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Tag Archives: deadlift

  • Polaroid of the Thick Bar with Weights Hanging by Shoelaces

    The Polaroid photo had a big thumb print in one corner. It had the weird rainbow-like oil slickbomb 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.”

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