Thursday, November 10, 2011

THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHTLIFTING - (circa 1911) - CHAPTER 10 - By Alan Calvert

Several times in this volume I have alluded to the necessity of trying to standardize the sport of weight-lifting. In Chapter II, I alluded to the European method of regulating the sport. I will now discuss this a little more fully. Here in America, when a track meet is held the officials are generally furnished by the A. A. U., and these officials perform their work according to certain regulations. There are certain rules regarding the timing of running races, and other rules which govern the official who measure the distance, or height, in the jumps and weight-throwing contests. No amateur in this country can claim a record unless his performance is certified to by the officials appointed for the meet.

In Germany somewhat the same system is observed. They have the advantage of possessing among the ranks of the Stemmvereins (lifting clubs) at least 1000 men who are good judges of lifting, and all these men are qualified to act as officials. If a man wishes to establish a record he notifies the governing board, who delegate either three or five officials to go and witness the lift and certify to its correctness. If the athlete succeeds in breaking the existing record the dumbbell used is at once weighed on a Government-tested scale. If the lift has been performed correctly the officials certify to that effect in writing. The clerk of the scales also has to make a written statement and as many other witnesses as possible sign a paper, stating that they have duly witnessed the lift and the weighing of the bell. The only drawback to establishing such a system in this country is that we have so few men who are competent to properly judge a lifting event.

The average sporting editor, while he is generally very well posted regarding other lines of athletics, is densely ignorant regarding lifting and the rules governing it. We would therefore have to fall back upon the lifters themselves, and I regret to state that very few American-born lifters of my acquaintance are qualified to act as officials in any lifting contest. This remark applies particularly to the professional lifters, most of whom specialize on "supporting feats" and know very little about the standard lifts. This is proved by the fact that in different sections of this country different words are used by professionals to describe the same lift. Some lifters confuse the "snatch" and the "jerk,' and very few professional lifters are able to tell you the difference between a "snatch" and a "swing."

Amateur lifters are frequently much better posted than the professional. I have among my personal acquaintances three amateurs who certainly know more about lifting than any American professional who I have ever talked with. At this time there must be, in the cities of New York, Chicago, and St. Louis, hundreds of young Germans, Austrians and Frenchmen, recently arrived in this country, who are fully conversant with the European system of lifting, and judging lifting, and these men could form a nucleus around which to build a National Association. I would be very happy to assist in forming such an association, as I believe it would do more than anything to develop champion lifters in the United States. Until our lifters concentrate their efforts on a few standard lifts we will not be able to produce men who are able to compete on even terms with the European champion.

Under our present system, where every professional and most amateurs feel at liberty to introduce special feats of their own devising, no man can train properly for a contest. In Europe, lifting contests are announced several weeks ahead of time. Every man who enters the contest is informed exactly which lifts will be on the program and he can train accordingly. In this country, where competitions are held on the plan of each contestant performing 3 or 4 of his own lifts and 3 or 4 of his opponent's, he may train properly for his own lifts, but he is never adequately prepared to perform his opponent's lifts, because he never knows what these lifts are until he sees his opponent start them. If the reader can imagine a track meet where the announcement is to the effect that there would be one running, one jumping and one weight-throwing event he will get a parallel to our system of lifting contests. Just think of a man training for a running event and not knowing until the day of the competition whether the race was to be 100 yards or 5 miles.

If an American Board of Control is established I should certainly recommend that it adopt the European system of governing lifting contests. The number of lifts should not be more than twelve in all, and only four or five of these lifts should be included in each tournament. The rules governing the lifts should be closely patterned after the German rule (with possibly one or two exceptions to the American style of lifting ), but these concessions should be drawn up and issued by a board of amateurs, and no professional lifter should have a voice in selecting or interpreting a rule regarding lifting. All lifts should be performed either with bar-bells or dumbbells. Supporting feats, harness lifts, etc., should be rigidly excluded. Any lifter, amateur or professional, should have the privilege of attempting a record under certain specified conditions; of which the chief should be that the official be appointed by the Governing Board, and that the apparatus used and the scales employed for the weighing of the apparatus be of a certain standard make and properly tested.

As matters now stand in this country practically any lifter, amateur or professional, can claim a record and "get away with it." I have seen advertisements where a 175-lb. man has asserted that he snatched with one hand a bell weighing 200 lbs., and this I believe to a feat of strength impossible to any 175-lb. man. Professionals on the stage will, in their theatre programs, make absurdly exaggerated claims regarding the weight of the dumbbell and other apparatus used in their act. If we had a Board of Control which would regulate and publish the records made by American lifters, the athletic public would soon become conversant with the records and other best performances in strength feats, and it would be impossible for professional lifters to deceive the public in this regard. Under existing conditions the professional lifter simply takes advantage of the general ignorance on the part of the public regarding lifting records.

