Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Time & Experience - Denis Reno

Norbert Schemansky

Time & Experience
by Denis Reno (2007)

Time and experience have shown me a few things about strength training, and how this gets modified as a person gets older. Maybe you'd be interested!

I was born in 1939 (67 years of age). I weighed about 10-20 pounds more when at my strongest than I do now. I believe I am leaner now than then.

Loss of Strength -- It seems to me that I'm still about 70% as strong as at my best in movements like Incline Bench Presses, Arm Exercises, Rowing Motions, etc. - slow and purely muscular, non-compound movements. I never had much muscle then, and I have less now. Tendon strength?

Loss of Explosive Strength -- I peg this at just about 50% of my best. Of course, due to my lack of good technique, I really don't know what I really could have Olympic-lifted then, but today's maxes would probably be even less than 45% of what I should have done. I have some good educated guesses which I'll keep to myself for now. Why is this a smaller percentage than my raw strength percentage? Well, older lifters lose mobility in the joints, and I have accrued various little injuries. I certainly have. Although I feel I'm now in great physical condition, I notice that I get a large number of negative health points (in the various 'how healthy are you' surveys) due to my age.

Training -- I no longer work, go to school, etc., so I have plenty of time to train and rest. So I work out six or seven days each week, unlike the five days I recommend for older people who ask my advice on the subject. My workout almost always begins with 60 minutes on a stationary bicycle at from 65-75% of my maximum pulse (220 minus my age). I end up quite soaked with sweat wearing only a T-shirt. Then I go to the weights on about five days of the week, which includes machines, dumbbells, (and lighter Olympic lifts about once every 10 days). I do only a part of the body in each workout, spreading a wide variety of exercises over the full week. I do a lot of weighted midsection exercises. I feel that my strength endurance today is better than ever. I don't believe that my bicycle ride before my weight workout hinders the weight lifting much, if at all. I call my weight workouts Power Bodybuilding. I use heavy weights. In many ways, I'm at the healthiest in my life right now.

If something hurts, I stop doing it. Days later, I'll only try this again with very light weights, very carefully. I follow my own advice for lifters over 50 years of age -- CONSIDER YOURSELF IN REHAB! With this attitude I'm always positive about my workouts, and always look forward to each and every one of them.

A Letter of Response --


I read your description of your workout. I'm interested because I'm 62 years old and interested more and more in staying in shape, less in lifting heavier weights than I used to be.

Right now I run one day, 25 minutes, then do weights the other. With weights I do strength lifts about four days our of five: Deadlifts, Front Squats, Push Presses. The fifth weights day I do the Olympic lifts.

Could you please send me the specifics about the weights part of your workout? How do you rotate through the various exercises and machines?

I sounds like something I could eventually use, try out, eventually adapt.

I see you use the stationary bike instead of running. Why is that? Do you think the jarring is bad for our old joints? Biking is not weight-bearing, while running is. That's why I do it. But I don't want to cripple myself.


The Response to the Response --

What I do is 'approximately' what I think is best for older lifters. At home I keep a fairly rigid (and healthy) diet. On the road I cheat a bit. And let me say that Clarence Bass's books and articles have taught me a lot, along with my reading a lot of non-lifter studies of what's good for you.

So, here are a few sad facts of getting older.

Your joints aren't as well lubricated naturally and mobility is somewhat (or a lot) reduced. This is why all those Masters lifters who used to do much more weight don't do as much now, and they don't really move the same as their olde days. But many older people do run, and apparently they don't have the knee, ankle and back aches that I, an ex-lifter, do. So running is okay if you don't hurt. As far as my bicycling being non weight-bearing, I do it for aerobic benefits,and I do more than enough weights and machines to satisfy the 'weight bearing' requirements.

I only do Olympic lift-like exercises about once a week for the lousy joint problem mentioned above. Also, I think the older lifter really doesn't have as much energy (to Olympic lift multiple weekly workouts) as the younger athlete. Face it, we're going downhill -- so we should try to make the downhill slope as gradual as possible. I use machines which don't work my complete body as much as the lifts -- but the machines make sure that I keep all the various muscles that I use in LIFE in shape.

I certainly do more core (midsection) exercises than I used to. However, what I do is an all-around bodybuilding workout, and make sure to go heavy at least half of the time.

and I think weighing less (with less bodyfat) is healthy. This is my toughest thing to do. But we all could succeed if once we lose five or 10 pounds, we permanently maintain a lower calorie intake as a rule of life. More fish, more vegetables, more fruits, more beans, nuts and grains and less white breads, less white pastas, and much less sugar. If you're a salt-shaker, shake less! Try spices and peppers for flavoring.

The idea is to be healthy, to feel good, and to try to stay stronger than the average. It can be easily done.

Do not try to be an Olympic weightlifting champion when you are over 50. Over 40 or 50 years old CONSIDER YOURSELF IN REHAB and you'll stay well ahead of the average human!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mind in Relation to Weightlifting - William Oliphant

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Mind in Relation to Weightlifting
by William Oliphant (1940)

He was concentrating on the weight of the bar and had entirely lost sight of the lift.

You must look ahead all the time. If a man in business wants to improve, he looks ahead, and by looking ahead, he gets ahead. The same thing applies to many sports, and especially to weightlifting.

In business, in sports, and then again in weightlifting there may be room at the bottom of the ladder for men with weak concentrative power, but I can certainly assure you there isn't any room at the top.

To reach the top in any line of endeavor a man must work, he must take care of himself if he ever hopes to become a success. The weight-lifter must stick to his weight-lifting; practice regularly; he must exercise; he must be moderate in all things such as late hours, etc. All this requires willpower, but fortunately the regular observance of this mode of lifting develops Will Power.

Here a a simple little method you can put into effect which will, at one and the same time, improve your knowledge of scientific lifting positions, your development, and your will power.

During a workout with the weights, occasionally make three or four attempts with a weight anywhere from 10 to 30 pounds under your top lift. Buy this practice over time you will not only develop better staminal power and confidence, but when your strength begins to fail you will realize more or less instinctively that you must dip a little lower or much more quickly. or lower and lock the arms more correctly and turn the wrists over a little better, or you know that your last attempt will be a failure. This practice can be applied to all lifts.

My lifters all train along these lines, and my middleweight champion, Joe Sklar, has practiced this method and brought it to such a fine point that he takes 290 and sometimes 300 lbs. and jerks it overhead, and instead of getting set for his second, third and sometimes fourth attempt, he allows his knees to bend as the weight comes to the chest and immediately jerks overhead again. By practicing on this method, Joe not only improved his style but rapidly increased the poundages on all his lifts.

A mistake I would warn young lifters especially against is copying too closely the style of some lifter they may admire, or some lifter whose style may appeal to them in a contest. To such a young lifter I would say first of all, ask yourself the question "Is my physique the same? Would this particular style suit me?" You must remember that some lifters have stronger legs in proportion to their arms, while others have much stronger arms and shoulders in proportion to their legs.

It suits some lifters to squat under a weigh and quickly lock their arms in a supporting position, keeping the back straight, while others like to split and dip quickly throwing the bar slightly backwards, and in some cases forward in order to lock the arms. The best advice I can give in this respect is to try all positions of styles on your lifts and exercises and find out just which one suits your own individual type of physique, and then train accordingly. This is the only road to success. Don't fight your body type.

In my opinion, no man can ever be a first class weight-lifting instructor if he has any set ideas as to the main principle which should be run through a lift. If he insists on his pupils pressing or pushing through regardless of physique, or has only one style on the snatch or jerk or other lifts which may be used in training, he may probably turn out some good lifters, but there are others who might have done well -- and perhaps better -- had they been shown a style to suit themselves.

If you are training at the club by yourself, or without a good instructor, or at home in the back yard or basement, you must bear this in mind and try to develop a style to suit your own individual type of physique. If you are practicing the three Olympic lifts, the main principle to follow on the snatch and jerk especially is speed. Aim at speed all the time. I have seen many lifters whose style was considered to be good, and yet they have been able to get another 10 or 15 pounds on a lift after being made to realize that they were lifting just a little too slow.

Many have told me that they have included a lot of heavy deadlifts in their training as they have been led to believe by doing so they would develop great strength in the back muscles. Probably they did, but on the other hand too much work on the deadlift has a tendency to slow up the muscles, and as an antidote for this I suggest they practice a little tumbling, hand balancing (Hepburn), skipping and even a little boxing with the object of gaining speed and counteracting the effects of slower work with heavy weights.

