The Oly Encyclopedia 2
December 23, 2021•2,164 words
I have admire strength for as long as I can remember. when I was very young, I always looked for the movie and television characters who displayed the greatest physical strength.
Whenever we went to the circus, most of my friends went to see the acrobats or animals. I went to see the strongman. My favorite biblical character was Samson and my favorite mythological character was Hercules. John Henry was the American folk hero I admire most. In my father's boiler business, where I worked many summers from an early age, the men I respected the most were those who had the greatest physical strength. The examples could go on and on.
One of the reasons for my admiration f strength was my own lack of it. mental activities came more easily to me than physical ones, and for that reason I never seemed to focus on the importance of mental activities as much - I took mental processes as a given when I was younger(something I learned never to do as I grew older). Physical strength didn't come naturally to me, so I always coveted it.
All of my pent-up desire for strength came to fruition in three major steps in my life. The first step was taken on a warm, sunny, day , a the end of the summer of 1961, just a few months before my eleventh birthday.I was walking down on of the busiest streets in town where I live, right in front of a large newsstand that stood on the sidewalk. Among the dozen of magazines on display was one with a man on the cover who seemed to have chest muscles of freakish proportions and an overall muscular development of his upper body that almost matched the muscularity of that chest. My immediate reaction was ''This guy must be really strong; maybe this magazine will give me some clue as to how he got this way.'' The magazine was the September 1961 issue of the now defunct strength & health (for more than 50 years the leading strength publication in America, and one of the leading publications in the world covering weightlifting and weight training).
After pouring through the magazine, I was initially disappointed to discover that no information on the cover man was given, but the wealth of other information offered was more than enough to make up for that initial disappointment. Where were pictures of various bodybuilders and weightlifters, result from weightlifting and bodybuilding competitions, and an article about the 1960 Olympic Champion weightlifter from Poland, Ireneusz Palinski.
In those early stages of my discovery of the iron game, I shared the common misconception of many beginners that outward muscle size (that which is apparent to the naked eye) and strength were closely correlated. Though weightlifting was clearly regarded as the true measure of strength by the magazine's writers, it seemed esoteric. What, after all, was a snatch or clean and jerk(C&J)? Why did some of the men doing these lifts have their feet placed with one well forward and the other well behind? Why were others sitting in a deep squat position? Surely these could not be positions for exerting maximal strength.
It took a significant amount of additional reading for me to begin to piece together the difference between weightlifting and bodybuilding (there was no competitive powerlifting to speak of in those days) and to realize that if what I really wanted was the maximum in strength, weightlifting was the sport for me. Some months later, I started to train with a set of weights that my father made for me out the steel that he used in his boilermaking business. my early efforts were rather crude and when others heard what I was doing, they began to bombard me with stories of hernias, stunted growth, back injuries and other sorts of catastrophes that supposedly happened to all weightlifters. Some of these ''experts'' even suggested that weightlifting and bodybuilding publications consisted or propaganda issued by barbell manufactures and that their advice therein was therefore not to be trusted. Since I could no one who could give me any advice from real experience, my parents were really against my lifting weights and since I wasn't sure (from the little reading that I'd done) that I knew what I was doing, or that the voices of doom weren't correct, my participation in the sport came to a temporary halt. However, i continued to learn what I could about weight training and the development of strength.
With my weightlifting placed on hold, I directed my energies to my other athletic loves of swimming, handball, wrestling and football, finally decided to concentrate on football as I entered my teenage years. I was at this time that I first tried to see how much I could lift. with a great struggle, I managed to clean and press 95 lb., at a bodyweight of approximately 135 lb..
Once I turned my full attention toward football, I realize that added strength and size could be of great value on the gridiron and that weight training could develop such strength. So once again my interest in weight training grew and I started to train with some degree of regularity. I searched every magazine and book I could find for items about weight training and football. But I couldn't help but read about the sport of weightlifting itself. Little by little, my desire for strength began to return to the foreground and I began to agonize over whether to become a weightlifter and to give up my football career. A series of events that transpired in a matter of weeks put and end to the false starts that had stretched across a period of nearly four years (from age 11 to age 15).
First, immediately after my initial season of high school football (during which I had taken time off from weight training because of the demands of daily football practice and some fairly rigorous academic studies) I tried myself out on the military press and found that I could make only 140lb.. (as compared with my pre-season best of 165 lb..) I had worked hard to get to my press up to 165, and such a drop-off was a bitter disappointment. Suddenly football seemed unproductive. I had trained long and hard to get in shape for football and then I had torn myself down by playing the game. Weightlifting, by contrast, seemed like a much more direct athletic activity - both the training and the performance in competition contributed toward the overall development of the body. This really made me think.
