Misinformation Engineering

There Is No System Part IV

There Is No System Part IV
Andrew Charniga, Jr.
Sportivnypress©
2009

Section A

The January issue of Strength and Health {S&H 01:12:1964} reports Tony Garcy established new American records in the snatch with 120 kg and in the clean and jerk with 152.5 kg. The snatch mark exceeded the previous record of Tommy Kono (117.5 kg) created in 1952. The clean and jerk mark exceeded Tony Terlazzo’s record of 150.5 kg set in 1941.

OM Yun Chol (PRK)  Snatching 124 kg at 56 kg with extremely low squat. Charniga photo

There is no mention, let alone an explanation, as to why it took so long to break these two records. The longevity of Terlazzo’s clean and jerk record is especially noteworthy. It was established in 1941, seven years after Terlazzo became the USA’s first Olympic gold medalist. Terlazzo employed the biomechanically crude “splot” style of lowering his body under the barbell for the clean. This was an awkward combination of a scissoring and partial squatting, i.e., the lifter is unable to lower his center of mass near as far as in the squat style, which was employed by T. Garcy.

The aforementioned two American records stood for 11 and 22 years respectively. The accelerating rate of new world records, without the participation of the USA, was becoming very evident by 1964. For the most part, there are monthly reports in Strength and Health of new world records being established by Russian and other East European lifters. Whereas, the record setting pace even for American records in the USA is inexorably slow.

An article which profiles the career and training of Lou Riecke appears in Strength and Health {S&H 01:21:1964}. Eight of the ten pictures in the article are of Riecke performing isometrics in an isometric stand. He will be a member of the 1964 Olympic team.

In his report of the 1963 World Weightlifting Championships , Bob Hoffman describes the USA’s middleweight in the press. “He was pressing his old, slow style, very correct, but it handicaps him greatly as compared to those who use the knee kick style of pressing” {S&H 01:74:1964}.

Hoffman later mentioned that this same lifter had injured his thumb so could not train as usual for the snatch; “he could only do power training.” However, because of all the power training (probably a great deal of pulling), “He thought his snatching power was fantastic, but he did not have quite enough to snatch the 125 kg, as it was not even close….” {S&H 01:74:1964}.

This simple description of the competition indicates the American lifter (likewise the team as a whole at that time) were not prepared to perform the new looser, speed strength style of pressing. Instead, they still relied on absolute strength with the old idea that still persisted on this side of the Atlantic; this being, if one developed the strength and muscle mass to pull the barbell high; this pulling strength would convert to a big snatch.

In this same issue  and report, Bob Hoffman notes, “Zdrazila is a ‘muscles wonder’” and in reference to a Japanese lifter, ”we don’t like to see our lifters jump back” {S&H 01:76:1964}. There were at least two rather “skinny guys” (H. Zdrazila and W. Baszanowski) who jumped back in the snatch won gold medals at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

The following observations from Bob Hoffman  are to be found frequently in his reports of the World’s Championships. “I expected a 135 kg snatch from Gary, he has a back on a larger scale like Chuck Vinci and has a lot of muscles he has not even used yet.” And, in reference to Baszanowski, “We tried to find where this slender looking lifter gets his amazing strength” {S&H 02:17:1964}.

A strong “slender” lifter is a concept simply too difficult for Hoffman to grasp; likewise for many more in the USA in those days. How does the man with big muscles fail to lift a weight a man with much smaller muscles lifts without those superficial trappings of strength?

Slender “muscleless” wonders are are no longer unusual in weightlifting. Charniga photo

That big muscles are not only no guarantee of success; in fact, they could be a hindrance in the quick lifts is a concept inconsistent with the firmly entrenched  American ideas regarding weightlifting training and technique in the 1960s.

In the same issue of Strength and Health Hoffman makes the following observation in reference to 90 kg class. “These men who weigh approximately 200 lbs are the best built of the contestants.” Then later in the same report in reference to the Russian 90 kg bronze medallist, he wrote, “Brovko is a mystery man. He presents a fatty appearance” {S&H 02:17:1964}.

So how does a fatty looking Russian win a medal in a class with so many “well built” men? There is no requirement in weightlifting that one’s muscles should be large and firm. But, apparently soft looking muscles are able to stretch and contract faster than firm large muscles; consequently, the “fatty” lifter is able to achieve the desired results.

Bob Hoffman is interviewed in Strength and Health by the new managing editor for the April 1964 edition. Even though this interview is early in 1964, it is obvious to someone of Hoffman’s vast experience as a coach, official, and chronicler of international competitions that the hand writing is on the wall.

When asked how many medals can US lifters capture in Tokyo, “the usually optimistic” Bob Hoffman said, “All we can hope for this year’s Olympics is that our fellows will score points to help the overall American team effort. They will all finish in the first six in their divisions. But whereas we won four gold medals at London, Helsinki and Melbourne and one at Rome in 1960, it will be necessary for us to improve to win just one this time….”{S&H 04:34:1964}.

An advertisement for an isometric device for golfers appears in Strength and Health. The ad states “another training first from Bob Hoffman” and promises that “almost overnight you can improve at golf.” For $9.95 you get a kit which includes “a half golf club, a chain and wall fasteners, a wrist roller, and a 12,000 word course” {S&H 05:54:1964}.

The kit comes with a seven day money back guarantee. Apparently the potential customer has seven days to train with the hardware, read the course, and decide if it will lower his/her golf scores.

The training of Norbert Schemansky is featured in Strength and Health {S&H 06:28:1964}. All four pictures show Schemansky performing partial movements in a power rack. At age 40 Schemansky trains three to four days a week.

Bob Hoffman is pictured in the “Iron Grapevine” section of Strength and Health demonstrating FIC to a group of U.S. Marine Corps officers. On the next page Hoffman is pictured with former Soviet National coach Yakov Kutsenko (quoted in part I).

Strength and Health publishes an article by Dave Webster {S&H 08:24:1964}: “Analysis of Championship Lifting.” The article describes the clean and jerk technique of world record holder Ireneusz Palinski. Webster will pen a number of articles on weightlifting technique. Pictured in the magazine several times over the years wearing a kilt, the magazine refers to Webster as an international authority on the subject (weightlifting technique).

Among other aspects of Palinski’s technique Webster notes: “In figure 2, you can see that his shoulders are well forward in advance of the bar, an excellent position…. This illustration gives the key to success. His body is completely extended from his toes to his head. His hips have swung in close to the bar…. Look how the trapezius are being brought strongly into play with the shoulder shrug”{S&H 08:24:1964}.

These remarks from Webster are to be repeated many times in the magazine over the years. They are based on an analysis of still pictures, and they will eventually become “technique” gospel in the minds of American lifters. The notion to fully straighten the body and shrug the shoulders to increase the height of the barbell are old ideas and without merit. If a weightlifter or coach interprets the shoulders “well forward” in front of the bar as a volitional action of good technique (and many still do), the loading on the lumbar spine is not only unjustified; it is a recipe for injury.

The September issue of Strength and Health features the strength and conditioning program of the University of Texas football team. The program was designed by a member of the Physical Education staff.

