Sunday, September 24, 2023

Modern Strand-Pulling, Part One - David Webster


Courtesy of Jan Dellinger.
Thank You, Sir! 

by D.G. Johnson
Editor of "Health and Strength" and
"The Body Builder." 

In assessing the lessons to be learned in the highly competitive sports arenas of today, every unbiased authority will declare emphatically that skill alone is not sufficient and that it must be applied by an athlete who is physically perfectly suited to the event. 

The top-flight athlete today must be "body-built" for the particular tests demanded of him. He must be the acme of perfection in both mental and physical aspects. And so it is that the pastime, or sport, or hobby, of BODYBUILDING, in all its phases -- and there are many -- has so grown in popularity that very few folk of either sex do not come into contact with it in one form or another in one or many ways. 

Today, Bodybuilding, having survived its earlier difficult times of apathy and ridicule, has won a well-merited place in the life of millions because its effects are real and long-lasting. 

Bodybuilding is the application of progressive resistance exercise to the body for a particular purpose. 

It is not generally appreciated that there are several excellent ways of applying progressive resistance exercises to the body, and it is, in my view, a great pity that some have been neglected. 

Strandpulling is one example and that is where the author of this book, 
my old friend David Webster, comes in.      

David is the supreme enthusiast, a veritable dynamo who turns out brilliant ideas and masses of practical information which every bodybuilder can read easily and fully understand. 

Like all great enthusiasts, he holds definite opinions which sometimes may prove unacceptable to his closest friends, among whom I have the privilege to be one. But his practical knowledge and his ability to instruct in his own field are unexcelled. 

It has been my pleasure to encourage him in every way and his splendid instructional articles in "The Bodybuilder" especially have brought a great new interest in the use of strandpulling as a sure and certain method of all-round development. 

Quite obviously this method he so brilliantly expounds has advantages over other methods, and for this one fact alone it deserves commendation by anyone who is anxious to see British physical culture prosper. 

Note: Here's more from David Webster: 

Yikes! Along with the two previous strandpulling articles by Mr. Webster. 

Now, on to Part One . . . 


It is customary for the budding author to to start his first book with a short autobiography relating the highlights of a wonderful life. With a physical culture publication more often than not it is a tale of overcoming of physical handicaps, to reach great heights in the realm of Muscledom. 

I cannot claim to have had a poor start in a life that has been crammed with sport and physical culture as long as I remember. My parents brought me up on healthy lines with good plain in large quantities and anyone acquainted with Scottish culinary customs will agree that porridge, Scotch broth, haggis, "skirlie," "neeps," "tatties," and such like are just the things to build a firm foundation for a growing lad. 

From the time I started school  I can remember that visits to pictures and theaters never held any great interest for me, but the regular wrestling shows in town were quite a different story! I used to queue for a good cheap seat and sit enthralled by the mighty physiques and strength of the pachyderms of the mat. I came to know many of these grapplers personally and collected a store of knowledge enabling me to study form and forecast results accurately. 

Note: Over the last little while I have found that a lot of lifters got their first inspiration to build their bodies from the masters of the mat. Some great physiques with plenty of strength among those men! 

Before long I was a cigarette card millionaire, my brother and I having opened a book on the results, and with well placed bets with the opposition, using cigarette cards instead of money, we gathered what to us was a fortune. Our collection for many a long day was the talk of the school! 


Now, I know that these boyish interests in sport will not be of great reading value to most of you, so I shall skip the next few years of visits to Highland Games, Sports Meetings and shows till the dark days of World War Two. 

In Scottish strandpulling, one name stands out above all others -- Gavin Pearson of Glasgow. With Ron Clemson of Middlesbrough, in 1940, Gavin founded the International Steel Strand Association and did a great job in encouraging physical fitness and morale boosting, as a glance at the physical culture mags of that period will show. Hardly a week passed without a display; the enthusiasts traveled great distances at their own expense to demonstrate and compete in competitions until a good following resulted and the Association was well established.  

