Sunday, March 15, 2020

Dips, Chins, and Deltoid Work - Vince Gironda (1974)

Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed

Larry Scott reading Strength & Health

I have seen perhaps six men in my life do a chin properly. Don Howorth was one of them. Don pulled up with his chest high and touched his chest to the bar almost as low as his pec line. His elbows were drawn down to his sides touching his lats, and with the chest high and the shoulders down and back he contracted his lats to the maximum.  

If you look up the function of the lat in any kinesiology book it will show that the lat - when in the fully contracted position - the shoulders are drawn down and back! Round the back and shoulders forward and you shift to the teres major muscles. Also, if you do not arch your back to full contraction you will not develop any of the fibers across the back that attach to the spine. This will give you a flat underdeveloped look with no thickness. 

This is how you do the chin: 

Reach up and grasp the chinning bar, but not too wide . . . closer than you ordinarily do them because the lats are only partially contracted in a wide grip. Next, stand on a box so you can jump up into the contracted position and hold at the top for a split second. Now, lower your body and stand on the box (do singles). Jump up again and touch your low pec to the bar and arch the back. Most important - elbows must touch the sides in the top or contracted position to achieve maximum contraction.

The next most abused exercise is the parallel bar dip for pec development. The average bodybuilder does this exercise with his elbows back and his chest up and the back arched. Also, he does not drop down low enough, plus his body usually swings due to excessive speed in performing this exercise. The proper way to dip is as follows: 

Hands should be 32" wide, elbows straight out to the sides (never back), and chin on chest. Chest must be concave and back rounded, feet forward under the head. In short, the body is in a crescent shape. The bottom of the dipping movement is the most important part of the dip; the first 8-10 inches are very isolated pec and most important - dipping receives less help from the deltoid than any other pec exercise. Bench press + Incline DB Press - knuckles not facing each other but forward about 90%, assistance from delts. The wider the parallel bar the wider the stress on the pec where the pec disappears under the front deltoid. This gives the chest a great illusion of width.

Here, in Vince's Gym, we have V-shaped parallel dip bars and by just moving your hands back you get a wider portion of the pec. By the way, if you hump your back at the top of the movement you work the Serratus muscles very forcibly.  


This is a vastly misunderstood muscle insofar as the most common exercise for this muscle (the press) is not a side or lateral head movement. All overhead presses, barbell or dumbbell, are front deltoid and add nothing to shoulder width. They only make the shoulder thicker when viewed from the side.

On the posing platform the overhead lights wash out this portion of the deltoid. But side or lateral head shows up advantageously because of the shadows cast by the overhead spot. The lateral head is best obtained with lateral raises with dumbbells, providing you do not turn the front of the dumbbell up higher than the back bell because if you do you are working the front portion again. To work the side portion (lateral) you must keep the back of the bell higher than the front (closest to the mirror) and as we say in the gym - "pour the water out of the front end of the bell." 

The beginning part of the lateral raise is to touch all four contact points of the two bells in front of the thighs with the elbows bent slightly - arms are never straight or locked. Also, as you raise the bells to the side they stay out in front of the body and must not travel backward parallel with the body. 

The last part of the raise: never raise the bells higher than the ears because if you do the trapezius assists by dropping the deltoid closer to the head (hunching movement). 

The next exercise for the delts which I find is very good is the barbell upright rowing. The relationship of the upper arms is exactly the same as the lateral raise, except that more weight can be employed. The grip is the secret here - most bodybuilders hold the hands too close together. I find that a slightly narrower than shoulder width grip is best. Also, if you pull the bar any higher than slightly higher than the nipples the trapezius assists and takes the work away from the delts. Also, when you pull the bar up do not keep it close to the body but out and up to the top position. 

Do the upright rowing right and you can receive results very quickly.   

Shrug This - Paul Kelso

OK, Mirror Athletes - SHRUG THIS!!!

We're all guilty. Caught ourselves peaking in the mirror while we were building up over the years to see what kind of fascinating if not amazing changes were taking place in our physiques. Even the most disdainful of bodybuilding among us, the most hardcore strength trainer or competitive lifter, is not immune. 