Another point you should try and figure out is how often you should train or practice every week. Certain individual types can train every night of the week with advantage, while there are others who reach their best form with only one real good work-out a week, say on Friday night for example, spending the earlier part of the week with quite light work, perfecting positions, style, etc.

Remember, champions can be defeated and records are only made to be broken. What one man can do, someone else can do and do better.

When you are practicing your lifts, work with a light barbell in front of a large mirror if possible. If you do so, compare yourself with some appropriate lifter or champion you may have seen; ask yourself if you are really satisfied with your positions; are they neat, smart or quick enough. Take into consideration every move you make and figure out if there is a good and definite reason for every move.

One important thing you must remember is this: a record can only be accomplished by bringing as many muscle groups as possible into play at the same time.

The average individual or novice at weight-lifting brings the bar up to the chest by action of the arm muscles primarily. This, of course, is wrong. With a little training and weight-lifting practice he gradually begins to use his legs as well, although he may not at first be able to time the two sets of muscles correctly. Constant practice overcomes this, however, for he gradually gains coordination of the mind and different muscle groups and the timing and movement becomes more or less mechanical.

The first time I witnessed Tony Terlazzo lifting over 300 pounds in the two hands clean & jerk I was quick to notice on that clean that, besides using the arms and legs together, he also brought into play the large back muscles, trapezius and erector spinae, and together with working the three groups of arms, legs and back muscles he also threw his body backwards slightly, compelling it to act as a lever. His Clean movement from the floor to the chest is done so quickly that one would almost think he lifted the weight by pure strength alone, yet the whole thing is done so neat that it is made to look like a very simple operation. When he jerks the bar overhead he makes the movement look even more simple.

There is no doubt that Tony is very strong, but he is extremely scientific and clever too. His clean & jerk is a perfect lift. The whole truth of the matter is that Tony has reached the acme of perfection at weightlifting and makes the demanding look simple and easy. After all, that is the essence of scientific weightlifting.

Determine for yourself if you are using sufficient groups of muscles when performing any given lift. This is important, for it will gradually pave the way to much all around improvement. No matter how good you may think you are on a lift, don't kid yourself that you can't improve. Don't specialize too much on any one lift, or set of lifts like the Olympic three. Try other lifts as well, a sort of all-round lifting, for many times you will find out that what you learn from one lift often helps another, and besides it gives certain muscles a chance for a good rest.

If you happen to be one of those who practice weightlifting once or twice a week at some club or gym and have no weights of your own at home, why not follow this suggestion:

If you have a fair-sized mirror in your bedroom or another room, take up your position for the different lifts and run through them smartly and quickly, trying to be as scientific about your appraisal as possible, with the thought in mind that you must identify and memorize the groups of muscles brought into play and combination at various stages of each lift. This may be of use when struggling with a weak spot in any lift. Concentrate on these lifts as much as possible, just as your would with a heavy weight. Get a piece of three-quarter pipe or a broomstick handle and use this while going through different movements. If you will give this seemingly simple method of getting a lot of practice in with a minimum effort on these chosen movements a fair trial, you will be more than repaid with results for the time you have spent. Boxers go through a lot of shadow boxing in their training to improve timing and direction for different movements, dupes and bows, and lifters can reap benefits just as good by doing practically the same thing.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dynamics of the Deadlift, The Series - Pete Vuono

Original location of the West Side Barbell Club.
photo courtesy of Mike Knight

Hermann Goerner demonstrating a four-finger deadlift of 595.5 pounds using only the index and middle fingers of each hand. 30th November, 1933.

Series originally published in Powerlifting USA magazine between 1981 and '82.
BIG THANKS to Pete Vuono and Dave Yarnell!


Overloading is a system by which the lifter uses a device, a training partner or changes the execution of a particular lift to help him or her become accustomed to using a much heavier weight than is actually lifted in competition.

Overloading has a mufti-faceted purpose. It serves to alleviate the crushing feeling that a heavy competition weight often has on the lifter, it is a means by which the lifter can train a specific sticking point into greater strength and it psychologically makes a barbell feel lighter. This author has mentioned overloading in the bench press and squat previously and the deadlift is no exception. Here are two possible techniques:

(1) Negative Training

Negative training is a very simple technique to execute and can be done safely. Upon finishing one's deadlift routine of the day, increase the heaviest set of deadlifts for that day by 150 pounds (modify this is it is not appropriate). Get into the your normal deadlift position and and lift it up with the aid of two spotters. If this is too difficult, have the bar placed in a power rack with only about 1/2 inch for the bar to be pulled to completion. Once the bar is pulled to a standing position, the training partners can pull out the pins. Whatever safe way the lifter uses to get the bar into position, this is the starting point of the exercise. Once in this position, hold the bar up for 30 seconds. Now, begin lowering it very slowly, resisting all the way. This should be done ONLY ONE TIME AND WITH CLOSE ATTENTION PAID TO BACK SAFETY. Perform this hold and negative lowering no more than once per week and less if necessary. This brief routine should serve to efficiently overload the muscles involved in the deadlift.

(2) The 'Touch' Method

The touch method was devised in the early days of powerlifting in California (respect to Bill West) and is one of the most useful and successful overload methods. In spite of this, it has been virtually forgotten and is not used by many current powerlifters.

Take a barbell and put it up on blocks approximately 8 inches high. Sturdy blocks, in this author's opinion, are superior to a power rack for this particular movement because they allow for more space and there is no danger of the bar or the power rack pins in the event the bar is dropped. Once the bar is up on the blocks, warm up to 1/2 to 3/4 of your maximum deadlift off the floor. For example, if your maximum deadlift is 400, perform reps in a maner similar to this:

135 x 10, 225 x 5, 315 x 2, completely without assistance from a partner. Now increase the weight to the maximum of 400. The training partner should put his right hand on the lifter's sternum and his left hand on the lifter's sacrum. As the weight is lifted the training partner should push forward with the (lower) left hand and up and back with the (higher) right hand, assisting the lifter with the heavy lift. The lifter will get the overload sensation of feeling a heavy weight, but due to the 8-inch blocks and partner assistance the body and back won't be overly taxed. Perform this single rep with 400 for 1 set; then increase the weight by 25 more pounds for 2 more singles using the touch method.

If the touch method is utilized, perform it only once weekly, three or four days before or after your regular deadlift workout.

(3) The Graduated Deadlift

The graduated deadlift is very aptly named. It is a gradual way of conditioning the body into using a heavier weight than you are used to using.

Take a group of pine boards 3 feet long x 12 inches wide x 3/4 inch thick. Have enough of them stacked so that when the bar is placed on top of the boards (or a block placed on top of the boards) it will only have to be pulled 2 to 3 inches to completion. Slowly warm up to a weight which is 5 to 10% above your maximum deadlift. Perform deadlifts in this fashion once a week. The repetitions off the blocks for a best regular deadlift of 400 would be:

135 x 10, 225 x 5, 315 x 1, then anywhere from 420-440 for 2. The lifter may, if possible, remove a board from each side every third workout. If he gets to a point where he cannot succeed with the lift after removing a board from each side, he should stick with the previous height until it is possible to succeed with the lower height. If this routine is successful the lifter will find that he can work right to the floor with 5 to 10% above his best deadlift.

If the lifter deadlifts once weekly, he may use this routine instead of the regular deadlift, as it uses the same muscles.


In the deadlift the athlete does not crouch down as low as in the squat. It is for this reason that there is much less of a 'squeeze' effect on the body. In the deadlift no body part squeezes or pushes off of another body part to a major extent. Therefore, there is less of a leverage factor available.

However, these limited leverage conditions can be remedied and the 'squeeze' effect can be made greater by the usage of certain apparel.

Although the descent of the legs is not very low, it is low enough for a 10-cm. wide leather belt to create a slight amount of pressure so as to push the body upward. This action can be even more enhanced by the powerlifter if he consciously presses his abdominals up against the belt when descending towards the bar. This, of course, gives the benefits of a lighter torso and hence better leverage.

Another advantage can be had by wearing one of the snug reinforcing suits which are in vogue. Because of the tightness in the leg, seat, and straps, it makes the descent towards the bar slightly more difficult or tighter. It is recommended that if the trainee uses a suit of this style that he not use it during practice but only one or two months before the contest. This will help the lifter to not depend on the suit but have time enough to become adjusted to its feel so that his style is not altered.

It is well known that the closer a lifter is to the ground the less distance he will have to pull the bar. To achieve this shortening of distance it is desirable to wear shoes with thin or no heels. Track shoes, wrestling shoes, slippers or gymnastics shoes have such heels. It will help the lifter to not wear socks as they sometimes cause friction with the bar. Some lifters have gone as far as to use an electric shaver across the thighs to further cut down on friction.

