Friday, December 23, 2011

The Smitty Deadlift - Kim Goss

Figure 1: The starting position of the Smitty deadlift is similar to the start of the Olympic snatch, except the hips are a bit lower.

Figure 2: Unlike conventional deadlifts, the movement stops just below the kneecaps.

Figure 3: The top pull of the Smitty Deadlift as viewed from the side. Note that the lower back is flat and the shoulders are in front of the bar.

Smitty Deadlifts
by Kim Goss (1983)

Many powerlifters insist that findings in Olympic lifting in no way relate to their sport. I disagree. To support my position, this article will show how an Olympic lifting exercise can prevent low back injuries in powerlifting.

Muscle Balancing

Every muscle has an antagonist to complement it, and balanced development of each muscle pair stabilizes the joints. For example, the knee flexors contract to bend the legs, while the knee extensors contract to straighten the legs. To protect the knee joint, athletic trainer Dan Wathen recommends that "knee flexor development should be at a level no less than 65% of knee extensor development at slow speeds and no less than 80% at high speeds." [Wathen, Dan. "Prevention of Knee Injuries." Ohio Conditioning Quarterly, Vol 2:3, LinkSpring 1982, p.16.] Along the same lines, many world-class Olympic lifters practice bench presses to complement the pulling movements. [Miller, Carl. "Bulgaria - Part III: Training Methods." International Olympic Lifter, Vol. 2:3, March 1975, pp 17-22]

This 'muscle balancing' principle also applies to a singular muscle. Dr. Tom Baechle illustrates the importance of this relationship with athletes who perform the parallel squat: ". . . the form required of the parallel squat will probably produce a shortening effect in the involved muscle groups and a concomitant reduction in the range of movement permitted in the joints being crossed by them. This condition, therefore, renders the athlete somewhat inflexible and more prone to injury if appropriate exercises are not included" [Baechle, Tom. "Implications of the Parallel Squat to Assistance and Flexibility Exercises." National Strength Coaches Association Journal, Vol 2:6, December 1980, pp 52-54.]

Deadlifts can also cause asymmetrical muscular development. Dick "Smitty" Smith, head coach of the 1979 and 1981 U.S. Olympic weightlifting teams, believes most American Olympic lifters "get too thick in the erector muscles about 4-6 inches above the hips." Smitty contends this often results from pulling with a rounded back. ["Coaches Corner." Weightlifting USA, Vol 1:1, March-April 1983, p.3.] Besides developing injury-prone erectors, pulling this way is biomechanically inefficient in Olympic lifting.

Conventional Lower Back Exercises

To handle the heaviest poundages in the deadlift many powerlifters must pull with a rounded back. Consequently, these athletes require a remedial exercise which concentrates on the lower attachments of the erectors. Many common assistance exercises for the lower back are hyperextensions, good mornings, reverse hyperextensions, stiff-legged deadlifts, and platform (deficit) deadlifts.

The major drawback to doing hyperextensions is finding a way to do them! This exercise requires a comfortable bench, high enough to permit a full range of motion, and a way to anchor the feet. To accomplish this, the Soviets often utilize a buck horse, padded with two cushions three inches apart and parallel to the athlete's spine, and a padded gymnastic ladder. [Holbrook, Tom. "Specialization." Strength & Health, ND p. 41.] Unfortunately, few lifters have access to such equipment.

Good mornings and stiff-legged deadlifts provide a good range of motion and require no special equipment, but the stresses on the lumbar and their supportive tissues during these exercises may irritate the lower back. [Kraemer, William; Clark, Mike; Schmotzer, Pete. "The Good Morning Exercise." National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal, Vol. 4:1, February-March 1982, p.44.]

In choosing a remedial exercise for the lower back, powerlifters must consider stress-line properties. According to Wathen, the best injury-prevention exercises involve forces that "approximate stress lines encountered in actual competition within the limits of safety." For example, because they more closely match the movements encountered in sports, Wathen prefers standing leg curls to prone leg curls. Therefore, an 'ideal' assistance exercise for the deadlift must resemble a deadlift.

An exercise that comes close to fulfilling all the aforementioned requirements is the deadlift ton a raised platform. Close, but no cigar. For powerlifters this movement is too specific; that is, it so closely resembles the classical lift that it may alter one's form in competition. Furthermore, the long stroke of platform (deficit) deadlifts makes it difficult to perform high repetitions, thereby limiting variety in the repetition cycle.

The 'Ideal' Exercise

Having scrapped most of the favorites, I'd like to acquaint the readers of PLUSA with Smitty's variation of the snatch-grip deadlift.

To perform this exercise, stand on a 4-6 inch platform with the feet slightly narrower than shoulder width and the toes pointed out. Using a snatch grip, pull the bar to just below the knee caps, returning it to the floor during each repetitions. (See Figures 1 and 2.) Throughout the movement arch the back and keep the shoulders down to protect the spine.

This deadlift is performed just like the first pull of the snatch; however, the hips need to be very low because it's hard to pull from this position. Finally, Smitty suggests lifting in front of a mirror, to ensure proper form and holding the final repetition of each set at the knees for 4-6 seconds.

To recap, here are the major advantages of the Smitty Deadlift:

1) Using a snatch grip and standing on a platform allows for specialized development of the erectors at their lower attachments.
2) The stress lines are similar to a regular deadlift but not so much as to alter competition styles.
3) Its short stroke allows for variety in the repetition cycle.
4) The back remains arched during the exercise, concentrating the stress on the muscles rather than the supporting structures.

Olympic lifting offers powerlifting more than just exercises. For example, powerlifters can benefit from the research the Olympic lifting community has conducted in restoration and mental preparation techniques. Likewise, Olympic lifters can learn from powerlifting research.

A Lifter Must Think - Peary Rader

John Kuc

A Lifter Must Think
by Peary Rader (1976)

I get so many calls from men who ask me how to train. For either power or Olympic lifting. Then they tell me about the routines of some lifters they have read about.

They tell me how a man will start the squat in his training with 350 for 5 reps, then 375 for 5, the 400x5, then to 425x5, then 450x3, and then 475 for a single.

Sounds great, doesn't it? but even though some of these men may have made records and some of them are champions who use these routines, this doesn't prove that it is the best routine.

I just finished talking to a fellow who is training on power lifting and this conversation prompted this outburst. He wanted help with his training routines, as most men do. I asked him why he was doing all those sets of 5 reps with the lighter poundages and he said he didn't know - that someone had told him this was the way to train and that a lot of others used this routine.

I asked him why he didn't analyze what he was doing and why he was doing it. He didn't know.

You may hear of someone who does 500 in the squat in your bodyweight class and you're only able to do 400. Immediately you decide to find out what he is doing so that you can use the same system to bring your squat up to 500. You have assumed without question that what this man is doing must of necessity be the best system for the power you seek.

Great men in history have been the men who thought for themselves - who did their own experiments and analyzed the results and then reworked their future plans accordingly, and this applies to any field. Follow the Leader type people always remain followers.

You are an individual. You have certain potentials; you have certain problems and you alone can solve these problems and thereby realize your potentials.

This applies to lifting or to business. Only you can determine your potential and only you can develop the right program for you alone. You must, of course, start out at the bottom and here you can only use what others before you have discovered, but soon you will find that what works for one man may not work as well for you. You must think for yourself and if you can't think for yourself or refuse to learn to think for yourself then you have a very limited potential in any direction. It takes raw, driving courage to think for yourself because you will often be lonely when you don't simply follow the prescribed path of effort. Okay, now if you're willing to think for yourself a little let's get on with the power lesson. You have been following the path trod by others and for some unfathomable reason you have been doing what others did, without question.

You want to squat with 500 pounds. You may have to admit that some others find strength gains rather easy up to a certain point due to certain natural potential they have, and by this I mean they have inherited the type of metabolism, the physical functions that are way above what the average person such as you and I have. They 'have it made' so to speak, because it seems that everything they do causes them to gain strength and bulk. They have the potential of being champions, not because they know any secrets but because they have a head start on you and their potential speed of progress is unusual and their upper limit of strength is much higher than yours. They will gain on almost any program. They have an almost unlimited source of energy for long, hard programs, without going stale. All this does not mean that they will not have to work hard if they want to reach their maximum potential but it does mean that they can reach that 500 squat much quicker, easier and with a much less sophisticated program than you will have to use because you see, this 500 squat may only a fraction of their maximum potential, while it may be near to the limits of your fulfilled maximum potential.

So, you are a hard, slow gainer and your top potential is not as great, so this mean that you will have to have a much more sophisticated, carefully planned program than your friend who has so much more potential.

Now I know this has been a long circle, but we are now coming back to that squat that you wanted to develop to 500 which your friend found so easy to attain with a certain program. You use this same program but you do not reach the 500. You're still stuck at a 400 pound squat.

Now, let's just do a little bit of thinking. No more blind following. I emphasize "blind" because we must observe and analyze the programs of others and that is what we are trying to do here. This is where it gets a bit difficult because our educational system has taught us, to some degree, to be followers - unquestioning followers - in our learning process. Someone else has done such and such a thing in the past and it seemed successful so it must be right, and so our minds build up a series of "thinking blocks" over a period of time and then it becomes increasingly difficult to do any amount of free thinking on our own.

Now, if you are still with me, let's get back to that squat you're trying to improve, and we use this endeavor only as an example.

Don't you know that someone will do a 1500 squat one of these days in the future? If this is possible, why are there no 1500-pound squats now? There are none now because present training systems are in their infancy in power lifting, so to speak. We are just beginning and we are still making mistakes. We are making progress but could make it faster if we would expand our thinking and reach out and try new things that the present lifting field cannot visualize or thinks will not work.

Now I want to give you one example and I will cut this article off.

Go back the the second paragraph where we listed poundages and reps for 6 sets. Why did you do these sets and reps like this? Either you don't know or you're misinformed. More than likely the only reason is that everyone else is doing it.

We know that any exercise is better than none, and any exercise will give some progress if you have the potential, but you're going to have to do something different than is being done if someone in the future is going to ever reach that 1500 pound squat. YOU MUST THINK AND ACT.

