Monday, August 24, 2015

Chest Training With Unusual Exercises - Charles A. Smith (1955)

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You can make an excellent comparison of the physiques of modern bodybuilders and the strength athletes of forty and more years ago by leafing through a copy of Muscle Power and that classic work of the weight world "The Kings of Strength" by the late Professor Desbonnet. Place a picture of any recent Mr. America winner alongside a muscular model from Desbonnet's book, and you at once notice a very salient fact . . . that the modern physique star has it all over the old timer when it comes to chest muscle development.

There are quite a few fellows among the muscle men of yesteryear who can qualify as outstanding physical specimens, included among them brothers Bobby Pandour, Staff Sergeant Moss, Otto Arco and Eugen Sandow. Yet not one of these admitted "greats" had a chest development that could compare with any Mr. America crowned during the past eight years [1948-55]. You have only to look at the pictures to satisfy yourself of the soundness of my contention.

It is of course true that the men who in many respects most closely approached the modern concept of ideal chest measurement were Staff Sergeant Moss, Bobby Pandour, and Otto Arco. But be it noted that these were all skilled gymnasts, polished performers on Roman Rings, Parallel Bars and the High Bar. Those who have used these pieces of apparatus in high school or college know just how much the muscles of the chest, arms and shoulders work in concert in activity connected with them.

The modern trend to greater chest muscularity has undoubtedly come about as the result of greater, more intense specialization. Yet that specialization has been made possible only because of new types of equipment; these have enabled the bodybuilder to make use of movements which directly affect the muscles of the chest. George Eiferman, Steve Reeves, Jack Delinger, Clancy Ross, Marvin Eder, Leroy Colbert, etc. Devotees of Flat and Incline Benches will, I am sure, support my statement and furnish visible proof in their own musculature.

The exercises possible on Flat and Incline Benches work the muscles of the chest completely through the function for which they were introduced . . . as adductors of the arms . . . groups which pull the arms from any "away" position, into and across the chest. But the most important fact is that not only do these benches allow performance of chest exercises in a more efficient manner, they also increase the number of exercises and variations. And there is an added benefit. The movements provide physical improvements, but also mental stimulation, a quality enabling a bodybuilder to retain and increase his enthusiasm, train harder, and thus build up his strength and measurements faster than ever before. 

But even fifty years ago, there were exercises that provided a measure of chest muscle development, foremost among them the pullover and press on back, with or without a bridge. Yet this movement was never sufficient in itself to provide outstanding pectoral and rib box development, since the muscles did not get a complete workout. As a consequence, the mighty men of those times never quite reached the maximum possible development of the chest.

Every piece of string has two ends. Just as the old timers were comparatively deficient in chest muscle, so there are some present day bodybuilders who work their "pecs" to a fare-thee-well. It should be the aim of every bodybuilder to build a proportionate development, and this can best be done by learning as much as possible about the science of bodybuilding . . . about muscle function and internal organs, about food and rest. Take for instance the way a muscle works. The more you know about this phase of bodybuilding, the better you will understand why certain exercises must be used. If you know what action a muscle performs, then you automatically know what are the best exercises to give it a proportionate, muscular appearance. 

Let's look at the chest, or pectoral muscles. The first thing to learn is that it is not a single muscle but two.  Just as the deltoid muscle has three separate heads so the pectoral muscle has two sections, each with its own function. The smaller portion of the muscle, the Pectoralis Minor, is located on the front of the upper chest, covered by the Pectoralis Major. This section is important because it not only draws your shoulder blade forward and down, and helps rotate it, but it is also an important breathing muscle. The pectoralis minor works with great vigor in all, deep, forced breathing, but not, note - not ordinary breathing.

If you want to feel this muscle at work, get your buddy to hold his arms close to the sides and pull them slightly back. Place your fingers near the top of the big chest muscle, then have him take a deep breath at the same time lifting his shoulders. You'll feel the muscle working as it lifts the big "pec" covering it.

The Pectoralis major muscle is a large, fan-shaped, the upper half of which swings the arm forward and inward. It also presses the arm against the side and front of the chest wall. When the lower section of the pectoral works on its own, it swings the arm forward and down and also presses the arm hard against the side and front of the chest. From the description of the muscle's action you can see that without it you would not be able to move the arm forward, down or inward against resistance.

If you want your partner to help you test the muscle function, have him hold his arms out straight at the shoulders and press his hands firmly together. Both upper and lower sections of the pecs will stand out in bold relief. Press down on his arms, while he resists. The lower part of the pec will relax, the upper part wil contract. Press up on his arms while he resists and the upper half wil relax while the bottom contracts.

A well designed pectoral specialization program will develop larger chest muscles, but it will, if the exercises are used correctly, help to build a larger rib box as well. For this reason, special attention must be paid to breathing in the exercises where indicated, so that the rib box gets a chance to increase in size and capacity.

Here are the exercises. I'll explain how they are to be used after I've described them. Notice that they are divided into three separate routines, with a final movement to pump up.


Exercise 1 - Incline Bench Dumbbell Presses.
Lie on an incline bench, a dumbbell held in each hand. Palms of the hands should face forward. The dumbbells must be presses steadily to arms' length, then lowered down steadily so the upper arms come straight down to shoulder level position, and then down to the sides of the body for the stretch. (See Illustrations for fuller explanation of the exercises.)

Exercise 2 - Straight Arm Pullover.
Lie on the floor with a barbell held at arms' length above your chest. Throughout this movement your arms must be kept straight, locked at the elbows. Lower the barbell straight down to the floor behind your head, taking in a deep breath as you do so. Raise to commencing position again and repeat. it is most important that you force the air out of your lungs as you raise the barbell. You can place a pad behind your head to get a slight rebound of the bar.

Exercise 3 - Criss-Cross Laterals on Incline Bench.
Lie along the slope of the bench with a dumbbell held in each hand, arms stretched out and down to the sides, as shown in the shadowed outline in drawing number three. From this position raise the dumbbells up to arms' length, crossing your arms straight and locked at the elbows. Lower the dumbbells down to commencing position breathing in deeply as you do so, forcing that air into the lungs. Breathe out as you raise the dumbbells up to criss-cross position.  


Exercise 4 - Wide Grip Bench Press to Neck.
Lie on an exercise bench, a barbell held at arms' length above your chest, collar-to-collar grip. Lower the weight down steadily to the base of your throat, then press to arms' length again and repeat. Don't try to speed up the exercise, instead concentrate on its form and use as rhythmic a motion as possible.

Exercise 5 - Prone Rolling Laterals.
Here's an unusual exercise which is all pure pectoral work in its final stages. Loosen the collars sufficiently away from the plates on two dumbbells so the plates roll around the bars easily. Place the dumbbells as in Illustration 5, hands gripping the bars firmly. Push the dumbbells out to the sides, but take care not to go too far out at first. When you feel you are as low as you dare go, pull the dumbbells in and back to starting position and repeat. Whatever you do, don't bend those arms of yours but keep them straight, locked at the elbows throughout the exercise.

Exercise 6 - Breathing Bench Laterals.
Lie on an exercise bench, a dumbbell held in each hand at arms' length above the chest, palms of the hands facing in, arms just slightly bent at the elbows. Lower the dumbbells down and out to the sides, and as you do so take as deep a breath as possible, reaching a peak of intake from when your arms and the bells are level with the bench. Breathe out and return to the commencing position and repeat. Remember, it's important that you force the air into your lungs as you breathe in, and force it out as the dumbbells return to commencing position. 


Exercise 7 - Reverse Dumbbell Pullovers.
Here's one of the finest exercises for complete pec development. It gets the lats too. Lie on the floor with a dumbbell held in each hand. One arm should be stretched straight out above the head, the other resting alongside the body. Raise both dumbbells at the same time, one moving from the body to above the head, the other moving from above the head to alongside the body. Thus each dumbbell, as you will see from illustration 7, moves through half a circle. Breathe as deeply as possible, reaching peak of intake as the dumbbells meet at arms' length above the chest, breathing out as they both travel down to the floor. 

Exercise 8 - High Bent-Arm Pullovers.
Lie on an exercise bench with a barbell resting across the top of your hips, hands gripping the bar with a shoulder width spacing. Push the bar up over the chest and face, to down behind the head. Breathe in deeply as the rib box takes the stretch effect of the barbell behind the head. Breathe out as you raise it back to commencing position. When you do this, make sure the bar travels high above the face and body, down to the hips.

Exercise 9 - Bent-Arm Breathing Laterals.
Rest a pair of heavy dumbbells on your chest, arms bent as shown in Illustration 9. Keeping the arms bent, lower the dumbbells down and out to the sides, breathing in deeply as you lower the bells, forcing the air into your lungs. Raise to commencing position, breathing out forcibly, and repeat.

Pump Up Exercise - Controlled Resistance Floor Dips.
Take up the floor dipping (pushup) position with your feet resting on a box, your training partner's hands resting in the middle of your upper back. Press up to locked arm position. Your partner should apply enough resistance so you are just able to keep moving. He keeps this up, resisting as you push up, until the required number of repetitions have been performed.

For the first week of your chest specialization routine, use Routine A, handling as heavy a weight as possible, performing 3 sets of 8 reps each exercise. The second week, switch to Routine B, handling as heavy a weight as you can manage, again using 3 sets of 8 reps. The third week use Routine c, the same set and repetition combination as in the other routines, and again using all the weight you can handle. The fourth week, use every exercise in all three routines . . . 9 exercises in all, 2 sets of 8 repetitions each exercise. 

At the end of each workout, finish up with the Controlled Resistance Floor Dips, forcing out as many repetitions as you can.

Train four days weekly, performing the chest program first, then using the exercises for the other muscle groups you choose to work on those days. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Training Methods of American Lifters - Yakov Kutsenko (1956)

Yakov Kutsenko, Russian National Coach (1956)

The Press

Here are the outstanding points that I have noted about the way that the Americans perform the Press. A medium width grip on the bar and a relaxed holding of the bar on the chest, without any tension, are most characteristic. The grip is around one side of the bar and in most cases straight. They consider initial speed as being of great importance in the drive from the chest and they perform an abrupt movement with their arms -- the "Tear Up."

