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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Key to Might and Muscle - (Circa 1926) - Chapter 15 - Some Fascinating Facts and Figures - By George F. Jowett

Figures to every man who is interested in the sport of weight lifting have the same fascinating interest that time has to the runner, height to the pole vaulter, and distance to shot-putter and hammer thrower. A thrill is evidenced when an exceptionally good record is equaled or broken. Conquest is that for which everybody thirsts. The spectators applaud to see the athlete conquer.

No matter how our customs change, the world remains the same in that one respect. We always have a passion to surpass. During the last few years the sport of weight lifting has been subject to a greater upheaval of surpassed marks than any other sport. It is not so long ago that this sport was looked upon as the special sport of just two or three countries. Now the whole world embraces it. Many experts in the sport has seen fit to say that certain marks could never be reached, certain records could never be equaled, and that the limit was almost reached on other lifts. Those prophecies have vanished like the records they embraced, with the possible exception of a few. The only reason that a few stand is that the lifts on which the records are held are not used as frequently any more, in competition. Time was when the continental style of lifting was all the thing, whereby a weight or weights were taken to the shoulders in two or more movements, and then jerked or pushed overhead.

Personally, I was very sorry to see the two hands continental jerk pass away, for it robbed us of our most powerful men. I still feel that if the International Federation of Weight Lifters would accept five lifts for competition, and include the two hands continental, the results would be better all around. This would give us the "continental " style lifter a chance, and the "clean" lifter would still have the balance of lifts in his favor, although the battle would be harder. I base my argument upon the knowledge that both laymen and athlete are most interested in the largest poundage that one man can lift. For example, any of us would have a very hard job to convince another person that Rigoulot was as strong a man as Swoboda. The Frenchman is a clean lifter, pure and simple, with no inference ever made that he could lift as much, or more, in the continental style. It is doubtful if he can. His best lift is given as three hundred and seventy-six pounds in the two hands clean, with Swoboda lifting four hundred and twenty-two pounds in the two hands continental. I have been informed by quite a few European lifters who were personally acquainted with the Vienna butcher and his lifts, that he had jerked to arms' length from the shoulders the immense total of four hundred and thirty-eight pounds. He was helped with the weight to the shoulder, but they positively swear that, indeed, he jerked it and held it aloft.

