Folks, there is nothing new under the sun. Check out this classic strongman feat of strength called, "The Yoke Walk". If you would like to see a modern Yoke Walk, try this link:
Atomic Athletic Blog
The Marine Martial Arts Instructor Trainer division is one of the most intense group of guys you will ever find. When I met with them, for their equipment delivery and seminar on traditional strength
training, I had no idea what to expect. I knew they wanted old school and I knew what they had already purchased.
How intense are these guys? Well, they brought in their top guy, who summed up the Marine Martial Arts Instructor Trainer Division goal and definition. Marine Martial Arts were defined to me as all the fighting done when the Marine runs out of bullets. His gun is still in his hands and that will be his first choice weapon. Their goal: do any training that will extend his life even one second. Each second added up for 100 men is 100 seconds. That single small time increment can easily turn the tide of a battle and a won battle can win a war.
So you ask, why did they choose Atomic Athletic? That is a fantastic question and one that I certainly considered. Their answer surprised me. It’s funny, but with their files, they knew more about me than I did!
My seminar was very strange. It was as much brainstorming as it was training. I have to compliment them. They were the fastest learners I have ever met. Not just mentally, but they physically caught on faster than anyone I have ever seen.
They wanted to see both the most advanced in free weight strength training and the most basic. They wanted different ideas on how to train individuals and how to train groups. They wanted fine details and basic concepts.
Several ideas absolutely floored them. These guys were doing R & D for training the elite forces of our military’s trained killers and the concepts I grew up with floored them. This was exactly what they wanted because they felt that for too long there had been too much reliance on a bodybuilding mentality built around strength machines. It was time to go old school and do training that could be done in the middle of nowhere without a gym full of machines.
Not the concepts.
The Marines have been polishing their martial arts for over 200 years. I was not going to surprise them with a new concept. Everything is there in the historical record.
It was the approach that floored the Marines.
I will get to that in later Bomb Proof Bulletins, but it is there in my Stone Lifting Wall Charts. Yes. The Marines are once again lifting stones.
If you want to get the feel for real stone lifting, then you just might be someone who would enjoy the Atomic Athletic “A Gathering of Stone Lifters”. It is a new thing for us and unlike anything you have probably been a part of. It will be smaller than than our strongman picnics and should have a completely different feel. Check out the details at this link:
All the best,
“Today is a good day to lift.”
PS. If you enjoyed this Atomic Athletic Bomb Proof Bulletin, make sure to re-sign up for it, as we are in the process of upgrading it. In a short time, this version will completely disappear and you will no longer get a bulletin, if you do not re-sign up. Here is the link: http://eepurl.com/AjKQz
As those of you have read in the “Training Like A Strongman: Basic Course”, the real strongmen, of every culture, try to combine skills and training whenever possible. As such, I would like to point out the Shaolin Circles exercise. I will spare you the Chinese, especially since I also can’t pronounce their word for the exercise, but Shaolin Circles are one of the very best hand toughening exercises I have ever done.
The only superior exercise is the spinning ball move, but it does not translate well to still photos. I note this because those of you who have the Stone Sphere Wall Charts have a sequence photo series of the Shaolin Circles. As a little bit of added description, if you use a granite sphere for the move, instead of the medicine balls that many of the gym owners actually substitute, the twisting of the hands is like using a heavy grit sand paper on the entire palm.
Of course, the Shaolin Circle move will work the grip, all the muscles of the arm and upper back, as well as the crushing power of the chest. Amazingly, you do not need a super heavy stone to perform this exercise. Yet, it is a real shock to your system, as the only athletes I have met who are strong enough to immediately move beyond a 56 pound sphere are wrestlers. I believe the wrestlers have this odd sort of functional strength specifically because of the wrestling itself. Of course, that means a movement like this would be particularly helpful for the training of wrestlers. I learned the Shaolin Circle when I met the Shaolin Monks in New York City.
I hope this helps out with your hand toughening skills. Thanks to all of you who sent in messages asking for this related topic. If you want to see more on the stone balls and Wall Charts, then check out these links:
Of course, you can check out the various stone lifting DVD and courses at this link:
Thick bar training is really becoming popular. Check out the photo of the Bull Moose Thick Bar we are selling, then check out this great little workout.
