Monday, March 12, 2018

Basic Power, Part Two - Charles Coster (1955)

Thanks Again to Liam Tweed! 

Tommy Kono

"Tommy Kono's colossal Front Squat with 420 pounds for 2 repetitions ranks as a most fabulous feat of strength, and I am reminded of the occasion, about 18 months ago, when he made 35 Deep Knee Bends from the back of neck with 365 pounds loaded on the bar." - Charles Coster

Here is another article on Basic Body Power by Charles Coster: 
The article above contains sample exercises.

Part One of this Three-Part Series is Here:

Basic Power Possibilities

Fresh Evidence

Before delving any deeper into the details of the Basic Power phenomena . . . I would especially draw the attention of my readers to finding a couple of pictures of that fine Egyptian lightweight Khalifa Gouda which depict him making a Snatch with 264 pounds, and show him in the Split Clean position with a bar loaded to no less than 330. 

Said Khalifa Gouda
Not One of the Photos Mentioned

To my way of thinking these two illustrations speak volumes, and the lesson they clearly show we cannot afford to ignore . . . for Gouda lost control of both these lifts. 

When a lifter undertakes a peak lift, and succeeds in getting a Snatch to extended arms length or a heavy Clean to a shouldered position . . . HE HAS PERFORMED THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF HIS UNDERTAKING. 

When he loses control of the bar at this stage -- months of heartbreaking toil and sweat suddenly add up to nothing. He has failed, and failed just at the particular point where the task was to all intents and purposes accomplished.

Why should this be so? Why is it possible to find hundreds of similar parallels, if we take the trouble to consult the statistical evidence at our disposal covering the last few years? 

If a lifter fails to get a heavy weight to an arms' length Snatch position . . . he has reasonable cause for failure. If the athlete tries with might and main to tear a heavy Clean up to the sternum for fixing, but is not powerful enough to pull the bar sufficiently high for the vital fixing to take place . . . no one can complain when the bar thuds back onto the lifting platform.

But when the bar IS at arms' length overhead, and, when the Clean IS high enough to fix at the sternum -- the hardest and most difficult phases have been accomplished . . . and failure to fight through and finish the operation in the proper manner should seldom occur.

Literally hundreds of instances like these two occur during the course of a year, and I feel convinced that the solution to the problem lies in a greater application and mastery of fundamental basic power principles.

Khalifa Gouda has a wonderful turn of speed, his timing is good, his style is perfect, and he lifts with considerable spirit. Providing that each lift goes according to plan . . . all is well. BUT, if he is called upon to rectify a slight error of judgement, direction, or elevation HE IS NOT SUFFICIENTLY BASICALLY POWERFUL TO DO IT. As we know from bitter experience . . . the perfect technical execution of a lift can never be guaranteed on important occasions. To overcome of safeguard oneself against such difficulties a special type of basic power training should be incorporated into the normal preparation routine. This CAN be done, and what is more, some of the top-flight lifters are already doing it.

An outstanding example of what a young and inexperienced lifter can do along these lines was provided by the Russian middleweight Fedor Bogdanovski at Vienna last autumn. This 23-year old soldier knew he was up against a very difficult task -- but he set to with a will, and, when the battle was over he found himself with an 887-pound total to his credit -- occupied second place -- and was only 5 pounds behing Pete George's winning total.

Here are some of the things we saw him practice in training. Being a fore-and-aft (split) stylist, he found that his balance was somewhat uncertain when in the full split position. To strengthen himself for the championship ordeal he would take a 242-253 Snatch to the overhead position, and practice bending and straightening his front knee while in the split position. The same bending and straightening maneuver with the front leg was performed while holding a 330-pound Clean at the sternum, and sometimes he would "hop" his front foot a little to the left and right before making another front leg kneebend and finishing the set.

With some of these power building exercises he would lower himself to the extreme limit possible -- before pressing himself backwards and upwards. I also saw this lifter Squat Clean a weight one day, and make a few squats in front of the neck (front squats), but I could not ascertain the weight of the bar.