Most people would want to know how Rigoulot could be as strong, - -or stronger, acccording to the style employed -- than Swoboda. I know it would be a waste of time to argue. However , there is a no comparison in their pressing ability. Swoboda has a record of three hundred and eleven pounds against Rigoulet's press of two hundred and twenty-three pounds. I feel quite sure that a back bend was used in the first place, although I cannot see such a huge man as Swoboda being capable of bending more than is allowed in the French style. The ruling on the French style has changed somewhat. The judges agree it is not legal to bend in a press, but it is permissible to bend back as far as the lifter desires, prior to the press. This may sound a little complicated, but what they mean is that the lifter can bend back when the weight is at the shoulder, but the body is not allowed to bend while the lift is in progress. Rigoulet made that poundage of two hundred and twenty-three pounds in his match with Cadine, the latter only making one hundred and ninety-eight pounds. I should also say that the clean lift by Rigoulot is not official; his official lift is three hundred and sixty-four pounds. Just the same, Swoboda's four hundred and thirty-eight pounds jerk is unofficial, but we all know that lifters can acquire excellent from while training which has enabled them to totally eclipse many of their best public performances. Nevertheless, the marks that have been set in training are just as honest as when performed in competition. Therefore, it is my intention to give you all the facts and figures that I know of, whether they were done in training or in competition, just as long as they were honest. This being perfectly understood, I will continue with my comparisons. The next great two-handed lifter was the other wonderful Vienna lifter, Josef Steinbach. He stood five feet nine and a half inches and scaled about two hundred and forty-seven pounds. From the shoulder he jerked three hundred and eighty and a quarter pounds twice to arms' length, and in one jerk he did three hundred and ninety pounds, which puts him close to Swoboda. Yet I am pretty sure Herman Gorner could do as well, if not better. This South African German has taken to the shoulders in two movements a four hundred and forty and a half-pound bar bell without any aid, a feat which exceeds Swoboda's. However, he did not jerk it aloft. But, stop and figure what he might be capable of in a two hands continental jerk, when I tell you that he has jerked overhead from behind the neck three hundred and ninety-seven pounds in living weight. Officially, he is only a half-pound behind Rigoulet's official record performance, with three hundred and sixty-three and a half pounds, but as we see, he is capable of eclipsing them all, as proven by his jerk from behind the neck. Then we have Alzin of France, who cleans over three hundred and sixty pounds, and is considered even greater in the continental style, which no doubt he is, because of his great weight. Cadine goes over three hundred and fifty pounds, and Saxon without any effort did a two hands clean in New York of three hundred and fifty-eight pounds. Henry Steinborn has cleaned and jerked on several occasions three hundred and fifty pounds. I saw him jerk the three hundred and fifty pounds three times in succession at Professor Attila's gymnasium. On another occasion, at Siegmund Klein's gymnasium, I saw him jerk three hundred and seventy pounds. Karl Moerke cleans over three hundred and fifty-three pounds. And in the continental style I have his picture snapped as he jerked aloft three hundred and seventy-five pounds. Wilhelm Tureck, another Austrian, who won the world's title in 1898, raise three hundred and fifty-five pounds. While no record mentioned this was a clean lift or not, yet I am inclined to believe it was not, as they never "cleaned" in those days. All this goes to show that our present day crop of strength athletes can compare very favorably with the great heroes of the past, especially if you consider bodyweight in the comparison. Cadine weighs less than two hundred pounds, at a height of five feet six inches. Rigoulot makes two hundred and sixteen pounds and stands five feet seven and a half inches. Steinborn makes two hundred pounds, while Moerke weighs about two hundred and twenty pounds and stands only five feet two inches, with Gorner the heaviest, weighing two hundred and forty-five pounds. He is also the tallest, being over six feet tall. All the older men, like Cyr, Barre, and Swoboda, went three hundred pounds and over, with Steinback and Tureck about two hundred and fifty pounds. Adreas Maier, the German, was the lightest of the big men of twenty years ago, and incidentally one of the best. He stood five feet seven inches and weighed one hundred and ninety-six pounds, but he had a continental jerk record of three hundred and sixty-two pounds and in the clean style he made the first German record that he set at three hundred and eleven pounds. So far, we find that the heaviest weight gotten overhead in the two hands jerk goes to Swoboda and Gorner. Now there is another two handed lift, known as the two hands anyhow, in which a man can employ any method at all in order to stand erect, while the weights are held overhead in both hands. Arthur Saxon, who was so mighty in the bent press, raised the total combined weight of four hundred and forty-eight pounds. From various quarters I have heard this lift scouted, simply because Saxon employed the bent press. That is both foolish and unfair, but just to see how good this Teuton was we will cut out that lift, where the bent press was employed, so we can satisfy all concerned and prove the great strength of Arthur Saxon. Three hundred and eleven pound in the two hands clean was nothing to him; more than a dozen times when he had jerked it overhead, he gave his onlookers a little idea of how contemptuously he held that poundage by tossing the weight into one hand, and throwing it back to the other. At such a time he was seen to throw the weight into one hand, and then lean over and pick a one hundred and twelve-pound kettle weight off the floor with the other hand, and press aloft, making a total poundage of four hundred and twenty-three pounds. This, you must understand, was impromptu lifting, just for exhibition purposes. Later he did four hundred and forty-eight pounds officially. In comparison with this, we find Herman Gorner, a man who never makes a bent press, raising the enormous weight of four hundred and forty and three-quarter pounds. Personally, I think that Gorner is the most powerful man of all times. On a set of ten lifts I believe he would have beaten any of the giants of the past when they were at their best, as safely as he will any of the present luminaries. It is a well known fact that he is the only athlete who over a period of fifteen years could be relied upon to do over three hundred and fifty pounds in a two hands clean without warming up.

