Saturday, June 29, 2019

Basic Power Methods - Charles Coster (1955)

Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed -
This is one issue of S & H I don't have, and
it's a real pleasure to be able to post this particular article.

Originally Published in This Issue (April 1955) 
On the cover, Lou Degni. 

Lou Degni!

Kenneth Pendleton, circa 1940.

Rear View of Tips Only on the Bar in a Rack Position. 

Note: Here's a great aid in describing Olympic lift variations for those of you who may have the odd problem understanding the terminology, or enthusiastically describing them to non-lifting strangers in a grocery store lineup.  It's taken from this book, written by Christian Thibaudeau. Highly recommended!

If you don't have a copy yet, check out the Table of Contents here:

I believe this was Chris's second published book. For more recent material and much, much more, go here: 

It's been a while since this book was published. For me, it was long enough to warrant another read with more experienced eyes. New perception of what I thought I knew!

These are the main sections of the book: 

 - A focus on broad categories of training methods and the scientific explanations behind each of them.

 - The possible applications of these broad methods as well as how to use them in a training regime. 

 - Program design. Understanding the how and why of correctly arranging the training methods selected into a logical and effective training plan. 

 - Electrostimulation training for athletes, its benefits and limitations.  

 - 30 different high power/shock exercises to maximize your performance.

 - Addressing the myths of strength training for female athletes. 

First word: position of the catch/reception of the barbell - 
Muscle = catch with no bending of the knees.
Power = catch with a slight bending of the knees (less than 90 degrees).
Squat = catch with an important bending of the knees.
Split = catch with one leg forward and one leg back.

Second word: general type of lift - 

Third word: starting position - 
Floor = the bar starts on the floor.
Hang = the bar starts above or below the knees, with the lifter hold it there.
Blocks = the bar starts on blocks supporting it above or below the knees.  

Examples, using the Clean: 

Muscle clean from the floor.
Muscle clean from the hang.
Muscle clean from blocks.

Power clean from the floor.
Power clean from the hang.
Power clean from blocks.

Squat clean from the floor.
Squat clean from the hang.
Squat clean from blocks.

Split clean from the floor.
Split clean from the hang.
Split clean from blocks. 

And now to the article . . . 

The Spur

Anyone who has familiarized himself with happenings connected with the last two or three world weight lifting championships will come to the inevitable conclusion that the great Iron Game is undergoing a convulsion of intense activity at the present time. Records upon the three Olympic lifts are soaring in all seven weight class categories, and there are two main reasons for this . . . the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. Isolated contributions occasionally come from other far-flung corners of the globe also - such as Iran, Burma, the Philippines and Korea. But in the main, the great struggle revolves around Olympic weight lifting activities centered in American and Russian sporting circles. Both countries have huge populations, and both have great stores of natural talent. The onslaught upon World Records in most sports during the past few years has now reached such a degree of intensity that people everywhere are wondering just where it is going to end.

Competition is a great spur to human endeavor . . . and it looks very much as though we are going to have plenty of it during the years to come.

In many fields of sport, the normal training methods used in the past are now no longer considered sufficient by themselves to obtain the very best results for a specific occasion. 

Certain "auxiliary methods" have been ingeniously contrived and invented by athletes and trainers . . . in an effort to extend and improve the natural potential of the athlete concerned, in various ways. And it will come as no particular surprise to anyone when we realize that the ancient and noble sport of lifting weights is particularly suited to the study of fresh avenues of approach, when greater peak competitive performances are desired by the individual.

It has been said at times that nothing is entirely new in the weight lifting world, and with this I agree. However, our affairs have been conducted in such a loose manner during past decades that many useful ideas and discoveries have been overlooked or forgotten. But of recent years the tempo of Olympic lifting has become so revolutionized that now athletes the world over are seeking for additional "forcing methods" whereby to implement the normal routines of training.

Many experiments are being made in different parts of the world at the present time with this end in view and, it should not be necessary to add . . . every idea is not necessarily a success.

The ability to keep out of a mental rut and the willingness to experiment with worthwhile ideas is, I am convinced, a strong feature of Russian athletics at the present time.

