Saturday, February 28, 2015

Olympic Lifting for Aesthetics - Ross Edgely (2015)

There was a time when Olympic lifting was the sole preserve of elite weightlifters in countries such as China, Bulgaria and the old Soviet Union. It was considered to be a highly specialized form of training for a select few elite athletes who training for performance rather than aesthetics. But one look at the physique of current world and Olympic weightlifting champion Xiaojun from China shows Olympic lifting has aesthetic benefits too.

Larger muscle fibers, huge traps, impressive quads and low body fat are just a few of the advantages. 

So let's look at the power clean, front squat, snatch, and jerk and see how adding such moves to your routine could prepare you for the beach as well as the lifting platform, and then try the workout devised by Team GB Weight Lifting performance director Tommy Yule that incorporates Olympic lifting into a conventional strength plan.

Olympic Lifting: The Basics

Weightlifting has a rich history. Britain's Edward Lawrence Levy  --

 -- won the first world championships in 1891 and the sport was contested at the first modern Olympics in 1896. [Note: For detailed documentation and rare photos on lifting at the early modern Olympics see the works of Gherado Bonini - 

Olympic Games weightlifting today consists of two disciplines -- the Snatch, and the Clean and Jerk. Each athlete gets three attempts at each lift and then the two lifts are added up to make a total and an overall result. So how is this relevant to ordinary gym-goers? 

Human skeletal muscle contains two key types of muscle fibers -- type I and type II. Type I fibers are more commonly known as slow twitch and are used in endurance training. They have a much slower contractile speed and a smaller cross-sectional area, which means they're resistant to fatigue but not so good for building muscle. 

Type II fibers are more commonly knows as fast twitch fibers. They have a faster contractile speed and a larger cross-sectional area. They generate power so you want lots of them for lifting heavy in the gym. Also, their larger cross-sectional size helps you look more impressive. So, how do you develop them? The simple answer is by Olympic lifting.

Research at the University of Memphis showed that when competitive lifters were compared, those typically utilizing the heaviest loads (90% of their one-rep max or higher) -- that is, weightlifters and powerlifters -- exhibited a preferential hypertrophy of type II fibers when compared with bodybuilders using lower percentage loads. This data suggests that maximal hypertrophy occurs with loads from 80-95% of one-rep max. 

Granted, bodybuilders are the foremost experts in muscle growth (hypertrophy) and the same study did state that bodybuilders experienced hypertrophy "equally in both type I and type II fibers," but this does raise the interesting point that if you want to increase the size and strength of your muscles by targeting the larger type II muscle fibers, Olympic-style lifting would work well as an integral part of your program.

That's not to say you should ditch conventional forms of hypertrophy training and concentrate solely on Snatches and Cleans. But it would make sense to drill the techniques and incorporate the moves once or twice a week.

Anabolic Boost

The next important component of Olympic-style lifting to consider is the anabolic hormone response. Scientists from the Department of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Auckland set out to analyze this.

In a study into competitive weightlifting they stated that during the Snatch, and Clean and Jerk, elite lifters "have achieved some of the highest absolute and relative peak power outputs in the literature." This, in turn, produces similar spikes in testosterone and growth hormone that are experienced during heavy compound bodybuilding-type training. 

Researchers from the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London also reported a direct correlation between spikes in anabolic hormones and one-rep-max lifts in Olympic lifters. Again, that's not to say if you Clean and Jerk 100-kg-plus above your head every week you're going to be walking around permanently anabolic with elevated testosterone levels. If anything, the strain this would put on your body could lead to overwork. But including such lifts in your training once or twice a week would send a natural anabolic surge of hormones through the body.

Getting Lean

Research in the Journal of Applied Physiology as far back as 1994 showed the positive effects strength training could have on body composition. Scientists asked 13 untrained healthy men to complete a 16-week strength training program. Body fat and muscle composition were then measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). Following 16 weeks, all the men completing the strength training protocol subjects' post-exercise metabolic rate -- the rate at which their metabolism remains elevated and they keep burning calories -- remained high for a "prolonged period and may enhance post-exercise lipid oxidation."

Put simply, it means weight training increase the rate at which you burn calories long after you've put down the bar -- something steady-paced cardio doesn't do so effectively.  

Thus, research indicates Olympic lifting could dramatically improve body composition. Better still, it means not necessarily losing weight but rather, increasing muscle mass and lowering your body fat at the same time.

Yule's Rules

I am a keen practitioner of Olympic-style lifting, but few men know more about it than Tommy Yule, who has put together the following Olympic lifting routine for aesthetics. Tommy says the routine is devised to compliment rather than replace traditional bodybuilding movements.

It is based on the principle that all movements have a kinetic chain. Dr. Arthur Steindler -- one of the early pioneers of this theory -- defines this a "a combination of several successively arranged joints constituting a complex motor unit." In other words, how all your joints and movements work together during a squat, bench, or deadlift.

Olympic-style lifting highlights any weak links in the kinetic chain. You might be able to grind out a deadlift or squat, but not a Snatch, because all the joints and muscles must be firing at their optimal level to complete the move.