For my own part, I would accept the statement of any professional performer regarding his own performance. On this point I am very much "from Missouri." I require any lifter to convince me that he can do what he claims. I do not insist that he equal his very best record, but I certainly expect that he will go within 10% of it. Talk is very cheap. Most professionals are very careful to make their boast about their prowess when they are several miles from a dumbbell.

I would advise the reader to adopt my attitude. If you hear a man making claims about his lifting power you should, if possible, escort the lifter to a gymnasium or other place where heavy dumbbells can be found and then invite him to duplicate the lift he has just claimed. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the lifter will excuse himself by saying that he is out of training, or he has a sprained wrist, or a weak shoulder, or a sore back, or else he has some other reason for declining to even make an effort to substantiate his claim. It would not be fair to expect any lifter to equal his best record at a moment's notice; but any lifter who has been well trained should be able, at any time and place, to lift within 10% of his record.

A few pounds in a dumbbell lift makes a tremendous difference. Strong men will sometimes train for a couple of years to increase their record ten pounds in one particular lift. As a rule, if a man can lift 100 pounds with difficulty, he will be able to raise 90 pounds very easily. If a professional lifter claims a record of 200 pounds in the snatch lift he should be able, at any time, to snatch 180 pounds with any kind of a bar-bell or dumbbell, providing the handle of same be not more than one and one-eighth inches thick.

Professional lifters would do well to follow Author Saxon's example in this regard. Saxon is almost 75 pounds ahead of any other lifter in the "bent press," but this does not lead him into making foolish claims regarding his other lifts. For instance, if you ask Saxon how much he can snatch he will probably tell you "200 pounds," which is actually nearly 10 pounds under his own unofficial record' and he will make equally modest statements regarding his other lifts.

I believe that the establishing of a Central Board would do more than anything else to encourage he amateur lifter. When the amateur discovered that he could, after a few months' practice, equal the lifts of the average "10-20-30" professional, he would realize that by a few months of steady, consistent training he would have at least a chance to equal the best records in the lifting line.

If we divide all lifters into four classes (as is done abroad), we should keep separate records for each class. This would encourage the small man as well as the 200-pound giant. The weights for the classes should not be governed by the weight limits which apply to boxers, but should be very much heavier. For instance, the heavy-weight class should be from 180 pounds upward. The middle-weight from 160 to 180 pounds; the light-weight from 135 to 160, and the feather-weight below 135 pounds.

Each class should perform exactly the same lifts, and honor should be given to a man who excels in his class. It would be very necessary to emphasize this point strongly, or otherwise we should get he same situation as bicycle racing at the finish of the great bicycle craze in the late '90s. The reader will perhaps remember that bicycle competitions at that time were so numerous, and the variety of races was so great, that it took nearly a full page of the daily newspaper to give the complete list of racing records.

Another point I wish to make is that this so-called endurance lifting be barred out. Such lifting has no place in competition work.

In another part of this book I refer to the fact that up to date many American lifting competitions consisted of but one event, and that was to raise a 50-pound dumbbell the greatest number of times. The mere fact that it is possible for a man to push up a 50-pound dumbbell 75 or 100 times proves that it cannot take much strength to raise that amount of weight. Some authorities are so very foolish as to gauge a man's strength by feats like the above. These authorities argue in the following manner: If a man push up a 10 pound dumbbell 10 times he has therefore raised 100 pounds by the strength of his arm. Apparently, from their point of view, this is a better test of strength than raising a 95-pound dumbbell once. Now, the reader knows perfectly well that any eight-year old boy has strength enough to do the former feat, while not one man out of a hundred can make the latter lift.

Professionals who specialize in endurance back lifting and harness lifting work entirely on this principle. One man, for instance, claimed a record of one million-pound lift because he repeated a thousand-pound back lift one thousand times. Any ordinary laborer could, after a couple of weeks' practice, raise 1000 pounds in a back lift, and it does not take much training and endurance to raise the same weight several hundred times in this manner. The ability to repeat a 100-pound back lift one hundred times does not prove that the athlete could raise 3000 pounds once. The same remark applies to harness lifting and dead-weight lifting. I wish to warn all of my readers not to be deceived by the foolish claims of the endurance lifters.

The reader can test the real worth of these claims by making the experiment for himself. I think you will find that you can push up a 10-pound dumbbell at least 200 times, which according to the endurance lifter's claim, would amount to a 2000-pound lift. Yet you will unhesitatingly admit that to push up a 2000-pound bell in the same manner is impossible. To carry the illustration still further, even the ability to push a 50-pound bell twice does not mean that a 100-pound bell can be raised once in the same manner. I know dozens of men who can make several repetition of the ordinary one-arm press with a 100-pound dumbbell and yet are unable to raise a 125-pound dumbbell a single time. Joseph Steinbach several years ago raised a 380-pound bar-bell twice in succession in the two-arm jerk. The endurance lifter would say this was a 760-pound lift. Yet it took months of training and a number of unsuccessful attempts before Steinbach succeeded in raising 385 pounds once.

