Press Schedules of the Champions
by Charles A. Smith
Gregory Novak’s Program
Novak believes in lots of hard work and then, when you feel like quitting, harder work. Not many men could stand up under the workout schedule of the Russian champion. Admirably favored by nature for the press, and originator of the modern Russian style, Novak made steady improvement every year. From 1938 to 1950 he increased the world record no less than 11 times. Commencing as a middleweight, Novak ended as a fully fledged middle heavyweight with a world record press of 316 ¼, a weight exceeded only by one man, Marvin Eder, who has pressed 350 once, and 320 three repetitions. Novak presses every day. On his three regular training days he works from 2 to 3 hours with snatches and jerks, then starts on his presses. Taking a low poundage he makes three or four presses, working up in 10 pound jumps. When he approaches his limit he gets in as many correct repetitions as possible, and then carries on without too much regard for style until it is absolutely impossible for him to get the weight away from the shoulders. On what he calls his non-training days, he uses the same system, but stops when he is using 80 percent of his best competition press.
The Training Program of John Davis
Until recently, the only man to hold every National, Olympic and World record, John Davis is recognized as the greatest Olympic weightlifter of the age. When his press was around 220, John used sets of 5 reps with 175 pounds up to ten sets. But finding his progress had come to a halt he reduced the number of repetitions to three, using 210 and experienced an immediate response. After his war service, he commenced training again, using ten sets of 2 reps, and from 200 pounds his press shot rapidly ahead until he reached 345 pounds. John revised his system and now uses 8 sets of 3 reps, dropping down to 8 sets of 2 reps a few weeks before a contest, and single repetitions a week before an event. According to his training partner, Len Peters,
The Training Program of Ronald Walker
The greatest lifter England ever developed, Ron seldom weighed over 200, and make his best lifts at a bodyweight of 195, pressing 282 ½.
The Training Program of Doug Hepburn
The amazing Hepburn is recognized as the greatest presser and strongest man the world has ever seen. Succeeding with a press-push of 470 pounds, a press of 420 from the shoulders, a bench press of 560 and a one hand military with 195, Doug is also the first man in history to press 400 pounds and bench 500 pounds and gives no sign of having reached his full powers. We can expect even more amazing feats of strength in the near future. Anything Doug can clean he can press, and it is because of this that he devotes a greater portion of his press training to the clean section. Here is how the World’s Strongest Man and greatest presser of all time is working to create a CLEAN and press of 400 pounds. Using a comparatively light weight in the clean to warm up and perfect form, he starts off with 270 pounds, 5 reps; jumps 20 to 30 pounds at a time until he is using 360 pounds. With his second warmup weight, around 290, he performs 3 reps, then 2 with 300, 2 with 320, 2 with 340 and finally 8 sets of 2 reps with 360. In each set the first weight is made from the floor and the rest from the hang. After the cleans are finished, Doug rests for 15 to 20 minutes then starts his press training. Contrary to the usual practice, he does not perform standing presses but sticks to the bench press off the chest. He has found this movement more than sufficient to increase overhead pressing strength if it is performed correctly, without any back arch or bounce off the chest. First he uses a light warmup weight, 300 pounds, 5 reps. He then increases the weight 20 to 30 pounds for a second warmup and again 20 to 30 pounds for a third warmup. Then he jumps into his regular training poundage, 430 for 6 sets of 3 reps, all pressed off the chest. Doug believes that too many cleans in addition to standing presses would tire his back, and this is one reason why he does not use standing presses. He ends his workout with squats, regarding this as a basic power movement and using 5 sets of 5 reps with 580 pounds.
Schedules will not work unless you do. Hard work is the greatest single factor contributing to press success, and coupled with determination and common sense, cannot fail to increase your best. Pay close attention to style. Style plus strength equals lifting success. If you begin to feel bored with a schedule you are using, take a couple of weeks off from it and use a different exercise. Press while seated from behind the neck or in the usual press position. Use the same system of sets and reps and when you have obtained everything possible from seated pressing, switch back to Olympic pressing. There is no reason why any man cannot press bodyweight and plenty why he can press more.