Archive of a Long Conversation

The following is a series of discussion between me, Brooks Kubik, and Andy Fochtman discussing the programs. You can find them for free here: These are unedited and confusing and will remain that way.

York Course Number 3 (Do one set of each exercise, 5 reps minimum, or do 5

singles without too much rest between each single):

Warmup…Flip snatches
1. One arm jerk (w/ bb)
2. One arm snatch (w/ bb)
3. Standing press
4. Squat
5. One arm overhead squat
6. High pull (to belt height)
7. Press behind neck, standing
8. Power clean or dead hang clean
9. Jerk
10. Dead hang or regular snatch

Hoffman suggested that lifters use four different schedules:

(1) Course no. 1, consisting of one set each of 10 standard barbell exercises, performed for one set of 10-15 reps.

(2) Course no.2, consisting of a similar course, but using different exercises. For example, press behind neck instead of standing press.

(3) Course No. 3, consisting of 10 repetition weightlifting movements, performed for one set of 5-10 reps each.

(4) Course no. 4, consisting of a heavy day where you worked up to your max on the Olympic lifts (including the clean and press and the one hand snatch), along with the bent press. This was a 5/4/3/2/1 day for many lifters, although the sets and reps were very much at the lifter’s discretion.

You would do course no. 4 on Saturday. If you were really strong and energetic on that day, you’d follow course no. 4 with one of the other courses.

You would rest on Friday and Sunday, i.e., the day before and the day after the heavy day.

On Monday, you would take a medium day by doing course
no. 1 or course no. 2, or both of them.

On Wednesday or Thursday you would do course no. 3, the repetition weightlifting course. This was the “medium” day.

On the other two days (Tuesday and either Wednesday or Thursday, depending on when you did course no. 3), you would have a “tinkering’ day where you did light dumbbell moves, Iron Boot work, gut work, grip work, headstrap exercises, and cable (chest expander) work. (These were sort of what we now would call “active rest” days.)

Thus, the York program had different workouts, different exercises, a combination of Olympic weightlifting and “body-building”, different set/rep schemes, Ol work for reps and OL work for singles, competition lifts in split or squat style and “power” style moves (e.g., power clean or power snatch), lifting from the hang, active rest days and a combination of heavy, light and medium days.

In a sense, those simple old courses were far more complex and much better thought out than 99% of the courses you see written up nowadays.

If you use a three day a week pressing program and want to continue to do so, you can do a simple heavy/medium/light schedule by dropping 10% for the medium day and 20% for the light day–or just drop 10-15 pounds for the medium day and 20-25 for the light day. It varies from lifter to lifter, but here’s the key: if you usually feel strong and aggressive on the heavy days and you get good workouts on those days and are gradually moving up in weight, then you are doing things right. Otherwise, you are working too heavy on the other two days of the week.

York “Weight Lifting” Course

The following course is from “York Advanced Methods of Weight Training” I recently sent a copy of the booklet to Dan John. He commented that the weightlifting course in this book, in his opinion, appeared to be better than the traditional “York 3” that appeared in the “Four Famous York Courses” that many of you are familiar with.

I thought you’d be interested in seeing this version. I’ll use the modern terms for the exercise in most cases and where it differs from the booklet, I’ll place their name in quotation marks

Andy Fochtman

1. Clean without using legs or back
(this is a clean using only the top pull, trap shrug followed by the arm whip. Dan might know an actual name for this. I don’t)

2. Power Clean and Press “Continuous Pull Up and Press”
3. Snatch
4. Push Press “Two arm push”. This is actually a variation where you lean forward, shove the bar up and lean back to get under it. I don’t like this version and prefer the push press

5. High Pull to Chin “Pull up to chin”
6. Jump Squat “Rapid Bouncing Leaping Squat” Fairly light weights in this one

7. Upright Row
8. Press Front and Back. Watch Rocky II if you don’t know what these are. Traditional standing press followed by press behind neck, alternating from rep to rep

9. Power Clean
10. Jerk
11. Deadlift with extended Pull. “Deadlift to Continental Position”

This is similar to what Doug Hepburn called “High Pulls” in his courses, but different from the more explosive versions found in current olympic style programs. Basically, a deadlift, but you keep pulling to waist height. Calls for 20-40% less weight. Brooks Kubik likes to substitute standard high pulls to belt height for these

12. Front Squats “Deep knee bend as in squat cleaning”

1 set, 5-10 reps each.

This and the original York 3 are said to be the hardest and most result producing courses available

Comments from Dan John:

From the book, I would recommend what he called “Heavy and Light” training. Total of 15 reps, but the first set 7-8, rest “lighten” the bar, then get reps up to 15.

