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Garage Gym

  • Deadlifts or Pulls

    Have you ever gone to a Push-Pull Meet?

    John Terry Deadlifting 460 Pounds
    John Terry in York Barbell Standard Barbell Set Advertisement Deadlifting 460 Pounds. His official world record of 600 pounds was set at a bodyweight of 132 pounds.

    I think they are a great concept. Here is where you can laugh at your author. When I was fresh and new to the competitive lifting world, I heard about a push-pull meet and started training for it. Fortunately, there was a powerlifter in the gym with an inquisitive mind. Logically, he asked what I was doing and why I had modified my fairly typical Olympic lifting routine. I was now doing lots of heavy push presses, power jerks and clean pulls. With a big laugh, he informed me what a push-pull meet is.

    Of course, the Powerlifters of the world know exactly what I’m talking about, but that may not be the case for Olympic weightlifters, bodybuilders, strongman competitors and many other lifters. If you fall into that non-powerlifter category, it’s a clever name for a two lift meet with a deadlift and a bench press competition.

    So now we get into the controversy. Which one is better, the deadlift or the pull? Clearly, the deadlift is better if you are training for a powerlifting competition and pulls are a training lift for the Olympic lifters of the world, but strictly speaking, unnecessary. They are not essential for Olympic lifters because the competition lifts are the clean & jerk and the snatch, not a pull – clean or snatch variety. The argument for training heavy deadlifts is certainly an old one. Hermann Goerner certainly set explosive lift world records, while doing amazing deadlifts in a wide variety of styles. On the other end of the size spectrum is John Terry, who I believe is really the lifter to look at with this discussion.

    John Terry is what I call the first modern American competitive lifter. He was highly successful in the Association of Bar Bell Men competitions, setting several world records, including a world record in the 2 hand deadlift. Using the modern alternate grip style, he lifted a confirmed 600 pounds* at a bodyweight of 132 pounds. Terry also set a world record snatch of 200 pounds, split style, at the same weight class.

    The argument for deadlifting is for overloading. With proper technique, you can lift more absolute weight with the deadlift that with a clean pull. The problem with deadlifting is that it closely resembles a pull, but is clearly a different movement. If your goal is to do a completed explosive lift, then the pulling with back and leg angles of the deadlifter will mess you up. The answer to that controversy was an easy one for Terry, already having the world record in the deadlift, he limited his training to a concentration on the three Olympic lifts, especially the 2 Hand Snatch.

    The modern solution was provided by York Barbell, in the form of the Power Rack. By doing partial movements and Isometrics, the Olympic lifters could overload in the proper positions, without doing deadlifts. Of course, powerlifters can do the same with their deadlifting. John Terry did not have the luxury of a power rack, as they weren’t invented until around 1960, at which point Terry had been out of the sport for twenty years.

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

    *I’ve seen claims by Bob Hoffman of Terry doing 615, but have not been able to find any other confirmation of that. Hoffman frequently spoke of gym lifts in articles, which were not legitimized in a competition format. The photo for this article shows Terry in a Strength & Health ad from 1942 for a standard size 310 set, with an additional pair of 75s, for a 460 deadlift. Many famous deadlifters have advocated the use of standard size bars and plates for practice, including David Shaw.

  • Come to Schemansky's 91st Birthday Celebration

    This is your chance to meet the legendary Norbert Schemansky!

    Norbert Schemansky 91st Birthday Commemorative Poster
    Norbert Schemansky 91st Birthday Commemorative Poster

    Join Shemansky’s Celebration

    We are celebrating Norbert Schemansky's 91st Birthday on May 30, 2015. If you are a lifter, then you should be there. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t picked up the weights in 50 years or if you are only 15 years old. Norb wants to get together with his friends and fellow lifters. You should come, regardless how long it’s been since you last hung out with Norb, or if you’ve never met. All are welcome and encouraged to come.

    For those of you who want a few of Norb’s stats, here you go. For the strongman fans, he is the last guy to have lifted the real Apollon Bar. Replicas are almost a standard thing to lift in strongman contests today. He also has 4 Olympic Medals, in non-consecutive Olympics. Then there are the 70 plus records, including World Records, Olympic Records and National Records. In my opinion, his last World Record is the most impressive, because he was a 38 year old heavyweight when he did that snatch!
    Really, make sure to be there. Norb wants this to be an event where new friendships are made, great old stories are told and weightlifters make some new connections. Be a part of the celebration.

    Here are the details.

