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History of Powerlifting, Weightlifting and Strength Training Part 63

Logic, Equipment, CrossFit (and that is a trademarked name)! One More Time For “The Other Side”

Of the many responses that were evoked by last month’s article that focused upon the CrossFit phenomenon sweeping the nation if not the world, one of the brief but insightful comments I received was, “NOT SCATHING, NOT DISRESPECTFUL, JUST ONE MAN’S OPINION I DISAGREE WITH.” That of course is fair as everyone, including me, is entitled to an opinion. Titan and I received a lot of comments regarding last month’s article on CrossFit, indicating that even for the powerlifting community, it is a big deal. As everyone who knows me understands, I have been molded, and perhaps scarred, by my upbringing, some of which was done in what I usually refer to as an immigrant Polish household. “I started at the Home For Unwed Mothers in Amityville, New York and then was taken in by the dopey Polacks” is my standard description of life. My grandparents spoke Polish, as expected, having emigrated from Poland, and cooked Polish. In the neighborhood and in others of skewed ethnic origin that I lived in over the decades, the English language as we know it was altered, butchered, and ultimately utilized to present very clear and concise meaning while not coming close to English or Literature class approval. Years ago in one of my articles I noted that respects were paid when “Old Walter was burialized.” A word or term that was rarely attempted in our circle was bona fides and when it was, it was usually one of the wise guys trying to sound “intellettual” as we would put it. Even when the mispronunciation came out as “bone-a-fydz” we all “got it” and knew that someone was vouching for another and the fact that they could be counted upon to get a specific task done, and had “the stuff” to get it done.

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THE PHOTOS FROM OUR LONG AGO 1999 ANNUAL JULY 4TH MASSACRE TRAINING EVENT INDICATES MY LACK OF FORESIGHT AND INTELLIGENCE. I DID NOT SEE THE MARKETING POSSIBILITIES OF STRINGING TOGETHER OUR USUAL TRAINING PROCEDURES AND “FUN STUFF” OF SQUATTING, PRESSING, HAND-OVER-HAND PULLS, AND STONE LOADING AS A TRAINING SYSTEM! MOST OF POLISH ORIGIN, UNLIKE THE AUTHOR, WOULD HAVE DONE BETTER. PHOTOS FEATURE OUR SON GREGORY WHO IS CURRENTLY THE OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR OF THE NFL’S SAN FRANCISCO FORTY NINERS.

One of my long time trainees, training partners, and friends is Mike Senft who has the bona fides in both business and in training for all aspects of strength and health. A former Princeton football player, Mike took his 240 pound physique and utilized it to get what is arguably the best undergraduate education in the nation, completed his MBA work at Columbia, and moved forward to a successful career on the investment banking front. Using our “word for the month” once again, he earned his powerlifting bona fides less as a member of our group than from his time spent training in Chicago with Ernie Frantz in the 1980’s.

Mike-Senft

Mike Senft, # 70 in your program and number one in our hearts,” as the expression goes. Above, Mike leading a sweep against # 95 of Cornell

He’s done it all on the lifting front and it has allowed him to be very successful in maintaining a strong, youthful physique and tremendous energy levels that propel him through 90 hour work weeks. He’s lifted very heavy weights, incorporated a variety of modalities through decades of consistent training, and has continued to train with me and at a Manhattan CrossFit facility as his schedule allows. While, as noted, I received a lot of comment on last month’s Titan article, I specifically requested that Mike provide his own insights and these follow below.

“I have lived with the philosophy and ethos of your guidance for over 30 years now, and have been uniquely benefited by it. And of course I agree completely with all the foundations of fitness expressed.

Crossfit, like so many aspects of life, has gross imperfections. Chief among them are overtraining and risk of injury from inadequate supervision, complex movements, and mistakes made under exhaustion.

That said, I have witnessed its ability to create a “community” for large groups of people which serves to engage and motivate them like no other modality I have ever experienced. And perhaps most importantly, a sage once said, “People just don’t understand how hard one has to work to effect change” (stop me when this sounds familiar…..) [author’s note: the quote is mine!] . Crossfit, with it’s competitive/supportive environment and high intensity approach, incorporating a variety of movements and protocols, provides a uniquely inspirational environment for the trainee who does not have a Dr. Ken & Kathy, and does not have the personal background or capacity to train on their own at a similar level of commitment. Compared with what I have regularly witnessed at the Equinox and other gyms in NY, it is light years ahead and closer to what I believe we all embrace as the correct approach.

I miss 20 rep squats, Hussefeld stone carry, chain drag, warrior press, etc. But I doubt most people would understand what we do with you, yet they work very hard in the Crossfit environment. So I am glad for the “realism” I see from that level of commitment. I am not a big fan of half-assed effort and poseurs…..

