The Polaroid photo had a big thumb print in one corner. It had the weird rainbow-like oil slick halo, but the dried blood really set it off. I finally had an image of the, “Chicken Killer.” This article is his short story, but also a great workout.
I was going to title this article, “Making the Most of Your Thick Bar Training.” Like much of my writing, after starting with one idea another took hold, throttled me by the neck, did a Suplex, and after trying to fight it back, I relented and did a complete re-write. In this case, the offending concept was an old photo I remembered.
Once in a great while, I’m given a story by a garage gym lifter that most people would write off as crazy. I know my neighbors put me in the “off-kilter” category and many of my customers get that moniker as well, but now I’m talking about a whole different level of nut case.
Cleaning the Beast
The photo showed “The Chicken Killer” doing a static hold with a thick piece of pipe, weights actually hanging by shoelaces. I’m guessing this was his sandy Texas backyard, with an old Trans Am parked behind him. He held the bar at his waist with a clean grip. I’m guessing it was 2” plumbing pipe, so the diameter would be 2 1/3 inches. I have no idea how much weight was hanging there, as it looked to have a mix of plates and a big gear. The pipe also had a dirty chunk of concrete cast around one end. I took equipment orders from “The Chicken Killer” about once a month. With each shipping quote I got a story. He got the thick bar grip work concept from me, as I had told him that Smitty trained Bill March with a 2” bar. The unbalanced details were his unique execution.
The Bomb Tattoo
As nutty as it sounds, he claimed to do cleans with that mess. Of course, that wasn’t without incident. One time he broke a shoelace, as he did a clean, the remaining items swinging wide. Catching the clean forward and wildly unbalanced, he partially tore his right biceps. He never went to the hospital. The accident was commemorated with a Wile E. Coyote-esqe bomb tattoo, lit fuse pointing to the lumped up muscle near the crook of his arm.
Lessons & Good Workout
I know, you’re wondering how this fine individual got to be called “The Chicken Killer”. He always paid in cash, sent through the US Mail and wrapped tightly in brown grocery bag paper. The random bills were very dirty and would have bloody finger prints and a stray feather, or two, stuck to the mass. The guy never straight out admitted to betting on cock fights, as he was clearly paranoid. He certainly hinted at it and the physical evidence was such that York’s Bookkeeper made me count his money, never touching it herself.
Thick bar cleans are great for grip strength and help in your regular bar cleans and snatches. Aside from the obvious grip strength gained, there’s an interesting forearm benefit. Olympic style weightlifters talk about keeping the bar close in the pull position, which is obvious in bar end tracking videos and sequence photos, the tighter the resulting pull loop, the less need for a jump backwards. I talk about this in the Power Clean Clinic video. Unless you have exceptionally large hands, you will automatically flex the forearms when doing any thick bar clean. You’re doing this to get the hand under the bar during the explosive pull, because you can’t hook your thumb. This also necessitates the use of rotating bars, either barbell or dumbbell, because the resulting rotation changes from a clean “flip” to a reverse curl. It’s that reverse curl which sometimes turns into the torn biceps that are seen in Strongman Contests.*
THICK BAR WORKOUT
Warm-up: Stretching mixed with light Indian Club Swinging
Hang Clean & Power Jerk: 5 x 5 (Light & Fast)
Rotating Thick Barbell (or 2 Rotating Thick Dumbbells)
Power Clean: 5 x 3 Barbell Back Squat: 5 x 5
(Use a Safety Squat Bar if you have ANY recurring Shoulder Issues)
Trap Bar Dead Lift: 5 x 2 (Heavy)
Hanging Knee Raises 2 x 20 (Use Iron Boots if you still have any remaining grip strength.)
Masters Age Lifters Take Special Note
Many lifters have a slight forward lean with thick bar work. Your center of gravity will be slightly forward, until you get used to it. If your shoulders can handle it, do Presses with your Thick Bar Power Cleans. Many Masters age lifters won’t want to do this. The Back Squats and Trap Bar Deadlifts will counteract some of the forward leaning compensation, while the Safety Squat Bar will be additional help the shoulders. The Hanging Knee Raises will decompress the spine and shoulders while providing some abdominal work.
All the best, Roger LaPointe
*There was more going on with the incident that resulted in The Chicken Killer’s torn biceps. Unfortunately, I no longer have the photo. For all I know it could still be in my old desk at York Barbell.