Fundamental Basic Power was a term coined by me, and mentioned in Vigour magazine some years ago. I have never had cause to regret this phrase . . . for with the passing of time it becomes increasingly apparent that the use of these things can be of the greatest possible assistance in overcoming sticking points connected with Olympic weight lifting performances.

Not for one moment do I underestimate the importance of style, timing, technique, etc., when combined with a blinding turn of speed. These things are all-important, and no competitive athlete can dispense with them.

But what I would lay stress upon is this: When a lifter is making full use of scientific skill - and he finds himself stuck at certain poundages - the A GREATER DEGREE OF BASIC POWER is the only thing that will enable him to get beyond that point.    


The importance of an all-out, up-on-toes pull can be seen in this photo of Dorrel Dixon, a Mr. Jamaica winner and lifting champion, in action snatching at the Central American Games. A valuable basic power action is to pull heavy weights up as high as possible in this manner. Dave Sheppard, who holds world snatch records in two classes, pulls up weights 100 pounds more than he can snatch and attempts to tough as high as possible on his chest. 

When the strength of the man becomes stationary . . . however brilliant the technique of the lifter may be, it will only carry him to a certain point . . . and from there on the lifter tends to become static.

There would appear to be a "limit" to the development and application of style, speed and technique. But much of the evidence at our disposal tends to indicate that THE ULTIMATE POSSIBILITIES OF STRENGTH AND BASIC POWER AND NOT YET IN SIGHT. 

The inference therefore would appear to be obvious: Keep your normal training routines lined up with a progressive Basic Power routine, to assure continued Olympic progress. 


Some of the Books Recommended by Louie Simmons:

A Program of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting by AS Medvedyev
A System of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting by AS Medvedyev
Adaptation in Sports Training by Atko ViroBasic Physics by Karl F. Kuhn
Beyond Stretching Russian Flexibility Breakthroughs by Pavel Tsatsouline
Circuit Training for All Sports by Manfred Scholich, PhD
European Perspectives on Exercise and Sport Psychology by Stuart J. H.Biddle
Explosive Power & Strength by Donald A. Chu, PhD
Explosive Power and Jumping Ability by Tadeusz Starzynski/Henry K Sozanski, PhD
Facts and Fallacies of Fitness by Dr. Mel Siff 
Fitness and Strength Training for All Sports by Jurgen Hartmann, PhD
Fundamentals of Special Strength Training in Sports by YV Verkhoshansky
Manage the Training of Weightlifters by Nikolai
Periodization Theory and Methodology of Training by Tudor O. Bompa
Periodization Training for Sports by Tudor O. Bompa
Power Training for Sport by Tudor O. Bompa
Programming and Organization of Training by YV Verkhoshansky
Science and Practice of Strength Training by Vladimir Zatsiorsky
Science of Sports Training by Thomas Kurz
Secrets of Soviet Sports Fitness and Training by Michael Yessis, PhDSerious
Strength Training by Tudor O. Bompa
Soviet Training and Recovery Methods by Rick Brunner/Ben Tabachnik
Sports Conditioning and Weight Training by WM J Stone/WM A KrollSports
Restoration and Massage by Dr. Mel Siff/Michael Yessis, PhD
Strength and Power in Sport by PV KomiStrength
Speed and Endurance for Athletes Jurgen Hartmann, PhD
Strong Together by Walter Gain/Jurgen Hartmann, PhD 
Supertraining by Dr. Mel Siff
The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline 
The Training of the Weightlifter by RA Roman 
The World Atlas of Exercises for Track and Field by Andrzej 

Theory and Methodology of Training by Tudor O. Bompa 
Training for Warriors by Martin Rooney
Warm-Up and Preparation for Athletes of All Sports by ZoltanTEnke/AndyHiggins
Weightlifting and Age by LS Dvorkin
Weightlifting Year Book, 1980, 83, 85, Fizkultura I Sport Publishers

PArdon my font, eh.  