As I mentioned after I met Greg Glassman, the founder of Crossfit, he totally gets the foundations of your beliefs and approach.

one trainers, is appalling. You enjoy a unique, idyllic environment in your facilities, and in the rarefied air of the elite training organizations where you have lectured, etc. The great sea of mediocrity I deal with every day is unnerving at best. So, during my “penance” here in NYC, I take small comfort from environments where people actually seem sincere and generally work hard.”

Allow me to add an additional comment from Mike Burgener. For those who have been out of touch from the legitimate world of lifting activity, Mike played football at Notre Dame and we first met in the late 1960’s while we both were visiting California to experience the training environment of the gyms we had read about in the muscle magazines.

Coach-Mike-Burgener-

Before he was “Coach Mike” Mr. Burgener was one of those football players talented enough to play under the leadership of Notre Dame’s great head coach Ara Parseghian

I finished playing football and my education and returned to New York. Mike finished and returned to California where he became a revered Olympic lifting coach and educator. Arguably, he has been the best Olympic weightlifting coach in the United States for decades. He was also one of the early advocates and what I will term “foundational members” of CrossFit activity. Two comments he sent to me can be incorporated with those above from Mike Senft:

I am proud to be part of the crossfit community and the coach that teaches proper form and technique of the Olympic lifts.


Coach b

And another, made after reading Mike Senft’s comments:

Enjoyed mike’s comments and share the same beliefs. We all fight improper technique, poor planning, non recovery….BUT WE CAN, we do, we have…..done it the correct way and the results speak for themselves!

Thanks ken for your leadership!

Mike

The commentary of Mike S. and Mike B. reinforce my opinion of CrossFit and highlight the problems as well as the positives. If Mike Burgener was teaching the Olympic weightlifting movements that are incorporated into most if not all CrossFit programs (I will repeat that I do not claim expertise regarding their system of training), the movements would be done correctly and as safely as possible. My “complaint” was made vis-à-vis the original Nautilus concepts and opening of Nautilus only fitness sites. I made the analogy to early Nautilus based training where a lack of competent, complete, and correct instruction resulted in many injuries and the participation of many who were either not ready for the type of intense training Nautilus offered, or who were not properly “fitted” to the equipment. I am in support of anything that allows individuals to enhance their levels of strength, health, and fitness. Nautilus based and Nautilus only training did that for those whose medical, orthopedic, and training history insured that they were ready for it. For those who were not, the “one size fits all” training routine presented significant health and orthopedic challenges. For those not instructed properly, the potential dangers and risk of injury were enhanced. Objective observation and comment from colleagues in the health care professions I believe supports my position. In a further comment from Mike Senft, he summed up my primary concern or criticism of the CrossFit phenomenon, and as a health care professional as well as a physical fitness and strength devotee, it remains the most meaningful:

“I would only note that, while I am perhaps uniquely driven and motivated by average standards, I benefit just as much or more from your coaching, guidance and governance than a less applied trainee. I gain both technical guidance and great perspective that is crucial to my progress. Crossfit suffers from an uneven consideration of workload and individual output and recovery capacity in many of its more intense ‘wods’ (workouts of the day), which, along with lack of critical supervision, can put the trainee at risk both during the session and over time. You have ALWAYS had a ‘sixth sense’ about my condition at the start of any session, and have then guided me to my ‘edge’ for the day, rather than set an arbitrary goal regardless of current conditions.”

I am respectful of Mike Senft’s comments because he has done it all relative to pushing himself to excel physically and intellectually. “Mental toughness” is a daily component of everything Mike does and we have joked that he is so intense that we would not want to witness any “psyching up routine” that might precede romantic activity with his beautiful wife! Re-reading his very passionate yet well considered statements notes what is very positive about CrossFit and again, there are similarities to what became available and the wholesale change in the fitness and strength building industry with the 1970 – 1971 introduction of Nautilus equipment. I will repeat that with the type of instruction and supervision provided by a coach at the level of Mike Burgener, the general criticisms and mine in particular, would not be directed at the CrossFit groundswell.

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History of Powerlifting, Weightlifting and Strength Training – Part 62

Logic, Equipment, CrossFit (and that is a trademarked name)!

From Wikipedia: “CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program designed to help people gain a broad and general fitness. CrossFit programming concentrates on constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity to achieve overall physical fitness, so people are prepared for any physical challenge. CrossFit is a trademark of CrossFit Inc”

We’ll get back to this shortly.