One might also spread baby powder or talcum powder across the thigh to offer a source of lubrication to allow the bar to slide up the leg. If powder is used, do not apply it directly with the hand or it will cause a slippery grip and a possible loss of the lift.

Another technique that the lifter can try is to have a one-inch thick wedge placed on the shoe in the area just over the ball of the foot. The rationale here is that lifters wear raised heels on shoe in the squat to offset the weight which is behind them, making it easier to lean forward and utilize the back. Since, in the deadlift, the weight is in front of the body, a wedge in the front of the foot will help offset a weight which is in front and help the lifter to pull up and back, which is precisely the way the bar must travel towards completion.

There is no guarantee that the wedge at the front of the foot will increase poundages. However, if the lifter has an old pair of track or wrestling shoes this experiment may well be worth a try.


Although overloading and power rack training can be quite effective for some lifters, others require usage of a full range of motion which is unassisted to overcome sticking points. Two fine methods of overcoming one’s sticking points without overloading or power rack training include first - make the deadlift more difficult to perform by the addition of a device or the changing of the angle to make the execution of the lift more difficult and yet similar to the actual lift.

An excellent example of this method is to execute the front squat rather than the full back squat as the angle change eliminates help from the back in the ascent. Another example would be to do a close-grip bench press rather than using the normal grip as this helps to eliminate shoulder and pectoral strength.

The same method can be used with the deadlift in several ways, instead of training on the deadlift itself, so that when the trainee returns to the deadlift after several months or working it from a harder position, his poundages may increase markedly after regaining familiarity with the regular deadlift.

The second method of overcoming one’s sticking points without overloading or using the power rack is to determine which muscle group or groups are causing a sticking point, and then strengthening them by using exercises which isolate those muscle groups. For example, a two-arm chin works latissimus, biceps and forearms. If someone wanted to isolate the bicep alone, he would specialize by doing a curling exercise which works the biceps more and the other muscle groups less. Isolation on one’s weak muscle group can be done with a myriad of exercises which isolate those muscle groups. For example, a two-arm chin works latissimus, biceps and forearms. If someone wanted to isolate the bicep alone, he would specialize by doing a curling exercise which works the biceps more and the other muscle groups less. Isolation on one’s weak muscle group can be done with a myriad of exercises. Now, the above-mentioned routines will be explained separately.

A.) Making the Deadlift More Difficult to Perform

It sounds logical that if an Olympic lifter can clean or power clean 300 pounds, then their deadlift should be considerably higher, since the distance of the pull is much shorter. There is a school of thought in powerlifting which feels that if the lifter works the pulling muscles involved by pulling the bar a great deal higher, then when the regular deadlift is contested it will have increased greatly. Many American and world record holders vouch for this technique and it could prove to be a valuable method for the reader as well.

The first group of exercises which make the deadlift more difficult to perform adhere to the above-mentioned theory. They are the quick, explosive pulling movements given to powerlifters from Olympic lifters. The trainee may perform power cleans, or clean-grip or snatch-grip pulls once per week without performing the deadlift and still work the pulling muscles involved. The power clean and the clean pull make the lift much more difficult by forcing the lifter to bring the bar a great deal higher than in normal deadlifting. If the reader decided to do the power clean and the clean pull, do them once per week each and three days apart from one another. For a lifter who can power clean 225 once, a sample routine would be 135x5, 155x5, 175x1, 195x5 or whatever one’s strength that day dictates.

The trainee may arrange the repetitions in the same manner for the clean pull. Train with these exercises for several months and go back to the normal deadlift one or two months before the contest.

When executing the power clean the lifter may or may not use straps. The bar should be pulled up from the floor to the shoulders IN ONE MOVEMENT WITHOUT DIPPING UNDERNEATH WITH A KNEE BEND. This will serve to work the pulling muscles more thoroughly and decrease the possibility of an injury due to knee or ankle twisting.

The second type of exercises which make the deadlift more difficult to perform are those which force the lifter to stoop down lower to grasp the bar, rather than forcing the lifter to pull it higher. They are similar to the first set of exercises in that they work the same muscles used in deadlifting and greatly increase the distance of the pull.

The first of these exercises is the snatch-grip deadlift. This is simply a deadlift performed on an Olympic bar with one’s hands just inside the interior collars. The wide grip automatically forces the lifter to descend or squat lower thus creating a higher, longer-range pull. A sample routine for someone who can perform 300 for one rep in this manner could be 135x10, 225x5, 250x1, 25x3-5 reps, depending on the lifter’s strength that day.

Another series of important exercises which force the lifter to bend lower thus creating a longer pull is the bent-legged or stiff-legged deadlift done while standing on a 4-inch, 6-inch block or small platform, or on a bench. Standing on a 4” riser when regular deadlifting causes the lifter’s insteps to be approximately 2” from the bar. A 6” block allows for the lifter’s insteps to approximately touch the bar, again providing more distance to the pull. Placing the bar up on a bench and standing atop it immediately behind the bar forces the lifter to bend all the way down to the toes to grasp the bar, making the lifter pull the bar approximately 8” fuller than normal.

One step ahead of this would be to perform this style with legs bent at only a 10 to 20-degree angle, which eliminates a lot of the leg strength. If the trainee does decide to use the “stiff-legged” variety of this exercise he should be sure to stretch both the hamstrings and back, and start utilizing the movement very gradually but progressively.

The height of the block, or whether to utilize bent legs or nearly-straight should be left up to the lifter. Experiment and use whatever works best for you. This may vary over time. This author’s personal routine has been to use straight legs with a 10-degree bend at the knees while standing on 4” high blocks. My routine is as follows: 135x10, 225x5, 385x2, 485x1, 505x1. The final set should be heavy but never maximum so as not to cause staleness or a premature peak. The lifter may or may not use lifting straps.

B.) Developing the Muscles

The second method of overcoming one’s sticking points without the use of the power rack or overloading is to determine which muscle group is causing a problem, and isolate it with an exercise which works those muscles in a different angle, or serves to exclude other assisting muscle groups, of works the deadlift muscles from the point of sticking.

The bottom, middle and top position of the deadlift will be analyzed and the muscles which are dominant in each phase will be discussed. Finally, suggested exercises for assistance will be recommended for each phase of the deadlift.

Before going over each phase it is important to point out that the quick Olympic-style lifts will be listed in each phase (bottom, middle, top). There are several reasons for this and they will be illustrated with the power clean. Since, in the power clean, the lift is started from the floor and is pulled slightly faster than the deadlift, the lifter must concentrate on an explosive start. This concentration helps develop good starting power and thus the bottom position of the deadlift.

Since momentum is created in the middle of the power clean and speed accelerated, the lift can serve to break a middle sticking point in the deadlift. Also, the final shrug at the top of any quick lift helps to break a deadlift sticking point at the top where so many powerlifters are caught short.

Finally, since Olympic-style movements are fast, they serve to develop fast twitch muscle fibers which are those fibers utilized when an athlete executes a fast movement in sports. These fibers are left undeveloped from simply deadlifting and could serve to increase one’s deadlift if they have been trained conjunctively with slow twitch fibers. Therefore, the quick, Olympic-style lifts will be listed under each of the three positions.

Bottom Position

According to Gray’s Anatomy, the primary muscles for maintaining the spine in the erect posture and to bend the trunk backward when it is required to counterbalance the influence of any weight at the front of the body are the erector spinae muscles. They are responsible for most of the action of the deadlift and along with a slight assist from bent quadriceps are responsible for the bottom position of the deadlift. Assistance movements which can help to isolate a weak bottom area are as follows:

a. stiff leg deadlift.
b. stiff leg deadlift, lifter standing on 4” platform.
c. stiff leg deadlift, lifter standing on 6” platform.
d. stiff leg deadlifts with bar on bench, lifter standing on bench.
e. bent leg deadlift, lifter standing on 4” platform, 6” platform, or on bench.
f. snatch-grip deadlift.
g. snatch-grip deadlift, lifter standing on 4” platform, 6” platform, or on bench.
h. isometric deadlift in power rack with empty bar set at low position.
i. isometric/isotonic deadlift on power rack with loaded bar set at low position.
j. good morning exercise.
k. power clean.
l. clean pull.
m. snatch pull.
p. power snatch.
o. hyperextension with or without weight.