Unlike most "clean" lifters, Gorneris a fine press lifter, although it seems non of them can come near to the great Steinbach on such lifts. In November of 1907, in Vienna, he is credited with performing a two hands push of three hundred and eighty-six and seven-eighths pounds. Two years previously he had pressed a bar bell of two hundred and eighty-five pounds, while standing with his heels together, and in a continental press he claims three hundred and thirty-five pounds. But the king of all, in two hands military press, is Karl Witzelberger, another Austrian, of two hundred and thirty-eight pounds, who is given credit for three hundred pounds.

Then there is his two hand jerk of three hundred and seventy-eight pounds to be considered, which goes to show that like Steinbach, Gorner, Alzin and Rigoulot, he is a versatile lifter. In other words, he combines all-round ability; speed with power. With dumb-bells he was a fine lifter, and along with Steinbach he seems to stand among the foremost. Dumb-bell lifting is a real test of strength. The divided poundage develops and awkwardness that takes real manpower to overcome. Witzelsberger came only five pounds behind Steinbach's record of three hundred and thirty-five pounds in the two dumb-bells jerk. I have invariably found that a good press lifter is a good dumb-bell lifter, and vice-versa. At the present time dumb-bell lifting is not practiced much outside of Canada, where Giroux reigns supreme in those lifts, and has successfully lifted two hundred and seventy-eight pounds in what was termed a two dumb-bells jerk. It looked more like a press to me. An interesting truth is that Giroux just heaves his upper body at the weight in all his jerk lifts, and finishes them all by pressing the weight out with his arms. Hector DeCarrie was great at jerking dumb-bells, but pride of place at the present time goes to Gorner, who has done three hundred and thirty and a half pounds, which make him a close contender for Steinbach's record. Cyr and Barre were in the three hundred-pound class when it came to tossing around dumb-bells, and they were also great press men. It is a pity we have no record of what Sergi Moor, the Russian lifter, could do with dumb-bells. He only weighed one hundred and ninety pounds, but they gave him credit for a two handed bar bell push of three hundred and nineteen and a half pounds. He must have been a freak to be able to push such an enormous poundage to arms' length at so light a bodyweight. I never heard what he could do in any other lift. Arthur Saxon has a record to two hundred and sixty-nine pounds in a Military Press, but I am inclined to believe Gorner is going to beat it. The Military Press of two hundred and forty-two and a half pounds was made a long while ago by Herman, and just recently I received a photo showing Gorner making an impromptu push with two hundred and sixty pounds, at that he fully dressed except for his coat, as he stood ankle deep in loose sand. Of course, there is a lot of difference in a push and a military press, but believe me, any man who can stand up to a strange, solid type bar bell with dumb-bells tied on to it to make up the weight, and even keep his collar on, can military press the same weight. Why! he had no trouble making a press of two hundred and seventy-three and a half pounds, which goes to show how he is improving. He is one lifter who has kept abreast of the times. When the weight lifting federation decided that for the future only clean lifts would govern the sport of lifting weights, he was fully capable to comply with the change, whereas men like Swoboda were not, due to their extreme bulk. It seems peculiar that a man will allow himself to fall into a groove in lifting. I find that some of them figure like this, "Well, I've done that style of lifting all my life, and I'm not good at other styles, so what is the use of me bothering any more." It is just like trying to persuade some hundred-yard men to try two hundred and twenty yards. They think the change is too much. That is foolish. One time I was watching Giroux lift and I noticed how high he pulled the weights in that he pressed, so I said to him, "Listen Arthur, see how high you can pull that weight without finishing with a press." He commenced with two hundred and thirty pounds and found it a little difficult, then as he got better accustomed to what he was supposed to do, he finally snatched two hundred and fifty-six pounds. He did make those fast dips as an aid, that we find practiced by the energetic skillful lifter, for two reasons. In the first place, he is very heavy, and secondly, he is a phlegmatic type of athlete. What he lacked in dynamic energy as displayed by men like Rigoulot, Cadine, and Steinborn, he made up by a greater power that can apply itself forcibly in a longer physical resistance against gravitation. Now if he can do it, so can the others. However, it is no use complaining because they did not adjust themselves, for it takes all kinds of people to make a world.