When practicing the Press they permit great inclinations of the body. It would appear that such big back-bends in practice may lead to bad habits when doing the Press in competition, but such an assumption is not borne out by what happens during the competition, for most of the Americans perform in a most technical manner. (Note by Oscar State: I cannot agree with Kutsenko here. Time and time again I have seen the Americans disqualified on their top Presses for excessive back-bend. In Munich, Vinci lost two Presses, Pete George lost one, Jim George lost two and Clyde Emrich lost two.).

Having finished the Press, Kono practiced the "Push" (a Press aided by a leg movement) with a weight of 341.5 lbs while Davis used 373.75 lbs. The Americans are very fond of doing this movement during their training. Several times before the Stockholm championships Davis pushed 373.75 lbs, Sheppard 319.5 and Kono 330.5. This exercise is most useful for the Jerk an the Press, especially in the second phase of the Press.

The Americans do a lot of bench pressing either on a horizontal bench or on an inclined one. Towards the end of his workout Kono did a Bench Press with 319.5 lbs, Sheppard with 341.5 an Davis with 374.75. They do it as follows: one lifter lies on the bench and two others place the bar on his chest (bottom start); they stand by during the movement and then remove the bar from his chest. The former holder of the world record in the Press, the Canadian Hepburn, told us in Stockholm (where he press 380.25) that the Bench Press is one of his favorite exercises. He improved on his record there and increased the Bench Press weight up to 495 lbs. There can be no doubt as to the usefulness of the Incline Bench Press, since it develops arm strength to a very great extent and allows the bar to be pressed without any slowing down in the most difficult position -- at the level of the forehead, or above the head. 

The Snatch

Having finished the Press and rested for 10 minutes, the Americans did a few short "warming up" exercises and passed on to their Snatch training. During the course of 40 to 50 minutes they did 8 to 12 sets. Here again most of them attempted systematically to approach their limits and did two repetitions in each set -- the second one being taken from the "hang" position without lowering to the floor. 

Davis considers that the force of the "second pull" (what we call "tearing up") determines the success of a Snatch. For this purpose the lifter must have great strength in the arms, back, shoulders and legs. This is the reason why, in order to increase the power of the "second pull," the lifters like to repeat the lift from the "hang," wherein they lower the bar to slightly below knee level.

Davis and Schemansky, having started the Snatch with 209.25 lbs, gradually increased it to 303. Davis attempted to Snatch this weight twice. The pulling up phase of the lift just prior to the Split was very difficult. However, his movements were quick and the Splits so low that I often noticed that he touched the floor with the knee of the rear leg. Also, during the Split the forward knee was bent quite considerably while the back leg was almost straight. The lifter did not often lose his balance.

George and Sheppard have perfected their technique in the Squat style of snatching. The same cannot be said for Kono -- he makes many mistakes in the Snatch. George and Sheppard complete the Squat quickly and during it do not lose their control over the bar (the speed of their arms makes the movement almost invisible to the eye), and they fix the bar firmly in a deep Squat, after which they get up easily. On the whole, lifters who use the Squat technique also recover easily. This is due to the fact that during their training the Americans often did deep Squats while holding the bar above their head (Overhead Squat). George performs this exercise with weights up to 297.5, Kono 308.5 and Sheppard 341.5.
At the end of the training period, Stanczyk used to Squat in the Split position while holding a 319.5 lb barbell on his chest. It has been reported that Davis did a lot of leg strengthening exercises before he made his records of 330.5 Snatch and 402.75 Jerk. For this purpose he did repetition Splits with a weight of 352.5 and Squats with 550 lbs.

During their training the American lifters are also concerned with the accuracy of their Snatches. During one training period Kono could not Snatch 275.5. With obvious annoyance he started training again with a light weight and having achieved accuracy and control he again attempted the original weight. Other of the American lifters also tuned up on small weights.

The Jerk

I received the impression that the Jerk is the favorite exercise of the Americans. We must admit that they hold the majority of the world records in the Jerk. In spite of their great exertion during the Press and Snatch, Kono, George, Stanczyk, Schemansky and Davis always finished their training with Jerks, steadily increasing the weights up to their limits. Thus, for example, lightweight George jerked up to 325, Kono up to 352.5, Schemansky (as a mid-heavy) up to 380.25. Many of them did repetition Cleans from "the hang." In this style Stanczyk cleaned 341.5, Kono 330.5 and George 286.5.

During the Olympic Games an interesting episode took place. Kono, competing as a lightweight, tried to Clean 341.5. This was much too ambitious. He could not recover with such a weight and lost his balance. Wanting to show his control over the weight, he did not lower it back to the floor but tried to Clean it a second time, from the "hang." It must be said that this was not beyond the bounds of possibility for him. In Leningrad he did this successfully with 374.75.

Success in the Snatch and Jerk is greatly assisted by a very important movement -- cleaning a bar without foot movement and using only a slight dip. By preforming this exercise systematically the Americans develop a strong pull. George cleans in this way with 297.5, Kono 319.5, Sheppard 341.5 and Schemansky 369.25 lbs.

The Americans seem to understand that a lifter who cannot Jerk a weight which he can clean pays dearly for this weakness. For this reason they do their training is such a way as to guarantee to Jerk every weight cleaned. George, Kono, Schemansky and Sheppard are all able to Jerk 20 to 30 lbs more than they can Clean. George jerks from the shoulders with 396, Kono 407 and Schemansky 450.

The Continental Jerk

During the 1954 championships in Vienna, Schemansky demonstrated the "Continental Jerk" before spectators and competitors. There he jerked 440 lbs. Anderson uses this method every week in order to Clean 450 which he then hoists over his head by means of a Jerk-Press.

Paul Anderson's Continental Belt Variation:

In the Continental Jerk, in contrast to the Olympic Jerk, the bar is brought to the chest in two movements.The lifter first raises the bar to his waist and rests it on a strong leather belt; then with a strong effort with his legs he pulls the bar to his chest, while going down into a Clean position. All the other positions -- the start, initial pull, the Split Clean or Squat Clean, the Jerk from the shoulders -- are all similar to those employed in the Olympic Jerk. To call the "Continental Jerk" a circus trick would be to underestimate its importance. Schemansky told me that such a lift is one of the main reasons for success in the three Olympic lifts. By lifting such an enormous weight (much greater than can be used in the Olympic Jerk) to the waist, splitting low when taking it onto the chest, getting up with it, holding it on the chest, jerking it and fixing it -- enormous muscular strength is developed in the legs, back and arms. The mental and willpower factor is also of great importance -- courage and the habit of lifting great weights as well as getting accustomed to great tension are all developed.

Continental Cleans for Overhead Confidence:

The Continental Clean and Jerk, by Jim Halliday: 

Tommy Kono's Training Methods

Kono was 1952 lightweight Olympic champion, 1953 middleweight world champion, 1954 light-heavyweight world champion. In October last year (1955) as a light-heavyweight he totaled in Vienna 958.75 lbs while weighing only 172. This goes to show that with a further increase in bodyweight Kono might be able to lift even greater weights. 

 His physique is far from typical for a weightlifter. He is slightly built and looks more like a gymnast or swimmer. As a result of systematic, cleverly planned training Kono has reached heights in weightlifting which no one else of his bodyweight has so far been able to attain.

The belief still persists that in weightlifting only a man who is suitably built can meet with success. People who still believe this forget about the art of increasing strength correctly and about the constant corollary [something that naturally follows or results from another thing] of success -- technique and last, but not least, about the importance of a strong will and determination. Just like the Merited Master of Sport N. Shatov, the Egyptian S. Couda, the English heavyweight R. Walker, Kono has shown the great importance of willpower qualities, which he has learned to master to perfection during the decisive moments of a contest. As we well know, masses of muscle are not always indicative of the measure of strength or skill of the lifter.

Kono competed for the first time in 1946 in California. He was then not quite 17 years old. Before that he played basketball, did acrobatics and track and field athletics, in particular devoting his attention to the high jump. Before the Olympic Games Kono had already gained the reputation of a good weightlifter. His performances in Helsinki attracted great attention. He had bad luck at that start of the competition. He had difficulty in pressing 231.25. However, his result in the Snatch exceeded the world record which the Egyptian Shams held for 13 years -- Kono snatched 259. Also, during the Jerk he lifted 308.5 without any noticeable difficulty. Kono won the title of Olympic champion.

After that the young sportsman continued to develop quickly -- his muscles grew stronger, his strength increased and his bodyweight increased far above the lightweight category. To stay in that weight class would have meant reducing his weight artificially, hindering the further increase of strength and harming his health for a certainty. Kono chose the other option and the better way around the problem. He went up into the next class. 

This year weightlifting followers in Moscow and Leningrad greeted their guests the American weightlifters, among them Tommy Kono who lifted as a middleweight. Rainy, cold weather prevented him and the other weightlifters from demonstrating their best results. Behind the scenes he constantly wrapped himself in blankets, covered his head with towels and massaged his body with embrocation. 

Johnny Terpak, who can speak Ukrainian well, said to me then, "Tommy likes warmth. Even our warmup massage does not help him. He likes to warm up well and attaches to this great importance, believing that warmth produces better condition for the working muscles which are extended to the limit." 

In Leningrad Kono performed with great success. He established a world record in the press (292) in the middleweight class and totaled 931, which exceeded the world record by 33 lbs. wing to the rules this could not be an official record, because for acceptance of a record, lifters from three different countries must be present.

