Monday, March 25, 2019

Oly Lifting Tips - Arnold Shickman (1959)

Article from Iron Man Lifting News Vol. 5, No. 5

Editor's Note (Peary Rader) -
Excerpts from a letter from Arnold Shickman to Ray Maddock, which describes one of the finest training programs we have ever seen. It can do wonders for you.

Blog Author's Note - There was a Lowell Sun Newspaper article on Arnold Shickman published March 1st, 1961. He worked as a mathematician and geophysicist when he wasn't five times the New England middle- and light-heavyweight weightlifting champ. "Like mathematics, weightlifting requires great precision and concentration."

Now, the article . . .

In the first place the essential thing in making progress is the avoidance of staleness. When a man goes stale it means his nervous energy is depleted. His workouts are taking too much out of him and must be altered. I do not recommend a layoff in such cases. I have gone stale, taken a week off and come back just as stale. The solution is to find a routine which is better suited to your energy.
When your workouts do not deplete you, you make gains.
When you make gains you maintain interest.
When you maintain interest you do not go stale even if you never take a layoff.  

Here are certain principles to follow:

1) Do not make limit attempts on the Olympic lifts a regular practice. No more than once a month should a man try his limit. Training is exercising, filling in your weak points, not testing your strength. It doesn't matter what weights you handle in training so long as you give yourself the proper amount of work. Don't feel badly because you don't press 200 lbs. every workout. Save it for the contests and you'll find you are raring to go and will do 210 or better in the contest.

2) On the same principle, avoid too many contests. For a lifter like myself who relies for his best totals on nervous energy, a 2-month interval between contests is ideal. One season I entered 10 contests in five months. By the 10th contest I had dropped 60 lbs. in my total as was ready to turn in my belt for life. The world champions do not enter many contests during the year. The idea is to store up the nervous energy between contests and then EXPLODE it in the competition. 

3) Avoid lengthy workouts. No workout should last more than 2 hours, allowing 3-5 minutes rest between sets and lifts. Each workout should be clocked, allowing one-half hour for pressing, one-half hour for snatching or cleaning, and 1 hour for power exercises which are the most important of all.

4) This means also to avoid too many lifts and exercises in one workout. It takes a remarkably few fundamental exercises to prove effective in developing strength, and there are dozens of exercises which are a waste of precious energy for a lifter and which even a bodybuilder can do nicely without. A lifter must not be too physique conscious. Bench presses and curls and variations thereof have no place in a lifter's workout, especially before a contest. There are too many more important things a lifter must work on and he can't do everything if he is to avoid staleness. If he is worried about his appearance let him take comfort in the old adage, "train for strength and the physique will follow." Witness the impressive physiques of the world champions. If a man is still afraid he will deteriorate if he neglects curls and bench presses then he should forget lifting as a sport and find himself a room with a bench and a mirror and others of his species and pump up his pectorals and biceps to his ego's content. He will never be an athlete and he will look terrible some day. As a point of interest, I gave up curls and bench presses 2-1//2 years ago and my arms are an inch larger without even giving them a thought. What's more, they are an inch larger ice cold - not pumped up (which I forgot how to do).

5) You should press every workout but do not snatch and clean the same workout. A workout should contain presses plus snatches plus snatch developing exercises, or presses plus cleans plus clean developing exercises.

6) Squats are beneficial and even essential for some lifters but do not overdo them. They are very exhausting. No more than a total of 30 squats should be done per workout in sets of 3-5 reps starting with fairly light weights and working up in 10 or 20 pound jumps to moderately heavy weights. Do not work up to weights you can barely manage. The last set should be somewhat comfortable. You should feel you could have done 10 pounds more. For years, as you know, I was a squat fanatic, doing as many as 50 reps per workout and working up to over 400 lbs. for 5 reps or 360 for 10 reps. I had continuously sore knees, constant back strains and no spring in the legs. Now I cut down on squats both in weight and reps and feel 100% better and my lifts go up better. Squats should only be done 2 times a week, say on Monday and Friday. On Wednesday it is good to alternate with quarter squats or front squats with lighter weights if you are a squat cleaner. Always do squats last.

