Photo courtesy of Weider Health and Fitness

Bodybuilding was not a very popular activity in the mid-1930s, when I was just getting started in it. There were no Nationals or USA amateur contests; nor was there an Ironman, Arnold Classic or Olympia for pros to compete in. In fact, there wasn’t even such a thing as organized professional bodybuilding. Likewise, we didn’t follow a strict training regimen — I hadn’t yet developed my Weider Training Principles. Instead, we employed a hybrid system that consisted of some exercises meant for building muscular size, with others designed to create power and strength. We basically made things up as we went along, and as it turned out, the system worked well for us.

We would perform, and be judged on, a variety of lifts that included the clean and jerk, clean and press, snatch, the bent press, the one-handed snatch and the two-handed anyhow lift. These last four exotic-sounding exercises have since faded into obscurity, but they, along with their two modern-day counterparts, all served a purpose beyond being yardsticks of strength.

Weightlifting, as opposed to bodybuilding movements, makes unique demands on your body that can be of great value to a present-day bodybuilder, even if the lifts themselves get sideways glances from fellow gym members. Because such lifts require not just strength, but power — as in the ability to move a weight explosively — plus balance and control, they go a long way toward strengthening one’s core muscles, which ultimately determine how much one can lift in bodybuilding movements.

When I was 17 years old, I could snatch 210 pounds at a bodyweight of only 165, and clean and jerk more than 250. That’s a lot of weight for a wiry kid with no formal training in proper lifting technique. I would bet a lot of you reading this could lift more if you gave it a try, and I’d be willing to bet that the results you’d see after a few months of incorporating such lifts into your routine would at least equal my own.

What were my results? Besides strength, power, balance and control, I gained an immeasurable amount of selfconfidence for my ability to outlift most of those with whom I came in contact. I also laid a solid foundation upon which I would later build muscle, by way of bodybuilding training. Because I could press well over 200 pounds above my head from a standing position, it was relatively easy for me to perform reps of the prone press (bench press) with that same weight. Likewise, I found adding muscle to my frame a simpler matter than my previously untrained friends did. I ended up weighing around 200 solid pounds by the early 1950s, which wasn’t bad for a man of my stature in those days. I have weightlifting, as much as bodybuilding, to thank for it.

So, I encourage you to do a little research and learn the various lifts we used to perform. Then consider incorporating them into your routine. I am sure you’ll find that the variety does your body good.