Lowering the Split Jerk

by Roger LaPointe

Magazine cover shot of Norbert Schemansky in a deep split.

Ask any 5 year old kid what a strongman does and you will probably see a fair demonstration of a clean & jerk. It is the best way to get the heaviest weight over your head.

Now look for the most efficient lifters of all time. The very best will drop low on their splits.

Splits?  What are you talking about?

I don’t mean splits like a martial artist or a cheer leader. I’m talking about split jerks. However, if you want to see some real skill based strength, watch the old time splitters and learn from them. One of the very best was Norbert Schemansky. He did all three lifts with a split: Snatch, Clean and Jerk. He was so good that the entire Russian Olympic Weightlifting team changed their style to match his, in 1956. You will see in the old photos that Norb had his back leg knee no more than an inch or two off the ground. Here is the theory: basically, the lower you drop under the bar, the less you have to explosively move the bar up.

3 Ways to Get Lower Split Jerks
1. Lunges. Do as many variations as you can come up with, but the barbell in the top clean position will be the most useful.
2. Half of the lift is done with the upper body. Make sure you stretch your chest and shoulders. The best way to do it is with a broom stick.
3. Make sure you do lots of split stretches for your legs. You need to focus not just on your hip flexors, but your hamstrings and low back.

Yes. Low back flexibility is essential for the side with the leading leg. Norb used to practice his Snatches and Cleans with a knee touch. Trust me, you aren’t going to get more extreme than that. Here is some great further info on this subject:

Norb’s Book (We have only 3 left.)

All the best,
Roger LaPointe
“Today is a good day to lift.”

The Apollon Wheels

by Al Myers

Norb Schemansky lifting the Apollon Wheels

The Apollon Wheels were made famous by the legendary French Professional Strongman, Louis Uni AKA Apollon, in the late 1800’s. Apollon used these in his strongman stage shows and billed them as the UNLIFTABLE Challenge Barbell. The Apollon Wheels were an old set of railroad car wheels connected by an axel. The Apollon Wheels weigh 366 pounds (total weight). The diameter of the Wheels are 26 inches and the diameter of the axel is 1.93 inches. The width of the Wheels are 4 inches wide and the length of the axel is under 6 feet (several sources report different lengths).

Who has lifted the original Apollon Wheels?

Besides Apollon himself, only three individuals have ever lifted the original Apollon Wheels. The first to lift the Apollon Wheels was Charles Rigoulet on March 3rd, 1930. Rigoulet, a Frenchman, was a World Weightlifting Champion and is credited with the first 400 pound Clean and Jerk in history!!! The next to lift the Apollon Wheels was John Davis, of the United States, on September 13th, 1949. Davis was also a World Champion Weightlifter and was the first man to Clean and Jerk 400 pounds under official meet conditions. Norb Schemansky, of the United States, was the third to lift the Apollon Wheels on October 17th, 1954, just one week after winning the World Championships. After Schemansky had the Wheels to his chest – he jerked the Apollon Wheels three times in a row!!!

Several modern day strength athletes have lifted Apollon Wheels replicas, but only these three lifters (or 4 if you count Apollon) lifted the original Apollon Wheels overhead. Today, the Apollon Wheels reside at the Musee National du Sport (a museum) in Paris, France.