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Strength Equipment Nerd

  • Learn From History’s Best Deadlifters

    It’s time to learn a few real tips on improving your deadlift. I also know that you want the York Barbell secret to improving your deadlift. Everyone wants that secret. Now it’s time to ferret that secret out from the BS out there. As impossible as that may seem, with the deadlift, we are in luck.

    Surprise, surprise, Bob Hoffman didn’t come up with the secret, but he did use it. He was a smart guy. Like Hoffman, I like to look at records and then work backwards. Additionally, I’m drug free and the only real way to confirm that status is to look at a time before there were modern performance enhancing drugs.

    You also get a two-fer on this tip. You will improve your deadlift, while improving your grip. In the pre-drug era, two Americans rank up with Hermann Goerner for having the best two hand deadlifts ever. I believe that all three trained basically the same way. They were quick, explosive Olympic weightlifters who made extensive use of thick bars in the training hall. On a pound for pound basis, Olympic Weightlifters Chuck Vinci and John Terry were second only to Goerner, according to the calculations of David Willoughby. Both of them did, the now standard, reverse grip, while Goerner did a clean grip. Both Terry (132 pound bodyweight) and Vinci (123 pound bodyweight) are credited with 600 pounds, but there is some argument that Terry may have actually done 610 pounds.

    All three lifters made a major focus on their deadlift, but started as Olympic style weightlifters. Goerner is not known for his Olympic weightlifting prowess today, but in the 1920s he was trading records back and forth with Charles Rigoulot in all the quick lifts, especially the one handed Olympic lifts. In addition to his World Record in the two hand snatch (215 lbs., 132 Class), Terry also held the Right Hand Barbell Clean & Jerk of 148 ½ pounds.

    Their common training tool was the thick bar. Both Goerner and Terry made use of thick bar training. It is widely suspected that Chuck Vinci did as well. As Terry lived in York, PA and trained at York Barbell, he had access to a wide variety of thick bars. In fact, at the 1940 Strength & Health Picnic, Hoffman made a big deal out of a specially made thick bar that he used for bent pressing. Additionally, if you go to the York Barbell Weightlifting Hall of Fame, you will note a number of thick handled globe type barbells, including the Cyr Bell, pictured above.

    When I worked with Smitty, he showed me photos of himself training with a two inch diameter bar, with Bill March. They used that barbell extensively in their power rack training. Smitty was a huge proponent of thick bar work, because of the results he saw as the York Barbell trainer. All of the York guys made use of a variety of both rotating and non-rotating thick bars.

    If you are going to seriously work on your deadlift, the simplest modification you can make to your routine, is the addition of a thick bar training, both with barbells and dumbbells.

    Eric Fiorillo and Roger LaPointe did a Motivation & Muscle Podcast on this topic, called "Goerner & Grip Strength".  For additional reading, this BLOG posting is an excerpt from the new book by Roger LaPointe "York Barbell Picnics & Classic Strength Events".  Click the link and pick it up from the Atomic Athletic web site.

  • 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.

  • 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."

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • Limited Supply Specials

    Pearl & Scott Forearm Blasting SPECIAL
    SPECIALS Sample Item

    Atomic Athletic found great stuff in the warehouse!

    We have started doing warehouse modifications, thanks to the endless, horrible winter we had.  Basically, we are getting ready for next winter and in the process, we have found a bunch of items that are collectible, maybe discontinued, possibly very unusual, ie. very LIMITED Supply.  We are not giving them away, but we are putting good prices on them.  I am also putting the quantity available and a shipping price, if it is being shipped only a certain way.  Here is the SPECIALS Category page: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/specials.html

    Check it out now.  I will be trying to remove these items as soon as we are sold out.

  • 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.”

  • 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.”

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