Olympic Weightlifting Champion Yuri Vlasov article by Marty Gallagher at IRON COMPANY

Deciphering Resistance Training Routines

Is studying the ways by which champions created themselves passe?

How I learned to squat: in the above 1962 photo, Olympic weightlifting champion Yuri Vlasov demonstrates archetypical squat technique doing casual reps with 600-pounds. He wears street shoes, argyle socks, no lifting belt, and goes ass-on-heels every rep. Olympic weightlifters squat super deep to develop the ability to arise with a 450-pound barbell when pinned in the bottom of a successful full squat clean. On a 1956 State Department trip, Paul Anderson had to explain to the Russians how to construct wooden squat racks for his use. He blew their mind’s rep squatting 750. On his next visit to Russia squat racks were everywhere.

When I was in 4th grade, the principal at my elementary school told me that I had scored “extraordinarily high” in logic. “What is logic?” I asked, perplexed. She was unable to render a logical definition. Logic, as it turns out, causes a young boy intent on radical physical transformation to develop a magnetic attraction towards the study and analysis (and practice) of training routines used by champion Olympic weightlifters, powerlifters, and bodybuilders. I gleaned my training information from four muscle magazine sources: Strength and Health, Iron Man, Muscle Builder, Muscular Development and All-American athlete.

The muscle magazines were seductive lures for young alpha aspirants in search of dramatic physical transformation. The muscle magazines proved a natural transition from child world into boy world: each magazine drew you in with visual inspiration, photos of rocked-out bodybuilders, massive Olympic weightlifters, and thick, insanely dense powerlifters – superhuman dudes – for real – not comic book, not pretend. Give me some of that!

The muscle mags provided transformational strategies. The reoccurring format was to have an inspiring photo spread on the featured bodybuilder or lifter complete with a biography highlighting victories, records, low points, triumphs, and future plans. These articles featured “training splits,” numerical descriptions of the workout used by these incredible superhumans. The workouts were the key: this was the secret sauce, the methodologies of the Gods that unlocked my own transformation.

While a scrawny teenage boy can’t mimic the poundage used by the champions, he sure as hell could mimic the exercises selected, the techniques used, the sets, reps, frequency, and pacing. In this way, a teen can “ghost” and “test drive” the champion’s training routine. This is how I schooled myself: I selected the champions I wanted to emulate, studied their training routines, and then did them as written.

My limited informational sources were uniformly excellent. So much of that ancient wisdom has stood the test of time. Those ancient athletes in that innocent age did their earnest best to pass along the information that allowed them to morph from ordinary into extraordinary. The popularity of the classic athlete/exercise template format became so popular it spawned spin-off books with the same mission statement. Here are three samples…

Bodybuilding Champion Robbie Robinson article by Marty Gallagher at IRON COMPANY

Robbie Robinson had the greatest torso in modern bodybuilding history, his back development was equally sensational, his (relatively) weak leg development kept him from dominating the world.

Bodybuilding, Robbie Robinson: Want peaked biceps, titanic triceps, barndoor wide shoulders, and a tiny waist? Here is Robbie’s shoulder/arm routine circa 1978…oh, and he did this three times a week…

Shoulders Sets Reps Details
Standing dumbbell press 6 6-8 add weight each set
Seated overhead machine press  6 8-10 add weight each set
Heavy dumbbell laterals 6 6-8 supinate at top
Bent over cable laterals 6 12-15 continuous tension


Biceps and Triceps Sets Reps Details
Barbell cheat curls 8 6-8 progressive poundage
Incline dumbbell curls 6 8 strict form
Concentration curls 6 10 continuous tension
EZ-bar curls 6 12 high rep final bi-pump
Dips 6 10-12 some sets weighted
Lying French press barbell 6 8 progressive sets
1-arm tricep stretch 6 10 lie on bench
Tricep pushdowns 6 8-10 cable pushdowns


24 sets of shoulders, 50 sets for arms, this routine is done THREE times a week, 150 cumulative sets per week for arms alone, 75 sets per week for shoulders. No super-setting until two weeks before the Olympia.

Olympic Weightlifting Champion Norbert Schemansky in Marty Gallagher article at IRON COMPANY

“Ski” rep pressing 365. Despite being an Olympic champion, he was forced to work menial day jobs to support his family. A “pocket heavyweight,” he could not compete with the 350-pound state-supported Russian lifters.

Olympic Weightlifting, Norbert Schemansky: “Ski” was a load of explosive muscle. A 195-pound world champion who pushed his bodyweight up to 265, he clean-and-pressed 420 at age 41. He snatched a 363-pound world record in 1963. An Olympic champion and bronze medal winner, this man had a 25-year career.