Maybe do a set of 5, back off to 80 percent, and do a set of five. You could even do 3 sets of 3, or 2 sets of 3.

For an O lifter, this would be general prep training, but anyone could do this program. You know, I really like this one from the book and the one arm program. I would dump a couple of the one arm lifts (two kinds of curls), but it is great.

One thing I missed the first time I went through the book was Hoffman’s week.

Let’s assume three days a week:
One day: Hard Day. Heavy and Light program, but these are truly heavy, right on your bests.

Day off before the hard day and after the hard day.

Another Day: Medium Day. Do the York Three again, but with weights (or even an extra set…three by five, maybe) that don’t tax your “nerve.”

The other day: Tinkering Day. I miss understood this: you do grippers, machines, one arm stuff (whatever you like) iron boots, machines, neck work, …kind of the training I do with my friend, Lane Cannon. Maybe sandbags or stones.

As I read this it made perfect sense. This is how one could blend “normal” training with Dino work or Highland Games training.

I’m not an expert on this stuff, but it makes sense to me.

An Excellent Heavy Dumbbell Course”–from York

This course appeared on page 36 in “York Advanced Methods of Weight Training” by Bob Hoffman, published in 1951. We get a fair amount of questions about workouts on limited equipment so here’s one for all you guys out there who get stranded with a pair of dumbbells.

1. Thumbs up curl-two dumbbells (Hammer Curls)
2. Two Dumbbell Press
3. Two Dumbbell Swing
4. Bent-arm Pullover–two dumbbells
5. Side Bend with one dumbbell
6. Deep Knee Bend and Press–two dumbbells
7. Bent-over Rowing–one dumbbell
8. Dumbbell Supine Press
9. Raise on Toes–one dumbbell
10. Continuous Pull up and press
11. Situp on bench with dumbbell
12. Deep Knee Bend–dumbbells overhead

Andy Fochtman

This is excerpted from “York Advanced Methods of Weight Training” by Bob Hoffman, 1951

pgs 16-17
With the three days a week training system, Monday, Wednesday and Friday are the usal training days. This sytem leaves the week end free to spend with one’s family, or to enjoy other activities….

If a man works quite hard with his muscles, (Note by Andy…this refers to manual labor and not training) I would recommend a somewhat different three day training method. One limit day to build strength, for handling heavy weights for a few repetitions under the Heavy and Light System or other form of York Set system. There should be another good training day, working up to at least 12 repetitions, and an easy or tinkering day of training. A man who works hard physically must be careful that he does not make too much demand upon his nerve, he must train without straining, yet gains are made only when demands are made upon the muscles, so he MUST MAKE DEMANDS.(emphasis added) We are outlining a method of training which will bring excellent results without too much effort on the part of the trainee. When you make satisfactory gains with one of our suggested training systems, that is a good method to continue. If you don’t gain as you desire, change your system, perhaps moderate your effort for a time, remembering that fewer movements and heavier weights are not tiresome, not as nerve force consuming as working up to higher repetitions. Heavier work builds a surplus of strength, nerve force and energy.

Some men prefer to train 3 1/2 times per week, or every other day. The only objection to this method is that training comes on a different day each week, on Sunday every two week

Hoffman mentions that he used this system to build 30″ thighs. Use this program 2 days a week with 1-2 other days devoted to upper body work

1 set each 10-12 reps, never more than 15, with the exception of calf work. Hoffman believed super high reps during leg work, gave a man dead legs. That is, no spring.

1. Full Squat on Toes w/barbell or dumbbells
(150 lbs should be enough for an advanced man)
2. Calf Raise
3. Full Squat
4. German Goose Step (essentially marching German style with weight on shoulders)
5. Partial Squat* 6-12″ At least 15 reps
6. Straddle Hop 20-50 reps
7. Leg Press while Lying**
8. Running with weights, hill sprints, stairsteps, etc…either a barbell on back, or dumbbells in hand
9. Lifter’s Choice: Rapid Full Squats or Overhead Squats
10. Compound Exercise Four exercises 6-12 reps per exercise; no rest between. You may choose your own exercises. Example: Full Squat, Straddle Hop, Rapid Squat, Calf Raise

Thus you have completed a leg and calf workout of 13 sets, using a variety of exercises. If Iron Boots were available, it was suggested to continue with the Iron Boot Course (This was reprinted in an issue of the Dinosaur Files)

Note that you also alternated a heavy thigh exercise with a calf exercise to keep the program moving smoothly