Why, lookey there, one might muse. My bicep is showing bifurcation. How about that? Am I getting striations in my pecs and delts. My quads? Must be a sign of progress. Of course we serious athletes are not concerned with such. Such merely visual results of training won't put five more kilos on the C & J, will they? 

Still, etched-out serratus might be cool at the pool next summer. But we don't care about that, right? That's for gym-weenies, ain't it? 

I was no pimply adolescent when I chanced upon the possibilities of shrug variations. I had lifted off and on for almost fifteen years and wrestled here and there. Fantasies of physical grandeur were fading before the demands of raising a family and struggling though grad school. But I could not help but be intrigued and my vanity tweaked by a few body changes as I experimented in the garage of the old home place.

Dave Maurice mentioned in his review of my book KELSO'S SHRUG SYSTEM that a few of the 30 variations in the tome are for "aesthetic bodybuilding" purposes.

Let me focus on those for ironheads who are still tempted by the mirror or concerns about their appearance. (Why is it on the forum threads about outfitting a home gym that there is plenty of talk about power racks and glute-ham gizmos, but no one seems to ever bring up the one item I'd bet usually gets installed first? The mirror). 

Speaking of serratus, that group of small muscles that fan out like a bunch of stubby fingers on the side of the rib cage between the front of the lat and the lower pectoral and lead into the top of the intercostals . . . 

. . . assuming your body fat percentage is low enough for them to show - how can a "shrug" help those? 

Try what I call the Shrug Dip in combination with straight-arm pulldowns from the overhead pulley. 

When I was eighteen or so training at the old Commerce Street gym in Dallas (where the wrestler Hugh "Tex" McKenzie worked out) . . .  

. . . there was a very short fellow training whose name I can't remember. He was amazingly muscular and cut up. Had giant serratus. Best I ever saw. How did he get them? Probably from his habit of doing straight-arm pullovers lying on a flat bench - with over 100 pounds! 

I never forgot that sight, nor did I ever achieve anything close to it. But the most growth I ever realized in that area came this way: 

 - Shrug Dips. Take a position on the dipping stand as if to, well, dip. But, do not bend the arms. Lower the body by allowing the shoulders to rise toward the ears. This would be the negative of a standing shrug with dumbbells. Raise the body by forcing the shoulders down, forcing a good contraction of the pecs, lats and serratus. Leaning forward works the chest muscles more; leaning back throws the cramp into the lats. For a little extra work on inner pectoral cleavage, a set or two of Bench Shrugs with dumbbells held palms facing should help.

 - Straight Arm Pulldown. Stand in front of overhead pulldown machine. Start with a light weight. Take an overhand grip with hands 12-14 inches apart. Don't lock the elbows and turn them slightly out. Lean a little forward and adjust your body so that your position mimics that you would have on a flat bench with the bar lowered behind your head during a straight-arm pullover. Then with arms extended as described force the bar all the way down to the thighs while exhaling. This triggers a large muscular contraction in the pecs, serratus and lats. Let the bar rise back to starting position while inhaling. Get a stretch and repeat. You will have to experiment with body position a little to make it work for you. Everybody is different. A side effect may be an extreme burn in the triceps late in the set. 

Keep sets and reps in the normal ranges. Super-setting is extreme. 

I mentioned wrestling. I was tall and lanky with a long neck as a teen. Wrestlers bridges and towel pulls with a partner got my neck up to 17.5 inches at a bodyweight of 200 lbs. when I was 19. Not bad, not good, but beyond pencil-neck status.

Articles about Steve Reeves doing wide-grip deadlifts intrigued the gang at the old Dallas YMCA. This was 1955. We'd load the old York Olympic plates with two-inch rims on backwards, the wrong way, so we could bend down and pick up the bar by the flanges on the plates. Or, we used a collar-to-collar grip, depending on our arm lengths. 

 - Wide-Grip Shrugs or Deadlifts. Reeves and others believed doing deadlifts in this fashion would widen the shoulders. I think it is pretty established now that not much can be done for the bone structure of the shoulders, but I got a different result when I began shrugging in this manner. Maybe it was because of my long neck, but I never developed the blocky traps visible on many lifters who did thousands of cleans and DLs. Instead, I ended up with a long slope that made my shoulders look wider. (Yes, I also did a lot of cleans and snatches and DLs over the years, so there may be a hereditary factor involved).

