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Atomic Athletic Blog

  • Masters Dumbbell Techniques II

    Growing up, I had the concept of stretching drummed into my head with every sport I did. I still believe it's a good idea, but not the way it was promoted thirty years ago.

    Olympic dumbbell clean & jerk
    Olympic dumbbell clean & jerk

    Dumbbells are the perfect tool for the type of stretching I now prefer, especially for ballistic movements. As a Master's Age lifter, otherwise known as an old guy lifter, I have found this method to be essential, if I don't want ruin my next workout. I call these Dumbbell Flex Reps. I first learned this technique as a part of my lower body training, working with Fred Lowe, but I have really expanded it. I now do some sort of Flex Rep training with every workout.

    I don't have time for marathon training sessions. Instead of doing endless stretching, like some aging athletes, I abbreviated my warm-up period, with actual training. As regular readers know, for almost seven years I have used the Indian Clubs at the beginning of every workout, instead of much of the early stretching I used to do. I may do more Indian Club work in the workout, but I always to some at the beginning. The Flex Reps have eliminated most of the rest of my stretching, as well as some of the explosive movement warm-up sets.

    This is really a simple method. It is based on using a full range of motion in the movement, so barbells and kettlebells are not your best tool for the job. In many exercises, barbells and kettlebells cut the actual range of motion or leverage force factor, compared to a dumbbell. You will need to have a variety of dumbbells. They do not need to be huge, as I never use more than 60% of my 1 rep max in a related lift. In fact, depending on the movement, I may only use 30-40%. If you have an entire rack of dumbbells, good for you. I generally prefer adjustable dumbbells, but I do have a job specific selection. A nice pair of rotating Olympic Dumbbells and a couple pair of adjustable standard size dumbbells will do the job. However, I am not a fan of the Standard Spin-Lock Dumbbell Bars with the threaded rod. The collars always come loose, resulting in floppy plates. Always make sure to use decent collars on dumbbells.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/dumbbells/plate-loadable-dumbbells/adjustable-olympic-dumbbell-handle.html

    This is what you do. As you move through the range of motion for that movement, you continuously flex. Sounds simple. Now try it.

    As an example of actual training, think of the overhead barbell squat, which has a snatch grip. I used to do a ton of work stretching with a broom stick, easily taking up 5-7 minutes. Today, I will do a variety of dumbbell curls Flex Repped, and maybe 30 seconds with the broom stick. It also allows me to skip some of the “warm-up” sets and move into the heavier weight faster. I kill two birds with one stone. I am getting in some biceps training and prepping for the compound movement.

    When I am getting ready to do one hand movements, like a one hand dumbbell swing or one hand dumbbell snatch, I do a similar routine for my shoulders and forearms. My preferred dumbbell of those small muscles is a rotating Olympic Dumbbell Handle. Nobody doubts using one for the one hand dumbbell snatch, for the same reason you use it for the shoulder and forearm warm-ups. You do not want jerkiness. The entire Flex Rep needs to be smooth.

    Try it for yourself. I wish I had been doing this method when I was in my twenties, because half a lifetime later, it is fantastic.

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

    PS Don't forget that today is the last day for the FREE Banner on orders over $250. Refer to your “Elves in the Warehouse” Bulletin for details.

  • Wax on Wax off

     

    Wooden Tai Chi Ball Set
    Wooden Tai Chi Ball Set with Natural Bee's Wax Finish

    This article is really about wax. Seriously, it is not about karate or iconic movies of the 1980s. We have had a ton of questions about wax and polyurethane lately.

    The subject is a real issue for the tai chi world. As it turns out, it is also a serious subject for the environmentally conscious individual. One subject where these two types of people converge is wax, which makes a lot of sense. You see, many of the tai chi ball trainees want to make sure they can feel the chi energy of the wood in the tai chi ball they are using. Well, man made, typically petroleum based, waxes block the chi energy from the wood, for those who are sensitive to it. Sure, it gradually wears off and apparently works better and better. Unfortunately, as the wax wears off, so does the reason for putting the wax on in the first place, preservation of the wood.

    Enter the crunchy, hippy anti-toxin, pro-environment people. While paste wax has been used for a very long time to preserve fine furniture, why not go with something that is anti-microbial, natural and renewable? Sounds good to me. After all, if the wax is wearing off, then where is it going? If it was on a Tai Chi Ball, odds are it came off on your hands...

    I will not send a real wood product out of Atomic Athletic without some kind of finish on it. When it gets covered in your hard earned sweat, the salts and acids in your sweat are going to start tearing down that wood. The wood simply needs protection.

