Thursday, September 30, 2010

Developing Greater Strength - John Grimek

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Developing Greater Strength
by John Grimek (1958)

Physical strength is a masculine characteristic. It is admired by all men, women and children – at least certain aspects of it. On the whole, most men not only admire great strength, but secretly desire it as well.

It is a fact, however, that while only a small percentage of people possess some type of unusual strength, which may have been acquired through heredity or from specialized training, it is possible to acquire this attribute through progressive weight training or heavy lifting. Records in our files show that numerous individuals have doubled their strength after several months of training, and tripled it within a year’s time. It must be admitted, however, that not everyone can achieve such remarkable results in such a short length of time, although anyone can increase his strength to an amazing degree with proper training.

There are some men who are naturally strong in certain regions, as, for example, the legs and lower back which are considered important strength zones. Other men have great strength in their arms and shoulders, but only a comparative few seem to possess all-round strength, which, of course, is the best and ideal combination. This combination of strength is not easy to obtain and may only be acquired through heavy training and supporting feats.

Physical strength that is greater than average depends on a number of factors and not only upon the size and shape of muscles. Nevertheless, THE FEWER “WEAK LINKS” THE BODY HAS, THE GREATER THE POSSIBILITY OF ACHIEVING ALL-ROUND STRENGTH. Individuals having strength only in certain regions, such as the arms, shoulders, back or legs, cannot be considered strong in the strict sense of the word. Regional strength, therefore, should not be sought after except where one part is weaker in comparison to another; then, additional effort is required to increase the power in those weaker parts.

How then is all-round strength acquired? There are several avenues possible. Strength will result only when the muscles are pushed beyond their normal activity. In fact, muscles MUST BE FORCED against progressively heavier resistance in order to increase their contractile capacity. Heavy training of this nature activates all the muscular fibers and packs power into them. Moreover, the tendons, those cable-like structures which branch out from the muscles and attach to the bones, also grow thicker and stronger from this training. The supporting of heavy weights in various positions is particularly beneficial to the tendons and ligaments, which grow thicker and stronger from this practice.

Of course, whenever strength is discussed, leverage should not be overlooked. Few people indeed realize the importance of good leverage in connection with strength. But the fact remains, whenever this leverage is favorable, strength is easier to acquire. Good leverage makes it easier for muscles to contract, allowing heavier poundages to be used in all movements, and this in turn results in greater strength.

I’m certain the above statement is bound to bring in a flood of correspondence if I don’t explain in detail how this leverage can be improved. Therefore, let me explain the basic principles here and now. Improvement of muscle leverage, in some cases, lies in the thickening of certain fleshy parts that will shorten the actual movement of the muscle. For example, if the shoulders, arms, trapezius and other adjacent groups become thicker, certain movements that involve the arms and shoulders become easier because of this increased mass. Naturally the basic condition cannot be altered since much of this is due to skeletal formation and upon the insertion of the muscles themselves. Nevertheless, by thickening the fleshy areas, improvement is possible.

Let’s discuss, for example, the case of a “poor” presser, and show how improvement in this lift is possible through specialized training. There are numerous fellows who say that they can’t press a heavy weight because they have poor leverage. In some cases this complaint is fully justified, but in others this leverage business is merely an excuse which can be blamed on the individual for not knowing how to press, or because he doesn’t practice the lift enough. If poor leverage is the cause and prevents improvement on this lift, then specialized training should be employed to increase the arm and shoulder mass, which generally helps to improve pressing leverage. This should explain why a large percentage of all bulky lifters are generally the best pressers. Many of our champion lifters have improved their pressing ability by this combination of bulking up and doing more pressing.

There are three fundamental rules to observe for acquiring all-round strength:

(1) Employing maximum resistance.
(2) Employing minimum repetitions.
(3) Lifting and supporting heavy poundages.

Persistence in training is a must where greater strength is desired. Once or twice a week a heavy all-out training program for power should be employed. Too frequent heavy training, especially if prolonged in nature, may weaken rather than increase strength.

There is another fallacy that seems to persist among some people whenever strength is mentioned. They have the opinion that only short fellows are strong and make the best lifters. This opinion is based on the knowledge that there are more shorter fellows than taller men lifting in competition. They further contend that the shorter fellow doesn’t have to lift the weights as high. This deduction is plain humbug. Anyone will admit that the taller man does lift his weights higher, but in most cases his skeletal leverage is better to accomplish this. By way of contrast let me illustrate the handicap shorter men like Dave Moyer and Joe DiPietro have when they lift on a regulation barbell. This, as anyone who has ever lifted weights off knee-high supports knows, is awkward and a disadvantage. Because, when the body and legs are almost straight it is harder to exert a strong pull that sends the weight upwards. A clearer illustration might be had by having both men, the tall and the short, do an ordinary deadlift with a weight they can easily clean. Notice how much higher the taller man lifts his weight in this position compared to the shorter fellow? Now visualize for a moment the impetus the taller man can obtain with his longer arms and legs and his shorter back as he crouches, almost doubled up, then straightens up pulling the weight. In contrast, visualize the efforts of the shorter man, whose legs and back are almost straight as he begins the lift, making it impossible for him to utilize the full use of his back and legs unless he uses the smaller, lower plates. I’m sure you’ll agree that the tall man has certain advantages even though he has to lift his weights higher . . . but he has better leverage to do this, especially if he bulks up in the right places.

For curious people who ask why there aren’t more tall men lifting in competition, I’d say that there are more taller men in competition today than ever before. But it is also true that a large percentage never go into lifting competition because they feel they haven’t got a chance against the shorter, stronger fellow. More bosh! Let me cite another example along this line.

Some years ago we conducted an experiment here in York with one Jack Cooper, a man of imposing altitude (well over six feet) and weighing 200 pounds. In spite of his bodyweight he still looked underweight. His arms, though not heavy were long, as were his legs. But his shoulders were considered broad for his size. This fellow acquired the ability to lift some terrific poundages, and believe me, he lifted them HIGHER than any other lifter! He was convincing proof that tallness, even without great bulk, is not a handicap if one has the interest to excel in this game. Jack was especially adept on the quick lifts, and while his press wasn’t exceptional, he did press an impressive weight. He would have done much better had he bulked up his frame, especially around the arms, shoulders and upper back.

One of the problems of strength most lifters and bodybuilders have is improving their press. I’d like to use this lift as an example and show how additional strength can be acquired in this lift. Assuming you already know how to press but lack the necessary power to make a heavy lift, the following training schedule should be helpful.

Start with a weight you can just press five or six times easily . . . just as a warm up. For your next attempt increase the weight to within 75% of your best pressing poundage. Press this three times. Always rest a few minutes after each set of presses. Now, increase your next weight to about 85% of your max and press it two or three times. Continue to increase the weight in five or ten pound jumps and press only in single attempts. Repeat until your limit in this lift has been reached. This, however, does not conclude the program by any means. Increase the weight by 20 pounds beyond your best press and perform two or three push presses with it. In this exercise be sure your arms and shoulders do most of the work after the legs provide the impetus. Keep increasing the weight until you are unable to do any more without using a full dip or split position to get the weight overhead.

Upon reaching a poundage that you must jerk instead of pushing it overhead, the next exercise is to hold this weight (or more) at your chest, but instead of resting it across your shoulders make an effort as if you were going to press it. Hold it in this position for several seconds or until you are unable to sustain it any longer. Replace it back on the rack and again add more weight to the bar. Take a rest, after which you should support it again in the same manner. You shouldn’t have any trouble, once you get used to supporting more weight than you can jerk in this style. This exercise will strengthen you for the press, and when you become strong enough to support twice as much weight as your press, your press will have greatly benefitted. All supporting feats are particularly good for strengthening and thickening the tendons and ligaments, the true source power.

Another excellent power builder for pressing is to lie in a supine position and support a heavy weight. While in this position and holding a heavy weight, the arms are allowed to bend a few inches and then locked out again. Repeat for about five or six consecutive repetitions. How much weight to use? About 50 to 100 pounds more than you can military press. Increase the weight as rapidly as you safely can. Your arms, shoulders, and the adjacent muscle groups will develop greater power from this exercise.

By now you must realize that nothing packs so much power into the muscles as heavy supporting feats, especially in holding weights overhead. You should construct a device that enables you to get under the bar with only a slight split or dip with your arms extended and elbows locked. In this supporting feat all the muscles contract to sustain the overhead load, while every joint, tendon and ligament strains to keep the body balanced. This supporting feat is one of the best means of increasing body power. It helps a lifter to secure a strong arm and shoulder lock. The back, hips and legs all combine to hold the body in a strong, steady position. As an exercise, a heavy weight should be supported overhead for several seconds. After a brief rest more weight should be added and the exercise repeated until six to eight attempts have been completed. Begin by holding about 50 pounds more than your best jerk in this one. Increase the weight as rapidly as you safely can. And once more, be sure that your supporting rack or chains are high enough for you to get under the bar without bending your knees too much. The more you bend your knees the more difficulty you will have in supporting the weight.

