Sunday, June 30, 2019

Training on the Olympic Lifts, Part One - Jim Halliday

Article Series Courtesy of Liam Tweed

The first lift of the three Olympics, the Two Hands Press, has never been a good lift of mine and has never held any attraction for me either in training or competition. Nevertheless I think I can honestly say that I have trained harder on this particular movement than on any other, and my lack of success in making exceptional poundages is, I am sure, in no way due to any failure on my part to train consistently and conscientiously. 

My best poundage as a middleweight is 225.25 pounds, which, compared to my Snatch, and Jerk, is relatively low. Yet, compared to standards in this country it is not too bad, and considering that I was stuck at poundages around 200 for some years, it proves that by correct training physical handicaps and psychological dislike of the lift can be overcome to a great extent. 

There is no doubt that some men are natural pressers, and on the other hand those like myself would never reach exceptional heights on this lift no matter what steps they took, apart from perhaps an amputation of the forearm! 

It is possible that physical drawbacks can be offset by deviation of the rules (I could almost say complete disregard of the rules) but this is not the complete answer to the problem, because another lifter more naturally endowed with pressing properties can also disregard the rules. In fact, this situation is there to be witnessed at very lifting event. 

It is quite possible that, in the past, this realization of being able to offset a physical drawback by the relaxation of the set standard had resulted in the present trouble, in every competition, of being able to draw a firm line as to what is, and what is not a press.

Surely there is no need for all this controversy? The rules are there in black and white, and they are standard in every country. Because these rules do not allow certain people to reach maximum standard is no reason to permit any laxity for certain individuals. If high poundages are the only requisite and the present set of rules has to be invalidated in certain instances to allow this, let's have a new set of rules permitting all the deviations officially. This at least will put everyone on the same footing, and if "anything goes" the referees will certainly have less worry! 

I have wandered a little from the actual purpose of this article. Here, we are not concerned with what others do, but with what you can do. As I stated previously my press performances are relatively poor, yet I feel that my experiences, and shall I say success in reaching the standard I have, may assist in forwarding your performance on this lift. 

If by chance you are an "unfortunate" on the press; i.e., your physical structure is against you, a variation from orthodox style without infringing the rules is possible, ad can be helpful . . . 

A slightly narrower than normal grip is taken. The elbows, instead of being raised when the bar is at the shoulders, are held in close to the sides, giving a compact commencing position. This ensures a strong, fast start and a perfectly straight press overhead. This style was used to very good effect by George Espento, who had an abnormally long forearm yet held the press record for many years. 

As far as actual training on the press is concerned, apart from style and position, there are many and varied ideas as to what constitutes a good schedule. I personally think that you must vary your system as you advance through different stages. 

For a person who is in the initial stages of Olympic training, say the first year or so, I recommend a fairly high number of reps. This enables the person to pay considerable attention to detail in performance because naturally comparative light weights will be used. Such a system will also be advantageous in promoting good tone in the muscles and giving a good base for the later hard work.

As an example of such a schedule, and remember you can make slight variations to suit your individual requirements, the following may be found interesting and helpful. Do not forget we are dealing with men in the early stages of training and will assess the poundages on a maximum press standard of 120 pounds: 

With 80 pounds do 4 sets of 4 reps.
With 90, 3 x 3 reps
With 100, 2 x 2.

If you have a good capacity for work you may then do the schedule again in reverse or alternately do an extra set or two with 100 pounds. 

When you have overcome the initial stages you can really commence to work. By this time you should have reached the stage where you are set in style and wish to become stronger in whatever position you have adopted. Here is where assistance exercises become essential, and where they are apt to do most good. For a man training four days a week, I advocate two days on actual pressing and two days on assistance work.

For the actual press training, still following the idea that we are now training solely for power, we must now reduce the repetition work with the lighter weights, because it is only by lifting heavy weights that we can hope to be able to lift even heavier ones! 

Still, we cannot afford to neglect the light poundages completely. Warming up before any considerable effort is essential, not only to assist in making such an effort, but also in preventing strains, etc., which can easily result from any excessive effort whilst the body is cold.

Taking a basic maximum poundage (1 Rep Max) of 150 - 

Commence with 100 doing 4 reps.
Next, take 100 for another 4 reps.
With 120 do 3 sets of 3 reps.
130  for 3 x 2 reps.
140 x 3 single reps. 

On paper this does not look to be a hard schedule, I admit. It does however ensure you do slightly less than your maximum press three times. Remember also that you have two schedules of assistance exercises to do, and it is these that provide the means for the hard work that I said was essential at this stage. 

More about assistance work in my next article, with some ideas of really advanced training, and some hints on how the world's best performers on this lift train for competition. 


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