Tuesday, May 23, 2023

How to Lift Weights in One Easy Lesson -- Harry Paschall


"A Somewhat Fanciful Discussion Containing 
Considerably More Truth Than Poetry"
by Harry Paschall

Let us suppose that you are duly arrived at a point in your training where you feel the itch to become a real honest-to-gosh Weight Lifter. Let us further suppose that, instead of reading all the silly claptrap that has been written about the mystery of Olympic Lifting, you have brains enough to come directly to Headquarters for the inside dope. In other words, you are a sworn disciple of the Great Bosco. 

Let us dress up the occasion a bit. Let us suppose that Bosco has, run for office of the President on the Musclehead Ticket and has been elected in a landslide. You will therefore make you approach to the Master in appropriate surroundings, viz., the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (after all, if YOU can dream, so can we!).

Let us now assume you have been properly frisked by a couple of S.S. men at the entrance and are now being ushered along the long hallway to the Inner Sanctum. On either side of this corridor stands a line of honor guards. These are picked men, selected from the outstanding barbell gyms of the country. 

At first these men had only 47 inch chests and 17 inch biceps, but as you approach the Presence, they grow progressively bigger. The chests grow from 47 to 55 and the arms from 17 to 21. When you spot Johnny McWilliams, right at the doorway, you realize your are almost there. His arms have been taped at 22 inches, after an icepack. 

Are your knees knocking? Take heart, acolyte, it is only a few steps farther . . . 

The door swings open . . . 

Across an interminable stretch of carpet is a raised dias, upon which is a large mahogany desk. Behind this desk, in solitary grandeur, sits the most magnificent man in the world . . . your friend and my friend, the people's choice, the incomparable Peace and Muscle Maker . . . The Great Bosco. 

Descend to your knees, O Pilgrim, and bow your head three times in the direction of the Mighty One {none of this is me, it's all Harry P.}.

Now arise (if you are able) and walk humbly forward.

The Great One is in an affable mood; beneath his moustache a jovial smile is almost visible. Remember he is only, after all, a glorified musclehead like yourself. Don't let those 36-inch biceps frighten you. Note the cheerful glow on his pointed dome as the rosy light touches it gently from the tall windows. Now -- listen! The Master Speaks!   

{But first, hows about a pic of Marvin Eder pressing 320 at 187 in good style.} 

"Ho! Ho!" The Master chortles, in a deep bass voice. "So how are the Babes treatink you, mine leetle musclehead?" 

At this point a majestic figure enters from the private doorway at the left and approaches the dias . . . 

You begin to tremble anew, for this is none other than the Great John Grimek, Secretary of the Interior, recently elevated by presidential decree to the newly created office of Prime Beef Minister. He is bearing a portfolio under his 19 inch arm. He opens it and takes out some impressive looking documents. 

"Chief," he says familiarly, placing one of the papers before the Master. "Those blankety-blank Chinamen are raising hades again over around Chung Chow. What do you suggest we do?" 

"Vot they doink now," asks Bosco.

"Now they are hanging Communists. Seems they ran out of foreign white devils to torture. The British are sore about it, and want us to set up a blockade." 

"Ah, nobody can understand der Chinese. Unless they got a laundry to run they always cause trouble. Have you communicated with Bill Pullum at 10 Downing Street? Vot does he say?" 

"We have reports from all accredited officials. Jean Dame, the French Premier says it is just a case of Indo-China all over again. We  all feel it is up to your superhuman genius to solve the problem. Give with the brains, pal."   

"Aha!" cries the Great One, putting one hand inside his sweatshirt a la Napoleon. "I vill solve der problem. Ship immediately, if not sooner, vun thousand York Olympic Sets. Start all der Chinamen in Chung Chow doing clean and yerks. Take away all their benches -- dey been banch-pressink too much, and all der brains have gone out of their heads into der pectorial muskles. Set opp a prize contest. Der first Chinaman who cleans and yerks 400 lbs. gets a medal and der recipe how to make American Chop Suey out of Hy-Proteen sybeans. I, Bosco, haf spoken." 

The Prime Minister retires. It is your turn again. You fumble for appropriate words. You don't need any, for Bosco speaks to you . . . 

"So you vant to be a Veight Lifter? Oddervise, you vould neffer haf passed the palace guards. Pull up dot 900 pound barbell -- der leetle one over dere, and set down, mine Frand. Let Bosco geef you der "Real Gen", as our British cousins say {and punctuate} it." 

{Okay, now the lifting part of this lifting article starts. Go Harry!}

The very best way to learn to lift big weights is to frequent a gym where good weightlifters are in training. There is no substitute for friendly rivalry and group participation in heavy training. But even in such a gym you also run the chance that you may pick up some worn out and obsolete lifting practices. So let us discuss this lifting business with a completely open mind.