The British lifters have always followed the "clean" lifts, but they have never produced any remarkable big men in that style. Therefore, I do not believe it was any influence of theirs that swung the sport of weight lifting. It might have been the desire to see the joint record held by Cyr and Barre of three hundred and forty-seven pounds, effaced from the record sheets. They certainly had a great deal of respect for Cyr. However, it could have been one of many other reasons, but I give credit to Louis Vasseur, the famous French veteran, for creating the first interest in fast lifting. This wonderful lifter just dazzled the Parisian with his vital strength. His first great achievement was his two arm snatch of two hundred and forty-nine pounds performed at the low bodyweight of one hundred and eighty-nine pounds. He followed this with a brilliant one hand snatch of two hundred and nine and a half pounds, which remained a world's record for many years. Tromp Van Diggeling, a man who has been one of the great pillars of this sport, and incidently the man who produced Max Sick and Herman Gorner, told me that he had seen Vasseur snatch two hundred and twenty-two pounds, which is corroborated by others who have witnessed the same feat. Then commenced the interest in clean jerks, snatches and swings, which gradually grew in popularity until they monopolized the whole field. We find the older veteran, Pierre Bonnes, forging ahead in the two hands snatch with two hundred and fifty-four pounds, and young Maurice De Riaz, the Swiss athlete, when not much more than a middleweight, snatching with two hands two hundred and nine and a half pounds. His brother, Emile, came along in the professional ranks and made a left hand snatch record of one hundred ninety-two and a half pounds. He also made the first left hand swing record with the same poundage of one hundred ninety-two and a half pounds. Then Jean Francios Le Breton equaled Arthur Saxon's right hand swing with two hundred pounds, which was followed by Heinrich Rondi with a one hand snatch of two hundred and four pounds. The same young man began to make things interesting by showing that he could do other things as well as snatch. Just to prove it, he made a two hands push with two hundred and eighty-six and a half pounds, and jerked three hundred and thirty and a half pounds. A new type of athlete came forward along with the "clean" method of lifting. Instead of the human colossus, there appeared men with size and form. Men with godlike proportions, and muscles that spread their separations over the entire physique, like the giant roots of a fig tree. They combined the three physical graces, shape, size and strength. They crashed into the limelight to breathe a new inspiration. It looked to me as though it was a trick of fate that had taken these children from their Titian cradle, to disprove the old prejudices and fallacies, that only men of bulk and cart-horse proportions and density could lift weights. The clean cut Henry Steinborn was one of them. At one event he crashed the two hands clean and jerk record of the ponderous Cyr and Barre into the past by lifting three hundred and fifty-three pounds, and beat the official right hand snatch of Vasseur with a lift of two hundred and fifteen pounds, to be followed by a record in training that beat Louis Vasseur's unofficial two hundred and twenty-two pound snatch record, with two hundred and thirty pounds. Then the battle began, first Cadine, then Rigoulot, the Strassburger, all racing for the laurels of victory. The laurels were finally hung on the neck of Rigoulot, only to be snatched away by the powerful Gorner on the total of ten lifts. Already, Alzin of Marseilles has badly beaten the totals of Cadine and Rigoulot, and he is crowding Gorner hard, so where it will all end I do not know. A long while ago, Alfred Alzin made a two hands snatch with two hundred and fifty-six and a half pounds, and a two hands continental jerk with three hundred and seventy-nine pounds. On the dead lift, with either one or two hands, Gormer has them all so badly swamped that no matter how they try, they cannot score over him. Not long ago, Paris was stirred by the fact that Cadine had succeeded in lifting the huge, thick handled bar bell that once belonged to Louis Uni (Apollon). Up to that time it defied the efforts of all the best strength athletes of every nation. The total poundage was give out as about six hundred pounds. Just before that, Cadine made a new record of five hundred and eighty-nine pounds, which scrapped Leon Verhaert's five hundred and fifty-seven pound record of years' standing.

