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Monthly Archives: February 2014

  • Real Motivation

    indian-ladder-game-carny-stuff
    The Jacob's Ladder is sometimes also called the Indian Ladder Game or Chinese Ladder Game, when you see them at carnivals.

    (This Bulletin was originally published May 5, 2005. Titled “Kid's Workout Journal”)

    Workout journals are a cool thing. I don’t use one right now, but I should. I am going to start again. Just before the Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic I found one of my journals from when I was about 12 or 13. It was really cool.

    “No excuses!!!!”

    That was a headline on one of those pages, written from a 12 year old to himself. I like to think that I haven’t changed much.

    Today, my workouts are never the same and don’t follow a set plan, except for some generalities. I work too many hours and with shipments coming in and going out, I never know what I am actually doing from one day to the next. My goals are a little different from back then. I started making my change today.

    That 12 year old kid knew something. How about this, “Goal: find new exercises for Jacob’s Ladder training. I WILL win the $10.”

    How is that for motivation? I would like $10 today, for completing a Jacob’s ladder climb. It was a lot more then and a lot harder for a 12 year old to get it. My list of “new” exercises included: 6 different kinds of push-ups, rope climbing, “rope push-ups”, pull ups, chin ups, monkey bar work and hanging upside down on the Jacob’s Ladder. For those of you who don’t know, this is not the motorized thing, by the same name, that you will find in some commercial gyms. Those give a nice workout, but I doubt anyone ever got a concussion from one. Of course, I also worked climbs on my belly, hands-knees-feet, hands & feet and forwards and backwards. After all, I was planning on working the carneys! I guess that is why I loved watching Andrew Durniat in the pull up competition at the picnic.

    That guy did 23 perfect pull ups. I was really hoping no one would jump in and do some really bad cheating pull ups and beat him. Nobody did. Andrew got his chin over the bar with every rep. He also came down to full extension, with at least a second of full relaxation between each rep. Even more amazing was the fact that he did a short tri-athalon that morning. He earned that Atomic Athletic Retro Gas Station Jacket. He earned it with more than just his performance that Saturday. He earned it with every workout he put in before that. This was just some of the pay off. Congrats Andrew.

    All the best,
    Roger LaPointe

    PS. I know that 12 or 13 year old would not have understood the responsibilities I have today, but then again, he would have still said, “get back in that gym, you don’t get stronger sitting at a computer.” I know that to be a fact, as I read it in the journal...

  • Add 50 Lbs To Your 1 Hand Deadlift

    I know. This sounds like one of those Joe Weedy-man ads that is too good to

    Finger Lift Ring
    Finger Lift Ring: Open Middle Finger

    be true. All I am going to do is tell you how I did it. It was amazingly simple.

    I decided that improving my One Hand Barbell Deadlift would improve all my other lifts. You see, if your grip is your weak point, it can throw off all the other body position angles in full body lifts. I could also aim for an American Record, by adding about 50 pounds. Thus I had a goal and an underlying reason for that goal.

    First, I looked at my current grip training. I was doing a lot of thick grip work and explosive lifting with Olympic bar sized handles. My regular 2 hand deadlift, clean grip pulls and trap bar deadlifting were all at least a hundred pounds over that record with training weights, so I knew it had to be a hand, wrist or forearm issue. I then looked up similar lifts in the USAWA Rule Book. I had never done any finger lifting, but many of the old time strongmen did.

    I simply added finger lifting to the end of my regular workouts, but I didn't go for max weight. The theory was that I had to build up the strength of a lot of very small muscles, ligaments and tendons. I would do only 1 set per finger or group of fingers, as I decided to lift with the ring finger and pinky finger as a single unit, because of the tendon and bone configuration in the hand. I used the exact body position and range of motion for the One Hand Barbell Deadlift. Equipment was simply the Finger Ring Weight Handle with the Olympic Loading Pin I sell.

    Finger Lift Grip Positions

    I soon found that there were essentially three different grip positions. I only did the finger lifting every other workout, but switched grips each time. The weight I used was as much as I could do during that workout for a minimum of ten reps. There was a lot of trial and error. If my limit for a particular grip and finger was only the ring, clevis and loading pin that day, so be it. Believe me, for the Open Pinky/Ring Finger position, there were days that the weight was so ridiculously light it seemed a complete waste of time, but I stuck to the program.

