By: J.V. Askem


Starting with the 1924 Olympics in Paris, France, the Two Hand Military Press was added to the format of Olympic weightlifting for those games. From then on the "Press", as it became to be commonly called, became the first lift in what was then referred to as the Olympic Three! The other two lifts were the Two Hand Snatch and Two Hand Clean and Jerk.

The press in the early years was a relatively strict lift. In fact it was the intention of the Olympic lifts to demonstrate "all around strength" with one pure strength movement, the Press. Then to follow that with a quick and gymnastic movement, the Snatch. And finally a combination of the first two would be demonstrated with the Clean and Jerk. This formula, although not perfect, worked quite well for many years.

However, with the end of the second world war, new countries applied for membership into the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). The most influential of these countries was the Russian Soviet Union (USSR). Voted to be accepted into the IWF by just one vote in 1946, the USSR soon demonstrated a determination to excel and lead in the sport of Olympic lifting.

Thus began an assault on world weightlifting records that had not been matched previously. It was also evident, by the rate that the press world records were exceeding snatch and clean and jerk records combined, that many presses were not being performed according to the way the press rules were written! The rules at that time did not allow for any back bend when performing a press.

However, the Soviet lifters were encouraged by their officials and coaches to ignore this rule, and soon a new form of Press was introduced that became to be known as the "Russian style" Olympic press. This double lay back or back bending style soon crept into international competitions, and with uninformed crowds, thinking such lifts were good, many referees got intimidated into passing bad lifts.

Now rather than standing up to the USSR and saying, "NO, THIS FORM OF PRESS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED", the IWF capitulated and in 1956 changed the wording of the press rules! The new rule had the words "without exaggerated back bend". Thus any interpretation by a referee was an "individual judgment call". What may have been an "exaggerated back bend" to one referee could be perfectly acceptable to another.

Kanygin of the USSR at the 1971 Worlds Championships
demonstrates why many lobbied to discontinue the Press.
This attempt failed because he dropped the bar behind him.

Well, it didn't take but a decade, and the back bends on presses, many times were so excessive, sometimes lifters hyper extended their backs to parallel with the floor. By 1964, the IWF knew that things were out of hand. Thus a motion, to eliminate the Press, was made at the IWF congress at the Tokyo Olympics. It failed, but a similar motion was made at Mexico City in 1968.  It also failed. However finally, at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, a motion to eliminate the press finally passed, and starting on January 1st, 1973 only the Snatch and Clean and Jerk officially remained.

For those who have requested how an Olympic press was performed, here is a sequence of one of the best pressers ever in Olympic lifting, Russell Knipp of the USA performing one of the 5 world records he set in the 1960's.

Lay back start with the knees locked. Thrust forward and upward. Then before the bar slows, lay back a second time as the bar passes through the sticking point. Push hard with the arms during the entire pressing movement. The double "lay back" is used to prevent the bar from slowing. A properly executed Olympic press is a fast lift. However, although not a strict military style press, the Olympic press is also NOT a jerk. It is a lift unique unto itself.

Russell Knipp's Press Training Schedule as in the Oct. 1967 Strength and Health.

Bench press to the neck with a standing press grip: 135X10, 205X8, 240X5, 255X5, 275X5, 255X5
Reversed Curl: 45X8, 65X8, 75X5X3 sets
Sit Up Crunches: 25 reps for 8 sets

Strict Military Style Press: 135X10, 175X8, 205X5, 225X5, 230X5, 235X5, 220X5X2 sets
Reversed Curl: same as M, W, & F.
Sit Up Crunches: same as M, W, & F.

Olympic Press: 135X5, 175X5, 205X5, 240X5, 275X3, 290X3
Reversed Curl: same as M, W, & F.
Sit Up Crunches: same as M, W, & F.
Dipped Hand Stand Presses between two chairs: 6 sets of 15 reps.

1. The Sit Up Crunches that Russ performed were done on an incline sit up board with a plate behind his head.

2. Also, Russ would hang upside down, after each workout,  from a chin-up bar from a strap. This was to decompress his lumbar vertebrae's.