In the layout in that paragraph you did 6 sets but only the last 2 or possible 3 had any benefit whatever in improving your squat, and even these may not have been of much benefit. Why? Because you did not work hard. You did not drive yourself and without forcing yourself to an effort beyond what you are accustomed to you do not make the demands required for improvement.

Your body will only respond with improvement and greater strength when you FORCE it to, with what may seem to be impossible demands on it. We are not talking about health or conditioning here, we are talking of building greater strength.

In the program listed in that paragraph you have wasted at least 50% and probably more of your energy and training time. Those lighter poundages with 5 reps did absolutely nothing for your strength and development. You made no demands on your body to improve because you did not let it know that you expected the impossible from it. These light, easy sets act only as warmups and you don't need that much of a warmup. Men vary in their need for a warmup but no one needs excessive warmups and we have seen men taking a real workout in the warmup room backstage before going out to lift - not because their muscles needed a warmup but because they lacked the confidence in themselves and they needed this mentally. A champion lifter has such control of his mental function that he can prepare himself for almost instant all-out effort without all that exhausting warmup to "prove to yourself again" that you can lift the poundage. I've seen men finish their warmup with a poundage almost identical to their work weight.

Mental control can eliminate most of the need for excessive warmups. Concentration is not all there is to control but it is a major part of control.

Wastes of time and energy in training is of course not confined to lifters but afflicts bodybuilders also; however, in bodybuilding it is quite a different situation and we would have to discuss it separately in order to do it justice.

Always remember that muscles have to be forced to grow stronger, there is no other way, but this forcing has to be done intelligently if greatest progress is to be realized.

In contrast to the example used above where the lifter used up his energy in the warmup, let me cite another example of a man who was one of the greatest lifters who ever lived. I've seen him go out and snatch 350 or 360 in perfect form and I have watched him previous to these efforts in the warmup room. Do you know what he warmed up with? A few snatches with 150 pounds, and some with just the bar. He did not need a long warmup. His mental control was great. When he approached the bar there was no hesitation or pacing around. He had full confidence in his strength and technique. He walked up to the bar and lifted it.

Now it may be in bad taste to use oneself as an example but I will do so here to help illustrate what I'm talking about. I was never a world champion or world record holder, but did hold the heavyweight lifting title of our district for several years. When I lifted in a contest the only warmup I did was some lifting with a broom handle or an empty bar in my hands. I never lifted a poundage for a warmup. My warmup with an empty bar was only to prepare myself mentally and to develop a pattern of movement so that my style would automatically at its best and my concentration was an explosive power. I always visualized the weight overhead in perfect and vicious style. The was my warmup. When I walked to the bar I was tingling with suppressed energy - not worn out from a large warmup. I had very few failures in my lifts and I know today's lifters will not be able to believe this, but I don't recall a single injury or pulled muscle from lifting competition. I did have some pulled muscles from training but never anything serious and very seldom did I ever suffer anything at all.

Now, in your training for power, why waste energy on low poundages and reps which do not demand anything. They will do nothing to increase your power.

Do a warmup set, then go to the heaviest poundage you can use for the number of repetitions you want to do. Then do that number of reps but force yourself to do more than you expected to. You can do it if you think you can and will force yourself.

Back to the program in the paragraph above. You would take 8 or so reps with 200, but stop before you get at all tired, then jump to 425 and do all you can, which might likely be 6 or 7 or 8 since you did not tire yourself with lower-poundage sets. Then go to 450 and can probably "force" yourself to do more reps with this weight as well, then on to 475 and finally 500.

This is only an illustration and the poundages and reps will vary for each lifter, but it will serve to show you what I am talking about. Waste no more mental and physical energy than absolutely necessary with your warmups. Don't taper down with lighter poundages. Again, this will waste energy. You are not forcing the muscles with all these extra sets and reps added to your workout load, so why do you do it?

Instead, walk around for a while after completing the squats, or whatever main lift you have done. This stimulates a mild continued circulation and will help eliminate fatigue poisons and lessen soreness. Whatever you do - don't go off and sit down after a hard, heavy workout. This allows stagnation and hinders recuperation. An easy bit of walking is all the cool down you need.

I am not trying to downgrade anyone's program or anyone's instruction. Our prime intent is to show you that there is room for improvement and experimentation in the programs being used and that you should not accept the reasoning that any one person has the ultimate in training methods - we are just beginning. Don't be afraid to study the training methods of the past and use them to improve the methods of the future. Don't depend on someone else for your future - make your own future by a little thinking, experimentation, and hard work. Hard work it takes, but intelligent hard work. You must have both brain and brawn to reach your potential.

You have heard, of course, about training or doing an exercise to the point of failure. This idea is going in the right direction, but it was out of date 40 years ago. We will discuss this in a future issue.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Danny Padilla Interview - Greg Zulak


Ask your typical seven-year-old boy what he wants to be when he grows up and he'll probably say a fireman, a policeman or a professional wrestler like Hulk Hogan. When Danny Padilla (it is Pa-dill-a, not Pa-dee-a) was seven years old, he told his father, "I'm going to be Mr. America one day."

He told his father that because his father wanted to know why Danny was always down in the basement lifting his older brother's weights. Yep! Danny Padilla started his bodybuilding career at age seven, doing basic moves like curls, presses and rows. Even at that young age, Danny had a dream - a dream to be a great bodybuilder and one day win the Mr. America title.

"I'd lie in bed at night and dream about being Mr. America," says Danny now. "I knew it was going to happen."

Danny made his dream a reality in 1976 when he won the IFBB Mr. America title and the IFBB Mr. Universe. The year before he had entered big-time bodybuilding a total unknown, but made a name for himself by winning the USA title. by the end of the 1970's and early 80's Danny Padilla was one of the best bodybuilders on the planet, and many felt that he would win the Mr. Olympia. Then came 1981 and the '81 Olympia in Columbus, Ohio, the contest that broke his heart, took all joy out of competition and caused him to retire from bodybuilding when he was at his peak.

For several years Danny had been told by the experts that if he ever came in totally ripped he would win the Olympia. In 1981 he did just that. He was so ripped that his eyes were sunk back in his head and his face looked like a mask. Even by 1990 standards Danny was ripped to shreds, but he was still massive and full-looking with his famous beautiful lines and his unmatched symmetry.

He had trained and dieted for over half a year for the show. He pushed himself to the breaking point and beyond. He sacrificed everything for this one competition. Then disaster struck.

The judges, to loud, vociferous booing, gave Danny only fifth place. Roy Callender, who was also in the best shape of his life that day and would also have been a worthy winner, was given fourth. Tom Platz was in his all-time best shape that day too and seemed the favorite to win, but was only given third. The two guys who weren't even considered by most to be in the top five, Chris Dickerson and Franco Columbu, took second and first. This was the greatest indignity to Danny.

Franco Columbu, who had a bitch tit, absolutely no thigh cuts or size - without a doubt the worst legs of any competitor in the history of the Olympia - was boxy and bowlegged and only training something like eight weeks for the show was named Mr. Olympia?!! It was too much for Danny to take. It destroyed him, devastated him. He would never be the same and bodybuilding would never be the same for him.

He would compete three more times in the 80's - at the 1982 Mr. Olympia, the 1984 Pro Worlds and the 1985 Mr. Olympia - but truthfully, it was a facsimile of the old Danny showing up for these events. His heart wasn't in it. He basically dropped out of bodybuilding and went back to his native Rochester to work in his father's grocery store and at Delco.

While his good friend Arnold was off in Hollywood making millions, there was Danny, one of the greatest bodybuilders in the world, working away in anonymity in a grocery store and a factory.

In 1989, goaded on by an amateur bodybuilder at his gym, Danny planned a comeback at the Night of Champions contest. He showed up in great shape but missed the competitors' meeting and was disqualified from the show.

Vowing revenge, Danny trained like a madman to prove that, even at age 39, he wasn't washed up as a bodybuilder and that he could defeat the best of the current day. He did just that, taking second place at the Gold's Classic in Niagara Falls last spring and then, several weeks later, exacting sweet revenge when he took third at the Night of Champions. He also went on to compete at contests on the European Grand Prix and took several top-five placements. He had done it. He had proved to the world and himself that he is still one of the top bodybuilders in the world.

I recently spoke with Danny Padilla for over an hour and a half. We covered so much ground that I have enough material for several articles. In this interview, Danny talks about bodybuilding in the 1970's versus bodybuilding in the 90's, the old days at Gold's gym with Arnold and Zane and the greats of that time, and why he feels Arnold could defeat Lee Haney. It makes for interesting reading.

Greg Zulak: Let's go back to the greatest disappointment of your career, the 1981 Mr. Olympia contest in Columbus, Ohio, when you were absolutely ripped to shreds. I was at that show and thought that either you, Platz or Callender should have won.

Danny Padilla: That another good example. I've always had bad luck. Something always went wrong. In 1981 I was in my best shape ever and a Weider magazine prints a photo of me saying, "This is how not to look." Don't look like this! Geez!

GZ: I remember talking to a judge after the contest, and when I argued that Franco didn't have any legs at all - as photos from the contest show - he said right to my face, "Legs don't count." So I said, "What about Danny? He was ripped and perfectly symmetrical." The judge said to me, "Well, he was too drawn in the face." I was incredulous. It seemed as if they were bending over backwards to give Franco a break and to ignore his faults while nitpicking with you and Tom and Roy.

DP: Yeah, Franco had a bitch tit. He was blocky. He had no leg size or cuts. He was bowlegged. He was everything a Mr. Olympia should not be. The guy trained maybe eight weeks for the contest - and it showed - while guys like Roy Callender and Tom Platz and myself trained for months and months. But you know what really upset me about that show? If you asked the judges about the results after it was all over, they said, "We didn't have Franco to win - we put him second, but he got so many second-place votes that he ended up winning." Fine. But how did Chris Dickerson get second? Not to say that Chris isn't great when he's in shape, but that day he was off. How does he get second? How does a guy like Johnny Fuller not even make the top five? It was a sad day for bodybuilding.

Take a guy like Tom Platz. That was his last best show. He was in the finest shape of his life that day and he didn't win. The next year he tore his biceps, and he never again had the opportunity to win the Olympia.