He was chosen to design the program because it “was an excellent choice, with respect both to his knowledge of athletics and to his eminence in the field of progressive resistance exercise for sports. He has carried on numerous research projects and has published widely in this field during the last several years…. This program was designed to enhance the ability of the players in the areas of strength, endurance, speed, power, agility, coordination, and flexibility”{S&H 09:18:1964}.

The article has several pictures of the athletes performing isometric exercises in what appears to be home made wooden power racks. The workouts purported to develop the aforementioned qualities for football players are listed below.

Following spring training
1. Standing press
2. Barbell curl
3. Bent forward rowing
4. Upright rowing
5. Dead lift
6. Shoulder shrug
7. Bench press
8. Half squat
9. Toe raise

June – July training
1. Power clean or high pull: 2 x 5 -10
2. Barbell curl: 2 x 5 – 10
3. Standing press: 2 x 5 – 10
4. Upright row: 2 x 5 – 10
5. Shoulder shrug: 2 x 5 – 10
6. Bent forward row 2 x 5 – 10
7. Bench press 2 x 5 – 10
8. Bent arm pull-overs 2 x 5 – 10
9. Arm shiver or Nieder exercise 2 x 10
10. Half squats 2 x 10
11. Toe raise 2 x 10

Isometrics employed during
June – July period

1. Press – eye level
2. Bench Press – 90º
3. Barbell Curl – 90º
4. Bent forward row
5. Upright rowing – mid abdomen
6. Half squat – 130º
7. Low deadlift – just above knees
8. Toe raise
9. Leg curl –
10. Sit ups
11. Hip flexor
12. Shoulder shrug
13. Good mornings – Body bent to 90º with bar on back of neck.
14. Straight arm pullover

At first glance it is obvious most of the research the designer of this program did was to peruse Strength and Health magazine. For that purpose Strength and Health was a one stop supermarket. The program consists of a mix of exercises not unlike that which appears in each issue of the magazine.

The program “purchased” isometrics from Bob Hoffman, adopted the set/repetition schemes from DeLorme, and the “scientific” squat technique from Karl Klein (who was on the staff of the University of Texas at that time).

This is the worst of all worlds.

Thomas DeLorme {S&H 06:48:1959} obtained many of his ideas for resistance exercise from 1950 Mr. America John Farbotnik. “The P. R. technicians were former patients, men like John Farbotnik, a past ‘Mr. Everything’ who had injured a knee. DeLorme credits Farbotnik with supplying much of the “know how for the advancement of P.R.E. technics”{S&H 06:48:1959}.

The original DeLorme repetition schemes for rehab were pared down from seventy to one hundred lifts to 2 – 3 sets of 10. They were developed to rehab post surgery, or patients otherwise recovering from injury.

The isometrics listed in the University of Texas’ football training program are ineffective for developing power and counterproductive for developing coordination, flexibility, and agility.

The exercise group of the University of Texas as a whole is loaded with upper body exercises; the 2 x 10 repetition scheme comes from the “science” of Delorme via the bodybuilding techniques of John Farbotnik.

The half squats limit strength development to that specific range of motion of the knee hip and ankle joints, affect the elasticity of the lower extremities negatively, and place unnecessary stress on the knees because the range of motion is artificially restricted.

Alexandr Lukashev (USSR) legendary Soviet weightlifting biomechanist at the 1989 World championships. Charniga photo. 

Call it the the “Karl Klein” effect: any deviations from the medically perceived norm in the movements of the knee joint were and still are deemed hazardous.

Exercise #13 in the list of isometric exercises is particularly noteworthy. Choosing this exercise is, metaphorically speaking, like buying a carton full of cracked eggs at the supermarket.

Straining in the position described for this exercise is dumb. It places an unjustifiably large strain on the lumbar spine. But one can find it in the pages of Strength and Health which leaves no doubt where the idea came from.

The interesting aspect of the science of this methodology which went into the design of this 1964 University of Texas strength program for football is that this procedure will be repeated many times at universities, professional teams, and schools; it is still done today, i.e., the program designer is an “expert” with many abbreviations after his/her name. The exercise selection has numerous non sequitors and it invariably employs many of the latest and greatest marketing gimmicks, i.e., today’s equivalents to Functional Isometric Contraction.

The results of the 1964 Mr America competition are reported in Strength and Health  John Gorgott, MD places second and Floyd Despirito sixteenth. Both will compete in the 1964 Olympic Weightlifting Trials {S&H 09:76:1964}.

A picture of Jim Dorn pressing 300 lbs at US National Championships appears in Strength and Health . According to the caption accompanying the picture, “Jim didn’t quite do his best lifting, but his physique looked mighty impressive, as shown by this photo”{S&H 10:10:1964}.

This single, simple statement encapsulates the fundamental problem connected with US weightlifting by the end of the 1950s and early 1960s.

Even though the main goal of the aforementioned athlete pictured is to compete in the 1964 Olympics, virtually non existent in the magazines of this time is any information directed at convincing American weightlifters of the need to specialize only in weightlifting. Or, that physique training; the development of big muscles in general, could be a detriment to an athlete whose goal it is to compete for an Olympic medal in weightlifting.

It was commonplace to do a little of everything; weightlifters competed in physique and bodybuilders competed in weightlifting competitions. Consequently, the notion that one should develop a definitive, logical American system of training for weightlifting was essentially a foreign idea, i.e., foreigners recognized this, but we did not.

Weightlifters, bodybuilders, and power lifters alike “purchased” Functional Isometric Contraction methodology. In those days athletes thought that doing a little of everything would be beneficial to the main activity whether it be weightlifting or bodybuilding. And, perhaps most importantly, one could avoid boredom which could result from specializing in a single endeavor such as weightlifting.

An article by Dave Webster “The Two Hands Snatch” appears in Strength and Health . The lead in to the article proclaims that, “His theories are based upon a scientific study and detailed film analysis of the form used by the champions in competition, not mere opinion.” He emphasizes that the shoulders should be in front of the line of the bar and the hips need to be “thrusting forward and upward very strongly”{S&H 10:14:1964}.

What makes the film analysis “scientific” is not explained, nor is there any biomechanical support for his conclusions.

Another article in the same issue {S&H 10:20:1964} features the “Olympic Weightlifting Predictions” of Bob Hoffman. His predictions of the USA team are pretty accurate (5 out of 7); while his predictions of the gold medalists are not (1 of 7). His prediction of Miyake’s gold is the only correct one.

However, he predicts accurately that the USA will win only two medals: Berger a silver and Schemansky a bronze. These two are the only members of the team who were champions in the 1950s.

A “Behind the Scenes” article “Power Rack Training”  proclaims the benefits of power training for the Olympic weightlifter.

According to the author, “It has been proven, both scientifically and practically, that it is the best and fastest means of developing strength. The proof is there. In addition many of the top lifters use IC (isometric contraction) in their training. What should serve as even more convincing proof to most American lifters is the fact that top lifters from other countries are using IC and with good results. Don’t let our competition beat us with our own weapon” {S&H 10:26:1964}.

And, if this were not enough, this paradoxical statement in the same article contributes to the further muddling of the issue of American training methodology. “You must perform the Olympic lifts if you expect to improve in these lifts. IC will develop your strength faster than any known method of training, but it will not improve your lifting ability to any measurable degree”{S&H 10:26:1964}.

