Pre-Steroid Super Man: Stan Stanczyk
Featured Strength Training Equipment: barbell, free weights, weightlifting belt, Olympic barbell, weight plates
Between 1946 and the 1952 Stan Stanczyk was undefeated in Olympic weightlifting. He won five straight world championships in three different weight classes. Stan won six straight national titles and he won a gold medal at the 1948 London Olympics. At the 1952 Olympics he was beaten by the Soviet, Trofim Lomakin. During his career he set eight world records and at various times held the world record in the snatch in the 148, 165 and 181 pounds classes. His best barbell snatch was 286 pounds weighing 175 done in 1952. His speed, quickness, flexibility and athletic reaction times were nothing short of phenomenal. His weight training template is worth study. The purity of results, free from the taint of performance enhancing drugs, makes study of the ancients important.
John "Osmo" Kiiha has done the world a favor by going to the trouble to write an informed essay on the subject of Stan Stanczyk and how he trained. Osmo lays out what Stan did to get so strong. What Stan did, and how he did it, is still important. Osmo lays out Stanscyk's training template in terrific detail and passes along Stan's strength strategies and Stan's strength knowledge. This is invaluable stuff. We learn how a significant strength ancestor got great. Implement and utilize some variant of Stan's ancient approach and you too will make rapid progress. Be aware that his methods were brutal. Stan used lots of volume and a lot of intensity: usually it is one or the other. Guys like Stan, Grimek, Eder and all the strength and muscle greats of the 30s, 40s, 50s and early 60s (when performance-enhancing drug use became widespread) conditioned their bodies to withstand prolonged, all-out training sessions. For those serious about improving in 2017, a careful study of Stan's methods and strategies from 1947, 70 years ago, is highly advised.
Stan won the world championships five straight times in three different weight classes. He won the Olympic gold medal in 1948 and sliver in 1952. In this photo, Stan is triumphant at the 1948 London Olympic Games.
"On my 286 lb. snatch in the Olympics I was one frame (move) faster than Shams in the 1936 Olympics. I was told that I was the quickest athlete in all the Olympics, when measured with tools and machines."
Stan Stancyk was born on May 10, 1925 in the provincial town of Armstrong, Wisconsin. Stan began his Olympic weightlifting career in 1941 under the expert guidance of Johnny Krill, a former Junior National 126 pound champion and place winner in many national events. Krill was instrumental in perfecting Stan's technique in the three lifts and helped plan the systematic training routines that led to Stan's success in later years. Stan burst onto the national scene in 1942 when at age 17 he took third place at the Senior Men's National championships. Weighing 145-pounds Stan pressed 195, snatched an astounding 225 and finished with a picture-perfect 275 pound clean and jerk.
Osmo goes on, "At age 21. Stan had his International debut at the 1946 World Championships in Paris, Stan reduced his bodyweight sixteen pounds and lifted in the 148 class. He pressed 231, snatched 253 and clean and jerked 325 for a new world record total. He defeated Swietilko of Russia by a whopping forty four pounds. In only his tenth contest Stan was crowned the champion of the world."
"Stan always started his weightlifting sessions with twenty minutes of stretching, twisting, loosening his muscles and exercising with light free weights before moving onto the heavy stuff." Stan was a split snatcher and arguably the fastest split-snatcher in history: he was timed by scientists of the day using crude devices and found to have faster reaction time than Olympic sprinters. He was extremely balletic and possessed the limber speed of an elite gymnast.
Stan Stanczyk's Training Diary
November 27, 1949, 4:50 pm, Yarrick's Gym, Oakland
Osmo recounts. "Stanczyk arrives and starts his workout with some leisurely warm ups. He does some stretching and some bending, he does some free hand calisthenics before chalking his hands thoroughly and getting serious…"
- At 4:50 p.m he puts on a weightlifting belt and presses a 205 lb. Olympic Barbell overhead for a flawless triple. He walks around and talks to two other boys. They jump in and press three reps.
- At 4:57 Stan presses 220 for 3. His grip is a thumbs-length from edge of barbell knurling. Stan says to me, 'I like to take my time working out, lift, talk, lift again, then talk some more.'
- At 5:03 Stan clean and presses 240 for a triple. He tells me he has pressed 303 for a single using some back bend. I pressed 325 with little knee movement.'
- At 5:10 p.m. Stan presses 260 for a single rep. Stan now strips weight plates off the barbell and next presses 205 for 5 reps. He says, 'I can't find the groove today. They feel heavy.'
- At 5:25 p.m Stan starts his snatches with 135 for 5 reps. The first rep is pulled high and each subsequent rep is pulled lower and lower.
- At 5:35 he snatches 205 for 3 reps. He drops lower and faster with each subsequent rep. He pulls from the hang position.
- At 5:40 he does 220 for a triple, again, dead-hang pulling between each rep.
- At 5:44 Stan snatches 250 x 2. He tries for a 3rd rep, but it got up and didn't hold.
- At 5:50 he snatches 264 for a single
- At 5:55 Stan attempts to snatch 275 - but drops it forward
- At 6:00 Stan begins deadlifts. Stan starts with 325 for five reps.
- At 6:03 he moves up to 415 for 5 reps.
- At 6:07 he finishes with 475 for one rep.
- At 6:10 Stan starts his clean and jerks with 275 for a single.
- "Don't fool around in the clean." He says. "Stay upright in the bottom position awhile, get comfortable. Then come up strong and straight.'
- At 6:13 and 6:16 he hits a clean and jerk with 290 for 1 then 305 for 1.
- At 6:19 pm he cleans 325 and spikes the jerk - but was unable to hold. Stan said, "I cleaned 360 twice weighing 165. My best official clean is 358.
- At 6:25 Stan begins barbell squats; going deep with 270 pounds for 20 (!) reps. "I like to do squats in the 5 to 10 rep range for power. My best deep knee bend is 405 for 5 reps."
- At 6:30 pm Stan does a set of 5 squat reps with 325. His stance width is about a foot apart between his heels. He does these squats deep and precise.
- A 6:35 he hits a 355 squat for a clean and low triple.
- At 6:45 pm Stan does 355 for eight reps in the front squat.
- He is done at 6:50 pm - exactly two hours after commencing.
Stan trained three times a week incorporating all three Olympic lifts into each workout. Initially he used the 5-4-3-2 rep scheme, adding ten pounds or so each subsequent set. After he had completed the three lifts, Stan might do some other exercises to aide his development: such as press behind the neck, rowing, push-ups between chairs, reverse curls, shoulder shrugs, abdominal raises and wall pulley exercises.
During training, he always attempted to perform his Olympic lifts flawlessly, with perfect timing and blazing speed. Prior to any lifting Olympic lift contest, Stan abandoned all other exercises and concentrated on the three lifts exclusively and strenuously, seeking to exceed his limits. Stan tried to average nine hours of sleep a day and he usually took 3 or 4 days off before a contest. He wanted to be completely rested and in top form. Weather permitting, Stan also sun bathed when possible.
At the 1947 national championships Stan actually snatched 280 and was given three white lights for a good lift. He refused the lift, stating that his knee had touched (and illegality) and he did not want the world record: his conscience and sense of morality would not let him accept an illegal lift that had inadvertently passed. Stan trained the Olympic lifts three months out of the year. The rest of the time he did bodybuilding. As a bodybuilder Stan won Mr. Miami, Mr. South, Mr. Florida and placed sixth at the 1949 Mr. America contest.
About the Author
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 numerous 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 here.