Note: All these Fundamental Basic Power, All-Around Body Power articles from the past stress the development of fundamental overall raw body strength and strengthening weak points once they're identified (not knowing your weak points can be a real big part of the problem), along with technique and speed as well, of course. If we look at today's powerlifting knowledge, current strength training wisdom and all of it, it's clear that these guys back in the '50s and earlier were laying down the groundwork for what we sometimes take for granted today. Ya gotta love it! Just as it is today, people with a passion for lifting keep finding more and more out about what it takes to create continued human strength and technique development . . . and higher poundages result. "Create." For sure. If you were squatting 300 in the past and now you're handling 400, well, you pulled that strength, speed and technique in and made it yours, used the tools of the Universe to create something that wasn't there before. How bloody amazing is that! I mean, we could've been created as static, extremely limited unchanging beings, but no, we have the potential to create the new in ourselves with the consistent combination of passion and the power of the future. You can scuff around with your head down and let what's left of your life dribble away, dry up and whither, or, you can choose to dig in with a vengeance matched only by your passion for the very act of living. Okay, okay, my little say is over . . . the article continues: 

Many important articles have been written on this subject, by various magazines and many people, in different countries at different times. The subject is a fascinating one and stimulating to the mental faculties. This material has served a useful purpose already, and will prove even more valuable in future if we are enabled to put these theories on a sound basis, and make the best use of them.

It is becoming an axiom nowadays that muscles which are only exercises in "one" direction do not develop maximum power. For instance: nature has provided for a man's arms to make pressing movements with an upward and downward radius of approximately 180 degrees, and it is quite possible that the limit of a man's Olympic Press could be appreciably improved if a generous range of pressing movements were persisted with over a long period of time . . . from all angles. 

The bench press is an outstanding example of a basic power movement that can be used to improve a lifter's Olympic Press in competition, providing that it is used the right way.  

The practice of heavy supine pressing, with hand spacing approximately the same as for overhead pressing, aids in developing basic power in the arm extensors. It is a part of the training of such outstanding heavyweight champions as John Davis, Norb Schemansky, Doug Hepburn and Paul Anderson.

The Snatch, and Clean & Jerk procedures have not altered much during the last 20 years, but pressing technique is undergoing very remarkable alterations, and this has come about mainly during the past four years - with the reentry of Russia into world contests. 

In Paris (1950) it caused a sensation. In 1952 at Helsinki we saw that some of the other nationalities were adopting the Russian Press style. In 1953 at Stockholm the Soviet athletes had themselves considerably "streamlined" in this type of pressing, so that almost imperceptibly it became more acceptable to an audience of weight lifters. 

The many photographs that have appeared in Strength & Health at various times make it unnecessary for me to go into lengthy details - One Picture is Worth 10,000 Words. The athlete using this style lays back, gets a solid rest for the bar on his chest in front of the sternum, and from the moment the weight commences traveling upwards the lifter does his utmost to swing his elbows and upper arms as far back as possible. 

It may seem an astonishing statement but, viewed from the side, the lifter's elbows can often be seen to extend beyond, or behind the line of the lifters back, as he awaits the referee's signal to commence. 

Jim Bradford shows the pressing position known popularly as the Russian style, discussed by Charles Coster in this article. Note that the arms and hands (open fingers on right hand) are momentarily relaxed before pressing, with the weight supported solidly on the upper chest. Bradford has pressed 340 pounds. 

The possibilities of elevating heavier poundages this way are enormous. Strict military presses are something the purists will always prefer, but we must face facts and realize that this ideal is being quietly and unobtrusively buried before our very eyes.

If the modern method is really here to stay - then the sooner we realize that the lay-back style lends itself admirably to strengthening and improving by the use of basic power principles, the sooner further progress will be made.

I would suggest that the skillful use of the incline board (adjusted to suitable angles for the individual concerned), with the practice of quarter, half, three-quarter, and full press movements might get good results if used regularly over a period of time.  

With the help of stands or catchers  - the lifter is able to vary his hand spacing on the bar as often as desired . . . when trying to master certain sticking areas with specific press poundages.

If this type of muscle work were undertaken in conjunction with bench pressing, it is probable that some very heavy single limit presses would eventually be performed, and this would act as a safeguard for better competition lifts. 

One of the difficulties encountered in the old style Press was the fact that the lifter's arms and shoulders became tired while waiting for the referee to give him the starting signal. 

The great advantage of the Russian press lies in the very solid chest rest for the bar, which takes most of the strain off the lifter's arms and shoulders while waiting for the go-ahead from the referee. It is this "relaxed" position of the arms and shoulders that enables the Russians to impart such a paralyzing drive into their presses from the start. 