From a few conversations and shared training sessions with Kono I am able to answer some training queries. During the train journey on our return from Leningrad I had a friendly discussion with Kono. The Americans, as well as our own lifters, had not yet cooled down from the excitement of the recent heated and tense contest and conversed animatedly far into the night. Kono told me:

"Many people will find it hard to believe that there are no secrets nor nothing sensational about my training. Like any other champions, my success is simply the result of very hard work and the great desire to accomplish great feats in sport. If you want to be a world champion or if you want to get as near as possible to his height, you must not just sit around and hope that success will come to you. You have to spend a lot of time in training with this purpose in mind."

In recent times Kono trained most often on his own and less frequently with his friends. He told me that he spends less time now on training at other sports for he does not have enough time for it all. He pays greatest attention to barbell exercises which are compulsory for anyone who wants to get high results. 

During the week he has 3 to 4 basic training sessions devoted to the Olympic lifts, during which he does a large number of sets (30-40) and uses heavy weights (often 95% of his top limits). During his free days he either rests completely or goes swimming, performs jumps or plays games. He has most days off when he gets tired after heavy and strenuous strength exercises. Occasionally during his rest days, Kono does some pressing. After a championship he reduces the weights he uses and devotes his entire attention to the accuracy of his technique on the three lifts. To compensate for this he increases the number of assistance exercises (such as the Bench Press, cleaning from the hang, Deep Knee Bends, etc.), because these exercises increase muscle power and he does them frequently with heavy weights. A month or six weeks before an important contest Kono increases the weights in the three lifts and does them at every training session. At the same time he does his assistance exercises with limit weights, but decreases the number of repetition.

Kono pays great attention during each training period to the performance of the Press. He does not believe in lots of repetitions from the shoulders in one set. When he is in good training he does the Press first with a light weight, then he quickly repeats it with a medium weight (75-80% of his limit) and presses the bar only once.

Like all the other American lifters, Kono makes full use of assistance exercises. In order to increase the strength of the drive from the shoulders in the Press, he likes to do bench pressing and considers it very useful. In Stockholm after training Kono bench pressed 330 lbs (his best is 352.5). In successive training sessions he does the Press with a narrow grip, with a wide grip, from behind the neck and, in particular, likes to Press on an inclined bench, when he increases the angle up to 50 or 60 degrees.

Kono often presses dumbbells in lying, standing or sitting positions. He is capable of pressing two dumbbells of 110 lbs each, 10 times in succession; he can do 20 hand pressups with his feet resting against the wall.

His Snatches and Cleans are done in the Squat style. After snatching 295 in god style for his Olympic lightweight record, Kono was unable to repeat to repeat this lift with such perfection. Although is results in the Snatch have improved (rather significantly when compared with the Press and Jerk) up to 275.5 (Note by Oscar State: 281 in Munich), Kono's technique still suffers from mistakes -- his steadiness and the accuracy of his Squat style cannot be depended on and Kono himself admits that it is "temperamental." He explains his rather weak result in the Snatch as being due to increased training on the Press. In the near future he intends to devote more time to training on the Snatch and will attempt to exceed 286 lbs. Watching Duganov's record which the latter set up at the Leningrad match by lifting 292 lbs, Kono warmly congratulated him: "That was a beautiful Snatch. I can learn a lot from that. I'm sure if Duganov would train me I could also make it," he said with enthusiasm.

Yuri Duganov

Kono has also been successful in the Jerk. His assured performance of this lift has brought him victory on more than one occasion. Like other lifters who use the Squat style, Kono pays great attention to the strength of his legs. He does Squats during almost every training session.

During his training at Stockholm he squatted with weights on the chest of 330, 374 and 396 lbs. When demonstrating the ordinary Squat in 1953 the barbell weighed 460. He then did 15 repetitions with 352. To help his recovery in the Squat-style Snatch Kono does repetition squats while holding 308.5 overhead. One can now understand why he almost never experiences any difficulties in recovering from his low squat position in the Clean.

In order to strengthen his pull Kono often snatches with one hand, either from the floor or from supports, using various weights up to 170 lbs. He does high pulls with narrow and wide grips, lots of snatching and cleaning from the hang.

During individual training sessions he devotes particular attention to the Jerk from the shoulders. He does it from stands and with the bar handed in. He once jerked in his way 407.75. Another movement he does to help both his Press and his Jerk is the Push-Jerk. When doing this he does not Split but only bends his knees slightly. It is his favorite exercise and he has done 352.5.

Having become familiar with the main characteristics of Kono's training routines I come to the conclusion that on the whole he devotes little attention to the development of speed. The main object of his training is a continuous increase in strength by means of assistance exercises. Kono is capable of concentrating all his attention and willpower on the performance of a lift.

The ABC's of Weightlifting, by Tommy Kono:

Step Up and Shake it Off, by Tommy Kono:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Feats of Strength: Arm, Shoulders and Chest, Part Two - David Willoughby (1978)

"In simple terms, this book is going to cover seven foundational principles of programming/periodization design for strength training, with particular focus and application to powerlifting training. It’s also going to rank order these principles based on their importance, so that you can make sure your programming is always maximally effective for its level of design, no matter if it’s calibrated perfectly or a very rough guide to training.

This book will delve deeply into what the principles of training are, the scientific underpinnings of why they are, and the practical ways in which they can be properly applied, as well as the ways in which to
avoid common mistakes in their application. This book was not written for everyone. It was written for intelligent lifters who want to think deeply about training as a process, for those who want to understand
the “why’s” and not just the “how’s,” and for those that don’t want to take a coach or guru’s advice on training just at its word. Science is the best path to the truth, and it’s a long path… in this case, several hundred pages of pure scientific training fun."

Table of Contents:


Massive reference compiling the record of athletic performance for all major sports and from sporting events around the world -- 665 pages, First edition, 1970.

David Willoughby (1978)

Repetition Pressing (Standing)

Although "repetition" pressing is not as popular today as it was in this country prior to, say, the year 1900, still from time to time some weightlifter wil pick up a barbell or dumbbell weighing well under his limit for a single lift, and then see how many times he can press it overhead from the shoulders. Here are several notable feats of repetition pressing that have been performed in the United States during recent years.

 Malcolm Brenner

1) Malcolm Brenner (73 inches, 228 lbs) pushed*

*A "push" is where the arms are straightened partially by bending backward and sinking under the weight; whereas in a "press" the arms are steadily straightened and the weight raised to a higher level. Thus, one can "press" while bent backward at the waist, but only if no further bending takes place as the arms are extended. Most repetition presses, even if commenced correctly, develop into pushes because of the natural tendency to bend back farther and farther as fatigue forces a departure from the original upright position.

a barbell of 250 lbs 10 times, and a barbell of 185 lbs 27 times, Los Angeles, California, 1951. The 250-lb lift was equivalent to a push of 332 lbs once, and the 185-lb lift to 334 lbs once. From these lifts, it may be inferred that Brenner in 1951, weighing 228 lbs (and probably carrying very little excess fat) was equal in pressing strength to former World Champion Josef Steinbach (70 inches, 247-256 lbs), of Vienna, who would probably have weighed about 232 lbs "muscular" and who for some years held the record in the "Continental Press" (actually push), with 329.4 lbs (1905). 

    Josef Steinbach

2) Frank Leight (71.2 inches, 209 lbs) pushed 150 lbs 35 times, New York City, 1942. These repetitions with 150 lbs were equivalent to a single push with 307 lbs. 

Frank Leight

3) John Lopez (205 lbs) pushed 150 lbs 37 times, Los Angeles, California, September 30, 1942. Possibly Lopez knew about Leight's record and wanted to improve upon it. Lopez's 37 repetitions with 150 lbs were equivalent to a single push with 316 lbs. Actually, Lopez pushed 300 lbs once; so his repetition lift was somewhat better than his single maximum effort.

4) In a book entitled "Endurance," by the late Earle Liederman, he tells of one of his proteges (Andrew Passanant, I believe) who assertedly "pressed" (pushed) a 100-lb barbell over 75 times consecutively. However, since this would have been equivalent to about 380 lbs once, and since Passanant was only a middleweight, it is evident that either the barbell weighed less than 100 lbs or that it was jerked rather than pushed. And when a jerk rather than a push is used, a great many more repetitions may be performed. A record in this kind of lifting was established in Russia in 1948, when a competitor named Shalva Mdinaradze jerked a 72-lb barbell no fewer than 173 times (!) during a period of 20 minutes. This averages out to between eight and nine jerks per minute for 20 minutes or approximately one jerk every seven seconds. Since 1948, probably even greater "endurance" lifts have been made in the same country.

It should be remarked, however, that feats of prolonged "endurance" are of dubious value as criteria of physical fitness. Many years ago, in a booklet published in Germany, a scale of equivalent repetitions was listed in connection with the pressing of barbells of differing poundages. And when the weight of the bar was only 5 lbs, the expected number of two-arm standing presses was 500, irrespective of whether the performer was a strongman or a weakling. Of course, as the weight was increased, the expected number f repetitions was reduced. One day when I was running my public gym, I decided to test the validity of this system. And the results were both informative and amusing. First, I had a young woman physical culturist try the test, informing her that she would be expected to perform 500 consecutive presses. This she did. Then, just to perform a respectable number, I did 600 presses. Later that day, a lightweight hand-balancer ("top mounter") came into the gym, and I asked him to see how many presses he could do. He said that he would do 500, just to show me. However, just as he was nearing the 500th rep, who should come in but the young lady who had already performed 500 presses that morning. Put upon his mettle, the hand-balancer proceeded to do 600 presses, the same as I had done. Only, he did them in less time than I had taken. Although I was about to leave the gym for home, I took off my jacket, picked up the 5-lb barbell, and with it performed 1,000 consecutive presses. That was 1,600 presses that day; and for several days thereafter my shoulders were stiff. And what had I proven? Not a thing. I am sure that someone possessing some real muscular endurance (which was not my forte) could easily work up to 10,000 or more presses with a 5-lb barbell.