7) Do not train more often than 3 times per week or every other day. Do no exercise whatsoever on in-between days. Just rest.

8) Learn the mental trick of exploding every lift you do. Lifting today is no longer slow, deliberate pushes or pulls. It is exploding the weights up. It is difficult to really drive this point home without demonstrating it. This is why slow deadlifts or military presses are to be avoided. They develop bad habits of slow actions. When you snatch or clean a weight you don't just pull it off the floor haphazardly. You prepare to explode at the appropriate point! Similarly, you don't just push a weight off the shoulders when pressing. you get set by tensing the whole body, making yourself as rigid as possible and feeling like a coiled spring. At the signal you ram it up as if your life depended on getting it overhead in the shortest length of time. To learn these explosive actions is the purpose of doing the assistance exercises, as well as to get stronger. Bodybuilding exercises do not teach you to think explosively. Learning this technique has brought my total up considerably. It was one of the factors holding back my snatch and clean.

9) Many lifters overlook the fact that not all their strength is in the muscles. Much of it is in the tendons and joints and these must be developed by special movements. This is why bodybuilders do not do well on cleans and jerks in spite of their large muscles. The most popular exercises are muscle movements because they feel good. Most men hate the tendon movements because they feel awkward and they don't feel like lifts. There is no satisfaction in moving heavy weights 2 or 3 inches but it is very important, especially if you want to clean & jerk a lot. In training you should use moderate weights on the lifts themselves and save the heavy poundages for these tendon and joint developers. An example of one for the press which should be included in every workout is to take 25 lbs. more than your best press from the racks and hold it in the press position at the shoulders. Then attempt to press it (it may only go up to the chin), 3 sets of 5 reps. After a few weeks it will feel lighter and so will your presses. You will also have a faster explosive drive off the shoulders. Another one is to take 50-75 lbs. over your best jerk off the racks, hold it in the jerking position at the shoulders and then do jerk dips like front quarter squats, only dipping as low as you would for a jerk, also in sets of 5 reps. Full front squats also have this effect of getting you used to holding extremely heavy weights at the shoulders for long periods of time. After some time at these exercises the entire shoulder area will get thicker and you will have more confidence and more drive in your regular jerks which are much lighter by comparison. Another important movement which develops spring in the legs is the regular quarter squat. Use no more than 150 lbs. over your best clean & jerk and do 3 sets of 15 fast bouncy reps going down about 4 inches lower than you would for a jerk dip. Using too much weight can be dangerous and it slows the movement down, which destroys its effectiveness. The nice part about these partial movements is that they need no warmup. You can take your weight for quarter squats or jerk dips almost cold because the joints and tendons are not stretched to dangerous extents and do not need to be loosened up as they do for a full lift.

I found a very effective routine, especially just before a contest, is to work up in front squats in sets of 5, 3, and 1 ( a total of about 20 reps) and then go on with heavier weights doing the jerk dips. I used to work up in 20 lb. jumps in front squats from 245 x 5 reps up to a single with 345 and then continue with jerk dips with 365, 385 and 400. I had no trouble at all jerking 315 in a contest after that.

10) The source of pulling power is not the arms but the lower back. Not until a lifter learns this will he reach his full potential in the snatch and clean. The pull off the floor is done with the lower back muscles primarily. The arms are not bent until the weight reaches the knees. The faster your pull the higher the weight will go up when you add the pull of the arms and shoulders afterward. One sign of a good cleaner is a deep groove in the lower back between the lumbar muscles. The way to develop this explosive pull and the back muscles is usually with a variation of the deadlift called the high pull, but I prefer to call it the fast pull to distinguish proper performance of the exercise from the improper one. The idea is not to see how high you can pull it. That is not important. In fact it should never go above waist height when doing this exercise. Above waist height it becomes an arm exercise. Here too, it is difficult to describe without a demonstration. A weight of 25 lbs. over your best snatch is to be used if you are emphasizing snatch grip pulls that day, or 25 lbs. over your best clean for clean grip pulls. Get into the position of snatching or cleaning as well as the frame of mind. Think of the lower back muscles while doing it. Then give it that sudden explosive pull off the floor allowing the weight to go no more than waist height and trying to see how fast you can reach this height. Using too much weight will slow you down. 3 sets of 5 per workout is sufficient. After some time you will find the lower back thickening, and snatches and cleans will be done more proficiently.

