Friday, April 27, 2018

The Press, Part Two - Al Murray (1954)

This Series Generously Made Possible by Liam Tweed

Part One is Here:

by Al Murray (1954) 

Now let us go back and observe the important points of the correct starting position at the shoulders. The bar should be supported as much as possible by a high chest, it should be in such a position that when the chin is held in the bar may be pressed vertically. The hip joints should not be vertically over the ankle joints but instead they should be eased slightly forward so that the bar, hip joints and insteps are in line

Click Pic to ENLARGE

The chest should be held high so that the dorsal spine is in extension; this is also favorable to the pressing muscles, for any anatomist will explain that a muscle works more efficiently when it is working from a static and fixed origin. 

Another point, when the bar passes the top of the head, commonly known as the sticking position, the lifter normally gives way at his weakest point and this is nearly always the dorsal spine. If you do not assume the correct technical position in pressing and believe in the old fashioned idea of getting heavy weights up anyhow in training, you are robbing yourself of the chance to develop power in the dorsal region by failing to make use of the strong dorsal muscles. 

You are also neglecting a very important quality necessary in the pressing of heavy poundages, that is Will Power or discipline. The discipline I refer to is the determination to hold the correct position at all times. It is easy to note a lifter who does not possess this quality, he will often finish his to press with his shoulders practically resting on his buttocks. 

The opposite was obvious in Vorobiev's case t the last world's championships in Sweden. As he pressed his heavier weights he was fighting not only to get the bar to arms length but to maintain his chest in a high position.

When a lifter is fully aware of the aforementioned advantages and disadvantages he is then conscious that as the bar is approaches the sticking point just above the head he will tend to bend at the dorsal spine. To combat this he should forcibly raise the chest and extend the dorsal spine, fighting the bar vertically overhead, at the same time striving with all his power to keep his chest in this high position )see Figure B). 

If you are not sure whether you are pressing in a good or bad form, you can test yourself in the same manner as I tested Jan Smeekins of Holland. A wonderful lifter on the snatch, and clean and jerk but comparatively weak on the press. With poundages over 209 his position is very dodgy. My own press, as far as poundages are concerned, leaves much to be desired, yet I feel sure if I adopted the folding up procedure of many of our lifters I could do some 20 pounds more than 205. But I should not have the hard neck to discredit the referee's intelligence with such tactics. I asked Jan (in order to prove my point that his position was bad) to follow me through this exercise . . . 

I took 176 pounds, brought it to my chest, pressed it to my chin, stopped the bar, then to the nose, pause, back to the chin, pause, press to the forehead, pause, then completed the press without losing my position. I asked Jan to try this with 170 and he failed hopelessly. 

Les Willoughby has done this exercise with 209. Ken MacDonald, the Australian middleweight now in the country, greatly improved his pressing position by working hard on this exercise. We have seen Ken do 241 on several occasions, and he is doubtless capable of more. 

The purpose of this exercise is threefold: 

(1) To teach the lifter to press in the correct position and along the line of least resistance. 

(2) This exercise also teaches you to balance the center of the bar, and center of your bodyweight vertically over the center of your base, i.e., the insteps. 

(3) It also forces the lifter to use the pressing muscles. Instead of bending back into a position where other muscle fibers are used, which are not normally involved in correct pressing. 

Diligent training for technique on the press will reward you with an increased top press, and I may add, you  be surprised at the increase in muscular development and shoulder posture. 

One of the latest lifters to be rewarded for his efforts is Alan Conway, famous as a Junior Mr. Britain, now an Olympic lifter and winner of the bantamweight class at the recent Maccabian games. Alan's press was stuck around 155. He joined my gym to train for the above games, he proved himself to be an excellent student s he readily assimilated the instructions given to correct his pressing.

He was also taught to press as fast as possible whilst maintaining the correct pressing position. This develops the essential quality of speed of muscular contraction, to cut a long story short Alan, in the short space of three months increased his press to 181, an increase of 26 pounds, for a small man this is more than a fair reward for his efforts.     

Set out to adopt the correct pressing position, keep good positions throughout the press itself.

From time to time include dumbbell pressing in your training schedule, providing you press the dumbbells in the same position s you would assume whilst pressing a barbell.

Some advocate the bench press as an assistance exercise, buy many are sadly disappointed as I was after specializing on the bench press and press on back until I broke the British record several times without a single pound of reward in the standing press. However, I do believe there are some who do respond. Then there are dozens of top line bench pressers who find themselves extremely weak by comparison when in the upright position. Still, there is little doubt that it is of great assistance to the beginner and the intermediate Olympic lifter as a fundamental power builder.

Seated pressing with dumbbells and barbell, also the press from behind neck, are very valuable contributions to powerful pressing.

Naturally no article on the press would be complete without some Gen on training schedules, so here goes . . .

I would like to say a few words of advice to the beginner, so that he will have a fair chance to improve his technique. He is well advised to keep his poundages low enough to allow a fair number of sets of 5, 4, and 3 reps as follows.

Let us assume your top press is around 140. Start pressing with
90 for 5 or 6 reps. Then
100 x 4
120 x 3
125 x 1 or 2
Drop back to 105 for 4 reps.

For the more experienced lifter the reps must be kept lower to allow him to handle heavier poundages. For example, Top Press around 195:

Warm up with light pressing, then
145 x 4
155 x 3
165 x 3
175 x 2
185 x 1
Drop back to 160 x 3,3,3,3.

As a change from dropping back to 160 and doing sets of 3, attempt to press 185 for 3 to 5 singles. However, it is not wise to keep this up for longer than 3 or 4 weeks, as limit poundages in training are a great drain on nervous energy.

There are many schedules and variations, but the aforementioned schedules are a good sound base from which to work. Give this technique and training a fair chance and I'm sure you will be delighted. 

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