Here is a very simple workout, but fantastic workout for your entire body, that will also fry your forearms and grip. All you need is a thick bar and plates, preferably they should be bumper plates.
Warm-up with a little jogging and/or Indian Club swinging
Thick Bar Hang Cleans 5 sets of 5
Thick Bar Power Clean & Press 5 sets of 5
Thick Bar High Pulls 3 sets of 3 (You should really be feel this in your forearms by now.)
Thick Bar Deadlifts 5 sets of 2
Thick Barbell Curls 3 sets of 10
Roman Chair Sit-ups 5 sets of 10
Stretch, especially the hands, wrists and forearms
This will be sound very strange, but start your first hang cleans with just the empty bar. Add weight with every set and don't remove any weight until you get to the curls. You will have to make small jumps in weight as you are doing 18 sets. When you get to the deadlifts, use a conventional grip and you will be maxing out on that last set. It will really help to have a thick bar that rotates when you are doing the Olympic type movements.
Here is the photo of our new Thick Grip Bar that will make you feel strong as a Bull Moose!
All the best,
"Today is a good day to lift."
Have you ever been given a tremendous gift by a dead person? I was 5 or 6 years old when my Great Grandpa C. O. Jackson died. I don't really remember ever meeting him, but I feel like I know him. I know him through the 1919 Milo Triplex Barbell Set that sits in my dad's basement.
THE MILO Barbell Tri-Plex
The Milo Triplex is a very unusual set, that included a long dumbbell handle, wooden shovel handle style kettlebell handles, a barbell bar and the weights. As a kid, I first thought of them as Dad's weights. As I grew older they became “The strongman barbell”, because of the cool circus strongman style globe heads. Then they became my secret weapon.
I used that secret weapon to become a good high school athlete, even though I was usually the shortest kid on the field. I wanted to do curls, but the first exercise my Dad taught me was the first one Grandpa Jackson taught him, squats. He also taught me the deadlift, upright row, press (and the power clean for getting it to the shoulder), and most importantly, the Jefferson Lift. I later learned some exercises with kettlebells: the crucifix hold and the kettlebell snatch. Eventually, he taught me swings with the kettlebells and a variety of dumbbell lifts.
Along the way I also learned about Grandpa Jackson. I learned about how he got his middle name, which is the same as mine. The details of his life were revealed to me like the fine carpentry that made up his profession. He became a colorful individual, instead of just a name listed on some genealogical chart.
Grandpa Jackson's barbell still works today, thirty years after I started lifting it. It was a top of the line piece of equipment and meant to last.I am sure Grandpa Jackson used some disposable things, but that is not the way I think of him. He was never wealthy, just a working class guy. Yet, exercise was important enough to him that he bought a quality barbell set. Here are some examples of quality pieces that should last for generations.
Some other classic pieces of equipment Grandpa Jackson might have used:
While the Kettlebell Handles that Alan Calvert designed for the Milo Triplex were really just for that specific MILO set, the handles had that spark of ingenuity which Bob Hoffman and Joe Weider would later seize. I have no idea who originally came up with the "current" design of plate loading kettlebell handles we sell, but I have seen ads for them going back into the 1940s. I suspect that it was the Good Barbell Company.
As for Iron Boots, the first instance of "iron boot type" training, that I have found, comes from an old photo of Sig Klein where he is holding a dumbbell with his feet. However, I know that Bob Hoffman owned the original patent in the 1930s. They were an immediate hit and every barbell company had their own design, as soon as the patent expired.
I could end this blog in a cheesy fashion by saying that we are remembered by the possessions we leave behind, but it is really much more than that. The import stuff is intangible.
Today, that circus strongman barbell and secret weapon is inspiration. If that 1919 Milo Triplex Barbell Set had not been sitting in our basement, you wouldn't be reading this blog right now.
All the best,
"Today is a good day to lift."
Sure, we sell a wide variety of Medicine Balls. They are great, but they are not Tai Chi Balls.
