Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed
Great Pressers are born! If two men could be equal in all else - height, bodyweight, condition and bulk of muscular tissue - the better presser of the two would be the one whose forearm was shorter in relation to his upper arm. It is hard, perhaps, on the man who can show a difference of no more than two inches or so; but it is a fact, based upon leverage, that no amount of training can overcome.
It is a fact, also, that every beginner should study in relation to himself, for it governs his possibilities in the future and explains that baffling point: why his Press is greater or better than his Snatch while with another apparently similar lifter the position is reversed.
If he is an extreme "victim" of poor leverage on the Press he will never be a champion. It is best to be frank about such matters and the fact is that the compensations which accompany the disadvantages of skeletal structure are not sufficient to make up the leeway. If his disadvantage is only slight and all else is favorable he can accomplish higher totals; partly by overcoming his structural handicap and partly by utilizing to the full his compensating advantages on the other lifts.
The important thing is that he first establishes the relationship between his maximum Press and maximum Snatch which his type permits - and remains content with it. He must not be lured into special schedules designed to bring his press "into line."
Special schedules for improving pressing power are easily compiled and invariably effective if followed. A lifter who is "stuck" can usually make quite a sensational jump in he is prepared to drop general training and confine himself to pressing a weight three times from the shoulders, 10 or 12 times at intervals throughout the day and adding as little as one-half to one pound per week. [Sound familiar? This was over seven decades ago, and the approach is much, much older than that].
London lifters will remember Wilf Muirhead, who lost his life in the blitz. Nearly 20 years ago his Press, I remember, was a little over 140 pounds. Business reasons compelled him to drop general training for two or three years but, each day, he performed a few presses with a bar which lay at hand "just to keep his hand in." He added a few ounces each week. I forgot the original and ultimate weight of the bar - I know that he reached 190 pounds!
Schedules based upon dumb-bell exercises, lateral raises, the Press from Behind Neck and variations of the Press itself such as gripping the bar with different hand spacings can also increase pressing power.
But schedules based upon extraneous lifts and exercises are not for the championship aspirant. For the potential champion these rules must be observed:
1) Training for the Press must be part of a general training plan, not a separate entity.
2) The basis of training for the Press must be the Press itself.
I differ from John Davis, whose fabulous total on the three lifts is the highest in weightlifting history, on many points of training. I am with with him when, in special reference to training for the Press, he says, if you expect gains you must do that lift and nothing else or more. Dumb-bell work, deltoid exercises and specialized muscle work won't make one iota of difference. A system involving nothing more than the lifts you are training for is the correct way to train.
Davis also believes that daily training on the Press is too exhausting; that three training sessions per week is not sufficient; and that 10 sets of 3 repetitions with as much as 85-90% of maximum may be the ideal amount of work.
I do not agree that daily pressing is necessarily too exhausting for every type of lifter though it certainly is for many. I do agree that three sessions on the Press each week is insufficient for the majority. The ideal, for most men, is five weekly training sessions on the Press. Two such sessions (apart from a light warming up exercise) consist only of pressing while the other three should embrace the Snatch and Jerk and any auxiliary training that is necessary. The heaviest pressing work should be carried out during the two "pressing only" sessions.
In respect of poundages I know of no other great lifter who uses so heavy a "static" weight as 85-90% of maximum. When champions use the same poundage for training on the Press it is usually 75-80% of maximum ability. None perform less than two consecutive repetitions from the shoulder; very few exceed four. The majority favor three repetitions throughout - and the total number of presses in one such session varies from 20 to 50 according to the lifts, if any, which follow.
A novice could "play safe" with 10 sets of 3 repetitions on his "pressing only" training sessions, reducing the number, of course, on his general training days.
The "static" (same weight across) poundage system of training on the Press is more productive of results than most people realize. The promising beginner will not be making a serious error if he employs it and it may possibly suit better than anything else. It is a fact, however, that the variable poundage system is more generally used by the champions and is more popular with them if only for the variety which it introduces.
The rules governing the system are simple:
1) no more than 4 consecutive repetitions even with the lightest weights.
2) no lighter poundage than 60% of maximum, none heavier than 90%.
The standard, followed by the French for many years and proved by results to be a sound one, was as follows:
4 repetitions with 70% repeated 5 times (70% x 5 sets of 4)
3 repetitions with 75% repeated 3 times
2 repetitions with 80% repeated twice
2 repetitions with 85% repeated twice
During the last 15 years the German system has gained some favor. The lifter works up quickly to 90% and then drops down to 65-70% and works up again to 85% with a decreased number of repetitions. I have found to particular advantage to this method. Or, the Germans in prewar days (and the modern American lifters have largely followed their example), worked up from 70% to 95%, gradually reducing the number of repetitions and sets until single lifts were performed. They then reduced the weight again for 75% for further sets of repetition work, concluding this second stage at 90%.
Progress on the Press is largely a matter of work. It calls for more than the other lifts; hence the suggestion of two "pressing only" training sessions. It is, however, only one of the three important lifts, and lifters (more experienced lifters as well) are prone to spoil the effect of a general training session by pressing poundages that are too close to the maximum. When the Snatch and Jerk are to follow it is better, in the long run, to do too little rather than too much work on the Press.
The novice who decides to train 5 times each week on the Press can, if he follows the variable poundage system, work up to 90% of maximum on his "pressing only" days and can total as few as 20 and up to as many as 40 lifts from the shoulders. Experience will teach him the total that suits him best though he should remember that this will inevitably be rather less than his enthusiasm indicates. On the general training days the total number of presses should be drastically reduced and, except on "all out" try-outs, the maximum weight lifted should not exceed 85%. Experience will not teach him the most suitable poundage or tell him whether he is overdoing his pressing on these occasions. It is up to him to make sure in advance.
Here we show the starting position for the Two Arm Press. Head high, back stiff and muscles flexed, hips tensed, elbows raised high and bar gripped shoulder width apart. There are various positions in which the Two Arm Press can be performed and in a following issue we hope to thoroughly illustrate them all and explain them in detail.
This photo shows the "sticking" point in the Two Arm Press, where most lifters bend backwards and ruin the lift. By breathing in deeply and contracting the small of the back muscles and hips, this will sometimes help you in overcoming this difficult position and save the lift.
Here we show the completion of the Two Arm Press. The feet are flat on the floor, placed comfortably apart, the head facing forward and body erect. This position must be held for two seconds before the weight is returned to the floor.
Enjoy Your Lifting!