Originally Published in This Issue (August 1953)
A Big Thank You to Liam Tweed!
Economy of Movement
When dealing with readers requests for a Combined Training article in last month's Muscleman, I found myself expressing thoughts upon a subject about which I have been thinking deeply for a very long time, and regarding which there is a mass of data which needs sifting correctly.
Last month I ventured to express the view that both body-builders and Olympic lifters would benefit by partaking of specially chosen forms of weight training.
Physique builders, I pointed out, might "round off" certain corners . . . improve their athletic grace and deportment . . . and make more easy and natural the possession of a fine physique by practicing certain fast Olympic leg movements - such as the Two Hands Clean to the Shoulders, and the Two Hands Snatch.
Aspiring Olympic lifters, I opined, could adopt certain forms of muscle-making and Basic Power work which would help them to Press heavier poundages, and strengthen the weak spots encountered when dealing with limit cleans and snatches.
I have the feeling at times that there are certain competitive Olympic lifters who despise, or at best treat lightly all body-building knowledge, just as I feel convinced that there are a great many body-builders who scorn Olympic training, and the practice of other lifts officially recognized by the B.A.W.L.A.
It is a pity that this attitude of mind should persist in certain quarters, for we are complimentary to each other AND THE SOONER WE REALIZE THIS FACT - THE BETTER IT WILL BE FOR ALL CONCERNED.
One has only to take a look at some of the pictures of the late Ronald Walker to plainly see that not only was he England's best weightlifter . . . he had the best build body also.
Ronald practiced nearly all the 42 recognized lifts [later increased to 44] . . . at one time or other, and his physique responded wonderfully to intensive training with dumbbells, and the use of single-handed lifts like the One Hand Swing, the One Hand Clean & Jerk, and the Left and Right Hand Snatch.
Note: Here is a Handy Grouping of the 42 Official BAWLA Lifts.
Two were added later:
#43 - Press on Bench
#44 - Deep Knees Bend
This Handy Grouping was provided by Michael Murphy.
For much, much more on this subject, and the history of the iron game, I strongly recommend
Joe Roark's IronHistory forums:
Click Pic to Enlarge
He (Walker) was so phenomenally good at cleaning barbells to the shoulder with one hand that he could handle nearly three-cwt. in this style (336 pounds).
For a six-footer, weighing around 190-195 pounds . . . his movements and general appearance were very graceful and natural. He moved with a quiet confident ease and dignity that I shall always remember. Indeed, he had a way of stalking the bar noiselessly, and at such times his movements were pantherish.
Ronald Walker, Josef Manger
Ron's superb physical development was enhanced enormously be his personality and the fact that nothing about him seemed over-developed or out of place.
I have always contended that details such as the ones I have just mentioned are absolutely invaluable from the bodybuilder's point of view.
It doesn't matter how impressive and tremendously developed a fellow's physique may be if his general bearing and deportment are in any way clumsy or stolid - then the most vital thing of all is lacking, and something should be done about it.
There is something about a competitive weightlifter's physical development which ties in nicely and naturally. His development seems to superimpose itself upon his personality which makes it belong there.
I have often thought that the Herculean hand-balancing fraternity, such as "Les Trois Des Milles," were wonderfully gifted in this respect also.
If you take a gymnast, no matter from what direction you look at him, he appears to graceful advantage. No portion of his anatomy seems out of place . . . his movements are smooth and beautifully balanced, ans as he moves about the thought strikes one unconsciously that his body is wonderfully welded together.
There's a fascinating article by Jan Dellinger on gymnastics, bodyweight training and physique development
The Herculean hand-balancing fraternity and the Olympic weightlifters have one thing in common: their speed of movement, timing, and balance . . . are highly developed, and it is this skillful athletic ability which aids so much in their general appearance and deportment.
It is only natural that an athlete who can hold a One Hand Balance when perched precariously on someone else's head, or outstretched arms should appear artistically at ease when walking on his own feet. And similarly, it is only to be expected that a competitive Olympic weightlifter who uses his entire body with energy, speed and agility when executing various lifts should possess, often unconsciously, a high degree of artistic merit in his general appearance and bearing.
Last month I recommended that body-builders should practice the Two Hands Clean to the Shoulders, together with the Two Hands Snatch - (with fairly light weights, from the Hang) -
- but these two Olympic movements are not the only ones by any means that can be used for improving balance and agility.
The One Hand Snatch, the One Hand Clean & Jerk, the One Hand Swing, and the Left and Right Hand Bent Press from the Shoulders are all conveniently designed to serve a similar purpose.
The Bent Press, (or Push), although not an agile speed exercise, is one of the best muscle-making lifts in the world, especially if it is used with the left as well as the right hand.
One only has to look at some of the photographs in existence of such men as Sandow, Rolandow, and Hackenschmidt to realize that this lift is responsible for producing artistic as well as powerful muscles.
A Bent Press takes some seconds to perform, and when it is performed slowly . . . I have known more than 25 seconds to elapse before the arm was locked overhead and the lifter's body had regained the finishing position.
There's a great book on The Bent Press by Walter J. Dorey
Thank You, Walter!
When a muscle, or group of muscles are made to contract continuously for many seconds like this - it often produces a very hard type of musculature, with plenty of definition, and surely this is something the body-builder is striving for.
The continuous tension principle is intimately linked up with Herculean hand-balancing of course, and is responsible in no small degree for the outstanding structure some of them achieve.