So far as useful or practical strength is concerned, I believe that 20 repetitions of an arm movement -- or at the very most 30 repetitions -- should provide an ample test. As previously noted, a single repetition may not always constitute a true gauge of strength, while 10 repetitions with a lighter weight generally provides a fairer test. On the other hand, when the resistance employed in working the muscles is so slight that thousands of repetitions may be performed (often consuming hours of intermittent effort) it works out that in some tests children may surpass adults. Accordingly, such prolonged performances are of little or no value so far as providing a worthwhile goal is concerned. Too, there is the element of time to take into consideration. Why a busy person, whether man or woman, should go to the trouble of spending an hour or more "jogging" when 15 minutes or less or more intensive exercise (performed in one's home, garage, or backyard) would provide an equivalent amount of the much-advocated "cardiovascular" conditioning, it is difficult to fathom, unless some social or imaginary special virtue is attached to the jogging ritual. [Clearly this author has never enjoyed a long meditative jog outdoors through one of nature's many beautiful locations. Almost reminds me of the putdowns non-lifters sometimes use when considering our time spent lifting weights. Funny how perception works, isn't it.]

To get back to "endurance" pressing in the standing position -- but of moderate rather than extreme numbers of repetitions -- here are some of the best performances on record to date.

1) Karl Swoboda (70.5 inches, 360 lbs) of Vienna, pressed 242.5 lbs, 12 times in strict military style, with heels together, in Vienna, August 27, 1912. Equivalent to 336 lbs once.

2) Josef Grafl (75.5 inches, 286 lbs) of Vienna pressed 220.5 lbs, 18 times, in Vienna, 1912. Not military, but with heels together. Equivalent to 344 lbs once.

3) Away back in 1892, in London, an Italian professional strongman stage-named "Romulus" [a.k.a. "The Sicilian Hercules"] -- Cosimo Molino -- who weighed 167 lbs at a height of only 63 inches, pushed 168 lbs 20 times (which equals 271 lbs once), and 179 lbs, 18 times (which equals 279 lbs once).

"London, The Cradle of Modern Weightlifting, by Gherardo Bonini:

Two other books by Bonini worth seeking out:
"Lifting Back to Athens 1906"
"When the Marquis Lifted Off"

4) Sometime in 1896, in Strasbourg, Germany, Emile Boudgoust pushed 222.66 lbs, 12 times. This was equivalent to a single push of 309 pounds. As Boudgoust weighed only about 185 lbs, this was a splendid feat. He also pushed 198.4 lbs, 18 times in one minute. 

For more on Broudgoust, see this article in Ironmind's Milo Magazine: 
The Strongest Man of Alsatia: Emile Boudgoust by Gherardo Bonini [Milo, 21.2]

In view of the foregoing "oldtime" performances, it is evident that little improvement in sheer pressing power has been made in the standing press during the last 80 years [the 80 years preceding 1978]. Much more progress has been made in the supine press, especially since the introduction, about 1930, of the Bench Press, which style of lifting we may now consider.  

Bench Pressing

Prior to the advent of the Bench Press -- which came into general use in the early 1930's -- a supine (not "prone") press was performed lying flat on the floor (or mat), the barbell first being lifted or rolled from behind head across the face to the position for pressing. If the plates on the barbell were of sufficiently large diameter, the bell could be rolled into position over the chest with little or no actual raising of the weight being necessary. It would appear that approximately the same amount or weight can be lifted in the lying flat on the floor style as in the Bench Press, provided that in both lifts the same hand spacing is employed. If the "collar-to-collar" hand grips are used in the Bench Press, as was the style often used several years ago, at least 10% more weight may be lifted. So far as the effect of the Bench Press on muscular development is concerned, the farther apart the hands are placed, the more the stress will come on the pectoral muscles, and the closer the hands the more on the arm extensors (triceps). Too, in these variant styles, the deltoid muscles are involved in their anterior or lateral portions in accordance with how the hands are spaced on the bar. But it would appear that in any variation of the supine press -- whether on a bench or flat on the floor -- the arm extensors and the front chest muscles are more subject to development than are the deltoids.

 George Hackenschmidt

It was in the flat-on-the-floor style that the famous oldtime strongman-wrestler, George Hackenschmidt of Estonia (Russia), pulled over and pressed a barbell weighing 361.55 lbs. His bodyweight at the time was 195 lbs, and the lift was made in Vienna in August, 1898, possibly on August 2, which was "Hack's" 21st birthday. This lift (which evidently was not practiced by the Viennese lifters) remained the "record" until November 6, 1916, when in New York City, Joe Nordquest, weighing 190 lbs, pulled over and pressed 363.5 lbs.

   Joe Nordquest

In both cases the barbell discs, being 18 or 19 inches in diameter, enabled the weight to be rolled across the face without any lifting of it being necessary. An interesting comparison of these two lifters and their respective performances in the same style of lifting may be made.

When Hackenschmidt established his record, it presumably was a lift upon which he had devoted no more practice than on the regular competition lifts (i.e., the standing presses and jerks, one and two arm snatches, etc.) then in vogue. "Hack" stood 68.75 inches in height, and at 195 lbs had arms that averaged 16 and 5/8 inches flexed, along with a normal chest girth of 46.25 inches. In comparison, Joe Nordquest stood 67.5 inches and had arms of 17.5 inches and a chest of 47.75 inches. However, if Nordquest had not lost his left leg below the knee, he would have weighed at least 205 lbs instead of 190. Yet the latter actual (but incomplete) bodyweight is what was recorded in connection with most of his lifts. If Nordquest had raised a poundage in the floor press that was in ratio to the size of his arms and chest (the chief muscles used in this test) as compared with the size of these parts in Hackenschmidt, he should have made a press of over 1.100 x 361.55 lbs, or 363.5. Hence, Hackenschmidt must have had relatively stronger arm and chest muscles than Nordquest, even though the poundage he lifted was less.

The point of this side-comment is that to be really fair and meaningful, weightlifting records should be based on the size (cross sectional area) of the parts of the body involved in each style of lifting, instead of on gross bodyweight. While such a procedure would, of course, be utterly impracticable in official weightlifting competitions, it could still be used, as an "academic" basis, for determining in different performers the actual comparative strength of the muscles involved, rather than what poundages those performers can lift in relation to their bodyweights. Yet it seems that no investigator to date has made any such comparison between outstanding weightlifters and strongmen, even though all the bodily measurements necessary for making such comparisons have for most of the athletes either been published or are otherwise available.

It may be added that the supine (floor) presses made many years ago by George Hackenschmidt and Joe Nordquest respectively do not rank with present-day records in the Bench Press. One reason for this is that the old-time strongmen, with few exceptions, did not extend their practice over the long periods of time now necessary in order to attain a championship class level of ability. Hackenschmidt was only 20 years of age when he made his Floor Press of 361.5 lbs; and shortly thereafter, he became a professional wrestler and devoted little or no time to weight training other than to keep fit and to increase his strength for wrestling. If "Hack" had not done this, there can be little doubt that he could have attained, through steady practice, a Floor Press of 450 lbs or more, which the date being considered, would have given him a high ranking among bench pressers, assuming that the poundage possibilities in the Floor Press and the Bench Press are approximately equal. Nordquest in turn practiced the Floor Press just long enough to enable him to raise a couple of pounds more than Hackenschmidt had done eighteen years earlier. He, like "Hack," had a potential capability of at least 450 lbs.

Today's record holders in the Bench Press, along with the contenders for titles in bodybuilding, spend countless hours working on their arm and chest muscles. The result has been spectacular, so far as size, development and definition of these muscles (specifically in the Bench Press the triceps and pectorals) are concerned. However, the choice of the type of weight trained physique most indicative of symmetry and all-around capability is still up to the individual. And many men would rather have a chest with moderate musculation rather than one in which the pectorals sag of their own weight, like overdeveloped mammae. Too, when the latter stage of development has been reached, the pectorals even when at rest tend to draw the shoulders forward and produce a warped and faulty posture. It is interesting to note that some of the strongest old-time strongmen had an unobtrusive pectoral development.

Louis Uni (Apollon)

 "Apollon" (Louis Uni) for example, was noticeably lacking in this respect, yet he made an unapproached record in squeezing on the Regnier spring dynamometer     

Apollon with the Regnier dynamometer 

which performance indicated not only a terrifically strong grip, but also required a powerful pressing together of the hands (and arms) in front of the chest. 

And of the most famous of all modern strongmen, Eugen Sandow, Dr. Sargent, in his physical examination of him remarked: "The muscles of the pectoral are not so large relatively as the deltoid, biceps and triceps. This is probably due to the character of the feats he performs every night." 

Pec Dimensions Through the Ages

Yet since Sandow has appeared earlier in the U.S. as a performer on the Roman rings it is evident that he must have had very strong pectorals as well as those of the upper back that also depress the arms. But clearly, the photo above indicates that Sandow did not specialize on the development of his pectoral muscles (indeed, in his day the Bench Press had not come into use). 

As to the evaluation of performances in the Bench Press, it should be realized that from the points I have touched upon previously that in order to properly and fairly rate ANY athletic record -- in weightlifting or otherwise -- the time (date) on which the record was made MUST be taken into account. This for the reason that athletic records constitute a variable, rather than static, statistic, and so must be evaluated on a basis that takes this variability into consideration. Commonly, writers on weightlifting blithely ignore this principle.

Floor Dips or Pushups

A test of pressing strength comparable to that required in the bench press is to do the familiar "floor dip" or "pushup" while supporting additional weight on the upper back. While the extra weight is generally supplied in the form of barbell plates, the lift, if used as an exhibition feat, may be performed with much greater impressiveness if human assistants rather than inert iron plates are employed.

A remarkable pushup in the latter style was performed some years ago by the then professional wrestling champion, Bruno Sammartino (70 inches, 260 lbs), and consisted of the lifting of four persons, totaling "over 500 pounds" in addition to his own bodyweight.