Note: International Steel Strand Association handbook, here:

In 1945 I joined the I.S.S.A. and traveled to Leeds to see some of the top notchers in action. I had been training with a set of ungraded strands and had no knowledge of the poundages that I was handling. I knew only the numbers of springs on the handles for the various exercises I practiced. I believe this was a very good thing, because I had no mental barrier and did not realize that what I was doing was in any way out of the ordinary. 

Gavin Pearson has always given me great encouragement and that day persuaded me to attempt some Certificate of Merit poundages. I did extremely well and broke the North of England records. I was only sixteen years old at this time and I believe the only strand-puller to break this achievement was the popular Sammy Perkins, one time member of the stage teams, the "Zenith Brothers" and later Reub Martin's "Martinis" and "Trois des Milles."

In October of 1945, back in Scotland, I was runner-up in the British 9st. Championships and the proud North of Scotland title holder. 

A very active year followed in 1946. I entered for and won, the title of Scotland's Best All-round Strand-puller, a contest of several rounds. This gave me great competition experience, a chance at record breaking and an opportunity to meet many other strand-pullers. I managed to establish several new records, including a Right Arm Upward Push, my best pull, which is regarded as a World Record. The record is still held by me at the time of writing with a poundage of 350 pounds. 

I was a tired but very happy traveler back to Aberdeen that July evening with a double victory to my credit, having won the final round of Scotland's Best All Rounder and having beaten Gavin in a special challenge match at the Dennistoun Weightlifting Club, Glasgow. 

My first experience in International competition took place in London in January, 1946, representing Scotland with Gavin Pearson against Bill Blackman, winner of many titles and awards, and Charlie Schilds, who was by far the heaviest of the quartet. 

This was my first attempt at  rubber strands, and I was amazed to find the method of ascertaining the poundage of the strands very different from the acknowledged principles of Hooke's Law, as taught in schools and universities. It is possible to be credited with much higher poundages on rubber strands than on steels owing to this testing anomaly and also owing to the greater lengths of strands approved by the B.A.S.P.A. I have decided views on the subject of testing strands and all the aspects of this, and intend entering into greater detail later in the book.

The exercise value of all-round strand pulling had increased my weight nearly a stone -- ye earnest seekers after body-weight, please take note! I now weighed in the region of 10 stone, my legs remaining comparatively light, and was determined to win the Scottish Open Championship before going into the Army, continued in Part Two. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!  



Saturday, September 16, 2023

How Roy Callender Trains - Bill Reynolds


Great photo of Kono! 
Now, some b-building stuff . . . 
of a slightly extreme nature, some may say.

"I have a lot to learn," confessed Roy Callender, who only 12 hours before had won the IFBB Pro Mr. Universe title. "Every time I come to one of these contests, I learn something new and invariably come away with a better appreciation of how much I still don't know." 

I must confess that I was somewhat taken aback by this statement. Here's aa man 5'8" who packs on a rock-hard 220 pounds for each contest. After two years of training, he'd made short work of Mr. United Kingdom and Mr. Europe contestants. And after two years of comeback training, he'd already taken the Mr. Canada, Mr. International, Amateur Mr. Universe and Pro Mr. Universe titles. If this guy was serious about not knowing how to train, he must be one of the greatest natural bodybuilders the sport has ever seen! 

"I wouldn't say that I'm that gifted," answered Roy. "It's true that I've won international titles after two years of training and, incidentally, without ever hearing of steroids. Because of that, people call me gifted, but they don't eat with me and they don't train with me. They might come to the gym when I start, but when they're done training and at a bar somewhere having a beer, I'm still in the gym. If being able to work hard can be termed gifted, then I am gifted, but you can bet that hard work has put me where I am today.

Where Roy Callender is today is damn near the top of the pyramid of bodybuilders striving for Mr. Olympia gold. His incredible muscle fullness has been supplemented in the last year by a sane approach to balancing his proportions. By laying off 500-pound rep squats and using continuous tension movements, Roy has streamlined his formerly overly large and hammy thighs. This has given him a 25% overall improvement in his physique, but he's far from satisfied. 

"Like everyone, I have weak points. I train them longer and harder, and they come up, but they are still a bit down from what I'm looking for. Right now I'm sure to get in a solid hour of hard training for my calves every day."

