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On Constant Weight Training

June 4, 2002 10:44 AM

Many congratulations poured my way from All-Round buddies at last year's USAWA national championships when I topped the platform for the final lift of the morning session with a new national record hack lift.Of course they were anxious to learn of the training methods that had added a whopping 70 pounds to the personal best of an old goat like me! All were shocked to discover that my hack lift training for the past 4 months or so involved the same light 200# barbell, with special flex bands attached to give a measure of ballistic work. But I had done no cycling, no progression,and no fumbling around with mind numbing percentages.

With tongue in cheek, and perhaps as a good natured barb directed at Pavel, I often tell lifting buddies that all too familiar programs revolving around cycling and always changing percentages was a devious Russian plot aimed at destroying American olympic lifting! Further,I tell them, the scheme worked to perfection - before our lifters heard of these concepts in the 40s and 50s they were the best team in the world; after they learned of these "secrets",well, we rarely even place a lifter in the top ten in international competition!Our old time heros such as Anderson, Schemansky ,Kono,Davis,Stanko, etc. stayed with the same relative heavy weights all the time,rarely kept a journal of changing poundage (cause the amounts rarely changed!), and kept making gains!!

Also we can look at the early history of weightlifting and note that those that employed kettlebells and dumbbells for much of their training never changed poundages, simply because they couldn't get the extra or heavier equipment! Herman Goernor, arguably the strongest all-round lifter of all time, used the same kettlebell scheme(working up the rack from 30#ers to110#ers for only 1 or 2 reps in a series of exercises) with the same poundages throughout his entire career. Yet he made astounding gains, some records never having been approached in 80 years!! It is reported that Herman did not believe in going for peak exertion, ever, just a nice comfortable heft of relatively heavy weights.

As I approach middle age ( tho some tell me 56 is old age already!!!) I can speak with some experience in informing other mature lifters (this term speaks to any age where a trainee has acquired good basic strength- Goernor and Saxon were there at 14 yrs of age, having started HEAVY lifting when they were 9 or 10!) that peak strength has already been acquired,therefore, only moderate poundage ever need be employed to maintain and even make slight gains! And the best way to ENJOY training, maintain freedom from injury, and keep your marbles without employing complex mathematical formulas for ever changing lifting percentages ( I'm not just being lazy here- I taught math for 32 years!), is to simply stick with CONSTANT WEIGHT for long periods of time for your exercises!

Need more convincing? During his youth our USAWA national president,Howard Prechtel,once decided to up his bodyweight from 220 to 300#! It took him a full year ,during which time he only used a pair of dumbells weighing 115#each for low rep presses and heavy constant weight partial power rack squats. He immediately destroyed long standing press and squat records on his return to the lifting platform! Another lifting pal of mine from college only seemed to ever have time to do a few sets of power cleans with the same old 230# barbell, the only lift and poundage I ever saw him train with, yet would enter contests and clean and jerk 300 or deadlift 450 easily as a lightweight! And while I was actively powerlifting I nervously watched a young up and coming middleweight who closely approached the state squat record which I'd held for 10 years. He stayed with 5 sets of 5 reps with 405# in his squat training without ever any change, yet his competitive poundage kept creeping up. Joe eventually acheived 540 (no, he never did quite get my record!) back in a time when supersuits were unknown and drugs unheard of in our area.

These days I train almost entirely with fixed poundages, and relatively light ones at that, utilizing Dick Hartzell's Flex Bands along with the barbell,dumbell,or kettlebell to increase resistance near completion of a lift and to train acceleration.Even though it does not seem possible at this stage of life, my competitive all-round lifts are increasing steadily and faster than any time previously! And a note to some of you that may feel there are no "new oceans to explore" simply because you can flip around the heaviest solid kettlebell-stay with your favorite piece of equipment and you'll always find new strength; if it worked for old Herman Goernor it'llbe good to you too!

?John McKean won multiple local,state,national powerlifting titles,masters olympic national titles, and national and world all-round titles during the past 40 years. He has written extensively for all major strength magazines starting with Strength & Health under John Grimek and was featured in Dr. Len Schwartz' famous book Heavyhands Walking. A certified instructor in flex band training and American Combatives, Mr. McKean offers his consulting services at