First, absolutely no verifiable proof is offered that the Europeans and Japanese are “beating us with our own weapon.” Second, the basic assumption that power rack exercises are the best for strength. Furthermore, as long as the lifter practices form in the Olympic lifts along with isometrics he will be employing an effective “weapon”; which is, of course, categorically false.

In his report of the 1964 US Olympic weightlifting trials, Bob Hoffman’s analysis of the results is presented.

“We had hoped to make these totals; {S&H 12:16-21:1964}
56 kg – 750
60kg – 825
67.5 kg – 900
75 kg – 950
82.5 kg – 1000
90 kg – 1050
+90 kg – 1150

The totals actually made
705
809
887
898
958
1008
1146.”

It is evident from the discrepancies between the “hoped for” and the actual results (6,625 lbs vs 6,411 lbs) that the prospects for the 1964 Tokyo Olympiad were not good. The totals closest to the desired were from Berger in the 60 kg and Schemansky in the 90+ kg. These two were the only medalists to garner a silver and bronze, respectively.

By the end of 1964, there was little of the special marketing of Functional Isometric Contraction and the power rack to be found in Strength and Health other than the cited articles in the “Behind the Scenes” series, which, of course, was geared to weightlifters.

The technical/advertisement articles were gone but the incredible success of the first few years 1961 to 1963 of the marketing blitz are patently obvious to this very day. The creators of the Power Rack Bob Hoffman, Dr. Ziegler, and the principal advertising vehicle Strength and Health magazine are long gone; but Power Racks are more ubiquitous than ever.

Section B
1964:

The End of American Weightlifting

“The development of lifting speed, i.e., explosive strength, is very important to the weightlifter, but the process of developing this quality requires a different method than the development of strength.” A.V. Chernyak, 1971

The flowering of American weightlifting, which began in the 1930s, metaphorically speaking, came to an end in 1964. That was the year the last of the champions of the 1940s and 1950s would represent the USA in international competition and win medals. Issac Berger and Norbert Schemansky, both World and Olympic champions, won a silver and bronze medal respectively at the 1964 Tokyo Olympiad.

Although, in the words of former Soviet world champion and journalist, Dmitry Ivanov, “In a manner of speaking (the 1956 Olympics) was a swan song of American weightlifting.” 1964 was, in actuality, the final nail in the coffin.

Following a four gold medal performance at the Melbourne Olympics, the USA won the following number of gold medals at the subsequent world championships and Olympic Games:
Year/GM: 1956:4  1957:1  1958:2  1959:1 1960:1 1961: 1 1962:0  1963:0  1964:0

Weightlifting training is an art not a science. However, by 1964 it was an art with a special scientific foundation built by advancements in sport science.

“A historical analysis of American participation in the modern Olympic Games” (E. Sparvero, L. Chalip, and B. Green Comparative Elite Sport Development. New York. Elsevier, 2008) showed that the majority of American Olympic athletes who could expect to win an Olympic medal were either university sponsored, scholarship athletes (semi pro) in swimming, track and field, wrestling, diving and others; or from other sports where there was either a professional support base such as boxing, cycling, triathlon, figure skating, or a combination of both university sponsorship and professional support.

It is common knowledge that neither of these foundations (university or professional) contributed any support for weightlifting in the USA in the 1960s and for many years thereafter. Consequently, the socialization of Olympic sports including weightlifting was bound to leave behind any sports lacking either or both foundations of university or professional support. That fact should be understood without saying. But that is not the focus of this exercise.

Regardless of whether weightlifting was lacking a collegiate sport base or some professional support base, the salient issue is the effect the commercialization of Functional Isometric Contraction and the Power rack had on the lack of development and decline of American weightlifting. The commercialization of FIC is a natural consequence of an open society where the line separating between science and commercial product is all too often blurred; or just non existent.

The absence of a concrete American system of weightlifting training cannot be blamed solely on the commercialization of FIC in particular; or, even a lack of clear distinctions in the USA between sport science and commercial product; but the contribution is undeniable.

When the following interview appeared in Strength and health in 1966 {S&H 04:59:66}, the power rack/functional isometrics craze was almost five years old.

Rudy Plukfelder was interviewed by Sandor Gere in the days following the 1964 Olympics where he became the Olympic champion and, to this day, is the oldest Olympic champion in weightlifting history. Plukfelder retired from weightlifting and went on to become a highly respected coach in the USSR. He was the coach of Olympic champions David Rigert, Nikolai Kolesnikov and for a time Vasily Alexeyev.

No one in weightlifting in the 1950s could imagine a 53 kg female lifting 130 kg. Charniga photo.

He was asked his opinion of the American lifters who competed in Tokyo. ”I found that a modern method is missing. It seems to me that they do not have a contemporary method like the Poles or the Hungarians. What they do does not correspond to modern methods. Basically the American athletes have sufficient power but they are too slow and not flexible enough. Most of the American athletes that I saw work too slow and too stiff, especially Gubner, March, and Schemansky. They are not prepared to perform the complicated and flexible management of the bar. They are strong enough to pull trees, but most of their work looks sluggish and poorly coordinated. Their characteristics, an awful lot of strength.

I feel that they need coaches who are able to establish modern training methods for the individual lifters” {S&H 04:59:66}.

These are essentially the same conclusions reached by the Soviet national coach Kutsenko in 1960 from observations of the American team training at the Rome Olympics. The athletes he observed were training in the manner characteristic of the 1950s when the USA produced World and Olympic champions. Four years later with the advent of the Power Rack and Functional Isometric Contraction many of the same issues were not only still present, but with some new athletes to the American team they were worse.

Physiological Problems Associated with Isometrics, Exercises with Heavy Weights Performed Over a Small Range of Motion and High Intensity Bodybuilding Exercises

Biomechanical analysis of the technique of three Polish Lifters: Olympic champions Bazhanowski, Smalcerz and world champion Ozimek.

The training programs of the 1964 American Olympic Weightlifting Team presented in part III showed that six of the seven athletes employed Functional Isometric Contraction in their preparation, i.e., they were customers of Bob Hoffman.

Plukfelder’s assessment that those same American lifters were strong but slow, inflexible, and lacking in coordination is more empirical evidence consistent with the six concepts concerning the negative aspects of isometrics, slow movements for strength training, and the development of unnecessary muscle mass presented in part I.

The inextricable binding of training methodology (sport science) and commercial product (the Power Rack) which occurred with the marketing of Functional Isometrics, does not readily lend itself to objective evaluation; it becomes a part of the fad culture of commercial products in general.

Athletes, coaches, universities, schools and professional teams quickly jumped on the bandwagon of a commercialized “sport science” product such as Functional Isometric Contraction and the Power Rack without adequate objective confirmation of its actual value or long term implications for using the product. And, just as quickly jumped off the bandwagon with the same impulse. If anything, the athletic and academic communities are not only immune to the oxymoron of “new and improved;” they are the ones most likely to embrace it. 

On the other hand, the possibility of commercialized distortion of science is significantly less, if not non existent, in the former Soviet Union. Here a training system such as Functional Isometric Contraction and use of the Power Rack are more likely to be subjected to a higher standard of objectivity.