This last statement gives some insight into Roy's training strategy. He doesn't just train, he bombs (The Barbados Bomber!) his muscles with massive weights for incredible numbers of sets. 

Sometimes he's in the gym as much as eight hours per day, all fast and heavy training. But we're moving too quickly. Let's let Roy tell how he trains in his own words. 

"To begin with, you must understand that I train instinctively. Over the years I've been able to learn what my body is telling me it needs, and then I am sure to train according to these subtle feelings. As a result of this, I train differently every day -- different body parts, different lengths of workouts. I may train som body parts daily, particularly those that are lagging.

"Since I live 25 miles from the gym where I train, I have a lot of time to think about my coming workout on the drive to the gym. According to how I feel, I plan out approximately what I will do for my workout that day. some days I feel like doing my whole body in one day, while others I can do much less. Either way, the plan I make while driving in will be subject to change according to how good I feel at various stages of the workout.

"Generally speaking, I train seven days a week until my body demands a rest. I don't know about weeks or months, just that when the sun rises I have to get up and go train, be it Sunday, Tuesday, bank holiday or Christmas. Finally, my body gets to a point where it tells me I have to rest, and only then do I take a day off. The most I've gone was 20 straight days, and the least was 12. 

"Once I get into the gym, I like to dress tropically. I hate to cover myself like an Eskimo, because I do come from Barbados originally, and it's in the tropics. In Montreal the weather gets cold at times, but it's not necessary to dress heavily at times. Some guys in the gym seem to feel it has to be cold, so they open all the windows in the winter. That disturbs me very much, and I really can't function to my fullest under these conditions. 

"In the gym I prefer to dress in track pants, a T-shirt and carpet slippers. I always train in those carpet silppers. I also always use sponges to protect my hands.        

Heaven only knows why I pick certain bodyparts to work on certain days. I just go by instinct, as to what to work. I just seem to know what needs some training and how much it needs. Over the years the instinct just developed. I can't explain it, but it happens. 

In Canada, you just have to warm up thoroughly, and I know I must warm up more than if I was training in California. 

I work light at first on every movement, doing two or three warmup sets, even if I'm already warm from another exercise. If I've been doing chest for an hour or two and switch over to shoulders, they'll be somewhat warm from the pec work, but I still do the two or three warmup sets for each delt exercise. With heavy training, this warmup is the only way I avoid injuries.

Actually, bodybuilding has been very therapeutic for my joints. I've had joint problems, but from pro wrestling, not from bodybuilding. I was what wrestlers call a flyer -- always in the air, and my back, knees, and elbows took a big pounding every time I landed on the mat. It all took its toll, so I couldn't squat or bench without warming up all day once I began fulltime bodybuilding. After two years, my joints now feel fine.  

My body requires both high intensity and high volume workouts to grow. 

Sometimes I train a bodypart two or three hours at a time with heavy weights and rest 30-45 seconds between sets on average. 

A few weeks ago I found myself doing a chest superset using a pair of 135 pound dumbbells for 8 on the incline dumbbell press and 100's for 8 on flyes. I've squatted 500 and benched 400 for a lot of reps. Very strictly, I can curl 200 pounds for 4 reps.

There is a conscious link between my mind and the muscles, and I don't reaally think about the weight I'm using. That's why I was so surprised to be using so much in the chest superset I just mentioned. The muscles simply grow to accommodate heavy weights.

Everyone asks me how many sets I do per bodypart, and putting a number on that would be unfair. I don't count sets and usually don't even count reps, so putting a number on it would be asking me to guess. I do feel I have to train long hours, which probably means a lot of sets. I certainly wouldn't train less than 3.5 hours per day, because it just wouldn't give me a good workout.

My really long workouts seem to happen about once every two weeks. I'm feeling good, and at such times I don't even know how long I've been in the gym. I'm enjoying the workout so much that it seems like I've been in the gym an hour, but it's been eight. I'll drink some liquids during the eight hours, but I never eat anything until I'm done training. 

I wish I could say that diet plays a great part in my success, but I simply don't know enough about it yet. I have been monitoring my diet, but it's in ignorance. You know, I didn't even know how to eat right in the last few days before a competition. I received a few hints and they helped enormously for the Pro Mr. Universe. I was more ripped, more vascular and less waterlogged than ever before. Nobody had told me how to eat and dehyrdrate before. 