Udodov at Vienna was outstanding in this respect, and he elevated the heaviest feather-wt Press ever seen at a World Championship . . . 220-232 and 236 pounds going up as though they were jet propelled. Never in my experience have I seen really heavy weights pressed so fast. 

Ivan Udodov 

Note: Ivan Udodov was on 19 when the Germans sent him to Buchenwald concentration camp in 1941. When he finally left it, he weighed on 29 kg. (64 lbs.) and couldn't walk without assistance. To start with, sport was part of the rehabilitation process recommended by his doctors. But soon weightlifting became his life's passion. 

Udodov worked hard and results soon came. Already in 1948 he won second place at the Soviet Southern Championship, and in 1951 became the champion of the Soviet Union in the lightest, the  up-to-56 kg. category. Then he was invited onto the National team. 

In 1952 at the Olympic Games in Helsinki he defeated Iranian favorite Mahmoud Namjoo.    

The article continues . . . 

Incidentally, this lifter (Udodov) sometimes varies his hand spacing in training. I saw him one night make some normal repetitions . . . lower the bar to the chest, slide his hands about eight inches outwards, and then continue repetition press work. After a rest period he approached the same bar, and reversed the procedure, using a very close grip with only about 10 inches separating his thumbs. 

The reason I lay stress upon the Russian lifters' activities is because I quite realize that most Americans are familiar with events that are taking place inside their own continent. Indeed, in my humble opinion, scientific experiments and modern theories have been carried much further on the American continent than on the Russian side of the globe.

But there is an important difference, and it is this: In the Soviet Union there appears to be a coordinated national effort to make the utmost of whatever scientific data comes to hand, as far as w-lifting is concerned. 

In other parts of the world, including my own, we do not appear to be so enthusiastically attracted to exploit a sport which we have chosen of our own free will. Weight lifting problems have of necessity to fit into an odd corner of our lives, whereas in Russia anyone with unusual talent is encouraged to give the sport priority. 

Note: You'll find that weightlifting, lifting of all types is very much a worldwide thing.

Once you lose the language restrictions on a search, well, yeah, there ya go. 

The Russian coaches and lifters are keen observers. At Helsinki they saw Americans making power cleans, and power snatches. 

At Stockholm they were present when Davis, Sheppard and Schemansky did squats and bench presses at the end of certain training sessions. 


Here Dave Sheppard illustrates the erect position recommended for heavy full squatting as a power exercise. While boosting his best clean from 360 to 400 pounds, Sheppard increased his squatting strength from 460 to 515 pounds. Low repetitions, 3 to 5, with heavy weights are recommended for power-building exercises. 

USSR Youth Basketball Team Training.
Don't you just feel a lot better about your squat-related genetics now

The possibilities connected with these basic power movements were soon digested. And now, they have made their own experiments. Power snatches have become a part of their routine training. As a Lt-hvy-wt Vorobiev has made a 330-lb. Clean without foot movement, just by sheer pulling power. At Stockholm this Russian lifter did repetition partial squats with 440 one day.   

There's a later, 1967 article by Arkady Vorobyev here: 

And a '68 one of his on developing speed and flexibility, here: 

Training for Qualified Lifters, by Vorobiev, here 

The Planning of Training (From "Russian Training Method" Part IV) by Vorobyev, here: 

You say Vorobiev, and I say Vorobyev. 
Potato, Potahto, Vorobi, Voroby, etc. 

For German speaking readers, Vorobyev's A Textbook on Weightlifting:

An interesting nterview with Harvey Newton: 

Understanding Russian Training Methods (link will immediately download .doc: 

There's really so freakin' much out there nowadays.
Here's an interesting 58-page thread: 

then this thread: 

I got carried away there. The article continues . . . 

Wait! This Charniga article -

At Vienna their young (Russian) heavyweight Medvedev 

(On No! No more links from the future!) conducted an entire training session with nothing but Power Snatches and Power Cleans. This 240-lb. lifter is only about 24 years of age, but he can pull 264 lbs. to arms' length without a "press-out." 

