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Strength Training

  • “I’m Crushing Your Head”

    Training a Chinese friend in Olympic lifting, who is a very competent jiu jitsu artist, an admission of fear was revealed to me. He said, “How do you put the barbell over your head like that?”

    The split snatch was the dominant form of the snatch Olympic lift, until the 1960s.
    Illustration of a classic "Split Snatch".

    “Well, that is what we’ve been working,” I responded with a tinge of a question mark.

    “No, it’s my English. When you snatch, the barbell could fall from above and crush your head. I fear it.”

    I had no immediate answer, but the old Kid’s In The Hall skit came to mind. I quickly squashed that inappropriate response and admitted that I had never thought of it that way. I wasn’t bragging. I have fears of other lifts, but in the snatch, that result is not one of them.

    Mulling the unsaid phrase around my brain for several years, I realized that it was not just a clever reply, gladly un-blurted.

    There is a ring of truth behind immediate responses, like the glimpse of one’s psyche in a Rorschach Ink Blot Test. It was one of the “secrets” Smitty had tried to ram into my skull. Because of his education, I automatically break down the lifts into component parts, easily accomplished, often with significantly more weight than the related full competitive lift. As I train those parts, I’m doing something far more significant than making muscles stronger and teaching neurons to fire efficiently, I’m training my mind. By adding perspective, the very rational fears will not crush my head.

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

  • Roger LaPointe 1st Podcast Link Listing

    This is just the first of a number of quick listings of podcasts I've been on.  There will certainly

    FBC Motivation & Muscle Podcast
    Fiorillo Barbell Company's "Motivation & Muscle" Podcast

    be more to come, as I've done a lot of them. I considered putting descriptions up, which are more than just the titles they've been given, but the web sites which host them seem to do a great job. I've listed posting dates, when they are available.
    Motivation & Muscle Podcast
    Roger LaPointe-Partials-#351
    http://motivationandmuscle.com/podcast/roger-lapointe-partials-351/

    Roger LaPointe-Clean and Press-#329: December 1, 2015
    http://motivationandmuscle.com/podcast/roger-lapointe-clean-and-press-329/

    Roger LaPointe-The Art of Manliness Part 2-#320: November 16, 2015
    http://motivationandmuscle.com/podcast/roger-lapointe-the-art-of-manliness-part-2-320/

    Roger LaPointe-The Art Of Manliness Part 1-#293
    http://motivationandmuscle.com/?s=Roger+LaPointe-The+Art+Of+Manliness+Part+1-%23293

    Roger LaPointe-The Look Of Power. Overloading! #255
    http://motivationandmuscle.com/podcast/roger-lapointe-the-look-of-power-overloading-255/

    Roger LaPointe-Building Big Legs-#249
    http://motivationandmuscle.com/podcast/roger-lapointe-building-big-legs-249/

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

  • Deadlifts or Pulls

    Have you ever gone to a Push-Pull Meet?

    John Terry Deadlifting 460 Pounds
    John Terry in York Barbell Standard Barbell Set Advertisement Deadlifting 460 Pounds. His official world record of 600 pounds was set at a bodyweight of 132 pounds.

    I think they are a great concept. Here is where you can laugh at your author. When I was fresh and new to the competitive lifting world, I heard about a push-pull meet and started training for it. Fortunately, there was a powerlifter in the gym with an inquisitive mind. Logically, he asked what I was doing and why I had modified my fairly typical Olympic lifting routine. I was now doing lots of heavy push presses, power jerks and clean pulls. With a big laugh, he informed me what a push-pull meet is.

    Of course, the Powerlifters of the world know exactly what I’m talking about, but that may not be the case for Olympic weightlifters, bodybuilders, strongman competitors and many other lifters. If you fall into that non-powerlifter category, it’s a clever name for a two lift meet with a deadlift and a bench press competition.

    So now we get into the controversy. Which one is better, the deadlift or the pull? Clearly, the deadlift is better if you are training for a powerlifting competition and pulls are a training lift for the Olympic lifters of the world, but strictly speaking, unnecessary. They are not essential for Olympic lifters because the competition lifts are the clean & jerk and the snatch, not a pull – clean or snatch variety. The argument for training heavy deadlifts is certainly an old one. Hermann Goerner certainly set explosive lift world records, while doing amazing deadlifts in a wide variety of styles. On the other end of the size spectrum is John Terry, who I believe is really the lifter to look at with this discussion.

    John Terry is what I call the first modern American competitive lifter. He was highly successful in the Association of Bar Bell Men competitions, setting several world records, including a world record in the 2 hand deadlift. Using the modern alternate grip style, he lifted a confirmed 600 pounds* at a bodyweight of 132 pounds. Terry also set a world record snatch of 200 pounds, split style, at the same weight class.

    The argument for deadlifting is for overloading. With proper technique, you can lift more absolute weight with the deadlift that with a clean pull. The problem with deadlifting is that it closely resembles a pull, but is clearly a different movement. If your goal is to do a completed explosive lift, then the pulling with back and leg angles of the deadlifter will mess you up. The answer to that controversy was an easy one for Terry, already having the world record in the deadlift, he limited his training to a concentration on the three Olympic lifts, especially the 2 Hand Snatch.

    The modern solution was provided by York Barbell, in the form of the Power Rack. By doing partial movements and Isometrics, the Olympic lifters could overload in the proper positions, without doing deadlifts. Of course, powerlifters can do the same with their deadlifting. John Terry did not have the luxury of a power rack, as they weren’t invented until around 1960, at which point Terry had been out of the sport for twenty years.

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

    *I’ve seen claims by Bob Hoffman of Terry doing 615, but have not been able to find any other confirmation of that. Hoffman frequently spoke of gym lifts in articles, which were not legitimized in a competition format. The photo for this article shows Terry in a Strength & Health ad from 1942 for a standard size 310 set, with an additional pair of 75s, for a 460 deadlift. Many famous deadlifters have advocated the use of standard size bars and plates for practice, including David Shaw.

  • 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.

  • 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 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

  • 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.

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