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Atomic Athletic Blog

  • Kettlebells: the Martial Artist’s Strength Tool of Choice by Steve Cotter

     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.

    How To Strength Train With Kettlebells
    Kettlebell

     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 Ball Tai Chi balls have quickly become an Atomic Athletic best seller for martial artists

    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.

  • Detroit Highland Games 2013

    Farmer's Walk Contest: Detroit Highland Games August 3, 2013

    2013 Detroit Highland Games Pro Champion Andy Vincent (R) with Atomic Athletic President Roger LaPointe (L) They Grow 'em Big for the Highland Games!
    2013 Detroit Highland Games Pro Champion Andy Vincent (R) with Atomic Athletic President Roger LaPointe (L)

    Sponsored by Atomic Athletic

    Atomic Athletic Competition Grade Farmers Walk Units: Total Weight 400 Pounds

    Detroit Highland Games Farmers Walk MVI_0340

    Farmers Walk MVI_0339

  • Real Men Do Grip Work by Maximum Bob Whelan

    Grimek-wrist-roller

    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?!

  • Letting the (Chalk) Dust Clear

    You too can be as handsome as this fellow

    "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.

    Sure, there are more books, videos, magazines and newsletters covering serious lifting than anyone has seen since York dropped Strength & Health Magazine. So how bad could it be?

    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.

    old gym Can you imagine some of the old timers being told they couldn't use 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

     

  • Real Barbell Juggling

    Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic DVD Set Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic DVD Set: With Barbell & Kettlebell Juggling, Sideshow Performances & Olympic Weightlifting

    Yes. You read that correctly.

    Just like super car companies that push the limits, there are some Atomic Athletic customers who push the limits. Merely lifting weights is not enough for these guys. They have to do it with style and flair. This is performance weightlifting at its best.

    Barbell juggling can be seen, filmed live at the Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic from 2009. Our headline performer was Andrew Durniat. You might have seen him in the Mighty Mitts contests at the Arnold Classic. Heck, when you juggle barbells and kettlebells, you WILL develop a strong grip.

    Here is the link: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/olde-time-strongman-picnic-2009-dvd-set.html

    Of course, that is not the only thing you will see. It is a Double DVD Set. There are Strongman Contest Event Demos, the best Olympic Weightlifting Mini-Clinic you will ever watch and much, much more.

    Atomic Athletic DVDs will become REFERENCE Tools that you will watch, re-watch and refer to again and again. Sure, the Picnics are extreme...

    I'm not going to make excuses for showing off the extreme of strength sports. That's what they are. A lot of people throw around the word extreme and these Atomic Athletic events are extreme.

    BTW, we have FREE Shipping on this DVD right now.

    Learn from them and enjoy.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe
    “Today is a good day to lift.”

  • East Meets West in Strength Training

    Shaolin Monks
    Roger and Shi Guolin discuss stone padlock training during a recent visit.

    I have been lifting weights for over 20 years and have been involved in one way or another with a number of sports: Olympic weighttlifting, Powerlifting, All-Round Weightlifting, Highland Games, Strongman and a variety of other sports, and I am still finding more new and exciting training methods each time I work out.

    My recent meeting with the Shaolin Monks really got me fired up for stone padlock training. The Monks showed me complex methods of strength training that blew my mind. They even showed me basic, foundation exercises that were super cool. Since then, I have been getting outstanding results in my training with stone locks. Most notably, my upper body and shoulders have never felt stronger and my forearms are reaching new levels of strength and definition with each new workout.

    After working on several of the movements the Monks showed me, suddenly I had an epiphany; something I had always wanted to try but could not previously understand. Several years ago, I read about a special training method of German Strongman Herman Goerner called “Die Kette” (the chain).

    goerner Meet Goerner

    Before I get into exactly what "The Chain" is, here is some background information on Herman Goerner for those of you who may not be familiar with him.

    He was born in Haenichen, Germany and lived from 1891-1956. He stood around 6’ tall and his weight varied from 220 in 1920 all the way up to 260 lbs during the 1930's. Goerner was one of the last great professional strongmen of the 20th century. He was particularly well known for his phenomenal hand strength and his deadlifting ability. Goerner could do a one-arm barbell clean with 297.62 lbs, a strict barbell curl with 220.46 pounds, a one hand snatch with 264.55 lbs. and a two-arm snatch with his arms crossed with 231 lbs. Also among his many outstanding lifts was a one arm deadlift of 727 ½ pounds.

