Thursday, November 21, 2019

Beginner's Blueprint - Morris Weissbrot

Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed

Morris Weissbrot 

More on Morris here:

"I didn't play ball, I wasn't very coordinated. 
I'd read three or four books a day." 

 - Morris Weissbrot, the genial coach of the Lost Batallion Weightilifting club, is one of the most knowledgeable men in U.S. lifting. His love for our sport makes him a superior official, a successful coach, and a peerless master of ceremonies. Many champions began their careers by heeding this wise man's words. 


by Morris Weissbrot (1965)

When the editors of "Strength & Health" first asked me to write an article on how to train young fellows to become weightlifters, my first reaction was, "What could I possibly say that hasn't been said before?" 

After all, there have been so many informative articles which have appeared in the past that any contribution I could make would add but little to the sum total of knowledge and information already available. 

But at the risk of being repetitive, and rehashing the same old cliches, I decided to go ahead and see what pearls of wisdom I could come up with.

The first thing I have always tried to impress upon the young trainee is the basic principle that you cannot learn how to lift weights by lifting weights! 
Read that sentence again, boys. That's exactly what it says . . . "You cannot learn HOW to lift weights by lifting heavy weights."

Now, before you run out and summon the gentlemen in white coats to take me away to the funny farm, just stop and consider . . . you can't possibly concentrate on proper lifting technique when you're busting a gut with a limit poundage. Skill and coordination must be first learned with light poundages for proper performance of any lift . . . and then this perfection of technique must become so much a part of you that the whole thing becomes automatic when you get out there on the platform to try a limit lift. 

What most fellows seem to forget is the fact that you can't utilize your strength to the fullest extent if you're not performing the particular movement in the most efficient manner. 

TECHNIQUE . . . that's what enables you to get the utmost in efficiency out of the effort your muscles are exerting. I've seen some of these big brute power lifters (no offense, Terry!), outlifted in the snatch and clean & jerk by some skinny kid who doesn't seem to have a muscle on his whole body! 

"But the "power lifter" doesn't practice the quick lifts," you'll say. Granted . . . but shouldn't any man who has the power to deadlift heavy weights also be able to clean a weight to the shoulders, or snatch it overhead? What we have too many times is the situation where the man has more than enough strength . . . but he has never learned to get the most out of it. 

Let's get a bit scientific for a moment. As you know . . . (or maybe you DON'T know!) . . . there are three types of exercise. we are all pretty familiar with the first two: ISOMETRICS and ISOTONICS. I don't imaging I have to go into any long, involved explanation of these two. Isotonic exercises consist of movements through a full range of motion, repeatedly, and usually in a rhythmic manner. Calisthenics and all bodybuilding movements with weights are isotonic exercises. And Bob Hoffman has made "ISOMETRICS" a household word. 

But that third type . . . that's the neglected member of the family! Exercises designed to increase speed, agility, and coordination are called PROPRIOCEPTIVE FACILITATION exercises, and consist of setting various patterns of movement through constant repetition and training. 

For example, golfers speak of being "in the groove." This means that they have practiced their swing so that their ability to SWING PROPERLY has increased. Constant repetition will help to establish efficiency in the maximum utilization of all the muscles involved in a certain movement through the development of efficient neurophysical response patterns. (Whew!) 

Remember, back in the first grade, how you had to work so hard at your penmanship drills, laboriously drawing each letter of the alphabet over and over again until you finally learned how to write legibly and quickly? Same thing . . . like learning how to dance or play the piano . . . learning to make the right moves with a minimum of wasted effort. 

All right then . . . how do you go about teaching the muscles to perform these movements CORRECTLY AND EFFICIENTLIY? 

That's where our secret weapon comes in!     

Get a broomstick . . . a mop handle . . . a stickball bat . . . any straight stick about four-and-a-half feet long. Work on FORM, FORM, FORM . . . FLEXIBILITY . . . POSITION . . . SPEED. Do dozens of repetitions of each movement till you're perfect. Learn your positions like a FLASH. Remember, lifting depends on SPEED. You've got to learn to MOVE! Crisply, concisely . . . no wasted effort or motion. 

For the beginner, nothing is more important than doing  
plenty of form work and stretching with a stick or light bar. 

Right about now I'm expecting some young fellow to put up his hand and say, "Whoa! . . . How am I supposed to become a weightlifter if I have to train with broomsticks? Ya gotta be STRONG to lift heavy weights!" 