Olympic-style lifting with sub-maximal weights is also believed to prepare the body with neural recruitment/activation before big lifts like deadlifts. The high level of motor recruitment needed for an Olympic lift preps the body to then lift big during a deadlift of squat. What follows, therefore, is designed to generate better results than a traditional hypertrophy program.


Monday - Squat Clean and Legs

Squat Clean - 4 sets of 8 reps with submaximal weight (65% of your 1 rep max.)
Emphasis on speed, kinetic flow and motor recruitment that prepares the body for subsequent lifts.

Front Squat - 5 sets of 5 (80% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on strength and quality of movement, maintaining the same form of efficiency you achieved during the squat clean.

Lunge - 4 sets of 20 (60% or 1-rep max)
Emphasis on form, hypertrophy and volume.

Calf Raise - 5 sets of 10 (70% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on form and hypertrophy.

Tuesday - Arms and Abs

Seated/Standing Barbell Curl - 5 sets of 10 (70% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on form and hypertrophy. Following a large compound day it's wise to periodize your training with smaller, lower volume isolation days. Abs and arms are perfect for this.

Hammer Curl - 5 sets of 10 (70% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on form and hypertrophy.

Weighted Triceps Dip - 5 sets of 5 ( 80% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on strength and quality of movement.

Pallof (Press) Hold - 3 sets of 1-minute holds each side.
Emphasis on form and core engagement.

Weighted Leg Raise - 5 sets of 10 reps (70$ of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on form and core engagement.

Wednesday - Rest

It is important to rest prior to the large, heavy, complex movements that are to follow.

Thursday - Clean and Press and Shoulders
Clean and Press - 4 sets of 8 with submaximal weight (65% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on speed, kinetic flow and motor recruitment that prepares the body for subsequent lifts.

Seated Shoulder Press - 5 sets of 5 (70% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on strength and quality of movement, maintaining the same form of efficiency you achieved during the clean and press.

Side Lateral Raise - 5 sets of 10 (70% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on form and hypertrophy.

Front Delt Raise - 5 sets of 10 (70% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on form and hypertrophy.

Friday - Snatch and Back

Snatch - 4 sets of 8 reps with submaximal weight (65% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on speed, kinetic flow and motor recruitment that prepares the body for subsequent lifts.

Deadlift - 5 sets of 3 reps (85-90% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on strength and quality of movement, maintaining the same form of efficiency you achieved during the Snatch.

Weighted Pullup - 5 sets of 5 (80% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on strength and quality of movement, maintaining the same form of efficiency you achieved during the Snatch and Deadlift. 

Bentover Row - 5 sets of 10 reps (70% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on form and hypertrophy.

Saturday - Chest and Triceps

Bench Press - 5 sets of 5 reps (80% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on strength and quality of movement, maintaining the same form of efficiency you developed in the week.

Dumbbell Flye - 5 sets of 10 reps (70% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on form and hypertrophy.

Close-Grip Bench Press 5 sets of 10 reps (70% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on form and hypertrophy.

Triceps Pushdown - 10 sets of 10 reps (65% of 1-rep max)
Emphasis on form, hypertrophy and volume.

Sunday - Rest

It is important to rest prior to the large, heavy, complex movements that are to follow.    

Friday, February 27, 2015

Multiple Set Breathing Squat Program - A. Kallos (1963)

A few years ago you read a lot about the fantastic gains from Breathing Squats. Today you rarely see anyone doing high repetition breathing squats. Chaps are mostly concerned with strength and muscle developing exercises.

When breathing squats were recommended a while back, repetitions from 20 and deep breaths of up to seven were used. It didn't take long to overdo your energy and enthusiasm.

Another method can be employed, using fairly high repetitions, breathing adequately and also using substantial poundages.

This method involves hard work, but at the same time, it produces results.

Firstly, when squatting you should ensure that the exercise is done properly for the results you desire. That is, in this case, by keeping the back flat when going down into the full squat position as well as coming up. A raised heel may help you.

Breathing is just as important; full breaths without undue strain. Breathe in before squatting, making sure you lift the chest up and out as you do so. Remember the rib box is flexible. You then hold the breath and only exhale upon rising from the full squat position. When your breathing becomes labored you can then take up to three or more breaths, but make sure you lift your chest on every breath.

After each set of breathing squats you should do either stiff-arm pullovers with a light barbell, or stiff-arm laterals while lying on a flat bench, in repetitions from 10 to 15. These exercises will not only allow you to take advantage of stretching the whole rib box, but also bring back your breathing quickly to normal tempo. These two movements are not to be confused with muscle exercises. The poundages must not be to heavy, but only enough to allow you to do complete movements.

Now, instead of keeping to, say, 20 repetitions for each set of breathing squats, a good plan is to decrease the reps and increase the weights like this:

20 reps, about bodyweight
18 reps, 30-35 lb increase
15 reps, 25-30 lb increase
12 reps, 20-25 lb increase
10 reps, 10-20 lb increase, then
A few low reps, if you are not too tired.

The next step is the method of breathing. For the first 8 reps just take one breath for each repetition. When you feel your breathing becoming a little labored start taking two breaths. With each breath you should lift the chest up. When the 12th rep has been reached, take three breaths between each repetition. The last three reps, increase the breaths to four.