11) For a poor presser to become a good one it is necessary to do lots of reps. As you know, I used to be a very poor presser. I gained 25 lbs. in the press during the last six months. Don't forget, this is after 12 years of lifting. First, I learned the technique of the fast press. Then, I began to do a total of 41 presses every workout, heavy and light, with various width grips, and going no higher than 85% of my limit, doing sets of 3 reps over the various weights. I break the press routine into two groups, doing the heavier ones at the beginning of the workout and the lighter ones with a wide grip at the end, with other lifts in between. This is better than doing all the presses together because it leaves energy for the other lifts. A naturally good presser who is poor on the quick lifts can do better with just about 15 presses, leaving the rest of the workout to developing his weak points. I found it best to arrange the order of exercises so that a pushing movement alternates with a pulling movement. This keeps one group of muscles from tiring.

In conclusion, and by way of example, let me write down the workout I have been using with only slight variation over the past 6 months, and which has kept my total on the upswing. I have been doing more snatches than cleans because I need more work on the snatch. Therefore I include snatches twice a week and cleans once a week. Someone more in need of cleaning work can clean twice a week or alternate with snatches every other workout. I found the squat clean is more exhausting than the split  and cannot do more than 1 or 2 reps per set. A splitter might benefit by 3 reps, especially with the lighter weights. I have found from 1 to 3 reps per set best for the lifts, with 5 reps for exercises, and I never go over 95% of my limit on the quick lifts. As I said before, you cannot clean well after a snatch session so the two should not be done in one workout, ordinarily. I make an exception to this the week before a contest. At this time I cut out all power exercises and just do the 3 lifts, working up to starting poundages in sets of 2 reps, to singles totaling about 15 presses, 15 snatches, and 6 or 7 cleans and jerks. In the clean & jerk I only go to 10 or 20 lbs. below my starting poundage. At all times, especially the week of the contest, I avoid going up too high, doing just what feels comfortable, and stopping when it starts to get tough. I don't usually do jerks until a few weeks before a contest, at which time I start doing single cleans and jerks working up to 95% of my best. Here is the workout routine with my own poundages, and also the time taken:

1st Day -

135 x 5
175 x 3
200 x 3
215 x 3-5 sets
The 215 is 85% of my limit.
(30 minutes)

135 x 5
185 x 3
195 x 2
205 x 2
215 x 2
225 x 1
Done from hang up to 205
(30 minutes)

Push Off Shoulders (as described)"
275 x 5 x 3 sets
(10 minutes)

Snatch Grip Fast Pull:
275 x 3 x 5 sets
(10 minutes)

Wide Grip Press:
175 x 3 x 5 sets
This is 70% of my limit and the grip is 2-3 inches wider on each side than normal
(15 minutes)

275 x 5
295 x 5
315 x 5
335 x 5
365 x 5
375 x 5
These squats are all done fairly easily and leave me not too tired.
(25 minutes)
Sometimes in stead of regular squats I substitute the following:
Front Squats:
245 x 5
265 x 5
285 x 5
305 x 3
325 x 2
345 x 1
Jerk Dips:
365 x 5
385 x 5
405 x 5.

2nd Day -

Press: same as 1st Day
(30 minutes)

Squat Clean:
warmup with 205 doing a few front squats and cleans, then
225 x 2
245 x 2
255 x 2
265 x 2
275 x 1
285 x 1
295 x 1
305 x 1 if I feel good
(30 minutes)

Push Off Shoulders: same as 1st Day
(10 minutes)

Clean Grip Fast Pull:
345 x 5 x 3 sets
(15 minutes)

Wide Grip Press: same as 1st Day
(15 minutes)

Quarter Squat (as described):
425 x 15
450 x 15
475 x 15
500 x 15 (if I feel energetic)
(15-20 minutes)

3rd Day -

Same as 1st.

If I do jerks I eliminate the heavy pushes from the racks since these would overwork the arms and shoulders after the presses and jerks.


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