Thank You to Michael Murphy for this!
Part One is here:
The physiques of the Russian lifters are worthy of study. At first glance the legs of the lighter men appear slender, that same "under pinned" look that was the possession of Ron Walker. But when one "looks into the photo" one can see that they are very heavily muscled. These pee wee lifters are miniature versions of Walker. Slender appearing legs, but big at the tops of the thighs, heavy deltoids and trapezius, and something that Walker appeared deficient in, fairly heavy triceps development They all had necks that appeared big and strong. Their light-heavyweight lifter Alexander Bozhko, with a 349 lb. clean and jerk to his credit, has the most heavily muscled thighs that I have ever seen, either in the flesh or in photos.
Our mutual enthusiast John Grimek, has legs that would hardly be called thin, but Bozhko's [a different spelling everywhere you look it seems] thighs fairly put the "Great John's" in the shade. They are really HUGE, and with amazing definition, the vastus internus [vastus medialis, "teardrop"], the large muscle over the knee being very heavily developed.
In all lifting contests the judging is very strict. Whether an exhibition meet or an official contest, the interpretation of the rules is a rigid one. Three referees pass each attempt and all have to agree before the lift is "good." If one referee disallows the lift, then that lift is not passed. All contests are "Official Contest" and all lifts are judged and recorded by "Official Referees." The judges and referees all belong to a special control board. They are all selected for their practical and theoretical knowledge of weightlifting, and undergo periodical examinations as tests of efficiently.
They have one custom or lifting rule which could be introduced with great benefit to ALL organizations. No referee can officiate or act as judge or clerk of the scales if a member of his team or club is competing. In my humble opinion, this is a very wise rule. My American friends must know only too well of the petty quarrels and jealousies that have been caused through suggestions of partiality on the part of a referee or judge toward a member of his team. The Russian lifting rule ensures a strict impartiality and a sound judging of the lifts at all times.
They are also very strict in judging the Press - no back swaying or heaving or uneven pressing - the lift must be a steady one from start to finish. In the USSR, a military press is just that. The weight lifting coaches are all at the disposal of the State. If the State lifting organization finds a particularly promising youngster, then the officials see to it that the "up and coming champ" has the best care and attention. It matters not whether the young hopeful lives in Odessa or Novosibirsk, he has the best coach the State Organization can send to him.
I trust the reader will have gained some idea of the methods of the Russians as regards the question of organization. To me it seems that the country's lifters are all responsible to a centralized body, and the value of this should at once be apparent to those lifters who are dependent solely upon themselves as regards adequate coaching. The Russian lifter regards his training from an entirely different angle. His approach to the problem is created by his particular type of physique and is a confident and placid one.
He knows that he will not have to flounder around wasting precious time in trying to find a method or schedule of training. There are EXPERT coaches at his service ready help and give him every encouragement in finding a style and a training schedule entirely suited to his individual requirements - to his particular type of physique. Thus the best lifters achieve the greatest possible time. And what is more important - they go on improving!
And now here are some of the Soviet Union's most famous lifters and the poundages they sling around. I think it is best that I give the reports that I have at hand from the latter end of 1938. Then my American friends will be able to compare the poundages and progress being made during the last two years. The Soviets appear to have a great deal of talent in the 181-lb class, the light-heavies. In addition to the lifter Alexander Bhozohko [and another!] they have a light heavy with an outstanding record on the left hand snatch. This man, Krylov, snatched a poundage of 201 lbs., breaking the world's record of 198.25 lbs. held at the time by Gietl of Germany. Russia had another lifter named Krylov in pre-revolutionary days. This old timer, Peter Krylov, had the most shapely arms that I have ever seen.
His modern namesake has a physique in no way inferior to the athlete of a generation before. I haven't the exact date on which this left hand snatch was recorded but I think it was during the late summer of 1938. From a report dated January 9th, 1939, and dealing with the lifts and records made during the last days of 1938, I have the following information. Four records were broken.