In any case, I developed a clearly delineated trap insertion or connection at each side of my nick, where the trap seems to run up close to the ears at the base of the skull. This was most noticeable when viewed at an angle from the front. As I had pretty pronounced sternocleidomastoids, there was a separation or groove between the sterno and the front of the trap at the side of the neck. I was the only kid on the block with that feature. I have rarely seen it since on others.

Looked kinda rugged if I do say so. Drew a lot of sideways glances when I wore a loose wide-collared shirt. Which I did. Often. No vanity in play, of course, I was merely trying to be a good example to the young and communicate my interest in their training. Especially to girls. 

Cable Crossover Shrugs. A similar effect can be gained by doing cable crossover shrugs with the machine set on the low pulleys. Stand in the middle with a handle in each hand. The line or direction of contraction is from the bases of the machine toward the ears at an angle to the floor, not up and down. A second movement for developing and etching out a unusual muscle is to do shrugs in from the side with the machine set on the high pulleys. Concentrate on the contraction right between the shoulder blades or lower to carve out middle and lower traps. A possible third exercise, but not a shrug, would be to stand between the pulleys - set on high - and row straight in and down to the sides with each hand, trying to touch the elbows together behind the back. You can't do it, but try. 

Hiro Matsumoto owns a gym in the town in Japan where I live. I trained there for years. We experimented with the elbow touching move. We used a couple of young bodybuilders as lab mice to see if the movement would help develop the "Christmas tree" lat structure at the sides of the lower erectors. It did on one guy and not on the other. The successful guy had shorter arms. Maybe that was a factor. 

One thing about doing the movements I've written about here, and I would add the Lat or "Kelso" shrug in the bentover row incline position as well as chinning shrugs [you can search this blog for more from Paul Kelso, including many exercise descriptions], is that they carve out the separation line between the front lat and the side of the chest as seen from the front, and bring into visibility a lot of the smaller muscles in the upper back and in other places where you'd least suspect it. Higher reps are indicated for "aesthetic" purposes, and a pretty thin fat-to-muscle percentage. 

Is it true that "All, all is vanity," as it says in the Good Book? 

That's a hard statement to shrug off, but
shrugs can give you something to be vain about.     

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Effective Lower Back Training - Robert H. Gordon

Many weight trainees recognize the importance of regular lower back training. For the physique competitor, it could mean a more complete, finished look, and for the weightlifter or power man, less injuries and greater totals. 

The exercises most often used to condition this area are deadlifts (regular and stiff-leg), good mornings, and hyperextensions. Of these, only the hyperextension movement has the potential to FULLY develop the lower back region. The reason for this can be attributed to one word: ISOLATION. 

All other exercises will involve the glutes, hamstrings, or quadriceps and place the erector spinae (lower back muscles) in a stabilizing role. This means they are working isometrically and receiving resistance only in a nearly extended position. 

The solution is to reverse this situation; place the hamstrings in a position to stabilize for the erector spinae - thus we have the hyperextension movement. 

Identification of the proper exercise is only the first step; performing it correctly is the important one. 


The first photo illustrates the proper form and technique. The trainee has the illiac crest (top of pelvic bones) lined up with the outside edge of the body cushion, putting the hamstrings in their stabilizing role and allowing the lower body to work from a full stretch to a complete contraction. 

Photo two demonstrates how the movement should not be performed although many are doing it this way. You'll notice that the trainee has slid forward and is now contacting the upper thighs to the pad. Result: the pelvis is no longer stabilized, so the hamstrings get most of the work.

People are often baffled as to how the Russians can consistently excel in the strength demanding events. for one thing, they have been strong advocates of the hyperextension movement for many years now, and work up to holding close to 200 pounds behind the neck for reps! 

Diligent, proper practice of this exercise will bring about nothing less than fantastic results, so go ahead and give it a try. 

It will be the lower back exercise you are looking for.  

Squat Alternatives - Bill Starr

I get a lot of questions from strength athletes regarding squatting. Some say they're stale after doing the same squat routine for a number of years. Others relate that they're unable to do conventional squats due to an injury or shoulder surgery. Still others want to know how they can build more variety into their squat routines.

While some authorities believe that there's but one way to perform full squats, they're wrong. 

