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.
Tag Archives: iron boots
I know that a lot of our readers are big fans of Iron Boot training. Many of you even have antique Iron Boots. In fact, the next few bulletins are going to be highlighting antique equipment that is regularly in use.
If you are familiar with the straps that used to come with the various antique Iron Boots, then you know they were virtually worthless. In fact, it is my opinion that Iron Boots declined in popularity because the various manufacturers had those terrible straps. Put on some decent straps and your Iron Boots become really outstanding training tools. Iron Boots really are dumbbells for your feet!
Right now is a great time, if you are looking to upgrade your Iron Boot Straps. Today, we are introducing our NEW Atomic Athletic Intermediate Strength Iron Boot Straps!
For a Limited Time, we are giving BOTH Free Shipping and a discount on the NEW Intermediate Iron Boot Straps. Additionally, because of the increase in popularity of our Iron Boots, we are also able to lower the price of our Heavy Duty Iron Boots straps! I don’t know how long we can do that as well, but we are going to try it.
Here is the link for the Heavy Duty Iron Boot Strap Sets:
Here is the link for the NEW Intermediate Strength Iron Boot Strap Sets:
All the best,
“Today is a good day to lift.”
Some people look for reasons not to go into the gym. They find reasons to call an exercise dangerous. When I first got into the fitness industry, it was Olympic weightlifting, followed by Behind the Neck Presses. Now the pendulum has swung the other way. For several years it has been leg extensions getting a bad rap. Oh well. I still do them.
Let's face it, I love leg work. It's simple and basic. One exercise that I feel is very important, if you want strong, powerful legs, is the humble leg extension. If you can find a machine that fits you, machines can be fine. I have one that I love, but most of them don't fit me. What does fit are my Iron Boots. There are a million exercises that I can do with Iron Boots. They really are dumbbells for the feet. Unfortunately, to get some exercises right, you actually need some extra equipment, like a bench or seat of some sort.
Garage gym guys take note. The York Barbell Flex bench is a great one to
pair up with Iron Boots. Amazingly, it was sitting right in front of me for about fifteen years, since I worked at York. They even used me as a "short, but real lifter" model for that piece, when it was originally being designed. The current version has a few more positions than it used to have. The one you need for BOTH Iron Boot Leg Extensions and Iron Boot Leg Curls is that butt pad adjustment. That pad also has a wide, rolled edge. That is very important for both exercises.
Check out these Leg Extension and Leg Curl photos. You don't need tons of weight, but getting the right angles and support IS KEY. That York Barbell Flex Bench paired up with Iron Boots is an economical, efficient tool for your garage gym. Like or hate Leg Extensions they work. This pairing will remove two more excuses.
All the best,
"Today is a good day to lift."
Building a powerful midsection is essential serious lifting. It also makes you look good. Choose your
reason, you need to do it.
Check out Rudolph Liska, as shown in Mark Berry's book “Physical Improvement Vol. 2”, from 1930. Berry was the Olympic coach in 1932. Remember, this was a time when the Great Depression was in full swing. Weightlifting wasn't a new thing, but you certainly did not find a gym on every corner. These guys also didn't take steroids. They simply had not been invented yet.
Liska is attacking the abs from both directions. Note, he has added weight. If you want to build bulging muscles, what do you do? You train like a bodybuilder with lighter weights and higher reps. Look at modern competitive bodybuilders, especially in the off season. Now, while forgetting about the Super Heavy Weight Class, look at competitive weightlifters. Those guys don't have big guts. In fact, their “cores” or midsections are tight and powerful. So, maybe it is time for you to pick up some weights for working your abs.
In the top photo, Liska is doing a standard sit-up with a barbell behind his head. He is not holding a plate on his chest. This makes for maximum chest expansion and range of motion with the abdominals. The first part of the exercise is pulling the barbell off the board. Make sure to use the abs to do this, not the arms or lats. The abdominals are groups of small muscles, so you should try to work them as such and in sequence throughout the range of motion. With a modern adjustable sit-up board you can modify the resistance and the muscle group emphasis merely by changing that angle.