*”The lowering is done slowly and the legs are straightened with a very quick movement…It is one of the finest exercises known. It is especially beneficial to those who wish to star as weight lifters. As most advanced barbell men will use at least twice their bodyweight, in reality the legs become accustomed to supporting three times the usual amount of carrying weight. This is one of the exercises which will make you light on your feet and enduring”

Note by Andy: Please note that this is not a super-heavy partial rack squat where the lift is grinded up. It trains the quick dip recovery that you use when you push press among other benefits. The goal is training for “spring” with a fairly heavy weight. Try it in both the front and back squat position, but don’t neglect the full range lifts

**Note by Andy: If you don’t have a leg press machine substitute hip belt squats or trap bar deadlifts for a direct hit on the legs without much back involvement

From “How to Build Super Strength, Health and Development with the York Leg Developing Course”
by Bob Hoffman, 1943

I plan five off days after every three weeks. Often, I max the sixth day and discover that those five days were as valuable as training. I learned about this years ago from a Soviet thrower who argued that the single biggest problem with American throwers was chronic overtraining. Bondurchuk had an interesting training idea of going 100% one week, 80% in both volume and intensity and “15%” the third week…active rest of volleyball, swimming and fun stuff. It was called “load leaping,” and the idea was to keep trying to pop up on the week after the 15% training with bigger P.R.s.

There is a book called “Consistent Winning” that talks about what you are trying to do with long term, no stop training. The author argues for several total rest days in the middle of severe training.

Recently, I went down to Las Vegas to compete against two of my good friends, Mike and Mindy. They have been training double sessions since June to prep up for a run at 2004 (Olympics). They have really improved their technique and ability to handle a load, but when the ring judge called their name, you could see that the long haul had eroded their ability to “snap.” Whether the muscles had lost their stretch reflex or their nervous system just couldn’t rewire a big throw, both struggled with nailing a big mark.

So, if you are in a sport that demands high performance, you need to take time off in some kind of intelligent plan to relax and reload. You could probably just keep putting in workouts, but you seem to have found the problem with that already.

If you do the WOD here, truly do the rest day as a rest day. Of course, if you are overtrained (high morning pulse, flu-like feelings, lethargy, generally pissed off, trouble relaxing and sleeping, difficulty concentration), you may need more than a day or two. The Soviets used to take two months (!!!) of active rest before starting a new year. Today, many O lifters will take a full year off of training (that is serious) before starting a three year push towards the Olympics.

It usually all gets back to your goals. As a thrower, I have some built in things (the season, for example) that allows me to float my training up and down. Maybe you could find a natural way to do this in your training.

It’s funny, but at 19, I would go to track meets and watch my competition start to get really wired from taking amphetemines before throwing…plus all the anabolics they did during the week.

If the internet would have been around then (before I invented it), I would have posted a question exactly like yours…if you follow my point.

My wife and I have a little motto, if you want our Christmas Card drop me an address as we always have it on the card, “It’s not where you start, it is where you finish.”

(Lincoln will remember the Nationals where I was the first to start in the Clean and Jerk among the top three…)

Any time you decide to begin the path of sports, health, or just that odd word “fitness,” you have to realize that each day and each diet decision do add up. My goals are fairly simple: at age 46, I strive to keep at the same level I was at 19. (It is actually funny in a way that you are 19 as I think about this…)

So, that, for me, is keeping my snatch over 240, Clean and Jerk over 300 and discus over 160. Each year: done, done, and done. I also train about 1/5 as much as I used to train, too.

Part of the reason is that I established good habits at 19 that continue to Bless me at 46. To me, this is the real competition, will you be able to keep on doing what you love to do even with the pressures of a career (two for me), spouse, children, mortgage, bills, pets, lawns et al?

Now, your buddies, as our other friends have posted, have ideally set themselves up to follow in the path of the balloon people that we see in Disneyville and Las Vegas. I’m not being cruel, but I sometimes want to scream when I deal with people who tell me that they can’t get in shape because:
1. They had a bad high school P.E. teacher
2. They are addicted to chocolate
3. Insert bizarre reason of the day.

I feel it starts with the choices that one makes in the teen years.

So, I feel like I am grandpa here by the way, but I do want you to keep your eye on the longer road ahead. When my dad and mom first met Dick Notmeyer (He was about 46 then), they couldn’t believe the kind of shape he was in. But, Dick ate a lot of protein, lifted, challenged himself and laughed a lot!

So, I role modeled him. I always opted for health when given a choice (well…almost always) and reap the benefits today.

Sermon over, but I understand exactly what you are saying.

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