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Tag Archives: garage gym

  • 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."

  • Learn One Lift

    Dumbbell Clean & Jerk
    Strongman: Strength Magazine 1926 - Dumbbell Clean & Jerk

    Yes. Learn one lift.

    Here is the hardest part about working out. I hear it from other people too. It's not just me. You need to get into the gym in order to work out. Learning one lift will solve that problem.

    Once you are in the gym, you will do something. Learning one lift is a great incentive. I am talking about really learning everything you can about that lift.

    Almost everyone needs a higher level of fitness. This concept works. Those of you who do NOT think that you would be healthier and a better athlete, if you were in better shape, just quit reading right now. Maybe you are that particular type of D-bag who genuinely believes that you are as good as it gets. Good for you, but I don't want to talk to you. In fact, I don't even want you reading my newsletter. This Atomic Athletic Bomb Proof Bulletin is for the rest of us.

    Truly, I have found it to be the very best advice I can give when someone needs that necessary inspiration to walk into the gym. Getting into the gym really is the hardest part of working out. I deal with it too. I also have 10,000 distractions which can pull me off course.

    Engage the mind and the body will follow.
    Now, I am not saying that you need to pick one lift and that is all you do. This is how you make things interesting. You engage the mind and the body will follow. A couple years ago, I chose the One Hand Dumbbell Swing as my lift. I started doing that lift because I found it to be very useful as a training lift, when I was trying to break a record in the One Hand Barbell Deadlift. After breaking the American Record in the that lift, I moved on to the One Hand Dumbbell Swing, because I enjoyed it and I found it intriguing. I had been inspired to go after that deadlift record by Andrew Durniat, who had blown away the World Record at one of my Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnics.* So you can see the progression of interest, one thing lead to another.

    Norbert Schemansky told me that for the 1948 Olympics he only did the three Olympic lifts in his training. That earned him a silver medal. Norb is a perfectionist. He did those lifts with the idea that his technique on each one would be perfect. I'm sure silver drove him crazy. After those Olympics, he started doing other lifts that he felt would improve his weaknesses in the three Olympic lifts. For example, at some point he added bench presses to his training routine, in order to improve his standing press. Using that concept, he ultimately took gold, breaking world records in all three lifts and the total, as well as much, much more.

    In weightlifting, there are divisions, such as age group and weight class. If that is not enough, especially in the sport of powerlifting, there are many different organizations, each with slightly different rules. You also don't need to ever compete, if that's not your thing. Yet, you will find that when you set your mind to becoming the very best, most knowledgeable person at that one lift, no matter how unusual it is, then your desire to get into the gym and learn as much as possible will transform your entire perspective and desire to train.

    I haven't had a chance to officially go after that One Hand Dumbbell Swing record. Life keeps getting in the way. However, the last time I looked at that record, it didn't seem like I would have much problem breaking it, when I do get the chance. In the mean time, I keep working at raising my ability in the lift. As I challenge myself with my one rep max, my poundage keeps going up in the gym.

    I hope you take this advice and find your lift.

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

    *Fortunately, Durniat and I are in completely different weight classes and age groups, because he did almost twice the lift I did.

  • The Best Garage Gyms

    The best garage gyms inspire us to greatness.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/garage-gym-guide-by-roger-lapointe.html

    Strongman Pat Povilaitis
    Dr. Ken Leistner's old garage gym with Strongman Pat "The Human Vise" Povilaitis lifting a 350 Chevy engine block with his head and quartering a deck of playing cards.

    Of course, that is a personal definition, because the gym is a reflection of ourselves. For those of us who lift with a couple of buddies, those friends will also leave their mark. I am currently collecting gyms... Yes, I know that sounds weird. A gym is not like blue berries, or coins.

