2011 Legends in the Field

Clyde Emrich

Clyde Emrich, born April 6, 1931, was one of seven children; five girls and two boys. His father was a salesman for the Pittsburgh Glass Company. As a young boy, Clyde enjoyed playing baseball and football with his neighborhood friends. In 1946 at the age of 15, measuring 5'6" and weighing just 110 pounds, Clyde began lifting weights. With no one to train him, he turned to Strength and Health magazines for guidance, building his own weight training equipment by utilizing homemade cans of sand and cement and cable-chest expanders.

His intense barbell training paid off with several athletic achievements, such as winning his high school wrestling championship and completing the 100-yard dash in 10.2 seconds. He went on to enjoy an incredibly long and successful competitive weightlifting career that stretched from 1948 to 1968, continuing his tradition of self-coaching. He alone understood what worked for him and what did not.

During his career, he placed eighth in the 181-pound weight class of the US Olympic weightlifting team in the 1952 Olympic Games held in Helsinki, Finland in spite of a serious leg injury. In 1954 he placed third in the Senior World Championships in Vienna, Austria, followed by winning the Silver Medal at the following year?s event in Munich, Germany. That same year, Emrich was selected to be a member of the American team on its famous goodwill tour of the Far East. On March 30, 1957, he set his first world record as the first middle heavyweight to officially clean and jerk 400 pounds in the 198 pound weight class. Two weeks later on April 13, he pushed the clean and jerk record to 409 pounds.

Always self-coached, Emrich found that he preferred training with an exercise bar rather than the usual Olympic bar because he believed that the non-revolving exercise bar greatly increased his pulling power. A man with a tremendous grip, Emrich never used straps during training nor did he ever utilize a hook grip in competition. Right up to the 1952 Olympic Games, Emrich did all his training in his parents? basement, performing presses, snatches, clean & jerks, and squats. His tremendous power came from an extensive squatting routine.

While Emrich was in the U.S. military, he was stationed in Germany. He continued his strength training and had the opportunity to participate in weightlifting exhibitions throughout Europe with teammates such as Tommy Kono. In 1953 he twice defeated one of the best weight lifters in France. In 1957, just before the Senior Nationals, Clyde suffered a serious shoulder injury, which required 18 months of treatment, but he was able to return to competitive weightlifting, taking the Gold in the 1959 Pan American Games in Chicago. Emrich won four Senior National titles during his career, as well as numerous state and regional championships.

In 1963 Emrich had been working out with Stan Jones and other players with the Chicago Bears, such as Dave Whitsell, Doug Atkins, and Ronnie Bull, at the Irving YMCA. George Halas, owner and head coach for the Bears, was always looking for ways to improve the team and to stay on the cutting edge. He had been reading about the then revolutionary concept of isometric resistance training and had asked Stan Jones what he thought about it. Stan had recommended that he talk to Clyde to learn more. Coach Halas invited Emrich to meet with him and was extremely receptive to the information he received regarding this type of training. He asked Emrich to act as a consultant to the team and to help them set up a basic strength training plan, which Emrich was happy to do. The Bears went on to win the championship that same year, giving further credence to the importance of strength training in maximizing athletic performance. For the next eight years, Emrich continued training with many of the Bears? players at the YMCA, lifting competitively himself until 1968, and he continued to act as a consultant to the team. Then, in 1971 the Bears hired him to become their first full-time strength and conditioning coach, making him one of the first strength coaches in the NFL. He coached in this capacity through 1991. At that point, Emrich moved into administration but was asked by newly hired Chicago Bears Strength & Conditioning Coach, Rusty Jones, in 2005, to return to the weight room to help the players with their training. At age 77, he returned to the weight room, excited to have the opportunity to once again share his vast wealth of knowledge and experience in strength training with the athletes. In 2008, the franchise honored their longest tenured employee by naming their weight room after him. He has over 49 years of weight lifting experience and continues to be the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Chicago Bears at age 79.

Clyde Emrich, a living legend and pioneering NFL Strength and Conditioning Coach, is a member of the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, the Illinois State Weightlifting Hall of Fame, the USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame, and the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame. He is affectionately known as "The Legend", an extremely appropriate tribute to this true Legend in the Field of Strength and Conditioning, who has had such a major impact on the development of the strength and conditioning coaching profession.