GZ: Speaking of Tom reminds me of a funny story regarding Winston Roberts and Garry Bartlett. After the show was over, Winston said, "We couldn't give the title to Tom because his legs were too big," and Garry Bartlett replied, "Yeah, so you gave it to a guy with NO legs."

DP: Exactly. Winston Roberts even made the statement that my biceps were not big enough. Okay, fine. At least I had legs. Franco didn't have one cut on his.

GZ: I remember reading Weider's Muscle Builder back in the 70's and seeing pictures of you back in California training at the old Gold's Gym with Arnold and Zane and Draper and Waller and all those top bodybuilders. What was that like?

DP: I think you'll never have another era like it again. I was blessed to have experienced that because I felt I was training with the best of all time. That's not to say that the guys today aren't great too, because they are - there are a lot of excellent physiques out there - but as far as characters and personality, there was much more to write about back then. It was incredible to have so many great physiques training together in one small gym at one time.

If you check out the competition at contests today you'll find fur of five really exceptional bodybuilders and that's it. From fifth place on down they have a lot of flaws, even at the Olympia.
Back in the 70's we had some great physiques! There was Zane, who was not the heavy type but he was very symmetrical and rock-hard. He had certain weaknesses but he hid them well onstage. You couldn't really recognize them until you saw him in the gym by himself.

Then you had Arnold, who was just overpowering, a big over-200 guy with maybe the greatest arms ever. You had Serge Nubret, who was great. He was hard. He was ripped. His legs were a little off, but he was there. Then there was Sergio Oliva, the greatest bodybuilder of all time in my opinion. There were so many great guys then. The list goes on and on. Robby was incredible. Mentzer was great. And you had Callender, Waller, Beckles, Coe, Szkalak, Makkawy, Ferrigno, Birdsong, Draper, Tinerino, Corney, Katz, Van Den Steen, Bill Grant, Paul Grant, Denny Gable . . . Roger Callard. These guys were characters as well as great bodybuilders. There were controversies. Things were happening all the time and people couldn't wait to pick up the magazines every month.

GZ: I agree. Back in that period it seemed that bodybuilders, and the sport, had an aura of magic about them. Like Gold's California was some magic place you could never really get to.

DP: Exactly. Now there are good bodybuilders all over the world. Great bodybuilders still train at the new Gold's, but the new Gold's isn't anything like the old Gold's.

Not at all. Back in the late 60's and 70;s everybody went to Gold's to train because it was the place to train. Now you go into the new Gold's and it's like a zoo. It's still good, but it doesn't have the atmosphere or the magic of the old Gold's. In 1975 we were the special elite - the best 10 or 15 guys in the world, period.

The old Gold's was much smaller and more intimate. It was a very special place. It was like heaven in bodybuilding. You just had to go there; it drew you to it. It was in this weird area, but it was just awesome. Today, I don't know, it's all so commercialized. We trained for the love of it. And it seems that there are no great characters to write about now. They have to make stuff up or look for bad stuff - this guy is getting a divorce or that guy is beating his wife - because they're so bored with it, whereas back then there was always something interesting and positive to write about.

GZ: The effect and influence of Arnold in the gym must have been incredible.

DP: Yeah. Arnold had this great aura. When he walked into the gym, it would stop. Same for Sergio. When he walked into the gym they all stopped what they were doing. But you had 10 or 20 guys who were all great and in the gym at once. The energy and atmosphere were electrifying. There was respect for one another and friendship - even when we fought. When it was show time, you went all out to win and beat everyone, but when the contest was over we all sat down ass friends. Today you don't have that. the guys today are weird. To me they're out of control. It's just not the same. We stuck together. The group always stuck together.

GZ: You were one of the top bodybuilders in the world in the 70's and early 80's. What was the last show you did before your ultimate retirement.

DP: Well, I showed up for the 85 Olympia and the 84 Pro Worlds in Toronto, but for me, really, the last show was the 81 Olympia in Columbia. I hit the Olympia in London in 82 also, but my heart just wasn't in it. That was my attitude: I'm going to London to see what it looks like. I went in soft and got crushed. Then I basically disappeared.

GZ: Why?

DP: I just had no interest in it any more. After the fiasco at the 81 Olympia I just had no more interest in competitive bodybuilding. It was like, if I was this great and I could barely make the top five at the Olympia, then the writing's on the wall. To me, it was time to think about my future, to change my priorities, because I wasn't good enough to make top three at the Olympia.

GZ: So what did you do?

DP: I just went back to Rochester and worked in the store, and I'd still go to the gym because I love training. I've always trained for me. Even when I did compete I always had the attitude that if I won a show, great, but if I didn't, I still went to the gym for myself. It was a selfish reason. So I continued to train but now as long or as hard.

GZ: How did you get the urge to compete again in 89 and 90?

DP: When I was about 38 years old, I opened a bodybuilding magazine and flipped through it, because I hadn't even looked at a magazine for six or seven years. Everybody was asking me, "Hey, have you seen this guy? Have you seen so and so?" I'd say, "No, I don't really follow the sport anymore." Then one day I opened this magazine and I remember thinking, 'These guys look pretty good," but nobody really impressed me. Lee Haney was this big, overpowering guy over 200 pounds, but to me he had certain flaws, like his arms. Yeah, he's great, but I always look to the under-200-pound guy because I'm a realist. I know I'm not going to walk in an crush Lee Haney. I don't care how great I am. So I tried to pick out lighter guys, like Lee Labrada, and I wondered how I'd do against him and the other smaller guys in the sport. That got me thinking about trying to compete against these new smaller guys.

The main reason I did decide to make my comeback was because of a loudmouthed amateur at my gym. He had won a few small amateur shows, and he was walking around the gym as if he was a four-time Mr. Olympia. One day we got into an argument. He said to me, "Look, you're a nice guy and you were good in your time, but you're old and washed up. You can't possibly beat guys of today." I just walked away, but inside I felt like, "Oh yeah, you think so? Watch this!"

So I started training secretly. I said, let me see what I have. I got into tremendous shape, but I told no one that I was going to New York to compete in the 89 Night of Champions. I went to New York to compete - I know I would have made top five for sure - and they disqualified me for being late for the competitors' meeting. It was really upsetting because I had put in over six months of hard training and preparation for the show. I had paid all my own expenses. And then I was out before the show even started.

GZ: How'd you miss the meeting?

DP: What happened was we went out to dinner - I hadn't been to New York in a long time - and I made a wrong turn and went eight blocks in the wrong direction. By the time I got back I was out of it. And they gave me no chance to return. It really upset me because I had always been loyal to the IFBB. They had left it in the hands of the competitors and they voted me out. It was sad.

GZ: Probably in the old days the competitors would have voted to keep you in.

DP: Right. To me it was sad because guys like me made the sport and made it possible for them to compete today. And they just pushed me out as if I was garbage. I felt, this is how the IFBB repays my loyalty? Sure, rules are rules and they have to be followed, but there are exceptions to all rules and I didn't think I had been treated fairly.

GZ: It must have really motivated you to want to come back in 1990 for revenge.

DP: It created a fire in me that was incredible. It was like, don't worry, pricks. I'll be back next year and I'll sleep at the door if I have to to make the meeting. But I'll be there. So that was a big incentive for me to do well this year.

At the same time the bigmouth amateur was back at home telling people that I hadn't really gone to the meeting because I really didn't want to compete, that I was afraid to compete. You know, "He was scared of the guys so he showed up late on purpose." Stuff like that. So that fired me up, too. I got crazy. Everyone knew I was back then because I was training like a madman.

Then I had a buddy who phoned me after the show wanting to get together and train with me again. His name is Rick Benedetto, and he was a very good amateur 'way back. He had had surgery on one knee, he was expecting to have surgery on the other knee and he had a torn biceps to boot. He said to me, "Why don't we train together and see what you're made of?" So here we had training together together one guy who was supposed to be too old and another guy who was half crippled. I trained for the Niagara Falls Grand Prix and he trained for the amateur Niagara show. I took second after not competing for over five years, and he took third in his class after not competing for about 15 years.

GZ: Why didn't you go to the Olympia? Were you burned out?

DP: I didn't go to the Olympia because, in all honesty, after the 81 Olympia I took a vow never to enter it again. Of course, a lot of people said it was because of the drug testing but that wasn't it at all. I could have got around that by just backing up a few months before the show. After the 81 Olympia I vowed that I would never put myself in that position again. I gave up too much for 81. To get jostled around to fifth place, to get beaten by a guy with no legs and a bitch tit who only trained eight weeks, it was like, "If that's what the Olympia is about, I don't want any part of it."

GZ: You said before that in your opinion Sergio Oliva was the greatest of all time.

DP: Sergio, to me, pound for pound, muscle for muscle, was the greatest bodybuilder of all time. I don't care what anybody says. Arnold was the greatest inspiration and a great spokesperson for bodybuilding, and he was close to Sergio, but I give Sergio the nod physically. He was just so incredible at his best. I really don't think there will ever be anything like Sergio again.

GZ: You told me once a few years ago that you thought Arnold at his best could beat Lee Haney.

DP: Yes, I still believe that. Arnold was the type of guy whose physique looked great in the magazines, but you didn't really appreciate it as much until you saw him in person. He had an incredible physique. When Arnold hit a double biceps pose from the back you couldn't touch it. His most muscular, you couldn't touch that either. And his legs, people say his legs were weak, but his calves were amazing and when he flexed his thighs they were there all the way. At his best, Arnold was untouchable.

Lee Haney has an awesome thick chest and back, but to me his arms are weak, especially his biceps. His calves could be brought up more and he sometimes is a little soft in the low back and abs. I respect him and he is awesome, but look what he is beating today. Everybody talks about Mike Christian, but his legs are weak. Labrada's too small. Gaspari is hard but boxy. Nearly all the top guys today have some flaws.

There's nobody out there today who blows my mind the way Sergio did. In the old days Sergio was absolutely incredible. He didn't even have to pose, didn't even have to more, and he looked awesome. When he threw his arms up and the light hit him just right he was huge and hard. He was just awesome.