The second event that pushed me toward a career in weightlifting was a weightlifting exhibition given at my high school given by a former local champion and then administrator in the NYC school system, Julie Levy. At that exhibition, it was announced that there would be a weightlifting competition conducted at the school in several weeks. I went home to do some more hard thinking. Eventually, the combination over the strength loss I had suffered during the football season, the excitement caused by the exhibition and the anticipation of the coming competition virtually made the decision for me - weightlifting was to be my sport.
It was then, when I was just about to be presented with my first varsity ''letter'' by the football coach, that I told him and my teammates that my football career was over. they were shocked. i had been on e of the hardest workers on the team and many of the older and bigger players had become impressed with my strength. a number of them had gotten interested in weight training as an adjunct to football at my encouragement, an influence not appreciated by the coaches, who abhorred weight training, believing that it would make player musclebound, whatever that is (thirty years ago, weight training was not accepted in athletics in the way that it is today). most of my former teammates were quite supportive of my decision, but I was told by the coaches ''If you quit football you will quit a everything in life.'' I didn't care what they thought; I was embarking on a new career and my enthusiasm couldn't be restrained.
At this point, i had my goals set, but unbeknownst to me, I lacked two key ingredients needed to achieve success in weightlifting - the knowledge and the emotional support needed to perform the arduous training required to become top notch. then, quite by accident, the key to these important ingredients that i lacked appeared in the person of Danny Ruchames.
My first meeting with Danny was rather confrontational. i was standing in one of the basement hallways of my high school, in front of a flyers that announced the upcoming weightlifting competition. A friend and I were speculating about my prospects. Danny happened to overhear my claim of having in the past succeeded with a 165 pound military press and he challenged that claim.
I was appalled at his allegation of dishonesty and offered to show him that I could indeed do 16 if he was wiling to come to my house to watch me. It happened that he lived near my home, so he agreed to visit me the next day after school.
That next afternoon, to my chagrin, I was only able t press 155. Waiving of my embarrassed apologies, Danny indicated that He recognized one could not always perform ones best - but he felt that the 155 demonstrated the validity of my claim of 165. impressed with my ability, he then offered to introduce me to his former weightlifting coach, a man named Morris Weissbrot ( a congenital spinal defect had halted Danny's otherwise promising career some years earlier). Morris Weissbrot! I was in awe. Morris had recently written a series of articles in Strength & Health. The thought of training with such A famous authority was a dream some true. Danny and I agreed to make the trip to Lost Battalion Hall, the gym where Morris coached, later that week.
On Friday, January 14, 1966, I walked into the gym at Lost Battalion hall. There, I met Morris Weissbrot for the first time. He was a big man, warm, enthusiastic and friendly. i demonstrated my technique (or lack thereof) on the ''Olympic'' lifts.Morris quickly pointed out some of my numerous flaws, but he indicated that with hard work they could all be corrected. he showed me had me practice them on the spot. I literally practiced until my hands bled, with little sign of improvement. But as I left the gym that night, I knew that a lifelong search had come to an end. I had truly discovered the sport of weightlifting - the premier sport of strength and power. it was the end of one journey and the beginning of another.
It has been more than 30 years since I began my weightlifting journey. there have been plenty of bumps, detours and disappointments along the way. But, on balance, it has been a journey of unbounded joy. With all of the years that have passed, I am in as much in love with the sport as i was on the first day. this book is an outgrowth of that continuing love.Weightlifting is truly one of greatest sport ever conceived by the mind of a man or women. It is my profound hope that this book will help to make someones else's journey to weightlifting mystery smother, more direct and more far reaching than mine has been. if what is here is of value, it is because I have had the advantage of standing on the strong shoulders of those who have come before me - a position where it is much easier to see the realities of weightlifting. For sharing what I've learned, I expect little in return , *except that you do the same as I have done, along with so many before me. Once you have learned it, share the secrets of strength and weightlifting with all who will listen - keep the flame burning. It is in meeting the myriad challenges of weightlifting that we can discover and develop what is truly the best within us, the strength of mind and body that will challenge of weightlifting to mold your own characters into something far stronger than the steel you strive to overcome. Good luck in your own personal journey!
*I am a god enough businessman to realize that I am highly unlikely to make a great deal of money from a book on competitive weightlifting.Moreover, a share of the profits from the sale of this book (assuming there are any) will be used to pay for copies of the book that are donated to individuals of libraries throughout the country, or organizations that are promoting the sport of weightlifting. Therefore, the price you have paid for the book is in part of contribution of the future of weightlifting.
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