Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Press, Part One - Al Murray (1954)

This series courtesy of Liam Tweed

More on Al Murray's life here:

Prior to the war anyone using weights was considered a weight-lifter. However, these days there are so many branches, body-building, all-round-lifting, weight-training for all sports, and Olympic lifting, which incidentally is considered to be the athletic and competitive branch of consists of three lifts, namely: 

The Two Hands Clean and Press
The Two Hands Snatch
The Clean and Jerk. 

In competition there are seven classes: 


Three attempts are permitted on each of the three lifts, the best attempt on each of these lifts are added together to form a total, the lifter with the highest total in each class being the winner. Every type of athletic quality is required to reach the top in this sport but these will be dealt with when they crop up. So now, let us start with 


 The Press is believed to be a sheer feat of strength, but there is much more to it than strength. Correct positioning of the body during actual training and in competition can reduce the lifter's difficulties and increase his limit poundage. 

In cleaning the bar to the chest much time and energy can be saved if one cultivates the correct method of cleaning a weight to the shoulders in preparation for the press itself. The feet should be placed approximately hip breadth apart with the bar touching the shins and over the insteps. 

The width of the grip is indeed important. This should be slightly wider than one's shoulder breadth so that when the bar is at the chest the upper arms are in line with the body and not facing forward against the front of the chest. The grip can either be thumbless or with the thumb around the bar in the normal manner. 

Oscar State and myself went through over one hundred photographs of lifters from other parts of the world and there seemed to be an equal number of top line pressers using the thumbless grip as there were using the normal grip. 

Assuming that you have now gripped the bar in the correct position, your back should be straight but not vertical, shoulders slightly forward in front of the bar, head up and eyes looking to the front. This distribution of the weight of the body evenly over the whole surface of the foot so that when your bar leaves the floor, the center of gravity (or balance) will be traveling vertically upwards over the center of the base, i.e., insteps. 

Use your legs and back in the pull as much as possible so that you may conserve the strength of your arms and shoulders for the press itself. As the bar slows down passing the chest, quickly dip at both knees, lowering the body to receive the bar on the chest at the exact position from which it will be pressed (see Figure 1). 

 Click Pics to ENLARGE

Now comes a very important part, that is positioning your body in the best balance and most powerful position for pressing.

The mechanics of this are simple -- but seldom correctly observed. The lifter should aim to have the center of the bar as near as possible over his personal center of gravity (or balance) and these two points must be placed centrally over the lifter's base. The bar must also be in such a position that it can be pressed vertically overhead, still maintaining position over the center of your base. If the bar is held too high on the sternum the lifter will most probably be forced to swing the bar forward to clear the chin. It is then a mechanical impossibility to keep the body still, in the correct position.

Once the bar has left the ground the body and barbell now become one mass with a common center of gravity. This is known as the combined center of gravity. In pressing the barbell forward from the chest two things can happen:

(1) As the bar goes forward you may come up on your toes, being pulled forward by the bar. This, by the way, is quite common and is a cause for disqualification.

(2) This is more common -- as the bar travels upwards and forward, the head and shoulders are lowered backwards to counterbalance the weight moving forward. The distance between shoulder joint and barbell is increased, making it harder for the muscles involved (see Figure 2). This backward movement with moderate weight may escape notice of the referee. But it is a simple law of mechanics that the heavier the weight the further back the shoulders will fall in an effort to counteract the additional weight of traveling forward.

A narrow grip can also cause this trouble. If you take a particularly narrow grip you will observe when pressing the bar your elbows will be forced to travel well to the front. The weight will then be transmitted vertically downwards through the forearms and elbows. This imaginary line will continue to fall downwards in front of the toes. The shoulders in consequence will be forced backwards, hence the reason for the success of the more modern wide grip. When the wide grip is used you will note that whilst pressing from the chest, the bar, elbows, hip joints and insteps are more or less in one vertical line. This is a strong and economical pressing technique.         


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