Category: Basics

The History of Olympic Weightlifting

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A spate of YouTube videos has recently rekindled my love of Olympic Weightlifting. Specifically the iconic footage of German weightlifter Matthias Steiner winning a gold medal at the 2008 games in Beijing has encouraged me to begin digging into the history and indeed, the evolution of weightlifting at the Olympic Games. For those unaware of Steiner’s path to the games in 2008 I suggest a quick google search as I simply cannot do justice to the man’s story.

My goal today is not to discuss Steiner’s life history but rather to examine the sport he competed in. So with this hopefully simple goal in mind, we’re going to explore the history of weightlifting at the Olympic games. Beginning with the first official games in 1896 and moving across time and space towards Tokyo 2020.

The History of the Bosu Ball

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Part of the functional training fetish exhibited by members of the strength and conditioning community in the opening decade of the twenty-first century, the Bosu Ball was not too long ago, a ubiquitous piece of gym equipment. Nowadays found in the corner of the gym floor, if at all, the Bosu Ball, along with the Swiss Ball covered previously, represented a shift in training from strength and hypertrophy and balance and functional strength (whatever that means).

Having rediscovered the Bosu Ball recently, and by that I mean having tripped over one in the gym, I thought the timing seemed right to finally uncover its history.

Dr. Mel Siff, A Short History of Strength and Conditioning (Dolfzine, 2003)

Strength training has always been synonymous with the so-called “Iron Game,” a broad generic term that includes the competitive lifting of heavy objects by “strongmen/women” during the last century or so. Feats of lifting strength, however, have appeared throughout the history of most nations, but it has only been in very recent times that training to produce strength has become a scientific discipline.


Mel C Siff Ph.D.
This science did not arise overnight, but is the culminating point of thousands of years of trial-and-error methods of training.

The earliest reference to formal strength training occurs in Chinese texts dating as far back as 3600BC when emperors made their subjects exercise daily (Webster, 1976). During the Chou dynasty (1122-249BC) potential soldiers had to pass weight-lifting tests before being allowed to enter the armed forces.

Dorian Yates’ Workouts from 1982-1985

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Yates in 1986

Known as ‘The Shadow’ in bodybuilding circles, Dorian Yates was the goliath of early 1990s bodybuilding. Winning the Mr. Olympia six straight years in a row from 1992 to 1997, Yates was famed for his intense approach to training. A modified form of the high intensity training advocated by Arthur Jones and Mike Mentzer, Yates’ success briefly brought this style of training to the bodybuilding fore.

The following post, stemming from a Dorian article with Flex magazine from the mid 1990s, details the Englishman’s training programme prior to his meteoric success. While everyone wants to know how a champion trains, knowing how they became a champion is equally important…Enjoy!

Should you Workout to Music? Old School Approaches

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Unless you own a home gym, the issue of whether or not you train to music is usually decided for you. Nowadays the gym stereo is a much a part of the gym floor as the weights themselves. Depending on your gym, the decision to leave your headphones at home results in anything from pop music to death metal drumming through your ears. There is, very little wrong with this in theory. After all, the early callisthenics teachers of the nineteenth-century advocated exercising to music.

How were things done during the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of bodybuilding in the 1960s and 1970s? Furthermore, if possible, should you train without music? The bodybuilders of yore held mixed opinions…

Forgotten Exercises: The Dumbbell Swing

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Almost a half-century ago the one and two hand swing lifts were very popular among lifters and bodybuilders alike, especially the one hand lift. Over the years, however, both of these lifts have slumped into oblivion so that today there are very few who ever practice them, either as an exercise or for record-breaking performances. Because of this the world record in both lifts still remains at that poundage that was lifted many years ago. The one hand record is 199 pounds, and the two hand record is 224 pounds, just 25 pounds more than the one hand swing.

John Grimek, The Dumbbell Swing (1959)

This weekend I had the pleasure of dipping once more into Arthur Saxon’s excellent work from the early 1900s, The Development of Physical Power. Notable, for me at least by Saxon’s no nonsense attitude and frankness, the work does not seek to deceive or flatter. Instead, one of the strongest men of his generation sets out his remarkable strength and some of the means used to sustain it. Many of the exercises set out by Saxon are still done today, except for the above mentioned dumbbell swing.

The purpose of today’s post is thus twofold. First, we’re going to examine what this exercise is and how to perform it. From there, we get to delve into it’s fascinating history.

John Christy, Why Aren’t I Getting Bigger?, Hardgainer Magazine, May/June (2003)

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Author’s note: If you’re wondering why this isn’t the second installment of “The Keys to Success” series, it’s because the article “out-grew” the pages of HARDGAINER. l’ve decided to turn “The Keys to Success” into my first book. I should have it completed by the end of the year.

Ah, the grand old question of them all. I’ve heard it a thousand times: “I’m doing everything right, so why aren’t I getting any bigger?” Let me give you the reasons why.

George F. Jowett, ‘The Standard That Determines the Ideal Shape’, The Key to Muscle and Might (c. 1925)

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There is no doubt in my mind that Eugene Sandow’s rise to fame was due more to the symmetrical shapeliness of his enviable body than to the difficulty of feats of strength he performed. Generally speaking, there are two things which will always impress the mind of the body culturist, shape and strength. With strength, we have already dealt.

Therefore, we will now direct out attention to the value of shapeliness, and the influence it has upon our mind and body. Oh yes, it has a great influence upon the mind. The next time you visit an art gallery notice the quiet reverence that is displayed by the art lovers, as they move from one picture to another. The serene beauty of the pictures permeates the whole atmosphere, leaving the beholders in silent wonder. I have a great friend who is a wonderful artist, and he often makes sketches of the body in varied postures, which he brings to me for scrutiny. On one of his visits he said to me, “I can always tell whether the drawings meet with your approval or not. Not by what you say, as much as how little you say. Your eyes are always drawn to the pictures you like best, and I have noticed that you have sometimes been so enraptured that you did not hear me speak to you.” He was quite right. Pictures of the body beautiful, correctly translated, never weary me. I can feast my eyes upon them for hours at a time. This rather contradicts the statement that, familiarity with the most beautiful objects, breeds contempt. For twenty-five years I have lived in the atmosphere of beautiful bodies, and I am still as enthusiastic as I was when I first commenced my studies.

The History of the Glute Ham Raise

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Owing to the inquisitive nature of a PCS reader, I’ve finally gotten my act together, or at least come close enough to some semblance of normality, to go down the rabbit hole once again. The topic of todays post, is the rather more niche but nevertheless effective Glute Ham Raise (GHR) machine.

Having spent years devotedly using reverse hyperextensions and 45 degree back extensions, my own relationship with the Glute Ham Raise only began in the last twelve months. Since then I’ve made a point of trying as many different alternatives as possible. As is so often the case, I became too engrossed in using the machine that I forgot to look into its history. An email this month asking me about the GHR finally set me straight.

So without further ado we’ll crack into the history of the GHR. What is it? Who invented it and how did it become so damn popular?