    Goerner was a true physical culturalist and he employed many different training techniques to build and maintain his tremendous power. His gym in South Africa was stocked with all types of weights including globe barbells, block weights, dumbbells and kettlebells. He also had an area to practice boxing, wrestling and gymnastics.

    In his biography “Goerner the Mighty” by Edgar Mueller there was a section on how he trained.

    As I mentioned earlier, one of Goerner's favorite techniques was called “Die Kette”(the chain) and he loved to do it using kettlebells. He could do this since his gym had many different sizes of each. He began with lighter kettlebells. and did a variety of movements then moved onto the next size and performed many of the same movements. As he moved down the rack the exercises changed and adapted as the weights got heavier. Sometimes he only did one circuit, sometimes he did several.

    I thought since I have three different sizes of stone locks to use, that this would be a perfect opportunity to give “Die Kette” a try, but I would modify it with complexes, in the manner of the Shaolin Monks.

    I began with the 10 pound stone padlocks. First, I started out with some callisthenic exercises to warm up a bit. I held the locks and did some arm circles and various types of swings. I varied the speed of these movements and my shoulders were already fried. Then I did a variety of lateral raises. My shoulders were screaming by this time as were my forearms. I finished up with some wrist curls and reverse wrist curls.

    justin10pl_d See a real Kung Fu master at work

    Then I immediately grabbed the pair of the 25 lb. stone locks and began overhead pressing. First as strictly as possible then as many push presses as I could. Keep in mind that I had to “stay tight” and grip the padlock tightly the whole time to be able to complete the presses. I then started what you might call curling. Due to the unique shape and leverages of the stone padlocks, all the
    stress was on my fingers and wrists and forearms. I did horizontal curls and then hammer curls and my forearms felt like they were about to explode, since
    they were so gorged with blood.

    I was huffing like a boiler at this point, but now it was time for the big
    boys. The 45 lb. padlocks were up next. I did cheat hammer curls until I
    couldn’t feel my arms. I ended the workout with a farmers walk with these up
    and down a hill near my house.

    The whole workout took maybe 30 minutes and my body was utterly destroyed. The
    next day I was so sore that I could hardly move but I was happy knowing that my
    training was working.

    Atomic Athletic will be coming out with more detailed stone lock training
    programs in the future, including traditional movements as well as many we have
    come up with on our own. Check back often and don’t miss our workout reports
    and periodic updates in the Bomb Proof Bulletin.

    Here are some other tools to help in getting strong from the East and the West:
    Shaolin Muscle Tendon Change Classic DVD

    The Art of Hojo Undo: Power Training

    Stone Padlock Training DVD - the tools aren't any good if you don't know how to use 'em. This is an Atomic Athletic Exclusive

    30 Pound Stone Ball - East collides with West in this Atomic Athletic exclusive granite ball. Use for strongman training or kung fu... the choice is yours. We include the instructional wall charts for FREE.

    Live Strong!

  • Old Time Strongman Gym

    retrostrenght-olde-time-strongman Get strong the old school way

    So, we were recently asked the following question, which we actually get quite a bit: “I want to build a traditional strongman gym in my basement. What do I really need?” Jason L., Dayton, OH.

    This seemingly easy question is really great. The best questions are the
    simplest. Of course, as someone who sells equipment, I would like to say that Jason needs everything, but that is not true. Obviously, the answer depends on a lot of different factors. The most important factor is determining Jason’s goals.

    Several gyms frequented by the old time strongmen are fairly well
    documented, so I will just list out the traditional equipment they would have
    had, as sort of a conglomeration. As you may have guessed, most gyms did not
    have all of these items, just like today’s gyms do not have “everything”.
    Future installments of this topic will have some modern equivalents for some of
    this equipment.