This basic, core exercise has many variations - many more than most imagine. When I list them all, athletes are often amazed, but they're also happy because it means they have lots of choices. Building variety into your program is always a plus. Doing any new exercise boosts motivation, since the gains come faster, and even changing the way you perform an exercise helps to strengthen some neglected groups. 

Here's my list of ways to do squats: 

Olympic-style, where the bar rests high on your traps.
Powerlifting-style, where the bar rests much lower on your back.
Front squats. 
Smith-machine squats. 
Wide- and narrow-stance squats.
Jump squats. 
Pause squats.
Squats performed inside a power rack.
Overhead squats. 
Dumbbell squats. 

They all serve different functions and anyone seeking a new approach can benefit from using them.

There's one requirement: In all the styles listed, you must squat to below parallel to the ground. That critical to building balanced strength in your back, hips and legs, and it's also much less stressful to your knees.

Olympic Squats 

High-bar, or Olympic squats, are in my opinion the best of the lot because they work the muscles of the hips, legs and back much more directly - and therefore more completely - than any other version. If you want to do full cleans or compete in Olympic weightlifting, it's imperative that you do this exercise.

High-bar squats are so named for the simple reason that you place the bar high on your traps, which helps to keep you from leaning forward and so forces the powerful muscles in your hips and legs to provide the power. You move up and down like a piston, and the strict upright stance carries over to racking cleans and recovering from the deep position. 

Low-Bar Squats

Even so, many strength athletes aren't interested in doing full cleans and find that they can move more weight on squats if they lower the bar down their backs a bit. I've also had cases where athletes were unable to go deep enough with high-bar squats but didn't have that problem when they lowered the bar. How low? It depends on your structure, flexibility and ability to fix the bar firmly in place when you do the lift. You must not let the bar move at all. This powerlifting-style squat places a huge amount of stress on the shoulders, and if you set the bar low excessively low and it slips further down, you can be injured in a heartbeat.

When you want to try moving the bar lower on your back, lower it only an inch or two and stay with that position for a couple of months. In other words, be cautious.

The first time you squat with the bar lower than usual, stay with a moderate weight to see how the new stress affects your shoulders. You won't learn that until the next morning - or later - so don't go for a personal record in your first session with the newer style, even if the weights feel really light. 

When you position the bar low on your back, you lean forward out of necessity. Some lifters even try to place their chests on their thighs. That's fine, just as long as your lower- and middle-back areas are prepared for the more intense direct work. If you're planning on using the low-bar style, you must spend lots of time strengthening your lumbars and middle back. Otherwise, when the weights get heavy, you'll keep on going forward, and the bar will tumble over your head.

So a low-bar squatter's routine must include plenty of good mornings, almost-straight legged deadlifts and bentover rows. What I said above about going low applies here. It's much easier to cut these off than it is the high-bar version, but if you squat deep from the very beginning you won't have any trouble doing it when the weight gets heavy.

If you use this style of squatting, you must make sure your shoulder girdle is thoroughly warmed up before you do your first set. I've had athletes who were using the low-bar style complain of severe shoulder pain during or after their workouts. Sure enough, they weren't doing anything to warm up their shoulders before squatting. Once they started spending 5 to 10 minutes on light presses and dumbbell front and lateral raises, the problem went away.

After you warm up your shoulders, take a moment to stretch them well, and continue to stretch between sets.

I believe it's a good idea for trainees who prefer the low-bar style to do some Olympic-style sets periodically. They hit the squatting muscles differently and have a very positive effect on your low-bar squats as well. 

Front Squats

Front squats are the purest form of the exercise. When European weightlifters want to know someone's leg strength, they always ask. "How much can you front squat?" Back squat numbers are inconsequential. Front squats are pure hip and leg strength, and there's no way to alter the form to make them easier. Anyone interested in doing full cleans or competing in Olympic lifting must do them. Your ability to recover from a heavy clean is directly dependent on your front squatting prowess. 

The key to performing front squats is the rack. The bar must be fixes tightly across your front deltoids, not your clavicles, and it has to remain in that position throughout the movement. You must set your elbows high, with triceps parallel to the floor. You cannot allow them to drop during the lift.

