Tag: Weightlifting

Louis Abele’s Back Program c. 1948

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Although unknown to the modern olympic lifter, Abele was one of America’s finest lifters during the 1940s and 1950s. Unfortunately he was overshadowed by fellow US lifters John Grimek, Steve Stanko, and John Davis during the course of his career. Similarly the outbreak of the Second World War denied Abele the chance to lift at the 1940 Olympic Games, a time when he would have been in his prime.

Nevertheless, Abele’s lifting career saw him put up some rather impressive poundages as you’ll read about.

With regards to training philosophy, Abele was a strong advocate of specialisation and high intensity training. Illustrating this, Abele tells the reader that he once exercised so hard that his teeth hurt from breathing! I suspect that this level of intensity is relatively rare in today’s gyms. Anyway what fascinates me about Abele was his advocacy of specialisation and by that Abele meant training primarily legs for 2 to 3 months before moving on to another body part for a similar amount of time. In this way Abele would focus almost exclusively on one body part, to the detriment of others, reach what he felt to be a maturation point and then switch his training up. From memory I can’t think of too many current lifters who adhere to this sort of programming although one supposes that the concept of a deload week is vaguely similar.

Anyway, the below article details Abele’s back workouts from his early 20s. For interested parties, the text itself comes from a series of letters written by Abele to Chester O. Teegarden which were published by Iron Man Industries of Alliance, Nebraska in 1948.

As always… Happy Lifting!

Bill Starr, ‘Sex and the Barbell’, Defying Gravity How To Win At Weightlifting (New York, 1981), p. 24.

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I once wrote a piece for the “Behind the Scenes” section in Strength & Health magazine dealing with the subject of sex before competition. I thought that I was quite obviously tongue-in-cheeking the presentation and made the comment that lifters would do well to lay off sex during the final week before a meet. As it turned out, I was not obvious enough as I received numerous letters and a few phone calls from irritated wives. It seemed that many lifters took my advise as gospel and denied their ladies any sexual gratification in the week prior to the contest. I have often suspected that many of these lifters merely used my words as an ex-cuse and most likely were doing a bit of hankey-pankey on the side at my expense.

Before the Carnivore Diet? Rheo H. Blair’s Meat and Water Diet (1960s)

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The Carnivore Diet – the practice of solely consuming meat products – has grown exponentially in the past few years. As someone who has experimented with a range of diets, everything from all fruit to raw meat, it’s remarkable to see an all meat diet gain traction for the lifting community and the general populace. While Vilhjamur Stefannsson popularised the Inuit’s meat dominated diet in the early 1900s, an all meat diet for athletes or lifters appears to be a new development.

So being the type of individual that I am, I decided to go through the annals of bodybuilding and see if anyone had dabbled with a carnivore-esque diet in the past. Echoing the wonderful ‘nothing new under the sun series‘ produced by Chaos and Pain (definitely not safe for work!), we have a precedent for the current carnivore diet in the form of Vince Gironda and Rheo H. Blair’s ‘meat and water’ diet, a short term weight loss diet used by bodybuilders prior to a competition.

With that in mind today’s post examines the reasons behind Blair’s experiment, the bodybuilders he used it on and what lessons, if any, his meat and water diet holds for present day lifters.

Alan Calvert, ‘General Training Program’, Health, Strength and Development (Philadelphia, c. 1920s).

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Hundreds of prospective pupils write me to ask how long they will have to train; how much time they will have to spend each week, etc., etc. This seems a good place to answer those questions.

The average pupil practices the first course in developing exer­cises for two or three months. He practices every other day (that is, once in 48 hours), and the practice period covers about 30 minutes.

By the end of the second or third month the pupil has attained a certain degree of strength and development, and then his training program is altered. On two days a week he will practice the more strenuolls of the developing exercises from the first course, and two other days a week he will practice the Eight Standard Lifts; that is, the second course. He keeps up this training for two or three months and during that period the time consumed is about three hours a week.

The Standard Lifts Course, as well as the First Course in Devel­oping Exercise, is given free to every pupil who buys a bell-whether it be a low-priced plate bell or the most expensive MILO TRIPLEX bell on the list.

Alan Calvert, ‘Are Weight-Lifters Stronger Than Other Men?’, Confidential Information on Lifters and Lifting (Philadelphia, 1926)

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I frankly confess that when I was young I was just as much hypnotised by pro­fessional “strong men” as you are today. I was as strong as the average boy; maybe a little stronger, for I could take a 65 lb. solid iron dumb-bell and push it slowly above my head with my right arm. But then I had done a lot of gym work, especially on the parallel bars, and consequently the pushing muscles in my arms were strong.

But when I went to see Sandow perform, and saw him push up a weight said to be over 300 lbs. I immediately thought “that man is nearly five times as strong as I am.” I was at an age when .I believed any darn claim that a stage-performer chose to make.

After I got into the business of making weights, you can imagine my disillusion­ ment when I found out that the weight Sandow pressed on the stage was only a little over 200 Ibs.; that he used what is called the “bent-press method”-which is not a real lift. That when he lifted the way I had done, (or, as any other unskilled man would do) he could press up only 121 Ibs. So instead of being five times as strong as I was, he was less than twice as strong, in that particular direction. And he was called “the world’s stl:ongest,” and weighed, say, 190 lbs.; whereas I was by no means a “strong man” and weighed 135 lbs.

Arthur Saxon, ‘What It Feels Like to Lift 350 Pounds with One Hand’, The Development of Physical Power (London, 1905), 23-24.

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I HAVE often been asked what it feels like to press 350 pounds with one hand, and perhaps to my readers the different sensations experienced will be interesting. In the first place, immediately I start to press the weight away from the shoulder I become perfectly oblivious to everything except the weight that I am lifting. The spectators are obliterated from my mind by the effort of intense concentration which is necessary to enable me to press the weight. I immediately engage myself in a terrific struggle in which the weight and I are competitors, and only one can win, either the weight must be lifted or else I fail. This concentration is, of course, one of the secrets of success in lifting, as I have explained in another part of my book. It enables me to bring forward the last ounce of pushing power, and for the time being to exert strength beyond that normally possessed.

Bradley Steiner, ‘Partials, Rack Work And Isometrics’, POWERLIFTING (1972), 16-17

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In 90% of the training you do the emphasis should be on picture-perfect form AND heavy weights. Cheating is undesirable, and while it SEEMS that you are working harder because you are lifting moreyou are, in fact, working less intensively since the “heavier” work is being distributed over many hefty muscle groups – instead of being placed on the ones that you wish to work.

Sometimes – SOMETIMES – a little cheating is okay. But more often than not when the urge comes to really pile on the workload you are better doing partials. This way you will actually be putting forth the work where it is desired, with no outside assistance. Let me show you what I mean by partials.