If you are a beginner in the sport of Weightlifting, you must first of all make a choice of the lifting technique you are going to employ. This lifting style must fit both your physique and your temperament. 

{I neglected to mention the obvious again here. He's speaking of weightlifting, Oly lifting in this one, but once again, there are things here applicable to all forms of lifting.}

Generally speaking, there are but two styles, although there are as many variations of either as there are lifters. 

The FIRST style is the SQUAT technique, as used by the notable American champions, Pete George, Tommy Kono, Dave Sheppard and many others now coming into prominence. 

The SECOND style is the one used by most of the former champions, the SPLIT technique. Its greatest present protagonist is Norbert Schemansky, the first consistent 400 lb. jerk lifter. 

Briefly, the style takes its name from the tactics of the lifter in pulling a barbell to his shoulders in the "clean", and in taking it to arms length overhead in the "snatch". The squat style lifters drop into a deep, full squat to lower the body under the bar, while the split lifters employ a fore-and-aft splitting of the legs. 

The question arises -- which is MY natural style? How can I lift the most weight? This should be answered by an experiment, using both techniques . . . 

It is not at all necessary to pile all the weight you can lift on the bar for such an experiment. Simply load up a bar you can press easily for several repetitions. Pull it into the shoulders -- and we do mean SHOULDERS. Lift the deltoids consciously so they actually raise the bar an inch or two. The bar should also fit snugly in at the neck, but should not press against the throat. In order to attain this position your elbmows must be lifted to the front and the HIGHER you can raise those elbows, the better. 

Now, still holding the bar in this position, squat all the way down to the lowest possible position, keeping the heels FLAT on the floor. You will find that bar must be well back under the chin, and the elbows held up, or yhou cannot successfully do this deep squat and then recover to an upright position. Some of you will require 2-inch heels on your shoes {preferably white bucks} to keep the flat-foot position which is absolutely essential to success in squat lifting. 

The whole question of aptitiude may be determined by this test. If you can squat with elbows UP, bar resting on your deltoids, you are a squat lifter. If you can't, then the split is your style.

It may astonish some of the Experts to find, by testing a group of newcomers to lifting (particularly a group of boys), that a full 3/4 of the youngsters fall into this position quite naturally. They are not muscle-bound. Even comparatively recent books on lifting, such as Jim Halliday's OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING make the mistake of sassumint that the squat technique is only for the exceptional person instead of for the majority. They would quickly change their minds if they saw what happens to the average lad who wanders into Larry Barnholth's lifting gym in Akron, Ohio. 

This is interesting as well:

These lads are given their choice -- and more than 90% of them become squat lifters. They take to this style as naturally as breathing.

Further experiments at several leading gyms have been conducted, where the same ratio was maintained. They take to this style as naturally as breathing. 

Further experiments at several leading gyms have been conducted, where the same ratio was maintained. Only when mature lifters, who have been trained in split style lifting are tested, do we run into much difficulty. Many of these have not the supple hips and flexible shoulders required for successful squat style lifting. In fact, it is very doubtful if a confirmed split stylist could be converted to the simpler squat style, because of what we may well term, muscle binding. 

There is another class of man who may find the splity style quite satisfactory -- the athlete with blinding speed of movement, such as Schemansky Shams and Stanczyk. There are some who will be forced to the split style because of short upper arms which make it impossible for them to rest the bar upon the deltoids and keep the elbows up. Even these may find the squat style practical for the snatch were such mid-way rest is not required. When it is possible for you to use the squat technique, your would indeed be a chump not to use it, for it is considerably the more efficient method.

If, after taking your test, you have found you can lift in the squat style, we are ready to proceed to the actual practice of lifting. So we will now proceed to take the Three Olympic Lifts apart for your edification. 


This lift is always run off first in competition, on the theory, perhaps, that a man must be fresh to put forth his full effort on this more or less pure strength feat. 

During the years this lift has gone through many changes, and in some quarters today, does not much resemble what we used to call a "press". we think it should be clarified and the rules tightened so that once more it calls for strength instead of guile. 

In the old days the rules said the bell should be pulled upward to the CHEST, and rest thereon for a period of two seconds when it was to be pressed above the head without sudden start, body motion, leg motion or back bend. 

Lately some of the cheaters have taken to cleaning the weight to the SHOULDERS rather than the chest, and with a thrust of the deltoids and a jerk of the body (without using the legs) the bell is "shushed" so fast that the referee has difficulty in following it; the object being to get it past the "sticking point" before the roof falls in. 