Middle Position

The erector spinae muscles are still in the process of hoisting the weight but other muscles come into play and assist. The trainee will note that during the process of deadlifting the upper arm or humerus is drawn back slightly as the bar is pulled upward. This movement is primarily executed by the latissimus dorsi and teres major which are both attached to the humerus. Therefore, since these middle back muscles are attached to the humerus and serve to pull it back slightly when deadlifting, they could be the cause of a middle sticking point. Exercises to eradicate a middle sticking point are as follows:

a. wide grip chins with or without weight.
b. medium grip chins with or without weight.
c. close grip chins with or without weight.
d. lat machine pulldowns with wide or medium grip.
e. seated cable rows.
f. bentover barbell row, pronated grip.
g. bentover barbell row, supinated grip.
h. one dumbbell bentover row.
i. two dumbbell bentover row.
j. good morning exercise.
k. power clean.
l. clean pull.
m. snatch pull.
n. power snatch.
o. isometric deadlift done with empty bar at middle position.
p. isometric/isotonic deadlift done with loaded bar at middle position.
q. lockout deadlift done from the middle position of the power rack or off blocks.
r. lockout deadlift done from the middle position of the power rack or off blocks using the “touch” method.

Top Position

According to Gray’s Anatomy the trapezius muscle reacts retracts the scapula and braces back the shoulder; if the head is fixed, the upper part of the trapezius will elevate the point of the shoulders as in supporting weights. Thus, both the trapezii together draw the head of the shoulder directly backward.

This is the action of the final shrug which plagues so many powerlifters. Assistance movements which will improve one’s top position are as follows:

a. shrugs done with bar in front of the body.
b. shrugs done with bar behind body.
c. shrugs with dumbbells.
d. power shrugs, done in cheating style, pulling the bar from just above knees using trapezii and back conjunctively.
e. lockout deadlifts from top position on power rack.
f. isometric deadlift with empty bar at top position.
g. isometric/isotonic deadlift with loaded bar at top position.
h. upright row.
i. upright row done in cheating manner, pulling the bar from the floor to the sternum with various grips.
j. power clean.
k. clean or snatch pull.
m. power snatch.
n. hang power clean.
o. hang pull with various grip widths.
p. hang snatch.
q. hang power snatch.

A wide variety of exercises have been listed in hopes that the reader will be able to choose an exercise or exercises that will cater to his current individual needs. A general rule would be to first ascertain one’s sticking point, choose one isolation exercise and perform it once weekly. It is permissible to exclude the deadlift entirely if the trainee uses an assistance movement or movements which fully develop the same muscles involved in the deadlift. For example, if the trainee did the stiff-legged deadlift on blocks once per week, it would be fine to exclude the deadlift as the important muscles are already worked.

If an assistance move is used in addition to the deadlift, perform it once weekly, three days before or after the deadlift and with higher repetitions than the deadlift so to focus power on the deadlift and not on the assistance movement.


Without exception, in every power meet that this author has gone to as a spectator or as a competitor, there has always been at least one deadlift lost due a weak grip.

Whether or not the reader has large or small hands, the grip can usually be sufficiently strengthened to insure that his grip doesn't give out before the pull is completed. Think about it: how many major competitions have been won or lost due to a lifter's grip giving out?

The following are several suggestions which will help to build one's grip to go along with a more powerful pull. The best routines are those which require an actual gripping movement. However, exercises which strengthen the forearms can help also.

Here are some suggestions:

a) supporting a heavy barbell off a power rack without a hook grip.

b) performing the above exercise with the hands first greased with petroleum jelly.

c) pinch-gripping thin, smooth surfaced barbell plates with each hand.

d) ping-gripping thin, smooth surfaced barbell plates with a light film of petroleum jelly on the hands.

e) squeezing grippers for 3 sets of 10 reps three times weekly.

f) holding thick-handled dumbbells or barbells made so by encasing them with a hollow pipe, layered tin foil or a towel wrapping.

g) performing deadlifts with an overhand grip without using a hook grip.

h) performing deadlifts in an alternate grip but using only one finger from each hand; first use the little finger, then the ring finger, middle, and finally the index fingers.

i) isometrically squeezing a rolled up towel.

j) performing the wrist roller exercise with a pronated grip for 3 roll-ups.

k) performing the wrist roller exercise with a supinated grip for 3 roll-ups.

l) the reverse curl done in normal fashion.

m) the 'Gironda' reverse curl done by dragging the bar up the body, keeping it in contact with the body at all times.

n) the Zottman curl.

o) the thumbs-up, or Hammer curl with dumbbells.

p) the modified reverse curl where the bar is lowered only to a parallel position.

q) wrist curls with a pronated grip done on a bench.

r) wrist curls with a supinated grip done on a bench.

s) wrist curls done standing with a barbell with the hands behind the back.

t) wrist curls done with dumbbells held at the sides with the wrists curling toward and away from the body.

Perform your grip exercises two or three times a week on days that the arms are not worked. It is advisable to do them on the lower body or deadlift days, last on the agenda. 3 sets are appropriate for all supporting, gripping and forearm exercises. If an exercise is chosen for the forearms, be sure to choose one for the flexors and one for the extensors for balanced, overall development and strength. For example, I do the reverse curl compounded with wrist curls for the flexors and extensors of the forearms and these are followed by hammer (thumbs-up) curls for the brachialis muscle. On all forearm exercises, the trainee may choose anywhere from 10-15 reps for each of his 3 sets.


The power rack can be used just as effectively for the deadlift as it can for the squat and bench press, and offers several training advantages. It can help isolate sticking points at whatever stage of the pull the lifter has difficulty. It can also overload the body and is usually quite safe due to the rack pins.

By setting the bar around one's sticking point or weak area in the rack, the trainee can:

(a) isolate the sticking point physically by continuously starting from that weak area, or

(b) isolate the sticking point mentally by forcing the lifter to focus his concentration on the weak area because it is the point from which the pins have been set at, and

(c) add isometrics to the routine, providing another training method.

In order to isolate one's sticking point (at just above knee level, for example), set the bar on the pins adjusted to the desired height. Now pull the partial deadlift. This will allow one to physically attack the area in a more concentrated manner, because the area from the floor to just below the knee has been eliminated. You can focus your power on the sticking point in a fresher state without the fatigue from the first part of the lift.

An additional advantage here is that by starting at your weak area you have to concentrate more heavily with the mind on the weak area. Nerve impulses are trained to break through the weak area, which helps the physical weakness to be overcome. The mind becomes used to success in this area of the lift, and not failure. The power rack helps to focus energy on one particular spot so that when this spot is encountered during a full movement it can be broken down easily.

The lifter, before setting the bar at his weak area, should practice the lift slowly from the floor with light weights. While doing this, try to observe the position that your body assumes when the bar crosses the sticking point. THIS SAME POSITION SHOULD BE DUPLICATED EXACTLY IN THE POWER RACK. For example, if your sticking point is just above the knee and your knees are almost completely straight at this point in the regular full deadlift, then this position must be duplicated exactly in the power rack or much of the effectiveness is lost.

Another routine that the lifter can use the power rack for requires that he first set the bar on the pins in the area of the deadlift sticking point. Next he should place another set of pins four inches above the first pair. Now, pull the bar from the first set of pins up to the second set and pull against them isometrically for five seconds. This routine may be done for 3 sets of 3-5 reps
(after a warmup).

A helpful adjunct to this routine would be to remove the upper set of pins after the isometric sets are completed. Now simply pull the bar from the first (the remaining) set of pins to completion for 5 sets of single reps with the same weight. By using isometrics and isotonics together the lifter can incorporate two useful training methods to overcome the sticking point in one workout.

The power rack can also be used for overloading purposes. You can pull huge poundages, 150 pounds in excess of your top deadlift, an inch or two off the pins to give the sensation of a heavier lift that is done in competition. You can also have a training partner take away the pins while you are holding the weight and you can, after 10 to 30 seconds of supporting, lower the weight negatively toward the floor.

Still another usage of the power rack is to set a pair of pins at the sticking point. Now set an empty bar under the pins and pull isometrically for 5 to 8 seconds. You can perform this variation for 1 to 3 isometric pulls per workout.

Finally, it is suggested that you perform these variations after a warmup and the you WORK INTO THESE MOVEMENTS SLOWLY. If they are done as an adjunct to your routine, perform only one variation once per week on a day three days before or after your regular deadlift routine.


In planning a repetition scheme for the deadlift the trainee must be cautious so as not to do too many reps, sets, warmups, or heavy sets as the heavy taxation which the deadlift puts on one's back can easily take a toll.

