Thursday, April 14, 2022

Rack Work: The Answer to Athletes and Lifters - Ken Leistner

Ken Leistner at Zuver's Gym

It is by now a foregone conclusion that weight training will provide a great assist for anyone seeking to improve his athletic performance. Though it took years for coaches to realize the potential that weight training had in relation to their own particular sport, it is gratifying to know that the age of enlightenment is upon us. 

However, like any other tool which the athlete has at his disposal, weight training must be properly utilized to receive maximum benefits. With this in mind, it is my fervent belief that a power rack routine is the answer to the athlete's problems. There is such an overwhelming case in favor of the rack, that it is surprising that more schools and organizations haven't yet seen the light. 

If one were to examine the needs of an athlete, regardless of which field he looks to, there would be four major factors, above and beyond a basic skill in that particular sport's fundamentals, that determine success. Sid Gillman, coach of the San Diego Chargers, related an incident which occurred a few years ago. When one of his younger players felt that heavy full squats would restrict his movement, Mr. Gillman asked, "Does weakness improve agility?" Does weakness improve anything? 

Strength is needed for any sport, and an increase in strength is a guarantee for an increase in performance. A sprinter exerts a force of 300 pounds with each leg while running a dash. Leg strength is essential for any type of running activity, which encompasses almost all sports. "Shotputters, football players, and others are in need of tremendous upper body power as well as leg drive, and the increase in weight training activity has been a direct factor in the rise of record breaking performances.

There is only one way to become really strong and that is to handle heavy weights. There is no other training method which allows one to handle the type of weight that one can use in a rack workout. 

No athlete can measurably improve his performance by waving around 30 pound dumbbells. But the ponderous loads that can easily be worked up to on the rack, insure immediate strength gains. It is for this reason that so many of the Olympic and powerlifters depend on the rack for strength gains. 

The second major component an athlete needs for success is endurance. Those of us who feel that weight training is the cure for al evils will have to admit that this is perhaps the one fault of a heavy routine. Though it is true that a stronger muscle is a more enduring one (as less fibers are called upon to perform a particular task), this type of training just doesn't give the lungs the kind of work necessary to induce a breathless state. The heavy weights are unexcelled for strength building, but the best way to build athletic endurance is a combination of distance running in combination with short sprints. An athlete, especially one who is burdened with studies (and perhaps part time work), just doesn't have time to spend 45 minutes jogging and sprinting after spending 1.5 to 2 hours in the weight room. Because one can complete a typical rack routine in 20 to 50 minutes, there is plenty of time to jog 2 or 3 miles and finish with a series of short sprints. This is impossible with any other method of training. 

The third factor is explosiveness, the ability to jump higher, start faster, or excel at the moment of truth. Your pulls and cleans are the best movements for building this and the fact that ex-pro football great Jim Taylor utilized the rack extensively in his training, gives ample proof for its effectiveness. 

Ripping a weight off the pins in one tremendous effort, is the type of movement which builds this oft-neglected ingredient. In addition, there is none of the pump up factor produced on the rack. In an experiment designed to display the dangers of a "pump routine," Alvin Roy had Bob Petit, the former basketball great, do some forearm work which produced a pumping of the arm. Following this, Petit could not even dribble a basketball without losing control of it. Pumping up will do this, and the danger here lies in the fact that a body part will pump up during competition if this is the type of training the body is subjected to. 

The fourth ingredient which often makes or breaks a potentially great athlete is confidence. An increase in bodyweight, and the knowledge that one is truly strong, provide the best salves for the athlete's ego. There is no other known system which allows one to consistently work as heavy as one can on the rack. Increases can be made weekly and there is no greater confidence booster. When one is using close to a thousand pounds for partial squats and 400 for pulls, there is no doubt that confidence will increase. 

A rack routine can be manipulated for any sport. Kansas City Chief strength coach Alvin Roy, who has trained such greats as Taylor. Billy Cannon, and others on the rack, suggest the following -- 

Train Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday doing the following routine:  

Low Pull
High Pull
Low Press
Middle Press
High Press
Low Squat
Quarter Squat

all for 1 set of 3 repetitions, the last being held for 12 seconds. 

This routine was the one made famous by the San Diego Chargers and is perhaps the best for the football player when followed by sprints and agility work.

The shotputter or discus man who requires strength at a different point of attack, may want to add low, middle and lockout incline and regular bench presses. 

Pat Casey used lockout bench presses while training for his record breaking performance (going so far as to build a modified rack directly onto his bench) and this should be enough evidence that it works. 

It is obvious that the advantages of a rack routine are numerous. The greatest increases in strength, which preclude increases in agility, confidence etc., have come with this type of training. I have personally watched the greats of various sports use this method and the reason they do is inevitably the same -- it works. These men are interested in results and they are obviously getting them. 

If you too are seeking improvement in your chosen sport, this is the best vehicle to take you to the top.

Enjoy Your Lifting! 


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