, try another set of squats with the same weight, trying to get in at least 50% of the reps you achieved in the first set. Once you adapt to the program, a 10% increase in weight may be possible between the first and second sets.

Stiff-legged Deadlifts, too, should be done carefully and safely, but heavily. Take care to keep the bar close to the body and to move it in a controlled manner. Maintain a very slight “break” or angle of flexion in the knee to remove stress from the hamstring insertions.

I believe the Nautilus Pullover Machine, especially the plate-loading model, is an under-and inefficiently-used piece of equipment. When used properly, it gives a very high order of work to the major muscle structures of the upper back and other muscle groups as well.

The pulldowns can be done on the leverage machine, or with a conventional pulley device, bringing the bar to the base of the neck on each pull.

The Leverage Row is a very effective way to train the scapular retractors without involving the lower back. You can do prone rows, by lying face down on an elevated bench, or cable rows with a long, low pulley. It’s important that you do not “rock” back and forth while doing cable rows. This exposes the lumbar spine to unnecessary risks and uses momentum to elevate the weight. Get a full stretch in the lats and upper back. Sit straight in a controlled manner. Pull as hard as possible, concentrating on bringing the scapulae (shoulder blades) together and the elbows to the rear. Like every other movement, complete the fullest possible range of motion and pause in the contracted position. Jerking the shoulders up and down in a rapid, “bouncy” manner will do little to stimulate your muscles.

Follow now with another set of pullovers, supported row and shrug.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of neck work. Neck development is essential for a finished look of power. This workout is finished – and so might you be – with a set of leg presses. Work very hard on this movement and your hips and thighs will be screaming. The session concludes with a set of side bends.


The “other” muscle groups of the upper body are trained on Day Two. Rather than panic because the biceps are receiving only one day of “direct stimulation” per week, work as hard as possible on the barbell curls (using a thick bar on occasion, and the pulldowns and rows. Remember, the biceps are getting quite a bit or work from those two movements on your other training days.

The bench presses can be done on the Leverage Machine or with a bar or dumbells.

The upright rows can be done with a strap or a bar. Do not perform these explosively. Pull to the bottom of the chin, pause, and return under control.

Lateral raises can be done with a low pulley, dumbell, Leverage Machine, or against manual resistance.

Do the dips hard and heavy.

Don’t train calves as an afterthought. Go after them as hard as you would work any other muscle group.


Day Three, like Day One, is strenuous. The leg extensions will pre-exhaust the quadriceps somewhat, prior to squatting. Thirty rep squats, if done heavily enough, will make the twenty rep sets of Day One seem like a vacation from training.

The deadlifts should be treated like the squats: all out and as heavy as possible. This is one movement, with the stiff-legged variety of deadlift, that we stop just short of failure. You conclude the set when form breaks down to the point where injury is possible. It is important to maintain proper form and avoid bouncing the bar between reps. Place the bar on the platform, make sure you’re set, and then pull. Your hands never leave the bar for the entire set. But make sure that you begin each pull in the proper position.

Leg curls, like stiff-legged deadlifts, give great work to the hamstring group, and should be taken seriously.

Chins should be done with as much weight as possible. When you can do ten perfect reps with a 100-lb. plate suspended from the waist, you can take a break.

One arm dumbell rows must be done with concentration to achieve a full, smooth range of motion and again, the coup de grace is supplied by the leg press.

Complete this session with abdominal work.

Gaining muscular weight in the hips, thighs and back gives you a great feeling of strength – the type of strength that carries over to other activities. The impressiveness of the physique will be appreciated even more after a specialization program of this type. So go for it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Sumo Deadlift - Don Cullinane

The Sumo Deadlift
by Don Cullinane (1976)

Peary Rader’s comment: This is a most important discussion of dead lifting style and training. As Mr. Cullinane mentions – the dead lift is often the key to a winning total and you can’t afford to neglect the lift. Last issue we had comments by another reader about “ditching the deadlift” because he felt it was a dangerous lift. I believe that if the lift is performed as Mr. Cullinane describes it will be found to be just as safe as the squat, since the back is kept straight and the lift is very similar to the squat in the muscles used. In fact you could almost say you were doing two squat lifts – one with the weight on the shoulders and one with the weight in the hands.

Over twenty years ago your editor used this very style in the deadlift, the main reason being that I was a very good squatter and so could lift more in the deadlift with this style since it used the hips and legs more than the back. It also prevented me from ever having an injury from the dead lift. This style is becoming increasingly popular. It looks a little strange but it works for many lifters. Similar wide spacing is being used for the squat, but the foot spacing sometimes becomes excessive in the squat and it is possible that a rule may in time be made regarding maximum foot spacing for the squat. In the squat some problems occur in getting low enough since the hips on some men will lock up before they hit a low enough position. The main advantage of its use in the squat is this locking action and then to come up the lifter leans forward slightly to start his recovery. It is tricky and possibly dangerous since you’re using bone strength at the lock position instead of muscle strength.

The Deadlift – Sumo Style
(This is where the feet are spread wide and the arms are inside the thighs)

With powerlifting gaining popularity day by day, lifters who want to win contests must pay attention to all aspects of their training. This includes rest, diet, conditioning, building bulk, flexibility, technique and proper mental attitude. The deadlift is no exception. In fact, this lift is the real ace in powerlifting and a good performance is necessary to win.