The second photo is a sit-up board leg raise. I don't advise you to hold a plate with your feet. While, in the original photo, it looks like the plate is tied to his feet, Iron Boots would be a much safer and more effective tool for this exercise. They will also allow you to do an isolateral version, ie. Alternating Leg Raise, with adjustable weight.
Here is a great home grade ab bench for doing any of these movements.
With any of these exercises, the classic 5 sets of 5 reps are a great way to go. As you can see in the photos, Liska had outstanding abs, serratus and oblique muscles.
All the best,
“Today is a good day to lift.”
Throughout the month of November we will be adding various specials. We are not doing anything
just for Black Friday. However, most of our Specials will be of limited supply, so when they sell out, they are gone and will be pulled from the site!
Here are 2 great Specials:
Iron Boot & Kettlebell Boxed Set: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/kettlebell-iron-boot-boxed-set.html
Bob Hoffman & York Barbell Holiday Special: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/holiday-special-featuring-bob-hoffman-york-barbell.html
Here are some examples of some alternate configurations for the Iron Boots.
Iron Boots can be connected together for exercises that go heavy, like Reverse Hypers. The two configurations shown at the right each have distinctly different feels. I prefer having the weights on the outside when I do leg curls, but only when I have a leg curl bench.
Have you ever been given a tremendous gift by a dead person? I was 5 or 6 years old when my Great Grandpa C. O. Jackson died. I don't really remember ever meeting him, but I feel like I know him. I know him through the 1919 Milo Triplex Barbell Set that sits in my dad's basement.
THE MILO Barbell Tri-Plex
The Milo Triplex is a very unusual set, that included a long dumbbell handle, wooden shovel handle style kettlebell handles, a barbell bar and the weights. As a kid, I first thought of them as Dad's weights. As I grew older they became “The strongman barbell”, because of the cool circus strongman style globe heads. Then they became my secret weapon.
I used that secret weapon to become a good high school athlete, even though I was usually the shortest kid on the field. I wanted to do curls, but the first exercise my Dad taught me was the first one Grandpa Jackson taught him, squats. He also taught me the deadlift, upright row, press (and the power clean for getting it to the shoulder), and most importantly, the Jefferson Lift. I later learned some exercises with kettlebells: the crucifix hold and the kettlebell snatch. Eventually, he taught me swings with the kettlebells and a variety of dumbbell lifts.
Along the way I also learned about Grandpa Jackson. I learned about how he got his middle name, which is the same as mine. The details of his life were revealed to me like the fine carpentry that made up his profession. He became a colorful individual, instead of just a name listed on some genealogical chart.
Grandpa Jackson's barbell still works today, thirty years after I started lifting it. It was a top of the line piece of equipment and meant to last.I am sure Grandpa Jackson used some disposable things, but that is not the way I think of him. He was never wealthy, just a working class guy. Yet, exercise was important enough to him that he bought a quality barbell set. Here are some examples of quality pieces that should last for generations.
Some other classic pieces of equipment Grandpa Jackson might have used:
While the Kettlebell Handles that Alan Calvert designed for the Milo Triplex were really just for that specific MILO set, the handles had that spark of ingenuity which Bob Hoffman and Joe Weider would later seize. I have no idea who originally came up with the "current" design of plate loading kettlebell handles we sell, but I have seen ads for them going back into the 1940s. I suspect that it was the Good Barbell Company.
As for Iron Boots, the first instance of "iron boot type" training, that I have found, comes from an old photo of Sig Klein where he is holding a dumbbell with his feet. However, I know that Bob Hoffman owned the original patent in the 1930s. They were an immediate hit and every barbell company had their own design, as soon as the patent expired.
