Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tendon & Ligament Strength
by Brooks Kubik

In the famous flier for his correspondence course, “How to Achieve Nerves of Steel, Muscles Like Iron,” George Jowett promised to not only help his pupils build their muscles but to develop “sinew and ligament power.” He said that with proper training, the ligaments – “those tremendously powerful cables which support your muscles in gigantic contraction, when required in great demonstrations of physical resistance” – would “become powerfully anchored to bone and muscle like the steel cable of a giant derrick. Thousands of lifters with strong-looking muscles who wonder why they cannot near or equal the strength tests of others learn to realize that their muscular ligaments and sinewy attachments are too stringy and weakly inserted to cooperate with and support the contractive power of their muscles. Through these conditions are found the differences between a cheap course of instruction and a worthwhile one.

“Building your muscles with only sinews is a science I put before you. The strength of your muscles depends as much upon the power of their muscular cables as upon the quality of muscular tissue. There should be an exact balance between the two . . .

“Strong muscles must have strong attachments . . . When the muscular tissue has been developed, it is absolutely necessary that the muscular ligaments also be powerfully increased so that they can support the muscles in all of their movements . . .

Ligament thickening is a science by itself and cannot be acquired form ordinary exercise. My system is especially adapted to the building of steel-like muscular cables. I impregnate your muscles with the atoms of energy that will dynamite your muscles with strength.”

Picture an anvil. A heavy, solid block of iron, squared at one end and formed into a thick horn at the other. More rectangular than square, most anvils come in tow standard sizes: 150 and 168 pounds. The latter is equivalent to an Olympic bar loaded with a 45-pounder on each side and 33 extra pounds of iron.

Back in the 1920s, at a strength show in Philadelphia, strongman George Jowett performed a lifting feat that has never been duplicated. He grabbed a 168-pound anvil by the horn and swung it to his shoulder with one hand before pressing it to arm’s length overhead.

To appreciate Jowett’s feat, try swinging a 165-pound dumbbell to your shoulder, then pressing it overhead with one hand. Imagine how much more difficult it would be to lift an anvil than a finely balanced dumbbell. It boggles the mind to think of the physical power Jowett must have possessed.

Although his name is largely forgotten today, George Jowett was once one of the world’s leading physical culture experts. His 1926 book, The Key to Might and Muscle, is still one of the best bodybuilding books ever written. Some years later, he helped a young friend named Joe Weider launch Your Physique, and provided help and guidance to Joe for many years thereafter. Jowett’s writing had the rare ability to not only teach but inspire his readers.

Strengthening the Sinews

Jowett’s superhuman feat was the result of a special type of training that he pursued his entire life. His writing refers repeatedly to a largely forgotten secret of strength and power – a secret to which Jowett attributed much of his progress. He observed that strong muscles alone were not enough to turn a man into a superman. The true secret to strength, he argued, lay in the deliberate strengthening of the ligaments and tendons, the fibrous tissues that connect muscle and bone. Without developing these sinews, Jowett said, a person was never more than half-trained no matter how impressive his musculature, how large his measurements or how dramatic his appearance may be.

What was Jowett’s secret system of ligament strengthening: In the July 1950 issue of Your Physique he revealed in detail his special method of building tendon and ligament strength. The article, titled “Stronger Tendons – Stronger Muscles,” argued that the former inevitably leads to the latter. Bodybuilders, he stated, need to challenge their tendons and ligaments with superheavy poundages at times, otherwise, they run the risk of reaching a point where their sinews aren’t strong enough to withstand the rigors of all-out training. Underdeveloped connective tissues could not only lead to serious injury but also place a limit on the load bodybuilders could handle for various exercises, which in turn would limit their muscle development. In Jowett’s opinion, stronger tendons lead to stronger muscles, which will lead to bigger muscles.

“The reason why the tendons usually lack in corresponding power with the muscles of the bodybuilder is because bodybuilding exercise, in the main, does not require the heavy weight necessary for strengthening the tendons and ligaments,” wrote Jowett. He believed that, rather than resorting to Olympic lifts, a person could strengthen the sinews by performing very limited partial reps of basic bodybuilding exercises such as the squat, bench press, shoulder press and deadlift. The idea is to move the heaviest possible weight through the strongest part of the lift, which is typically 4-6 inches before the lockout.

The near-consensus among present-day exercise physiologists is that, under normal condition, a bodybuilder’s tendon and ligament strength increases naturally with muscle strength and size. Doesn’t that contradict Jowett’s own experience and the theories that it bore? Not necessarily. For one, recent research on the sticking point – the point during the positive half of a rep at which a lifter “stalls” – suggests that factors such as leverage, rather than muscle fatigue, prevent bodybuilders from working their muscles through the final portion of a rep (Elliot, B.C. et al. A biomechanical analysis of the sticking region in the bench press. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise 21(4): 450-464, 1989). If a sticking point does indeed limit a bodybuilder’s ability to exploit what should be the strongest part of the lift – the last few inches of the concentric half of the rep – doing heavy partials makes a lot of sense.

Another argument in favor of using heavy partials to increase sinew strength is that bodybuilders frequently take their muscles beyond their normal capabilities through drop sets, supersets and assorted other techniques. Because of its ample blood supply, high metabolic activity and ability to contract and stretch, muscle tissue can recover from and adapt to such training quickly. In contrast, tendons and ligaments are more rigid, less metabolically active and have a comparatively low blood supply. When a bodybuilder cranks up his training to the nth degree, the muscles might be able to withstand forces that the connective tissues cannot. Again, strengthening the sinews ahead of time would be prudent.

Heavy Lockouts

Although developing an entire workout regimen around Jowett-style heavy support work is possible, the average lifter can simply take the most effective of these movements and apply them systematically to their regular workouts. The idea is to replace your primary movement with a partial movement. that works the same bodypart.

How frequently should you employ heavy partials? If you train a bodypart once a week, I believe you should perform heavy partials every workout. If you train a bodypart twice a week, you can probably get by with doing this heavy power work one day and keeping your conventional routine intact for the other session.

Chest –
If you begin your chest workout with the bench press, replace it on occasion with heavy bench-press lockouts. The range of motion on these is extremely limited – 4 inches for an average-sized person, perhaps 5 inches for someone with longer limbs. Basically, you’re pushing the bar through the last several inches of the concentric half of the rep to full extension. To perform the movement, set the pins in a power rack so that you can take the bar in the start position for the partial and drive it up 4-5 inches to lockout. Six sets, five reps apiece, pyramiding upward with weights heavy enough to make you fail on that final fifth rep should do the trick. All the other exercises in your chest would remain the same. ***In this context, the term lockout does not refer to snapping your elbows into full extension on an exercise. For the purpose of this article, lockout refers simply to lifting a weight through the range of motion and pressing it to full extension.

Back –
When back training, substitute heavy deadlift lockouts and power pulls for two of your regular movements. For the former, set the pins in a power rack so that the bar rests anywhere between your knees and mid-thighs. Grasping the bar with your strongest grip, or using straps if needed, stand up with it and lock out. Again, the range of motion shouldn’t exceed 4-5 inches. To perform the power pull, squat in front of a barbell and grasp it with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping you back straight, rise from the squat position until you torso is nearly erect and the bar rests across your thighs. From there, the movement resembles an upright row, except that you push off with the balls of your feet as you pull the bar up toward your neck and shrug with your shoulders. Then lower the bar slowly and under control to the start position above your knees. Use a light weight until you get the hang of it. Adding weight over six sets, three reps each, is ideal.

Shoulders –
Occasionally substitute standing press lockouts for your overhead presses. Again, start near the midpoint of the concentric half of the rep and then push the bar up to lockout. Complete five sets of three reps, pyramiding the weight up as you go.

Arms –
Try substituting heavy partial barbell curls for our regular curls. Starting from the standard curl position, raise the bar through about one-third of the normal range of motion. I use a set of elastic cords with hooks on the ends to measure how far to go on each rep. I simply stretch the bands from post to post on each side of the rack so that the bar hits them at the top of the movement. If I don’t hit the elastic bands, the rep doesn’t count. Of course, you could use a set of top pins to stop the upward movement of the bar, but elastic is quieter and easier on your joints. You’ll get one heck of a jolt if you ram a 200-pound barbell against a set of steel pins.

Quads –
Substitute quarter squats for your heavy movement while keeping the other exercises the same. As the name suggests, the range of motion for a quarter squat is only one-fourth that of a traditional squat. Using either a front or back squat position, begin by standing upright and then descend 4-5 inches before driving the weight back up. Shoot for six five-rep sets, pyramiding the weight up as you go.