Larry Pacifico – Mr. Powerlifter – is a good example of today’s successful powerlifter. He may be pushed and even beaten in a contest by M. Phillips in the squat; challenged by McDonald in the bench press; but when the deadlift is also thrown into the total he’s way out front in a class alone.

Reinhoudt is now being pushed by J. White in both the squat and bench press. However, as long as Reinhoudt has his ace, the deadlift, to rely on, he will retain his championship.

With lifters like P. O’Brien, Farchione, Wood, Kuc, Matz and Anello it is their great ability in the deadlift that makes them so tough to beat in competition.

The deadlift is so simple and easy one can do it without instructions, right? Wrong. Most of the lifters’ technique that I have seen (and I am a regular at the Nationals and Worlds) leave a lot to be desired.

To be a good deadlifter you must have a physique with the proper leverages, like long arms, a long trunk, short legs. Wrong again. While it is true that some men have a natural advantage due to the type of physique they possess, I believe almost anyone can adopt a technique that with proper training will enable him to do a good dead lift with a respectable poundage. On the other hand even the so-called naturals, unless they develop a good technique and stay in top condition, will be bypassed.

Until recently there were three basic styles of deadlifting. One was what might be termed the Anello style. This is for the natural deadlifters. Spack and Anello are the two lifters one thinks of when discussing this technique. The have relatively long trunks, long arms an rounded flexible backs. When they lift it looks like the power starts low in the back and then moves up the vertebrae like a series of electrical impulses. Their backs are rounded to start and straighten up as the lift progresses. To me Anello is the greatest deadlifter on the scene today. He has the natural physique for the lift, trains diligently for it, has great technique and terrific mental drive. His lift at this year’s Nationals in the 198-lb class of over 800 lbs. was out of sight.

The second style I call the O’Brien or Matz technique. These men are tall, relatively slender (wider than thick in the trunk) with straight backs and long arms. Usually they lift proportionately more in the deadlift than in the bench or squat. They use a shoulder width foot stance, pull mostly with a straight back and have a sticking point about knee height. Farchione may also be said to lift in this manner.

Pacifico, Phillips and Kidney, while not being constructed like the above named men, being thicker throughout the limbs and trunk, use a similar style but get more legs into their lifts.

The third style is usually used by lifters with short arms and trunks. Here the feet are kept relatively close together. Hands are closer together, just on the knurling. In this style the sticking point is usually the first three inches off the deck. Reinhoudt uses this form and does quite well with it.

Now we are seeing more and more lifters using a radical style where the feet are spread wide and the arms grasp the bar just inside the knurling while the arms are inside the thighs. We refer to this as the “Sumo” style, as the lifter, in setting his stance, does a movement similar to a sumo wrestler getting set. This technique is highly recommended for the lifter with short arms or trunk. The best execution of this style that I have seen was performed by Ravenscroft as he went on to win this year’s Senior Nationals. The lift was flawless, as were all his lifts on that day.

Let us now cover the deadlift in general, and then the sumo style in particular.

The most common errors in performing a deadlift are as follows:

1.) Allowing the hips to come up too fast, throwing the weight onto the back muscles alone.
2.) Allowing the weight to move out from the body, forming an arc in the pulling groove.
3.) Trying to rip the weight off the floor too quickly on the start.

The lift should be done by moving the weight up from the floor to the lockout position in the straightest line possible. Looking at a lifter from the side, the weight is pulled up through the center of his body. That is, it should rise in a straight line up through the legs and not out and around in an arc. As the weight rises, the lifter should be pulling up and slightly back into himself. The weight should be hugging his body all the way up. This is accomplished by keeping the head up and back on the traps.

Specifically, then let us cover the performance of the deadlift sumo style.

Approach the bar and spread your legs so that your shins are about 6” from the start of the knurling. The bar should be about 1” in front of our shins. Rotate your thighs outward and place your feet at an angle pointing out slightly. Make sure your feet are firm on the platform. Next, bend over and grasp the bar on the inside of the knurling. Your hands will be on the smooth surface. Arms are straight and are inside the thighs and along your trunk. Keep your buttocks very low, the back is very flat and almost straight up, head is well back on the traps with the eyes looking at an angle between straight up and straight out. Let’s say the eyes are at about a 130 degree angle. Now we are ready for the lift itself.

Exhale, then inhale through the mouth, slowly take up the slack in your arms and body and then slowly inch the bar off the floor smoothly. Once you have it started, increase your momentum and consciously push the floor down and away with your leg power. The weight should be scraping you all the way up. Concentrate on pulling and flexing those legs, forcing your head up and back on those traps. Once you do a few in the groove you will really get to like this style and the feel of it. After a session with this style of deadlift you will feel it in the legs, traps and the lower lumbar in about that order.

I feel, for the lifter with short arms an trunk, this style offers several advantages over the more conventional styles. You can really get the buttocks low while keeping the back straight. As the bar comes up to knee height you can keep the bar in tight as it does not seem to move out away from the body as in the other styles. Since the back is almost straight from the start of the lift most of the work is done with the legs and traps. The slow even pull to start is most important. Don’t rush or jerk the weight. Make sure there is no slack or bend in the arms.