Arnold and Sergio were like cartoon characters. They looked so unreal at their best. Serge Nubret - his upper body was amazing. A lot of people just don't realize. Rick Wayne back in his time was truly outstanding. Dave Draper - equally impressive. His legs were a bit weak but his upper body - magnificent! These guys had incredible bodyparts. I haven't seen much of that today. I look in the magazines, and I don't think it's because I'm getting older - I still have the eye, I still appreciate what I see - but it just doesn't make my jaw drop the way some of those guys did back then.

GZ: The thing that I've noticed is that when I was a kid, I'd see pictures of Arnold and Draper squatting together, and they'd be doing sets with four plates, and they looked so impressive at the time. Thar was a really heavy weight and only bodybuilders of their caliber could handle it, but now you can go into any hardcore gym across North America and find a dozen guys with half their development squatting four plates and sometimes a lot more.

DP: Yeah, you squat only four plates today and you're a wimp. You know, a lot of it is all the stuff these kids are on that allows them to do it that quickly. People come up to me and say, "How can you still look halfway decent at your age?" How? Because my body was built with a background. I had probably 15 years of solid training before I ever messed with the game, whereas a lot of kids today don't even want to walk into a gym unless they've got a bag full of stuff. For a lot of them their attitude is, unless I'm on steroids there's no sense training.

We trained for the love of it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bill Pearl Interview - Dennis Weis


Dennis Weis: Would you briefly tell us what an arm specialization routine for you would look like:

Bill Pearl: If I wanted to get my arms as big as I could possibly get them, I would probably do around 20 sets of 4 exercises and 5 sets each for the triceps and 20 sets for the biceps per workout 3 times a week. That would be around 60 sets of triceps and 60 sets of biceps work per week. I would keep the reps between 6 and 8 and I would do all basic movements where I'd handle as heavy a weight as possible. I'd consume nutritious food that had calories in and just flat out eat!

DW: I was wondering when you talk about training 20 sets for the biceps 3 times a week, what you think about the lower-volume, high-intensity training that Mike and Ray Mentzer use. They say you can theoretically develop a great physique - even in you're not a genetic freak - in just five years if you apply their method of high intensity training.

BP: Mike and Ray Mentzer used to write to me when they were young kids back in Pennsylvania. Ray was nine years old and Mike was eleven. They'd send me little pictures of themselves and all types of stuff. I'd answer them back. I never dreamed they'd end up like they were, but Mike and Ray are definitely genetic freaks. Ray is one of the strongest bodybuilders I have ever seen in my life, and Mike is equally powerful.

They have trained heavy all these years. They must have tendons like the size of my thumb. Their bodies can stand that heavy type of training where they limit the number of sets to no more than five for either the triceps or biceps, while carrying each set to total failure in both the positive and negative rep levels for maximum stimulation in the shortest time. I can say with all sincerity that Mike and Ray Mentzer do not train like this year in and year out.

DW: About the use of dumbbells. Do you use a lot of them in your training as opposed to barbells or does it make any difference to you?

BP: Well, it does make a difference because you want as much variety in your training as you can get. If I had to choose between dumbbells and barbells I would go with the dumbbells. I think if anyone gets on a training program where the exercises, sets and reps are done the same day in and day out, month after month, his body becomes so accustomed to what he's doing that muscle growth will stop altogether, to say nothing of the mind.

I will change my entire training program every 6 to 8 weeks. Different sets, different reps and a different goal for yourself can generally shock you into a new growth range and progress.

DW: Can you give me an example of a typical routine you might use from time to time?

BP: I train six days per week year round. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I will train all the muscle groups with just one exercise for 6 sets of each. A full body workout on those 3 days. I group the bodyparts in such a way that I can do supersets so I won't rest too long between sets. I change the exercises every workout day. As an example, I might do incline dumbbell flyes for the chest on Monday, while on Wednesday I might go with the bench press, and on Friday it might be decline flyes or decline bench presses. Each of the 6 sets I do is increased from the previous one, and each week I try to add weight to all my previous 6-set poundages.

On Tuesday I will do 18-20 sets for the chest and the back, and on Thursday I will work the legs and shoulders for 18020 sets each. I break up the back and leg training in the manner I have just described because they're the two largest muscle groups and it's not a tiring this way. I work my calves every day for a half hour. Saturday is arms-only day and just a laid back fun day.

There are four muscle groups which I work 6 days a week for six sets of one different exercise on each day. They are the forearms, abs, leg biceps and the neck. I will train at about 85-90% of maximum, and I try to do 30 sets per hour, which is one set every two minutes. My rep scheme is varied in that I will do 6-10 reps per bodypart, but as I grow stronger I will up my reps to 15 for the upper body and 25 for the legs.

DW: How long should a bodybuilder be working out basically before switching to much more intense workouts like yours?

BP: If a guy is not responding on a hard and heavy 20 sets per muscle group three times a week layout and he is not growing, believe me, doing five times that much is not going to do it for him. There has to be a limit to this. There is no set answer to this question. I know guys who can train three or four days a week, 45 minutes a day, and make very good progress, and others who just don't grow at all. I would never do more than 20 sets per muscle group three times per week. I don't care what I did before - to me it just isn't worth the effort now. You're going to spend your whole life in the gym.

No one says that more time in the gym is better. I can tell you that I can get all that I need in a lot less than six days a week, three hours a day in the gym. I don't have to train that much. It just means I like it. I like the surroundings, and I like the people. I use this as my time of the day to do what I desire. I'm sure I could be as healthy and fit as I could possibly be in one-half of that length of training time, but I enjoy the sport and I don't mind being in the gym. The minute it becomes drudgery and I don't like it, the smart thing to do is back off. Making the transition over from a 4-day to a 6-day workout schedule and going from multiple sets to mega-sets of, say, 20 will depend on how much time you have had in the sport of bodybuilding. I have trained for so many years that I am sure I could do 25 sets per muscle. It's like trying to get six gallons of water into a 5 gallon bucket. You can't do it because there's going to be a gallon which will be wasted.

Similarly, in bodybuilding you can only put so much into a particular effort and get so much out of it. Now, for the length of time you have trained it may be that 8 or 10 or 12 sets or e3ven 6 sets per muscle group would be just as good for you as 20 sets would be for me. You've got to realize the length of time you've been in bodybuilding and how much of a background you have, understanding what you are doing with regard to your training and how mature your muscles are. All these factors have a bearing on the intensity of workout you should follow.

I'm sure that if I do less than 20 sets per bodypart I'm not even going to maintain what I've got, let alone make any growth. The longer you have been at it, the more time you've got to spend on training if you want to continue to improve. If you want to continue to improve, if you want to get big, thick, coarse bulky muscles, handle heavy weights, keep your reps at about 6 to 8 and do numerous sets, and you will grow.

I'll say one thing. The minute something negative about your training comes into play, you had better get off it. Say you're doing a really heavy bench press like 300-400 pounds. You walk into the gym on Monday and do it, no sweat. Now on Wednesday, lo and behold, you don't get the 300 or 400 that you easily got on Monday, because you're still tired from your last bench routine. You come back to the gym again on Friday and you blow your benches again. Pretty soon you are gearing your whole workout to that 300 or 400 pound bench press. So you walk out of the gym and say, "I had a lousy workout" because you missed your bench presses. Psychologically you can't succeed in your workouts if you have a bad attitude toward them.

Another example. Guys will come up to me and say, "Bill, my arms won't grow. No matter what I try, my arms won't grow. What will I do?" They aren't going to grow every time you pick up a barbell and curl it because you are programming your arms to grow. Isn't this true? Your muscle doesn't have a brain. Your head controls the muscle. The muscle doesn't control the brain. So you've got to say, "Okay, I'm going to work my arms and my arms are going to grow." I say, CHANGE YOUR MENTAL ATTITUDE ABOUT YOUR TRAINING, because if you don't, you can't take anything negative that you are doing and turn it into something positive results.

Everything you do in the gym has to be done on a positive note. You must condition your subconscious mind to think that you are getting bigger and stronger and training with more intensity, and your body will have to respond accordingly.

DW: You say that you train six days a week. What exercises do you use to keep your abdominals in shape?

BP: There is no specific exercise that I do for my abdominal development. I do 5 to 7 different abdominal exercises for 100 repetitions each. There are plenty of exercises to choose from for the abs, and the combinations are virtually endless. I don't care how much you work your abs, if you're carrying fat there you can't do situps and burn that fat off your midsection. You cannot spot reduce a bodypart through exercise. All those situps are going to do is burn calories and tone the abs a certain amount. Then Mother Nature is going to pull fat off your body where she wants to. If you have heavy, thick obliques, which are normal on most guys, and you think side bends are going to reduce them without a change in diet, you're crazy. You're never going to get it off there that way.

DW: How much excess bodyweight do you think a bodybuilder should carry before he begins physique contest training?

BP: I would think that you should try to stay within two or three months of being in peak condition at all times. Never let yourself get into a condition where you can't in a period of two or three months get back into the best shape you've ever been in your life. If you gain more bodyweight than that, you're asking for trouble.

DW: Would you suggest taking a couple of days off from training just prior to a physique contest?

BP: I would think that you should take a couple of days off. For instance, if the physique contest is on a Saturday, you should probably get your last workout on Wednesday, but if you've been on a very strict diet as most people are today and you've been on this diet for the past six to seven months, what happens if you take the two days off before this contest which is so important to you and you totally blow the diet? It would ruin it. So you have to make this call yourself based upon your knowledge of contest training.

DW: Who do you think is the strongest bodybuilder you have ever trained with?

BP: The strongest bodybuilder that I've ever trained with was probably Franco Columbu on specific lifts, but the guy I've seen handle the most weight on all sets and repetitions on all the exercises was Ray Mentzer. I saw Ray training at a gym over in Germany a few years ago, and he was using about 240 pounds on a Nautilus biceps machine. Ray took that thing and sat down and with one arm curled that weight up. When Ray left to take a shower I went over to that machine and with two arms I could not curl it - and I consider myself strong. All of a sudden my attitude towards Ray changed tremendously.

DW: What's the best bench press you've ever done?

