By Jim Schmitz
U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Team Coach 1980, 1988 & 1992
Author of Olympic-style Weightlifting for Beginner & Intermediate Weightlifters Manual and DVD
One of the many reasons I fell in love with heavy weight training and weightlifting is Saturday workouts. I first read about the big workouts at the York Barbell Gym on Saturday afternoons with the likes of Bill March and the York gang at the time going all out, lifting really big weights. Then when I joined Alex’s Gym on Mission and Russia Streets in San Francisco in 1964, all the big strong guys would also lift really heavy on Saturday afternoons. After about a year or so when I had built myself up to be one of the big strong guys, I would also work out on Saturdays— and what a great experience that was. We would train as hard and heavy as we could on all our exercises for up to maybe 4-plus hours. There was a lot of camaraderie, encouragement, coaching, joking and teasing, all in good fun. Many personal records would be attempted and set, also many muscles pulled and strained, nothing serious though. Then after the workout, if you were accepted by the older strongmen, we would go out for beer and burgers or pizza or both. Then we would talk about our workouts, training exercises and routines that we thought were good or not. We’d talk about strength feats we had seen or heard about, great strongmen, great bodybuilders, and sports in general, but usually the manly sports of football, boxing, wrestling, and track and field, mainly the shot, discus, hammer and javelin. And about eating and drinking big. And last, but not least, women. It was a great time. Lifting, drinking, eating, and BS-ing BIG, and lots of raunchy jokes were told.
A few years later when I had my own gym, The Sports Palace, the Saturday afternoon tradition continued. However, now I was very much into Olympic-style weightlifting. The San Jose YMCA was the center of big-time weightlifting then, with Bob Kemper, Bill Stripling, Ray Leso, Richard Marks, and Al Feuerbach among the big strong guys working out there. Walt Gioseffi and I would go there for an occasional Saturday workout, but then the guys started coming up to The Sports Palace in San Francisco. From around 1970 until 1996, there wasn’t a gym in the U.S. that had the quality of weightlifters training there: Walt Gioseffi, Bob Kemper, Bill Stripling, Dan Cantore, Ken Patera, Al Feuerbach, Bruce Jenner, Bruce Wilhelm, Tom Hirtz, Butch Curry, Jeff Sunzeri, Tom Stock, Kevin Winter, Pete Cline, John and Jerry Orlando, Don Abrahamson, Ric Eaton, Blair Kephart, Fulton Gee, Gipp Tremper, Mark Cameron, Paul Thomas, Ken Clark, Mario Martinez, John Bergman, David Langon, and Thanh Nguyen; and the women: Rachel Silverman, Giselle Shepatin, Carol Cady, Mary Hyder, Sara Coe, Stephanie Zurek, Patty Purper, and Jan Svendsen. Paul Thomas would actually fly down from Portland, Oregon, on Friday train on Saturday and fly back Saturday night or Sunday morning.
As you can see, most Saturdays at The Sports Palace were pretty exciting. Now the tradition still continues with the likes of Anne Lehman, Freddie and Niki Myles and many, many others, but I just wanted to mention the national champions and ranked lifters.
Among the many reasons Saturdays are a great day to train are: 1. if you work or go to school you might have the day off so all you have to do is lift, 2. you can sleep in and be well rested, 3. you can arrange to train with other lifters, 4. you can socialize after your workout, 5. you can take Sunday to rest and recover, and 6. most contests are on Saturdays.
Now I’ve spent more Saturdays in my life in the gym than I have out of the gym and when I’m there, I know that I’m not the only one—all over the United States and the world weightlifters and their coaches are in the gym doing snatches, clean and jerks, and all that goes with that. It’s kind of comforting knowing that there are thousands of people around the world spending their Saturdays snatching and clean and jerking, even though there are millions playing golf, baseball, soccer, tennis, etc. That makes weightlifters very special.
Then there are the Friday night workouts, otherwise known as “weights instead of dates,” but that’s another story for another time.
For more information on Olympic-style weightlifting, weight training, lifter profiles, and competition reports, visit our Weightlifting Resource Pages.
Jim Schmitz’s gold-medal articles on weightlifting and weight training are regularly featured in MILO: A Journal for Serious Strength Athletes.
Take advantage of what Jim Schmitz, absolutely one of the best American coaches in the sport, can teach you in his Olympic-style Weightlifting for the Beginner & Intermediate Weightlifters Manual and DVD.