A Cumulative Process

Strengthening the sinews is a cumulative process: Because tendons and ligaments respond more slowly to resistance than muscles do, they need to be trained consistently to produce results. If you perform these heavy partials long enough, you’ll eventually develop the type of down-to-the-bone functional strength that made George Jowett a legend of the Iron Game. To quote the master, “Your tendons and ligaments will thicken strongly, making you immune to tendon strain and giving you a new source of power that will make you more capable and more efficient in your physical performance.” P

Performance Tips

The following pointers apply to all the partial movements prescribed in the article.

Although you’re using heavy weights don’t bounce the bar. It does nothing to build your strength and power, and it’s a terrific way to hurt yourself. Remember, partials involve lifting heavy weights, so use your head.

No rack, no partials!

Weight, not movement, is what’s truly important in these exercises. You hardly need to move at all to build connective tissues. When in doubt, reduce the range of motion and pile on the plates. Don’t just lift the bar and then return it to the pins; hold it a while. The act of holding a heavy bar for 5-20 seconds will also build connective tissue strength.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lee Moran - Redd Hall

Lee Moran
by Redd Hall (1985)

Lee Moran is at the top of the powerlifting world, having won two major titles back to back – the Senior National and the World Powerlifting Championships. He also holds the official World squat record at an incredible 1003 pounds.

Various magazines have covered these contests often featuring one particular photo of Lee with blood on his face. As physique great Robby Robinson says, “The magazines want pictures of blood and guts and you killing yourself.”

But what about the real Lee Moran, the man behind the titles? He’s been called a “mystery man.” What is he really like? Is he more than blood and guts?

When I arrived at Iron Island Gym in Alameda, California, Lee was talking with two of the many hardcore bodybuilders and powerlifters who train there. I recognized him from his pictures – solidly built, with curly black hair and short beard. A good-looking man, he has an ever-present smile, shoulders and arms bulging out of his sweats and a humungous barrel chest. While the word humungous is often bandied about, it’s an accurate term when applied to Lee.

It was interesting to see the expression on people’s faces as they looked at him and talked to him – a mixture of admiration, adulation and incredulity. It seems like everyone wanted to talk to him, and Lee spoke freely with everyone, his conversations often interspersed with laughter.

“I want to squat like you!” one of the men exclaimed enthusiastically. Lee laughed, but then went into a serious, short discussion about training.

“I like to help people in the gym,” said Lee. Lots of people come up to me and ask for information. If I have time, I sit down and talk to them. I remember when I did the same thing with people higher up in the sport than me, and some of them snubbed me or told me B.S. It seemed like they were scared to give their secrets away. I’m not. It’s bound to happen that someone better than you is going to come along. Every generation gets stronger and smarter. So I like to help out when I can, and I always give straightforward answers.”

“Good,” I said, “because I have several questions.”

Q. First, what are your statistics?

A. I’m 29, I weigh 300 pounds now but usually compete at 315, and I’m 6’3” (laughing) – hey, you’re not writing that are you? I’m 5’8”. My arms are 21 ½ inches, chest 56 and thighs 33 cold.

Why do you think you’re called the mystery man?

Because I basically came out of nowhere. The 1983 Nationals was my first national competition. I was up against well-known guys like Waddington and Kenady, but nobody knew anything about me.

How were you, as a newcomer to major competition, able to sweep both the Nationals and the World Championships?

Because I was ready. I’ve been training for some time and preparing seriously for the titles for the past few years. When I was little I didn’t want a bike like everyone else. I always wanted to work out. My dad was in the service, and I went with him to the gyms on the different bases where he was stationed. I loved being around the gyms and training. Then about four years ago, I started thinking seriously about trying for the titles, so I began training really heavy and preparing myself mentally for what I had to do.

What is your training routine like?

I do three-days-on and one-day-off.

Day 1: Squat and Legs.
I start with high bar squats, then do some hack squats, hamstring curls and calf work. I also do some ab work, mostly crunches.

Day 2: Bench Press and Assistance Work
I bench press mainly, but I also do cambered bar bench presses, pec deck work and hammer curls. Then I do more abs.

Day 3: Deadlift and Back.
I do deadlifts and T-bar rows, cable rows, behind-neck presses, side laterals and dumbell curls. Also more abs if I feel like it.

Do you work at the same intensity all the time?

No. I start my cycle 12 weeks before a contest – or if there’s no contest, I set a cycle going anyhow to give myself something to work toward. The closer I get to the contest, the harder I train, gradually increasing the weight each week. It’s all planned.

Do you supplement your training with any aerobics or jogging?

A sea turtle lives to be 500 years old and never jogs anyplace . . .

How would you describe your training style?

Avant garde (laughing). Actually, I’d call it heavy, basic and short. I’m in the gym for an hour or an hour and a half at the most and I’m through. You hear about guys being in the gym for two or three hours, but if you watch them, most of that is down time. They’re walking around and socializing. I don’t do that. If you train for one hour and put everything you’ve got into what you’re doing, that’s enough. You couldn’t train for three hours straight as hard as I work out. You’d be a physical wreck.

What are your favorite foods?

Oooh! Do you have another pencil? It runs in cycles. Maybe for a few weeks I’ll crave cheese omelets and then lasagna for a few weeks. Once I went on a baked potato frenzy. I like linguica at least once a week. I guess my real favorite is rice with linguica and diced onions and peas – I’ll have that two or three times a week. And oranges. There’s nothing better than an ice-cold orange.

You don’t diet like a bodybuilder?

No – it’s not quite the same. I don’t have to worry about the quantity of what I eat because I’m in the superheavyweight class. I am careful about the balance of my food – getting protein and carbs and keeping down the fat content. I like fresh fruit and vegetables, I don’t eat candy or chocolate bars – sugar can make you go up and come down, and I try to stay at an even keel. I read labels too. If they don’t list the protein and carbohydrate content, I won’t buy.

What about your personal life?

I’m very lucky there. I have a lovely wife, Charlene. She’s great, she’s pretty and she puts up with me. I met her at a club here in Alameda – her sister’s husband owns it – when I was a bouncer and she was collecting money at the door.

Do you have any outside interests?

Oh yeah, several . My dog, Monday night football, time at the bar with the boys one night a week, reading – especially Stephen King or Joseph Wambaugh, sports movies like Rocky, barbecues and houseboat parties. I’ve missed a lot of parties, though. You have to make sacrifices.

How would you describe your personality?

Magnetic! Don’t put that down. Please! I’m pretty carefree, I try not to let a lot of stuff bother me.

That’s reflected in your attitude towards powerlifting, isn’t it?

Yes. I love the sport, and before a contest I think about it 24 hours a day. But on the other hand, it’s just a game. It’s not a matter of life and death, as some people seem to think. You’ll see guys who come in second or third and sit around the bar and pout. Not me.

What did you win from your titles?

A medal and a plaque to hang on the wall. No money.

None? Then how do you make a living?

I go to Contra Costa College under the GI bill, so I get some money every month there. I also work at Iron Island Gym part time, and I do occasional exhibitions and shows. My wife works, too. For a while I had a job at a packing plant, but it involved a lot of nonstop lifting and moving stuff for eight hours straight. The pace was pretty relentless. I found that it interfered with my training. You have to choose a job carefully if you’re serious about your training. It can’t involve a lot of physical labor that would drain your energy.

What are your goals?

I want to get as much as I can out of the sport of powerlifting. I enjoy the competition and the travel. Maybe I’ll compete in one more National and one more World Championship, then I figure I’ll get the respect I’m due. Another record would be good too. I’ve squatted 1003, so realistically I figure I could make 1052 the next time around. Later on, perhaps I’ll get a nine-to-five job in electronic technology, which is my major in school right now. It’ll also be good to have more time for home life.

Last question – do you have any advice for up-and-coming powerlifters?

Sure! Set your goals and do what you can to achieve them. No matter how unrealistic your goals may seem to someone else, what counts is what’s realistic to you. When I told guys years ago that I’d squat 1000, they laughed. They laughed! But I did it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Squat Frame - Leslie W. Carson

Click to ENLARGE

The Squat Frame
by Leslie W. Carson (1967)

My first inclination was to entitle this article, “God Save the Squat.” But God is asked to do many things, so let us save the squat ourselves. As I have said before in these pages, I have spent 50 of my 74 years hobnobbing with weightlifting. During that time I have found that it is universally accepted that you cannot be a good weightlifter, or even near good, unless you have exceptionally strong legs. It is also universally accepted that squatting properly done is essential to developing lifting legs, especially the thighs. You noticed, of course, that I said squat properly done. Squats improperly done have created critics of the squat. They claim the knee tendons cannot take it. They complain of hernias, damaged shin bones and injured groins. The critics have increased along with recent astronomical poundages achieved in the squat. Friends of weightlifting frequently ignore these criticisms. But the growing volume from high places makes it necessary that something be done about it. I have with little success admonished lifters to exercise judgment when performing the squat. A few seem unwilling to learn until they themselves have become injured. They foolishly bounce off their heels with big poundages. This bends their shinbones and strains their knees. They then take aspirin and the like to ease their aches and pains. They persist in squatting with humped backs, inviting injury and disc rupture. They continue to get down under weights they cannot lift and gain naught but injured knees. Please do not misunderstand. I am well aware that the lifter must work up to his limit if he expects to be a winner. I am certainly not opposed to the squat if properly done. On the contrary, I am using two methods to promote the squat. First, I am urging lifters to take certain precautions. Second, I am giving the lifting fraternity corrective equipment and suggesting remedial techniques. These combined should eliminate the dangers and objections mentioned.

