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.
Milo Tri-Plex Kettlebells circa 1909
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:
Plate Loading Kettlebell Handles
Atomic Athletic Iron Boots: Loaded & Unloaded
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."