Another one for the arms and shoulders. Take a weight, about what you can military press, and hold it at your side as if you were going to do a one-arm side press, holding the elbow off the hip. Hold this position for as long as you can, then replace the weight back on the supports and repeat with your other hand. Use alternate hands and support the weight with each arm about four times. Continue to increase the weight.

For lower back. Use knee-high supports for this one and use about 150 pounds more than you can jerk. Grip the weight securely and move slightly away from the supports. Now bend forward as in a regular deadlift, but only until a slight strain is felt in the lower back. Straighten up and again repeat five to six times. Increase weight with each set by 20 to 30 pounds and do at least six sets. Use the heaviest weights safely possible but do not overdo it until your back has been thoroughly accustomed to this exercise. Poundage increases can be made rapidly with all these partial and supporting movements, and failure to exercise caution can result in some very real stiffness and strain.

For legs. Legs can be packed with power by including heavy partial squats (bending the legs only slightly), BUT ONLY AFTER SOME COMPLETE SQUATS HAVE BEEN DONE. Here again, heavy poundages should be used to impart spring and strength to the legs. Five to six repetitions should be used. Repeat for at least five sets . . . more if desired. By now you should be starting to realize exactly how hard one must work to increase his strength.

All of the exercises and supporting feats mentioned here will give you greater strength if you practice them at least once a week. However, let me emphasize one fact – you cannot obtain great strength by using light poundages or by training only once in a while. Training must be a regular habit, and HEAVY, ALL-OUT TRAINING should be done at least once a week.

In conclusion, I’d like to say a word to the younger fellows who do not fully appreciate the importance of all-round physical strength. Just remember, as you grow older your back (lower region) and legs will be the first to show signs of weakening unless you train regularly. It is advisable, therefore, to keep these parts strong and flexible through a variety of exercises that will keep them youthful. Older persons need not do heavy training, at least not too severe (unless they so desire and are capable), but an occasional heavier than usual routine should still be done.

Keeping your strength once you have acquired it is more difficult than maintaining physical fitness . . . because it requires heavy training. Keep this in mind and you will have solved the problem.

Bench Press Part Twelve

Regular Deadlift, bar approaching knee height

Sumo Deadlift, bar approaching knee height.
Note back positions.

3.4 – Training the Shoulder

Everyone knows how to train the shoulders, or so most powerlifters, bodybuilders, and weight trainers think. After all, the classic “hand me down” exercises for shoulder training are there to see in nearly every weight room in the country. Classic pressing movements (military, behind the neck, incline, dumbbell, etc.), as well as dumbbell raises (front, back, etc.) usually constitute the majority of the typical shoulder training “menu” of exercises. The question here is whether shoulder training is as simple as it seems.

If we all know the total story on shoulder training, then logically one would expect there to be no serious problems where shoulder development, shoulder pain, and shoulder injury are concerned. Is this the case today? I would argue strongly that it is quite the contrary. I have begun to realize in recent years that the shoulder is a key problem area. Probably no area requires more thoughtful training and “injury proofing” than the shoulder.

It is amazing to me how many powerlifters and weight trainers whom I’ve talked to have sore or injured shoulders. Typically, the shoulder problems they have are related to a variety of activities, including bench presses, throwing and racquet sports, classic shoulder weight training exercises, etc. It is evident that not many people in or outside powerlifting are really doing the job when it comes to shoulder training. Maybe we all need to do a bit of reevaluation of our classic shoulder training “menu” of exercises after all. Let’s briefly look at what’s involved.

Specifically, for the shoulder complex, there are three bones involved: the scapula, clavicle, and humerus; eight ligaments: coraco-humeral, sterno clavicular, etc.; seven joints: acromio-clavicular, etc.; and believe it or not, 17 muscles, including deltoid, pectoralis major (both sternal and clavicular portions), the four rotator cuff muscles, teres major, latissimus dorsi, biceps, triceps (long head), serratus interior, pectoralis minor, levator scapula, rhomboids, subclavicus, and trapezius. For more information, as always, refer to a good anatomy text.

If is easy to see that the shoulder complex structurally is by far one of the most complicated parts of the body. As a direct result we also have a much greater range of motion possible in the shoulder than in any other joint of the body. Unfortunately, however, this very complex range of motion possible at the shoulder joint makes detailed quantitative biomechanical analysis incredibly difficult. Indeed, methodologically the biomechanical estimation of shoulder muscle activity is so complex that the research that does exist necessarily involves only estimates for the motions and forces involved with the shoulder.

One important point to be made here about the shoulders is that the important muscles and ligaments crossing the shoulder joint are key to shoulder stability. Unlike many other joints of the body (like the hip, for example) the shoulder must heavily rely on muscle and ligament activity rather than skeletal strength for its stability. Therefore, development of the important muscles of the shoulder complex is extremely crucial for preventing problems in activities involving the shoulder. Let’s examine the shoulder musculature more closely.

By now you have no doubt guessed, there is nothing simple about the shoulder muscular system. In fact, there are a number of very unusual features that characterize the muscle action of the shoulder. First of all, there is an unusually high amount of contraction where two or more muscles are contracting simultaneously. Since the shoulder joint lacks stability without muscle action, any muscle that acts to move the arm must work harmoniously with other muscles in order to avoid causing a dislocation. In other words, a large number of shoulder muscles are involved in probably every shoulder motion. Classic references like Inman et al (reference 2) point to this fact.

The second point distinguishing shoulder muscle activity is the number of two-joint muscles. Depending on the position of the arm, scapula, and clavicle, these two-joint muscles will have different effects on shoulder motion. As the position of the bones changes in exercise, for example, muscle activity changes dramatically. This has been demonstrated in several “classic” studies of shoulder biomechanics (for example, references 1 and 2). In other words, small changes in arm of shoulder positions will have significant effect on which shoulder muscles are involved and when and how much these muscles work in a given weight training exercise or a sport motion.

While it is beyond the scope here to try to explore all aspects of the shoulder muscle activity, a few points can be made concerning the deltoids and “rotator cuff” muscles. The three major muscle fiber populations of the deltoid muscle (most often referred to as anterior, lateral, and posterior “heads” of the deltoid) are apparently each capable of contracting fairly independently of the other heads. In other words, bench presses conceivably involve the anterior “head” while the other two heads are largely inactive. It is, however, overly simplistic to view the activity of the deltoids only in this sense (by saying, for example, that front lateral raises work only the anterior head of the deltoid, lateral raises work only the lateral head, etc.). What really happens is much more involved and probably not remotely as clear cut. Many muscles of the shoulder are involved in any shoulder exercise. As for the four “rotator cuff” muscles, the major action of these small muscles is to pull the head of the humerus (the upper arm bone) into the glenoid (the shoulder). In doing this, the deltoid muscle has better leverage and is able to elevate and move the arm more efficiently.

First of all, my personal feeling about shoulder training is that until a more detailed biomechanical study is done and completed on the shoulder, “variety” and “instinct” should be the two key words. By variety I mean that one should experiment with a greater number of exercises for shoulder motion than simply the “classical” menu. One suggestion is to visit a good physical therapist or anyone knowledgeable in shoulder exercises to see the type of exercise they use for shoulder training. Some excellent “non-classical” exercises are available to try out. By “instinct” I mean you should attempt to “tune-in” as much as possible to the body’s response to shoulder movements and exercises. Most top powerlifters have a great knack of evaluating exercises in this manner. This is something we all need to at least try to be aware of in our training.

The results of our research (see Section 3.1) on anterior deltoid involvement during bench pressing showed that:

(1) The anterior deltoid was very heavily involved in all styles of bench pressing, although somewhat more in wide benches;

(2) The timing of peak activity of the anterior deltoid is (along with the other muscles) when the bar is first coming up off the chest in the bench press; and

(3) Increases in bench press weight only cause modest increases in deltoid activity, presumably since this muscle is already so maximally involved.

Let me finish by giving a short list of observations that I hope will serve as “food for thought” regarding shoulder training for the bench press:

(1) I personally am fond of dumbbell presses. This motion seems to activate, at least to some extent, most parts of the deltoid muscle and unquestionably brings into play other parts of the shoulder musculature. Dumbbell presses also reduce the excessive low-back loading associated with normal barbell bench presses;

(2) We have found in our research that the anterior deltoid is massively involved in all types of bench presses. Until we can do further work it is hard to identify exactly which type of bench press works the anterior deltoid most, but the anterior deltoid is unquestionably used a lot in bench presses of all types. It is an interesting question whether the anterior part of the deltoid needs any extra auxiliary work above and beyond bench presses. I tend to think that many powerlifters and bench pressers seriously overtrain it;

(3) I don’t recommend pressing while seated, since the stress in the low back region tends to be higher sitting than when standing;

(4) When and if you experiment with new exercises for the shoulder, use light weights. Don’t be overly ambitious and pack on the weight. The proportional increase is much higher when you try to increase your weight in dumbbell work. Be sure also that you are able to maintain proper motion pattern whenever you add weight;

(5) Machine training for the shoulder region should be treated very cautiously. Generally some of the muscles that stabilize the shoulder probably eliminated in activity (or reduced significantly) since the degrees of freedom are limited by machines. Thus, shoulder exercises when done on machines can often lead to incomplete development of shoulder joint musculature. I strongly recommend that one use primarily free weight motions for a complex region like the shoulder.