BP: Four hundred and fifty pounds. At my age I don't squat 600 pounds anymore. I've squatted 605. I've done the seated press behind neck with 310 for 2 reps. I was probably one of the strongest bodybuilders around for a long time until recently.

DW: Do you include running in your workout schedules?

BP: I run at times, but I don't run on a steady basis. I think it would be a good idea. If a person wanted to burn calories and consume more food then running is good, but I think if you're in hardcore bodybuilding you're not going to run too far. If you have that much energy left over, then you're doing something wrong in your workouts.

DW: There was a big change in your physique in the late 1960's and early 70's when your torso took on a more muscular look. How did you do that?

BP: By becoming more aware of my diet, which meant just taking all the nutritional information I knew and putting it into use.

Bodybuilding Workout Routines - Peary Rader

Bodybuilding Workout Routines
by Peary Rader (1955)

An advanced bodybuilder usually prefers to arrange his own workout routines to suit his needs and is usually capable of doing this because of his experience. Beginners, however, should follow routines which have been developed by the best instructors in the world and which have been proven effective. We therefore list the following bodybuilding routines and assure you that they are some of the most result-producing yet devised.


Two Arm Press
Two Arm Curl
Bench Press
Rowing Motion
Calf Raise

This routine can be followed from one to three months. Work up to three sets of reps in each exercise. This routine should be performed three times per week.


Two Arm Curl
Two Arm Reverse Curl
Two Arm Press
Two Arm Press Behind Neck
Bench Press with Varied Grip Spacings
Rader Chest Pull
Stiff-Legged Deadlift
Rader Chest Pull
Side Bend
Calf Exercise

This is a rather heavy program and should be performed three days per week with ample rest and plenty of nourishing food. You should not remain on this program more than 6 weeks at a time, then alternate to a different program. Use 3 sets in each exercise.


Bench Press
Two Hands Curl
Rowing Exercise
Rader Chest Pull

This is very effective for gaining weight and should be performed 2 to 3 times per week. Do 3 sets of the bench press and squat and 2 sets of the curl and row. In some instances it is helpful to do 4 sets of the squat. A diet heavy in proteins and high in calories should be followed, with lots of sleep and rest being essential.


Two Arm Strict Curl
Bench Press
Two Arm Strict Curl
Bench Press
Two Arm Strict Curl
Bench Press
Slight Rest, then do:
One Arm Strict Curl with body bent slightly forward
Two Arm Extension while in bench press position, keeping elbows high and pressing from upper chest
One Arm Strict Curl - work both arms
Two Arm Extension
One Arm Strict Curl
Two Arm Extension

The above exercises should be performed one right after the other in alternate fashion. This will pump the muscles full of blood and make them feel swollen. The one arm curl can be performed with a barbell or you can use a dumbbell if you prefer. Use 8-12 reps in all exercises and use plenty of mental concentration and be very careful that you do every exercise in strict style and do not cheat. The triceps and biceps must do all the work.


Flatfooted Squat
Stiff-Legged Deadlift
Heels Raised Squat
Stiff-Legged Deadlift
Flatfooted Squat
Stiff-Legged Deadlift

These exercises should be performed for 10-12 reps and without rest between exercises.

Note: In instances where you are specializing on the arms, legs, back, or other parts of the body and doing no other exercises you can use up to 6 sets of each exercise with benefit and without going stale. If you are specializing while at the same time doing exercises for the rest of the body you should confine your sets to not more than 4 for the specialized exercises.


Alternate between the raise on toes and the raise on heels (front calf raise), doing 4 sets of 20 reps each. Also include a raise on toes while seated with bar resting across the knees, and perform all calf exercises with your toes (or heels in the front raise) on a block.


The squat performed for 20 reps with a rather light weight, not over bodyweight for advanced men. Special attention should be given to complete and strenuous breathing. Take 6 deep breaths between each rep. Be sure to expand the chest to the limit. Lift it high with each breath.

Do not worry too much about the poundage you use. The breathing is the important part of this exercise.

Follow the breathing squat with a set of pullovers. Do a set of bench presses with a wide grip and be sure to touch the chest with the bar on each rep.

Now do:
1 set Rader chest pulls (20 reps)
1 set Rowing exercise
1 set Bench press (wide grip)
1 set Rader chest pulls (20 reps)
1 set Rowing exercise
1 set Bench press
1 set Rader chest pulls (20 reps)
I set Rowing exercise
Finish with pullovers

This is a very strenuous program and no other exercises should be used while working on other parts of the body. You should use only 1 or 2 sets of the breathing squat. Usually one set is enough. You should always walk with the chest held high. Use good posture. Try to maintain the chest expansion you obtain during your workouts. During the day try to find time to perform a few Rader chest pulls. This will help you maintain your chest expansion.

The Rader chest pull is probably the most effective chest stretching movement ever devised. Great results have been obtained from it when other methods seem to fail. It is a little difficult to learn properly but once learned it is easy to do and can be done anywhere and anytime. Anyone can learn it with a little persistence.

You should do about 20 repetitions in this. You can do a few repetitions at any time during the day with benefit, for it is an exercise in which you won't go stale and you can do it anywhere you can grasp something solid about 6 inches above the top of the head.

Take a position as shown in the photo and grasp something a little above the height of the head. Now pull down and inward with the hands and at the same time breathe in to your maximum. Breathe into the upper chest, never the lower chest. Lift the chest high and keep the head high and back a little. Tense the neck muscles, as this helps to lift the chest. You will notice that the chest muscles are tensed up and pulling hard. It is the chest muscles (pectorals) that do the lifting and pulling of the chest, resulting in expansion. You have to learn to pull hard and be sure the pull is downward and not inward.

If at first you fail to feel a little pain near your breastbone, you are not doing it right. You may be tensing the abdominal muscles which would pull the chest down and flatten it. You must keep the abdominal muscles relaxed. When you can feel this pain around the breastbone you are doing it right. It means you are stretching the rib box.

You will soon become very expert at doing this exercise and getting the right effect and your chest will feel high, arched and stretched after a session of it. Try to maintain the expanded feeling by correct posture, Chesty.

Training on the Olympic Lifts - Peary Rader

Training on the Olympic Lifts
by Peary Rader (1955)

Every bodybuilder should spend some time training on the three Olympic lifts, for this type of training will impart qualities to his physique as nothing else can.

Good lifting requires that you be strong, fast and very flexible. You must move very fast both in pulling a weight and in getting under it. If you are not fast you can not lift to the full capacity of your power. You must be very flexible to get into the low positions required in the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk. Practice of the lifts will develop all these qualities in your physique in addition to giving you better coordination, timing and confidence. In addition to these things, lifting imparts certain developmental qualities that you can get no other way. It gives your physique a ruggedness that regular bodybuilding exercise cannot duplicate.

After you have developed a sound base by following a beginner's program for some time, until your development is fairly satisfactory, you should periodically work for a month or two on the three Olympic lifts and heavy squats, as well as high, fast dead lifts.

Your lifting program should look something like this:

First, you will do the Press. Perform 5 reps with a poundage that is fairly easy. Then add 10 lbs. and do 3 more reps, then 10 lbs. more and do 3 more reps, then another 10 lbs. and, if possible, another 3 reps. You may only be able to do 2 reps at this stage or after a few more weight jumps. You will reach a stage in this progressive fashion where you can do but 1 rep. At this time you quit the press and start the snatch.

The two arm snatch should be performed with the same schedule of poundage increases and repetitions until you can do but 1 rep. When doing the reps for the snatch you should perform the second and third rep from what is called the dead hang position; that is, don't lower the weight completely to the floor between reps, but lower it until the plates are about 2 or 3 inches from the floor, and immediately pull again for another snatch. That gives you a muscular rebound that is very effective in developing power and muscularity.

After you are finished with the snatch you should practice the clean & jerk with the same schedule of reps and poundage increases. Your second and succeeding cleans of each set should also be performed from the dead hand position.

If, after practicing the lifts for a while, you find that your jerk is easier than your clean you should start doing one jerk during a set of cleans. In other words, a 3 rep set of clean & jerks wound mean 3 cleans and 1 jerk (with the last clean). If, however, your clean is easy and your jerk is hard, you should work the jerk more by doing 1 clean and 3 reps of the jerk for each set. Thus you work your weaker lift the most and it improves.

After you have practiced the three lifts as described you should perform some heavy squats. Use the same schedule of repetitions as you did in the lifts, working up until you reach a near-maximum single rep. Then go to the high dead lift and use about the same amount of weight you use in your best clean. Pull the weight from the floor as fast and high as you can. It should come about chest high, then lower it to the dead hang and pull again as high as you can and continue until you do as many reps as you can without losing form, usually 5 or 6. If you are quite weak in the clean you can perform this with the same system of sets and reps as used in the lifts.

Many men, on days when they have an abundance of energy, will work back down on the lifts by lowering the poundage and increasing the reps when they reach a near-maximum single. Thus they work up to their top and then back down to where they started.

You should lift in this manner two days per week and on the other day you should use light weights and higher reps and train for style and technique development, as well as speed, flexibility, timing and coordination. You should practice exercises to increase the flexibility of the shoulder joints, such as taking a wide grip on a bar at the hips, then swinging it overhead and down to the back of the buttocks, while pulling out on the bar with a tight grip and the elbows locked straight. As your flexibility increases, narrow the grip. This will help you to get the weights well back overhead so that you can hold them easily in the snatch. You should also practice going into low splits and rocking back and forth with the body to loosen up the hip region so that you can go into a low split without touching the knee, which would disqualify you. If you are a squat-style lifter, practice going into a deep squat position while bearing the bar overhead or in the front rack and holding the position.

It will help your lifting if you do some "shadow lifting" with an empty bar or broom handle. This will teach you proper positions.

The Development of the Clean & Jerk, Part Seven - David Webster

Rising With The Weight

Undoubtedly the split style is most efficient in recovery from the low clean position. The splitter, if he pulls the weight correctly, can nearly always stand up with it even with maximum loads. This is not so with squatters; they often fail even when the weight is safely pulled in. The smaller anterior-posterior base and the difference of body levers makes a completely different story to the recovery from the split clean.

