My Story - From Physical Culture to Mr. America continued (pg 3)
After my work shift was over and my co-workers had gone home, I stayed over for a while to see if I could lift it. It was too thick to grip, so I used an overhand thumble "grip" to clean it to my chest. Still using the thumbless grip, since it didn't feel too heavy, I pressed it (2 hands) several repetitions; then I bent-pressed it with my right arm. I was curious to see how much it weighed, I placed it on a dolly and took it to the company scales. It weighed 160 pounds, not a terrific weight, but interesting because of it's thickness. I have bent pressed heavier barbells, but nothing worth mentioning compared to what others have done.
I like the bent press, but didn't practice it regularly for fear of overdeveloping the oblique muscles. Being a body builder, my goal was symmetry.
Bodybuilders and weightlifters were not too numerous in the 30's and only one that I knew of in my home town, Richmond, Indiana, was Paul Hamilton. He was 6'1/2" tall and weighed 195 pounds. I got acquainted with Paul and we worked together for the next few years. We pooled our weights together and were given permission to clean up and use an old bowling alley for a gym in the local YMCA where we encouraged others to join us. Two college students joined us and we became good friends. They were on the football team at Earlham College in Richmond. At that time, the coaches frowned on weight lifting. They became the strongest and best players on the team. The coach never knew the answer.
Our workouts were mainly body building exercises, but every Friday evening we did the usual weight lifting lifts - the Military Press, Snatch and Clean & Jerk before the bodybuilding exercises. We also included the bent press. Actually, I believe we retarded our progress somewhat by doing too much, too many exercises. Olympic lifting and Bodybuilding are two different sports -- one needs to specialize. Also, at that time it was considered not good to drink anything during exercise. During our summer workouts, we sweated profusely, felt totally dragged out after each session. Today we know better, drink water.
In those days, each workout was complete. We exercised all body parts in a workout, three times a week, usually performing one set for each body part. The set system came later as did the split routines.
Bob Hoffman always preached complete extension and contraction of the muscles involved in all exercises. That's the way we always trained - no halfway movements.
On Fridays, before doing our bodybuilding routine we attempted to better the poundages in the three Olympic lifts - the military press, snatch and clean and jerk. To us, military meant no back bend. Squats were complete - not parallel.
One of my favorite exercises was chinning on rings. I had a specially made piece with the gripping area two inches in diameter, to develop the forearms and gripping power (Speaking of gripping power, did you know that Al Berger was able to do repetition chins from the ceiling joints in his cellar using the pinch grip?). I used a different style than usual when doing the ring chins, a more difficult form. I did the pull-up while keeping the other arm straight as in doing the iron cross and without hesitation alternated arm positions -- bending the opposite arm etc. It is a terrific lat developer. I used this exercise to eventually do the one arm chin with each arm - 3 reps each arm.