Thursday, July 20, 2017

Shoulder Specialization - John McCallum

Originally Published in This Issue (September 1967) 

The Author, John McCallum

Shoulder Specialization

I was practicing my guitar the other day when my daughter's boyfriend came in. He had on a shirt like a painter's nightmare and a banana sticking out of the breast pocket. He pulled out the banana and held it up to his mouth.

"Got a match?" he said.

I gritted my teeth and fumbled four bars of "Wayfaring Stranger."

He made a big production of walking up and examining the guitar.

"The axe, Dad," he said. "She ain't plugged in."

"It's not electric," I said. "It's a folk guitar."

He flopped on the couch and put his feet up on the coffee table.

"Like for folk songs?"

"That's right," I said. "Like for folk songs and get your feet off the coffee table."

He put his feet down, sat up straight, and worked an aesthetic look onto his face. "Man," he said. "That folk gig is for real. You know - cane fields, coal mines, exploitation of the working class and all." He gazed off dreamily into space.

"Marvin," I said, "what are you babbling about? You've never done a day's work in your life."

He looked insulted. "Man," he said, "I'm sensitive. I can appreciate hard work without actually doing any."

"Sort of vicarious involvement?"

"Yeah. Anyway," he added, "I work with the weights."

"How you doing with them?"

"Great." He got to his feet and stuck out his chest.

I shielded my eyes. "Marvin," I said, "do you mind sitting down? That shirt's going to blind someone."

"Man," he said, "you're way behind. It's like psychedelic." He stuck his chest out again. "How do I look?"

"You look fine," I said. "Sit down."

"I wanted to talk to you about specializing," he said.

"On what?"

"The sexy look."


"On my shoulders."

"Marvin," I said, "why don't you go read a good book and specialize on your head for a while?"

It bounced right off. "I'd rather have broad shoulders," he said.


"Because the girls like them."

"Marvin," I said, "are you thinking of my little girl?"

His face fell. "No, no," he stammered. "Certainly not." He gave me a weak grin. "You know how it is."

"Not really," I said. "But I remember how it was." I went into the kitchen and got a pencil and paper.

"Here," I said. "I'll give you a shoulder specialization program. Write it down or you'll forget it before you get home."

I sat down again. "You'll work out six days a week," I said. "Three days on a general bulk program, and three days on your shoulders."

"On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays you do the general program. Start out with three sets of prone hyperextensions to warm up your lower back. 10 reps each set."

He scribbled on the paper.

"Now you can slip into the squats," I said. "Five sets of five reps. A light set to warm up, a little heavier for the second set, then three sets as heavy as you can do them."

He wrote it down.

"Do a set of pullovers after each set of squats. 15 reps with a light weight."


I looked at him closely. "You're working hard on the squats, aren't you?"

"Of course," He looked quite indignant.

"How much you using?"

"Around four hundred," he said. "For five reps."

I watched him for a while. "What do you mean, around four hundred?"

He shrugged. "You know. Around."

"Over or under?"

"Under," he said. "A little."

"How much under?"

"A few pounds. You know."

"For goodness sake, Marvin," I said. "Will you quit playing the fool? Exactly how much are you using?"

He smiled weakly. "Three-ten."

"Three-ten?" I said. "You were using that months ago. What have you been doing since?"

"Man," he said. "That's quite a load."

"It's not enough. You know better than that. Get with it."

He slumped back on the couch. "Okay," he said. "I'll try."

"All right. Now," I said. "You can do your bench presses. Five sets of five."


"And curls, five sets of five. Rowing, five sets of eight. And power cleans, fives sets of three and that's it."

"What about the shoulder work?" he said.

"That's coming," I said. "You work your shoulders on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. You'll use the 'High Set' system of training. Coupled with the power stuff on the other days, your shoulders should grow real fast." 

"Great," he said. "What do I do?" 

"Write it down," I said. "You start off with the basic exercise for the shoulder girdle, the press behind neck. Only you won't be doing it in basic style. You'll be doing in in very advanced style. You gotta use advanced methods to really get good.

"Take the weight off the squat rack," I said. "Don't clean it. Use a wide grip and press the weight up as fast and smooth as you can. Lock your arms at the top.

"Don't rest the bar on your shoulders between reps. Just lower it till it touches the back of your neck and then press it right back up again. Try and get a sort of rebound out of it." 

He got a dreamy look in his eyes. "Man," he murmured. "I'm gonna look great." 

"Use a moderate weight for your first set. Do six reps. Increase the weight and do another set of six. Then do three sets of six as heavy as you can with a couple of minutes rest between sets.

"And don't forget," I said. "This heavy stuff is all-important. Reg Park presses over three hundred behind the neck. You won't get shoulders like Reg Park's by pressing one hundred or even two hundred. Shoot for three hundred pounds."

Marvin blinked. "Man," he said. "That's like a lot of weight."

"Sure," I said. "And you'll end up with a lot of muscle."

His eyes got dreamy again. "I'd like that."

"Okay. And when you finish the heavy sets take a couple of minutes rest. Then drop the poundage way down and start doing sets of eight reps with no more than thirty seconds rest between sets. Do ten of these light sets and drop the poundage as you tire. You'll finish up with a pretty light weight but you'll be pumped like you're wearing shoulder pads."

Marvin looked a little doubtful. "Man," he said. "It might be easier to wear shoulder pads."

"It's a lot of work," I said. "But you're going to get a lot of results."

"Okay," he said. "You're the boss."

"Good. Now, when you finish the presses, take a short rest. Then you do a secondary set for the deltoids. The one-arm dumbbell press.

"Do them the same way, I said. "A couple of warmup sets, three sets of six as heavy as you can, and ten sets of eight with about thirty seconds rest between sets. Do them military style. Don't rock over any more than an inch or two.

"Handle all the weight you can on the heavy sets," I said. "You ought to be able to work up to over a hundred pounds."

"I'll try."

Okay. And finally you do a supplementary pumping exercise. Lateral raises with light dumbbells. Do them fifteen sets of eight reps."

He scratched it down. The paper was getting crowded.

"Do the lateral raises in very strict style," I said. "Lean forward slightly while you're doing them. Don't lean back under any circumstances. Do them nice and smooth and no more than thirty seconds rest between sets. That's the final exercise and you'll be blown up like a life raft when you finish."

"And I'll get big shoulders?"

"I guarantee it. Stick on that program for a couple of months and your shoulders will be your outstanding body part. Everybody'll notice them."

"Man," he said. "The girls'll love me."

I gave him a cold look and he stammered, "Not that it matters, of course."

"Okay," I said. "But don't forget you gotta soak up protein or you won't gain. Take all the supplements you can and knock off at least two quarts of the 'Get Big' drink.

"You oughta like that," I added. "It's got a banana in it."

"Ah, yes," he said. "The mellow yellow."

"That's right," I said. "But eat it. Don't smoke it." 


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.

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: 

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

Continued from here:


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

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  
"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. 


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. 



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


Power Snatch
Snatch Pulls
Clean Pull From Box
Back Squat


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


Narrow Grip Snatch
Clean Pulls
Snatch Pull From Box
Back Squat


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!


Blog Archive