Friday, April 21, 2017

To Cheat or Not to Cheat - Charles A. Smith (1988)

Harriet Smith, Charles A. Smith, Bert Goodrich, Earle Liederman, Unidentified Woman

To Cheat or Not to Cheat
The Use and History of the Cheat Training Principle 
by Charles A. Smith (1988)

If you'd been around in the 1950S, you would have had a good chuckle over the fiery feud between York Barbell President Bob Hoffman (self-named "The Father of Modern Weightlifting" and the ever ebullient Joe Weider, who were waging war against each other. 

What they said in their mags about each other was acidulous. What they said in private would have corroded the carvings off Mount Rushmore! The reason for this war of words? Joe's espousal of the "cheat" training principle, which many said he "invented" but which Hoffman said was "worthless, dangerous, futile and useless." So there!

Joe did not invent the "cheat" principle; hell, it's been around as long as there have been barbells. But what Hoffman failed to realize was that the weightlifting and strength movements he advocated in his magazine - the snatch, the clean and jerk, the bent press - were all cheat movements. Bob Hoffman, fond of showing himself in his own magazine and boasting about his own weightlifting feats one time wrote an editorial about the evils of cheating and then in the same magazine exhibited his powers by bent pressing a shiny International barbell, a movement he forgot to mention was the cheatingest movement of the lot, a movement in which everything except the platform you are standing on moves!

Those in the know recognized all the fussing and arguing for what it really was. Joe was treading a little too heavily on York Barbell's turf and too many weight-trainers were turning away from Hoffman's beloved Olympic weightlifting to Weider's cursed bodybuilding. The bottom line was dollars so the war was on.

Strangely enough, the businesses of Joe Weider and Bob Hoffman boomed and the only sufferers were the poor bloody typesetters, proofreaders and yours truly who had to deal with the noxious effluvium, since I was Editor at the time of Joe's ever growing Muscle Builder/Power magazine. 
It must be admitted that while Joe Weider did not "invent" the "cheat" training principle, he did give it great exposure in his mags to get it accepted and into weight-training as a valuable and result-producing way to "pick 'em up and put 'em down." And it must also be said that there are not too many around today who know anything about the "cheat" training principle, its history, what it can do and how to use it. There are even some who think the principle is curling 150 pounds and telling someone you made 200.

First, what is cheat training? Putting it in simple terms, it is using a looser style to perform an exercise for which performance rules have been established. As an example, let's take the two hands military press. Performed correctly, the press should be done with no back bend, no jerk from the shoulders, no bending at the knees and with the proper foot placement. But in training, a slight back bend, a slight dip of the legs and heave from the shoulders is used all the time - especially when the last few reps become tough going.

That's what cheating is all about, allowing you to handle heavier than normal weights, putting a greater overload on your muscles and allowing you to do extended sets.

If for example you could curl 100 pounds 6 times strictly, with some cheating you can perform several extra reps, so there is the possibility of more intensity. It's like performing forced reps by yourself. Thus any "cheat" movement is an easier way to lift a weight that should, according to the rules, be performed strictly. By using this cheating style, one can lift more weight. That much is obvious.

An example? In a one-arm lift, the hardest way to get a weight overhead is the one-arm military press.
Rules, and methods of training for and with the lift can be found here:

In this lift, performed according to the rules, no side bend of the body is allowed and the trunk must remain erect at all times. In contrast to this lift we have the side press (or "Devisse"), in which a side body bend is permitted, although the legs must remains straight.

One Arm Side Press:
The side press progresses to the bent press in which any amount of side bend is allowed and the legs are allowed to bend at the knees.

Secrets to Mastering the Bent Press by Walter J. Dorey (FREE . . . THANK YOU, WALTER!)
This is a great 111 page book on bent pressing. A true contribution to the lifting literature.

Check out Bill Hinbern's Site for two books on bent pressing.
One by Sig Klein and one by Harold Ansorge:
To find more on any given subject here on this blog, just Google your topic with ditillo2 added. 
For example, Barbell Curl:

Back to the article . . .

It is obvious that in these latter two lifts, the one arm side press, and the bent press, much more weight can be lifted than in the one arm military press.

You young people reading this article may say to yourself, "So what? Who does these lifts anymore?" But you should know that, with the possible exception of the bench press, all of our so called "modern" exercises were being used 100 or more years ago (written in 1988). And even the bench press was being used in the very early 1900's.

In England, at one time  42 different lifts were in use for contest purposes and record breaking.
And they still are.

International All-Round Weightlifting Association Lift Rule Book:
And here's a PDF conversion of it I made:

And among the Niagara of weightlifting books that have been written, none is as valuable as Bill Pullum's book, "Weightlifting Made Easy and Interesting."

Published in 1920, it gives each lift then in use a full explanation plus it helps anyone reading it realize just how the "cheat" training principle was evolved.

For example, we used an exercise we called "standing flies". Modern weight trainers perform it with arms bent at the elbows and considerable body movement. In Bill Pullum's day it was known as the "lateral raise standing" and was done with the arms dead straight and locked at the elbows, no body heave, no bend either forward or backward, with trunk held erect throughout the lift. So we can see a cheating movement has evolved out of a lift for which strict rules existed. Today the name has reverted back to the "standing lateral raise" or "side lateral".

Perhaps the two men who have had the greatest influence on the cheat principle are Bert Assirati, strong-man/wrestler:
and Joseph Curtis Hise:
 - Note: J.C. Hise is my all-time favorite lifting author. What a guy and what a mind! 

Bert was, in the late 1920's and early 1930's performing feats of strength that were by the standards of those days impossible. Assirati was cleaning and jerking 365 pounds when that poundage was more than the amateur world's record! He was also capable of ONE LEGGED SQUATS WITH 200 POUNDS FOR REPS! His two hands curl, strict, British contest style, was 200 pounds and his straight-arm pullover of 200 pounds was 60 pounds greater than the British amateur record at that time.

