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Strength Equipment Nerd

  • 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.”

  • 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.”

  • 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.”

  • Check out Carmen's Gym

    carmen-caputos-york-kettlebells
    Carmen Caputo's Gym: Photo 1
    (Photo by Carmen Caputo with Permission)

    Check out what Carmen Caputo has put together! Seriously, put on your 7 year old kid attitude, with big excited eyes. We are going to take a walk back in time, to the days when afternoons were long and sunny. This is one of those days when opening this plain garage door seems somewhat slightly more interesting than kicking stones in an alley, then suddenly your whole life is changed.

    Carmen's gym really exists and he has been an Atomic Athlete since before I was born. He has been seriously weightlifting and collecting equipment since 1960, with most of it originally coming from Peary Rader and York Barbell. For the past several years, he has been adding in some Atomic Athletic pieces, supplemented by collectibles that have come from me, eBay and other random sources.

    The photo shows his “Kettlebell Rack”. Where he has put together classic kettlebells built with kettlebell handles and all York standard size plates, bars and collars. He has pairs of them in 10 pound increments from 20 – 60 pounds*, which he occasionally modifies for mid-range increments. You can also see his collection of Iron Boots. Not all of his pieces were acquired new, but you can see how everything is now in pristine shape and order, ready for the next workout. Carmen follows the rule he was taught in the Marines, “If you take care of your gear, it will take care of you.”

    Kettlebell Handles: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/kettlebell-handles-pair.html

    Now, take a gander at the gym art. Those instructional wall charts are originals. He has framed classic posters and other art all over the gym. I have a bunch of great shots that I will be showing in the next few weeks. Keep an eye out for it. Everything is solid, basic and high quality.

    To quote Carmen, “Only in America could the grandchild of immigrants be able to acquire something like this. We are truly blessed.” You may not remember when you were first introduced to weights, but it would be great if we could all be so fortunate as to find a place like this to start from.

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

    *Not all of Carmen's kettlebells are shown in this photo.

  • Iron Boot Strap Special

    Intermediate Strength Iron Boot Strap (Set of 4)
    Intermediate Strength Iron Boot Straps

    I know that a lot of our readers are big fans of Iron Boot training. Many of you even have antique Iron Boots. In fact, the next few bulletins are going to be highlighting antique equipment that is regularly in use.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/intermediate-strength-iron-boot-straps.html

    If you are familiar with the straps that used to come with the various antique Iron Boots, then you know they were virtually worthless. In fact, it is my opinion that Iron Boots declined in popularity because the various manufacturers had those terrible straps. Put on some decent straps and your Iron Boots become really outstanding training tools. Iron Boots really are dumbbells for your feet!

    Right now is a great time, if you are looking to upgrade your Iron Boot Straps. Today, we are introducing our NEW Atomic Athletic Intermediate Strength Iron Boot Straps!

    For a Limited Time, we are giving BOTH Free Shipping and a discount on the NEW Intermediate Iron Boot Straps. Additionally, because of the increase in popularity of our Iron Boots, we are also able to lower the price of our Heavy Duty Iron Boots straps! I don’t know how long we can do that as well, but we are going to try it.

    Here is the link for the Heavy Duty Iron Boot Strap Sets:
    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/heavy-duty-iron-boot-straps.html

    Here is the link for the NEW Intermediate Strength Iron Boot Strap Sets:
    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/intermediate-strength-iron-boot-straps.html

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

  • Garage Gym Leg Extensions & Leg Curls

    York-flex-bench-iron-boots-leg-extension
    Roger LaPointe performing Iron Boot Leg Extensions on a York Flex Bench

    Some people look for reasons not to go into the gym.  They find reasons to call an exercise dangerous.  When I first got into the fitness industry, it was Olympic weightlifting, followed by Behind the Neck Presses.  Now the pendulum has swung the other way.  For several years it has been leg extensions getting a bad rap.  Oh well.  I still do them.

    Let's face it, I love leg work.  It's simple and basic.  One exercise that I feel is very important, if you want strong, powerful legs, is the humble leg extension.  If you can find a machine that fits you, machines can be fine.  I have one that I love, but most of them don't fit me.  What does fit are my Iron Boots.  There are a million exercises that I can do with Iron Boots.  They really are dumbbells for the feet.  Unfortunately, to get some exercises right, you actually need some extra equipment, like a bench or seat of some sort.

    Garage gym guys take note.  The York Barbell Flex bench is a great one to

    Roger LaPointe doing Leg Curls with Iron Boots on a York Barbell Flex Bench
    Iron Boot Leg Curl on York Barbell Flex Bench

    pair up with Iron Boots.  Amazingly, it was sitting right in front of me for about fifteen years, since I worked at York.  They even used me as a "short, but real lifter" model for that piece, when it was originally being designed.  The current version has a few more positions than it used to have.  The one you need for BOTH Iron Boot Leg Extensions and Iron Boot Leg Curls is that butt pad adjustment.  That pad also has a wide, rolled edge.  That is very important for both exercises.

