Monday, July 17, 2017

Russian Methods of Training the Press - Charles A. Smith (1952)


Gregory Novak





This next article is once again courtesy of Liam Tweed.
BIG THANKS IN ORDER!




Russian Methods of Training the Press
by Charles A. Smith (1952)

Perhaps the most important section of this "Press" series comes with the present chapter. The author has done all he could, within his limited knowledge, to give you an overall picture of the qualities that determine whether a man is a "natural" presser of just another lifter. By careful study of the preceding chapters*, you should have a good idea of the style you must use . . . the hand spacing, foot spacing, breathing, and all the other many factors that will help you get the most out of your physical equipment when you have to press a heavy barbell to arms length.

*Other Articles by Charles Smith in This Series on the Press:
http://ditillo2.blogspot.ca/2011/09/breath-in-press-charles-smith.html
http://ditillo2.blogspot.ca/2011/07/assistance-exercises-for-press-charles.html
http://ditillo2.blogspot.ca/2010/01/power-for-press-charles-smith.html
http://ditillo2.blogspot.ca/2008/12/how-champions-train-for-press-charles.html
http://ditillo2.blogspot.ca/2008/08/problems-of-press-charles-smith.html
http://ditillo2.blogspot.ca/2008/08/click-pics-to-enlarge-problems-of-press.html
http://ditillo2.blogspot.ca/2008/05/wheres-hepburn-reg-park-overall-power.html
http://ditillo2.blogspot.ca/2008/04/pressing-schedules-charles-smith.html
http://ditillo2.blogspot.ca/2014/03/press-rules-charles-smith-1951.html
http://ditillo2.blogspot.ca/2008/05/press-schedules-of-champions-charles.html
http://ditillo2.blogspot.ca/2008/05/three-pressing-styles-charles-smith.html 

Now comes the job of comparing the styles of the various lifting nations, and the training methods by which you can help bring your Press up to compare favorably with the Snatch, and the Clean and Jerk. In the previous chapter, I touched briefly on the method of pressing used by some Egyptian lifters and now, in this chapter I will deal with the style and training programs of one of the greatest lifters the world has seen . . . the Russian, Gregory Novak.

It is customary in bodybuilding articles to repeat a certain slogan . . . "Schedules will not work unless you do," and the same applies to Olympic lifting. Unless you are prepared to work HARD and OFTEN, then forget about any sensational or even satisfactory pressing gains. I am aware that a lot of words have been spoken and written about certain weight training methods. These methods may or may not have all the qualities claimed for them. But the fact remains that once your coach has smoothed out the rough edges of your technique, he can do nothing more for you . . . given of course the fact that you are a normally healthy and intelligent individual. What you become thereafter depends entirely on . . . YOU, and the extent to which you are prepared to work. Once you have acquired a lifting technique, then you are more or less on your own. You have to to think for yourself.

There is no other lift that responds to hard work like the Press. Most lifters train three times a week and press each time they train, but you need have no fear of going stale if you press every day, two and three times a day. THE SECRET OF PRESSING SUCCESS IS TO PRESS.

Ronald Walker of England, who held onto the Two Hands Snatch record for so many years, used this pressing method . . . he rammed a barbell every time he passed by one. At the beginning of his career, Walker expressed satisfaction in being able to press a weight of 175 pounds and said his ambition was to eventually make 200. Ron has the British Press record still, with a poundage of 282.5 and I do not doubt that if he were alive, the record would stand at well over 300. Only his persistent training and conscientious methods brought his Press up.

In these days of advanced methods and plentiful equipment, there is no reason why 99% of lifters should not be able to press their bodyweight. The increasing popularity of the bench and incline bench exercises and the universal practice of the bench press has in my opinion increased the standard of physical development and lifting. Records are soaring almost every day. Each time an International contest or National championship takes place, you have a new spate of pressing records. The reason is because of the intensified Press specialization that every champion lifter indulges in. Modern lifters are not merely content with the orthodox style. They also use bench and incline presses extensively. They are not content to maintain the "old time" three-a-week workout routine. They press whenever opportunity presents itself. They use not only the Olympic Press, but also dumbbell work and the aforementioned bodybuilders' presses.

Every prominent champion trains along these lines . . . Davis . . . DiPietro . . . Su Il Nam . . . Touni . . . Fayad . . . Namdjou and  . . . NOVAK. The Russian is another lifter who presses daily, and the efficiency of his methods and the style of pressing . . . incidentally, universal throughout the Russian lifting world, is responsible for his steady progress, halted only during the past 18 months by injuries.

Let us trace the early pressing career of the Mighty Novak. On April 15th, 1940, Novak, lifting as a middleweight, pressed 268.75 pounds. From that time to the present, he has brought his Press up to an unofficial lift of 320.25. Naturally, his weight has also increased at the same time, but the point I am trying to make is that there has been a STEADY and PROLONGED rise in pressing ability. When Novak commenced competition lifting 1938, he was pressing 237.75 pounds. In two years he jumped his record to 268.75 via poundages of 240 . . . 243 . . . 253.75 . . . 259.25 . . . 260.25 . . . 265.75.

Novak presses every day. On his regular training nights he works out for two to three hours performing innumerable repetitions on the Two Hands Snatch, the Jerk, and the Press. On these "three a week" training days he keeps to the three lifts. On the days outside of his regular practice, he presses, working up from low poundage to something approaching his limit. The first lift in his training schedule is the Two Hands Press and in this he follows a similar system to the Egyptians. He starts fairly low and presses three repetitions with each weight, jumping 10 pounds at a time until he is no longer able to squeeze out three reps. Then he goes to two reps and then single reps, stopping 10 pounds short of his best performance. Once a month he tries out his limit and sees what he can do. I am given to understand that Novak also keeps a diary of his workouts and closely evaluates any advances made, or any easing off of progress that occurs.

Now Novak is what I would call a "natural" presser. He has all the advantages that go with superlative pressing performances. He is short . . . (trunk is thick and powerful at the small of the back. He has fairly long upper arms and shorter forearms (in relation to the upper arms). His whole appearance gives you the impression of POWER. There is a thickness to the shoulders and deltoids and the thighs too are rugged and bulging. His clavicles are long for a man of his height and the leverage factors extremely favorable for outstanding pressing. But what makes his a great presser is the fact that he has developed a style that is eminently suited to his particular type of physique. All the Russian lifters use a similar style with moderations according to the lifter's structure.

It is not my intention to deal with the rights and wrongs of his technique. I am forced to admit that if those who judged his presses decided to keep to a strict interpretation of the International rules, they would be bound by those rules to disqualify him. But the same applies to practically EVERY PRESS IN MODERN COMPETITION. Show me the man who presses according to the rules, and I'll show you a SUPERMAN. The plain fact is that it is almost impossible to maintain a "military" or dead upright stance. Every lifter bends his back to some extent and hardy any press "STEADILY." Those officials who do keep to the rules fairly and impartially are distinctly unpopular! There is of course a remedy . . . MODIFY THE PRESENT PRESSING RULES OR ELSE KEEP STRICTLY TO THEM. 

The Russian pressing method is realistic. They acknowledge as an open fact what every other author knows but closes his eyes to . . . that is is utterly impossible to press according to the International rules. There are some fortunate individuals who can . . . they are the exceptions. The Russian trainers realize that it is essential to have a set back to the shoulders. They are not keeping to the rules it is true, but name me ONE official who JUDGES according to the present pressing rules and then you can condemn the Russian style. As much as we may hate the political machinations of the Russians, we as lifters must admit that they are strictly on the ball where our sport is concerned.

The accompanying illustrations (to follow) show, much better than I can tell you, the pressing stance of the foremost Russian lifters. You will note that the hand spacing is wider than the average lifter uses. Thus the deltoids receive a lot more work than they would with a narrower grip . . . that is harder work at the START of the lift. The large majority of Russians use a thumbs around the bar grip with a liberal sprinkling of chalk. The thumbs and forefingers are sometimes taped if the hand happens to be a little on the small side. You will notice that the elbows of Novak slope DOWN and IN, that the latissimus are contracted to provide a firm pressing base. The shoulders are set back and the chest is thrust forward.

