Saturday, June 10, 2017

Gary Gubner: Teen-Age Super Athlete - George Cohen (1962)

Originally Published in This Issue (June 1962)

In his  infrequent appearances as a competitive weightlifter, Gary Gubner has shown a remarkable potential. Only the amazing veteran, Norbert Schemansky, scored a higher total among American heavyweights in 1961. Gubner hopes to make his first bid for a national lifting title in this year's championships (1962). He is the only young heavyweight now on the scene with the potential to eclipse the phenomenal exploits of Russian world champion Yuri Vlasov. The first meeting between the two may take place at this years world championships. 

At almost every outing during the recent track and field season, Gary Gubner broke records, usually his own. His best toss was his world record 64'11-3/4". In winning the National A.A.U. Indoor Championships the burly N.Y.U. star made four successive fair tosses of 62'10", 62'10", 62'9-1/2", and 62'10" - an amazing display of controlled effort which indicates his strength, endurance and technique. 

"Our best bet to return heavyweight supremacy to the United States," exclaims U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Coach Bob Hoffman. "Should be our number one shot-putter at the Tokyo Games," say noted track and field authorites. Coaches and fans alike are all excited over the terrific performances of America's latest boy-wonder, who could turn out to be the greatest athlete of the Sixties - New York University strongman, Gary Gubner.

At 19, Gary is the greatest shot-putter/weightlifter in the world. How did he get so far so fast? 
As with most other champions, Gary owes his present position to plenty of hard work. He has a lot of natural ability and that combined with 5-6 training days a week put him where he is. Equally important is the excellent instruction he has received from his track coach, Joe Healey, and former NYU star Jerry Monkofsky.

His associations with other NYU greats like Olympic hammer-thrower Marty Engle and Maccabean stalwart Mike Herman have also helped him to outstanding freshman performances with the discus and 35-pound weight.

Gary's mental attitude plays a major role in bringing out the best in him. He learned early in high school that to come in less than first in any competition is like not competing at all. This unusual but highly successful way of thinking transformed him in just one year from an oversized boy to the premier New York scholastic athlete. Upon graduation from DeWitt Clinton High School he found himself a two-time All-City tackle in addition to owning over 20 shot-put marks including the National Scholastic Indoor Record of 63'1". His best effort of 65'10-1/2" placed him second to the phenomenal Dallas Long in that category.

How did he get started in lifting? What effect has it had on the shot?

Gary first saw a plate-loading barbell in my home (George Cohen) in July, 1957. His interest in weights was started then but it wasn't until December, 1958, that he commenced training in earnest. By the end of his junior year he had pressed 285 and squatted 400 pounds for 10 reps. He was, at this time, throwing and training at the University, and the effects of lifting were quite obvious with the shot. He threw 53 feet with the 16-pound shot that summer, reportedly, a new standard for a boy of sixteen.

It would be impossible to say just how many feet he would be throwing had he never lifted, but surely the fact that he is the strongest and yet the youngest and least experienced of America's top tossers answers that question adequately. Obviously it is his great barbell-developed strength which has put him up with men who have thrown for twice as long as he has, so quickly.

What has been his greatest thrill to date?

That would seem to be a tossup between the three gold medals he won at the Maccabean Games in Israel this past August, and his defeating Russia's best shot-putters in Moscow a month before. Gary was selected to the U.S.A. track team after he threw 60'2-1/2" in the Senior National Track and Field Championships last June. The Russians were disappointed that an unheralded 18-year old boy was coming to match brawn with them and their dismay was even more confounded when he came from behind on his next-to-last throw to outdistance their two best heavers as well as his own teammate, Jay Silvester.

In Israel, soon after, he lost ten pounds from the heat and strange surroundings. Still, it didn't stop him  from setting a trio of new records in the shot, discus, and lifting. It was quite a summer for Gary. In addition to seeing Moscow and Tel Aviv, he was in Poland, Paris, Germany and London, competing with the touring American team.

