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Tag Archives: old time strongman

  • 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."

  • 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.”

  • Darth Vader and York Barbell

    “Roger LaPointe to the store front desk, please.”

    Dave Prowse, who played Darth Vader, at York Barbell
    Dave Prowse choking Roger LaPointe in the York Barbell Weightlifting Hall of Fame.

    I loved to hear that request echo from the tinny, feedback filled York Barbell intercom.  It was ALWAYS going to lead to something interesting.

    That day was no exception.  Twenty years after I first encountered him on the big screen, I met Darth Vader, I mean Dave Prowse.  Yes, I instantly became that shocked six year old in a movie theater seeing a light saber for the first time. It was 1997 and Dave Prowse wanted to meet “the lifter” at York Barbell.  Fortunately for me, Dave had dealt with plenty of star struck fans.  It didn't take long before we were talking about weightlifting, gyms and the fun of a real Highland games.  We genuinely had interests in common.

    Dave has a really outstanding sense of humor and loves the strength sports.  He also has a great voice to top off his commanding presence.  The photo above shows Dave choking me in the York Barbell Weightlifting Hall of Fame.

    Years before, Dr. Bob Suchyta had told me that if I take my lifting seriously, it will take me to amazing places. The beauty of weightlifting is that it is just you and a barbell.  The barbell is an inanimate object.  If you don't do anything, then it will also do nothing.  The same can be said of stone lifting, or throwing a caber.  The lessons of the iron are great.

    Dave Prowse told me the same thing as Dr. Bob.  In their humility, just meeting each of them was already something great.  Look up Dave's biography.  It reads like Charles Atlas.  He really was the sickly kid who went on to lift the unliftable stones.  Little did I know, my lifting would take me to the stars, to battle with the most notorious villain of all time, or at least the actor who played him.

    All the best, 

    Roger LaPointe

    Today is a good day to lift.”

    P.S. My, now seven year old, son tells me that it's obviously not Darth Vader choking me in the photo, after all, “where is his cape and helmet?”  (Raspy breathing sound effect: “Jackson, I am your father.”)

  • 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.”

  • Throwing Down a Pint

    joe-marino-bodybuilder
    Carry On, Joe Marino - Joe has always promoted the idea of camaraderie in strength sports, especially through the AOBS.

    As you can imagine, I'm not a big drinker, but that was great fun. I've been working so long and hard on the Atomic Athletic web site that my social, camaraderie oriented side of life has been lacking. I almost titled this Bomb Proof Bulletin “Extending the Conversation”, which would have been descriptive, but didn't have the punchy flavor I wanted, but you get the idea.

    Just Did It
    You see, like any other sport, you can only “do” strength sports for so long. I'm also not talking about age here. We have Masters athletics for those of us who want to compete in age group sports. I'm talking about being a spectator. It's the art of watching the game with buddies. Most of us at the Pub had done some sort of coaching and recruiting for the Open Curling we have, thanks to the advertising power of the the Olympics being on television. By Friday, we were done for the week. It was time to relax and talk about the sport. Tell some jokes. You get the idea.

    Last week, I met with my buddy, Dr. Bob Suchyta, at his bar, Doc's Sports Retreat. Dr. Bob is the guy who got me into Olympic style Weightlifting. Believe me, he was a much better lifter than I have ever been, having been trained by Norbert Schemansky, at the Astro Club. We had a blast talking about lifting and checking out all of his sports memorabilia. His place is a modern sports bar that shows off a collection that includes pieces from Gordy Howe, other Red Wings, Lions, Tigers, Pistons and of course, weightlifters. There is at least an entire case of memorabilia just about Norbert Schemansky, but other lifters, strongmen and bodybuilders are represented as well.

    Click this link if you want to check out Doc's Sports Retreat: http://www.docssportretreat.com/

    Both Vic Boff and Joe Marino drummed the concepts of camaraderie and fellowship into my head. They are essential for any sport. In case you didn't know, the AOBS (Association of Oldetime Barbell & Strongmen, which Vic founded) started as an informal get-together to celebrate Sig Klein's birthday. Make sure to get together with your lifting buddies. If they have all disappeared, find new ones. Make sure to add in some young guys, or even “old guys” who are new to the sport.

    Vic Boff Collection: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/vic-boff-collection-2-books-dvd.html

    Continue to check out the Atomic Athletic BLOG for more. I add bits & pieces to it, that are not long enough for a Bulletin.   Of course, not all the Bulletins make it to the BLOG.  They really are different entities.

    Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic Collage
    Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic Collage

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

  • Before Bench Presses

    john-grimek-pullover-mb1
    John Grimek Straight Arm Pullover

    What do you bench?

    How many times have you heard that question? I hate that question. I have a torn right rotator cuff and bench presses really aggravate that injury. So, on the rare occasion that I do a bench press, I never go over 225. The amazing thing is that people THINK I can bench press a lot, because they think I look like a guy that can bench a lot.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/traditional-training-legendary-strength.html

    Here is my secret... and it is not bodybuilding, unless you are thinking of bodybuilding from 80 years ago. In fact, it wasn't until some time in the 1950s that lifters started doing flat “press-ups” on a bench. Yet, without bench presses, lifters had huge shoulders, triceps, brachialis, and pectoral muscles. The secret is that you have to look back to the time when John Grimek built up his physique.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/gym-art-charts/classic-training-hall-wall-chart-set.html

    I am going to give you three exercises, that need to be added into your barbell routine, as well as one really great “Chest” workout.

    Straight Arm Barbell Pullovers

    The photo at the top is a photo of John Grimek, from when he worked for Mark Berry, estimated to have been taken in 1934. John is doing my favorite upper body exercise, the straight arm pullover. I did hundreds of these as a teenager, on the swim team. In fact, I did them with a Milo Barbell that looked very similar to the one Grimek used in that shot, which I think is somewhat key to that exercise. Don't worry, you don't have to buy a whole new barbell, just use smaller plates, so that the bar starts closer to the ground. Use something like 25 pound, or even 10 pound plates. It will extend your range of motion. Yes, it is harder to perform and you won't be able to use as much weight, but the benefits will be worth it with this alternate variation.

    Before Bench Presses Workout

    Stretch & Warm-up with Indian Clubs and/or Speed Bag Work
    Clean & Standing Barbell Push 5 x 5
    Clean & Front Squat 5 x 5
    Straight Arm Pullover 3 x 10
    Dumbbell (or Kettlebell) Crucifix Hold 3 x 3
    Dips 3 x 10
    Stretch

    If it is nice outside add in half a dozen 100 yard sprints. You will be shocked at how well they work in with this routine. In high school, I would do this routine in the morning and then head off to the pool for morning swim, which was only 45 minutes, but felt great.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

  • Garage Gym Accessory Wall

    power-shack-grip-board
    Carmen Caputo's Grip & Accessory Board

    Carmen Caputo's Power Shack Gym really is one of the best garage gyms out there. This is the second Atomic Athletic Bomb Proof Bulletin based on his place. It is a true unattached pole barn type 2-car + size garage, that is exclusively a gym. Carmen and his buddies completely finished it off, with heat. I can really appreciate that right now, as it's -5 F as I write this.

    The photo shows The Power Shack accessory corner, highlighted by the peg board. Hanging on the bottom are real antique Whitely spring type strand pulling units, with all the original Whitely accessory parts. He has them set up with 1-5 springs, just like a pro-style dumbbell or kettlebell rack. You also see an original cloth webbing York head harness and York wrist roller, together with some home made loading pins.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/atomic-athletic-firestorm-wrist-roller.html

    Carmen and I had a great talk about the wrist rollers. We are both really into the wrist roller movement and concept. Carmen actually has two of those originals, but he stripped the paint off the one shown in the picture and poly coated it. I also have an original red painted one that I will show in a wrist roller article that is coming down the pike. Carmen's wrist roller advice is to, “...put a longer rope on your wrist roller, when it comes time to replace it. If you have a longer rope, you will find a way to use it. It's the basic simple details that the old strength guys were into, and that made all the difference. The longer rope is murder on your hands. Once you unroll it, you have to roll it back up before you can put it away.”

    In the floor rack you can see a variety of bars. He has an original Gaspari Bar, a 6 foot standard barbell, a 6 foot Olympic bar, a regular Olympic curl bar, an Olympic Super Curl Bar and an Olympic Hammer Curl Bar. He also has quite a pile of standard size plates.

    Rounding out the collection is a Power Twister, an Iron Man Super Gripper and a variety of rubber rings. The left wall also shows his framed original York Powerlifting Chart #2 (Bench Press). The other wall has his lat machine attachments (like the triceps rope), with the lat machine in the foreground. That padding is not the original naugahyde, but that cool late-60s glitter black that you may have seen on boat or motorcycle seats. He has re-upholstered everything in to match.

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

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