The reader may ask why it is, if I approved of the A. A. U.' s ruling, that records in track sports be allowed only when established in competition, that I did not advocate the same ruling for weight-lifting. The reason is as follows: In our American track meets an athlete, as a rule, enters in only one or two events, and he is able to concentrate all his energy in putting forth his best endeavors in these one or two events. In weight-lifting competition it is entirely different. In the competitions I advocate there are generally four or five events, and each competitor is allowed three trials at each event, and it is often necessary for a competitor to save his strength till the very last minute, and in this way he is often prevented from going out after records.

To illustrate what I mean I give herewith a table of the lifts made by the contestants in the European Amateur Championship, held in Malmo, Sweden, in the year 1908:

Snatch Right Arm Snatch Left Arm Press Both Arms Press Both Arms Jerk Both Arms Total Pounds 1. Grafl (Austria)

176 150 222 264 352 1164

2. Danzer (Austria)

176 149 200 231 330 1095

3. Eickeldraht (Germany)

150 121 222 267 330 1090

4. Fredericksen (Denmark)

139 -- 175 231 820 820

5. Rondi (Germany)

186 175 222 218 -- 801

6. Simonitz (Germany

154 143 175 242 -- 714

It will be noticed that this competition was won by Graft, of Vienna, while the man who finished fifth was Heinrich Rondi, of Dusseldorf, Germany. At the time of the competition Rondi was the leading German lifter, and all his fellow countrymen were sure that he would easily defeat Grafl for the European Championship. Rondi was supreme in the one-hand "snatch" lifts, holding the World's Record at that time, while Grafl was conceded to be the best amateur two-arm lifter in Europe. It will be noticed by a glance at the table that after the "snatch" lifts were performed Rondi had a lead of 35 English pounds over Grafl, but in the two-hand press Grafl lifted 46 pounds more than Rondi, which not only wiped out Rondi's lead, but gave Grafl an advantage of 11 lbs. Rondi, evidently realizing that he could not hope to compete with Grafl in the two-hand jerk, dropped out. All the way through the competition Grafl had been saving himself for the two-arm jerk, but when Rondi retired there was no other contestant near enough to worry him, and he finished up his day's work by lifting in the two-arm jerk 352 lbs., which was at least 25 lbs. below his record.

In some competitions it will work out in exactly the opposite way. A man's favorite feats may come first, and, like Rondi, he may work well within his limit at his favorite feats and save himself for the other lifts in which he is not proficient. In the above case Rondi was considerably below his record, both in the right -and left-hand "snatch." It may have been that the dumbbells did not suit him, but the general impression was that he was saving himself for the two-arm work, and if he worked to his limit in the "snatch" lifts he might have gained enough advantage to overcome Grafl's great superiority in the two-arm lifts.

Another phase of competition lifting must be borne in mind. Two pages ahead of this I stated that every lifter had three attempts at each event. In our sports in America each competitor has three trials in the broad jump, or the shot put, or the hammer throw, and is credited with the best of his three trials, but in the high jump, the competitor is given three trials at each height. For instance, if the bar is at 5 feet 6 inches, and the athlete clears it on his third attempt, he has three more trials at 5 feet 7 inches. Now, when an athlete puts the shot he is fairly sure to come within a couple of feet of his best performance, and in the broad jump all his three attempts may be but a few inches apart. In lifting it is different; even the best trained professional cannot feel sure that he is going to be at this very best, especially when he is confronted with strange dumbbells.

We will take the competition before mentioned to illustrate the point, and it must be borne in mind that the first prize is given to the man who has the highest total for all of the five lifts. The events were run in the order given, namely, right-arm "snatch," left-arm "snatch," two-arm "snatch," two-arm "press" and two-arm "jerk." Now, suppose that a lifter had a record of 180 lbs. in the right-arm "snatch." If he started at once and made his first trial at 180 and failed ant then persisted in making his second and third attempts at the same weight there are several chances to one that he would have three complete failures marked against him. He would not be credited with any weight at all for that particular lift, and his chances of winning the competition would be killed, no matter how well he performed the other lifts.

If he failed at 180 lbs. in his first attempt in the right-hand "snatch" the sensible thing to do would be to make his second attempt at 160 lbs., in order to be sure to have some score in the right-arm "snatch," and he could try 170 or 180 lbs. on his third attempt, even if his third attempt was a failure. It is customary, however, for a lifter to make the first attempt well inside his record, simply for the sake of getting a score. This method has other advantages, because when a man who can "snatch" 180 lbs. attempts that weight off the reel, when his muscles are cold, his chances for success are very poor; but if he "warms up" with a 160-lb. lift he is very apt to be able to do at least 175 lbs. on his third attempt. A lifter will pursue the same tactics through all the events in the tournament, and after he has made 14 or 15 lifts which are all close to his best performances, he has not much energy left with which to create world's records. The reader may understand from the foregoing why it is lifting records are rarely made in competition, and why it is advisable to allow a lifter to make a special attempt to create a record outside of competition, if he is willing to comply with all the formalities laid down by the Governing Board.

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