Well, I hope that I have provided some food for thought regarding shoulder training. Above all, don’t be afraid to experiment and learn from your own body’s responses to training. Shoulder training, like weight training in general, is anything but “simplistic”. Instead of blindly copying everyone you see, try to “tune-in” to your own body’s responses to exercises. The rewards are well worth it.


(1) Deluca, C., Forest, W., “Force analysis of individual muscles acting simultaneously on the shoulder joints during isometric abduction”, Journal of Biomechanics, 6: 385, 1973.

(2) Inman, D, Saunders, J., “Abbott, L., “Observations on the function of the shoulder”. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 26A: No. 1, 1944.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Power Building - Harry Paschall

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Tommy Kono

Power Building
by Harry Paschall (1951)

In approaching the serious problem of a strength-building schedule we must realize that each individual will require individual handling, and it is impossible to lump all trainees into one classification and prescribe a perfect, foolproof course of instruction that will work in exactly the same manner for everyone. You, therefore, will have to make your own adjustments in the schedules we are about to give you.

Let us begin by stating our aims. First, our principal object is to build strength. Second, realizing that strength and physical fitness must go hand in hand, we are also concerned in giving you a routine that will improve your organic physical condition and promote stamina. Third, believing that a strong man should look strong, we should like to include in our training sufficient shape-building exercises to insure a well-muscled, shapely body.

This leads us to consideration of the various exercises by classification, and perhaps we may clarify our future choice of exercises in our schedules by arranging these various movements under three general headings, viz., SHAPING Exercises, CONDITIONING Exercises, and STRENGTH-BUILDING Exercises.

(1) Shaping Exercises
Leg Raises
Side Bends

(2) Conditioning Exercises
Squats (high repetitions)
Bouncing Split
Stiff-Legged Deadlift and Shrug
Squat While Pressing From Behind Neck
Overhead Squat

(3) Strength-Building Exercises
All Supporting Lifts
Shoulder Shrug
Dead Lift
Leg Press
Heavy Squat
Handstand Pushup
Dumbbell Press

In concocting our various schedules we have tried to apportion these various exercises so that in each routine we have at least one conditioning exercise, two or three shaping movements, and five or six strength-builders.

Having now cautioned you in the official manner that all I am about to say may be used against me, let us blithely leap in where angels fear to tread:

Schedule No. 1

(a) Warm Up – 5 or 6 fast Pull-Up-and-Press, or Flip Snatches without moving feet.

(1) Stiff-Legged Dead Lift and Shrug – 10 reps. This exercise is a bit tricky in performance. You bend forward and pick up a bar with overgrip, just as if you were going to perform a stiff-legged dead lift. As you come erect, shrug the trapezius muscles high, then leaning back slightly you rotate the shoulders and transfer the pressure from the shoulders to the latissimus muscles of the back. At this point, by practice, you will able to achieve a latissimus “lock” – spreading the shoulder blades and widening the back to its utmost. While keeping these muscles spread, you bend forward to lower bell almost to floor while maintaining the “pull” on the back muscles all the way. Start light, and remember, “feel” is important in muscle-moulding exercises such as this.

(2) Squat – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
(3) Pullover – 15 reps.
(4) Support Exercise – Barbell hangs from ceiling suspended on chain at about shoulder height. Get under in split or squat position with arms locked and braced, then raise weight to full arms’ length above head with legs straight and in finishing jerk position. Stand erect for several seconds. Lower and repeat. Breathe in just before lifting movement, and breathe out with weight overhead. Breathe in shallowly again and lower. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

(5) Side Bend – 10 reps each side.
(6) Clean, without moving feet – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
(7) Leg Raise – 20 reps.

(8) Overhead Squat – Squatting with the bar held overhead in the snatch position is one of the very finest exercises for the back, legs and waist region, as well as promoting bodily poise and coordination. A combination conditioning and strength builder. Snatch the weight to overhead and squat low. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

(9) Alternate Dumbbell Press (see-saw) – If you have difficulty in cleaning two dumbbells to shoulders it may help to load the bells 5 or 10 pounds heavier to the back, as is done with a one-dumbbell swing. Lock the legs and buttocks and keep the back straight and firm when pressing. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

(10) Swingbar Seated Curl – 3 sets of 10 reps.

This schedule is intended for three workouts per week, with a day of rest between each exercise day. The technique might be called the “Work up and work down” method. Weight progression: Calculate backwards from a new personal best in the last week. To the starting weights, add 5 pounds to weight of barbell, 2½ to dumbbells each week following the first, except in the case of Exercise 4, where 10 pounds may be added. Continue this schedule for six weeks, then rest one week (complete rest from all weight training), then proceed with Schedule 2.

In undertaking Schedule 2, after this week of rest, we back-cycle somewhat in amount of weight handled in order to get a running start. The technique is changed to that of the “Heavy and Light” method.

Schedule No. 2

(a) Warm Up – Pull-Up-and-Press, or Flip Snatch without moving feet.
(1) Overhead Squat – 10 reps.

(2) Dead Lift (on blocks) – The bar should cross the legs just below the knees. Lean down with very little forward bend, so that lifting is done with mainly legs instead of the back. Start the upward movement easily and add power and speed as you come erect. 3 reps, 5 reps, 3 sets of 5 reps.

(3) Side Bend – 10 reps.
(4) Support – same as exercise 4, schedule 1 – 3 reps, 5 reps, 3 sets of 5 reps.
(5) Leg Raise – 20 reps.
(6) Pull-up to Chin – 3 reps, 5 reps, 3 sets of 5 reps.

(7) Shoulder Shrug (From Hanging Below Shoulder-High Supports or from Below Shoulder Height in Rack) – Well, well, well! Look who’s here! Is that Joe Hise doing all the puffing? Here is a shoulder shrug exercise devised to take the pain out of high rep bodybuilding squats. In this instance we are using it as a wonderful power builder. Take the bar from a rack (or suspension) several inches below shoulder level. A very heavy weight may be employed and progression is very fast. Remember this when planning the starting weights for your 6-week progression. Get your whole body firmly placed, feet apart and in line, legs braced, back strongly erect and lift weight from supports. Now breathe in strongly and attempt to lift the weight up and back by shrugging the trapezius muscles. Breathe out as the weight lowers (IT ONLY RISES AN INCH OR TWO) then breathe in and repeat. As a straight power-building exercise, one breath is sufficient. 3, 5, 3 sets of 5.

(8) Bent Arm Pullover – 3, 5, 3 sets of 5.

(9) Handstand Pushup – If you cannot balance, position yourself about 18 inches from a wall and let your feet rest slightly against it. Later, use two boxes so that the body may be lowered for a full movement. A pair of low parallel bars can be handy for this. 3 sets of as many as possible.

(10) Swingbar Seated Curl – 3, 5, 3 sets of 5 reps.

Same progression as Schedule No. 1. Add 5 pounds to barbell each week, 2½ pounds to swingbell, 10 pounds to barbell in exercises 4 and 7. Train for six weeks, then rest one week.

Schedule 3 typifies another exercise technique, employing the set or series system. Here, too, go back slightly after our rest period in order to gain momentum.

Schedule No. 3

(a) Warm Up – Pull-Up-and-Press, or Flip Snatch without moving feet.

(1) Squat and Press Behind Neck – Place bar behind neck, then as you bend the knees and go into the deep squat position you press the barbell overhead at the same time. As you come erect you lower the bar back to starting position behind neck. This exercise demands perfect muscular coordination. 10 reps.

(2) Press Out – This exercise is designed to promote strength in the back, shoulders and arms. It is, simply, a limited press-out motion, and sheer push and power are necessary. Use a weight slightly higher than your best press poundage, and have the bar suspended (or racked) at about the height of the forehead. Brace yourself firmly under the weight with the shoulders back and the entire body tight and locked (your regular pressing position). Breathe in deeply, then push the weight to the finish position at full arms’ length. Breathe out as you lower, and repeat. 5 sets of 3 reps, all sets with the same weight after warmups.

(3) Leg Raise – 20 reps.
(4) Leg Press, or Front Squat – 5 sets of 5, all sets with the same weight.

(5) Bent Arm Pullover – The bouncing pullover is a fine chest, shoulder, and arm developer. We have found the use of a six-inch box under the upper back a decided advantage. When using the box or padded support, the hips should be flattened firmly to the floor. The movement consists of a half-circle. Starting with the bar resting on the upper thighs, you carry it back over the head until it hits and bounces from the floor behind head. For strength work this should be done with the arms bent.

(6) Clean, without moving feet – 5 sets of 3 reps.
(7) Sit-Ups – 10 reps.
(8) Overhead Squat – 5 sets of 3, all sets with the same weight.
(9) Dumbbell Press (together) – 5 sets of 3 reps, all sets with the same weight after warmups.
(10) Swingbar Curl – 3 sets of 10 reps.

Weight Progression – the same as Schedules 1 and 2. This is also a six-week routine, after which you rest one full week, and then go into Schedule 4, which employs the “Single Repetition” method.

Schedule No. 4.

(a) Warm Up – Pull-Up-and-Press, or Flip Snatch without moving feet.

