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Master's Age Lifting

  • 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

  • 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.

  • The Best Garage Gyms

    The best garage gyms inspire us to greatness.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/garage-gym-guide-by-roger-lapointe.html

    Strongman Pat Povilaitis
    Dr. Ken Leistner's old garage gym with Strongman Pat "The Human Vise" Povilaitis lifting a 350 Chevy engine block with his head and quartering a deck of playing cards.

    Of course, that is a personal definition, because the gym is a reflection of ourselves. For those of us who lift with a couple of buddies, those friends will also leave their mark. I am currently collecting gyms... Yes, I know that sounds weird. A gym is not like blue berries, or coins.

    You could say that I am putting together photos and descriptions of some of the coolest “Garage Gyms” I have experienced, because just like lifting, a gym has to be experienced. It isn't a spectator sport where we sit in the stands. That would be a museum. I'm just hoping that my writing skills are up to the task of weaving words into a world, that in many cases no longer exists, but continues to inspire. If you are one of the many lifters who has read book, the Garage Gym Guide, then you have an idea of what I am getting at.

    As a commercial gym owner, you may even get some ideas that will set you apart from the competition. I know the competition can be fierce. Some of these gyms will be indoors and some outdoors. Some of the gyms are mobile and some were knocked down and destroyed years ago. All of them are, or were, really cool.

    By the way, the gym in the photo above is Dr. Ken Leistner's old place. That is is Strongman Pat “The Human Vise” Povilaitis lifting his signature 350 Chevy engine block with his head. Oh, yeah, he is quartering a brand new deck of playing cards at the same time. Dr. Ken has the ability to inspire that sort of strangeness.

    Stay tuned for more.

    By the way, there is another Podcast up at Fiorillo Barbell, get it here:
    http://www.fiorillobarbellco.com/motivation-muscle-podcast-roger-lapointe-atomic-athletic-garage-gyms-challenge-dumbbell-iceland-fiorillo-barbell/

    All of the Fiorillo Barbell Podcasts are also available on iTunes.

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

  • Crater Holes and Long Stares

    All over this country, from small towns to major cities, garage gym lifters are getting long stares and

    Custom Shot Loading Globe Strongman Dumbbell
    Jeff "T-Rex" Bankens: Liftin in Louisiana. Custom Strongman Dumbbell.

    quizzical looks from neighbors and passing children. The long winter is over and everyone is headed outside. Lifters are no exception.

    I have one customer who swings his Persian Meels on his apartment rooftop in New York City and another doing snatches with a custom strongman dumbbell off the bayous of Louisiana. From Marquette, Michigan to Muscle Beach, California lifters are hefting “odd ball stuff” in the great outdoors.

    Good for you.

    Let those poor timid souls shake their heads and wonder, “Why?”, thinking you are crazy. The fresh air fills your lungs with extra power. You are a lifter and you know that sunshine will give you Vitamin D and make you even stronger. Most of all, you are having fun.

    If you have never trained outside, then now is the time. Grab a pair of Indian Clubs, a stone ball, or your challenge dumbbell and lift in the grass.

    OUTDOOR WORKOUT

    Here is a quick outdoor workout. All you need is a stone, a chin-up bar or tree limb, those clubs and that dumbbell:

    Warm-up with light clubs: 5 Different Swings x 20 Reps, non-stop
    One Hand Dumbbell Clean & Press: Right Hand 5 x 3, then Left Hand 5 x 3
    One Hand Dumbbell Clean & Jerk (with a split): Right Hand 5 x 3, Left Hand 5 x 3
    (Try to get your split as low as possible.)
    Pick up your stone. Front Squat 5 reps, Walk with it around your house, when you are about to fall over, try to get 5 more Front Squats. Drop it. If you aren't back to where you started, then continue this process until you do get back.
    Chin-up/Pull-up Bar: 10 Chins, 10 Pull-ups, 10 Alternate Grip Pull-ups, 10 With the other Alternate Grip Position Pull-ups. If you can't get 10 reps, straight through, get as many as you can, rest and continue. Don't do cheater “kipping pull-ups”. Get your full range of motion and when you finish a set, hang, stretch, rotate your hips and work your abs and low back until everything is loose and relaxed. This will have you ready for your next workout.

    I hope you enjoyed this workout. It's one of my favorites.

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

  • 100 Year Old Bench Press Secret

    Stereoview of Dabee Chowdray Palwan with 960 Pound Weight
    Dabee Chowdray Palwan with 960 Pound Weight

    That was quite a compliment, and a bit over stated, but it came from a friend. We were having lunch and talking about his favorite lift, the bench press. As an avid Olympic style weightlifter, I have spent far less time on the bench press than he has, but I have spent more time on the standing press and odd lifts.

    My buddy wanted to know about what some pre-drug era guys in the bench press, so I brought along a little piece from my collection. I have been puzzling over this one for some time, doing research in a number of directions, but I couldn't hold this one back. He did ask for old, so I think something more than a hundred years old fit the bill.

    You can see the stereoscope photo of “Dabee Chowdray Palwan” doing pressing a stone. As you can see, the lift is a bridging floor press with a stone nal, at 46 years old. I found more literature on how he actually performed the lift as well. Included, is a little on his training methodology. Who knows how accurate any of it is, but the claim is that the stone weighs 960 pounds.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/tendon-ligament-strength-training-course-1-dvd.html

    As I have been wanting to increase my standing press, I have been doing a lot to bring back my bad right shoulder, including bench pressing. I am not to the point where I will be doing bench press partials or isometrics, but this long dead pehlwan (this is the modern English spelling) certainly did them. There is almost no chance a bench was used in his training, but we can learn a lot from what we see in his picture. As John, my buddy, said, “just supporting that sort of weight would increase my bench press, where do I start?” He has a great attitude.

