Monday, March 31, 2014


A shot of part of the weight room at Monument Valley HS in Kayenta, Arizona, Navajo Nation, USA

Upon graduation from BYU we headed south to the reservation. With a degree in Health/Physical Education, I took a job teaching.........Navajo Language, of course! I also had a minor in Native American Studies with a lot of hours in Navajo linguistics. It was a passion that began while I was serving as a missionary on the reservation. My wife and I left Provo in a Ryder rental truck with our two children and headed out to Alamo, New Mexico. It was a remote group of Navajos who hid out in the mountains of New Mexico during the long walk period and had been basically forgotten by the government until after WWII. When we arrived there, there were no paved roads, no telephone access, and mail was delivered to the trading post only on Tuesdays. We traveled the 30 mile dirt road to Magdalena to make phone calls and the nearest grocery store was 70 miles away in Socorro.
Our  Gym at Alamo 
Our school consisted of 12 portable buildings, one for each grade. I was hired to teach Navajo literacy. Everyone could speak Navajo. Many could speak English as well, and a few could also speak Spanish, but no one could read or write in Navajo. Actually Navajo is an oral language and has not been written for centuries, but an orthography has been developed using English letters to represent Navajo sounds. This what I was teaching children to read.
I brought a bar, a few hundred pounds of weights, and some homemade squat racks with me. Soon a section of my building was turned into a weight lifting club.

In the Strength and Health magazines that I was still receiving, I read about a new organization called the National Strength Coaches Association. It was started by Boyd Epley, the strength coach at the University of Nebraska. Even though I was not really employed as a strength coach, I wanted to be a member of that organization. I was hungry to learn all I could about training. It is beyond the scope of this post report an in-depth account of the origins of the NSCA, it's history is well documented elsewhere. But I got involved in the early 80's when the name was changed to National Strength and Conditioning Association. (Still known as NSCA)
Football Game in Monument Valley 
After two years in Alamo, we heard that a new high school was opening in Monument Valley. It was literally on the Utah-Arizona state line, but just on the Utah side. I was eager to get back into physical education so I applied and was hired there to coach football, track, and teach physical education along with some weight training classes. It was there that I really got involved in the NSCA and began attending clinics and conferences. I also published my first articles there. My old friend Greg Shepard put an article about our football team in his Bigger Faster Stronger Journal, then some other article followed. I also began to submit articles to the NSCA Journal for publication.
It was during that time that I began my masters' program in physical education with an exercise science emphasis at Northern Arizona University.  Dr. Leo Haberlack, an NAU Hall of Fame track coach was the Dept. Chair and taught several classes that I needed. Once when I included some statements about weight training in one of my papers, he asked me where my references were. I said that I didn't have any references about those particular statements, but that I knew what I said was true from my own experiences. He said, "What makes you an expert?" I replied, "What does it take to be an expert?" He said, "If you get published, then you can be an expert!" So I decided that I would submit some articles on some of my ideas for publication. Andrew Fry, who was then an intern at the NSCA  (and now is a distinguished professor and researcher in the field) was in charge of putting together the journal. He was kind enough to use some of my ideas and so Dr. Haberlack was surprised that I began to reference myself in some of my papers for his classes. Later as I finished my thesis, Dr. Richard Borden, who was Dean of the School of Health and Physical Education and later became the president of the NSCA, served as my thesis chair. He assisted my efforts to exhibit some scholarship qualities a great deal.
 About that time, when the NSCA developed the CSCS certification, I was among one of the first groups to challenge and pass the exam. In those early days, the NSCA offered great opportunities to gain information through the journals, conferences, and networking with others of like interests. I really enjoyed my membership and the benefits that it brought.
Monument Valley HS, Kayenta, Arizona. Home of the Mustangs!
Downtown Kayenta looking down Mustang Blvd
In 1991 we moved 21 miles south of the state line to the other Monument Valley High School in Kayenta, Arizona and have been there since. Our weight room has grown and improved as we have moved three times around campus and now have a facility that is among the best anywhere. It was my opportunity to design it.  I have had the privilege of serving as the Arizona state director for the NSCA for two terms.
 As the years pass, the NSCA seems less relevant to people like me who are mainly interested in coaching athletes and hard core lifting. It seems that the organization has been hijacked by personal trainer types. While I am not against anyone who can make a living teaching correct training principles, there is a vast difference between training lay people on an individual basis and training a team of athletes who want maximum performance. So, in all honesty, I stay involved enough to keep my certification, but do not get too excited about NSCA activities anymore.
It has been a long haul since the early days of visiting the York Barbell Club and lifting on the Allegheny Mountain Team. Attending BYU was a life changing event. The sign at the entrance to the campus there says, "Enter to learn, go forth to serve." I hope I have in my 33 years in public education.
 It has been a privilege to have been able to have met and received instruction and encouragement from so many Iron Game Legends over the years.
It is now my goal to pass along some of the knowledge and experiences I have been blessed to have.

Visit us on the Mustang Weight Room Facebook page.

Another view of the MVHS Weight Room.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Getting an Education at Brigham Young University

Dr. L. Jay Silvester in record form.

