Thursday, March 15, 2018

Basic Power, Part Three - Charles Coster (1955)

Courtesy of Liam Tweed! 

Part One is Here

Part Two is Here

Another Charles Coster Article on Basic Body Power for the Olympics is Here

Part Three: In Conclusion

 In bringing my series on Basic Power and the Olympic Lifts to a close, I feel bound to make a few observations on the Two Hands Olympic Press, in view of the revolutionary alteration in technique which is taking place nowadays. 

Whether these three articles of mine will be read by beginners, intermediates, or advanced weight trainers it is impossible to tell. But all of them have one thing in common . . . they all desire progress.

The modern Continental of Olympic Press, as seen performed by the world champions, bears practically no resemblance at all to the Military Press of the past.

Just how this change has come about it is difficult to say. Lifters and trainers have been nibbling away at the written definition of the lift over a period of years . . . and more and more lay-back of the athlete's trunk seems to be allowable with each succeeding world tournament.

At one time a lifter would be "glared" at and reprimanded if he attempted to use a wide hand-grip, even though he was standing in a perfectly upright military position. Today many of the top flight Olympic men not only use as much lay-back as they think they can get away with . . . they use maximum hand spacing as well.

Naturally the Press records are soaring as a consequence of these gradual infiltration tactics -- and some astonishing poundages are being handled with the skillful exploitation of the new techniques.

The Russians keep themselves swathed in thick track suits, and make quite sure that the pressing muscles are thoroughly warmed up and and gorged with blood before they mount a platform for an important contest. I sometimes wonder if other nationalities are paying sufficient attention to this very important detail. No field or track athlete would dream of making an all-out effort without first of all inducing the correct flow of blood into the muscles and tendons that are going to be worked to the limit.

Now that a much wider range of movement has found its way into the Olympic Press, the scientific "steaming up" of the lifter beforehand assumes a vital importance. And, similarly, now that more powerful muscle groups are being brought into play, it is very probable that progress can be quickened by the lifter exploiting certain well known body-building movements such as the Press on Bench, and the Press on Inclined Board . . . (at varied angles -- and using both dumb-bells and barbell).

It is very doubtful whether the practice of the Press by itself will enable certain physical types to acquire the heavy degree of musculature that is so obviously necessary if steady progress is to be maintained.

Most lifters know from experience that after a time the use of normal repetition Press movements practically ceases to be a "muscle making exercise." Muscular ache tends to disappear -- simply because the person becomes accustomed to a certain type of arm movement. And when this state of affairs obtains . . . muscle ceases to be made, and the athlete's desire to handle a heavier Press is brought to a standstill.

For anyone who has a major interest in mastering his Press training difficulties, I would suggest that: One night each week his workout should be limited to muscle and power building routines for the Press alone; that if necessary he adopt extraordinary measures such as specialized triceps and deltoid tendon-building exercises (numerous sets) . . . and that these things, together with Inclined Board and Press on Bench work . . . should be used in conjunction with, and alternately, to normal repetition Olympic Press procedures.

The whole of the upper trunk musculature must be made to ache and ache intensively if a substantial addition of fundamental basic power is to be built into the lifter's physiqu.

People who gravitate to the weight-lifting world usually do so because they are interested in strength. The Press is almost a pure strength lift . . . but there is no easy way to success . . . only hard work, of the right type.

As I have observed before -- some can make a maximum of muscle with a minimum of effort . . . and they are the lucky ones. Some people explain their condition by making frequent use of the term, "good leverage" or "bad leverage," and about these two aspects a multitude of words might be written. So I will say only this: If your skeletal lengths lead you to believe that your leverage is not ideal for the Press remember that your present limit lift is made with your present muscular condition, plus whatever the true facts of your skeletal leverage happen to be.