While I have been aware that I can, and have in the past, used logical thought to solve problems and come to conclusions that seemed reasonable to me and those I was dealing with, I haven’t placed myself in the category of “very smart individual.” I have never considered using the descriptive term “intellectual” in any sentence that had my name in it for very obvious reasons. I would probably qualify as a street-smart Polack with a good education but that’s my limit. However, one would be surprised how far logical thought and a little bit of street smarts or common sense can go. I spent decades writing and editing articles for Mike Lambert at Powerlifting USA Magazine, without a doubt, a sorely missed touchstone for the sport of powerlifting and a publication that will never be duplicated in its influence and effect on our sport. During my tenure there, from 1978 through 2002, I watched Mike carefully wind his way through the most tumultuous time in powerlifting’s relatively short history and not yield to political pressure, threats, money, or anything else that would have made him waver from what he felt was an unbiased and neutral reporting of the sport’s important news and events. While my columns and articles were given wide latitude to state what I wished to say and serve as the constructive criticism he would not bring down on others, the standard approach was to avoid “rants” and offensive tirades that served to detract from any legitimate point we were trying to put before the public. My service to TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS mimics what I did for PLUSA which is to bring information and hopefully, a bit of enjoyable reading to those who are interested enough to “tune in” each month. I would like to conduct what I hope will be an enjoyable excursion into the realm of logical thought and common sense this month.

Pat_Susco

Multiple squat record setter Pat Susco squatting: is this “functional,” getting stronger, or “CrossFit?”

Powerlifting is a sport that requires the elevation of a barbell in three specific movements or planes of motion. A competitor or participant can become stronger by focusing their energies upon the three lifts of the squat, bench press, and deadlift, and ensuring that they are progressive over time. If they do this, they will lift heavier weights and total more in contests. Some contend that using exercises other than the three competitive lifts, specifically designed to strengthen the musculature utilized in the lifts, will enhance progress, provide variety when training, and perhaps reduce the probability of injury. The proviso here of course, is that in all movements, the trainee must maintain progression in the resistance and/or repetitions used. Obviously both approaches work as the history of the sport notes lifters of record setting caliber who have used either training philosophy. Some of the actual training programs are a bit more complex and involve more equipment or planning than others but either approach can work if the physiological needs of stimulating growth in strength and/or size and allowing time for recovery are met.

Minnesota-Vikings-Pro-Bowl-center-John-Sullivan

Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl center John Sullivan: is this “functional,” getting stronger, or “CrossFit?”

If you are a lifter who believes that “more than” the three lifts can and should be done in order to best prepare for competition, a careful analysis of the needs of the body relative to the three lifts would be completed, and any assistance movement(s) chosen would be incorporated into the program to meet a specific need. That assistance or additional exercise would be learned so it was done properly and safely, and it would “fit” the rest of the program so that training was optimized and over training or under training was avoided. All of this is both obvious and logical.

Only because our series of TITAN columns has purposely been heavily slanted towards equipment development and use, allow me to introduce our first request for logic and an equipment comment of the day. It would be assumed that any exercise chosen to enhance one or all of the three competitive power lifts would be chosen because it did in fact provide work that would increase the muscular strength and/or size of the involved muscles. When Nautilus machines were introduced to the public, there was no real “equipment industry,” no “fitness industry,” very few health clubs or gyms open to the public, and an almost total absence of women strength training in public if at all. Much of the Nautilus equipment was effective, some was not. Much of the Nautilus equipment was extremely effective and has yet to be matched by the biomechanics of today’s industry and much of it had application to the sport of powerlifting. The philosophy, one borne of common sense and logic, is that for any sport, one enhances the “raw material” of the body and then applies the improved muscular strength, size, and conditioning components to the specific sport of interest. Combining the improved physical components with skill training that is specific to whatever sport one is pursuing, is the most efficacious and yes, logical way to reach one’s potential.

linebacker-Ken-Cobb

Former CFL linebacker Ken Cobb: is this “functional,” getting stronger, or “CrossFit?”

History of Powerlifting, Weightlifting and Strength Training – Part 62 0
by Ken Leistner | September 11, 2013 | 0 Comments History of Powerlifting, Weightlifting and Strength Training by Dr Ken Leistner
Logic, Equipment, CrossFit (and that is a trademarked name)!

From Wikipedia: “CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program designed to help people gain a broad and general fitness. CrossFit programming concentrates on constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity to achieve overall physical fitness, so people are prepared for any physical challenge. CrossFit is a trademark of CrossFit Inc”

We’ll get back to this shortly.