I have so much to learn still that a trip to California for a few weeks is obligatory. Instead of just talking to the champions once aa month at the contests, I could talk with them every day. You know that it would help me a hell of a lot. 

I learn a lot from people like Robby, Mike Mentzer and you, Bill (Reynolds). My attitude changes toward the positive a little bit each time I talk with someone. I found out, for example, that it was possible to be goal-oriented and yet have no purpose along the way. Talking to you three has convinced me that having a purpose makes goals more obtainable. 

My general training philosophy is based on goals, but what's the use of having goals with no purpose. As a professional, I have to be goal oriented. There's also a touch of ego in it. I feel as though I let myself down if I don't go all-out to reach the goals I set. 

This year's goal is the Olympia and my purpose is not to let myself down. I've promised myself I'll win, and I don't ever want to go back on a promise to myself. Of course, I also promised my little daughter, which makes my purpose twofold.   


Enjoy Your Lifting! 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Dynamic Attention -- Bill Starr (2007)


                             If this lift and the victory spin don't put a smile on your face you must be dead. 

Note to Eric: here's that Hise article. Turns out I already posted it in 2012. 

Quick lifts are key for crafting a stronger, broader, back . . . 

One of the things I've always liked about training the back is that there are so many useful exercises to choose from. In addition, the back responds very favorably to explosive movements, which is not the case for the shoulder girdle or hips and legs. 

While it's true that push presses and jerks can be done dynamically, the other standard exercises for the shoulder girdle, such as flat- and incline-benches, need to be performed in a controlled fashion. That goes for exercises that work the hips and legs as well. Attempting to squat, lunge or leg press rapidly usually results in dings or more serious injuries. 

The back, on the other hand, thrives on vigorous movements, and you can do quite a few with very little equipment and in a small area. 

I believe every program should include at least one quick lift. That's not because you can use more weight on those exercises, for in most cases you'll handle less weight than you can on deadlifts or bentover rows, but rather because the explosive movements activate muscles and corresponding attachments differently. The greatest benefit of doing a quick lift is that it forces the nervous system to become more involved, which produces faster gains. 

The quick lifts I use include:

power cleans
power snatches
snatch (wide grip) and clean high pulls.

Once trainees learn how to power clean correctly, they can do all the other exercises mentioned, plus a host of others, much more easily. And as they're honing their form on the power clean, they're building a solid strength base that will help them move on to the other quick lifts, especially the two variations of the high pull. 

The power clean is known as the "athlete's exercise" for a couple of reasons. Good athletes excel at it, and performing it enhances athletic attributes such as coordination, timing and quickness. I used to tell the coaches of various sports at the University of Hawaii and John Hopkins who their best athletes were just by observing them at their first power clean session. I was always right. 

When I taught the Big Three . . . 

. . . to the newly drafted players of the Baltimore Colts, I told the coaches and general manager that I could list them from best to worst in terms of athleticism. They didn't believe me until I wrote down the names. I ranked the rookies in the exact order in which they'd been drafted, and I'd never seen the draft report. I just put them through a workout. My gauge was the power clean.

Once athletes have perfected their technique and are handling heavier weights, the power clean has a great carryover value to any sport. It has been shown that after swimmers become proficient in the power clean, their move off the starting block is faster. The same happens with sprinters. Rowers respond very favorably to this quick lift. Not only does it improve overall back strength, but it enhances timing and coordination, critical factors for success in their sport, as well.

When done correctly the power clean . . . 

. . . works nearly every muscle in your body from your feet to your head. 

The better your form, the more muscles you activate, so you must spend time practicing technique. Don't overcomplicate the mechanics of the lift, however, a common mistake. 

During the first hectic days of an off-season program the football coaches would help me with the beginners. Unlike most collegiate strength coaches, I never had an assistant. Invariably, my helpers would turn the simple movement of power-cleaning a weight into a highly complex maneuver that left the players

The coaches would break down the lift into several segments:

How to bring the bar from the floor to your knees,
then how to bring it from your knees to your waist, and, finally,
how to flip the bar into the racked position at the shoulders.