This lifter displayed unusual mental tenacity and determination to succeed when he lifting against Stan Stanczyk and Pete George. His Press of 270 was a second lift, and he failed to elevate 275 with his last attempt. His style is rugged, not a military, but not nearly so "lay-back" as some of the lifters there. Once he had a Snatch at arms' length in the split position . . . he hung on like grim death until he had forced himself to stand upright. His determination was outstanding in this respect and was in greater evidence than ever when the Clean and Jerk was being decided. The U.S.S.R. trainers were delighted with the way he was conducting himself on his first World Championship appearance, and Bogdanovski himself did not appear to be at all nervous.

Anyone who watched him make his three successful split cleans with 340-347-358 might be excused for wondering whether the squat style was so superior after all. This lifter is going to be a difficult man to beat in a few months' time . . . that was the general opinion. And it may be that Tommy Kono will be the only man capable of keeping this Russian in second place.

The contrast between Gouda and Bogdanovski in training methods is very marked. The Egyptian is one of the world's most polished performers, but having executed the most difficult part of two heavy lifts . . . he failed to make the leg recovery movements, and this fact brought his skill to naught. 

The Russian, lacking many of the finishing touches of technique, tore his weights upward with the greatest determination, and having brought three snatches to the arms' length position, and fixed three cleans at the sternum. HE MADE ALL HIS LEG RECOVERY MOVEMENTS WITH COMPARATIVE EASE, despite the heavy weights he was handling. There is a great object lesson here, and it is up to all lifters interested in competitive matters to read the lesson correctly

It is useless to train for superlative style and mathematical precision ALONE. All lifters should arrange their training in such a way that they develop a margin of power reserve that can be brought to bear when crisis points are encountered during the Snatch and the Clean. 

The ability to come up from a deep leg-split position with poundages that are progressively much heavier than any that can be snatched or cleaned in competition is a MUST for training routines if the athlete really wants to reach his peak poundages within the confines of the three attempts allowed.

These safeguards and precautions are only logical after all, and they have been neglected for far too long in my opinion. 

How many lifters have ever tried to support overhead 100 pounds more than they could Jerk? How many practice the preliminary Jerk knee-dips with an additional 150 pounds on the bar? How many have ever tried their hand at "Dead Hang Jerking" I wonder? There must be quite a few who haven't even heard of this form of lifting. And yet Dave Sheppard thought it sufficiently important to investigate a few years ago. 

Note: Dead Hang Jerking is done without any preliminary "knee dip and upward heave" and has to be brought about just by suddenly lifting the feet off the floor -- accompanied by a lightning-like straightening of the arms. The object being to try to get the elbows locked before the feet contact the platform in the split position.

How many can make top jerks with a really deep leg split -- and yet repetition work done in this way is a great Basic Power Builder for the hips and thighs . . . just where a god margin of extra strength is needed. 

Power Lifting 

A good deal of time might be saved in training if a sensible amount of Power Snatching and Power Cleaning were substituted for the seemingly endless sets of repetition work one so often encounters.

The only nation's lifters that don't seem to make use of Basic Power methods are the Egyptians . . . and, as can be seen, they gained only one place at Vienna last year.

The Russians and Americans on the other hand seem to realize that the MORE a lifter can Power Snatch, Power Clean, and Power Jerk without the use of a leg-split the MORE weight he will be able to elevate when limit tryouts are periodically put into effect.

One day in the training room at the rear of the Münchnerhof Hotel in Vienna, Norbert Schemansky made a Clean and Jerk with 380 pounds without a normal leg-split . . . he just moved his feet slightly "outwards" (towards the end of the bar) when receiving the weight at the sternum and the weight was power jerked overhead.

I was in the Russian training quarters one evening when about eight bars were in use, and about a dozen lifters were present. Each lifter pursued the wise precaution of making some lifts on as many different bars as possible. Light precision movements on a certain bar would be followed up often with power movements on another appliance. And after this perhaps some fairly substantial normal lifting would be undertaken on a third bar. On this 

On this occasion I saw Saksonov take a workout on the Press and the Clean, and to our amazement he used the fore-and-aft (split) leg movement throughout, eventually working up to a 286-pound Clean. After which, with the trunk held in a semi-upright position -- he performed several sets repetition Power-Pulls for the Clean.

