by Charles A. Smith (1952)
The mellowing influence of a glass of beer and a Symphony of Beethoven, coupled with the contentment a comfortable easy chair, your own home, and a wife and two kids can bring are the factors that help your mind to wander unchecked in a garden of pleasant thoughts. With these, the contented man has a salve that soothes the wounds inflicted by the problems of daily living. He can view things in their proper perspective. Ideas come easily, smoothly, and the understanding of what is past and what might come is no longer elusive. Some fellows get the same effect smoking a pipe and listening to be-bop, but with me it’s a glass of beer and Beethoven.
A week ago, I arrived home and found a bundle of British mags waiting for me, and after supper I settled myself down for a pleasant perusal of the weight lifting journals from across the Atlantic. I had everything set for an enjoyable evening . . . radio turned on softly . . . Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony . . . the customary cup that cheers, a soft armchair and slippers and . . . my thoughts. “I see where Reg Park has broken the dumbbell press record,” I remarked to the wife, and she, not listening as usual, replied, “Yes, dear.”
Dumbbells . . . the equipment of those human powerhouses of 30 years ago . . . the implements of strength . . . the instruments that moulded mighty arms and shoulders and packed the entire physique with an overall power seldom seen these days. Into my mind came pictures . . . Steinbach . . . Grafl . . . Swoboda . . . Turck . . . Hackenschmidt . . . Tandler . . . Schneider . . . and Kryloff. And I reached across to the conveniently placed bookshelf, grabbed an old, dog-eared volume and relived for the thousandth time, the glories of a past strength era.
I visualized that day, August 29th, 1899 when Turck pressed 279¼ pounds . . . 140 in the right hand and 139¼ in the left . . . how in 1897, Schneider pressed two 100-pound dumbbells 12 times in military style . . . and in 1901 on July 30th, Turck again pressed a terrific weight overhead . . . dumbbells that had a total weight of 286 pounds. Then Josef Steinbach made a continental press with dumbbells with the colossal poundage of 314, while Louis Vasseur made a dumbbell military press . . . two dumbbells clean & press with 224¾ pounds . . . Reg Park, according to my British magazine, had easily pressed 235 pounds with dumbbells. In front of one of the strictest officials in England, he had held the weight at the shoulders for many seconds, lowering them into the position required by the referee. And he still handled that great poundage easily. John Davis has clean & pressed two 142½ pound dumbbells . . . 285 pounds . . . a terrific feat of arm and shoulder power and full evidence of the fact that we have ‘em today every bit as good as yesterday. What Doug Hepburn could do in dumbbell pressing is anyone’s guess, only his trouble would be cleaning the weights. It is quite within the realm of possibility that he would press 310 and make a two-dumbbell continental press with 330.
The use of dumbbells for building great power in the arms and shoulders is unsurpassed. And a wonderful byproduct stemming from this use is the added strength of torso and thigh. In dumbbell exercise, the arms are entirely on their own. They work separately as do he muscles of the shoulders and back . . . that is each group of muscles on each side of the body work independently. In lifting a barbell, they work in concert. Just as an experiment, try the following. Say your top press is 180 pounds with a barbell. Try cleaning and pressing two 90 pound dumbbells . . . see how far you get them away from the shoulders. Or try it with a training partner for a bet and be sure your money is safe . . . I have never once seen a weightlifter or bodybuilder equal his barbell press poundage with an equal dumbbell weight.
Dumbbell pressing has always been practiced in America, altho it has never enjoyed any widespread popularity until recently. Years ago, the alternate, or see-saw press, and the one-hand military press were used fairly widely, but it was not until the introduction of flan and incline exercise benches that dumbbell exercise and lifting started to come into general favor. Now, every famous physical excellence model has made use of dumbbell pressing in one of its many forms, to obtain that magnificent tie-in of triceps, deltoid and pectoral development . . . such as you can see on all the top stars. The favorite exercise of Clancy Ross, Reg Park, Alan Stephan and a host of other champions is the Dumbbell Press on the incline bench . . . an exercise that brings terrific results . . . bulk . . . power . . . shape.
There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that a course of dumbbell training will add immeasurably to the strength of any weight trainer, but since we are concerned with a specific lift in this article, I can only say that the use of the two hands dumbbell clean & press and the assistance exercises that go with it will give you a pair of arms and a breadth of shoulder that will stand comparison with the best there are. I am not trying to create the impression that a few months training will see you looking like Grimek or Ross about the arms and shoulders. Development such as these men have comes only with years of hard work. But what I am telling you is that there is no reason why you should not, in time, have a musculature that will not be disgraced by any other. Now let’s take a look at the rules for the two hands dumbbell clean & press.