When the referee claps for the signal to commence pressing, a deep breath is taken and held throughout the lift. The bar is rammed vertically upward and follows along one line. It does not curve forward or back. It is not "moved" by the lifter in ANY DIRECTION OTHER THAN UP. The entire body is laid along a gentle curve from the shoulders down to the ankles, the greatest portions of the curve being at the hips and chest. The hips and chest are thrust forward. The most important thing to remember about Russian pressing is that the bar moves along ONE vertical line and does not cause a loss of balance by being thrust forward and then back. The only thing wrong with the Russian Press technique is the method of breathing. I DO NOT recommend holding the breath throughout the lift for reasons which I made clear in my chapter on "Breathing During the Press." [see link above]

I would advise you to take as many magazines as possible and study the photos of the lifters appearing in them. Just stick to the pressing photos. See how many lifters, prominent or otherwise, maintain a military position when pressing, and then determine for yourself the presses that were passed without question by the judges. Take a rule book and then pick these presses to pieces. Few of the lifts depicted will merit a "pass" if the rules are obeyed to the letter in judging.

However, it is not my sole intent in this chapter to flay the present rules. Judges give their rulings honestly and in 99.99% of cases with complete fairness. I am merely trying to give you the benefits of the Russian pressing style and their training methods. This style can put pounds on your Press legitimately. You can use that style without fear of being disqualified, safe in the knowledge that it is passed by officials in strict International competition.

Once you get the weight moving, concentrate on keeping it traveling directly UP in the same plane throughout its "time of flight." Don't try and shift it forward or back, for if you use the correct style, you will find this unnecessary. You Press with be strong and sure and your balance steady. Just stand right there and smack that weight to arms length.


     

Figure 1 - not shown:
The typical Russian stance for the Press. Wider than average grip, the slope down and in of the elbows, and the "set" of the upper arms against the contracted lats. The body is in a gentle curve from heels to head with foremost thrust of the hips.

Figure 2:
The start of the Russian style Press. As the referee claps his hands, the lifter takes a  breath and commences the lift. Note the distinct set back of the shoulders and thrust forward of the elbows.

Figure 3:
Approaching the sticking point the points of the elbows start to turn out allowing the full play of the triceps as the deltoids have just fully contracted. The lifter's breath is held throughout the lift.

Figure 4:
Full power of the triceps now comes into the lift as the barbell is taken to arms length. Note from the first illustration to this, the bar has not moved from the "line of flight." It has been pressed straight up and has not moved either forward or back.

Figure 5:
At the end of the Press, the lifter has followed through with his head. He has also expelled his breath. Russian technique is designed to eliminate all lift losses through faulty balance. 





















Sunday, July 16, 2017

Charles A. Smith on John Davis' Training (1951)


Alyce Yarick, John Davis
Photo original courtesy of Jan Dellinger.




John Davis material at Lift Up: 

Some Davis material from here:


"Black Iron: The John Davis Story"
by Brooks Kubik




This article on John Davis courtesy of Liam Tweed. 








Author: Charles A. Smith, from his "The ABC's of Lifting Series" - 
this article is from Muscle Builder magazine, January 1951. 

I am writing this article on the eve of my departure for England and the Mr. Universe contest. There is a "dead line" to meet; a series to keep up to date and it was impossible for me to plan this chapter months ahead. Yet I think this present article will present no break in the continuity of the series. In fact it will prove to be a most timely and pertinent section of the work as a whole, for it concerns the training methods of the World's Heavyweight Champion, John Davis. 

Davis deserves a special niche in the Hall of Athletic Fame for he is the ONLY athlete in the history of ANY SPORT who ever held all his country's records, all the Olympic records and all the world's records at one and the same period. This is an achievement that ranks, to my way of thinking, as the greatest all round performance of all time, and one that is never likely to be beaten. At present, the Press record is in the keeping of Doug Hepburn of Vancouver, British Columbia, but I will be surprised if Doug retains it for long, for I fully expect Davis to take it back before the end of the year is out.

The information contained in this article does NOT come directly from Davis himself, but has come from individuals with whom Davis has discussed lifting (myself among them), the magazines in which this information was published, and those individuals who were fortunate enough to attend a Davis training session. It reveals a simplicity of purpose and a common sense approach to the problem of bringing himself to the pitch of weightlifting efficiency. 

Davis has trained himself. That much we all know, and I will publish this chapter of this series to provide inspiration for the countless thousands of world be champions, and with the firm belief that such knowledge and inspiration belongs not to one man but to all. I just as sincerely believe that Davis himself is of this opinion. He has never spared himself when it came to imparting his valuable store of knowledge to a promising lifter or a kid, altho he had no hopes of making good, still had the intense desire to improve.

Davis has performed pressing feats that make the lifts of the old timers look sick. At the recent John Terlazzo show, he made a clean and continental press of 365 pounds which by far exceeds any previously performed . . . Hepburn, it is true, has pushed aloft some incredible poundages, but these were in most cases taken from squat stands. At the recent Senior National Championships, he pressed 340 for a new world record, only to have it taken from him a few minutes later by the titanic lift of Doug Hepburn, who made 345.5. 

He has, in the old style strict military form, pressed 295 for 2 repetitions . . . this feat was performed back stage of the William Penn High School, while Johnny was waiting to lift. He holds the American record in the Press with a poundage of 342 and his 332 World's record stood for almost three years until it was broken at another Senior National meet, also held in California, with a poundage of 335.

To me, he is the super scientific pressing stylist and a close observation of his method of ramming the weight overhead will reveal an extremely shrewd and calculating use of every muscle in his body to one end . . . PRESS THAT WEIGHT OVERHEAD. 

Before the war, he was pressing 320 at a bodyweight far below his present one, and his attitude in competition can be summed up in one word . . . CONTEMPT. 

There are those who would tell you that Davis needs competition . . . that he is a "lazy" lifter. To these I reply . . . You have appraised the man incorrectly. You little know him, or his philosophy of life. Davis needs no competition. He trains with an intensity few approach let alone equal. When a tougher form of workout is devised, Davis will be the man to bring it forth.

Many lifters have problems getting past a certain stage in their progression, and this results in a lot of trouble for the inexperienced. He tells them this: "You must use extremely heavy poundages to make gains that are satisfactory yet you need not concern yourself with what kind of form you use while training." Building up the BASIC POWER, the CONTEMPT FOR TOP POUNDAGES, the ABILITY TO HANDLE THEM, is what counts.  

 Davis trains on each lift for a week, spending four training days on each lift. Sometimes he doubles up on the lifts, using say, the Press and Snatch. And he always includes a power building exercise such as the Squat to end his workout session. He makes a minimum of 64 presses each week and sometimes as many as 80, using sets of 2 reps . . . sets of 10. His training schedules usually last for a 10 week period, and depending on his condition, he regulates his starting poundages.    

He never performs less than 8 sets no matter how lax his final sets of presses become. But his innate common sense comes to the front when he cautions you all to exercise control over the weight. You must never let bad lifting run away with you. In other words, you must make certain that the poor form, or that "get the weight up anyhow" attitude does not become a bad habit so that you instinctively turn to it during competition. 

"The basic principle of lifting," says Davis, "is to build bigger and stronger muscles." This is of course, the obvious, but it is astonishing how few lifters actually realize it's profundity and train for bigger muscles with but slight increase in power. To build great power one must handle heavy poundages with a low repetition number and a HIGH set number. This is the method that Davis himself finds builds power.

Altho he once decried the use of bench pressing, he has found that it does increase your overhead pressing ability. Davis had heard of some of the lifts claimed by certain bodybuilders in the bench press, and determined he would try the exercise for himself. After he had worked up to some extremely heavy poundages . . . one lift of 400 was made, pressed directly off his chest with no bounce . . . he went back to Olympic lifting and discovered much to his surprise that he was much stronger in the two hands press. He has since, honestly and sincerely advocated the use of bench presses.