The statements of the Soviet era sport scientists presented in Part I contraindicating the use of isometrics, bodybuilding movements, slow strength movements such as power lifting exercises and partial movements with heavy resistance for dynamic sports are empirical, i.e., based on practical experience and presumably not clouded by commercial motive. However, these sport scientists had other means to make these determinations than practical experience.

For instance, a small Soviet study {“Morphological Alterations of Muscular Connective Tissue as a Result of Static and Dynamic Training”, P. Z. Gudz, Kiev. Papers from the First All – Soviet Conference on Sport Morphological Moscow, The All- Soviet Scientific Research Institute of Physical Culture, 31-33:1975 Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr} with white mice compared the changes to the muscles and intra muscular connective tissue as a result of dynamic and static training.

Based on the study’s findings that static training significantly increased intra muscular connective tissue of the muscles which were trained in the static regime, the author concluded, “The research showed that prolonged application of static loading contributes to the significant development of intra muscular connective tissue which increases the firmness of the muscles. However, their elasticity diminishes. Therefore, prolonged application of static loading which causes a large reaction of intra muscular connective tissue is unjustified for those types of sports associated with quick dynamic muscular work.”

Muscle firmness, large muscle mass, and less elasticity are particularly characteristic of power lifting and bodybuilding training. It should be noted, however, that the loss of muscle elasticity we are referring to is not necessarily the ability to achieve a large range of motion such as in static stretching, but it is the loss of the ability for rapid lengthening of muscles and tendons in quick dynamic exercises.

Ukrainian sport scientist Y. Koslovski (Speed Strength Training of Middle Distance Runners, Kozlovski, Y.I., Kiev, Zdorovaya, 1980) noted a neuro muscular consideration which should be factored in addition to the already indicated morphological consequences of employing static exercises; this is likewise true for exercises that are close to static conditions.

“Frequent use of static exercises does not contribute to the development of the habit to relax the muscles. This explains why middle and long distance runners employ these exercises so infrequently. Muscle tonus does not revert to the initial level immediately even after a single volitional muscle contraction, but remains elevated for eight to fifteen minutes. This elevation of tonus is the ‘tonic readiness’ for further work. Naturally, prolonged elevation of muscle tonus is one of the reasons for muscle hypertrophy. Elevated ‘tonic readiness’ preceding speed strength exercises translates into a diminished ability to perform motor tasks.”

Static exercises and exercises which create these conditions of “elevated tonic readiness,” such as powerlifting movements, involve prolonged muscular contraction. Virtually all dynamic sports require a high speed of muscular contraction in tandem with a high speed of muscular relaxation.

Training too much in static or near static conditions adversely affects coordination because the athlete performs exercises with a prolonged contraction and no rapid contraction/relaxation cycle. This is the situation Sokolov (concept #2 in part I) referred to as “coordination enslavement.”

Alexander Falameyev, another Soviet era sport scientist, addressed the same issue from a morphological standpoint with the following distinctions between static and dynamic exercises.

“Weightlifting exercises performed with multiple repetitions and with a small amplitude of movement in the joints (and closer to static tension) causes changes to the muscles’ morphology. The belly of the muscle shortens a little and the tendon lengthens. When one performs dynamic work with over a large amplitude of movement, the opposite occurs as the muscle lengthens and the tendon shortens.” A. I. Falameyev, 1986; translated by Andrew Charniga

This explanation is why weightlifting exercises with a small amplitude of movement in the joints reduce dynamic range of motion. However, the result of this type of training is in an increase in muscle diameter. Consequently, strength exercises performed with the greatest range of motion in the joints are better for developing strength because they alter the muscle morphology in a ‘useful’ manner.” (A.I. Falameyev, Weightlifting and Methods of Instruction, Fizkultura I Sport, Moscow 1986. Translated by Andrew Charniga)

buried

Dynamic sports like weightlifting necessitate dynamic flexibility. Charniga photo

According to Falameyev, one wants to develop strength for dynamic sports by changing the muscles’ morphology by lengthening a “little” of the belly of the muscles and shortening the tendons a “little.” This is hard to accomplish by performing partial movements with heavy weights or isometrics.

Train for dynamic sports by combining the morphology with physiology. One wants to develop longer, soft muscles with shorter tendons and avoid development of excessive intra muscular connective tissue.

The observations of Russians Plukfelder, Kutsenko, and others cited regarding the training methods of the American lifters of the 1950s and 1960s begin to make more sense in light of the Soviet sport scientists’ research which demonstrated strength developed from training with static movements does not transfer to dynamic sports. The sport scientists’ observations confirm the empirical observations of the coaches and athletes.

However, the distinction should be made that unlike the ever present methodology and hardware for sale situation which exists in the USA, the Soviets evaluated the value of static and exercises indistinguishable from static conditions such as powerlifting and bodybuilding exercises and found them to be little value. And, that was the end of it.

It is evident from the history of the commercialization of Functional Isometric Contraction and the Power Rack, objectivity is thrown out the window by potential customers seeking new and improved exercise methods or devices. No distinction is attempted let alone established between science and product.

Some of the Long Term Effects of the Commercialization of Functional Isometric Contraction

It has been emphasized that there was no coordinated effort in the USA to establish an American system of training in weightlifting taking into account the specific characteristics of the American weightlifter, his psychology, the socio – economic conditions in the USA during the 1950s and into the 1960s. And, for the most part, that is still the case at the present time.

The problem created by the commercialization of FIC in America where anything that can be commercialized will be. Our lifters and coaches thought they had a new training method. In point of fact, they purchased it from Bob Hoffman out of the pages of Strength and Health magazine.

The American way of training in 1964 consisted partly of ideas passed on from the 1930s – 1950s along with more “new and improved” methods of developing strength, i.e., Functional Isometric Contraction. Both the old and the new emphasized the development of muscle mass and absolute strength.

This approach to training continued after the 1964 Olympics!

Training Programs of Some Members of the 1968 Olympic Team

The Training of Ernie Picket

(Member of the 1968 Olympic team)
{S&H 06:1966: 34,65}
The training program of 1968 Olympic team member Ernie Picket is detailed below. The article appeared in Strength and Health in 1966.

The statement which follows and the contents of his training program exemplify the underlying theme: NO SYSTEM, NO COACH, NO CLUE.

“Without the aid of a coach…. He has utilized Bill March’s isometric rack routine, Terry Todd’s pressing program, Bill Andrew’s powerlifting schedule, and Bob Bednarski’s positive approach to heavy poundages.” {S&H 06:1966: 34,65}

The article listed a five day per week training schedule while assuming he would require approximately the same amount of time as Gary Cleveland (presented in part II) in completing each workout; he would have trained for about seven and a half to nine hours per week in the gym.

Sample workouts:
Monday
Power snatch
Snatch off bench
Rack work
Top press 350 lbs
Middle press: 350
Low press: 305
Second squat: 400
Dead lift: 600 – 625
Tuesday
Wide grip press off rack
Back squats
Rack work:
Quarter squat
Snatch pull
Dead lift
Incline press
Jerk press
Wednesday
Squat cleans off benches
Bench Presses
Rack work:
Top press: 520 lbs
Second squat: 400
Front Squat: 320
Deadlift:500

The rest of the days are similar. For the most part, there is a relatively modest amount of dynamic work in proportion to the preponderance of static work (power rack training).