The hallmark of a Tai Chi Ball is that it is NOT squishy. So a traditional Tai Chi Ball is made of wood or stone. Ours are handmade by expert woodworkers right here in America. Pennsylvania to be more precise.These have been difficult to find in the past, but Atomic Athletic has filled this niche with our usual flair. Unfortunately, stone is dense stuff that makes for a heavy ball. In fact, the stone is what we're world renown for. Depending on the time spent training and the actual movements, the stone ones are just too heavy, but It is an option for some. The YMAA has recommended Atomic Athletic for these. You can see that here.
Atomic Athletic now has THREE different sizes of Tai Chi Balls made of solid wood. We have a Beginner, Intermediate and an Advanced size.
This beginner ball weighs 3 pounds.
This is our intermediate Tai Chi Ball. You can see how beautiful this is. It has a durable wax finish.
This advanced ball is one of our most popular.
We also have some expert books and DVDs to help in your training with the Tai Chi balls.
This book is one of the most popular and comprehensive books on Tai Chi Balls and Qigong.
This DVD is a great companion to balls and book above.
Confusion often surrounds the topic of strength training for the martial arts. There are generally two schools of thought on the subject. One school states that weight training is detrimental to martial skill acquisition because the excessive tension held in the muscles will reduce the fluidity of movement, thus robbing one’s technique of speed and power. The other school says that strength training done correctly and as a compliment to the martial skill training will increase the contractile strength of the body without sacrificing flexibility, the end result being improved speed and power.
Where do I weigh in on this long-standing debate? Some weight training practices will indeed create sluggishness and a loss of tensile strength but only if the martial artist uses a body-building or train-to-failure approach. Any weight training will also diminish martial skill if it becomes the primary focus rather than a supplement to the martial arts skill training. Strength training, when the appropriate method is selected, will compliment and contribute to enhanced martial art skill, in the form of greater speed, power, flexibility and endurance.
So what is the right method of strength training for the martial artist? Why should a martial artist practice strength training, and how does one begin? While there are many training tools available, kettlebells are the tools that offer the most to the martial artist’s strength training curriculum.
Of all the physical variables that the well-rounded martial artist must address when designing the right strength training program, there are 4 in particular that kettlebells address better than other training modes: strength/endurance, mental toughness/body hardening, martial specificity, and efficiency (economy of motion).
In a martial arts or fighting context, strength/endurance, or “enduring strength”, is the ability to fight with intensity for extended engagements. This is even more crucial than maximal strength, or the ability to deliver one very powerful blow. Maximal or limit strength is very important as well, as in knockout power, or a quick submission, but the well-rounded fighter must be prepared to deliver multiple strikes in combinations. This requires tremendous strength/endurance. Kettlebell high repetition snatches, for example, develop a strong work capacity and anaerobic threshold. This means that you learn to continue to apply power even while aerobically taxed. For the martial artist this is a very important skill. Often times it is not how strong you are when you are fresh but how strong you remain once you become winded and have expended a lot of energy that determines the outcome. Because kettlebell lifts require full-body integration, it is a much better tool for the martial artist than doing high repetition isolation movements with a barbell or dumbbell.
Mental toughness and body hardening are listed together because they cannot be separated in the application of martial arts. One who is “mentally tough” will fold under an effective thai kick to the lower leg, if his body is not sufficiently hardened for the impact. Likewise, the fighter with a ruggedly conditioned body will eventually waiver if he is kept in an uncompromising position, such as a lock, unless his focus is perfectly sharpened and mentally tough. Kettlebell training helps to develop the necessary psycho-physical balance that is crucial to effective martial arts. In exercises like the kettlebell clean and snatch, wherein the kettlebell flips around the hand, and rests on the forearm, there is body hardening occurring due to the impact of the bell on the arm. In the early stages, the bell tends to come crashing down on the forearm, even causing pain. The perseverance to proceed is an early test of one’s mental resolve. As the techniques become more refined, there is less impact on the forearm, as one learns to move the hand fluidly inside of the kettlebell handle. Even still, the bell rests on the forearm, exerting pressure and over time increasing the density and hardness of the area. Such training as the high-repetition snatch and jerk as seen in traditional Girevoy Sport of Russia is a real test of both one’s mental resolve to persevere and physical ability to accept pain. These attributes need to be embraced by the martial artist as well.