If you enjoy cycling before a meet, it is advisable to make the heavy set go no higher than 5 repetitions and the number of heavy sets not to exceed one set. Therefore, if a meet is 12 weeks away, the trainee would work up to a heavy set of 5 rather than 8 or 10 reps so as not to tax the back too heavily. When the meet approaches, the lifter may cycle down to a heavy set of 3, 2, or 1 repetition.

Another way to work the reps is to simply work up to a heavy double or single all the time prior to the contest but never to attempt a maximum. The heavy double or single should be done only once per workout and once per week, and only increased when the lifter is certain that the effort is easy.

Perhaps one of the best ways to work the deadlift rep scheme (or for the squat or bench press) is a routine which I call the '10, 5, 1, 3 to 5' routine. It is a mini-cycle which is designed to always keep the lifter used to heavy weights but to also prevent an inappropriate maximum effort in training.

For a hypothetical lifter who has a maximum deadlift of 400 pounds for 3 repetitions, the first workout will go as follows:

135 x 10
225 x 5
300 x 1
400 x 3

On the following workout, the lifter strives for 4 reps at 400. When this is finally achieved (and it may take one or a dozen workouts), the lifter strives for 400 x 5. When 5 reps are achieved, the lifter adds 5 pounds to the bar on the next workout and attempts 3 reps with 405, and so on. A key to this routine is the set of 1 with 300. One repetition before the heavy (work) set is enough to physically and psychologically warm you up for a heavy set. Also, because it is only one repetition, it does not heavily tax the body and therefore leaves a great reserve left. This routine is very brief, but this is an asset which prevents overtraining. It is always sequential and always gives you a good idea where your maximum is. Also, because the reps are low (3,4,5), you are always prepared for a maximum lift. This one is worth experimenting with.

This concludes my series on the deadlift. It was my intent to give everyone some advice which might improve their lifts. If this has occurred, then this effort was well worthwhile. It is also the hope of this author that all the lifters who will stoop to conquer the deadlift bar can honestly say to themselves that they will have performed the feat by way of knowledge, hard work and their own natural God-given abilities.

To Powerlifting,
Pete Vuono.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

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

The Path Of Movement Of The Bar In The Clean

If you know all there is to know about the correct path of movement of the bar and can, when watching a lift, accurately interpret what you see, you are wll on the way to being a great coach of others as well of yourself. This is one of the most important, if not the most important aspects of lifting. It is also one of the hardest to understand.

When the BAWLA scheme first started, the straight pull was taught. it was necessary to keep things simple and not too technical until lifters grasped he fundamentals. Gradually more detailed information was given to potential coaches and advanced lifters. In many cases it is still thought desirable to tell students to AIM for a straight pull, keeping the bar close to the body and using a god hip thrust, knowing full well that the straight pull will not result if these instructions are followed. (If you keep the bar close to the body it will actually come back a little and, as you incorporate the hip thrust, the bar will be put back on a straight line.) Actually some good coaches, like my friend Pignatti of Italy, still teach a straight pull most of the time. Going to the other extreme, there has been a fashion for the S pull and I AM VERY MUCH AGAINST TEACHING THIS AS IT HAS BEEN DESCRIBED IN SOME PUBLICATIONS.

It is my contention that the so-called S pull is illegal under the present rules because the bar is HIT by the thighs, or vice versa, and furthermore, the entire S action is merely an exaggeration of the proper path of movement. I believe that a straight pull making the body do all the movements may well be the ultimate of good technique for the super strong man, but meantime we must make certain modifications.

I believe the straighter pull is better than the S pull because

(a) The shortest distance between the platform and the shoulders is in a straight line.

(b) It is easier to move the body close to the bar. Not only is the body more mobile than the bar, which is an inanimate object, but in the clean the bar will be very much heavier than the body.

(c) Advocates of the S pull say you should commence by standing well away from the bar, and this violates mechanical principles of good movement. You should keep the combined center of gravity over the base, i.e., the feet.

(d) As the ultimate aim is to make the bar move upward, and acceleration occurs in relation to the direction in which the force is applied, it follows that any force in the horizontal plane will be disadvantageous.

For more on this, see here:

At paragraph beginning --
"Now, let us proceed to part two of this installment which is in regard to “banging” or striking the thighs with the bar in pulling . . ."

In studying the current techniques of the champions the path of movement which appears to be most effective for the majority is as follows:

1.) The bar travels upward and slightly backwards over the knees. Remember many lifters start with the bar fairly well over the front of the foot and this backward movement merely coincides with the shin bones going backwards and the weight moving over the center of the base.

2.) As the hip thrust commences, the theory of transference of momentum operates, and the bar should go slightly forward. The more hip thrust there is, the more the weight will go forward, and the heavier the weight the less it will go forward. It follows that with heavy weights a good hip thrust in a forward and upward direction is necessary. Please note that the upward part of the hip thrust must not be neglected. Too much forward action without the upward drive will be wasted effort and have a detrimental effect. Sending the bar A LITTLE forward at this stage also fits in well with our theories of balanced lifting as it is here that the lifter rises on his toes and he now has a smaller base and the weight should be moved forward to be over the center of this new base.

3.) Once the arms come into play and the wrists turn over, almost inevitably a little hook is put on the path of movement, and the weight now comes backward and downward. The less backward momentum the better it is for the lifter, but at the same time there should definitely not be a forward and downward hook as I have seen on some lifters at top club or district level. This sort of hook is the result of too much forward hip thrust combined with overstepping forward and swinging the weight out in front.

4.) If the lifter is a splitter there will be a slight forward and downward pattern AFTER the backward and downward hook.

There has been a great deal of misinterpretation regarding the S pull and some have even said that the bar comes up with such force that it knocks them down! This is very likely to happen the way most do the S pull, but it is not because the bar has come up with a lot of force, it is because they have gone off balance. These lifters pull the bar upwards and backwards, then the pull straightens out. They then pull on the bar, getting a big hook, and the backward and downward action being exaggerated knocks them onto their posteriors!

The true S-puller does something very similar. He pulls the bar upward and backward over the knees. His hip thrust is coordinated with banging the thighs on the bar and this sends the bar forward. Sometimes this forward swing is exaggerated with spectacular results. The lifter in the third phase pulls hard on the bar and this puts the hook on the top of the S.

The rules were altered at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964 to allow the bar to BRUSH the thighs, but this does not permit the big heave that many S-pullers use.

The second part which causes a lot of concern is the technique of pulling the bar backward after it has been swung well forward. It takes a real expert, like Ike Berger for example, to do this well. It is tied up with the point of percussion, but frankly it is a very involved business and it is an extremely difficult skill to master. The secret is not to pull the bar backward too much, as so many try to do, but to partly pull the bar backward, and mainly to pull the body forward. The lifter should not be forced to jump back to catch the bar and this is what happens most times. You may think it's impossible to use this technique without jumping back but it isn't. Zhabotinsky, one of the heaviest of the heavies, can time his

jump. However, I must stress that this timing in the S pull is an extremely difficult technique, quite beyond the reach of most people. If you jump either too much backward or too much forward you will most likely apply too much horizontal force in one direction or the other. It is my belief that the natural slight backward and downward hook is correct, as it allows the center of gravity of the body to assume the path with the minimum horizontal deviation. Horizontal movement of the body is invariably transferred to the bar.

I am certain that most lifters will find the pull described at the beginning of this section to be the one which meets their requirements. Remember, it's not a straight pull although your AIM may be to pull the bar straight and let the body actions put the bar in the correct path. For analysis, I fasten a little light bulb to the end of the bar and leave the shutter of my ordinary still camera open during the lift. The light then traces the path movement of the bar. Two points to remember: The camera should be quite still on a tripod, etc, and second, if there is even a slight twist of the bar during the lift, the wrong impression will be given, and for this reason both ends of the bar should be photographed.

While in the thick of my research into the clean & jerk, an article was published trying to justify the S path of movement on a mathematical basis. There were a great many incorrect statements in the article; for example, if it had been done as stated in the article -- the bar would have had to go through the tibia and fibula and later would be so far outside the base that it could not be supported! However, if there was some justification mathematically, the method had to be considered, so I asked the Research Department at Strathclyde University to check the figures for me. The answer came back that the calculations were inaccurate; there were several basic mistakes and the mathematical calculations actually favored a STRAIGHTER PULL. The figures produced by the Research Department showed that the S pull work done was 12,245 in pounds, as opposed to the more economical straight pull of 10,800 in pounds.

It therefor appears that from both the theoretical and the practical points of view the more orthodox pull is more acceptable to the majority.

Common Faults

Many common faults are discussed in the various sections of this book. but here are a few more not mentioned elsewhere.