The Training of Bob Bednarski  (Aspirant for 1968 Olympic team)

Bob Bednarski rose to national prominence training essentially the three lifts and squats. His training program published in S&H in 1966 attests to this. However, another program published in 1967 claims Bednarski “came back” to isometrics. And, in a third article on the clean, Bednarski gives advice on training and technique which includes isometrics. Many considered him to be a potential gold medalist for the 1968 Olympics. However, he failed to make the team.

{ S&H 04:22:1966}
Monday
Morning: Squats
Evening: Press; C&J
Wednesday
Morning: Squats
Evening: Snatch; C&J
Saturday
Evening: Squats; Snatch
Sunday
Either a limit on the three Olympic lifts of two or three assistance exercises such as Power Cleans, Bench Press, or Continental and Jerk.

{S&H 9:28:1967}
Monday
Cleans
Squats
Wednesday
Snatch
Squats
Saturday
Press, snatch, clean and jerk
Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday
Isometrics: Pulls below knees, above knees, waist level;
Isometric Presses in layback position, eye level, and lockout.
Squats

The monthly “Behind the Scenes” feature of the September 1967 issue of Strength and Health depicts Bob Bednarski doing isometrics. According to the article, “Bob Bednarski was one of the first around York to come back to isometrics” {S&H 9:28:1967}.

There are ten pictures of Bednarski performing isometrics in the article, including the “top pull” position twice, one with the clean grip and one with the snatch hand spacing.

Another issue of Strength and Health {S&H 12:30:1967} “How to Improve Your Clean” features pictures of Bednarski pulling in a power rack. He recommends isometrics, shrugs to improve your clean, and similar movements. His technique recommendations include slow pull off the floor, full extension, shrug.

Bob Gayda the 1966 Mr. America, accompanied the US team of Russ Knipp and Bob Bednarksi to the 1966 World Weightlifting Championships in East Berlin. After having witnessed the competition and observing the training sessions at the championships, he writes an article for Strength and Health entitled “Success with P.H.A. in Weightlifting” {S&H 8:42:1967}. Gayda proposed a training system for American weightlifters.

World champion DENG Mengrong (CHN) demonstrating a very large amplitude of motion in the lower extremities cleaning a near world record 141 kg.  Charniga photo

The impetus for such a proposal from a bodybuilder was simple; Gayda wrote, “While I was in East Berlin during the World Championships, I discovered that something was wrong with our own national weightlifters in contrast with the Iron Curtain lifters. I found that our lifters had four decisive physical weaknesses. These were (1) a lack of endurance, (2) a lack of flexibility, (3) speed, and (4) poor muscular development” {S&H 8:42:1967}.

Since it has already been already pointed out that “muscle less wonders” and “fatty” Russians were becoming world record holders, Olympic, and World Champions during the 1960s; we can safely discard “poor muscular development” from the above list of weaknesses. However, the other three physical weaknesses of American weightlifters have remained the same as those of the 50s.

What is unique about these observations from the detached perspective of a bodybuilder; it not only confirms the European assessment of American lifters; they come not from some Russian, but from one of our own. Gayda’s proposed training system was designed to eliminate the aforementioned weaknesses which the training of our lifters at that time obviously created, or simply did not address.

The Training of Joe Puleo
(Member of 1968 Olympic team)
{S&H 11:32-33:1964}
Monday
Press, or press from stands
Pulls from three positions in the power rack, one set of three repetitions and hold the third one for eight to ten seconds. In the holding position he concentrates on “standing on the toes, shrugging the shoulders and bending the elbows.”
Squats
Wednesday
Jerks from rack
Power snatch
Power clean
Saturday
Total on three lifts

The Training of Jim Dorn
(Aspirant for 1964 Olympic team)
{S&H 2:38:1965}
Monday and Wednesday
Top press: 520 lbs; Eye level Press: 340; Chin- level press: 520; Quarter squat: 1000 x 6; Middle pull: 420 hold for 10 seconds; Front squat (in rack): 390 x 3: deadlift: 670x 1; Bench Press: 470 x1.
Saturday
Press, snatch, clean and jerk, Power clean.

Jim Dorn was a young, up and coming prospect for the 1964 Olympic team. He would compete in the 1964 Olympic tryouts and the 1964 Mr. America physique competition.
Massively muscled, he made the following results at the 1964 senior national championships: 122.5 snatch and 160 kg clean jerk at bodyweight of 90 kg, presumably training in the manner just described.

At the 2008 Olympics LIU Chunhong won the 69 kg class with 128 kg snatch and a C&J of 158 kg. A 23 year old female, about the same age as Dorn in 1964, she weighed 21 kg less.

htmlimport_69_kg_front_squat
LIU Chunhong (CHN) front squatting 180 kg at 69 kg Bdywt.

The Training of Russ Knipp
(Member 1968 Olympic team)
{S&H 1:30:1967}
The program is broken into two parts a “power program” and “competition program” begun one month before competitions.
Power Program
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Back squat sets of 10 rep/set
Stiff leg deadlift sets of 5 rep/set
Shrugs sets of 15 rep/set
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
Military Press
Bench Press

Competition Program
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Power Snatch
Split Snatch
Dead Hang wide Grip Power Clean
Overhead Supports
Back Squat (sets of 10 rep/set

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
½ hour of stretching
Olympic Press
Jerks from Stands

The Training of Joe Dube
(member of 1968 Olympic team)
{S&H 02:26:1968}
Monday
Snatch
Push Press
Clean pulls
15 minutes of stretching and wind sprints
Tuesday
Squats
Jump squats with bodyweight
Thursday
Clean and Jerk
Power Snatch
Military Press
Stretching and wind sprints
Friday
Squat
Saturday
Heavy every other Saturday in three lifts

The Training of Phil Grippaldi
(Member of 1968 Olympic tream)
{ S&H 09:30:66}
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Front Squats
Back Squats
Snatch
Power Clean
Tuesday, Thursday
Press
Snatch
Clean and Jerk
Bench Press
Power Rack:
Four 10 second holds in full extended position
Saturday
Total on all three lifts

In an article for Strength and Health, Bob Hoffman writes about “Making Weight for a Contest” . “We always had trouble with Vinci making weight….We could not get him to stop curling and benching. On one trip to Russia, Chuck showed his arm to the Russians and it was about the biggest arm I have ever seen in proportion to height. Stogov, the Russian world champion, showed his arm and his biceps looked a little larger than his wrist”{S&H 08:52:1965}.

In reference to the Polish team who were training at the “Little Olympics” Strength and Health  reported, “The whole team ended up feeling how big Phil’s (Grippaldi) arms were”{S&H 02:22:1968}.

The most revealing aspects of these two big arm stories is that no one stopped to consider the relationship between muscle mass and strength and how this relationship affects a weightlifter’s ability to make weight for a specific weight class and still be in the optimum condition to lift. 

The 1950s was an era of absolute strength in weightlifting. A weightlifter could become world or an Olympic champion with unnecessary muscle mass, even though it might be a hindrance to making weight for competition. By 1968, unnecessary muscle mass was just that, unnecessary and a hindrance to competitiveness at the international level.

