Only the Strong Shall Survive: Power Surge By: Bill Starr One of the biggest problems that strength athletes have is determining how many sets and reps they should do on the exercises in their programs. Naturally, what they do will depend to a large degree on their strength level. There are lots of theories out there, and this only adds to the confusion. Luckily, most do not bother with much in the way of pure strength training.
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Pin The strength you can build with overhead exercises is extremely useful for all athletic endeavors, even more so than what you get from other upper-body movements such as bench presses and inclines. Overhead lifts work the deltoids, triceps and many parts of the back, groups that are involved in every sport. The delts, triceps and back, however, are extremely important to success in weightlifting.
The same holds true for other athletes who would much rather have cannonball delts and horseshoe triceps than a huge chest. Another point in favor of overhead movements is that trainees who strive to develop large chests often discover that they have a tiger by the tail. As they grow older, they have to diligently work those muscles. Triceps and delts are another story. And with a little attention they can be shaped back up in a short time.
I can assure you that the player who can handle a big overhead press will win any confrontation on the playing field with a big bencher.
When I mentioned that overhead strength converts to all sports activities, that included other exercises in the weight room. The pound presser will be able to lie on a bench and use at least pounds over his best military press. Not even close. When I first became bitten by the weightlifting bug, there were two exercises that everyone in the weight room did: full squats and military presses. They were simple exercises that worked many useful muscles, and they required very little in the way of equipment.
All you need is a bar and some plates, plus a fairly high ceiling. Cleaning and pressing is an ideal combination exercise. Many trainees want at least one of those movements in their routine, plus they fit nicely in the push-pull system. In fact, all the exercises I recommend fit those categories, and you can do them with just a bar and some plates. Currently, if people do military presses, they relegate them to the role of auxiliary exercise, performing them at the end of the workout with light weights and relatively high reps.
The idea of pressing a heavy weight is no longer a consideration. We did presses at the beginning of the session, sometimes at every session, and worked them extremely hard and heavy. Naturally, those who competed in Olympic weightlifting did lots of presses because they were part of the sport. In addition, those who were trying to improve their physiques or gain strength for their chosen sports did lots and lots of pressing, plus overhead work as well. In all cases they did presses as a primary exercise.
After all, that was the reason the International Weightlifting Federation gave for dropping the lift from competition. Things had become so political, it was easier to throw out the lift than clean up the mess.
That said, the concern about the risk of lower-back injury is a genuine one because of the way you lean backward when the bar hits the sticking point. It took hours and hours of practice for lifters to master that excessive backward lean. I have difficulty teaching beginners to bow their lower back just a bit. ALL Besides the military press, there are several other excellent overhead exercises you can insert into your routine.
You could do one right after you complete your press workout or do them on a separate day. I like push presses, jerks with your feet on a line and jerks with your feet split apart. Mixing slower lifts with explosive ones stimulates the muscles and attachments in slightly different ways, promoting even more growth. Regardless of which dynamic overhead lifts you choose, learn how to military-press correctly first.
The main reason I teach the jerk after the press is not because the quick lift requires more timing and coordination. Many beginners pick up the technique of the jerk faster than they get the press down.
The back plays an integral role in all the overhead lifts. They work it effectively but in a slightly different way from pulling exercises.
Following the first strenuous workout on any overhead lift, athletes always tell me that it was their back, not their shoulders, that got the sorest. If trainees have a glaring weakness in the overhead press, I have them start from the lockout position: You fix the bar solidly, lower it to your shoulders, pause and then press it.
I also recommend holding the final rep on every set for five or six seconds. Building structural strength in the formative stages of training is extremely valuable for long-term progress. When the bar is locked out overhead, every muscle in your body comes into play, from your wrists to your toes.
If any part of your back fails to stay extremely taut, the bar will waver from its fixed position. The same goes for the legs, from hips to feet. It seems like a simple movement. Just elevate the bar from your shoulders to a locked-out position overhead. A two-year-old can do that with a broomstick. When learning how to press, you can either clean the weight first or take it from a rack. Cleaning the weight first actually makes pressing it easier. Unless, of course, your pressing power far exceeds your clean.
If your primary purpose in doing overhead exercises is to work your upper body, you may want to do all the lifts from the rack. On the other hand, should you be looking for some good combo exercises, then start all the lifts from the floor. Both methods have merit. The bar is set across your front delts, not your collarbone. You accomplish that by lifting your shoulders upward to create a muscular ledge to set the bar on.
Your elbows should not be parallel to the floor or pointed downward. You want to place them somewhere between these two positions. Your wrists must be locked, never cocked, and stay locked throughout the lift. If that poses a problem, tape them.