Later, at the Halterophile Club in Paris, he raised with two hands six hundred and twenty-pounds. This was claimed as a world's record, but Giroux in Philadelphia about the same time, raised in fine style six hundred and fifty pounds. Then, like a bolt from the blue, came Gorner's smashing two hands dead lift record of seven hundred ninety-three and three quarter pounds. In the meantime, Cadine had set up a new one hand record with about four hundred and nineteen pounds, and a little less than four hundred pounds with the left hand. The left hand record was beaten by the Boston veteran middleweight, John Y. Smith, who raised in great style four hundred pounds, and was just a little unfortunate in not beating the Frenchman's right hand record by six pounds. Despite his fifty-nine years of age, he raised four hundred and ten pounds. By this time we had become accustomed as the South African's great two hand dead lift, when into my office comes another bomb shell certifying that Gorner had made a new one hand dead lift record of seven hundred and twenty-seven and a quarter pounds. The lift is verified officially. Well, it made me smile, simply because this powerful Boer is only proving my prophesies of the lifts that I stated would be accomplished before many years had gone by.. I do not become surprised at anything else I hear that this South African member of the A. C. W. L. A. performs. When I received the report of his miraculous right hand swing of two hundred and twenty and a half pounds, and his left hand swing of two hundred and three and three quarter pounds, I simply paid my tribute to this mighty son of Vulcan. His wonderful snatch of two hundred and seventy-five and a half pounds was passed by Rigoulet with a terrific lift of two hundred and seventy-seven pounds.

About the same time at the Club Athletique des Boulets in Paris, the same young Poilu beat the dumb-bell snatch record of Maurice DeRiaz, which stood at two hundred and two pounds by adding four more pounds to the total. With a dumb-bell it is a most marvelous performance. Still, it surprises me a little how low some of them remain on the press, although Rigoulot is improving fast. None of them can equal most of the American and Canadian lifters. Giroux does two hundred and fifty-six pounds in the European style, and in the strict military style, Steinborn does two hundred and thirty pounds, and Moerke two hundred and forty-two pounds, while recently I succeeded with two hundred and forty-five pounds. Of course, Gorner is top dog in this lift as previously stated, and I feel sure our present day strength athletes will some day surpass the records of the former athletes, as completely on this lift as any other, with the possible exception of the lift by Steinbach. Socrates Temeli, of Roumania, made a bar bell press of two hundred and eighty-six and three quarter pounds, and he has a Continental jerk record of three hundred seventy and a half pounds. However, it must not be forgotten that the press and push lifters, performed by our present time lifters, were all taken in clean to the shoulders in one movement. Making this comparison, I am afraid many of the old timers' records have already fallen. I know that I can press far more than I can clean. Then there is Joe Nordquest, who is handicapped by the lost of one leg, but he has pressed two hundred and fifty-six pounds. On all round lifting the modern lifter is far ahead.