I could end this blog in a cheesy fashion by saying that we are remembered by the possessions we leave behind, but it is really much more than that. The import stuff is intangible.
Today, that circus strongman barbell and secret weapon is inspiration. If that 1919 Milo Triplex Barbell Set had not been sitting in our basement, you wouldn't be reading this blog right now.
All the best,
"Today is a good day to lift."
Confusion often surrounds the topic of strength training for the martial arts. There are generally two schools of thought on the subject. One school states that weight training is detrimental to martial skill acquisition because the excessive tension held in the muscles will reduce the fluidity of movement, thus robbing one’s technique of speed and power. The other school says that strength training done correctly and as a compliment to the martial skill training will increase the contractile strength of the body without sacrificing flexibility, the end result being improved speed and power.
Where do I weigh in on this long-standing debate? Some weight training practices will indeed create sluggishness and a loss of tensile strength but only if the martial artist uses a body-building or train-to-failure approach. Any weight training will also diminish martial skill if it becomes the primary focus rather than a supplement to the martial arts skill training. Strength training, when the appropriate method is selected, will compliment and contribute to enhanced martial art skill, in the form of greater speed, power, flexibility and endurance.
So what is the right method of strength training for the martial artist? Why should a martial artist practice strength training, and how does one begin? While there are many training tools available, kettlebells are the tools that offer the most to the martial artist’s strength training curriculum.
Of all the physical variables that the well-rounded martial artist must address when designing the right strength training program, there are 4 in particular that kettlebells address better than other training modes: strength/endurance, mental toughness/body hardening, martial specificity, and efficiency (economy of motion).
In a martial arts or fighting context, strength/endurance, or “enduring strength”, is the ability to fight with intensity for extended engagements. This is even more crucial than maximal strength, or the ability to deliver one very powerful blow. Maximal or limit strength is very important as well, as in knockout power, or a quick submission, but the well-rounded fighter must be prepared to deliver multiple strikes in combinations. This requires tremendous strength/endurance. Kettlebell high repetition snatches, for example, develop a strong work capacity and anaerobic threshold. This means that you learn to continue to apply power even while aerobically taxed. For the martial artist this is a very important skill. Often times it is not how strong you are when you are fresh but how strong you remain once you become winded and have expended a lot of energy that determines the outcome. Because kettlebell lifts require full-body integration, it is a much better tool for the martial artist than doing high repetition isolation movements with a barbell or dumbbell.
Mental toughness and body hardening are listed together because they cannot be separated in the application of martial arts. One who is “mentally tough” will fold under an effective thai kick to the lower leg, if his body is not sufficiently hardened for the impact. Likewise, the fighter with a ruggedly conditioned body will eventually waiver if he is kept in an uncompromising position, such as a lock, unless his focus is perfectly sharpened and mentally tough. Kettlebell training helps to develop the necessary psycho-physical balance that is crucial to effective martial arts. In exercises like the kettlebell clean and snatch, wherein the kettlebell flips around the hand, and rests on the forearm, there is body hardening occurring due to the impact of the bell on the arm. In the early stages, the bell tends to come crashing down on the forearm, even causing pain. The perseverance to proceed is an early test of one’s mental resolve. As the techniques become more refined, there is less impact on the forearm, as one learns to move the hand fluidly inside of the kettlebell handle. Even still, the bell rests on the forearm, exerting pressure and over time increasing the density and hardness of the area. Such training as the high-repetition snatch and jerk as seen in traditional Girevoy Sport of Russia is a real test of both one’s mental resolve to persevere and physical ability to accept pain. These attributes need to be embraced by the martial artist as well.
In sports science, the term ‘specificity’ refers to the adaptations to the physiological systems that occur as a result of the training program design. For the martial artist, the strength that is developed through supplementary weight training must be able to transfer into improved striking, kicking, grappling, trapping, and throwing skills. If your fighting techniques increase in speed, power, and focus as a result of your strength training program, then your program has a high degree of specificity to your martial art skill. If you become more sluggish and start getting hit by people that couldn’t hit you before then the strength training regimen is ill-designed and non-specific.