Your initial move out of the deep bottom of a front squat is different from the move out of a back squat. On a back squat you focus on driving your hips upward and leaning into the bar. But on a front squat you have to focus on driving your elbows up before you involve your hips. That helps stabilize the bar directly over the power base and keeps it from traveling forward. If your elbows dip too much and the bar runs way out in from your body, it will end up crashing to the floor. Plus, it places a tremendous stress on your wrists. 

You must put in some time preparing for front squats. Except for youngsters, nearly everyone who does front squats for the first time discovers that he or she lacks the shoulder flexibility to rack the bar correctly. That's especially true for people whose programs have included lots of bench pressing. So you need to stretch your shoulders, elbows and wrists before doing any front squats, even when you use light weights.

The best way to warm up is to lock a bar inside a power rack so that it cannot move. If you don't have a power rack, just load up a bar on a squat rack with so much weight that you can't budge it. Grip the bar with one hand, push your elbow up as high as you can without moving your torso, hold it for 5 or 6 seconds, then do the other hand. Now grip the bar with both hands and have a training partner push your elbows up and hold them for a count of 10 -12. Do it several times if you need to. I also highly recommend taping your wrists when you do front squats. If relieves some of the stress and cuts down the risk of injuring them. You don't want to ding your wrists, since it takes forever to rehab them.  

Front squats require low reps. That's because the rack is the critical part of the exercise, and it always tends to slip a bit no matter how firmly you try to lock it into place. it it slides too much you're inviting injury to your wrists. It's all right to do 5's or 6's for the light warmup sets, but once you start loading up the bar, stick with 3's, and in the event your rack moves too much on the second rep, make it doubles, and add a few extra sets to up your workload. 

Jump Squats

Whenever athletes want to add inches to their leaping ability - usually basketball or volleyball players - I put jump squats in their routines. Used in conjunction with regular heavy squats, jump squats can be productive, but you have to do them correctly. To begin with, you go very low, just as you do on Olympic-style squats. In a jump squat, though, you pause for a half-second before starting your recovery. That keeps you from rebounding out of the hole, which can be harmful to your knees. Instead, if you hesitate and make sure that all your muscles are rigid, from your feet to your traps, all will be fine. 

Your next thought should be of exploding upward, leaping as high as possible. All lifters learn quickly to lock the bar snugly to their traps or it will pop off at the top. Some get the form down so well their feet actually leave the floor. Reset, making sure the bar is in the correct position, go to the bottom, hesitate, and then jump, climbing on your toes.

Since you can't use much weight on these, I put them on the light day. A lifter using 350 x 5 on regular back squats can benefit from doing 225 x 5 on the jump squat. I generally start people with 5 sets of 5, but often in the learning stage, when the weights are very light, I have them do 5 sets of 10. If I see someone getting sloppy with the higher reps, however, I drop it back to 5's. 

Squatting Inside the Power Rack

Squatting inside the power rack is an effective way to gain strength, especially for advanced strength athletes. I realize that box squats are much in vogue, but I prefer the rack. Regardless of what proponents contend about the value of box squats, they exert tremendous pressure on the lower spine. That may not be a factor for heavyweights or those using steroids, but it most certainly is for the average strength athlete. Also, spotting for box squats is a nightmare, and anyone who trains alone cannot consider doing them with any amount of weight. 

Squatting inside the rack is safer, doesn't place undo pressure on the lower spine, and is as effective. The question always arises: What position should you start from? My answer: the sticking point, which is usually in the middle or slightly above the middle. Set the pins at the spot that's giving you the most trouble in your recovery from the squat position. Start at that low position, which will make it much more difficult, but that's the point. Stand up and lower the bar back to the pins in a smooth, controlled fashion. Don't let the bar crash into the pins and don't try to rebound it off them to help you with the start. That defeats the purpose of the exercise. Reset at the bottom and do the next rep.

Do 5 reps on the warmup sets, but once the weights become demanding, lower the reps to 3 or 2 and conclude with a max single. Each time you do these, increase the weight on the single, and the new strength will carry over directly to your regular squats.

Squatting in the Smith Machine

Squatting in the Smith machine ranks low on my list, but it's useful for athletes who are unable to rest the bar firmly on their backs for whatever reason. Bodybuilders like the Smith machine squats because they force them to maintain a strict, upright stance, and they often use the machine to isolate their quads by squatting with a close stance. 