Udodov, who was preparing to surprise everyone by making a featherweight appearance . . . made single Power-Pulls for the Snatch, using 264 pounds. He also Power-Jerked 275 with practically no foot movement, and Cleaned the weight in much the same manner.

Lightweight Dmitry Ivanov worked up to a 209 pound Power Snatch after warming up with plenty of graduated poundages. He likewise secured his hands to the bar with canvas straps and undertook heavy pull-ups for the Clean.

The entire room was a hive of activity and it went on for about two and a half hours. Being a keen student of these things I found myself wishing that I had about three pairs of eyes at times -- there was so much to be seen, and all of it good quality stuff. 

Little Farkhutdinov kept to repetition presses all the time, and must have pressed 209 pounds at least 20 times during the workout . . . sometimes getting two reps. He is 28 years old and holds the U.S.S.R. Bantam Press Record at 225 pounds. 

This lifting took place at the Soviet Army Headquarters, which were situated in one of the Palaces. Half a dozen wooden platforms had been laid out over a very nice inlaid marble floor. The tables and chairs were at one time the property of royalty -- with white and gold woodwork and crimson tapestry upholstery. Overhead, four large cut glass chandeliers provided the lift. It was a strange setting for a festival of weightlifters -- and one that I shall not easily forget. It was all very, very interesting, and most educational to watch.

Stan Stanczyk's big bodily reduction to the middleweight division was an interesting experiment at Vienna -- especially in view of the Basic Power Training he had undertaken earlier. But unfortunately he did not have a fair opportunity to show us what he could do, as the sad news of his mother's death was received, and he left by air for home as soon as passage could be arranged.

With only one Press, two Snatches, and one Clean and Jerk to his credit he showed us a glimpse of his real worth by totaling 859 pounds.

When weighing only about 3.5 pounds overweight in the States he twice cleaned 370 in terrific fashion, but he just couldn't gear himself up to do the same thing in Vienna, and small wonder, all things considered.

Some idea of the modus operandi used by the champions came my way a few months ago when Stan wrote . . . "I am working for Leg and Back Power more than anything else so far. Recently I have lost quite a lot of bodyweight and am now around 177 pounds. For back strength I am performing Dead Lifts on a box with 460 (5 reps). I am working up to 500 (3 reps) . . . and then I will go into a schedule of regular Dead Lifts." He continues . . . "I am doing Fore-and-Aft Leg-Split 'dips' (bending and straightening the front knee) with 300. I am doing regular Squats with 375 (5 reps) and intend to work up to close on 500. I perform Cleans and Snatches 'without moving my feet' and have cleaned 300 (3 reps, the 2nd and 3rd from the hang). I have made on single with 325 after only a few weeks training on it, and I am 'going strong'." 

His best total at a reduced bodyweight last year was 890 . . . so it will be curious to see how he fares in 1955, for he is far from being a spent force in spite of the intensive competition he is up against at the present time.

Incidentally, Power Snatching was one of John Davis' favorite procedures, and he had more than one way of performing them. At Stockholm one afternoon I saw him make a beauty with 280 that brought forth many appreciative "ahs" from the watchers. When a Power Snatch got really heavy Davis would slide one foot about 18 inches to the rear and ease himself slightly downwards as his elbows worked into the lock.

I am honestly of the opinion that fundamental basic power when applied correctly can be of the greatest possible assistance to competitive Olympic weightlifting progress. But as my personal views may not carry as much conviction as I would like . . . I have concentrated as much as possible on the things that the champion lifters have told me -- and the things that they have actually been seen to do with the naked eye.

If Basic Power training occupies the important position which I think it will in the near future . . . then I hope to make a few more observations in due course. 

Note: See Part Three. 



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