    3 Finger Lift Grips: Open, Hook and Lateral Pinch

    I also added the One Hand Barbell Deadlift into my routine every time I trained. I did only 2 Sets of Triples and periodized the lift with my other training, peaking a month before the contest and again on contest day. I gave myself five months to see how well I would do. It worked out so well, I still can't believe it.

    All the best,
    Roger LaPointe
    “Today is a good day to lift.”

  • Throwing Down a Pint

    joe-marino-bodybuilder
    Carry On, Joe Marino - Joe has always promoted the idea of camaraderie in strength sports, especially through the AOBS.

    As you can imagine, I'm not a big drinker, but that was great fun. I've been working so long and hard on the Atomic Athletic web site that my social, camaraderie oriented side of life has been lacking. I almost titled this Bomb Proof Bulletin “Extending the Conversation”, which would have been descriptive, but didn't have the punchy flavor I wanted, but you get the idea.

    Just Did It
    You see, like any other sport, you can only “do” strength sports for so long. I'm also not talking about age here. We have Masters athletics for those of us who want to compete in age group sports. I'm talking about being a spectator. It's the art of watching the game with buddies. Most of us at the Pub had done some sort of coaching and recruiting for the Open Curling we have, thanks to the advertising power of the the Olympics being on television. By Friday, we were done for the week. It was time to relax and talk about the sport. Tell some jokes. You get the idea.

    Last week, I met with my buddy, Dr. Bob Suchyta, at his bar, Doc's Sports Retreat. Dr. Bob is the guy who got me into Olympic style Weightlifting. Believe me, he was a much better lifter than I have ever been, having been trained by Norbert Schemansky, at the Astro Club. We had a blast talking about lifting and checking out all of his sports memorabilia. His place is a modern sports bar that shows off a collection that includes pieces from Gordy Howe, other Red Wings, Lions, Tigers, Pistons and of course, weightlifters. There is at least an entire case of memorabilia just about Norbert Schemansky, but other lifters, strongmen and bodybuilders are represented as well.

    Click this link if you want to check out Doc's Sports Retreat: http://www.docssportretreat.com/

    Both Vic Boff and Joe Marino drummed the concepts of camaraderie and fellowship into my head. They are essential for any sport. In case you didn't know, the AOBS (Association of Oldetime Barbell & Strongmen, which Vic founded) started as an informal get-together to celebrate Sig Klein's birthday. Make sure to get together with your lifting buddies. If they have all disappeared, find new ones. Make sure to add in some young guys, or even “old guys” who are new to the sport.

    Vic Boff Collection: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/vic-boff-collection-2-books-dvd.html

    Continue to check out the Atomic Athletic BLOG for more. I add bits & pieces to it, that are not long enough for a Bulletin.   Of course, not all the Bulletins make it to the BLOG.  They really are different entities.

    Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic Collage
    Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic Collage

    All the best,
    Roger LaPointe
    “Today is a good day to lift.”

  • Grip the Knob

    Wrist-roller-Collage
    The Knob on the Wrist Roller is Designed for Exercising the Adductor Pollicis Muscle.

    I have gotten a lot of questions about the knobs on the ends of my Atomic Athletic Firestorm Wrist Roller. It's true. They are not spherical and I did that intentionally.

    First, about that weather... I know that many of you, especially in the southeast will be dealing with some pretty extreme weather today. Here in Bowling Green, OH, we broke another temperature record last night, -14 degrees! That's bad and it makes things pretty tough for shipping, painting, etc., but it just slows things down in Ohio. We have the road crews to clear things up. With patience, everything gets caught up and back to normal. If you are in Georgia, Mississippi, or any of the other southern areas being hit with snow and ice, please stay in. A crashed car or a slip and fall accident are simply not worth it. Good luck today. Now, enjoy today's Bulletin.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/atomic-athletic-firestorm-wrist-roller.html

    Curling Delivery Grip Strength

    I designed that shape for a very specific type of grip training. Try this. Touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of your ring finger. With your other hand, you can feel the muscle/tendon combo that draws your thumb across the palm. That muscle is called the adductor pollicis muscle. Here is your second task. Make sure to watch Curling in the Winter Olympics. As some of you know, in addition to weightlifting, I am a curler. In fact, I'm a third generation curler in my family, which I started around the same time I started strength training in Junior High. Most curlers work primarily on core strength, endurance and flexibility, but curlers tend to ignore grip strength. Because of the incredible improvements I had read about, and witnessed, in archery and firearm shooting, due to grip strength improvements, I figured the same must be true for delivering, or throwing, a curling stone.