Like in martial art technique, in kettlebell lifting the grip, the hips (and core), and the stance are involved in every motion. The highly ballistic nature of such exercises as swings, cleans, snatches and jerks very closely mimic the type of explosive full-body integration involved in executing effective strikes, kicks, and throws.
Specificity - How To Integrate Kettlebells Into A Martial Arts Program
The concept of training specificity ties in very closely with the concept of training efficiency; you won’t have one without the other. With a strength training program that is specific to enhancing martial skills, we also develop efficiency. All martial art styles pursue an economy of motion. The prevailing quality in the movement of gifted martial artists is efficiency. This is irrespective of the style and is independent of the speed of execution. Efficient movement will remain efficient whether practiced at full speed or in slow motion. Efficiency relates to using only the energy necessary to achieve the result, nothing more. It also relates to spending only the time necessary to achieve the objective, no more. In a martial analogy, this means not using 1000 pounds of force, when 4 ounces will do. If you can unbalance the opponent with only slight movement, it is more efficient than using every last bit of energy to send him off balance. When cultivating martial skill, most of one’s time should be spent on mastering the particular techniques of one’s style, not on cross-training. The strength training protocol selected should be one that allows for specific strength gains without demanding too much time away from the martial skill practice. This means relatively short, intense workouts that allow the body to remain fresh for skill practice. The specific time guidelines are relative to the experience and physical attributes of the trainee, but as a rule of thumb, the strength training curriculum should not exceed 30% of the martial artist’s total training. In other words, to be efficient with his use of time, the martial artist should spend at least 70% of the total practice time on the martial art skill training and not on lifting weights.
To develop an efficient strength training regime, kettlebells are the ideal choice because the types of movements are similar in nature to many of the basic martial art techniques. This contributes to the economy of motion—you are not being asked to learn radically different motor patterns. Take the 2 Kettlebell “rack position’, in which 2 kettlebells are resting on your arms and body. This position is attained by taking a kettlebell in each hand and cleaning them to the top position. The kettlebells stay in the top position for a period of time. This 2 kettlebell rack position is mechanically very similar to a basic guard position, as in boxing. In a fighting stance, there of course will not be kettlebells in your hands, and one or both hands may be extended slightly in front of the body, with one foot forward. The action of the body, however, is virtually identical: the lats are “full”, in a very strong compressed position, the shoulders are relaxed and sunken, the chest is hollow and the back is rounded, the knees have a gentle bend (springy), and the tailbone is tucked slightly under. Try this: take a fighting stance of your liking and bring the hands up in a guard position. Notice how it feels in the back/lat, abdominals and ribcage. It should feel very full, alive, and powerful, like a tiger ready to pounce. Now do the 2 kettlebell clean and hold them in the rack position. The same sensation of fullness in the torso should be present.
The similarities in mechanics required for the martial technique and the kettlebell technique make the 2 kettlebell clean/rack a highly efficient choice of exercise, due to its specificity. Because you do not have to alter the body mechanics for the two movements, there is no wasted time in your strength practice. There are numerous other examples of kettlebell drills that have a high degree of specificity, and are mechanically efficient for martial artists.
Some of the most significant characteristics of a well-rounded martial artist are strength/endurance, mental toughness/body hardening, martial specificity, and efficiency. These 4 attributes need to be addressed when supplementing martial arts practice with weight training. Kettlebells are the tool of choice for accomplishing these objectives, and when properly integrated will increase the speed, power, endurance and movement skill of the martial artist.
Since this article was written several years ago, Atomic Athletic has greatly expanded its offerings of strength training equipment for martial artists. Check out the following products:
Tai Chi Balls - this has rocketed to the top of the Atomic Athletic top sellers list. These are handcrafted by master woodworkers and made in the USA.
