March 24, 2013
Bill Starr explains the technique for the Olympic-style press, which helped set records but ultimately ushered the lift out of competition.
In the ’60s, Tony Garcy of the York Barbell Club invented a technical style of pressing that required a high degree of timing, quickness, coordination and—most of all—balance. Previously, Olympic lifters used brute strength to elevate their presses. Tony’s version was a high-skill movement, and it took a great deal of practice before anyone could get the feel of what he was trying to do.
When the foreign lifters saw him press in the ’64 Olympics and ’65 Worlds, they saw that he was onto something and began copying his style. Within a short time, nearly every foreign Olympic lifter was using the technique with great success, and it was referred to as the “Olympic-style” or “European-style” press. Few people know that it was Tony and not any foreign country that developed this dynamic lift.
This Olympic-style press is really a quick lift and is more difficult to learn than either the squat snatch or squat clean. So don’t expect to do it perfectly right away. It takes tons of reps before you will finally get the feel of what you’re trying to do. But those who have the determination and patience to drill on this high-skill movement all eventually come to me and say, “One day, it just happened. The bar shot off my shoulders and was suddenly locked out overhead. It was like magic.” When done absolutely correctly, that’s just what the lift feels like.