    As it turns out, that form of grip training is very tough to do. The specific muscle, ligaments and tendons that I wanted to work don't really get hit with thick bars or grippers. I call it the knob grip. Working the adductor pollicis muscle with my wrist roller has really helped my curling delivery. I am sure the same exercise would help in baseball, hockey, golf and many other sports. Because I have received so many requests for it, I am now including a small pamphlet on that exercise with all of our Atomic Athletic Firestorm Wrist Rollers.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    “Today is a good day to lift.”

  • The Best Sports Drink

    bob-hoffman-blue-rock-spring-water
    Bob Hoffman's Blue Rock Mountain Spring Water

    I love coffee.

    Unfortunately, coffee is probably not the best sports drink. For that, I am going to have to defer to the mighty Bob Hoffman. He was a real visionary.

    Bob Hoffman really believed in the power of water. In fact, he believed in the value of water to such an extent that he bought a spring and started a subsidiary of York Barbell called Blue Rock Mountain Spring Water. The photo above shows one of the original glass bottles and one of the cardboard shipping boxes, from my collection.

    When I first seriously got into lifting, one of my coaches, Dave Peterson, was adamant about me getting enough water. It didn't help that the weight room at Michigan State seemed to be boiling hot, year round. Later, when I worked at York Barbell, Smitty also made sure we got plenty of water while training.

    I won't get into the technical reasons why water is so necessary, but here are a few basics. Of course, dehydration is bad, but I will assume that you already know that. Here are a few things you probably don't know. The old idea that lifters need tons of protein to make muscle, is only partially true. You also need to be able to process that protein. The metabolic processing of protein requires extra water.

    One of the many benefits of additional red meat, as a source of protein, is creatine. Creatine can help make a person stronger, particularly if they are deficient. However, the usefulness of supplemental creatine is dependent on getting enough water. In fact, it is increased cell volume that the creatine allows, which makes one stronger. I have seen it described as a matter of physics, not just biology. Without the added liquid in the diet, that volume cannot increase. Lacking water, the athlete will start getting some pretty severe muscle cramping. Because of this danger, many sports teams do not allow their athletes to take creatine as a supplement.

    The Blue Rock Mountain Spring Water company is gone, but long and the short of it is that most people need more water than they are getting and that is especially true of many athletes, who are sweating it out. There are several other issues related to water that I will get into for future BLOGs and Atomic Athletic Bomb Proof Bulletins.

    In most of the United States, we can get good clean water right from the faucet. Now, go get your water...

    All the best,
    Roger LaPointe
    “Today is a good day to lift.”

    PS. My favorite commercially available water is LaCroix Sparkling Water, which was bottled right down the street from where I used to live in the Detroit area. I really like the Lime flavor and the Lemon flavor. They are all natural.

  • Before Bench Presses

    john-grimek-pullover-mb1
    John Grimek Straight Arm Pullover

    What do you bench?

    How many times have you heard that question? I hate that question. I have a torn right rotator cuff and bench presses really aggravate that injury. So, on the rare occasion that I do a bench press, I never go over 225. The amazing thing is that people THINK I can bench press a lot, because they think I look like a guy that can bench a lot.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/traditional-training-legendary-strength.html

    Here is my secret... and it is not bodybuilding, unless you are thinking of bodybuilding from 80 years ago. In fact, it wasn't until some time in the 1950s that lifters started doing flat “press-ups” on a bench. Yet, without bench presses, lifters had huge shoulders, triceps, brachialis, and pectoral muscles. The secret is that you have to look back to the time when John Grimek built up his physique.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/gym-art-charts/classic-training-hall-wall-chart-set.html

    I am going to give you three exercises, that need to be added into your barbell routine, as well as one really great “Chest” workout.

