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Old Time Strongmen

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • Podcast Interview: The Pre-Steroid Era

    Tuesday, July 1st: Atomic Athletic's Roger LaPointe was interviewed on the Motivation & Muscle

    York Barbell's John Grimek's Forearm Development
    John Grimek using a Wrist Roller.

    Podcast, put out by Fiorillo Barbell.  Check it out here: http://www.fiorillobarbellco.com/motivation-muscle-roger-la-pointe-atomic-athletic-john-grimek-pre-steroid-era-2/

    Titled, “Motivation and Muscle, Roger La Pointe, Atomic Athletic, John Grimek, Pre Steroid Era”, this is Roger's first interview with Eric Fiorillo, of Fiorillo Barbell. Fiorillo Barbell is a no-nonsense source of solid training information, headed by a guy who truly takes his strength seriously.
    As reported by Fiorillo Barbell, “Today is another first for Motivation and Muscle. We welcome a long time friend Roger La Pointe to Motivation and Muscle. Roger talks about an era of lifting which we feel has been forgotten. Men like John Grimek will never be seen again. Roger dives into  York Barbell which I’ve never heard anyone talk about. It’s a very interesting and insightful interview with a gentlemen who has lived the York Barbell experience. Motivation and Muscle is the Podcast that connects your Brain to your Brawn. Enjoy!”

    http://www.fiorillobarbellco.com/motivation-muscle-roger-la-pointe-atomic-athletic-john-grimek-pre-steroid-era-2/

    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.”

  • 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.”

  • Darth Vader and York Barbell

    “Roger LaPointe to the store front desk, please.”

    Dave Prowse, who played Darth Vader, at York Barbell
    Dave Prowse choking Roger LaPointe in the York Barbell Weightlifting Hall of Fame.

    I loved to hear that request echo from the tinny, feedback filled York Barbell intercom.  It was ALWAYS going to lead to something interesting.

    That day was no exception.  Twenty years after I first encountered him on the big screen, I met Darth Vader, I mean Dave Prowse.  Yes, I instantly became that shocked six year old in a movie theater seeing a light saber for the first time. It was 1997 and Dave Prowse wanted to meet “the lifter” at York Barbell.  Fortunately for me, Dave had dealt with plenty of star struck fans.  It didn't take long before we were talking about weightlifting, gyms and the fun of a real Highland games.  We genuinely had interests in common.

    Dave has a really outstanding sense of humor and loves the strength sports.  He also has a great voice to top off his commanding presence.  The photo above shows Dave choking me in the York Barbell Weightlifting Hall of Fame.

    Years before, Dr. Bob Suchyta had told me that if I take my lifting seriously, it will take me to amazing places. The beauty of weightlifting is that it is just you and a barbell.  The barbell is an inanimate object.  If you don't do anything, then it will also do nothing.  The same can be said of stone lifting, or throwing a caber.  The lessons of the iron are great.

    Dave Prowse told me the same thing as Dr. Bob.  In their humility, just meeting each of them was already something great.  Look up Dave's biography.  It reads like Charles Atlas.  He really was the sickly kid who went on to lift the unliftable stones.  Little did I know, my lifting would take me to the stars, to battle with the most notorious villain of all time, or at least the actor who played him.

    All the best, 

    Roger LaPointe

    Today is a good day to lift.”

    P.S. My, now seven year old, son tells me that it's obviously not Darth Vader choking me in the photo, after all, “where is his cape and helmet?”  (Raspy breathing sound effect: “Jackson, I am your father.”)

  • Battleship Ready

    Ever been on a battleship?

    Manual Of Physical Training 1931: British Army British Army "Chin-Up" Training with Over Grip, Cross Grip, Under Grip and Oblique Grip.

     

    No wasted space.

     

    The coolest gym installation I've ever done was on a battleship. I wish I had written down the name.

     

    No wasted space. That pretty much sums up their weight room. I've had coaches and garage gym guys ask if a particular piece of equipment needed to bolted down to the floor, but the US Navy takes it to a whole new level. They weld their stuff down... and up... and sideways. Sometimes the piece is taken apart with pieces welded to the walls. It's crazy.

     

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/chin-up-pull-up-bar-wall-mounted-48-inch-length.html

     

    Garage Gyms Guys Take Notice

    Guess, what? The US Navy didn't invent that concept last week. The photo above is taken from the British Army Manual of Physical Training 1931. (I have the equivalent book for the Navy, but it doesn't have a sequence photo version of this exercise.  They minimized photo space...)  I spoke with a long time customer last week who mentioned that he was a Marine who spent a lot of time doing his strength training on various boats. For his garage gym he used the same concepts for economizing on space. In fact, he said that his chin-up bar was bolted to the OUTSIDE of his garage, so he could get maximum space all around AND above it. Clever.

    Look closely at the training in that sequence photo, you can tell that it's not just simple chin-ups and pull-ups. A seriously mounted, heavy duty chinning bar can be an awesome tool. It is certainly an under utilized tool in most gyms.

    The sequence photo shows: Over Grip, Under Grip, Cross Grip and Oblique Grip. The most complicated is the bottom sequence, which combines the 4 above concepts.
    Side travelling changing grip (Plate 22, Fig. 55)
    By means of a slight twist, turn the body forward to the left, quit the grasp of the beam with the right hand and seize it again with Under Grip on the same side of the beam and on the other side of the left hand. Take the next pace in a similar manner by turning the body backward, quitting with the left hand and again seizing the beam with the Over Grip, and so on.” (p. 73)

    Further variations, I am exhausted just reading all the variations, have the athlete variously doing a chin-up or a pull-up at different points in the sequence. Try each one, but make sure you have a seriously solid chinning bar. Mine is only 4 feet long, but by grabbing the side supports and can get a lot of training variations in on it.

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

  • Bob Hoffman Throwback Workout

    Bob Hoffman lifting at the old Ridge Ave. York Barbell Gym.
    Bob Hoffman Deep Knee Bends with a Globe Barbell at the old Ridge Ave. York Barbell Gym.

    Bob Hoffman, the owner and founder of the York Barbell Company, believed that a creative individual could build a Mr. America body with just one adjustable barbell and two quality adjustable dumbbells, combined with hard work and creativity. In that spirit, try out this Throwback Workout.

    1 Barbell & 2 Dumbbells Workout

    Barbell
    Power Clean & Press 5 x 5
    Straight Arm Pullover 5 x 5
    Front Squat 5 x 5

    Dumbbells
    Alternate Zottman Curls 5 x 5
    Side Laterals (Delts) 5 x 5
    Strongman Double Biceps Curls 5 x 5
    Crucifix Holds (Front Delt / Upper Chest) 5 Reps
    Held for a Count of 6

    Sit-ups (Use Barbell to Hold Feet Down) 50 Reps

    Do 5 x 5 for all exercises except the Sit-ups and Crucifix Holds.  If you can't do 50 Reps as a single set, then just make sure you get them all done.

    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...

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