“The dumbbells shall be taken clean to the shoulders in one continuous movement. The recovery from the pull in, preparatory for the press, must be speedy and continuous. At the commencement of the press the dumbbell rods shall not be held higher than the sternum where the collarbones meet, and the feet, if separated, must be on a plane parallel with the lifter’s front, with the heels not wider than 15¾ inches, with knees firmly braced, and the body and head held in an upright position, the eyes looking directly in front. This position shall be held for two seconds, the conclusion of which shall be indicated by the referee by a sharp clap with both hands. During the press from the shoulders, no sagging or turning of the trunk, movement of the feet or bending of the legs shall be permitted, and the movement must be a steady press to arms’ length with the shoulders kept level throughout.”
As you will see, the method of pressing two dumbbells overhead is a strict one. Apply for the most part the rules of the old MILITARY PRESS to the above and you more or less will see what you are allowed to do, and what you can get ruled out for. The lift itself is of course not a medium of competition in America. But the widespread popularity of dumbbell pressing is such that in gymnasiums all over the country, impromptu competitions are held among bodybuilders to see who can press the most with dumbbells, whether in a standing position or on the incline bench. Here are the assistance exercises for the two hands dumbbell press. You can use them as an arm and shoulder specialization course in conjunction with other basic exercises such as the curl, the upright rowing or high pull movement, the deep knee bend and the dead lift. Should you desire to increase your dumbbell press poundage, then it is advisable to spend considerable time practicing the actual lift, and then when finished, go on to the assistance exercises given. Stay on this course for three months, then take a ten-day layoff and start in again. Pay attention to the details of each movement and work hard, for that is the only way you will get success from your programs.
No training schedule is complete without one exercise that closely resembles the lift you are working to improve. So, the first movement of this routine is the actual lift itself . . . the two hands clean & press with dumbbells. Start off with a poundage you can comfortably handle for 3 sets of 4 reps. Clean the dumbbells to the shoulders, press them overhead, lower the weights to the ground, and repeat the whole movement. Pause only as long as it takes you to breathe deeply two or three times between each repetition. Work up to 3 sets of 8 reps before increasing the exercise poundage and then only a 1¼ pound plate to each dumbbell.
Incline bench side presses. The task of getting dumbbells away from the shoulders belongs to the deltoid muscles. but getting the weight past the sticking point and carrying it to arms’ length . . . this the triceps are responsible for. Here is an excellent movement to put power into the arm. Lie on an incline board on your SIDE. The feet can be placed one in front of the other for better balance and comfort. Hold a dumbbell in one hand and rest the upper arm along the side of the body. The upper arm should be allowed to drop back slightly below the side (see illustration 2). From this position press the weight to arm’s length, lower, and repeat. Lower the weight as slowly as possible and concentrate throughout the movement on the action of the triceps . . . straightening the arm. Start off with a weight you can handle comfortably for 3 sets of 6 reps and work up to 3 sets of 12 reps before increasing exercise poundage. Because one arm rests while the other exercises, don’t take much rest between sets.
Many famous weightlifters have managed to increase their pressing poundage by adopting a more rigid form when training than that allowed in competition. John Davis himself sometimes gets tired of using standing presses with a barbell and performs his presses while seated on a bench. A similar method can be used in the dumbbell press. Clean the dumbbells to the shoulders and sit down on the end of an exercise bench with no back, or a box. Press the bells to arms’ length making every effort to stretch the arms as high as possible. When you lower the dumbbells, take them as low down as you can. As in the other exercises, the standard to use with regard to starting poundages is one that can be handled comfortably, in this case, for 4 reps. Use 3 sets to commence, working up to 3 sets of 10 reps before increasing the weight of the dumbbells.
No schedule os compete without one of the power movements . . . the exercises that get you used to handling heavy weights and learning to control them. The “Jerk Push Press” is great for accustoming the shoulders to stand the stress of poundages more than those usually handled. Performed with dumbbells and in the manner described below, this movement makes use of two types of muscle action, producing a much more efficiently working muscle. Clean a pair of dumbbells to the shoulders. Bend the legs slightly and jerk the dumbbells to top of the head level. Don’t stop here, but continue the motion of the bells to arms’ length with a press out. When you lower them, do so as slowly as possible, controlling the descent of the weights down every inch of the way. Start off with a poundage 10 pounds under your limit, using 3 sets of 3 reps, working up to 3 sets of 6 reps before adding to the weight of the dumbbells.
Here is another power movement, and one that will give you more powerful anterior deltoids, triceps and pectoral muscles. Set your incline board or bench at its steepest angle. Lie down on it and get your training partners to hand you the dumbbells. The commencing position should be where the UPPER arms are LEVEL with the shoulders. From here, press the weight to arms’ length and as in the previous movement, lower the dumbbells as slowly as possible. As soon as the upper arms reach horizontal position, press the weights to arms’ length again. In using this pressing style the forearms will be upright . . . forming right angles to the upper arms (illustration 5). Use a poundage you can get 3 sets of 5 reps from and steadily work up to 3 sets of 10 reps before increasing the dumbbell poundage.
The program of assistance exercises for the Two Hands Clean & Press with dumbbells is a tough one and it is not advisable to use it more than three times a week. At the same time, don’t skimp on your output of energy. When you are lifting, give it all you’ve got. When it comes to your non-training days, forget such things as barbells exist.
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