Since this is a new style for you if you decide to give it a try, plan on using it for at least eight weeks. For the first few weeks I would suggest you do a lot of reps with medium weight. This will prepare the back for the work to come and also make the neuromuscular paths second nature to you. Being something of a purist, I don’t believe any other assistance exercises are necessary aside from the lift itself if you perform sufficient reps. I recommend you practice it twice a week for six or seven sets per workout. In the first workout I would go light and the second workout heavy. For example, the first workout might go 10 reps, 8-6-4, then 3 sets of 5 reps. The second workout might be 10-8-6-4, then 3 sets of 3 reps. Add weight when you are successful with your plans. You have to be your own coach to some extent.

Following the deadlifts I recommend some close grip chins for stretching and some situps to get the antagonistic muscles. This practice can help cut down on injuries.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jerk Exercises - Carl Miller

incorrect order of pictures
6.) Jerk Drive - With bar resting on rack, lifter assumes position he would be in at bottom of the dip for the jerk.

1.) On Toes, Split and Recover - the lifter is positioned as he would be after the drive which takes the bar to hairline level. Elbows are a little too much to the side.

2.) On Toes, Split and Recover - Lifter has pushed himself under the weight, pushing up and out on the bar. From this position he will recover to a standing position.

3.) Push Up & Out - From height of hairline or above, lifter positions himself under the bar in vertical position, ready to push up on bar.

4.) Push Up & Out - Remaining vertical, lifter has pushed up on bar. Note elbows, shoulders and traps and compare them with the next picture.

5.) Push Up & Out - From previous position lifter has continued to push up and also OUT on the bar. Note elbows have moved not only out but a little back, and traps and shoulders are higher. This, not photo #4 position, is the strongest position to support a weight overhead.

7.) Jerk Drive - Lifter has driven the bar so it will go to hairline level. He is up on his toes.

8.) Jerk Balance - Lifter dips for the jerk from semi-split position.

9.) Jerk Balance - With the bar driven to hairline level, the lifter, leaning back, steps forward with only the front foot; back foot remains on the floor. Front foot should just clear floor, it is too high here.

10.) Push Jerk - Lifter dips to drive weight up.

11.) Push Jerk - Lifter drives off his toes straight up.

12.) Push Jerk - Lifter pushes himself under the weight, pushing up and out with the arms and shoulders.

Jerk Exercises
by Carl Miller

For this short article I would like to explain a few of the better exercises that can be used for the jerk. Four will be demonstrated by pictures. Reps of the different exercises, intensities and workloads will be discussed in future articles I shall write on training methods. Correct jerk style should be used in all full or partial motions of the exercise.

On Toes, Split and Recover

This exercise teaches awareness of pushing on extended toes, good body positioning when the bar is at its highest height, the feeling of pushing oneself under a weight, good splitting methods, good position under the bar, and strength in the recovery position.

With the bar resting on pins between supports at hairline level, the lifter is positioned on his toes as he would be after the drive which carries the bar to hairline level. With the lifter under the bar, he then recovers. During the whole exercise the lifter should have a coach or fellow lifter check for good form (as a last resort, he himself can do it) as explained earlier.

Push Up and Out

This exercise develops strength in the shoulders as needed in the part of the jerk where the lifter pushes himself under a weight. With the bar resting on the pins between the supports a hairline height or higher, the lifter pushes the bar up. As the bar gets to the extended position, the lifter continues to push up and turns his elbows out. Merely pushing the bar to the extended position is not enough. The lifter must push up farther and turn his elbows out.

Jerk Drive

This exercise develops power for the jerk and also develops the correct bottom dip position and final drive position where the lifter is extended upward on his toes. With the bar resting on the pins between the supports at a height about one inch below the regular dip of the lifter (this is to take into account the sinking in of the bar to the flesh), the lifter positions himself under the weight exactly as he would be at the bottom of the dip for the jerk. He then drives the weight off the pins so that the bar reaches hairline level. The lifter should extend on his toes. He then guides the bar down to the pins; he does not let it drop onto his shoulders. Because of the crashing of the bar on the pins, an old bar should be used.

Jerk Balance

This exercise is designed especially for the lifter who does not step forward with his front foot. A semi-split position is taken. A dip from this position is made and the weight is driven to hairline level, and then the lifter moves his front foot forward. The back foot does not move.

Jerk Push or Push Jerk

This exercise teaches the lifter to drive hard, extend all the way, pushing up and out with the shoulders and arms. It has been called many things, and even its present name is misleading since there should be no press. It should be driven to arms’ length and not pressed out. With the bar on the chest in a normal jerk position, the lifter drives the weight up high enough so that he pushes himself under the bar with no split.

There are two ideas of foot movement on during this. One is to have the feet remain stationary after going on his toes. The other is to have the feet skip to the side. With the feet skipping to the side, more weight can be handled. If the lifter extends all the way up, this might be better since more weight can be handled. If the lifter seems to be sneaking under the weight and not driving it up, then he should not have the feet going to the side.

Jerk, Eyes Closed

This is done exactly like a normal jerk taken off the rack except that the eyes are closed. It is known that a person deprived of one of his senses develops the others more fully. Many times the jerk coordination pattern is developed by doing this exercise when all else fails.

Waist Exercises for the Jerk

Back Oblique Raise

The lifter lies face down slightly on his side at a 45 degree angle, with his rear end near the end near the end of the bench and his feet well supported. He lets his body go all the way down, then raises up until his body is above parallel; he does 10-15 reps. Then he turns on the other side and does the same for 10-15 reps. He holds his hands across his chest. He puts the lotion on his skin or he gets the hose again. If more weight is needed, then he holds this weight at his chest.