In the split style the lifter overcomes inertia in the low position by pushing backward and slightly upward with the forward leg, taking care not to knee touch. Having shared the load on both legs he then uses the back leg partly as a pivot until both legs are nearly straight and he retraces his front foot a few inches and, keeping the bar correctly positioned, he then moves the back leg forward into line. In less important competitions and lower standards of lifting we still see some forward recoveries. The only time you see these in world championships is when the bar is out of alignment and the lifter has to "catch up."

Film analysis of the recovery from the squat clean are very revealing. Many lifters have the weight safely held at the shoulders but just cannot get up with it. A common sticking point is very obvious and lifters adopt different methods of getting through this difficult range. The sticking point occurs where the thigh muscles are working in their middle range . . . there is a long horizontal lever between the fulcrum and the vertical downward force. Of course this is not the only lever, the back and shinbones also play an important part. The different lengths and angles of these have a bearing on the sticking point but it is interesting to note that the actual sticking point varies but little in the majority of squatters. The burning question is HOW CAN THIS STICKING POINT BE OVERCOME?

I have seen Kurinov bounce several times and rebound to give enough momentum to keep him moving through the hardest point! A trifle hard on the joints I think.

Many lifters recover on the rebound of various areas of soft flesh coming together as the weight is cleaned. The thighs against the backs of the legs provide the main rebound and this, of course, overcomes inertia.

Other top lifters, having settled in a low position begin the upward movement by tipping the hips backward and upward and making sure at the same time that the elbows are well forward to avoid dropping the weight. Another very common way amongst top lifters is to drive upwards as hard as possible and when the sticking point is reached the back is adjusted to allow the knees to straighten a bit more. When the knees are straightened past the sticking point, the back is moved back to the original position and the movement continued.

The back is adjusted in two different way. Some lifters round the back at this stage to allow the legs to keep moving. Physiotherapists are against this action although there is a school of thought that, providing the back is rounded under control and not to the extreme, there is nothing wrong with this action.

The other back adjustment is made by keeping the back flat but allowing the hips to keep rising and the shoulders tip forward slightly to get the thigh bones past the hardest part of the recovery.

IN BOTH CASE THE READJUSTMENT MUST BE MADE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AND NEITHER MOVEMENT CARRIED TO THE EXTREME. I advise that the back movement is only done enough to allow the legs to keep straightening when they reach the hardest point. Over-exaggeration of either movement could result in back or sacroiliac injury. Of course, more immediate results are evident if you overdo it - you will lose balance or drop the weight forward.

Veres of Hungary adopts a very distinctive maneuver at this stage of the lift. He tucks his chin over the bar as though he were holding it onto his chest with his chin.

On assuming the upright position, the thumbs are often unhooked and the hands momentarily relaxes and readjusted. If the bar has slipped onto the fingertips and feels insecure, the time to heave the bar into the right position is on the FINAL stage of the recovery.

In both split and squat styles there should be maintained economy of effort and the minimum of delay - remember the Jerk is still to come.


In discussing the starting position for the clean, the hook grip was advocated, but this grip IS NOT maintained after recovery and in the jerk. Indeed, many lifters will find they loose the hook during the clean itself. This is particularly common where, on recovery the elbows are lifted high and the weight goes on the fingers. Whether or not you disengage the hook grip during the clean itself, you will have to adjust your hands before the jerk. The hook is to help you to CLEAN but I would go so far as to say it's a disadvantage in the jerk.

Here is a tip copied from the great lifters. If you find your little finger has come off the bar or you have lost your grip in any way during the clean you should heave it into a more comfortable position DURING THE VERY LAST STAGE OF THE RECOVERY FROM THE CLEAN.

Even if you have maintained your grip it is essential to relax it at the stage between the clean and the jerk. All unnecessary tensions should be discouraged and eliminated; these tight grips are, at this stage, major mental and physical energy drains. In the jerk a tight grip is just not needed. Lifters have been known to hold the bar at the shoulders, release their grip, give themselves a clap, replace the hands and continue!

Many lifters hold the bar only on the fingertips at the start of the jerk. These facts are quoted merely to show how unnecessary a tight grip is after the clean. RELAX YOUR GRIP AFTER GETTING THE BAR TO THE SHOULDERS AND THEN GRASP AGAIN FAIRLY LOOSELY. The bar need not be in the center of the palm for the jerk. The champions seldom, if ever, hold it here. It can be on the pads of the hands just under the fingers. Again, the hands may be angled slightly to reduce tension. If your hands are fully pronated as you hold the bar at the shoulders there will almost certainly be tension unless you have a wide grip.

Naturally you must tighten your fingers round the bar as you jerk, but it is not as fierce a grip in any way comparable with he hold necessary in the clean.

Considerable tension and even misdirection of the bar is often caused in the jerk by these "death grip" methods - so guard against this fault.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Variations of the Deadlift - Timothy Piper

Variations of the Deadlift
by Timothy Piper (2001)

The use of the deadlift (DL) and its variations by strength and conditioning professionals is widely accepted as a means of strengthening leg, hip, back, and torso muscles. However, an explanation of the different styles used and available for training programs is often overlooked. This article is a short overview of the different DL techniques beyond the standard and sumo-stance deadlifts.

The DL is typically associated with the conventional and sumo styles, commonly used by powerlifters. The conventional style is characterized by a shoulder width stance of the feet and the arms outside the thighs. The sumo style differs primarily by the wide stance used and a handgrip that is between the thighs. The conventional style emphasizes the lower back muscles more than the sumo because the trunk is flexed forward, increasing torque about the lumbar area. Due to the more erect back alignment throughout the sumo style lift there is a decreased potential for dynamic involvement of the lower back muscles, thus requiring greater recruitment of the hip muscles to move the load.

These two styles are the basis of all other deadlifts, which are similar, at least in part, to the sumo or conventional technique. All styles strengthen the hip and knee extensors, spinal erectors, abdominals, back and forearm muscles to varying degrees depending on the style.


The STRAIGHT OR STIFF LEGGED DEADLIFT (SLDL) is used for the specific strengthening of the lower back and hamstring muscles.

Setup: Stand with feet shoulder width apart and an overhand or reverse grip just outside the thighs. The scapula should be retracted and the head in a neutral position.

Execution: Begin the exercise with hip flexion allowing the hips to move posteriorly. The knees remain straight, but not locked out at full extension, throughout the movement. The spine maintains its natural s-shaped curvature as the bar descends. The path of the bar has a SLIGHT arc moving away from the legs as the hips are progressively flexed. The bar ends directly below the shoulders. Downward movement ceases when a strong stretch occurs in the hamstring muscles. The lifter then reverses motion. The completion of the lift occurs when hip and back extension raises the trunk to an erect standing position with the scapulae retracted. Relatively inflexible individuals may not be able to go down very far before the hamstrings are strongly stretched. It is important to stop the exercise at that point rather than lose the arch in the lower back in an attempt to descend further before the lifter is able to without causing problems.

Take note that there is greater torque on the hips and lumbar areas because of the horizontal distance from the bar to the base. The use of near-maximal weights can compromise form by pulling the lifter forward or causing spinal flexion increasing the chance of injury. This is not a round-back lift and should not be confused with the round-back version of the exercise. They both have their specific purpose. A slow rate of bar movement will also reduce the chance of injuries. Don't just drop down into the bottom position. Or, if you feel like it, load the bar to double your maximum and do just that. Slow learners realize truths only by doing. Rapidly in most cases.

The bar may descend to the floor, or having the lifter stand on a box can increase the range of motion of the exercise. Do this carefully and gradually. Even with proper form this is a higher-risk exercise that should only be performed if the lifter has no back restrictions, history of injuries, as well as adequate hamstring/low back flexibility, but even then caution should be taken.

Round-back lifting, known as kyphotic lifting posture, during this or other lifts should be avoided unless its purpose is understood. An advanced lifter with an established base of strength will sometimes undertake this lifting posture to emphasize the spinal erectors. However, it is not recommended for beginners. This is a common type of deadlift viewed in many gyms but is commonly a contraindicated exercise because of the potential risk to the invertebral discs. If you aren't certain of what you are doing, don't do it until you are.

Other common technical errors in the SLDL include hip flexion beyond a lifter's ability, byperextension of the knees, overly rapid execution, and attempting to pull more weight than the muscles have been trained to accommodate

The ROMANIAN DEADLIFT (RDL) is primarily used for the strengthening of the lower back, gluteus and hamstring muscles with decreased low back stress relative to the SLDL because of the technique.

Setup: The stance is similar to that of a conventional deadlift with an overhand or alternating grip. The spine is fixed in a naturally arched position both at the beginning and throughout the entire lift.

Execution: The RDL is similar to the SLDL, with the exception of the 15 degrees of knee flexion that is employed. All movement is achieved via a rotation at the hip joint. The bar descends slowly and closely to the thighs, instead of being directly underneath the shoulders. This reduces the torque on the upper body by placing the load closer to the axis of rotation and over the base of support. The bar descends until it is inferior to the knee joint, the lifter feels the need to round the back, or he has the urge to further bend the knees, or they may have reached their maximal range of motion without compromising lifting posture. The key is to focus on rotation about the hip joint as you push your gluteus back, while holding the knees at about 15 degrees of flexion. When ascending, hip and knee flexion should occur simultaneously while maintaining some shoulder retraction and the spine's natural curvature.

Common mistakes during the RDL are not flexing the knees or extending the knees prior to hip extension during the ascent. Many lifters comment that they can actually feel stress is placed higher in the hamstrings if the knees are kept flexed to 15 degrees, whereas they feel more stress at the hamstring insertion if the knees are straightened during the lift. Other errors include allowing the lower back to round, kyphosis to occur, pulling the bar against the thighs, and excessive extension of the back when completing the lift.

POWER RACK DEADLIFTS (PRDL), also called lockouts are sometimes used by powerlifters trying to strengthen a particular upper portion of their deadlift. A high load is used to overload the back muscles and increase motor recruitment. Different grips and stances can be applied to this exercise, but the conventional form will be described here.