    For starters, he will be studying and practicing proper isometrics in the power rack, as well as partial movements. He will begin with my “Tendon & Ligament Strength Training” DVD. While I put this together fifteen years ago, as my first instructional video, it is still my best seller. Smitty taught me to do that stuff with all the knowledge he had gained from his years training the York lifters. It is a serious show and tell sort of thing. After John digests all that info, we will move on to other cool training.

    Maybe you will join us in this lifting adventure...?

    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...

  • Throwing Down a Pint

    joe-marino-bodybuilder
    Carry On, Joe Marino - Joe has always promoted the idea of camaraderie in strength sports, especially through the AOBS.

    As you can imagine, I'm not a big drinker, but that was great fun. I've been working so long and hard on the Atomic Athletic web site that my social, camaraderie oriented side of life has been lacking. I almost titled this Bomb Proof Bulletin “Extending the Conversation”, which would have been descriptive, but didn't have the punchy flavor I wanted, but you get the idea.

    Just Did It
    You see, like any other sport, you can only “do” strength sports for so long. I'm also not talking about age here. We have Masters athletics for those of us who want to compete in age group sports. I'm talking about being a spectator. It's the art of watching the game with buddies. Most of us at the Pub had done some sort of coaching and recruiting for the Open Curling we have, thanks to the advertising power of the the Olympics being on television. By Friday, we were done for the week. It was time to relax and talk about the sport. Tell some jokes. You get the idea.

    Last week, I met with my buddy, Dr. Bob Suchyta, at his bar, Doc's Sports Retreat. Dr. Bob is the guy who got me into Olympic style Weightlifting. Believe me, he was a much better lifter than I have ever been, having been trained by Norbert Schemansky, at the Astro Club. We had a blast talking about lifting and checking out all of his sports memorabilia. His place is a modern sports bar that shows off a collection that includes pieces from Gordy Howe, other Red Wings, Lions, Tigers, Pistons and of course, weightlifters. There is at least an entire case of memorabilia just about Norbert Schemansky, but other lifters, strongmen and bodybuilders are represented as well.

    Click this link if you want to check out Doc's Sports Retreat: http://www.docssportretreat.com/

    Both Vic Boff and Joe Marino drummed the concepts of camaraderie and fellowship into my head. They are essential for any sport. In case you didn't know, the AOBS (Association of Oldetime Barbell & Strongmen, which Vic founded) started as an informal get-together to celebrate Sig Klein's birthday. Make sure to get together with your lifting buddies. If they have all disappeared, find new ones. Make sure to add in some young guys, or even “old guys” who are new to the sport.

    Vic Boff Collection: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/vic-boff-collection-2-books-dvd.html

    Continue to check out the Atomic Athletic BLOG for more. I add bits & pieces to it, that are not long enough for a Bulletin.   Of course, not all the Bulletins make it to the BLOG.  They really are different entities.

    Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic Collage
    Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic Collage

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

  • Before Bench Presses

    john-grimek-pullover-mb1
    John Grimek Straight Arm Pullover

    What do you bench?

    How many times have you heard that question? I hate that question. I have a torn right rotator cuff and bench presses really aggravate that injury. So, on the rare occasion that I do a bench press, I never go over 225. The amazing thing is that people THINK I can bench press a lot, because they think I look like a guy that can bench a lot.

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

    Here is my secret... and it is not bodybuilding, unless you are thinking of bodybuilding from 80 years ago. In fact, it wasn't until some time in the 1950s that lifters started doing flat “press-ups” on a bench. Yet, without bench presses, lifters had huge shoulders, triceps, brachialis, and pectoral muscles. The secret is that you have to look back to the time when John Grimek built up his physique.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/gym-art-charts/classic-training-hall-wall-chart-set.html

    I am going to give you three exercises, that need to be added into your barbell routine, as well as one really great “Chest” workout.

    Straight Arm Barbell Pullovers

    The photo at the top is a photo of John Grimek, from when he worked for Mark Berry, estimated to have been taken in 1934. John is doing my favorite upper body exercise, the straight arm pullover. I did hundreds of these as a teenager, on the swim team. In fact, I did them with a Milo Barbell that looked very similar to the one Grimek used in that shot, which I think is somewhat key to that exercise. Don't worry, you don't have to buy a whole new barbell, just use smaller plates, so that the bar starts closer to the ground. Use something like 25 pound, or even 10 pound plates. It will extend your range of motion. Yes, it is harder to perform and you won't be able to use as much weight, but the benefits will be worth it with this alternate variation.

    Before Bench Presses Workout

    Stretch & Warm-up with Indian Clubs and/or Speed Bag Work
    Clean & Standing Barbell Push 5 x 5
    Clean & Front Squat 5 x 5
    Straight Arm Pullover 3 x 10
    Dumbbell (or Kettlebell) Crucifix Hold 3 x 3
    Dips 3 x 10
    Stretch

    If it is nice outside add in half a dozen 100 yard sprints. You will be shocked at how well they work in with this routine. In high school, I would do this routine in the morning and then head off to the pool for morning swim, which was only 45 minutes, but felt great.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

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