In sports science, the term ‘specificity’ refers to the adaptations to the physiological systems that occur as a result of the training program design. For the martial artist, the strength that is developed through supplementary weight training must be able to transfer into improved striking, kicking, grappling, trapping, and throwing skills. If your fighting techniques increase in speed, power, and focus as a result of your strength training program, then your program has a high degree of specificity to your martial art skill. If you become more sluggish and start getting hit by people that couldn’t hit you before then the strength training regimen is ill-designed and non-specific.
Like in martial art technique, in kettlebell lifting the grip, the hips (and core), and the stance are involved in every motion. The highly ballistic nature of such exercises as swings, cleans, snatches and jerks very closely mimic the type of explosive full-body integration involved in executing effective strikes, kicks, and throws.
Specificity - How To Integrate Kettlebells Into A Martial Arts Program
The concept of training specificity ties in very closely with the concept of training efficiency; you won’t have one without the other. With a strength training program that is specific to enhancing martial skills, we also develop efficiency. All martial art styles pursue an economy of motion. The prevailing quality in the movement of gifted martial artists is efficiency. This is irrespective of the style and is independent of the speed of execution. Efficient movement will remain efficient whether practiced at full speed or in slow motion. Efficiency relates to using only the energy necessary to achieve the result, nothing more. It also relates to spending only the time necessary to achieve the objective, no more. In a martial analogy, this means not using 1000 pounds of force, when 4 ounces will do. If you can unbalance the opponent with only slight movement, it is more efficient than using every last bit of energy to send him off balance. When cultivating martial skill, most of one’s time should be spent on mastering the particular techniques of one’s style, not on cross-training. The strength training protocol selected should be one that allows for specific strength gains without demanding too much time away from the martial skill practice. This means relatively short, intense workouts that allow the body to remain fresh for skill practice. The specific time guidelines are relative to the experience and physical attributes of the trainee, but as a rule of thumb, the strength training curriculum should not exceed 30% of the martial artist’s total training. In other words, to be efficient with his use of time, the martial artist should spend at least 70% of the total practice time on the martial art skill training and not on lifting weights.
To develop an efficient strength training regime, kettlebells are the ideal choice because the types of movements are similar in nature to many of the basic martial art techniques. This contributes to the economy of motion—you are not being asked to learn radically different motor patterns. Take the 2 Kettlebell “rack position’, in which 2 kettlebells are resting on your arms and body. This position is attained by taking a kettlebell in each hand and cleaning them to the top position. The kettlebells stay in the top position for a period of time. This 2 kettlebell rack position is mechanically very similar to a basic guard position, as in boxing. In a fighting stance, there of course will not be kettlebells in your hands, and one or both hands may be extended slightly in front of the body, with one foot forward. The action of the body, however, is virtually identical: the lats are “full”, in a very strong compressed position, the shoulders are relaxed and sunken, the chest is hollow and the back is rounded, the knees have a gentle bend (springy), and the tailbone is tucked slightly under. Try this: take a fighting stance of your liking and bring the hands up in a guard position. Notice how it feels in the back/lat, abdominals and ribcage. It should feel very full, alive, and powerful, like a tiger ready to pounce. Now do the 2 kettlebell clean and hold them in the rack position. The same sensation of fullness in the torso should be present.
The similarities in mechanics required for the martial technique and the kettlebell technique make the 2 kettlebell clean/rack a highly efficient choice of exercise, due to its specificity. Because you do not have to alter the body mechanics for the two movements, there is no wasted time in your strength practice. There are numerous other examples of kettlebell drills that have a high degree of specificity, and are mechanically efficient for martial artists.
Some of the most significant characteristics of a well-rounded martial artist are strength/endurance, mental toughness/body hardening, martial specificity, and efficiency. These 4 attributes need to be addressed when supplementing martial arts practice with weight training. Kettlebells are the tool of choice for accomplishing these objectives, and when properly integrated will increase the speed, power, endurance and movement skill of the martial artist.