Setup: The height of the spotting bars or boxes should be such that the loaded bar sits superior to the knee joint when standing erect. This may be adjusted depending on the specific objective and the preference of the lifter. Power straps or lifting hooks can also be used for this exercise to prevent the fatigue of the forearm muscles before the back muscles have been stressed to their potential. The lifter flexes at the hips , slightly retracts the scapula, maintains the back's natural curvature, and grasps the bar approximately one to two inches outside of the thighs.

Execution: The lift begins with hip extension followed by knee extension. The lifter completes the lift with slight spinal extension. The spinal erector, gluteus maximus, and quadriceps are the primary movers during lockouts, but its counterparts, the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius have an even greater role in stabilization of the upper back. An established back and leg strength base is necessary for this exercise due to the very high loads used. This type of deadlift can benefit anyone who requires a great deal of back strength in the final phase of hip and back extension.

MACHINE DEADLIFTS (MDL) have been added to some manufacturers' line of plate loaded and selectorized equipment. This style not only can be done on specifically designed machines but also non preexisting equipment such as the smith rack. Both an advantage and disadvantage is that the plane of motion is fixed, dictating the movement pattern. Although, this could prove benefit for those who have difficulty maintaining the correct motor pattern and arrive at the gym in a short bus. It can easily force the lifter into potentially dangerous positions. The need for muscular coordination is reduced so the lifter will not reap the full benefits of the synergistic muscle involvement they would using barbells or dumbbells.

The SNATCH-GRIP DEADLIFT (SGDL) places emphasis on the thora-columbar fascia, erector spinae, and the shoulder girdle muscles that stabilize the scapulae. The positioning of the torso causes a great deal of hip flexion, which increases the load on the lumbar region and hip extensors. This is similar to the RDL, but the wide grip makes this exercise advantageous to lifters requiring increased upper back strength and scapular and spinal stabilization. The wide grip creates a lower (deficit) start position.

Setup: The conventional stance is used, but the lifter uses a wide snatch grip. The distance between the hands in the snatch grip is determined from measuring the distance from the lateral side of one shoulder to the fist of the opposite arm abducted to shoulder level.

Execution: The lifter pulls the bar off the floor using the hips to lift the bar instead of the back. Throughout the lift the back is held tight and fixed. The bar is kept close to the legs to reduce the amount of torque on the lumbar region. Scapular retraction continues throughout the exercise but is not exaggerated when movement is completed.

The SMITTY or DEFICIT DEADLIFT is a variation of the snatch grip deadlift, which is performed on a 4-6 inch platform, and movement ceases when the bar is inferior to (situated under or beneath) the patella. The technique is otherwise the same, emphasizing hip flexibility and back strength in the limited range of motion. This exercise can also be used to build increased strength in the shoulder girdle stabilizers.

The ONE ARM DEADLIFT (OADL) is one of the most difficult DLs to execute in terms of muscular coordination. The OADL can provide an extra stress to the muscular and nervous system, and the variations of the OADL are numerous.

Setup: The most common OADL is performed with a sumo stance while grasping a dumbbell between the legs. The torso should be erect and the lifter should be discouraged from looking at the dumbbell as this would lead to poor lifting posture.

Execution: The weight is lifted as in any other DL but requires a great deal more stabilization from the lifting arm and the entire torso and back. An effort should be made to maintain an erect and controlled lifting posture.

Pulling a dumbbell from this position keeps the line of force within the base, and lateral balance in the wrist is minimal. For a greater challenge a barbell can be used, thus decreasing the stability of the base and increasing the muscular strength required in the forearm. This is also the case when using a conventional stance and pulling the weight from the side of the body (suitcase style), which increases opposing abdominal and back strength. Due to loading characteristics of all styles of the one arm deadlift, there is an increased stabilization demand on the contralateral muscles of the abdomen, spinal erectors, shoulder girdle, and forearm muscles to overcome the different application of force. A light load is first used for this exercise, focusing on the technique until mastered. The torque that the muscular system applies to it can easily put the spinal column at risk for injury. The OADL can, however, be a challenging exercise for advanced lifters, allowing them to balance an uneven load while maintaining body alignment.

Grip and Implement Variations

10-SECOND PULLS are performed similar in fashion to a conventional or sumo style deadlift, the only difference being the duration of the ascent and descent, which take 5-10 seconds each. The duration of the ascent and descent may vary depending on the level of the lifter and his ability to maintain proper lifting posture. Strict form is required throughout the lift to decrease injury potential. This is a very demanding exercise designed to increase the overall endurance and stabilization of he torso, and should be used sparingly.

Dumbbell Deadlifts can be used with any of the previous styles. A major benefit of DBDL is the need to stabilize each weight separately. These lifts allow for a greater range of motion than the other DL styles performed on the floor with large-diameter plates, and decrease the amount of time needed to change resistance. One or two dumbbells may be used.

FAT BAR DEADLIFTS (FBDL) are gaining popularity with lifters searching for novel ways to train grip strength along with back strength. Any style deadlift may be utilized for the FBDL. This form of deadlifting places a lot of stress on the wrist flexors and should be used sparingly at first to prevent any overuse injuries in the forearms and elbows. Adapt over time.

FINGERTIP DEADLIFTS as well as RING DEADLIFTS require a great deal of finger and forearm flexor strength. The U.S.A. All-Round Weightlifting Association uses these two deadlift variations in competition. They both may be used with any style of deadlifting. These two styles are excellent finger and grip strengtheners. Grip on the bar may be either opposing or in the same direction. Caution must be taken when attempting these deadlift styles, and they are commonly associated with a high degree of delayed onset muscle soreness, as well as deep soreness along all of the joints in the fingers. These exercises should be utilized according to the lifter's rate of adaptation.

All sane variations of the deadlift are beneficial exercises, but the application of each should be based upon the goals, needs, and abilities of the individual lifter. The deadlift must be treated with respect. All its forms have the potential to be overall strength developers, or a source of risk to the lifter. Individual limitations of the lifter, technique, load, volume, order, and recovery are some of the factors that must be considered when determining the ratio of benefit to risk. Maximal loads need not be used at all times to obtain a training response. Deciding to do a given number of sets and reps with a suggested percent of max over a given number of lifting sessions simply because you saw it written somewhere is a bit of a daft idea, eh. Design training programs with your own individual needs and abilities in mind, and remember, the human body has been known to rebel against overly ambitious directives of the mind.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Overhead Pressing Power/Strength Movements - Mike Waller

The purpose of this article is to discuss the execution of overhead pressing movements, from the shoulder press to the split jerk. There are numerous exercises and their variations that have been used by individuals in their strength and conditioning programs for increasing upper extremity pressing strength. Although the bench press tends to be a staple, standing overhead pressing exercises can be an alternative in strength and conditioning programs. Additionally, standing overhead pressing requires the upper extremity to generate the pressing force while using the lower extremity to generate a stabilizing force. The action of raising a load over a person's head will change the center of gravity, increasing the distance from the base, thus decreasing stability.

It is not within the proper scope of this article to discuss every selectorized machine, plate-loading machine, strongman-style press (log, stone, etc.), benches, or the other assorted applications on the commercial market. Therefore, this article approaches the subject and the necessity of a closed kinetic chain (CKC), with feet in contact with the ground, when performing overhead pressing while standing.

The importance of overhead pressing in a standing position is its applicability to a majority of sports because most sports tend to be played from a standing position and require some upper extremity strength. Movement of the feet will influence the lower extremity CKC if the athlete is performing a push jerk that has some minimal lateral foot movement versus the greater forward and backward movement of a split jerk. Instructions of the split jerk will be discussed later, which will allow for clarity of its motion. It should also be noted that as the load (intensity) or complexities of the presses are increased through training, the lower extremity CKC will require an increased utilization of the lower extremity musculature to accelerate and stabilize the body.

The law of action-reaction (Newton's third law) states that the effects that one body exert on another are counteracted by the effects that the second body exert on the first. Applying this law to overhead presses, a person's lower extremities are pushing against the ground with equal force. As the load increases in a standing press, the isometric action of the legs will have to increase. If the press is a power movement such as a push jerk, then the lower extremities will have to exert greater concentric forces to generate the upward vertical power necessary. The preceding descriptions are to lay the foundation of some of the variables that should be considered when coaching these lifts. This study is set in an order of progression with each overhead pressing exercise building upon the other.

Barbell Overhead Press

Starting Position
The shoulder press, which requires a person to learn how to move their head around the bar, should be taught first to develop a movement pattern that will be needed to finish a push press. The most effective method to set up the shoulder press is to start with the bar resting on squat stands or power rack cradles at a height around the upper chest level. If a person is capable of obtaining a Clean rack position, then use this to remove the bar from the stands. The bar should ideally rest across the upper pectorals, clavicles, and deltoids while being balanced by the hands. However, if a person cannot hold the bar across their anterior deltoids, they will need to hold the bar as close as possible to their chest while supporting the bar with flexed elbows and wrists or as much as flexibility will allow. Knees should be extended and torso straight.

There should be an inhalation to elevate the shoulders and chest prior to pressing the bar upward while extending the elbows and flexing the shoulders. Press the bar until the elbows are fully extended and the bar is directly over the shoulders. As soon as the bar is being pressed, the lifter moves his head back around the bar. After the bar is above the head, the head should be pushed forward. The legs remain straight throughout the ascension of the bar until the elbows are at full extension.

Recovery from the fully-pressed position is a controlled lowering of the bar with the arms until it reaches the anterior deltoids. Once the bar touches the shoulders, the legs may be used to further decelerate the weight of the bar but should not bend beyond a 1/4-squat position. The bar should be returned to the starting position using an explosive front squat action.

Behind the Neck Press (using Clean, Snatch, or Midpoint Grips)

The next exercise that should be taught is the Behind-Neck-Press, which allows a lifter to keep his back neutral while the bar rests on the upper trapezius.

Starting Position
A lifter may choose from three grip styles: the clean grip, the snatch grip, or a grip somewhere in the middle of these two. The most efficient method to set up the behind the neck press is to start with the bar resting on squat stands or or power rack cradles at a height that puts the bar close to the upper trapezius while holding the bar with the hands similar to a bar position used when squatting. The bar is removed from the rack as if a squat was going to be performed except the lifter's knees and torso remain straight. If a person has tight internal rotators or pectoral musculature from excessive bench pressing, then obtaining this starting position may be difficult. The addition of stretching and mobility exercises to improve elasticity and function of these muscles will need to be implemented.

