Jarmo Virtanen, who many consider to be the best powerlifter ever in Europe, was great in the deadlift. He was an excellent squatter, too. Here’s some things behind his success:
In his youth he trained in both powerlifting and weightlifting at the same time. He also trained in other sports like football and has always done some sort of physical labor. His GPP has always been high, and a lot of different squats and deadlifts insured a high SPP level. As a nine-time IPF World Champ, he did lifts like high bar, front squats, and squats with different stances. He deadlifted with both conventional and sumo (he estimated that he may have done a little more conventional work than sumo), and sometimes he used the snatch grip too. One of his deadlift variations was sumo off a one-inch block. He sometimes went quite high on these, with 694 being his best.
He pulled conventional sets where he stopped the bar before it hit the floor in order to develop static strength and tightness in the start position. When using sumo, he always did every rep as the first one. Jarmo said that bouncing the bar off is a waste, especially in the sumo style. He developed speed by high pulls, and he did not extend his hips in the weightlifting style. He continued the pull with the upper back and traps to the navel level.
He had picture-perfect technique, especially in the ´80s when he didn’t have injured hips and thighs. He developed that by squatting with an ultra-wide stance, sometimes he used a Smith-machine to be able to squat as upright as possible. He practiced technique with no weights and in front of a mirror. It was his routine every day for six months. As far as assistance goes, he did a lot of ab work but never did good mornings. He felt that they make you too stiff. He stressed the importance of being relaxed, especially in the upper body area, and felt that it was crucial for getting better leverages in the deadlift and squat.
Jarmo never really maxed out in the gym and usually stayed under 300 kilos in training. He was great competitor. In 1988, during our national record breakers held in the biggest ice hockey venue at the time, he hauled up 358 kilos twice, but dropped it just before the down signal. With a torn hand, he came back and pulled it again, just to lose the grip again before the ”down” command. A year before, when lifting in the 75-kilo class, he was on a roll. In the World’s in Norway, he opened with 677 and went to WR 333 and pulled it nicely. Then he attacked 340.5 kilos ( 750 pounds ) twice, but the grip was his nemesis. Before he got the grip problem fixed, he hurt his outer thigh. There was, and still is, some scar tissue that is pressing into nerves. With the grip he had in the`90s and the better technique and flexibility of `80s, he would have gone a lot more. Many times I have wondered why his squat went up 20 kilos but the deadlift stayed the same. Believe it or not, he never got the best out of him in the deadlift. A 815 to 826 deadlift and 900 kilo ( 1984 pound ) total where something he was capable of but never achieved.
We have had many great pullers and powerlifters, and we had Jarmo Virtanen. He is one of a kind. One sign of his true sportsmanship was this interview. He has always been willing to help anyone, whether it is training, coaching or giving seminars.
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