    Date: 5 PM, Saturday, May 30, 2015


    Doc's Sports Retreat

    19265 Victor Parkway

    Livonia, MI 48152


    RSVP by May 23, 2015

    PRICE: $50 - Includes Choice of Entree: Prime Rib, Grilled Salmon or Chicken Cordon Bleu with House Salad, Mashed potatoes, Veg du Jour, Desserts & Coffee, Open Bar

    Hotel Special: Embassy Suites Hotel $89

    19525 Victor Parkway

    1/2 Block from Doc's Sports Retreat

    Mention "Doc's" for Special Rate


  • New Giant Gada or Jori

    Giant Jori or Giant Gada
    Who's got the biggest club in town?

    Call it what you like, a gada or jori, this is big fun!  This one will soon be shipping to Robert D., a long time customer from New York.  Made of solid hardwood, you can now order your own Giant Gada.  Robert has made sure to remind me to shoot photos for this baby and make it a product, so here is the first one.  I will be working on the product page today.

    Gada come in a variety of styles, but are basically longer two handed Indian Clubs. Sometimes called a mace in the western European martial arts world, the Gada or Jori (Jory) is a 2 handed club for swinging exercises.  This is a traditional upper body strength and endurance training tool popular with wrestlers in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan practicing primarily kushti wrestling.  It is fantastic for your back, core, grip and shoulders, particularly if you have a bad rotator cuff, like me.

    In case you are wondering, it was 26 degrees warmer yesterday, making it a relative heat wave at 22 degrees Fahrenheit.  We had almost no wind, so I warmed up very quickly swinging this beast.  It was a blast and I am sore today.

  • Learning From the Wrestlers

    Professional Wrestling Training Package
    Professional Wrestling Training Package

    Is it real, or is it professional wrestling? Well... The professional wrestlers you see in the ring are actually doing their own stunts, which is more than you can say for most of the actors seen on the big screen. In fact, Hollywood has hired many a wrestler turned stunt man. What no one doubts is that those gorillas in the squared circle weave a weird and sometimes wonderful ballet with their athleticism.

    As we contemplate digging out after the next Arctic blast, we can learn a thing or two from those wrestlers, beyond the camel clutch or pile driver. Having worked with a number of wrestlers and traveling strongmen over the years, I'm going to give you a few tips about their reality. For starters, the old side shows rarely featured their star masked wrestler on the same stage as the strongman, because they were one in the same. Strangely, Clark Kent was never seen with Superman.

    So the double duty wrestling strongman had a basic barbell set that the side show troop hauled between cities. He also helped with manual labor, like moving and erecting the sideshow operation. They didn't have a room full of machines with weight stacks. They also didn't have treadmills or stationary bikes. When you examine what the pro-wrestlers, that “only” wrestled, did for fitness, it was even more basic. Before the modern days of Pay-Per View wrestling, many of those guys earned very little money per show. In fact, three or four of those guys might share a car, driving between gigs, just to save money. They certainly didn't have thousands of pounds of weights in the trunk.

    “Without equipment,” you ask, “how did they train? They had to stay in shape.” Obviously, they would have gone to commercial gyms, or used the hotel gym. If they had the time, I know they would have done that, if those facilities had existed. The modern guys certainly do that. The old time guys trained in their hotel rooms and around the wrestling ring. They did a lot of working out using their own bodies as the weight, or doing what used to be called calisthenics.

    They did a lot of push-ups and dips, especially with a couple of chairs. The secret move was a squat, probably learned from a wrestler who hailed from India, named the Great Gama. Wrestling over a hundred years ago, and coming from a traditional style that was not the fake stuff seen on TV, he was known for his feats of strength, like thousands of dands and baithaks per day. “Baithak” is the Hindu name for the wrestler's bodyweight squat and “dands” are their push-up. If you have ever taken a yoga class, then you did dands as part of your “Sun Salutation” sequence, sometimes called the namaskur. These movements are nothing new, even here in the USA. In fact, Bob Hoffman, the founder of the York Barbell Company, prominently promoted the namaskur as the centerpiece of his York Abdominal Course, written in 1937.

    Of course, the wrestler's work in the ring is also extremely hard. It is essentially gymnastics, not unlike some of the floor work we see pint sized girls doing in the Olympics. They also do a lot of stretching, many of them turning a portion of their exercise into yoga influenced routines morphed with physical therapy, as injuries in the ring are common. Basically, these guys are doing some form of exercise every day, not unlike a construction worker, but they are supplementing their work with a rehabilitative exercise.

    As you sit at your desk and contemplate trudging through the snow, driving to your gym and then making the trek back to your house, consider what those wrestlers did. Look up the dands, baithaks and namaskur on the internet. Pull out those instructional sheets the physical therapist or chiropractor last gave you. Maybe even take a yoga class featuring the basics. There is no reason you can't do your own twenty minute home based routine after some snow shoveling abuse. Like those professional wrestlers, your body will thank you before tackling the next morning's snow fall.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

  • Reason For Precision (Part 2): Kettlebell Handles

    Kettlebell Handle with Collars
    Plate Loaded Kettlebell: Composed of Kettlebell Handle, 15" Long Dumbbell Bar, Allen Collars, Red Wrenchless Screw Collars, Standard Size Plates

    Most of my home gym equipment is adjustable. Not only can I change the weights, but I can use each part for multiple purposes. The Adjustable Kettlebell in the above photo is a perfect example.