The athletes weren't able to get the feel of the movement because there were too many factors to think about. When I'd see that happen with an athlete, after the coach moved on to bewilder another player, I'd have the athlete assume and proper starting position and tell him, "Now pull the bar up close to your body in one fast motion and rack it on your shoulders." And he would do just that without any hesitation or difficulty. 

As with any other high-skill athletic movement, improvement comes with diligent practice and attention to the smallest form points. 

The better your technique, the more weight you'll be able to handle, which means greater strength gains. 

Perfecting your form also lowers your risk of injuries. During the learning phase, stay with lighter weights so you can concentrate on doing each rep correctly. Once you have the form down pat, the numbers will take care of themselves. 

Step up close to the bar so that your shins are touching it. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart with toes pointed forward. 

To find your ideal foot placement, shut your eyes and set your feet as if you were about to do a standing broad jump. That's your strongest thrusting position. 

The grip will vary slightly due to different shoulder widths, but for most this guideline works. Extend your thumbs until they barely touch the smooth center of an Olympic bar. Or grip the bar just outside your legs. A bit of trial and error may be necessary. If your grip is too narrow, you'll have trouble racking the bar properly, and if it's too wide, the rack will hurt your shoulders. 

Flatten your back, lower you hips, and look straight ahead -- but don't lower your hips too much. Higher is better because it gives you a longer pulling lever, but only if you're able to hold that starting position when you break the bar off the floor.

Before you commence the pull, make sure your front deltoids are slightly in front of the bar and the bar is against your shins. Instead of thinking about pulling the bar off the floor, push down through the floor with your feet. That helps you establish a solid base. 

The start needs to be a controlled move. Don't attempt to jerk the bar upward. 

The bar will always try to run forward, so you have to guide it in the correct line close to your legs. Remember, a bar doesn't have a brain. It only goes where you lead it. 

Once the bar passes your knees, it should start picking up speed. Drive your hips forward in a fast, powerful move, extend high on your toes, and contract your traps. ALL THE WHILE YOUR ARMS ARE STILL STRAIGHT. 

Hips, calves, traps and then arms is the sequence you want. 

If you bend your arms before activating your traps, you won't be able to use those very strong muscles nearly as efficiently, and it will have a negative influence on the finish. As soon as the traps elevate the bar, follow through with your arms to give it that final snap so you can rack it more easily.    

When the coordinated efforts of your traps, arms and calves have put a JOLT on the bar, it will float momentarily and that's when you drive your elbows under it and rack it across your front delts, not your collarbones. Banging the bar against your clavicles repeatedly is not only painful, but it can damage your bones as well. 

As you rack the bar, lift your shoulder girdle up to create a ledge of muscle on which to fix the weight. As that happens, bend your knees to help absorb the shock of the descending bar. 

That should be a short dip and not an exaggerated one. Since the purpose of doing the power clean is to develop as many muscles as possible, the longer the pull, the better.  

The dip should not resemble a half squat, rather, a short coordinated move that's just enough to cushion the shock of the bar striking your body.

When the bar is racked, your upper body must remain erect or a bit forward, or you're inviting lower-back problems. Some athletes are unable to correct that form fault, so I have them make adjustments to the way they rack. I have them take a short step to the side with both, which enables them to maintain a straight torso and eliminates jamming the lumbars. 

After the bar is racked firmly on your shoulders, stand up and get ready to lower the weight to the floor. The important thing to remember is that you need to do that with a flat back, not a rounded one. That's best accomplished by flipping the bar over and stopping it at your waist, then deliberately lowering it to the floor. 

Reset and make sure your grip, feet and back are where they should be; tuck the bar in against your shins; extend your deltoids out in front of the bar; and do your next rep. 

Do your breathing prior to the initial pull and after the bar is racked. Hold your breath during the execution of the lift. 

As you're pulling the bar upward, think of the movement in terms of a whip cracking; relatively slow coming off the floor, picking up speed through the middle and turning into a blur at the finish. 

A whip cracking . . . 
relatively slow off the floor,
picking up speed through the middle,
turning into a blur at the finish. 