During my high school years my life revolved around working out to play football, throw the discus, and competing with Allegheny  Mountain Weightlifting team. It was a good combination as all of those activities seemed to blend well together and kept me too busy to cause much trouble. Along with that I still worked on some construction jobs with my Father and also worked at a landscaping company on weekends as well.
 In western Pennsylvania football was a religion. Boys are raised to play and the rivalries between small towns are intense. A sample of the players that came out of that area include: Johnny Unitas, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Joe Namath, and Mike Ditka, to name just a few. My senior year I was named to some of the All-State teams that included a running back named Tony Dorsett, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy and star in the NFL for many years. I started playing early and found that good players were rewarded with respect and with opportunities.
Since the time that I was a youngster my parents stressed that I should go to college. Neither of them had the opportunity, but were determined that we should. When my brother and I were on construction jobs with my Father, men would say, "Your boys are going to be good bricklayers" My Dad would answer, "Naw, they're going to college." I had no perception of what college really was or what I would do there, but I knew it was important to my parents and I knew they had football teams.
As my high school career progressed, I began to receive recruiting letters and even some calls and visits. The first place that actually offered me a visit was the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, the Army team. I really didn't think that I would be interested in the Army. A lot of my relatives and neighbors were drafted and sent to Viet Nam. Some didn't return. Some returned with missing limbs or other problems. I wasn't too excited about the military if there were other options, but the coach there continued to call. When I told him I was not interested, he asked if I wouldn't mind flying over there and at least looking at what they had to offer. Up to that point in my life I had never flown on an airplane so the offer to fly into New York City where the coach would meet me and take me up to West Point was more than I could pass up. It was a beautiful campus on the Hudson River and we (the other recruits and me) had a great time. We ate in the officer's club, swam, played basketball, and watched films of Army Rangers jumping out of airplanes. We never did actually see the day to day life of a cadet. I came home thinking maybe the military wouldn't be such a bad choice. Also, about that time Pres. Nixon announced the withdrawal of troops and the end of the draft.
I took several other recruiting visits but with encouragement of my parents and teachers,  ultimately ended up at the USMA. Usually entrance to a military academy requires a congressional appointment and is very competitive. Most cadets (as students were called) had prepared extensively to be selected.  I had not done any of the steps of the application process. the AAA (Army Athletic Association) had requested I be granted an appointment and so it happened. I had one problem though, I was not academically prepared. In high school many of my teachers gave me special privileges because I could play football. I was too naive to recognize that this was not a good thing. I assumed that college football players would really only have to play football. My experience was that being a good football player was enough to get you whatever you needed.  I suspect at some universities this maybe the case. However, I soon found out that at West Point, they really did expect you to go to class and pass the courses. While I did fine with the military training and on the football field, I found myself totally unprepared for 7 credit hours of calculus and analytic geometry along with other hard core subjects. At the end of my freshmen year I was given the option of repeating the entire year or moving on. I chose the latter. Also, believe it or not, the USMA didn't even have a real weight room at the time. The had an exercise room with some old fashioned wall pulley units and few makeshift barbells made of pipe and concrete. The philosophy there at the time was that weight training would make one too bulky to go airborne. Pushups and pullups were the answer. Shortly after I left, they bought into the Nautilus craze. It was years later before they ever got a real strength and conditioning program there.
Cover photo
United States Military Academy. I am the third from the left on the back row.
 Just kidding.
One of the asst. football coaches who I had a good relationship with asked me where I wanted to go. I had read an article in Strength and Health Magazine about a university out west called Brigham Young University who had just won the collegiate national power lifting championship. A guy named Greg Shepard wrote the article and coached the team as well as lifting himself. I told my coach I would like to go to BYU, having never been there and not really knowing anything about it except that they lifted weights there and it was far away, which is what I was looking for. Somewhere far away.
Coach Edwards around the time I showed up at BYU.
To make a long story short, I applied to BYU, and was turned down due to my poor academic performance at Army. A young football coach named Lavell Edwards contacted the admissions office on my behalf and I was permitted to register on academic probation. I spent the summer working to earn money, as I was would have to redshirt and would not receive any scholarship aid, and running and lifting to get ready to play.
When I arrived on campus in the Fall, as soon as I dumped my stuff off at the dorm, I asked the dorm attendant where the weight room was. I assumed everyone on campus would know. She didn't know but directed me to the physical education building. I finally found it in the fieldhouse. The old BYU weightroom was actually two weight rooms. There was a two level platform with chain link fencing for walls at the end of the fieldhouse. It would be small by today's standards, but was actually pretty good sized for the time. The lower deck was where they had student weight training classes and it was equipped with the standard Universal Machine units and some fixed weight barbells and dumbells. The upper deck was where the athletes trained and it had 6 or so platforms around the outside perimeter along with benches, squat racks, and quite a few Eleiko barbell sets with the early model bumper plates as well as tons of iron weights. By today's standards it would be considered primitive, but to me, it was heaven. To be honest, although not large, it would still function well today, better than a lot of the machine laden weight rooms that are designed more to attract young recruits than train serious athletes.

I was a little disappointed that there was not structured lifting program for the football team at that time, so I lifted on my own before or after practice. Greg Shepard had just completed his doctorate as I arrived on campus. As a grad assistant there he had the football team on a program that was a forerunner of the Bigger Faster Stronger program that he has sold with great success since 1976. When Greg left, they did not establish a full time strength coaching position for several years so the football players just trained on their own with some very strong dedicated players who did their own thing and some who never lifted. The football coaches encouraged lifting, but there was no program or accountability. The athletes who dominated the weight room were the Track and Field athletes. The throwing tradition at BYU is amazing and for many years was among the best in the nation. While I was there to play football, I loved to lift and had enough of a track back round to really appreciate what I saw in the upper weight room.
In high school I had basically taught myself to reasonably throw the discus by looking at sequence photos of Jay Silvester, 4 time world record holder and 4 time Olympian.  You can imagine my reaction when I first entered the BYU weight room and there he was lifting and presiding over the training. He was in his early 40's then. Tall and lean, definitely looked strong and fit, but not hugely muscular. Yet he did multiple reps with over 140 kg in the powerclean and bench presses with over 400 lb. and still threw the discus regularly over 60 m. By then he was Dr. L. Jay Silvester and was professor of physical education and presided over the weight room while also working with the throwers. There were some amazing throwers in those days. (and there still is) Back then BYU had a strong european, especially scandinavian connection. Here is a link: http://byuthrowers.blogspot.com/  Some of the guys in that era were Kenth Gardenkrans, Anders Arrhenius, Raimo Pihl, and Richard George. They did some great workouts.
There were also a lot of Polynesian athletes who loved to lift as well. Genetically blessed guys like Willie Moala, Albert Maielo, Moses Foala, Simi Mapu, and others also were regulars there and did some amazing lifting.
It was tough to lift during football season as your body takes a beating, but I persisted and later that Fall there was a  powerlifting meet on campus. I entered and that is where I met Greg Shepard for the first time. He was coaching in Idaho at the time and brought a group of boys down to lift in the meet at BYU. He was and is a dynamic coach. I have had many more interactions with him over the years which have shaped my approach to coaching. It was also there that I learned that Dr. Silvester was the faculty advisor of the BYU Powerlifting team which was a club sport on campus. I became a member and enjoyed the camaraderie.
BYU thowers in the 70's training heavy with L.Jay coaching.
Along with the new and exciting lifting environment, there were other big changes in my life during that time as well. Brigham Young University is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. When I first arrived on campus I was not a member of that church and didn't know anything about it. My interactions with the students, professors, and coaches there made me want to learn more. As I did, I determined that the teachings of the church was something that I wanted in my life. I was baptized during that first year and with encouragement from friends and teammates determined to serve as a missionary.
After my return at the completion of two years of missionary service on the Navajo Reservation, a lot had changed. The football team had a full time strength and conditioning coach and they had purchased a line of Nautilus machines and opened a new weight room area below the old area exclusively for football. Most of the guys I had lifted with were gone. The track athletes still used the upper deck weight room. One of the strongest was Tapio Kuusella who won a collegiate national championship in lifting and was a hammer thrower as well. He currently coaches the throwers at University of Utah. Another change was that I no longer had the desire to invest the time necessary to play football. I continued to lift though, as training could be done on my own schedule and didn't require the time investment that football did. The BYU lifting club provided a competitive outlet and allowed us to work out around our own schedule.
I continued to lift and compete there until graduation. By then I was married and working three jobs to get by. When we finally left Provo, we had two children, I had a degree, and had gained a lot more knowledge and experience with strength training that would serve me well in the years ahead.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Allegheny Mountain Team

Don Reinhoudt lifting for the Allegheny Mountain Team.

I was a teenager when I entered my first lifting competition. Several friends and I had been training in our garage to get bigger and stronger for football, track, and just because we loved doing it. We had mostly homemade equipment, a bench made of wood, a homemade power rack made from some stuff my dad brought home from one of his construction jobs, and weights we collected from all over including the county jail where my Dad happened to be doing some work when some inmates tried to use a lifting bar to escape. The warden was going to dispose of the weights. My Dad asked if he could just take them and they became a large contribution to our garage gym.
 As mentioned in the previous post, we had been to York and were inspired by the lifters and the magazines each month. We were excited when we saw a power lifting meet being advertised in the local newspaper, the Erie Times. We lived in the small lakeside farming community of Harborcreek, so we drove to the big city of Erie, a port city on the Great Lakes, to see some real lifting on a Saturday. As the meet progressed, we began to get excited. The weights we were lifting at home were very competitive with many of the competitors. We went home inspired and trained even harder. Months later another meet was advertised. We decided to go and try our  hand at lifting. We packed our gym bags and headed for town.
In our naivety, we didn't realize that you had to register ahead of time. We showed up at the advertised time and told the lady at the door who was collecting admission that we wanted to enter. She gave us a quizzical look and told us to go back stage and talk to Les. That was my first meeting Lester Cramer, entrepreneur, promoter, and coach of the Allegheny Mountain team. When we approached Les, he sized us up, asked us if we knew how to do the lifts, and if we had money for the entry fee. We assured him we could do the lifts, but told him we didn't know anything about an entry fee. He asked us how much money we had and we pooled together maybe  $20.00 or so between us. he told us we would have to buy an AAU card as well. As I remember, it cost $1.00 for a year back then. He had us sign some forms, took our money, and told us to go and change. We were entered into our first meet. We didn't know much about proper warmup timing, choosing attempts, or anything like that, but the other lifters were very helpful to us and we all successfully totaled. A few of us even actually placed high enough to get a trophy.
 Les noted that we actually had some potential and invited us to train at his Allegheny Mountain gym. The Allegheny Mountain Gym was actually his basement which had a separate outside entrance that he left open 24-7. You never knew who would be there, sometimes it was long-haired bikers with chains and tattoos, other times it was clean cut police officers. Men from all walks of life shared the common love of lifting in that basement. Les's wife eventually divorced him. In hind sight, I imagine his open door policy probably didn't help their marriage much.
We would continue to train in the garage, but once a week or so we would make the trip across town to train at the gym. Our garage only had the old exercise type weights with the 1" holes while at the Allegheny Mountain gym there were the revolving olympic style bars and weights. We became members of the Allegheny Mountain WeightliftingTeam which had an unbeaten streak that lasted over a decade. The team consisted of men from a wide area, some of whom we only saw at meets. There were Olympic lifters and some bodybuilders, but powerlifting was the main emphasis although some of us dabbled in all the disciplines. This was before the days of "supportive gear"There were some world class lifters such as Don Rienhoudt of Fredonia, New York; a world champion, hall of famer, and winner of the world's strongest man competition as well. He was a really nice guy who took the time give us pointers on technique and training. He took a genuine interest in our progress.
Don Reinhoudt competing in an early WSM competition.

Another great lifter was Tony Fratto of Butler, PA, just north of Pittsburgh. He was an amazing specimen and a charismatic character who excelled in Weightlifting, Powerlifting, and even won some bodybuilding meets as well. He also was a world champion and took time to encourage and teach us.
Tony Fratto squatting at the '73 World Championships.
Rich Collarelli was a local police officer who set a world record in bench press. 465 at 181 bodyweight if my memory is correct. Of course that was wearing a T-shirt, not the "supportive gear' that is in vogue today.There tons of other guys who never won major championships, but lifted well at the regional level. Joe Orengia was a great lifter then, and has continued to lift, sponsor and promote meets even today in the Erie area. He was an iron worker back then. He had mechanical disadvantages (although still credibly strong) in the squat and bench press, but had a tremendous deadlift. Over 600 at 165 if my memory hasn't failed. We would travel to meets throughout the area to places like Pittsburgh, PA, Steubonville, OH, and Wheeling, WV. Joe always warned us not to ride with Les as he would leave late and then drive 100 mph to get there on time. Joe drove a Mopar Cobra and everyone wanted to ride with him.

Recent photo of Joe Orengia, still lifting and owner of Joe's Gym in Erie, PA.

 Les was really a genius in a lot of ways, but never quite got things together to be a business success. He invented the original Jack Racks, where he welded car jacks into the middle of squat rack uprights, which allowed one to change the bar height without unloading the bar. He also manufactured some isokinetic type machines which used automotive shock absorbers as resistance. He published a powerlifting magazine for several years and bought the old Jackson Barbell Company which Joe Orengia later purchased then sold to Ivanko. Les also taught me about cycling workouts, what we now call "periodization". He helped me organize my workouts and make a long range plan with variations in volume and intensity. He was ahead of his time in many ways. He is still involved in lifting and has moved around the country since then.
Les Cramer lifting in a recent Master's meet.
It was Les who first told me about Dianabol. Understand it was not illegal at the time and a lot of the lifters were trying it out. It was considered as some kind of super supplement. He never pressured us to take it, but let us know that it was available. Joe Orengia warned us to stay away from it. Being a teenager who had little money to begin with, the cost was prohibitive. Besides, I was pleased with the progress I was making and still believed that Hoffman's Hi-Proteen was all I needed. In hindsight, I am glad that I never took that road.
 A lot of other great lifters and bodybuilders competed in meets we attended as well, names like Vince Anello (deadlift over 800 at 181, world record), Lamar Gant (multiple world championships), Larry Pacifico (multitple world championships), Tom Platz (Mr. Olympia competitor), and Jim Manion (national physique chairman) should be familiar to any serious student of the iron game and they competed in many of the meets we lifted in as well.
After I graduated from high school, I left Pennsylvania and never really returned except for brief visits  now and then. But the foundation of lifting I gained there has served me well. I am proud that I could be a member of the Allegheny Mountain Team for awhile.

Friday, March 21, 2014

York Barbell

Russ Knipp in the corner of the York Gym about the time we first visited. All of us "Bob Hoffman Boys" wore the York Barbell Club T-shirts which cost $1.25 at the time.

As I am rapidly approaching my anniversary of close to six decades of life on this earth, it's hard  not to reflect back a little and realize how blessed I have been to have been able to meet and associate with many iron game greats over the years. Over the next few weeks I am going to indulge this urge to reminisce a little and hopefully some of you will find it interesting, possibly entertaining, and like Bill Cosby used to say, "If you are not careful, you may even learn something."
 Like so many young Americans of my generation, my first real exposure to the iron game was through Bob Hoffman and the York Barbell Company.  I was always fascinated by strength and the ability that we have to mold and change our bodies. I was raised in a rural farming community and my father was a construction worker so I grew up around physical men who made a living by lifting and carrying things, and who took their shirts off to stay cooler when it was hot. Being strong was essential and looking strong was important. The work was hard, but we often entertained ourselves during breaks and lunch time by challenging each other to various feats of strength such as who could push the most bags of cement up a ramp with a wheelbarrow, hold concrete blocks out at arms length for the longest time, or throw a bale of high the highest or farthest.
It was August of 1967 when I was walking through the local IGA grocery store and saw a magazine with a picture of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger on the cover along with a shot of Steve Reeves. I was a amazed and broke out the 50 cents that it took to purchase it. It was Muscular Development magazine which was published by Bob Hoffman. (the reason I am so certain of the date is because I still have that magazine in a trunk in my bed room) It focused mainly on bodybuilding and the fairly new sport of powerlifting. Soon I learned that they put out another magazine called Strength and Health that featured more stories about weightlifting and training for athletics and health. These magazines expounded on the virtues and advantages of superior health and how to attain it. I began to pay more attention to what I ate ate and began to scrounge and gather all sorts of weights from wherever I could find them. Squatting, Pressing, and Pulling became a pretty much daily routine. The articles soon convinced  me that I needed to add such things as Hoffman's Super Hi-Proteen to my diet if I ever wanted to be great. I began to save my money to buy Hoffman's products as often as I could.
The next step was to get to York in person and actually see how these guys really trained and what kinds of stuff they did. My first trip to the York Barbell Club was when I was around 12 or 13 years old or so and my brother was 10 or 11. My Dad drove us the 5 hours or so that is took to get there from our home in Northwestern Pennsylvania. My father was very strong and fit from all the physical labor he did, but didn't really know much about weights. He succumbed to our constant pestering to take us there. We walked into the building and there was a small museum display, a small health food bar, and a small (by today's standards, but large then) gym with a platform, some racks and a few benches. I was awestruck that Bob Hoffman, himself, was sitting at the counter of the health bar when we walked in. He approached us and began to expound all the benefits of his products. He complimented my dad on his healthy looking boys and invited us to come back to the gym. My dad didn't really know who he was, but they hit off as my dad likes to talk and Bob, as we found out, really liked to talk as well. Bob introduced us to John Grimek who was in the gym doing some training and he invited us to came back the next morning when the lifters were going to train. John was in amazing shape and must have been in his 60's at the time. He also was very friendly and asked my brother and I if we were more interested in bodybuilding or weight lifting.
We told him that we were interested in everything and he just smiled.
We went to the gym the next day and saw some of the top American lifters of the day, Bob Bednarski, Rick Holbrook, Gary Glenney, Roman Meliek, and others. I remember being a little shocked and even disappointed that some of the lifters were talking about their night on the town the night before and about fighting through a hangover. I had assumed that they all lived on Hoffman's products and went to bed before 10:00 o'clock each night. So much for the healthy, clean living. It would be a few years later before I learned about the real breakfast of champions, Dianabol, but that is a story for another day.
 Still, lifestyle aside, they were doing some amazing lifting, among the best in the world at the time. They were also friendly and encouraging to visitors for the most part.
John Grimek around the time we first met him. Amazing guy.

Later, as I got to the age where I could drive, my friends and I would go to York fairly often to hang out watch the lifters of the day. John Grimek was a constant presence and I remember him telling us once that the current Mr. America of the day (who will go unnamed) was just a "pinhead" and not nearly as big as he looked. John said he just had a small head that made his body look bigger than it was. lol  He also said he couldn't understand why anyone would avoid squats. He said that squats wouldn't give anyone a fat @$$ unless they were a fat @$$ to begin with. Once when I was lamenting about not being able to afford enough Hoffman's Hi-Proteen, he told me that he knew lots of great lifters who weren't able to eat all that much protein either. Just eat the best food you can is what he told me.
 Bob Hoffman was always ready to talk to anyone who would listen. Once he lectured us on the dangers of Kentucky Fried Chicken. He told us he ate there once and got a piece of chicken that had a tumor on it. Better to stick to home made food and Hoffman products he said. I still have a June 1970 issue of Strength and Health with the editorial page signed, "To my friend Ollie Whaley, Bob Hoffman". In fact I have almost every issue of Strength and Health from 1967 to the final issue in May 1986, plus a lot of the older issues that I picked up in bookstores...etc. over the years.
One of the issues of I bought as a teenager and still have in trunk at the end of my bed.
The last time I visited York was with my wife in the Summer of 1982 while on a trip back east to visit family. By then they had  moved to a new bigger and more modern site outside of town. As we entered the new building, we again encountered Bob Hoffman who was in the museum area. He still loved to talk to visitors, but it was obvious then that he suffered from dementia. His conversation was rambling and at times incoherent. There were no lifters working out and John Grimek wasn't there either. It wasn't the same York Barbell I had known as a teenager.
In my adult years I have read many books and conversed with many people about their experiences at York. I now know that it was not really all that it was painted to be in the magazines. I now understand the politics and behind the scenes intrigue that I was innocently oblivious of as a teenager. I also understand that the Bob Hoffman mystique was a marketing image, but I have to admit that it was an inspiration to me and many others.as we grew up reading, believing, and practicing the healthy lifestyle espoused in those magazines. I still have some of the old-style York bars and plates at home and in my weight room. They remind me of the days when York was known as Muscletown USA and it was the center of the weightlifting world. York now is just another company trying to sell fitness equipment in a very competitive market and they no longer have any special mystique or distinguishing features. For those who are too young to have experienced it, there is nothing today that really compares to the influence that the York Barbell Company had on earlier generations of men and boys. Ironmind and Milo Magazine are the closest in quality, but don't have the market domination that existed in those earlier days when York was really the only show in town.
Bob Hoffman, John Grimek, Bob Bednarski, Russ Knipp, and so many of the others are passed on. Those who remember are getting old as well, but York is part of a heritage that we all owe a debt of gratitude for. I am grateful that I was able to experience some of that atmosphere and pass it along.
Bob Bednarski's world record Clean and Jerk in 1968

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Doh! No Kidding!

More Muscle is Good!

Below is an article that appeared today in several mainstream news sources. It falls under the category of "Do we really need a research study to tell us this?" Or, "Tell us something we don't already know!"......

(HealthDay News) -- The more muscle older adults have, the lower their risk of death, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 3,600 older adults who took part in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1988 and 1994. The participants included men 55 and older and women 65 and older.

As part of the survey, the participants underwent tests to determine their muscle mass index, which is the amount of muscle relative to height.

The investigators used a follow-up survey done in 2004 to determine how many of the participants had died of natural causes and how muscle mass was related to death risk. People with the highest levels of muscle mass were significantly less likely to have died than those with the lowest levels of muscle mass.

"In other words, the greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death," study co-author Dr. Arun Karlamangla, an associate professor in the geriatrics division at University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, said in a university news release. "Thus, rather than worrying about weight or body mass index, we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass."

The study was published online recently in the American Journal of Medicine.

The findings add to growing evidence that overall body composition is a better predictor of all-cause death than body mass index (BMI), according to the researchers. BMI is an estimate of body fat based on weight and height.

However, the study only shows an association, not a cause-and-effect relationship, between muscle mass and risk of death, the study authors noted in the news release.

"As there is no gold-standard measure of body composition, several studies have addressed this question using different measurement techniques and have obtained different results," study leader Dr. Preethi Srikanthan, an assistant clinical professor in the endocrinology division at the UCLA School of Medicine, said in the news release.

Many studies that investigate how obesity and weight affect the risk of death look only at BMI, Srikanthan pointed out. "Our study indicates that clinicians need to be focusing on ways to improve body composition, rather than on BMI alone, when counseling older adults on preventative health behaviors," she explained.

Future research should focus on pinpointing the types and amounts of exercise that are most effective in improving muscle mass in older adults, the study authors concluded.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Great Lifting SIte

There is a great lifting site that is relatively new: http://www.olympicweightliftingguru.com/     This is maintained by Taylor Chiu, oldest son of Dave Chiu who we featured in an earlier post on our site.  http://www.haskestrength.com/2010/06/dave-chiu-true-sportsman.html   Taylor is a great lifter, a Marine who was deployed in the middle east, and served as a missionary in Thailand. He has some great stuff on his site that applies to competitive lifters, athletes who use weightlifting to train for other sports, and beginners who want to learn. The site is multi-media with great videos, pictures, and descriptive writing. Below is a sample article contributed by Dave on the need to adapt techniques to individual characteristics.

Fixing Lefty – What if my technique is not “normal”?
March 10, 2014/0 Comments/in Lifting tips /by David Chiu
This guest post is by Dave Chiu, Olympic Weightlifting coach of the 2-time defending Crossfit Games Team Champion Hack’s Pack.

He had quite a weightlifting career himself, posting all-time bests of 135 kg snatch and 175 kg clean & jerk in the 105 kg weight class.

His greatest lifting achievement was winning Collegiate Nationals in 1990, followed closely by his silver at the 1991 Olympic Festival.


I received an interesting message from a friend frustrated about her lifting (we are acquainted because of mutual CrossFit friends but haven’t yet met):

“so I have a question for ya.. k.. power versus squat? Meaning this.. I absolutely LOVE to squat everything.. squat snatch, squat clean etc.. but.. I struggle with the hang power snatch and hang power clean. I do okay with them from the ground.. but struggle with them when doing power.

My coach has been trying to figure out why this is.. it’s like I’m backwards from everyone else. Most people struggle getting under the bar or dropping down in the squat and like the power better. But.. not me.. I would squat snatch and squat clean any day over the other. So any ways.. my question is this.. what is the benefit of the power lifts? And are they going to benefit me.. or help me as far as Oly goes..

haha! Sorry I have so many questions.. I would love to start competing in the Oly comps, but I’m pretty positive that my lifts need to come up a bit.”

This inquiry is actually rather common…

of a sort that comes down to “Why am I different, does it matter, how should I feel about it, and what-to-do?”

Here’s why I titled this “Fixing Lefty” — there are individual differences between people which are distinctive, but need not be made into problems.

I am left-handed for writing and eating, but right-handed for almost everything else.  Growing up in late-20th century America this was no more of a big deal than having slightly wider than average feet (so I prefer to wear 12s instead of the 11s that fit length-wise).

Vardanian pulled with hips higher than most would recommend.

Urik Vardanian is a “lefty” when it comes to technique, but he was one of the greatest weightlifters ever.
However, in many times and places such a sinister preference (from the Latin for left) has been so scandalous that children who showed such a tendency would be “corrected” by such means as da-shou-lian (hit-hand-training) or having their left hands tied behind their backs.

Decades ago I lived in Taiwan, a beautiful land with wonderful people who are as modern as most places, but still aware of such past prejudices.  During one period my proselyting companion at the time was also left-handed, so it was humorous to hear such exclamations as “You’re both lefties?!?!  Are all Americans lefties??”

Here’s how this anecdote relates — many coaches and athletes who use the O-lifts for all their benefits to physical improvement and competition have a parallel attitude toward lifting tendencies that are no more “wrong” than is left-handedness (or to state a more directly related example, splitting right foot forward instead of the more common left).  It is crucial to remember that LIFTING MORE (or the same more successfully) is the primary determinant of what is “right” technically, so if the method allows for that within the framework of the athlete’s goals, then IT’S NOT WRONG.

Yes it’s more typical for CrossFitters to be better at Power Cleans/Snatches, and for many to be better from the hang than the floor, just as it’s more common for them to lift 30+% more in Deadlift than Squat.  It doesn’t take more than a little experience to observe that some can lift nearly as much, and a few even more, in Squat than Deadlift — similarly, a minority will be better using a squat technique rather than a power one, or from the floor than from the hang, and there will be rare cases who do best of all split-style.

There is a great deal more worth saying about why this is so, but for now I will just reiterate that what is usual is not always what’s best for a given individual — we all know that and appreciate it most for our personal distinctions, but sometimes it’s still necessary to say so and save needless coach/athlete stress and individual frustration.

Play the hand you’ve got — give reasonable attention to cultivate areas that seem less in balance with the ideal or what’s common (especially if it improves safety), but don’t disdain what works well for you just because it’s different.  Yes, your current weaknesses can be brought up to par, but don’t do so at the expense of higher performance — don’t hate what you’re good at.

Especially if, like some famous cases in ball sports, being a lefty is key to why you make millions…

Here’s my response and the rest of the conversation:

Some are the same way, like DW, and me too as it turns out…

it’s part individual coordination (like how a small percentage will tend to split snatch and/or clean) and part relative leg strength compared to back/upper body strength

sometimes the wod/event requires a specific method, but usually its just clean or snatch so you do what works best for you no matter whats usual for most

this is a good way to see how your PRs relate to the usual/well-trained proportions, but as you plug in each number you will likely get a wide range of results for the others… AND THE SAME IS TRUE FOR ALMOST EVERYONE ELSE (the point is that individuals are individuals so such wide variation is very common):http://www.qwa.org/Resources/Calculators.aspx

This is good to know.. because my coach gets frustrated with me because I miss on my power cleans and power snatches… but then I can add weight to the bar I just missed.. and squat snatch or clean it… just fine

EB has had the same problem w/ her tendency to split…  appreciate and build on what you’re good at… be appropriately attentive to differences that matter

PS — at a cool competition held in Las Vegas every spring “High School Power Clean Nationals” they have no problem accepting squat clean as fully legit, and when expert olift coaches say CL or SN its presumed they mean squatting… the CF tendency to power clean/snatch when not specified is an anomaly I got used to yrs ago.

Dave completing a heavy jerk in his prime.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Larry Scott R.I.P.

The Iron Game lost another legend. I have to admit that as far as training goes, Larry Scott represented the antithesis of everything I believe to be important. But, I still liked him. What are the differences? He was one of the original "pure" bodybuilders who trained for aesthetics only. He was not training for performance, but for appearance. Although a gymnast and wrestler in his youth, when he began training it was purely for bodybuilding competition. He disdained squatting as a disciple of Vince Gironda, "Trainer of the stars". They taught that squatting widened the hips and made your butt too large. Like another late legend John Grimek (who was an athlete as well as a bodybuilder) once told me, "Squatting won't give you a fat @$$ unless you are a fat @$$ to begin with." As the article below mentions, Larry was the first Mr. Olympia and was famous for his legendary arms above all. He is credited with the exercise known as Scott Curls, done with arms draped over a bench that was inclined like a podium and known as a "preacher bench". He advocated doing exercises in a precise fashion with a variety of grips and angles to target certain parts of a muscle. Myself, I don't really buy into that and believe that we can't really target particular parts of a muscle. I think it's better to find the most comfortable and natural way to do a movement then do it heavy and hard. But I was never Mr. Olympia either. While I really never bought into Larry's approach to training, I have to admit that his physique was inspiring and he was a genuinely good individual who truly believed in his methods and was always ready to share his methods. He lived and advocated a healthy approach to training that has been lost in the current the bodybuilding world. May he rest in peace and condolences to his family.

Larry Scott, bodybuilding star to Utah and world, dies at 75
By Erin Alberty and Nate Carlisle

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Mar 10 2014 08:41 pm • Updated 1 hour ago        
Larry Scott, a skinny kid from Idaho who became a chiseled bodybuilder and the sport’s biggest star of the mid-1960s before settling in Utah, died Saturday.

 Scott was 75 and had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Scott’s death was announced on the Facebook page for the company that bears his name, Larry Scott Fitness & Nutrition, of Kaysville. Neither where he died, nor funeral plans, were disclosed as of Monday.

Scott’s admirers included the bodybuilder turned actor and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger. On Sunday, Schwarzenegger tweeted:

 Schwarzenegger won most of the same bodybuilding contests a few years after Scott. Scott called Schwarzenegger a friend.

With 20-inch biceps (the average for a man is 13), pectorals that looked like hindquarters on a thoroughbred, a washboard stomach and a grin worthy of a television star, Scott’s influence spread beyond competitive bodybuilding. A weight lifting technique called the Scott Curl, sometimes called the Preacher Curl, is named for him and used by anyone wanting better-looking arms.

The technique requires placing one or both arms at the top of an inclined bench, extending the arm or arms down to full extension and lifting the weight up again. Scott credited the exercise with helping him build his biceps, which were often described as shaped like footballs.

Larry Dee Scott was born Oct. 12, 1938, in Pocatello, Idaho, to Wayne and Thea Scott. His father was a machinist. At age 16, the younger Scott was 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 120 pounds.

At the city dump, he found a bodybuilding magazine. Scott took it home and started exercising in the back yard. His first barbell was a tractor axle he used for doing curls and presses.

"At first, I thought those muscle men looked ridiculous and overdone," Scott told The Tribune in 1979. "The advertisement [in that first magazine] said, ‘You, too, can have arms like these.’ It blew my mind."

Four years later, he won the Mr. Idaho contest. He moved to California, continued lifting and entering contests while also working in a southern California bike repair shop. In 1960, he won the Mr. California title and won Mr. Pacific Coast the following year.

 Then in 1963, Scott began started conquering the biggest bodybuilding events in the world. That year he won first place in the medium division at Mr. Universe. He won it again in 1964 and also took first-place overall.

Then in 1965, Joe Weider, the bodybuilder and entrepreneur, staged the first Mr. Olympia contest at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City. Scott entered as bodybuilding’s biggest superstar and didn’t disappoint. He won the inaugural event. He won Mr. Olympia again in 1966.

The bodybuilding contests brought him notoriety and money. He was driving a Porsche in Los Angeles when he spotted a Rachel Ichikawa on a street corner. He made a U-turn and approached her. The couple married Oct. 29, 1966.

She survives him as do three of the couple’s children: a daughter, Susan Scott; and two sons Erin, and Nathan Scott. One son, Derek Scott, died in a motorcycle accident in 1992. Another son, Michael Scott, died the next year.

Scott retired not long after winning Mr. Olympian in 1966, but in 1978, a few weeks short of his 40th birthday, Schwarzenegger invited Scott to pose at that year’s Mr. Olympian contest. Scott received a six-minute ovation.

The next year, Scott began training for a comeback. By then his weight lifting was a family exercise. His wife Rachel cooked him separate meals that he’d wash down with a protein shake and wheat bread with honey substituted for sugar. His children rarely received candy or other treats. A Mormon who would fast on Sunday, it would take Scott three or four days to gain the weight back.

But Scott couldn’t regain his success. Injuries hampered his regimen. He took ninth place in one Canadian contest and did not place in another, according to Scott’s website.

By then he had other interests. He ran a mail-order bodybuilding program and later owned his own store selling supplements to generations of bodybuilders who recognized his name. He went on to own multiple gyms and spas in Utah.

More than once, Scott heard someone call him a freak. But Scott found peace in exercise and the body.

"Bodybuilding is like hearing a symphony," Scott told The Tribune in 1979. "The more you hear, the more you know, the more you enjoy. To see and appreciate a beautiful male body at its peak takes education."


Larry Scott

Larry Scott mr. olympia

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Push Press

Another great article below from Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics who we have quoted a bunch already. I totally agree that the Push Press is a great exercise and is under rated and under used in my opinion. I love it because it is explosive and initiated with the legs while finishing with the arms and shoulders. It requires planting the feet for a stable base and maintaining a rigid core to prevent "energy leaks" during the upward drive. Because you can use very heavy weights, the upper body gets a great workout as well. It strengthens the entire kinetic chain from toes to fingers in an explosive way. For even greater involvement and benefits it can be performed in combination with cleans or power cleans as well. I agree with Bill Starr who says that the Push Press should replace the venerated Bench Press as a member of the "Big Three" athletic lifts. The above video clip is Coach Mike Burgener coaching an athlete in his garage gym outside of San Diego. Technique wise, it is important to have the bar securely on the shoulders in order to get maximum transfer of power from the legs, through the torso.  Use a violent leg drive with the heels on the ground to literally throw the bar upward with leg and hip power. Also beginners like to look at the bar as it goes up. Keep the eyes forward and drive back over the ears while pushing the head through. If you are a powerlifter, implement these and watch your bench press go up too.

The Push Press: Use Your Legs
Greg Everett  |  Olympic Weightlifting  |  November 13 2010

The Push Press: Use Your Legs, Greg Everett,
An exercise I use very frequently both in training and teaching is the push press. The push press has tremendous utility in a multitude of senses and should definitely be a staple of any strength training program.

As an intermediary between the press and the jerk, the push press largely splits the difference and shares features of both the press and jerk. Interestingly (at least to me), I see the majority of people thinking of it strictly as an upper body movement, and being more closely related to the press than the jerk.

I like telling people to think of the push press as a leg exercise. Is it demanding of upper body pressing strength? If you're using appropriate weights for the exercise, yes. However, it often seems forgotten that the initial upward acceleration (and really, a great deal of the total upward movement) originates (or should) with the legs.

Unless athletes focus on forcing the legs to contribute maximally to the lift, they invariably get very little leg drive at all and the movement deteriorates into more of a partial squat with a press after recovering.

What I want to see in a push press is an extremely aggressive drive with the legs; this will cause the athlete to extend the ankles somewhat. If an athlete remains flat-footed throughout the push press, it's a clear indicator that he or she is either not driving hard enough with the legs, or is cutting that drive off prematurely.

Further, the press up with the arms should be fairly smooth. Although it will naturally slow as the arms near extension, the bar should not abruptly decelerate as the effort shifts from the legs to the arms. This indicates weak leg drive and/or poor timing with engaging the arms.

Ensuring complete, aggressive leg drive in the push press will allow the athlete to handle more weight, which means better strengthening of arm lockout, and also means a better transfer of the exercise to the jerk. Along these same lines, the rack position of the bar, and the position of the hands and arms, should be the same in the push press as they are in the jerk.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Warrior Shout Out

Deezbaa Whaley

Shout out to my sister Deezbaa. She just completed her final indoor season of throwing for BYU. Her name means starting out to war in Navajo. At a bodyweight of just under 160 lb. she hit a best of 19.29 this year at the New Balance Invitational in New York and 18.98 to place 4th at the MPSF conference meet. Coaches and other competitors are often amazed that someone her size can throw the weight so far. Most of her competitors outweigh her by 40 lb. or more. She finishes ranked #2 all-time on the BYU record board. She is now working for the outdoor season where she will compete in Hammer and Discus events. She took two years off of training in the middle of her career to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and will graduate this spring with a physical education teaching degree. Not bad for a kid from the Rez.
Not big enough to throw that far, but she has a clean of 90 kg. and snatches over 70 kg.

With her Dad watching brother win Utah Strongest Man
                                          Winning the Lobo Invite at University of New Mexico