In the lightweight division by the Soviet lifters Shatov and Zhizhin, and in the heavyweight class by J. Kutsenko. Shatov made a total of 803 lbs. He is the first man of his bodyweight in the history of lifting to total 800 lbs. or over. He also included a new snatch record of 254.75 in this new record total, this lift being considerably more than that snatch poundage to the credit of Shams, the sensational Egyptian lifter. At the time Shatov made this total, it easily beat the total held by Tony Terlazzo. On the same day, December 15th, 1938, Zhizin made a lightweight record in the left hand clean & jerk with a poundage of 207.75.
Readers will notice a positive fondness for the one hand lifts on the part of the Soviet lifters.
No doubt this ONE HAND LIFTING must account for the exceptional development of the triceps that most of the lifters seem to possess.
Note: A series of articles by Tony Rose on the One Hand Lifts, originally published in HARDGAINER magazine, will be available for reading here soon.
The next record was a new clean & jerk record by the heavyweight Kutsenko. He tossed overhead 372.75 lbs., this poundage surpassing the record held by Arnold Luhaar, the Estonian colossus, by three lbs. On December 30th, 1938, Sergo Ambartsumyam, the Soviet-Armenian heavy, set the world's highest total of 955 lbs. He wound up the year in great style by beating the total of the German lifter, Manger, by seven lbs. Perhaps it would not be amiss to give an account of the Armenian's career. In breaking the record total, Ambartsumyam commenced the press with a poundage of 280, which was successfully accomplished. For his next attempt he took 292 lbs., and for his final attempt he lifted in excellent style 301. He asked for an increase of three kilos in the final attempt.
When the judges weighed the bell it was found to be half a kilo over weight. He started the snatch with 264 which was lifted with ease and excellent precision. The weight of the bell was increased to 286,and was snatched with such force that it bounced forward and the lifter lost control of the weight. He again took the same weight and was successful. Ambartsumyam began the clean and jerk with the barbell loaded up to 335 lbs. This huge weight was pulled to the sternum and jerked overhead with almost unbelievable ease. The bar was then increased to 357 lbs. and again it was successfully lifted overhead. For the third attempt he took the poundage of 368. This weight had been a world's record for many years to the credit of El Said Nosseir. The Armenian lifter cleaned and jerked it in great style and the record total was in his hands.
There is a story behind this record attempt. On December 29th, 1935, a delegation from the Soviet Sports Societies and a delegation from Soviet Armenia was received by the Bolshevik leaders in the grim Moscow fortress -- the Kremlin. In the course of the reception Joseph Stalin, Soviet leader, and Klim Voroshilov, Commander in Chief of the Red Army, discussed Soviet weightlifting with Ambartsumyam who was included in the delegation as one of the noted people of his Republic and the Soviet Union's outstanding and most promising lifters. The talk ranged over an extremely wide field and every aspec of lifting was discussed.
Questions of policy and organization were decided upon, and Ambartsumyam promised Stalin that he would do his utmost to break the world's record total held by the German Manger. The Armenian's best performance at that time was a total of 836 lbs. whilst Manger's total was one of 912. Ambartsumyam might have reached new heights on Olympic lifting much sooner had he not suffered a little misfortune. Early in 1936 he contracted a fever, and was forced to give up all thought of lifting for considerable time. During the period of Ambartsumyam's illness, Manger increased his total to 936 and looked like pushing it further. But with the Armenian's recovery, the Soviet government obtained the services of the famous Moscow coach, Yan Sparre and the Armenian lifter commenced a period of intensive training under his sole direction on the Olympic lifts. His progress under Sparre's coaching was rapid and his total and poundages on the three lifts steadily increased.
In the late summer of 1938 he had increased his total to 908 lbs., and on December 30th of that year, he made the attempt on the record total of Yerevan, and was able to keep the promise he had made to Stalin.
Continued in part three . . .
Enjoy Your Lifting!