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Tag Archives: garage gym

  • 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.

  • 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 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."

  • 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.”

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