One of the greatest faults in Squat Cleans is folding up in the low position.

In this folded position, the chest goes down and the back is nearer the horizontal the to the vertical. Very often the elbows touch the knees and another associated fault is that the feet are moved too wide apart. The latter makes rising difficult.

The crumpled up position is often the result of incomplete extensions, the lifter going down before the pull is properly finished.

It is a great temptation to go down before the body is completely extended, especially if too much arm work is used, because this makes the bar feel high enough. An incorrect pull in going under the bar also aggravates the fault.

The treatment is first of all to extend fully and then, in pulling the body under the bar, you must vigorously whip the elbows forward. Simultaneously, a very strong effort is made to get the HIPS forward and downward as close to the heels as possible. This has the effect of giving you the more desirable upright back.

If there is no lack of hip mobility and the characteristic pelvis tilt position is still adopted, it may merely be that the feet are not being split wide enough. Again we must look for a reason, as few will use a short split without good cause. It is quite likely that the lifter is putting the weight overhead well behind his head. The automatic reaction to the backward movement is the head and chest being put forward and the hips are often tilted. The short split is then almost invariably incorporated in this technique.

The cure is for the lifter to put the bar above the center of the head instead of being backward. He must get his shoulders and hips directly under the bar and with his feet slightly wider apart in the fore and aft directions he will achieve a finishing position which is a little lower and a lot safer.

Keep in mind, however, that where there is a lack of mobility or the reaction mentioned, an effort to split wider will only further complicate matters. You must find the cause of the fault and treat it at its source.

In all forms of splitting, for the snatch, the clean, and the jerk, IT IS A FAULT TO STAMP THE FEET HARD ON LANDING. This sometimes happens in an effort for speed and in trying to spend the minimum time in "flight" but whatever the reason there are numerous bad faults caused by this foot stamping. One of the drawbacks is that foot stamping prevents a good finish to the split. This is particularly true in low snatches and low cleans. The stamping action "puts the brakes on" too sharply. The quadriceps, which are brought into play by the stamping, are leg extensors and such a fierce contraction of these at this stage is detrimental to the split. This does not mean to say that you should do the opposite and "pussyfoot" your splits; the extremes are always very suspect. The same extremes exist in the squat where the feet are moved -- but to a much lesser degree.

A fault I have noticed in one or two clubs is that some of the squatters either land on their toes in the squat, after a little foot-spreading jump, or else they go down still with their heels off the ground. When I see this I remind the lifters that after the extension is completed the main work of the plantar flexors is completed and they should re-establish a larger base as soon as possible. Being on the toes gives a very small base and prevents the lifter getting lower, faster! Small points, perhaps, but it's little things like these that are apt to be overlooked.


Skills Are Always Learned But Not Always Taught

It is not uncommon that people with only average ability have risen to well-above average standard through good coaching, and it is also true to say that a large number of lifters with great natural potential have not risen as high as they should because for various reasons they have not had good coaching. When the good coach teaches the fundamental skills and good physical conditioning methods, the natural ability of the athlete will soon show.

In Britain for some 50 years the development of technique stemmed not from the coaches but from lifters and we have in our possession some weird and wonderful photographic examples of lifting styles in pre-war days. Many of these faulty styles were still in evidence when the B.A.W.L.A. coaching scheme was evolved, but gradually new ideas have been introduced. More often, however, it is the coach's role to spot new developments in technique and to evaluate these changing fashions. With methods which are tried and proved satisfactory by empirical means he must analyze carefully and where possible refine the skills involved.

Two good examples of our own work come to mind. We believe that our researches in the snatch have had considerable effect in two major ways:

1.) By replacing the 'dislocation' style of squat snatching with a better technique.
2.) By producing a more efficient pulling technique simply by showing that the old classic starting position with legs well bent and hips low was not the best.

Coaches must consistently be on the lookout for changes in techniques. They must always be analyzing the styles of current world beaters and their own most lowly charges as well.

Only be constant observing and keeping an open mind can we build up a fund of knowledge and experience to be produced at the appropriate time to help some eager lifter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Developing the Calves - Vince Gironda

Placing the weight on the first two toes.
Mohamed Makkawy

Vince Gironda.
The judge in sunglasses?

Developing the Calves
by Vince Gironda (1984)

A note on training style, exercise performance, and "creative cheating":

Basically, I am not for or against any particular style of training. I am not interested in taking sides on any issue concerning the techniques for improving the size and shape of the human physique. Years ago the York camp, headed by Bob Hoffman, had an ongoing feud with the Weider outfit, headed by Joe and Ben Weider. One of the bones of contention was training style.

At that time, Weider promoted the cheating principle (leaning rearwards excessively during curls, etc.) and the use of basic exercises, such as presses, squats and bench presses. On the other hand, the York people claimed that a very wide variety of exercises were needed to train the physique, and every exercise must be performed in superstrict style, otherwise it had no benefit. York proclaimed that the cheating principle was valueless.

While all this was going on, I was doing my own experiments. What I learned was that each exercise could be performed, not only in several ways, but that each way had its own set of pros and cons. There were no hard and fast rules about training style. Besides, the York camp, while claiming that cheating exercises were of no value to the bodybuilder, was ardently professing that Olympic lifting was the only way to achieve true physical perfection. And it doesn't take a genius to realize that the Olympic snatch and clean-and-jerk lifts were two of the most "cheating" exercises man's inventiveness could concoct!

Cheating! It makes you feel that you're breaking the law if you do any exercises in less than perfect form. Sure, there's a lot to be said for using superstrict style in some exercises, but don't become a slave to it. Some guys train strictly 100% of the time. They look like robots. You can't always get to the muscle you want to work by using ulta-strict form. You may have to perform, what I term, a little "creative cheating." Don't be for or against either strict form or loose form. Simply go with whatever it takes.

In essence, it would seem that the more you lift, the bigger you will become. While this is true enough,the weight you use is only part of the story. Obviously, light weights can seem like heavy weights if the leverage factor is changed. You can press a heavy dumbbell straight overhead with more ease than if you lift it at arm's length. Tempo (workout speed and amount of rests between sets) is another factor. Nutrition, rest, and concentration all play enormous parts. When it comes to exercise performance, there are really only two points to keep in mind:

(1) to tax or "damage" a muscle to its limit in the shortest possible time (in musclebuilding you must break down muscle cells on a regular basis for them to develop), and

(2) to isolate the exact muscle you want to work, as much as is possible.

A high percentage of people who are into the sport of bodybuilding feel that I advocate some pretty unusual exercises, and that even when I do regular exercises I perform them in an irregular way. They can't believe that I prefer the hack lift to the back power squat. My answer is: Do you want a big butt?

Then there's my habit of crossing one leg over the other while doing seated dumbbell curls. I do this to prevent the dumbbells from hitting my thighs! Frequently, I am asked if I really prefer the wide-grip parallel bar dips to bench pressing. My answer? You bet I do! Dips build the outer flair to the pectorals -- something no bench press will ever do. And what about my favorite way of chinning -- pulling upward until the bar and chest meet instead of the bar and chin? My way works the lats more thoroughly!

I am often asked what "burns" are since I recommend them. They are the addition of 3 to 4 half or quarter reps at the end of a set of an exercise. The motion involved is usually only 2 to 3 inches. The idea is to maximize the pump before ending the set. Actually, not every exercise should be concluded with burns. you have to work it out for yourself. Go by the feel of the movement. Ideal exercises to use burns on are Scott curls, CALF RAISES, chins, and dips. You probably wouldn't find them useful at the end of a set of bench presses, deadlifts, or squats. However, if you feel there's a benefit, you can give it a try on more exercises than you can imagine.

All of my recommendations -- whether for doing half-reps, mid-range curls, or eating two dozen eggs a day over certain period of time -- are me. They are the result of 40 years in the bodybuilding business, training myself and thousands of other men and women . . . day in and day out. Perhaps one day you will be able to improve on my bodybuilding methods. But for now they are the best there is. They are designed to build and shape the human body . . .

and isn't that what this sport is all about?

Developing the Lower Legs

My vote for the best-looking calves goes to Chris Dickerson. Somebody once told me that Dickerson's brother, who has never done any bodybuilding or weight training in his life, has lower-leg development even bigger than Chris's. So much for genetics! What makes a calf muscle look spectacular is the smallness of the knee and ankle. Dickerson has very small joints. Reeves had small knees; his ankles were a little more robust, but what a pair of lower legs he had! When he was winning contests, Reeves was just about the only guy who had that real diamond shape. Delinger, Grimek, and a few others had the size, but Steve Reeves had the size and shape.