The Training Program of the Hungarian National Team
{S&H 12:30:1965}
Day 1
C&J
Clean Pull
Power Snatch
Good Mornings
Day 2
Incline press
Snatch
Power clean
Squats
Day 3
Press
Power snatch
Snatch Pulls
C&J
Good Mornings
Day 4
Incline Press
Snatch
Power Clean
Squats
Press
Day 5
Power Snatch
C&J
Clean Pulls
Good Mornings
Day 6
Incline Press
Snatch Pulls
Snatch
Squats

The training programs of many members of the 1968 Olympic team are not a radical departure from those of the 1964 team; most including isometrics. The only medal winner in Mexico City, Joe Dube, did not list any isometrics with this published program.
In contrast to the American team’s training, the training of the Hungarian national team presented above contains no isometrics or power rack type exercises, just standard weightlifting exercises; a significantly larger volume of work on the Olympic lifts and a larger volume of work in general.

Some problems associated with the American programs listed:

– the time spent on the Olympic lifts is insufficient for the athletes develop sufficient speed – strength, coordination and dynamic flexibility;

– the volumes of work listed and previously published would be insufficient to develop the special endurance and especially a “reserve” of endurance necessary to compete at the international level;

– the volume of isometrics would probably prove to be a hindrance to the correct performance of the Olympic lifts and adversely affect the special endurance required to perform these exercises over the course of an international competition.

Isometrics, short range of motion exercises with heavy weights, and exercises of prolonged muscular tension can have an adverse effect on endurance in dynamic sports. A consequence of the use of isometrics or exercises with heavy weights over a short range of movement in training can be that it will require more energy to stretch muscles quickly in fast dynamic movements like the Olympic lifts.

The muscles and, of course, the tendons which have been trained under static or close to static conditions create what numerous Soviet sport scientists refer to as “internal resistance” to movement.

For instance, descending under the barbell at high speed (squatting quickly) for the snatch or the clean necessitates the muscles and tendons lengthen quickly without creating excessive resistance to movement. Internal resistance would not only slow this movement; in theory requiring more energy.

An article in Strength and Health published after the 1968 Olympic Games written by Arkady Vorobeyev was the final installment of a series entitled “Russian Training Methods.” According to Vorobeyev, a two time Olympic champion, MD, and PhD, “Endurance is only improved if training is carried out to a sensible degree of fatigue and if the lifter attempts to overcome his fatigue. A lifter must train his endurance so that it lasts for the entire training day. He must also train his endurance so that it will not end when the decisive last part of the contest will begin, for then he will be attempting the heaviest lifts” {S&H 12:18:1968}.

The endurance Vorobeyev speaks of is that specific quality to perform speed strength exercises like the press (the 1968 version) and the two quick lifts multiple times without fatigue over the length of an international weightlifting competition; lasting several hours.

The weightlifter’s training should prepare him to perform the final attempts in the clean and jerk with near maximum and maximum weights after competing in the first two exercises during several hours of competition; in the presence of the psychological tension associated with the final outcome of the competition hanging in the balance.

For example, at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, two American lifters (whose programs have been listed) received a zero in the press, the first exercise of the competition. In his report of the competition Bob Hoffman wrote of these two unfortunate occurrences.

In reference to the first lifter, “ (He)was lifting by himself at this point, so could not make a maximum effort on his third press and was out.”

And, in reference to the second lifter, “He was lifting alone, so had to take three presses in a short time, and after two attempts he could not make the third.”

Both of these lifters were attempting accessible weights of 10 and 17.5 kg, respectively, less than they had made at the Olympic trials a few months earlier. In those days if a lifter followed himself for the next platform attempt, he was given three minutes to appear on the platform and begin the lift.

Today, this same rule has been reduced to two minutes. Assuming the barbell would have been adjusted before starting the clock on the lifter after each attempt, the two athletes would have had about three and a half to four minutes between platform lifts.

Both athletes simply lacked that minimum of specific endurance to perform three attempts with sub maximum weights over a period of eight to ten minutes at the beginning of the competition, i.e., when they were relatively fresh. Conceivably, internal resistance to movement, resulting from training isometrics and insufficient volume of work on the full Olympic movements, proved to be a hindrance to the aforementioned athletes’ ability to perform multiple lifts with near maximum weights.

This unfortunate occurrence reinforces what bodybuilder Bob Gayda recognized, already in 1966, that our lifters lacked flexibility, speed, and endurance.

img_3723
There is a connection between flexibility and endurance in dynamic sports. Charniga photo

If the athletes had marginal specific endurance at the beginning, what could possibly be expected at the end of the competition for the final attempts in the clean and jerk, after hours of competition and under heightened psychological pressure?

The effectiveness of the training programs listed here and in part III should be viewed in this light. As the quantity of high quality weightlifters increased at the international competitions; being strong simply would not suffice.

Between the power rack exercises and the relatively low volume of loading in the three Olympic lifts, the training of our lifters could not be expected to place them in the same league as the Russians, Hungarians, and Polish, even though our lifters were very strong.

Conclusions and a Lesson

The events leading up to and including World War II and the special support of Bob Hoffman created those special conditions which facilitated the initial dominance of American teams in the early post war period.

The commercialization of Functional Isometric Contraction and the Power Rack contributed to the decline of American weightlifting.

In essence, the problem confronting American weightlifting by the end of the 1950s was that a concrete, objective assessment as to why American teams were dominant in the early post war years did not really exist. Consequently, we did not really know why we were on top; therefore, it would be very difficult if not impossible to understand why we were falling behind and how to catch up.

These reports from Strength and Health after the 1968 Olympics amply illustrate this point.

Hoffman writes in his report of 1968 Olympics, “What do we do in the future? Keep trying is all we can do, and while we are gaining all the other countries are gaining too and at each World Championship and each Olympics, it is harder to win a medal. All the world is following our training systems. Reding (Belgium heavyweight) purchased one of the Hoffman Functional Isometric Contraction Super Power Racks in the beginning of this form of training and his tremendous power is the result of his continued effort….”{S & H 01:55:1969}

 “Our opponents learned how we did it and had more time to do it themselves, and it got harder for us at every succeeding World and Olympic Championship”{S&H 12:70:1972}.

Hoffman’s statements in his reports of the 1968 and the 1972 Olympics illustrates two important points.

One, although misguided, he sincerely believed in Functional Isometric Contraction, i.e., he was not a huckster, indiscriminately hocking phony or otherwise unproven ideas and wares. He believed in the efficacy of these methods, even though his own magazine repeatedly published opinions expressed by prominent Europeans, Japanese {S&H 11:36-7;78:1968}, and even Americans (bodybuilder Bob Gayda) that the preparation of American weightlifters was flawed.

Two, his knowledge of Olympic weightlifting was fixed in the past, where weightlifters could become champions by virtue of having the greatest absolute strength and typically possessing large muscle mass. He mistakenly assumed the rest of the world copied our training methods of the 1950s and since the Functional Isometric Contraction was the “new and improved method” of the 1960s, invented by Americans, the rest of the world was following this new method as well.