The main thing to keep in mind when you squat in the Smith machine is that you want to do the exercise exactly as you do regular squats. You go low, with no rebounding at the bottom. Just because you're working with a machine doesn't mean you can't traumatize your knees by using faulty form. Because the machine takes most of the balance factor out of the equation, you can concentrate on applying perfect technique to each rep. I suggest doing 10 reps for 5 to 6 sets on these, since they're much less demanding than regular squats.

Wide-Stance Squats

Wide-stance squats have a place in every routine. Whenever I see athletes knees turning inward during a heavy squat or max pull off the floor, I know they have a relative weakness in the adductors. The adductor machine is an excellent tool for remedying that, but many weight rooms and home gyms don't have one available. In those situations wide-stance squats fill the bill.

How wide? As wide as you can set your feet and still maintain your balance while going below parallel. In order to strengthen your adductors, you absolutely must go below parallel, and the lower you go, the more you bring them into play. 

When the weakness is minor, I recommend wide-stance squats as a back-off set, followed by your regular squat session: I set of 8-10 with a weight that is taxing. If, however, the weakness is severe, I prescribe doing all your squats with a wide stance until you bring your adductors up to par. 

I include wide-stance squats in all my advanced lifters' programs, regardless of whether they display an adductor weakness. On their light day they do 2 sets of 5 as a warmup, then 3 x 5 with a work weight. They do the 1st work set with a normal stance and the 2nd with a wide stance. On the 3rd they use a very narrow stance. Changing the stances helps build balance in the hips and legs and also adds some variety to an otherwise ho-hum squat workout. And since it's the light day, you can handle the weights without difficulty.

Narrow-stance squats aren't used as much as wide-stances because the quads get plenty of work with the other styles, but they do make a nice change every so often. They're very useful for shaping the quads, and because you can go so low, they hit the glutes really well.

Pause Squats

Trainees who have trouble coming out of the hole or aren't going deep enough will find pause squats helpful. You lower into the deep bottom and, staying tight, remain there for a 4 to 5 second count. Someone gives a signal, usually a clap, and you drive upward. Pause squats teach you to squeeze out of the bottom and make you use the groups that are responsible for recovery. Also, by forcing you to go lower than usual, they call on new muscles, and that's good.

These are brutal, so place them at the end of the workout as a back-off set of 8-10 reps. That's unless the problem is glaring, in which case you do the full squat workout with pauses until the weakness is remedied. 

Overhead Squats

Finally, for those who cannot fix a bar on their backs due to shoulder injury or an old injury, you can still squat. 

Note: at times when my shoulder is giving me grief, I've found the Dave Draper "Top Squat" (above) to be real helpful. It can be used to get as close as possible to a regular high-bar squat without putting additional strain on the shoulders. If you're doing a lot of pressing of all kinds for a while, you can also use one of these preemptively, if you know what I mean. If you note the placement of the bar in the holder, you'll see that it won't push you forward like a Safety Squat Bar. 

Some trainees can hold the bar over their head and do overhead squats. Even if you don't have a problem with regular squats, these provide valuable help in training for snatches. The weight will be relatively light, so higher reps, 10's and 12's, are in order; however, if your form waves, drop the reps to 5 and add a few extra sets. 

Dumbbell Squats

Squatting with dumbbells is often the last resort for trainees who have chronic shoulder problems, but it's better than not squatting at all. To get enough work, you need to do high reps - very high, such as 75 to 100 per set with a pair of 20-pounders. Not right away, but that should be your eventual goal. If you have heavier dumbbells at your disposal, then lower reps will also work. Try to get in a total of 250 to 300 reps.

The full squat is the keystone exercise in strength training, so regardless of your limitations, be sure to make it an integral part of your program. 

Dave Draper's "Top Squat" Demo:

Hard to find now, but well, well worth the search if you're having shoulder issues.    


Monday, March 9, 2020

Geza Toth: Champion of Hard Work - John Terpak / Sandor Gere

                                             Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed

Note: To all the lifters in Italy, living for the time being with a decree that effectively closes all gyms . . . hang in there! 