While I have been aware that I can, and have in the past, used logical thought to solve problems and come to conclusions that seemed reasonable to me and those I was dealing with, I haven’t placed myself in the category of “very smart individual.” I have never considered using the descriptive term “intellectual” in any sentence that had my name in it for very obvious reasons. I would probably qualify as a street-smart Polack with a good education but that’s my limit. However, one would be surprised how far logical thought and a little bit of street smarts or common sense can go. I spent decades writing and editing articles for Mike Lambert at Powerlifting USA Magazine, without a doubt, a sorely missed touchstone for the sport of powerlifting and a publication that will never be duplicated in its influence and effect on our sport. During my tenure there, from 1978 through 2002, I watched Mike carefully wind his way through the most tumultuous time in powerlifting’s relatively short history and not yield to political pressure, threats, money, or anything else that would have made him waver from what he felt was an unbiased and neutral reporting of the sport’s important news and events. While my columns and articles were given wide latitude to state what I wished to say and serve as the constructive criticism he would not bring down on others, the standard approach was to avoid “rants” and offensive tirades that served to detract from any legitimate point we were trying to put before the public. My service to TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS mimics what I did for PLUSA which is to bring information and hopefully, a bit of enjoyable reading to those who are interested enough to “tune in” each month. I would like to conduct what I hope will be an enjoyable excursion into the realm of logical thought and common sense this month.
Multiple squat record setter Pat Susco squatting: is this “functional,” getting stronger, or “CrossFit?”

Multiple squat record setter Pat Susco squatting: is this “functional,” getting stronger, or “CrossFit?”

Powerlifting is a sport that requires the elevation of a barbell in three specific movements or planes of motion. A competitor or participant can become stronger by focusing their energies upon the three lifts of the squat, bench press, and deadlift, and ensuring that they are progressive over time. If they do this, they will lift heavier weights and total more in contests. Some contend that using exercises other than the three competitive lifts, specifically designed to strengthen the musculature utilized in the lifts, will enhance progress, provide variety when training, and perhaps reduce the probability of injury. The proviso here of course, is that in all movements, the trainee must maintain progression in the resistance and/or repetitions used. Obviously both approaches work as the history of the sport notes lifters of record setting caliber who have used either training philosophy. Some of the actual training programs are a bit more complex and involve more equipment or planning than others but either approach can work if the physiological needs of stimulating growth in strength and/or size and allowing time for recovery are met.
Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl center John Sullivan: is this “functional,” getting stronger, or “CrossFit?”

Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl center John Sullivan: is this “functional,” getting stronger, or “CrossFit?”

If you are a lifter who believes that “more than” the three lifts can and should be done in order to best prepare for competition, a careful analysis of the needs of the body relative to the three lifts would be completed, and any assistance movement(s) chosen would be incorporated into the program to meet a specific need. That assistance or additional exercise would be learned so it was done properly and safely, and it would “fit” the rest of the program so that training was optimized and over training or under training was avoided. All of this is both obvious and logical.

Only because our series of TITAN columns has purposely been heavily slanted towards equipment development and use, allow me to introduce our first request for logic and an equipment comment of the day. It would be assumed that any exercise chosen to enhance one or all of the three competitive power lifts would be chosen because it did in fact provide work that would increase the muscular strength and/or size of the involved muscles. When Nautilus machines were introduced to the public, there was no real “equipment industry,” no “fitness industry,” very few health clubs or gyms open to the public, and an almost total absence of women strength training in public if at all. Much of the Nautilus equipment was effective, some was not. Much of the Nautilus equipment was extremely effective and has yet to be matched by the biomechanics of today’s industry and much of it had application to the sport of powerlifting. The philosophy, one borne of common sense and logic, is that for any sport, one enhances the “raw material” of the body and then applies the improved muscular strength, size, and conditioning components to the specific sport of interest. Combining the improved physical components with skill training that is specific to whatever sport one is pursuing, is the most efficacious and yes, logical way to reach one’s potential.
Former CFL linebacker Ken Cobb: is this “functional,” getting stronger, or “CrossFit?”

Former CFL linebacker Ken Cobb: is this “functional,” getting stronger, or “CrossFit?”

The “problem” that lifters had with Nautilus equipment came from the misguided belief that any modality other than a barbell, dumbbell, or long established “lifting machine” like a leg press or pulldown apparatus, would not transfer to the three competitive lifts. Of course if the old fashioned inverted leg press would be considered an acceptable assistance movement, despite the very deleterious effects it had upon one’s blood pressure and lumbar spine components, then a better designed leg press should have been at least as acceptable. Of course it wasn’t because Nautilus didn’t look like anything that had preceded it, and the short sighted lifting media neither understood the underlying concepts of the equipment nor its application. That said, one of the primary problems was a lack of adequate instruction and at times, any real instruction. In an attempt to cash in on the new fitness and training popularity that became a national trend between the mid-1970’s and early 1980’s, many “business types” opened up establishments with no credentials, no background in the lifting sports, and no understanding of the equipment. Many trainees suffered injuries because everyone used the same exact training program; many trainees were not properly fitted to each machine; many trainees were given a standard weight increase protocol with no regard to their actual rate of progress; many trainees were not given an understanding of the exercises they were doing nor proper instructions.