    You could say that I am putting together photos and descriptions of some of the coolest “Garage Gyms” I have experienced, because just like lifting, a gym has to be experienced. It isn't a spectator sport where we sit in the stands. That would be a museum. I'm just hoping that my writing skills are up to the task of weaving words into a world, that in many cases no longer exists, but continues to inspire. If you are one of the many lifters who has read book, the Garage Gym Guide, then you have an idea of what I am getting at.

    As a commercial gym owner, you may even get some ideas that will set you apart from the competition. I know the competition can be fierce. Some of these gyms will be indoors and some outdoors. Some of the gyms are mobile and some were knocked down and destroyed years ago. All of them are, or were, really cool.

    By the way, the gym in the photo above is Dr. Ken Leistner's old place. That is is Strongman Pat “The Human Vise” Povilaitis lifting his signature 350 Chevy engine block with his head. Oh, yeah, he is quartering a brand new deck of playing cards at the same time. Dr. Ken has the ability to inspire that sort of strangeness.

    Stay tuned for more.

    By the way, there is another Podcast up at Fiorillo Barbell, get it here:
    http://www.fiorillobarbellco.com/motivation-muscle-podcast-roger-lapointe-atomic-athletic-garage-gyms-challenge-dumbbell-iceland-fiorillo-barbell/

    All of the Fiorillo Barbell Podcasts are also available on iTunes.

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

  • Podcast Interview: The Pre-Steroid Era

    Tuesday, July 1st: Atomic Athletic's Roger LaPointe was interviewed on the Motivation & Muscle

    York Barbell's John Grimek's Forearm Development
    John Grimek using a Wrist Roller.

    Podcast, put out by Fiorillo Barbell.  Check it out here: http://www.fiorillobarbellco.com/motivation-muscle-roger-la-pointe-atomic-athletic-john-grimek-pre-steroid-era-2/

    Titled, “Motivation and Muscle, Roger La Pointe, Atomic Athletic, John Grimek, Pre Steroid Era”, this is Roger's first interview with Eric Fiorillo, of Fiorillo Barbell. Fiorillo Barbell is a no-nonsense source of solid training information, headed by a guy who truly takes his strength seriously.
    As reported by Fiorillo Barbell, “Today is another first for Motivation and Muscle. We welcome a long time friend Roger La Pointe to Motivation and Muscle. Roger talks about an era of lifting which we feel has been forgotten. Men like John Grimek will never be seen again. Roger dives into  York Barbell which I’ve never heard anyone talk about. It’s a very interesting and insightful interview with a gentlemen who has lived the York Barbell experience. Motivation and Muscle is the Podcast that connects your Brain to your Brawn. Enjoy!”

    http://www.fiorillobarbellco.com/motivation-muscle-roger-la-pointe-atomic-athletic-john-grimek-pre-steroid-era-2/

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

  • 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.”

  • Bob Hoffman Throwback Workout

    Bob Hoffman lifting at the old Ridge Ave. York Barbell Gym.
    Bob Hoffman Deep Knee Bends with a Globe Barbell at the old Ridge Ave. York Barbell Gym.

    Bob Hoffman, the owner and founder of the York Barbell Company, believed that a creative individual could build a Mr. America body with just one adjustable barbell and two quality adjustable dumbbells, combined with hard work and creativity. In that spirit, try out this Throwback Workout.

    1 Barbell & 2 Dumbbells Workout

    Barbell
    Power Clean & Press 5 x 5
    Straight Arm Pullover 5 x 5
    Front Squat 5 x 5

    Dumbbells
    Alternate Zottman Curls 5 x 5
    Side Laterals (Delts) 5 x 5
    Strongman Double Biceps Curls 5 x 5
    Crucifix Holds (Front Delt / Upper Chest) 5 Reps
    Held for a Count of 6

    Sit-ups (Use Barbell to Hold Feet Down) 50 Reps

    Do 5 x 5 for all exercises except the Sit-ups and Crucifix Holds.  If you can't do 50 Reps as a single set, then just make sure you get them all done.

    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.”

  • 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.”

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