To establish a solid base for the press, contract the lower extremity musculature hard, including the gluteals, in conjunction with tightening the abdominal musculature to establish a solid base for support. Push the feet into the floor and then press the bar upward. Focus on controlled elbow extension and shoulder abduction, with maximal force/effort through the arms and hands.

Recovery from the full-pressed position is a controlled lowering of the bar with the arms until it reaches the trapezius. If necessary, use the legs to decelerate the bar with the previously described squatting action. One repetition maximums should be avoided with this exercise as lowering the weight in an uncontrolled manner could place undue stress on the glenohumeral joint capsule. A dropping of the bar could also pose risk to the vertebra should the lifter fail and drip the bar on the cervical neck area opposed to the upper trapezius, which can add in cushioning the bar impact. The behind neck press is most appropriately used for establishing range of motion of the shoulder joint capsule and strength in that range, which can add to overhead stability when performing snatch lifts. The additional benefit of the behind neck press is that it allows an athlete to perform a pressing motion without having to worry about hitting their chin or head with the bar. These two basic pressing movements, the barbell overhead press and the behind the neck press, are important for developing upper extremity strength production.

Push Press

The next lift in overhead pushing progression is the push press. It is similar to the shoulder press with the exception that the legs are used to help initiate upward movement of the bar.

Starting Position
The most efficient setup method is exactly the same as the shoulder press, where the lifter removes the bar from its resting location on squat stands or power rack cradles. It will be necessary for the lifter to use a Clean grip and rack the bar across the anterior deltoids with the knees and torso straight.

Ascent (Dip & Drive)
The lifter will contract his abdominal musculature prior to a forceful inhalation to elevate the shoulders and chest. Immediately after this raise of the shoulders, there should be a quick 1/4 to 1/5 squat, also called the "dip," with a very rapid change in direction upward, generating vertical power "drive." The bar will continue its upward motion from the continued application of force through the flexion of the elbow and shoulder. The push press is finished when the bar is pressed out with full elbow extension. The bar should be directly over the shoulders, with no re-bending of the knees. During the upward movement of the bar, the lifter pushes his head through the arm-space until slightly forward of the arms. This forward motion of the head is achieved by thrusting the chin anteriorly as the bar clears the head while at the same time continuing shoulder flexion and moving the arms slightly posteriorly to place the bar directly over the shoulders. This is not a jerk. There is a press-out after the initial drive.

Recovery from the fully pressed position is a controlled lowering of the bar with the arms until it reaches the upper chest and anterior deltoids. The knees bend to assist the decelerating of the bar as it is received. Once the movement is learned, the load on the bar will typically be greater than the weight used for a shoulder press because of the use of the legs to initiate the action. This exercise is an explosive strength exercise as there is a component of speed associated with the generation of upward vertical displacement of the bar.

Push Jerk/Power Jerk

The push jerk or power jerk are names that have been used to describe the same exercise that is executed in the same manner as the push press with the exception during the pressing phase of the lift.

Ascent (Dip & Drive)
As a lifter explosively presses the barbell upward, he will simultaneously push himself under the bar in a "jump down" motion. When his arms are straight (elbows at full extension and shoulders at full flexion) to catch the bar overhead, the knees will be slightly flexed in a 1/4 squat position.

After the lifter catches the bar, he will stand up and demonstrate approximately two seconds of control with the bar in the overhead position, the the bar is lowered back to the rack position across the anterior deltoids. It should be noted that with maximal attempts bumper plates should be used so the lifter can use a control drop of the bar to the platform. Spotters on either side of the lifter can assist by grabbing the end of the bar when lowering it from the overhead position back to the rack position. If jerk boxes (stands) are used, then the bar is lowered to the boxes at the completion of the jerk in a controlled fall. Jerk boxes can be a 3-foot long, 2-foot wide wooden box or metal stand whose height can be adjusted according to the lifter.

Split Jerk

Starting Position
The split jerk is a progression from the push jerk with the difference being that instead of pushing the body under the bar into the squat position, a split foot stance position will be used. Primarily, the split jerk is used for weightlifting, although the use of moving the feet in a cyclic split jump pattern may prove beneficial to athletes in other sports requiring a similar lower extremity motion. A cyclic split jump is the motion of one leg forward while the opposing leg is moving backward. A continual execution of these leg movements would result in the action of bounding. Therefore, inclusion of the split jerk may enhance the muscular stiffness of the legs, improving bounding efficiency.

At this point in the pressing progression, the lifter should have the pressing phase well established. The next part in learning the split jerk is determining which foot will go forward and and which will go backward. The easiest way to determine the proper lead foot is to ask the lifter to walk toward you. Typically, he will step first with the dominant leg, which would be the natural choice of lead leg in the split.

Ascent (Dip & Drive with Split Variation)
The split motion is performed by a quick hip flexion of the lead leg and quick hip extension of the rear leg. The impact of both feet should occur at the same time with the front foot landing flat and the rear foot landing on the ball of the foot. Both knees should be slightly flexed and approximately hip width for maximal lateral stability. As in the jerk press, the legs will not only act as decelerators but will also have to be able to move quickly out of the way if a press is missed. The barbell should not move forward or backward but rather follow a strict vertical path.

Recovery from the split foot position is done by extending the front knee with a small step back followed by a step forward by the rear leg. If the steps by the feet are consistent, the lifter's feet should be close to parallel with each other when standing vertical. If the feet are not close to parallel, the lifter should then take some time to correct this error. The coach or lifter may choose to alternate the lead leg with repeated repetitions of the split jerk. This should be based on the overall goal of the athlete.

Snatch Grip Presses

Snatch grip style presses are beneficial for improving overall shoulder girdle strength and can aid in improving the ability to catch the Snatch lift. Snatch grip presses are performed in the same functionary manner as the traditional Clean grip press motions with the exception of the bar's starting/resting position.

Starting Position
The snatch grip press has the bar resting on the upper trapezius of the lifter, BEHIND THE HEAD AND NECK. A large difference between this lift and the clean grip press is that the lifter will not need to move the head as much, as the bar placement will allow vertical motion to be largely unimpeded. Regardless of the specific lift, the bar is held overhead with the muscles (middle trapezius, rhomboids, and teres major) around the shoulder blades isometrically contracted, elbows locked, and the bar's line of force directly over the shoulder. The contraction of the muscles around the shoulder blade will provide stability to the posterior side of the upper body to hold the barbell in place.

During the recovery of the snatch grip press, it is advisable to have spotters on either side of the bar if possible, to assist lowering the weight back to the lifter's start position, especially when using near-maximal loads. This assistance will decrease the chance of a shoulder injury during the eccentric phase of the lift as the bar returns behind the neck. However, as mentioned, when lowering the bar the lifter should use the legs to absorb the weight and not rely entirely on the shoulder musculature.

Each of the presses has specific errors that can take place but there are some that may occur more commonly and may be seen in any of the presses. Table 2 lists some of the common errors that can occur in any of the respective pressing motions along with possible corrective actions that can be used by the coach and/or lifter to assist in development.

Dumbbells and Kettlebells

All the previously mentioned overhead movements can be done with dumbbells (DB) or kettlebells (KB) with relatively the same technique. The differences arise from the motions being unilateral instead of bilateral, with unilateral overhead exercises requiring an increase in shoulder and arm stabilization. Load application using the DB or KB will be less than that used during barbell overhead work because of the individual distribution of the implements. The position of the implements while being held will vary, but the general adaptation will be the same. Using DB and KB variations is an alternative, as well, if adequate space is not available. As the lifter becomes more proficient with the exercises, it may be prudent to progress to a barbell because heavier loads can be used and the addition of a rack saves the lifter's energy for more complex and intense exercises, eliminating the need to lift a training implement from the floor. Ideally, bilateral as well as unilateral exercises should be performed at various times in training.

Table 1 -
Potential Limiting Factors in Flexibility, with Recommended Corrective Stretches:
The tight musculature with limited active range of motion is listed first, followed by the corrective stretches.

Calves, Ankles - ankle rolls, wall static dorsiflexion.

Hamstrings/Knee Extension and Hip Flexion - seated double leg raise, supine single leg raise with rope or band.

Quadriceps/Knee Flexion and Extension - prone knee flexion with rope, standing quadriceps knee flexion.

Glutes/Hip Flexion and Extension - 1/2 kneeling hip flexor stretch, supine figure 4 piriformis.

Low Back/Spinal Flexion and Extension - supine double knees to chest, prone push-ups.

Thoracic Muscles/Trunk Flexion, Extension, and Rotation - seated torso rotation, cat-cows.

Pectoralis/Horizontal Shoulder Abduction and Shoulder Flexion - single arm wall chest stretch, stick dislocates.

Biceps/Elbow Extension - stick over shoulder extension, partner assisted static elbow extension.

Forearm Muscles/Wrist Flexion and Extension - static wall wrist extension, static wall wrist flexion.


Table 2 -
Pressing Errors and Corrective Actions:
the technique error is listed first, followed by the potential corrective actions.

Not Locking the Elbows - partial press-outs from power rack.

Catching the Bar with Bent Elbows - push-press/jerks with lighter load.

Hyperextension of the Back During the Press - strengthen the trunk musculature and improve hip/low back musculature.

Pressing the Bar Forward of the Shoulders - improve pectoral flexibility, strengthen scapular stabilizers, train with behind the neck pressing.

Prolonged Time (>1 second ) to change direction during a push press/jerk - practice the change of direction during the push movement with lighter load.

Moving the Bar Around the Head - perform shoulder press emphasizing moving the bar around the head.

Not Pausing and Holding the Bar Overhead for a Full Second - perform pressing motions with a timed hold.

Taking an Unnecessary Step Forward or Backward - focus on the path of the bar with a lighter load.

Dropping the Elbows During the Dip of the Push Press - front squats, strengthen scapular stabilizers, improve anterior shoulder flexibility.

Legs and Feet Planting Prior to the Arms Catching the Bar During a Split - perform behind the neck split jerks, practice split jerk with bar.


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