In the starting position of a pushup from the floor -- that is, with the arms fully bent and the body horizontal -- the amount of weight supported by the hands is approximately 70% of the performer's bodyweight. This is assuming that the bodily proportions of the performer are those of a typical weightlifter or bodybuilder. In a woman athlete, the corresponding figures are about 63% and 37%. I say "about" because exact rations or percentages are difficult to establish in an unstable body movement of this kind. I obtained a ratio for men in which the pressure on the hands in the finishing position of the pushup averaged 68.5% of the bodyweight. This figure was derived by having each performer support himself in the finishing position of the pushup, only with his hands pressing on scales rather than on the floor. The pressure in pounds so recorded was then compared with the performer's bodyweight, and the ration between the two poundages thereby determined. It is evident that the weight or pressure on the performer's hands, plus whatever additional weight they are carrying on their backs, must closely correspond with the poundages they can press with a barbell while lying flat (supine) on the floor, since one of these movements is essentially an inverted form of the other. Now, let us see how this "theory" works out in the case of the pushup with extra weight made by Bruno Sammartino.

If it be assumed that the "over 500" (say, 520 lbs?) of live weight (barbelles?) was evenly distributed over his body, and that his arms bore, at the start, 70% of this 520 lbs, plus Sammartino's own weight of 260 lbs, his pushup would accordingly amount to .70 x (520 + 260) or 546 lbs. This poundage, unlike in a barbell floor press, would diminish slightly as the arms were straightened and the body was raised from a horizontal to an inclined position, in which the weight would be progressively lessened on the hands and transferred to the feet. It is interesting to note that Sammartino's best Floor Press was 545 lbs, which corresponds almost exactly with the foregoing estimation. This would appear to confirm the assumption that 520 lbs of "riders" must have been distributed essentially equally over Sammartino's back from his shoulders to his feet. Certainly the 520 lbs could never have even been started had it been concentrated directly over Sammartino's hands. However, on another occasion, he is said to have performed a pushup while supporting the professional wrestler, Gorilla Monsoon, who weighed about 360 lbs. While Monsoon sat well up on Sammartino's shoulders, he faced the latter's feet, so that a goodly portion of his weight came over the middle of Sammartino's back rather than over his hands. This was just the reverse of the standard rider's position.

Needless to say, in a feat of this kind, one should start out by practicing with either some barbell plates or a small child of equivalent weight, rather than an adult. And at first, the extra poundage should be located over the lower back or hips, with the child facing the performer's feet. From there, with time and by degrees, the additional weight carried, as well as the position in which it is located on the back, can be increased.

A further degree of difficulty can be adopted by the performer resting his feet on a chair, bench, or other elevated support. Since the "average" (untrained) young man can perform a single pushup with not more than 25 or 30 lbs on his upper back, to similarly lift a young lady weighing perhaps 100 lbs more than this is in itself a feat sufficient to identify the performer as being an up-and-coming "strongman."

Space here permits the mention of only one additional feat of strength in this extensive department, but it is a mind-boggler!

Back in the early 1920's, the professional equilibrist (an acrobat who performs balancing feats, especially a tightrope walker), Gilbert Neville (66 inches, 126 lbs) could perform some phenomenal feats, such as holding a one-hand stand on a swinging slack-wire; pressing up to a one-hand stand (stiff-armed) on a pedestal, four times in succession; doing a one-arm chin or pullup while carrying 56 lbs on his other hand, etc. But his most astonishing feat was his claim to be capable of doing a handstand (not floor-dip) press-up while carrying an additional weight of 112 pounds! And since in his stage act (which I never witnessed, since it came later than his exhibitions at the Lost Angeles Athletic Club) Neville would have gained little credit, or even credence, had he performed the feat while wearing one of his ingenious shot-loaded leather belts, it is more likely -- if the feat were performed -- that he used his stage partner, Paula Armstrong, who, in her stage costume, weighed just that amount (112 lbs). He must have arisen from his starting position prone on the floor with Paula sitting on his upper back. And, rather than having pressed straight upwards as in a regular handstand press (which Sigmund Klein, weighing 150 lbs, was able to do with a 75-lb dumbbell strapped to his back), it is more likely that Neville had to maintain his body in a more horizontal, floor-dip like position. Perhaps some advanced balancers who read this can attempt the feat and thereby either confirm or disavow its possibility!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Art of Being Human - Judd Biasiotto

These six lectures were delivered worldwide from 1985 to 1995. They have been modified for print and most redundant stories have been deleted. However, all pertinent information and stories have been included at least once within this collection.

The Author Squatting 603 lbs at 130 Bodyweight:

"Michael Jordan and countless other NBA stars credit George Mumford with transforming their game. A widely respected public speaker and coach, Mumford shares his story and strategies in The Mindful Athlete. His proven techniques transform the performance of anyone with a goal, be they an Olympian, weekend warrior, executive, hacker, or artist.

A basketball player at the University of Massachusetts (where he roomed with Dr. J, Julius Erving), injuries forced Mumford out of the game he loved. The meds that relieved the pain of his injuries also numbed him to the emptiness he felt without the game and eventually led him to heroin. After years as a functioning addict, Mumford made meditation the center of his life. He kicked drugs, earned a master’s degree, and began teaching meditation to inmates and others.

Mumford went on to partner with coach Phil Jackson, a long-time mindfulness practitioner, working with him and each of the teams he coached to become NBA champions. His roster of champion clients now includes executives and Olympians. With a charismatic style that combines mindfulness with lessons from icons like Yoda and Bruce Lee, Mumford delivers an engrossing story and an invaluable resource."

Chapter Six:
The Art of Being Human
by Judd Biasiotto

Over the years I've had the opportunity to speak to some extremely impressive groups and teams, but never in my life have I been in a room with so many great athletes as there are here tonight. I was informed earlier this evening that the athletes in this room are responsible for more than 350 National records, 700 American records, and 250 World records. Just as impressive is the fact that there are 67 National Champions and 43 World Champions in attendance here tonight. Needless to say, I'm impressed and extremely honored to have the opportunity to talk to you. This is such a gifted group and I feel an enormous sense of responsibility to give you all that I am. So let's begin.

I love being an athlete. In fact, sports is a major aspect of my life. In all condor, there is nothing in my life that I enjoy more than competition. The euphoria and celebration that received from participating in sports transcends anything that I have ever experienced. For me, sports is truly a gift from God. And I am sure that for many of you sitting here the feeling is mutual. As important as sports is to us, we have to realize that they are just a game, nothing more, nothing less. This brings up something that bothers me a great deal, and that is blind obsession -- where sports becomes a means to an end. I'm really concerned about this problem. And it is a problem, you know, a major problem. First of all, the obsession with sports in America is incredible. With war raging all around us, you would think that the major interest in the United States would be detente, right? No, it's sports! There is more interest in the world series than there is in the Middle East crisis. There is more television and newspaper coverage devoted to sports than there is to our economic system. Even though the latter relates to our well-being and livelihood. More time and more money are spent by colleges to recruit good athletes than good college professors. College coaches are paid more money to coach than the Nobel Prize winners are paid to teach. Superstars are far better known than super scientists. And Shaquille O'Neal who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers makes approximately 25 times more than the President of the United States. Now, if that doesn't freak you out, I don't know what will. 

Intertwined with these obsessions by the American public are the plain realities of high-voltage competition. The American athlete responds to competition like no other athlete in the world. It's been estimated that the average athlete in America trains an average of twelve hours a week. Now that's an average athlete. Most elite athletes train at least three times as much. Not only that, but they will train if they are in pain, if they are sick and even if they are injured. They will do anything to improve their performance -- drugs, cheating, lying -- it doesn't seem to matter as long as they improve. Believe me, there are numerous elite athletes who practically surrender their entire lives to that single purpose. For many elite athletes, their devotion to sport actually goes beyond the border of obsession. In fact, there is considerable research in sports psychology that demonstrates that elite athletes often develop obsessive-compulsive behavior in an attempt to achieve their goals. For example, a number of studies I conducted with weightlifters in the late eighties indicated that there was a consistent positive linear relationship between weightlifting success and the "obsessive" factor as defined by Nideffers Test of Attentional and Interpersonal Style. Generally, the better the lifter the more obsessive their behavior.

In a similar series of studies, Dr. Paul Highlen and his associates found that qualifiers for the 1988 Canadian National wrestling and diving teams reported relatively high frequencies of compulsive behaviors. The athletes were withdrawn, talked to themselves frequently and generally lived a highly structured lifestyle compared to less-skilled athletes.

Interestingly, most psychologists believe that for most people to reach an elite level in any field of endeavor some degree of obsession is required. In fact, in sports, one of the most competitive fields of endeavor, obsession -- total obsession -- may be the most important aspect of achieving world class status.

Dr. Gordon Edlin, a sports psychologist, says an interesting thing about this very issue. Let me tell you what he said:

"I've never met a great athlete who wasn't somewhat obsessive. The really great athletes, the one-percenters, are generally obsessed with what they are doing. They place a higher priority on their sport than they do on work, family, interpersonal relationships, and even on their own health. Athletes seem quite willing to sacrifice the very essence of life just to achieve athletic greatness. Nothing matters -- just the game."

I know that may sound crazy to you, but I'm afraid Dr. Edlin's statement is pretty accurate. Let's be honest, athletes are at best different, especially the great ones. I mean, think about it. How many people do you know that would push their bodies to the brink of exhaustion every day, abstain from social and physical pleasures -- such as sex, alcohol, and social communication. People who would sacrifice job opportunities, financial security, home, marriage, even children, perhaps ingest large quantities of illegal and dangerous drugs, ignore and endure pain from serious injuries, work long hours perfecting a simple skill that is ridiculously repetitious, and re-gain and re-lose a couple of hundred pounds each year? For that matter, how many people do you know that would spend forty to sixty hours a week working on their hobby, and eating two to three cans of tuna fish each day for a lifetime? Yet, all this is done for a chance to participate in an event that might, if the athlete is good enough, bring him a few moments of glory.

For many athletes, sports is not just an event that is played at specific intervals; it is his social life, psychological life, and physical life. For this type of individual, it is not just participation in sport that is missed, but the entire life that is built around the sport. It's insane.