    Globe Barbells
    Globe Dumbbells
    Kettlebells
    Adjustable Kettlebells
    Indian Clubs 
    Ropes 
    Iron Boots
    Heavy Balls (medicine type and/or solid)

    So you say all this great, but you need some help in getting strong old school. Consider the following training aids to help you learn these techniques.
    Leg Development Course and DVD - Your legs will be so big, you'll have to wear a kilt...
    Train Like a Strongman DVD - Need we say more?
    Garage Gym Guide - The best ideas for outfitting your mancave
    Legendary Strength -  I'll even autograph it, if you ask
    Tendon and Ligament Strength DVD -one of the lost arts of the old time strongman

    And finally, what good is an old school gym without some great art, right. Check these out:

    Classic Training Hall Wall Chart Set Doesn't get much more old school than this
    Atomic Athletic Stone Sphere Instructional Chart Set, posters 1 & 2 Big, heavy. Rocks Rock!

    Remember, there's a reason why the old circus performers are still popular even today. It's because they knew how to get strong. Now, you can too!

  • Got Sciatica A Pain In Your Buttocks?

    The Lying Leg Swing is a great way for me to work on my sciatica. I get that pain and tingling primarily when I drive a lot.

    Pain in your buttocks? We say these things about bosses, in-laws and annoying sales calls during dinner, but when you've got an actual pain in your butt, it can really impact your quality of life.

    This is a real issue for many athletes, and there are a lot of forms of this. I am not talking about the pain in the buttocks that might come from a nagging boss, or similar situation....

    Common issues are glute pulls, cramps and sciatica. I can give you a million reasons for these issues. One of the most common reasons can be traced to problems with the piriformis.

    I know. I know about this because, like many people who have to be on the road selling, I am frequently in my car and dealing with the vibration and irritation associated with driving. Fortunately, I am a lifter with friends in the medical industry.

    Amazingly, some of the best ways of dealing with these problems are the simplest. Essentially, stretching and relaxation of irritated muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves. I solve my sciatica with the Iron Boot. The Iron Boot is essentially a dumbbell for your foot. Being on the bottom of the foot, instead of having the weight at your ankle, like one of those velcro type ankle weights, allows you to do a common exercise and really get to a small muscle just by changing the position of your foot during an exercise or stretch. Very cool stuff.

    You can find iron boots at this link. 

    iron_boots_sciatica Iron Boots can be a great way to help work out that sciatica pain

    This is nothing new.

    In fact, it is very old information. It is also cheap. You can do this at home. It is certainly recommended that you get the exact exercise and positioning you need from your doctor. However, here is the basic movement, straight from the Good Brothers. They owned the Good Barbell Company in the 1930s and 40s. This exercise actually comes from their wall chart “Good Advanced Abdominal Course of Progressive Exercises”. It is “Exercise 9 Lying leg Swing”:

    “With the boots attached to the feet, lie flat on the floor on the back with the legs straight, arms extended out to the sides. Begin the exercise swinging the left leg, from the prone position, up and to the right until it reaches the position shown or as close to the finger tips of the right hand as possible. (The arms are positioned straight out to the right and left, flat against the ground.) Return to starting position and swing the right leg in the opposite direction in the same manner. Repeat with left and right. Inhale when swinging the leg out to the side and exhale when moving to lying position. Perform from 6 to 12 times with either leg. Increase the weight slightly at times. For the midsection, hips, buttocks and legs. Do not ben the legs performing the exercise.”

    I love this exercise. I do it especially before traveling and after traveling. I will occasionally do it at rest stops during long trips, if weather permits.

    Some other products that may be helpful:
    Heavy Duty Iron Boot Straps Heavy Duty Iron Boot Straps

    Dumbbell Bars for Iron Boots & Kettlebell Handles These are great accessories to the Iron Boots

    Dumbbell Bars

  • Full Range of Motion Hand Strength and Grip Strength

    Full Range of Motion Hand Strength

    by Roger LaPointe

    Get the most out of your grip training by hitting the FULL RANGE of MOTION with your hands! Just hit this link .

    The Aftermath Sniper Grip Machine
    Develop Functional Hand Strength with Atomic Athletic Exclusive
    • Full Range of Motion Training for the Hands 
    Finger and thumb strength training has got to be part of your grip strength work if you want an unfailing grip. Well, one of our customers, Alan, is looking to step up to the next level.  Alan already has an assortment of the more standard grip tools.  Now, he  is specifically looking at finger and thumb strength.