Since this article was written several years ago, Atomic Athletic has greatly expanded its offerings of strength training equipment for martial artists. Check out the following products:
Tai Chi Balls - this has rocketed to the top of the Atomic Athletic top sellers list. These are handcrafted by master woodworkers and made in the USA.
Stone Balls are perinial favorite among martial artists.
The Tendon and Ligament DVD is our most popular instructional video.
Iron boots are much like the Tetsu Geta
Kettlebell Handles are a great way to get a work out in a small space because they are so versitile.
Here's a classic from Maximum Bob.
Posted on NaturalStrength.com on December 1, 1999
Reprinted with permission of The Iron Master
All those (past and present) who are "one of us" do grip work -- period. Toners and buffers don't do grip work. In fact, they've never heard of it! In "Spa-Land" you will find every type of gadget, gimmick, or "miracle" supplement, but you won't find thick bars, weaver sticks, telegraph keys, steel suitcases, or even wrist rollers. Even the most "roid-pumped" freaks won't bother with grip work -- the cosmetic payback is too low for them. They are interested only in things that make them look good for the bar scene. Only the serious, dedicated, knowledgeable, proud, and few understand the importance of it. Grip work separates the men from the boys and the phonies from the true "men or iron." I believe that grip work should henceforth be known as the litmus test for membership in the Iron Game/Physical Culture Fraternity.
Take a look at the guys you respect, the ones who have a passion for what they preach. Take, for example, Kim Wood, Dr. Ken, Vic Boff, Osmo Kiiha, and Randy Strossen, just to name a few -- they are all into grip work big time. (The late) Coach Bob Hise II (Mav- Rik), who is a walking Iron Game encyclopedia (and who began his competitive Olympic lifting career in 1929), states, "Everything starts with the hands. The first thing I do when I take on a new lifter is stress the importance of grip work. You will never get close to doing your best without it. You need strong hands for every lift -- even squatting."
Our Iron Game heritage is filled with stories that feature the old-timers doing serious grip work. Take, for example, John Davis' clean of 308 with a 2" thick bar; Bob People's deadlift of 725-3/4 with both palms forward; Al Berger doing pinch grip chins from his 2x12 ceiling beams; Hermann Goerner's one-handed deadlift with 727-1/2 pounds; and Thomas Inch's one-handed deadlift of 172 pounds with a 2.47" inch thick handled dumbbell. Warren Lincoln Travis, with just his right middle finger, lifted over 600 pounds. Ask Vic Boff about the importance of grip work. He was a champion at the art of finger twisting, which was very popular years ago. John Grimek set the record in the weaver stick lift with 11 pounds with his right hand. Apollon's thick axle bar is still widely talked about today. Ian Bachelor could crush metal beercaps between his thumb and each of his four fingers.
Guys who do grip work are tough and are proud to have strong, hard, thick, callused hands. Serious grip work builds mental toughness, too! Do an entire workout using just thick bars of at least 2" in diameter, and you'll see what I'm talking about. Could you imagine Steve Stanko worrying about his hands "getting too rough"! Stanko used to cut leather making lifting belts for Bob Hoffman at York. One day, the knife slipped, and he deeply cut the palm of his hand, putting the knife almost all the way through it. He had a big meet scheduled a few days later, and everyone thought it would be impossible for him even to compete. It was a bad cut and took many stitches. He not only competed, but he won, setting a new National Record in 1938. During the contest, according to Bob Hise, the stitches broke and his hand was bleeding profusely. To "plug it up" he used a handful of chalk, and with his grip at half strength, he still won! All that grip work paid off for Stanko. His toughness was typical of men of that era. It is a shame to see what has become of most "modern men." (Now they complain that their spray aftershave hurts!")
If you train with the regular Olympic bar,(or the few good plate loaded machines), at least don't use wimpy supportive gear (i.e., straps, hooks, etc., and God forbid, gloves); you might as well be wearing a flashing sign that says "wimp!" Make your hands hold the bar; they are the weakest link in your muscular chain. You have to get them stronger. They will never get stronger if you use supportive gear. If you do not yet have any thick bars in your gym, I strongly recommend that you add them to your program. Your forearms and hands will be throbbing by the time the workout ends. In fact, you may not be able to do a whole workout with them right away. They are that tough! The wrist roller is also a must and can be easily made. Do it palms-up and palms down. Implement the telegraph key, weaver stick/lever bar, and plate loaded crusher into your program too.