Stone Balls are perinial favorite among martial artists.
The Tendon and Ligament DVD is our most popular instructional video.
Iron boots are much like the Tetsu Geta
Kettlebell Handles are a great way to get a work out in a small space because they are so versitile.
Iron Boots: Dumbbells For Your Feet!
by Roger LaPointe
Iron Boots are one of the oldest tools for leg development in the world of real strength training. At Atomic Athletic I have loved Iron Boot work since the first time I used my original set of
York Health Shoes. If you want to get yourself a set right away, just hit this link .
• Functional Training For Your Feet
The days of pure isolation of single muscle groups are over. Unless you are a bodybuilder, then you need to work multiple muscles in conjunction with each other. This is what an athlete does while playing a sport. Training your legs is no different than training any other part of your body in that respect.• Iron Boots are more than just for the feet
Think about where you place the Iron Boot. It goes on the bottom of the foot. That means you can work the ankle, calf, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, low back, stomach and all those small muscles that tie into those groups. If you get creative with a dip station or chinning bar, you really have a great tool in the Iron Boot.
• Are antique Iron Boots still OK?
They can be. There were a lot of different designs out there, and some were better than others.
• If I found an old pair, what would be the first thing to check out?
Make sure the straps are still good. Historyically, most companies sold really second rate straps. Additionally, if it is old, you could be dealing with wear and tear that came from use, and things like dry rot.
You certainly don't want to have a weight come crashing down because your 60 year old straps did not hold. You should check your straps every time you use them. Just like you were out shoe laces, you can wear out Iron Boot straps. Atomic Athletic has great heavy duty replacement straps that are 30 inches long and use a spring loaded steel presure buckle derived from military aircraft tiedowns. Good stuff.
• The secret to using Iron Boots is efficient exercise choices.
"I have been doing research on Iron Boot training since 1997, when I had to rehab a torn meniscus in my right knee. While, at one time, every American barbell company had their own version of the iron boot, or health shoe, there was suprisingly little information on how to use them. That is, until I really got into my research." Roger LaPointe. Because they were so common, eveyone from physical therapists and athletic trainers to competitive bodybuilders had their own pet exercise with the Iron Boots.
"It was up to me to put it all together, and find the best of the best," said Roger. "I don't believe in doing a million little exercises that will take up your entire day, which you could easily do with the Iron Boots. I believe in efficience and intensity. For example, if you are training for soccer as a goalie, and you can do a lying leg curl with a machine or a hanging leg curl with the Iron Boots, it's a pretty easy decision for me. You do the Hanging Leg Curl that will work your grip, hamstrings, and ankles. Additionally, you get the glute and low back work combined with stretching and decompressing the spine. You would get very similar tendon, ligament and muscle control out of a lying leg curl with the Iron Boots, putting it in a better category than the machine, but you would get none of those extra benefits. Work them all together and then get back out on the field!"
• Iron Boot training has a long history for both men AND women.
Lisa has been working with the Iron Boots for general fitness work . You can see in the following two photos, which were taken in sequence, that the Crunch & Thrusthas been working for her. She is actually using an antique pair that was made by Weider specifically for women. Based on the old advertisements we have seen, we estimate that these are from the late 1950's. An exercise like this would be fantastic for swimmers, divers, gymnasts and martial artists. Of course, it would be great for anyone interested in working the abdominal muscles, quads, hip flexors and ankles.• What are some of those old advertisements?
Further on in this article, you will see a variety of Iron Boot and/or Health Shoe advertisements. The oldest I have found came from Strength & Health magazine, which was published by the York Barbell Company.
• What publications are available for learning how to use Iron Boots?
The oldest book that I know of, which is still availble, was written by Vic Boff. He was a real advocate of Iron Boot training, and included it in his Vic Boff's Bodybuilder's Bible for Men & Women. If you don't know about Vic, he founded the Association of Oldetime Barbell and Strongmen.