An important advantage over the old method of doing breathing squats is firstly that a fair amount of poundage is uses, and secondly, the breathing is not overdone, thus avoiding dizziness, nausea, etc.

Make no mistake -- breathing squats are tough and require a bit of getting used to. But once you are fit enough, results will be almost immediate.

The chest and thighs will develop the fastest because these areas will be doing most of the work. This will help increase your bodyweight.

Owing to the severity and squat-based emphasis, very few exercises will be needed to complete a routine. Three times a week training will prove best.

The following exercises can be used with the five to six sets of breathing squats:

1) Bench Press -
3-5 sets of 8-10 reps.
One factor to consider is that pectoral development should not be overdone. Breathing squats and pullovers can expand the rib box, while heavy pectorals tend to hamper this expansion. This is because overdeveloped pectorals somehow force your shoulders forward. In other words, concentrate rather on expanding the chest first. Once you have given breathing squat a fair trial (about two to three months), you can then work more on the pecs. Remember, pecs are usually very easy to develop compared to enlarging the rib box.

2) Wide Grip Front Chins -
3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.
Chinning will enlarge your whole upper body. Add weight when you can do more than 15 reps.

3) Upright Rowing With Barbell -
3 sets of 8 reps.
Has a great effect on broadening the shoulders. Make sure you do not use too much body motion.

4) Seated Barbell Curl -
4 sets of 8-10 reps.
Forces you to do the exercise without cheating and allows for a strong contraction. Remember to lower the weight back to the thighs slowly.

5) Situps -
5 sets of 15-25 reps.  
Abdominal work must not be neglected. Try a twisting movement when you come up, and make sure you lower slowly.

6) Calf Raises -
5 sets of 20-25 reps.
Do complete movements; hold the top position for a count of three and lower as far as possible while keeping the knees locked.

It is a good plan to train only three times a week when working on breathing squats. Try and keep to the course from two to three months. After that you can return to your normal training, or another approach. Every few months go back to breathing squats.

Pause Training - Jerome Telle (1989)

by Jerome Telle (1989)

Most of us are familiar with the concept of proper technique in so far as cheating, bouncing and throwing the weight is concerned. But what most trainers do not realize is the possibility of cheating even when using strict form

For instance, if you are doing dumbbell bench presses with 100 lbs, you can move the bells up much faster (more power) if you do not pause at the bottom of the rep. As a matter of fact, the faster the weight drops and the direction changes, the easier and more powerful the movement is -- if, of course, you do not dislocate your shoulders in the process! 

If you use the same 100 lb dumbbells and briefly pause at the bottom (for about one second), the weight is much harder to move back up. It is impossible to move it as fast as the rebound method.

So it would seem the "quick (muscle) rebound method" is best, since it provides the most power, right? Wrong. Researchers have measured the neural activity and the amount of oxygen used during both types of movement, and they have found that more muscle fibers are stimulated to move a weight from a pause than from the muscle rebound method.

Since a muscle fiber is activated to contract by electrical impulses, the more electrical activity there is, the more fibers are being stimulated. Pause training causes more positive electrical activity, plus more oxygen is also used, further proving the effectiveness of this method. 

Speed is still as important as ever. The faster you get the weight moving after the pause and accelerate it, the more fibers you will stimulate. Remember not to jerk the weight into motion, as this can be extremely dangerous. Acceleration is the key. 

This force/power enhancing effect of muscle rebound training is caused by the "stretch reflex" phenomenon. (See Ironman, August 1988, page 72). Basically, this occurs when a weight is lowered and quickly stopped. For a very short period of time, energy (or force) is stored in the muscle structure like a rubber band. If the weight is immediately started back up, this force, or elastic energy, can be utilized to help the muscle fibers with the return movement. The longer you wait, the less energy is available. After 0.5 to 1.0 seconds this stored energy is lost.

Another advantage of pause training is safety. Not only do you stimulate more fibers to grow, but it is much easier on your joints and connective tissues.

The force at the bottom of the rebound movement is almost 50% higher -- 50% more force that your joints and connective tissue have to handle. 

In all fairness, rebound training has its place in developing speed and power for sports requiring those necessary qualities. Plyometrics, the extreme in rebound training, carries with it many cautions:

 - proper strength base 
 - gradual acclimation period
 - chance of immediate or delayed injury

During a powerlifting meet you may see a bench presser or squatter slightly and very quickly dip the bar after pausing at the bottom position. The athlete is initiating the stretch reflex to help start the upward movement. 

For bodybuilders, rebound and pause training are techniques that can be used with forced reps, stutter reps and other forms of variety. How much any one technique should be used is open to debate. Obviously, the safest training would take priority if it in fact produced the best or equal results. Powerlifters can also use this technique effectively.

Powerlifters find that using a strict pause on their assistance exercises helps the start of their competition lifts. A combination of slightly overload negatives and underload pause positives do wonders for their main lifts. In reality, a number of techniques have to be used. This keeps new and various stresses on the muscle. Hopefully, the safer pause method proves to be the best, therefore comprising the majority of training time.

There are two main disadvantages to pause training. First, you cannot use as much weight. This obviously is hard for those who place main emphasis on poundage. Second, this type of training hurts. It feels unnatural, uncomfortable, and (bodybuilders take note) causes an accelerated burn and ache in the muscle.    

The following are considerations for those interested in pause training: 

1) Do not try this type of training if you have any doubts. I do not know of any training method that works if you are not excited about it, especially if you are in top shape.

2) Do not use this method if you suspect that you are near an overtrained state. Take an active layoff and then come back to it.

3) Start with a weight that is 75 to 80 percent of what you normally use. When you can do more than the prescribed repetitions, add weight of reduce time between sets.

4) Lower the weight under control, pausing at the bottom and keeping tension on the muscle.

5) Do not let the weight drop the slightest but farther. Start the weight back up and accelerate it as fast as possible. Remember, do not jerk the weight into motion.

6) Do not use anything but the intended muscle to initiate the movement and keep it moving.

7) Rest long enough between sessions so that you can feel the recovery process is completed.

8) Switch exercises and/or techniques when results plateau. Any technique will sooner or later lose its effectiveness.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Habit, The Key to Success - Chuck Braxton (1982)

The Chuck Braxton Story by Judd Biasiotto
 excerpted from "Search for Greatness" by Judd Biasiotto 
 with a forward by Joe Weider

Dr. Judd Biasiotto online:

by Chuck Braxton
as told to John Pettitt (1982)

After training your basic hit and miss schedule of "let's see what I can do today," I was introduced to cycle training by J.B. Adams. Later on in my training I was exposed to Bill Starr's programs, and then Doug Young's, and finally Rick Gaugler's programs. The common thread to all these programs is a definite system for increases over a very specific period of time, followed by a short recovery period, followed by a new system with a slightly higher starting level. Old news, right? Right!

The purpose of this article is to simply bring to light a very basic concept that is the cornerstone of every successful business in the world -- that of systematic habit! Every serious lifter plans every training session from the first day of a cycle right up to the attempts desired in competition, weeks and sometimes months in advance. A difference between a champion and any other competitor is the fact that the training program is written down, followed, thought about, visualized day in and day out constantly, right up to the meet. Six factors make these programs work:

1) Current abilities are determined and desired goals are reached.

2) The goals are written down and very specific.

3) The goals are personal and attainable in the mind of the lifter. Their achievement is so real that the lifter can actually see himself performing a perfect lift with the weight in his mind.

4) The goals have a definite date to be achieved.

5) The ultimate goal is reached by achieving smaller sub-goals on the way to the final goal. Success breeds confidence and this insures future success.

6) Unwavering determination to achieve the desired goal is inherent. If the mind is occupied with persistence and positive thoughts toward the desired goal, it will be achieved. 

This concept is not new -- what needs to be realized is this:


These goals may be to earn $100,000 or be a Manager or Vice President, or obtain a new house or anything in the financial, social, mental, family, physical, or spiritual area of our daily lives. 

Every Accomplishment of Man Started With An Idea. You would not have the idea if you were not capable of obtaining what you want through faith, determination, persistence. The habits developed to achieve a goal will guarantee its fulfillment. We all know that persistence, belief and the habit of never missing a training session produce results that were predicted to be impossible 10 years ago. As soon as one lifter totaled 10 times bodyweight, the race was on for 11 times bodyweight and hence the tenfold level has become commonplace among the Elite lifters of the world. Now we are looking for 12-fold totals!

Habits alone can not prevent failure, however. One can not guarantee success, because no two people will define success in the same way, but failure is the same for everyone, namely not achieving your predetermined goals. There can be no fear of failure if you control your mind through persistence to attain your goal . . .  
by knowing where you are, 
where you are going and 
how you are going to get there.

Obtaining this is all that is on your mind. There is neither room not time for thoughts of failure. The thing has already happened in your mind and you have determined how to bring it into your life. 

Follow an appropriate predetermined plan. If you can control your mind you can control your destiny. If you reach all your goals, are you successful? Yes, but the important question is . . . are you performing at the lever you are truly capable of? Goals have to be set high enough to make you really push. If you bench 300, a goal of 305 is a start, but it does not sufficiently challenge you, not as much as 325 or 350. 

What happens if you don't reach your goals? This is not a disaster. These goals are only written on paper, they are not etched in stone. If need be, change them, set up a different schedule and a different time frame based on what you've learned about yourself and start again. If your goals are so low that you attain all of them easily, that may be the real disaster, because you will never really know what your potential is. Think of all the things we have today simply because someone believed that it could be done.

Whatever the mind can conceive and can believe, can be achieved! How, you ask? Follow these steps, after you have decided to change your life:

1) Determine your strengths and weaknesses and be honest.

2) Determine exactly what you want and when you want it, and write it down.

3) Determine a step by step, day by day plan to achieve your goal and write it down.  

4) Determine every obstacle you can think of that would normally stop you determine the possible solutions and a time frame to have the solutions implemented.

5) Develop a deep burning desire to achieve this goal no matter what other people say, think, or do.

6) Place on a 3 x 5 card your goal, the date to be achieved, and what you must do on a daily basis to achieve this. Write this every night without fail. [I find a whiteboard on the fridge works well]

7) Read this every morning, noon, and night, out loud. Visualize yourself as though you were in possession of these goals. You will know that this is working when you fall asleep thinking of your goal and awake with the same thoughts!

The question you may be asking yourself is how does this all work? We are all creatures of habit, from prior conditioning in small quantities over a long period of time. Unfortunately most of this conditioning is negative it seems. (NO! You can't do it. It WON'T WORK, and the lot.) The only way to remove a habit is to replace a bad habit or negative conditioning with good habits and positive conditioning. If you feed the conscious mind with positive thought ultimately the 'subconscious' mind will accept the repetitions of subtle positive suggestions, and the more powerfully you believe these suggestions, the quicker and more strongly will they be accepted. 

The key is the habit of feeding the mind with positive thoughts, the mind believes what it is fed (you are what you eat, eh) and you begin to act as though you have ALREADY ACHIEVED YOUR GOAL. Faith alone has conquered many obstacles. This repetition (not rote) of positive thoughts reinforces your determination through faith. 

Start with a small goal over a short term period and start achieving this goal by making a habit of doing at least one activity each day directed toward that goal. Work on one goal at a time, then go on to the next one. If you desire a better job, get up an hour early and determine what must be done and go about doing just that. If you want to better understand something, put in the effort and be rewarded with knowledge. If you desire a greater appreciation of something, don't expect it to fall from the clouds into your static form. Do something or get nothing and go nowhere. 

Procrastination is the worst habit to have, because no goals are achieved and one usually works in constant fear of the inevitable consequences of putting things off. So don't procrastinate, start on achieving what it is you want to achieve, start on your new habits today, the ones that will, over time, yield whatever you want.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Press Style of the Record Breakers - Al Murray (1950)

There is no doubt for several years British lifters were pressing in the most correct style in the world, and by "correct" we mean in strict conformity with the rules as interpreted in Britain. In other countries, however, the interpretations were much looser, and now, whatever our ethical objections, it is evident that a looser interpretation has become universal. Very wisely deciding to give British lifters some of the benefits to be derived from the looser definition of the Press, as laid down in the international rules, the BAWLA Central Council recently adopted the international definition in place of the original British definition.

Unfortunately, there still lingers in Britain the influence of the old definition with its insistence on a Clean directly into the sternum. As a result, there are still many lifters who pull the bar right into their sternum with consequent raising of the elbows and then prepare to Press with the bar tucked away under the chin. From such a position, the bar has to be pushed forward at the start of the Press in order to clear the chin, then it has to change direction in order to be driven upwards. Then comes another change of direction in order to being the bar back over the head and the final change of direction to send the bar upwards again (See Figure 2).

Click Pic to ENLARGE

Already it has been mentioned that considerably more power is required to change direction than is needed to keep the bar moving along the original line of action. Thus a greater amount of energy is wasted in the "around the face" style.

In addition, this style tends towards "lay-backs." The first movement forward throws the combined center of gravity vertically above the toes (See Figure 1). The lifter is at once in an unbalanced position and one of two things can happen. Either the bar comes down or the lifter leans back in an instinctive effort to re-distribute his whole mass more evenly over his base. Not only is this contrary to the rules but it also makes matters worse as far as the Press itself is concerned, because the mechanical factor known as a "moment" must now be considered. 

During this part of the Press, the shoulder is the main pivot and it is at this pivot that the "moment" takes place. This "moment" may be calculated very accurately. It is equal to the weight of the bar multiplied by the perpendicular distance between the pivot (i.e., the shoulder joint) and the line of action of the bar (See Figure 3). Therefore, the father forward the bar is sent with the compensating lean-back to make matters worse, then the greater the "moment" at the shoulders. This "moment" acts in a downward direction and is overcome by a force giving an equal "moment" in the opposite direction. This force is applied by the pressing muscles at the shoulder, principally the anterior deltoids, the anterior fibers of the upper trapezius and the clavicular fibers of the sterno-cleido-mastoid muscles. The success of this type of Press depends on the ability of these muscles to overcome the original "moment" at the shoulders and usually they cannot cope with it when a top poundage is pushed way out in front of the shoulders.

The third objection to this style is related to the change of direction over the head. The effort of changing from backwards to upwards when handling a top weight required an intricate merging of muscle action that is difficult to perform smoothly.  The bar will "stick" momentarily and cause the Press to be ruled out for stopping. Not only that, but usually there will be another automatic compensatory action, just as there was when the bar was originally directed forward. With the bar moving backwards there invariably causes an equal and opposite reaction from the upper body. The tendency is to sway forward under the bar and to poke the head forward. This movement, usually called a "follow through," is quite rightly frowned upon be referees as being a deviation from the constant vertical position required by the rules.

There is only one direction in which to press effectively and that is vertically upwards. They you are never bothered with conflicting forces during a change of direction, and also the adverse "moment" at the shoulders is greatly lessened. With the bar traveling along a fixed vertical line, it is easier to adjust your own center of gravity so that the line of balance coincides with the line of the Press, or line of action (See Figure 4). Note that the bar is set forward on the chest. George Espeut was the first British lifter to use this position to advantage and as a result set up many improved Press records.

 John Davis and a number of Continental lifters obtain a similar effect by pulling the chin well back.

Then we encountered the Russians in the world's championships in Paris in 1946, and practically every one of them started with the bar forward from the sternum in order to get this vertical drive. In addition they swelled the chest forward. When British officials first saw this technique, the declared that this was achieved by a lay-back of the shoulders. Since then, however, a careful study of action photographs, films, and the diagrams in the Russian textbooks has convinced us that this is not so. Instead they use the technique which the Americans are beginning to use in increasing numbers and which observation has proved is now being used by a large number of Continental champions.

The whole body is set in a gentle curve forwards from the ankles to the shoulders, with the hips at the apex of the curve. From the mechanical point of view this brings the center of gravity of the lifter into the vertical line passing through the instep and along which the bar will be directed (See Figure 4).

"But," the purists will say in horror, "that is contrary to the rules which say that the body must be vertical." Here we side with the Continental interpretation, which maintains that with the shoulders set vertically above the feet the requirements are being met, since the letter of the law is thereby being literally interpreted. For proof, study carefully the many action photographs which have appeared in this magazine ("The British Amateur Weight-Lifter and Body-Builder) showing top-ranking top-ranking lifters in action during the Press, and you will observe how many there are who have this curve between shoulders and ankles, yet their lifts are passed without hesitation by international referees.

Once the bar has started moving, in fact, we advise the lifter to make a conscious effort to keep his hips forward under the line of the Press, or as Bob Hoffman said to Pete George who had just learned this new style, "Just stand up there and keep pressing!" Thus the three centers of gravity mentioned in the previous article

will be kept on the vertical line of balance which will then coincide with the line of action (See Figure 4). When your line of balance coincides with your line of action, you have the ideal direction in the Press. 

From the referee's point of view it is an excellent style because it obviates the tendency to lean back. While the lifter constantly strives to keep his own center of gravity (i.e., the hips) below the bar, so the body will remain in a constant position and the bar has more chance of continuing upwards without any interruption caused by change of direction or balance.

Last month we mentioned our objection to the feet together style with tensely locked thighs. This tensing of the lower part of the trunk prevents the hips from being positioned under the bar, and in fact may lead to the upper body laying back, as pointed out above, in an effort to find an equable balance. 

So, once again to quote Bob Hoffman, "Just stand up there and keep pressing!"


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Innovative Back Moves - Jerry Brainum (1989)

Jerry Brainum (1989)

A jaded ex-bodybuilding writer once paraphrased Gertrude Stein by noting "a curl is a curl is a curl." He believed that every exercise is basically the same with minor variations. But it's the minor variations that play a major role in boosting consistent bodybuilding gains.

For beginners the basic exercise are essential. This is the time to familiarize both the mind and body to exercise. Trying to do more advanced, complicated exercises  using unusual angles only confuses the neophyte bodybuilder. The resulting poor form abruptly halts muscle gains, with an often fatal effect on mental enthusiasm. 

Basic exercises, such as barbell curls, barbell rows, chins, bench presses and others, are known for their simplicity. They serve to train a beginner's neuromuscular response, which sets the stage for fast progress. This accounts for the quick gains of beginning bodybuilders. Most of the progress is the result of this neuromuscular education.

As the bodybuilder advances, a certain amount of adaptation sets in. Once the body fully accommodates to an exercise, there's no need of facilitative changes, such as muscular growth, to continue. Now is the time for change.

This change can take one or more routes. You can add weight, thus applying new levels of stress to the muscle. If your strength level doesn't permit additional poundages, you can increase reps in the exercises. Again, the neuromuscular system senses the newly perceived stress and accommodates by muscular hypertrophy (growth).

A third option is changing exercises. No matter how advanced you become in bodybuilding, switching around exercises never fails to breathe new life into a stale routine. Some champions, such as former multi-Mr. Universe winner Bill Pearl, change around their entire training programs every six weeks. Pearl's mammoth tome "Keys to the Inner Universe," is literal evidence of Pearl's belief in exercise variety.

Bill Pearl and other champions change around their routines for two reasons: 

1) Using a new angle or exercise works the muscle differently. The brain recruits only as many muscle fibers as necessary to complete any movement. By using varying angles and exercises, different fibers will be activated in a muscle, and more complete development will result.

2) Using a different exercise injects enthusiasm into training, thus promoting continued progress.

Now that we understand why changing around exercises is important for continued gains, let's look at a few unusual back exercises. There exercises aren't often done by most bodybuilders, but this doesn't reflect on their value. Give them a try if you've reached a training rut. Before we get to the actual movements, let's hear from a few of the champs.

Back Training: Maintain Control

Tom Platz once remarked that he couldn't make real progress in his back training until he developed a "full sensory awareness" of each exercise [this subject is treated in great detail in the free Greg Zulak book linked above]. To do this requires a full range of exercise motion. Most of the failures in back training are due to poor form. It's all too easy to let the powerful arm or shoulder muscles take over when the back should be doing the work.

Those guilty of poor exercise form believe that because the back is such a large muscle group (second only to thighs in total mass), heavy weights must always be used. While heavy weights are essential to acquire large muscles, form must never be sacrificed for sheer weight. 


Lee Haney/Fred Hatfield Seminar:

"Totalee Awesome" (1987)

Just after winning the 1987 Mr. Olympia contest, Lee Haney commented on the stark difference between his back development when compared to some of the other Olympia competitors. Haney's superb, full back development is one of the major reasons the awesome one holds five Mr. Olympia titles. Yet, Lee only uses 70 lbs in one-arm dumbbell rows. "It's the form that makes a difference," said Lee. "I use full reps and make sure the back muscles do the work -- not my arms or delts."