These two accomplishments, while being his greatest thrills, are not his best performances. Lifting in Passiac, New Jersey, last October Gary totaled 1075 pounds. This, we would say, is his most magnificent athletic feat to date. The individual lifts were 360-315-400 but they do not indicate how much more he could have done. His 360 Press was perhaps a limit effort, but the 315 Snatch was just powered overhead with the split as an afterthought. He unaccountably missed his second Jerk of 400, but made it quite easily on a third try. An extra 415 effort was wasted only because the spark was gone following his first 400 miss.

Up until Gary's phenomenal early February surge, when he broke the world record for the indoor shot with a prodigious heave 63'10-1/4" in New York, and a week later in Los Angeles brought an end to Parry O'Brien's nine-year undefeated indoor reign with a put again over the 63-foot mark, his best toss was 61'4-1/2" outdoors. That put him fifth in the world for 1961.

Track and field buffs might consider his world record effort to be superior to his big total on the lifting platform, but in either event these marks will be short-lived. No more proof of this is needed than to add that Gary's best individual training lifts exceed 1100 when totaled, and in the Los Angeles meet he got off a fantastic put which sailed past the 66' mark, an effort which does not count for the record because he fouled. "I can't say which mark is better," states Gubner, "but I intend to improve on each as soon as I can."

Does he train like other lifters? What concessions are made to the shot? Does he perform isometric movements?

By far the greatest amount of inquiries are about Gary's training schedules and how he applies them to two sports. Basically any athletic year for a shot-putter is divided into the indoor seas, the outdoor season, the in-between season time, and the summer. Gary adjusts his lifting program to these changing conditions.

The start of either throwing season will find him dropping the Olympic lifts and concentrating on power work (the power program) two or three days a week, and tossing the shot three days a week also.

During the summer and late fall and between the two track seasons he gradually reduces the frequency of the power workouts and starts doing the quick lifts (the lifting program). Invariably there is a good lifting meet scheduled that will fit well into this program. Gary enters, adds 30 pounds to his previous best, and by this it's time to throw the shot again.

Using this method he has increased his total 150 pounds in only 14 months, or which at most four were devoted purely to actual lifting.

The Power Program

 The power program is comprised of rack presses, squats, supines (benches), and pulls. Occasionally split cleans, regular presses, and deadlifts might be added. The four main lifts are usually done on each workout, twice a week, as follows:

Rack Press - 
and a Limit Effort

Squat - 
475x5 (sometimes)
and a Limit Effort

Supines - 
and a Limit Effort

Pulls (clean grip)
435 x 4 or 5 singles with straps
Snatch Grip - 315-365 for 4 sets of 2-3 reps

Gary's best rack press is 365. He has done 300x5. On the lighter sets he tries to do the reps without ever lowering the bar to his chin. His best single squat is 630 and he has supined 450.

The Lifting Program

As mentioned before, directly prior to a meet, Gary works mainly on the Olympic lifts, always pressing and doing one of the quick lifts on each workout.

Press - 
first four sets (warmups) as above
and a Limit Effort

Snatch - 
and a Limit Effort

Clean & Jerk - 
225 x 3 cleans and 2 jerks
275 x 2 cleans and 1 jerk
and a Limit Effort
then often some continentals working up to 425-440

You will notice that Gary very often works up to a limit or new record effort on every lift. He does this on more than half his workouts and is generally successful. If he does net a single rep record he will usually increase on a double or triple.

Lifting for the Shot

As the shot-putting season draws to a close and the big meets arise Gary finds it necessary to cut down the poundages and frequency of the power workout. Handling 10-15% less weight, he performs the same exercises in increased reps trying to complete each rep as fast as possible. Dr. Joseph Goldenberg, administrator of NYU's weight training for athletes program, has suggested this type of workout for Gary to increase his body and arm speed for the shot and discus.

With all this training he still has time to fit in some isometric days and it is expected that he will add more isometric workouts when he lifts less in the late spring outdoor season. These isometric workouts are done after a meet or on a rest day. Besides going through the usual movements, Gary has innovated some special ones that stimulate the critical points of throwing the shot. He thinks that isometrics will add to his ability in both sports.