I remember a couple of years ago I had the opportunity to meet Scott Edmiston, a former world champion and world record holder in the sport of powerlifting. During the years that I have been involved in the sport of powerlifting, I have met some really "different" lifters. You know, "different" like in playing without a full deck; like rowing with one oar; like several sandwiches shy of a picnic; like the lights are on but nobody's home; like . . . well, you get the idea. Without question though, none of the "different" lifters I've met can compare to Scott Edmiston -- 5'11", 242 pound superman, superflake from Allentown, Pennsylvania. In fact, when it comes to obsessive behavior, he's in a class with a very select few.

For instance, in order to get himself really psyched up for the Collegiate National Powerlifting Championships, Edmiston shaved all the hair off his head -- all of it. Next, he got a steak bone, put a chain through it, and wore it around his neck. Then, every night, he walked across the Kutztown State College Campus growling at people. Doug Haines, Scott's training partner, told me that the entire campus was scared to death of Edmiston, from the groundskeeper right on up to the president. In fact, Doug said that some of the students would actually run away every time they saw Edmiston coming.

If you think that's "different," listen to this. In order to prepare for the 1986 USPF National Championships, Scott moved right into the local gym so he could get his "mind set" for pending championships. He brought his mattress from home, along with a small night stand and table lamp, and set up a bedroom right there in the corner of the gym. Then every morning, Monday through Saturday without fail, Edmiston would drag himself out of bed at five o'clock to prepare for his first two-hour workout of the day. At five in the afternoon, after an eight-hour shift at Bethlehem Steel, Edmiston would be back in the gym for his second two-hour session.

Let me read you what Scott said in an interview he did with me for Powerlifting USA after he retired at the early age of 22:

"My goal was to be the best lifter in the world. Whatever it took to get there -- sacrifice, hard work, drugs -- that's what I did. Nothing mattered to me, not my family, my girl, my job, just lifting . . . That was my whole world -- nothing mattered. Thank God I survived it all."

Do you think that's scary? Let me tell you about my good friend, Stephen Korte. He's a magnificent athlete. One of the greatest powerlifters ever to come out of Germany. By the time he was twenty-two, he had already won three German National Championships, a European Championship, and a silver medal at the World Championships. He had also broken most of the teenage German National Powerlifting records in the heavyweight division. It was no secret that Stephan was Germany's hope for the future; a superweight who would dominate powerlifting for a decade to come. He was just that great of an athlete.

Let me also mention here that Stephan is a marvelous human being. He is so positive, and so wondrous and do full of exciting things to share. He is a joy to be around. I wish I could share him with you. But he is also a man who lived on the edge. A man who was so obsessed with his dreams that he literally jeopardized his life to realize them. His story is a strange mix, inspiring, yet extremely frightening. One that will afford you some insight into the myopic view of life that many world class athletes have. Let me tell you what happened.

Four weeks prior to the 1993 Junior European Championships, Stephan noticed that his right testicle was beginning to enlarge. Within two weeks, his testicle had swollen to twice its normal size. Suspecting that he might have testicular cancer, Stephan went to a friend who was in medical school, to get examined. His friend's diagnosis was not good. He told Stephan that he definitely had cancer and that he needed to see a doctor immediately so that he could get treatment. I don't know about you, but I would have been in the doctor's office that night. But not Stephan. Instead of seeking medical care, he refused to see a doctor. He was afraid that if he was diagnosed with having cancer he would not be allowed to compete in the European Championships and consequently would not be able to compete at the Worlds. Winning a gold medal at the Worlds was a dream that he had had since he was a little boy. A dream that he could not abandon. So he continued to train, pushing his body to its breaking point in every workout. Each day though, his body became a little smaller and a little weaker. It was obvious that his cancer was spreading through his body, but Stephan persisted. In fear and in pain he drove himself relentlessly. He never complained, nor did he tell anyone about his cancer. By the time the championships rolled around, Stephan had lost close to thirty pounds. He was weak and frightened, but he was determined. Amazingly, Stephan made the seemingly impossible possible by winning the gold medal and qualifying for the Worlds. An incredible feat; one that I can barely comprehend.

Unfortunately, Stephan's story does not have a happy ending. The day after his competition he was admitted to the hospital and was immediately operated on. His right testicle and a major portion of his abdominal lymph system was removed. Needless to say, his powerlifting career was over. Isn't that a tragic event? One that could have been avoided. I love Stephan Korte. As I mentioned before, he is a wonderful man, but I don't believe that winning outweighs every aspect of human interest. No championship or medal is worth a life, or for that matter human suffering. Sports are challenging and exciting, but they're just games. Nothing more and nothing less. To think otherwise is in a sense . . . sick.

Unfortunately, the history of sport is filled with athletes whose sole objective in life is to ascend to athletic greatness. For these athletes sports is not a game -- it is their life. Nothing else matters to them. They are driven men and women. The only real world for them is and always will be the world of sports. Everything else savors of anticlimax. For the obsessed athlete nothing in life could even approach the significance of the game. The game is their whole world. There is nothing else. This type of thinking is a  myopic view of life.   

It seems even more insane when you consider the statistical possibility of being really successful in sports. Just consider the odds of making it to the pros in professional basketball. Each year there are approximately 200,000 high school seniors who participate in inter-scholastic basketball. Of these seniors, approximately 12,000 will receive college scholarships. Out of that 12,000, somewhere around 200 players will be drafted by the N.B.A., but only about 50 will actually be offered a contract. Of these 50, about five will eventually earn a starting position. Of those five, only two will stay in the N.B.A. for more than five seasons. In other words, your chances of making it big in the N.B.A. are about 1 in 100,000, and believe me, your odds of making it big are not much better in any other sport. Conversely, your chances of success in business is approximately 80%. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not against sports. If anything, I'm a jock at heart. If you have a chance to make it big, go for it, but don't forget that there's more to life than shooting a basketball or hitting a baseball. Strive to be a total human being, not someone who is just physically well developed, but one who is physically, mentally, socially, an spiritually developed.

When you really think about it, what is the significance of hoisting up a heavy weight, hitting a home run or slam dunking a basketball? It's nice to be able to do these things, but they really have limited value to mankind. I think my mother put sports in perspective for me early in my lifting career. I remember I had just broken the world record in the squat and I was so excited about telling her what I had accomplished. So before I even showered, I ran to the nearest phone and called her. I said, "Mom, I broke the world record tonight." And she said with that marvelous Italian accent of hers, "Thatsa nice! How's the car running?" I believe that says it all. Athletics are great but there are more important things in life; like keeping your car running. You know, we really don't need anymore great athletes in America. We already have a surplus of gifted baseball, basketball, football, and tennis players. What we need now is more gifted doctors, lawyers, and teachers, etc. Now don't get me wrong. Like I said, I'm not against sports. If anything, I'm a jock at heart. I love being an athlete. But the truth of the matter is, it is more important to be a good person than it is to be a great athlete. And I'll tell you this, too, it's a lot harder to be a good person.

So, tonight with your permission, I would like to talk to you about some of my ideas of what it takes to be a well rounded human being. Take the ideas you like home with you and leave the others behind. We might call this talk, "The Art of Being Human."

I think it is in every man's best interest to be a total human being. An individual who is not just physically developed but one who is intellectually, socially, and spiritually developed as well. I know that as athletes we tend to focus more on the physical aspects than the latter. I tend to believe that this is only natural because most of what we do requires extreme physical prowess. However, to ignore the other aspects is a mistake of significant magnitude, because without these other aspects of life we can never truly become all that we can be. It is true that the body is essential; but it is only essential because it carries around the greatest gift given to us: our brain.

The human mind is a miracle. It is limitless. No one has even guessed its potential. Believe me, the powers of the brain are literally beyond human comprehension. Brain researchers estimate that even prodigies don't use more than a fraction of their brain's potential. "If man used the full potential of his brain," says Dr. Stephan Berhard, a leading neurophysiologist, "he would likely cross the parameters of mortality, he would become godlike." Think about that. What a gift this mind of ours is. Yet we don't even use it.

You know, we are the greatest country in the world, but we are by far one of the most uneducated countries in the world. Which is really crazy because we have the greatest educational opportunities on earth. Our data banks are cram packed with the most advanced scientific information available to man and we have the technology to access that information in a moment's notice. We have everything in America, the best schools, the best libraries, the best learning carrels, the best scientific equipment . . . the best of everything. In short, our educational opportunities are futuristic compared to other countries. And do you know what? Most Americans don't give a damn. They are worried more about who is going to win the Super Bowl than they are about educating themselves and their own children. That's sad because intelligence is on of the most important aspects of being human. It gives us the capacity to participate in the ideas and feelings of others. It's a very special human quality that allows us to step out of ourselves and observe and understand the wonder and magic of others from within. It gives us the capacity for understanding, passion, drive, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, tenderness, and love. When you are intelligent your entire life is enriched, as well as the lives of others who you touch.

Unfortunately, we have very little regard for education in America. In fact, most American's look at getting an education more as a hassle than an opportunity to grow and nurture as a human being. I've been teaching for close to a decade-and-a-half and I can honestly say that most students don't take their education seriously. I've seen guys spend three hours in the gym or six hours in front of the television, but they won't spend fifteen minutes reading a book. When it comes to education the accent is definitely on the wrong symbol. Hell, if we would spend a fraction of the time we dedicate to sports on education we would be a country of prodigies. As it is we are a country of dimwits.

A couple of months ago, I asked my publisher why he thought my books were doing better in Europe than they were here in the States. Do you know what he said? "American athletes either don't read or can't read." I hate to admit it but he is probably right. In fact, most Americans don't read, which is odd because most of us spend half of our youth learning how to read, and once we learn how, we don't read anyway. Here is something that will probably shock you. The average college student after graduation reads less than one book a year. Now that's the average college graduate. Most Americans don't read a book from one decade to the next. And here is something that will really blow your mind. Twenty percent of the American population is functionally illiterate. Worse yet we are adding one million illiterate teenagers each year to our already shocking number of illiterates. Now I know what you're thinking. "America has more college graduates than any country in the world." Well don't let that fool you, because degrees and titles mean absolutely nothing in America. Some of the dumbest people I have ever met have Ph.D's and some of the smartest people I ever met don't even know what a Ph.D is. Believe me, anyone can get a Ph.D. Hell, I got one.