    Here is the perfect solution: a 100% Natural Bees Wax Mineral Oil Combination from right here in Northwest Ohio. Our source is a Sustainable, Non-Conventional Farming CSA that is also chemical free.

    Best of all, it really, really works! It's great stuff. The wood sucks it right in. In fact, we put on a few coats and the process uses heat and hand polishing. There's nothing more natural.

  • Vibrant Living Radio Show

    Glenn Brooks "Vibrant Living" Radio Show on U92.3 FM
    Glenn Brooks "Vibrant Living" Radio Show on U92.3 FM

    Atomic Athletic President Roger LaPointe will be on the radio!

    Check out U92.3 FM in the Bay Area of California today between 8-10 AM, west coast time.

    http://www.u923fm.com/app/view-profile/100060

    Roger will be speaking about Indian Club training and how to incorporate Indian Physical Culture into your western weightlifting program.

    Listen to it live and streaming on your computer with their iTunes or Android download, at the top right of their screen.

  • Old Time Strongman Pierre Gasnier's Stage Dumbbell

    Circus Dumbbell Lift Old Time Strongman Pierre Gasnier

    236 Livres is a lot of weight. The massive dumbbell has those numbers painted on the side, so it must be true.

    Claiming to be the “Strongest Man in the World” and also going by “French Hercules”, Pierre Gasnier was one of the true classic strongman performers. Today, we have very little information on Gasnier beyond the photos of him with his awesome stage dumbbell, but there is enough to inspire some great workouts and discussions around the dart board.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/iron-game-legacy-time-capsule.html

    Leo Gaudreau has a nice three page section on Gasnier, in his “Anvils, Horseshoes and Cannons: The History of Strongmen Vol. II” and I have some additional material scattered about. Here is a little background. Gasnier was a touring strongman of great enough note to be part of the Barnum and Bailey Circus as early as 1898, with whom he did several multi-year tours. Having read about However, at just under 5'3” tall and with his weight varying from about 136 to possibly over 165 pounds, he may have been the strongest man in the world, at his bodyweight, but his actual claim is a little far fetched.

    Strongman Pierre Gasnier's Stage Dumbbell

    At Atomic Athletic I have been asked to make a number of really cool custom pieces, Gasnier's Strongman Dumbbell is not one of them. It is a complicated piece, ideally suited for Gasnier's body. Believe me that globe dumbbell looks like one of the coolest pieces of circus strength history I have ever seen, but it would be no more than a discussion piece in the best of gyms. It is also the very model of what a performance vaudeville stage dumbbell would be.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/limited-edition-brass-thick-dumbbell-handle.html

    Gasnier's Strongman Dumbbell Facts

    1. Handle Diameter: 2” and NOT Rotating
    2. Hollow, Shot Loadable Cast Iron Heads
    3. Unique Short Handle Length
    4. 4 Foot Total Length

    Essentially, this dumbbell had a handle design that would only allow it to be lifted by one hand, yet with the diameter combined with the weight, that would eliminate almost any strongman of the time. Earle Leiderman, who knew Gasnier, said, “He had an unusually LARGE head – a size fit for one who weighed well over two hundred pounds, and with such a head, it is natural that his photos make his arms, etc. look smaller.” In fact, if you look at his photos, he also had extremely large looking hands, a necessity for lifting larger handled equipment.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/dumbbells/shot-loadable-dumbbells.html

    As for the weight of the dumbbell. Hmmmm. As a young man, Gasnier's personal goal was to lift double bodyweight overhead with one hand, which may be the origin of the 236 Livres mark. 236 Livres is an older French measurement that is actually considered a demi-kilogram, or half kilo, which would be 1.1 pounds, for a total of 260 pounds. Sebastian Miller, the strongman from Munich, witnessed Gasnier's performance with the barbell/dumbbell in 1899 with Anspek and Cyclops, where he did lift it overhead with one hand. Miller also one-hand lifted it to his knees several times, as a test of the poundage and supposedly remarked, “Yes, this is heavy.” However, both Gaudreau and Mike Drummond, writing in Strength Magazine (Sept. 1928), had strong suspicions that the dumbbell was unloaded when he performed for the above photo and probably on stage. Even empty, the cast iron heads, thick handle and other parts would have added up to some serious poundage.

    Regardless of the suspicions of his detractors, Gasnier was an accomplished one arm lifter. Harvard's Professor Sargent wrote that Gasnier, “...lifting and placing at arm's length above the head, with one hand, a dumbbell, the largest and heaviest in the gymnasium, weighing over 200 pounds...” We do not know his technique, based on this description, but he was clearly a strong guy.

    While your goals may not be as lofty as Gasnier's, I hope this article inspires you to choose a specialty lift as your challenge.