An examination of his try of the use of heavy poundages will reveal that his beliefs are founded on common sense planning. "If you use a schedule in which poundages constantly decrease, such as the 1-2-3-4-5 system, it will be impossible for you to build sustaining power." There is also a psychological factor to consider here too. You build up a mental resistance to handling heavy poundages if you constantly use light ones, or decreasing poundages, sets and reps during training. There is a lack of determination and fighting spirit that keeps you carrying on when the going is tough. 

Heavy poundages in training are essential if you want to press heavy weights during competition. Davis has said that altho he might not always break a record, he is constantly in striking range of the world's record all the time, so that even if he has an "off" night, he is never far below the top press mark. And if he has a "spot on" night, then we see a new world's record in the Press. If you keep ahead in training, then you are certain to do so in a contest.

During his Press specialization periods, John continuously TRIES to advance his Press poundages every other workout by at least 2.5 to 10 pounds. But he NEVER drops a poundage back. If he feels that he is not ready to pile on that extra training poundage, then the bar stays at the same weight used in his previous workout, until he feels in form once more.

Constantly, he changes his combination of sets and reps. He has used sets of 5 reps, changing to sets of 3 reps, then sets of 2 reps, and reaching an impasse again, switched to 3 reps once more. In the final week of contest training he uses a near limit poundage, making 10 SINGLE REPS . . . that is 10 INDIVIDUAL PRESSES. However, his favorite combination of is sets of 2 repetitions . . . usually 8 sets of 2 reps.

"If your training becomes monotonous, the best alternative is to press while seated." Davis believes that this pressing exercise builds great drive and induces more correct form in actual competition. He rarely tires himself out completely, believing that failure would only lead to disappointment and build up a mental block, a negative or defeatist attitude to limit poundages. However, if the urge to "try his strength" is too great for him to resist, then once every four weeks he essays limit attempts. 

He also has a very remarkable . . . yet again common sense . . . system of determining the certainty of making his starting poundage. Under varying conditions, he tries his starting poundage . . . once with no previous warmup, again after his workout is ended, and at other periods under the most difficult conditions he can think of. This ensures him of at LEAST one attempt to his credit.

His views on warming up are very timely and to the point, with the element of reason to them. "You should never use heavy poundages when warming up back stage" and Davis goes so far as to limit a man capable of pressing 250 to a warmup of NOT MORE THAN 135 pounds. "Make your reps as fast as possible," says John, "pressing the weight half a dozen times, then having a good rest and taking the weights for another fast 6 reps." This should be done half an hour to 45 minutes before making your initial Press of the competition. 20 minutes before you make your first Press, do another 3 reps, driving each one up with all the power that is in you. NEVER under any circumstances use a heavy poundage, for if you do you'll leave your pressing power in the warmup room. There are exceptions, but these are men of extraordinary power . . . men like Louis Abele and Jim Bradford, who both used heavy warmup weights for getting into their pressing stride.

Would it benefit you to try these training methods of the World's Champion? I can well imagine you are asking this question. Beyond any doubt, I believe it would, taking into account the innumerable differences in each human being. At the very least, his method is one of the best for utilizing the combination of sets and repetitions.

In closing this article I would like to express my deep thanks to John Davis, for the many things he has taught me, and to my friend, John Barrs, for so much of the information appearing in this article. 

I can only repeat that I believe the methods of Davis will lead to success. 

  

"Body-Building" by John Barrs (1930) - 
Including the B.A.W.L.A. Primary Physical Improvement Course. 

David Gentle's History of Physical Culture Educational Resource: 




Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Body Built, Part Two - Kenneth Dutton (1997)

Available Through Bookfinder.com:

Continued from here:
http://ditillo2.blogspot.ca/2017/06/the-body-built-part-one-kenneth-dutton.html


THE FAUN: SANSONE

Until the 1930s, most of the practitioners of bodybuilding were also weightlifters, usually making their living from theatrical and circus performances and instruction in physical culture. Their bodybuilding activity, in the form of posing, remained a part of their stage act as it had done for Sandow, or took the form of posing for photographic studies to be used as promotional material.

Men like Max Sick of Bavaria (who called himself Maxick) -

An Abdominal Isolation by Maxick

Similar Isolation by Bishnu Gosh

Maxick, bottom of a One Arm Dumbbell Swing


Treloar's pupil Orville Stamm ('the boy Hercules'), and Georg Hackenschmidt ('the Russian Lion') were essentially stage weightlifters, though all had themselves posing in skimpy attire. 

Orville Stamm

Gradually, however, as the vaudeville theater declined in popularity, the 'strongman' stage act became a less lucrative way of making a living and its exponents could no longer earn the salary of a Cabinet Minister. At the same time, weight-training techniques were becoming more sophisticated: by 1920 weightlifting had become an Olympic sport, and its practitioners had discovered that the type of training required for building massive strength was different from that required for achieving a muscular look. Posing in the near-nude seemed, in any case, far too frivolous and 'arty' an activity for serious international sportsmen.

The transition from bodybuilding as an adjunct to weightlifting to its emergence as an autonomous activity took some years. Despite the public fascination with Sandow's 'physical perfection', he remained until his de4ath in 1925 the symbol of the strong man as much as that of the developed man. It took a gradual shift in perspective for the representational interest of the body to free itself in the public mind from its instrumental function - a shift which has never been totally accepted in the community at large and which even today leads to the popular criticism that bodybuilders are not actually strong and that their muscularity is 'useless'.

This shift in the nature of bodybuilding from a by-product of the body's instrumental use in weightlifting and health-oriented physical culture to a distinct form of representational display took place in the years following Sandow's death, in the later 1920s and early 1930s. The increasing sophistication of public taste was seized upon by a number of influential trainers and photographers who placed a new emphasis on the formal aesthetic quality of the posed figure. Amongst the bodybuilders and trainers was the man whom many considered Sandow's natural successor, Sigmund Klein (1902-1987). 




Steve Reeves and Sigmund Klein




Sig Klein, cover of Roger Eells "Vim" magazine.
The magazine, with Eells as editor, ran for 17 issues. 

Here is a 17-part series "My First Quarter-Century in the Iron Game" by Klein:
Sweet Mystic 17, eh. The magic of ten and seven. Senseless numerical balderdash aplenty, mate. 
Klein had been brought from Germany as a young child to live in the USA where he observed the vaudeville strongmen and followed for a time in their footsteps. Having married the daughter of 'Professor Attila', he re-opened the Attila gymnasium before beginning his own physical culture studio in 1926. In his instruction and numerous magazine articles, including those in his own publication  -

Klein's Bell ran for 19 issues.

Throughout, he was to place the primary emphasis on what he called 'training for shape', developing and teaching the types of exerciser that would bring out the musculature of the body as distinct from increasing its strength. Frequently photographed in bodybuilder's trunks or brief 'posing strap', he embodied in his own physical development and passed on to his pupils a much more exclusive concern with the aesthetics of muscularity than the 'professors' of physical culture (including Sandow) had traditionally fostered. 

Without skillful and sympathetic photographers, however, bodybuilding could not have extended its appeal beyond a small number of devotees. A number of early professional photographers (Sarony, Eisenmann) had made something of a specialty of  'strongman' photographs. 

 - Note: Eisenmann also extensively photographed those who were well known in that era's 'Freak Shows' as well. Some amazing photos, no question. The concept, perception and definition of 'ugly' is a fascinating subject, and it relates strongly to the idea of masculine beauty and the physique over time. 

Very interesting, well researched, well written and well presented book on the subject:
"Ugliness: A Cultural History" by Gretchen E. Henderson (2015) 

It was not until the 1920s that there emerged a new group who devoted themselves to what became known as 'physique photography or the photographic depiction of 'expressive posing'. The first of these was John M. Hernic, a former bodybuilder who in the 1920s opened a mail order photographic gallery which sold 'The Apollo Art Studies' featuring the leading bodybuilders of his time.

