Question: I have been training hard on the Olympics for six months without making much progress: my best lifts are 140, 140, and 190. I start on the Press at 115 doing 3 repetitions from the shoulder several times and work up to 140. I do the same with the Snatch. On the Jerk I do repetition cleans with 160, but very little jerking. Can you improve my schedule?
Answer (Ronald Walker): You are making the mistake so many enthusiastic lifters make: using poundages that are far too heavy. You should start pressing and snatching at 100 pounds and never go beyond 125 in training. The lighter weights will seem very light, but you must not think that they ar too light. Repetition cleaning with 150 and 160 is quite in order, but do not neglect the jerk altogether.
Q: Sometimes with a heavy clean my grip fails and the bar drops out of my hands. Is there some way by which I can correct this?
A: You can try "locking" the thumbs -- that is, passing the first and second fingers over the thumb when you grip the bar (hook). Most lifters think this can only be done when the "get-set" style is employed, but, in fact, it can also be done with a slow dive. If your grip fails there is evidently a weakness in fingers and forearm which you must put right by special training.
Q: The largest discs on my training set are 10" in diameter. Should I support the discs on blocks to bring the bar up to regulation height from the ground?
A:Yes, you should always train under regulation conditions. Instead of using blocks you will find it easier to have some wooden discs cut. Snatching and cleaning with small discs is bad in the ordinary way but don't forget that it is excellent for improving the length and strength of the pull. Some lifters I know have had special small diameter lead discs made so that the bar was only 3 inches from the floor.
Q: I have a total of 565 pounds at 9 stone 10 pounds bodyweight (136 pounds). A little time back I reduced to featherweight and made 550 pounds. Do you think I should try to keep to the featherweight class of build up to lightweight?
A: Only men who have been training for many years and have reached a certain mark in bodyweight and development should ever think of keeping to a definite class, to say nothing of reducing to a lower one. Do all you can to increase to the lightweight limit and if your frame can carry the weight do not stop there.
Q: Nearly all the schedules I have seen advocate 3 repetitions from the shoulders on the Press and 3 snatches from the hang. Why the 3? Why not 6 or 10? And why not just one?
A: You can take it for granted that every conceivable number of repetitions has been tried and 3 repetitions on the Press and Snatch has emerged as the best general basis for training as the result of years of experiment. if you perform 6 repetitions you must use a poundage that is too light to give the muscles sufficient resistance; if you use single lifts the poundage must be too heavy to permit a sufficient quantity of work to be put in.
Q: I find it difficult to lock my arms with a weight overhead, What is the reason and how can I put the matter right?
A: The balance between the "locking" muscles and their antagonists is wrong and may be the result of lack of exercise or exercise wrongly performed. You can put the matter right by dumb-bell pressing, making sure that the arm is completely straightened with each repetition. You will find dumb-bells much superior to barbells for this purpose but light weights must be used.
Q: I have been training on the Olympic lifts three times a week and making fair progress. My lifts are 160, 170, and 230. Now I have the chance to train 5 times a week and I am told I should do pressing only on two evenings. Do you agree and if so what poundages should I use?
A: It suits most lifters to train on the Press only for two days a week and you should give the system a fair trial (two months at least) before trying anything else. There are two ways of arranging your poundages. If you keep your ordinary Olympic schedule unchanged you must not use more than 140 pounds on the two special evenings. In this case you should work up from 110 pounds doing 3 presses from the shoulder at each stage. You can go through this routine twice.
On the other hand you can cut down the pressing in your ordinary schedule and do more and heavier work on your special evenings, in which case the following system would be suitable:
115 - 3,3,3
125 - 3,3,3
135 - 3,3,3
145 - 2,2,2
150 - 1,1,1
I prefer this system myself.
Q: When I reach my limit on the Press my right arm straightens before the left and I get disqualified. Yet I can press as much with the left arm as the right with a dumb-bell so I do not seem to be specially weak on one side. I have tried altering the position of my hands on the bar but this does not help. Can I put this right?
A: A good press involves much more than the actual pressing muscles, the deltoids, triceps, etc., as all the muscles that support the trunk are brought into play. Your weakness may lie here and would not be so apparent with dumb-bells. If your present schedule is bringing results do not alter it a great deal, for in time it will level matters up. Single-handed dumbbell swinging will also help and so will the one hand jerk. You must use fairly heavy poundages and practice the lifts with both arms.
Q: As a result of 6 months hard training I have increased my weight by 10 pounds and all my measurements have gone up with the exception of my biceps which have stuck at 13.5 inches. For the past months I have specialized on them but still cannot get results.