NFL-linebacker-Rocky-Boiman

Former eight year NFL linebacker Rocky Boiman, member of the Super Bowl winning Colts: is this “functional,” getting stronger, or “CrossFit?”

Does it make sense that every individual’s program should be tailored to their exact needs and abilities? Should a competitive lifter at 123 pounds make the same progressive jumps as a 220 pound competitive lifter? Should one expect that the leverage factors of a 5’2” lifter would be different than one 6’1” in height? Should any consideration be given to a history of previous injury? Obviously, if any lifter expects to make the greatest amount of injury free progress, every one of these factors must be taken into consideration. Nautilus, unfortunately, was not introduced to the lifting public or the powerlifting public in this necessary manner. The statement that any modality that can make one stronger, and then allow the increase in muscular strength to be applied to the three lifts concludes the logical part of today’s “lesson” as it relates to powerlifting. Let’s jump ahead to the present and apply the same rules of logic and in fact, the same aforementioned logical statements. In our training facilities, from our office that focused upon injury treatment and rehabilitation as well as the preparation of athletes for their competitive seasons, to the highly successful Iron Island Gym that competed well on the lifting circuit in the years Kathy and I owned it, we utilized a variety of training modalities. Any particular day’s training program, dependent upon the needs of that athlete, might include barbells, dumbbells, machines, tires, logs, stones, chin and dip bars, and/or maritime chains that were dragged in our driveway or behind the gym. My articles that date as far back as the early to mid-1980’s in Muscular Development Magazine and other publications explained our penchant for car pushing, beam carrying, log pressing (with wooden logs I had made), and similar exercises that at the time, were considered to be “off beat” or “way beyond the norm” in strength training.

Now comes the brief “rant” or semi-rant portion of this column. There seems to have grown a well marketed strategy to incorporate the same variety of exercise movements long used by our athletes and among strongman contest competitors for decades. It is called CrossFit and any individual with a passing interest in strength training knows what it is, has witnessed it, and perhaps has fallen under its spell. I am reminded of a comment made by the uncle of a close friend, an older gentleman who was a chiropractor long before I returned to school to become licensed in the same profession. In the mid-1970’s upon hearing of my employment with Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries he stated, “I’m not even sure what all of this Nautilus stuff is but it’s been the best thing for my business.” Recently, an orthopedic surgeon said the same thing to me about the CrossFit phenomenon. I don’t claim any in-depth understanding of “CrossFit” but rather view it as a construct of various exercises, done with minimal rest between sets, of very standard things done by those with a history of strength training to their credit. However, my criticism, and the rationale behind the comments of the aforementioned orthopedist, stem from the same problems that Nautilus focused training had when introduced to the public. Repeating what I wrote earlier in this article:

One of the primary problems was a lack of adequate instruction and at times, any real instruction.

Many “business types” opened up establishments with no credentials, no background in the lifting sports, and no understanding of the equipment.

Many trainees suffered injuries because everyone used the same exact training program.

Many trainees were not properly fitted to each machine (or for CrossFit, modality).

Many trainees were given a standard weight increase protocol with no regard to their actual rate of progress.

Many trainees were not given an understanding of the exercises they were doing nor proper instructions.

Repeating further: Does it make sense that every individual’s program should be tailored to their exact needs and abilities? Should a trainee (or competitive lifter) at 123 pounds make the same progressive jumps as a 220 pound trainee (or competitive lifter)? Should one expect that the leverage factors of a 5’2” trainee would be different than one 6’1” in height? Should any consideration be given to a history of previous injury? Obviously, if any trainee or lifter expects to make the greatest amount of injury free progress, every one of these factors must be taken into consideration.

Thus, while there is nothing inherently “wrong” with a training program that has one do the Olympic lifts, it certainly is if there is a paucity of instruction. There is nothing wrong with doing “Strongman Lite” movements with small tires and stones but it certainly is with a paucity of instruction or the lack of consideration of the body leverages of each individual trainee. There is nothing magical about CrossFit or any other training program or approach. “Hard exercise” with minimal rest between sets will provide many benefits but only if there is an attempt to tailor the program to the individual’s needs and specific abilities. There is nothing deleterious about utilizing machines or different modalities to specifically enhance the three competitive powerlifts unless proper instruction and forethought are given to the inclusion of each movement. All and any of this is logical.