    The 15 Inch Long Dumbbell Bar is one of the precision pieces we sell, that is actually a new option as a “Long Dumbbell Bar”. It is actually milled a true round and perfectly fits the Allen Collars. One of my customers actually came up with the idea of using the Allen Collars next to the Kettlebell Handle. It allows you to center the handle and quickly change weights, but it does something more, which is why it belongs in the “Reason for Precision” series.

    The Kettlebell Handles are a cast iron piece that has a lot of contours. The contours make it visually appealing and more comfortable, but can make for sloppy plates. If I am doing limit lift work, I don't want slop in my plates. A little jiggle can be be nice to look at, when it's a pin-up in the man cave or garage gym, but keep it away from my one rep max lifting equipment. The Allen Collars will solve many of your sloppy plate issues, because you can cinch those plates right up to the collar and tighten everything down nicely.

    You will notice that I used the classic Red Wrenchless Screw Type Collars on the outside of the plates. Generally, I would use Allen Collars there as well, except when I'm training at home. At home, each piece of equipment serves multiple purposes, so I have only one pair of kettlebell handles there. When I want to adjust the weight, I want to do it quickly. Speed of adjustment is the one down side of the Allen Collars. While they hold far better than any wrenchless screw collar, I want my workouts to be fast and efficient. I don't have all day to lift.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

  • Reason For Precision (Part 1): Dumbbell Bars

    “Hey man, weight is weight. I'm not lifting gold bricks here.”

    Milled Dumbbell Bar Comparison Photo
    Milled Dumbbell Bar with Black Oxide Comparison Shot with Old Non-Milled Standard Size Dumbbell Bar

    Variations on that theme are as common as love gone bad in a honky-tonk bar band. When it comes to fitness equipment it may even be an intelligent statement. For example, plate loaded leg presses don't need highly accurate weight. On the other hand, good dumbbell bars do make a difference.

    This Atomic Athletic Bomb Proof Bulletin is the first in a series on the ins and outs of the garage gym dumbbell. I'm starting off with your dumbbell bars, because they can really be the foundation for a fully functioning garage gym.

    I believe that every gym needs some standard sized equipment. For the Doubting Thomas out there, who only believes in Olympic equipment, I would like to point out Pro-Style Dumbbells. That type of dumbbell uses standard sized plates, which simply means that the hole in the plates is designed for a one (1”) inch diameter bar. For the lifter who will not use standard sized plates, I will send you directly to the plate loaded Olympic Dumbbell Handle... go ahead, click that link... Now the rest of us can move on.

    The photo above shows an old, typical, standard size dumbbell bar (left side) in my collection. I have no idea of the age, but it has had a lot of use over the years. I believe I bought it from York Barbell twenty years ago. To the casual observer, it looks round, but it is not. In fact, it was never round. Unless your bars have been milled or turned round, like the one on the right, then that bar stock has flats and dings all over the place. That leads to the low tolerances that are required for most fitness equipment. For example, our Allen Collars are made of a high grade springy steel with a center hole that is drilled out to a one inch diameter. Some lifters will pry them open and force them onto a worn, low grade bar, because they never intend to remove them. But if you look closely at the photo, you will see a spot where someone really cranked down with a wrenchless screw collar and buggered the steel. Unless I took a file to that spot, there is no way an Allen Collar would slide over it. I would be stuck using a set screw collar or wrenchless screw collar, whether I liked it or not.

    Building Rotating Thick Handle Dumbbells

    If you have never used a rotating handle dumbbell, then you are in for a treat. Sure, you might think that you don't do cleans with your dumbbells, but I would ask how you get them to your shoulders for pressing. A rotating handle dumbbell is great, even for a basic dumbbell curl. It is easy to make your own, with parts you may already have. Using our Brass Thick Handle Adapter, a standard dumbbell bar, plates and collars, you can build your own.

    The question you have to ask yourself is, “How well do I want these dumbbells to rotate?” If you want them smooth and fast, then you simply can't use the old dumbbell bar (Photo-Left). In fact, you probably want to use a pair of Allen Collars on either side of the handle with a millimeter of clearance. Then butt your plates up to the Allen Collars and secure them with another collar on the outside. If you used good milled bars, then the handle should rotate nicely. We have those bars in both fifteen inch (15”) and twenty inch (20”) lengths. The eight inch length bars we sell are for the Iron Boots.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

  • Sentinel-Tribune Articles

    Check it out.  Two of my articles are out there with the Sentinel-Tribune Newspaper.  Here are the links: Get Fit Before Taking That Trip and Build "Old Man Strength".  The second article has been so popular that it's had more clicks than any other link my 15 years of publishing the Atomic Athletic Bomb Proof Bulletin.   Who knew?