If your calves aren't developing to your satisfaction, I'd suggest training them on a three-day cycle. Do a heavy workout the first day, a short pumping session the next, and rest them completely on the third day. The second-day pump actually stimulates recovery, because it forces blood into the muscles and pushes out waste products. As a general rule, calves require more reps than any other muscle in the body due to their great number of muscle fibers. The biceps have about 40,000 muscle fibers, while the calf muscle has over 1.2 million fibers in a concentrated area.

I've noticed that men with great calves can invariably get up on their toes like ballet dancers and stretch their heels well below them. I believe that you should be able to touch your heels to the floor when you are on a 4-inch block. And you should also be able to get fully up on your toes. Most of the weight should be on the first two toes. [If you have trouble getting up all the way on your toes, raise up as high as you currently can, then simply point your toes. This will raise your weight onto the toes and give you a stronger contraction. Master this first while doing seated raises, then work on the standing and bentover versions.]

Today we see more good calf development on bodybuilders than at any time in the past. I put this down to the fact that every gym now has both a standing and a sitting calf machine, whereas years ago they were rare. And if a gym did possess one, it invariably didn't have the capacity to offer a large amount of resistance. Like any muscle, the lower legs must be worked both regularly and progressively. Work them two or three times a week and make sure that you put the pressure on them to grow. Don't forget to stretch them out. You should see the range of motion that men like Boyer Coe have. He worked for it with stretches using no weight, and the results speak for themselves.

I have experimented for one year with heavy weights and low reps (10 reps) with no success. 20 reps is the answer. If you wish to develop the diamond peak of the calf, you must keep the knees slightly bent during the movement. Here are the exercises:

Donkey Calf Raise --
Stand on a 4-inch-high block about 24 inches back from a a table or bench about 3 feet high. The front end of some hyperextension benches work well for this. Place your forearms on the table and bare feet (toes) on the block. Have a workout partner sitting on your lower back. Lower your heels to a fully extended stretch position. Keep knees straight. Slowly raise to a contracted position with most of the weight on the big toe. Perform 12 strict reps and 8 pumping reps. Use "creative cheating" to maximize the pump (as explained above). If a workout partner is not available, or you train alone, other methods can be accessed. Attach a weight belt, and if the weight you can comfortably attach is too light for two-legged donkey raises, do them one leg at a time. Alternately, a Smith machine or vertical leg press can be adapted to this task.

Hack-Slide Calf Raise --
Face inward on a hack machine. Stand with your feet about 10 inches apart. Keep your knees locked and raise to the top position. Hold the full contraction for two seconds and then lower to starting position.

Seated Calf Raise --
Sit on a seated calf apparatus, or place a padded barbell over your knees (when using a barbell, you may have to exercise one leg at a time when heavy weights are worked up to). Place your hands in any position that is comfortable, or, if using the barbell, that aids in stabilizing it. Raise the weight by going up on the toes fully. Lower to a full stretch position so that the back of the lower legs really feel the stress. Your feet should be pointing slightly outward throughout the exercise.

Howorth Heel Raise --
Assume the standing calf raise position but have the feet approximately 16 inches back of the shoulders. The body should be angled about 80 degrees. Lower heels to the maximum stretch position and slowly raise to a fully contracted position on toes. Keep thrust coming from your big toes. Perform 12 strict repetitions followed by 8 midrange pumping reps (creative cheating).

Monday, February 13, 2012

More Muscle Mass - Steve Davis

Article courtesy of

More Muscle Mass
by Steve Davis

I know how to create muscularity. My transformation by itself has helped many of you to begin your own. The nutritional and training concepts that I developed during the transformation have become popular an effective means for pre-contest training. But, there is another side to the coin -- the transformation from thin to thick, the transition to more muscle mass.

When I consider a training routine for my own purpose, the process envelopes characteristics not unlike spontaneous contemplative analysis -- a grip change, different elbow spacing, repetitions, sets or sessions per week. But, when I assume the role of trainer from trainee my processes become one-sided: "simplify . . . Simplify!" Some of of the best writing goes unheralded at best and unread at worst because the authors try to put too much thinking and not enough feeling into into their recipes. Bodybuilding is a combinative sport. Successful participants must think and feel simultaneously, but the key is that to feel you must think. To isolate biceps you must concentrate on the task. By suggesting that heavy weights produce muscle size, we can polarize total energy output to that purpose AND TRAIN, MAN.

Based on my own personal experience and nothing more (there's too much "armchairing" anyway), what follows, WORKS!

1.) Train each bodypart two times per week.

2.) For reps on arms, shoulders, chest and back, do 8.

3.) For reps on calves, erectors, quadriceps and femoral biceps (leg), do 15.

4.) Do NO abdominal work while on this routine.

5.) WEAR A WATCH, WATCH THE CLOCK, OR USE A TIMER. The time between sets must be between 30 and 45 seconds. (Note: While training for muscularity, 15 seconds!) I use 30 second rests on this routine.

6.) SELECT TWO EXERCISES PER BODYPART. (Note: I have included a sample routine.)

7) Do 6 sets of each exercise with the same weight, reps and rest period, after performing one light set as a warmup.

8.) Add weight each week (something, however small). Keep a chart or logbook.

9.) Rest 3 minutes between exercises.

10.) Think "heavy" weights. Use heavy weights.

11.) Ingest 1.0 grams of high quality protein for each pound of bodyweight. (Note: this is more protein than the FDA suggests)

12.) Follow the Master Diets contained in any of my books.

Here is an effective mass producing routine:


1. Bench Press
2. Dumbbell Incline Press
1. Dumbbell Pullover

1. Bent Rowing - strict!
2. Lat Pulldown

Low Back
1. Hyperextensions


1. Press Behind Neck
2. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

1. Barbell Curl
2. Dumbbell Incline Curl

1. Close-grip 2/3 Bench Press
2. Non-lock Pressdown

Reverse Curl


1. Front Squat
2. Hack Squat

Leg Bicep
1. Leg Curl

1. Donkey Calf Raise
2. Standing Calf Raise

Low Back
1. Hyperextension

To simplify this routine to add more muscle mass, here is a personal checklist:

How does your energy level relate to --

weight. I mean heavy weight!
protein intake
training tempo?

If the answer to each categorical question is 100% on a consistent basis, you'll have more muscle mass in three months, period!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Unique Ways to Build Arm Wrestling Power - Mac Batchelor

Mac Batchelor
Retired Undefeated World's Wrist Wrestling Champion

Louis Uni (Apollon)

Arthur Dandurand

"Ideal Physical Culture"by Apollo (William Bankier)

Unique Ways to Build Arm Wrestling Power
by Mac Batchelor (1968)

Throughout history, whenever strong men got together, there would be strength contests to determine who was the strongest and manliest of the group. The number of ways that men have devised to pit their strength against one another is endless. But one of the most popular of the strength contests is that involving the power of a man's arms -- Arm Wrestling. Here is a sport that needs no special implements other than a sturdy table, two solid chairs and two willing men. It is a sport in which man's strength may be truly measured.

When the time comes to talk about ways of building strength in the arms, wrists and hands for wrist wrestling, we encounter an "embarrass de richesses" -- a term roughly meaning "more than we know what to do with". There are as many ways to build arm strength as there are men who want to build it. In this short article I'll describe some of the methods used by famous grip champions of old to build bone-crushing gripping power, as well as some training methods used nowadays.

Gripping Feats of the Past

History has produced many great wrist wrestlers; men of iron arms, brave hearts and indomitable wills. Such a man was William Bankier, the Scottish Apollo -- the toughest "little man" that Scotland ever produced. Born in Banffshire, Scotland in 1872, he was rugged as the Rock of Gibraltar. Although he stood only 5' 6" h weighed a brawny 176 pounds with a 49" expanded chest, 16.75" arms, 17" neck, 30" waist, 24" thighs and 17" calf. By today's standards these measurements are not spectacular, but in those days they were considered sensational -- especially for a man of Bankier's height. He very nearly matched the Greek ideal of physical perfection with neck, upper arm and calf measuring the same. He literally was a human dynamo or all-around power with a fierce, devastating grip. Bankier was to Scotland what Arthur Saxon was to Germany, Arthur Dandurand to Canada, and Louis "Apollon" Uni to France.