Ah! . . . you are so right. That's where the assistance exercises come in. You practice the lifting movements with the light weights, build up the power with the assistance exercises, put them all together in your performance of the individual lift, and PRESTO! . . . you're a champ! 

I'm oversimplifying, of course . . . but let's take a look at the Olympic lifts, one at a time, and we'll see how this works out. 

Okay now . . . pay attention.

We'll start with the Press. As we all know, we no longer do the Military Press. The present trend in pressing has placed this lift into the category of the "quick lifts" . . . and at every contest you'll see some pretty horrible examples of what some fellows think is the so-called modern press. 

Let's just analyze this lift for for a moment. 

 Click to ENLARGE

In its present form, the two hands press actually consists of four separate and distinct movements. 

The first is what I call the "shoot" . . . the lifter, as he cleans the weight, sets himself into a position like a taut bow. The hips are thrust well forward, with a good arch in the back, knees locked, and the bar tight up against the upper chest. At the referee's signal, he literally uncoils

the hips are thrust vigorously back and the arms drive the bar straight up past the face, up about the height of the hairline. (Or, in my own case, the top of the head. I ain't got no hairline!) 

Now, the lifter has two choices . . .either he can stand there and press the bar up to arms' length from that position . . . or, if he's smart, he will allow the hips to travel forward again. This will result in the arms straightening and locking, as the bar stays where it was, and he arches the back away from it. 

Now, to finish the lift, all he has to do is once again bring the hips back and straighten up the body until it is vertical under the bar . . . which is now at arms' length above the head.

These four stages of the press - 

The Shoot
The Thrust
The Bend
The Drive

are shown in the photos above. 

Naturally, lots of practice is needed to coordinate these movements into what appears to be a single, fluid move. 

Have you ever seen Tony Garcy press? What I have described above is exactly what Tony does. Look at sequence shots of Minaev or Bushuev, and you'll see the same thing. 

You can even get by with a bit of "knee action" when everything is done smoothly. 

Where a lot of lifters go astray in trying to copy this style of pressing is in not practicing the proper coordination of the four moves into one smooth, fluid movement. 

"But . . ." one young fellow blurted out to me recently . . . "what you're doing is not really PRESSING!" 

I smiled benignly at him, patted him gently on his thick skull, and said - 

"You catch on quick, sonny!" What we are doing now is not really pressing. PRESSING, mind you. But it is what is being done all over the world under the name of the OLYMPIC PRESS. In the words of the hipsters . . . "Ya gotta swing with the times, Man!" 

"But how can I handle heavy poundages if I gotta keep doing all this technique work?" . . . that's the next question someone will ask me. 

You want to do heavy pressing?

Try heavy bench press (close grip, of course!), incline presses, presses on the isometric rack from the three basic positions, seated presses, lockouts, "shoots," shouldering heavy weights on the chest, taking the bar off the squat rack . . . that oughta do it. 

Most of my lifters work in sets of threes, taking each rep from the starting position with no bouncing at the chest. 

And, to strengthen the body for the initial "whip," they must do heavy situps and back work to build great torso power.

Let's go on to the next lift . . . the two hands snatch.

Again, analyze the complete lift. 

You begin with a dead-lift from the floor . . . then speed up the pull so you're doing what amounts to an explosive upright rowing motion. At the top of the pull, when you can't pull any more, you have to DRIVE THE BODY DOWN in the low position. Split, squat . . . either style . . . but do something to get the hips down to the lowest possible positionion positioning while the arms are being locked out overhead. 

And you don't just settle down or float or drift down . . . YOU DRIVE THE BODY DOWN! 

And that bar will not stay up there by itself . . . you've got to keep pushing up against it. Make believe you're trying to pull it apart while it's up there, like it was made of taffy and you're trying to stretch it out.

You can get all the power you want for the first two parts of the lift . . . dead-lifts and high pulls will do that for you.   


  Snatch Grip High Pull with Straps

 The "drop" is the stage that must be worked on with light poundages. The squat lifter will want to do "duck walks," shoulder dislocates, and squats with the weight held overhead, while the splitter has to concentrate on split lunges and work from the hang to speed up his lift.

How about the clean & jerk

Again we have the dead-lift to start the weight off the floor, then an explosive upright rowing motion . . . and then the fast drop, whipping the elbows forward to catch the bar on the deltoids or the top of the chest. 

Split, squat, or what-have-you . . . but LEARN TO GET UNDER THE BAR! 