The most accomplished of early physique photographers was Edwin F. Townsend of New York, who did away with the pseudo-classical props of the earlier generation and posed his models in relaxed or balletic rather than heroic attitudes. Sophisticated lighting, rich finishing and a meticulous concern for detail made Townsend's work stand out in sharp contrast to the often crude products of his predecessors. The historian David Chapman has commented that:

"Townsend often printed his photographs in sepia tone and softened the focus to make his subjects more romantic and dreamy looking. He apparently liked the contrast between the vague, almost feminine image and the hard masculinity of the subject. So while Saxony viewed hi subjects as characters in a cosmic drama, Townsend tended to see his as idealized versions of perfection unconnected with the world around them."

Townsend produced some elegant studies of Sigmund Klein in 1921, but it was some years later that his most memorable work was done - a series of poses by his favorite model Tony Sansone. These not only made his own reputation but did much to re-establish the developed male body as an object of aesthetic contemplation after its abandonment by the world of high art.

Edwin F. Townsend -  from "Rhythm
Circa 1935, model Tony Sansone. 

None of his predecessors in the field, however accomplished, had produced work of such beauty of composition, which at times matches in visual power the contemporaneous nudes of the internationally famous Edward Weston and prefigures those of Bruce Weber and Robert Mapplethorpe in more recent years. 

It was not only Townsend's reputation that was made by these studies, but even more so that of his model. Tony Sansone (1905-1987) was a native of New York who had attempted to overcome a number of childhood illnesses by taking up athletics and physical culture. Inspired by photographs of well-developed bodies in Physical Culture magazine, he began to take an interest in bodybuilding, and a chance encounter with Charles Atlas on the beach in Coney Island in 1921 led him to follow the Charles Atlas Course.

 
 
"American Adonis: Tony Sansone, the First Male Physique Idol"
by John Massey.
By the following year he had won an Atlas contest for progress and development and the for the next few years dedicated himself passionately to bodybuilding.



Having worked for a short time as an actor and dancer, he later chose to devote his career to the instruction of others in bodybuilding, and in his mature years operated three different gymnasiums in the Manhattan area.

Sansone's place in the history of the physique rests on two slender volumes of photographs, Modern Classics (1932) and Rhythm (1935). 

bookfinder. com
 
   bookfinder.com

Volpe Photo of Sansone



Mainly by Townsend, though with some by Achille Volpe, they show the athlete posed against a simple background, either almost black (only a dimly lit wall and curtain breaking up the space) or almost white (the shadow of his body reflecting his pose).  His body is sometimes relaxed - recumbent, seated or standing casually - sometime taut, a simple prop suggesting an antique theme. (David) Chapman rightly speaks of the 'cool and elegant detachment' of these poses, the serenity which draws upon 'images of a Classical and contemplative Elysium of the soul'. 

What is it that gives these two relatively meager collections of photographs such an important documentary status in the social history of the body and that makes Sansone such a significant figure despite the totally unremarkable nature of his public career? There are at least three aspects of this question which deserve our attention.

First, these are for the most part nude photographs. From Sandow's time until the end of the 1930s, it was by no means uncommon for bodybuilders to be photographed nude, though only from an angle at which the genitals were hidden. The body was either turned away from the camera, or photographed from the side so that the near leg could be placed forward of the body and conceal the genital area. In a frontal shot, the model (if not wearing any tights, trunks or some other form of clothing) was required to sport the somewhat ridiculous 'fig leaf' in order that modesty should be preserved. (Though Sandow's plaster cast for the British Museum shows totally nude including genitals, this could no doubt have been justified on 'scientific' grounds.) In the case of Sansone, however, the genital area is often completely visible, no attempt being made to conceal it by an artificially adopted pose.  


The circulation of the photographs in their original form was highly restricted. In the two volumes in which they were published the genital area was carefully airbrushed, giving it the appearance of a black triangle of hair which is curiously, and disconcertingly, similar to that of the female pubic region.

In other versions subsequently reproduced, a fig-leaf has been painted on in the appropriate spot - like air-brushing, a common practice of the time as was the addition of a painted 'posing pouch' or G-string. Air-brushed or not, Sansone was clearly intended to be seen as a nude figure - and, in many of the photographs, a nude figure in repose. The classical vocabulary of stage props had disappeared, but so too had the equally classical reference-frame of the defiant heroic stance which was part of the justification for the nudity of the subject. Never before had the image of the bodybuilder been handled with such voluptuousness, or come so close to an overtly erotic treatment. 
 
The second important factor is Sansone's renowned handsomeness. A man of striking visual beauty, he was so remarked for his 'sultry Latin good looks' that in 1926 he was approached by motion picture studios seeking a replacement for Rudolph Valentino, who had recently died. Though he declined the offer, there is no doubt that his extraordinary facial resemblance to the great screen idol played an important part in his appeal: the face of a Latin lover surmounting the body of an Adonis. It is hardly surprising that he has remained an 'icon' of gay culture, his photos - including some of the original (un-retouched) nude poses - still appearing today in gay books and magazines. In this respect, Sansone marked an important new development in twentieth-century male iconography. Both before and after him, attractive facial features have been seen as at most incidental to success in the world of men's bodybuilding: it is above all the body that counts. What Sansone incarnated was not the 'heroic' bodybuilding convention but the alternative 'erotic/aesthetic' convention - that in which the subject or representation is chosen for his capacity to elicit desire as much as (or more than) admiration. A male bodybuilder may rise to the top of his profession regardless of the handsomeness or otherwise of his features; for the male stripper or centerfold, on the other hand, they are as integral as his muscularity to the role he plays. 
 
Finally, Sansone's importance can be linked with his popularizing of a more lither and athletic male physique than that displayed by Sandow and his other bodybuilder-strongman predecessors. Indeed, he owes as much to the dancer as to the weightlifter. It is significant that Townsend had been a theatrical photographer before turning to physique photography, having photographed the legendary Anna Pavlova and the modern dance pioneer Ruth St. Denis. Photographs of Isadora Duncan had also been influential in studio photography and had often conditioned the choice of poses. As Peter Weiermair has pointed out in relation to 1920s photography  
 
 
From bookfinder.com
 
 
"The ideal of a man changed to the physically fit, muscular body so that dancers and athletes became favorite models. The shot was meticulously produced in a studio, so that the evolving sculptural effect could be gained through lighting. According to the social norms, dancers and athletes were allowed to appear as nudes . . . The combination of a powerful, self-confident body and a reminiscence of the Greek world creates a surreal mode of reality and ideal." 
 
There can be little doubt that the dancing of Nijinsky, which has already inspired a remarkable study by Rodin, was an influential factor in Townsend's posing of Sansone. Nijinsky's celebrated performance as the Faun in the ballet L'Apres-midi d'un faune (which the dancer had himself choreographed to the music of Debussy) had not only caused a furor on account of its 'indecency' but, more significantly, had opened up to the European imagination a new perception of the expressivity of form and gesture of which the male body was capable. One need only compare the photographs of Nijinsky as he appeared in this role with a number of those taken of Sansone by Townsend to observe the striking resemblance of attitude. Having worked as a professional dancer, Sansone would undoubtedly have been familiar with the poses even if he had never seen Nijinsky perform in person.
 
In addition to the figure of the hero, the faun had been one of the leading motifs of ancient statuary, the Greeks identifying him with (or as an attendant on) the god Pan. Whilst some antique representations depict the faun figure as bestial - half man and half goat - others show him instead as a lithe and vigorous rural youth, either dancing or in a state of repose. His depiction provided the opportunity for a more sensuous portrayal of the muscular figure than that afforded by the noble or heroic gods, especially when not dancing he is often shown in a languid recumbent posture. When shown standing upright, the sway of his hips is overtly, almost provocatively sexual in suggestion (a theme also hinted at in Donatello's adolescent David), and when reclining he appears to be asleep, offering his inconscient body for the viewer's inspection. The potent sexual overtones of these bodily attributes were certainly not lost on Townsend. Nor were the darkly Italian features of his model. American fascination with an exotic, sensual Italy having reached a peak during the photographer's boyhood through the popularity of Nathanial Hawthorne's novel The Marble Faun.
 