About Sandor Gere: On the trip to Tokyo, I wanted to get some inside information that would make interesting and informative articles for our (Strength & Health) readers. However, knowing that I would be very busy at the Olympics performing my duties as team manager, I looked for someone else to obtain the information. Sandor Gere fit the requirements perfectly. He was one of the top Hungarian weightlifting coaches before coming to this country and since coming has established himself as one of our leading weightlifting coaches. In Hungary he personally coached such lifters as Veres, Huszka, Toth, and Foldi. In the U.S. his star pupil is Gary Hanson, the National bantamweight champion. All these qualifications add up to a man that knows lifting, the lifters, and the language of many of the foreign lifters. His help in obtaining this information is deeply appreciated. 
 - John Terpak.

The name of Geza Toth is not new in the history of weightlifting. the 32 year old Hungarian has invested 12 years of hard work, but it has paid off well - he is one of the best lifters in the world. 

He lives in Sorokpolany, a little village next to the Austrian border. Geza was born and raised there, and in his youth he worked on his father's farm. In his teenage years he was sports minded, and after a hard day on the farm he would rush to the soccer field. Although he loved the sport as did other youngsters in his country, he was not particularly successful. 

At the age of 20 years, he entered a college preparatory school for physical education. At school he met a pupil of mine who showed him a copy of Strength & Health magazine. Geza admired the muscles and strength of the athletes pictured and felt an urge to emulate these men. That same afternoon he accompanied my pupil to the gymnasium. It was at this gym that we first met.

At first Geza was unsure of himself, particularly after seeing the smaller Huszka, who had started only a few months before, Jerk 198 pounds, for Geza could only manage a lift of 145. However, I encouraged him and he came to trust me. 

At the beginning of his training, he lifted three times each week. After the first year of training, we raised this to four times a week and after the second year Geza began to train five out of every seven days.

His first competition was on January 9, 1953, in a meet for beginners. He won the Middleweight class with a total of 510 pounds. In 1955 he made his first Hungarian records with a Clean and Jerk of 319 and a total of 759. In honor of this performance, I presented him with a miniature miner's lamp on which those records were engraved. 

In 19655, no wait, that's much later, in 1965 he became a member of the Hungarian National Weightlifting team for a contest against the Austrians. He almost failed to make a total, barely managing to hold his third Clean and Jerk of 297 pounds, after failing with this weight on his first two attempts. This was a valuable experience for Geza, for it taught him that he was one of the team and had to be careful in his selection of poundages. The same year he lifted for Hungary against the Germans. He tied Helbig with a  total of 743 pounds, but he lost on bodyweight. This was another valuable tactical lesson for Geza. In 1957 he placed fourth in the European Championships with a total of 814 pounds. 

1958 was the year of his graduation from college and his many examinations kept him from serious training. However, he finally finished his studies and began to teach physical education in two high schools near his home town. At this time he moved up into the light-heavyweight class, although he was unable to move his bodyweight past 172 pounds. This was an awkward weight since it was too light for the light-heavyweight class, but too heavy to make the weight reduction to the 165-lb. class feasible. Nevertheless, he managed to place ninth in the World Championships of that year with a total of 869 pounds. 

In the European Championships in 1960 in Milan he finished in fifth place with a total of 885 pounds, although still weighing only 172. I was living in New York City by this time and in one of his letters Geza asked my advice on gaining weight. 

Based on my experience in the United States, I suggested taking vitamin B-12 pills and injections combined with heavy training. In 1961 in the World Championships in Vienna he managed to increase his bodyweight to 178. Of this competition, Geza says, "This is the competition that I will never forget, because this was the first time I stepped on the winner's platform in major international competition. I was fortunate enough to defeat the world famous Tommy Kono in the very last minute of our exciting contest. 

                                              Geza Toth, Tommy Kono.
                                                   Photo courtesy of: 

"After the Press, which is my weak point, Tommy was leading by 22 pounds. In the Snatch I manged to lift 297, but he still led me by 16 pounds. This meant that since he was the lighter man I would need to Clean and Jerk 22 pounds more than he. He began with 352 and on his second attempt with this weight, he was successful. I started with 363 and was successful. However, on my second lift with 374 I missed because I crossed my legs slightly when cleaning the bar, causing me to lose my balance. Concentrating intensely, I was able to manage this weight on my third attempt which gave me a new personal record of 952 pounds and a third place in the championships. I must admit that I was lucky because I was not yet able to beat Kono at his best. Originally, he was able to compete in middleweight class, but since he was unable to make weight he was forced to lift with the light-heavyweights. This put him at a great disadvantage since he had tried so hard to get down to to the 165-lb. limit."  