Monday   Reps and Weight
Low Snatch Pulls (in power rack) 3 reps with 315, 365 and 400
Low Clean Pulls (in power rack) 3 reps with 375, 450 and 525
High Snatch Pulls   (in power rack) 3 reps with 315, 365 and 400
High Clean Pulls (in power rack) 3 reps with 400, 475 and 550
Press (after clean)   3 reps with 250, 275, 300 and 325
Press   3 reps with 250, 275 and 300
Squats   3 reps with 315, 405, 455 and 505
Quarter Squats   3 reps with 700, 3 reps with 800
Press Lockouts   3 reps with 275, 315, 365 and 400
Wednesday   Off
Power Snatch   2 reps with 205, 225, 245, and 265
Power Clean   2 reps with 300, 320, 340 and 360
Press   5 reps with 205, 225, 250, and 275
Friday   Off
Three Olympic lifts   doubles and singles up to 90 per cent. Sometimes he does squats and/or deadlifts


“I continually work on style and speed. I don’t attempt maximum singles in the gym. I concentrate on doubles and find this saves a lot of nervous energy. Some members of the U.S. lifting team couldn’t believe how much more I could lift in a contest, where it counted; I was never burned out. Doubles also develop technique. Attempts at limit weights should be restricted to once every three or four weeks. One should not work any more than 80 to 90% of his limit in training. A good way to practice {Olympic lift} form is to take a weight about 60% of limit and do a snatch with it; now stand erect and while holding the weight overhead sink down, once or twice, into the bottommost low position. This can be done on both split and squat style.”

Larry Pacifico, Joe Ladiner and Fred Hatfield in Marty Gallagher article at IRON COMPANY

Murderers' Row, Larry Pacifico, Joe Ladiner, Fred Hatfield, backstage at the conclusion of the 220-pound class at the 1985 nationals. Fred squatted 880 weighing 220. Joe won, Jim Cash took 2nd and Larry bombed out.

Powerlifting, Larry Pacifico: For a decade, Larry Pacifico was the world’s greatest powerlifter. He shattered a hundred world records. He bench-pressed 620-pounds (raw) weighing 235, 585 at 220-pound, 550 as a 198er.

July 1978 six sessions in 12-days (poundage is after warm-up sets) bodyweight 225 (Larry stands 5’5”)

July 26th squat 615x2, 705x2, 740x1 bench press 505x2, 540x1, wide-grip 435x5 2-sets

July 28th deadlift 615x2, 720x2 2-sets, 720x1, stiff-leg deadlift 525x4 2-sets

July 29th chins 4x8 4-sets, lat pulldowns 3x10, seated row 3x10, reverse curls 3x10

July 30th squat 615x2, 705x2, 740x2, bench press 415x4, 505x2, 540x2, 415x10 nosebreakers 255x2 2-sets

August 2nd squat 615x9, bench press 450x6

August 6th squat 615x2, 705x1, 800 (barely missed) 655x3 bench 495x2, 560x1 Deadlift 740x2 2-sets

Pacifico squatted four times in twelve days: 740x1 on July 26. 740x2 four days later on the 30th. 615x9 two days later and a close miss with 800 four days after that. On August 24th, at the National powerlifting championships Pacifico, weighing 220, squatted 783 for a world record.

Larry bench pressed four times in twelve days: 505x2 and 540x1 on July 26th. On July 30th 505x2, 540x2, 415x10. The next day he benches 450x6 and on August 6th bench presses 495x2 and 560x1

Larry deadlifted twice in twelve days: 720x2 2-sets, 720x1 on July 28th. On August 6th, 740x2 2-sets

I wonder if the same hunger for training minutia still exists? I would suspect modern boys, trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, might become overwhelmed with choices. A magazine was tangible and precious, I knew the exact day each of the four magazines would arrive at the newsstand. I would happily, gleefully, walk the 2.5 miles each direction with my .50 cents (.75 for Iron Man) to the Wheaton News Stand. I hungered for each months’ bounty of new and inspirational information. The new month bought me new ideas.

Is there a modern thirst for the training modes and methods of the 2023 champions that mirrors my own immersion in the training of the champions of the 1960s? You would think that with modern access to the Delphic Oracle that is Google, with informational access never better, one would assume that sophisticated information gathering would create a new wave of super athletes, an informational rising tide that lifts all physiological boats. The opposite effect seems to have occurred: the flood of available information has (apparently) made finding the golden needle in the transformational haystack akin to drinking from a firehose.

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About the Author - Marty Gallagher
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of multiple books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher Biography for a more in depth look at his credentials as an athlete, coach and writer.