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Martial Arts

  • 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."

  • Pain in the Neck Exercises or Neck Strengthening Exercises for Concussion Avoidance

    Dull topic?

    Padded Nylon Head Harness
    Padded Nylon Head Harness

    Neck strengthening exercises low on your list for training? Jack will be a dull boy if he skips his neck work. In fact, if Jack is getting concussions because he skipped his neck training, then he will become a very dull boy. \

    Neck work reduces the incidence of concussions. “Mike Gittleson, (University of) Michigan's former strength and conditioning coach for 30 years, is one of the leading advocates of strengthening the neck to avoid concussions. He speaks on the topic at conferences all across the country,” (Cohen, Michael; Sports Illustrated Web Site, September 28, 2012 ). I first heard Mike speak on the topic when I was on an NSCA speaking roster with him at Ohio State University.

    I've always done neck work, as part of my Olympic weightlifting training. I added to my neck work when I worked with Bill St. John. Later, I added to my neck work again, after meeting Gittleson, almost fifteen years ago. Neck work was so important to the U of M program, his facility had 12 neck machines. They had very few concussions and a great record.

    The key is reducing concussions is strength. Cantu and Comstock have done some great quantitative research on the subject, that backs backs up Gittleson's real world experience, ““What Cantu and Comstock have found to be the crucial measurement is the actual strength of the neck, which they documented using scales that measured the pounds a neck could move. Their data shows that the quartile of athletes with the weakest necks suffered the greatest number of concussions, while the quartile with the strongest necks suffered the fewest.” (Sports Illustrated)

    Keep checking out the BLOG tonight. I am putting up some great stuff about neck training over the next few days. I know, you are saying that you don't do a contact sport, so who cares. How about this fact. Bill St. John was a top five Mr. America competitor who could do dead hang snatches with 310 pounds, for reps. His lifting was top notch, neck strength legendary and he had one of the all time top physiques... More tomorrow and more tonight on the BLOG.

    Neck Exercises

    There are a lot of ways to get a neck strong.  Ultimately, there are a lot of muscles in the neck, some of them big and some of them small, each of which can get bigger and stronger.  Neck machines are great, because it is easy to quantify improvement over time and compare athletes.  Unfortunately, not every weight room, especially garage gyms, can dedicate the space and resources to a neck machine.  That leaves free weights.  There are free weight exercises for shrugging, snatches and cleans.  The Hise Shrug and Overhead Hise Shrug are also fantastic.  Here are a couple of options for stimulating muscles other than the traps: manual resistance, Leather or Nylon Head Harnesses that utilize weights, Head Harness for rubber resistance bands, bodyweight exercises, plates, and the Kushti Gar Nal.

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

  • Real Motivation

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

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

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

    “No excuses!!!!”

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

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

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

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

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

    All the best,
    Roger LaPointe

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

  • Add 50 Lbs To Your 1 Hand Deadlift

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

    Finger Lift Ring
    Finger Lift Ring: Open Middle Finger

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

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

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

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

    Finger Lift Grip Positions

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

    3 Finger Lift Grips: Open, Hook and Lateral Pinch

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

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

  • Grip the Knob

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

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

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

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

    Curling Delivery Grip Strength

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

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

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    “Today is a good day to lift.”

  • The Best Sports Drink

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

    I love coffee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Learning Lost Secrets

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

    Lost variations of exercises can be your key to success.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Garage Gym Accessory Wall

    power-shack-grip-board
    Carmen Caputo's Grip & Accessory Board

    Carmen Caputo's Power Shack Gym really is one of the best garage gyms out there. This is the second Atomic Athletic Bomb Proof Bulletin based on his place. It is a true unattached pole barn type 2-car + size garage, that is exclusively a gym. Carmen and his buddies completely finished it off, with heat. I can really appreciate that right now, as it's -5 F as I write this.

    The photo shows The Power Shack accessory corner, highlighted by the peg board. Hanging on the bottom are real antique Whitely spring type strand pulling units, with all the original Whitely accessory parts. He has them set up with 1-5 springs, just like a pro-style dumbbell or kettlebell rack. You also see an original cloth webbing York head harness and York wrist roller, together with some home made loading pins.

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

    Carmen and I had a great talk about the wrist rollers. We are both really into the wrist roller movement and concept. Carmen actually has two of those originals, but he stripped the paint off the one shown in the picture and poly coated it. I also have an original red painted one that I will show in a wrist roller article that is coming down the pike. Carmen's wrist roller advice is to, “...put a longer rope on your wrist roller, when it comes time to replace it. If you have a longer rope, you will find a way to use it. It's the basic simple details that the old strength guys were into, and that made all the difference. The longer rope is murder on your hands. Once you unroll it, you have to roll it back up before you can put it away.”

    In the floor rack you can see a variety of bars. He has an original Gaspari Bar, a 6 foot standard barbell, a 6 foot Olympic bar, a regular Olympic curl bar, an Olympic Super Curl Bar and an Olympic Hammer Curl Bar. He also has quite a pile of standard size plates.

    Rounding out the collection is a Power Twister, an Iron Man Super Gripper and a variety of rubber rings. The left wall also shows his framed original York Powerlifting Chart #2 (Bench Press). The other wall has his lat machine attachments (like the triceps rope), with the lat machine in the foreground. That padding is not the original naugahyde, but that cool late-60s glitter black that you may have seen on boat or motorcycle seats. He has re-upholstered everything in to match.

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

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