It follows therefore that if favorable leverage types can make progress by adding extra muscle and sinew where it will do most good . . . less favorable types of leverage can be helped the same way -- since ADDITIONAL TENDON DEVELOPMENT will enable bad or indifferent skeletal leverage to force its way past previous sticking points that were encountered when less thew-power, or whatever you prefer to call it, was available for the task.

The Seated Press, with dumb-bells and with barbell, from both the front and back of the neck positions . . . these form valuable variations that will enable the lifter to undertake a long and intensive effort, without the risk of getting stale.

The "Inverted Press" is a routine that I can from personal experience in the past recommend thoroughly. The idea is not a new one . . . nothing is new in weight-lifting . . . but I re-discovered it and found it very effective indeed for building increased pressing power, and in the promotion of additional worthwhile muscular growth.

Just go into a Handstand with your hands "raised" about five or six inches off the the floor, and rest the tips of your toes against a wall. Bring your feet down the wall until your calves are roughly horizontal at time your arms are extended. Raise and lower the body, without moving the feet. Fix weights around the waist when possible. Try, after a suitable breaking in period, to perform 40 or 50 press-ups in sets of 5, 8, or 10 repetitions.

Struggle hard to work up to using 50 to 80 pounds of weight -- for limit reps and singles. When you have really become toughened to the routine, try to keep your body supported an moving on your arms, continuously, for five minutes, forcing yourself to perform "half-arm dips" and then "quarter-arm dips."

This weigh training maneuver is a colossal muscle builder and involves the entire arm, shoulder and back musculature. It is a continuous tension muscle and power building exercise and even hardened weight trainers will be amazed at the effects it will have on them over time.

It importance of the Continuous Tension method cannot be overestimated in building up additional muscle power. At all stages of this inverted press maneuver the muscles are kept in a terrific state of tension, and because of this, when normal Press routines have been exhausted . . . I believe an imaginative lifter could find means of making this exercise more effective in building up Pressing power than any other type or "assistance" training.

When normal routine reps are indulged in for Pressing, the tension occurs mostly at the start, when the deltoids and triceps are in the "extended" position. As the arms move upwards, tension occurs up to the crown of the lifter's head level, roughly speaking. And from the onward the tension tends to decrease.

In other words, unless the individual in unusually favored by nature in the makeup of his particular physique, the practice of normal overhead pressing is not favorable, by itself, to the acquisition of maximum muscularity. The possession of maximum muscularity in my humble opinion must be augmented by the practice of a wide variety of heavy muscle-making arm movements.

The acquisition of steadily improving pressing power in the long run can only be accomplished if the lifter succeeds in substantially "altering" the shape of his body . . . and this cannot be accomplished by the use of "easy" methods.

Face facts therefore -- and you will get results in accordance with the effort that you as an individual are willing to make.

Hepburn, Davis, Schemansky, Kono, and the youthful Marvin Eder are not noted for their unique skeletal makeup . . . but they are noted for their "power" . . . and power is something that can be gradually built up over a period of time -- always bearing in mind the fact that "Rome wasn't built in a day."

The Standing Power Press is something that most topnotch lifters indulge in, and I saw both Vorobiev and Lomakin workout this way at Vienna.

Using plenty of "Oomph" and unrestricted movement when pressing, these men accustom themselves to handling very heavy poundages at the shoulder, and then press them "anyhow." It is not difficult to analyze the theory behind such methods, and they obviously have much to commend them.

One of the most outstanding characteristics of the "modern" Olympic Press to my way of thinking lies in the way the lifter "swings" his elbows to the side and backwards the moment the elevating movement is commenced. Under no circumstances is the bar allowed to travel forward, and under no circumstances are the upper arms or elbows allowed to travel to the front of the lifter.

At the commencement of the lift, the Pelvic region is thrust forward, the shoulders are laid back, the lifter's chest is raised as high as possible so as to form a substantial "rest" for the bar whilst waiting for the referee's clap signal to commence pressing.