What do I mean by ‘precautions?’ Let us list a few:

1. Do not bounce off the heels or calves when squatting.

2. When training for the three Olympic lifts do not go completely to the heels with a weight that is dangerously greater than your best jerk. As your jerk goes up increase your squat. If your thighs when squatting are level or parallel to the floor with a weight 1 ½ times your best jerk, you have gone low enough for training purposes.

3. When doing squats in the traditional method from the standards, have to conscientious helpers or spotters, one at either end of the bar to assist it the weight gives you undue strain.

4. Never, never squat low with more than 25% of your best clean without first limbering up the knee joints with several sets of four to six reps, each successive set being increased from a very low starting poundage until you reach the weight categories with which you wish to train.

5. Do not be ashamed to call for help if the weight is testing your knees too much. They are the only knees you will ever have. Wisdom outlives foolish pride.

What did I mean by remedial techniques and corrective equipment? First among the remedial techniques, let us consider the Hack squat. It is an excellent exercise and answers some of the objections to the traditional way of squatting. The Hack squat is, however, not suitable for maximum poundages due to the body position and its relation to knee stress. Second, the deadlift with back straight may be used as a substitute for the squat, but dragging the weight up the front of the thighs is objectionable, especially when several reps are used. This dragging sets up poor movement patterns for the clean. Third, objections to the traditional squat may be eliminated by alternately sitting on and rising from stools or benches of suitable heights, but this substitute, among other things, lacks training in the matter of balance and weight control. Fourth, the Jefferson lift, although liked by many, is not a good substitute for the squat because it forces the body into an undesirable twist and at the same time this twist is not a part of the clean.

What is needed, especially to safeguard the knees, is equipment which will be safe when used by either experienced or inexperienced squatters. Years of watching squatters has convinced me that the only proper solution for some is to use an apparatus other than the traditional squat standards. Such equipment should also include advantages in addition to those safeguarding the knees. With these aims in mind, I invented of designed the Squat Frame. It is designed not only to prevent knee injuries but also to promote pulling power in the shoulders, arms and hands for the clean. Three models of this frame are shown in the pictures. Pictures 1, 2, and 3 show in order models 1, 2, and 3 of the squat frame. Models 2 and 3 have pivoted suspension handholds. Model 3 is similar to model 2 but is made wholly of steel while model 2 is partly wood. The chief advantage of model 1 is the ease and simplicity of construction. It is partly wood and lacks the pivoted suspension handholds. The advantage of model 2 is that its pivoted suspension handholds make it easer to balance the loaded barbell. Model 3 has no advantage over model 2 except that weightlifters traditionally expect their equipment to be made of steel. However, model 3 costs more in material and workmanship than either of the other models.

We would like to offer some suggestions or explanations for using this equipment. Keep the back as straight as possible when lifting with any one of the models. To practice the full squat with model 1, place the squat frame under the barbell with the handhold rods on the top side of wood crosspieces. The feet and the barbell should be on he same floor level with blocks under neither as shown in the accompanying picture. To perform the half squat, place the barbell on four inch blocks as in the photo. For the three-quarter squat, place the barbell on eight inch blocks. If you want low squats, dispense with the blocks and turn the frame upside down. If you wish to squat still lower, stand with the feet on blocks four or more inches high.

To perform the full squat with model 2, place barbell on the floor and the feet on eight inch blocks with the hands grasping the pivoted, suspension handholds. In similar manner, by placing the feet on four inch blocks you may obtain half squats. Dispensing with the blocks altogether, you will be using the three-quarter squat. To perform lower than full squats, turn model 2 upside down and stand with the feet on the floor or on four inch or higher blocks, depending on the height of the lifter. Use either the pivoted suspension handholds or the bars on which they are suspended as handholds, as suits your needs when the frame is in the upside down position.

Yes, I know that there are those who will feel that I have failed to take into account a significant but heretofore little discussed fact. I refer to the opinion that knee trouble was little heard of until the squat method was widely substituted for the split in the Olympic lifts. It is true that a squatter can get under a heavier weight at a lower level than a splitter. This makes it certain that the squat method will not be given up easily even though it is much more likely to damage the knees than the split method. So, you ask, “How can the Squat Frame solve this dilemma?” My answer is that you should, when using the Squat Frame to develop squatting ability for the lifts, block the feet high enough so that the barbell handle will not prevent your going as low as you desire. Most important, do several sets of squats with light weights, going as low as you can and thus, without damage, make the knee tendons tough and flexible. Under no circumstances should you ever squat low with a heavy weight without first thoroughly warming up the knee joints with several low squat sets, graduated from a low starting weight. Squatting low without first warming up the knee joints is thoughtless. Those unaccustomed to low squats should not even attempt a low squat with a heavy weight until after several workouts with light weight low squats. The Squat Frame will make it easy and a pleasure to do a lot of warmup sets and give the arms and shoulders the needed pulling exercise at the same time. Correct squat training and assistance exercises are your best insurance against injury. Haphazard, careless squatting will only verify claims of the squat critics, giving lifting a black eye and you a pair of bad knees.

Editors Note – We have arranged to have a limited number of Mr. Carson’s squat frames made up for shipment. The price for this rack made of wood will be $14.50.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Benoit Cote, Deadlifter - Doug Hepburn

Benoit Cote, Deadlifter
by Doug Hepburn (1961)

I was recently invited by the Weightlifting Association of Quebec to a contest of strength against an outstanding French Canadian strongman by the name of Ben Cote. I must admit that up to this time I had never heard of Mr. Cote and consequently I was skeptical as to this man’s ability.

After some deliberation I accepted the invitation and the date for the contest was set early in October ’61. I was confident that I could win, regardless of the lift agreed upon. This was not to be, to quote the famous words of equally famous Scottish poet, “best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I don’t know if ever a mouse tore a shoulder while lifting heavy, but I do know that the writer of this article did – very severely.

After committing myself I was obliged to appear. It is a poor policy to disappoint an audience of several avid weightlifting enthusiasts, some of whom had journeyed hundreds of miles by car.

On October 6th at 8:15 in the evening, I boarded a Trans Canada Jetliner, smiled at two bug-eyed stewardesses, sidled down the aisle, found my seat and proceeded to wedge myself into same. I use the word “wedge” literally, and I can say with all sincerity that when I am seated, or “wedged” if you wish, the use of a safety belt is an unnecessary contrivance. However, one must concur with the safety belt regulation so I exhaled, drew in the abdomen, buckled the belt, and again smiled in an “I told you so” manner to my small audience of doubters, including the stewardess. A wise strongman learns to smile early in his career.

On the morning of October 7th at 10:30 I arrived at the small airport situated a short distance from Chicoutimi, Quebec, my destination. I was met by Mr. Dan Walker, the organizer of the contest, and Mr. Ben Cote. The local press photographer requested several photos of Ben and myself and we obliged. Luckily, Mr. Walker was bilingual and I informed him that I was exhausted from the long trip and that a short nap would put matters right. Fatigued was putting it mildly, for I had looked in the mirror on the plane and my eyes looked like two burnt holes in a blanket.

The contest took place on the evening of October 8th, a Sunday. Although I was incapacitated with the injured shoulder and knew, for my part, that I would be far below my best, I was looking forward with anticipation to seeing my opponent in action. If the rumors were true, I was about to see one of the greatest exhibitions of deadlifting in the history of the Iron Game.

I was not disappointed, nor will the reader be, for I will relate exactly what happened that evening. The first lift to be contested was the Two Hands Deadlift. I have done well over 700 pounds with the assistance of two steel handclips which I normally use when training to improve my pulling ability for the Olympic lifts. However, the deadlift was never my forte, and I performed this lift solely to improve lifting proficiency.

Cote removed his sweatsuit, chalked his hands, and called for 600 pounds for a WARMUP. He then approached the bar, took his grip, and proceeded to perform repetitions with this weight, a weight that many outstanding strength athletes would be satisfied to lift for a single repetition.

Sufficiently warmed up, Ben got down to business. Watching him, I noted that although he was not a young man, he was exceptionally well developed, especially in the thighs and back. This, of course, would be expected as evidenced by his deadlifting ability. I also noticed, as is generally the case, that Cote’s physique proportion was perfectly suited for the lift that he excelled in – long arms, and legs shorter than normal for a man of his height.