All of the above factors combined to make Sansone most important figure since Eugen Sandow in the history of the developed male body. If Sandow was a Hercules of chiselled white marble, Sansone was a seductive and swarthy Pan. The first was the progenitor of bodybuilding; the second became the prototype of the male pinup. 
 
 
Next: Sportsmen and Stars. The Progression of Bodybuilding.     
 

 

  







 


























Saturday, July 8, 2017

Sample 70s/80s UK Weightlifting Layout - Alan Winterbourne

Alan Winterbourne




This information was submitted courtesy of Liam Tweed's Collection.
Many Thanks!!!



"This program (sent to me and written by Alan Winterbourne) is presented as an interesting illustration of the training style of the 1970/1980s UK weightlifters. If you have ever read any of John Lear's training books you will see the similarity in style."
 - Liam Tweed. 




 The Training Program

All exercises to be done to maximum 3-2-1. If you have time do some pulls, but only up to 100% on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This is an eight week programme. Six weeks of this, and two weeks cutting down, only training Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Monday and Wednesday you only do Snatch, and Clean And Jerk up to starting poundage and a fairly light Squat of only 20 kgs. above best Clean for your last five workouts. On the day before the competition you can play with an empty bar to loosen off. 

NO MORE THAN 3 REPS ON ANYTHING AND PUSH YOURSELF.

Liam's Observations: 

This was the first time I encountered squatting at every workout. Note heavy emphasis on Front Squats (3 x per week), with Back Squats playing a supporting role (2 x per week). This was just for Juniors, who were not full time athletes. The Senior lifters would train 2 x  per day and one told me he did Front Squats in the morning and Back Squats at night, 5 days per week! This made my head spin. 

Snatch Balance movements, involving diving under the bar into a full Snatch and then recovering, were VERY popular back then and I got to see Senior lifters using weights for this exercise that were far over their best snatches. This was not an exercise I had done much in my past training.

Loads of pulls- and note the recommendation to add even more if there was energy and time!  

Technique work 2 x per week for each lift, including work off boxes. Narrow grip snatching was new to me. This was done in a Power Snatch style.

Intensity - note it was typical for the lifters to work up to maximums in EACH movement, but key here is that it is you maximum FOR THAT DAY, so if you are having an off day this would be just what you could manage for the day. This took me a LONG time to understand. I would flog myself, failing multiple times, even up to missing a Snatch 10 times in a row! 

Reps were always very low. Lifters would move through warmups for 3s, working up in weight to 2s, and then some singles at the best you could manage.

Results? This was a very effective program, but it took me a while to build up my conditioning. 


 

Mondays:

Snatch
Jerk Behind Neck (off rack)
Clean From Box
Front Squat


Tuesdays:

Power Snatch
Snatch Pulls
Clean Pull From Box
Back Squat


Wednesdays:

Clean And Jerk
Snatch Balance From Behind Neck
Snatch From Box
Front Squat


Thursdays

Narrow Grip Snatch
Clean Pulls
Snatch Pull From Box
Back Squat


Fridays:

Power Clean
Push Jerk
Snatch Balance From Behind Neckj
Front Squat.


Thanks again, Liam. I think there will be many people grateful to you for sharing this.
Have a good one, Brother!











 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Unjustly Curious? The Paul Anderson Backlift - Joe Roark (2017)


                                                Unjustly Curious?  
[ simple questions remaining unsatisfied regarding Paul Anderson's claimed back lift ]
                                                     by Joe Roark (2017)

            For those who cherish ironhistory as I do, it is not disrespectful to
            double check the claims of lifters. Otherwise when Vasily Aleexev
            cleaned and jerked over 600 lbs to become the first human to do so,
            as a news-paper in Urbana, Illinois reported in 1970, the typo (which
             should have mentioned over 500 lbs) might still be believed by those
            who do not carefully follow the iron game. Aleexev, at the time, was
            the most famous weightlifter in the world.

            Thirteen years before that typo, the most famous lifter in the world
            was the American Paul Anderson, who had won Gold at the 1956 Olympics
            in weightlifting for the USA. The following year, having started a pro career,            
           he claimed a back lift of 6,270 lbs. It is also not disrespectful to examine that
            claim. If the lift happened, what is the harm is scrutinizing it? If it did not
            happen, are we dealing with another simple typo, or a situation not at
            all simple?

                                    BEWILDERING CONDITIONS

On May 17, 2017 I drove my wife, and my mother, to Quincy, Illinois to visit my sister Sue, who was in the hospital following spinal surgery. On the return trip eastbound on Interstate 72 we encountered about a dozen sporadic high wind dry plains dust storms. Most allowed enough visibility so that we could see for a quarter mile forward. But one in particular was, once entered, increasingly worse, until visibility became actually zero. I could not see the hood of my car! Surrounded by darkness, we crept the car forward for about five seconds, and then clearing skies emerged.

The back lift attributed to, and claimed by, Paul Anderson was similar to my driving experience that day except that no clearing occurs. Indeed the more we enter the search for details, the darker and less transparent that information becomes- a virtual storm of details.

                                    60th ANNIVERSARY

Sixty years ago, on Wednesday, June 12, 1957 tucked into the backyard of Paul Anderson's home in Toccoa, Georgia, we are told, stood two trestles atop which was a flat platform about the size of a large household door, and enough other weight to total 6,270 pounds, under which 24-year old Paul Anderson positioned himself, bent over enough so that he had to straighten his legs only inches, to elevate the load with his flat back, with hands braced on something unnamed, to the temporary relief of the twin trestles and the weightlifting record books, which then, after about 60 years could move on from Louis Cyr's former record, perhaps itself mistakenly recorded as about 4,133 lbs, by adding slightly more than another ton to that back lift attributed to Cyr.
1957 was the year that I began lifting weights at age 14, and in June that year Paul was to have married Gail Taylor, but the marriage did not take place. Instead, Paul married Glenda Garland in September 1959, twenty seven months after the back lift. Neither Paula, his daughter, nor Glenda ever saw the platform. That platform was gone by the time Glenda and Paul married, and Paula was not born until 1966. We do not know for certain when the platform was built, but probably sometime in late 1956 or early 1957.


                                    WHY THE BACK LIFT?

Paul had encountered the following question circa 1956: If you are the strongest man alive, why is the French Canadian strongman Louis Cyr reported to still hold the record in the back lift? The question found its source in the following:

          THE GUINNESS  BOOK OF SUPERLATIVES: 1956
       
              "The greatest weight ever raised by a human being is
               4,133 lbs (1.84 tons) by the 350 lb. French-Canadian,
               Louis Cyr (1863-1912) in Chicago in 1896 in a back-lift
              (weight raised off trestles). Cyr had a 60 1/2 inch
               chest and 22 inch biceps."


                        DOES THE BACK LIFT HAVE A LEG TO STAND ON?

Please notice- the lift  by Cyr was also elevated off  trestles- the trestles were supports, not part of the lift- the same was true of Anderson's later attempt. So any written mention of four table legs leaving the earth upward signifies the author did not know how the lift was performed.

Was Cyr able to lift 4,133 lbs in the back lift? His other reported back lift of about 4,300 lbs consisted of each of  the 18 men stating his own body weight plus an estimated platform weight of 500 lbs ( which was a generous amount for a back lift platform, strength historian David Willoughby asserted) thus meaning each man needed to weigh an average of 211 lbs. That was in Boston on May 27, 1896 (some sources say 1895). Four months later strongman Warren Lincoln Travis witnessed Cyr perform a back lift, and estimated his max would be, interestingly specific, 3,970 lbs. Another strongman, Horace Barre thought Cyr's limit would be 3,900-4,000 lbs.
       
There were other back lifts performed by Cyr, but if we settle on the round number of 4,000 lbs for him, we have a point of comparison for our purpose here to Anderson's lift of an additional 2,270 lbs., or,  50%  more than Cyr managed. Did Cyr ever go for a record in the back lift, or simply demonstrate his ability in public venues? We do not know.

What other lifts would lead us to believe that Anderson was 50% stronger than Cyr in feats that both men performed? An interesting question, but a diversion regarding the back lift. The fact that Cyr was stronger in grip strength is not relevant to the back lift. Cyr is mentioned only to show the target poundage that Paul needed to eclipse to enter Guinness. Paul no doubt had a greater hip strength than Cyr based on Paul's squats.