The Russians do not "rest" the bar behind the sternum bones . . . the bar is always positioned in front of the sternum, and sometimes as much as two inches below the sternum, according to the preference of the individual.

With practice, a solid rest on the chest is obtained for the bar . . . and as a consequence of this most of the tiring strain of supporting the weight is removed from the lifter's arms prior to the clap. He is therefore favorably positioned to impart a powerful "drive" when the movement is started, and the Russians have brought this to a fine art . . . hence the soaring poundages.

Ivan Udodov was an eyeopener in this respect at Vienna last year. I have seen lifters make a Jerk slower than this Russian featherweight negotiated 220-231-236 pound presses. Both Udodov and Chimiskayan had been thoroughly "steamed up" and "prepared" before coming onto the platform. The veins in their arms and deltoids spoke volumes to the flushing their bodies had undergone beforehand. Where care and attention and thoughtful scientific preparation are concerned, these Russians leave very little to chance.


If I had by youth and weight-lifting days to go through all over again, and possessed the current knowledge and experience that have been so hard to accumulate . . . I would divide my training efforts equally between polishing up my timing, speed, and general skill, and the intensive development of fundamental Basic Power techniques.

The Two Hands Clean and Press constitutes a fine natural foundation for the other two Olympic lifts. Since the ability to Clean ever greater weights to the sternum without a leg split is basic power preparation for the preliminary movements of both the Snatch and the Clean (with leg split).

In a like manner, a lifter's pressing power forms a fine firm foundation when heavy shoulder jerks are undertaken, and similarly influence the lifter's power when finishing the arm movement of a Snatch.

If I had my time over again . . . I would treat the Olympics are FOUR lifts to train on . . . not just three . . . and the Jerk from the Shoulders I would strive to keep at least 30 pounds ahead of my best Two Hands Clean, for obvious reasons.

There is a definite relation between power cleaning without foot movement and the normal competition clean with leg split . . . and the more weight the lifter can force himself to handle without a split, the more he is likely to succeed with on important occasions.

So, providing that I was succeeding in maintaining a reasonable amount of speed and style I would concentrate the utmost attention to improving my pulling power for the Snatch and the Clean. And if and when "obstacles" were encountered . . . I would make a point of dividing the areas of the upward pull into different sections . . . and the weak spots I would work and work and work until the weakness was ironed out.

If I kept missing a certain Snatch poundage in competition after having done the most difficult part (i.e., got the bar to arms' length in the leg split position) . . . I would not waste further time and labor on ordinary routine repetition work. I would know that my problem lay in controlling and learning to get up with a much higher poundage than I was likely to attempt in public for a long time . . . and the logical fundamental basic power procedure is too obvious to mention.

Lifters all too often rely upon a blinding turn of speed, coupled with absolutely hair-trigger balancing. But these things, sad to relate, cannot always be brought forth when it is most necessary.

Valuable dividends might be gained, for instance, if the lifter were to try to make a successful lift . . . by using a bar that had been deliberately "lopsided."

The same line of theory applies to the exploitation of the Clean, of course. When a lifter gets a heavy Clean as far as the sternum, he has performed the most difficult part of the lift. Getting up from the split position should be the easiest part, providing that other essentials of training have not been neglected during his earlier preparation . . . but how many lifters in our country take the trouble to make Basic Power recovery movements off a pair of adjustable stands, I wonder?

The use of unevenly loaded bars for use in recovery movements on the Jerk, the Snatch, and the Clean would tend over a period of time to promote a "compensating faculty" in the mind of the lifter. He would learn to make a split-second adjustment with practice, and this I think would prove most valuable for competition when limit lifts were being taken.

The purchase of basic body power apparatus may present certain difficulties. But the possession of a few lengths of aluminum builders scaffolding, with the conveniently shaped clips that screw up securely, would enable your club to make a strong B.P. machine to their own design in a very few minutes, and at very little cost. Other apparatus can be made as well, at very limited cost.         

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