    • Limited range of motion with nut cracker type grippers.
    It’s interesting, as you get into grip strength training, when working with all the various grippers and grip training devices, when you realize that there is very little out there for getting a full range of motion in each of the digits. Alan asked me what the effect of training with the nut cracker type grippers would be on range of motion in the hands, then someone at his office needed him ASAP, so he asked if I could do a bulletin on the subject.

    • The Aftermath Sniper Gripper will increase strength thoughout the range of motion. 
    In the years I have been professionally involved in the fitness industry, no one had asked me that question, but it is a darn good one. As Alan suspected, the Aftermath Sniper Gripper will let one train the full range of motion in each of the fingers and the thumb. While many of the Atomic Athletic Bomb Proof Bulletin readers know, I am a big fan of isometric training and limited range of motion strength training. On the flip side, I am also a fan of training the full range of motion in the muscles, ligaments and tendons.

    As a serious well read lifter, Alan understands the power of expanding the tool box of knowledge he is bringing into the gym. When working with the hands you have a lot to think about. The number of individual bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles in the hand are almost mind boggling when thinking like a trainer, lifter or physical therapist. What makes things even more difficult is the size of each one.

    • Our unique Atomic Athletic Smooth Action Pivot Points are ESSENTIAL! 
    When looking at all the grip trainers on the market, it seemed like most companies wanted to make large machines. I think this is so they can sell you a lot of steel and freight costs. That is unnecessary. You can use commercial grade, heavy duty, smooth working parts in a small unit as well as a large one. We are talking about small weights being lifted when discussing finger tips, single finger or even single joint isolation movements. Even if you are not going through the full range of motion or just doing negatives, it is ESSENTIAL that you have a really smooth action. The amount of weight needed is simply not going to be great. You can't just jam a screw through a hole drilled in a steel arm to make a safe pivot point. These are not big weights, but you are exercising very small muscles. I am frequently chided by strength coaches for bringing only a 5 kg (11.2 pound) plate with me during demonstrations. After all, they have future NFL football players, or NHL hockey players, etc... you get the idea. After a trial, they all agree that 11 pounds is enough for almost anyone to train with. The smoothness is essential for the complete feel and ability to push the individual digits through the entire range of motion without cheating.
    The Archer's Ring Position allows you to target each joint in the hand as if you were using a bow for strength training.

    Train Like A Strongman DVD Volume 2 shows how to use each position. 
    The Train Like A Strongman DVD Volume 2 has a short section on using the Aftermath Sniper Gripper in the thick bar, grip & forearm section, if you want to see a demonstration. Click the green link for that DVD's full description.

    Roger Demonstrates the Use of the Sniper Grip Machine, an Atomic Athletic Exclusive
    • The big grip training mistake.
    I love grippers. I have a whole pile of different nut cracker type grippers. They are fun. However, an interesting thing happened about a year and a half ago. I realized that I was not training with them for strength.• Why train, if not for strength?
    Wait a minute. How could someone be training with grippers and not be doing it for strength?The answer to that one is pretty easy. I am a real goal oriented individual, as are many of the Atomic Athletic Bomb Proof Bulletin readers. There is nothing wrong with being goal oriented. In fact, I believe that you never really get anywhere in life without goals. However, you have to make sure your goal is the right one.

    • Changing the rules.
    I had a goal of “closing” a particular strength of gripper. The goal was there, and I wanted to become part of the “club”. Well, on my way to achieving my goal, the rules changed. Literally, the rules changed. They were probably sensible changes, but I realized that I had a real handicap with the NEW rules. This set back my training so far that the goal is now probably unattainable. I say this in the real sense of the word, dedicated as I am. For example, I am a pretty good Olympic style weightlifter and squatter, but stand little chance of playing in the NBA. This is just reality. It was at that point that I realized I was doing my gripper training for the wrong reason.

    Of course, I was pissed off at first. As I have said many times before, there really is a silver lining behind every cloud. I started doing grip training in a much better way.