As a result, the prospects for Olympic and World Championship medals became progressively bleaker.

“We will work harder than ever, but sad to relate it is a case of trying to beat a man who is ahead of you and running faster than you” {S & H 01:55:1969}.

“But, unfortunately, we are in the position of a man who is running a race with a man who is well ahead of him and running faster than he is”{S&H 12:70:1972}.

Without question Hoffman cannot be faulted unilaterally for contributing to the decline of American weightlifting by commercializing Functional Isometric Contraction. There were simply too many others in the American weightlifting community who were unable to fully grasp the evolution of the sport at the international level.

For instance, managing editor of Strength and Health Bill Starr wrote two articles about his experiences at the 1968 Olympics. In the first, “A Week in Mexico,” he stated in no uncertain terms, “The Europeans possess more explosive strength as opposed to static strength as shown by many Americans.” And, “The American team didn’t do well, but it appeared to me that even at their best few of our fellows belong on the same stage with the rest of the lifters in the world.”

From these strong statements one would expect some logical critique of the team’s preparation for the Games to follow. But that did not occur. His assessment that the Europeans had more “explosive strength as opposed to static strength” are not only correct; in point of fact, contradict Hoffman’s opinion that the rest of the world was developing static strength with “our training methods.”

As to why the focus did not shift to the athletes’ training was a simple lack of understanding of just what exactly is explosive strength? For instance, he went on to report about two of the Russian gold medalists. “Seltisky impressed me greatly. He moved extremely fast and reeked with self confidence. It is hard to explain Kurentsov. He has plenty of muscle, granted, but not that darned much to handle 187.5 kg so simply. But he does it and not with mirrors. He is definitely strong.”

Just like Bob Hoffman, the Starr believed big muscles were necessary to lift “big” weights in the three Olympic lifts; and this same opinion, expressed as fact, had appeared over and over again for many years in the magazine.

Without the insight that the training of our athletes was faulty as had Gayda the bodybuilder, Plukfelder, Kutsenko, and Kenji Onuma, the Starr wrote another article in which he offered what were called reasons; but, were in fact weak excuses for the poor performances in Mexico City.

In the following issue {S&H 03:53:1969} Bill Starr wrote in “Our team in Mexico,” ”Checking the results of the lifter’s totals at Mexico City against those made at the Trials, one discovers that not a single lifter matched (let alone bettered) his total at the Games.

Here are some of the principal reasons for the American team’s poor showing: 1) The Olympic Trials were too close to the Olympics, 2) The inexperience of the team, and 3) the living situation at the Games.” {S&H 03:53:1969}

The problem with excuses is that they are generally biased and represent a one way street. The lifters from the other countries did not get any excuses.

When all is said and done, unfortunately, the “new and improved” training methodology introduced in the 1960s was not Functional Isometric Contraction, it was more time spent in the gym; and, in particular, considerably more time spent perfecting the Olympic lifts.

And, not only was the rest of the weightlifting world not following our training system, they were politely and sometimes constructively criticizing it.

The lesson to be learned here is that by the time one realizes one is “running a race with a man who is well ahead and running faster,” one has long since missed the boat to do much about it.

 Anabolics in Weightlifting During the 1950 and 1960s

Most every book, paper, or article dealing with doping in sport relates the same story as to the “ground zero” of anabolic use in weightlifting. The list of authors who relate this story includes journalists, historians, doctors, PhDs. The journals reporting the same story include even the distinguished Scientific American.

The majority of these accounts report Dr. John Ziegler, a physician from Olney, Maryland, spoke with a Russian team doctor at the 1954 World Weightlifting Championships in Vienna, Austria. Ziegler had accompanied the American weightlifting team to Vienna as the team physician.

According to Ziegler’s widely reported account, the Soviet team doctor told him that their team used a form of testosterone to help build muscle and strength. And, that they felt it was beneficial to their lifting to do so. Most accounts agree Ziegler began administering the oral anabolic steroid Dianabol around 1960.

Three articles dealing with the use of anabolics in sports under the single title “The Pill That Could Kill Sport” appeared in True Magazine in April of 1967. Bob Hoffman was quoted in the article.

“Some coaches, however, are inclined to discount the whole matter of side effects. Bob Hoffman, long time coach of the US Olympic weightlifting team, says, ‘Despite the fears of doctors, I don’t know of anybody who has been harmed by them”. He has used the pills himself, he says, and put on weight and strength very quickly” {True 48:359:33:1967}.

Subsequent to the publication of the aforementioned issue of True Magazine, Strength and Health published a letter  to the editor addressed to Hoffman entitled “Anabolics” concerning his picture in True Magazine and the comments attributed to him. Hoffman responded to the letter, “Seven years ago Anabolics were introduced to us by Dr. John Ziegler” (around 1960), i.e., some six years after, according to the widely reported account of Ziegler, after he (Ziegler) heard about the Russians using these drugs” {S&H 10:8-9:1967}.

However, it seems highly unlikely that someone as involved as Ziegler in helping American lifters compete against the Russians would wait six long years to look into assisting American lifters with similar anabolic means as the Russians were purported to be using. And, that no one else would have stepped up to experiment or otherwise provide these preparations earlier.

In fact an article, “The Jovial Genius of Dr. John Ziegler” which appeared in Strength and Health in 1965  contradicts Hoffman’s statement that Ziegler introduced anabolics to the lifters around 1960. The author Terry Todd rather cavalierly proclaims, “Ziegler’s contributions do not stop with isometric contraction. In the late 1950s he had pioneered the controlled use of anabolic steroids for athletes” {S&H 10:44-45:1965}.

However, this whole issue is, at best, a murky pool. For instance, the aforementioned author of the article about Ziegler has proven to be a questionable source of credible information (see “Doping in Elite Sport Commentary” at www.sportivnypress.com). For example, he declared in an article of the text Doping in Elite Sport, “1960 – Dr. John Ziegler, a physician from Olney, Maryland, begins giving …. Dianabol, to three U.S. weightlifters: Tony Garcy, Bill March, and Lou Riecke.”

Furthermore, in the article of 1965, Todd described the administration of anabolics for athletes as one of Ziegler’s “contributions,”; however, in the 2002 article notes that, “although we have tried to be objective in the preparation of this document, our long time opposition to the use of anabolic steroids and other ergogenic aids in competitive sport situations is no doubt apparent” {S&H 10:44-45:1965}.

Whichever account; or none of the above; one decides is the truth, most everyone involved would agree American lifters were using these ergogenic aids if not in the 1950s then by the early 1960s. So, it is not a valid excuse for the loss of American competitiveness in weightlifting as the 1950s drew to a close that the Europeans may have had an unfair advantage by unilaterally using Anabolic agents.

However, a scholarly study of the issue as to who started using anabolics implied it was the Russians and they moved ahead of the USA through this advantage. 

John Fair conducted a scholarly examination of the possible date at which steroids were introduced into weightlifting with “Olympic Weightlifting and the Introduction of Steroids: A Statistical Analysis of World Championships Results, 1948 – 1972.” The year 1948 was chosen for the starting point apparently, because the author noted that according to Dr. Ernst Jokl’s calculations, “weightlifting performances had significantly improved since 1948.”

