Yacos Gym, Detroit, 1945
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Charlies Richards - Superman -
by Peary Rader (1946)
Here is the story of the man we spoke of earlier this year. We have received many requests for more information on him and here it is. Perhaps you have found an unknown superman who should be given publicity. Let us know about it, won't you?
Earlier this year we mentioned a fellow we had met in Denver while on business who performed some very herculean feats. We promised more about this athlete and some photos for this issue. We happened to be in Denver on Sunday when we could transact no business and so we decided to visit some of the lifters there. Our old friend, Hugh Turner, a longtime barbell man lives there so we called him up and he invited us down to watch some of the boys train. He came around to our hotel and took us out to 331 Fox St. where we were introduced to a fine muscular group of fellows training in an old brick garage in an alley. The garage had a dirt floor but they had spread an old rug on the floor to keep down the dust. Nevertheless, when a weight was dropped on this rug a hole was punched in the ground but the rug springs back up creating quite a hidden footing hazard. The day we were there it was cold and sleeting outside but the boys were all stripped down working out with the big double doors wide open. It was here that we met Charlie Richards about whom we are writing this article. It was at his home the boys were training. We were amazed that these fellows could do so well under such circumstances. There was no lifting platform nor was there an international lifting set - just a standard exercise set commonly referred to by J.C. Hise as a "club" as far as lifting is concerned.
In a short while Orville Wertzbaugher the West Coast former lightweight champion appeared with his attractive wife. The boys had been training for some time when we arrived. Some of them were pressing, some did a few snatches and clean & jerks and bent presses but most of their exercise period was taken up with squatting, dead lifting, pressing, supine pressing, curling and a few other exercises. The boys worked up from light weights, each taking a weight when their own desired poundage was on the bar. We asked Charlie how long he worked out and he replied about two or three hours. He takes the most terrific workout you can imagine. However, he does not use a lot of exercises but specializes on a few doing many sets of each exercise.
He starts with about 200 pounds in the press doing as many reps as he can and working up to his best poundage which that day was 3 reps with 280. When I saw him do this I could hardly believe the bar weighed that much. He cleaned the weight with a sort of backhand curl motion. Then held the bar at the chest so long that I had decided he wasn't going to press but was I was fooled. He took a deep breath and started his press very, very slowly and strictly. I had never seen anyone press that much for even one rep with such a slow start or wait so long before starting. The weight slowly, slowly up and overhead to straight arms with very little back bend. Then another repetition in the same manner . . . and still another. Even this last one did not seem like his limit but he lowered it to the floor. He mentioned that he was off form that day and that he had wanted to do 290x3 for me. Imagine this kind of lifting after he had already been pressing for about 45 minutes beforehand, working up with the other fellow. He performed at least 10 presses with 300 pounds in the supine position on the bench after this. Then he started on the jerk.
Charlie loaded the weight up on standards. Then he took the bar off the stands and backed up and did his jerks. He did a lot of repetitions and finished up with 350 for 3. Each repetition was easier than the previous one. He had worked up to 380 like this in the workout before, but he wanted to do some squats for me so he loaded the bar up to 405 and began doing just that.
He did 12 repetitions with this weight and to me they all looked easy. Certainly he didn't have to fight the weight at all like I have had to in my squatting experience. He did a few other lifts and exercises while I was there that I won't detail. It was rather late and we had to leave so I don't know how much longer he continued working out.
Since then I have written Charlie for more information about his training and lifts. The following is some of that information we received.
It might be thought that such a powerful man would be conceited and overbearing. Such is not the case with Charlie Richards. He is exceedingly shy and retiring. He has never lifted in any heavy competition but says he does better in competition than in training. His only contests are are a few district meets that were held in Denver while Charlie was still a middleweight. We had hoped that Charlie would come to the Nationals as he would have been almost sure of second place. The experience would have been of great value to him. However, he didn't feel he could make the trip this year. Next year we will do our best to get him there.
Charlie tells us that he started training with the weights 11 years ago. He started out with a pair of light 15 pound dumbbells. At that time he weighed 140 pounds at a height of 5'10" which is his present height. In spite of the fact that the dumbbells were quite light he worked very hard with them and gained in bodyweight to 165 pounds in only 6 months. Two years later his father bought him a set of heavier plate loading dumbbells totaling 75 pounds. He didn't gain any more in weight with these but he gained a great deal in strength.
In 1939 he hitchhiked to Denver for his first weight lifting meet. Ed Shepherd, who has long been the District Lifting Chairman, showed him how to perform the lifts before the meet started. Up to this time Charlie had never tried them. With no more training than a trial on the lifts and weighing in at 166 pounds he won the light-heavy class with a 180 press, 180 snatch and a 210 clean & jerk. This success inspired him to get his first set of barbells. So it was at this time (1939) that he had his first real introduction to barbells. He did nothing but the three lifts for some time and finally reached a total of 775 as a light-heavyweight. He pressed 235, snatched 220 and clean & jerked 280. His bodyweight ranged from 165 to 185 during this time. Of course these were training lifts without the stimulus of a contest as he stated he always trained alone.
