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.

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