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History of Powerlifting, Weightlifting and Strength Training – Part 61

Prototyping Part 8

If one were to enter the famous York Barbell Club gym during the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the greatest lifters in the country, some among the greatest in the world, would be seen lifting barbells loaded with metal plates. During a time in 1968 and ’69 when I either hitchhiked or drove to York for a Saturday morning workout, the plates used on the lifting platforms were metal. Needless to say, the platforms had to be “built to last” and the centerpiece for any serious training facility, be it a storefront gym or one’s garage, would be a “real” lifting platform. The unfortunate truth was that even the most well constructed platforms needed constant maintenance and repair due to the abuse that Olympic lifting presented. Bent bars were certainly encountered but probably less often than anticipated or expected with the advantage of hindsight. Powerlifting and bodybuilding could present the same challenges to a barbell or platform when heavy weights were utilized.

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Bodybuilding great, and author’s long time friend Dave Draper squats at Gold’s Gym, late 1960’s. Note thickness of lip on what were referred to later, as “deep dish” plates. While in use and before the introduction of “thin line” Olympic barbell plates, we just called them “45’s!”

When the younger generations of lifters view photographs of the former participants of the sports of weightlifting and powerlifting, they often laugh about the wide lipped plates that were standard equipment. The wide lipped plates allowed for more surface area to strike the platform or floor upon each plate contact, dissipating force and thus protecting both barbell and floor surface. The rise in popularity of powerlifting as an organized sport and the very rapid increase in the amount of weight used in the three competitive lifts and especially in the squat, led to the early-1970’s introduction of a thinner profile barbell plate. This allowed the performance of the more frequently seen 700, 800, and 900 pound squats and deadlifts while being able to fit all of the plates onto the barbell sleeves, and with the ability to secure them with an appropriate collar. There are numerous photos, classics really, of great deadlifters and all around lifters Wilbur Miller and Bob Peoples deadlifting 700 + pounds, with canvas straps securing the ends of the bar and/or additional weights dangling off the bar in order to bring the total weight up to record levels.

classic_vintage-deadlifter

Old School Barbell Loading

There were certainly a few historical figures in the sport of powerlifting that forced barbell and plate manufacturers to re-think the products that they were offering to the lifting public. The rise in litigation also tended to push the more well known manufacturers to re-think the safety of their products and there was little defense for a barbell that could not be safely loaded and lifted because the amount of weight could not be accommodated and secured. Men like George Frenn, Jon Cole, Jim Williams, and John Kuc put up numbers in the 1960’s that would have held them in good stead into the 1980’s. Pacifico, Bridges, Kaz, and Coan took things to the next level through the late 1970’s and into the ‘80’s and the manufacturers, still centered in the United States, had to respond.

Jon-Cole

International discus competitor Jon Cole made an even larger impression as one of the world’s greatest powerlifters. He later became a de facto strength coach for many of the athletes at Arizona State University. Note thick-lipped plates on bar

The introduction of thinner plates, especially within the sport of powerlifting, made loading of the bar and plate security possible and predictable. Protection of the bar and platform came from the development of all rubber, or metal core covered with rubber, bumper plates. There is certainly a detailed history of those products but to conclude the insight to prototyping of lifting equipment, I wanted to present a specific case of plate development. I was asked to help prototype a new urethane covering for Ivanko Barbell Company. As perhaps the premiere supplier of barbell and dumbbell products in the United States, it was always both a pleasure and a privilege to assist Tom and Ivan Lincer with the development of their products. I had lent a very minor amount of assistance on barbell related items in the past, and as this father and son team are among the few true experts in the areas of barbell and plate development and the history of the processes used in the manufacturing of “everything barbell or dumbbell,” I was eager to be involved. That this particular prototyping task could have been easily predicted as “fun” made my involvement immediate. I had written a piece for the Ivanko Barbell Company website that did not see the light of day, in part because Ivan can write in a manner that is oh, perhaps fifteen times more literate, cogent, and entertaining than I can. However, the staff at TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS felt that presenting most of the original material would prove to be instructive regarding some aspects of powerlifting or weight training equipment production.


IVANKO URETHANE


It is always a pleasure and I enjoy helping to improve any type of training equipment. My wife Kathy and I have frequently been asked to design, prototype, or merely work with and improve the proposed or existing design of equipment. We take the requests seriously and it is invariably rewarding to know that our input helped to provide the lifting public with a “better” piece of training equipment. A recent request by IVANKO BARBELL COMPANY left us a bit giddy as we were given the rather direct instructions to “destroy these barbell plates.”