After you have the bar in the correct starting position on your shoulders, take a moment to tighten your entire body. Start with your feet. Moving up your body, you contract your legs, glutes, back, shoulders and arms. Your feet should be on the line, never placed one behind the other, and your knees locked.
On the push presses you use a knee kick to set the bar in motion but not on the military presses. Look straight ahead throughout the lift. That will cause you to lean backward, taking your body out of a strong pressing position.
Once you get to the heavier weights, however, you need to start exploding the bar off your shoulders. It should be like a boxing punch. When the poundages approach max, the bar will invariably run forward.
That initial upward thrust has to be very close to your face, nearly touching your nose. Ideally, the drive off your shoulders should be powerful enough to carry the bar to the top of your head.
While every lift has a start, middle and finish, you want to blend the three segments into one strong continuous movement.
Explode the bar off your shoulders, and then follow through immediately, and it will glide through the middle range, making the finish much simpler. In most cases the finish will take care of itself. Your upper body will follow naturally. With that maneuver you place the bar in a position that enables you to use your levers much better.
That will keep the bar over your power base and help you finish the lift. When you get to heavy triples, doubles or singles, however, it most certainly does.
Take a breath just before driving the bar off your shoulders, and hold it until the bar passes the sticking point. Inhaling or exhaling while the bar is in motion forces your diaphragm to relax, which in turn creates a negative intrathoracic pressure. In common language, breathing during the lift diminishes your ability to apply force to the bar. Once you lock out the bar, take as many breaths as you need and then lower the bar to your shoulders in a controlled manner.
Not only will an out-of-control bar bang up your shoulders, but it will also jar the bar out of the correct starting position and adversely affect your next rep. When everything hits just right, the bar will float upward almost on its own.
You do push presses exactly like military presses except you use a knee kick to set the bar in motion. The push press will help you further improve overhead strength. As soon as you knee-kick the bar, relock your knees so you have a solid base when the bar hits its apex. You want to press it out the final four or five inches.
And holding it at the top for several seconds will enhance structural strength even more. Push jerks are just like push presses except you drive the bar to complete lockout. So, when you bend your knees and drive the bar upward, you have to quickly rebend your knees and catch the bar, then stand up.
The keys to success on both the push press and push jerk are to drive the bar forcefully in a line close to your face and react instantly once the bar is high enough. Any delay in relocking your knees on the push press or rebending them on the push jerk will result in failure. Split jerks are especially beneficial for field event athletes because they help develop faster feet. How many should you do? On all the overhead lifts you can start out with fives on the warmup sets, but I recommend threes or even doubles on the work sets.
Even when you lower the bar back to your shoulders under control, it will still move out of the ideal starting position, and the slightest deviation is enough to adversely affect the next rep. If you find that you can only do heavy doubles, just add extra sets to fit in your desired workload.
Bill Starr Original 5 x 5 Training Routine
Pin The strength you can build with overhead exercises is extremely useful for all athletic endeavors, even more so than what you get from other upper-body movements such as bench presses and inclines. Overhead lifts work the deltoids, triceps and many parts of the back, groups that are involved in every sport. The delts, triceps and back, however, are extremely important to success in weightlifting. The same holds true for other athletes who would much rather have cannonball delts and horseshoe triceps than a huge chest. Another point in favor of overhead movements is that trainees who strive to develop large chests often discover that they have a tiger by the tail. As they grow older, they have to diligently work those muscles. Triceps and delts are another story.
Only the Strong Shall Survive: The Hepburn Routine
Pin Last month I presented a workout aimed primarily at beginners and those who want to include some quick lifts in their routines, a program I learned from Sid Henry of Dallas. You must establish a solid base before this routine will bear fruit. This program came from one of the greatest lifters in the history of the iron game, Doug Hepburn of Vancouver, British Columbia. His story is an inspiration to anyone who thinks he or she has had to overcome some physical problem. At 15 he began lifting to build up his not-so-impressive body. At first he lifted on crude equipment in his basement. Then later he moved to an old store that had more space, where he slept on sacks and ate the cheapest food available.
Honoring a Legend: Remembering Bill Starr
Start your review of The Strongest Shall Survive Write a review Mar 12, Meredith rated it liked it This is an exuberant, rather funny book on the classic 5 x 5 strength building method. Following this scheme will make you strong. The focus here is on training for football, but any athlete would benefit from this good hard work. Basically, if you have time for only three exercises, learn to back squat, power clean and bench press. Cardio is just lifting weights faster. Bill Starr describes a gruelling training circuit that predates CrossFit by at least four decades. I agree with most of his This is an exuberant, rather funny book on the classic 5 x 5 strength building method.
The Strongest Shall Survive