What's he got physically that allows him to perform these incredible feats?

In two words, Gubner has "functional muscle" - and that's what gets the job done (1962). Doubtless, many who hear he has 19 inch arms and 30 inch thighs will be surprised to know that he's as agile, and nearly as fast as any sprinter or broad jumper.

250 pounds on a 6'2" frame doesn't generally produce ability like this, but Gary is no run-of-the-mill monster. You simply have to have fantastic contractile speed, timing, coordination and reflex action to be a 60-foot tosser, and Gary has it.

In clothing Gary doesn't look like he can weigh that much, but when he's stripped for action you can see the amazing fullness of his limbs and torso. His thighs, for example, measure 26 inches around a point just above the knee. His rib cage is not overly large but yet all the muscle he has still gives him a 50 inch chest measurement. Calves and neck of about 19 inches fill out the statistics for the tape-happy crew.

What does his diet consist of?

As one might imagine, Gary requires a lot of food to fuel his massive body and training. He eats three meals a day with the evening meal being the most substantial. His mother sees to it that he gets plenty of good red meat, mostly steaks and chops, for protein intake. Vegetables and juices are included in abundant quantities. He consumes unending amounts of milk, especially when he goes on a milk binge, often downing a gallon during an evening's TV watching. Very wisely, Gary avoids all sweets and pastries as they have little, if any, beneficial effect and often clog up the alimentary system. Apples, pears, peaches, bananas, grapes, plums and other fruits supply him with the necessary vitamins and minerals vital to good nutrition. These items constitute his favorite between meal snacks.

What's he like away from the gym? Has his popularity altered him any?

Devoid of athletics, the "Baby Whale" (as the New York press calls him) leads a full academic and social life. A sophomore at the University School of Commerce, he maintains a high average and is considering going into the insurance business after graduation.

Most people who have known Gary since his childhood are inclined to say that he is the same now as he was then. Basically mild mannered and modest, the only time you could tell he's an athletic champion is during a competition as he storms around the platform or the circle. About the most extroverted thing he might do in public is a chiropractic version of the "twist" where he "adjusts" his spine as well as keeping his girlfriend Beverly Miller company on the dance floor.

What can we expect him to do in the future? Does he think he can beat Vlasov?

Gary might well become the best heavyweight in the country by the World Championships this fall. Even though he will be very busy trying to throw near 65 feet in June we hope he'll be able to lift at the Senior Nationals and qualify for the United States team. Training with the weights all summer, he ought to be in fantastic shape by September ad could throw a scare into Vlasov.

With his record 63'10-1/4" indoor toss, Gary achieved his immediate goal in that event. He will improve on that, and eventually he hopes to throw 70 feet outdoors - preferably at the Tokyo Olympics. At these same Olympics he wants to climax his career by copping two gold medals - in the shot and in lifting.

Vlasov would be hard pressed to beat Gary by then. For barring unforeseen circumstance or unusual concentration on the shot, he should continue to improve at his present rate in lifting. It would not be unreasonable to expect him to total 1300 by 1964; it's an awful lot of weight but those who have seen the awesome power Gary displays don't doubt that he can do it, or more, if he really would lift seriously. Gary says he plans to compete until he reaches forty. I shudder to think of the marks he could set in the Olympic lifts if he continues this long.

As far as his attitude to competitors in either sport, including Vlasov, Gary has said, "When I was 14, I didn't like coming in second and I like it even less now. When I compete I aim to win, against anyone."

Diehard sports fans and Americans in general who are afraid Russia will overtake us in athletics can well be proud of this fine and decent red-blooded American boy. His avowed goal in life is to keep out country on the top in these events he loves so dearly. Succeed or fail in this endeavor, Gary Gubner is a name that is destined to rank with the highest of our athletic and strength immortals.

Gary Gubner page at Lift Up: 



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