So, Paul decided to try for a record in the back lift,  hoping to eclipse Cyr's Book of Superlatives record. To this point in his career he had not ever performed a witnessed back lift of more than perhaps one ton, or less,  consisting of four to six men sitting on a 200 lb table, which indeed had attached legs under which Paul positioned himself. On one occasion, the table was not constructed as Paul's specs had indicated in a diagram sent ahead to the venue, and Paul was unable to back lift the few men- no doubt not from lack of strength but perhaps a board pressing against his spine-  but he did not specify the reason. The legs of this table, built according to specs he always had sent ahead for public performances, were attached to the tabletop. So it appears that about one ton in the back lift, was a figure Paul could manage with some regularity at his appearances.

Here are the weather conditions for Toccoa, Georgia, site of the attempt, for the days surrounding June 12, 1957 on Tugalo Street where Paul lived.

                date:                           precip: high:   low:
                Mon  Jun 10, 1957    0.00      70      61
                Tues  Jun 11, 1957    0.02      82      64
                Wed  Jun 12, 1957    0.00      95      68  date of back lift
                Thur  Jun 13, 1957    0.03      95      64
                Fri     Jun 14, 1957    0.04      90      66

The dust clouds are ahead, so let's clarify some points before we proceed.


                                              HELLO, IT'S ME

I will be writing some in the first person because I have been the person criticized for daring to question the back lift as having even taken place- being as I am, dependent on facts, and not one to mimic the meanderings of some other writers who, in turn, have adopted the unexamined words of others.


                                    CANNONBALL, EXPRESS YOURSELF

Paul bought an old cannonball safe in the early 1950s  from a junkyard in Tennessee and used this safe in some of his strength performances such as when Charles Mapes (owner of the Mapes Hotel in Reno, Nevada) first witnessed Paul lifting the safe in California 'in a hole in the ground', where Paul would lift the safe (partially) out of that hole. Keep in mind that Paul told me he never used or owned a second safe.

So, some words about cannonball safes. These safes, flat on top and on bottom, had extremely think walls surrounding their circular middle (hence, cannonball)- in some cases with the large cannonballs, the wall thickness could be more than a foot. These safes, according to my conversation with a locksmith with much experience in repairing cannonballs, and chats with other locksmiths, plus other research I have done led me to these conclusions:

1. A larger cannonball safe which may approach 4,000 lbs had a cavity, once the safe door was closed, large enough to contain the volume of, if not the shape of a watermelon. 

2. The cannonball safe that Paul used in his lifting, about 2,300 lbs had a cavity which could hold perhaps the space of  a large loaf of bread. Usually there were shallow shelves along the rear wall of the safe (opposite where the door closed) perhaps four inches deep. On these shelves containers of jewelry or stacks of cash could be placed. So, only the rear wall had any storage capacity.

3. Recall that when Paul bought his safe from a junkyard in Tennessee in the early 1950s, he said someone had cut away the back of the safe, so he filled it with (take your pick) weights and concrete, or every piece of junk he could find. He offered both explanations. How much concrete can be poured into an opening the size of a loaf of bread?  What size barbells plates (if that was what was meant by 'weights' ) would fit into such a space with the concrete? How many pieces of junk are required to fill up the area of a bread sack?

4. After Paul first acquired the safe, Earle Liederman wrote about Paul and mentioned that the safe weighed about 2,300 lbs. This was after Paul had filled it- it weighed 2,300 lbs, not 3,500 lbs. There is no element on earth the size of a bread sack that weighs 1,200 lbs.

At any rate, when the safe was filled and welded shut, with lifting loops attached, Paul said he had an object of about 3,500 lbs. So the error started early. In fact, he had an object weighing 2,300 lbs. We will learn that the weight of the safe never changed.

Paul used a sort of harness as he stood on a platform over the safe in California, so that bending his legs, attaching the harness to the safe through a hole in the platform above the safe, he would then stand erect and the safe would emerge or at least begin to emerge from the hole wherein it sat. This is the technique he had used in his back yard in Tennessee when he lifted the safe to build strength, although there the safe sat atop the earth, not in a hole. He could not have done a full squat harness lift with the safe because it weighed about 2,300 lbs, as Earle Liederman reported, and no human can fully squat so much weight.


                                    BRYAN AND I VISIT TOCCOA

Until my friend Bryan Frederick and I stopped by Tugalo Street on September 7, 1995 to get measurements of the safe I had never seen a photo of it, and to my knowledge, no photo of it had ever been published- including in either of Paul's own biographies, and not in the biography later written by Randy Strossen, although I had sent Randy a photo of the safe when I returned home after taking photos. I did not know that Randy was writing a biography about Paul when I alerted him that there was no way the safe weighed 3,500 lbs, that it weighed probably in the neighborhood of 2,300 lbs. I had come to this conclusion after checking with several locksmiths, calling a safe company, checking the Internet for Cannonball type safes, and doing some math.
Never again would the safe be referred to, by Paul,  as weighing only 2,300 lbs. And never did Paul mention that he later reopened the safe to remove the concrete and barbell plates, or the pieces of junk, so whatever it weighed after the back lift of June 12, 1957 was what it had weighed since Paul altered it in the early 1950s.

Why then, some years later, after the safe had fallen through the rotting platform upon which it sat for the 1957 back lift and crashed to the yard below, just beyond Paul's drive-way, and Paul's daughter, Paula, later apparently became curious as to what in fact the safe weighed, did it again weigh only close to 2,300 lbs? What happened to those other 1,200 lbs that had been added, indeed welded shut inside the safe? By the way, why did his daughter want the safe to be weighed? Was she being disrespectful, or justly curious? She was born about nine years after the back lift took place, and the platform was gone by then, only the safe remained.

We will never know if anything was inserted unless the safe is opened and examined. My guess is that this will never be allowed. But the answers it would yield! In fact, Strossen acknowledges that he tried to dissuade Paula from weighing the safe itself, asserting that it would prove nothing. Then he bemoaned the fact that the platform is no longer extant to be weighed! At any rate, the weight of the safe before any additions was about 2,300 lbs. The current weight of the safe is about 2,300 lbs. In my opinion no weight was ever added to the cavity, UNLESS it was added to bring the weight up to 2,300 lbs- this would explain why the weight remained constant [in reality] after the first report. It would not explain the 3,500 figure.

But, the dust cloud is denser now. Although in fact the weight probably never changed, it continued to be referred to as weighing 3,500 lbs. And this figure was used as part of the 6,270 pound total- so we have an immediate over calculation of about 1,200 lbs yielding a back lift of 5,070 lbs instead of 6,270 lbs.

Paul said that his father built a platform that weighed about 1,800 lbs. Using Paul's own figures, then adding 1,800 lbs and 3,500 lbs, we arrive at  5,300 lbs. How then do we explain references that Paul had previously back lifted only 5,000 lbs? Perhaps another platform was used, or the safe was not on the platform for those attempts? In a personal letter to me dated January 24, 1990 Paul said the platform weighed 'well over a thousand pounds'. Now, of course, 1,800 lbs is indeed well over 1,000 lbs, but usually most readers would assume that well over 1,000 means shy of 1,100- the next logical reference point. If I mention that a current lifter can squat well over 1,000 lbs, do you assume he squatted 1,800?

Paul asserted that when the safe was on the platform and he had added other weights and junk onto the platform, the materials on and including the platform  were removed and weighed and the total was precisely 6, 270 lbs. Later, in a letter to me responding to my request for some information about the back lift, Paul mentioned that the total weight was in fact a couple hundred pounds more (so, 6,470 lbs?). Why was this not mentioned in any biography or story that Paul himself, or others, wrote?


                                    SIZING UP THE SAFE

Dimensions of Paul's safe :     Diameter: 24"
                                                Height 20.5 " from ground, though probably had sunk into
                                                                       the earth a couple of inches, over the years.
                                                Diameter of safe's door opening: 16 "
                                                Wall Width: unknown but likely 4-6 inches
                                                Circumference 70"

So, here was an object one could straddle during a bowlegged walk. It was not big, large, or huge, as writers had described it. It could easily be sat upon by any adult near it.