• More Iron Boot exercises are available exclusively from Atomic Athletic.
In addition to the written Leg Development Course , which comes with the Iron Boots, we have the Leg Development DVD & Written Course Combo. Of course, that set contains more than just Iron Boot exercises, but it is all classic lower body work. Really, it is all just training with a barbell and the iron boots. Very basic stuff that can be done with basic equipment or expanded on with a power rack and basic bench.• Have you included Iron Boot work in some of the more comprehensive courses?
Certainly. The concept that I keep adding onto is my Train Like A Strongman series. It is really an attempt at bringing all these seemingly disparate concepts into one coherant whole.
• What is the most recent addition to the Train Like A Strongman series, and does it also use the Iron Boot training?
That would be the Train Like A Strongman DVD Volume 2. I do touch on a little bit of ankle work in that DVD. However, we also have the Ankle Stability Kit. As the name implies, it gets into a lot more than just Iron Boot work, but that is certainly part of it.
• What is your favorite old time course for Iron Boot work?
That would have to be the York Leg Development Course that featured John Grimek. However, Kim Wood gave me a wall chart course of Seig Klein that uses "Klein Bells". They were some modified dumbbells, and certainly not actual iron boots, but he does do some exercises with the bells held onto his feet. You can see where things were going with that course.• Traveling strength tools.
The traveling strongman is a subject I have studied since I first got into the fitness industry with the York Barbell Company. I did a variety of shows to help promote York products. Some people have called it a strongman act, which, I guess it was, in the broad sense of the word. Each one was different, and I did more weightlifting than feats, like bending and that sort of thing.
I have also had to travel quite a bit for sales purposes. I have traveled by car, truck and plane. Each one has had its positive and negative points. The iron boots are a great training tool if you are traveling by car or truck. You can do an entire lower body workout with them.
• An Iron Boot only travel workout
Seated Leg Extension 2 Sets of 20 Reps
Standing Leg Curl 2 Sets of 20 Reps
Free Hand Squats 3 Sets of 50 Reps
Bicycles 1 Set of 10 Slow Reps
Fold Over Extensions 1 Set of 5 Slow Reps
Push Ups 3 Sets of 30 Reps
Seated Cruch & Thrust 2 Sets of 10 RepsThis group of exercises is heavy on the low back work and stomach work. When traveling, we all get tight low backs. You must combat this with stretching and weighted stretches are a really fantastic way to work some often neglected areas.
• Old advertisements and sets
These old advertisements are great. You can see that things really have not changed much. What has changed is that you can hardly find Iron Boots any place except Atomic Athletic. The big corporations would really rather sell you 10 machines at $2000 each. Well, those machines are great for a gym. They are not really practical for the individual at home. It is also necessary in a set to have all the parts interchangable. With our new Iron Boots, the Dumbbell Bars work with the new Kettlebell handles, and, amazingly, function as dumbbell bars by themselves.
• Illustrations and photos, we try to keep things retro cool for your education too!So much of the history of strength training is in the old magazines and books, and it is part of the real iron game culture. If we can keep the old methods of training alive along with the culture, so much the better. My buddy Bill Hinbern and I have had a long running discussion about the direction of the physical culture world. We have seen too much of the big business world getting into it and not enough real lifting. It is amazing that there are more people with gym memberships today than at any point in history. At the same time there are more overweight people than ever before. With a tool like the iron boot, if you miss your trip to the gym, you can still get a complete full body workout at home. You don't even need a basement or garage gym. I have done it in hotel rooms, and even the tailgate of my truck while camping. That is versatility.
• Dumbbells for your feet.
Iron Boots really are dumbbells for your feet. Besides being used independently, they are even plate loadable! This means you can adjust the weight to some quite high levels. Ironically, the fact that they are independent of each other makes them so you don't need nearly so much weight as you would with most machines, like a leg extension unit, for example.