The one hand clean and jerk was another sticker for the old time lifters, who did not seem to be able to go far with it. We find the pioneer of energetic lifts, Louis Vasseur, setting up the first right hand clean with two hundred and thirty pounds and great little Maurice DeRiaz, swinging into line with two hundred twenty-three and three quarter pounds, officially. Later, he performed in the presence of many notable athletes a one hand clean of two hundred and forty-five pounds. George Hackenschmidt did two hundred thirty-one pounds, when only a boy, and G. Lassartesse did two hundred and twenty-five pounds. So far, H. Gaessler, of Germany, seems to have on them all in this lift, as he is given credit for two hundred fifty-one pounds, right hand, and two hundred twenty and a half pounds, left. Given competition, Gorner would wreck all these one hand clean and jerk records. He has taken to the shoulder with two hands a bar bell of two hundred sixty-four and a half pounds, and from there, he jerked the arms' length with the right arm only. I was told that Arthur Saxon had performed around two hundred and sixty pounds in a one hand clean and jerk, which is not to be doubted. The one hand military press that was set up by Arthur Saxon at one hundred twenty-six pounds has been always considered to be the greatest genuine military press ever made. I have not lost sight of the wonderful mark set up by Karl Witzelsberger of one hundred sixty-two pounds, nor the one hundred fifty-eight pound press by Barre, and LaVallee with his one hundred sixty-five pound record, but it is generally conceded that these athletes bent slightly, even though the legs were kept locked. Of course, they did not bend far, but two inches in this lift means a lot, as you all know. It is sufficient to relieve the pressure at the most difficult part of the lift, anyhow. Jean Francios Le Breton succeeded with one hundred twenty-four pounds in the perfect style, as we understand it, and I have seen Giroux do one hundred thirty-eight pounds French style. In the real military style, I could always win from him. Quite contrary to the general belief, a man who has trained himself to bend slightly in this one lift, finds it very difficult not to do so; while a man who has accustomed himself to the rigid style can perform either way. Josef Hofbeck, the one hundred and fifty-four pound Austrian crack, has a record of one hundred twenty-three and a half pounds in the European style. It is impossible to believe that anything else but a slight bend was employed, for no one would believe that a one hundred and fifty-four pound man could surpass a man like Gorner, who makes a perfect one hand military of one hundred and twenty-one pounds. When I was much lighter than I am now, I found no difficulty in military pressing with one hand, French style, one hundred and thirty-six pounds, at the same time I held the record in strict military style with one hundred ten pounds in my class. At the time I surpassed Arthur Saxon's record, performing one hundred twenty-seven and a half pounds, I could easily press one hundred and fifty pounds French style. It was the fact that I was so good on a one hand military press that made me so good on a one hand Continental press, in which lift I had done two hundred as a middleweight., a feat that stopped most of the heavyweights. Yet, there is a lot in how a man takes to a lift. We all pick on certain ones, and it is generally on those we do our best. The same thing happens with a football team, one man plays better in one part of the field than he does in another. Many people have often said to me that a certain lifter should be better at other lifts than he was, s compared with some of his best lifts. Quite often I have found the answer that the lifter did not like those certain lifts. Although I worked up fairly high on the bent press, yet I cared for that lift the least of any. Mention of the bent press will bring to your mind the thought that here is one lift I have overlooked. Such is not the case. I have only treated with the recognized standard lifts as used by all countries in competition. Canada has the finest bent press men, at the present, but he lift is not included among the ten French Canadian Weight Lifting Federation Lifts. For many years weight lifters in America were measured more by their bent press ability than anything else. With the inception of the American Continental Weight Lifting Association we have gotten away from it, and although at the present time there is a thousand strength athletes following the sport of weight lifting, to every one that lifted weights ten years ago, there were considerably more bent press men then, than now. This does not mean that I am prejudiced against the bent press. I think it is a very useful lift, but if we have to meet lifters of other countries on their sets of lifts, which are controlled by the International Federation of Weight Lifting, we would be foolish to concentrate on lifts that have no competitive value. On the other hand, we have developed a great number of lifts, in fact, more than the British, but this is more to keep a tabulation upon the many feats of strength of which an athlete is capable. They all go to help make the lifter more efficient, although the majority of them I look upon as exercises more than competitive lifts. However, we never include them in competition. The American strength lifter has developed an entirely different method of training and lifting than that of any other country. It is entirely our own, and the proof of its value is testified to by the marked strides we have made in the last two or three years. Our progress has been more rapid than that of any other nation. A few years ago, we were considered positive failures, but today the American strength athlete has wrested many of the world's records from the best Europeans on the standard lifts. This goes for professionals as well as amateurs. Within the ranks of the American Continental Weight Lifter's Association, a team could be formed fit to meet a team from any other country. We have everything from snatch lifters to finger lifters, two handed lifters to back lifters, and all top notchers.

Speaking of back lifters reminds me of the great back lift by Louis Cyr, which stood at three thousand six hundred and fifty-three pounds, but it is not so well known that his great partner, Horace Barre, made a back lift of three thousand eight hundred and ninety pounds, and it is less known that LaVallee actually lifted four thousand pounds. Although I always believe that Warren Lincoln Travis would lift the coveted poundage of two tons if he was extended in competition. Certainly he has come closer to it than any other man. French Canada once could boast of a great woman back lifter, Madame Cloutier, and in a match with Flossie La Blanche she made a back lift of twenty-five hundred pounds. Yet our interest will always be centered around the bar bell and dumb-bell lifters, and some day we are going to see Alzin, Gormer, and Rigoulot brought together, then the records will fly.

The future is full of promise, because the present time weight lifter possesses a greater abundance of speed and energy coupled to his strength. He tackles his proposition with all the conserved power of a machine gun. That is why we see men weighing one hundred pounds lighter than Louis Cyr, lifting a greater poundage than the great Louis ever did in his palmiest days in the two hands clean and jerk.