IVANKO has been developing an improved urethane coating for their plates with the express purpose of producing what the lifting public would consider “an indestructible training tool. “ Targeted for bumper plates that would be used for standard lifting purposes and exposure to general abuse in a hard core lifting facility, our specific test plates were Urethane OUEZ E-Z Lift Plates. We are very familiar with this model plate as our office facility and that of our one-on-one athletic training complex that services primarily high school, collegiate, and professional athletes, utilizes these “grip type plates” for all of the obvious reasons. We immediately set about our task, having one of our stronger athletes, a 6’ tall, 250 pound police officer, clean and jerk 297 pounds. With the bar loaded to the set weight and collars secured, we insured that the 45 pound test plates would take the full brunt of the impact by bringing the barbell to our testing load with smaller diameter plates, with only the larger Urethane OUEZ E-Z Lift Plate 45’s on the IVANKO OBX bar, hitting the platform. We should have noticed before our “even dozen” overhead drops and another two dozen “dumped deadlifts” with 407 that we had essentially destroyed our platform where the new Urethane coated plates had made contact. Our “indestructible” platform of 2 X 4’s stacked tightly together on end, covered with two layers of three-quarter-inch plywood and three-quarter-inch rubber was, as they say in our neighborhood, “craterized!” The plates were later taken outside and dropped repeatedly on the rim from waist height, onto the concrete street. Realizing that we were about to crack the municipally owned thoroughfare, the plates were given over to my partner Frank Savino at Gridiron Fitness for further assault.

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As an adjunctive exercise meant to complement squats and deadlifts, one of the beautifully “Penn State Nittany Lion” engraved plates was hooked to a chain and rope and dragged around the municipal parking lot adjacent to the facility. After a week of dropping the plate numerous times on the rim and having it dragged across the lot, Frank reported that “This thing is indestructible.” I told him to “drag it behind Tom’s pickup truck” and our trusted trainer Tom Touhey did just that, dragging the plate up and down and then across the parking lot multiple times. Still not observing much damage, Frank took our massive 33 pound sledge hammer and smashed the plate one dozen times. “Finally,” he reported, “I made a dent” and literally, he made a dent and little more than that in the Urethane surface. Thus, after ten days of focused abuse, the only “dings” in the new Urethane surface were two in number, one near the hub and one close to the rim where the oversized sledge hammer was wielded by a powerful 280 pound athlete.

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The development of new materials is interesting and in our specific encounter with IVANKO BARBELL COMPANY’S new plate covering, destructive fun. I am sure that further developments will be announced at the appropriate time but we are sold on the fact that this new product will absolutely stand the test of time and gym abuse.

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History of Powerlifting, Weightlifting and Strength Training – Part 60

Prototyping Part 7

Beginning the body of this month’s article with a reference to York Barbell Company is coincidental as I received an e mail from former and long time York Barbell employee Jan Dellinger immediately before submitting this for publication. Jan, for those who have not read previous articles in this series and/or who don’t have a foundation in the history of the Iron Game, was an important part of the company’s success and good reputation from the mid-1970’s until a change in ownership in the late 1990’s. Jan was also a strong man with a long involvement in the strength field. His comments on my previous few articles can, I believe, be instructive:

I continue to enjoy your Titan articles/installments. Great presentation as to the relevance of variable resistance in strength training, a connection some do not make because it came from the “machine culture”. Great point depicting accepted low tech forms of variable resistance, along with higher tech versions.

Let me re-emphasize the point I have made that barbells, dumbbells, machines, bags of sand, and almost anything else that can provide resistance to one’s muscles can be a viable and effective training tool. Unfortunately, too many otherwise clear thinking individuals who train with weights, decided at some point in their development that if an idea, concept, or training technique arose from anything or anyone related to the work with a weight training machine, it was wrong, ineffective, or could not be adapted to barbell training. Many have lost out because of this and the concept and application of variable resistance training was one of these concepts that Jan is referring to.

When York Barbell appeared to be lapsing momentarily into the machine age in the early-mid ’80s by teasing to handle the Schnell machines from Germany, I got a taste of the “science” side of strength training firsthand from Shnell and his designer Lothar Spitz, when they spent some time in York in 1984. We endeavored to come up with a couple of our own coined terms for the literature–like “accommodating resistance”. I think I had a part in the usage of that one. Schnell was sold on the superiority of his gear box arrangement, had bona fide data that showed the gear boxes actually provided variable resistance to those who were very short to very tall…the same stuff Nautilus said they proved. Whether accurate or not, Schnell had saturated the European market with these units in the ’70s and wanted to compete in the American market.