The author analyzed “the results for the first three place finishers in each weight class” at the World and Olympic championships. He noted that much greater gains were made in the press than in the snatch and clean and jerk.

Russian 94 kg lifter Adam Maligov defies old stereotypes of large muscles to lift big weights in the snatch and the clean and jerk. Charniga photo.

The author also observed that during the period 1952 to 1956 the Russians made disproportionately greater gains in the snatch and the clean and jerk; not only compared to the USA; but compared to the rest of the world as well. 

Ultimately, this was the basis for some of the author’s assumptions when he concluded the Russians gained an unfair advantage over the USA though the use of anabolic steroids. The author indicated that according to his statistical analysis, “these statistical revelations square with Dr. Ziegler’s earlier observations and reinforce the argument that it was steroids (or testosterone) which was responsible for the Soviet Union’s displacement of the United States” {“Olympic Weightlifting and the Introduction of Steroids: A Statistical Analysis of World Championships Results, 1948 – 1972”}.

The author’s assumption that his statistical analysis confirms the reason for the US decline was the Russians use of steroids is academic fantasy and utterly without merit.
We have already shown the principal reasons for the ascent of American weightlifting was the effect of World War II on watering down the international “playing field” and the support of Bob Hoffman.

One of the author’s assumptions was that since the press was becoming a “quick lift” and “ceasing to be a test of strength nullified” the possibility it would be more sensitive by steroids.

A second assumption was that the results in the snatch and the clean and jerk are more sensitive to the use of anabolics.  Consequently, since the Russians were progressing faster in these two exercises, this was because they were using drugs.

A third assumption was that there were no significant technical changes to the technique of the snatch and the clean and jerk until 1964.

All three assumptions are false.

Even a “loosening” press as was occurring in the 1950s was still very much a test of absolute strength. It was not until the mid to late sixties that it could be classified as a speed strength exercise. The sheer length of time involved in cleaning a barbell, waiting for the signal to press, and the time of the strain to elevate it with the muscles of the arms and shoulder girdle made this exercise very sensitive to the use of steroids.

Several Soviet scholarly studies by Medvedyev and Chernyak established that the faster rate of improvement in the press, which began in 1948, was the result of a radical change in training methods for this exercise.

The second false assumption is snatch is less sensitive to anabolics than the other two exercises.

A negative correlation was established between improvement of the press and improvement of the snatch, i.e., improvement of one can negatively impact improvement of the other.

The “stormy” growth of world records in weightlifting attributable to the use of anabolics occurred in two periods: 1967 to 1973 and 1973 to 1980, i.e., not in the 1950s.
The aforementioned studies analyzed weightlifting results from 1903 to 1967 and the progress of world records from 1924 to 1990, i.e., significantly more data than in the Fair analysis.

The single most puzzling aspect of this author’s analysis of this period in the history of weightlifting is the failure of this historian to take into account the sociological, political, and economic impact of World War II as we have in our assessment of the American team’s rise to dominance in weightlifting and its subsequent decline.

Even without performing an analysis of the results of the World, Olympic, European, and Russian championships of the 1930s as has been done here, a simple glance at the medal tallies of the pre and post War Olympics reveals the obvious “war effect” on a country’s athletic ambitions. The data presented in table 7 speaks for itself.

Table 7. Top medal winning countries at Olympic Games 1932-1968 illustrating pre war and post war effects of medal prospects.
Year 1st 2nd 3rd
1932 USA ITA FRA Sweden 4th; Denmark 20th
1936 GER USA HUN 7th 23rd
1948 USA SWE FRA 2nd 10th
1952 USSR USA HUN 4th 15th
1956 USSR USA AUS 6th 20th
1960 USSR USA ITA 16th 13th
1964 USA USSR JPN 17th 18th
1968 USA USSR JPN 21rst 23rd

The top medal winning countries at the Summer Olympics before and after World War II are depicted in table 7. The USA won the most medals at the Los Angeles Olympics of 1932. Sweden, which was neutral in World War I, placed fourth overall. Germany won the most medals in 1936.

What was left of Germany and Japan were excluded from participation in 1948. The Soviet Union did not participate in the 1948 Olympics. Consequently, the USA easily won the lion’s share of medals, but, neutral again during World War II, Sweden jumped from seventh to second and Denmark from twenty third to tenth.

These are the same two countries who suddenly appeared in the top ranks of the team placing at the European Weightlifting Championships in the early post war years of the 1950s.

Furthermore, the medal prospects of the Summer Olympics, European, and World Weightlifting Championships of both Sweden and Denmark faded as post war Europe and Japan rebuilt and repopulated.

The rise and fall of American weightlifting essentially followed the same pattern.
Because Dr. Ziegler’s story about his conversation with the Russian doctor has been repeated over and over again in numerous publications, although never independently verified, it is considered a fact.

However, that is the story only from the American viewpoint. And, this viewpoint historically has been that it is the other guy who cheats, not us.

Consider this interview with two – time Olympic champion (1964 and 1968) W. Baszanowski in 1996. When asked about the use of anabolic steroids he responded, “I did not know these types of drugs existed during my lifting career. That is not to say that I would not have used them had I known they were available, I was simply unaware there were such things.”

Over the years Baszanowski results show no significant, sudden leaps. The author observed this athlete train and compete in person. His physical appearance bore none of the physical signs of anabolic use.

Most scholarly accounts agree that use of anabolics was relatively widespread in the 1960s. Bill Toomey the 1968 Olympic decathlon champion admitted using anabolics by 1967 in the cited article in True Magazine; this was also in addition to Randy Matson the world record holder in the shot put. So, not only can it be assumed with relative certainty that American lifters used the same  drugs at this time, it has been documented.

In his paper “Olympic Weightlifting and Steroids,” Historian John Fair makes this ridiculous assertion in reference to the 1956 Olympics.

“What happened at the 1956 Melbourne Games, where the United States temporarily regained its former position by a narrow margin, remains an enigma. Whether it was a momentary triumph of will for the Americans or a slight lapse in the Russian drug program (and both possibilities seem likely)…. they (the Russians) faltered badly in the snatch and the clean and jerk. If steroids were so critical to performance in the snatch and the clean and jerk, it would appear that something went awry with the Soviets’ drug administration program”{“Olympic Weightlifting and the Introduction of Steroids: A Statistical Analysis of World Championships Results, 1948 – 1972”}.

In some of the classes which the Americans and Russians went head to head, Americans out lifted the Russians in the quick lifts. But in almost every case the Americans were employing the squat style, the Russians the biomechanically less efficient split style.

Two Russians did not contest an American in the 67.5 kg class so there was no comparison. Vorobeyev, a splitter, tied the American Sheppard (a squat style lifter) in the snatch but out lifted him in the clean and jerk with a split style to the other’s squat style.
In point of fact Fair’s statement is based on faulty mathematics.

The author simply ignores such decisive factors as significant advancements made by the Soviets in biomechanics, training methodology, and the historical context of international sport of 1948 to 1960. Furthermore, the significance of the research in biomechanics is simply not within the author’s grasp. The snatch and the clean and jerk are exercises of complex coordination structure which simply taking drugs will not address. If it were that simple; that performance gap between the Russians and the USA would not have existed.

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