He made sets of 3 and 4 reps with weights ranging between 297 and 330 lbs. at Vienna when making power cleans without a split . . . and he must have performed 30 lifts in all.

When routines like these are undertaken, the lifter's grip sometimes weakens. But they have effectively coped with this difficulty by the use of canvas straps which encircle the lifter's wrists and the bar - in a manner well know in American w-lifting circles. 

Basic Power Squats

Perhaps the athlete who is more closely associated with basic power theories than anyone else at the present time is Tommy Kono. 

Tommy Kono (cleaning 371.25 for a world middleweight record) trains on heavy basic power exercises to improve his lifting. To develop the strength needed to get up with heavy cleans, he squats with weights up to 440 lbs. held at the chest. 

We are living in an age of wonderful weight-lifting phenomena, and Tommy is well to the fore. This lifter is the very personification of fundamental basic power. Without going into the details of this man's athletic career, it can be instanced that the squatting exercise, both from the front, and from behind the neck, seems to be largely responsible for laying the foundations of his present Olympic weight lifting ability.

Photo Courtesy of
Thank You jp92!

When he made his tremendous 370-lb. C&J at Stockholm in 1953, he had earlier succeeded in making two in-front-of-the-neck squats with a bar loaded up to 420 lbs. 

Two Squat Programs by Tommy Kono, here:

When he was finishing off his Vienna preparation he improved upon this performance by making the same full front squat movement with 440 pounds.

In the same town, although weighing only 174, he then made a squat Clean & Jerk with 380 to create a new lt-hvy-wt world record, and he duplicated this feat at the championships.

It is an impressive sight to watch him grind his way through the difficult stages of a heavy lift - and this is made possible because the ligaments of his hips, back and thighs are now tremendously powerful.

Providing that Kono takes the precaution of watching his Jerk potential, it seems very likely that every time his lifter succeeds in setting-up a heavier squat in front of the neck poundage he is automatically paving the way for even great C&Js. And if I am right in this respect, it constitutes an amazing state of affairs: for the only limit would appear to be the sky. 

Evidence that basic power principles can be brought to bear and employed to improve a very fast lift like the Snatch are also on hand. 

Dave Sheppard (above nearly succeeding with 413.25 pounds at 184 bodyweight) increased his cleaning power by practicing heavy high pulls, regular- and quarter-squats. He has unofficially clean and jerked 403. Sheppard has snatched 303.25 at 179, and 316.5 at 190. 

Some months ago I received an interesting letter from Dave Sheppard, and, among other things, we discussed the possibilities attached to fundamental basic power methods. Famous Olympic lifting champions are not often moved to eulogies of praise about a particular member of their fraternity . . . but I have heard many world champs rhapsodize over Dave's squat snatch artistry, and indeed this young athlete is a sheer genius with this lift. 

Skeptical scorn and disbelief is only too rampant nowadays when someone tries to put a new idea across . . . especially if the poor guy happens to be a despised writer. In view of these tendencies, therefore, I reiterate: this is Dave Sheppard's letter I am quoting from. In a letter dated Feb. 25, 1954, he says: 

"Two months ago I could only squat with 460 pounds, and I could only clean 360. I decided to concentrate on the squat, and soon I succeeded with 515 in good full form - and made a C&J of 385 pounds . . . but I do plenty of POWER movements, such as heavy snatch pulls, full squats, and many dead start supine (bench) presses, with a standing press hand spacing." 

In a letter dated May 10, 1954, he stated: 

"I am still doing 'Anderson Quarter-Squats'. Nothing compares with this form of power building. I work up until I am using all the weights I have, which is about 800 pounds, in sets of 5 reps. I am doing lots of snatch pulls working up to 420 in sets of 2 reps."

During the period in between writing these two letters Dave made some terrific progress. He was pressing 285-300 . . . made a 316 world record Snatch . . . squat C&J 400 on two occasions . . . and made a Jerk from the shoulder of 420 pounds.

Power pulling to belt heights or above, using weights heavier than the lifter's best Clean, is one of the best strength builders. This is nothing new in American lifting, for this photo shows Tony Terlazzo with a heavy poundage at belt height back in 1939. Terlazzo made an 825 total as a lightweight in 1940.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive