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Wisdom Of The Old time Strongmen

guss

guss

MuscleHead
Aug 11, 2010
380
179
#1
We here, the small but enlightened group that reads the Dino Files or the Old School Board already understand that the Old Time Strongmen had it together in the super strength and athletic development departments. However, the new guys may not be quite so aware so I thought it might be a good idea to expand on the intelligence of their training. We had to think of the things done in the eras gone by as archaic, even if we well respect them. "I invent nothing, I only rediscover." For the purpose of the discussion we will look at the training of two great old time strongmen, Herman Goerner and Arthur Saxon.


Both these men represent physical prowess at its best, both have achieved at least one strength feat that has not been equaled and may not ever be. Goerner deadlifted a regulation bar in the front with one hand. The weight was 727 pounds. Arthur Saxon bent pressed a 384-pound barbell over head with one hand. Their training was fairly similar. Both emphasized a great deal of one and two hand lifts of barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells. No machines. Ninety percent of their lifting was done standing on their feet and for low reps. Both emphasized real, whole body exercises, not isolation and with odd objects. This is pretty much standard form for old time training.

When you look closer you begin to understand that there was more to this than just basic barbell training. They were training to be complete men. These men were complete athletes, strong, fast, enduring. Here are some key points that might not be so obvious.

Specificity With Variety

This is a big key in successful lifting. Training in the same exercises often enough and long enough to give your body time to build strength and nerve efficiency, but adding in when and different things and the right intervals to keep things "fresh," to shore up weaknesses, to add new interest and variety, and to keep your body just off balance enough to continually need to adapt. Saxon worked the bent press every day (specificity) but says in his book that he added in new exercises and "anything else they could think of," regularly (variety.) Goerner constantly worked deadlifts, (specificity) but constantly changed between one hand, two hand versions (variety.) He also had routines doing the same exercises (specificity) but alternating between barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells to do them, (variety.) Both Saxon and Goerner consistently used low reps and the heaviest weight possible while still working within their capacity and (specificity) while they didn't really alternate to high reps they did do exercises with a "high-rep" type of component such as jumping, medicine ball, throwing and walking/running with weight, (variety.)

Speed And Power

Both men used exercises that emphasize pure power (Goerner-deadlift) (Saxon-bent press) and also exercises that require speed and explosive power. Cleans, push-presses, snatches (one and two handed) swings, running with weights, supporting strength such as walking carry weights on the shoulder, one hand overhead squats, and odd objects, such as sack and barrel lifting. So they built every kind of strength, limit strength, speed strength, supporting strength, carrying strength, awkward strength and strength endurance. Most modern programs don't address all these things together. Hence most of the modern lifters can't present the total package like them.

Strengths And Weaknesses

Both men obviously had "pet" lifts. They spent a considerable amount of time strengthening what was already strength. This however did not stop them from working all parts of the body. I had a strength coach in college who used to talk about how training athletes isn't the same as training lifters (and it isn't.) He talked about how working past a certain poundage on lifts was against the law of "diminishing" returns. In some ways he was right, but I just can't completely agree. Goerner deadlifted 830, which was phenomenal, he could have done less and still been the best in the world at his time (and close now),but that pure power carry over flowed into his other lifts giving him awesome power, power to spare in just about everything. Its never bad to be stronger, you never know when that will be the edge you need, just don't neglect the other points of your training.

Nutrition And Health

Now we think that certainly their nutrition was archaic, but look again. They had some excesses, but such is the personality of greatness. They ate high protein before high protein was cool and before most people bought it in a bottle of snake oil. They at very little processed food. Also good. They ate simply and to fuel their vitality, and with variety. They also took other measures to promote their health. They worked out and spent time outside. They did some endurance and aerobic work. Goerner was found of roadwork twice a week. Saxon liked to bike, swim and walk. Saxon was also using advanced restoration methods 100 years ago. Massage, ice baths, steam and sauna and adequate rest. All, but especially the rest is exceptionally important. The others may be hard to get to, but not quite as much as you might think. Massage is fairly simple and can be learned. Ice baths are cheap and easy and surprisingly good for your health and recovery. Sauna and steam are more expensive, but the Indians were making sweat lodges hundreds of years ago.

So how can these things be incorporated into a program that practical for a guy who doesn't have all day to train? The secret is to use exercises and set ups that train many aspects of the program together at once and have the flexibility to change things around. Many basic programs already emphasize these things. Big, basic multi-joint barbell and dumbbell exercises are key and basically machines are useless.

I believe the body needs exercise and probably about five or six days a week, but I don't think that in most cases it isn't necessary or productive to d extremely heavy exercises that often. The exceptions would be that if you have the time and recovery ability to handle this and then you must have the conditioning to handle it and must either moderate your intensity and or volume very closely. I think it is necessary at some point to expand your work capacity radically if you are to achieve your full potential, but it is definitely not advisable to try to do this every day. For instance I spent several months emphasizing Combat Conditioning exercises, up to the point where I did 2000 Hindu Squats mixed with 1000 push-ups in about three hours one day. I certainly however wouldn't try to do this daily or even weekly. I progressively added to the maximum amount that I did about once a week for months to work up to that.

A sample program could be:

Day 1: ³Squat movement - 5 x 1, Clean and Press movement - 5 x 1, ²Strongman movement - 1-2x

Day 2: Combat Conditioning - ¹Your choice.

Day 3: Snatch or Explosive pull - 5 x 1, Deadlift movement - 5 x 1, Strongman movement - 1-2x

Day 4: Combat Conditioning - Your choice.

1. Combat Conditioning can be done on a program of your choice, for example: Straight sets, 1 minute sets, deck of cards, roadwork or any combination of sets, reps and exercises you want.

2. The Strongman exercises can be any of your choice depending on what your goals are and what equipment you have access to.

3. The barbell exercises can be done in whatever way you want and can be alternated while staying within the basic framework for variety. Example: Back squat, box squat, rack squat, bar clean and press, thick bar, dumbbell (1 or 2) clean and presses, snatch - 1 or 2 hand, deadlift, regular, stiff leg, trap bar, etc.

None of these days should take more than one hour to complete, less depending on your level of experience, conditioning, motivation or time. Together this program will address many areas in the same program. Maximal strength (squats, deadlifts, clean and press),grip (strongman and deadlift and clean and press),sprint type strength endurance (strongman or repetition barbell lifts),extended strength endurance, (combat conditioning),aerobic capacity ( combat conditioning and strongman),speed, balance, coordination (combat conditioning and strongman, cleans and snatches). Health (everything, especially combat conditioning),supporting strength (squats, deadlifts, presses, strongman),flexibility (snatch and combat conditioning). In putting all of these things together at once you address the total man and move toward making the total athlete. You get along for your proverbial buck. You need little other than your basic equipment. These are many ways to put this together and it can be done in whatever best suits your needs.

Hopefully you've seen some wisdom in this. Does your personal program address all these areas? "I think, therefore I am." God bless and great lifting.
 
Rottenrogue

Rottenrogue

Strongwoman
Jan 26, 2011
6,550
1,836
#4
This is an excerpt from the dinosaur files .Written by Bud Jeffries
 
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Ogre717

Ogre717

TID Official Lab Rat
Jul 22, 2011
1,287
237
#5
I still swear by oldschool training and nutrition. The new age stuff is great but no replacement for the tested, tried and true.
 
MightyMouse719

MightyMouse719

National Champion & VIP Member
Jul 8, 2011
1,045
103
#6
Great article. I need to re-read Dinosaur Training by Brooks Kubik.
 
Ben Edwards

Ben Edwards

New Member
Dec 8, 2010
5
1
#7
Dinosaur Training was a game changer for me when I first read it. I found the United States All-Round Weightlifting Association (USAWA) soon after reading it and found a lot of guys (and some gals) who share the same appreciation for the old school strength training movements and feats of strength. Nowhere else have I found competitors who are actively training some of Goerner's favorites. And Arthur Saxon's favorites. There are also more mainstream lifts - a lot of them - but there are also quite a few grip-related events that I particularly gravitate toward since I focus on grip training for the most part. Site is USAWA - United States All-Round Weight Lifting Association if you guys want to check it out. They have events all over the country. Strict judging. And drug testing.
 
Ben Edwards

Ben Edwards

New Member
Dec 8, 2010
5
1
#8
Related to the Dinosaur Training post, my avatar is actually taken from a USAWA contest where we did one of Goerner's favorites - the middle fingers deadlift. Alternate grip, using ONLY the middle fingers of each hand on the Olympic bar. Thumbs aren't allowed to touch the bar. It's quite painful. I pulled 310 pounds and the unofficial "Goerner's Club" requirement is 308 pounds. 308 pounds is reportedly the poundage Goerner pulled on at least one occasion or workout - definitely not a max though, because I'm familiar with his other performances.

http://www.youtube.com/user/USAWAVideos#p/u/34/NAZkU1OPGjc

Here's the video of my contest performance of the middle fingers deadlift.
 
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MightyMouse719

MightyMouse719

National Champion & VIP Member
Jul 8, 2011
1,045
103
#9
Related to the Dinosaur Training post, my avatar is actually taken from a USAWA contest where we did one of Goerner's favorites - the middle fingers deadlift. Alternate grip, using ONLY the middle fingers of each hand on the Olympic bar. Thumbs aren't allowed to touch the bar. It's quite painful. I pulled 310 pounds and the unofficial "Goerner's Club" requirement is 308 pounds. 308 pounds is reportedly the poundage Goerner pulled on at least one occasion or workout - definitely not a max though, because I'm familiar with his other performances.

Kanaal van USAWAVideos - YouTube

Here's the video of my contest performance of the middle fingers deadlift.
That is cool, Ben. Glad at least one federation devotes its mission to the old time feats of strength.
 
S

schultz1

Bangs Raiden's mom VIP
Jan 3, 2011
3,458
833
#12
This is the most under utilized training by strength athletes today. Glad to see it written. Remember speed kills


Speed And Power

Both men used exercises that emphasize pure power (Goerner-deadlift) (Saxon-bent press) and also exercises that require speed and explosive power. Cleans, push-presses, snatches (one and two handed) swings, running with weights, supporting strength such as walking carry weights on the shoulder, one hand overhead squats, and odd objects, such as sack and barrel lifting. So they built every kind of strength, limit strength, speed strength, supporting strength, carrying strength, awkward strength and strength endurance. Most modern programs don't address all these things together. Hence most of the modern lifters can't present the total package like them.
 
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