Saturday, January 18, 2020

Pulling Program for Back and Leg Power - Bob Backus (1968)

Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed 

Now retired, Bob Backus, weight throwing track and field Hall of Fame athlete, 16 times National Weight Throw Champion and Olympian, and former World Record Holder in the 56 and 35 lb. weight throws, offers a unique pulling program for weight throwers and perhaps Olympic lifters [or any other interested lifters] to spice up their training programs.

This program was often used by Bob with success. He used it the year before he threw the 35 lb. weight 68' 2.5" in 1960. 

Bob now owns and operates a gymnasium between Boston and Cape cod and continues to train three hours a day, running, bodybuilding and doing strength training. 

In 1958 I first devised this program. It was a tour to Finland and the competitions were being held around the country in the 16 lb. international hammer. During this summer of competition I trained with many of the Finnish weightlifters. Eino Makinen, European heavyweight champion and Raimo Tuononen in the midheavy class were my lifting partners. 

It was during this summer, and before on previous tours, that I began to realize that the the Olympic lifters there had a lot to learn about their strength training. 

In those days very little seemed to be realized about the value of assistance exercises. 

I found that the Track and Field athletes were way ahead of athletes in other fields in applying weight training to their particular sport. The Finnish lifters of that era seemed unaware of the value of assistance exercises, particularly the full squat. 

In short, the situation could be likened to today's professional teams, who seem amazingly ignorant about training facts which seem obvious to us in lifting and body building. 

You, too, probably wonder why pro teams so anxious to produce winning teams still seemed so mired down in old wives tales and ignorance about weight training. Off season training including some small amount of resistance work is currently being treated as a "big discovery" in baseball No doubt in ten years someone will "discover" weight training as a training method for improving the strength and ability of all their players. 

Track men (mostly field) and lifters have known this for over 15 years. 

The area around Helsinki that was open to the public for training was a swimming beach, called Hietaranta. They had two Olympic platforms, widely used by lifters, athletes, bodybuilders and passersby every day.  I was competing in the hammer, so was working on leg and back power, and wanted my program to reflect the available equipemnt. 

The lifters would train there together, and Makinen showed himself to be extremely powerful in power cleaning 390 pounds with very little dip. But his squat was only about 400, less than my own at that time. After adopting the full squat in training, he bulked up and made great gains.

The program I devised had a natural sequence. The bar started at a low weight, and throughout the workout became gradually heavier as the exercises progressed upward in difficulty and weight used. The bar finished almost fully loaded. 

Note: Familiar with the idea of "progressive pulls" yet?
If not, you're in for a treat. 
John McCallum laid out this version in his Keys to Progress series:

You start with power cleans. Start light and work up. Do 3 reps each set and when you can't make 3 then keep increasing the weight and do high pulls. Keep adding weight and when you can't make 3 high pulls start doing deadlifts. Do 3 reps in the deadlift until you can't make 3. Add more weight and do some singles. 

The last few exercises were done off two boxes (at home I used a rack similar to a Maxime bar).   

More on the Harvey Maxime Bar, here:

My shrugging exercise was the heaviest exercise, and this movement, in different forms, was my specialty in preparation for weight throwing. 

HERE IS A TYPICAL WORKOUT, one which I did one training day. I considered this a heavy workout: 

100 lbs. x 8 reps (warmup)  
125 x 8
150 x 8

175 x 3
190 x 3
205 x 3

210 x 3
220 x 3
225 x 3

230 x 3
240 x 3
250 x 3

260 x 3
270 x 3
280 x 3
Maximum with 300 attempting 3 reps

300 x 1
305 x 1
310 x 1

310 x 3
315 x 3
325 x 3

405 x 5
450 x 3
500 x 2

505 x 3
515 x 3 
525 x3

525 x 6
535 x 6
635 x go for it
685 x and there ya go.

I took a grip with only 6 inches between my forefingers, and naturally took this heavy weight off boxes, just putting the bar above my knees. I tried to hold the bar and shrug the first set. Second or third set was so heavy that I just held it with the fingers and grip. 

The purpose of this exercise was to approximate the grip used in throwing the weight, so that I could hold it without any contractions or tightening in the arms and shoulders. 

With this heavy exercise the trapezius muscles could be stretched to the ultimate without injury, and more important, could withstand the tremendous force of the lift at the end of the throw without protective tightening. 

The poundages listed reflect my own particular strengths and weaknesses. The shrugging was my particular specialty, and therefore may look to be too high poundages to the reader. Remember the method of performance of each exercise is varied. 

This program is a very versatile one, and could easily be varied day to day to suit the situation. Some of the exercises could be cut down or eliminated, to concentrate on others. 

I found that this workout gives you a psychological lift because of its progression in adding weights to the bar through the workout. 

I raised the weight used gradually in small increments. You lifters have probably used this workout, or some form of it, from time to time. 

Weight throwers pestered me for years for this program, but I kept it to myself until now. Use it for a while yourself and see how well it works. 

Note: Here's the John McCallum version of "progressive pulls" from his article titled  
The Power Look:

You start with Power Cleans. Start light and work up. Do 3 reps each set and when you can't make 3 then keep increasing the weight and do High Pulls. Keep adding weight and when you can't make 3 start doing Deadlifts. Do 3 reps in the deadlift until you can't make 3, then add more weight and do a couple of singles. 

I like to add snatches at the beginning of that. 

You can use this progressive pull idea for squatting as well. Overhead to Front to Power Squat to Partial or High Box and such. Something along those lines, maybe put a one leg version up front if you want to. 

It's possible to compose a complete full-body workout that begins with the empty bar for warming up and goes through all the bodyparts, adding weight and progressively getting heavier and heavier until the final set. All it takes is a little thought and some experience to figure out. One thing that helps is using some of the lighter poundages on the bar for advance warmups of the heavier movements to come. You know. Do some squat warmup sets while the bar's loaded for your Presses. Deadlift warmups with your Bentover Row weights. Something along those lines. Remember that you can also vary the reps (and the rep cadences) of your chosen movements to make more of these single bar/progressive loading layouts. You can vary how far you take different sets and fatigue yourself at different points in the setup as well. It's a sweet puzzle to figure out, and with all the possibilities considered there's approximately 303,127.7 varieties possible for this kinda type thingster.

Enjoy Your Lifting!       


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