    Check out these Leg Extension and Leg Curl photos.  You don't need tons of weight, but getting the right angles and support IS KEY.  That York Barbell Flex Bench paired up with Iron Boots is an economical, efficient tool for your garage gym.  Like or hate Leg Extensions they work.  This pairing will remove two more excuses.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

  • Masters Dumbbell Techniques II

    Growing up, I had the concept of stretching drummed into my head with every sport I did. I still believe it's a good idea, but not the way it was promoted thirty years ago.

    Olympic dumbbell clean & jerk
    Olympic dumbbell clean & jerk

    Dumbbells are the perfect tool for the type of stretching I now prefer, especially for ballistic movements. As a Master's Age lifter, otherwise known as an old guy lifter, I have found this method to be essential, if I don't want ruin my next workout. I call these Dumbbell Flex Reps. I first learned this technique as a part of my lower body training, working with Fred Lowe, but I have really expanded it. I now do some sort of Flex Rep training with every workout.

    I don't have time for marathon training sessions. Instead of doing endless stretching, like some aging athletes, I abbreviated my warm-up period, with actual training. As regular readers know, for almost seven years I have used the Indian Clubs at the beginning of every workout, instead of much of the early stretching I used to do. I may do more Indian Club work in the workout, but I always to some at the beginning. The Flex Reps have eliminated most of the rest of my stretching, as well as some of the explosive movement warm-up sets.

    This is really a simple method. It is based on using a full range of motion in the movement, so barbells and kettlebells are not your best tool for the job. In many exercises, barbells and kettlebells cut the actual range of motion or leverage force factor, compared to a dumbbell. You will need to have a variety of dumbbells. They do not need to be huge, as I never use more than 60% of my 1 rep max in a related lift. In fact, depending on the movement, I may only use 30-40%. If you have an entire rack of dumbbells, good for you. I generally prefer adjustable dumbbells, but I do have a job specific selection. A nice pair of rotating Olympic Dumbbells and a couple pair of adjustable standard size dumbbells will do the job. However, I am not a fan of the Standard Spin-Lock Dumbbell Bars with the threaded rod. The collars always come loose, resulting in floppy plates. Always make sure to use decent collars on dumbbells.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/dumbbells/plate-loadable-dumbbells/adjustable-olympic-dumbbell-handle.html

    This is what you do. As you move through the range of motion for that movement, you continuously flex. Sounds simple. Now try it.

    As an example of actual training, think of the overhead barbell squat, which has a snatch grip. I used to do a ton of work stretching with a broom stick, easily taking up 5-7 minutes. Today, I will do a variety of dumbbell curls Flex Repped, and maybe 30 seconds with the broom stick. It also allows me to skip some of the “warm-up” sets and move into the heavier weight faster. I kill two birds with one stone. I am getting in some biceps training and prepping for the compound movement.

    When I am getting ready to do one hand movements, like a one hand dumbbell swing or one hand dumbbell snatch, I do a similar routine for my shoulders and forearms. My preferred dumbbell of those small muscles is a rotating Olympic Dumbbell Handle. Nobody doubts using one for the one hand dumbbell snatch, for the same reason you use it for the shoulder and forearm warm-ups. You do not want jerkiness. The entire Flex Rep needs to be smooth.

    Try it for yourself. I wish I had been doing this method when I was in my twenties, because half a lifetime later, it is fantastic.

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

    PS Don't forget that today is the last day for the FREE Banner on orders over $250. Refer to your “Elves in the Warehouse” Bulletin for details.

  • Wax on Wax off

     

    Wooden Tai Chi Ball Set
    Wooden Tai Chi Ball Set with Natural Bee's Wax Finish

    This article is really about wax. Seriously, it is not about karate or iconic movies of the 1980s. We have had a ton of questions about wax and polyurethane lately.

    The subject is a real issue for the tai chi world. As it turns out, it is also a serious subject for the environmentally conscious individual. One subject where these two types of people converge is wax, which makes a lot of sense. You see, many of the tai chi ball trainees want to make sure they can feel the chi energy of the wood in the tai chi ball they are using. Well, man made, typically petroleum based, waxes block the chi energy from the wood, for those who are sensitive to it. Sure, it gradually wears off and apparently works better and better. Unfortunately, as the wax wears off, so does the reason for putting the wax on in the first place, preservation of the wood.

    Enter the crunchy, hippy anti-toxin, pro-environment people. While paste wax has been used for a very long time to preserve fine furniture, why not go with something that is anti-microbial, natural and renewable? Sounds good to me. After all, if the wax is wearing off, then where is it going? If it was on a Tai Chi Ball, odds are it came off on your hands...

    I will not send a real wood product out of Atomic Athletic without some kind of finish on it. When it gets covered in your hard earned sweat, the salts and acids in your sweat are going to start tearing down that wood. The wood simply needs protection.

    Here is the perfect solution: a 100% Natural Bees Wax Mineral Oil Combination from right here in Northwest Ohio. Our source is a Sustainable, Non-Conventional Farming CSA that is also chemical free.

    Best of all, it really, really works! It's great stuff. The wood sucks it right in. In fact, we put on a few coats and the process uses heat and hand polishing. There's nothing more natural.

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