What is the “Right Way”?

by Thom Van Vleck

I had the privledge of doing an article a few years ago that included Al Oerter. Many know that Al won 4 Gold medals, breaking the Olympic record each time. No one has dominated the Olympics quite the way Al did and just before he passed away he granted me an interview and I did a story on him for Milo magazine. In the process, we corresponded for some time afterwards and talked training many times. For my article, I requested and received several good photos of Al. I asked specifically for one of him training and this is the one I he sent:

Al Oerter bench pressing off a chest pad.

I liked the photo for a lot of reasons and sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. You will note that he has a 50lbs scale weight on the end of the bench. This was to help keep the bench down as Al said he always benched very dynamically….or should I say the “ol’ bounce and heave” or “cheat bench”. You will note the pading on his chest. He told me it was to cushion his chest as he really slammed the weight down and then drove his hips as high as he could to complete each rep. He also told me he used a weight light enough to explode off his chest and he also told me that this was his intended purpose. Being a thrower, he wanted to be explosive, so he took the most undynamic of lifts and turned it into something very dynamic. In other words, he cheated on purpose.

Very often we are told the “right way” to do things. The reality is that our bodies adapt to what we throw at it and if winning a bench press contest is what you desire, then you want to train that way. Al Oerter had other goals in mind and trained the lift for his own purpose. My point is, there are many “right ways” to do any lift, the only thing wrong would be to do it in a way that does not make you stronger in the way you want to be.

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