But sticking with the famous number reported by Guinness for several years (but not in the immediate decade after the back lift record was claimed)- that is, 6, 270 lbs, about 970 lbs would have needed to be added to the platform using Paul's numbers of 1,800 and 3,500 to reach 6,270 lbs.

But using the actual numbers, 2,300 + 1,800 (more than  triple the weight of the platform that Cyr used), we have 4,100 lbs- about the amount that some credit Cyr lifting. If the total was in fact 4,100 lbs, then 2,170 lbs would need to be added to reach 6,270 lbs. All of this on a platform which Paul's brother-in-law referred to as being the size of a large household door.  In round figures seven feet by three feet? The safe is about two feet wide, and if the safe were placed dead center (for balance), that would leave about 30 inches on either side lengthwise for additional weights,  and about six inches widthwise on either side of the safe.  Not much room to add 2,170 lbs.

Of course, Paul could have straddled the table by placing loaded Olympic barbells perpendicular to the table, but he does not mention this.

                             WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, JUNE 12, 1957

Paul mentions he invited witnesses to that Wednesday back lift attempt. Different accounts indicate different numbers of witnesses. Keeping in mind that the purpose for Paul attempting this back lift was so that his name would be in Guinness, one would assume that the witnesses were there to verify and testify on the record and place Paul into the pages of that record book, presumably the next available printing. So why do we have no printed record of any of the witnesses so indicating? Paul offers: "A newspaper man was there, who came through our request, and as I have already said, my brother-in-law was also there".

[Paul had only one brother-in-law, Julius Johnson, who told me he was NOT there] Karo Whitfield at whose gym Paul had sometimes trained, said to be present, with some of his business friends, never wrote about it. Nor did any of the several others, including one man Paul described in his letter to me this way "One was a man by the name of Foster, who lived in Oregon and represented the GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS, at one time, or at least was a contributor". There is not a single word of testimony from any of the people named as present.

Indeed, Guinness officials, many years later, when asked about what evidence prompted Paul's back lift inclusion, found that evidence insufficient, and removed the entry.

                                    PAUL ANDERSON PASSES

Paul died August 15, 1994 at age 61. Bryan Frederick and I were on our way to the Mr. Olympia in Atlanta, Georgia on September 10,  that year when we stopped on September 7 to see the safe in Toccoa, Georgia. I had thought this was an opportune time to see the safe to take the measurements and write a tribute about Paul lifting it as part of his famous back lift.


                                    MY HEART SINKS IN SADNESS

After we parked the car across the street from the house, we began walking up the driveway. I knocked on the door to ask permission to go to the backyard to look at the safe. Permission was granted. As Bryan and I walked toward the safe, we were struck with its small size. I knew that even if the safe were solid manganese, with no cavity, it would not weigh anything close to 3,500 lbs. It was a sad moment of realization for me, and for Bryan. I had read that the safe was huge, or big, or large, but it stood only two feet tall, as short as our hopes of now believing that the safe could weigh as much as had been claimed for it.


                                    MY MOTIVE IS MANGLED

After returning home, I began researching cannonball safes with the dimensions I had recorded for Paul's safe, and later, when I first wrote about the back lift some people thought it disrespectful, since Paul had died, that I would even check into the matter. Here's what prompted me to investigate: I began writing about the lift- assuming it was a fact, based on the published material about the feat.  Recall, I had never seen the safe or any photo of it, so I was anticipating a safe into which a grown man might be able to fit. My intent was to write a story of praise. But those dust clouds continued to darken, and now that I had actually seen and measured the safe, the supposed facts vanished.



                      DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHERE YOU ARE, JOE?

 I made an error in an earlier story saying that the back lift had taken place in Vidalia, Georgia instead of where it really was reported, Toccoa. I made this mistake, how, escapes me, but I did. I named the wrong town. But then, so did Paul, and no one criticized him! Here is what that means: Paul said that his brother-in-law Julius Johnson, who owned a fine camera was present on June 12, 1957 in Toccoa, Georgia, and tried to take some photos, but because of the tremendous shade (not dust clouds) cast by some trees the photos did not develop well enough to use. In his letter to me Paul wrote about Julius, "He had a highly sophisticated camera which would usually take anything you could see with the naked eye, without using lights. The only thing he got was the platform and a darkness underneath. You cannot even see my outline." Paul also mentions regarding those present, 'Every person that I have mentioned, and there were many more that I cannot remember, are scattered to the winds." He further states, that with the exception of his brother-in-law, all who were present that he had mentioned, "are now dead". How he is aware of people he cannot remember now being deceased, he did not indicate. So, I assume what he meant was only those he had mentioned by name.


                        WHERE WAS JULIUS JOHNSON ON JUNE 12, 1957?

So, I called Julius Johnson, a man of honor. I say this because when asked about the photo story he said he was not present in Toccoa that day (so obviously did not take photos there) and that he heard about the back lift later. I mentioned that Paul had said that Julius was present. He replied, 'I was not there'. I asked how much later he had heard about the back lift. He said 'much later'. So Paul named one witness who disagrees that he was there, or that he took pictures there, and who was unaware the lift was even scheduled for that day.

When Julius Johnson wrote a tribute to Paul in The Toccoa Record on October 6, 1994, some details are mentioned that, to my knowledge are not presented elsewhere:

1. The lift took place in the afternoon of June 12, 1957 (he does not mention the fact that the temperature that day in Toccoa was 95 degrees). It may not have been 95 degrees wherever Julius was that day.    

2. There was apparently no plan to set a back lift record that day, Paul was simply working out. [ so why did Paul summon people for the purpose of setting a record, including a Guinness representative for that specific date ]

3. Several people were watching him work out. and Karo Whitfield mentioned that the greatest back lift ever was 'something over 4,000 pounds', and Paul thought he could beat that.

4. So Paul loaded up his 'stout wooden platform'. Julius continues 'Many people saw him use that kind of platform to lift several people at one time.' Is this the 200 pound table that Paul used is his public demonstrations? Is this why Julius mentions that 'everyone could clearly see that all four legs were off the ground'? What happened to the trestles? Anyway, they filled it up with weights and that safe which Julius recalled weighed 'something over 3,000 pounds'.

5. Paul lifted the total of 6,270 pounds and that total was checked 'again and again'. Karo and Maurice Payne, a newspaper man decided to notify Guinness.
[ If this is so, why did the Guinness entry for 1962 assert only 6,000 lbs, and as late as 1968 mention that Paul was 'reputed to have once lifted 6,200 lbs' (notice, not 6,270) and each amount was ascribed to June 12, 1957.. I have not seen the 1969 entry, but 1970 lists the 6,270- this is 13 years after the lift] And how did Julius know what everyone saw if he was not present? And what details, checked again and again did Whitfield and Payne supply to Guinness?

6. Paul mentioned privately to Julius that he had lifted 'over 7,000 pounds' but that since there were no witnesses he kept that figure to himself. Was this 7,000 lbs before or after June 12? If before, then certainly Paul would have been confident, and it would explain why he referred to lifting the 6,270 as 'not extremely difficult'. If afterwards, when?

7. Julius tells this story as someone who was not present.


Which brings up this question? Who was present and did bring along a camera? The Guinness Rep? Karo Whitfield? The newsman Maurice Payne? Friends who wanted a snapshot to own? Apparently not a single soul saved the incident on film for posterity. Amazing.


                                 IT'S A HOUSE DOOR, NOT A CASTLE DOOR!

Paul's daughter, apparently wanting to know how much the safe weighed, enlisted someone for the task. The weight was found to be in the neighborhood of 2,300 lbs. (first weighing was 2,375 lbs, but the second weighing was 2,240 lbs, so splitting the difference, I use about 2,300 lbs) We no longer have the platform to weigh, so there is no way to determine if the 1,800 lbs was accurate, although a wooden platform, nailed together, which was the size of a large household door would have to be how thick to weigh close to a ton? Those who suggest railroad ties may have been involved are adding
information from imagination rather than source material. And why would railroad ties rot as quickly as whatever the platform was composed of, did?