(1) Bouncing Split – Place a light bar on your shoulders. Grip the bar strongly and pull down to fix it so it will not bounce. Now split forward strongly and speedily with the right leg, going down into the deep split position until the knee of the left leg touches the floor. Now BOUNCE up and immediately reverse the leg action, placing the left foot forward, and go down until the right knee touches. The best performance we know of this novel exercise is Fraysher Ferguson. He is a very good all-round athlete, and very fast in action. He does 20 reps with 150 pounds, completing them in 20 seconds. 10 reps each leg.

(2) Front Squat Supports – This is a heavy movement, with a suspended (or power-racked) bar. The idea is to build explosive energy in the back and thighs to add drive to your heavy jerks. Bar should be positioned so that it must be lifted about 6 to 8 inches. It is best to KEEP THE ELBOWS UP. Get the bar and your body firmly set, breathe in, lower by bending the knees abut 6 or 8 inches ( ¼ squat) and drive strongly up to erect position. 8 to 12 progressively heavier single repetitions.

(3) Side Bend – 10 reps each side.
(4) Squat – 8 to 12 progressively heavier single reps.
(5) Pullover – 15 reps.
(6) Pullup to Chin – 8 to 12 progressively heavier single reps with added weight.
(7) Leg Raise – 20 reps.
(8) Dumbell Press – 8 to 12 single reps.
(9) Barbell Curl – 8 to 12 single reps.

Again, calculate your starting poundages backward from a personal best at week six, and add weight progressively.

During the course of these schedules you may have discovered a few things about your body. Perhaps there were too many exercises, and that you had to cut down on repetitions. Perhaps, too, you found that the method employed in a certain schedule better suited your particular needs, i.e., you may be better geared to the Heavy and Light System than to the Single Rep approach.

As you go into higher and higher poundages you will also find that you may need more rest, and that twice-a-week workouts are preferable. Also, at higher levels, you may need to cut down the number of exercises which you can do with safety.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Feats of Overhead Strength - Jules Bacon

Clevio Massimo

Gary Cleveland

Al Beinart, Detroit Michigan,
bent press record holder.
330 pounds.

Feats of Overhead Strength
by Jules Bacon (1958)

The list of men who lifted 400 pounds and more overhead is growing. Arthur Saxon was the first with his two-hands-anyhow of 448. Karl Swoboda became second with his jerk of 448, and Charles Rigoulot became the third when he clean & jerked 402. In our present era, made by amateurs and lifting under official conditions, those who succeeded are:

John Davis, Norbert Schemansky, Dave Sheppard, Paul Anderson, Clyde Emrich, Medvedev, Novikov, Dave Ashman, Doug Hepburn and Umberto Selvetti.

The first man in the world to make an Olympic total of over 1,000 pounds on the three lifts was Steve Stanko. This took place in 1941 at the Middle Atlantic championships in York. Stanko pushed the clean & jerk record then held by Luhaar of Estonia from 369 to 382. In training he clean and jerked 390 many times.

The first American to make a world’s record on one of the International Five lifts (one hand snatch, one hand jerk, plus the three Olympic lifts, then the basis for lifting competition the world over) was Dick Bachtell. In 1931 at the Penn A.C. in Philadelphia he made a left hand snatch of 155 pounds while weighing 132.

At least eight men are credited with having officially lifted 300 pounds overhead with one hand. Arthur Saxon is credited with a bent press of 371, the highest on record. Then Thomas Inch, Edward Aston, Joe Nordquest, Lionel Strongfort, Harold Ansorge, Paul Baillargeon and Al Beinert, who recently took the record away from Baillargeon by making 330 pounds. Both Wally Zagurski and John Grimek have pressed over 300 pounds to arm’s length, but neither came up to an erect position. Wally was by far the lightest man ever to get 300 to straight-arm’s length. Years ago we had the most exclusive club in the world, the 300 pound club, which was opened to any athlete who lifted 300 pounds overhead in any manner. Now the 300 press club is becoming common. Long ago the continental style of pressing was used, which permitted any degree of back bending, but today a military style is being enforced, altho’ not always successfully. The press record then was held by Schilberg from Austria with 292, but was increased by Josef Manger of Germany to 319, then taken by John Davis and now being held by Paul Anderson in excess of 400 pounds.

Henry “Milo” Steinborn, for many years known as the Strongest Man in Wrestling, made a record in 1921 with a 552 deep knee bend. The amazing thing about this record is that Henry got the weight on his shoulders unassisted, by way of rocking it onto his shoulders. The record seemed to stay until Doug Hepburn, Canadian strongman, exceeded it with over 600 and later made over 700 pounds on this lift, taking the weight from supports. Anderson then assaulted this record by doing over a half ton currently holds it without any takers.

Art Levan became the first American to continental & jerk double bodyweight. This feat was performed at one of the contests staged by the York Barbell Club. Doing double bodyweight on the clean & jerk has long been considered one of the greatest feats of any sport, and Tony Terlazzo became the first to accomplish this feat, clean & jerking 275 while weighing 137½ in 1933.

Norb Schemansky was, for a long time, the heaviest man to succeed in this feat when he made 399½ while weighing 196 pounds. Clyde Emrich, in making 409 at a bodyweight of 198, lifted 13 pounds more than double bodyweight. Chuck Vinci clean and jerked 296 at 122, 52 pounds more than double bodyweight. Now Isaac Berger is the first man, in practice, to press double bodyweight. At 135 he pressed 270 at Muscle Beach.

The late John Y. Smith, at the age of 60 and weighing less than 160 pounds, possessed a phenomenal grip and dead lifted 520, also making remarkable poundages in other lifts to win the title of New England’s Strongest Man.

In 1933 Weldon Bullock became the first 17 year old boy in the world to clean & jerk over 300 pounds. This record was then surpassed by Danny Fornataro with a lift of 300 at age 16. Pete George, who clean & jerked 300 pounds while weighing 145 at 15 years of age, became the lightest and youngest to accomplish this feat. In winning the World’s Championship in Phila. in 1947 at age 17 he made 319 pounds.

Steve Stanko, the first American to snatch 300 pounds, was quickly followed by Louis Abele and then by John Davis. In totaling 1002, Stanko snatched 310. Davis made 317 in winning the 1941 Nationals, which was 24½ higher than the accepted record held by the late Ron Walker.

Steve Gob, professional wrestler, pressed 270 before the Second World War and thus exceeded the accepted record at that time by 17 pounds.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Training During Periods of Stress - Tom E. Kakonis

Training During Periods of Stress
by Tom E. Kakonis (1959)

Nearly every man, at some time or another in his life, is likely to be subjected to long periods of stress. For the physical culturist, and especially for the weight trainer, such times are particularly trying, for they not only upset the regular schedule he attempts to follow, but they cause his goal, whatever it may be, to recede farther and farther into the dim future. A good deal depends on the way in which he meets these situations: he may simply throw in the towel and quit either in disgust or despair, or he may look on the trying times as a challenge which must be met and overcome by the best means at hand. The latter attitude, naturally, is the only one worth having; without it all the halfhearted, listless training an individual undergoes will prove futile.

First of all, what do we understand by STRESS? Stress may be broken down into two categories: physical and emotional. Physical stress is some abnormal drain on he body and its functions. For example, you may find it necessary some time to put in a great deal of overtime on your job – for several weeks or months without relief. This is stress of a sort. New parents certainly know what we mean by prolonged physical stress, for the abrupt irregularity of their new hours and the lessened time for sleep often contribute to a chronic fatigue. And those of you who are, or ever were in the Armed Forces, especially during basic training, have a vivid conception of what eight or more weeks of stress involves.

But wearying as it may be, physical stress is not the equal of emotional stress, for this includes the physical fatigue plus the added hardship of nerve-jangling mental tensions and incessant, draining worry. What are some typical emotional stresses? Well, perhaps you might experience a lengthy illness in your family, during which time you must of necessity accept additional responsibilities, and these, coupled with your concern for the suffering relative, may contribute to a highly upset condition. Then, you may be called upon at some time to go through a period of adjustment or adaptation to a new way of life, one that is entirely opposed to your attitudes and beliefs, but one which you cannot avoid, and this may adversely affect your mental state. Here the case of military service again comes to mind. For some men the transition from civilian to military life is accomplished only at the cost of great emotional upheaval. Some men, indeed, NEVER adjust. On the lighter side, you may be jilted by your partner or go through a messy divorce, and though six months hence this may not seem so demoralizing, at the time it can appear like an earth-shaking calamity.