    • Training specifically to close a nut cracker type gripper DECREASED my grip strength!
    Here is the primary way my grip training changed. I went back to doing heavy lifting, stretching and full range of movement . motions. Amazingly, as I was training my “gripper” strength, my actual grip strength had decreased!• Go back to the source that works.
    While I love doing negatives, partial range motions and isometrics, that is almost the only grip training I was doing. I was not developing my whole grip. I was only doing the limited type of movements that would help me close “grippers”. As you probably know, grippers do not work the entire grip, instead hitting a partial range of motion. Fun and lofty a goal as closing the gripper is, I had missed the forest for the trees. I was no better than the guys who train for the giant trophy. You know the guys I am talking about. They are the trophy hounds.• Keep using your nut cracker grippers.
    So today, I still use my grippers. They are fun little toys. I also use thick handled equipment, do heavy pulling, do finger tip push-ups , hit the Aftermath Sniper Gripper, wrist rollers, and stretch my hands, wrists and forearms, and work my grip in many other ways. I am not closing my grippers any better... or any worse. Amazingly, my grip strength and forearm size has improved in a number of different ways. That is really cool.
    Thick bar training is another classic way of working the grip.
    Holy Cow! Look how the Old Time Strongmen looked.

    • Astounding revelations through analysis.
    Larger, more well defined forearms are one goal. It was an unintentional goal, but I achieved it. Increasing my grip strength for deadlifting, cleans and snatches was the real goal. I have also achieved that goal, but only after expanding my focus beyond merely "closing" a gripper. The only new training I had added was a greater volume of thick handled, fixed head, globe type dumbbells and using the Aftermath Sniper Gripper.

    The Sniper Grip Machine is versatile and works each finger separately.
    • Complete training concepts.
    The concept that I keep coming back to is my Train Like A Strongman concept. It is really an attempt at bringing all these seemingly disparate concepts into one coherent whole. You can't just train for "partial" strength, full "muscle bellies" like the bodybuilders, or just sport specific skills like the Olympic style weightlifters. The old time strongman type trainer will outperform all of those other guys.• Sum it up.
    Just like anything else, when training the grip you need:
    partial movements (which are commonly achieved with grippers);
    static positions (which are commonly achieved with thick bars);
    full range motions (which are the most easily achieved with the Aftermath Sniper Grip Machine).

    • REMEMBER: Grippers are one measure of grip strength and CAN be used as a training tool. You are doing yourself a real disservice if you are making them an end in themselves.

    Buy your Aftermath Sniper Grip Machine through this link.

    Looking for other ways to develop grip strength?
    Check out these products as well:

    The York Barbell Bumper Grip Plates

    10 Pound Granite Padlock, another Atomic Athletic Exclusive!

    Do it Old School with a 3 Pound Sledge Hammer.

    Oh, yeah this is possible: Fingertip Handstands DVD. If you master this, we want pictures!

    And if you want to scare your friends and neighbors, check out the Frightening Forearms and Grip DVD. 

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

    Atomic Athletic
    500 Lehman Avenue, Suite 21
    Bowling Green, OH 43402
    www.atomicathletic.com
    419.352.5100

  • Kettlebells, Padlocks or Dumbbells?

    Kettlebells, Padlocks or Dumbbells?

    by Roger LaPointe

    Kettlebells, Padlocks or Dumbbells?

    Group strength classes, personal trainers and garage gym clubs are all asking the same question about their one handed training. Which tool is best for the job?

    For this article, we will focus on one exercise, the one hand swing. 
    The traditional tool for the Shaolin Monks would be the stone padlock. 72 Consummate Arts Secrets of the Shaolin Temple has this to say about the Key-Stone Arts, "The appearance of the stone key is just like that of a copper key, with a spring and a shell but without a key hole. It is made of granite stone or green stone . The weight of the smaller one is about twenty catties and the bigger ones vary in weight from 60 to 70 catties." p. 31 It is reported at the beginning of the book that there are some translation errors, with the term "key" being a well known one. It should be "lock". I

    Shaolin Kung Fu Roger LaPointe practices kung fu learned from the Shaolin Monks

    n reference to a lock like you might lock up a chest or door.

