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Old Time Strongmen

  • 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."

  • 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.”

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