    Straight Arm Barbell Pullovers

    The photo at the top is a photo of John Grimek, from when he worked for Mark Berry, estimated to have been taken in 1934. John is doing my favorite upper body exercise, the straight arm pullover. I did hundreds of these as a teenager, on the swim team. In fact, I did them with a Milo Barbell that looked very similar to the one Grimek used in that shot, which I think is somewhat key to that exercise. Don't worry, you don't have to buy a whole new barbell, just use smaller plates, so that the bar starts closer to the ground. Use something like 25 pound, or even 10 pound plates. It will extend your range of motion. Yes, it is harder to perform and you won't be able to use as much weight, but the benefits will be worth it with this alternate variation.

    Before Bench Presses Workout

    Stretch & Warm-up with Indian Clubs and/or Speed Bag Work
    Clean & Standing Barbell Push 5 x 5
    Clean & Front Squat 5 x 5
    Straight Arm Pullover 3 x 10
    Dumbbell (or Kettlebell) Crucifix Hold 3 x 3
    Dips 3 x 10
    Stretch

    If it is nice outside add in half a dozen 100 yard sprints. You will be shocked at how well they work in with this routine. In high school, I would do this routine in the morning and then head off to the pool for morning swim, which was only 45 minutes, but felt great.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

  • Learning Lost Secrets

    1950's York Wrist Roller at top and Atomic Athletic Firestorm Wrist Roller bottom
    1950's York Wrist Roller at top and Atomic Athletic Firestorm Wrist Roller bottom

    Lost variations of exercises can be your key to success.

    Because you know the secret, I am going to let you in on this one. When I stumbled across this variation on wrist roller work, it was one of those DUH moments for me. You know what I am talking about, when you see something for the first time and say to yourself, “Duh! Why didn't I think of that?”

    This exercise does not come from an exotic locale, like the Shaolin Temple or a Kushti Wrestling school in Varanasi, but from strange and exotic 1960's New Jersey. Of course, to a kid from Michigan, it may as well have been the North Pole.

    Presented by Professor E. M. Orlick, we have “Series B: Arms Bent and Elbows Held In Against Your Sides”. Try your wrist roller work with your arms like this. “Your lower arms must be bent so that they are at right angles to your upper arms and parallel to the floor.”

    If you have one of the Firestorm Wrist Rollers we sell, it should be just long enough for you to have your arms straight out and not crowded in next to the cord in the center. If you collect wrist rollers, like I do, then you will know how this exercise is virtually impossible to do with the little short red wrist roller that York sold many years ago. See the comparison photo above. You simply don't get anything close to a full range of motion in the palms up, bent arm position with a short wrist roller. Don't get me wrong, you can do some other interesting things with some of the short wrist rollers, but this is not one of them.

    Once you have mastered this movement with a light weight, cut your 10 reps down to 5 reps and really increase the weight. With your arms in this position, you should be able to do a lot more weight than with the straight arm, palms down position. In addition to pyramiding the weight, I like to do a set/rep variation in this position that goes from very light weight for 20 reps to very heavy weight where 5 reps may be impossible, then back again, repeating several times.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/atomic-athletic-firestorm-wrist-roller.html

    You may also want to check out the Pot Lifting Arts kit:

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/pot-lifting-arts-kit-firestorm-wrist-roller-loading-pin-book-dvd.html

    All the best,
    Roger LaPointe
    “Today is a good day to lift.”

  • Every Rep Counts

    Your body only has so many reps in it.  Make every one of them enjoyable.  I lift with antique equipment, home made equipment that was made using the same construction methods as old wrestlers from Bengal and some with water buffalo horn, as well as other "odd" things.  I also use some of the most highly advanced materials found in the aerospace industry, and other items in between.  I use what I use because it is the right thing for the job.

    I really enjoy it and what is going on in my mind during my training is partially driven by my surroundings and the people I train with.  I hope you enjoy each and every rep, just like I try to.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

  • Weight Loss: What do I do?

    I have this regular customer who is fat.  Seriously, his doctor told him he has to lose weight and get his blood sugar level down or he is going to become diabetic.  This is brass tacks stuff.  He is at least a 100 pounds over weight.  So, what does he ask me?  "Give me one thing to do to attack this problem, other than just lifting and eating less, because I know it's more than that."

    I told him to eliminate high fructose corn syrup from his diet.  I told him he couldn't do it, but if he genuinely did, that would be a really, really great first step.  I hope he does it.

    He's already doing a training routine based on my Traditional Training Legendary Strength and the tips in the Garage Gym Guide, but that is just activity level stuff.  I wish him the best.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

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