Some body-builders feel that if they interrupt their modern training routines progress will be hampered.
This is not the case in my opinion, and it should be possible for musclemen to introduce certain "economies" (by cutting out unnecessary duplication movements) that would enable them to spend, say 25% of their training time on experiments such as I have described.
By adding fresh variety this way, by streamlining and economizing with normal muscle-making routines, sufficient time will be available to make stimulating and sustained explorations possible.
Speed and Power
We should all learn from experience . . . but alas, by the time experience has been gained, it is sometimes too late to make the best and fullest use of it. An athlete's prime does not last forever and the knowledge that comes from experience is somewhat expensive when measured in terms of TIME.
Many years ago I reached a condition of stalemate in my Olympic training . . . and my limit poundages just would not improve.
I was not as basically powerful as I should have been . . . and I knew it. Yet I balked at the prospect of attempting to achieve an improvement in my fundamental physical strength . . . so formidable did the task appear.
To cut a long story short, the Second World War started . . . and brought competitive weightlifting to a standstill.
Drawing upon my stories of experience I decided to conduct a series of research experiments using myself as the guinea pig. I faced the fact that my Press would never improve . . . unless it was blitzed with long and concentrated programs of muscle-making routines. As I was already 32 years of age at that time it was not too easy. I devoted entire sessions to developing the pressing muscles from all angles.
I supported heavy weights at the commencing Press position . . . so that my limit would feel light by comparison. I used all the ideas in my repertoire, most of which have been published in earlier issues of Muscleman this year.
At the end of about four months I found that I had made considerable progress, my Press had improved, and I was, generally speaking, much more powerful. I don't thing there is any doubt at all that modern muscle-making techniques would help the Olympic aspirant considerably to lay solid foundations for competitive lifting, especially the Press.
Shortly after making this experiment I decided that my pulling power for the Clean, and the Snatch would have to be analyzed and built up section by section if greater limit lifts were to come my way.
I faced the fact that my limit poundages felt like a tone as they came off the floor . . . and I realized my chances of accomplishing greater things would be considerably enhanced if only I could find a way of boosting my physical power to the point where heavier weights would feel lighter when tackled.
It has been said by experts that dead-lifting ability has little to do with snatching and cleaning . . . and this may be so, when certain other things are also lacking. Nevertheless, most of the world's best lifters can make a heavy dead-lift if they have to, and as my own power in this respect was not nearly what is should have been, I set out to remedy the defect.
Progress was slow and laborious, but I went about the task as intelligently as possible, and in the end I became much stronger.
I used fast light dead-lifts from the ground, and from the knees . . . to counterbalance the sluggish effect of handling heavier or limit poundages.
I used very narrow as well as normal hand spacing, and a proportion of dead-lifting would also be done with maximum width grip, to help the Snatch.
Half dead-lifts with the bar placed on supports slightly above knee height were also indulged in occasionally with the heaviest poundages I could handle.
Whilst all this bulk-power-preparation was going on I discontinued normal Olympic lifting practice . . . apart from very light fast repetition work, which I endeavored to perform in perfect style.
At infrequent intervals I used to have a tryout to see what progress I was making. The result, after the first few months, was most gratifying. I found myself snatching and cleaning weights in my back garden without catchers, weights which I had often failed with at the club.
It seemed logical, I thought, that if a lifter could greatly improve his pull-up to the sternum without using any leg split or dip, his limit competition cleaning poundages would also benefit considerably.
This certainly seemed to work in my own case and I became so interested and keen to make progress with this movement that at the end of six months, on one occasion, I succeeded in raising a barbell to the sternum without moving my feet which was only 20 pounds less than my best limit competition lift had been - before undertaking these experiments in training.
Of course, I made mistakes of procedure now and then. it took me some time to realize why it was I could not make a really good Clean or Snatch after I had previously gone through a heavy power-building program in the same training session. The muscles and tendons swell, and become gorged with extra blood at such times, and when this condition has been brought about it is not easy for very fast leg and arm movements to be made with split-second timing.
I found that the best way to undertake a heavy tryout on the Snatch and Clean was after a couple of days complete rest from the weights. And then, after the tryout it was quite in order to continue with the strength-building experiment, if I so desired.
The pull for the Snatch can be divided roughly into three areas:
1) from the ground to the hips;
2) from the hips to shoulder level; and
3) from shoulder level to arms' length overhead.
All these pulling areas can be separately tackled with routine repetition pulling movements which will have the effect over a period of time of strengthening the pull in its entirety.
The weights that can be handled in the mid-position will naturally be somewhat less than those used from the ground to the hips, and the pull-ups from shoulders to arms' length will involve even lighter poundages, especially at the commencement of the experiment.
The same division of pulling areas can be applied to the strengthening of the Clean by applying roughly the same principle.
Beneficial results cannot be obtained in five minutes! It takes time to increase fundamental basic power. But in the end it saves time, because it gets at the root cause of failure to make progress in a manner that nothing else will.
And it is far better for the lifter to get out of the rut with a few experiments like this rather than allow himself to fall a victim of unimaginative training habits.
I feel it in my bones that modern scientific muscle-making techniques can be of the greatest possible benefit to the competitive weightlifter in many respects if only he cares to take advantage of the knowledge placed at his disposal.
If a lifter has become stationary, and he knows that he is already exploiting his speed, skill and style to the absolute limit . . . then it becomes clear beyond all argument that an improvement in his basic muscular power is the only thing in the world that will help him.