Phil Williams has muscle on every square inch of his back. Looking at Phil's back would make you think he did lots of 400-plus pound bentover rows to get that way. Think again. Phil uses weights that belie his massive muscularity. The trick is in his form. He uses almost painfully slow exercise motion, and he doesn't stop an exercise until every muscle fiber burns in agony. Training this way doesn't permit using heavy weights.

In contrast, another top bodybuilder, often criticized for his weak back development, still insists on using heavy weights and short, incomplete movements. Apparently, this fellow hasn't deduced that the secret to a great back lies in exercise control. Control allows you to feel the muscle throughout its full range of motion. Heaving heavy weights with poor form eliminates exercise control and doesn't fully work the targeted muscles.

So, when training back, control and feel are essential to progress and full development. Yes, increase weight as you get stronger, but never sacrifice form for weight. An added bonus here is the prevention of serious back injuries. Most injuries result from poor form secondary to lack of exercise control.

Back Training Variety

Since the back muscles function by bringing the arms down in line with the torso, or out to the side away from the torso, various forms of rows, chins, and pulldowns are best. But many bodybuilders don't take advantage of the huge variety offered through variations of these three basic exercises. There's no need to lock yourself into a dull, humdrum routine lacking both progress and enthusiasm.

Here, then, are a few of the more esoteric -- but efficient -- back exercises in no particular order:


1) Reverse Barbell Shrugs - 

A favorite exercise of Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney, the movement is done by holding a barbell behind the back rather than in the usual frontal position. Haney favors this technique because he says it more strongly works the area where the upper trapezius ties in with the rear delts. 

While performing this exercise, imagine your arms as being frozen, or stiff, and let the traps do all the work, up till the peak contraction at the top, when you can hold and squeeze strongly by bending at the elbows slightly.

2) Reverse-Grip Bentover Barbell Rows - 

This exercise works the middle back area strongly. Usually it's the area most deficient in those with poor back development. This exercise is the cure. It's best to get a full stretch at the bottom. In the arms-extended stretch position, you start with the bar in line with your head (standing on a block or bench helps). As you bring the bar up, you arc it toward your waist. In the top contracted position try to squeeze the shoulder blades together. Hold the contracted position for three seconds then lower slowly to the start position.

3) Lying High-Bench Barbell Rows - 

For those with lower back injuries, this exercise can provide a useful alternative for working the mid-back area. It's done by lying prone (face down) on a high bench. Place a barbell under the bench, and row, bringing the bar as high as possible (a cambered bar works well here). Hold the contracted position for three seconds, then lower slowly. For upper back emphasis, bring the bar to the neck. for mid-back, raise the bar to the chest.

John Meadows

Q and A on reddit -

4) One-Arm T-Bar Rows - 

The best way to do this is in the usual rowing position. You can, however, stand to the side of the weight and row at a wide side angle. Try both variations to see which suits you best. This exercise effectively works the outside upper back and lat areas. It will help make your lat-spread pose look more impressive. As will this:

5) High-Pulley One-Arm Rows - 

Bill Pearl showed me this one about 20 years ago. It's a refreshing variation to the usual plain vanilla seated pulley rows. It feels a bit awkward at first, but once you get into the proper groove, this exercise produces a great pump. Concentrate on doing a full exercise motion, and stretch fully in the start position. Higher reps are more effective, between 12 and 15 per arm. Try doing consecutive sets, alternating arms non-stop for three to four sets. Act like your hands are hooks, and let the lats pull the weight. 

The dumbbells can be raised higher.

6) Two-Dumbbell Bentover Rows - 

Duplicate the usual bentover row using two dumbbells instead of a barbell. The advantage here is the increase range of motion possible by using dumbbells. You can go past where the torso (which is where the standard barbell row ends) and get a stronger muscle contraction. The increased range also brings more upper back muscle into play. This exercise is admittedly awkward compared to barbell rows, but it's good as a variation, offering some advantages over barbell rows.

Keep your hands supinated (palms facing torso) to maximize the range of movement. Keep the elbows in, close to the torso for maximum lat involvement. It's possible to do this exercise with elbows out to the sides, but this often degenerates into a sloppy bentover lateral raise movement.

7) Standing Bentover Low-Pulley Rows - 

This exercise looks like you're water skiing on dry land. Use a low pulley with either a rope attachment or towel through the pulley handle. Pull the weight into the lower abdominal area. Stretch in the start position, hold in the contracted position for a count of three. Standing low-pulley rows can also be done one arm at a time. 

Here, you stand to the side of the pulley and row across your body rather than directly in front as in the two-hand version. Both variations are excellent, and higher reps, 12-15 work well.

8) Straight-Arm Lat Pulldowns - 

Stand in front of a high pulley and use a medium grip on the bar. With elbows slightly bent, bring the bar down in and arc to the frontal thighs. This is a very good movement for working the upper lats and serratus. It's best to use this exercise as a finishing pump movement, but it can also be used to pre-exhaust the lats first. Use reps between 12 and 20.