For the first attempt Cote succeeded easily with 700 pounds. He lifted this weight from the floor so quickly I thought he was going to clean it. After a short rest the French Canadian asked for SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY POUNDS. This poundage was lifted smoothly from the floor to the waist and held for two seconds. There was no inching the bar upwards on the thighs as is the custom of many deadlifters when attempting a limit.

I was told by Cote’s trainer that Ben had succeeded with a poundage of 775 pounds in training. I can well believe it. To the best of my knowledge only one man to date has ever deadlifted such poundages. The great and immortal German strongman Hermann Goerner. I am convinced that within one year Benoit Cote will deadlift a poundage not less than EIGHT HUNDRED POUNDS officially. This, I am sure, will establish Cote as the greatest deadlifter in the history or weightlifting. I salute you, Ben Cote, and may you reach your goals soon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Clean & Jerk - Charles A. Smith

Mahmoud Namdjou

The Two Arm Clean & Jerk
by Charles A. Smith (1949)

Regulations governing the performance of the two hands clean and jerk according to the International Federation Rules at the 1948 Olympics.

1. The bar shall be placed horizontally in front of the lifter’s legs. He shall grip it with both hands and pull it up in a single clean movement from the ground to the shoulders, while either “splitting” or bending the legs.

2. The bar must not touch the chest before the final position. It shall then rest on the chest or on the arms fully bent.

3. The feet shall be returned to their original position, that is to say, on the same line. Then bend the legs and extend them quickly, as well as the arms, so as to bring the bar to the full stretch of the vertically extended arms.

4. The weight shall be held for two seconds in the final position of immobility, the feet on the same line with a maximum of separation of 40 centimeters.

5. It is forbidden to repeat the jerk.

6. Incorrect movements. Leaning with a knee on the ground or any clean in which the bar touches a part of the body before its final arrival at the shoulders.

*Author’s note: I am indebted to Oscar State, Weightlifting Organizer of the Olympic Games, who provided the above translation from the official rule book. Mr. State, personally translated the rules from French to English for readers. Mr. State is also Organizing Secretary of the British Amateur Weightlifters Association.

The above translation of the I.F. rules differs very slightly from the AAU rules, but in complete content, it is identical in meaning to those rules of the AAU. In the official AAU ruling, additional penalty is provided for – Incorrect motions. Leaning with a knee on the ground, etc., etc. – elbows coming in contact with the thighs in the two hands clean movement shall be cause for disqualification.

This is the lift of the fabulous 400 pound jerk, the double bodyweight crown and the 300 pound club. This is the lift with which the greatest poundages are smashed overhead; the lift with which the athlete signs his declaration of speed, strength and endurance. the magic attraction of the heaviest poundages, the drama of success or failure, of tenseness, excitement – the Clean & Jerk has them all. Among those who witnessed the 1948 Olympic tryouts in New York City on July 9th, who will forget the picture of Frank Orant, blood streaming from his nose, trying in vain to hold a terrific clean in at the shoulders. Among those who witnessed the Hoffman Birthday show last November, who can forget the tense silence, a soundlessness that almost had body, as Pete George bent the bar to attempt a new World record, and who will ever forget the terrific battle between Pete and Tony Terlazzo in Philadelphia at the 1947 World Championships, the audience on its feet to a man, cheering wildly, and with abandon as the Wonder Boy nosed out Terlazzo with his final Clean & Jerk.

No matter if it’s a Novices’ meet with a top clean & jerk of 175 pounds, or Namdjou with his claimed lift of 280 at the bantamweight limit, of Davis with his wonderful 391 clean & jerk, of Rigoulot with the all-time high of 402 pounds – in the final lift of the Olympic Three, the spectator will find all the thrills and excitement, the tense struggle for the winning position, whether he is watching Joe Blow against John Doe, or the greatest lifters the world has ever seen.

No one really knows how the clean & jerk came into being. Like death and taxes, it has always been with us. True, in the beef, beer and belly era, at the near end of last century and the beginning of this, it was practiced to some extent but did not enjoy the popularity of the continental and jerk. Note that I do not say, the continental clean and jerk, for the simple reason that there is no such lift. Strongmen of those days were mostly human mastodons. Huge abdominal girth, mighty trenchermen and even more mighty tosspots, they just didn’t have the speed and they didn’t have the waistline to get the bar to the chest in one movement. They looked upon all “cleaners” as dispensers of scientific skullduggery. To these men, cleaning a weight to the shoulders in one movement was trickery. Whatever they got to the shoulders, they could get overhead. That was what counted. That was the hallmark of real strength.

Contrast Louis Cyr, Karl Swoboda and Josef Steinbach with Ron Walker, John Davis and Charles Rigoulot. Cyr, huge, gross, weighing 365 pounds. Swoboda, the Viennese Colossus tipping the beam at 398! And Steinbach, a comparative pygmy at 265. Ron Walker, rarely going over 200, Davis at his best weight of 230, and Rigoulot near the same mark. And yet these last three men easily exceeded the best cleans and jerks of the old-timers. Steinbach, in 1906, was capable of 311 pounds, a lift exceeded today by many middleweights, and even lightweights. Cyr, reputed to have made a clean & jerk of 347, and the mighty Swoboda, because of his huge bulk, unable to get the weight to the shoulders in a “clean” movement. To give the latter his due, there has never been a jerker and presser to touch him. Swoboda, in 1912, continental pressed 359 pounds and jerked 440 pounds twice after it had been lifted to the shoulders.

Although the clean & jerk was used in Olympic competition as long ago as 1896, it did not achieve worldwide competitive popularity until the two-hands snatch made its debut in International lifting. From that time, 1924, at the Paris Olympics, the progress of the two-hands clean & jerk and the two-hands snatch has been steady. One can visualize the officials of those days sensing the possibilities of these two lifts, and those of the subject lift in particular. We have indeed traveled a long, long way from Dimitri Tofalos’ clean & jerk of 317 pounds, in the so called “Unofficial Olympics” at Athens in 1906, to the mighty world record of John Davis with 391 ½ and Rigoulot’s professional lift of 402.

The clean & jerk has, of the three lifts, the greatest possibilities for further improvement. Today, strength athletes, particularly those in the lighter classes, are elevating poundages which would have, if mentioned years ago as eventual records, brought scorn and laughter on the head of he who had ventured to prophecy. The advance in the bantamweight and featherweight division has been more pronounced that those above the two lowest classes. Perhaps a brief comparison of the rise of the clean & jerk records will not be amiss. For the first time in International competition, the 123 pound class was recognized at the 1947 World Championships. The highest clean & jerk at that meet was one of 248 pounds made by two lifters, Rosaire Smith and Richard Tom. In two short years, and less, the record in this division has risen to Namdjou’s wonderful 289 clean & jerk. Namdjou was credited with a new clean & jerk record at the Olympics, according to the Official Weightlifting Handbook of the AAU for 1949. However, I understand that the squat-muscles Iranian lifter was overweight, and so was not entitled to claim a new world record on that occasion. Since that time, he raised the record to 287 and then to the figure where it now stands.

In 1928, at the Amsterdam Olympics, a little Austrian created weightlifting history. Andrysek made the first double bodyweight clean & jerk, at featherweight limit, with a lift of 264 ½ pounds. In America, in 1932, Dick Bachtell lifted 214, and in those days, make no mistake about it, this was a wonderful lift for so small a man. Today’s featherweight record was pushed to 297 at the Olympics in 1948 and again heightened to 303 by the sensational Fayad of Egypt. This midget Hercules has since been reported to have made 308 regularly in training. The U.S. record stands at 278 ½. This mark was made by the celebrated Tony Terlazzo, one of the greatest lifters of all time. Julian Creus of England has also succeeded with 281 pounds. Creus holds the world 123 pound snatch record as well.

In the lightweight division, all past performances are overshadowed by the truly astonishing clean & jerk made by Ibrahim Shams. This man, with whom I have had the personal pleasure of training for several weeks, put the record in the 148 pound division to a height where it is likely to remain for many a long year. On the third day of June, 1939, Shams cleaned and jerked 338 pounds. The only man to have come within distance of this mighty record, and incidentally the only man who had the chance, and a good chance at that, of beating this record, is Tony Terlazzo. Tony holds the present U.S. record with a mark of 331 pounds. He is also reputed to have made 340, when but a pound or two above the lightweight limit. Stan Stanczyk has also made a great lift while lifting as a lightweight, punching up 325 at the 1946 World Championships at Paris. Anwar Ahmed Mesbah of Egypt has lifted 319, Shatov of Russia 321 pounds, and Pete George 319 pounds, which comprised part of his total at the Philadelphia World Championships.