In 1941 he became dissatisfied with the progress he was making, still using nothing but the three Olympic lifts, and decided to try a squat program. I quote Charlie as follows:
"It was in the fall of 1943 that I started doing nothing but squats and supine presses (he does most of his supine pressing on a bench). At that time my bodyweight was 170. I had a buddy to train with who weighed 175. I could squat with 270 pounds for 10 repetitions at that time and supine press 230 for 5 or 6 reps on a bench. I trained two or three times per week and used from 5 to 6 sets of the squats for 10 reps each. Following are about what I used at first -- 270 pounds for 10 reps; 250x10, 260x10, 260x10 and 250x10. If my legs weren't shaking too badly I would do another set. I did so many squats some afternoons that I could hardly climb the steps out of the YMCA where I was training at the time. I was working nights then so all I did in my spare time was work out, eat and sleep. I also drank from 2 to 3 quarts of whole milk per day and ate plenty of plain, wholesome food. A fellow could almost see himself grow on this program, Peary. The gains I made surprised me. I had gone from 170 to a pretty solid 215 in 6 months. My strength seemed to come up right alongside my weight gain. At the end of 3 months I was deep squatting with 300 pounds for 10 reps for all my sets, and supine pressing with 230 for 10 or 12 reps on the bench.
I then tried myself out on the three lifts and altho I had not practiced them at all during that time I did the following: Press 265, Snatch 235, Clean & Jerk 300. Since that time I have added other exercises and have been training very irregular -- anywhere between 1 and 3 times per week. I have, however, brought my bodyweight up to 230 pounds."
Charlie gives the following as his best lifts and states that he can perform any of them at any time. He further belittles his lifting by saying they are not much but the best he can do at this time. What a man!
Press - 205 x 15 continuous reps, 250 x 8, 260 x 6, 270 x 4, 280 x 3, 290 x 1.
He says, "I have never tried any more than the 290 but believe I can handle more."
I might say here that the snatch and clean & jerk are his weakest lifts and he has no form to speak of on them. He just pulls them up with arm power, then a little kicking apart of his feet. With a little tough coaching and some tough competition he would soon learn to get clear down and these lifts would come up to match his jerk and press. His jerk likewise is just a heave and press out with a shallow split. Don't ask me how he does it. All I know is that I saw him do it. He has snatched 250 but could do 280 easily with a lower split and making more use of his back and legs. He has done snatched 200 pounds for 9 continuous repetitions without setting the bar down - in other words - dead hang, and this is with next to no dip under the weight, basically it is all upper body power. Likewise he has cleaned 330 in this way but it appears he could easily do 350 easily even with his current rough form.
In jerks from the shoulders he has done 300 x 9 continuous reps, 330 x 5, 340 x 4, 350 x 3 and 380 x 1.
In the supine press on a bench he has done 300 x 10 and 347.5 x 1, but doesn't push this exercise too hard.
In the squat Charlie has done 400 x 15 deep reps and 450 x 10. He states that he has never tried over 450 and doesn't really know what he could do for one repetition.
He has performed 13 bent arm pullovers on a bench 15" high, allowing the bar to go low each repetition [here Mr. Rader neglected to mention the poundage so we can only make a guess according to his other exercise poundages].
Given some proper coaching I believe Charlie could far exceed these poundage in a short time.
The above is about the workout (using the repetitions and weights stated for each set) that he was doing when I saw him some time ago. Since that time we have persuaded him to start a program of snatches, cleans, presses, bent arm pullovers and squats. He does 5 or 6 sets of 5 to 10 reps with heavy weights in each exercise.
Charlie wants to reach his 400 pound jerk and exceed a 300 pound press soon. We know that he can do it.
He tries to get from 7 to 9 hours sleep each night and eat lots of wholesome food. He does not eat pastries and the like but drinks lots of milk at all times of the day.
There you have the story of a very strong man. it is not he end of this story, because we know that he will go on to greater things in the future. He is only 29 years old and is still very enthusiastic about lifting and exercising. Charlie is married to a beautiful young lady and they both have bicycles, are very fond of riding them whenever the whim takes them, and enjoy several other forms of physical leisure activities.
P.S. At the latest report Charlie is doing 12 squats with 450 pounds and should soon be squatting with 500 for 10 reps soon.
Ten days later I received word from Orville Wertzbaugher that he talked Charlie into squatting with his limit, and he took 500 pounds with ease and then did the same with 520, then apologized for missing a second rep with the 520. The editor now has Charlie on a special program to develop more power for his clean and snatch. We plan a contest for Denver shortly where he should make some real records.