Schnell was a highly respected company and their Olympic barbell was always rated as one of the best in the world by the top lifters. They developed a series of variable resistance machines based upon Jan’s “gear box arrangement” term and leverage arms that were, for their time, extremely effective and innovative. Think of them as the first of the leverage equipment, with Nautilus Leverage and Hammer Strength to follow. On one of my trips to York, Kathy, Kevin, and I returned home with some of the units that we put to good use at our office facility and later, at the Iron Island Gym. Interestingly, because Schnell was so closely related to the sport of Olympic weightlifting with their superb barbells and plates, their explanation of variable resistance and the machines that offered this definite training advantage were very well accepted by European trainees. That the concept was offered even earlier by Arthur Jones and Nautilus made it unpalatable for hardcore lifters based not upon the science, but by the source of the information, again, a loss in the training results for many.

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Kevin performing one-arm repetition bench pressing on the Schnell Standing Bench Press machine, a very innovative piece for the early to mid-1980’s

As to the individual leverages thing, your squat photos of Ferrara and Susco were vivid. First they are both doing a basic squat, but very different positionings due to size variations: the more compact Susco was more upright (assuming the more text book style of squat), while the taller Ferrara was closer to the text book power lifting style(a lot of forward lean out of necessity). Of course, if the latter attempted to squat in the same exact fashion as the former, he could risk falling over backward…or have to shoot his knees very much forward greatly increasing the shearing stress on his knees in order to compensate.

This of course was the point of the article. If one can make “leverage” work for them, through proper lifting technique, posture, and bar placement and also apply the same principles to their training tools with the use of correctly designed machines, and in a “lower tech” fashion, chains and bands, this becomes one more contributing factor in their training.

York Barbell had been the standard in the U.S. and truly, the world, until the mid-1960’s. The introduction of foreign Olympic barbell sets changed the thinking of many, especially as the post-World War II economies of numerous foreign nations allowed them to develop or re-establish their manufacturing abilities. Berg and Schnell of Germany, Eleiko of Sweden, and some of the Russian sets imported by California lifter Chester O. Teegarden introduced our lifters and in time, the lifting public to bars and plates that were decidedly “different” and “not from York.” A barbell that performed so that it was most importantly safe when loaded heavily, that felt controllable on one’s back with unthinkable weights on each end, and one that was durable became the quest of what seemed like numerous home based and foreign manufacturers and by the early 1980’s, one could choose among perhaps twenty different barbell brands if they wished to train seriously as a powerlifter. York too tried a few different approaches to their product line, offering bars made from a variety of compounds including stainless steel and chrome vanadium, Despite the introduction of the numerous foreign bars, almost every gym that housed serious lifting featured York barbell products. The imported sets were expensive, difficult to get, necessitated lengthy waiting periods due to transport by ship line, and required customs fees. Even those who were serious about obtaining one of the Soviet Union sets, when actually faced with the project of getting it from Point A to Point B, usually “settled” for a York Olympic barbell set.

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Leo Stern owned one of the Russian Olympic barbell sets and it was used in numerous photo shoots with Bill Pearl and Pat Casey. Above, Pat is shown bench pressing the chromed set which was beautiful in appearance. The “fluted” ridges on the barbell sleeves helped to keep the plates in place and reduced rattling noise but many of the experienced Olympic lifters stated, in my presence, that the bar was “overrated” and “much stiffer” than those from other manufacturers

Of course there was a certain cachet to the knowledge that one owned a foreign weightlifting barbell. Most of the Olympic lifters of the day for example, complained loudly, if privately, that the Russian bar was extremely stiff in its movement, thus it looked great, but may not have been the “best” barbell to train or compete with. “It came from the Soviet Union” perhaps allowed one to at least imply that if the best Olympic lifters in the world used it, having one would soon find them in the same performance stratosphere. When the Miyake brothers were doing well, a lot of lifters began hunting for information related to Japanese sets, despite the fact, and long ago before the age of so much electronic and technological instrumentation it was a fact that the statement, “Made in Japan” was an insult, not a positive comment about any manufactured product. By the early 1980’s, York, Ivanko, Superior, Marcy, Paramount, and Hastings were all manufactured within the borders of the United States, had name recognition and supporters, yet were still augmented by small shops or foundries in Topeka, Kansas, northern Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, and Massachusetts who sold or distributed their own bars under a variety of names. What we did not have “a lot of” was the manufacturing of bumper plates.

It might come as a shock to many lifters, especially Olympic weightlifters and even for those who have seen photos from the 1950’s and ‘60’s of the York Barbell Club lifters in action, that rubber covered or all rubber plates were a new innovation in the early 1970’s.