In his stage exhibitions, Bankier gave amazing demonstrations of his gripping strength and overall body power. One of his most amazing feats was to perform a one arm support of a bicycle held overhead with two men seated on it. He then walked off stage with this total load of 290 pounds! Another indication of his bodily power and wrist strength was his performance of the "Tomb of Hercules" with a piano, six men, and a lady dancer, supporting them with ease. Another stunt he did, requiring great gripping strength because of centrifugal force involved was his standing broad jump over a chair with a 56-pound dumbbell in each hand. His fame spread far and wide and he even challenged Eugen Sandow to meet him in open competition to determine who was the strongest man. The challenge was never met or accepted, which is unfortunate for it might have made one of the most memorable events in the history of strength.

A good deal of Bankier's versatile arm strength came from his rigorous training with rope climbing -- a much neglected form of training among modern strength athletes. It build both strength and endurance into his arms. As a matter of fact, rope climbers are almost invariably good wrist wrestlers because of the tremendous demands that rope climbing puts upon the muscles of the arms, shoulders, hands and wrists -- resulting in increased size and strength. If you are really interested in developing your gripping power, include some rope climbing in your training schedule.

The story of Bankier illustrates the point that gripping power can be developed in many ways -- not just through weight training. If you look around and use your imagination, you'll come up with various means and methods of developing a powerful grip.

Pick up odd, bulky objects with only your fingers and thumb.
Squeeze a hard rubber ball in each hand.
Hold a sheet of newspaper in one hand with your arm extended in front of you, then roll it up using only the one hand -- this is a tough one, but after a while you'll be able to roll up two or more sheets of newspaper in one hand, and your hands, fingers and forearms will gain endurance, strength and size that will please you.

These methods prove that you can always find something with which to train and test your grip, wherever you happen to be.

No discussion of wrist wrestling would be complete without mention of Arthur Dandurand , the "Terror of the Northwest". He ruled the arm wrestling world in Canada with a powerful upper arm and sinewy forearm that measured 16" flexed and 14.5" straight (see photo) -- even by today's standards that is remarkable size. In his long career he was never beaten at arm wrestling.

Dandurand's gripping power must surely rank among the greatest of all time, for he performed a feat of grip and body power that surpasses belief. In a strength competition with lumberjacks and other strong men, he lifted and wheeled for a short distance a wheelbarrow loaded with 4,300 pounds of lead . . . and this was done after he was tired and worn from other feats of strength that day. In competition with Al Manger, then the U.S. heavyweight weightlifting champion and many years his junior, Dandurand defeated by hoisting a 440-pound Model T Ford engine block to his shoulders -- a feat requiring enormous gripping strength. Also, he was able to lift and hold a 335-pound man at arm's length with one hand. Imagine the gripping strength required to perform that feat!

But there are those who say that Hermann Goerner of Germany was the greatest on record with his one-handed deadlift of 727.5 pounds. Others insist that Louis "Apollon" Uni could have made them all look like children. Without exerting more than a fraction of his vast power, he exerted 276 pounds on the Regenier Dynamometer, a grip-testing device. At his public performances Apollon regularly performed a feat of gripping power that no one else has ever succeeded in duplicating. He would grasp in his enormous hand five block weights, each weighing 44 pounds, and snatch them to arm's length overhead -- a feat that would have torn off an ordinary man's fingers! He did this on a regular basis, again, never exerting the full measure of his vast power. Only once in his career did he have to use all of his tremendous strength, and it happened during one of his stage performances. Before putting on his act, Apollon would make a very dramatic entrance by bending the bars of a cage and 'escaping' from it. But one evening some joker substituted tempered steel bars for the softer metal ones that had been used. When the time came to bend the bars to make his entrance, the unsuspecting Apollon was flabbergasted. For a moment he had the terrifying thought that he had somehow mysteriously lost his strength! Quickly collecting his thoughts and energies, he pitted his mighty hands and arms against the thick steel bars. The perspiration began to trickle from his forehead and it appeared on his arms, causing them to glisten like two massive boulders of steel. At first the bars seemed to fight Apollon's efforts to bend them but then they gave way -- they had to, against the unrelenting power of his arms -- finally, dripping with perspiration, he made his stage entrance. The practical joke turned out to be one of the greatest feats of strength ever recorded in history. More than that, it proved that Apollon probably had the most powerful grip of any man then and even today.

From what you have just read about the giants of gripping power, you've already learned some of the ways you can use to develop your grip for wrist wrestling and general hand strength. There are some other ways you might want to try and we'll cover them here.

Did you know that you could develop your gripping power by climbing trees? Yes, you can. The famous Saxon brothers of Germany climbed trees as a regular training routine and they developed incredible strength in their hands, fingers and arms.

If you live in a big city and trees are not convenient to you, then the horizontal ladders found in playgrounds can serve as a good training tool -- they can give your grip and forearms a fantastic workout as you swing from rung to rung. The Saxons also used this form of training, and with great results -- they could easily Clean & Press 200-pound sacks of flour, with nothing more than the smooth sides of these sacks to grip on to.

Iron Bar Twirling -- Of all the wrists and forearms I've seen, one of the best pairs belonged to a young heavyweight who had developed a special exercise for his own training. Instead of twirling a light baton as done in parades, he used a short, heavy iron crowbar. This is how he did the exercise: he held his arms in the midway position of the two-arm curl exercise, standing with forearms at right angles to the body. The he twirled the bar, baton fashion first one way, then another -- catching it with each hand, alternately. Continual practice of this unusual exercise had given him a very powerful grip and huge forearms.

The same exercise can be done with a dumbbell while seated. Rest forearm on your thigh, hand extended with palm up, beyond your knee and gripping a dumbbell. Now twist the hand to a palm-down position and twist back to the 'hand up' position -- do not move your arm, do all the work with your hand and wrist. 15 to 20 reps with each hand will give your wrists and forearms plenty of attention. Do wrist curls in this same position for the same number of reps. When you can curl a 100-pound dumbbell in this position without moving your arm you'll know that your forearms are in good shape. Try this with an 'off-loaded' dumbbell as well. You'll find it very challenging with a heavy weight. Do the regular one-hand wrist curls, palms up as well as down with an off-loaded bar, and do both the palm-up/palm down twists as well as the wrist curls with a dumbbell loaded with plates only on the very end of the bar. Not easy!

Finger Gripping Barbell Plates -- Here's another good exercise to toughen and strengthen your grip and forearms: grip a 25-pound of heavier plate (depending on your present strength) by the rim, using only your thumb and fingers -- don't let it touch the palm. Lift it to shoulder height in slow motion for 10 to 15 reps. Increase the reps as you become stronger to build your endurance for wrist wrestling.

A favorite of the old-time wrist wrestlers was gripping a smooth, flat, heavy plate between thumb and forefinger, then transferring it, without losing their grip, to a position between their thumb and middle finger -- and so on down the line until they were holding the plate in the most difficult way possible -- between thumb and smallest finger. They would then reverse the process, never once putting down the plate or losing a grip on it.

Before doing exercise it's best to first warm up your hand muscles with some other exercise. Start with light plates then go on to heavier ones. Consider yourself a good man if you can do this exercise with a 25-pound smooth plate.

Crushing Beer Cans -- One of my favorite exercises, when working in my bar during occasional quiet afternoons, was to crush beer cans between my fingers. I trained my grip at every opportunity to fortify my wrist wrestling arm against the constant competition I had for my title of World's Champion Wrist Wrestler. Crushing beer cans was a good way to obtain that needed conditioning. With the innovation of beer cans, which vary from soft metal to those that seem to be made of iron, arm wrestlers everywhere had a new and convenient type of training medium.

For developing finger strength try this: pinch the middle of the lighter cans together with thumb and forefinger only. With those of heavier metal, grip each end with both hands and bend back and forth until a break starts in the center. Now, while maintaining the same grip, twist with both hands back and forth a few times until the can is torn in half. Be careful not to cut yourself -- those edges are like knives. Practice of this exercise will help give you the twisting power of grip that is vital to being a successful arm grappler. When practicing stunts or exercises, put resin on your hands to avoid slipping. You should do this particularly when you're handling barbells and dumbbells.

A Final Word

There can be no doubt that grip is a crucial factor in arm wrestling; matches have often been won by the man with the stronger grip, all else being equal. Take every opportunity to train your grip because the muscles involved are tough and need a lot of work. Grip training is convenient -- no matter where you are you can always devise some way to work your grip with just a few spare moments.

You may never equal the grip strength of John Y. Smith who at 160 pounds bodyweight and in his 40's deadlifted 450 pounds in his right hand and 425 in his left before completely destroying his back while lowering the bells to the floor and as a result suffered a massive stroke resulting in having to live out the rest of his years in a deadlift-eccentric induced coma. But, you will certainly attain a powerful grip and your wrist wrestling ability will surely improve.

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