Thursday, June 29, 2023

Wise Words from Norbert Schemansky - Bob Hoffman (1963)


than On the plane on our return trip from Russia last spring, Norbert Schemansky said to me, "Let's quit reading the back issues of Strength & Health. Let's quit living in the past. Let's get up to date and make some world records and win some world championships!" 

A moment later, "Ski" said to me, "In Moscow I was talking to Kono, and he seemed concerned with Veres' presses and some of the other lifters' presses. He said that he was going to take pictures of the various presses and try to analyze them to see just how they do it. 

"I think Kono is missing the boat. His press is good. But his quick lifts are no longer good. And the same goes for Jim George, Tony Garcy and some of our other younger lifters. While these fellows have brought their presses way up, their quick lifts have stayed the same for years. In the meantime, their competition, men like Lopatin, Kaplunov, Veres, Toth, Baszanowski, Palinski and others have improved their presses and also brought up their quick lifts. The result is record lifts and totals. 

"And so I think that George, Kono, Garcy, and all others concerned should work on a second pull schedule for a few months to bring up those quick lifts." 

Ski is quite right. Two years ago in the Moscow Invitational Tommy Kono snatched 303 and had 314 at arm's length. Last year he missed all his snatches, and this year could do no better than 281. Two years ago Joe Puleo clean and jerked 340 for a Junior world record. Although he has cleaned more since, he has not jerked it. Two years ago Bill March snatched 295 on  second attempt. 

I have told all of these men so many times what they are failing to do. As Norb said they are not practicing enough high pulls. His terrific pull is responsible for his world record snatch of 362 pounds. Let's hope that with Ski backing me up these fellows will perform the exercises I have been urging them to perform. 

In the usual pull for the snatch or clean, about 80% of the effort is expended at the start of the movement. The other 20% accounts for the follow-through. In other words, after a maximum initial effort to start the bar, it simply carries through. But this is incorrect. What is needed is a maximum effort every inch of the way. This basic principle is stressed in all of the famous York courses. 

For the same reason, when we devised functional isometric contraction, with the three positions of the press, the three knee bends, and the three pulls, we did so for the purpose of making sure that strength will be built at every position where strength or force is applied. But this is not enough. Limited movement withvery heavy weights is needed to gain the greatest amount of power. 

Schemansky uses limited movement in his training. Paul Anderson always has done so too. Tommy Kono has used it with his pressing, but not enough in his snatching and cleaning. 

When Norb won the World heavyweight title in 1954 he presses 330.5. Last year at Budapest he pressed 402.25, and since the bar was weighing heavy the pooundage was probably even greater. In 1954 he held the World record in the snatch at 330.5. He still holds the World record in that lift, but it is at 362 pounds. This he has improved in both of these lifts, thanks in no small measure to his practice of limited movement.

Returning to our conversation of last March, Norb continued: "Most lifters have a pull like a triangle. By that I mean that they pull hard from the ground to the knees, but that from that point on up their pull diminishes to almost nothing, and by the time the bar reaches the shoulders there is no more effort involved. 

"What they should do is develop a program that stresses pull throughout the entire range of movement, trying to have as much power through the second pull phase as they do in the initial phase from the floor. 

"To build the pull in the higher positions I do three basic exercises. These are:

The lat pull from the knees with the back flat,
From the top of the thighs, and 
From the belt.        

In each of these positions I pull with the clean grip, then move my hands out to snatch position. 

And for each I use 2 sets of 2 reps each. 

On every rep I pull as high as is possible, regardless of the starting position. This is very important. 

"In the first position, from the knees, what I really do is a pull from the dead hang. The back is kept very flat. With the clean grip I use my best weight for the clean, and for the snatch grip I use my top snatch poundage. The same weights are used in the other two positions. 

"In the pull from the top of the thighs, the bar lies on the thighs at the beginning of the movement. The back is still kept very flat. The thighs are used to start the initial pull as in the continental. 

"Pulling from the belt is exactly the same as the same portion of the continental. As in the other two positions, I make a point of following through completely, going all the way up on toes.

"My reason for doing the clean pulls first is that when I drop down to the snatch pulls, they feel very light in comparison with the heavier weight for the clean pulls.

"All anyone who doubts that these lat pulls work has to do to learn otherwise is to try them. I guarantee that anyone who does so will have a sore pair of trapezius muscles and arms the next day regardless of how good a shape he may be in, which proves that these guys don't utilize all their pull in normal training." 

Fellows, here indeed are some wise words by a man who has shown just how true they are. Beset with injuries, surgical operations on his spine, and disappointments of every kind, HE KEPT TRAINING, KEPT FIGHTING until he made a world record snatch long after everyone thought he was finished. 

And when Vlasov, the great Russian world champion came along and broke his record, Ski came back like the champion he is to move that record even higher. And now he says that he feels he is ready to extend the record still farther into the stratoshere. 

Norbert Schemansky has used, and still uses limited movement with heavy poundages to improve his press and pull to great advantage. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!  


  1. Your blog post from November 10, 2019 has some photos showing Norb doing the variations he's talking about in this article:

    Thanks for both.


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