Front Oblique Raise

This is done the same as the back oblique raise except the lifter lies face up.

Twisting Leg Raise

The lifter assumes a position as if he were going to do normal leg raises. He raises his knees and twists them to one side. Then he extends his legs as his body lands on that side. Now he repeats the action, twisting all the way over to the other side. This is one repetition since both sides have been acted on. He does 14-20 reps. Resistance is added by increasing the angle of incline of by putting weights on the feet.

Bent-Knee Situps

The lifter does situps with the knees well bent so that less than a 90 degree angle is formed between the upper and lower legs. The arms are across his chest. If weight is needed it is put on the chest. Increased resistance can also be gotten by increasing the angle of the incline. The lifter should not do the situps with a flat back; he should curl up, until he head touches his knees. He does 15-20 reps.


Sitting on the edge of a bench, the lifter grasps the bench leaning slightly forward, maintaining this lean as he brings his knees to his chest. He does 15-20 reps. Weight can be added to the feet for increased resistance.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Conditioning for Overload Training - Russ Knipp

Conditioning for Overload Training
by Russ Knipp

The purpose of weight training is to increase your own ability to defy the law of gravity by jumping, running, hitting, lifting, pushing and throwing. This is important for all sports. Athletes need to train scientifically with heart in order to achieve maximum results.

A good athlete knows that one should never workout heavy all of the time – the continual tearing down of the muscle causes poor results in contraction efficiency. Overtraining in any sport causes a buildup of lactic acid (waste products) in the muscles that restricts their stretching ability. If a muscle becomes too congested it is highly vulnerable to pulling and tearing.

Some of the overall body symptoms of being overtrained are loss of appetite, restless sleep, tension and irritability. This is why proper nutrition, methodical training and adequate rest are vital to maintaining steady progress.


In many long years of weight training, I have found that the only way to make gains is to train under a well-developed program. Before developing your program, you must first find out how much you can do in each exercise. Suppose you can bench press 200 pounds. Your whole routine is based on percentages of this poundage. Based on a three day a week program, a weekly routine for your bench would look like this:

First Week
70% of 200
75% of 200
70% of 200

Second Week
85 %

Third Week

Fourth Week

The first two weeks the exercises are done using 7 sets of 5 reps; the third week they are done using 7 sets of 3. During the first three weeks, use the first three sets of repetitions to warm up the muscles by using progressively heavier weights. Then lift the maximum percentage for the remaining four sets. For example:

Set No. 1 – 120 lbs.
Set No. 2 – 150 lbs.
Set No. 3 – 150 lbs.
Set No. 4 – 190 lbs.
Set No. 5 – 190 lbs.
Set No. 6 – 190 lbs.
Set No. 7 – 190 lbs.

The fourth week the exercises are done using progressively heavier weights, with fewer repetitions, to warm up to your new maximum weight. For example:

Set No. 1 – 120 lbs. for 5 reps.
Set No. 2 – 140 lbs. x 5 reps.
Set No. 3 – 160 lbs. x 3.
Set No. 4 – 180 x 1.
Set No. 5 – 195 x 1.
Set No. 6 – 210 x 1.
Set No. 7 – 210 x 1.

The first week has to be light in order preparation to go heavier in the remaining weeks. Likewise, after the heavier workouts in the fourth week, you must work light again to recuperate from the previous heavy workouts. Once you’ve exceeded your previous best in the fourth week, you again begin the first week with your new percentages of your new best poundage. This percentage routine applies to all exercises.

The exercises I recommend in a general power routine for all sports are as follows:

Back Squat – back must be arched at all times.
Curls – these should be done with the back and hips resting strictly against a wall.
Deadlift – the back must be arched, legs lifting first, then lifting with the back by bringing it to a straight position, then continuing upward with a trap shrug.
Bent Arm Pullover – done lying on the back with the head extended over the end of a bench.

Figure out your program with the exercises I recommended after you have determined your maximum for singles in each of the lifts.


Note – Before beginning Phase Two you must first go through Phase One at least four to five times.

The principle involved in overload training lies in moving the weight from a partial position (such as in the press from eye height on the power rack) to a lockout position. The partial movement enables you to handle much more weight than you would handle in a full range movement. This puts a greater demand on more muscle fibers (strengthening the connective tissue that binds the fibers) resulting in greater muscle efficiency.

The following weight training program is a percentage-based program combined with heavy overload movements to reach maximum results in a shorter period of time without the effects of being overtrained.

The percentages used in this program are designed to make a weight trainee work on specialized training loads which increase intensity. To follow the program you must keep a written work diary.

First begin by determining your maximum in the following exercises:


A. Bench Press
Position one – full extension from chest to lockout.
Position two – six inches from chest to lockout.
Position three – twelve inches from chest to lockout.

B. Overhead Press
Position one – shoulders to lockout position.
Position two – eye height to lockout position.
Position three – two-thirds to lockout position.


(The squatting muscle groups are the strongest and largest muscle mass on the body and to the detriment of many an athlete are often the least considered in athletic performance. All-around successful performance has its primary foundation in leg strength. Overworking and fatiguing the leg muscles can mean defeat the day of competition.)

A. Front Squat – arched back (shoulders back over hips); rotating around the knee instead of the hip forcing the weight on the front thigh. Use a three inch board to help keep back vertical.

B. Back Squat – Full squat, weight behind the neck using hips as axis point which forces the weight on the gluteus. Do not use a board.