Cleaning from the dead hang helps to develop speed and good, low position. 

Above all, work on that elbow whip! 

That's one of the big secrets of proper cleaning. You can always hear me yelling at my fellows . . . "Fast elbows . . . Sit fast!" 

The split lifters need lunges with the weight at the chest, and the squatters need front squats. And they both need back squats. That's where the power comes from, man! 

How many times have you seen a lifter come up from a beautiful clean, only to lose the jerk? Heartbreaking, isn't it? 

But there is no excuse for missing a jerk.. The jerk is almost 100% POSITION. Get the weights overhead properly, bone on bone, and you should be able to jerk 50 lbs. over anything you can clean! 

How do you reach this state of Nirvana? 

Practice jerking off the racks, for one thing. Then do "push jerks" . . . all leg drive and no split; do "drop jerks" . . . deep split, with very little dip to get the weight off the chest. If the jerk gives you trouble, make it a practice to jerk anything you've cleaned two or three times, a clean and two or three jerks. And try lockouts on the isometric rack . . . they really work! 

Here at Lost Battalion Hall we work with power movements needed to get the big weights moving in the first place. We do power snatches, and power cleans . . . with little or no knee dip. We do rapid dead lifts and high pulls using straps, with the snatch and clean grips. And we work from the hang on both the snatch and the clean. 

Lots of warmup movements with the broomstick precede any Olympic lifting . . . and that includes the press. After all, the press is now a quick lift, and speed and technique play a vital part in its correct performance.

Now just hold on thar a dog-gone minute!!" I can hear someone saying. "All these things are just dandy to include in the workout . . . if you've got time to train 10 hours a day, seven days a week." I've got good news for you, Bud . . . a good workout doesn't have to degenerate into a marathon. You're not going to do EVERYTHING, EVERY TIME. 

A comprehensive workout session can be knocked off in from an hour and a half to three hours . . . three or four times a week.

One day can be set aside for power work . . . squats, bench presses, dead lifts, pulls, rack work. You can work the press each time on the other days, plus one of the quick lifts, including some form work, and squats. 

If you're weak on the snatch, for example, snatch on Monday and Friday, and do cleans on Wednesdays. Don't forget, you're getting a power cleaning workout each time you do your press routine. You could throw in some isometric or isometronic work on the same night you do your pulls and bench presses. 

Each workout should include at least one of the different movements used in performing the lifts. You know the different movements, don't you? There's 

 - the pulling motions . . . high pulls, cleans. power snatches

 - the pushing motions . . . press, bench press, lockout, and

 - the "snapping" motions . . . the quick turnover of the wrists at the top of the snatch, the fast elbow whip at the top of the clean, and the quick thrust at the top of the jerk. And, of course

 - the heavy leg and beck work of the squats, lunges, and dead lifts. 

By varying the TYPE of movement used in each of these categories from week to week, you can keep the workouts from becoming boring or monotonous. 

Note: Remember that stuff in school? They'd ask you to "conjugate" some verb and such. Basically, you'd give the different "forms" of it. 

I tell my lifters not to be afraid of varying their workouts . . . to do a variety of movements for each of the lifts, and to keep trying new combinations. This not only improves progress, by working the body and the technique from all angles, but . . . wait for it . . . keeps the lifter from hitting "stale" periods. 

Keep a notebook on your workouts. When you come into the gym, you should have certain objectives in mind . . . know approximately what you are going to do . . . what exercises, how many sets, approximate poundages you're going to use. Make notes on how the lifts go that night . . . easy, hard, how many misses, etc. 

This running diary will tell you when and what changes to make as you need them. To a great extent in the sport, each man has to be his own trainer, because only he knows how he feels during the performance of a lit. 

It will also give you an idea of how you're progressing over the long range view. If you get discouraged because you didn't press 205, all you have to do is look back at your book, and . . . 

. . . only three months ago you couldn't press 180 . . . and today you handled it for three reps. 

Well, whaddya know? 

You ARE making progress.

Does this type of training , with so much emphasis on form work and technique with broomsticks and light weights pay off/ 

We know that the lifters from other countries have been emphasizing it for years. Some of the fellows I'm working with have done pretty well - Gary Hansen, doing 715 as a bantamweight, Larry Mintz doing over 800 as a lightweight and almost 900 as a middleweight, and dozens of the young fellows training with me are moving their lifts up steadily and surely.

Why not give this system a try? 

I KNOW it will work for you . . . 
All you've got to do now is convince yourself.  



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