    Here is the archive of the last year or so of the Atomic Athletic Bomb Proof Bulletins.  Enjoy.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

  • Head Shot

    Black eyes and bloody noses are what most people think of when talk turns to head shots in this industry, but I'm happy as heck to have gotten one this time. You see, earlier this week the Sentinel-Tribune Newspaper photographer did my head shot with his camera.

    I've got a new monthly print column starting called “Body of Work”. Bland bouncy “fitness trainer” fare this is not. I'm writing an old fashioned exercise column with a twist. You should have seen the news room when I walked through to the photo studio. The Editor wasn't kidding when she said that my pieces had made the rounds to the various desks.

    It's really just a matter of time before they start rolling out, so stay aware and I will post when the first one goes to print. I know it's just once a month, but I'm super stoked about this.

    All the best,
    Roger LaPointe

  • Motivation & Muscle Podcast

    FBC Motivation & Muscle Podcast
    Fiorillo Barbell Company's "Motivation & Muscle" Podcast

    Make sure to regularly check out the Fiorillo Barbell Company podcast "Motivation & Muscle". Atomic Athletic's Roger LaPointe is featured every Tuesday, with his regular discussion with Eric Fiorillo. Last Tuesday's podcast was on "Building Muscle Size, Bulk & Power with the Pullover". The previous podcast was "All About Iron Boots: Dumbbells for your Feet". Enjoy.

  • Learn One Lift

    Dumbbell Clean & Jerk
    Strongman: Strength Magazine 1926 - Dumbbell Clean & Jerk

    Yes. Learn one lift.

    Here is the hardest part about working out. I hear it from other people too. It's not just me. You need to get into the gym in order to work out. Learning one lift will solve that problem.

    Once you are in the gym, you will do something. Learning one lift is a great incentive. I am talking about really learning everything you can about that lift.

    Almost everyone needs a higher level of fitness. This concept works. Those of you who do NOT think that you would be healthier and a better athlete, if you were in better shape, just quit reading right now. Maybe you are that particular type of D-bag who genuinely believes that you are as good as it gets. Good for you, but I don't want to talk to you. In fact, I don't even want you reading my newsletter. This Atomic Athletic Bomb Proof Bulletin is for the rest of us.

    Truly, I have found it to be the very best advice I can give when someone needs that necessary inspiration to walk into the gym. Getting into the gym really is the hardest part of working out. I deal with it too. I also have 10,000 distractions which can pull me off course.

    Engage the mind and the body will follow.
    Now, I am not saying that you need to pick one lift and that is all you do. This is how you make things interesting. You engage the mind and the body will follow. A couple years ago, I chose the One Hand Dumbbell Swing as my lift. I started doing that lift because I found it to be very useful as a training lift, when I was trying to break a record in the One Hand Barbell Deadlift. After breaking the American Record in the that lift, I moved on to the One Hand Dumbbell Swing, because I enjoyed it and I found it intriguing. I had been inspired to go after that deadlift record by Andrew Durniat, who had blown away the World Record at one of my Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnics.* So you can see the progression of interest, one thing lead to another.

    Norbert Schemansky told me that for the 1948 Olympics he only did the three Olympic lifts in his training. That earned him a silver medal. Norb is a perfectionist. He did those lifts with the idea that his technique on each one would be perfect. I'm sure silver drove him crazy. After those Olympics, he started doing other lifts that he felt would improve his weaknesses in the three Olympic lifts. For example, at some point he added bench presses to his training routine, in order to improve his standing press. Using that concept, he ultimately took gold, breaking world records in all three lifts and the total, as well as much, much more.

    In weightlifting, there are divisions, such as age group and weight class. If that is not enough, especially in the sport of powerlifting, there are many different organizations, each with slightly different rules. You also don't need to ever compete, if that's not your thing. Yet, you will find that when you set your mind to becoming the very best, most knowledgeable person at that one lift, no matter how unusual it is, then your desire to get into the gym and learn as much as possible will transform your entire perspective and desire to train.

    I haven't had a chance to officially go after that One Hand Dumbbell Swing record. Life keeps getting in the way. However, the last time I looked at that record, it didn't seem like I would have much problem breaking it, when I do get the chance. In the mean time, I keep working at raising my ability in the lift. As I challenge myself with my one rep max, my poundage keeps going up in the gym.

    I hope you take this advice and find your lift.

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

    *Fortunately, Durniat and I are in completely different weight classes and age groups, because he did almost twice the lift I did.

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