C. Two/Thirds Squat – (same position as back squat) A partial movement enabling the athlete to handle greater weights. Use a power rack to insure safety and handle maximum weight.


Pull weight from floor to chest catching the bar at the shoulders.


Use a wider grip than the clean and pull from the floor as high as possible without catching the bar.

V. Deadlift

VI. Parallel Dip (if desired)
Narrow grip with weight around waist.

The Phase Two overload program utilizes the same principles as the Phase One program percentage-wise, but is based on a five week time period instead of four. The first two weeks the exercises are done using five repetitions, and the third and fourth weeks are done using three reps. The fifth week the exercises are done using progressively heavier weights until a new maximum is established, working up in singles. For example, the bench press:

Position one – max is 225 lbs.
235x1: new max.

Position two – max is 285 pounds.
300x1: new max.

This is a four day a week program to force greater gains in strength. These exercises I recommend work all major muscle groups needed for all around strength in all sports. There could be a few auxiliary exercises added such as situps and perhaps a special exercise for your sport (for example, neck work for wrestling, lat pulldowns for swimming etc.).


(The importance of this program lies in this fact:
Only Mondays and Tuesdays are overload days. You exercise using three positions only on these two days.)

Monday (pulling)
1. Power Clean – close grip.
2. High Pulls – wide grip.
3. Deadlifts – close grip.
Situps, curls, etc.

Tuesday (squatting and pressing)
1. Squats – all three types (front, back, and two/thirds.)
2. Bench Press – all three positions.
3. Overhead Press – all three positions (dips, optional).

Wednesday – Rest

Power Cleans only. Example: 135-155-175-195.
Curls – four sets with the same weight.
Situps, etc.

1. Front Squat – three warmups, then three work sets with the same weight.
2. Bench Press – Position one ONLY.
3. Dips.

Saturday and Sunday – Rest.

Application of Percentages

Week 1
Use 5 reps sets, Monday/Tuesday 75%, and Thursday/Friday 70%.
Week 2
5 reps sets, Mon/Tues 85%, and Thurs/Fri 75%.
Week 3
3 reps, Mon/Tues 87%, Thurs/Fri 82%.
Week 4
3 reps, Mon/Tues 92%, Thurs/Fri 65%.
Week 5
New Max on Monday/Tuesday (105%), Thursday/Friday 5 reps sets at 65%.

Through studies and practical experience it has been found that it takes seven to nine days to recuperate from maximum performances. Workouts during this time should be light, from 65 to 75%.

(hypothetical weights)

I. BENCH PRESS – power rack program.
Position one: 3 warmup sets, then 3 work sets with the same weight. Example: 135-175-205-225-225-225.
Position two: one set increases between position one and position two, then 2 sets with the same weight. Example: 245-260-260.
Position three: one set increased, 2 sets with the same weight. Example: 285-305-305.

A. Power Cleans: 3 sets of warmups, three sets of same weight. Example: 135-155-175-195-195-195.
B. High Pulls: 2 sets of increased weight adding 50 pounds above the last set of power cleans to the bar to finish the last 2 sets. Example: 210-230-245-245.
C. Deadlifts: 2 sets to warm up, 1 set adding 75 pounds above the last high pull to finish. Example: 250-275-310.

A. Front Squat: 3 warmup sets, 3 sets with the same weight. Example: 135-155-175-195-195.
B. Full Back Squat: 2 sets increased, 2 sets the same. Example: 225-250-275-275.
C. Two/Thirds Squat and calf Raises: 1 warm up set, 2 sets same weight adding 50 pounds to bar above last back squat. Example: 300-325-325.

Position one: military presses, 3 warmups and 3 sets with same weight.
Position two: 2 sets increasing weights and 3 sets with same weight.
Position three: two sets increasing weight and 2 sets with same weight.

2 sets with bodyweight to warm up and 3 sets with weights, keeping the same poundage.

unless you faithfully follow your program you will not get results. Many athletes faint in their minds and then get careless in following their program, or just give up before the result is achieved. They must build the power to stick to it. We are what we think we are. “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” (Proverbs 23:7)

I have found in practical experience that by having the mind of Christ, the Christian is the only athlete who can never truly be defeated. As man, He took every conceivable insult, degradation, and physical torture humanly possible.

When agony and torment were at their worst, Christ never made a mental compromise to give in. He endured even to the point of crucifixion because he knew the sins on man were place on that cross with Him. Then history records His resurrection from the grave.

As a result of receiving Christ into our lives we can have the unfailing, immovable toughness of the mind of Christ. We can fight every physical setback because we will have it in our minds that no matter what obstacle comes before us, we can endure to the goal through the power of Christ.

The following are some Bible verses that I have found helpful in my relationship with Christ and as an athlete:

Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not tire; they will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31)

Cast you burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. (Psalms 55:22)

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

I can do everything God asks of me with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power. (Philippians 4:13)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jerk Technique - Carl Miller

1.) Elbows slightly down and slightly out to side; head slightly up; solid contact of bar with shoulders; rear end slightly tilted back.

2.) This lifter has rear end tucked in during 4-6" dip; weight felt on mid-front of thighs; feet shoulder distance apart; slightly turned out; elbows slightly down and slightly out to side; head slightly up.

3.) Bar driven to hairline level; lifter leaning back, pushing himself under bar; elbows slightly out to side; feet too high off floor.