In the middleweight class, the present world record is held by Pete George with a lift of 355 pounds. At three pounds above the class limit, Pete made a clean & jerk of 370. The record, previously held by Stanczyk with 352 pounds, has risen from a lowly 231 made by Gance of France at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, to its present high position. In 1932, Ismayer was lifting 292 pounds. 1936 saw the astonishing Touni burst upon an amazed weightlifting world. Officials frankly refused to believe that a middleweight was capable of such lifts. Touni was then lifting 330. Terpak, Spellman and Stanczyk fought out a terrific battle in the 1946 U.S. championships, recording 325, 322 and 333 pounds respectively.

The U.S. record in the lightheavy division is held by Pete George with 355 pounds. The world record by Ferrari of France with a truly great lift of 372. The actual rise in the U.S. record over a period of twenty years, from 1929 to the present, is almost 100 pounds. In 1928, Nosseir of Egypt recorded a poundage of 314. Haller of Austria has succeeded with 341. Davis lifting as a lightheavy with 353, and Novak of Russia with the same poundage as Haller, 341. Incidentally as a 181 pounder, Davis has made cleans with 375 pounds. Davis weighed in at less than 180 pounds at the time.

In 1920, the winning clean & jerk in the heavyweight class at the Antwerp Olympics was by Bottini of Italy with 246 pounds. Tonani, a compatriot, made 286 in 1924 at the Paris Olympics. Our own Johnny Davis created a new world and Olympic record in 1948 with a high of 391 pounds. If I recall, in the U.S., Miller first broke the 300 pound level in 1933. In England, the great Ronald Walker raised the record from 290 pounds in 1930 to finally succeed with 363. The wonderful iron fights between Davis, Stanko and Abele were more than partly responsible for the present high standard of heavyweight lifting in the U.S.A. The greatest clean & jerk of all time, performed under official conditions, is the lift of Charles Rigoulot who made 402 pounds. He has also been credited with higher poundages, but it is impossible to tell whether these were made under official conditions, or if they were made at all. Legend plays a great part in producing feats of the heroes of Iron Slinging, as it does in other sports. The greatest jerk is of course the Swoboda lift of 440 pounds. The greatest clean was John Davis’ lift of 405 pounds. In my humble opinion, this is one of the three greatest feats of strength of all time, ranking with Saxon’s bent press of 370, and Goerner’s two hands dead lift of 798. Why? Well, Johnny happened to weigh in at 199 pounds that night in 1941, and is the only heavyweight in lifting history to clean double bodyweight and more than double bodyweight.

So now we know the rules. We know the possibilities of this lift. We have seen how the athletic, speedy reflexed strong men take easily to this feat of strength. How they were made to put the pot-bellied strongmen with their slower timing, and overshare of superfluous flesh, to shame. We know something of the greatest performances on the clean & jerk, so it isn’t hard to see how the lift came into being – how some athlete, long, long ago, figured a dip. a bending at the knees, brought more weight up, then how the use os a split, coupled with correct timing, enabled him to put more weight up overhead. Before, he was limited to what he could crudely pull up to the sternum. He found himself now reaching a limit in his push-press.

We have all seen a newcomer to weight training try to get a weight overhead. How he starts to press the weight, and, finding it a little too much for him, bends the knees and gives a heave. Taking it from here, we will find it no harder, with the same imagination we used before, to see how the modern clean & jerk had its beginning. How that same old timer figured that if a split of dip would bring his clean up, then it ought to help raise the amount of weight he could get overhead. Of course it didn’t all happen as quickly as outlined, but it is fairly certain that from the above humble beginnings, from the crude rock lifting and wagon-axle heaving, all the many exercises and lifts of modern strength athleticism had inception.

Now we find ourselves at a weightlifting meet. The press – that controversial lift – and the snatch are over, and the third and final phase of the competition is commencing. Perhaps we have been a little incensed at some of the decisions – what do some of these judges want, blood? We tell ourselves that, please, there isn’t likely to be any raw ruling in the clean & jerk. We say that nothing can go wrong here. How wrong we are! How many men ought to be ruled out in the clean & jerk? Close to as many as stray from the official rules in the press. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Examine the rules applying to this lift, and you will find that they are almost as slack as in the press. That they can and they should be revised just as the press rules ought to have been long ago.

The first ruling hardly presents any trouble. The rules call for the bat to arrive at the shoulders from the ground “in a single clean movement.” Unless this part of the lift reaches the knees, it does not count as an attempt. It is possible for a lift to be ruled not good if it touches any part of the body on the way up. The snag is that if the weight accidentally touches the shins or the knees while being cleaned, if that clean is finished, then a strict panel of judges would be within their rights in ruling that attempt not good. But, if the lifter is quick-witted enough stop the bar at the height of the knees, then he has not made an official attempt. He could be ruled out in the first instance for not bringing the weight to the shoulders in a single clean motion as in section one, for allowing the bar to touch the body before its final arrival as in section 6. The very instant the lifter commences to bring the weight off the ground, then he can be ruled not good if that bar touches any part of the body before arrival at the final and jerking position. Readers must once again excuse me for the sin of repetition, but if they had had as many questions and suppositions put to them as have been put to me at various meets by disgruntled lifters who thought they were gypped out of a lift, they, the readers, would recognize this repetition as necessary.

Now for ruling 2. The rules call for the bar to arrive straight into the jerking position – “The bar must not touch the chest before the final position. It shall then rest on the chest or arms fully bent.” To put it bluntly, wherever the bar touches, it must be jerked from this position. I have searched the rules through, and I have found no mention of the “line of the sternum” or “above the nipples.” So many lifters are under the impression that the bar can, or has to be taken into one of these two positions. Personally, I think it is unfair to both lifters and judges to give no definition of exactly what is meant by “shoulders.” There is, in New York, a very promising light heavy. He has no trouble making a 300 clean & jerk. He recently made 310 at a Metropolitan meet. I have never seen him perform a clean & jerk to which he was entitled to receive the judges’ approval according to the rules. Why? Because he has a habit of cleaning the weight to just above the nipples, and then shifting it into jerking position right across the clavicles – collar bones to you and me. To me, and to the other officials, I guess, the lift is good, yet, if we followed the rules to the letter, we should disqualify his attempts.

The 3rd section of the rules calls for the feet to be returned to their original position, on the same line, as the rules tell you. I have yet to perceive any logical reason for this. some lifters find it easier to jerk with one foot slightly behind the other. They claim they get a stronger jerk and a faster split. Yet, according to the rules, this merits disqualification. Watch Mike Mungioli next time he is in a meet and observe his smooth and powerful jerk. Observe also how his left foot is always held slightly behind the right. This same section also calls for a quick extension of the legs and the arms “so as to bring the bar to the full stretch of the vertically extended arms.” Nothing hard there you might say. Yet, according to the above interpretation, if a lifter finishes his jerk with a press out, he can, and should be, disqualified. I have yet to see, or hear of a lifter beig disqualified for pressing out a jerk, correct me if I am wrong, but this is legal and valid cause for ruling a lift not good. It is my opinion that pressing out a jerk makes a lifter more entitled to receive approval. Frank Milano recently finished a 315 clean & jerk with a press out and received unanimous approval, and rightly so. The audience would have torn the hall down if the judges had ruled otherwise.

Section 5 forbids the lifter to repeat the jerk. This ruling is again vague. I have witnessed countless lifters, through nervousness, give only a halfhearted effort hoisting the bar a scant inch and less from the shoulders. They again make an attempt and are very rarely ruled out if successful. At the last New York State championships, I counted eight lifters guilty of this fault according to the rules. In a later section dealing with trials or attempts, an effort to give weight to this ruling in Section 5 follows: “In all lifts, the judge shall register as a trial any attempt not completed in which strain was evidently exerted.” The above ruling is quoted from the official AAU weightlifting handbook. The International Ruling, as translated by Oscar State, is a little clearer – “In all lifts, the referee will count as no lift any incomplete attempt in which effort has been visibly exerted.” Therefore any lifter who gets the weight away from the shoulders – by bending and extending the legs – has made his attempt at the jerk. It is my opinion that the definition of exactly what constitutes a jerk is badly needed.

Section 6, dealing with incorrect movements in which the bar touches a part of the body before arrival at final position, has already been dealt with. The other part of this rule disqualifies the lifter for touching the ground with the knee. The reason for this rule is fairly evident as is an addition to the AAU rules – the former are from the International translation – which labels as incorrect any attempt in which elbows come in contact with the thighs. The squat cleaner is in particular danger here.