Recently a friend of mine told me he was going to become a certified fitness expert. He never had a single college course in physiology, bio-mechanics, kinesiology, zoology, anatomy, nutrition . . . hell, he's never taken a college course. And he is not that scholarly when it comes to the elementary aspects of weight training. But one day he forked over two-hundred dollars, sat through a four hour fitness seminar and now he is a bona-fide fitness expert with a certificate to prove it. The guy was selling "fun meals" at McDonalds the week before and now he's a fitness guru. Do you believe that? Well don't! Like I said, don't be fooled by people with degrees. Look at a person's knowledge, not some piece of paper he's holding in his hand. Even Aristotle made the distinction between education and intelligence when he wrote, "Dignity does not consist in possessing honors but in deserving them." A degree is just a piece of paper. What's really important is your wisdom, not your title. In life you have to prove yourself. Do you really think I.B.M. gave a "rat's ass" if Bill Gates had a degree? Hell no! They were interested in his production. All they wanted was for him to "crank out" that software. The bottom line was, are you competent -- can you produce? And that's the way it should be -- competence based on performance. Believe me that's the way it is in sports. Just because Carl Lewis shows up for a track meet you don't think all the other athletes are going to say, "Oh, Carl's here. Give him the gold medal." Or course not! They're going to make him prove he's the best every time he walks on the track. They could care less that he's a world champion. But then, Carl Lewis can prove his worth when he walks out on that track; he's worked his whole life in order to develop his skills. He didn't stop training once he won the gold either. He forged on, because he knew that he would have to prove himself over and over again. Unfortunately that's not the case with most Americans. It seems that as soon as they get out of school the quest for knowledge is over. This is a mistake of significant magnitude. We live in such a fast paced dynamic society that by just doing nothing we fall way behind. As mentioned, in life you have to prove yourself each and every day. You can't rest on your laurels. Once you think you have it made, you will reach a cumulative point, inertia will breed and before you know it you will be on the backslide. It's in man's best interest to never be totally dissatisfied but to always be unsatisfied. Leo Buscaglia says, "Education is a never ending pursuit and the truest measure of intelligence is a dedication to continue the process throughout life." Let me read to you more of his thoughts:

"To place proper value on learning, we need to recognize a basic law of nature. That which does not grow, dies. A life that is lived within fixed limits and travels only the well worn paths of habit and routine is diminished greatly by failing to recognize that we live in a constant state of change. That which does not grow, dies."

He's right, you know! We should always be reaching out, experimenting, learning, and growing. The pursuit of wisdom is a lifelong activity. Each day we should learn something new about the world, and in so doing we well never again be the same. You have to work long and hard if you want to really grow intellectually. It's not easy, but nothing worth having in life is easy to obtain.

For the life of me, I don't understand why people don't want to learn. Every time you learn something new, you become something new, something greater, something grander. We are all we have. Buddha told us that trips outside of the body are worthless. Jesus said if you want to find life you have to look inside yourself. Therefore it is incumbent that we become all that we can be, the most wonderful intelligent, loving human being possible. And then we will always survive. Malcolm X said something extremely poignant. He said, "They can chain my hands and feet but they can't shackle my mind." Intelligence can set you free. Believe me, you can be enslaved by ignorance, but with intelligence you are truly limitless. You can direct history, shape your environment, mold your life . . . hell, you can make the impossible possible in some cases. Just sixty years ago the Wright Brothers were told that if God had intended man to fly, he would have given them wings. Today we have men walking on the moon. Intelligence is power!

One thing that a lot of athletes don't understand is that the body serves the mind. It's not the other way around. If you have a strong mind, your body will follow. In fact, there is considerable research in the field of psychomotor development which has revealed a linear relationship between the knowledge an athlete has about his sport and how well he performs. In short, the more information extended to an athlete about the demands of his sport, the more likely it is he will excel. Because of this fact, coaches in the Eastern Bloc countries require that their athletes engage in intellectual training. Coaches in these countries will frequently assign readings to their athletes; at other times discussions are held and lectures are given by authorities who discuss the psychological or physiological ramifications of the activities in which these athletes are engaged. Also, athletes are frequently exposed to training films in which their own movements are analyzed and compared to those of more proficient performers round the world. These programs have consistently shown that athletes who are intellectually prepared for the demands of competition perform significantly better than athletes who didn't receive such intellectual training. In other words, it's brains not brawn that many times will make the difference. I know this was true of my career. There were a lot of athletes who had greater physical prowess than me -- athletes who should have beaten me easily, but never could. Let's be honest. At best I had the body of an eleven year old stamp collector. There is no way I should have been able to beat some of the guys that I did. It was my intelligence that saw me through. When I was competing, I went to great pains to procure as much information as possible about my sport. I read practically everything I could get my hands on -- books about training routines, ergogenic aids, nutrition, etc. I also called and visited prominent coaches and athletes. I looked for every little edge. I looked at everything that I thought could enhance my performance. I studied biomechanics, hypnosis, biofeedback, sports medicine, etc. I even looked into how music, lighting, and colors affected performance. In short, I played the game above my shoulders and for me it paid off. And here's a news flash! I'm just an ordinary guy. Anything that I can do, you can do too, and some of you can probably do it better. As I said before, if you're willing to work hard, and use your intelligence, you can be or do almost anything in life. The mind is limitless.

Personally, I never want to stop learning, because the more I learn the more I become and the more I have to share with others. And the more I have to share, the closer I can get to people and then, just maybe, something wonderful and magical can happen between us. For me that is the essence of life.

Another thing I'm really concerned about is what's happening to us socially. Think about these statistics for a second. Every year in America 25,000 people kill themselves. Is that sad or what? There are approximately 30,000 murders each year, 60,000 rapes (reported), 60,000 incidents of spousal abuse, 900,000 kids who run away from home, and 60,000 men and women who seek psychiatric help. And would you believe this, the average relationship in America lasts only three months, and one out of every two marriages ends in divorce. And of the marriages that remain viable, 84% of these individuals are not happy. In fact when most of these individuals were surveyed, they said that if the had it to do all over again, they would never have gotten married. George Leonard says, "We can orbit the earth, we can touch the moon, but this society has not yet devised a way for two people to live together in harmony for seven straight days without wanting to strangle each other." It gets worse, too. A recent mental health survey revealed that only 20% of the people in America who were interviewed said they were happy and enjoyed life.

Things just don't seem to be getting any better. In fact times have really changed. When I was a young boy, I grew up in Philadelphia. Isn't that a beautiful name for a city. It literally means the city of brotherly love. I remember when I was a little boy, we would leave our back door open in case our neighbors needed anything, and they would do the same for us. If we needed something we would just go over to their house and borrow it, and then later that day we would bring it back, and the neighbors would do the same. For instance, some mornings while we were sleeping they would come in and borrow eggs or sugar, what ever they needed. Then later on, they would come back and say, "Here are the eggs we borrowed this morning. Thanks!" It was so nice sharing with friends. Everybody watched out for each other. It was a wonderful thing. Today if you leave your door open in Philadelphia the neighbors will come in and take your eggs, your microwave, your stereo and anything else that is not nailed down. And believe me, they're not bringing that shit back.

Obviously, we are missing something when it comes to the basic concept of being human. We don't reach out and care anymore. And we don't love anymore either. We have forgotten that we are our brother's keeper. we are in this I-Me generation. Everyone is worried about themselves, and what they can get out of a situation. I hear it all the time -- "What's in it for me? What can you do for me?" We have become so selfish and self-centered. No wonder we have lost the aptitude for happiness.

People are in need of community but what we have is stressed individuality. This is not right. We need each other. We need other people to engage us, comfort us, and accept us. No man is a rock. We all need love and compassion. Norman Vincent Peale says that there is no substitute for the human touch. We know this to be a fact, yet we continue to push people away from us.It's as if we are afraid to reach out to each other, afraid to admit our vulnerability, afraid to say, "This is who I really am, I'm not perfect, I have my faults, but I am also unique and I have wonderful things to share."

Another thing: we are so suspicious of everyone these days that we lose a lot of opportunities for friendship and love. I'll see a girl on campus and her hair will look absolutely stunning and I'll say, "Your hair looks really pretty today." And I'll walk on. Then I'll see another girl and she might be wearing a beautiful dress and I'll say, "I love that dress. You look beautiful today." And I'll move on. And then I might see a guy who has really been taking care of himself and is in great shape and I'll say, "Man, you look great!" And then you know what happens? These three people meet up on the other end of campus and the first girl will say, "I just saw Judd and do you know what? He tried to hit on me." And the other girl will say, "Yeah, I just saw him too, and he tried to hit on me too." And then the guy will say, "Yeah, he tried to hit on me too." Is this crazy or what? But that is the way it is in America. We are so suspicious of anyone who tries to reach out to us that we are ready to immediately slap them away.

You know, a couple of years ago I was telling my students about Saint Francis of Assisi and how his philosophy of life was to give everything that you had. And you know he did that. He gave away all his wealth, time, love, and energy to others. He was one of the most giving human beings you could ever imagine and the most loved. But you know what my students said? "This guy must be tripping, he must be nuts!" They didn't understand that when you give everything you have, you get so much more in return. You get love -- the most essential element for health and happiness. The great Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, wrote that, "Kindness in words creates confidence, kindness in thinking creates profoundness, and kindness in giving creates love."