4.) Lifter pushing up and out on bar; elbows to side; front foot 90 degree angle or more and turned slightly out for support from long side of foot; back heel off floor; back knee bent.

5.) Lifter dipping with rear slightly out (okay if not increased); weight felt on hips and top part of thighs; lifter will time bend of bar to aid his drive.

6.) Good extension on balls of feet; direction of extension straight up; bar is whipping up.

7.) Good split with front leg 90 degree angle or more; chest up; lifter has not reached up and out with arms; a lot of muscles holding bar instead of bone support.

8.) Note strong elbow position to side which allows strong push under bar; lifter leaning back; feet going front and back close to floor, not in air.

9.) Lifter has reached up and out; good bone support; front foot 90 degree angle or more; stance elongated; chest up and through; back knee safely bent and heel safely off floor.

10.) Rotary drive; dip is with hips slightly back.

11.) Rotary drive; hips come forward; note distance between hips and lifter's arm here and in #10; bodyweight goes forward; weight felt shifts to lower-front thigh from up higher.

12.) Rotary drive; hips go farther forward (using same focal point) and up; upper body leans back.

Jerk Technique
by Carl Miller

In recent years much attention has been focused on the jerk because of its decreasing success following the dropping of the press from competition. The important basics of a successful jerk have been scrutinized with some previous concepts being dropped, some being sustained and some being added to. Certainly more concepts will evolve as it has only been a few years that such scrutiny has taken place. In this article will be presented some concepts both new and old that have thus far come out as being on solid ground.

The main power for the jerk comes from the hips and thighs. Shoulder strength is needed for support for stability to insure constant contact of the shoulders with the bar as it rests on the shoulders throughout the dip and drive. Shoulder strength is also needed from hail line level to the full extension in order to push the body rapidly under the bar and to lock properly underneath the weight.

When the bar is on the shoulders the elbows should be directed at an angle to the side and pointing slightly below horizontal. This position has proven to be the strongest from practical experience and also from cable tension tests on the supporting muscles of the shoulders.

The head and eyes are slightly tilted up, and in some cases the head is tucked back. A compact feeling should be felt all across the shoulder and chest area. To ensure this, the chest is thought of as being high. It may or may not appear this way depending on the development of the chest of the lifter. The adductors and abductors of the upper arm are contracted to stabilize the upper arm when the bar is at the shoulders, during the dip and drive.

The center of gravity of the body should pass from the shoulders down through the ankle bone if the lifter is standing upright. If the rear end is slightly tilted back then the center of gravity is slightly forward. Assuming that the lifter is standing upright, he dips four to six inches straight down with the hips level. If the lifter dips with his hips slightly to the back, then the four to six inch dip will be with hips slightly tilted back with the pelvis tilted to the front. There is also the lifter who dips the four to six inches with his hips slightly to the back and then rotates them till they are level on the drive up. This last type of lifter is using a rotary drive.

Since I have alluded to three different types of accepted dips, I would like to discuss them a little. The lifter who dips straight down with his hips right underneath him will have the center of gravity go well toward the front when he dips. The weight will be felt in the middle of the front thigh. With this type of dip the extension upward is straight and powerful and well-positioned.

The lifter who dips with rear end slightly tilted back (pelvis tipping forward of horizontal) has to make sure his drive does not go forward. The tilt of the pelvis should remain stable and not increase. A lifter who dips this way sometimes has a tight sacroiliac joint, and to ask him to push his rear end in (pelvis horizontal) usually results in pain in this joint. With his rear end slightly tilted back, as he dips the weight is felt more in the hips and front of the thighs. The center of gravity when he dips will not go as far forward as it does for the previous lifter described. A lifter who lifts this way has been very successful in the past because he drives the weight so powerfully with the hips slightly back. He has to watch that he does not drive the weight forward, as mentioned before. One thing he can do is to keep his lower back as flexible as possible. Another thing he can do is to really move the front foot well forward in the split. (I will say more on this later.)

When discussing the previous lifter, I am not talking about the lifter whose rear end is way back and goes even farther back when he dips so that he constantly throws the weight out front. I am talking about the lifter whose natural tilt of the pelvis is such that the rear end is only slightly tilted back and represents no major problem as long as other things are watched and adhered to.

The final type of dip I mentioned is the one which imparts a rotary drive up. This is a very unique type of drive, and more will have to be learned about rotary motion of the human body in order to say whether or not it is a superior technique. However, there are some advantages which are readily apparent. When this lifter dips, his rear end is slightly tilted back. As the drive starts, the rear is still tilted back. This results in a much stronger drive up than if the hips were level to begin with. This has been proven on force plate machines and can be seen on the read-out dial on the slow speed of an Isokinetic Power Rack. After a short moment the hips are brought in and forward so that they are underneath the upper body. With this style there exists the possibility that the lifter gets the best of both worlds. He gets a stronger drive and he drives the weight straight up. Whether there is any loss of power in the rotary action itself is a subject for further study. In any case, some lifters in our country are using this rotary action and some of the international stars are also using it.

The lifter using this style gets another advantage, namely, by pushing the hips in a rotary type style the hips have momentum travelling forward. This allows the lifter’s upper body to lean back, which in turn allows for facilitation in reaching out with the front foot, and it also allows for easy clearance of the head by the bar.