Once you learn to blend all three segments into one smooth movement, the bar will float upward almost effortlessly. 

A further word on racking the bar. Many who try power cleans for the first time find that they're very tight in the shoulders and have difficulty racking the weight. That's particularly true of those who've been doing lots of bench presses or extensive arm work. Also older athletes haven't bothered to keep their shoulders flexible. Those who have this problem must spend time stretching their shoulders and elbows before doing power cleans. 

The best way to accomplish that is to put a bar in a power rack at shoulder height and lock it in place (or load it up with a lotta plates). Grip the bar at your shoulders, lift one elbow as high as you can while keeping your body straight, and hold that position for a count of eight to 10. Then do the other arm. If you're quite tight, repeat for several sets. 

For the next step you'll need a partner. Grip the bar with both hands and fix it on your shoulders just as you would when you rack the power clean. Have your partner slowly elevate your arms by pushing up against your elbows. In order for this to be effective, you must maintain an upright torso. If you lean back, you're defeating the purpose of the exercise. When your elbows are as high as you can stand, hold them there for an eight to 10 count, take a break, then do it again. Each time you do this isometric hold, you'll find that your elbows are a tad higher than on the previous set. 

It's also useful for anyone who wants to do front squats but is having trouble racking the bar properly.

5 sets of 5 reps works well for power cleans. Start with a relatively light weight and add to each set just as long as your form on all five reps is good. Should your form break down, take off some weight and correct your mistake, or mistakes. 

Doing 155x5 will yield more benefits than banging around with 185x5 using sloppy technique. 

I'm aware that many older athletes, no matter how hard they try, cannot achieve the flexibility to rack the bar on their shoulders without a great deal of pain. They should forget the power clean and try the POWER SNATCH. It, too, is a high-skill exercise that requires all the same athletic attributes as the power clean, yet it's not stressful to the shoulders. 

The main differences between the two quick lifts are that you grip the bar wider for the power snatch than for the power clean and that you have to pull the power snatch much higher. All the other mechanics are the same, except for the rack, of course.

On the power snatch, instead of fixing the bar at your shoulders, you lock it out overhead. The longer pulling motion requires closer attention to all those form points I mentioned so far for the power clean. The bar has to stay even tighter to your body during the power snatch; the sequence of hips, traps and arms is more critical; and body extension is absolutely essential. 

Also, the analogy to a whip cracking is extra important for the power snatch because you're seeking a greater height. 

Observant readers will have noticed that I overlooked a significant technical aspect of the power clean -- the elbows must be up and out at the finish. 

I didn't forget. 

I just wanted to save it for the power snatch discussion, since it's so critical for success in the longer pulling movement. 

Although it's possible to cut your pull and still make a power clean, that doesn't work for the power snatch. The bar has to move smoothly, accelerating up your body and over your head high enough that you can dip under it and lock out your arms. That requires a powerful finish -- based on a strong start and middle -- and can only be accomplished if you keep your elbows up and out to your sides until the bar is at your nipples. 

Once your elbows turn back, you no longer have any upward thrust. At that point you're totally dependent on the momentum you've created. So the longer you keep your elbows up and out, the longer you'll be able to climb the bar upward and be in a position at the finish to put a jolt into it just before you dip and lock it out overhead. You must have sufficient floating time with heavy weights. Otherwise, the bar will stall too low to lock out correctly. 

Another form point that's critical to success when the weights get heavy is body extension. At the very top of the pull you must be high on your toes with your traps contracted, elbows bent while they're up and out. Should you not be fully extended and leaning forward, even a bit, you're going to have difficulty finishing strongly and locking the weight out. Seeking height and stretching out your body helps you achieve that objective. 

More about the lockout in a moment. First I want to go over where to grip the bar for a power snatch. 

It depends on: 

1) how broad your shoulder are and
2) how flexible you are in your shoulder girdle.

Dr. John Gourgott, as a 198-pounder, could power snatch using a clean grip. He was, of course, the exception. 

There are scores on most Olympic bars located six inches in from the collars on both sides. I have athletes grip the bar so that their ring fingers are around the scores. That works well for the majority of them. The factors determining where to grip the bar are whether you can pull the bar correctly and smoothly through the full range of motion and whether it is not stressful to your shoulders when you lock it out. If it does hurt your shoulders, change it slightly until you find the grip that fits you. 