A: You do not mention your other measurements, so I cannot judge how much your biceps are under standard. Unless there is a very glaring weakness you were wrong to alter a productive schedule and, quite likely, it is the specialization that has kept them down. Very few of the best developed men and hardly any first-class lifters pay special attention to the biceps -- forget them for a time and get back to your old schedule that was producing results.
Q: I have increased on the Press to 100 pounds but I cannot Snatch more than 140 or Clean more than 195 pounds. Shall I leave the Press entirely alone for a time and try to bring up my other lifts?
A: No. You cannot become better on one lift by leaving another alone unless you are doing so much work that you are exhausting yourself. First of all make sure that your styles on the Snatch and Clean are perfect. This you can only do with light weights. Your great weakness seems to lie in your pull from the ground and there are many lifts and exercises that will help overcome this. The Stiff-Legged Dead Lift is a good movement and better still if it is performed from boxes; the ordinary Dead Lift with reasonable weights and performed very quickly is also valuable. The first stage of the One Hand Swing is one of the best exercises in weight-lifting for strengthening the pull in the Snatch and the Clean.
Q: I wish to increase my poundages on the three Olympics which are at present 125, 125, and 160 pounds. Would you advise me what percentages to use and the correct number of reps? I understand that repetitions on the Press should be from the shoulders and repetitions on the Snatch from the "hang" position.
A: On the Press you should not use less than 70% or your maximum or more than 95%. On the Snatch the limits should be 65% and 90%. On the Clean & Jerk you need not handle more than 80% of your limit in training. With the lighter poundages 3 repetitions from the shoulder and 3 from the "hang" should be the rule in the Press and Snatch. 2 repetitions is sufficient when the bell reaches 85% or more. A sound schedule in your case would consist of 4 groups (sets) of 3 reps with 70%, 3 groups of 3 with 80%, 3 groups of 2 with 90%, and 3 single lifts with 95% on the Press. The Snatch would be the same except that you should start and finish with lighter poundages. You will not need the same amount of work on the Clean & Jerk although you must not neglect it entirely. Repetition cleaning will probably be advisable unless you are particularly weak overhead you need very little repetition work on the Jerk.
Q: We have an argument in our club regarding the effect of weight training on bone structure. we want to know: can the width of the shoulders be increased by growth of our bones or is the increase always due to deltoid development? We are referring to men up to 25 years of age. Can you also tell me the best weight lifting exercises for the latissimus dorsi?
A: Up to the age when natural growth is no longer possible weight training encourages the thickening and lengthening of bone structure. There have been cases where measurable growth has been registered up to 28 years of age. It is not, however a matter that can be controlled. There are no special exercises or exercise routines which will produce results if nature doesn't intend them to take place.
For the latissimus dorsi one of the most effective weight lifting exercises is the ordinary "Bent Press." If you wish to specialize upon this particular muscle you will do better to improvise a pulley-weight fixture, as the chief action of the muscle is to draw the arms toward the body.
Q: I have been training on the Olympics for three months and my best lifts are 135, 135, 180. Recently I had aa try out on some of the other lifts and found that all I could Dead Lift was 270. Is there any chance of my Clean & Jerk improving while my Dead Lift is so low? If I include the Dead Lift in my training will it slow me up for the Clean?
A: Your Dead Lift is certainly poor in relation to your Clean & Jerk, but don't allow it to bother you at present. Many great exponents of the Clean & Jerk have no better ratio to show than your own. As you improve your general ability on the Snatch and Clean & Jerk, your Dead Lift ability will increase likewise. It is unnecessary -- and I consider it inadvisable -- for you to include the Dead Lift in your training schedule. But if you do you can be quite sure that it will not slow you up in the slightest degree.
Q: Can you answer the following questions?
1) When I straighten my legs at the commencement of the Jerk, I use as much force as possible and always seem to come up on my toes. I believe this is a fault -- how can I correct it?
2) I have seen lifters clean with a normal grip and then before jerking adopt the thumbless grip. Are you in favor of this?
3) What width of grip do you favor for the Jerk?
4) I can Snatch 150 and Jerk 200 pounds without splitting the feet (I have to lift in an upstairs room). How much more should I handle by means of a split?
A: 1) It isn't a fault at all although there is a danger that the direction of the Jerk will be forwarded. With maximum poundages it probably won't occur and need not concern you if it does.
2) It is quite permissible to change the grip when the bar is at the shoulder, but only advisable if it affords greater comfort and confidence.
3) For most people the ideal hand spacing for the Jerk is some 6" wider than shoulder width.
4) It is impossible to say how much more you will Snatch and Jerk when you learn to split your feet. If you are unable to practice the split at all, you should leave both lifts alone for the time being. Snatching and Jerking without a split are not good or advisable exercises.
Enjoy Your Lifting!