It was with a great deal of pleasure that I read of the amendment to the rules in the clean and snatch. Previously to the 1948 Olympics, lifters were required to make an immediate recovery in the snatch and clean. Now the lifter is allowed to take his own time, to make certain that his balance is sure. Squat snatchers and cleaners will benefit greatly from this amendment. I would like here and now to call for further amendments to the rules, both AAU and International, and I may be certain of agreement when I say that I am not alone in these demands.

1. The lifter will be permitted to complete the jerk by means of a press out.

2. The lifter shall be permitted to choose his own position of feet for the purpose of jerking a weight, and need not bring them back to the original position.

3. That the exact meaning of the “clean” shall be altered to allow the lifter to bring the bar to above the line of the nipples, and then alter the position of the bar to a jerking position.

4. That legislation must provide for an exact definition of what constitutes an attempt at a jerk.

I am certain that no official will find fault with the first three amendments called for. I am equally sure that there will be a chorus of disapproval at the fourth amendment. I imagine that I will be told that such a definition is already in being. But it is still my opinion that the definition of what exactly is a jerk is not nearly clear enough.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mel Hennessey, Bench Press King

Mel Hennessey, Bench Press King
by Vernon L. Hollister (1972)

When Mel Hennessey steps onto a platform to compete, he doesn’t look like a typical 242-pound powerlifter. Not that Mel looks anything but strong and powerful, because he certainly does, it’s just that he is so incredibly and massively muscled that he could be a competitor for the most muscular title in a physique contest, as well as the champion bench presser he is.

Mel’s musculature and development is not accidental; the reason, in part, is how he trains. He does not restrict himself to training only for the power lifts. Mel also bodybuilds, believing strongly that the appearance of a lifter is also important. The heavy weights come on Tuesdays and Saturdays, the lighter bodybuilding weights on Thursdays and Sundays.

Even on those days, Mel has what he calls “my baby” in mind – the bench press, his pride and maybe his joy. Prior to the Nationals, Mel explained what he did on his bodybuilding days to get ready for the event. Though he grinned and said, “I’m giving away all my secrets,” he wasn’t objecting too much to letting people know some of what he does.

Mel doesn’t consider what he does on the heavy days too unusual. He works on the basic lifts, doing repetitions instead of maximum poundages, on other occasions attempting more than he has done in competition. Competitively, his best lifts are: bench 571, squat 690, deadlift 665; but in training (as of early summer), he has succeeded with 590 at the bench, squatted with 740 and deadlifted 710.

But we are talking of the light days, which Mel considers extremely important to his ability on the bench press and to his appearance as a lifter. One of his favorite exercises is the good morning, for developing the small of the back, and he usually works up to 325 x 5 with this lift.

From his day brighteners, Hennessey often moves to the particular exercise he favors most – the triceps bench press – which he works up to 360 x 5, alternating that with lat pulldowns up to 120. He doesn’t always follow the same pattern exactly because he doesn’t want his routine to become dull. “My routine varies because I don’t want working out to become stale. As for the super-setting routine, I do something like 8 or 20 reps for 20 or so sets.”

To watch the ease with which Hennessey easily whips heavy weights up and down on the close-grip triceps bench press is almost unnerving (or any other exercise, for that matter). He never seems taxed by the weight. He doesn’t cheat. He lifts all weights strictly, including side-arm lateral raises, starting out with 70 pounds and working up to a staggering 150 pounds in each hand. “This one will boggle your mind,” he said before proceeding in front of this awed writer.

After flipping around the 150’s, he moved to another assistance lift for the bench and deadlift. The most he used on the lat pulldown was 275, though he could easily do more. Mel doesn’t believe in working for the maximum on most of these lifts because they are supplementary, geared for assistance. To end his “light” workout, except for some situps, Mel may conclude with the biceps curl, working up to 125 for 3 sets of 6.

At the weight of 226, Mel wasn’t quite ready for the Nationals. His method is to gain bodyweight and then go down to a muscular weight with no flab. “I’ll go up a lot and train down to 240, eventually,” he said between exercises. “I’ll wind up being a lot stronger and much more solid. My goal is to get more muscularity, less fat and greater efficiency.”

Instead of entering any powerlifting meets before Denver, Mel chose instead to hold his own meet to qualify. Reasons included not wanting to have to peak too early so as to be at top form for Denver. Most meets were at what he considered the wrong time, and Mel also had work commitments and commitments to his foster child. There are few people who are aware that Hennessey has taken foster children into his home for some time now. Currently, he’s a foster father to a 16-year old.

So, Mel qualified in a sanctioned meet in his garage with a rapt 16-year old watching. “There wasn’t much response because interest is lacking, and we didn’t open it up to everybody because the garage isn’t big enough.” The chief referee was Jerry Jones, who is strict in his judging. lifts that day in June for Mel were 555 in the bench press on his first try (plus a near-success with 575, which he tried only once), 655 in the squat (one attempt), and 600 in the deadlift.

When the powerful Hennessey began lifting as a teenager he did so for his own personal achievement. It was not until the age of 27 that Mel entered a contest, at the urging of a friend. He beat the existing Minnesota State Champion by 125 pounds. That was the beginning. Now, at age 38, he feels he can continue to gain until he’s 45 or 46 and still set records. He even has a 700 pound bench in mind before he retires, still at 242 pounds. the main reason he trains down now is to get out of the superheavyweight class.

If he had to do it all over again, he would shoot for the heavier weight class – for the obvious reasons. Mel says that his training method would be the same: gain weight, which is no problem for him, train down, gain weight, train down, etc. Can you imagine a Serge Reding with Mel’s musculature?

He is content now to train at home in his garage with about $5500 worth of equipment. Mel used to train at the St. Paul YMCA, but there were too many distractions, too many people who came in were not interested in serious lifting. It was more convenient to convert his garage. Many lifters contributed to Mel’s garage gym, including Don Cundy, where Mel now serves as resident authority and consultant to anywhere from eight to twenty lifters.

Weightlifting Development Exercises - Bob Hoffman


Weightlifting Development Exercises
by Bob Hoffman

To obtain strength and development you must occasionally force your muscles up to or beyond their normal limit. All champion weightlifters possess the ability to lift considerably more in competition, or before an audience, than they usually can in practice. This is one of the principal factors in building up the unusual and extraordinary strength they possess. Practicing weightlifting, seeing how much you can lift, is one of the best ways of accurately measuring your strength progress and the validity of your program. Certainly, there are so many reasons why you should practice weightlifting my enthusiasm for it runs away from me at times.

Among the best exercises and weightlifting assistance exercises are some of the movements in York course No. 3.

Two Arm Rapid Press – Although best results are had when exercises are performed with comparative slowness, the rapid press is a good movement as it is designed to teach the lifter how to put supreme effort back of the lift from the start position.

Rapid Deep Knee Bend – Performed by rising from the bottom position as quickly and forcefully as possible, sometimes taking a leap at the finish.

Holding Bell Overhead, Squat to Low Position – A movement which builds strength and balance for any lifter.

Rapid Deadlift – This movement is performed with less than your maximum poundage. The weight is pulled rapidly, as high as possible, lowered slowly.

Two Arm Alternate Press Alternate pressing front and then behind the neck and sitting pressing are excellent movements to improve your pressing ability.

Dead-Hang Repetition Snatch – This exercise is sometimes done with each movement extending from near the floor to overhead, at other times from a position at thighs to overhead. This latter movement is designed to improve the second or high pull. As a variation, pull the weight from the floor to overhead without splitting or bending the knees.

Repetition Jerk – Jerk the weight from the shoulders to overhead, three to five repetitions.

Two-Hands Dead Hang Clean – Performed in a manner somewhat similar to the dead hang snatch, except that the weight is pulled to the chest instead of overhead. Also practice cleaning with no dip. This exercise will develop the final pull and will increase your snatching and cleaning ability. Use as much weight as you can pull to the chest without dipping at the completion of the movement. Employ your usual style in going for the weight, just as you would in the snatch or clean. Pull the weight up with a rush, not moving your feet or bending your knees as the weight nears your chest. The principal exercise back of this lift is with the legs and back, but it accustoms you to pulling the entire way. The end of the lift gives you the high pull which is the difference between an ordinary lifter and a champion. All champions possess the ability to put this terrific final effort back of the clean or snatch. At the finish of the pull, whip the elbows suddenly to the front and you have the bar in the correct position at the shoulders.

The above copy was written 25 years ago (1929). Long before that time men were using these movements and teaching them to others.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

From 115 To A World Record Press - George "Ernie" Pickett

From 115 To A World Record Press
by George “Ernie” Pickett (1968)

I remember when I first started weightlifting in 1959. My friend, a Maryland State heavyweight champion, had succeeded with a 240-pound press. This looked astronomical to me then, and I certainly had no idea that I would one day press almost twice as much.

Unlike most lifters, I did not begin training until I was 22 years old. My friend got me to try the weights, and I managed a very wobbly 115 pound press. I weighed 185 pounds at a height of 6’4”. But after this there was only one thing for me to do, and that was start working.