Technically, a power snatch should be locked out with straight arms. No bending and pressing the bar to lockout. Should you be planning on entering Olympic competition, you need to make sure you lock the bar out completely on every rep so that you don't develop the habit of pressing it out. If you're only including power snatches for variety of perhaps to improve your athletic skills, however, you don't have to completely lock out the bar overhead. It's okay to press it out slightly at the finish. In fact, many coaches encourage that, since pressing out a weight with a wide grip strengthens the deltoids in a different and beneficial way. 

After the bar is locked out and you stand up under it, don't merely hold it passively. Rather, push up against it forcefully, stretching your body as high as you can, and hold it there for a three-to-four-second count. On your final rep, hold it even longer. Supporting a weight overhead that way activates a host of muscles in your back and shoulders that aren't usually worked, including the rotator cuffs.

Flip the bar over and stop it at your waist before returning it to the floor, making sure your back stays very straight all the way. Rest, check that the bar is snug to your shins, your feet are in the correct position, your back is flat, your deltoids are slightly out in front of the bar, and then do the next rep. 

During the learning stage, stay with 5 sets of 5, but once the weights get demanding, switch to this formula: 2 sets of 5 as warmups, followed by 3-5 sets of 3, working to limit. 

In a matter of weeks you'll feel comfortable doing power cleans and power snatches. Now you're ready to add HIGH PULLS. They're less complicated than the longer pulling movements, so you'll be able to use good form rather quickly.

Straps are necessary. They help you to pull longer and with more intensity without having to worry about maintaining a firm grip. All of the technical points are the same for the high pulls as they are for power cleaning and snatching, except for racking the weight. Plus, the bar doesn't travel as high once the weights get heavy on the high pulls. 

Nevertheless, the warmup sets on both forms of high pulls often climb over your head. That's what you want because from that very first rep you want to instill a mental pattern of fully extending that will carry over to the heavier poundages. So never cut your pull, even if the bar ends up high enough to lock out. Higher is always better. 

While the high pull is a combination of a deadlift and a shrug, the transition from one to the other must be continuous and fluid. Often with heavy weights there's a tendency to hesitate in the middle, which results in hitching the bar. That disrupts the rhythm and keeps the bar from going as high as possible. 

Another form fault that occurs frequently is that the hips come up too fast. You must lock your back and hips so they don't lift up at a faster rate than the bar. When that happens, the bar runs forward and out of a strong pulling position. 

Rounding the back is a common mistake on the high pull. It has an adverse affect on the finish, so you have to lock your back tightly. The best way to do that is to pull your shoulder blades together and keep them that way throughout the exercise. 

So the keys to doing high pulls correctly with either grip are maintaining a flat back; elevating the bar and hips at the same time; using the proper sequence of hips, traps and arms that you learned for power cleans and snatches; keeping your elbows up and out and extending fully. Try to get a pop at the top and you'll get greater results. 

Most lifters like to do a few power cleans or snatches before moving on to high pulls. That's useful, since the longer pulling movements enable you to practice the many form points before loading up the bar. A good workout plan would be to do two or three sets of power cleans or snatches with light to moderate weights, followed by five to six sets of threes on the high pulls. 

I use triples rather than fives because you can handle more weight with the lower reps, and you can also concentrate on your technique if you're not as tired. Keep in mind that the primary reason you're doing the high pulls is to overload the pulling muscles and threes serve that purpose better than fives. Should you want to increase your workload, just add extra sets.

How high should you go? Your eventual goal is 100 pounds over your best power clean on the clean high pull, and 75 pounds over your top power snatch on the wide-grip high pull. During the learning stage, however, you need to stop whenever your form breaks down. For instance, if you're dragging the bar up your thighs with a rounded back and are only able to give it a nudge at the top, lower the weight.

Whether you decide to do power cleans or power snatches at the same session as high pulls or at separate workouts or choose to do just a couple of these exercises, you'll be pleasantly surprised to discover how effective they are at building greater size and strength in your back.

Enjoy Your Lifting!  




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