Bert used "cheat" training in most of his workouts. He did cheat curls, for example, before they were ever mentioned in this country. In fact, it was this author (Charles A. Smith) who first mentioned Bert's curl workout in a training advice column in a 1947 edition of The Iron Man magazine ( - that's what it was called back then, and the column Smith wrote was titled "Help With Your Problems", or Solving Your Problems" at times).

Reading Bill Pullum's book, you will see that the two hands curl was performed with no body movement and the upper arms kept tightly against the body, with only the forearms moving to curl the bar to the shoulders. In training for the curl, Bert used a slight body heave and a slight back bend. His training method enabled him to set a curl record of 200 pounds in strict style.

Bert also used the cheat in the two arms pullover.
In this lift, you lie on your back, hands gripping the bar with a shoulder width spacing, arms stretched out fully behind your head. The bar is then pulled up to arms length above the face with no arching of the lower back and arms kept locked and absolutely straight. Bert would start the lift with the bar at arms length above his face as he lay supine. He would then drop the weight onto the floor, bouncing the bar off the mat on which he lay, catching it on the rebound and use momentum to complete the lift.

 By establishing a record that so far as I know remains unbeaten to this day (1988), Bert showed that a loose style did build power and size and caused no harm.

 - There's a lot of 'rebound cheating' movement in these two books, divided over several posts. I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that Smith wrote them both and Weider put his own name on them:
There's seven parts to this one.
There's 11 parts to this one.

Joseph Curtis Hise's contribution to the "cheat" principle came from his deep knee bend style and his "hopper deadlift". Both of these exercises, as Hise performed them, were his "brain children". In the squat, Hise used a cambered bar (a bar with a bend in the middle) which made it easier on the shoulders when using heavy weights and stopped some of the 'rolling' forward on the ascent. Hise would "collapse" under the weight, hit rock bottom and rebound to an upright position. He would take three d-e-e-p breaths between each rep and continue squatting for 15 or 20 reps. Between sets of squats Hise flopped on his back and performed bent-arm breathing pullovers, forcing in a deep breath as he lowered the weight to expand his rib-cage and forcing out his breath as he raised the weight. The results? Fast gains in bodyweight, leg and chest size. By the way, those three deep breaths between each squat are now known as the "rest pause" system. Hise was using the system in 1932.

Typical development of the power training addict
as exemplified by one of the first monsters.
No name provided. 

Perhaps the most result producing contribution to weight-training by Hise was his "hopper" deadlift. Joe took two large pieces of timber, rested his barbell on the so the body was level (parallel) with the ground when it was bent over. Hise started his hopper deadlifts by taking the bar off the timber in normal deadlift manner to the erect position. Then, with legs held straight (no bending at the knees) and kept that way throughout the set, Hise dropped forward, bounced the weight off the timbers to gain momentum and then recovered to an upright position. In other words, a bouncing stiff legged deadlift. The value of this exercise lay in its ability to allow the lifter to move quickly while using a heavy weight and without risking injury to the lower back. There was a drawback however. The "hopper" deadlift raised so much racket the neighbors thought World War II was breaking out ahead of schedule!  

Let's look at another exercise that can be used as a "cheat" training method, the Upright Rowing motion. Used in the so-called "strict" or correct style, you do not bend forward or back but keep the upper body motionless while raising the bar to the chin. But by using a little body heave to start the bar on its way up to the chin, one can handle more weight for more repetitions. The greater the body heave, the more weight can be handled.

By using an ever looser style, the exercise can change, and evolves into "high pulls". For shoulder girdle muscle development, upright rows, "cheat" or "strict" are hard to beat.

How should the cheat principle be used and what are its benefits? Benefits are not only physical but mental as well. Gains in size and power come as a result of using heavier and heavier poundages. Mental benefits come from the mind becoming accustomed to using heavier poundages.

After a period of time using the cheat principle, upon returning to a stricter style of lifting you will find the bar feels lighter. Any weight trainer who uses support exercises knows that after taking three of four hundred pounds off the rack and holding it for 30 seconds your normal press poundage can feel feather light.

If it is possible for you to squeeze 10 reps out of a given poundage in the press, curl or any other movement, then all you have to do is add 10 or 15 pounds to the weight, curl or press as strict as you can for as many reps as you can and then when further reps appear impossible, start to "cheat". Bend forward and use a body heave in the curl. Bend back or use a slight heave from the shoulders in the press, and bend your knees a little to use leg power to help drive the weight up.

The idea is to do as many reps in strict style as you can and then bring in a "cheating" phase for the remaining reps. On some sets (say the last set when you are well warmed up and in the groove on a movement) you can up the poundage you normally use by 20 or 25 pounds and cheat all the way through the set. Or raise the training poundage to a weight that only allows you two or three strict reps and then cheat the rest of the reps.

Much more could be said about the "cheat" principle; what it can do and what its place is in modern weight lifting. The principle isn't new. It is as old as weight training itself, and the history of our sport goes back at least two thousand years!

No man living today can claim the cheat training principle as his invention. Cheating is a natural way to lift a weight and outright beginners do it without even knowing. It's knowing how and when to use it that makes it so valuable to the weight-trainer.

Over a hundred years ago (written in 1988), lifters were bent pressing, side pressing, jerking barbells and dumbbells overhead and one only has to look through Bill Pullum's book to see just how many "cheat" movements were used in 1920. One only has to witness a modern Olympic weightlifting contest to9 see how "cheat" movements are being used today.

So "cheat" and console yourself with the thought that it is the only "cheating" you can do that won't land you in the joint.

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