But at any rate, the point is clear – stress, whatever its nature or origin, is going to take something out of you; how much depends on you yourself. Let’s assume then, you’ve taken the most optimistic view possible under your own individual circumstances of stress. How can you go about minimizing the weakening effects of these circumstances? There are two areas of your personal life you must examine in light of your new situation: your living habits and your training. Let’s consider the living habits first. You must realize that in most cases these habits are going to be irregular, and this irregularity is bound to be enervating. To combat this you must take advantage of every resource at your disposal. For example, suppose you are getting only four or five hours of sleep a night – what can be done to alleviate the fatigue that is bound to result? Well, for one thing you can attempt – more, you MUST LEARN – to relax at any opportunity that presents itself during the day. Stretch back in your chair frequently, if you have a desk job, and let your body go positively limp, if only for 60 seconds. Try and cut your mind off from the outside world during this time – make it a blank, think of nothing but a deep, black velvety void. You’ll be surprised how difficult this mind clearing process is, but you’ll be pleasantly gratified once you master it. Bob Hoffman, your editor, once wrote that he would sometimes unwind completely in this manner while he sat in his car waiting for a traffic light to change, drifting deep into relaxation and soon falling downward through snowflakes of released tension, oblivious to a chorus of horns honking and abusive hate-filled curses hurled in his direction. Bob was not one to consider the minor inconveniences of others while seeking to enliven his sometimes flagging vitality, or when doing anything else for that matter. Nonetheless, all cynical and sarcastic kidding aside, 60 seconds of deep relaxation, repeated frequently throughout the day at opportune times can work wonders.

If your circumstances permit, you should try to lie down immediately after a meal and relax fully. This is best done by lying on your back on a hard surface, and then “letting go” all over, as though your body were oozing right into the floor. Here too you should try to empty your mind of all thought, let your mind grow as flaccid and relaxed as your body. Five minutes of this will make a real difference in your outlook, both physical and mental, for your body will experience a rest it rarely gets in sleep, and your mind, cleared for a time of all nerve-wracking worries and tensions, will be refreshed and better able to cope with problems.

Next to be considered is the question of diet. Some people look on periods of stress as excuses for orgies of dietary excess – this is especially common is cases of emotional stress. Others, on the contrary, become so jittery and upset they cannot keep much of anything in their stomachs, and as their digestive disturbances increase, so their appetites correspondingly fade. Still others come to rely on stimulants such as coffee, nicotine, and alcohol to keep them going, and they neglect the basic common-sense rules of nutrition to their own long-range detriment. Though each of these instances must be examined separately, each is nonetheless primarily a mental problem.

The first case – that of the individual who eats to satisfy an emotional need – is perhaps the most difficult and may require medical or psychological assistance. But in milder cases it is simply a matter of will power. The would-be glutton must ask himself the questions – is there any good to be gained by compounding my troubles with overeating? Will it help my problems to be continually gorging myself with food? Naturally, such questions permit only one honest answer, and that single answer should be the guide for future table and snack habits.

The second type – the nervously upset individual – must similarly resolve on a new mental approach. The hints on relaxation found in the preceding paragraphs of this article are especially applicable to this type. He must, through the power of his mind, dominate and control his nervous reflexes. And this is a problem that each must meet and overcome by himself – no one can relax for you, you have to do it yourself. There are a few practices, however, that may assist the tense person in loosening up. He may, for example, take a hot tub bath when he feels a jittery spell coming on. There seems to be no exterior device (by exterior we mean non-mental) short of a competent rubdown by a skilled masseur (and who can afford that?) so effective as this hot tub bath in alleviating nervous strain. Another habit the warm drink before retiring – lemonade with a dash of honey, or milk to induce sleep. An old idea perhaps, but one that has perennially proved its worth.

The third type – the individual who relies on stimulants – generally needs only time to convince him of the error of his ways. If he is a practicing health culturist and weight trainer, his use of these stimulants in the past will have been extremely moderate. If now he reverts to their habitual use, he will soon notice the difference it makes in his feeling of wellbeing. The temporary lift will quickly give way to a depression that is mental as well as physical. Many weight trainers, I’m sure, have gone on sprees during which times they have consumed inordinate amounts of stimulants – not alcohol, necessarily, but perhaps stimulants in other forms: coffee, pills, tea, cola beverages, etc. They have felt, no doubt, that the superior condition of their bodies enabled them to throw off the harmful effects of these indulgences. And to a degree, they were correct. But the body can stand only so much abuse, and weight trainers, regardless of their degree of muscular development and/or strength, are not absolved from the laws of nature. The end ‘results’ – though they may take longer to appear in the weight trainer than in the untrained individual – can only be the same: physical and nervous deterioration. Stress periods are no more of an excuse to take up harmful activities than say, normal lay-off periods. In fact they are less! you wouldn’t conclude that because you had trained hard and successfully for six weeks it was time for a week of overindulgence. To nullify your gains in this way would make little if any sense. Why then should you take to the use of devitalizing drugs at a time when your body and mind particularly need all their reserves?

The preceding paragraphs have detailed what NOT to do regarding diet; now we must consider the steps to be taken to insure proper nutrition under these less than ideal circumstances. Those who make a serious study of weight training are certainly familiar with the principal constituents of an adequate diet; it would be repetitious for me to outline them briefly here when there are entire volumes devoted to the subject. Suffice it to say that above average amounts of vitamins and minerals, as obtained through the use of fresh fruits and vegetables; and complete proteins, such as eggs, meat, cheese and milk, are an absolute necessity. Even when pressed for time, these nutrients can be made available through liquid concoctions in rapidly prepared and easily digestible form.

Finally, we come to the subject of the best methods of training during life’s stress periods, and here again the problem is oftentimes if not always an individual one. The routine you follow depends to a large extent on the equipment available, the amount of time at your disposal, and your particular day-to-day frame of mind, mental attitude and temperament. You MUST reconcile yourself to the fact that you will regress some – HOW MUCH – depends to a great part on you. The program that follows is a SUGGESTED one only – you may alter it at your discretion. But you will note that, abbreviated as it is, it includes at least one movement for every major body part. If you change an exercise, you should substitute one that will work directly on the same parts of the body. Look into ways of exercising the entire body with a limited number of exercises, or back to back combinations of same. Suggested repetitions are also included, and for most of the exercises the reps are moderately high. The reason for this is that, as far as work sets are concerned, you should not go over two unless you are feeling especially vigorous – then try three in exercises like squats and the abdominal movement – so you do not need higher repetitions to insure a complete workout. Your energy is low now, you must remember this. Training periods at this time are meant to rejuvenate you, to help you face your problems and stresses with a maximum reserve of physical and emotional strength; so don’t make the mistake of draining yourself with an excessively tough session for now. Moderation is the key here. Both the muscle pumping and high-set, near max routines are not called for during this period of your life. If you are feeling low, cut down to a few sets of one or two movements which include all the major muscle groups of the body simultaneously – clean & press or jerk, repetition snatches, squats and behind the neck jerks, etc. They may help to revive you.

One suggested routine follows.

1.) Warm up – two hands clean and jerk, 12 to 15 reps. This will quickly get the blood circulating and work the whole chain of muscles from your calves to your thighs, torso to arms and shoulders.

2.) Pushups between boxes, feet elevated, 15 repetitions. This is included as a chest exercise because aside from working the chest, triceps and deltoids, it also will affect your core muscles.

3.) Stiff-legged deadlift to shrug-pull or high pull, 10-12 reps. Done correctly, this can be used to work the entire back as well as the glutes and hamstrings.

4.) Clean & press or push press with barbell or dumbells, 10-12 reps.

5.) Barbell curl, leaning against post or wall, 10 reps if you absolutely must. This is the first exercise to cut out if you are feeling fatigued.

6.) Full squats followed by light breathing pullovers, 15 reps. This is the last exercise you should cut out if you are feeling fatigued.

7.) An ab exercise, if you still have sufficient energy in reserve. 20 to 25 reps.

In summary, it should again be mentioned that mental attitude can make all the difference in a stress situation. Try to adopt the long range view. Whatever state you are in at the time is not unique. Others HAVE gone through it and still others WILL go through it and not only survive but come out better for having met it squarely. You can so the same.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Experiments in Strength Building, Part Two - Harry Paschall

1955 - Ireland's "Buster" McShane.
Full Squat - 500x3
Bench Press - 400
Bodyweight - 160.

Experiments in Strength Building, Part Two
by Harry Paschall (1951)

The contributions of our other sage, Mr. Chris Dinkelaker, were mainly concerned with how to lift more weight. He constructed a rack upon which heavy weights could be suspended; then you got under the weight with arms extended and came up from your dip of split to the finishing jerk position. Finding that weights of 300 and more pounds were easy to support and to lift from the split position helped a great deal in actual lifting, and besides strengthening the supporting muscles, gave us a mental lift when confronting a heavy weight.

“Dink” was our leading exponent of scientific weight-lifting. A lightweight with few visible muscles, he could press and snatch 200, jerk 270, and deadlift 550 pounds.

He was the first “gear-shifter” with whom we had intimate contact . . . that is, he shifted speed during his lifts at least three or four times. His first pull to the knees was so slow and easy you thought he wasn’t going to clean the weight at all but was merely testing it. Then, he shifted into a slightly higher gear to bring the bell waist high. From there he turned on another gear and whipped it with increasing speed to the shoulders. On the press he shifted gears three times, starting with the trapezius muscles lifting the weight a few inches. Then, he shifted to the latissimus with deltoids helping, and finally turned the finish of the job over to the triceps muscles. Some of his presses were so slow that there would be a short “pause” of the bell as he shifted gears, or changed muscle groups. It was a scientific treat to watch his exhibitions and he furnished us with a practical chart of how best to employ the various muscle groups in lifting. Other lifters have undoubtedly used a like technique, but I believe he was the only man who knew exactly HOW he was elevating the weight.