I had a wonderful experience the last time I was in China. I was visiting with the Chinese Olympic Weightlifting Team and they were giving me a tour of Beijing. Actually they had me on the temple circuit. Believe me, China had more temples than K-Mart has "blue light specials." After about four hours of temple touring, every temple started looking the same. Consequently, I decided to venture out on my own to see what else China had to offer. I must have wandered off a good three miles when all of a sudden I realized I was lost. Well, I wasn't totally lost, just partially. You see, there was a fork in the road and I couldn't remember which one I had gone down. My major problem was that if I selected the wrong road, I'd never be able to get back in time to meet with the other lifters. What I needed was some transportation -- and fast. Of course, in China no one owns a car [and how that's changed!] -- they can't afford them. But just about everyone has a bicycle. Consequently, I decided to see if I could rent someone's bicycle. As luck would have it, a young peasant woman came by with a beat-up old bike. I know this may sound trite, but in the three days I was in China, this was by far and away the most beautiful woman I had seen. She had jet black eyes, beautiful olive skin, and the body of a 12th Street hooker.

After I flagged her down, I attempted to explain my dilemma in my best Chinese. I figured if I gave her a real good sob story, I could get her to rent me the bike cheap. Amazingly, as soon as I got the message across that I was lost, she got off her bike and gave it to me. Even more incredible was the fact that she refused to take any money for letting me use it. I really felt guilty about taking her bike without paying, but I didn't have time to stand there an convince her to take my money. I figured I'd do that when I brought the bike back. I jumped on her bike and headed out to find the other lifters. Fortunately, I selected the right road back and located them just as they were coming out of the temple of whatever. After I explained to them what had happened, we made arrangements to meet at a nearby restaurant after I returned the bike.

On my way back to return the bike, I started thinking about what the peasant woman had done for me. There was no doubt in my mind that the bike was one of her greatest assets, perhaps only second to her home, if in fact she had a home. And here I was a foreigner who she had never laid eyes on before, and she gives me one of her most important possessions. She had absolutely no guarantee that I would return it, nor did she have any recourse if I didn't return it. She was totally at my mercy. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that giving me the bike was a tremendous act of trust and kindness. I mean, can you imagine someone in America lending their bike, let alone their car, to a foreigner. Let's be real, most Americans won't give a foreigner the time of day. Hell, most Americans won't give another American the time of day. Well, I figured if she could show me such kindness, I could do the same for her. So I decided that I would give her 200 yen for letting me use her bike. That's about sixty dollars in American money, which translates to about three months wages for a peasant in China. When I got back, I found the woman sitting on the side of the road waiting for me. After I thanked her, I reached into my wallet and pulled out 200 yen and handed it to her. She immediately returned the money to me, shook her head no, and then gave me a smile that absolutely melted me. I tried to give her the money again, but once again she refused it. I know this may sound crazy, but as I stood there looking at her, I could actually feel love and warmth radiating from her. I also realized my money had no value at this time. A gift is something that is given from the heart, given without the expectation of praise or reward. Her act of kindness was her gift to me -- one I'll always treasure.

This is the way life should be. We need to treat each other the way we want to be treated. We need to reach out, show compassion and love for each other. Like I said, we need each other. Unfortunately that's not the way it is in America. We don't seem to look for the good in anyone. I see it all of the time. People will get into a relationship, and instead of trying to build each other up, they tear each other down in order to gain vantage point. That's not love. It's selfishness, and insecurity speaking. And if someone becomes successful. God help him! We are quick to try and destroy that person's reputation. We can't stand other people's success. Leo Rostan says, "It is the weak who are cruel; gentleness is to be expected only from the strong." Rosten is right -- weak, insecure people, they are always the ones to cast the first stones.

And this racism thing really drives me crazy. I know this is not a popular stand, but I definitely believe in the amalgamation of the races and miscegenation. More importantly though, I believe that a man should be judged on his character -- not his color. I detest any form of racism, black or white. We are all brothers and sisters. We need to reach out, love, risk, and trust in people. If we don't we will never realize our greatness or enjoy all the gifts that have been bestowed upon us.

I want to tell you a magnificent story about human courage and love. The story is about my Father. Now, I know what you are thinking. "Oh, no! Not another one of those 'my father is great' stories." Well . . . in a way it is a story like that. Don't get me wrong, though, I'm not ashamed about bragging on my Father. Every son should think that his father is the greatest. Unfortunately, that's not always the case, but for me there is nothing more true. I believe that I am a very objective person. I've been all over this country, and I have had the opportunity to visit a few others. I'm sure I have met thousands of men, but I can honestly say that I have never met a man as great as my Father, and I have met some truly great men. He is a beautiful, wonderful human being. Always positive, smiling and always moving forward. He is a doer, not a dreamer, a listener, not a thinker, a leader, certainly not a follower. Honest, hardworking, intelligent, and powerful. He is simply an awesome force. He is everything I ever want to be.

The story I am about to tell you has nothing to do with the love and devotion I have for my father. Rather, it reflects the love and devotion my Father had for another man -- a black man. It was almost thirty-five years ago that these events took place. If my memory serves me right I was five years old. At the time my father was one of the best fast-pitch softball pitchers in America. That's not a proud son bragging but rather the record book speaking. The years the he pitched his winning percentage was well over 95%. It was nothing for him to strike out 16 or 17 batters in a seven inning game. And when it came to no-hitters, I doubt if anyone in the nation with the exception of the great Eddie Fegner had more. In one season alone he threw 21 no-hit games. Not surprisingly, at the beginning of each season my father was deluged by teams who wanted him to play for them, and it was routine for other teams to "pick him up" to play in weekend tournaments. He was just that great.

Believe me, things won't make you happy, people will. When I was working in professional baseball, I was around some of the wealthiest people in the world and they were some of the most miserable people I have ever met. And when I worked in the steel mills during my college vacations, I met some of the poorest people. And you know what? Many of them were extremely happy. For this reason I have a rule, and if you are smart you will follow too. It's simply -- people first, things second. Reach out, risk, love, share and give yourself totally. Try being human again.

I would like to leave you with a few thoughts about having God in your life. Usually I don't talk about metaphysics in my lectures, but maybe I should. Certainly we all need God in our lives, for without God we are nothing. And with God we are truly limitless. God can give us the strength to endure whatever we encounter. There is a power in knowing that God is with us. Two things that I always keep in mind during tough times -- one, that God is always with me and, two, that I can do all things through Christ. These convictions have given me power and strength throughout my career.

A few years ago I was invited by the Chinese government to train at the Olympic training center in Beijing, China. Although I was excited about the opportunity, I would be lying to you if I didn't tell you that I was scared half to death. As you are probably aware, China is a communist country which is directly controlled by the military. I remember when I got off the plane, there were soldiers standing all over the place armed with sub-machine guns. That freaked me out right there. Then, when I got to the Olympic training center, I was informed that no foreigner had ever trained there before. Consequently, when I entered the training center all of the athletes were surprised to see me. Some of the younger athletes had never even seen an American lifter before, some had not even seen an American man before. It was really strange.

After my first workout at the center, I went in to shower and all of the female athletes came in and showered with me. I asked the interpreter what they were doing and he said they wanted to see what an American man looked like.Talk about pressure. I hope I didn't disappoint them. And that was just the beginning. The first day that I actually trained with the Chinese weightlifting team, I took my tape player into the gym and popped in my Michael Jackson "I'm Bad" tape. Immediately, the Chinese coach pitched a fit. It was like I had committed a mortal sin or something. It didn't take me long to realize that training in China was more like a religion than an activity. In fact, there was no music, no talking, nothing but training when training was taking place. Such activities were considered a weakness. And going to the bathroom during a training session was considered the ultimate weakness. Unfortunately I had to find that out first hand. In case you haven't been to China let me tell you about their bathrooms. They are basically nonexistent. All they have for a toilet is a hole in the floor. Kind of like an outhouse but without a seat. They call it a squat toilet. Anyway, halfway through my workout, I had to go to the bathroom so I went up to the coach and asked him where the wei'-shen-jian, which is Chinese for bathroom, was located. Of course he got mad as hell, because like I said you are not allowed to go to the bathroom when you are training. After he blessed me out, he pointed to a room at the end of the gym. When I went into the room the only thing that was there was a little hole in the floor. I said to myself, "No! This just can't be." So I went back out and sheepishly told the coach and again asked him where the wei'-shen-jian was. Of course he freaked. After he calmed down he again pointed to the same room in the gym. I went back into the room and for the longest time just looked at that little hole. I just couldn't believe that this was a bathroom. And then I thought, what the hell, this is China. So I started relieving myself. I hardly got started when one of the athletes came into the room. As soon as he saw what I was doing he immediately ran out. The next thing I knew, the coach, followed by the entire weightlifting team, came running into the room.

Here I was urinating in their sauna room -- you can only imagine how I felt. I didn't have any command of the Chinese language, their rules or customs. I had no coach, no friends, and an interpreter who understood about as much English as I did Chinese. In short, I was all alone in a communist country that traditionally hated Americans. What got me through was knowing that I had God with me. When you have God, you are never alone, and there is nothing you can't do.

It's been said that God's gift to us is life, and our gift to God is how we live it. You know, life can be really tough. There is a lot of pain and suffering in the world and there always has been. Of course, you don't need me to tell you that. All you have to do is look at the history of mankind. Innocent, beautiful people have suffered for no apparent reason since the beginning of time. In fact [I'm starting to wonder what this has to do with training . . . hopefully you'll find a connection!], pain is as much a part of the human condition as life and death. And there has been some real horrifying suffering to. Heartache and misery that human beings have created. Atrocities that are the mortal sins of our soul. No on knows why there is so much anguish in the world. Why God would allow good people to suffer so much. We can only assume that it is a provocation from God to see if we can measure up. At least that's the way I choose to look at it.

There is this beautiful anecdote about a man who looks at the world and sees suffering everywhere. People killing each other, babies in pain, unjust imprisonment, slavery, genocide and inequity. And he looks to the heavens and says to God, "There is so much suffering and pain in your world, dear Lord, why don't you send help!" And God looks down and says,

"I did send help. I sent you."                         

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