As a beginner I did just about all the things beginners usually do. Bench presses, behind the neck presses, squats, curls, situps and all the rest. But I always worked very hard on the power clean, because I knew no matter how strong you were at pressing, if you couldn’t get the weight to your shoulders you weren’t going anywhere.

With the help of my blender and as much protein powder as I could afford I managed to put on some muscular weight. I remember my brother and I used to buy Energol by the gallon and then split it to save money. And after some more time training, I decided to enter my first contest. I felt pretty cocky as I had about two years of training under my belt, and could press 205 quite easily in training. But it was different at the contest. My first press wandered out front and my toes rose. My friend said jump to a higher weight, so I took 215, which I failed to get off my chest. So, I had a fine start in competition with one contest entered, one contest lost.

I tried again in 1962 with a little better result, as I won the Best Lifter Award. Two months later I pressed 260, snatched 240 and clean & jerked 330 to win my first state title. I weighed 230 at this time.

The following summer I tried a new press routine consisting of 7 sets of 3 repetitions with the same weight, after warming up with lighter weights. I did this off the squat rack because I wanted to concentrate on the press without worrying about the clean. This routine was very successful, as it not only gave me increased power, but as my arms and shoulders got tired it forced me to learn to lay back, and use more body drive. When I started, I was doing 7 sets of 3 with 185. Six months later I was doing 7 sets of 3 with 235.

But after a while I made no further progress on this routine. I tried a varied program of bench presses, standing dumbell presses and other assistance exercises. I worked my press up to 290, which was a Maryland record at the time. I felt pretty good about it too. But my pride was short-lived, because I was greeted one day by one of my lifting friends with the statement, “A little 175 pound Scotsman just pressed 300 pounds!” The Scotsman was Bill Andrews, who turned out to be the 181 National Powerlifting Champion.

At first I did not like him, for obvious reasons, but after a while y curiosity overcame my injured pride and we got to be good friends. I noticed that his press was entirely different from mine. He drove the bar off his chest with a tremendous body whip. I asked him about this and he enthusiastically began to describe the Olympic press to me. He drew a diagram on the blackboard, showing that the whole body is bowed from head to heels in an arc. It was important that the lifter keep his buttocks licked tight, which would keep the body from bending at the knees and waist. One of the most difficult mistakes I had to correct was my habit of driving the weight too far forward and losing the press in this manner. O solved this by laying back and looking over the referee’s head, and concentrating on pressing the weight back over the head.

I had now developed the pressing style that is with me today. This style helped me to break my old record by 30 pounds. Within four months I was pressing 320. Because of my new style, the power clean was no longer right for me. It caused me to stagger about, and lose energy that I could use for pressing. I switched back to the squat clean, which not only saved energy, but made sure the bar was in the same place on my chest every time.

With the new press and the squat clean, I decided that what I needed most was power. Because I have always felt that the press should be attacked from all angles, I used every assistance pressing exercise I could find, at one time or another. To increase my press from 320 to 340 I used the Isometric rack, working from the starting press position, driving the bar about six inches, and holding the bar for about ten seconds on the third rep. I also worked from eye level, and press out level on the rack with three reps at each position.

It took me about four months to increase my press from 340 to 370. I used wide-grip presses in sets of three, and push presses, as well as isometrics, and increasing my bodyweight.

In the summer of 1967 I worked on the powerlifts, with emphasis on bench presses, dips, and steep seated inclines to put most of the work on the deltoids and triceps. These played an important part in my pressing 400 pounds at the York picnic on Labor Day last year, which was the first time I had ever pressed this much. I continued to use this routine, and this helped me press the 410 I needed at the try-outs at the York gym, and the 413 I pressed at the Pre-Olympic games. I missed my first clean with 402 at these games, and had to take this weight again which kept me from a chance at the 425 which I had hoped to press.

At this time I felt that 420 or 425 would be the most I would be able to press for some time, but on the 29th of January I tried some heavy presses off the racks at the local YMCA. I worked up to 430 for a new personal record and made an easy success with it. I took 445, which was above the world’s record and made another good lift with it. Everybody in the gym was surprised that I had done it, but I don’t think there was anyone as surprised as I was.

With this under my belt and the 450 clean I had made at an earlier contest, I felt I had a chance at a World Record, and decided to try for it at the YMCA Nationals. I trained hard up until a week before the contest, and then tapered off the last week. This gave me enough rest to be ready for the contest, but not too much, which would kill my appetite for heavier weights.

On Sunday, January 24th, 1968, I pressed a World Record of 445 pounds. And it was an easy press. I now feel that I am capable of a 460 press by Spring.

Although I have never had a steady coach, many people have given me advice and encouragement. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them. They have really helped.

Short Range Press Training - Jim Murray

Wilbur Miller

Joe Weider

Short Range Press Training
by Jim Murray (1963)

Although we in weightlifting have been interested in strength and power-building for many years, only recently have we been joined by general athletic coaches, physical educators, and even the medical profession. Now, controlled studies are underway that will ultimately tell us scientifically what we already know from experience: that working against heavy resistance will produce great strength.

But even in weight lifting we are learning more and more about refinements of training techniques, refinements that I suppose nonathletic scientists will begin to study later. The schedule that Bill Miller (who is Louis Martin’s club coach) and I worked out for Louis to follow, and which has played a great part in his record-breaking success, would horrify pre-war and many present-day lifters and coaches who are living in the past.

Although a great lifter must be quick and well-coordinated, and must have a great desire to succeed, the essential element that he must have – and without which he cannot succeed – is strength. A champion, moreover, must have total strength that can be applied through the full range of a weight lifting movement. In previous articles I have explained the mechanics involved that make the middle range of any lift or exercise the most difficult . . . and therefore the part that most needs strength work. The two-hand curl exercise proves a clear and simple illustration. When the weight is level with the elbows, the leverage is most unfavorable and great strength is needed to keep the weight moving. There is a very similar mechanical difficulty in keeping a heavy press moving upward at the point where the elbows are at shoulder height and the upper arms are horizontal. Similar unfavorable leverage points occur in all lifts and exercises. You are limited to what you can raise in any lift or exercise by the amount you can keep moving through the range of the movement where the leverage is least favorable.

So, what to do about it? Special exercises must be employed to exercise in short-range, limited movements through the area of least favorable leverage. If there is any advantage in isometric training it is that of working the muscles against an immovable object at these points. There is no reason why the exercise should be isometric (non-moving), however, for you will have a much better idea of your progress if you employ graded resistance and force it to move a short distance. Only in this way can you see if you really are increasing your strength, for if you depend on isometric tension only, you may be “kidding yourself” that you are really training hard.

Improve Pressing Power

Let’s consider how short range power pressing can be applied to training for the press. In the full range, the barbell travels about 20 inches or more in a press from the shoulders to locked arms. The initial drive usually carries it some five to seven inches and once the bar passes the top of the head, it usually is not difficult to keep it going to lock-out. But the greatest concentration of muscular effort takes place in the middle range of the lift as the barbell moves from the bottom of the nose to the top of the head.

These parts of the press can be strengthened individually, and special attention can be given to the part or parts that are found to be weakest. To strengthen the first stage, take a weight that is just about your limit for a regular press, or a weight that is slightly heavier than you can press. Hold it across your chest in your regular starting position and then give it a hard, fast drive, as high as possible. The weight will probably go up in front of your nose and stop. Try to hold it at the sticking point for a moment without leaning back, then let it down and flex your legs slightly to catch the bar back at your chest. Straighten your legs and repeat the starting drive. Do the exercise two or three sets of two press-starts.

Start Imparts Momentum

By training regularly on press-starts, with weights heavier than you can actually press, you develop a powerful drive that will give the barbell added momentum when you actually drive a full press into the sticking point at the middle range. If the momentum is great enough, it may be enough to carry the barbell through to the lock-out stage.

To work the middle and final ranges, you need to use a rack. To work in the middle range, set the catchers at nose height and place the barbell across them. Press the barbell up to just a bit higher than the top of your head for two sets of two reps. It is very unlikely that you will be able to use as much weight in this exercise as you can lift in a full press, but it is a good idea to try to work as near to this amount as you can.

To work in the final, lock-out range, you set the bar at head-height and press to straight arms from there. The shorter the lock-out movement (that is, the higher you set the bar to start), the heavier the weights you will be able to use. You can also strengthen your ability to lock-out heavy jerks by doing very short range movements of an inch or two, and for this distance you should work with weights that are about as heavy as you can jerk, or heavier.