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

    The links you see in this article are for training equipment and educational materials that should help you with your grip strength training and one hand lifting of both barbells and dumbbells.

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

  • Manhandling Dumbbells

    strength mag bent press-A-w-text-logo Bent Press: Manhandling Dumbbells

    Let me tell you about one of the least graceful, ugly and horribly inefficient lifts you will ever perform. Before I get to that, I must also say that if you want to get truly real world strong, then you MUST be doing this lift.

    I call it Manhandling a Dumbbell. Technically, I guess you would call it a 2 Hand Single Dumbbell Clean. As you can see in the photo above, this lift was commonly done for the purpose of a “2 Hands Anyhow Lift” with either “2 Dumbbells” or a “Dumbbell & Kettlebell”. The key is that the heavier of the two items would be a dumbbell. Unlike a barbell, that could be cleaned or leveraged into the one hand, how do get the dumbbell into the bent press or jerk position? The rules actually allowed you to use just about any method to get it to the shoulder.

    The amount of weight that can be shouldered this way is quite significant. It is also fantastic to train this movement, because, like in stone lifting, you will find your weak points very quickly. I do have some tips, based primarily on the techniques I have learned from the “One Hand Dumbbell Swing”.

    Allen Collars for Barbells & Dumbbells Allen Collars for Barbells & Dumbbells

    “Manhandling a Dumbbell” Techniques

    1. Start the dumbbell on the floor, on end. Use as small a collar as possible without any extra bar end sticking out beyond the collar. I will use Allen Collars, just like when I set up a barbell to be leveraged.
    2. Don't bother with a hook grip, because you can wrap your other hand around the hand that is actually holding the dumbbell.
    3. For maximum control, the hand that actually grasps the dumbbell handle needs to be the one you will end with, as you will release the other hand as the dumbbell reaches the shoulder.

    “Manhandling a Dumbbell” Additional Tips

    -Don't bother using thick handles with this lift. This is not a grip training exercise, but one where you want to use as much weight as you can handle.
    -5 Sets of 2 Reps will be maximally productive.
    -Backweighting the dumbbell is fine, but make sure to practice backweighting techniques, as it can easily get away from you and become squirlly.
    -I like using larger plates. I sell a lot of our Long Dumbbell Bars for guys to really load up heavy. The reason I use that bar is NOT because of the large number of 10 Pound Standard Size Plates I can load up, but because I can determine where on the bar I am going to actually grab it. It is more important to have the dumbbell on end with an essentially flat end on the ground than it is to have it perfectly center balanced.

    Enjoy your manhandling exercise and be ready to find your weak points. I know that I have found myself doing a lot more ab work, one hand deadlifting, and dumbbell curls after adding this lift to my routine.

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

  • Abdominal Exercises with a Slant Board

    Building a powerful midsection is essential serious lifting. It also makes you look good. Choose your

    Rudolph Liska: Slant Board Abdominal Work with Weights
    Rudolph Liska: Slant Board Abdominal Work with Weights

    reason, you need to do it.

    Check out Rudolph Liska, as shown in Mark Berry's book “Physical Improvement Vol. 2”, from 1930. Berry was the Olympic coach in 1932. Remember, this was a time when the Great Depression was in full swing. Weightlifting wasn't a new thing, but you certainly did not find a gym on every corner. These guys also didn't take steroids. They simply had not been invented yet.

    Liska is attacking the abs from both directions. Note, he has added weight. If you want to build bulging muscles, what do you do? You train like a bodybuilder with lighter weights and higher reps. Look at modern competitive bodybuilders, especially in the off season. Now, while forgetting about the Super Heavy Weight Class, look at competitive weightlifters. Those guys don't have big guts. In fact, their “cores” or midsections are tight and powerful. So, maybe it is time for you to pick up some weights for working your abs.

    In the top photo, Liska is doing a standard sit-up with a barbell behind his head. He is not holding a plate on his chest. This makes for maximum chest expansion and range of motion with the abdominals. The first part of the exercise is pulling the barbell off the board. Make sure to use the abs to do this, not the arms or lats. The abdominals are groups of small muscles, so you should try to work them as such and in sequence throughout the range of motion. With a modern adjustable sit-up board you can modify the resistance and the muscle group emphasis merely by changing that angle.

    The second photo is a sit-up board leg raise. I don't advise you to hold a plate with your feet. While, in the original photo, it looks like the plate is tied to his feet, Iron Boots would be a much safer and more effective tool for this exercise. They will also allow you to do an isolateral version, ie. Alternating Leg Raise, with adjustable weight.