Professor Adrian Schmidt made another contribution to our collection of muscle moulding apparatus – the leverage-and-thigh lifting machine. Eells built the exerciser according to the principals of the original Schmidt leverage device, which the professor marketed with a mail-order course in physical training in the early 1900s.

Schmidt was a small man with muscles like piano wire and he was famous for one feat, his ability to grasp the underside of a rafter (a 2x6 inch timber used in a house upon which to lay the floor) and walk across the rafter “hand under hand” holding his suspended by sheer finger strength.

Certainly the use of his diabolical leverage machine would conduce to a steel-like finger grip, for you grasped a small handle in your hands between the thighs while standing over the contraption, and with an upward thrust of back and thighs pulled the short end of the bar up an inch or two, thus lifting an estimated weight of some hundreds of pounds extended at the long end of the bar. This dingus was pure murder if it didn’t happen to be adjusted at the exact height necessary to make it fit your body structure. An error of an inch in the length of chain fitted on the lifting handle could make a difference of several hundred pounds in your lifting capacity. Most of my readers will have seen the apparatus constructed along these lines in amusement parks.

If you are thinking of rushing out and building one of these power-builders, let me give you Punch’s advice for those about to marry . . . DON’T. It isn’t worth the effort.

Other stock equipment in our backyard gymnasium included squat rack and leg press ditto (combined), and enough miscellaneous bars, dumbells and discs to sink a good-sized ship. One time, an astonished junkman drove his business equipage up the alley behind our house, and leaping out of his seat descended upon this motley collection of iron, rubbing his hands with glee, thinking that unexpectedly he had stumbled on to a junkman’s Golconda. We had a difficult time convincing him hat our precious equipment was not grist for his mill. Several times sneak thieves ventured in and eloped with spare iron discs which they turned in at some junkyard at scrap prices: one very ambitious and muscular specimen at some time or another ran off with a single plate weighing 100 pounds.

The “bouncing” pullover is quite possibly a development emanating from this section of Ironania, discovered by Roger Eells and the writer one day when we were too tired to get out of bed. It was discovered by process of picking up a barbell which lay beside Roger’s bed and doing a pullover, finding to our mutual astonishment that by bouncing the weight against the springy mattress more weight could be handled than in the conventional position on the floor.

The remark of Saramarie Eells on this occasion is worthy of record. She threw up her hands and said to Mrs. Paschall, “Now they’re taking barbell to bed with them! This is the end!”

A number of new men were introduced to barbell training at this location, and directly from here the large Roger Eells Health Studio developed, and “Vim” magazine was published from Roger’s home here until he moved to a downtown location. Some interesting experiments in training resulted which we shall cover more fully at a later time.

During this experimental period, lasting several years, we learned a number of things about strength building and particularly about the technique of applying and using muscular or physical power. We grew from a bodyweight of 160 lbs. to 180 lbs., and Roger did even better, gaining from 165 to 205, but we have always insisted he took an unfair advantage by stuffing himself with three or four quarts of milk per day and eating copious quantities of raisins, peanut butter an honey. Whether we were right or wrong over the long pull is anybody’s guess, but we now weigh the same 180, while the last time we knew Rog’s weight it was down to 175, a weight which he claimed made him feel much better than the overstuffed 205.

We mentioned the application of power in the preceding paragraph, and perhaps our findings along this line are worthy of a bit of comment. In various trials with strength measuring devices, in doing deadlifts, in cleans, in presses, in tearing cards, telephone books, bending large nails, lifting flat barbell discs by the edge, and many other feats of strength, we have come to a conclusion which we feel is worth far more than the time it takes to read this article - - -

Never, never, never start any feat of strength with an all-out yank or jerk. Instead apply strength or pressure or pull gradually but firmly and steadily, increasing the power output as the feat progresses. You will make higher marks on a grip machine or a spirometer or a dead lift device by starting easily and then steadily increasing the power.

Our tests on machines convinced us that this held true in all lifts as well, and our friend Chris Dinkelaker was also a firm advocate of this technique which corresponds to the gear-shifting in an automobile. The old idea of POUNCING upon a weight and giving a sudden yank is not only dangerous but extremely unscientific. It is quite true that you can BOUNCE a weight (as in the hopper deadlift and the bouncing pullover), an lift more by taking advantage of the rebound, but when a weight is lying on the ground you are not going to gain anything by jerking suddenly upon it.

Many lifters have made this mistake in the two hands press, because they do get a BOUNCE by cleaning the weight high and allowing it to bounce off the chest or shoulders when the lift is executed without the necessary pause at the shoulders. They have also been able to get a bouncing effect in the supine press, or press on bench, by having the barbell handed to them and then quickly lowering it to the chest and taking advantage of the bounce. But the skilled lifter knows that the way to start a press is to do it easily and pick up power as the weight ascends.

Power must be generated.

It isn’t instantaneously turned on and off.

If you want to make the best possible use of whatever strength you have, keep this in mind.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Experiments in Strength Building - Harry Paschall

Click Pics to ENLARGE

Experiments in Strength Building
by Harry Paschall (1951)

Just previous to the last War, Roger Eells lived next door to me in Columbus, Ohio. Both of us were avid barbell men and we had an outdoor gymnasium in my backyard which came to contain many weird and outlandish pieces of muscle and power building apparatus. We constructed a lifting platform of 2” x 10” planks, which suffered such vigorous assaults in the interest of lifting science that it had to be recovered several times, and when I finally had it dug up and carted away, the planks were four thick.

To this backyard came visitors from all around the country, and we have many memories of happy afternoons spent puffing, tugging and perspiring to our heart’s content under a broiling summer sun in company with some of the finest fellows we have ever been privileged to know. Among our visitors were two eminent scientists of the W/L world, Joseph Curtis Hise and Chris Dinkelaker, whose fertile brains were responsible for man of the accessory gadgets we constructed to help build bigger muscles and lift more weight.

Both of these geniuses were typical of the inventive type. They were basically opposed to hard physical labor, and their mental efforts were devoted to taking the “pain” out of bodybuilding and weightlifting. To Mr. Hise belongs the credit for one of our “strength-making machines” which soon became anathema to all the long-suffering neighbors living within a half-mile radius of our home. This was the now-celebrated “Hopper” for performing bouncing dead lifts.

This was a platform constructed of heavy wooden planks (hard wood), two planks on each side, spaced so the discs of the bar would fall upon them when the bell was lowered. These planks were bolted at each end to four-inch blocks, so they had a four inch open space beneath them along their whole length. Thus when a weight “dropped” to these boards they would bend and “bounce”, thus imparting an upward impetus to the barbell, and start it on its way without subjecting the lifter to the “pain” of a dead starting pull.

I will never forget our first trial with this piece of weightlifting skullduggery. Our first rebounding plank was constructed of a rather thin piece of hickory, selected for its toughness (as boys we made bows from this wood to practice archery) and springiness. On the auspicious day we finished construction and loaded up a barbell to try out the new apparatus, one of the smaller fellows loaded up a weight of 250 pounds, and did a set of four or five dead lifts. The bell hit the hopper with a resounding “thud” that brought neighbors’ heads out of windows all up and down the block. As the lifter continued to bend forward and back and bounce the weight on the platform, the resulting “bong, bong, bong” made in contact sounded as if a flight of bombers were dropping a series of A-bombs and making direct hits.

We were too thrilled and excited with the joys of accomplishment and the pursuit of science to pay any attention to the now vocal protests of the neighbors. The first user of the apparatus stepped down and we asked him how it worked. “Fine,” he replied. “It certainly makes it easier to do dead lifts – you can’t feel a thing in the small of the back after the first rep.” Anxious to get in on the act we shoved the smaller fellow off the precious platform and grabbed the weight ourselves. The thought flashed fleeting through our pulsing cerebellum, “Ah! Weightlifting history is being made!” Seizing the bar in eager hands we straightened up, then, eager to get a really authentic response from the hopper, we hurled the bar down with all the power in our overwrought body . . . WHAM!

The next thing we knew we were pulling the weight down into our shoulders from a high clean! The 250 pound bar had bounded so high that any sort of deadlift was entirely out of the question. Besides this there was a twang of splitting wood, and just about the time we pulled in the barbell, two broken pieces of hickory whizzed by our ears! It was something like the medical joke, “The operation was successful but the patient died.”

Later we secured a heavier plank and attached it to the hopper, and it worked fine thereafter, but we were forced to discontinue our practice with it for several reasons, the only one which matters here being that there happened to be local laws dealing with noise-making and creating a neighborhood disturbance. However, we found that by placing a solid 4x4 plank on the sides of the hopper instead of a plank with air space beneath it, and covering this with a section of rubber, that we got all the benefit of a hopper without the noise. A trick which William Boone, the Tennessee strength star who does 725 lb. deadlifts, duplicated by digging a hole in the ground so that the strain is eliminated. The hard part of a dead lift is the first six or eight inches, and by simply putting your 18” disc bell up on blocks 6 to 8” high, you eliminate this difficult and dangerous stage.