An aspect of the dip applicable to all three methods should be mentioned. Sometimes in the dip an instability is felt. A conscious pinching or adduction of the glutes (rear) will help overcome this feeling. An instability can also be felt not only during the dip but also while supporting the weight before the dip and while supporting the weight when the bar is overhead if there is no stability around the waist area. This means that strong muscles are needed in this area. Usually the lower back is strong enough, but where strength may be lacking is in the abdominal and oblique muscles.

Something else applicable to all methods of dipping is flexibility in the ankles. No matter what method is used, the bodyweight has got to shift forward, and this will be more difficult with a lack of flexibility in the ankles. If this is lacking, then the lifter has a tendency to push from the back center of the foot, and this results in a strong possibility of driving the weight forward. Also, to reach a four to six inch dip with the hips underneath or the hips slightly in back (but remaining stable throughout the dip), a lifter has to have flexible ankles. All this is because the foreleg has got to go well forward in the dip. It can if there is good flexibility in the ankles, and it will not if there is not. If ankle flexibility is lacking, then the body usually inclines forward in the dip with the rear shooting out back; the resultant drive will throw the bar in front or the dip will not be low enough to get proper leverage for maximum drive. In trying to keep upright or maintain stable hip position when dipping, the body cannot dip low enough with inflexible ankles.

The positioning of the feet when the bar is at the shoulders is a subject of discussion. While there are some lifters who place their toes straight ahead, many have their feet pointing slightly out. This results in greater force being used by the total quadriceps. This has been shown on force plate machines and in connection with electromyographs.

It is very important to dip four to six inches. Any more of less results in less leverage for maximum thrust of the hips and legs. Most lifters are able to dip the four to six inches by using a stance about equal in width to the shoulders. Some lifters find this dip difficult; they usually go too low or are inconsistent in their depth of dip. In this case a narrow stance will keep the lifter from going lower. This is usually accompanied by the toes pointing toward the front which further prevents going lower. Wide stances have been experimented with but without too much success to date.

The speed of the dip should be controlled. Neither an extra slow or an extra fast dip is wanted. The thinking is that the lifter will usually find out his own best speed. The bar used makes a difference, especially when heavy weights are used. With a less springy bar, the lifter can dip faster, and with a more springy bar the lifter should dip slower. also, with a less springy bar the lifter should dip farther, and with a more springy bar he should dip less.

When the four to six inch drop is reached, with the hips level or slightly back, a violent but controlled upward thrust takes place by the extension of the hips and legs. As stated before, an extension straight upward is wanted, not out in front. If the bar goes out in front, then it is usually because the hips have gone farther back in the dip or in the drive upward; thus in the drive up the body inclines forward and is not vertical. In the rotary drive the same effect is wanted, an extension upward, not out in front. Another cause of a forward drive is the center of gravity staying back. Even with the hips underneath or at a slight tilt or in the rotary action, a lifter can “get trapped on his heels”. If the body inclines forward but the hips do not go further back and the shoulder area is stable but does not change position, then it is possible that the lifter is driving off his heels instead of the whole foot, so the weight goes out in front. Also, if he is driving off of his heels, he will not be able to extend on his toes as easily, if at all.

As the drive continues it is a must that the lifter extends all the way up on his toes. We hear of cutting the pull short. Well, many lifters cut the drive of the jerk short. This is usually because they split before they fully extend on their toes.

After the lifter has extended on his toes and as he is splitting, he leans back slightly. This lean back:
1.) helps the front foot move well ahead because it takes most of the restriction away from getting the front foot out as far as desired. (if the lifter were leaning forward instead, the front foot would have restrictions placed on it and it would be harder to get it out far enough.)
2.) helps drive the hips under the weight, and
3.) helps the bar clear the head.

World records have been jerked without a lean back as just described, but I subscribe to the lean back because of its many advantages. However, a lifter who has a big forward tilt of the pelvis so that the rear end sticks out quite a bit may have trouble doing this because the sacroiliac joint is formed so that his tilt forward takes place. For such a lifter to lean back may not be possible because of pain since the joint when formed this way does not want to go in that direction and/or because there is not sufficient flexibility to permit this. I advise staying as loose as possible in the sacroiliac joint in order to possibly use this lean back style or at the very least to prevent injury in that joint since many stresses are put on it which seem to accentuate this tilt forward, and nothing is done to lessen the stresses. Flexibility work will lessen the stresses.

The bar being driven off of the shoulders should go to the hairline level; this is the height needed to successfully push oneself under a jerk. Any higher is usually wasted height and motion unless a lifter is not flexible and/or is slow and needs the extra height. As this height is being reached, the elbows come out a little more to the side. This elbow position while the bar is at the hairline level should be the same as when the bar was at that level when doing the press (when that lift was being contested). This is a very strong angle for the lifter to push himself underneath the weight, and pushing himself under the weight with the bar in such a position is what the lifter wants to do. He cannot drive the weight farther up because he has extended on his toes. He must push himself underneath the weight with speed and force so that he can get a good position for a solid support of the weight overhead.

In pushing himself under the bar, the lifter should reach up and out with his arms. This locks the arm better at the elbow and where the upper arm fits into the scapula. It also fixes the scapula better on the ribs. In doing this the elbows will turn to the outside. Merely to push up so that the elbows are straightened is not enough; many a heavy jerk has come down because there was not supportive leverage of the weight. The lifter should be thinking of pushing himself down, and as the elbows reach a straightened position, he should reach up and turn the elbows to the outside, at the same time thinking of stretching the bar out.