We note this false position pictured in Halliday's OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING book, a sad commentary on present day manners and morals. For if a lifter ever gives evidence of his intention to cheat, this is done when he assumes a bar-on-deltoids position in the press. He is going to give it the "works" the minute the befuddled referee claps his hands as the starting signal.

We are quite aware that the looseness of the rules may seemingly permit this transgression. We appeal to honest officials and to honest lifters to return the press to honesty and honor. And we make this suggestion as to starting position: 

Make the bar rest upon the clavicular joint, so it may NOT be lowered down the chest for a swishing start, and also keep the deltoids back of the bar, so it does not rest thereon. This will call forth protests from two sections of lifters, those who can get a running start from the low chest position, such as Terpak and Terlazzo, and the deltoid brigade, who depend upon a shoulder thrust to start the bar. 

Personally, we would like to see the OLYMPIC press discarded, and the MILITARY press, with heels together, and a slow, even press all the way returned. It would make for easier judging, and would keep a lot of weightlifters out of penal institutions in later life as a result of their moral standards being lowered in an endeavor to cheat the judges. Once a thief always a thief. 

Old Bernarr Macfadden used to have a slogan, "Weakness is a Crime -- Why Be a Criminal?" It might well apply to weightlifters who prefer to take the easy way in the press.

Now, as to hints on pressing style. We prefer a wide grip with the hands several inches out on the knurling of the Olympic bar, so that when the bell arrives at the chest (or clavicular joint) the hands will be outside the shoulders. 

An easy clean is imperative is a press is to be done properly, so a lot of time should be previously devoted to high pull-up cleans with the feet in line in pressing position, i.e., less than 16 inches apart. 

No foot motion whatever should be employed in the clean for the press. Practice, practice, practice, until you have such a strong pull that you can easily clean your press poundages without effort. 

It will help, too, if you clean them higher than necessary and allow the weight to drop down as it goes to the top of the chest. Our old friend Chris Whitaker of Columbus used to pull his press cleans almost to his eyes and then lower the bar to the starting position, saying he felt this "found his groove" for him. Our personal experience bears this out -- but we see no reason for an exaggerated clean -- just an easy one that goes a little higher than necessary.

The starting position for the press is of utmost importance. The lower back MUST be kept locked in with the hips and straight, rigid legs, before the arm lift is started. 

To do this, the hips must go forward -- not in a pronounced S curve, as so many try to do it, but slightly, just enough for a firm lock, the shoulders lean back slightly, so they are above the hips, the WHOLE BODY being rigid as steel. 

Upon this structure, the arms are relaxed, the bell rests across the clavicular joint, a deep breath is taken and the bell is started easily upward, gaining in momentum as it reaches the eyes. 

The head must be kept well back and the bar pressed with a feeling of grazing the nose, as CLOSE as possible, so that when the bell reaches the top of the head, you can get it directly overhead and finish the press. 

If your locked position is right, you will find that it is -- amazingly so -- for you have "found the groove" or course of least resistance. 

Many will find that the RUSSIAN METHOD OF BREATHING during the press is a help. Novak, who presses 315 in the 181 class, breathes in deeply before he cleans and holds the full breath as he presses. 

Note: Here is Doug Hepburn on the breath in the Press: 

"I would like to cover more fully the breathing process from the commencement of the clean to the completion of the press. This method is for single attempts only. 

As you start to pull the bar to the shoulders at the beginning of the clean you inhale. DO NOT EXHALE when the bar is at the shoulders and you are in position to press. The inflated chest serves as a support and tends to raise the bar to a higher point thus simplifying the press as there is less pressing distance. 

Also, if the trainee exhales at this point the bar will drop causing the muscles of the chest and shoulders to sag so that vital time and energy is lost repositioning the bar. When this is done the bar will be in a lower position than it was originally. Sometimes the position is lost completely, causing a failure with a limit attempt. 

Do not exhale until the bar has passed through the sticking point of the press. Normally this is the region of the top of the head or forehead. The reader might feel that this is an unusually long time to hold the breath, but it is only a matter of a few seconds so there will be little difficulty, especially when one is conditioned for it."

Note: the article continues here . . . 

This is a little dangerous and conducive to blackouts, but if the breath is released as the bell passes the sticking point (the forehead), it seems to work quite well. It is certainly true that inflated lungs give better leverage to press upon. The practice of taking a deep breath just before the press starts is probably the safest method. 

{Okay . . . this one's got way more in it than first meets the eye with that intro. Hats Off to Harry for that! I'll put the Snatch, and the Clean & Jerk in Parts Two and Three to follow.}

Enjoy Your Lifting! 



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