1962 was a stark year for Geza. He started well in the spring, but because of an injection he contacted hepatitis. He spent five weeks in the hospital and another six weeks at home in bed. It looked as if this would be the end of his weightlifting career. In fact, he was so informed by his doctors and he had to sign a document stating that any further lifting would be his own responsibility. It seemed unlikely that he would be able to represent Hungary in the 1962 World Championships in Budapest. However, he gradually began training, although he had less than six months to regain his form. His comeback was miraculous and he totaled a wonderful 974 for third place.

During my interview with Geza in Tokyo, he told me, "Tommy Kono is my idol and I have always admired his fighting spirit and good sportsmanship." 

Geza prepares for two months before major competition, dividing this period into two equal parts. The first week he spends a great deal of time with light weights, only going into the heavier weights during the second week. The third week sees him lifting the heaviest weights of his first month's training. During the fourth week, he gradually eases off with his poundages. He repeats this procedure during the second month, but in each week he uses slightly heavier weights than he did in the corresponding week of the first period. 

Geza trains six times each week. He has two types of training that he alternates. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, he concentrates on the Olympic lifts and performs squats at the end of the workout. He considers the squat to be a basic and essential exercise for every weightlifter. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, he performs assistance exercises. The exercises that he stresses are; 

1) Wide Grip Incline Press
2) Power Snatch
3) Power Clean
4) Jumping Back Squats

All of his workouts take from two to two-and-a-half hours. He rests very little during his training. 

"I enjoy competition," he told me in the Olympic Village during our reunion in Tokyo. "I take part in three or four meets before the European Championships which are usually held in the spring. After that I participate in another three or four contests before the World Championships which are generally held in the fall. During the summer I slow down my training for about two weeks, partially replacing my lifting with swimming and other sports. I enjoy using gymnastics for loosening purposes and I practice 10-15 yard dashes to increase my speed. I also practice leaps of various sorts for elasticity and spring. I stay away from ball-playing so as to avoid injury." 

Heavy, greasy foods are popular in Hungary, but Geza stays away from them. During the last week before competition, he eats less food and food of lower caloric value. For two or three days before the meet, he eats more sweets, but on the day of the competition he eats very little, sometimes eating nothing at all, because it seems to cut into his energy. He uses steam only when necessary to lose the last pound or pound and a half. He usually weighs four or five pounds above his class limit and he feels that he can lose those pounds without having it affect the good condition of his body. 

There are two main factors in weightlifting - power and technique. I asked him his opinion as to which he considers the most important and he answered me by saying, "Technique is very important, especially in the first few years. If someone learns a bad technique, it is very difficult and sometimes almost impossible to correct. The technique I learned when you [Sandor Gere] were coaching me often allowed me to defeat lifters who were stronger than I. The quick lifts depend to a great extent on technique, as does the modern Press. 

However, weightlifting is a sport of strength and you cannot be a good lifter without developing power. Power is equally as important as technique and I would say that we cannot separate these two factors." 

For an increase in power he suggests assistance exercises for all parts of the body. He suggest squatting for leg power, power snatches and power cleans for pulling power, incline presses for arm and shoulder power, and ONE-HALF GOOD MORNINGS WITH RAPID STRAIGHTENING FOR BACK POWER. 

Geza is not a gym lifter. Although he is able to reach the peak of his press in training, his best snatch in the gym is from 10-20 pounds less than in competition. Also, his best gym clean and jerk is 10-15 pounds lighter than his best effort in competition. He is 5/7.5" and he feels that he belongs in the middle-heavyweight class. 

As a physical education teacher his favorite hobby is his pupils. Besides his teaching duties in the two high schools (one for boys and one for girls), he has formed a weightlifting club and he has 55 pupils training under his supervision. 

He tells me that it gives him greater satisfaction to see progress in his students than in himself. 

He is a fine young man, well liked by his students and by his townspeople.      


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