You don't have to train to be another Rich Sorin or John Brookfield to reap tremendous benefits from doing grip work. Consistency is the key; an extra 10 minutes at the end of your workout, or even less if you use a thick bar, will reap tremendous benefits. If you can't hold the bar, you can't lift it! The biggest names in the Iron Game, past and present, put a primary importance on grip work. My friend, Bob Hise knew most of them. Remember his words, "Everything starts with the hands!"
Whenever you are in the Washington DC area, look up Maximum Bob for the workout of your life. Be sure to try out sandbag alley.
Click here to check out the latest news at Maximum Bob’s Natural Strength Training website.
Check out some Atomic Athletic Exclusive products for developing your grip.
Fingers of Steel DVD & Booklet- The name says it all.
Frightening Forearms DVD - Need we say more?
Fingertip Handstands DVD - You won't beleive some of the things in this video.
Garage Gym Guide - By Roger LaPointe
Stone Padlock Training Package - This is old school all right...
Atomic 25 Pound Granite Ball - Why settle for concrete when you can have timeless granite?!
"No chalk allowed." How many readers have ever seen or heard this statement? It struck me this morning that while the fitness craze is accelerating beyond anything men like Hoffman or Weider could have guessed, the strength sports are in worse condition than any of us suspect.
I was delivering an Atomic Ball to Bob Whelan when I mentioned the difficulty a buddy had in finding chalk in his area. Bob said, "Hey, don't tell me you carry chalk too! I need some!" Well, I knew I had hit a sore spot with Bob because he actually set down the giant smoked turkey sandwich that had been about twice its current size only moments ago. I had made an off hand comment and now I had Bob going. With his eyes bugging out, sweat on his forehead, and right in my face like a good drill sergeant, Bob goes off. As this could be read by impressionable youth, I will not repeat Bob's exact words, but believe me, they were colorful. The U.S. Armed Forces taught Bob well. Essentially, Bob has found it incredibly difficult finding chalk in Washington, DC, the Capitol of our country. So Bob Whelan and I talked about how it could be that pillars of the iron game could be having trouble finding chalk.
While more people are involved in fitness today, we have more and more corporate conglomerate, sterile fitness facilities. These are not gyms, at least not the classic kind we see in the old magazines. When the manager has more concern about a little bit of chalk dust on the pretty foam rubber grips, that cover his revolutionary new machines, than he does about the progress of his members training, then there is a problem.
I have talked to many gym managers who know that if they get rid of the chalk, the big scary guys will go with it. Their reasoning is that the big scary guys scare away the paying customers, defined as women. However, the scary guys paid for their membership and some women are serious lifters. I know that in many cases the manager is simply wrong in their opinion that serious athletes scare off the "paying" customers. I have made it my business to sell serious strength equipment, and I know someone is buying.
It may be that other members do not want the serious strength athletes in their club. Yet, it may surprise you and the gym owner that serious training and its results may catch on. The gym owner may even put in a good power rack, platform or bumper set. Don't laugh, I've seen it happen. There are potentially good commercial gyms out there. It is up to us to spread the word about training seriously and getting chalk back into gyms. If it is in gyms, the sporting goods stores will also carry it.
I hope that, regardless the source of your chalk, every serious lifter takes his/her chalk, puts it in it's container and uses it at the gym. Don't make a mess. Lift with respect given to others. But use your chalk. Whether it is accurate or not, the gym managers have made chalk the symbol of the serious strength athlete. Go to the gym and train hard. Help start the chalk revolution.
Want to create your own gym and free yourself from the tyranny of the commercia gym owner and start building strength like Hoffman and Grimek? Consider some of the following to get you started...
Garage Gym Guide - Another Atomic Athletic exclusive
Indian Clubs - no old school gym is finished without them