    If versatility is the key, you have a couple of options. 
    Kettlebell Handles are one of the most versatile tools for your training. With the slip of a collar, you make your adjustable dumbbells into kettlebells. With a few more changes, you can change them into Farmers Walk Handles. The old fashioned "standard" plates, that fit the 1 inch diameter bars, are all you need to change the weight, making it unnecessary for an entire rack of kettlebells or dumbbells.

    This is perfection for the home gym or garage gym that is tight on space. Remember, if you are in the training business, square footage is money.

    Check out the adjustable Kettlebell Handles. Just hit this link

    Our hulking beast of a strongman at the right enjoys the thrill of his one hand snatches with an adjustable kettlebell handle. He then moves on to his farmers walk exercises. That is a powerful 1 - 2 combination for your entire body. 

    Adjustable Kettlebell Handles or Shot Loaded Kettlebells? 
    Solid kettlebells are commonly being imported from other countries for dirt cheap, making the solid kettlebell much more affordable. However, a full rack of solid kettlebells is still far more expensive than any adjustable kettlebell. Additionally, an entire rack of kettlebells is a space hog. These are some obvious problems with solid kettlebells.There are many very positive reasons to go with an adjustable kettlebell, beyond those practical gym owner type reasons to pass on solid kettlebells.Let's look at shot loaded kettlebells first. The shot itself is one good reason. Shot loaded were more than just practical tools for the old time strongmen. The shot itself is a shifting, live sort of thing that you have to control. You can try to resist the shot, like an opponent in the wrestling ring. You can also learn to move with the shot, creating that flowing grace you see in the movements of the greatest boxers and martial artists.

    Vic Boff's Bodybuilders Bible shows how to use adjustable Kettlebell Handles. 
    Vic's book is really all about functional training. It is almost entirely free weight based. The giant corporate fitness machine manufacturers have really messed up the strength training world. Vic used the term "bodybuilder" in such a broad sense that he even included full Olympic weightlifting in the book. 

    Grip training or full body training?
    There is a lot of argument out there about how to best do your grip training. Should you focus on your grip, or work your grip training into your full body routine? You really need to do both. 

    One Handed Swings and Two Handed Swings are each great exercises you can do to incorporate the entire body in your grip work, especially with the focus on the hamstring, hip and back development. This exercise will also develop coordination between the various muscle groups essential for jumping movements. 

    Swings are a great introductory strength training exercise for Martial Arts classes.
    Dynamic and explosive weight swings can also be done with the Iron Grip Plates . The 10 Pound Iron Grip Plates through the 100 Pound Iron Grip Plates have nice straight handles, which make them ideal for a variety of exercises, the Swing is one such exercise. I will use my Iron Grip Plates for One Handed Swings with one plate or two plates (one in each hand), as well as 2 Handed Swings.

    At the left, you can see me doing One Handed Swings with a 35 Pound Iron Grip Plate . The top photo shows the top of the movement, while the one underneath shows the other extreme of the movement.

    Iron Grip Plates for exercise research and development.
    Iron Grip Plates are a really excellent training tool. I particularly like them as an R & D tool for my training.

    Roger Demonstrates How to Develop Grip Strength with Grip Plates Roger Demonstrates How to Develop Grip Strength with Grip Plates

    I know that sounds like a strange concept, but when I get a new idea from my research, I have to try it out. The Iron Grip Plates are a wonderful tool because of their adaptable shape that has it's own weight. For example, I am working on some old French military exercises I found in a Georges Hebert book from 1917. The implements they are using have a similar shape to the Iron Grip Plates. Instead of having the tool copied, I am working on the

    Yet More Grip Strength! Yet More Grip Strength!

    exercises with the Iron Grip Plates , as the tool. A barbell is not even involved. Pretty cool.

    REMEMBER: A classic strongman needed to be good a lot of different strength feats. Your training tools need to be a versitile as possible. Farmers Walk Units are just one more thing you can do with your Kettlebell Handles. 

    Buy your Kettlebell Handles through this link.

    Or get strong with our Train Like a Strongman DVD here.

    Atomic Athletic
    500 Lehman Avenue, Suite 21
    Bowling Green, OH 43402
    www.atomicathletic.com

     

     

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