The chest, which is held high when the bar is at the shoulders and during the dip and the drive, should be kept high and should move forward. Lifters and coaches talk about “forcing the chest through” on the jerk. This is really a must if the weight overhead is going to be adequately supported. If the chest is not “forced through”, then the weight is not only less stable overhead, but also it is not overhead where it should be (a little behind the head is permissible); instead it is out in front.

The split fore and aft should be close to the ground. Almost a shuffle is wanted, but without friction from the floor. A minimal distance between the lifter’s feet and the floor is wanted during this “shuffle”. Any more is a waste of time in the air and loss of time in positioning underneath the bar.

The split should be long. In past years it was advocated that the front foot travel one measure for every two measures of the back foot. Now the thinking is that the front foot should travel one-and-a-half measures for every two measures of the back foot. For the lifter with a big forward tilt of the pelvis this will seem like an especially long distance, and getting the front foot out will be harder. With the pelvis tilted forward, the front foot comes down quicker, something like a long jumper who is tilted forward in the air; his feet come down quicker.

With this further reach by the front foot, a 90 degree angle or more between the upper leg and lower leg is formed and is wanted. This is because more fore and aft mobility can take place with a heavy weight and a better leverage angle is obtained than if an acute angle (less than 90 degrees) were formed. With an acute angle it is difficult to maneuver fore and aft, and recovery with heavy weights is harder because of poorer leverage. Also, with a 90 degree angle or more, a wider base of support is gained, which means more stability.

The back knee can be slightly bent because it will not buckle with this elongated stance. The heel can be off the floor. With the back knee bent and the heel off the floor, the lifter can more easily adjust his body weight than if the back knee were straight and the heel on the floor. Also, with the back knee bent and the heel off the floor, the lifter can adjust for the uneven timing of the placement of the feet fore and aft in the split. The front and back feet should be in their place at the same time. If the back knee were straight and the heel on the floor, the late placement of the front foot would cause such a jar and the supporting structure of the legs would be so rigid that the jerk would stand a good chance of coming down.

It should be mentioned that although the placement of the feet in the split should be at the same time, uneven placement sometimes occurs. If the back foot is in its place first, with the back knee bent and the heel off the floor, the lifter can sink and cushion the impact of the later placement of the front foot. The back foot placing first is easier to adjust to because there is not so much strain with a long split. A sinking motion of the front foot is harder to do because there is more concentration of force felt on that leg than on the back leg, and the lifter usually resists this sinking of the front foot because he feels such a loss of leverage. This is a very uneasy feeling with a heavy weight overhead. However, with a 90 degree angle or an obtuse (more than 90 degree) angle between the upper leg and lower leg of the front foot, this sinking feeling produces less loss of leverage than if an acute angle were formed. By leaning back as he splits the lifter ensures that if any uneven placement is going to take place, it will be the back foot that is placed first in the split position, not the front.

The toes of the front foot are turned in slightly to prevent slipping, and the back toes can be turned slightly out for the same reason. Some lifters believe in turning the back toes slightly in, but this throws the weight on the outside of the foot which is shorter and offers less support. By turning the toes slightly out, support is thrown on the longer inside of the foot which means more support. Slippage does take place too often because of uneven support. The positioning of the feet as just described will help prevent some slippage. If the support is too uneven then very little can be done to prevent slipping.

With heavy weights overhead one must be very careful during recovery. It is known that many world records are recovered with one step back and one step forward and with the feet coming high off the floor. It can be done, but every once in a while a heavy jerk is lost while taking such steps. It may be that the jerk is positioned wrong or it is so heavy and the lifter so low that with that much distance to be covered by only one step back and one step forward, too much base of support is lost for that heavy a weight in that position, and the jerk comes down. Or it may be that by picking the front foot up high off the ground an also the back foot, too much time is spent in the air with no base of support, so again the jerk comes down. The lifter should take two steps back with the front foot, actually shuffling of sliding back, and then he takes one step forward with the back foot, again with the foot close to the ground.

In any case it is usually incorrect to recover with the back foot first. Too many jerks are thrown forward from their base of support and dropped. However, an exception to this is the lifter with a pronounced tilt of the pelvis; he might have to recover from back to front. This is because there is so much weight concentrated on the front foot that it is impossible to pick up. This forward tilt is because of the structural formation of the sacroiliac joint. This type of lifter should be careful about several things. One is that he must be quick. Pushing from back to front means that even more weight is going to be forward, and until a solid base of support is gained there is going to be a lot of instability with the weight wanting to come down in front. If the lifter is not quick, then he will not be able to gain stability in time. Another thing is that he must keep pushing up and out; the lifter will need this bone leverage more than ever since the stability is uncertain. Finally, he must keep coming up. This means that the body should be rising up when coming forward, not sinking. If the lifter recovers forward and sinks, he will be driven down; he must rise.

There is a style taught by the American coach, Joe Mills, in which the lifter is taught to recover back to front. Joe tells me that he only teaches it when the conventional style does not work and if the lifter is quick. A analysis of this style brings out certain merits. The lifter drives the weight up and then runs under it, pushing off the back foot, reaching up as much as possible. What this means is that before the weight has slowed down, the lifter is exerting force up from his run up to the bar which is still going up. The lifter has to be quick because if he is not, then when he runs up and under the bar and reaches up, he is going to be pushed down by the weight which has started its descent. But if the lifter is quick enough, he will catch the bar as it is still going up, and his going up will add to the upward motion of the bar.

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