    Here is a great home grade ab bench for doing any of these movements.
    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/adjustable-sit-up-board-york-fts.html

    With any of these exercises, the classic 5 sets of 5 reps are a great way to go. As you can see in the photos, Liska had outstanding abs, serratus and oblique muscles.

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

  • Black Friday Specials

    Throughout the month of November we will be adding various specials.  We are not doing anything

    SPECIAL: Kettlebell & Iron Boot Boxed Set SPECIAL: Kettlebell & Iron Boot Boxed Set

    just for Black Friday.  However, most of our Specials will be of limited supply, so when they sell out, they are gone and will be pulled from the site!

    Here are 2 great Specials:

    Iron Boot & Kettlebell Boxed Set: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/kettlebell-iron-boot-boxed-set.html

    Bob Hoffman & York Barbell Holiday Special: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/holiday-special-featuring-bob-hoffman-york-barbell.html

  • Reverse Hypers the Hard Way

    List off the great lifters of the early 20th century and Sig Klein is sure to crop up. As a lighter sig-klein-reverse-hyper-with-descriptionweightlifter, I love finding out about his records and how he trained. Most of his many records were set as a 148 pounder, in the days before the US took a team to the Olympics, so they tend to be in lifts that we might call odd lifts. As such, he had some innovative training ideas.

    Reverse Hypers the Hard Way
    Long before the days of Nautilus machines and the Reverse Hyper Machine, smart trainers and lifters realized that you had to train the low back as part of an entire posterior chain movement. While most lifters considered the concept and did things like stiff leg deadlifts, Sig Klein was thinking outside the box.

    Exercise No. 11
    “Lying on bench with weight tied or firmly held between the feet, raise weight with straight legs, as shown in illustration. Lower weight slowly to floor and repeat; inhale raising, exhale lowering. (For muscles on lower back.)”

    The photo above shows Klein holding a dumbbell with his feet to do the movement. This is the otherwise un-named “Exercise 11” from his “Klein Bells” course. This course was published in the days before the Iron Boot, the first patent for which was drawn up in 1939. I'm sure Klein would have used Iron Boots instead instead of a dumbbell, they are simply easier than tying a dumbbell on your feet.

    Iron Boots Connected by a Long Dumbbell Bar Iron Boots with Heavy Duty Straps connected with a Long Dumbbell Bar, Allen Collars, Heavy Duty Standard Collars and 50 Pounds of weight added.

    Having tried this, I highly recommend it, without the tying on part, just hold it. You won't be able to do nearly the amount of weight as with the Iron Boots, but that is OK. You will get some very interesting ankle and inner thigh work that you can't get any other way. Additionally, do this with the Iron Boots, both with the short bars in an isolateral movement and connected with the long bar. Look closely at the photo and you will see that Klein is using a bench that is simply covered with a draped cloth, clearly for aesthetic reasons. Make sure you have a good hold on the bench you are using.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/iron-boots-course.html

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

  • Bob Hoffman Holiday Special

    As you may have guessed, the Bob Hoffman Holiday Special of books and other memorabilia sold out in less than 24 hours.  Which means that the item has been disabled on the site.   I am currently working on some variations of that package, for all of you who were interested.  I had no idea there would be this much interest.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

  • The Bent Press: How to Leverage a Barbell

    Before you can do the classic old time strongman barbell lift called the Bent Press, you have to get it to your shoulder.  There are several ways this can be done, but the Leveraging the Barbell will move the most weight.

    4 Shot Sequence Photos of Barbell Leveraging

    Step 1: Lift Barbell On End

    It is best, if you don't have a classic globe type barbell, to put your plates all the way to the end of the bar.  You can use an Olympic barbell, but be prepared to jam it up permanently.  In the photos, I am using an antique standard size barbell with our Allen Collars on the ends.

    barbell-leverage-sequence-a

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Step 2: Find The Center

    Gravity is your friend here.  Find the center point, with palm facing your, like in a curl.  Let the barbell rock to the shouldered position as you drop into your squat.  The longer your barbell the easier this movement is.  Don't forget, your humble model is only 5'3".  Even I find a 7 foot barbell easier.  These are some great collars to use as inside collars.  With the plates all the way to the end, you effectively add "bar length".

    barbell-leverage-sequence-b

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Step 3: Drop and Squat

    After dropping under the bar, you simply stand up out of the squat.  It can be very helpful to use your shoulder to steady the bar.  This is something you can't really do with a barbell or kettlebell, simply because you don't have the bar length.

    barbell-leverage-sequence-c

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Step 4: Stand Up

    From this position, you are ready to do your bent press.

    barbell-leverage-sequence-d

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