Little John Terry, the 132 lb. American star of the pre-war York team, was barely five feet tall, and he made a dead lift of 610 lbs. Because there was such a short distance from the ground to his knees, the ordinary 18” barbell constituted for him about the same apparatus as our revised hopper. He liked to do dead lifts (as who wouldn’t if they were painless) and this paid off to the extent that he was able to do a 220 lb. snatch.

Joe Hise once came to Columbus dragging with him a pair of strangely twisted kettlebell handles which he claimed made it possible to do see-saw presses (alternate dumbell presses) without pain. We tried them, and noted no effect whatever, because our shoulders were so constructed that ordinary handles are not at all painful to us. The same thing proved true of the recently invented “curl-bar” which is claimed to give better leverage to the average exerciser. In these cases it is a case of “one man’s meat being another man’s poison”, because to many weight men these inventions have proved satisfactory.

In these hallowed precincts several of the leading theories regarding breathing were born. Roger Eells, possibly because of his long bout with tuberculosis, was strong for scientific breath control, and experiments on breathing in from 3 to 20 times between each squat were constantly in progress, again to the marked distress of non-combatants in the vicinity. One chap came around the corner of the house one day and said that from the front lawn it sounded like a school of porpoises blowing. Tales often circulated among the neighbors that we were torturing boys in the backyard. We did prove several things to our own satisfaction; one, that you could press better with full lungs; two, that curls were easier if the air was blown out on the way up; three, that fast squats were better done on full lungs, with the air taken in before dipping and after coming erect.

The contributions of our other sage, Mr. Chris Dinkelaker, were mainly concerned with how to lift more weight . . .

to be continued

Friday, September 17, 2010

5-Day-A-Week Training - Bob Hasse

Joe A. Grantham.
Heavy Jerks off the rack build jerking power.

Top Photo - proper starting position for all pulls.
Bottom Photo illustrates slight dip used in power cleaning.

Pushing power for the press is built by - Pressing!
Incline presses can at times be substituted.

5-Day-A-Week Training
by Bob Hasse (1959)

Keep in mind that this program is not for the beginner or the bodybuilder. It is for an experienced lifter who is faced with the problem of keeping his pushing, pulling, and squatting power on an even keel.

As most lifters know, three types of movements are necessary to develop power for lifting maximum poundage in the three Olympic lifts. The first is pushing which is developed by the various pressing movements, jerks, and all overhead lifting. Next is pulling, which all types of cleans, dead lifts, and high pulls develop. Last is squatting, in which front, back, half, and quarter squats are the main exercises. Squats are a necessity for the split as well as the squat lifter. Strong legs enable the lifter to come up with heavy cleans with energy to spare for the jerk. Squats have also been known to help the lifter in the press for they strengthen the legs, hips and lower back to provide a solid foundation for the lifter to press from. The importance of pushing pulling power need not be explained.

Many lifters find that they cannot get all there types of movements in their training schedule. Some say they can’t do squats and dead lifts in the same workout, others cannot find time. Those who are able and can find time complain that they cannot give both the attention they deserve.

Five-day-a-week training can be the solution. It is nothing new. The better lifters have been doing it for years and because of it they are “the better lifters.” Those who do not aspire to be world champions will find it makes regular workouts shorter, and the usually “rest” day training periods can be made very brief. Diet and rest, of course, are important factors to consider in this type of training schedule.

Many who are used to training days a week may find the going rough at first but after the body adjusts itself and adapts to the new frequency it will be found more beneficial. Some days the lifter may not feel like training but if he will train anyway he may find that he is strong that day. If things continue to go hard after the first couple of sets he may cut down on the weight, but he must work out anyway for it is important never to miss a training period.

If the lifter finishes a workout and feels as though he could do more that day, he should take a shower and go home. This excess energy will come in handy for the next scheduled day’s training period.

The following are a couple of points to be remembered. Five-day-a-week training should not be practiced for more than four to six continuous weeks at a time. If practiced any longer the lifter becomes stale and loses all desire to lift heavy weights. The lifter should never try his limit in training except when scheduled to do so. He should do low reps so that he can put everything he has into each individual repetition, for this helps build the explosive power which is necessary to lift heavy weights. The lifter should keep warm while training, for in lifting heavy weights and performing low reps it is easy to get cold between lifts and the body is prone to injury when cold.

Here is how it works. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday the lifter does pushing and pulling movements. Tuesday and Thursday he does squatting. Below is a sample workout for the lifter whose best lifts are Press 200, Snatch 200, Clean & Jerk 250, and Squat 350.

Monday & Friday

180x2 (4 sets)
190x2 (2 sets)

Power Clean
210x1 (2 sets)

High Dead Lift (High Pull)
300x1 (2 sets)


Same as Monday & Friday



Tuesday & Thursday

300x4 (5 sets)

In the press, the last set with 190 is pressed as many times as possible. When three reps are reached, five pounds are added the following workout. The same holds true for the power clean and the high dead lift. In the squat, the lifter should try to get six reps on the last set, and when this number is reached five pounds should be added the next training period. In the snatch and jerk the lifter may add weight whenever he feels able, without losing proper form.

Two weeks before a meet or personal record attempt the lifter should discontinue squats (the Tuesday & Thursday workouts). With the elimination of these two training periods the lifter will possess a greater amount of energy for the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday workouts. Regular split or squat cleans replace the high dead lifts. If the lifter is weak on the snatch he may do snatches on Monday and Friday and cleans on Wednesday. The Wednesday before the meet should be the last training day and on this day he should work up to the planned starting poundage in each of the three lifts. This workout should be brief and form concentrated on.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bench Press, Part Eleven

Norbert Schemansky

3.2 – Training the Chest

The key muscle of the chest is the pectoralis major, which for reference can easily be palpated and is superficial enough to be clearly seen on most people (or refer to any anatomy text). This muscle has two muscle fiber groups:

(1) the Clavicular portion – whose fibers originate from the clavicle and insert via the common tendon in the humerus (upper arm bone), and
(2) the Sternal portion – whose fibers originate off the sternum and also insert via the common tendon on the humerus.

It is important to note (relative to the bench press) that by far the most important group of fibers in the pectoralis major is probably the sternal portion. I say this because the sternal group of fibers constitutes the largest group of fibers in the pectoralis major muscle and also is a portion of the muscle that horizontally adducts the arm (which is involved in the upward phase of the bench press and fly motions). On the other hand, the clavicular portion of the pectoralis major acts primarily much like the anterior deltoid to cause shoulder flexion (which looks like the upward phase of a front lateral raise).

To summarize the results of our studies done so far that have tried to estimate muscular involvement of the pectoralis major during bench presses (see Section 3.1):

(1) There is generally more pectoralis major involvement when wider grip spacings are used during the bench press;
(2) The greatest involvement of the pectoralis major during bench presses occurs from the bar’s position on the chest to about one-half to two-thirds of the way up in the lift; and
(3) When one goes from flat bench presses to incline bench presses, as the incline angle increases there is correspondingly less involvement of the sternal fiber portion of the pectoralis muscle and more of the clavicular fiber group.

The implications of these results to training the pectoralis major muscle for the bench press are significant. In order to involve the important sternal group of the pectoralis major muscle, one should primarily work the chest using wide grip bench press (or dumbell bench press) motions. Other similar movements involving the same horizontal adduction motion (like heavy dumbell chest fly motions, etc.) can also be done. However, keep in mind that such movements are probably not much different than wide grip barbell or dumbell bench presses. I personally recommend that the upper arms be kept out perpendicular to the torso (as at the end of a bench press) when doing wide grip chest work, in order to reduce triceps involvement and consequently involve the pectoralis major more. Personally, I prefer heavy dumbell bench presses with the wide grip style whenever possible (and when spotters are available to help here), mainly because dumbell training requires more involvement of the shoulder girdle muscles to coordinate dumbell position in space.

As many top bench pressers I’ve trained with have done over the years (like Kazmaier, etc.) our research showed there is a logical basis for doing your wide grip chest development work through the range of motion bounded by the chest to perhaps two-thirds of the way up. However, these “non-lockout” style bench presses will not involve the triceps near their important top position involvement, so it is important to train the triceps separately if this style chest training is done exclusively. It is hard to say how much different this may be than complete wide-grip movements, but it would appear prudent to use both this non-lockout style as well as complete movements in a chest development program.

To best involve the large sternal fiber group of the pectoralis major muscle, one should primarily work the bench press from flat to low incline angles. From our results, I would limit this to low incline angles not exceeding perhaps 30 degrees relative to the horizontal. No matter what incline angle you use, the clavicular portion of the pectoralis major will still be heavily involved, and I don’t feel that additional specialized work for this portion of the muscle is needed. Regarding the use of decline bench presses in training, I have no research data to rely on regarding its usefulness. It seems that moderate angle decline bench presses would be useful variation movements for chest training, but they should not be done exclusively. Personally, I prefer to work the chest using flat to low incline bench press movements mainly related to technique (bar path) development discussed in Chapter 2.