9) A Good Upper Back Superset - 

This superset consists of light bentover barbell rows using a wide, collar-to-collar grip, alternated non-stop with dumbbell bentover laterals. It's important to keep the bells in line with the head for maximum upper back involvement. The weight used in this combination is secondary to using good form. You must use a weight that you can feel throughout the complete range of movement. Doing the exercises slowly, and utilizing a strong, three-second contraction in each works very well.

There you have it. A complete arsenal for back-training variety. Give these exercises a try if you've reached a rut in your back training. By using good form, including full range of motion, concentration, full extensions and strongly held contractions, you'll find your way out of any rut and into the light.





Saturday, February 21, 2015

Curing a Weak Arm Lock - Anthony Campana (1948)

M. Dominguez, Piet Taljaard, John Davis, Norbert Schemansky, Alf Knight
Click Pics to ENLARGE

Abraham "Bram" Charité 

Anthony Campana (1948)
"The British Amateur Weightlifter and Body-Builder"

 To an old-timer like myself it seems incredible that there can be competitive lifters who have never trained with dumbbells. But in fact there are scores of them; and in some of the younger lifting countries like Egypt, Iran, Jamaica and Malaya where there is no historical or traditional background of all-round training they are in a majority.

I watched one such "all barbell" product putting up an Olympic total the other day. He was young, he was powerful, he was fast, he was well-built -- in fact he was a typical product of modern methods of training. He had one weakness -- a poor arm-lock that was further aggravated by the fact that his left arm was "tighter" and weaker than his right. He lost a Press, two Snatches, and two Jerks as a direct result of his weakness and although he established quite a reasonable total I calculated that it should have been 30 or 40 lbs higher.

I asked him what measures he was taking to correct the disparity between his arms and the weakness of his lock; and it was then that I found out that he was doing no dumbbell work at all and hadn't in fact, done any since he started training.

Now there are, of course, a number of specialized barbell exercises which will help to improve a weak arm-lock. There are also some which will help to correct a disparity in power. But if there are any barbell exercises quite so effective for these two particular purposes as dumbbell work I have yet to encounter them. And some of the once popular but now forgotten dumbbell exercises are the best of all.

For bringing a weaker arm and shoulder up to the standard of its opposite number and before the exerciser proceeds to the more advanced forms of dumbbell pressing he should master the simple, straightforward one arm press.

Take the dumbbell to the shoulder with both hands, stand erect with heels together and stretch the disengaged arm sideways level with the shoulder. Drop the lifting shoulder as low as possible so that it starts from the deepest point. Without departing from the erect position press the bell to arm's length with all possible speed, making sure that the elbow is rigidly locked on completion. A dumbbell (a barbell, too, for that matter) can be legally at arms' length without the elbow-lock being as complete as possible. Even if there is normally no locking weakness the utmost in rigidity should always be attained.

Alternate dumbbell pressing -- in which one bell descends while the other goes to arm's length -- should be carried out from the same deep starting point but in order to maintain balance the feet should be separated by eighteen inches. For the special purpose of correcting a disparity in power the weaker arm should lift a somewhat heavier dumbbell than the stronger but where this system is employed the poundage should always be well below maximum. Repetitions should never be excessive, however, for speed and a fierce arm-lock are essential and these naturally diminish as the arm and shoulder tire.

Seated pressing is superior to the method just described because it eliminates most of the tendency of the body to bend away from the bell. The tendency to bend sideways away from the weight still remains, however, and this can be countered by sitting on a bench, box or stool close to to a wall and placing the disengaged hand against it. This, in fact, is the most concentrated of all forms of dumbbell pressing and for strengthening a weaker arm and shoulder is quite sufficient in itself.

Alternate dumbbell pressing, whether in the standing or seated position, is also most effective for improving a shaky arm-lock. It is by no means the best exercise for the purpose, however, for the man who finds it difficult to lock his arms with a heavy barbell overhead is usually able to lock each arm separately without difficulty. His weakness is his inability to lock both arms simultaneously with smoothness and power; and with dumbbells, therefore, the best exercise is that in which the two bells are pressed together. In the ordinary way it is advisable to use poundages that are comparatively moderate and not to carry out too many consecutive repetitions. But there is a valuable variation of this particular exercise in which a reasonably heavy poundage should be employed. Press the bells briskly and powerfully to arms' length and make sure that the arms are rigidly locked. Now lower them smoothly and evenly about eight or ten inches and punch them back to locked arms. At a later stage you can vary this exercise by lowering one arm at a time. In the old day of anyhow and double-handed dumbbell lifts there were far less cases of weak arm locks, because lifters had to practice this particular maneuver as part of their normal training.

The bent-arm pullover has gained a lot of popularity just lately -- and deservedly so -- for it is a grand exercise. But for improving the triceps and therefore the locking power of the arms and for the special purpose of bringing a weaker arm up to standard with its fellow I still prefer a once most popular dumbbell movement.

Take a dumbbell to arm's length in the easiest way. Turn the knuckles to the rear and move the upper arm sideways so that it is pressed closely against the head. Without moving the upper arm drop the bell downwards and backwards as far as possible. From this position -- and again without moving the upper arm -- return the bell to arm's length . . .



Blog Archive