                                 THE NEW, KNEW MATH


In regard to the other materials on the table,:

Earle Liederman writing in Muscle Power magazine February 1954:
            "The basic weight for this exercise is an old steel safe filled      
              with cement which weighs 2300 pounds."(The source for this
              information must have been Paul himself.)

But in the January 24, 1990 letter Paul wrote to me:
      "Let's now go to the 6, 270 pounds. This was rounded off, because
       it actually was a couple of hundred pounds more. [Roark, 6,470?]
       The basic weight was a big manganese safe I bought at a junk yard
       when I lived in Tennessee. It weighted about 3500 pounds. Someone
       had tried to break into it, or perhaps lost the combination, for the back
       was cut out; so I filled it full of weights to bring it up to a greater
       poundage. The walls on it were very thick, and I was surprised
       at how few weights I could get into it. I then poured in
       concrete to stabilize the weights and add a little more poundage.
       My Dad had built the platform for me, and it weighed well over
       a thousand pounds, and the other poundages were made up of official
       weights.[Roark: barbell plates?]

So, what we know for sure is that the safe weighed about 2,300 lbs, that the platform was probably less than 1,800 lbs- probably far less, and that we do not know specifically what other items were placed on the small remaining space of the table. We also know, that at the minimum, the 6,270 lbs claimed was overstated by 1,200 lbs, so the most the back lift could have been would be 5, 070 lbs. My opinion is that the platform probably weighed far less than 1,800 lbs (really, is it difficult to doubt the weight of the platform, when the weight of the safe was overstated by about 50%?).



                       CAN THE BACK LIFT CLAIM BE BACKED UP?

Anyway, the question now becomes, did ANY back lift happen on June 12, 1957? We know the 6,270 figure was too high, as would be the 6,470 figure Paul mentioned to me in a letter. What can be used to establish that any back lift happened that day considering no witnesses spoke about it at the time, and only rumors, later, seem to mention it, and in those  reports the total weight does not agree!? Even Guinness did not use the 6, 270 number until more than a decade after the back lift. We have no record of Paul trying to correct the 6,000 entry or the 6, 200 entry during those 13 years.



                        PAUL APPEARS ON ED SULLIVAN'S TV SHOW

Earlier in 1957, Paul had appeared on the variety television show of Ed Sullivan. Then his second appearance on Ed's show took place four days after the back lift, that is, on Sunday June 16, 1957. On this appearance, Paul cleaned and easily pressed 415 lbs. So, did Paul use this nationwide occasion to announce that on the previous recent Wednesday afternoon, on a blazingly hot occasion he had eclipsed Cyr's 60-year old lifting record by more than one ton? No. We must wonder why. Wasn't such an achievement significant enough, and timely enough to proclaim on national television?



Earle Liederman, writing in Muscle Power magazine February 1957 mentions the safe weighed about 2,300 lbs. The article had taken some months of negotiations with Julius Johnson because Earle offered:

               "And I might add that Julius Johnson and I spent a few
                months in our endeavors to decide what to release to the
                world with Paul's own special approval, because Paul is
                ever reluctant to talk about himself, nor, as mentioned,
                does he care to reveal his astounding records done in
                training as these are not official."

Later that year, when summoning witnesses to watch his back lift, perhaps Paul thought that by having the feat listed in Guinness, it would be 'official'.

And what other astounding records were done in training during 1956 ? Perhaps he was referring to his ability in the squat, which was indeed superlative.

                p 57 describes his harness lift with 2300 lb cement filled safe

        "The basic weight for this exercise is an old steel safe filled      
         with cement which weighs 2300 pounds. To perform this exercise
         Paul stands on a platform with a hole in the center. He hooks the
         belt to a chain which drops through the hole and it is hooked
         to the safe beneath. Thus, he is able to perform a squat without the
         weight touching bottom too soon, or without it jamming between
         his legs. He chains additional weights all over this safe, and
         has performed this exercise with as much as 4,000 pounds, three
         reps!"
               (Joe Roark asks: So 1,700 lbs of extra weights were
         chained to an object (the safe) whose dimensions are roughly
         a cube of 2' ?) And, the safe is made of manganese, not steel.
               
                p 58  mentions Paul back lifted over 5000 lbs
        "As for Paul's back lifting, he was publicly challenged by Jack Walsh,
         who as many may know, performed a back-lift with an elephant on
         Steve Allen's television show. Paul became interested in this lift
         and consequently made a heavy platform on which he put his heavy
         safe as a basic weight. To date he has lifted all the weight he has
         been able to load onto this platform. These total weights, calculated
         by adding together the various poundages, comes to something over
         5,000 pounds! Since no one knows how much the heavy platform weighs,
         the exact over-all weight remains guess-work."

Notice that final line- no one knows how much the heavy platform weighs? So, Paul had not yet taken apart the platform to weigh it. Writings about when this happened are vague, but I would assume before the June 12, 1957 back lift attempt.  But if the weight was 'something over 5,000 lbs, and the platform was about 1,800 lbs then we are close enough to knock on the door at 6, 800 lbs plus!

Paul knew how much the safe weighed when he bought it (especially if he paid 'by the pound' for it). It was he, no doubt, who supplied the 2,300 lbs figure to Liederman.

And after Paul's daughter had it weighed we know how much it weighs- the same as when Paul purchased it, and to be fair, that amount would likely be after he added more weight to it and welded it shut, so about 2,300 lbs

So where did the 3,500 lbs safe enter the scenario? Some would claim that Paul strapped extra weight to the safe. But this contradicts what Paul himself asserted, that after he filled the safe and welded it shut he had an object which weighed 3,500 lbs to struggle against. Here is the actual quote from his bio World's Strongest Man:

        "...after I welded it shut, and added slots for the belt connections, I
        found myself with 3,500 pounds to struggle against."

The safe, by itself, Paul counted as 3,500 lbs.



                                    THE DUST STORMS CONTINUE

Guinness was told that the total was 6,270 lbs. I was told it was a couple hundred pounds more than that, so 6,470 lbs.  Both of Paul's biographies assert that the platform weighed 1,800 lbs. But  Paul wrote to me that the platform was 'well over 1,000 lbs' so assuming he meant 1,100 lbs, we have:

Safe                 3,500   or         3,500   or         2,300   or         2,300
Platform          1,800               1,800               1,100                  500 (my guess)
Other items        970               1,170                  970               who knows?
            total     6,270               6,470               4,370               2, 800+
Someone actually said to me, well, you cannot prove it did not happen.  This article is written for those who understand that the person claiming to have lifted something (the affirmative) has the burden of proof. If you, dear reader, believe that something happened because someone cannot disprove it, then may I please claim to bench press 700 lbs?


                                    NEVER FEAR TRUTH

Some people are curious why I study such matters. My reply is that I honor ironhistory- not my version of it, not your version of it, but the true version as close as we can get. And in this topic we can certainly get closer than what the majority of casual followers of the game have accepted these past six decades.

I am not certain what, if anything, Paul lifted that day. and this conclusion is based on the continuing dust storm of doubt surrounding details of that day. Unlike my trip home from Quincy, where ,using caution and edging forward, the landscape cleared, in the sixty years since the back lift claim in Toccoa, many writers have added to the uncertainty surrounding it. Writers who- let's hope based on their texts- have never studied the issue but have simply echoed the words of others also ill informed. It may be painful to study, perhaps, for anyone who has believed the traditional storyline, perhaps as painful as spinal surgery.

There is no evidence proving that a back lift by Paul happened on June 12, 1957, but if  you choose to believe something happened, then may I ask: what exactly was it that happened?  And upon what do you base your belief?

            Perhaps we will never know what happened on June 12, 1957 on
            Tugalo Street in Tocooa, Georgia. But we can know what did not
            happen, and that is, a back lift of 6, 270 lbs.

For a discussion of this article visit my forum: ironhistory.com


           


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