Finally, it is valuable to incorporate variation in your chest training for the bench press. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, for example:

(1) Vary the chest development exercises that I have recommended a lot, using different ones quite frequently;
(2) For a given exercise, you can vary it by hitting the chest at a different position. For example, wide grip bench presses that hit higher up on the chest are an excellent form of wide grip bench press when used sparingly for variety; and
(3) You can even vary the position where you touch the chest with the bar within a set when doing chest work. For example, you might begin a set with reps hitting higher up on the chest and as the set progresses touch progressively lower (but probably not below the base of the pectoralis major).

Overall, based on the biomechanical results discussed in Chapter 2, the more variation that you use here the more beneficial your chest development training should be for increasing your bench press maximum. Have fun and experiment with it!

3.3 – Training the Triceps

No other muscle of the upper arm is more important to the powerlifter when it comes to bench pressing. Further, not only is the triceps an important part of any great bench press but it generally is the strongest muscle of the arm.

Besides being noted for its force capacity, the triceps is also the largest single muscle of the arm. In fact, the cross sectional area of a normal triceps is larger than all three of the elbow flexor muscles (biceps, etc.).

To start off once again with our systematic guided tour of the body’s musculature, please refer to any good anatomy book to get a mental picture of the triceps muscle. So you will see, the triceps is composed of three separate “heads” (or muscle segments) that originate at different places on the back of the scapula (shoulder blade) and humerus (the upper arm bone). All three of these heads insert into the common extensor tendon (which is an extremely strong tendon). This extensor tendon travels over the elbow and then inserts on the olecranon process of the ulna an inch or two below the elbow. In your anatomy search you also see another muscle called the anconeus but this very small muscle is virtually inconsequential compared to the triceps. The anconeus mainly stabilizes the elbow joint and contributes very minimally to extension.

The three heads of the triceps muscle are typically given separate names:

(1) The long head is the “longest” triceps head, originating from the inferior part of the scapular glenoid. This part of the triceps is the only one of the three heads that does not originate on the humerus (upper arm bone);
(2) The medial head has its origin about half way up the humerus. The medial head is covered, in part, by the long head and lateral head and is difficult to see or feel, and
(3) The lateral head originates from the upper side (or lateral) part of the humerus only a short distance below the shoulder joint. This lateral head is easily seen when one looks at the side of someone’s arm since it is right below the deltoid insertion.

What you see on a powerlifter of bodybuilder with great triceps development are mainly the very prominent lateral head (which is on the outside) as well as the long head (which is more on the inside). The lateral and long heads of the triceps join a common extensor tendon of insertion from opposite sides – which looks a bit like the two heads of a gastrocnemius (calf muscle) as they approach the Achilles tendon. This appearance of the triceps may account for the term “horseshoe” which is often used to label the triceps appearance.

Now that you hopefully have a reasonable feel for the location of the three heads of the triceps, let’s explore some of the unique characteristics of this muscle.

Although more advanced biomechanical studies need to be done, in my opinion, in order to really determine the load sharing of the different heads of the triceps during heavy powerlifting and other weight training exercises, there are some very interesting studies to date. The most pertinent is the research by Travill (reference 1). In his study Travill found some results that should be of significant value to powerlifters and bodybuilders everywhere. To summarize his results, let’s look at how the three heads of the triceps are involved with and without resistance.

Without Resistance

(1) The medial head of the triceps is the “work horse” of the three heads of this muscle. The medial head is always active during extension of the elbow and is the major extensor of the arm.
(2) The “lazy” lateral head has a certain amount of activity as well during elbow extension when there is no load.
(3) Surprisingly, the “totally lazy” long head is virtually inactive during elbow extension no matter what position the subject in is (or what exercise is used).

With Resistance

(1) The medial head is still heavily involved as before but no doubt to a greater extent.
(2) Now, the formerly “lazy” lateral head and the “totally lazy” long head of the triceps become heavily recruited to aid in the force of triceps extension. This situation makes it seem as if the lateral and long heads are “reserved” only for the really heavy elbow extensions.

There are a number of observations I can think of from my years of powerlifting that add some support to the results of Travill’s studies. As no doubt many of you have noticed, the physical appearance of the triceps in nom-weight trained people, beginner’s, etc. shows little development or definition of the long and lateral heads. These individual’s triceps look “flat” since unless they exceed some “threshold” level of heavy resistance training, the medial head probably does most of the work in their normal day-to-day activities, recreation, etc. It is also certainly possible that the “threshold” level of resistance that is needed to really get the long and lateral heads (which are the lazy two thirds) involved is not approached even by some powerlifters in their training. So, let me raise an interesting hypothesis related to Travill’s results and these observations.

I propose the hypothesis that in order for someone to get maximum triceps development one needs to use very heavy resistance during triceps training (perhaps to a greater extent than would be the case for other muscles). Until I can test this hypothesis more, let me give some further supportive experiences and observations that I have had over the years on this issue. First, one of the largest and strongest set of triceps I’ve ever seen belongs to one of the true greats and gentlemen of our sport – Bill Seno. When I was an undergraduate years ago at Northern Illinois University, I had the opportunity to meet and train a bit with Bill and the experience has left a lasting impression on me. Bill is still one of the greatest bench pressers of all time and has had an incredible career over decades that few can match. A high percentage of top lifters like Bill Seno and others that I have known over the years seem to have been firm believers in heavy triceps training, like narrow grip bench presses and similar heavy movements with the triceps. A number of top bodybuilders have also made comments to this effect to this effect as I can recall. For example, when Frank Zane visited Auburn a few years ago he mentioned that his favorite “bulking” triceps exercise was heavy close grip bench presses, while the Mentzers have also gone on record as believing in “high intensity” dips, etc. with very heavy weights for their triceps, etc.

It seems to me that in my own triceps training, every time I have done high repetitions (with consequently lighter weights). I subjectively have not experienced as much lateral and long head development. In fact, I have often noticed that during a normal periodization type training cycle that when I go down to five repetitions on my assistance work (i.e., my triceps exercises) I start getting a disproportionately greater amount of triceps development. Therefore, the “threshold” that is needed for recruiting a considerable amount of lateral and long head involvement may require “heavy” training.

The human body has a number of “protective” neuromuscular reflexes that serve mainly to protect the body from injury. It has been shown, for example, that pressure on the ulnar surface of the hand (or on the fleshy part of the palm on the little finger side) causes an extensor or stabilization response in the upper arm. This reflexively aids the stability of the whole upper arm by stimulating greater contractions of the elbow extensors, especially the triceps.

As you may have noticed, a number of top lifters can be seen pronating their forearms to be sure that the bar rests not transversely across the center of the palm – but rather more on the ulnar surface of the hand. I can think of quite a few lifters that I personally have seen do this. I have often taught this extensor reflex maneuver to beginning weight training classes by instructing them to put the weight on the ulnar surface of the hand during all sorts of triceps exercises. You will be surprised if you try this at how powerful and comfortable this maneuver makes the arm feel.

Well, what are the “best” triceps exercises to develop this muscle for its role in bench pressing? It may be useful to first review the results of the studies on muscle involvement during bench presses from Section 3.1:

(1) There is more triceps involvement during narrow grip bench presses than with wider grips (also true during incline bench presses);
(2) Typically the triceps activity is at the start of the bench press (off the chest) and at the end of the lift. Triceps activity is also more pronounced at the end of a narrow grip bench press;
(3) The triceps activity is more consistent throughout a bench press with a narrower grip; and
(4) The triceps may be a key limiting factor at maximal bench press poundages, especially at the top portion of the lift (with narrow grip spacings especially).

Keeping these observations in mind, and with our earlier discussion as a base, it is evident that triceps training is critical to bench press performance. The “best” exercise for triceps? Well, we do know some facts at least that are useful for selecting and evaluating the various triceps exercises available to us. For example, the research of Currier (reference 2) discovered that the triceps developed the greatest maximal isometric extension force when the arm was at 90 degrees of flexion (or at right angles). Consequently, the “best” exercises for the triceps quite logically would be those that load the triceps maximally somewhere near this 90 degree arm position. Interestingly, dips, close grip bench presses, triceps pushdowns, etc. all have an external torque pattern that peaks somewhere near this 90 degree position. Movements like the triceps kickback, for example, would produce the reverse torque pattern and overload the muscle at its weakest range. This is an important point, since, if you remember, the triceps was most involved in regular to wide grip bench presses at two major points – off the chest and near the top. It is logical then to consider training the triceps in particular at these muscle lengths. In practice, this means that most triceps training should be of the “normal” variety that loads the muscle most the important longer lengths (as in close grips, dips, etc.). However, it does make sense to do some movements to overload the shorter lengths of the triceps (near full extension) by perhaps doing heavy partial close grip bench presses about halfway down, etc. In fact, greater triceps strength is even needed for improving your bar path! Whatever you do, train this muscle heavy, often, and mainly with a variety of major pressing type movements. It is the key to unlocking a great bench press.


(1) Travill, A., “Electromyographic studies of the extensor apparatus of the forearm”, anat. Rec., 144:373-376, 1962.
(2) Currier, D.T. “Maximal isometric tension of the elbow extensors at varied positions, Part 2,j Assessment of extensor muscles by quantitative electromyography”, Physical Therapy, 52:1265-1276, 1972.

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