You may wonder why it is necessary to work in the easier lock-out range. Many lifters, after having struggled to keep the bar moving through the difficult middle range, find that they haven’t enough strength left to lock out even though the mechanics are more favorable in the final range. If they accustom themselves to locking out with heavier weights, they are less likely to have this difficulty.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pain Tolerance - Frederick Hatfield

Pain Tolerance
by Frederick C. Hatfield

Old Vince Lombardi was a dinosaur by today’s standards of excellence. Why, he became famous for these immortal words: “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Phooey! I spit on fatigue? Fatigue is the spark which ignites. It is the means to greatness. It is the vehicle to success. Fatigue only makes cowards of the uncommitted.

Now fatigue – especially from lactic acid buildup towards the end of a set – causes pain. This pain must be reckoned with. Don’t mistake this kind of pain with the pain resulting from injury. Injury pain is a different breed of animal.

Let’s set the parameters for this discourse on pain. First, there would be no such thing as sport without the existence of pain. Without risk there could be no sport. Since no sport is thoroughly safe, pain must be expected. Things happen. Whether you cope with it or not is your business. Me? I choose to totally dominate the situation.

There are ways at your disposal which will allow you to dominate pain and to use it rather than being subjugated by it.

But what’s most important from my point of view is that by mastering pain – by improving your ability to dominate your pain sensations – you will have allowed yourself that much greater measure of strength.

That’s right. Pain intolerance limits strength output. Don’t you doubt it. Whether you’re a wimp or a macho-man, pain will bring you to your knees. Pain will make you stop pushing and cringe for mercy. It’ll make you cease your set and put the weight back on the rack.

Coping with pain is shortsighted because in the philosophy of sport there is no room for coping strategies. Coping, by definition, means that you are the underdog. You must learn to dominate all situations, and your pain tolerance level is of utmost importance in your dominance. Question is, how do you become stronger by dominating pain?

There are three broad categories of pain of the sort athletes must expect to face: 1.) the pain of extreme effort. 2.) the pain of extreme fatigue, and 3) the pain of injury. The first two are part and parcel of sport, while the third constitutes the element of risk spoken of above. It is the third which we try to eliminate. The other two we just try and put up with despite the discomforts associated with them.

Indeed, the first two are typically thought of as signals to athletes that adaptive stress is being delivered to their bodies, and are therefore positive in their respective displeasure.

This is not always the case. In fact, it is one of the greatest hoaxes in the world of sports. In sports, it has led to monumentally stupid practices which collectively have tended to severely reduce the potential for strength and muscular gains.

Consider that post-exercise muscle soreness has always been thought of by athletes as the “signal” for development in the location of the painful sensation. All of us have experienced it at one time or another. Indeed, most of you have probably actively attempted to induce it, as if this were the proper way to train.

Most up-to-date scientists realize that post-exercise soreness stems from the release of a biochemical called hydroxyproline from torn connective tissue. This substance causes the localized pain you experience the following day. It is not a signal of localized development as so many believe, and it is not to be sought after. It is to be avoided because it is, in the long term, counterproductive to your training goals.

Such connective tissue damage is called “microtrauma,” and cumulative microtrauma can cause a limiting of your growth potential due to adhesions and tissue scarring. It can also cause major injury if left to continue its cumulative effect. Microtrauma, if left to accumulate over time, becomes macrotrauma.

In a very real sense, cumulative microtrauma – and therefore post-exercise muscle soreness – falls into the third category of pain – injury. While it is a result of extreme effort, and while it is often associated with extreme fatigue, it is still injury. An analogy will illustrate what I mean.

If you rub your hands on a rough surface long enough, one of two things can happen. Either you’ll develop calluses (a positive adaptive response) or you’ll get blisters (a destructive process). One is adaptive growth, the other injury from too much stress. Similarly, post-exercise soreness signals injury, and is an example of a destructive process much the same as blisters are.

The key to avoiding the blisters and getting the calluses instead is to know exactly how much pressure to apply and how long to apply it. In sports, the task if the same. How much stress and how long to apply it are the art and science of our sport.

The belief that your efforts have been in vain unless you experience post-exercise soreness has been responsible for yet another very damaging myth in sport. That is the belief that you can shape an individual muscle. You can’t do that, and you’re wasting your time if you try. More importantly, you’re backsliding if you seek post-exercise soreness as a signal that your funky exercise movements are working.

For example, take the simple bench press movement. With a close grip, you feel pain along the origin,(the sternum), bit with a wide grip, you’ll experience a mild post-exercise out near the tie-in (auxiliary region), or the outer pecs.

Your illogical conclusion is that wide-grip benches are good for developing the outer pecs, and close-grip benches are good for developing the inner pecs.

This is ridiculous.

The different pain locations merely signal the fact the mechanical stress in the respective area was too great, and the microtrauma was inflicted, causing release of hydroxyproline in the area.

The same reasoning can be applied to preacher curls versus incline curls, or twisting movement curls versus hammer curls. If your biceps has a gap between it and the forearm, there’s nothing you can do about it. If your biceps is short, it’s short. If it’s long, it’s long. All you can ever hope to do is develop it as fully as possible as possible, accounting for how it “fits” in comparison to other bodyparts for maximum aesthetic appeal overall by variably developing each bodypart accordingly. You cannot alter your genetic predisposition for an individual muscle’s shape potential.

But let’s get back to pain in training. How much pain is good? Can you learn to overcome pain? How can you distinguish “good” pain from destructive pain? What about the “no-pain, no gain” approach?

Often, cumulative microtrauma will cause movement-limiting adhesions. These same adhesions account for your inability to put on expected muscular size because the muscle cells are literally “bound” together so strongly that outward growth is severely restricted.

Dr. Gary Glum, Founding Director of the Institute for Neuromuscular Re-Education in Los Angeles, has developed a technique to rid you of these strength, size, size and flexibility-limiting adhesions. Find a therapist who is skilled at this remarkable therapeutic technique and use his services at least twice yearly.

Of course, the best way to approach this problem is to avoid post-exercise soreness in the first place. To do this, simply approach your training a bit more scientifically. Remember that overstress – using too much weight or too many reps and sets – is not good in any sport endeavor. The most common cause of overstress is negative movements, or eccentric muscle contracture.

A hot post-workout whirlpool followed by a vigorous cross-fiber massage are also excellent therapies. However, remember that all these techniques can do is prevent or minimize the discomfort associated with tissue damage. Only scientific training can prevent the damage from occurring in the first place.

Injuries, once healed, often leave nerve endings entrapped in the scar tissue that forms. The result is pain upon movement. It is called “useless” pain because it doesn’t serve a useful function insofar as warning you of impending tissue damage is concerned. Again, neuromuscular re-education is extremely beneficial in treating this kind of common problem. So too is flexibility training, particularly dynamic flexibility training and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching. Another more easy-to-understand term PNF stretching is “partner resistance stretching.”)

Various injuries can cause chronic pain. This kind of pain is often very debilitating to your training and should be dealt with. There are several ways of dealing with chronic pain:

Mental Rehearsal – By performing a movement perfectly, you can effectively eliminate often unwanted, pain-producing movements.

Progressive Relaxation – By alternately relaxing and contracting each individual muscle, especially the painful area, you can learn to minimize the amount of involvement (and therefore the amount of pain it causes) of that muscle.

Systematic Desensitization – A painful muscle often makes you cower upon having to perform a movement that involves the use of that muscle. By systematically performing the steps you must go through to accomplish the movement, you can make the movement more automatic and thereby reduce the pain.

Transneural Stimulation – This electrical stimulation technique “tricks” your brain into feeling no pain by effectively blocking that specific neural from going to the brain.

Ultrasound – Sound waves of specific frequencies stimulate blood flow to a muscle, blood vessels open and extra-cellular fluid is removed thereby helping a muscle to relax.

Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE) – Of course, this should be your first approach to any sort of chronic pain associated with injury. Rests gives injuries a chance to heal, and ice reduces inflammation and swelling as does elevation and compression.

Perhaps the most common form of pain to lifters and other athletes alike is the pain of intense effort and fatigue – the first two classes of pain mentioned earlier. Take note of these important distinctions between the different sources of pain. Pain isn’t limited to the mental and physical of injury.

The pain associated with effort of fatigue can – and often does – become debilitating. This pain can lead you to believe that you’re in trouble, producing the anxiety-provoking experience and thereby increasing muscle tension, heart rate, respiratory distress and sensitivity to painful training.

This vicious cycle perpetuated further anxiety, and your training becomes a nightmare. Eventually you quit in sheer terror of the grueling task before you.

While the methods cited above are helpful in combating this sort of cycle, the responsibility is ultimately yours: do you want to succeed badly enough to endure the pain? Are you willing to make the sacrifice? Do you realize that such pain can actually be used to your advantage? Do you understand the difference between adaptive stress and injury-provoking stress? Do you have the will to exceed the bounds imposed upon you be conviction?

To acquire these traits, you must first acquire passion.

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