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.

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